Part 3 out of 4
Her marble coldness will endure the march
Rend her bronzes, hammers;
Cast down her inscriptions.
She is unconquerable, austere,
Cold as the moon that swims above her
When the nights are clear.
Croissy, Ile-de-France, June, 1815
Devil take the mare! I've never seen so vicious a beast.
She kicked Jules the last time she was here,
He's been lame ever since, poor chap."
Tap-a-tap-a-tap! Tap! Tap!
"I'd rather be lame than dead at Waterloo, M'sieu Charles."
"Sacre Bleu! Don't mention Waterloo, and the damned grinning British.
We didn't run in the old days.
There wasn't any running at Jena.
Those were decent days,
And decent men, who stood up and fought.
We never got beaten, because we wouldn't be.
"You would have taught them, wouldn't you, Sergeant Boignet?
But to-day it's everyone for himself,
And the Emperor isn't what he was."
"How the Devil do you know that?
If he was beaten, the cause
Is the green geese in his army, led by traitors.
Oh, I say no names, Monsieur Charles,
You needn't hammer so loud.
If there are any spies lurking behind the bellows,
I beg they come out. Dirty fellows!"
The old Sergeant seizes a red-hot poker
And advances, brandishing it, into the shadows.
The rows of horses flick
Victorine gives a savage kick
As the nails
Go in. Tap! Tap!
Jules draws a horseshoe from the fire
And beats it from red to peacock-blue and black,
Purpling darker at each whack.
Ding! Dang! Dong!
It is a long time since any one spoke.
Then the blacksmith brushes his hand over his eyes,
"Well," he sighs,
The Sergeant charges out from behind the bellows.
"It's the green geese, I tell you,
Their hearts are all whites and yellows,
There's no red in them. Red!
That's what we want. Fouche should be fed
To the guillotine, and all Paris dance the carmagnole.
That would breed jolly fine lick-bloods
To lead his armies to victory."
"Ancient history, Sergeant.
"Say that again, Monsieur Charles, and I'll stun
You where you stand for a dung-eating Royalist."
The Sergeant gives the poker a savage twist;
He is as purple as the cooling horseshoes.
The air from the bellows creaks through the flues.
Tap! Tap! The blacksmith shoes Victorine,
And through the doorway a fine sheen
Of leaves flutters, with the sun between.
By a spurt of fire from the forge
You can see the Sergeant, with swollen gorge,
Puffing, and gurgling, and choking;
The bellows keep on croaking.
Creak! Bang! Squeeze!
And the hammer strokes fall like buzzing bees
Or pattering rain,
Or faster than these,
Like the hum of a waterfall struck by a breeze.
Clank! from the bellows-chain pulled up and down.
And sunshine twinkles on Victorine's flank,
Starting it to blue,
Dropping it to black.
Lord! What galloping! Some mishap
Is making that man ride so furiously.
Victorine won't be through
For another quarter of an hour." "As you hope to die,
Work faster, man, the order has come."
"What order? Speak out. Are you dumb?"
"A chaise, without arms on the panels, at the gate
In the far side-wall, and just to wait.
We must be there in half an hour with swift cattle.
You're a stupid fool if you don't hear that rattle.
Those are German guns. Can't you guess the rest?
Nantes, Rochefort, possibly Brest."
Tap! Tap! as though the hammers were mad.
Dang! Ding! Creak! The farrier's lad
Jerks the bellows till he cracks their bones,
And the stifled air hiccoughs and groans.
The Sergeant is lying on the floor
Stone dead, and his hat with the tricolore
Cockade has rolled off into the cinders. Victorine snorts and lays back
What glistens on the anvil? Sweat or tears?
St. Helena, May, 1821
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Through the white tropic night.
Beat the hammers,
They are hanging dull black cloth about the dead.
Lustreless black cloth
Which chokes the radiance of the moonlight
And puts out the little moving shadows of leaves.
The knocking makes the candles quaver,
And the long black hangings waver
Tap! Tap! Tap!
In the ears which do not heed.
Above the eyelids which do not flicker.
Over the hands which do not stir.
Chiselled like a cameo of white agate against the hangings,
Struck to brilliance by the falling moonlight,
Sharp as a frozen flame,
Beautiful as an altar lamp of silver,
And still. Perfectly still.
In the next room, the men chatter
As they eat their midnight lunches.
A knife hits against a platter.
But the figure on the bed
Between the stifling black hangings
Is cold and motionless,
Played over by the moonlight from the windows
And the indistinct shadows of leaves.
Upholsterer Darling has a fine shop in Jamestown.
Andrew Darling has ridden hard from Longwood to see to the work in his shop
He has a corps of men in it, toiling and swearing,
Knocking, and measuring, and planing, and squaring,
Working from a chart with figures,
Comparing with their rules,
Setting this and that part together with their tools.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
So great is the need
That carpenters have been taken from the new church,
Joiners have been called from shaping pews and lecterns
To work of greater urgency.
Coffins is what they are making this bright Summer morning.
Coffins -- and all to measurement.
There is a tin coffin,
A deal coffin,
A lead coffin,
And Captain Bennett's best mahogany dining-table
Has been sawed up for the grand outer coffin.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Sunshine outside in the square,
But inside, only hollow coffins and the tapping upon them.
The men whistle,
And the coffins grow under their hammers
In the darkness of the shop.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Tramp of men.
Steady tramp of men.
Slit-eyed Chinese with long pigtails
Bearing oblong things upon their shoulders
March slowly along the road to Longwood.
Their feet fall softly in the dust of the road;
Sometimes they call gutturally to each other and stop to shift shoulders.
Four coffins for the little dead man,
Four fine coffins,
And one of them Captain Bennett's dining-table!
And sixteen splendid Chinamen, all strong and able
And of assured neutrality.
Ah! George of England, Lord Bathhurst & Co.
Your princely munificence makes one's heart glow.
Huzza! Huzza! For the Lion of England!
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Marble likeness of an Emperor,
Dead man, who burst your heart against a world too narrow,
The hammers drum you to your last throne
Which always you shall hold alone.
The glory of your past is faded as a sunset fire,
Your day lingers only like the tones of a wind-lyre
In a twilit room.
Here is the emptiness of your dream
Scattered about you.
Coins of yesterday,
Double napoleons stamped with Consul or Emperor,
Strange as those of Herculaneum --
And you just dead!
Not one spool of thread
Will these buy in any market-place.
Lay them over him,
They are the baubles of a crown of mist
Worn in a vision and melted away at waking.
His heart strained at kingdoms
And now it is content with a silver dish.
Strange World! Strange Wayfarer!
Lower it gently beside him and let it lie.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Two Travellers in the Place Vendome
Reign of Louis Philippe
A great tall column spearing at the sky
With a little man on top. Goodness! Tell me why?
He looks a silly thing enough to stand up there so high.
What a strange fellow, like a soldier in a play,
Tight-fitting coat with the tails cut away,
High-crowned hat which the brims overlay.
Two-horned hat makes an outline like a bow.
Must have a sword, I can see the light glow
Between a dark line and his leg. Vertigo
I get gazing up at him, a pygmy flashed with sun.
A weathercock or scarecrow or both things in one?
As bright as a jewelled crown hung above a throne.
Say, what is the use of him if he doesn't turn?
Just put up to glitter there, like a torch to burn,
A sort of sacrificial show in a lofty urn?
But why a little soldier in an obsolete dress?
I'd rather see a Goddess with a spear, I confess.
Something allegorical and fine. Why, yes --
I cannot take my eyes from him. I don't know why at all.
I've looked so long the whole thing swims. I feel he ought to fall.
Foreshortened there among the clouds he's pitifully small.
What do you say? There used to be an Emperor standing there,
With flowing robes and laurel crown. Really? Yet I declare
Those spiral battles round the shaft don't seem just his affair.
A togaed, laurelled man's I mean. Now this chap seems to feel
As though he owned those soldiers. Whew! How he makes one reel,
Swinging round above his circling armies in a wheel.
Sweeping round the sky in an orbit like the sun's,
Flashing sparks like cannon-balls from his own long guns.
Perhaps my sight is tired, but that figure simply stuns.
How low the houses seem, and all the people are mere flies.
That fellow pokes his hat up till it scratches on the skies.
Impudent! Audacious! But, by Jove, he blinds the eyes!
