Axidava

One Word

Almost every seat in the street car was taken. Men sat with their noses glued to the newspaper. Women looked boredly out of the window at the cold rain dripping down into the muddy street.

The morning was dull. The car moved irritatingly slow. Drabness and grayness everywhere. Everybody looked to be in an excellent state of preparedness to bite everybody else upon the least provocation.

The car stopped at a corner. A man clambered on with difficulty. He was partly drunk. He had hard work unbottoning his overcoat and fetching a nickel from his trousers pocket.

The conductor snapped at him to hurry up. The man retorted angrily. They had some unpleasant words, not all of them printable.

The man lurched forward to go through the door. He was negotiating his entrance into the car with some pains when some one said one word to him.

It was a little boy, about six years of age. He was nicely bundled up in an overcoat and wore a red tam-o’-shanter cap. His little plump legs were sturdily planted apart as he stood in the centre of the aisle. His face was shining, his eyes sparkled, his ruddy cheeks like ripe red apples. He looked up at the man and said:

“Hello!”

But what he put into that one word! How much good-fellowship, and suppressed fun, and rollicking play, and comradeship, and clear, beautiful, human feeling.

The man stopped, looked down at the small mite before him, and quickly a change passed over his features. The brute fled, a spirit came. His ugliness dropped from him as a garment. His eyes softened. He smiled. He leaned back against the door jamb and said, and his voice was full of the tenderest fatherhood :

“Hello yourself, you God-blessed, beautiful angel child!”

The child laughed. And the conductor laughed. Men looked up and smiled. Every woman awoke to vivid interest and wanted to hug the child.

The car started. The man found a seat. The little boy went back and stood by his mother.

The car rolled on. But its load of humanity was transformed. Something divine had swept every soul in it clean of its doldrums. Little songs started up in hearts, like crocuses pierce the snow in early spring. Gentle thoughts hovered about that company as swallows fly about the eaves at sunset.

Everybody had been converted and became as a little child and saw the kingdom.

All day long that one word echoed in a thousand avenues, and sounded on and on like a silver bell, and even its most distant waves brought peace on earth and good-will to men.

Such a work was wrought by one word of utter brotherhood.

And there came to my mind the phrase of John Masefield, the last words in his “Good Friday”: “Oh, beauty, touch me, make me wise!”

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