Imagination, page 1
It was a rough, chilly night in the month of December. A beggar was walking through the city. The air was foggy and freezing and the road was full of freshly fallen snow. He had few shabby clothes on him incapable of keeping his body warm. His hands ached with numbness and cold and he could no longer move his fingers without pain. Small drops of icy water dripped down his tousled, long neglected hair. Soon the snow restarted, its flakes, falling sideways, got arrested in his uncombed messy beard. His face was white with cold and the lips were becoming a bluish shade of it. He was covered poorly in a worn-out shirt and trousers. Over his shoulders hung a tattered vestment ragged and patched at places; his hands would clutch it repeatedly in an effort to wrap it tightly around himself whenever the biting wind blew shaking him to bones.
He was going to a theatre, to collect whatever small amount he could, to buy his supper with. Here he had a chance to make a good sum. He preferred theatres to all other places in the city, and this because of two reasons. Firstly, in the aristocracy that attended it women were always in number and it was by experience that he knew women as a generous contributor to his class. A second profounder and psychological reason which very few of his brethren knew, was that tendency towards humanism which is natural in such places; the touch of goodwill and morality which pervades through every soul in its nearness and increases the more when, after watching the performance they depart, relieved and in high spirits. It was the natural keenness towards life and humanism which overcomes an alert and artistic mind after observing a good art performance. Thus this softer portion of heart newly aroused compelled almost every passer-by to drop a few coins in his outstretched hand whenever he came forward with a humble countenance from besides a wall or across the road. The church and the hospital were the next buildings in his preference list but the people there were rather a mixture of classes than being particular and had different manners of treatment therefore.
Usually upon arriving at a certain spot in the city he would stand in a corner, rushing forward to open the door of the arriving carriages, greeting with a benign yet unsophisticated gesture to the people stepping out or taking the reins of a gentlemen’s horse directed him towards the stables or a nearby post. In return he would accept with gratitude whatever he received. But tonight, he was in no state of doing such service. Despite all his efforts to cover and rub them inside the damp pockets, his hands were getting colder every instant and he could scarcely keep them there without sensing the numbness which was gradually sweeping across his fingers. It was still some time left to the beginning of the performance when he arrived outside the theatre. Searching for some place to rest till the show ended he went, opposite to the building, under the shade offered by the balcony of an ancient house. It was well protruding and provided him a little ceiling below in the street where he could shrink himself from the snow.
The crowd inside the avenue was now increasing around the theatre. Most of these were couples, young and comely, with a pleasing freshness over their cheerful faces. Their clothes, the beggar noticed, were carefully selected in the effort of displaying the best possible neatness, comfort and updated approach to the fashion of the era. For ladies this consideration rested with the fact that later some of these dresses were to be sketched for the monthly ‘the women’s gazette’ so everyone had her own fancies and thoughts about it. Along with the regular pedestrians, the clerks, the merchants, groups of loiterers, workers and the laughing running crowd of children a number of carriages were creeping towards that side. Mounted with a man in livery and driven by a couple of fine horses, a rig halted before the entrance, a man dressed in a respectable attire lined with gold buttons sparkling over the chest and attended by a footman, stepped out. The crowd shrank a little to admit his arrival, not unnoticeable by the beggar who was intently watching the scene from his position. Then the commoner folks appeared hurrying for the hall and the entrance was crowded once more till each and every one of them had reached inside save that miserable beggar sitting there with his back to the hard cold wall and a little puddle of water and snow at his heels.
The avenue and the branching streets became silent once more with occasional trespassers. In the melancholic howling of winds after awhile, he caught low sounds of clapping, exclamations of approval and laughter then it all died away. He knew the show had begun. His body was shivering with cold; he had been inside a theatre but only once and for a short time. In his mind now he had but few glimpses of it. He knew there was a great hall inside. How increasingly difficult it would become to keep it warm and comfortable in these dreadful nights, he thought. it’s a majestic place.., must require a great fire place, a lot of fuel.., he cuddled retracting his feet from the snow, but the people in there are so many, they create warmth, it must be sufficiently warm by them alone.
Snow was soft and gentle; the flakes -- lightly tossed by the touch of wind -- swirled in the air before reaching the ground. Light and free, adrift, they danced in the air. This all continued within the ancient majestic street. The beggar remained still, keenly observing this; it was like some form of art, subtle, unrestrained and natural. He let his eyes roam across the street; next to the theatre, over the entrance of an old house, its heraldic shield -- brightly coloured and glimmering in the circle of pale light emanating from the lamp next to it -- looked lovely in the background of endless shower of milky snow. He fixed his eyes upon it, on the door slab were few flowers -- perhaps left by an admirer -- he thought. Bright red petals pleased his eyes. The contrast was moving, distant red with sprinkling white in foreground and the light of the lamp. “Perhaps it is, what they say art” he mumbled. The faint music from the theatre started filling the street. What the scene lacked until, was a sense of life which this music gave it at once. Like a spirit entering the body and rendering it with consciousness and meaning it filled and lightly echoed in the closed alley. His intellectual abilities were not capable of determining the name of the particular piece or the musician; he only could guess its mood which seemed sombre.
Wind added to this effect with its howling melancholy like the essential element of an opera, emphasising the tragic part of existence with pain and suffering. Was his mind becoming subjective or was it a coincidence that in that he could feel a reflection of his own soul. A gust of air brought to his cold reddish nostrils the faint sensation of fragrance. Albeit the cold and pain he was feeling, somehow he caught the patterns of these elements, the snow, mild fragrance, the glimmer around the street, the colours and finally the music which befitted this so well.
There is a relationship in these things, he thought. His reflections were stirred; his mind was passively following the sequences. The combination which together these elements composed began a fascination to it. This simple artistic performance of which he was the sole witness put him in a state of joyful wonder -- a wonder the kind of which is usually preceded by a vision of self-recognition. It must be this, he went on, which keeps them away from feeling cold, “ah now I see” he ejaculated excitedly. “Their senses are overpowered by what they see, and with this the cold becomes ineffective”. This thought weighed the most with him and he was pleased with himself. He began to imagine the scene inside the theatre, a great hall with numerous seats, occupied with people in furry coats and soft hats, warm and comfortable. He was trying to imagine, to visualize in an effort to escape the surroundings. Before too long, he sensed the attraction in that activity which for a few moments diverted his thoughts from his self. It became secondary to his mind which was too busy in visualizing what the body could not feel.
However such amazing and welcoming was this idea that not for a single moment did his co