Singing, clean from the highest limb; And, fearful and awed, they all slipped by To wonder in whispers if he could fly.
“Let him alone!” his father said
When the old schoolmaster came to say, “He took no part in his books to-day–
Only the lesson the readers read.– His mind seems sadly going astray!”
“Let him alone!” came the mournful tone, And the father’s grief in his sad eyes shone– Hiding his face in his trembling hand,
Moaning, “Would I could understand! But as heaven wills it I accept
Uncomplainingly!” So he wept.
Then went “The Dreamer” as he willed, As uncontrolled as a light sail filled
Flutters about with an empty boat
Loosed from its moorings and afloat: Drifted out from the busy quay
Of dull school-moorings listlessly; Drifted off on the talking breeze,
All alone with his reveries;
Drifted on, as his fancies wrought– Out on the mighty gulfs of thought.
The farmer came in the evening gray
And took the bars of the pasture down; Called to the cows in a coaxing way,
“Bess” and “Lady” and “Spot” and “Brown,” While each gazed with a wide-eyed stare, As though surprised at his coming there– Till another tone, in a higher key,
Brought their obeyance lothfully.
Then, as he slowly turned and swung
The topmost bar to its proper rest, Something fluttered along and clung
An instant, shivering at his breast– A wind-scared fragment of legal cap,
Which darted again, as he struck his hand On his sounding chest with a sudden slap, And hurried sailing across the land.
But as it clung he had caught the glance Of a little penciled countenance,
And a glamour of written words; and hence, A minute later, over the fence,
“Here and there and gone astray
Over the hills and far away,”
He chased it into a thicket of trees And took it away from the captious breeze.
A scrap of paper with a rhyme
Scrawled upon it of summertime:
A pencil-sketch of a dairy-maid,
Under a farmhouse porch’s shade,
Working merrily; and was blent
With her glad features such sweet content, That a song she sung in the lines below
Seemed delightfully _apropos_:–
“Why do I sing–Tra-la-la-la-la!
Glad as a King?–Tra-la-la-la-la! Well, since you ask,–
I have such a pleasant task,
I can not help but sing!
“Why do I smile–Tra-la-la-la-la!
Working the while?–Tra-la-la-la-la! Work like this is play,–
So I’m playing all the day–
I can not help but smile!
“So, If you please–Tra-la-la-la-la! Live at your ease!–Tra-la-la-la-la!
You’ve only got to turn,
And, you see, its bound to churn– I can not help but please!”
The farmer pondered and scratched his head, Reading over each mystic word.–
“Some o’ the Dreamer’s work!” he said– “Ah, here’s more–and name and date
In his hand-write’!”–And the good man read,– “‘Patent applied for, July third,
Eighteen hundred and forty-eight’!” The fragment fell from his nerveless grasp– His awed lips thrilled with the joyous gasp: “I see the p’int to the whole concern,– He’s studied out a patent churn!”
FLORETTY’S MUSICAL CONTRIBUTION
All seemed delighted, though the elders more, Of course, than were the children.–Thus, before Much interchange of mirthful compliment, The story-teller said _his_ stories “went” (Like a bad candle) _best_ when they went _out_,– And that some sprightly music, dashed about, Would _wholly_ quench his “glimmer,” and inspire Far brighter lights.
And, answering this desire, The flutist opened, in a rapturous strain Of rippling notes–a perfect April-rain
Of melody that drenched the senses through;– Then–gentler–gentler–as the dusk sheds dew, It fell, by velvety, staccatoed halts,
Swooning away in old “Von Weber’s Waltz.” Then the young ladies sang “Isle of the Sea”– In ebb and flow and wave so billowy,–
Only with quavering breath and folded eyes The listeners heard, buoyed on the fall and rise Of its insistent and exceeding stress
Of sweetness and ecstatic tenderness … With lifted finger _yet_, Remembrance–List!– “_Beautiful isle of the sea!_” wells in a mist Of tremulous …
… After much whispering
Among the children, Alex came to bring Some kind of _letter_–as it seemed to be– To Cousin Rufus. This he carelessly
Unfolded–reading to himself alone,– But, since its contents became, later, known, And no one “_plagued_ so _awful_ bad,” the same May here be given–of course without full name, Fac-simile, or written kink or curl
Or clue. It read:–
“Wild Roved an indian Girl
Brite al Floretty”
I now take
*this* These means to send that _Song_ to you & make my Promus good to you in the Regards
Of doing What i Promust afterwards, the _notes_ & _Words_ is both here _Printed_ SOS you *kin* can git _uncle Mart_ to read you *them* those & cousin Rufus you can git to _Play_
the _notes_ fur you on eny Plezunt day His Legul Work aint *Pressin* Pressing.
As shore as the Vine
doth the Stump intwine
thou art my Lump of Sackkerrine
the Pirut in Captivity.
… There dropped
Another square scrap.–But the hand was stopped That reached for it–Floretty suddenly
Had set a firm foot on her property– Thinking it was the _letter_, not the _song_,– But blushing to discover she was wrong,
When, with all gravity of face and air, Her precious letter _handed_ to her there By Cousin Rufus left her even more
In apprehension than she was before. But, testing his unwavering, kindly eye, She seemed to put her last suspicion by, And, in exchange, handed the song to him.–
A page torn from a song-book: Small and dim Both notes and words were–but as plain as day They seemed to him, as he began to play– And plain to _all_ the singers,–as he ran An airy, warbling prelude, then began
Singing and swinging in so blithe a strain, That every voice rang in the old refrain: From the beginning of the song, clean through, Floretty’s features were a study to
The flutist who “read _notes_” so readily, Yet read so little of the mystery
Of that face of the girl’s.–Indeed _one_ thing Bewildered him quite into worrying,
And that was, noticing, throughout it all, The Hired Man shrinking closer to the wall, She ever backing toward him through the throng Of barricading children–till the song
Was ended, and at last he saw her near Enough to reach and take him by the ear
And pinch it just a pang’s worth of her ire And leave it burning like a coal of fire. He noticed, too, in subtle pantomime
She seemed to dust him off, from time to time; And when somebody, later, asked if she
Had never heard the song before–“What! _me?_” She said–then blushed again and smiled,– “I’ve knowed that song sence _Adam_ was a child!– It’s jes a joke o’ this-here man’s.–He’s learned To _read_ and _write_ a little, and its turned His fool-head some–That’s all!”
And then some one
Of the loud-wrangling boys said–“_Course_ they’s none No more, _these_ days!–They’s Fairies _ust_ to be, But they’re all dead, a hunderd years!” said he.
“Well, there’s where you’re _mustakened_!”–in reply They heard Bud’s voice, pitched sharp and thin and high.–
“An’ how you goin’ to _prove_ it!”
“Well, I _kin_!”
Said Bud, with emphasis,–“They’s one lives in Our garden–and I _see_ ‘im wunst, wiv my Own eyes–_one_ time I did.”
“_Oh, what a lie_!”
“Well, nen,” said the skeptic–seeing there The older folks attracted–“Tell us _where_ You saw him, an’ all _’bout_ him!’
“Yes, my son.–
If you tell ‘stories,’ you may tell us one,” The smiling father said, while Uncle Mart, Behind him, winked at Bud, and pulled apart His nose and chin with comical grimace– Then sighed aloud, with sanctimonious face,– “‘_How good and comely it is to see
Children and parents in friendship agree!_’– You fire away, Bud, on your Fairy-tale– Your _Uncle’s_ here to back you!”
And breathless as to speech, the little man Gathered himself. And thus his story ran.
