He crowded up close to us with waving arms. “My blessings for you gentlemans!” he kept crying

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, February 10, 1934.

“The spirit of St. Valentine,” said Jimmie Frise, “is expressed these days in exactly the right measure. He is the patron saint of love. Therefore, hardly any attention at all is paid to him.”

“You mean love is dying out?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Jim. “Not only love, but all other emotion. A few years ago, if you didn’t send a pretty valentine to your sweetheart, you at least mailed a few ugly ones, anonymously, to people you did not like.”

“I’m glad those days are over,” I said. “I think human nature is much improved since the day of those ugly one-cent valentines.”

“You would say, then,” said Jimmie, “that a man is improved when he grows old and brittle? When he can no longer work up enough steam to either love or hate, he is improved, eh?”

“You misunderstand me,” I put in.

“I tell you, we as a people are showing all the symptoms of old age,” went on Jim. “Even the young people show no dash and go. They are limp and cynical. They are worldly wise and world weary. Whenever a couple of young men to-day decide to hire a schooner and go adventuring to the ends of the earth, it is big news for the front pages of all the newspapers. Whereas the only startling news item ought to be about a couple of young fellows that are staying at home!”

“You’re witty,” I accused him.

“Not me,” cried Jim. “I’m worried. I tell you, the fire of life is dying awfully low in us all! A coldness is stealing over us. Something ought to be done to rouse the fire, to put more fuel on it, to blow it into a blaze. Every day, I see that lethargy more sharply. A whole world, even the young, submitting like sheep to a cold, passionless, meaningless life!”

“Never have the young been livelier, freer,” I exclaimed loudly. “Look at them racing around in new eighty-mile-an-hour slip-stream motor cars!”

“Racing around where to?” asked Jim, coldly. “Where are they racing to? Is their new car the Golden Hind, and is it racing off to discover the Pacific? Are they racing off to Canada, Australia, Africa, to yank some more empire out of the wilderness and the desert? Are they racing off to the west, to push outward the boundaries of man’s life?”

“All that has been done,” I said. “There isn’t much new world to be discovered by the young people now.”

“So they sit in fast motor cars,” said Jim, “and race round and round.”

“Who is cynical now?” I demanded.

This World Needs Warmth

“Well,” said Jim slowly, “there are a lot of new worlds to be discovered besides America and Africa and New Zealand. There are realms of the heart and the mind that have not even yet been glimpsed by human eye. There are worlds of thought and deed, more perilous than the seas Columbus sailed, more deadly than the steaming swamps Cortez marched through, but if you go to the churches, or the political meetings, or the city hall or the parliament buildings, it is all old men you see. You don’t see any youth aboard the ships that are setting forth to unknown destinations to-day!”

“M’m,” said I. “And all this started with St. Valentine and the fact that we don’t hate anybody enough nowadays to send them a dirty valentine!”

“And we don’t love them enough to send them a pretty one,” countered Jimmie. “What this world needs is warmth. Simplicity. Old-fashioned kindliness. We have conquered everything. Discovered everything, mastered all things. Yet we go around on stiff legs, with our hair bristling, the way we did back in the ages when to live you had to hate.”

“What should we do?” I asked. “Go around loving everybody and be taken for a couple of saps?”

“I bet you,” said Jim, “that if we spent one day going about doing good, helping all who needed help, offering a kindly face to all our fellows, the result would astonish us. It would astonish us so that we would be converted to a new way of life. Life would smile upon us. We would feel the sun shining upon us. Offer kindness to the world, and see how kindly the world would respond!”

“That is an old teaching,” I reminded Jim.

“Yes, but it has never been practised,” said he. “I’m willing to try it. Just let us walk right out of this house and start the new life. Watch for every chance to do a kind or a noble act. Never pass an opportunity to do a good deed. We would find a hundred before we had gone a mile.”

“I go all day,” I said, “and never see anybody that wants any help.”

“Your eyes are blind,” said Jim. “Blinded by the coldness, the heartlessness of this age and generation.”

“I’d be glad to try it some time with you,” I said.

So Jim went on with his cartoon and I read a book Jimmie has about “Famous Race Horses of All Time,” and then we had lunch at Jim’s and after spending a few minutes out in the back yard looking eagerly for Jimmie’s crocuses which are not up yet, but which might be up almost any day, we started off for downtown.

We walked down to Bloor and decided to go a few blocks past all the shops with their new spring look about them, especially the flower shops and fruit stores with green onions and new rhubarb all crying out like song birds to the sensitive soul, and after two blocks, we had not seen a single case requiring our assistance. Even by any stretch of the imagination.

Testing the New Spirit

“The world,” I remarked, as we hopped along, “looks pretty good to me, Jimmie, pretty happy and easy, even if they aren’t going any place in a big way.”

“Keep your eyes peeled,” said Jim.

And at that moment something happened.

