Autobiography of Gregor Piatigorsky

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Autobiography of

Gregor Piatigorsky


Chapter One

EKATERINOSLAV (now Dnepropetrovsk) had a mild climate, but the air in the steppe seldom stood still. The breeze bent and swayed the grass and rye, which grew high and wild and made the wide plains look like an ocean. I had never seen an ocean, but my father said that the steppe looked like one. It had great power over me. I liked to stand outside in front of the fence and listen to the wind and watch it change the face of the steppe. Inside our peasant-like house I was always in the mood to hear stories about it. Fascinated, I listened to the tales of roaming packs of wild dogs that devoured the cobbler’s son Vanya, of tramps and deserters, of hidden springs and mysterious flowers whose scent put men to sleep, never to awaken again.

On the other side of the town flowed the Dnieper River. The stream, which rushed over all obstacles, hitting stones and tearing the banks away, did not frighten me. Nothing frightened me in the presence of Father. He was strong and it was good to do things with him. We plunged into thundering waters and struggled with rapids and we laughed at storms and lightning and we always returned home to the edge of the steppe smiling and happy.

Unlike my mother and my sisters, Nadja and Pauline, I dreaded the family walks into town on holidays. “These parks, boulevards, and monuments are here to remind us of the romantic founders of our city, the Empress Catherine and Potemkin,” Father lectured, and spurred us to look at things. None of us acted natural. Even Mother appeared as if the whole world were watching her family parading, but she looked pretty as she walked, holding Father’s hand. She was always pretty and calm and she enjoyed those walks. Perhaps Father enjoyed them too, but I knew he preferred our excursions to the river.

One day my older brother, Leonid, Father, and I wandered into the depths of the steppe. The summer day was bright. There were burned patches and wild flowers that looked like weeds. “There must be springs somewhere near,” said Father. “We must listen to a bubbling sound deep under the earth.” We thought that Father spotted something, and ran toward him. “Be calm,” he said. “There are tramps—four of them.” We saw them swaggering toward us from afar. “It looks as if we will have to defend ourselves. Gather all the stones you can find. Fill your pockets; but pretend you are playing.” Father spoke fast and low. “Aim well. You are good at that. Jump at their faces with the heels of your shoes. Then get up quickly, run to the side, and throw the rocks. Make a lot of noise the moment I give a signal, and don’t be afraid.”

The four ruffians approached. “Hands up!” They ignored Leonid and me, and Father let them go through his pockets. Standing with his hands up obediently, it struck me how gentle Father looked next to those rogues. He was not a giant at all, I realized.

The vagabonds collected Father’s belongings as suddenly he shouted, “Kill, hit, fry them!” With this command everything went wild. Whether they were drunk or stunned by the fury of our surprise attack, the battle did not last very long. We followed Father’s instructions to the letter, and he demonstrated his prowess as a pugilist. Bewildered and bleeding, the tramps limped away.

“Nothing is more degrading than that kind of contact with human flesh,” Father said, collecting his scattered belongings. At home, Mother was horrified at our appearance, torn clothes, and Father’s swollen face, but I thought he looked beautiful.

I don’t know how poor we were, but we were not hungry. One of the few houses I knew besides ours was my grandfather’s , on Mother’s side. As in our house, there was no running water, and the toilet was in the yard. His name was Amchislavsky, and he was a carpenter. I loved to watch him work and to smell the wood in his workshop. But I disliked one relative, a barber, to whom we were all brought in a group for haircuts. We had to wait for hours until he was finished with his paying customers. Often he would show his resentment by pinching me with his clippers. He smelled of onions and demanded gratitude. I resented both, and while everyone else continued visiting him at regular intervals, I refused to join them and made my mother cut my hair.

My grandparents on Father’s side lived in the rich section of the town, far from the neighborhood where I was born. Their house was big and unfriendly. In spite of much bulky furniture and ugly paintings in huge frames on the walls, it seemed uninhabited, like a warehouse. There were old commodes, chests, and china closets, and many ancient objects of which one spoke with veneration. But the oldest thing in the house was Grandmother, who was preparing to celebrate her first century. Grandfather was her third or fourth husband. Stumpy and with a square beard, strict and stingy, he seldom came to see us. He had a bookshop, where my father had been employed. They did not approve of one another, and their quarrels weighed heavily on my mother.

