It was the clearing of a hundred throats, getting ready to sing. I too arose and in my tuneless treble made a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Then church was over.
And my peppermints are all eaten, too, and the gossamer web of memory dissolves, the picture fades, and I see before me this room of mine, littered with some learned literature but more pipes and prints and miscellaneous rubbish, and I hear outside in the Square, not the spring wind racing among the budding branches, but the coughing of a consumptive motor car, the penetrating squeak of a trolley rounding a curve on a dry track, the irritating jolt of heavy drays, and a great, subdued, never-ceasing rumble and roar, the key-note of the giant city. Only the little bag remains. Shall I blow it up and "bust" it?
That act, with a final pop, will bring back a flash of my childhood.
It didn't pop nicely at all. It exploded in a kind of a spudgy collapse, with very little noise. Ah, well, you cannot eat your peppermints and have them too--nor the bag! But it has been very pleasant to eat them, to wake up with a whiff and a nibble the memory of those vanished days, those voices and peaceful paths of life very far from here and now. It may be true that we mount on our dead selves to higher things, but it is well to hold little Memorial Days now and then, and on the graves of our dead, especially of those who died young in the flower of innocence, to leave a peppermint, as the soldiers leave on the grave of Miss Emily a print flag and a basket of geraniums. A cemetery need not be a mournful place. Maids were wooed and won in _our_ cemetery, and the high school pupils ate their lunches out of collapsable tin boxes every noon on the tomb of Major Barton, he of Revolutionary fame, who horse-whipped the British captive when he refused to eat beans. n.o.ble New Englander! And perhaps my own peppermint feasts are not so much memorial banquet, after all, as ceremonial rites in honor of my native land. For I cannot think of this great city of New York as my home, I cannot fit into the rushing, roaring cogs and grooves of its machinery without a protest, without a hope that some day I may hear the wheels no longer roar at their cruel revolutions. Thus my peppermints speak to me of home, of quiet, of certain green places and a lilac hedge; there is about them the taste and odor of the ideal. They are for the future as well as for the past. Perhaps in some subtle way they do after all have potency for beauty. I fancy that some day I too shall stow away bags of them amid my worthless precious junk, and when prying hands disturb the dust the nostrils of a youngster now unborn will be greeted by a frail yet pungent aroma. I can only trust that he will know well what it is.
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