A little old man with a violin tucked
under his arm shuffled down the attic steps and the
many flights of stairs until finally he reached the
As he shuffled down the street, he
clutched his coat tightly about his throat, for the
air was chill and he felt the cold.
At the first street corner he stopped
and placed his violin to his shoulder to play, but
catching a glance from the policeman across the street
he hastily tucked his violin under his arm and shuffled
He walked a great distance before he again stopped.
It was a busy corner where hundreds
of people passed every few minutes, but when he played
no one stopped to listen to his music, much less to
drop anything in the tiny tin cup he had placed on
the sidewalk before him.
Tears came to the poor little old
man’s eyes; everyone was too busy to stop to
hear his music.
So in the evening when he slowly retraced
his steps towards his attic home, his feet were very
tired and he shuffled more than he had in the morning.
His back humped and his head drooped more, and the
tears nearly blinded him. He had to stop and
rest at each flight of stairs and he fell to his knees
just as he reached the attic door.
He sat there and rested awhile, then
caught hold of the doorknob and raised himself to
A quaint little white-haired woman
greeted him with a cheery smile as he entered, then,
seeing his sad face, she turned her head and tears
came to her eyes.
“Honey!” the little old
man sobbed, as he stumbled towards her chair and fell
to his knees before her, burying his face in her lap.
Neither could say a word for a long
time, then the little old man told her he had been
unable to make a single penny by playing.
“No one cares to hear an old
man play the violin!” he said. “No
one cares that we go hungry and cold! And I can
still play,” he added fiercely, “just
as well as ever I could! Listen to this!”
and the little old man stood up and drew his bow across
the violin strings in a sure, fiery manner, so that
the lamp chimney rattled and sang with the vibrations
of the strings.
And in his fierceness he improvised
a melody so wild and beautiful his sister sat entranced.
As the little old man finished the
melody he stood still more upright. Then straightening
his old shoulders and pulling his hat firmly on his
head, he stooped and kissed the old lady and walked
with a firm tread to the door.
“I shall make them take notice
tonight!” he cried. “I shall return
So again he went down the long flights
of stairs and down the street until he came to a good
corner where traffic was heavy.
There, with the mood upon him which
had fired him in the attic, he played again the wild
A few people hesitated as they passed,
but only one stopped. This was an old woman,
bent and wrinkled, who helped herself along with a
cane. She stopped and looked him squarely in
the eye and the little old man felt he should recognize
her, but he could not remember where he had seen her
before, nor was he sure that he had ever looked upon
her until now.
At any rate, the faint memory inspired
him and, raising his violin, he played a beautiful
Before he had finished the old woman
leaned over and dropped something into his little
It sounded as loud as a silver dollar would have sounded.
“The dear old generous soul!”
the old man thought as he continued playing.
He played for hours, but the old woman
was the only one who stopped. “I will at
least have enough to get Cynthia some warm food!”
he said, thinking of what the old lady had dropped
into his tin cup.
But when he looked, what was his dismay
to see only a large iron ring!
Again he climbed the stairs to the
attic but he felt too weary to say a thing and his
sister knew that he had met with disappointment.
He tossed the iron ring to her lap and went over to
the bed and threw himself upon it.
“This is the end!” he
said, and told her about the iron ring.
“The old woman seemed interested
in my playing!” he said, “And perhaps
she gave all she could give!”
“Let us not be downhearted,
Brother!” said the sister. “Surely
tomorrow you will find someone who will reward your
The little old man was quiet for a
long time and then he arose and again drew his bow
across the violin strings. The old lady sat very
still and dreamed, for her brother was playing one
of their childhood songs.
As she lost herself in reverie, she
turned the iron ring around her finger and saw upon
its surface, as she turned it, the faces of her playmates
of long ago.
And as the brother swept from one
melody to another, she saw the iron ring change color
and grow larger and larger.
And, as she turned it, she saw the
figures of her childhood playmates turn before her
upon her lap, and they joined their voices with the
silvery notes of the violin’s long ago songs
until the attic was filled with the melody and the
figures danced from her lap and, taking her by the
hand, circled in the center of the attic room laughing
The little old man had been playing
with his eyes closed, but as the songs grew louder
he opened them and beheld the ring of little figures,
with his sister holding hands with two of them.
And, rising from the bed, still playing the childhood
songs of long ago, he walked to the center of the
room. As he did so, the figures rose in the air
and seemed to grow lighter and larger. And suddenly
the scene changed! He was out in the woods, with
lofty trees towering above him, while all about, laughing
and talking, were hundreds of little fairies, gnomes
and sprites, and there, too, were the playmates of
long ago, just as he had seen them when he had closed
his eyes and played in the attic.
And there, too, was his sister as
she had been when a child. He looked at himself,
and lo! he was no longer wrinkled and old. He
was young again!
In his gladness he danced with joy,
and catching his sister to his breast he kissed her
again and again.
And, looking about him with shining
eyes, he again drew his bow across the strings and
played a tune so lively and full of sweet happiness
the childhood friends caught hands and danced in a
circle, and the little sprites, elves, gnomes and
fairies caught hands and danced around the children,
and as they passed before the brother he caught a mischievous
glance from the eyes of one of the little fairies,
and he knew in a moment she was the one who had played
the old woman, and who had given him the iron ring....
The people who lived in the room below
the attic room missed the little old man’s shuffling
step, and, not hearing it for two days, they told
the landlady, a kindly soul who had let the brother
and sister have the attic room free of charge, and
all went up to investigate....
They rapped upon the attic door.
All was quiet within. Timidly they opened the
door and looked in. There upon the floor lay an
old rusty iron ring. It was the Fairy Ring.