“I’ll give you a picture from Frankfort,” said the Moon. “I noticed one building in particular there. It was not the birthplace of Goethe, nor was it the old town hall, through whose grated windows one may still see the horned skulls of oxen which were roasted and given to the people at the coronation of the emperors. The building was a burgher’s type of house, plain and painted green, and stood at the corner of the narrow Jew’s Alley. It was the house of Rothschild.
“I looked in at the open door. The staircase was brightly lighted; servants in livery, with wax tapers in massive silver candlesticks, bowed low before an aged woman who was being carried down the stairs in a chair. The master of the house stood by, bareheaded, and pressed a respectful kiss on the old lady’s hand. She was his mother; she nodded kindly to him, and to the servants, who then carried her through the dark, narrow street, and into a little house. Here she lived, and here she had borne all her children. From this spot their great fortunes had blossomed forth. Were she now to leave the miserable street and the little house, perhaps fortune would abandon them; that was her belief.”
The Moon told no more; his visit to me that evening was all too short. But I thought about the old lady in the narrow, miserable street. A single word from her, and she could have had a magnificent house on the bank of the Thames; one word from her, and she could have had a villa on the Bay of Naples. “If I should desert the humble house from which the fortunes of my sons have sprung, then perhaps fortune might desert them!” This was a superstition, but one that, to those who know the story and have seen the picture, two words of postscript will give full meaning – a mother.
Original Danish title: “Fem og tyvende Aften” translated by Jean Hersholt.