Some peoples thinks they ain’t no Fairies _now_ No more yet!–But they _is_, I bet! ‘Cause ef They _wuzn’t_ Fairies, nen I’ like to know Who’d w’ite ’bout Fairies in the books, an’ tell What Fairies _does_, an’ how their _picture_ looks, An’ all an’ ever’thing! W’y, ef they don’t Be Fairies anymore, nen little boys
‘U’d ist _sleep_ when they go to sleep an’ wont Have ist no dweams at all,–‘Cause Fairies–_good_ Fairies–they’re a-purpose to make dweams! But they _is_ Fairies–an’ I _know_ they is! ‘Cause one time wunst, when its all Summertime, An’ don’t haf to be no fires in the stove Er fireplace to keep warm wiv–ner don’t haf To wear old scwatchy flannen shirts at all, An’ aint no fweeze–ner cold–ner snow!–An’–an’ Old skweeky twees got all the gween leaves on An’ ist keeps noddin’, noddin’ all the time, Like they ‘uz lazy an’ a-twyin’ to go
To sleep an’ couldn’t, ’cause the wind won’t quit A-blowin’ in ’em, an’ the birds won’t stop A-singin’ so’s they _kin_.–But twees _don’t_ sleep, I guess! But _little boys_ sleeps–an’ _dweams_, too.– An’ that’s a sign they’s Fairies.
So, one time,
When I ben playin’ “Store” wunst over in The shed of their old stable, an’ Ed Howard He maked me quit a-bein’ pardners, ’cause I dwinked the ‘tend-like sody-water up
An’ et the shore-nuff cwackers.–W’y, nen I Clumbed over in our garden where the gwapes Wuz purt’-nigh ripe: An’ I wuz ist a-layin’ There on th’ old cwooked seat ‘at Pa maked in Our arber,–an’ so I ‘uz layin’ there
A-whittlin’ beets wiv my new dog-knife, an’ A-lookin’ wite up through the twimbly leaves– An’ wuzn’t ‘sleep at all!–An’-sir!–first thing You know, a little _Fairy_ hopped out there! A _leetle-teenty Fairy!–hope-may-die!_
An’ he look’ down at me, he did–An’ he Ain’t bigger’n a _yellerbird!_–an’ he
Say “Howdy-do!” he did–an’ I could _hear_ Him–ist as _plain!_
Nen _I_ say “Howdy-do!”
An’ he say “_I’m_ all hunkey, Nibsey; how Is _your_ folks comin’ on?”
An’ nen I say
“My name ain’t ‘_Nibsey_,’ neever–my name’s _Bud_. An’ what’s _your_ name?” I says to him.
Ist laugh an’ say “‘_Bud’s_’ awful _funny_ name!” An’ he ist laid back on a big bunch o’ gwapes An’ laugh’ an’ laugh’, he did–like somebody ‘Uz tick-el-un his feet!
An’ nen I say–
“What’s _your_ name,” nen I say, “afore you bust Yo’-se’f a-laughin’ ’bout _my_ name?” I says. An’ nen he dwy up laughin’–kindo’ mad– An’ say “W’y, _my_ name’s _Squidjicum_,” he says. An’ nen _I_ laugh an’ say–“_Gee!_ what a name!” An’ when I make fun of his name, like that, He ist git awful mad an’ spunky, an’
‘Fore you know, he ist gwabbed holt of a vine– A big long vine ‘at’s danglin’ up there, an’ He ist helt on wite tight to that, an’ down He swung quick past my face, he did, an’ ist Kicked at me hard’s he could!
But I’m too quick
Fer _Mr. Squidjicum!_ I ist weached out An’ ketched him, in my hand–an’ helt him, too, An’ _squeezed_ him, ist like little wobins when They can’t fly yet an’ git flopped out their nest. An’ nen I turn him all wound over, an’
Look at him clos’t, you know–wite clos’t,–’cause ef He _is_ a Fairy, w’y, I want to see
The _wings_ he’s got–But he’s dwessed up so fine ‘At I can’t _see_ no wings.–An’ all the time He’s twyin’ to kick me yet: An’ so I take F’esh holts an’ _squeeze_ agin–an’ harder, too; An’ I says, “_Hold up, Mr. Squidjicum!_– You’re kickin’ the w’ong man!” I says; an’ nen I ist _squeeze’ him_, purt’-nigh my _best_, I did– An’ I heerd somepin’ bust!–An’ nen he cwied An’ says, “You better look out what you’re doin’!– You’ bust’ my spiderweb-suspen’ners, an’ You’ got my woseleaf-coat all cwinkled up So’s I can’t go to old Miss Hoodjicum’s
An’ nen I says–
“Who’s ‘old Miss Hoodjicum’?” I says
Says “Ef you lemme loose I’ll tell you.”
I helt the little skeezics ‘way fur out In one hand–so’s he can’t jump down t’ th’ ground Wivout a-gittin’ all stove up: an’ nen
I says, “You’re loose now.–Go ahead an’ tell ‘Bout the ‘tea-party’ where you’re goin’ at So awful fast!” I says.
An’ nen he say,–
“No use to _tell_ you ’bout it, ’cause you won’t Believe it, ‘less you go there your own se’f An’ see it wiv your own two eyes!” he says. An’ _he_ says: “Ef you lemme _shore-nuff_ loose, An’ p’omise ‘at you’ll keep wite still, an’ won’t Tetch nothin’ ‘at you see–an’ never tell Nobody in the world–an’ lemme loose–
W’y, nen I’ll _take_ you there!”
But I says, “Yes
An’ ef I let you loose, you’ll _run!_” I says. An’ he says “No, I won’t!–I hope may die!” Nen I says, “Cwoss your heart you won’t!”
Ist cwoss his heart; an’ nen I weach an’ set The little feller up on a long vine–
An’ he ‘uz so tickled to git loose agin, He gwab’ the vine wiv boff his little hands An’ ist take an’ turn in, he did, an’ skin ‘Bout forty-‘leven cats!
Nen when he git
Through whirlin’ wound the vine, an’ set on top Of it agin, w’y nen his “woseleaf-coat”
He bwag so much about, it’s ist all tored Up, an’ ist hangin’ strips an’ rags–so he Look like his Pa’s a dwunkard. An’ so nen When he see what he’s done–a-actin’ up
So smart,–he’s awful mad, I guess; an’ ist Pout out his lips an’ twis’ his little face Ist ugly as he kin, an’ set an’ tear
His whole coat off–an’ sleeves an’ all.–An’ nen He wad it all togevver an’ ist _throw_
It at me ist as hard as he kin dwive!
An’ when I weach to ketch him, an’ ‘uz goin’ To give him ‘nuvver squeezin’, _he ist flewed Clean up on top the arber!_–‘Cause, you know, They _wuz_ wings on him–when he tored his _coat_ Clean off–they _wuz_ wings _under there_. But they Wuz purty wobbly-like an’ wouldn’t work
Hardly at all–‘Cause purty soon, when I Throwed clods at him, an’ sticks, an’ got him shooed Down off o’ there, he come a-floppin’ down An’ lit k-bang! on our old chicken-coop, An’ ist laid there a-whimper’n’ like a child! An’ I tiptoed up wite clos’t, an’ I says “What’s The matter wiv ye, Squidjicum?”
