Saturday, January 22, 2005

William Sydney Porter - The Last Leaf

In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have runcrazy and broken themselves into small strips called "places." These"places" make strange angles and curves. One street crosses itself atime or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility inthis street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper andcanvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himselfcoming back, without a cent having been paid on account!

So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon cameprowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gablesand Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugsand a chafing dish or two from Sixth avenue, and became a "colony."

At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had theirstudio. "Johnsy" was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; theother from California. They had met at the table d'hote of an Eighthstreet "Delmonico's," and found their tastes in art, chicory saladand bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom thedoctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching onehere and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side thisravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feettrod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown "places."

Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman.A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrswas hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer.But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her paintediron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at theblank side of the next brick house.

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