Today I went to a bookstore and bought a book. I did not intend to buy the book and the bookstore deals in used books so of course I could not buy a very new book, so I took particular delight in buying an old one. I bought a book printed in 1897. That kind of book store.
The book is entitled A Year From A Reporter’s Note-Book by Richard Harding Davis, published by Harper & Brothers of New York and London in, like I said, 1897. In the book Davis writes of witnessing the Coronation of Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra and we all know how that turns out. And he writes of attending the Millennial Celebration at Budapest and we all know, but wait.
The people of 1897 did not know. They had no idea nor did Richard Harding Davis and as I read I found myself swept into another age, an age of privilege and superstition and aristocracy and authority and orthodoxy, but something else. And what that something is I found beginning on page 79 in the description of a violinist who played in a club where there was “a great ballroom, in the style of the Second Empire, and reading-rooms and libraries with walls and red-morocco books, and vast banqueting-halls, and rooms for whist and silence, or for the more noisy games of roulette and the petit chevaux” and what I found I will quote to you from the book, because I can’t do any better and I want you to hear what I heard in the words.
“His name is Berkes, and no one who has not been to Budapest or to Vienna has ever heard him, for the Hungarians say naively that were he to leave them and play elsewhere they would never be able to get him back again, as those who heard him once would keep him with them forever. He is the king of the gypsy musicians and the master of their melody. His violin seems to be just as much a part of him as are his arms or his eyes or his heart. When he plays, his body seems to stop at the neck, and he appears to draw all of his strength and feeling from the violin in his hands, the rest of him being merely a support for his head and his instrument. He has curious eyes, like those of a Scotch collie – sad, and melancholy, and pleading – and when he plays they grow glazed and drunken-looking, like those of an absinthe drinker, and tears roll from them to the point of his short beard and wet the wood of his violin. His music probably affects different people according to their nerves, but it is as moving as any great passage in any noble book, or in any great play, and while it lasts he holds people absolutely in a spell, so that when the music ceases women burst into tears, and I have seen men jump to their feet and empty the contents of their pockets into his lap; and they are so sure to do this that their servants take their money away from them when they are dressing to dine at some house where Berkes is announced to play. One night a Frenchman dipped a two-thousand-franc note into a glass of champagne and pasted it on the back of the man’s violin, and the next day Berkes sent it back to him again, saying that to have this compliment paid him by a foreigner in the presence of his countrymen was worth more to him than the money.”
This is why I believe God loves me, because He created such a world at one time, created people such as those once upon a time and has created me in this world to realize where I belong and with whom I belong in either world.