August 14th, 1914
Into the brazen, burnished sky, the cry hurls itself. The zigzagging cry
of hoarse throats, it floats against the hard winds, and binds the head
of the serpent to its tail, the long snail-slow serpent of marching men.
Men weighed down with rifles and knapsacks, and parching with war.
The cry jars and splits against the brazen, burnished sky.
This is the war of wars, and the cause? Has this writhing worm of men
Crackling against the polished sky is an eagle with a sword. The eagle is red
and its head is flame.
In the shoulder of the worm is a teacher.
His tongue laps the war-sucked air in drought, but he yells defiance
at the red-eyed eagle, and in his ears are the bells of new philosophies,
and their tinkling drowns the sputter of the burning sword. He shrieks,
"God damn you! When you are broken, the word will strike out new shoots."
His boots are tight, the sun is hot, and he may be shot, but he is in
the shoulder of the worm.
A dust speck in the worm's belly is a poet.
He laughs at the flaring eagle and makes a long nose with his fingers.
He will fight for smooth, white sheets of paper, and uncurdled ink.
The sputtering sword cannot make him blink, and his thoughts are
wet and rippling. They cool his heart.
He will tear the eagle out of the sky and give the earth tranquillity,
and loveliness printed on white paper.
The eye of the serpent is an owner of mills.
He looks at the glaring sword which has snapped his machinery
and struck away his men.
But it will all come again, when the sword is broken to a million dying stars,
and there are no more wars.
Bankers, butchers, shop-keepers, painters, farmers -- men, sway and sweat.
They will fight for the earth, for the increase of the slow, sure roots
of peace, for the release of hidden forces. They jibe at the eagle
and his scorching sword.
One! Two! -- One! Two! -- clump the heavy boots. The cry hurtles
against the sky.
Each man pulls his belt a little tighter, and shifts his gun
to make it lighter. Each man thinks of a woman, and slaps out a curse
at the eagle. The sword jumps in the hot sky, and the worm crawls on
to the battle, stubbornly.
This is the war of wars, from eye to tail the serpent has one cause:
Slowly, without force, the rain drops into the city. It stops a moment
on the carved head of Saint John, then slides on again, slipping and trickling
over his stone cloak. It splashes from the lead conduit of a gargoyle,
and falls from it in turmoil on the stones in the Cathedral square.
Where are the people, and why does the fretted steeple sweep about in the sky?
Boom! The sound swings against the rain. Boom, again! After it, only water
rushing in the gutters, and the turmoil from the spout of the gargoyle.
Silence. Ripples and mutters. Boom!
The room is damp, but warm. Little flashes swarm about from the firelight.
The lustres of the chandelier are bright, and clusters of rubies
leap in the bohemian glasses on the `etagere'. Her hands are restless,
but the white masses of her hair are quite still. Boom! Will it never cease
to torture, this iteration! Boom! The vibration shatters a glass
on the `etagere'. It lies there, formless and glowing,
with all its crimson gleams shot out of pattern, spilled, flowing red,
blood-red. A thin bell-note pricks through the silence. A door creaks.
The old lady speaks: "Victor, clear away that broken glass." "Alas!
Madame, the bohemian glass!" "Yes, Victor, one hundred years ago
my father brought it --" Boom! The room shakes, the servitor quakes.
Another goblet shivers and breaks. Boom!
It rustles at the window-pane, the smooth, streaming rain, and he is shut
within its clash and murmur. Inside is his candle, his table, his ink,
his pen, and his dreams. He is thinking, and the walls are pierced with
beams of sunshine, slipping through young green. A fountain tosses itself
up at the blue sky, and through the spattered water in the basin he can see
copper carp, lazily floating among cold leaves. A wind-harp in a cedar-tree
grieves and whispers, and words blow into his brain, bubbled, iridescent,
shooting up like flowers of fire, higher and higher. Boom!
The flame-flowers snap on their slender stems. The fountain rears up
in long broken spears of dishevelled water and flattens into the earth. Boom!
And there is only the room, the table, the candle, and the sliding rain.
Again, Boom! -- Boom! -- Boom! He stuffs his fingers into his ears.
He sees corpses, and cries out in fright. Boom! It is night,
and they are shelling the city! Boom! Boom!
A child wakes and is afraid, and weeps in the darkness. What has made
the bed shake? "Mother, where are you? I am awake." "Hush, my Darling,
I am here." "But, Mother, something so queer happened, the room shook."
Boom! "Oh! What is it? What is the matter?" Boom! "Where is Father?
I am so afraid." Boom! The child sobs and shrieks. The house
trembles and creaks. Boom!
Retorts, globes, tubes, and phials lie shattered. All his trials
oozing across the floor. The life that was his choosing, lonely, urgent,
goaded by a hope, all gone. A weary man in a ruined laboratory,
that is his story. Boom! Gloom and ignorance, and the jig of drunken brutes.
Diseases like snakes crawling over the earth, leaving trails of slime.
Wails from people burying their dead. Through the window, he can see
the rocking steeple. A ball of fire falls on the lead of the roof,
and the sky tears apart on a spike of flame. Up the spire,
behind the lacings of stone, zigzagging in and out of the carved tracings,
squirms the fire. It spouts like yellow wheat from the gargoyles, coils round
the head of Saint John, and aureoles him in light. It leaps into the night
and hisses against the rain. The Cathedral is a burning stain on the white,
Boom! The Cathedral is a torch, and the houses next to it begin to scorch.
Boom! The bohemian glass on the `etagere' is no longer there.
Boom! A stalk of flame sways against the red damask curtains.
The old lady cannot walk. She watches the creeping stalk and counts.
Boom! -- Boom! -- Boom!
The poet rushes into the street, and the rain wraps him in a sheet of silver.
But it is threaded with gold and powdered with scarlet beads. The city burns.
Quivering, spearing, thrusting, lapping, streaming, run the flames.
Over roofs, and walls, and shops, and stalls. Smearing its gold on the sky,
the fire dances, lances itself through the doors, and lisps and chuckles
along the floors.
The child wakes again and screams at the yellow petalled flower
flickering at the window. The little red lips of flame creep along
the ceiling beams.
The old man sits among his broken experiments and looks at
the burning Cathedral. Now the streets are swarming with people.
They seek shelter and crowd into the cellars. They shout and call,
and over all, slowly and without force, the rain drops into the city.
Boom! And the steeple crashes down among the people. Boom! Boom, again!
The water rushes along the gutters. The fire roars and mutters. Boom!
The nursery fire burns brightly, crackling in cheerful little explosions
and trails of sparks up the back of the chimney. Miniature rockets
peppering the black bricks with golden stars, as though a gala
flamed a night of victorious wars.
The nodding mandarin on the bookcase moves his head forward and back, slowly,
and looks into the air with his blue-green eyes. He stares into the air
and nods -- forward and back. The red rose in his hand is a crimson splash
on his yellow coat. Forward and back, and his blue-green eyes stare
into the air, and he nods -- nods.
Tommy's soldiers march to battle,
Trumpets flare and snare-drums rattle.
Bayonets flash, and sabres glance --
How the horses snort and prance!
Cannon drawn up in a line
Glitter in the dizzy shine
Of the morning sunlight. Flags
Ripple colours in great jags.
Red blows out, then blue, then green,
Then all three -- a weaving sheen
Of prismed patriotism. March
Tommy's soldiers, stiff and starch,
Boldly stepping to the rattle
Of the drums, they go to battle.
Tommy lies on his stomach on the floor and directs his columns.
He puts his infantry in front, and before them ambles a mounted band.
Their instruments make a strand of gold before the scarlet-tunicked soldiers,
and they take very long steps on their little green platforms,
and from the ranks bursts the song of Tommy's soldiers marching to battle.
The song jolts a little as the green platforms stick on the thick carpet.
Tommy wheels his guns round the edge of a box of blocks, and places
a squad of cavalry on the commanding eminence of a footstool.
The fire snaps pleasantly, and the old Chinaman nods -- nods. The fire makes
the red rose in his hand glow and twist. Hist! That is a bold song
Tommy's soldiers sing as they march along to battle.
Crack! Rattle! The sparks fly up the chimney.
Tommy's army's off to war --
Not a soldier knows what for.
But he knows about his rifle,
How to shoot it, and a trifle
Of the proper thing to do
When it's he who is shot through.
Like a cleverly trained flea,
He can follow instantly
Orders, and some quick commands
Really make severe demands
On a mind that's none too rapid,
Leaden brains tend to the vapid.