I didn’t see Grandmother often, but later, thinking of her, I realized how many bad dreams I had because of her, and how afraid I must have been of her. She moved like a ghost, and I imagined hearing her bones clatter. We called her the Queen of Spades. The news of her death never reached me, and I still sometimes see her in my dreams. To me she is one hundred and fifty now, and still alive.

My mother’s mother has completely escaped my memory, as if she had never existed. Mother had two brothers, Matway and Gregory. Gregory was tall and good-looking. I always ran with outstretched arms to greet him, to be picked up, wrestle, or measure the big muscles in his arms. But Matway looked unhealthy and gloomy. Father said that he had contracted some terrible illness, but he would not tell more. I avoided going near him, and ran away when he wanted to give me a hug.

Father had a sister, diminutive Aunt Julia, who had a little limp and who did not resemble my father at all. Her husband, Leo, was flabby and fat and when in a jovial mood he pinched us and gave us wet kisses. I hated his baby talk and I never laughed at his jokes.

Our house bustled with activity. Father practiced his violin at all hours and he was always cheerful and full of the most exciting plans. “Everything will be new and daring,” he liked to boast. He spoke to me of the Messiah and Buddha, of Byzantine architecture, of the salmon’s mating habits, and, sensing my pride in being chosen to listen, he ignored my inability to understand half of what he said.

One evening, in the middle of a story from the Bible, he said that there would be a new addition—Number Five—to our family. “A new sister or brother will put you smack in the middle,” he said, as though offering me a formidable new position.

That evening he took me to the symphony concert, where I saw and heard the cello for the first time. I had never heard or seen anything nearly so beautiful before.

From that night on, armed with two sticks, a long one for the cello and a short one for the bow, I pretended to play the cello. Even the birth of my new brother, Alexander, did not interrupt my make-believe. Those magic sticks lifted me into a world of sound where I could call every mood at will.

Suddenly something at home changed. More frequent visits of neighbors, their faces showing fear, their whispers, and Mother’s tears. Even Nadja’s occasional laughter did not change the atmosphere of anxiety. “They catch only the fat ones, who can’t run,” she giggled to Leonid.

“It’s not a hide-and-seek game,” he said seriously. “Not all are safe who can run. Don’t you remember a chicken running in the yard after the butcher cut its head off?”

“Phooey—don’t speak of that. Besides, no one cuts anybody’s head off. Father said himself that the pogroms are under czar’s personal supervision. How far away is the pogrom now?”

“I don’t know. Not very far. Are you afraid?”

I was very young, yet I recall our cellar and the faces crowded against each other in the dark. It was there in the cellar that I learned to feel the fear of others. The silence was heavy and long. Someone pressed me against a wall. The wall was cold and moist. I hurt my head. “They are coming!” I heard tramping above my head. The ceiling was shaking and pieces of plaster fell.

The voices were now quite near. “Hey, you dirty kikes! Get out!” There were sounds of broken glass and threatening laughter. Inhuman, menacing voices hit my ears savagely.

“Where is Rosie, my Rosie? Let me out! Let me out of here!” cried a woman. Someone must have put a hand over her mouth; her voice sounded suffocated. I tried to ease myself from the wall. “Are you hurt?” a man whispered. “I think they are leaving,” he said.

“No goddam rat left alive!” boomed a voice from above. The noise of the swearing mob became fainter and soon silence descended again. No one moved. As if by a miracle, I could now see the cellar and the people. Were my eyes closed before? At the end of the room I saw Father. Leonid stood close to Grandfather, the carpenter, who with his silvery beard looked like a picture of a prophet I had seen in a book. Nadja’s eyes shone like a cat’s. They did not blink, and made me afraid. There was unrest in the crowd. Father climbed the ladder to the trap door. “I will see if it’s safe to get out.”

“It’s all right. Don’t rush—one at a time,” ordered Father. His voice sounded unnaturally loud. When we emerged, our house was a shambles. Only the piano stood in its place untouched. I ran into the yard. People stood in a wide circle. No one spoke. Uncle Gregory wiped tears from his face. “Go away! You should not see,” he said.

“They slashed open her stomach. She was pregnant,” sobbed someone quietly. “Rosie was raped. Sam is dead. They hanged the teacher—right there—see the fire?” A woman pointed at the street. The blood was everywhere. I reached down to touch it. It was still warm. Some people were stained with it, but none looked like a murderer.

That night we all slept close together on the floor. In the morning a policeman entered the house. “Just going to piss,” he said, passing through the room. “It’s a nice place for you people,” he remarked, buttoning his trousers on the way out.