Says: “Dog-gone! when my wings gits stwaight agin, Where you all _cwumpled_ ’em,” he says, “I bet I’ll ist fly clean away an’ won’t take you To old Miss Hoodjicum’s at all!” he says. An’ nen I ist weach out wite quick, I did, An’ gwab the sassy little snipe agin–
Nen tooked my topstwing an’ tie down his wings So’s he _can’t_ fly, ‘less’n I want him to! An’ nen I says: “Now, Mr. Squidjicum,
You better ist light out,” I says, “to old Miss Hoodjicum’s, an’ show _me_ how to git There, too,” I says; “er ef you don’t,” I says, “I’ll climb up wiv you on our buggy-shed An’ push you off!” I says.
An nen he say
All wight, he’ll show me there; an’ tell me nen To set him down wite easy on his feet,
An’ loosen up the stwing a little where It cut him under th’ arms. An’ nen he says, “Come on!” he says; an’ went a-limpin’ ‘long The garden-path–an’ limpin’ ‘long an’ ‘long Tel–purty soon he come on ‘long to where’s A grea’-big cabbage-leaf. An’ he stoop down An’ say “Come on inunder here wiv me!”
So _I_ stoop down an’ crawl inunder there, Like he say.
An’ inunder there’s a grea’ Big clod, they is–a awful grea’ big clod! An’ nen he says, “_Roll this-here clod away!_” An’ so I roll’ the clod away. An’ nen
It’s all wet, where the dew’z inunder where The old clod wuz,–an’ nen the Fairy he
Git on the wet-place: Nen he say to me “Git on the wet-place, too!” An’ nen he say, “Now hold yer breff an’ shet yer eyes!” he says, “Tel I say _Squinchy-winchy!_” Nen he say– Somepin _in Dutch_, I guess.–An’ nen I felt Like we ‘uz sinkin’ down–an’ sinkin’ down!– Tel purty soon the little Fairy weach
An’ pinch my nose an’ yell at me an’ say, “_Squinchy-winchy! Look wherever you please!_” Nen when I looked–Oh! they ‘uz purtyest place Down there you ever saw in all the World!– They ‘uz ist _flowers_ an’ _woses_–yes, an’ _twees_ Wiv _blossoms_ on an’ _big ripe apples_ boff! An’ butterflies, they wuz–an’ hummin’-birds– An’ _yellow_birds an’ _blue_birds–yes, an’ _red!_– An’ ever’wheres an’ all awound ‘uz vines Wiv ripe p’serve-pears on ’em!–Yes, an’ all An’ ever’thing ‘at’s ever gwowin’ in
A garden–er canned up–all ripe at wunst!– It wuz ist like a garden–only it
‘Uz _little_ tit o’ garden–’bout big wound As ist our twun’el-bed is.–An’ all wound An’ wound the little garden’s a gold fence– An’ little gold gate, too–an’ ash-hopper ‘At’s all gold, too–an’ ist full o’ gold ashes! An’ wite in th’ middle o’ the garden wuz A little gold house, ‘at’s ist ’bout as big As ist a bird-cage is: An’ _in_ the house They ‘uz whole-lots _more_ Fairies there–’cause I Picked up the little house, an ‘peeked in at The winders, an’ I see ’em all in there
Ist _buggin_’ wound! An’ Mr. Squidjicum He twy to make me quit, but I gwab _him_, An’ poke him down the chimbly, too, I did!– An’ y’ort to see _him_ hop out ‘mongst ’em there! Ist like he ‘uz the boss an’ ist got back!– _”Hain’t ye got on them-air dew-dumplin’s yet?”_ He says.
An’ they says no.
An’ nen he says
“_Better git at ’em nen!_” he says, “_wite quick– ‘Cause old Miss Hoodjicum’s a-comin’!_”
They all set wound a little gold tub–an’ All ‘menced a-peelin’ dewdwops, ist like they ‘Uz _peaches_.–An’, it looked so funny, I Ist laugh’ out loud, an’ _dwopped_ the little house,– An’ ‘t busted like a soap-bubble!–An’t skeered Me so, I–I–I–I,–it skeered me so,
I–ist _waked_ up.–No! I _ain’t_ ben _asleep_ An’ _dream_ it all, like _you_ think,–but it’s shore Fer-certain _fact_ an’ cwoss my heart it is!
A DELICIOUS INTERRUPTION
All were quite gracious in their plaudits of Bud’s Fairy; but another stir above
That murmur was occasioned by a sweet Young lady-caller, from a neighboring street, Who rose reluctantly to say good-night
To all the pleasant friends and the delight Experienced,–as she had promised sure
To be back home by nine. Then paused, demure, And wondered was it _very_ dark.–Oh, _no!_– She had _come_ by herself and she could go Without an _escort_. Ah, you sweet girls all! What young gallant but comes at such a call, Your most abject of slaves! Why, there were three Young men, and several men of family,
Contesting for the honor–which at last Was given to Cousin Rufus; and he cast
A kingly look behind him, as the pair Vanished with laughter in the darkness there.
As order was restored, with everything Suggestive, in its way, of “romancing,”
Some one observed that _now_ would be the chance For _Noey_ to relate a circumstance
That _he_–the very specious rumor went– Had been eye-witness of, by accident.
Noey turned pippin-crimson; then turned pale As death; then turned to flee, without avail.– “_There!_ head him off! _Now!_ hold him in his chair!– Tell us the Serenade-tale, now, Noey.–_There!_”
“They ain’t much ‘tale’ about it!” Noey said.– “K’tawby grapes wuz gittin’ good-n-red
I rickollect; and Tubb Kingry and me ‘Ud kindo’ browse round town, daytime, to see What neighbers ‘peared to have the most to spare ‘At wuz git-at-able and no dog there
When we come round to git ’em, say ’bout ten O’clock at night when mostly old folks then Wuz snorin’ at each other like they yit
Helt some old grudge ‘at never slep’ a bit. Well, at the _Pars’nige_–ef ye’ll call to mind,– They’s ’bout the biggest grape-arber you’ll find ‘Most anywheres.–And mostly there, we knowed They wuz _k’tawbies_ thick as ever growed– And more’n they’d _p’serve_.–Besides I’ve heerd Ma say k’tawby-grape-p’serves jes ‘peared A waste o’ sugar, anyhow!–And so
My conscience stayed outside and lem me go With Tubb, one night, the back-way, clean up through That long black arber to the end next to The house, where the k’tawbies, don’t you know, Wuz thickest. And t’uz lucky we went _slow_,– Fer jest as we wuz cropin’ tords the gray- End, like, of the old arber–heerd Tubb say In a skeered whisper, ‘Hold up! They’s some one Jes slippin’ in here!–and _looks like a gun_ He’s carryin’!’ I _golly!_ we both spread Out flat aginst the ground!
“‘What’s that?’ Tubb said.– And jest then–‘_plink! plunk! plink!_’ we heerd something Under the back-porch-winder.–Then, i jing! Of course we rickollected ’bout the young School-mam ‘at wuz a-boardin’ there, and sung, And played on the melodium in the choir.– And she ‘uz ’bout as purty to admire
As any girl in town!–the fac’s is, she Jest _wuz_, them times, to a dead certainty, The belle o’ this-here bailywick!–But–Well,– I’d best git back to what I’m tryin’ to tell:– It wuz some feller come to serenade
Miss Wetherell: And there he plunked and played His old guitar, and sung, and kep’ his eye Set on her winder, blacker’n the sky!–
And black it _stayed_.–But mayby she wuz ‘way From home, er wore out–bein’ _Saturday!_
“It _seemed_ a good-‘eal _longer_, but I _know_ He sung and plunked there half a’ hour er so Afore, it ‘peared like, he could ever git His own free qualified consents to quit
And go off ’bout his business. When he went I bet you could a-bought him fer a cent!