But how beautifully dressed
Is this army! How impressed
Tommy is when at his heel
All his baggage wagons wheel
About the patterned carpet, and
Moving up his heavy guns
He sees them glow with diamond suns
Flashing all along each barrel.
And the gold and blue apparel
Of his gunners is a joy.
Tommy is a lucky boy.
Boom! Boom! Ta-ra!
The old mandarin nods under his purple umbrella. The rose in his hand
shoots its petals up in thin quills of crimson. Then they collapse
and shrivel like red embers. The fire sizzles.
Tommy is galloping his cavalry, two by two, over the floor. They must pass
the open terror of the door and gain the enemy encamped under the wash-stand.
The mounted band is very grand, playing allegro and leading the infantry on
at the double quick. The tassel of the hearth-rug has flung down
the bass-drum, and he and his dapple-grey horse lie overtripped,
slipped out of line, with the little lead drumsticks glistening
to the fire's shine.
The fire burns and crackles, and tickles the tripped bass-drum
with its sparkles.
The marching army hitches its little green platforms valiantly, and steadily
approaches the door. The overturned bass-drummer, lying on the hearth-rug,
melting in the heat, softens and sheds tears. The song jeers
at his impotence, and flaunts the glory of the martial and still upstanding,
vaunting the deeds it will do. For are not Tommy's soldiers
all bright and new?
Tommy's leaden soldiers we,
Glittering with efficiency.
Not a button's out of place,
Tons and tons of golden lace
Wind about our officers.
Every manly bosom stirs
At the thought of killing -- killing!
Tommy's dearest wish fulfilling.
We are gaudy, savage, strong,
And our loins so ripe we long
First to kill, then procreate,
Doubling so the laws of Fate.
On their women we have sworn
To graft our sons. And overborne
They'll rear us younger soldiers, so
Shall our race endure and grow,
Waxing greater in the wombs
Borrowed of them, while damp tombs
Rot their men. O Glorious War!
Goad us with your points, Great Star!
The china mandarin on the bookcase nods slowly, forward and back --
forward and back -- and the red rose writhes and wriggles,
thrusting its flaming petals under and over one another like tortured snakes.
The fire strokes them with its dartles, and purrs at them,
and the old man nods.
Tommy does not hear the song. He only sees the beautiful, new,
gaily-coloured lead soldiers. They belong to him, and he is very proud
and happy. He shouts his orders aloud, and gallops his cavalry past the door
to the wash-stand. He creeps over the floor on his hands and knees
to one battalion and another, but he sees only the bright colours
of his soldiers and the beautiful precision of their gestures.
He is a lucky boy to have such fine lead soldiers to enjoy.
Tommy catches his toe in the leg of the wash-stand, and jars the pitcher.
He snatches at it with his hands, but it is too late. The pitcher falls,
and as it goes, he sees the white water flow over its lip. It slips
between his fingers and crashes to the floor. But it is not water which oozes
to the door. The stain is glutinous and dark, a spark from the firelight
heads it to red. In and out, between the fine, new soldiers,
licking over the carpet, squirms the stream of blood, lapping at
the little green platforms, and flapping itself against the painted uniforms.
The nodding mandarin moves his head slowly, forward and back.
The rose is broken, and where it fell is black blood. The old mandarin leers
under his purple umbrella, and nods -- forward and back, staring into the air
with blue-green eyes. Every time his head comes forward a rosebud pushes
between his lips, rushes into full bloom, and drips to the ground
with a splashing sound. The pool of black blood grows and grows,
with each dropped rose, and spreads out to join the stream from
the wash-stand. The beautiful army of lead soldiers steps boldly forward,
but the little green platforms are covered in the rising stream of blood.
The nursery fire burns brightly and flings fan-bursts of stars up the chimney,
as though a gala flamed a night of victorious wars.
The Painter on Silk
There was a man
Who made his living
By painting roses
He sat in an upper chamber
And the noises of the street
Meant nothing to him.
When he heard bugles, and fifes, and drums,
He thought of red, and yellow, and white roses
Bursting in the sunshine,
And smiled as he worked.
He thought only of roses,
When he could get no more silk
He stopped painting
And only thought
The day the conquerors
Entered the city,
The old man
He heard the bugles and drums,
And wished he could paint the roses
Bursting into sound.
A Ballad of Footmen
Now what in the name of the sun and the stars
Is the meaning of this most unholy of wars?
Do men find life so full of humour and joy
That for want of excitement they smash up the toy?
Fifteen millions of soldiers with popguns and horses
All bent upon killing, because their "of courses"
Are not quite the same. All these men by the ears,
And nine nations of women choking with tears.
It is folly to think that the will of a king
Can force men to make ducks and drakes of a thing
They value, and life is, at least one supposes,
Of some little interest, even if roses
Have not grown up between one foot and the other.
What a marvel bureaucracy is, which can smother
Such quite elementary feelings, and tag
A man with a number, and set him to wag
His legs and his arms at the word of command
Or the blow of a whistle! He's certainly damned,
Fit only for mince-meat, if a little gold lace
And an upturned moustache can set him to face
Bullets, and bayonets, and death, and diseases,
Because some one he calls his Emperor, pleases.
If each man were to lay down his weapon, and say,
With a click of his heels, "I wish you Good-day,"
Now what, may I ask, could the Emperor do?
A king and his minions are really so few.
Angry? Oh, of course, a most furious Emperor!
But the men are so many they need not mind his temper, or
The dire results which could not be inflicted.
With no one to execute sentence, convicted
Is just the weak wind from an old, broken bellows.
What lackeys men are, who might be such fine fellows!
To be killing each other, unmercifully,
At an order, as though one said, "Bring up the tea."
Or is it that tasting the blood on their jaws
They lap at it, drunk with its ferment, and laws
So patiently builded, are nothing to drinking
More blood, any blood. They don't notice its stinking.
I don't suppose tigers do, fighting cocks, sparrows,
And, as to men -- what are men, when their marrows
Are running with blood they have gulped; it is plain
Such excellent sport does not recollect pain.
Toll the bells in the steeples left standing. Half-mast
The flags which meant order, for order is past.
Take the dust of the streets and sprinkle your head,
The civilization we've worked for is dead.
Squeeze into this archway, the head of the line
Has just swung round the corner to `Die Wacht am Rhein'.
The Overgrown Pasture
You want to know what's the matter with me, do yer?
My! ain't men blinder'n moles?
It ain't nothin' new, be sure o' that.
Why, ef you'd had eyes you'd ha' seed
Me changin' under your very nose,
Each day a little diff'rent.
But you never see nothin', you don't.
Don't touch me, Jake,
Don't you dars't to touch me,
I ain't in no humour.
That's what's come over me;
Jest a change clear through.
You lay still, an' I'll tell yer,
I've had it on my mind to tell yer
Fer some time.
It's a strain livin' a lie from mornin' till night,
An' I'm goin' to put an end to it right now.
An' don't make any mistake about one thing,
When I married yer I loved yer.
Why, your voice 'ud make
Me go hot and cold all over,
An' your kisses most stopped my heart from beatin'.
Lord! I was a silly fool.
But that's the way 'twas.
Well, I married yer
An' thought Heav'n was comin'
To set on the door-step.
Heav'n didn't do no settin',
Though the first year warn't so bad.
The baby's fever threw you off some, I guess,
An' then I took her death real hard,
An' a mopey wife kind o' disgusts a man.
I ain't blamin' yer exactly.
But that's how 'twas.
Do lay quiet,
I know I'm slow, but it's harder to say 'n I thought.
There come a time when I got to be
More wife agin than mother.
The mother part was sort of a waste
When we didn't have no other child.
But you'd got used ter lots o' things,
An' you was all took up with the farm.
Many's the time I've laid awake
Watchin' the moon go clear through the elm-tree,
Out o' sight.
I'd foller yer around like a dog,
An' set in the chair you'd be'n settin' in,
Jest to feel its arms around me,
So long's I didn't have yours.
It preyed on me, I guess,
Longin' and longin'
While you was busy all day, and snorin' all night.
Yes, I know you're wide awake now,
But now ain't then,
An' I guess you'll think diff'rent
When I'm done.
Do you mind the day you went to Hadrock?
I didn't want to stay home for reasons,
But you said someone 'd have to be here
'Cause Elmer was comin' to see t' th' telephone.