I recall the spring, the sun melting the crust of ice lying shiny on the snow; and later, the death of Uncle Gregory, and the War Department report that he had died bravely for Russia, his land.

Chapter Two

“You are seven today. It’s your birthday. Come on, hurry! There is something waiting for you,” my father said as he awoke me. I followed him into the living room, where the entire family was assembled. I saw a cello. “It’s real, not a quarter of half size as for children.” I stood awe-struck, not daring to touch it. It was my first cello, and even before I could pluck the strings it was next to me at all meals and at my bedside at night.

My first teacher was Father, who, although a violinist, thought he could teach me. “They all are one big family,” he said. But once, when trying to demonstrate something on the cello and producing a series of squeaks and scratches, he conceded that sometimes relatives are incompatible and he had better find a good cello teacher for me. I started lessons with Mr. Yampolsky, working with furious enthusiasm and making fast progress. I liked my teacher and his beautiful cello. It was golden red and shiny, while mine had a muddy varnish and ungraceful shape. Soon I began to criticize it openly, and asked for a better one. “By making you wait longer, you will feel more deserving of it later,” said Father. I certainly waited a longtime for it, in the meantime developing a contempt for the bulky monster I had to live with. Finally one day Father brought me to a violin shop to see two instruments. Without hesitation, even before playing, I pointed toward the nicer-looking one, which was darker

“One does not judge by looks,” said Father.

“The other has a fat belly like Uncle Leo,” I protested.

“What! What is this, a joke?” screamed Father.

Needless to say, I brought home the cello my father chose. As though he had just bought a pair of shoes for me, he explained, “You will see that this cello will prove most wear-resistant.”

Mr. Yampolsky had to leave town, and I became a student at the conservatory of music and, dressed proudly in its uniform, entered the class of Mr. Gubarioff. My new teacher, who was also director of the conservatory, had a well-groomed mustache. He had an enormous stomach that separated his cello from him and made it appear as if it stood by itself. I was impressed by everything: his melodious voice and the smell of mint emanating from his mouth. He had a large supply of mint drops that he offered me during lessons.

Father supervised my practicing. One day he walked into my room and saw a big pillow on my stomach, holding the cello. “What’s that?”

“I am trying to play like my teacher,” I said, my mouth full of mint. “Doesn’t it smell divine?” I puffed into Father’s face. I did not stay long with Gubarioff.

During the summer season there were open-air symphony concerts. Many members of the orchestra came from various parts of Russia. The visiting first cellist, Mr. Kinkulkin, a pupil of the famous Professor Klengel, consented to listen to me.

While I played, Mr. Kinkulkin tapped his tiny fingers on a table and cleaned his nails with a toothpick. He remained silent until I had put my cello away. “Listen carefully, my boy. Tell your father that I strongly advise you to choose a profession that will suit you. Keep away from the cello. You have no talent whatsoever.”

I repeated to Father what Mr. Kinkulkin had said. He looked at me, surprised, but said nothing. At first I felt happy to be able to join my playmates in their soccer games, but after a week or so I began to look uneasily at the corner where the cello stood. It was increasingly difficult to ignore it.

“What bothers you?” asked Father. I pointed at the cello.

The sound of the cello filled the house again. I thought nothing of getting up at four in the morning while the family still slept and practicing with the soundless system I devised—my fingers on the fingerboard and the bow in the air.

Father was not an ordinary man, and though he never achieved anything substantial, he made important mistakes. Grandfather wanted him in his bookstore and opposed Father’s ever-shifting search for a career—as a theologian, philosopher, sportsman, and biologist. But above all, he opposed Father’s mightiest ambition—to be a concert violinist. Grandfather threatened to stop his financial support should Father disobey. When Father left to study with Professor Auer in St. Petersburg, he did not believe that the threat would be carried out, but it was. Soon after his departure, I was elected to ask Grandfather for help. My ambassadorship was a disaster.

“I won’t give a penny. I predicted that this would happen,” said Grandfather. His face was hard.

Early the next morning I left the house with my cello to look for work. But each day brought disillusionment, until my hopes vanished and I was ready to ask for any help. Returning home one day, I saw people carrying musical instruments, going in and out of a building. I too went in. There was a large hall and I saw groups of people. Some had long hair, some were crippled, many were old, and none looked prosperous. There were no chairs except one occupied by a man at a desk.