“And now, behold ye all!–as Tubb and me Wuz ’bout to raise up,–right in front we see A feller slippin’ out the arber, square
Smack under that-air little winder where The _other_ feller had been standin’.–And The thing he wuz a-carryin’ in his hand
Wuzn’t no _gun_ at all!–It wuz a _flute_,– And _whoop-ee!_ how it did git up and toot And chirp and warble, tel a mockin’-bird ‘Ud dast to never let hisse’f be heerd
Ferever, after sich miracalous, high Jim-cracks and grand skyrootics played there by Yer Cousin Rufus!–Yes-sir; it wuz him!– And what’s more,–all a-suddent that-air dim Dark winder o’ Miss Wetherell’s wuz lit
Up like a’ oyshture-sign, and under it We see him sort o’ wet his lips and smile Down ‘long his row o’ dancin’ fingers, while He kindo’ stiffened up and kinked his breath And everlastin’ly jest blowed the peth
Out o’ that-air old one-keyed flute o’ his. And, bless their hearts, that’s all the ‘tale’ they is!”
And even as Noey closed, all radiantly The unconscious hero of the history,
Returning, met a perfect driving storm Of welcome–a reception strangely warm
And _unaccountable_, to _him_, although Most _gratifying_,–and he told them so. “I only urge,” he said, “my right to be
Enlightened.” And a voice said: “_Certainly:_– During your absence we agreed that you
Should tell us all a story, old or new, Just in the immediate happy frame of mind We knew you would return in.”
The ready flutist tossed his hat aside– Glanced at the children, smiled, and thus complied.
COUSIN RUFUS’ STORY
My little story, Cousin Rufus said,
Is not so much a story as a fact.
It is about a certain willful boy– An aggrieved, unappreciated boy,
Grown to dislike his own home very much, By reason of his parents being not
At all up to his rigid standard and Requirements and exactions as a son
He brooded over his disheartening
Environments and limitations, till, At last, well knowing that the outside world Would yield him favors never found at home, He rose determinedly one July dawn–
Even before the call for breakfast–and, Climbing the alley-fence, and bitterly
Shaking his clenched fist at the woodpile, he Evanished down the turnpike.–Yes: he had, Once and for all, put into execution
His long low-muttered threatenings–He had _Run off!_–He had–had run away from home!
His parents, at discovery of his flight, Bore up first-rate–especially his Pa,– Quite possibly recalling his own youth,
And therefrom predicating, by high noon, The absent one was very probably
Disporting his nude self in the delights Of the old swimmin’-hole, some hundred yards Below the slaughter-house, just east of town. The stoic father, too, in his surmise
Was accurate–For, lo! the boy was there!
And there, too, he remained throughout the day– Save at one starving interval in which
He clad his sunburnt shoulders long enough To shy across a wheatfield, shadow-like, And raid a neighboring orchard–bitterly, And with spasmodic twitchings of the lip, Bethinking him how all the other boys
Had _homes_ to go to at the dinner-hour– While _he_–alas!–_he had no home!_–At least These very words seemed rising mockingly, Until his every thought smacked raw and sour And green and bitter as the apples he
In vain essayed to stay his hunger with. Nor did he join the glad shouts when the boys Returned rejuvenated for the long
Wet revel of the feverish afternoon.– Yet, bravely, as his comrades splashed and swam And spluttered, in their weltering merriment, He tried to laugh, too,–but his voice was hoarse And sounded to him like some other boy’s. And then he felt a sudden, poking sort
Of sickness at the heart, as though some cold And scaly pain were blindly nosing it
Down in the dreggy darkness of his breast. The tensioned pucker of his purple lips
Grew ever chillier and yet more tense– The central hurt of it slow spreading till It did possess the little face entire.
And then there grew to be a knuckled knot– An aching kind of core within his throat– An ache, all dry and swallowless, which seemed To ache on just as bad when he’d pretend He didn’t notice it as when he did.
It was a kind of a conceited pain– An overbearing, self-assertive and
Barbaric sort of pain that clean outhurt A boy’s capacity for suffering–
So, many times, the little martyr needs Must turn himself all suddenly and dive
From sight of his hilarious playmates and Surreptitiously weep under water.
He wrestled with his awful agony
Till almost dark; and then, at last–then, with The very latest lingering group of his
Companions, he moved turgidly toward home– Nay, rather _oozed_ that way, so slow he went,– With lothful, hesitating, loitering,
Reluctant, late-election-returns air, Heightened somewhat by the conscience-made resolve Of chopping a double-armful of wood
As he went in by rear way of the kitchen. And this resolve he executed;–yet
The hired girl made no comment whatsoever, But went on washing up the supper-things, Crooning the unutterably sad song, “_Then think, Oh, think how lonely this heart must ever be!_” Still, with affected carelessness, the boy Ranged through the pantry; but the cupboard-door Was locked. He sighed then like a wet fore-stick And went out on the porch.–At least the pump, He prophesied, would meet him kindly and Shake hands with him and welcome his return! And long he held the old tin dipper up– And oh, how fresh and pure and sweet the draught! Over the upturned brim, with grateful eyes He saw the back-yard, in the gathering night, Vague, dim and lonesome, but it all looked good: The lightning-bugs, against the grape-vines, blinked A sort of sallow gladness over his
Home-coming, with this softening of the heart. He did not leave the dipper carelessly
In the milk-trough.–No: he hung it back upon Its old nail thoughtfully–even tenderly. All slowly then he turned and sauntered toward The rain-barrel at the corner of the house, And, pausing, peered into it at the few
Faint stars reflected there. Then–moved by some Strange impulse new to him–he washed his feet. He then went in the house–straight on into The very room where sat his parents by
The evening lamp.–The father all intent Reading his paper, and the mother quite
As intent with her sewing. Neither looked Up at his entrance–even reproachfully,– And neither spoke.
The wistful runaway
Drew a long, quavering breath, and then sat down Upon the extreme edge of a chair. And all Was very still there for a long, long while.– Yet everything, someway, seemed _restful_-like And _homey_ and old-fashioned, good and kind, And sort of _kin_ to him!–Only too _still!_ If somebody would say something–just _speak_– Or even rise up suddenly and come
And lift him by the ear sheer off his chair– Or box his jaws–Lord bless ’em!–_any_thing!– Was he not there to thankfully accept
Any reception from parental source
Save this incomprehensible _voicelessness_. O but the silence held its very breath!
If but the ticking clock would only _strike_ And for an instant drown the whispering, Lisping, sifting sound the katydids
Made outside in the grassy nowhere.
Down some back-street he heard the faint halloo Of boys at their night-game of “Town-fox,” But now with no desire at all to be
Participating in their sport–No; no;– Never again in this world would he want
To join them there!–he only wanted just To stay in home of nights–Always–always– Forever and a day!
He moved; and coughed–
Coughed hoarsely, too, through his rolled tongue; and yet No vaguest of parental notice or
Solicitude in answer–no response– No word–no look. O it was deathly still!– So still it was that really he could not Remember any prior silence that
At all approached it in profundity
And depth and density of utter hush. He felt that he himself must break it: So, Summoning every subtle artifice
Of seeming nonchalance and native ease And naturalness of utterance to his aid, And gazing raptly at the house-cat where She lay curled in her wonted corner of
The hearth-rug, dozing, he spoke airily And said: “I see you’ve got the same old cat!”