An' you never see why I was so set on goin' with yer,
Our married life hadn't be'n any great shakes,
Still marriage is marriage, an' I was raised God-fearin'.
But, Lord, you didn't notice nothin',
An' Elmer hangin' around all Winter!
'Twas a lovely mornin'.
The apple-trees was jest elegant
With their blossoms all flared out,
An' there warn't a cloud in the sky.
You went, you wouldn't pay no 'tention to what I said,
An' I heard the Ford chuggin' for most a mile,
The air was so still.
Then Elmer come.
It's no use your frettin', Jake,
I'll tell you all about it.
I know what I'm doin',
An' what's worse, I know what I done.
Elmer fixed th' telephone in about two minits,
An' he didn't seem in no hurry to go,
An' I don't know as I wanted him to go either,
I was awful mad at your not takin' me with yer,
An' I was tired o' wishin' and wishin'
An' gittin' no comfort.
I guess it ain't necessary to tell yer all the things.
He stayed to dinner,
An' he helped me do the dishes,
An' he said a home was a fine thing,
An' I said dishes warn't a home
Nor yet the room they're in.
He said a lot o' things,
An' I fended him off at first,
But he got talkin' all around me,
Clost up to the things I'd be'n thinkin',
What's the use o' me goin' on, Jake,
He got all he wanted,
An' I give it to him,
An' what's more, I'm glad!
I ain't dead, anyway,
An' somebody thinks I'm somethin'.
Keep away, Jake,
You can kill me to-morrer if you want to,
But I'm goin' to have my say.
Funny thing! Guess I ain't made to hold a man.
Elmer ain't be'n here for mor'n two months.
I don't want to pretend nothin',
Mebbe if he'd be'n lately
I shouldn't have told yer.
I'll go away in the mornin', o' course.
What you want the light fer?
I don't look no diff'rent.
Ain't the moon bright enough
To look at a woman that's deceived yer by?
Don't, Jake, don't, you can't love me now!
It ain't a question of forgiveness.
Why! I'd be thinkin' o' Elmer ev'ry minute;
It ain't decent.
Oh, my God! It ain't decent any more either way!
Off the Turnpike
Good ev'nin', Mis' Priest.
I jest stepped in to tell you Good-bye.
Yes, it's all over.
All my things is packed
An' every last one o' them boxes
Is on Bradley's team
Bein' hauled over to th' depot.
No, I ain't goin' back agin.
I'm stoppin' over to French's fer to-night,
And goin' down first train in th' mornin'.
Yes, it do seem kinder queer
Not to be goin' to see Cherry's Orchard no more,
But Land Sakes! When a change's comin',
Why, I al'ays say it can't come too quick.
Now, that's real kind o' you,
Your doughnuts is always so tasty.
Yes, I'm goin' to Chicago,
To my niece,
She's married to a fine man, hardware business,
An' doin' real well, she tells me.
Lizzie's be'n at me to go out ther for the longest while.
She ain't got no kith nor kin to Chicago, you know
She's rented me a real nice little flat,
Same house as hers,
An' I'm goin' to try that city livin' folks say's so pleasant.
Oh, yes, he was real generous,
Paid me a sight o' money fer the Orchard;
I told him 'twouldn't yield nothin' but stones,
But he ain't farmin' it.
Lor', no, Mis' Priest,
He's jest took it to set and look at the view.
Mebbe he wouldn't be so stuck on the view
Ef he'd seed it every mornin' and night for forty year
Same's as I have.
I dessay it's pretty enough,
But it's so pressed into me
I c'n see't with my eyes shut.
No. I ain't cold, Mis' Priest,
Don't shut th' door.
I'll be all right in a minit.
But I ain't a mite sorry to leave that view.
Well, mebbe 'tis queer to feel so,
An' mebbe 'taint.
My! But that tea's revivin'.
Old things ain't always pleasant things, Mis' Priest.
No, no, I don't cal'late on comin' back,
That's why I'd ruther be to Chicago,
Boston's too near.
It ain't cold, Mis' Priest,
It's jest my thoughts.
I ain't sick, only --
Mis' Priest, ef you've nothin' ter take yer time,
An' have a mind to listen,
Ther's somethin' I'd like ter speak about
I ain't never mentioned it,
But I'd like to tell yer 'fore I go.
Would you mind lowerin' them shades,
Fall twilight's awful grey,
An' that fire's real cosy with the shades drawed.
Well, I guess folks about here think I've be'n dret'ful onsociable.
You needn't say 'taint so, 'cause I know diff'rent.
An' what's more, it's true.
Well, the reason is I've be'n scared out o' my life.
Scared ev'ry minit o' th' time, fer eight year.
Eight mortal year 'tis, come next June.
'Twas on the eighteenth o' June,
Six months after I'd buried my husband,
That somethin' happened ter me.
Mebbe you'll mind that afore that
I was a cheery body.
Hiram was too,
Al'ays liked to ask a neighbor in,
An' ev'n when he died,
Barrin' low sperrits, I warn't averse to seein' nobody.
But that eighteenth o' June changed ev'rythin'.
I was doin' most o' th' farmwork myself,
With jest a hired boy, Clarence King, 'twas,
Comin' in fer an hour or two.
Well, that eighteenth o' June
I was goin' round,
Lockin' up and seein' to things 'fore I went to bed.
I was jest steppin' out t' th' barn,
Goin' round outside 'stead o' through the shed,
'Cause there was such a sight o' moonlight
Somehow or another I thought 'twould be pretty outdoors.
I got settled for pretty things that night, I guess.
I ain't stuck on 'em no more.
Well, them laylock bushes side o' th' house
Was real lovely.
Glitt'rin' and shakin' in the moonlight,
An' the smell o' them rose right up
An' most took my breath away.
The colour o' the spikes was all faded out,
They never keep their colour when the moon's on 'em,
But the smell fair 'toxicated me.
I was al'ays partial to a sweet scent,
An' I went close up t' th' bushes
So's to put my face right into a flower.
Mis' Priest, jest's I got breathin' in that laylock bloom
I saw, layin' right at my feet,
A man's hand!
It was as white's the side o' th' house,
And sparklin' like that lum'nous paint they put on gate-posts.
I screamed right out,
I couldn't help it,
An' I could hear my scream
Goin' over an' over
In that echo be'ind th' barn.
Hearin' it agin an' agin like that
Scared me so, I dar'sn't scream any more.
I jest stood ther,
And looked at that hand.
I thought the echo'd begin to hammer like my heart,
But it didn't.
There was only th' wind,
Sighin' through the laylock leaves,
An' slappin' 'em up agin the house.
Well, I guess I looked at that hand
Most ten minits,
An' it never moved,
Jest lay there white as white.
After a while I got to thinkin' that o' course
'Twas some drunken tramp over from Redfield.
That calmed me some,
An' I commenced to think I'd better git him out
From under them laylocks.
I planned to drag him in t' th' barn
An' lock him in ther till Clarence come in th' mornin'.
I got so mad thinkin' o' that all-fired brazen tramp
Asleep in my laylocks,
I jest stooped down and grabbed th' hand and give it an awful pull.
Then I bumped right down settin' on the ground.
Mis' Priest, ther warn't no body come with the hand.
No, it ain't cold, it's jest that I can't abear thinkin' of it,
I'll take a sip o' tea.
Thank you, Mis' Priest, that's better.
I'd ruther finish now I've begun.
Thank you, jest the same.
I dropped the hand's ef it'd be'n red hot
'Stead o' ice cold.
Fer a minit or two I jest laid on that grass
Then I up and run to them laylocks
An' pulled 'em every which way.
True es I'm settin' here, Mis' Priest,
Ther warn't nothin' ther.
I peeked an' pryed all about 'em,
But ther warn't no man ther
Neither livin' nor dead.
But the hand was ther all right,
Upside down, the way I'd dropped it,
And glist'nin' fit to dazzle yer.
I don't know how I done it,
An' I don't know why I done it,
But I wanted to git that dret'ful hand out o' sight
I got in t' th' barn, somehow,
An' felt roun' till I got a spade.
I couldn't stop fer a lantern,
Besides, the moonlight was bright enough in all conscience.
Then I scooped that awful thing up in th' spade.
I had a sight o' trouble doin' it.
It slid off, and tipped over, and I couldn't bear
Ev'n to touch it with my foot to prop it,
But I done it somehow.
Then I carried it off be'ind the barn,
Clost to an old apple-tree
Where you couldn't see from the house,
An' I buried it,
Good an' deep.
