Friday 2 June 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Memories of Maud Stumm - 2

The next time I remember seeing Swami Vivekananda was when Mrs. Colston and I met him and... Turiyananda, when they landed in New York in 1899. Tired and ill-looking, I saw them early on an August morning descend the gangplank of the small steamer. I had telegraphed Sydney Clarke to help us by being at the pier to look after their baggage. He came, greeted them, claimed the curious foreign-looking boxes, had them checked, and was off to his work. The boat arrived ahead of time, and we happened to be the only three in town at that hour, the party from Ridgely arriving at 10 o'clock, and so disappointed! ... As Swami landed with Turiyananda from the steamer, he was carrying most carefully a big bottle wrapped in papers that were torn and ragged; this precious bottle, which he refused to relinquish before reaching Binne-water, contained a wonderful kind of sauce like curry; brought thus by hand from India. "For Jo!" (Josephine MacLeod) he said....

Then we all went back together, and the days that followed! The air of freedom seemed to do him good — and such talks, such wonderful sermons! With his flame-coloured robes draped about him, what a figure he was as he strode the lawns of Ridgely! His stride came nearer to the poet's description of a "step that spurned the earth" than anything I ever expect to see again; and there was a compelling majesty in his presence and carriage that could not be imitated or described.

One day he told me that he wanted to undertake some sort of work that would keep his hands busy and prevent him from thinking of things that fretted him at that time — and would I give him drawing lessons? So materials were produced, and at an appointed hour he came, promptly, bringing to me, with a curious little air of submission, a huge red apple, which he laid in my hands, bowing gravely. I asked him the significance of this gift, and he said, "in token that the lessons may be fruitful" — and such a pupil as he proved to be! Once only did I have to tell him anything; his memory and concentration were marvellous, and his drawings strangely perfect and intelligent for a beginner. By the time he had taken his fourth lesson, he felt quite equal to a portrait; so... Turiyanananda posed, like any bronze image, and was drawn capitally — all in the study of Mr. Leggett, with its divan for our seat, and its fine light to aid us. Many great ones may come to that room in its future years, and probably will, but never again that childlike man, toiling over his crayons, with as single a mind and heart as if that were his vocation. How often he thanked me for the pleasure it gave him, and for the joy of learning, even that!

To be continued.....(Memoirs of Maud Stumm)

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