Miss Martha Meacham is the owner of the little bakery on the corner (the kind of store with three steps at the door and a little bell that rings when you push the door in).
Miss Martha is forty years old, she has two thousand dollars in the bank, two false teeth and an amorous heart. There are many women who miss marriage, but their conditions are far worse than Miss Martha's.
There is a customer who comes two or three times a week, Miss Martha gradually developed a fondness for him. He was a middle-aged man, wearing glasses, brown beard neatly trimmed.
He spoke English with a heavy German accent. His clothes were worn and mended in some places, and wrinkled in others. But his appearance is still very neat, polite and very thorough.
This customer always bought two stale bread. Fresh bread is five cents a piece, but stale bread can buy two for five cents. He never bought anything else but stale bread.
Once, Miss Martha noticed a reddish-brown stain on his finger. She immediately concluded that the customer was an artist and very poor. There was no doubt that he must be the character who lived in the attic, where he painted, nibbled on stale bread, and thought about all the delicious things in Miss Martha's bakery.
When Miss Martha sat down to eat schnitzel, rolls, jam and black tea, she often sighed for good reason, wishing that the gentle artist could share her delicious meal and not have to stay in the attic and gnaw on hard bread. Miss Martha's heart, as I have already told you, is amorous.
To confirm whether she had guessed correctly about this customer's profession, she moved a painting she had previously bought by auction from the room to the outside and rested it on a shelf behind the counter.
It was a Venetian landscape. A magnificent marble palace (so marked on the painting) stood in the foreground of the picture ---- or rather, on the water scene in front. In addition, there are several small flat-bottomed boats (with a vigorous hand on board reaching into the water and bringing out a wave trail), with clouds, a pale sky and many light and dark baked strokes. It was impossible for the artist not to notice.
Two days later, the customer came．
"Two Chan bread, please."
"Madam, this is not a bad picture of yours." As she wrapped the bread in paper, the customer said.
"Is it?" Mademoiselle Martha said, greatly pleased to see that her ploy had worked. "I love art and ----" (no, it's not right to say "artist" so early) "and painting." She said instead. "Don't you think this is a bad painting?"
"The palace," said the customer, "is not very well painted. The perspective is used unrealistically. Good-bye, madam."
He picked up his bread, owed a debt, and hurried away.
Yes, he was an artist, to be sure. Mademoiselle Martha carried the painting back into the room.
What a gentle and kind gaze he had behind his glasses! How wide his forehead was! A glance to judge perspective ---- but living on stale bread! But geniuses often have to struggle a lot before they become famous．
If the genius had two thousand dollars in the bank, a bakery and a sentimental heart to back it up, what a glorious achievement art and perspective would ---- reach. But that's just a daydream, Miss Martha.
The last time he came he tended to chat for a while across the goods. He seemed to be eager for a pleasant conversation with Miss Martha.
He had been buying stale bread. Never bought cakes, pies, or her store's delicious sweet dishes.
She felt as if he had lost a little weight and his spirits were a little disheveled. She wanted to add something delicious to the shabby food he bought, but could not muster the courage to do so. She did not dare to take the risk. She understood the artist's high-mindedness.
Miss Martha also wore the blue dotted silk undershirt when she was in the store. She boiled a mysterious mixture of warm sticks and shed sand in the back room. There were many people who used this juice for beauty.
One day, the customer came in again as usual, bundled five nickels on the counter and bought his stale bread. When Miss Martha went to get the bread, a noisy horn and alarm bell sounded outside, and a relief train rumbled by.
The customer ran to the door and looked, as anyone would have done in such a situation. Miss Martha suddenly had a bright idea and seized the opportunity.
There was a pound of fresh butter in the lowest shelf behind the counter, and the milkman had brought it less than ten minutes before. Miss Martha used a bread-cutting knife to make a deep slit in both stale breads, stuffed each with a large slice of butter, and pressed the bread tightly.
When the customer came back in, she had already wrapped the bread in paper.
They had a very pleasant conversation. When the customer left, Miss Martha couldn't help but smile, but she was a little bit worried.
Had she been too bold? Would he be unhappy? Absolutely not. Food does not mean words. Butter is not a symbol of unbecoming presumption.
That day, her mind kept wandering to the matter. She speculated on what it would be like when he discovered this little scam.
He would have put down his brushes and palette. The picture he was working on was propped up on the stain, and the perspective of the painting must have been unimpeachable.
He would pick up dry bread and water for lunch. He would cut open a loaf of bread ......
Miss Martha's face flushed as she thought of it. As he ate the bread; would he think of the hand that had the butter stuffed inside? Would he ......
The bell on the front door rang annoyingly. Someone came in with a clamor.
Miss Martha hurried to the store. There were two men there. One was a young man with a pipe ---- she had never seen before, and the other was her artist.
His face was red, his hat was pushed to the back of his head, and his hair was rubbed in disarray. He clenched his fist and shook it viciously at Miss Martha. Surprisingly, he shook at Miss Martha.
"Dummkop! (Stupid!)" He yelled at the top of his lungs, followed by a Tausendonfer! (five thunderbolts!) or something similar in German.
The younger one tried his best to drag him away.
"I won't go," he said angrily, "I must speak to her."
He banged on Miss Martha's counter like a drum.
"You've ruined me." He shouted, his blue eyes almost flashing fire behind the lenses. "I'll say it to you. You're a nasty old cat!"
Miss Martha leaned weakly on the shelf, pressing the blue-dotted silk undershirt with one hand. The young man grabbed his companion's collar.
"Come on," he said, "you've had enough cursing too." He dragged the stormy man to the door and came back himself.
"Madam, I think I should tell you the cause of this quarrel," he said, "the man's name is Blumberg. He is a designer of architectural drawings. I work in a firm with him.
"He was working hard for three months on a plan for a new city hall. Preparing it for a prize-winning competition. He just finished inking it yesterday. You understand that draftsmen always start with a pencil base. After the ink is applied, the pencil marks are erased with the crumbs between the bags. Chen bread is much better than erase word eraser.
"Blumberg always buys his bread from you. Well, today ---- well, you understand, ma'am, the butter inside is not ---- well, Bloomberg's drawing became a waste of paper. I had to cut it up to wrap the sandwiches."
Miss Martha went into the back room. She took off the blue dotted silk undershirt and changed into the old brown clacker. Then she poured the warm stick and borax frying sauce in the garbage bin outside the window.