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Horgan - Black Snowflakes

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Name: Mr./Mrs Address City Zone State L -J Aluminum Awnings, Verticals, Twi•Nighter Venetian Blinds, Woven Aluminum, Aluminum Siding. eetrAtit4 uolimillti SUM YII,ITYO KINGS MONKS I was suddenly embarrassed, for the music had stopped, and I thought all the other diners were looking at me; many were, in fact, smiling at a boy of ten, ruddy with excitement and confusion, drinking a solemn pledge of some sort with an old gentleman with a pink face and very white hair and whiskers. Mercifully, the music began again, and we were released from our pose. My grandfather drew his great gold watch from his vest pocket and unhooked from a vest button the fob that held the heavy gold chain in place. Repeating an old game we had played when I was a baby, he held the watch toward my lips, and I knew what was expected of me. I blew upon it, and—though long ago I had penetrated the secret of the magic—the gold lid of the watch flew open. My grandfather laughed softly in a deep, wheezing breath, and then shut the watch. "Do children ever know that what we do to please them pleases us more than it does them?" he said. "Ach Gott," whispered Tante Bep, but nobody reproved her. "Richard, I give you this watch and chain to keep all your life, and by it you will remember me," my grandfather said. "Oh, no!" exclaimed my mother. He looked gravely at her and said, "Yes. Now, rather than later," and put the heavy, wonderful golden objects in my hand. I regarded them in stunned silence. Mine! I could hear the wiry ticking of the watch, and I knew that now and forever I myself could make the gold lid fly open. "Well, Richard, what do you say?" my father urged gently. "Yes, thank you, Grosspa, thank you." I half rose from my chair and put my arm around his great head and kissed his cheek. Up close, I could see tiny blue and scarlet veins under his skin. "That will do, my boy," he said. Then he took the watch from me and handed it to my father. "I hand it to your father to keep for you until you are twenty-one. But remember that it is yours and you must ask to see it anytime you wish." My disappointment was huge, but even I knew how sensible it was for the treasure to be held for me instead of given into my care. "Any time you wish. You wish. Any time," repeated my grandfather, but in a changed voice, a hollow, windy sound that was terrible to hear. He was gripping the arms of his chair and now he shut his eyes behind his gold-framed lenses, and sweat broke out on his forehead. "Any time," he tried to say through his suffering, to preserve a social air. But, seized by pain too merciless to hide, he lost his pretenses and staggered to his feet. Quickly my mother and father helped him from the table, while other diners stared with neither curiosity nor pity. I thought the musicians played harder all of a sudden to distract people from the sight of an old man in trouble being led out of the main dining room of the Waldorf-Astoria. "What is the matter?" I asked Tante Bep, who had been ordered, with a glance, to remain behind with me. "Grosspa is not feeling well." "Should we go with him?" "But your ice cream." "Yes, the ice cream." So we waited for the ice cream, and in a moment or two the flow and rustle of rosy-shaded life was once again in the room. My parents did not return from upstairs, though we waited. Finally, hot with wine and excitement, I was led by Tante Bep to the elevator and to my room and put to bed. Nobody came to see me, or if anyone did, I did not know it. More snow fell during the night. When I woke up and ran to my window, the world was covered and the air was thick with snow still falling. Word came to dress quickly, for we were going to the ship. Suddenly I was consumed with eagerness to see the great ship that would cross the ocean. Again we went in two taxicabs, I with my father. The others had gone ahead of us. My father pulled me near him to look out the window of the cab at the falling snow. We went through narrow, dark streets to the piers on the west side of Manhattan, where we boarded the ferryboat that would take us to Hoboken. "We are going to the docks of the North German Lloyd," my father said. "What is that?" "The steamship company where Grosspa's ship is docked. The Kronprinzessin Cecilie." "Can I go inside her?" "Certainly. Grosspa wants to see you in his cabin." "Is he there now?" "Probably. The doctor wanted him to go right to bed." "Is he sick?" "Yes." "Did he eat something —" (It was a family explanation often used to account for my various illnesses at their onset.) "Not exactly. It is something else." "Will he get well soon?" "We hope so." He looked out the window as he said this, instead of at me, and I thought, He does not sound like my father. But we had reached the New Jersey side now, and the cab was moving past the docks. Above the gray, snowy sheds I saw the funnels and masts of ocean liners. The streets were furious with noise, horses, cars, porters running, and suddenly a white tower of steam rose from the front of one of the funnels, to be followed in a second by a deep, roaring hoot. "There she is," my father said. "That's her first signal for departure." It was our ship. I could see her masts with their pennons being pulled about by the blowing snow, and her four tall ocher funnels. We went from the taxi into the freezing air of the long pier. All I could see of the Kronprinzessin Cecilie were glimpses, through the pier shed, of white cabins, rows of portholes, and an occasional door of polished mahogany. A confused, hollow roar filled the long shed. We went up a canvas-covered gangway and then we were on board. There was an elegant creaking from the shining woodwork. I felt that ships must be built for boys, because the ceilings were so low and made me feel so tall. My father held my hand to keep me by him on the thronged decks, and then we entered a narrow corridor that seemed to have no end. The walls were of dark, shining wood, and there were weak yellow lights overhead. The floor sloped down and then up again, telling of the ship's construction. Cabin doors were open on either side. There was a curious odor in the air, something like the smell of soda crackers dipped in milk, and faraway—or was it right here, all about us in the ship—there was a soft throbbing sound. It seemed impossible that anything so immense as this ship would presently detach itself from the land. 35


Horgan - Black Snowflakes
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