Chronicles of Avonlea
III. Each In His Own Tongue
The honey-tinted autumn sunshine was falling thickly over the crimson and amber
maples around old Abel Blair's door. There was only one outer door in old Abel's house,
and it almost always stood wide open. A little black dog, with one ear missing and a
lame forepaw, almost always slept on the worn red sandstone slab which served old
Abel for a doorstep; and on the still more worn sill above it a large gray cat almost
always slept. Just inside the door, on a bandy-legged chair of elder days, old Abel
almost always sat.
He was sitting there this afternoon--a little old man, sadly twisted with rheumatism; his
head was abnormally large, thatched with long, wiry black hair; his face was heavily
lined and swarthily sunburned; his eyes were deep-set and black, with occasional
peculiar golden flashes in them. A strange looking man was old Abel Blair; and as
strange was he as he looked. Lower Carmody people would have told you.
Old Abel was almost always sober in these, his later years. He was sober to-day. He
liked to bask in that ripe sunlight as well as his dog and cat did; and in such baskings he
almost always looked out of his doorway at the far, fine blue sky over the tops of the
crowding maples. But to-day he was not looking at the sky, instead, he was staring at
the black, dusty rafters of his kitchen, where hung dried meats and strings of onions and
bunches of herbs and fishing tackle and guns and skins.
But old Abel saw not these things; his face was the face of a man who beholds visions,
compact of heavenly pleasure and hellish pain, for old Abel was seeing what he might
have been- -and what he was; as he always saw when Felix Moore played to him on the
violin. And the awful joy of dreaming that he was young again, with unspoiled life before
him, was so great and compelling that it counterbalanced the agony in the realization of
a dishonoured old age, following years in which he had squandered the wealth of his
soul in ways where Wisdom lifted not her voice.
Felix Moore was standing opposite to him, before an untidy stove, where the noon fire
had died down into pallid, scattered ashes. Under his chin he held old Abel's brown,
battered fiddle; his eyes, too, were fixed on the ceiling; and he, too, saw things not
lawful to be uttered in any language save that of music; and of all music, only that given
forth by the anguished, enraptured spirit of the violin. And yet this Felix was little more
than twelve years old, and his face was still the face of a child who knows nothing of
either sorrow or sin or failure or remorse. Only in his large, gray-black eyes was there
something not of the child--something that spoke of an inheritance from many hearts,
now ashes, which had aforetime grieved and joyed, and struggled and failed, and
succeeded and grovelled. The inarticulate cries of their longings had passed into this
child's soul, and transmuted themselves into the expression of his music.