The merriment that followed was subdued– As though the story-teller’s attitude
Were dual, in a sense, appealing quite As much to sorrow as to mere delight,
According, haply, to the listener’s bent Either of sad or merry temperament.–
“And of your two appeals I much prefer The pathos,” said “The Noted Traveler,”– “For should I live to twice my present years, I know I could not quite forget the tears That child-eyes bleed, the little palms nailed wide, And quivering soul and body crucified…. But, bless ’em! there are no such children here To-night, thank God!–Come here to me, my dear!” He said to little Alex, in a tone
So winning that the sound of it alone Had drawn a child more lothful to his knee:– “And, now-sir, _I’ll_ agree if _you’ll_ agree,– _You_ tell us all a story, and then _I_
Will tell one.”
“_But I can’t._”
“Well, can’t you _try?_”
“Yes, Mister: he _kin_ tell _one_. Alex, tell The one, you know, ‘at you made up so well, About the _Bear_. He allus tells that one,” Said Bud,–“He gits it mixed some ’bout the _gun_ An’ _ax_ the Little Boy had, an’ _apples_, too.”– Then Uncle Mart said–“There, now! that’ll do!– Let _Alex_ tell his story his own way!”
And Alex, prompted thus, without delay Began.
THAT ALEX “IST MAKED UP HIS-OWN-SE’F”
W’y, wunst they wuz a Little Boy went out In the woods to shoot a Bear. So, he went out ‘Way in the grea’-big woods–he did.–An’ he Wuz goin’along–an’goin’along, you know, An’ purty soon he heerd somepin’ go “_Wooh!_”– Ist thataway–“_Woo-ooh!_” An’ he wuz _skeered_, He wuz. An’ so he runned an’ clumbed a tree– A grea’-big tree, he did,–a sicka-_more_ tree. An’ nen he heerd it agin: an’ he looked round, An’ _’t’uz a Bear!–a grea’-big, shore-nuff Bear!_– No: ‘t’uz _two_ Bears, it wuz–two grea’-big Bears– _One_ of ’em wuz–ist _one’s a grea’-big_ Bear.– But they ist _boff_ went “_Wooh!_ “–An’ here _they_ come To climb the tree an’ git the Little Boy An’eat him up!
An’ nen the Little Boy
He ‘uz skeered worse’n ever! An’ here come The grea’-big Bear a-climbin’ th’ tree to git The Little Boy an’ eat him up–Oh, _no!_– It ‘uzn’t the _Big_ Bear ‘at clumb the tree– It ‘uz the _Little_ Bear. So here _he_ come Climbin’ the tree–an’ climbin’ the tree! Nen when He git wite _clos’t_ to the Little Boy, w’y nen The Little Boy he ist pulled up his gun
An’ _shot_ the Bear, he did, an’ killed him dead! An’ nen the Bear he falled clean on down out The tree–away clean to the ground, he did _Spling-splung!_ he falled _plum_ down, an’ killed him, too! An’ lit wite side o’ where the’ _Big_ Bear’s at.
An’ nen the Big Bear’s awful mad, you bet!– ‘Cause–’cause the Little Boy he shot his gun An’ killed the _Little_ Bear.–‘Cause the _Big_ Bear He–he ‘uz the Little Bear’s Papa.–An’ so here _He_ come to climb the big old tree an’ git The Little Boy an’ eat him up! An’ when
The Little Boy he saw the _grea’-big Bear_ A-comin’, he ‘uz badder skeered, he wuz, Than _any_ time! An’ so he think he’ll climb Up _higher_–‘way up higher in the tree
Than the old _Bear_ kin climb, you know.–But he– He _can’t_ climb higher ‘an old _Bears_ kin climb,– ‘Cause Bears kin climb up higher in the trees Than any little Boys In all the Wo-r-r-ld!
An’ so here come the grea’-big Bear, he did,– A-climbin’ up–an’ up the tree, to git
The Little Boy an’ eat him up! An’ so The Little Boy he clumbed on higher, an’ higher. An’ higher up the tree–an’ higher–an’ higher– An’ higher’n iss-here _house_ is!–An’ here come Th’ old Bear–clos’ter to him all the time!– An’ nen–first thing you know,–when th’ old Big Bear Wuz wite clos’t to him–nen the Little Boy Ist jabbed his gun wite in the old Bear’s mouf An’ shot an’ killed him dead!–No; I _fergot_,– He didn’t shoot the grea’-big Bear at all– ‘Cause _they ‘uz no load in the gun_, you know– ‘Cause when he shot the _Little_ Bear, w’y, nen No load ‘uz anymore nen _in_ the gun!
But th’ Little Boy clumbed _higher_ up, he did– He clumbed _lots_ higher–an’ on up _higher_–an’ higher An’ _higher_–tel he ist _can’t_ climb no higher, ‘Cause nen the limbs ‘uz all so little, ‘way Up in the teeny-weeny tip-top of
The tree, they’d break down wiv him ef he don’t Be keerful! So he stop an’ think: An’ nen He look around–An’ here come th’ old Bear! An’ so the Little Boy make up his mind
He’s got to ist git out o’ there _some_ way!– ‘Cause here come the old Bear!–so clos’t, his bref’s Purt ‘nigh so’s he kin feel how hot it is Aginst his bare feet–ist like old “Ring’s” bref When he’s ben out a-huntin’ an’s all tired. So when th’ old Bear’s so clos’t–the Little Boy Ist gives a grea’-big jump fer ‘_nother_ tree– No!–no he don’t do that!–I tell you what The Little Boy does:–W’y, nen–w’y, he–Oh, _yes_– The Little Boy _he finds a hole up there ‘At’s in the tree_–an’ climbs in there an’ _hides_– An’ _nen_ the old Bear can’t find the Little Boy Ut-tall!–But, purty soon th’ old Bear finds The Little Boy’s _gun_ ‘at’s up there–’cause the _gun_ It’s too _tall_ to tooked wiv him in the hole. So, when the old Bear find’ the _gun_, he knows The Little Boy ist _hid_ ’round _somers_ there,– An’ th’ old Bear ‘gins to snuff an’ sniff around, An’ sniff an’ snuff around–so’s he kin find Out where the Little Boy’s hid at.–An’ nen–nen– Oh, _yes!_–W’y, purty soon the old Bear climbs ‘Way out on a big limb–a grea’-long limb,– An’ nen the Little Boy climbs out the hole An’ takes his ax an’ chops the limb off!… Nen The old Bear falls _k-splunge!_ clean to the ground An’ bust an’ kill hisse’f plum dead, he did!
