MARCO

A. Montague Sanderson November 1 1921

MARCO

A. Montague Sanderson November 1 1921

MARCO

A. Montague Sanderson

HE was a murderer!

Twelve good men and true, his peers in the eyes of the law, had so decided, and the judge had solemnly condemned him to death.

The young lawyer appointed to defend him had fought hard to save his grotesque little client, but the evidence against him had been too strong. The prisoner had been found bending over the body of his victim, the knife still in his hand. He had neither denied nor admitted his guilt, but had sat through his trial with an apathetic indifference which only the intense glow of his intelligent eyes had belied.

So the jury had found him guilty, and the judge had solemnly condemned him to death. Now, having made his peace with God, he sat under the unsympathetic eyes of the Death Watch, listening with quickly beating heart and straining ears for the footsteps of those who would lead him to execution.

HIS NAME was Marco, but he was generally called “Monkey” Marc. Two large and intelligent brown eyes, set deep in his head, were shaded with bushy eyebrows. His nose was flat, and his teeth were large, yellow and fang-like. His short legs were bowed, and his toes turned in when he walked. He was five feet tall, a slight hump on his back gave him a stooped appearance, and his arms almost touched the ground when he stood upright. Only the intelligence of his eyes indicated that he was human.

No one knew whence they had come, he and Antonio, his master. They had appeared one day, taken up their residence over Umfredo’s cafe, and from then on became familiar figures in the neighborhood. At an early hour each morning, the dwarf, his beloved violin under his arm, waddled awkwardly along the street on his long tramp uptown t,Q the corner on which he played until dark, when he tramped wearily back again. Long after Marco had left, Antonio made his appearance. Handsome, smiling, jovial, his hat stuck jauntily on the side of his sleek head, he w'ould walk in state up one side of Mulberry street and then down the other. With genial condescension he greeted all and sundry, stopping here and there for a chat, or to fondle a bambino, or to enquire for some relative or friend of those he met. When this daily pilgrimage was finished it was time for the mid-day meal. He would then repair to the restaurant of his friend, Patronni, where he would spend the rest of the afternoon

telling funny stories or performing feats of strength for the amusement of Patronni and his customers.

All agreed that Antonio was a splendid fellow, a droll, jolly cuss and a mighty man. Straightening horseshoes with his bare hands was a favorite trick. A blow from his huge fist would split the head of an ox. Many a blow from the same fist had Marco received since the day his mother deserted him, a defenceless infant, on Antonio’s doorstep, and one such blow had knocked him across the length of their room and left him unconscious for an hour. After that Antonio was more careful. He did not lessen the blows, but restrained their force only because he feared to kill a valuable slave.

AH, yes! A fine, handsome fellow was Antonio!

After the dwarf had finished his long day’s work, and the money he had earned had been taken by his master and counted, Antonio would drag him off to Patronni s or down to Umfredo’s, or into some other of his haunts, but to a different one each night that the performance might not grow stale. But wherever he went a crowd was sure to follow, for it was inexpressibly funny when Antonio would command, “Marco, play dog!” to see the dwarf drop on all fours and run about growling and barking. He became famous for the natural canine ferocity with which he attacked the bone Antonio usually threw him after this performance. But his ferocity was not always acting. It was more often his dinner he attacked thus. He and Antonio were the only ones who knew this, how-

But if the dwarf provoked howls of mirth when he played dog, his antics when Antonio ordered Marco, be a monkey!” were side-splitting. In this role his long arms and short body served him to good purpose. He climbed into the most unexpected places, chattered, scratched, and hopped about in approved monkey fashion. If, as was generally the case, the day’s work had been fatiguing, and the patient brown eyes pleaded dumbly for release,

Antonio’s doubled-up fist unostentatiously displayed, sent the dwarf cavorting again until the deformed little body dropped with exhaustion.

What a droll fellow this Antonio was, to be sure! After each performance they would crowd about him slap him good-naturedly on the back, fill with small coins the hat he always placed suggestively upside down on the table, and order drinks for him.