I don't rec'lect nothin' more o' that night.
Clarence woke me up in th' mornin',
Hollerin' fer me to come down and set th' milk.
When he'd gone,
I stole roun' to the apple-tree
And seed the earth all new turned
Where I left it in my hurry.
I did a heap o' gardenin'
I couldn't cut no big sods
Fear Clarence would notice and ask me what I wanted 'em fer,
So I got teeny bits o' turf here and ther,
And no one couldn't tell ther'd be'n any diggin'
When I got through.
They was awful days after that, Mis' Priest,
I used ter go every mornin' and poke about them bushes,
An' up and down the fence,
Ter find the body that hand come off of.
But I couldn't never find nothin'.
I'd lay awake nights
Hearin' them laylocks blowin' and whiskin'.
At last I had Clarence cut 'em down
An' make a big bonfire of 'em.
I told him the smell made me sick,
An' that warn't no lie,
I can't abear the smell on 'em now;
An' no wonder, es you say.
I fretted somethin' awful 'bout that hand
I wondered, could it be Hiram's,
But folks don't rob graveyards hereabouts.
Besides, Hiram's hands warn't that awful, starin' white.
I give up seein' people,
I was afeared I'd say somethin'.
You know what folks thought o' me
Better'n I do, I dessay,
But mebbe now you'll see I couldn't do nothin' diff'rent.
But I stuck it out,
I warn't goin' to be downed
By no loose hand, no matter how it come ther
But that ain't the worst, Mis' Priest,
Not by a long ways.
Two year ago, Mr. Densmore made me an offer for Cherry's Orchard.
Well, I'd got used to th' thought o' bein' sort o' blighted,
An' I warn't scared no more.
Lived down my fear, I guess.
I'd kinder got used to th' thought o' that awful night,
And I didn't mope much about it.
Only I never went out o' doors by moonlight;
Well, when Mr. Densmore's offer come,
I started thinkin' 'bout the place
An' all the things that had gone on ther.
Thinks I, I guess I'll go and see where I put the hand.
I was foolhardy with the long time that had gone by.
I know'd the place real well,
Fer I'd put it right in between two o' the apple roots.
I don't know what possessed me, Mis' Priest,
But I kinder wanted to know
That the hand had been flesh and bone, anyway.
It had sorter bothered me, thinkin' I might ha' imagined it.
I took a mornin' when the sun was real pleasant and warm;
I guessed I wouldn't jump for a few old bones.
But I did jump, somethin' wicked.
Ther warn't no bones!
Ther warn't nothin'!
Not ev'n the gold ring I'd minded bein' on the little finger.
I don't know ef ther ever was anythin'.
I've worried myself sick over it.
I be'n diggin' and diggin' day in and day out
Till Clarence ketched me at it.
Oh, I know'd real well what you all thought,
An' I ain't sayin' you're not right,
But I ain't goin' to end in no county 'sylum
If I c'n help it.
The shiv'rin' fits come on me sudden like.
I know 'em, don't you trouble.
I've fretted considerable about the 'sylum,
I guess I be'n frettin' all the time I ain't be'n diggin'.
But anyhow I can't dig to Chicago, can I?
Thank you, Mis' Priest,
I'm better now. I only dropped in in passin'.
I'll jest be steppin' along down to French's.
No, I won't be seein' nobody in the mornin',
It's a pretty early start.
Don't you stand ther, Mis' Priest,
The wind'll blow yer lamp out,
An' I c'n see easy, I got aholt o' the gate now.
I ain't a mite tired, thank you.
"Say, Alice, gi' me a couple
O' them two for five cigars,
"Where's your nickel?"
"My! Ain't you close!
Can't trust a feller, can yer."
"Trust you! Why
What you owe this store
Would set you up in business.
I can't think why Father 'lows it."
"Yer Father's a sight more neighbourly
Than you be. That's a fact.
Besides, he knows I got a vote."
"A vote! Oh, yes, you got a vote!
A lot o' good the Senate'll be to Father
When all his bank account
Has run away in credits.
There's your cigars,
If you can relish smokin'
With all you owe us standin'."
"I dunno as that makes 'em taste any diff'rent.
You ain't fair to me, Alice, 'deed you ain't.
I work when anythin's doin'.
I'll get a carpenterin' job next Summer sure.
Cleve was tellin' me to-day he'd take me on come Spring."
"Come Spring, and this December!
I've no patience with you, Leon,
Shilly-shallyin' the way you do.
Here, lift over them crates o' oranges
I wanter fix 'em in the winder."
"It riles yer, don't it, me not havin' work.
You pepper up about it somethin' good.
You pick an' pick, and that don't help a mite.
Say, Alice, do come in out o' that winder.
Th' oranges c'n wait,
An' I don't like talkin' to yer back."
"Don't you! Well, you'd better make the best o' what you can git.
Maybe you won't have my back to talk to soon.
They look good in pyramids with the 'lectric light on 'em,
Now hand me them bananas
An' I'll string 'em right acrost."
"What do yer mean
'Bout me not havin' you to talk to?
Are yer springin' somethin' on me?"
"I don't know 'bout springin'
When I'm tellin' you right out.
I'm goin' away, that's all."
What yer mean -- goin' away?"
"I've took a place
Down to Boston, in a candy store
For the holidays."
"Good Land, Alice,
What in the Heavens fer!"
"To earn some money,
And to git away from here, I guess."
"Ain't yer Father got enough?
Don't he give yer proper pocket-money?"
"He'd have a plenty, if you folks paid him."
"He's rich I tell yer.
I never figured he'd be close with you."
"Oh, he ain't. Not close.
That ain't why.
But I must git away from here.
I must! I must!"
"You got a lot o' reason in yer
How long d' you cal'late
You'll be gone?"
"Maybe for always."
"What ails yer, Alice?
Talkin' wild like that.
Ain't you an' me goin' to be married
"Some day! Some day!
I guess the sun'll never rise on some day."
"So that's the trouble.
Same old story.
'Cause I ain't got the cash to settle right now.
You know I love yer,
An' I'll marry yer as soon
As I c'n raise the money."
"You've said that any time these five year,
But you don't do nothin'."
"Wot could I do?
Ther ain't no work here Winters.
Not fer a carpenter, ther ain't."
"I guess you warn't born a carpenter.
Ther's ice-cuttin' a plenty."
"I got a dret'ful tender throat;
Dr. Smiles he told me
I mustn't resk ice-cuttin'."
"Why haven't you gone to Boston,
And hunted up a job?"
"Have yer forgot the time I went expressin'
In the American office, down ther?"
"And come back two weeks later!
No, I ain't."
"You didn't want I should git hurted,
I'm a sight too light fer all that liftin' work.
My back was commencin' to strain, as 'twas.
Ef I was like yer brother now,
I'd ha' be'n down to the city long ago.
But I'm too clumsy fer a dancer.
I ain't got Arthur's luck."
"Do you call it luck to be a disgrace to your folks,
And git locked up in jail!"
"Oh, come now, Alice,
`Disgrace' is a mite strong.
Why, the jail was a joke.
Art's all right."
All right to dance, and smirk, and lie
For a livin',
And then in the end
Lead a silly girl to give you
What warn't hers to give
By pretendin' you'd marry her --
And she a pupil."
"He'd ha' married her right enough,
Her folks was millionaires."
"Yes, he'd ha' married her!
Thank God, they saved her that."
"Art's a fine feller.
I wish I had his luck.
Swellin' round in Hart, Schaffner & Marx fancy suits,
And eatin' in rest'rants.
But somebody's got to stick to the old place,
Else Foxfield'd have to shut up shop,
"You admire him!
You admire Arthur!
You'd be like him only you can't dance.
Oh, Shame! Shame!
And I've been like that silly girl.
Fooled with your promises,
And I give you all I had.
I knew it, oh, I knew it,
But I wanted to git away 'fore I proved it.
You've shamed me through and through.
Why couldn't you hold your tongue,
And spared me seein' you
As you really are."
"What the Devil's the row?
I only said Art was lucky.
What you spitfirin' at me fer?
Ferget it, Alice.
We've had good times, ain't we?
I'll see Cleve 'bout that job agin to-morrer,
And we'll be married 'fore hayin' time."
"It's like you to remind me o' hayin' time.
I've good cause to love it, ain't I?
Many's the night I've hid my face in the dark
To shut out thinkin'!"