“What do you want?” he called to me, looking at my cello. “Come on, son. This is a hiring hall. Do you want a job?”


“But you're just a kid. How old are you?”


“And your parents want you to work?”

“They sent me here.”

“Have you played anywhere?”

“At home—quartets, with my father and brother.”

“But that makes only three of you.”

“I usually sing the part of the viola.”

“Also a singer, eh? But we don’t need quartets here. Do you know any gypsy music? He offered me his chair, settled himself on the desk, and I played Marussja Poisoned Herself and my own variations on Dark Eyes.

“There’s a job in a night club,” he said, puzzled, and as if speaking to himself.

“I would like it very much,” I said.

I got the job, but we kept it a secret from Father. I brought home my wages regularly and gave them to Mother. All went well, but the make-up of the ensemble puzzled me. Why were there two women among us? Neither could play the guitar or the mandolin they held. When I asked the leader, he said, “Decoration—just furniture!”

I thought Vera was beautiful. She sat next to me, permitting me to inhale the perfume she wore. Everyone loved her and many customers demanded her company, making her leave the stage sometimes for hours. Occasionally she would come back very soon, but not for long. People wanted to see Nadja also, but less often. I did not blame them. Her cheeks were too red and she had angry eyes.

On one rainy night, Vera offered to bring me home in a buggy. “Why don’t you come to my place?” I will give you hot chocolate. You will see how I live,” she said, caressing my hand.

She lit kerosene lamp much faster than my sister Nadja could. I looked around the small room. A terrier doll sat in the middle of an enormous bed. I touched it; it was soft and perfumed. Vera said that the chocolate would be ready in a minute. “Why don’t you say something, my big little boy? You haven’t taken your coat off yet. I will make myself comfortable.” Swiftly, she pulled her dress over her head, throwing her rich golden hair into disorder. “Won’t you stay with me? It’s raining outside.” She played with my hair.

In the morning after breakfast, dressed in freshly pressed trousers, meticulously groomed, brilliantined, and with a touch of perfume, I returned home. I found the entire family in a state of exhaustion from a sleepless night spent in worrying and looking for me. When I said that I had spent the night with Vera, I was surprised at the effect it made.

At work again, I attended to my duties absently. Why did Vera ignore me? I wondered jealously. She even exchanged seats with Nadja. I hated the men who beckoned to her. Guests began to complain, “Is this a whorehouse or a kindergarten?”

“The kid is bad for business,” the manager said to the leader. It was my last night.

The Coliseum was the first movie theater in Ekaterinoslav. Moving pictures were a novelty and everyone was proud of the new building. But none was as thrilled as I, for I belonged to it. I sat with my cello in the orchestra pit and saw the pictures even before the grand opening. It was a stroke of luck that the only available cellist in town was afraid of the dark when sober, and therefore did not want the job. The owner himself was present when I tried for the position. He and all eight members of the orchestra complimented me. When I emerged from the pit, the owner, putting on his glasses, gave me a looking-over.

“I'll be darned! Say, what’s your age?”

“None one can see him down there, below,” the contractor said. The owner hesitated. But there was no one else to be had, and I was hired. I ran home, holding fast to my cello, impatient to tell Mother the great news.

“It’s a marvelous job,” I said. “They will let me choose the music for the picture! It will be such fun—really different, not only playing the cello.” I spoke fast. “You know, Mother, how it’s done? You must come with me—will you? I will have a watch, paper and pencil for timing every action. Every mood must be illustrated with music. For instance, when the train comes, we will play TARARAM-TARARAM-TAM-TAM—you know, Rossini. There is a scene, Mama, oh, you will like it—a beautiful girl is kissed by a man and he is all bent over. I never saw anything like that—there is a bit of music, just perfect, by Tchaikovsky.”

Mother smiled. “Don’t you think it’s time for you to go to bed?” She kissed me good night. Alone in my room, I thought of Father. I wished he were home. I missed him, his cheerfulness, and even his anger. Now I was never sure if I had done something wrong.

