tänker jag på en av mina favoritböcker — alla kategorier, som det heter på modern svenska — "Poganuc People", en bok av Harriet Beecher Stowe, som kom ut 1878. Hon lär ha hämtat mycket av stoffet från sin egen barndom i Lichfield, Connecticut. Gutenberg har en hel del av Harriets böcker, men inte den här — men hav tröst, den finns på flera andra ställen på nätet, till exempel här.
Gillar du böcker med fart och kläm, är det här inte en bok för dig — det är en långsam, skenbart händelselös bok. En bok som utspelar sig i New England i början av 1800-talet, en bok där vi får en inblick i den tidens dagliga liv, och hur schismen mellan presbyterianer och episkopalkyrkan påverkar livet (för man kan väl inte säga episkopalianer?). Boken börjar i juletid, när Dolly, bokens huvudperson, är ledsen över att hon inte får gå till episkopalkyrkans julgudstjänst (vilket hon ändå gör).
"Well, you see," said Nabby, "to-morrow'sChristmas; and they've been dressin' the church with ground pine and spruce boughs, and made it just as beautiful as can be, and they're goin' to have a great gold star over the chancel. General Lewis sent clear to Boston to get the things to make it of, and Miss Ida Lewis she made it; and to-night they're going to 'luminate. They put a candle in every single pane of glass in that air church, and it'll be all just as light as day. When they get 'em all lighted up you can see that air church clear down to North Poganuc." Now this sentence was a perfect labyrinth of mystery to Dolly; for she did not know what Christmas was, she did not know what the chancel was, she never saw anything dressed with pine, and she was wholly in the dark what it was all about; and yet her bosom heaved, her breath grew short, her color came and went, and she trembled with excitement. Something bright, beautiful, glorious, must be coming into her life, and oh, if she could only see it!
"Oh, Nabby, are you going?" she said, with quivering eagerness.
"Yes, I'm goin' with Jim Sawin. I belong to the singers, and I'm agoin' early to practice on the anthem."
"Oh, Nabby, won't you take me? Do, Nabby!" said Dolly, piteously.
"Oh, land o' Goshen! no, child; you mustn't think on't. I couldn't do that noways. Your pa never would hear of it, nor Mis' Cushing neither. You see, your pa don't b'lieve in Christmas."
"What is Christmas, Nabby?"
"Why, it's the day Christ was born -- that's Christmas."
"Why, my papa believes Christ was born," said Dolly, with an injured air; "you needn't tell me that he don't. I've heard him read all about it in the Testament."
"I didn't say he didn't, did I?" said Nabby; "but your papa ain't a 'Piscopal, and he don't believe in keeping none of them air prayer-book days -- Christmas, nor Easter, nor nothin'," said Nabby, with a generous profusion of negatives. "Up to the 'Piscopal church they keep Christmas, and they don't keep it down to your meetin' house; that's the long and short on't," and Nabby turned her batch of dough over with a final flounce, as if to emphasize the statement, and, giving one last poke in the middle of the fair, white cushion, she proceeded to rub the paste from her hands and to cover her completed batch with a clean white towel and then with a neat comforter of quilted cotton. Then, establishing it in the warmest corner of the fireplace, she proceeded to wash her hands and look at the clock and make other movements to show that the conversation had come to an end.
Poor little Dolly stood still, looking wistful and bewildered. The tangle of brown and golden curls on the outside of her little head was not more snarled than the conflicting ideas in the inside. This great and wonderful idea of Christmas, and all this confusion of images, of gold stars and green wreaths and illuminated windows and singing and music -- all done because Christ was born, and yet something that her papa did not approve of -- it was a hopeless puzzle. After standing thinking for a minute or two she resumed:
"But, Nabby, why don't my papa like it? and why don't we have a 'lumination in our meeting-house?"
"Bless your heart, child, they never does them things to Presbyterian meetin's. Folks' ways is different, and them air is 'Piscopal ways. For my part I'm glad father signed off to the 'Piscopalians, for it's a great deal jollier."
"Roads of Destiny, av O. Henry, är vad vi rekommenderar i dag — med en from förhoppning att du har all tid i världen att läsa gamla go'bitar!
WHISTLING DICK'S CHRISTMAS STOCKING
It was with much caution that Whistling Dick slid back the door of the box-car, for Article 5716, City Ordinances, authorized (perhaps unconstitutionally) arrest on suspicion, and he was familiar of old with this ordinance. So, before climbing out, he surveyed the field with all the care of a good general.
