Always I was eager to reach the corner and then walk along by the park railing, one day to smell the dry leaves burning, another to wade through their wet gleaming color. But on this day as I turned the corner, I forgot the park and its autumn changing, for I raised my eyes to behold, framed by a full length window, a stranger half seen, a dark crowned figure, gracious and tall, gowned in deep red. And across the intervening distance in a flash I knew the presence of greatness and felt the dignity of soul, the power and beauty of a mind held in contemplation of things remote from the narrow view.
Now every day as I turn the corner, the window, a shining facet, covers an inner darkness. But lingering there in mystic loneliness, dim-lit and deathless, is an imperishable wraith, a proud ghost, calmly looking out upon the world from realms of limitless adventure.
Every evening in the pause just before dinner, I would find a place in the lounge, perhaps pretending to read, but with heart listening for far off magic. Then even from the third floor the sound of a certain step would reach me, and I would hasten into the hall to greet Madame Bianchi as she came down the last flight of stairs.
One evening I said to her, "I know why you always walk downstairs. You are the Lady Melisande descending from a tower. Nothing can be lovelier than graciousness in a long gown slowly coming down a staircase."
"I have always known that," she said with a twinkle.
And now there is left a strange sweetness in listening for a
step that never comes, in glancing up the stairway where there
is only an emptiness.
Transcription and commentary copyright 2000 by
Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved.
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Last updated on March 10, 2008