"Why, that ain't nothin'.
You ain't be'n half so kind to me
As lots o' fellers' girls.
Gi' me a kiss, Dear,
And let's make up."
You poor fool.
Do you suppose I care a ten cent piece
For you now.
You've killed yourself for me.
Done it out o' your own mouth.
You've took away my home,
I hate the sight o' the place.
You're all over it,
Every stick an' stone means you,
An' I hate 'em all."
"Alice, I say,
Don't go on like that.
I can't marry yer
Boardin' in one room,
But I'll see Cleve to-morrer,
I'll make him ----"
"Oh, you fool!
You terrible fool!"
"Alice, don't go yit,
Wait a minit,
I'll see Cleve ----"
"You terrible fool!"
"Alice, don't go.
Alice ----" (Door slams)
Number 3 on the Docket
The lawyer, are you?
Well! I ain't got nothin' to say.
I told the perlice I hadn't nothin'.
They know'd real well 'twas me.
Ther warn't no supposin',
Ketchin' me in the woods as they did,
An' me in my house dress.
Folks don't walk miles an' miles
In the drifted snow,
With no hat nor wrap on 'em
Ef everythin's all right, I guess.
All right? Ha! Ha! Ha!
Nothin' warn't right with me.
Oh, Lord! Why did I do it?
Why ain't it yesterday, and Ed here agin?
Many's the time I've set up with him nights
When he had cramps, or rheumatizm, or somethin'.
I used ter nurse him same's ef he was a baby.
I wouldn't hurt him, I love him!
Don't you dare to say I killed him. 'Twarn't me!
Somethin' got aholt o' me. I couldn't help it.
Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do!
I beg your pardon, I -- I --
Oh, I'm a wicked woman!
An' I'm desolate, desolate!
Why warn't I struck dead or paralyzed
Afore my hands done it.
Oh, my God, what shall I do!
No, Sir, ther ain't no extenuatin' circumstances,
An' I don't want none.
I want a bolt o' lightnin'
To strike me dead right now!
Oh, I'll tell yer.
But it won't make no diff'rence.
Yes, I killed him.
Why do yer make me say it?
It's cruel! Cruel!
I killed him because o' th' silence.
The long, long silence,
That watched all around me,
And he wouldn't break it.
I tried to make him,
Time an' agin,
But he was terrible taciturn, Ed was.
He never spoke 'cept when he had to,
An' then he'd only say "yes" and "no".
You can't even guess what that silence was.
I'd hear it whisperin' in my ears,
An' I got frightened, 'twas so thick,
An' al'ays comin' back.
Ef Ed would ha' talked sometimes
It would ha' driven it away;
But he never would.
He didn't hear it same as I did.
You see, Sir,
Our farm was off'n the main road,
And set away back under the mountain;
And the village was seven mile off,
Measurin' after you'd got out o' our lane.
We didn't have no hired man,
'Cept in hayin' time;
An' Dane's place,
That was the nearest,
Was clear way 'tother side the mountain.
They used Marley post-office
An' ours was Benton.
Ther was a cart-track took yer to Dane's in Summer,
An' it warn't above two mile that way,
But it warn't never broke out Winters.
I used to dread the Winters.
Seem's ef I couldn't abear to see the golden-rod bloomin';
Winter'd come so quick after that.
You don't know what snow's like when yer with it
Day in an' day out.
Ed would be out all day loggin',
An' I set at home and look at the snow
Layin' over everythin';
It 'ud dazzle me blind,
Till it warn't white any more, but black as ink.
Then the quiet 'ud commence rushin' past my ears
Till I most went mad listenin' to it.
Many's the time I've dropped a pan on the floor
Jest to hear it clatter.
I was most frantic when dinner-time come
An' Ed was back from the woods.
I'd ha' give my soul to hear him speak.
But he'd never say a word till I asked him
Did he like the raised biscuits or whatever,
An' then sometimes he'd jest nod his answer.
Then he'd go out agin,
An' I'd watch him from the kitchin winder.
It seemed the woods come marchin' out to meet him
An' the trees 'ud press round him an' hustle him.
I got so I was scared o' th' trees.
I thought they come nearer,
Every day a little nearer,
Closin' up round the house.
I never went in t' th' woods Winters,
Though in Summer I liked 'em well enough.
It warn't so bad when my little boy was with us.
He used to go sleddin' and skatin',
An' every day his father fetched him to school in the pung
An' brought him back agin.
We scraped an' scraped fer Neddy,
We wanted him to have a education.
We sent him to High School,
An' then he went up to Boston to Technology.
He was a minin' engineer,
An' doin' real well,
A credit to his bringin' up.
But his very first position ther was an explosion in the mine.
And I'm glad! I'm glad!
He ain't here to see me now.
I'm your mother still, Neddy.
Don't turn from me like that.
I can't abear it. I can't! I can't!
What did you say?
Oh, yes, Sir.
I'm very sorry,
I don't know what I'm sayin'.
Not till after Neddy died.
'Twas the next Winter the silence come,
I don't remember noticin' it afore.
That was five year ago,
An' it's been gittin' worse an' worse.
I asked Ed to put in a telephone.
I thought ef I felt the whisperin' comin' on
I could ring up some o' th' folks.
But Ed wouldn't hear of it.
He said we'd paid so much for Neddy
We couldn't hardly git along as 'twas.
An' he never understood me wantin' to talk.
Well, this year was worse'n all the others;
We had a terrible spell o' stormy weather,
An' the snow lay so thick
You couldn't see the fences even.
Out o' doors was as flat as the palm o' my hand,
Ther warn't a hump or a holler
Fer as you could see.
It was so quiet
The snappin' o' the branches back in the wood-lot
Sounded like pistol shots.
Ed was out all day
Same as usual.
An' it seemed he talked less'n ever.
He didn't even say `Good-mornin'', once or twice,
An' jest nodded or shook his head when I asked him things.
On Monday he said he'd got to go over to Benton
Fer some oats.
I'd oughter ha' gone with him,
But 'twas washin' day
An' I was afeared the fine weather'd break,
An' I couldn't do my dryin'.
All my life I'd done my work punctual,
An' I couldn't fix my conscience
To go junketin' on a washin'-day.
I can't tell you what that day was to me.
It dragged an' dragged,
Fer ther warn't no Ed ter break it in the middle
Every time I stopped stirrin' the water
I heerd the whisperin' all about me.
I stopped oftener'n I should
To see ef 'twas still ther,
An' it al'ays was.
An' gittin' louder
It seemed ter me.
Once I threw up the winder to feel the wind.
That seemed most alive somehow.
But the woods looked so kind of menacin'
I closed it quick
An' started to mangle's hard's I could,
The squeakin' was comfortin'.
Well, Ed come home 'bout four.
I seen him down the road,
An' I run out through the shed inter th' barn
To meet him quicker.
I hollered out, `Hullo!'
But he didn't say nothin',
He jest drove right in
An' climbed out o' th' sleigh
An' commenced unharnessin'.
I asked him a heap o' questions;
Who he'd seed
An' what he'd done.
Once in a while he'd nod or shake,
But most o' th' time he didn't do nothin'.
'Twas gittin' dark then,
An' I was in a state,
With the loneliness
An' Ed payin' no attention
Like somethin' warn't livin'.
All of a sudden it come,
I don't know what,
But I jest couldn't stand no more.
It didn't seem 's though that was Ed,
An' it didn't seem as though I was me.
I had to break a way out somehow,
Somethin' was closin' in
An' I was stiflin'.
Ed's loggin' axe was ther,
An' I took it.
Oh, my God!
I can't see nothin' else afore me all the time.
I run out inter th' woods,
Seemed as ef they was pullin' me;
An' all the time I was wadin' through the snow
I seed Ed in front of me
Where I'd laid him.
An' I see him now.
What you holdin' me fer?
I want ter go to Ed,
Stop holdin' me.
I got to go.
I'm comin', Ed.
I'll be ther in a minit.
Oh, I'm so tired!
Clocks Tick a Century
Nightmare: A Tale for an Autumn Evening
After a Print by George Cruikshank
It was a gusty night,
With the wind booming, and swooping,
Looping round corners,
Sliding over the cobble-stones,
Whipping and veering,
And careering over the roofs
Like a thousand clattering horses.
Mr. Spruggins had been dining in the city,
Mr. Spruggins was none too steady in his gait,
And the wind played ball with Mr. Spruggins
And laughed as it whistled past him.
