BY DR. AGONSON
The snow fell in torrents throughout the day, but suddenly, after the fall of night, quit, and then the skies were the opening of the crystal trove, the stars like diamonds presented for humble man to awe. Yet few from their warm cabins would at this hour stir and retread the bitter winter; all honest men asleep in bed knew naught that night the wondrous twinkling sight above.
It was a thief—more so his luck made him a beggar, but still that tittle, little honor bringing, yet better than himself, he tightly claimed—it was a thief, I say, who in some frigid hole looked up to see. No one was surety to call him such: far better to spare their conscience when charity was short, that is, no one’s heart was much weighed down by this thief turned beggar. Better the weight stayed in that person’s purse.
So he looked up and saw the sight of stars he could not name, a host of mighty light, but still gentle, which watched the night. Stay stars, he thought, that I may hold you in my hand, may grasp your precious worth. He was dying, he knew, the winter was quite bad, and delirious he reached, thinking himself robbing some mademoiselle’s jewelry.
His arm not long enough to touch the sky, he stood. Still he reached, grasping nothing. Out of his hole he stepped. Not tall enough yet. He glanced about the city, looking for something higher than himself. Expedient, a church steeple towered above all other spires near.
His hands were blue and black. He little cared. They would serve tonight. He shuffled through the snow, little feeling his feet. Plowing through the alley, and breaking through a shoveled drift, he entered the howling winds of the city street. They blew through his thin rags. He looked not back, but treaded on.
Ice had overflowed from a blocked gutter, spreading over the thoroughfare, and was between the thief and the steeple. At this his poor legs trembled, barely staying under him as he progressed toward the town’s center, the church, where held aloft, a cross above all other buildings flew.
He was a thief again, he found, for in his day he could like a spider challenge any wall. It was his day again, for determination brewed in him great warmth, his beating heart now like a furnace pumping life into his limbs. The ascent was little trouble then, and he climbing higher, soon was attached to a wrought iron cross painted black against foul rust. And pining desperately, he sought to touch heaven and steal himself a star.
It was the morrow’s light revealed to that cold and tired old town the thief upon the cross. Frozen, he reached for the sun, desperate to touch something beyond himself.