An’ nen the Little Boy he git his gun An’ ‘menced a-climbin’ down the tree agin– No!–no, he _didn’t_ git his _gun_–’cause when The _Bear_ falled, nen the _gun_ falled, too–An’ broked It all to pieces, too!–An’ _nicest_ gun!– His Pa ist buyed it!–An’ the Little Boy Ist cried, he did; an’ went on climbin’ down The tree–an’ climbin’ down–an’ climbin’ down!– _An’-sir!_ when he ‘uz purt’-nigh down,–w’y, nen _The old Bear he jumped up agin!_–an he Ain’t dead ut-tall–_ist_ ‘tendin’ thataway, So he kin git the Little Boy an’ eat
Him up! But the Little Boy he ‘uz too smart To climb clean _down_ the tree.–An’ the old Bear He can’t climb _up_ the tree no more–’cause when He fell, he broke one of his–He broke _all_ His legs!–an’ nen he _couldn’t_ climb! But he Ist won’t go ‘way an’ let the Little Boy Come down out of the tree. An’ the old Bear Ist growls ’round there, he does–ist growls an’ goes “_Wooh! woo-ooh!_” all the time! An’ Little Boy He haf to stay up in the tree–all night– An’ ‘thout no _supper_ neever!–Only they Wuz _apples_ on the tree!–An’ Little Boy Et apples–ist all night–an’ cried–an’ cried! Nen when ‘tuz morning th’ old Bear went “_Wooh!_” Agin, an’ try to climb up in the tree
An’ git the Little Boy.–But he _can’t_ Climb t’save his _soul_, he can’t!–An’ _oh!_ he’s _mad!_– He ist tear up the ground! an’ go “_Woo-ooh!_” An’–_Oh,yes!_–purty soon, when morning’s come All _light_–so’s you kin _see_, you know,–w’y, nen The old Bear finds the Little Boy’s _gun_, you know, ‘At’s on the ground.–(An’ it ain’t broke ut-tall– I ist _said_ that!) An’ so the old Bear think He’ll take the gun an’ _shoot_ the Little Boy:– But _Bears they_ don’t know much ’bout shootin’ guns: So when he go to shoot the Little Boy,
The old Bear got the _other_ end the gun Agin his shoulder, ‘stid o’ _th’other_ end– So when he try to shoot the Little Boy,
It shot _the Bear_, it did–an’ killed him dead! An’ nen the Little Boy dumb down the tree An’ chopped his old wooly head off:–Yes, an’ killed The _other_ Bear agin, he did–an’ killed All _boff_ the bears, he did–an’ tuk ’em home An’ _cooked_ ’em, too, an’ _et_ ’em!
THE PATHOS OF APPLAUSE
The greeting of the company throughout Was like a jubilee,–the children’s shout And fusillading hand-claps, with great guns And detonations of the older ones,
Raged to such tumult of tempestuous joy, It even more alarmed than pleased the boy; Till, with a sudden twitching lip, he slid Down to the floor and dodged across and hid His face against his mother as she raised Him to the shelter of her heart, and praised His story in low whisperings, and smoothed The “amber-colored hair,” and kissed, and soothed And lulled him back to sweet tranquillity– “And ‘ats a sign ‘at you’re the Ma fer me!” He lisped, with gurgling ecstasy, and drew Her closer, with shut eyes; and feeling, too, If he could only _purr_ now like a cat,
He would undoubtedly be doing that!
“And now”–the serious host said, lifting there A hand entreating silence;–“now, aware
Of the good promise of our Traveler guest To add some story with and for the rest, I think I favor you, and him as well,
Asking a story I have heard him tell, And know its truth,in each minute detail:” Then leaning on his guest’s chair, with a hale Hand-pat by way of full indorsement, he
Said, “Yes–the Free-Slave story–certainly.”
The old man, with his waddy notebook out, And glittering spectacles, glanced round about The expectant circle, and still firmer drew His hat on, with a nervous cough or two: And, save at times the big hard words, and tone Of gathering passion–all the speaker’s own,– The tale that set each childish heart astir Was thus told by “The Noted Traveler.”
TOLD BY “THE NOTED TRAVELER”
Coming, clean from the Maryland-end
Of this great National Road of ours, Through your vast West; with the time to spend, Stopping for days in the main towns, where Every citizen seemed a friend,
And friends grew thick as the wayside flowers,– I found no thing that I might narrate
More singularly strange or queer
Than a thing I found in your sister-state Ohio,–at a river-town–down here
In my notebook: _Zanesville–situate On the stream Muskingum–broad and clear, And navigable, through half the year,
North, to Coshocton; south, as far
As Marietta._–But these facts are
Not of the _story_, but the _scene_ Of the simple little tale I mean
To tell _directly_–from this, straight through To the _end_ that is best worth listening to:
Eastward of Zanesville, two or three
Miles from the town, as our stage drove in, I on the driver’s seat, and he
Pointing out this and that to me,– On beyond us–among the rest–
A grovey slope, and a fluttering throng Of little children, which he “guessed”
Was a picnic, as we caught their thin High laughter, as we drove along,
Clearer and clearer. Then suddenly
He turned and asked, with a curious grin, What were my views on _Slavery? “Why?”_
I asked, in return, with a wary eye. “Because,” he answered, pointing his whip At a little, whitewashed house and shed
On the edge of the road by the grove ahead,– “Because there are two slaves _there_,” he said– “Two Black slaves that I’ve passed each trip For eighteen years.–Though they’ve been set free, They have been slaves ever since!” said he. And, as our horses slowly drew
Nearer the little house in view,
All briefly I heard the history
Of this little old Negro woman and
Her husband, house and scrap of land; How they were slaves and had been made free By their dying master, years ago
In old Virginia; and then had come
North here into a _free_ state–so, Safe forever, to found a home–
For themselves alone?–for they left South there Five strong sons, who had, alas!
All been sold ere it came to pass
This first old master with his last breath Had freed the _parents_.–(He went to death Agonized and in dire despair
That the poor slave _children_ might not share Their parents’ freedom. And wildly then
He moaned for pardon and died. Amen!)
Thus, with their freedom, and little sum Of money left them, these two had come
North, full twenty long years ago;
And, settling there, they had hopefully Gone to work, in their simple way,
Corn, and popcorn.–Bird and bee
In the garden-blooms and the apple-tree Singing with them throughout the slow
Summer’s day, with its dust and heat– The crops that thirst and the rains that fail; Or in Autumn chill, when the clouds hung low, And hand-made hominy might find sale
In the near town-market; or baking pies And cakes, to range in alluring show
At the little window, where the eyes Of the Movers’ children, driving past,
Grew fixed, till the big white wagons drew Into a halt that would sometimes last
Even the space of an hour or two–
As the dusty, thirsty travelers made Their noonings there in the beeches’ shade By the old black Aunty’s spring-house, where, Along with its cooling draughts, were found Jugs of her famous sweet spruce-beer,
Served with her gingerbread-horses there, While Aunty’s snow-white cap bobbed ’round Till the children’s rapture knew no bound, As she sang and danced for them, quavering clear And high the chant of her old slave-days–
“Oh, Lo’d, Jinny! my toes is so’,
Dancin’ on yo’ sandy flo’!”
Even so had they wrought all ways
To earn the pennies, and hoard them, too,– And with what ultimate end in view?–
They were saving up money enough to be Able, in time, to buy their own
Five children back.
Ah! the toil gone through!
And the long delays and the heartaches, too, And self-denials that they had known!
But the pride and glory that was theirs When they first hitched up their shackly cart For the long, long journey South.–The start In the first drear light of the chilly dawn, With no friends gathered in grieving throng,– With no farewells and favoring prayers;
But, as they creaked and jolted on, Their chiming voices broke in song–
“‘Hail, all hail! don’t you see the stars a-fallin’? Hail, all hail! I’m on my way.
A healin’ ba’m–
I belong to the blood-washed army. Gideon am
A healin’ ba’m–
On my way!'”
And their _return!_–with their oldest boy Along with them! Why, their happiness
Spread abroad till it grew a joy
_Universal_–It even reached
And thrilled the town till the _Church_ was stirred Into suspecting that wrong was wrong!–
And it stayed awake as the preacher preached A _Real_ “Love”-text that he had not long To ransack for in the Holy Word.
And the son, restored, and welcomed so, Found service readily in the town;
And, with the parents, sure and slow, _He_ went “saltin’ de cole cash down.”