It was a foreigner in long whiskers and a fur cap, shoving a home-made cart with small iron wheels. It was filled with piles of old paper, bottles and junk.

And just as we came even with him as he strode along shoving the contraption on the slushy road, one of the wheels broke, and the wagon, with all its contents belching out, fell sideways on the road.

Jim rushed over to help.

“This isn’t the sort of thing,” I hissed to Jim.

“Lend a hand here,” said Jim, grasping an armful of the shabby contents of the cart and shoving ruggedly to keep the cart upright. I helped mildly. I don’t care to touch untidy things from heavens knows what source.

The old foreigner with the whiskers was very grateful, uttering words of thanks in between long jabbering and wailing outbursts as he got down and surveyed the broken wheel.

Jim put his shoulder to the cart and steadied it.

“How long do you suppose you will have to stand like that?” I asked him.

“A fine example of the new spirit you are,” said Jim. “Get your shoulder under here and help hold it up. Or pick up some of those things that slid out. They are getting all slushy.”

I picked up a couple of newspapers but lost my appetite at a bundle of old rags.

“They might have measles in them,” I protested to Jim, “or smallpox.”

“Listen,” said Jim gravely, still heaving with his weight while the old foreigner made excited investigations down under the cart, “this may be the test. If you fall down on this case, you may be counted unfit to meet with bigger opportunities.”

I picked up the rags and tossed them into the cart. I gathered up the remaining papers and piled them on the top, even though several people had paused to watch us.

“Ah,” said Jim. “You passed.”

The old foreigner was banging and thumping below. He rose to his feet and explained with elaborate gestures how, if we would both hold the cart upright, he could now fit the broken wheel back on the axle and all would be well.

“Get your shoulder against it,” said Jim.

Winning a Blessing

We both heaved the cart, and in a moment, the peddler shouted cheerily, and we stood away and the cart balanced on its two wheels perfectly.

“Ah, gentlemans,” cried the whiskered foreigner. “Tank you! Tank you! Gentlemans, I give you my blessings.”

“It’s quite all right,” I said. I noticed a wild sort of look in his eyes. They were a greenish color. He crowded up close to us with waving arms.

“My blessing for you, gentlemans,” he kept crying.

“Thank you,” said Jim.

And we walked along.

“I don’t want his blessing,” I said. “There are some things a person likes to do without any reward, not even thanks. Because it makes him feel bigger to have done them.”

“That is the meanest kind of deed of all,” said Jim. “I was glad to have that old man’s blessing. How do you know he might not have the gift of blessing? Maybe he could give us luck.”

“Superstition,” I began, “has vanished…”

But Jimmie had suddenly darted forward, stooping.

He picked up a wallet off the sidewalk. He opened it. It was crammed full with bills!

“Jimmie!” I gasped. We both wheeled to look, but the old foreigner had vanished.

There in the bright winter afternoon, we looked at each other and along the bright street with its shops and easy afternoon people with baby carriages and walking sticks. I felt funny.

“Well,” said Jim, quietly. “What do you think of that?”

He held the wallet in his hand and in a kind of daze, we continued to walk along Bloor St.

“Did he bless me too?” I asked Jim.

“Yes,” said he.

“But I was reluctant,” I said. “Maybe I don’t come under the blessing as strong as you.”

Yet at that moment, a man walked up to me and held out a large bunch of flowers to me!

He was a strange looking man, with jet black eyes glittering, and his teeth bared in a mysterious meaningful smile.

“Jimmie!” I said weakly.

But the man thrust the flowers into my hand, daffodils and tulips and hyacinths, a great glorious bouquet of them.

I took them in my hand and with a feeling of utter unreality, as if I were dreaming in the midst of waking. I walked beside Jimmie, who still held the wallet in his hand.

In a Golden Haze

The sky seemed suddenly bluer over Bloor St., a sweetness filled the air, a kind of golden light, and all the sounds of traffic, of cars and street cars and people passing made a music we had never heard before.

A man, splendidly dressed, a rich, middle-aged man stepped over in front of us.

“Gentlemen,” he said, in a beautiful voice, “step in!”

He waved his hand toward a small bright, brand new motor car standing on the side of the road.

It was one of those new, streamline cars, polished and gleaming like a jewel, and it was the color of a robin’s egg, velvety, moulded, sleek, gorgeous.

Jim and I gazed at the man in consternation.

“Get in,” he said. “Both of you. Drive it!”

He swept the door open.

I was nearest, and transferring my large bouquet to my other hand, I slid into the soft, luscious seat. And Jimmie, still holding the wallet in both hands, crept in alongside of me.

“You mean…?” I said, looking up at the handsome man standing benignly on the sidewalk.

And with one of the kindliest smiles I ever saw, he just nodded his head, slammed the door, and stood back.

“Jimmie,” I whispered.

Jim shook his head. His mouth was open.