“Tut! tut! It is nothing!” he would modestly disclaim “I am the Master! I teach him to play the violin like an angel. Bah! If he were not so ugly he would be a great musician and make me famous. As it is ” Anton-

io always shrugged his shoulders at this point to denote that he was doing his best for his fellow men under difficult circumstances.

In time the habit of seeing Marco play monkey and his grotesque figure made those about him forget that he was human, and not an intelligent animal whose sole purpose in life was to work and be amusing. The children, with thoughtless cruelty, jeered at him as he shuffled along the street, called him “Monkey Face” and “Baboon pulled at his ragged coat, tripped him and threw dirt at him, until he turned on them striking right and left with his long arms. This earned him the reputation of being vicious, and mothers laid a stick over his back whenever he approached their children.

Friendless, his very humanity denied, worked and beaten like a beast and half starved, the big heart beneath the ugly little body began to harden. Unable to express the storm of protest which arose within him, the injustice of it all turned tears to curses, and the vicious reputation thrust upon him threatened to become fact.

Then a miracle happened, and the corrosion was stayed.

A T H ER insistence, the good sisters of the convent of .1 Santa Maria sent home to her father, Antonios blind daughter, Marzia. The girl had reached her eighteenth birthday, although her sickly, thin, little body made her look younger, and she felt her place was by her father s side. But her devotion met with poor reward. The good Antonio was enraged at the advent of bis motherless offspring, and only because her love and admiration fed his vanity was she suffered to remain.

But with Marzia’s coming a new life began for Monkey Marc. He found in the blind girl something more helpless than himself; someone on whom he could lavish the flood of affection until then dammed up within his

, The knowledge that the large, soft brown eyes

.....—i gazed so naturally into his were unable to see the

hideous misshapeliness of his body, gave him courage. He spent every minute he could by her side; timidly petting her, anticipating her every want, and comforting her when she was in pain. These things done, he would shuffle about her in pathetic eagerness to do more. He was like a great, faithful dog whose eyes alone spoke the adoration his lips could not utter, and when her thin hand fluttered to pat. his cheek or to stroke his hair, he would rush from the room, forgetting she was blind and could not sec the rears that filled his eyes.

Marco now threw himself with wholehearted enthusiasm into the roles of dog and monkey. He grew to love the tricks he had formerly loathed because with improvement more money flowed into Antonio’s hat, which meant better food and more comforts for Marzia. He took pride in improving each nightly performance, and in thinking out new tricks that the show might not grow stale. Antonio’s popularity was never so great. Umfredo’s, Patronni’s and the other places did a thriving business on the nights he and his dwarf visited them. They began to compete for his attendance, and prosperity smiled upon him.

But over Bernstein’s pawn-shop in Hester Street there lived an old man of patriarchal appearance and studious habits. Because he kept so much to himself and did not live by the sweat of his brow, they said he spent the night pawing over his hoarded gold. His name was Levy, but they called him The Miser.

One night before Marzia came, The Miser, attracted by the crowd and the peals of laughter which issued from Patronni’s, stopped, in passing, to see what occasioned such merriment. He looked, unstirred by mirth, but moved to pity, on the pathetic efforts of Monkey Marc to sustain his rôle in spite of the fatigue which possessed him.

He noted the dumb appeal in the dwarf’s eyes, and happened to see and understand the significance of Antonio’s doubled up fist. He walked home thoughtfully, but immersed in his books the incident slipped his mind until he again passed Patronni’s on a night when Antonio and his dwarf were there. Now the crowd and the laughter were greater than ever, and again he stopped and looked upon the performance with pitying eyes.

Marco’s antics were now a labor of love, but The Miser did not know that.

He only saw the little body drop with exhaustion, and not knowing that the exhaustion was caused by an effort of the spirit stronger than the flesh could sustain, he determined on a step destined to alter the lives of four people, including his

T^HE following night, A when the performance was in progress at Umfredo’s, The Miser sought the big, goodhearted policeman, Tim Donovan, who patrolled that beat. A friendship based on mutual appreciation, and as strong as it was strange, had sprung up between these

“Timothy,” said The Miser, “I have something to show you. Will you come with me?”

