Melody, My Dear Child:I SIT down to write my story for you, the life-story of old Rosin the Beau, your friend and true lover. Some day, not far distant now, my fiddle and I shall be laid away, in the quiet spot you know and love; and then (for you will miss me, Melody, well I know that!) this writing will be read to you, and you will hear my voice still, and will learn to know me better even than you do now; though that is better than any one else living knows me.
When people ask me where I hail from, our good, neighbourly, down-east way, I answer "From the Androscoggin;" and that is true enough as far as it goes, for I have spent many years on and about the banks of that fine river; but I have told you more than that. You know something of the little village where I was born and brought up, far to the northeast of your own home village. You know something, too, of my second mother, as I call her,—Abby Rock; but of my own sweet mother I have spoken little. Now you shall hear.
The first thing I can remember is my mother's playing. She was a Frenchwoman, of remarkable beauty and sweetness. Her given name was Marie, but I have never known her maiden surname: I doubt if she knew it herself. She came, quite by accident, being at the time little more than a child, to the village where my father, Jacques De Arthenay, lived; he saw her, and loved her at the sight. She consented to marry him, and I was their only child. My father was a stern, silent man, with but one bright thing in his life,—his love for my mother. Whenever she came before his eyes, the sun rose in his face, but for me he had no great affection; he was incapable of dividing his heart. I have now and then seen a man with this defect; never a woman.
My first recollection, I said, is of my mother's playing. I see myself, sitting on a great black book, the family Bible. I must have been very small, and it was a large Bible, and lay on a table in the sitting-room. I see my mother standing before me, with her violin on her arm. She is light, young, and very graceful; beauty seems to flow from her face in a kind of dark brightness, if I may use such an expression; her eyes are soft and deep. I have seen no other eyes like my mother Marie's. She taps the violin with the bow; then she taps me under the chin.
"Dis 'Bon jour!' petit Jacques!" and I say "Bo' zour!" as well as I can, and duck my head, for a bow is expected of me. No bow, no music, and I am quivering with eagerness for the music. Now she draws the bow across the strings, softly, smoothly,—ah, my dear, you have heard only me play, all your life; if you could have heard my mother! As I see her and hear her, this day of my babyhood, the song she plays is the little French song that you love. If you could have heard her sing!"A la claire fontaineM'en allant promener,Jai trouvé l'eau si belleQue je m'y suis baigné.Il y a longtemps que je t'aime,Jamais je ne t'oublierai!" As I went walking, walking,I found its waves so lovely,Beside the fountain fair,I stayed to bathe me there....