So with the _next_ boy–and each one
In turn, till _four_ of the five at last Had been bought back; and, in each case, With steady work and good homes not
Far from the parents, _they_ chipped in To the family fund, with an equal grace. Thus they managed and planned and wrought, And the old folks throve–Till the night before They were to start for the lone last son In the rainy dawn–their money fast
Hid away in the house,–two mean,
Murderous robbers burst the door.
…Then, in the dark, was a scuffle–a fall– An old man’s gasping cry–and then
A woman’s fife-like shriek.
Splashing by on horseback heard
The summons: And in an instant all
Sprung to their duty, with scarce a word. And they were _in time_–not only to save The lives of the old folks, but to bag
Both the robbers, and buck-and-gag
And land them safe in the county-jail– Or, as Aunty said, with a blended awe
And subtlety,–“Safe in de calaboose whah De dawgs caint bite ’em!”
The faithful!–So had the Lord upheld His servants of both deed and prayer,–
HIS the glory unparalleled–
_Theirs_ the reward,–their every son Free, at last, as the parents were!
And, as the driver ended there
In front of the little house, I said, All fervently, “Well done! well done!”
At which he smiled, and turned his head And pulled on the leaders’ lines and–“See!” He said,–“‘you can read old Aunty’s sign?” And, peering down through these specs of mine On a little, square board-sign, I read:
“Stop, traveler, if you think it fit, And quench your thirst for a-fip-and-a-bit. The rocky spring is very clear,
And soon converted into beer.”
And, though I read aloud, I could
Scarce hear myself for laugh and shout Of children–a glad multitude
Of little people, swarming out
Of the picnic-grounds I spoke about.– And in their rapturous midst, I see
Again–through mists of memory–
A black old Negress laughing up
At the driver, with her broad lips rolled Back from her teeth, chalk-white, and gums Redder than reddest red-ripe plums.
He took from her hand the lifted cup Of clear spring-water, pure and cold,
And passed it to me: And I raised my hat And drank to her with a reverence that
My conscience knew was justly due
The old black face, and the old eyes, too– The old black head, with its mossy mat
Of hair, set under its cap and frills White as the snows on Alpine hills;
Drank to the old _black_ smile, but yet Bright as the sun on the violet,–
Drank to the gnarled and knuckled old Black hands whose palms had ached and bled And pitilessly been worn pale
And white almost as the palms that hold Slavery’s lash while the victim’s wail
Fails as a crippled prayer might fail.– Aye, with a reverence infinite,
I drank to the old black face and head– The old black breast with its life of light– The old black hide with its heart of gold.
There was a curious quiet for a space Directly following: and in the face
Of one rapt listener pulsed the flush and glow Of the heat-lightning that pent passions throw Long ere the crash of speech.–He broke the spell– The host:–The Traveler’s story, told so well, He said, had wakened there within his breast A yearning, as it were, to know _the rest_– That all unwritten sequence that the Lord Of Righteousness must write with flame and sword, Some awful session of His patient thought– Just then it was, his good old mother caught His blazing eye–so that its fire became But as an ember–though it burned the same. It seemed to her, she said, that she had heard It was the _Heavenly_ Parent never erred, And not the _earthly_ one that had such grace: “Therefore, my son,” she said, with lifted face And eyes, “let no one dare anticipate
The Lord’s intent. While _He_ waits, _we_ will wait” And with a gust of reverence genuine
Then Uncle Mart was aptly ringing in–
“‘_If the darkened heavens lower,
Wrap thy cloak around thy form;
Though the tempest rise in power, God is mightier than the storm!_'”
Which utterance reached the restive children all As something humorous. And then a call
For _him_ to tell a story, or to “say A funny piece.” His face fell right away: He knew no story worthy. Then he must
_Declaim_ for them: In that, he could not trust His memory. And then a happy thought
Struck some one, who reached in his vest and brought Some scrappy clippings into light and said There was a poem of Uncle Mart’s he read Last April in “_The Sentinel_.” He had
It there in print, and knew all would be glad To hear it rendered by the author.
All reasons for declining at command Exhausted, the now helpless poet rose
And said: “I am discovered, I suppose. Though I have taken all precautions not
To sign my name to any verses wrought By my transcendent genius, yet, you see, Fame wrests my secret from me bodily;
So I must needs confess I did this deed Of poetry red-handed, nor can plead
One whit of unintention in my crime– My guilt of rhythm and my glut of rhyme.–
“Mænides rehearsed a tale of arms,
And Naso told of curious metat_mur_phoses; Unnumbered pens have pictured woman’s charms, While crazy _I_’ve made poetry _on purposes!_”
In other words, I stand convicted–need I say–by my own doing, as I read.
UNCLE MART’S POEM
THE OLD SNOW-MAN
Ho! the old Snow-Man
That Noey Bixler made!
He looked as fierce and sassy
As a soldier on parade!–
‘Cause Noey, when he made him,
While we all wuz gone, you see,
He made him, jist a-purpose,
Jist as fierce as he could be!–
But when we all got _ust_ to him, Nobody wuz afraid
Of the old Snow-Man
That Noey Bixler made!
‘Cause Noey told us ’bout him
And what he made him fer:–
He’d come to feed, that morning
He found we wuzn’t here;
And so the notion struck him,
When we all come taggin’ home
‘Tud _s’prise_ us ef a’ old Snow-Man ‘Ud meet us when we come!
So, when he’d fed the stock, and milked, And ben back home, and chopped
His wood, and et his breakfast, he
Jist grabbed his mitts and hopped
Right in on that-air old Snow-Man
That he laid out he’d make
Er bust a trace _a-tryin_’–jist
Fer old-acquaintance sake!–
But work like that wuz lots more fun. He said, than when he played!
Ho! the old Snow-Man
That Noey Bixler made!
He started with a big snow-ball,
And rolled it all around;
And as he rolled, more snow ‘ud stick And pull up off the ground.–
He rolled and rolled all round the yard– ‘Cause we could see the _track_,
All wher’ the snow come off, you know, And left it wet and black.
He got the Snow-Man’s _legs-part_ rolled– In front the kitchen-door,–
And then he hat to turn in then
And roll and roll some more!–
He rolled the yard all round agin,
And round the house, at that–
Clean round the house and back to wher’ The blame legs-half wuz at!
He said he missed his dinner, too– Jist clean fergot and stayed
There workin’. Ho! the old Snow-Man That Noey Bixler made!
And Noey said he hat to _hump_
To git the _top-half_ on
The _legs-half!_–When he _did_, he said, His wind wuz purt’-nigh gone.–
He said, I jucks! he jist drapped down There on the old porch-floor
And panted like a dog!–And then
He up! and rolled some more!–
The _last_ batch–that wuz fer his head,– And–time he’d got it right
And clumb and fixed it on, he said– He hat to quit fer night!–
And _then_, he said, he’d kep’ right on Ef they’d ben any _moon_
To work by! So he crawled in bed–
And _could_ a-slep’ tel _noon_,
He wuz so plum wore out! he said,– But it wuz washin’-day,
And hat to cut a cord o’ wood
‘Fore he could git away!
But, last, he got to work agin,–
With spade, and gouge, and hoe,
And trowel, too–(All tools ‘ud do
What _Noey_ said, you know!)
He cut his eyebrows out like cliffs– And his cheekbones and chin
Stuck _furder_ out–and his old _nose_ Stuck out as fur-agin!
He made his eyes o’ walnuts,
And his whiskers out o’ this
Here buggy-cushion stuffin’–_moss_, The teacher says it is.
