Miss Martha Meacham kept the little bakery on the corner (the one where you go up three steps, and the bell tinkles when you open the door).
Miss Martha was forty, her bank-book showed a credit of two thousand dollars, and she possessed two false teeth and a sympathetic heart. Many people have married whose chances to do so were much inferior to Miss Marthas.
Two or three times a week a customer came in in whom she began to take an interest. He was a middle- aged man, wearing spectacles and a brown beard trimmed to a careful point.
He spoke English with a strong German accent. His clothes were worn and darned in places, and wrinkled and baggy in others. But he looked neat, and had very good manners.
He always bought two loaves of stale bread. Fresh bread was five cents a loaf. Stale once were two for five. Never did he call for anything but stale bread.
Once Miss Martha saw a red and brown stain on his fingers. She was sure then that he was an artist and very poor. No doubt he lived in a garret, where he painted pictures and ate stale bread and thought of the good things to eat in Miss Marthas bakery.
Often when Miss Martha sat down to her chops and light rolls and jam and tea she would sigh, and wish that the gentle-mannered artist might share her tasty meal instead of eating his dry crust in that draughty attic.
Miss Marthas heart, as you have been told, was a sympathetic one.
In order to test her theory as to his occupation, she brought from her room one day a painting that she had bought at a sale, and set it against the shelves behind the bread counter.
It was a Venetian scene. A splendid marble palazzio (so it said on the picture) stood in the foregroundor rather forewater. For the rest there were gondolas (with the lady trailing her hand in the water), clouds, sky, and chiaroscuro in plenty. No artist could fail to notice it.
Two days afterward the customer came in.
Two loafs of stale bread, if you blease.
You haf here a fine bicture, madame, he said while she was wrapping up the bread.
Yes? says Miss Martha, revelling in her own cunning. I do so admire art and (no, it would not do to say artists thus early) and paintings, she substituted. You think it is a good picture?
Der balace, said the customer, is not in good drawing. Der bairspective of it is not true. Goot morning, madame.
He took his bread, bowed, and hurried out.
Yes, he must be an artist. Miss Martha took the picture back to her room.
How gentle and kindly his eyes shone behind his spectacles! What a broad brow he had! To be able to judge perspective at a glanceand to live on stale bread! But genius often has to struggle before it is recognized.
What a thing it would be for art and perspective if genius were backed by two thousand dollars in the bank, a bakery, and a sympathetic heart toBut these were day-dreams, Miss Martha.
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