He saw no change since his last visit to this big, alms-giving, long-suffering city of the South, the cold weather paradise of the tramps. The levee where his freight-car stood was pimpled with dark bulks of merchandise. The breeze reeked with the well-remembered, sickening smell of the old tarpaulins that covered bales and barrels. The dun river slipped along among the shipping with an oily gurgle. Far down toward Chalmette he could see the great bend in the stream, outlined by the row of electric lights. Across the river Algiers lay, a long, irregular blot, made darker by the dawn which lightened the sky beyond. An industrious tug or two, coming for some early sailing ship, gave a few appalling toots, that seemed to be the signal for breaking day. The Italian luggers were creeping nearer their landing, laden with early vegetables and shellfish. A vague roar, subterranean in quality, from dray wheels and street cars, began to make itself heard and felt; and the ferryboats, the Mary Anns of water craft, stirred sullenly to their menial morning tasks.
Whistling Dick's red head popped suddenly back into the car. A sight too imposing and magnificent for his gaze had been added to the scene. A vast, incomparable policeman rounded a pile of rice sacks and stood within twenty yards of the car. The daily miracle of the dawn, now being performed above Algiers, received the flattering attention of this specimen of municipal official splendour. He gazed with unbiased dignity at the faintly glowing colours until, at last, he turned to them his broad back, as if convinced that legal interference was not needed, and the sunrise might proceed unchecked. So he turned his face to the rice bags, and, drawing a flat flask from an inside pocket, he placed it to his lips and regarded the firmament.
Whistling Dick, professional tramp, possessed a half-friendly acquaintance with this officer. They had met several times before on the levee at night, for the officer, himself a lover of music, had been attracted by the exquisite whistling of the shiftless vagabond. Still, he did not care, under the present circumstances, to renew the acquaintance. There is a difference between meeting a policeman on a lonely wharf and whistling a few operatic airs with him, and being caught by him crawling out of a freight-car. So Dick waited, as even a New Orleans policeman must move on some time—perhaps it is a retributive law of nature—and before long "Big Fritz" majestically disappeared between the trains of cars.
Whistling Dick waited as long as his judgment advised, and then slid swiftly to the ground. Assuming as far as possible the air of an honest labourer who seeks his daily toil, he moved across the network of railway lines, with the intention of making his way by quiet Girod Street to a certain bench in Lafayette Square, where, according to appointment, he hoped to rejoin a pal known as "Slick," this adventurous pilgrim having preceded him by one day in a cattle-car into which a loose slat had enticed him.
As Whistling Dick picked his way where night still lingered among the big, reeking, musty warehouses, he gave way to the habit that had won for him his title. Subdued, yet clear, with each note as true and liquid as a bobolink's, his whistle tinkled about the dim, cold mountains of brick like drops of rain falling into a hidden pool. He followed an air, but it swam mistily into a swirling current of improvisation. You could cull out the trill of mountain brooks, the staccato of green rushes shivering above chilly lagoons, the pipe of sleepy birds.
Rounding a corner, the whistler collided with a mountain of blue and brass.
"So," observed the mountain calmly, "You are already pack. Und dere vill not pe frost before two veeks yet! Und you haf forgotten how to vistle. Dere was a valse note in dot last bar."
"Watcher know about it?" said Whistling Dick, with tentative familiarity; "you wit yer little Gherman-band nixcumrous chunes. Watcher know about music? Pick yer ears, and listen agin. Here's de way I whistled it—see?"
He puckered his lips, but the big policeman held up his hand.
"Shtop," he said, "und learn der right way. Und learn also dot a rolling shtone can't vistle for a cent."
Big Fritz's heavy moustache rounded into a circle, and from its depths came a sound deep and mellow as that from a flute. He repeated a few bars of the air the tramp had been whistling. The rendition was cold, but correct, and he emphasized the note he had taken exception to.
"Dot p is p natural, und not p vlat. Py der vay, you petter pe glad I meet you. Von hour later, und I vould half to put you in a gage to vistle mit der chail pirds. Der orders are to bull all der pums after sunrise."
"To bull der pums—eferybody mitout fisible means. Dirty days is der price, or fifteen tollars."
"Is dat straight, or a game you givin' me?"
"It's der pest tip you efer had. I gif it to you pecause I pelief....
Det är lättare att säga vad och vem jag inte är. — jag är inte mitt yrke — jag är inte min inkomst — eller eventuell avsaknad därav — jag är inte min ålder — jag är inte min sjukdom Så vem är jag då? — en lagom tjock tant i min bästa år — en slarvig pedant — en konservativ radikal — en vänlig stropp Och vad gör jag då? — läser — väver — lyssnar på musik, företrädesvis klassisk — gärna barockmusik