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POWER OBDE IMAGINATION.
Tom P. MORGAN.
SCENE: BROTHER SHOCKEY is seated in front of stove at the
corner store. He speaks to several of his cronies.
says, “Well-uh, shucks, Brudder Shockey, yo’-all has de 'pearance ob bein' pow'ful puny to-day!" An' I got to wonderin' if ’twuz
Purť soon I meets Brudder Shinpaw, an' he remahks dat I'm uh-lookin' mighty bad, somehow or nudder; an' I sho’ly begins to feel dat-uh-way.
Next, 'twuz Brudder Bimmelick, an' he says, “Hum-haw! Sick, isn't yo’, sah? Ah, but people is uh-dyin' off mighty profound, dese days !” Den 'twuz Brudder Brownback, an' he 'lowed
'' he'd never had de pleasure ob seein' me wid such a sinister cullah to muh complexion befo’; an' turrectly a-nudder brudder specified dat I ortah take suthin' fo’ it, an' de next one remahked dat dar was a pow'ful sight ob ominous ’zeases uh-gwine 'round jes' now, ee-specially amongst de Americo-Afruns.
Well-uh, by dat time dey sho'ly had me gwine sideways' wid deir lamentations. I felt a malicious goneness in muh interiah, a sagacious roarin'in muh head an' de all-overs in muh back, and purt' soon I was in a high fever an' had de palliation ob de heart an' enough udder symptoms to plumb fit up a blue-backed ommenick, an' by de time muh lovin' friends had got all th’oo wid me I was as good as gone.
But jes’ as I was mizzably figgerin' on de length ob de puhsession an' 'bout how soon de widdah would marry ag’in, I comes up wid a Hard-shell Babdist brudder dat was uh-eetchin' to 'spute ’bout de Holy Scriptures; an' he didn't take time to notice dat I wasn't long fo' dis world, but jes’ lit in onto me like he was a she-bear an' I was a passel ob orphant child'en.
“Now, jes' loogy right yuh !” he prognosticates, uh-comin' at me wid his brizzles up, “all dis yuh Tommy-foolishness ob de Shoutin' Meferdists, dat yo' has de honah to b’long to, am twinklin' thimbles an’sounderin' brass, an' yo' knows it! How can yo' have de shamefacedness to stand up befo' me an' de Lawd in dat paltry attitude ?"
Well-uh, 'twuzn't much mo' dan no time a-tall twell me an' dat benighted brudder was at it hammer an’ tongs, an' purť soon we had done tied into each udder like a couple ob catamounts an’ was uh-gwine 'round an' 'round fo’ de glory ob de Lawd. An'atter I had had de pleasure ob bouncin' a good-sized rock on his liead an' sendin' him uh-scootin' to’a’ds de wilderness ob sin, whuh he p’intedly b’longed, I sw'ar to gracious I never felt better or mo' able in all muh life, indeed, I nevah did, which shows de power ob de imagination an' de consanquinity ob human nature, if anything ebber did.
Now what's the use of baths and tubs,
THE LAST LEAF.
T the top of a squatty, three-story brick building in that part
of New York, near Washington Square known as old Greenwich Village with its quaint, eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics, Sue and Johnsy had their studio. They had met at a table d'hôte, had found their tastes congenial and their joint studio resulted.
That was in May. In November, a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, smote Johnsy; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.
“She has one chance in—let us say, ten,” said the doctor; "and that chance is for her to want to live. Your little lady has made up her mind that she's not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind ?”
“She—wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day,” said Sue.
“Paint?-bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking about twice—a man, for instance ?"
“A man?" said Sue. “Is a man worth—but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind."
“Well, it is the weakness, then," said the doctor. “If you will get her to ask only one question about new winter styles in cloaksleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten.”
Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window.
Sue arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing. As she was sketching, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.
Johnsy's eyes were open wide. She was looking out of the window and counting—counting backward.
Sue looked out the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. Its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.
“What is it, dear?” asked Sue.
“Six," whispered Johnsy. “They're falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them.
But now it's easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now.”
“Five what, dear."
“Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?”
“Oh, I never heard of such nonsense. What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don't be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me your chances for getting well were–let's see exactly what he said
-he said the chances were ten to one! Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor-man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork-chops for her greedy self.”
“You needn't get any more wine. There goes another. No, I don't want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go too.”
“Johnsy, dear, will you promise me to keep your eyes closed and not look out of the window until I am done working? I must hand these drawings in by to
morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down. Besides, I don't want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves."
“Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy, closing her eyes, “because I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves."
“Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman up to be my
model for the old hermit miner. I'll not be gone a minute. Don't try to move till I come back.”
Old Behrman, a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them, was a failure in art. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece. He earned a little by serving as a model. He drank to excess. Sue found him in his dimly-lighted den and told him of Johnsy's fancy, and how she feared Johnsy, herself as light and fragile as a leaf, would float away when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.
Old Behrman shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.
“Vass! Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der prain of her? Ach, dot poor little Miss Johnsy."
“She is very ill and weak,” said Sue, "and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies.”
“Go on. I come mit you. I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Johnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go avay. Gott! yes.”
Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow.
When Sue awoke from an hour's sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn shade.
“Pull it up; I want to see," she ordered, in a whisper. Wearily Sue obeyed.
But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, but with its serrated edges tinted with