My first days at the Coliseum were exciting. The orchestra, the repertoire, the picture itself I felt were a part of my own creation. Before the week passed, my enthusiasm lessened. I sat deep in the pit. Drops of water fell on my head from the new cement on the low ceiling, and even after I covered my head with a cap there was no relief. I anticipated every drop before it reached me. There was no other place for me to sit, and no one volunteered to change places with me. I developed a strange tic-like grimace that alarmed Mother. On Sundays and holidays I had to play from three in the afternoon until midnight. I became irritable. Only my friend Stolpikoff in the orchestra knew how tired I was. He offered to play my part on the trumpet, but his own was more than he could handle. Besides, his lip was constantly sore. I think it was from eating too many peanuts. There was never such a peanut fiend. He liked them roasted. His pockets were full of them and wherever he went one could track him by bits of shells. A goodhearted man, he had not much to offer except sympathy and a handful of peanuts. To me, at the time, these were great riches.

It was one Sunday that I heard Stolpikoff urging the musicians to give me some rest. “The youngster will die.”

“Shut up, you peanut-head!”

I was in the middle of the solo in William Tell, but I could not continue. “Play!” hissed the concertmaster (who was also the conductor). “Play, you bastard!” He hit me with his bow. All went dark in my mind. I must have done something terrible; I do not recall. But later, on the street, Stolpikoff told me that I had broken a chair on the head of the conductor and that among other casualties were a violin and Stolpikoff’s trumpet. So ended my second job.

Chapter Three

GRANDFATHER’s death brought my father back home. He looked defeated and haggard. It had been a fiasco in St. Petersburg.

Aunt Julia and Uncle Leo left hurriedly for the United States with the supposedly greater part of the inheritance. Father decided to use his scanty share to move to Moscow, where his children would have better opportunities for education. I was about nine when we arrived there. Father invested in an apartment house on the outskirts of Moscow and applied for my entrance to the Moscow Conservatory of Music. I was interviewed and I played for the director, Ippolitov-Ivanov, and the cello professor, Von Glehn, and was admitted as a scholarship student.

It was a long walk back to our house. The building was of solid logs and the entrance to the house was in a courtyard behind a huge rustic gate. A bolt barred it for the night. It was like a parody of something medieval, a pitiful fortress that had nothing to protect. Surrounding it were rows of desolate and unpainted frame houses. Nearby was a shack where vodka was sold by government monopoly. There one saw men drop to the ground strewn with empty bottles, as though in a fever of typhus. On paydays women waited for their fathers and husbands. Some tried to prevent the men from getting drunk, but more often they limped home, weary and beaten by their impatient and thirsty men.

In this neighborhood there were gang fist fights of one street against another which started with children and ended with adults, a sport sometimes resulting in murder. It was a tough district. A few streets from us was a chocolate factory. Most of our tenants worked there, their days beginning in the dark of the morning.

The house had six apartments—three on each floor. Ours, upstairs, was the largest. There were a piano and books and a large table in the dining room. That table, between meals, served for writing, reading, and playing games.

The former owner had sold the building simultaneously to Father and to someone else. The legal proceedings that followed drained Father’s purse. But, undiscouraged by a lost cause, he bustled with energy and spoke of the magnificence of Moscow and the new, interesting acquaintances he made.

“Great,” he announced one afternoon. “Come on, boys,” he called to Leonid and me. “I have news for you. We are going on a trip when school ends—the first thing this spring. A friend of mine recommended all three of us to Mr. Susow, with whom I signed a contract for a two-month tour with his grand opera company. We will go to many towns on the Volga River. I will be the first viola, Leonid, the concert-master, and Grisha, the first cellist.”

On the day of departure the entire company, with the orchestra and chorus, crowded themselves into one third-class railroad car. Our section, two wooden lower and two upper benches, we shared with a very fat lady from the chorus. Soon after we left, she made herself comfortable, took off her clothes, and put on a greasy robe that she called a “peignoir.” She had a remarkable assortment of cheeses, apples, and big loaf of bread. Her appetite was prodigious. The smell of one brand of her cheese, mixed with the perfume she was wearing, was suffocating. The situation worsened when she refused to let us open a window. Despite our pleas to the manager, he would not separate us.

The first meeting of the company was a rehearsal of Eugen Onegin in the theater in Samara. Walking from the railroad car, which was to be our living quarters, we saw billboards posted around town: “HISTORIC OPERA EVENT—FAMOUS STARS—100-MAN CHORUS AND ORCHESTRA—IN SENSATIONAL PRODUCTION OF 'EUGEN ONEGIN.'

The orchestra consisted of seventeen men. Its most unusual feature was the conductor, who occupied the podium with his French horn. Holding the horn in both hands, his mouth shut by the mouthpiece, he was mute and gestureless. I was surrounded by four music stands, with parts for the cello, clarinet, trombone, and oboe. It was my duty to play the important spots of each part.