I laid my bouquet on his lap. I took hold of the wheel, stepped on the starter and drove off.

“Is it mine?” I asked, huskily.

“He seemed to give it to you,” said Jim.

“But, but,” I stammered. “I don’t deserve it! It was you who threw your weight into the peddler’s cart. It was you who practically ordered me to pick up the newspapers and those old rags!”

“I got the wallet,” said Jim, holding it up. It bulged.

“Maybe,” I said, as I drove east on Bloor, with this soft sweet, silken car purring to my hand, “maybe there is a million dollars in that wallet!”

With trembling fingers Jimmie unloosed the commonplace black purse and took the bills out and counted them. There were $13 and, in change, 20 cents.

I steered into High Park.

A little way in. I ran the sweet, airy light little car to the side of the road and stopped the engine.

Embraced By the Mysterious

Jimmie,” I said, picking up my bouquet from his lap, there is something awfully strange about this business! From the time. you picked up that purse until now, it has been unreal, like a dream, like something out of the Arabian Nights.”

“I told you,” replied Jimmie, “that life was full of mysterious forces, if we would only give them a chance. Spiritual forces, profound forces that the Hindoos and primitive races know about.”

“But whose car is this?” I demanded taking hold of the wheel with my free hand, “how will we arrange that?”

“The day is young yet,” said Jim. “We are in the embrace of the mysterious, the fateful! In return for one good act, look what has happened already. Let us proceed downtown and maybe somebody will give me a skyscraper!”

“I feel as if something were going to happen,” I admitted.

But before I could lay the bouquet down, and before I could even take hold of the wheel, we heard a great tooting of car horns and hoarse shouts, and in an instant we were surrounded by two shabby old motor cars out of which tumbled five men and a woman. One of the men had a white apron on, a clerk in a store.

Jim and I were very surprised.

The first man to stand outside the car window and glare in at us was the handsome man who had presented me with the car.

“Where,” he shouted, “were you off to?”

“Why,” I said, “we didn’t know. We were so surprised!”

“Surprised at what?” shouted the good- looking man.

“At being given the car,” I explained.

“Huh,” said he, looking away, with an expression of disgust. “Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you seen anything of modern salesmanship? I mistook you two for intelligent citizens of the west end. All I was doing was offering you a ride in our new slip-stream model. It’s the latest kind of salesmanship. And you vanish with the car!”

“M’m,” said I.

“Oh!” said Jim.

“And,” shouted the car salesman, “if this poor fellow hadn’t complained here about his flowers, I might never have caught you!”

There, peering past his shoulder, was the dark-eyed, and formerly smiling man who had handed me the bouquet.

“Me poor man!” he cried. “Me poor flower man! I offer heem my flower. He take them. He walk away. No pay feefty cents!”

And then crowded in the man in the white apron, with his hat so hastily flung on, and he had by the arm a woman of about fifty, in a black coat.

“Is that your purse?” he said sharply, pointing to the wallet still clutched in Jim’s hand.

“Yes,” she gasped. “Oh!”

The storekeeper reached in and snatched the purse from Jim and handed it to the woman with a lift of his hat.

“I seen them pick it up,” said the storekeeper.

“The question is,” said the big car salesman, “what should we do with them? And first of all, get the – out of my car!”

I got out. I handed the flowers to the dark man. He took them rudely.

We stood in the mud in High Park and looked dumbly at our accusers gathered around us. “What have you to say for yourselves?” cried the big salesman standing with one foot on his running board.

Jim swallowed. I swallowed. We looked at each other. Then we looked at the circle around us.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Jim, “if we told you, you wouldn’t understand. It was a glimpse of the mysterious. The mystical. For ten minutes, my friend and I here have been back in the Middle Ages. When all things were possible and many things were probable.”

“They are nuts,” suggested the man in the white apron. It was his car they had come in and another car volunteered by a young chap who had not said a word but had been looking at us curiously.

Now he spoke.

“No,” said this young man, “they are not nuts. They are harmless. I know these two gentlemen and they mean no harm to anybody. Let me take them in my car.”

So the lady got in with the storekeeper and the flower seller got into the lovely little blue coupe with the salesman, and we got in with the young stranger.

“Where to, gentlemen?” he said.

“The Star office,” said Jim.

“It is good of you,” I said, “to come to our rescue like that. And to drive us downtown, too. We give you our blessing.”

So there is a young man wandering around, with our blessing on him.

We wonder what happened to him?

Editor’s Note: This story is a little unusual in that it is longer that usual. Regular stories average around 2500 words, and this one is almost 3000. It was also continued on a different page and not confined to a single one. This is likely because this is still early in the series, and there was not a standard look to them yet. There would become a regular routine of publishing the story on a single page in the back of the section of the newspaper.

The Golden Hind was the name of Sir Francis Drake’s ship in his circumnavigation of the world between 1577 and 1580.