“Sure, an’ I will that!” replied the big cop. “ Tis not ¡very night I have a walk wid ye, Mister Levy, for it’s a regular hermit ye are. Wat are ye goin’ to show me?” “A crime!” answered The Miser, as he led the wondering policeman toward Umfredo’s.

Standing on two boxes in a lane at the side of the place, they had an unobstructed view, through the side window, of what went on within. They watched the performance through in silence. Then The Miser turned to Donovan.

“Slavery is supposed to be abolished on this Continent,” he said, “but that miserable little creature is as much a slave as any negro sold in the States before the Civil War. All day long he stands in the street and plays his violin, and night after night he goes through the performance you have just witnessed until he drops. And for what? In order that the great, hulking brute, his master, may strut like a peacock in idleness and the empty adulation of his fellows! I don’t know the law on the matter, but if you allow this to continue on your beat you are not the fine, big hearted man I take you for.”

Then, being a wise old gentleman, he left Donovan, and returned to his garret and his books.

Nor had he miscalculated the effect of his speech on thebig constable. Donovan had known what was goingon for some time, but in this neighborhood of strange customs he had given no thought to the matter. But The Miser’s words had shown htm a new aspect of the situation and his heart was touched. Being a staunch believer in direct action, he strode into Umfredo’s and cleared a way for himself through the crowd that packed the place. The Italian’s inborn dread of the law silenced their chatter, and Donovan’s words were clearly heard in the crowded room as he confronted Antonio.

“Me friend, it’syerself ye’ll be gettin’ into truble if ye pull this dog an’ monkey game again!” he stated. “From tonight it’s nix on the funny stuff! Understand?”

Antonio understood too well. He saw the biggest part of his income and all his popularity crumbling about him like a house of cards.

“Buta Meester Polesman, you no underastan’, ” he found courage to protest, “I ama da Maestro! I teacha hem play da violin lika one angel! Ef he nota so ugly..” “There ain’t nothin’ doin’, ye lazy dago!” interrupted Donovan. “Mister Levy has laid a complaint against ye, an’ I’m tellin’ ye to can the monkey shines! Get me?” “Da Miser, he make dis complain’?” asked Antonio.

“Sure!” replied Donovan, “an’ if ye don’t want a spell in the cooler ye’ll be cannin’ this game like I tell ye.”

r\UMBFOUNDED by ^ this catastrophe, the crowd watched Donovan’s departure in silence. But when he had gone they broke forth in vociferous sympathy. By the time Antonio was ready to grope his way upstairs to bed he was convinced that a gross injustice had been done him, and his brain was filled with evil thoughts.

The nights were insufferably hot, and Marco had longed for some time to take Marzia to the little park at the foot of Mulberry street, where she could get a breath of air which passed for fresh in that fetid atmosphere. Antonio had never allowed him time for this, but on the night following Donovan’s edict he found himself with hours of glorious, unaccustomed freedom facing him. As Antonio was nowhere to be seen he stole into Marzia’s room with heart beating fast in joyful anticipation.

“Marzia, it is so hot. Will you come to the park with me?” he asked hopefully.

She consented eagerly, and laughing like two happy children at this unusual treat, he led her gently down the dark stairs and into the fetid teeming oven called a street.

Slowly they made their way toward the park, the shuffling, whimsical, little man trying with pathetic impotence to protect from the jostling human tide, the sightless girl, whose hand rested confidently in his. She did not realize—how could she?—that the cries of “Monkey Face”, “Baboon” and other jeering epithets, were addressed to her small protector.

But finally someone tripped him, and amidst a louder burst of laughter from those about them, he fell and almost dragged her with him. Then she understood and her heart melted in sympathy. Sobbing in fear and anger,

she stooped and helped him to his feet, and they stood, two helpless creatures, surrounded by the taunts of those who sought amusement at his expense. She clung to him in terror, unseeing, not knowing from whence to expect the next attack; he stood with clenched fists, impotent anger blazing from his eyes, and faced his tormentors bravely.

"You cowards!” he cried. “She is blind and helpless, and you treat us like this! You filthy cowards!”

