A SHUFFLING in the hall, a knock at my door, "Come in," and in comes Nicholas. He has a pair of bright black eyes, a glistening set of teeth to relieve a dark Italian complexion, and a rich mass of unkempt hair. Nicholas's vocation is candy-selling, but he does not confine himself to this vocation solely. On bright days he is to be found in the streets of Boston, singing to the accompaniment of an organ carried by his father.
Nicholas's voice is a rare one, full, rich, and uncultivated, yet very sweet withal. I remember that often, crossing the Public Garden, and hearing the familiar voice singing, under a Beacon Hill window, I have had the bad taste to sit down upon one of the benches to listen, and imagine myself in Italy hearing a lover serenade his lady. Once indeed, on a June morning, when the birds twittered and Nicholas sang so that I forgot my annual awaiting me, I followed him up and down, until, meeting a severely critical friend, I basely shielded myself by asserting that I was searching for an officer to arrest the nuisance. Nevertheless I doubted that day if Capoul ever sang better.
The story goes that Nicholas has wrung many a dear heart in Boston by his cold indifference to its smiles. I acknowledge a sympathy with the fair captives, and confess to a certain weakness for the little Italian myself. The orangeman (who, by the way, is a stanch Romanist) affords me no little delight; there is a pleasure in communion of thought with the gentlemanly poco; but the picturesqueness of the uncombed locks of the Italian boy, and the fine frenzy of his black eyes, have charms that especially captivate me.
So, when Nicholas comes in and takes me immediately into his favor because I can say "parlate Italiano?" I am very proud to receive his smile. And when the black eyes spy a pair of sabots on the mantle, and I am asked "how much I take," it is not very hard to part with them. Or when our minstrel delicately intimates that he would like to find an old coat lying around somewhere, the article needed is generally found, even if it requires a little missionary work among one's neighbors.
Not that Nicholas's wants are few; he sees very little in one's room that he does not want. But bless the boy, say I, it is n't necessary to give him everything; he will give me his company for nothing, and take us dyspeptic students away from our books with his prattle. And bless the old pedler who will sell me his oranges and throw in an hour's talk about his life, giving me something to think of outside my own, and something to laugh at besides college jokes. Bless the dog-man who will tell me about the latest addition to "Missy's" family. Bless the delicate young creature who will kiss me if I buy a basket (I would n't buy one). Let more come to give me a sympathy with mankind; my latch-string shall be always out. Bless them all; bless - I had almost said the book-agent.