One of the little joys of living in a crowded city is the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing life in other people’s apartments through windows across from yours. This is a sweet story about one particular voyeur’s view. Here is how it begins:
They have gone away now, those neighbors of mine, the little shoe-maker who made the dancing slippers and his pretty wife. They never let me know. They never said good-bye, perhaps because we had never spoken, but one morning I looked out of my kitchen window and there was their flat below sad and empty, the windows staring up at me like hollow eyes.
They lived there a year across from me, and I rejoiced in them, and then to go away without telling me good-bye!
They had comforted me, too. Whenever I wearied of the wrangling of the court of a hundred windows, giving upon my den, I went into my kitchen and looked down at them for comfort.
He was anything but pretty, short, squat, nearly bald, almost misshapen; but she was pretty as a picture, standing in her kitchen by the tubs, peeling potatoes, getting some dainty morsel ready for the shoemaker to eat, standing there in her short ruffled skirt and her little pink kimono in her gem of a kitchen.
He sat in the little back room, the long narrow window of the bathroom between them. He sat at a table in a thin vest in the Summer time covered by his leather apron, in the Winter with a light coat on, sat there working all day long and sometimes into the night, sewing the dancing slippers, turning them, finishing them, and standing them in rows on the table before him so that I could sometimes see the toes, sometimes the whole slipper.
Graceful high-heeled satin and kid slippers of various shapes and sizes and colors, pink, light blue, light green, elephant’s breath, and mouse colored. Some were white, too.
Once I took pains to go to the front door of that building and there on a sign I read his name, under it in nice gilt letters:
The story takes a turn, but I won’t spoil it for you. It’s a very sweet story.
THE TALE OF THE LITTLE DANCING SLIPPER MAKER AND HIS WIFE (PDF)
From June 25, 1911
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