Mr. Susow was the entrepreneur of the company and the leading tenor as well. Irritated and nervous, he complained about many things, but his greatest annoyance was that the lady who was to sing Tatiana, the virgin maiden, had not mentioned her advanced stage of pregnancy when she signed the contract.

At the opening, Mr. Trilo, the double-bass player, stood near me with a bottle of vodka protruding from his pocket. The eager audience paid little attention to the scantily spread orchestra in the pit, but showed surprise when Mr. Jubansky walked to the conductor’s podium with his horn.

The house lights dimmed, and during the overture it was quiet in the hall, but soon after the curtain went up the restlessness of the public became noticeable. As the performers warily proceeded, the unrest of the audience mounted, reaching the crucial moment when, for some reason, Mr. Susow’s aria suddenly stopped. The conductor, desperately looking for a tenor, pointed at Mr. Trilo, of all people, and screamed, “Sing!”

Trilo’s rasping voice, “Olga, good-bye forever,” came loudly from the pit as Trilo fell, crashing over his double bass in a drunken stupor. The house was in an uproar. “We want our money back!” the people shouted, moving threateningly toward the pit. We ran out into the streets. Back in our car, we listened to Mr. Susow. He promised all sorts of improvements and our pay in the next city. Shortly we were off to Saratov. There the first performance was as shabby but was completed without serious protests from the audience. Mr. Susow assured us a long stay in the city. However, at the second performance the house was almost empty, and the third never took place.

Susow’s eloquence and our lack of funds made us agree to go on to Astrakhan. Now there was more space in the car, as a considerable number of the company had dropped out in Saratov, among them the fat lady from our section. Upon our arrival in Astrakhan, Susow, unable to pay wages, disappeared, and the company disbanded.

We decided to have a little vacation and moved into a rooming house near the amusement park. Our first days in Astrakhan were spent at the river which flows through the city into the Volga. At a food market we bought melons, grapes, and milk in terra-cotta containers. In a rowboat we went down the river toward the Volga. We located a deserted island and, exploring it, ran into an ill-smelling pool. Putting his feet into it, Father said it was a discovery—the healing spring of youth. Holding my nose, I followed his example.

We repeated our trips to the island. Father noticed that the spring had already done him much good. He was about to register the discovery officially when he learned to his embarrassment that it was the outlet for the sewers.

We counted our money. The sum remaining, after paying for lodging, would buy only two passages home. There was a problem of choosing the one who was to remain. Walking through the amusement park, Father spoke to the conductor of the outdoor symphony orchestra and found that there was an opening for a cellist. I auditioned and was hired.

Shortly after Leonid and Father left, the former cellist of the orchestra reappeared and I was told that I could remain only if I played in the second violin section. The conductor had a spare instrument for me and was quite unimpressed with my assurances that I couldn’t play the violin. I hated that little thing under my chin. For the difficult passages, I had to hold it, like the cello, between my knees. At first, the switching of the position did not draw attention, but the moment I was noticed by the public it began to attract a large number of people who burst into applause each time I manipulated the violin.

“You make a circus of my concerts,” said the conductor, and fired me.

At the amusement park there was a Cafe Chantant, opening late in the evening and closing early in the morning. I offered my services and was engaged.

The musicians and the conductor, protecting me from the sight of the nudes on the stage, placed me facing the wall of the orchestra pit. With the help of a rear-view mirror I was able to see the conductor.

At closing time I frequently met a girl who was the barefoot dancer. She complained that the customers always drank and talked while she danced. I felt sorry for her and looked for an idea for a new dance for her. I thought that Souvenir, by Drdla, would suit her perfectly and I spent many hours working on the choreography. I danced barefoot and sang until my creation was completed. I demonstrated the dance to her and she agreed it was just what she needed. A rehearsal was called and I got permission to watch the premiere from the hall. My heart beating, I saw her entering the stage, waving her hands, gliding, and executing all my ideas, which aroused more and more laughter as she proceeded. I rushed to her dressing room, where I found the manager firing her. Indignantly I announced my own resignation and got my week’s pay.

With my suitcase and cello I was on my way to the railroad station. I bought passage as far as my money would take me. The remaining distance home, I stole rides on freight trains at night, sleeping in haystacks during the day. In one village I sold my suitcase and other belongings and stuffed my pockets with bread and salami. About twelve days later I arrived home in time for school. Inventing a little here and there, I told of my adventures.

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