It rolled him along the street,
With his little feet pit-a-patting on the flags of the sidewalk,
And his muffler and his coat-tails blown straight out behind him.
It bumped him against area railings,
And chuckled in his ear when he said "Ouch!"
Sometimes it lifted him clear off his little patting feet
And bore him in triumph over three grey flagstones and a quarter.
The moon dodged in and out of clouds, winking.
It was all very unpleasant for Mr. Spruggins,
And when the wind flung him hard against his own front door
It was a relief,
Although the breath was quite knocked out of him.
The gas-lamp in front of the house flared up,
And the keyhole was as big as a barn door;
The gas-lamp flickered away to a sputtering blue star,
And the keyhole went out with it.
Such a stabbing, and jabbing,
And sticking, and picking,
And poking, and pushing, and prying
With that key;
And there is no denying that Mr. Spruggins rapped out an oath or two,
Rub-a-dub-dubbing them out to a real snare-drum roll.
But the door opened at last,
And Mr. Spruggins blew through it into his own hall
And slammed the door to so hard
That the knocker banged five times before it stopped.
Mr. Spruggins struck a light and lit a candle,
And all the time the moon winked at him through the window.
"Why couldn't you find the keyhole, Spruggins?"
Taunted the wind.
"I can find the keyhole."
And the wind, thin as a wire,
Darted in and seized the candle flame
And knocked it over to one side
And pummelled it down -- down -- down --!
But Mr. Spruggins held the candle so close that it singed his chin,
And ran and stumbled up the stairs in a surprisingly agile manner,
For the wind through the keyhole kept saying, "Spruggins! Spruggins!"
The fire in his bedroom burned brightly.
The room with its crimson bed and window curtains
Was as red and glowing as a carbuncle.
It was still and warm.
There was no wind here, for the windows were fastened;
And no moon,
For the curtains were drawn.
The candle flame stood up like a pointed pear
In a wide brass dish.
Mr. Spruggins sighed with content;
He was safe at home.
The fire glowed -- red and yellow roses
In the black basket of the grate --
And the bed with its crimson hangings
Seemed a great peony,
Wide open and placid.
Mr. Spruggins slipped off his top-coat and his muffler.
He slipped off his bottle-green coat
And his flowered waistcoat.
He put on a flannel dressing-gown,
And tied a peaked night-cap under his chin.
He wound his large gold watch
And placed it under his pillow.
Then he tiptoed over to the window and pulled back the curtain.
There was the moon dodging in and out of the clouds;
But behind him was his quiet candle.
There was the wind whisking along the street.
The window rattled, but it was fastened.
Did the wind say, "Spruggins"?
All Mr. Spruggins heard was "S-s-s-s-s --"
Dying away down the street.
He dropped the curtain and got into bed.
Martha had been in the last thing with the warming-pan;
The bed was warm,
And Mr. Spruggins sank into feathers,
With the familiar ticking of his watch just under his head.
Mr. Spruggins dozed.
He had forgotten to put out the candle,
But it did not make much difference as the fire was so bright . . .
The red and yellow roses pricked his eyelids,
They scorched him back to consciousness.
He tried to shift his position;
He could not move.
Something weighed him down,
He could not breathe.
He was gasping,
Pinned down and suffocating.
He opened his eyes.
The curtains of the window were flung back,
The fire and the candle were out,
And the room was filled with green moonlight.
And pressed against the window-pane
Was a wide, round face,
Winking -- winking --
Solemnly dropping one eyelid after the other.
Tick -- tock -- went the watch under his pillow,
Wink -- wink -- went the face at the window.
It was not the fire roses which had pricked him,
It was the winking eyes.
Mr. Spruggins tried to bounce up;
He could not, because --
His heart flapped up into his mouth
And fell back dead.
On his chest was a fat pink pig,
On the pig a blackamoor
With a ten pound weight for a cap.
His mustachios kept curling up and down like angry snakes,
And his eyes rolled round and round,
With the pupils coming into sight, and disappearing,
And appearing again on the other side.
The holsters at his saddle-bow were two port bottles,
And a curved table-knife hung at his belt for a scimitar,
While a fork and a keg of spirits were strapped to the saddle behind.
He dug his spurs into the pig,
Which trampled and snorted,
And stamped its cloven feet deeper into Mr. Spruggins.
Then the green light on the floor began to undulate.
It heaved and hollowed,
It rose like a tide,
Full of claws and scales
The air above his bed began to move;
It weighed over him
In a mass of draggled feathers.
Not one lifted to stir the air.
They drooped and dripped
With a smell of port wine and brandy,
Closing down, slowly,
Trickling drops on the bed-quilt.
Suddenly the window fell in with a great scatter of glass,
And the moon burst into the room,
Sizzling -- "S-s-s-s-s -- Spruggins! Spruggins!"
It rolled toward him,
A green ball of flame,
With two eyes in the center,
A red eye and a yellow eye,
Dropping their lids slowly,
One after the other.
Mr. Spruggins tried to scream,
But the blackamoor
Leapt off his pig
With a cry,
Drew his scimitar,
And plunged it into Mr. Spruggins's mouth.
Mr. Spruggins got up in the cold dawn
And remade the fire.
Then he crept back to bed
By the light which seeped in under the window curtains,
And lay there, shivering,
While the bells of St. George the Martyr chimed the quarter after seven.
The Paper Windmill
The little boy pressed his face against the window-pane and looked out
at the bright sunshiny morning. The cobble-stones of the square
glistened like mica. In the trees, a breeze danced and pranced,
and shook drops of sunlight like falling golden coins into the brown water
of the canal. Down stream slowly drifted a long string of galliots
piled with crimson cheeses. The little boy thought they looked as if
they were roc's eggs, blocks of big ruby eggs. He said, "Oh!" with delight,
and pressed against the window with all his might.
The golden cock on the top of the `Stadhuis' gleamed. His beak was open
like a pair of scissors and a narrow piece of blue sky was wedged in it.
"Cock-a-doodle-do," cried the little boy. "Can't you hear me
through the window, Gold Cocky? Cock-a-doodle-do! You should crow
when you see the eggs of your cousin, the great roc." But the golden cock
stood stock still, with his fine tail blowing in the wind.
He could not understand the little boy, for he said "Cocorico"
when he said anything. But he was hung in the air to swing, not to sing.
His eyes glittered to the bright West wind, and the crimson cheeses
drifted away down the canal.
It was very dull there in the big room. Outside in the square, the wind
was playing tag with some fallen leaves. A man passed, with a dogcart
beside him full of smart, new milkcans. They rattled out a gay tune:
"Tiddity-tum-ti-ti. Have some milk for your tea. Cream for your coffee
to drink to-night, thick, and smooth, and sweet, and white,"
and the man's sabots beat an accompaniment: "Plop! trop! milk for your tea.
Plop! trop! drink it to-night." It was very pleasant out there,
but it was lonely here in the big room. The little boy gulped at a tear.
It was queer how dull all his toys were. They were so still.
Nothing was still in the square. If he took his eyes away a moment
it had changed. The milkman had disappeared round the corner,
there was only an old woman with a basket of green stuff on her head,
picking her way over the shiny stones. But the wind pulled the leaves
in the basket this way and that, and displayed them to beautiful advantage.
The sun patted them condescendingly on their flat surfaces, and they seemed
sprinkled with silver. The little boy sighed as he looked at his disordered
toys on the floor. They were motionless, and their colours were dull.
The dark wainscoting absorbed the sun. There was none left for toys.
The square was quite empty now. Only the wind ran round and round it,
spinning. Away over in the corner where a street opened into the square,
the wind had stopped. Stopped running, that is, for it never
stopped spinning. It whirred, and whirled, and gyrated, and turned.
It burned like a great coloured sun. It hummed, and buzzed, and sparked,
and darted. There were flashes of blue, and long smearing lines of saffron,
and quick jabs of green. And over it all was a sheen like a myriad
cut diamonds. Round and round it went, the huge wind-wheel,
and the little boy's head reeled with watching it. The whole square
was filled with its rays, blazing and leaping round after one another,
faster and faster. The little boy could not speak, he could only gaze,
staring in amaze.
