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When I was a child, I loved visiting my grandmother. I thought her house was as beautiful as a palace and the garden seemed bigger than a park.
As I grew older the house and garden seemed smaller, but I still loved visiting the old lady. There were so many lovely things to look at in the house.
Sometimes I played with the doll’s house which was older than grandmother herself; at other times I looked at books which were lovelier and more interesting than my children’s books at home.
I loved her paintings and the old clock, but most of all I loved a big Chinese vase which stood in the hall. It was taller than me, and I couldn’t see inside it. I walked round and round it looking at the beautiful ladies and the birds and flowers and trees, and Grandmother often told me stories about these ladies. She said that her grandfather had brought the vase with him when he returned from a long voyage to China.
When I married, I took my two sons to visit their great-grandmother. They were not as interested as I was in the beautiful books and the vase. They find comics as attractive as old paintings, and pop music more exciting than the old clock. They preferred playing football in the garden.
We live in a modern house, and I’m afraid my husband and I often nag at the children. “Don’t make the new carpet dirty, Paul!” “Be careful with the new table, Philip!”
Before she died, Grandmother gave me the vase I loved so much. It looked beautiful in our modern hall.
One day I came home from the shops. The boys met me at the door. “I’m as strong as George Bes, Mummy,” said Paul. “I got a goal and I broke the vase”.
Philip tried to be more diplomatic than Paul. “It doesn’t really matter, does it? You told us it wasn’t new. You aren’t cross, are you?”
after O. Henry
Miss Martha Meacham kept the little bakery on the corner. Miss Martha was forty, she possessed two false teeth and a sympathetic heart.
Two or three times a week a customer came in whom she began to take an interest. He was a middle-aged man, wearing spectacles and a brown beard. He spoke English with a strong German accent His clothes were worn and darned in places. 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 ones 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 Martha’s bakery.
Often when Miss Martha sat down to her chops and light rolls and jam and tea, she would sigh and wish that gentle-mannered artist might share her tasty meat instead of eating the dry crusts’ in his garret. Miss Martha’s heart 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.It was a Venetian scene. A marble palace stood in the foreground. For the rest there were gondolas, clouds and sky.
Two days later the customer came in.
“Two loaves of stale bread, if you please,” he said. “You have here a fine picture, madam,” he continued. “Yes?” said Miss Martha. “You think it is a good picture?”
“The palace,” said the customer, “is not well drawn; its perspective is not true.” He took his bread and went out. Yes, he must be an artist. Miss Martha took the picture back to her room.
The customer kept on buying stale bread. Never a cake, never a pie, never any fresh bread. She thought he began looking thinner and discouraged. She wanted to add something good to eat to his purchase. But she dared not. She knew the pride of artists.
Miss Martha began to dress better and look after her complexion.
One day the customer came in for his stale loaves. While Miss Martha was reaching for them, a fire-engine came past. He ran to the door to look.
Suddenly inspired, Miss Martha seized the opportunity. On the bottom shelf behind the counter was a pound of fresh butter she had bought ten minutes before. With a bread-knife Miss Martha made a deep cut in each of the stale loaves, put a great quantity of butter inside and pressed them together. When the customer turned once more, she was tying the paper around them.
For a long time that day she thought about him and imagined his surprise and pleasure at discovering the butter in the loaves.
Suddenly the front doorbell tinkled furiously. Somebody was coming in, making a great deal of noise. Miss Martha hurried to the door. Two men were there. One was a young man she had never seen before. The other was her artist. His face was very red, his hat was on the back of his head, his hair in disorder. He clenched his two fists and shook them at Miss Martha shouting: “Blockhead, old cat, you have ruined me!” His young companion took him by the collar.
“Come on,” he said, “you have said enough,” and pulled the angry one out of the bakery.
“I think you must be told, ma’am,” he said, “what it is all about. This gentleman’s name is Blumberger. He’s an architectural draughtsman. I work in the same office with him. He has been working hard for three months drawing a plan for a new city-hall. It was a prize competition. He finished inking the lines yesterday. You know, a draughtsman always makes his drawing in pencil first. When it’s done, he rubs out the pencil lines with handfuls of stale breadcrumbs. That’s better than India rubber. Blumberger has been buying the bread here. Well, today... you know, ma’am, that butter isn’t... well, Blumberger’s plan isn’t good for anything now, except to cut up into railroad sandwiches.”
Miss Martha went to the back room. She took off her blue silk blouse and put on the old brown blouse she used to wear.