Another burst of laughter answered him, but it quickly died as the venerable figure of The Miser suddenly appeared in their midst.

“Who is blind and helpless?” he asked, in a voice to which Marzia, with the keen intuition of the blind, instinctively turned.

Marco looked up into the old man’s benevolent face.

“She is blind!” he cried, pointing to Marzia and sobbing in his rage.

“For myself I do not care, but for her....”

THE Miser laid a soothing hand on Marco’s head as he looked into Marzia’s open eyes.

“Blind! Poor child! Poor children!” he sadly soliloquized. Then “Come,” he said,

“I will see that they do not molest you. Where are you going?”

“To the park!” answered Marco.

The Miser saw them safely ensconced on a bench as secluded as the little park afforded. Here he left them amidst their profuse thanks which he did not hear. He was ruminating on the pathos of the blind trying to lead the blind.

They sat thoughtfully, watching the old man until he was out of sight. Then Marzia asked:

“Marco, mio, why do they call you ‘monkey’ and ‘baboon’?”

Marco’s heart sank. He had dreaded this question which must, he felt, end all happiness for him. Accustomed to the disgust he inspired in those around him, her blindness, in his fear of her aversion, lost its significance to him, and for a moment he was tempted to lie to her. But as he looked into the beautiful, sightless eyes which turned to him so trustfully, he knew he could not do it.

“Oh!” he cried, hopelessly, “because I—I look like a monkey, a beast! I am deformed and—and hideous!” He expected her to draw away from him. Instead her hand stole in ready sympathy to his cheek, and caressed

“Hideous!” she exclaimed, “You! No, No! They see only the body, they who have sight, while I she paused.

“While you, Marzia?” he queried breathlessly.

“I—I see the real you, the beautiful soul within the body.”

For a moment his heart ceased to beat, so great was the joy inspired by her simple words, but only for a moment. Then the consciousness of his terrible misshapeliness again crushed his spirits. Bravely he tried to defend her against himself.

“No! No!” he sighed, “you do not know what you say I am what they call me—a baboon—a beastly thing.’ “To me you are beautiful, and I love you, love you above all things, Marco mio,” she replied, with unaffected simplicity.

Hardly daring to believe that he had heard correctly he looked into her lovely face, and there he saw a holy thing—the light which only the man she loves can call into a woman’s eyes.

“Marzia,” he sobbed, “Oh, Marzia!” and as she leaned toward him he gathered her frail, unresisting little form reverently into his long arms.

IT NEEDED but the inspiration of love and a measure of happiness to awaken the genius which lay dormant

in Marco. It was no longer the dull, hopeless drudge, half dead with fatigue, who played on his corner the next day, but a musician whose instrument bespoke the wonders of life and love, and the beauty of all things, in a peaon of divine melody.

No wonder the big, dark man with the long hair, stopped and listened with amazement and ever growing enthusiasm to the marvel of such playing by a grotesque,

little street fiddler. Marco was playing the “Meditation” from “Thais”, and not until the last plaintive strains had ceased did the big man move from the spot on which he stood. Then he rushed upon the astonished dwarf and embraced him with all the warmth of the Latin who recognizes a worthy fellow craftsman.

“At last—I have found one worthy of me!” he cried. “You are an artiste, a genius. I, Guido, the greatest violinist of them all, I say so! You will do great things! I shall train you! You shall be my son! Embrace me!” Too astonished to do anything but gape at his famous but excited compatriot, Marco found himself in a taxi and on his way uptown to Guido’s home before he realized what had happened to him.

It was late when he got back to Mulberry street, flushed and bursting with glad tidings. Guido had promised wonderful things. He was to be educated and trained, and when he was famous he and Marzia. ..

He burst into her room, Guido’s card in his hand, his face aglow and almost as beautiful in its enthusiasm as Marzia imagined it. But at sight of her the light died and was succeeded by a look of terrible anxiety. Her face, naturally pale, was now ghastly, her eyes bulged in terror, and she wrung her hands despairingly.

“Marco, Marco, my father!” she gasped at his entrance. “He is drunk, and has gone to The Miser swearing a terrible vengeance. Follow him! Save him from himself! Oh! go—go quickly!”