The wind-wheel was coming down the square. Nearer and nearer it came,
a great disk of spinning flame. It was opposite the window now,
and the little boy could see it plainly, but it was something more
than the wind which he saw. A man was carrying a huge fan-shaped frame
on his shoulder, and stuck in it were many little painted paper windmills,
each one scurrying round in the breeze. They were bright and beautiful,
and the sight was one to please anybody, and how much more a little boy
who had only stupid, motionless toys to enjoy.
The little boy clapped his hands, and his eyes danced and whizzed,
for the circling windmills made him dizzy. Closer and closer
came the windmill man, and held up his big fan to the little boy
in the window of the Ambassador's house. Only a pane of glass
between the boy and the windmills. They slid round before his eyes
in rapidly revolving splendour. There were wheels and wheels of colours --
big, little, thick, thin -- all one clear, perfect spin. The windmill vendor
dipped and raised them again, and the little boy's face was glued
to the window-pane. Oh! What a glorious, wonderful plaything!
Rings and rings of windy colour always moving! How had any one ever preferred
those other toys which never stirred. "Nursie, come quickly. Look!
I want a windmill. See! It is never still. You will buy me one, won't you?
I want that silver one, with the big ring of blue."
So a servant was sent to buy that one: silver, ringed with blue,
and smartly it twirled about in the servant's hands as he stood a moment
to pay the vendor. Then he entered the house, and in another minute
he was standing in the nursery door, with some crumpled paper on the end
of a stick which he held out to the little boy. "But I wanted a windmill
which went round," cried the little boy. "That is the one you asked for,
Master Charles," Nursie was a bit impatient, she had mending to do.
"See, it is silver, and here is the blue." "But it is only a blue streak,"
sobbed the little boy. "I wanted a blue ring, and this silver
doesn't sparkle." "Well, Master Charles, that is what you wanted,
now run away and play with it, for I am very busy."
The little boy hid his tears against the friendly window-pane. On the floor
lay the motionless, crumpled bit of paper on the end of its stick.
But far away across the square was the windmill vendor, with his big wheel
of whirring splendour. It spun round in a blaze like a whirling rainbow,
and the sun gleamed upon it, and the wind whipped it, until it seemed
a maze of spattering diamonds. "Cocorico!" crowed the golden cock
on the top of the `Stadhuis'. "That is something worth crowing for."
But the little boy did not hear him, he was sobbing over the crumpled
bit of paper on the floor.
The Red Lacquer Music-Stand
A music-stand of crimson lacquer, long since brought
In some fast clipper-ship from China, quaintly wrought
With bossed and carven flowers and fruits in blackening gold,
The slender shaft all twined about and thickly scrolled
With vine leaves and young twisted tendrils, whirling, curling,
Flinging their new shoots over the four wings, and swirling
Out on the three wide feet in golden lumps and streams;
Petals and apples in high relief, and where the seams
Are worn with handling, through the polished crimson sheen,
Long streaks of black, the under lacquer, shine out clean.
Four desks, adjustable, to suit the heights of players
Sitting to viols or standing up to sing, four layers
Of music to serve every instrument, are there,
And on the apex a large flat-topped golden pear.
It burns in red and yellow, dusty, smouldering lights,
When the sun flares the old barn-chamber with its flights
And skips upon the crystal knobs of dim sideboards,
Legless and mouldy, and hops, glint to glint, on hoards
Of scythes, and spades, and dinner-horns, so the old tools
Are little candles throwing brightness round in pools.
With Oriental splendour, red and gold, the dust
Covering its flames like smoke and thinning as a gust
Of brighter sunshine makes the colours leap and range,
The strange old music-stand seems to strike out and change;
To stroke and tear the darkness with sharp golden claws;
To dart a forked, vermilion tongue from open jaws;
To puff out bitter smoke which chokes the sun; and fade
Back to a still, faint outline obliterate in shade.
Creeping up the ladder into the loft, the Boy
Stands watching, very still, prickly and hot with joy.
He sees the dusty sun-mote slit by streaks of red,
He sees it split and stream, and all about his head
Spikes and spears of gold are licking, pricking, flicking,
Scratching against the walls and furniture, and nicking
The darkness into sparks, chipping away the gloom.
The Boy's nose smarts with the pungence in the room.
The wind pushes an elm branch from before the door
And the sun widens out all along the floor,
Filling the barn-chamber with white, straightforward light,
So not one blurred outline can tease the mind to fright.
"O All ye Works of the Lord, Bless ye the Lord; Praise Him, and Magnify Him
O let the Earth Bless the Lord; Yea, let it Praise Him, and Magnify Him
O ye Mountains and Hills, Bless ye the Lord; Praise Him, and Magnify Him
O All ye Green Things upon the Earth, Bless ye the Lord; Praise Him,
and Magnify Him for ever."
The Boy will praise his God on an altar builded fair,
Will heap it with the Works of the Lord. In the morning air,
Spices shall burn on it, and by their pale smoke curled,
Like shoots of all the Green Things, the God of this bright World
Shall see the Boy's desire to pay his debt of praise.
The Boy turns round about, seeking with careful gaze
An altar meet and worthy, but each table and chair
Has some defect, each piece is needing some repair
To perfect it; the chairs have broken legs and backs,
The tables are uneven, and every highboy lacks
A handle or a drawer, the desks are bruised and worn,
And even a wide sofa has its cane seat torn.
Only in the gloom far in the corner there
The lacquer music-stand is elegant and rare,
Clear and slim of line, with its four wings outspread,
The sound of old quartets, a tenuous, faint thread,
Hanging and floating over it, it stands supreme --
Black, and gold, and crimson, in one twisted scheme!
A candle on the bookcase feels a draught and wavers,
Stippling the white-washed walls with dancing shades and quavers.
A bed-post, grown colossal, jigs about the ceiling,
And shadows, strangely altered, stain the walls, revealing
Eagles, and rabbits, and weird faces pulled awry,
And hands which fetch and carry things incessantly.
Under the Eastern window, where the morning sun
Must touch it, stands the music-stand, and on each one
Of its broad platforms is a pyramid of stones,
And metals, and dried flowers, and pine and hemlock cones,
An oriole's nest with the four eggs neatly blown,
The rattle of a rattlesnake, and three large brown
Butternuts uncracked, six butterflies impaled
With a green luna moth, a snake-skin freshly scaled,
Some sunflower seeds, wampum, and a bloody-tooth shell,
A blue jay feather, all together piled pell-mell
The stand will hold no more. The Boy with humming head
Looks once again, blows out the light, and creeps to bed.
The Boy keeps solemn vigil, while outside the wind
Blows gustily and clear, and slaps against the blind.
He hardly tries to sleep, so sharp his ecstasy
It burns his soul to emptiness, and sets it free
For adoration only, for worship. Dedicate,
His unsheathed soul is naked in its novitiate.
The hours strike below from the clock on the stair.
The Boy is a white flame suspiring in prayer.
Morning will bring the sun, the Golden Eye of Him
Whose splendour must be veiled by starry cherubim,
Whose Feet shimmer like crystal in the streets of Heaven.
Like an open rose the sun will stand up even,
Fronting the window-sill, and when the casement glows
Rose-red with the new-blown morning, then the fire which flows
From the sun will fall upon the altar and ignite
The spices, and his sacrifice will burn in perfumed light.
Over the music-stand the ghosts of sounds will swim,
`Viols d'amore' and `hautbois' accorded to a hymn.
The Boy will see the faintest breath of angels' wings
Fanning the smoke, and voices will flower through the strings.
He dares no farther vision, and with scalding eyes
Waits upon the daylight and his great emprise.
The cold, grey light of dawn was whitening the wall
When the Boy, fine-drawn by sleeplessness, started his ritual.
He washed, all shivering and pointed like a flame.
He threw the shutters open, and in the window-frame
The morning glimmered like a tarnished Venice glass.
He took his Chinese pastilles and put them in a mass
Upon the mantelpiece till he could seek a plate
Worthy to hold them burning. Alas! He had been late
In thinking of this need, and now he could not find
Platter or saucer rare enough to ease his mind.
The house was not astir, and he dared not go down
Into the barn-chamber, lest some door should be blown
And slam before the draught he made as he went out.
The light was growing yellower, and still he looked about.
A flash of almost crimson from the gilded pear
Upon the music-stand, startled him waiting there.
The sun would rise and he would meet it unprepared,
Labelled a fool in having missed what he had dared.
He ran across the room, took his pastilles and laid
Them on the flat-topped pear, most carefully displayed
To light with ease, then stood a little to one side,
Focussed a burning-glass and painstakingly tried