And then he made a’ old wood’-gun,
Set keerless-like, you know,
Acrost one shoulder–kindo’ like
Big Foot, er Adam Poe–
Er, mayby, Simon Girty,
The dinged old Renegade!
_Wooh!_ the old Snow-Man
That Noey Bixler made!
And there he stood, all fierce and grim, A stern, heroic form:
What was the winter blast to him,
And what the driving storm?–
What wonder that the children pressed Their faces at the pane
And scratched away the frost, in pride To look on him again?–
What wonder that, with yearning bold, Their all of love and care
Went warmest through the keenest cold To that Snow-Man out there!
But the old Snow-Man–
What a dubious delight
He grew at last when Spring came on And days waxed warm and bright.–
Alone he stood–all kith and kin
Of snow and ice were gone;–
Alone, with constant teardrops in
His eyes and glittering on
His thin, pathetic beard of black– Grief in a hopeless cause!–
Hope–hope is for the man that _dies_– What for the man that _thaws!_
O Hero of a hero’s make!–
Let _marble_ melt and fade,
But never _you_–you old Snow-Man That Noey Bixler made!
“LITTLE JACK JANITOR”
And there, in that ripe Summer-night, once more A wintry coolness through the open door
And window seemed to touch each glowing face Refreshingly; and, for a fleeting space, The quickened fancy, through the fragrant air, Saw snowflakes whirling where the roseleaves were, And sounds of veriest jingling bells again Were heard in tinkling spoons and glasses then.
Thus Uncle Mart’s old poem sounded young And crisp and fresh and clear as when first sung, Away back in the wakening of Spring
When his rhyme and the robin, chorusing, Rumored, in duo-fanfare, of the soon
Invading johnny-jump-ups, with platoon On platoon of sweet-williams, marshaled fine To blooméd blarings of the trumpet-vine.
The poet turned to whisperingly confer A moment with “The Noted Traveler.”
Then left the room, tripped up the stairs, and then An instant later reappeared again,
Bearing a little, lacquered box, or chest, Which, as all marked with curious interest, He gave to the old Traveler, who in
One hand upheld it, pulling back his thin Black lustre coat-sleeves, saying he had sent Up for his “Magic Box,” and that he meant To test it there–especially to show
_The Children_. “It is _empty now_, you know.”– He humped it with his knuckles, so they heard The hollow sound–“But lest it be inferred It is not _really_ empty, I will ask
_Little Jack Janitor_, whose pleasant task It is to keep it ship-shape.”
Then he tried
And rapped the little drawer in the side, And called out sharply “Are you in there, Jack?” And then a little, squeaky voice came back,– “_Of course I’m in here–ain’t you got the key Turned on me!_”
Then the Traveler leisurely Felt through his pockets, and at last took out The smallest key they ever heard about!– It,wasn’t any longer than a pin:
And this at last he managed to fit in The little keyhole, turned it, and then cried, “Is everything swept out clean there inside?” “_Open the drawer and see!–Don’t talk to much; Or else_,” the little voice squeaked, “_talk in Dutch– You age me, asking questions!_”
Then the man
Looked hurt, so that the little folks began To feel so sorry for him, he put down
His face against the box and had to frown.– “Come, sir!” he called,–“no impudence to _me!_– You’ve swept out clean?”
“_Open the drawer and see!_” And so he drew the drawer out: Nothing there, But just the empty drawer, stark and bare. He shoved it back again, with a shark click.–
“_Ouch!_” yelled the little voice–“_un-snap it–quick!– You’ve got my nose pinched in the crack!_”
The frightened man drew out the drawer again, The little voice exclaiming, “_Jeemi-nee!– Say what you want, but please don’t murder me!_”
“Well, then,” the man said, as he closed the drawer With care, “I want some cotton-batting for My supper! Have you got it?”
All muffled like, the little voice replied, “_Open the drawer and see!_”
And, sure enough,
He drew it out, filled with the cotton stuff. He then asked for a candle to be brought And held for him: and tuft by tuft he caught And lit the cotton, and, while blazing, took It in his mouth and ate it, with a look
Of purest satisfaction.
“Now,” said he,
“I’ve eaten the drawer empty, let me see What this is in my mouth:” And with both hands He began drawing from his lips long strands Of narrow silken ribbons, every hue
And tint;–and crisp they were and bright and new As if just purchased at some Fancy-Store. “And now, Bub, bring your cap,” he said, “before Something might happen!” And he stuffed the cap Full of the ribbons. “_There_, my little chap, Hold _tight_ to them,” he said, “and take them to The ladies there, for they know what to do With all such rainbow finery!”
Half sadly, as it seemed, to see the child Open his cap first to his mother….. There Was not a ribbon in it anywhere!
“_Jack Janitor!_” the man said sternly through The Magic Box–“Jack Janitor, did _you_
Conceal those ribbons anywhere?”
The little voice piped–“_but you’d never guess The place I hid ’em if you’d guess a year!_”
“Well, won’t you _tell_ me?”
“_Not until you clear
Your mean old conscience_” said the voice, “_and make Me first do something for the Children’s sake._”
“Well, then, fill up the drawer,” the Traveler said, “With whitest white on earth and reddest red!– Your terms accepted–Are you satisfied?”
“_Open the drawer and see!_” the voice replied.
“_Why, bless my soul!_”–the man said, as he drew The contents of the drawer into view–
“It’s level-full of _candy!_–Pass it ’round– Jack Janitor shan’t steal _that_, I’ll be bound!”– He raised and crunched a stick of it and smacked His lips.–“Yes, that _is_ candy, for a fact!– And it’s all _yours!_”
And how the children there
Lit into it!–O never anywhere
Was such a feast of sweetness!
“And now, then,”
The man said, as the empty drawer again Slid to its place, he bending over it,– “Now, then, Jack Janitor, before we quit Our entertainment for the evening, tell
Us where you hid the ribbons–can’t you?”
The squeaky little voice drawled sleepily– “_Under your old hat, maybe.–Look and see!_”
All carefully the man took off his hat: But there was not a ribbon under that.– He shook his heavy hair, and all in vain The old white hat–then put it on again: “Now, tell me, _honest_, Jack, where _did_ you hide The ribbons?”
“_Under your hat_” the voice replied.– “_Mind! I said ‘under’ and not ‘in’ it.–Won’t You ever take the hint on earth?–or don’t You want to show folks where the ribbons at?– Law! but I’m sleepy!–Under–unner your hat!_”
Again the old man carefully took off
The empty hat, with an embarrassed cough, Saying, all gravely to the children: “You Must promise not to _laugh_–you’ll all _want_ to– When you see where Jack Janitor has dared To hide those ribbons–when he might have spared My feelings.–But no matter!–Know the worst– Here are the ribbons, as I feared at first.”– And, quick as snap of thumb and finger, there The old man’s head had not a sign of hair, And in his lap a wig of iron-gray
Lay, stuffed with all that glittering array Of ribbons … “Take ’em to the ladies–Yes. Good-night to everybody, and God bless
In a whisper no one missed
The Hired Man yawned: “He’s a vantrilloquist”
* * * * *
So gloried all the night Each trundle-bed And pallet was enchanted–each child-head Was packed with happy dreams. And long before The dawn’s first far-off rooster crowed, the snore Of Uncle Mart was stilled, as round him pressed The bare arms of the wakeful little guest That he had carried home with him….
An awed voice said–“(No: I don’t want a _dwink_.– Lay still.)–I think ‘The Noted Traveler’ he ‘S the inscrutibul-est man I ever see!”
[Footnote 1: _Gilead_–evidently.–[Editor.]