For the moment he stood, too dazed by this sudden tragedy to move. Then, dropping Guido’s card at her feet, he turned and dashed from the room as fast as his littlelegs would carry him. As he turned into Hester street inbumped into Donovan’s big form, hut without apology he continued his mad race toward Bernstein’s pawn-shop.

Wondering, Donovan turned and followed him leisurely, but when he saw the dwarf dive into the passageway in which the stairs led to The Miser's garret, ho quickened his pace. Marco, fearing he had aroused Donovans suspicions shut and locked tin n reel door and then mounted the dark stairs rapidly. Antonio m hi; drunken haste had not locked the garret d or. Marco pushed it open and entered, but at the sight confronting him lie recoiled in horror. .

Stretched on the floor in a pool of blood lay the body of the old man, while over him, sobered and terrified bv what he had done, crouched Antonio, a bloody knife in his hand. ,

For a moment only Marco hesitated, Ihe longing to

see justice done Antonio, at whose hands he had suffered so much, was strong, and he was tempted to let evfewfljui. _ take their course. A moment’s thought told him it could not be. Marzia had sent him to save her father, and for her sake he must do it somehow. Below he could hear Donovan’s big boot kicking in the door. Without stopping to think tliat Marzia, under the circumstances, might care more for the preservation of his life than even that

of her father, he crossed to Antonio and shook the dazed, cowardly brute to the consciousness of what was being said to

“Quick, the police are coming!” he cried. “Give me the knife and hide in the next room! They will not look for you when they find me!

Go quickly!”

There was a crash of splintered wood below. With a cry of terror, Antonio dropped the knife and sprang for the shelter of The Miser’s bedroom. Marco picked uj the knife and knelt over the lifeless body just as Donovan rushed into the room.

SO THE jury had found him guilty, and the judge had solemnly condemned him to death. Now, having made his peace with God, he sat with quickly beating heart and straining ears, listening to the approaching footsteps of those who would lead him to execution.

There was a rattle of bars, the door of his cell swung open, and a warden motioned him to follow. Rising, Marco left the cell accompanied by a priest, and followed by the watch who had guarded him through this last long night. In silence they traversed several gloomy, cellbordered corridors. From these cells many a rough voice bad him farewell and spoke kind words of encouragement. Marco prayed they would reach the gallows before these kindly meant words, and the bitter sweet thoughts of Marzia, broke down his already strained fortitude.

At last they descended several flights of stairs, lne warden opened a door and motioned Marco to enter. Bracing himself, Marco passed the man and entered— not the prison court-yard, but a room in which to his amazement stood Guido, Donovan, Antonio and » afzia. She groped her way to him and threw her arms aroun

“Marco! Oh, Marco mio!” she sobbed. “I have been so ill. I feared I would be too late, but with Signore Guido’s help I made him confess! Oh, Marco, I made him

confess!”

npHERE will be a feast of good things m the Christinas issue of MACLEAN S MAC AZINE—on the stands December 1. Here 'ore a few of the authors whose work you hare learned to appreciate and whom, you will see. with more or less regularity, in the Cihle of córlente of Canada’s National I’eriodtSH phi n Leacock, If. G. MacBcth. Alan s Vilhiahnur Steffanson. Archie Me-

Kish,,.e Agues Laut, IL G. Wodehouse, Val„„'H,,,. \yniions Frederick Niven, Joseph GolZoe Heelden, A. M■ Talling, France« ¡Col] ice Taylor. Timer will be illustrations by C ir. Jeffery«, Dudley Gloyne Summers, E. .1 Dirsmore. Fergus Kyle, Charles A. MacI,ellen and other favorites. There are three short stories of outstanding merit which can be heartily recommended to all reader«: Alan Sullivan's' “The Ladies' Chain", ’'Pipes O’er the Water.’’ by Frone,., Dent rid Taylor, a brilliant gem by a - aradme girl destined to make her mark: and "The Efficiency ( lenstmaw" u business-! 'h rist mas story, by Joseph (loll,mil) and Zor Berkley.