And the great hoop bounds along the path, Leaping into the wind-bright air.
Minna sings: "Turn, hoop, Burn hoop, Twist and twine Hoop of mine. Flash along, Leap along, Right at the sun. Run, hoop, run. Faster and faster, Whirl, twirl. Wheel like fire, And spin like glass; Fire's no whiter Glass is no brighter. Dance, Prance, Over and over, About and about, With the top of you under, And the bottom at top, But never a stop. Turn about, hoop, to the tap of my stick, I follow behind you To touch and remind you. Burn and glitter, so white and quick, Round and round, to the tap of a stick."
The hoop flies along between the flower-beds, Swaying the flowers with the wind of its passing.
Beside the foxglove-border roll the hoops, And the little pink and white bells shake and jingle Up and down their tall spires; They roll under the snow-ball bush, And the ground behind them is strewn with white petals; They swirl round a corner, And jar a bee out of a Canterbury bell; They cast their shadows for an instant Over a bed of pansies, Catch against the spurs of a columbine, Jostle the quietness from a cluster of monk's-hood. Pat! Pat! behind them come the little criss-cross shoes, And the blue and pink sashes stream out in flappings of colour.
Stella sings: "Hoop, hoop, Roll along, Faster bowl along, Hoop. Slow, to the turning, Now go!—Go! Quick! Here's the stick. Rat-a-tap-tap it, Pat it, flap it. Fly like a bird or a yellow-backed bee, See how soon you can reach that tree. Here is a path that is perfectly straight. Roll along, hoop, or we shall be late."
Minna sings: "Trip about, slip about, whip about Hoop. Wheel like a top at its quickest spin, Then, dear hoop, we shall surely win. First to the greenhouse and then to the wall Circle and circle, And let the wind push you, Poke you, Brush you, And not let you fall. Whirring you round like a wreath of mist. Hoopety hoop, Twist, Twist."
Tap! Tap! go the hoop-sticks, And the hoops bowl along under a grape arbour. For an instant their willow whiteness is green, Pale white-green. Then they are out in the sunshine, Leaving the half-formed grape clusters A-tremble under their big leaves.
"I will beat you, Minna," cries Stella, Hitting her hoop smartly with her stick. "Stella, Stella, we are winning," calls Minna, As her hoop curves round a bed of clove-pinks. A humming-bird whizzes past Stella's ear, And two or three yellow-and-black butterflies Flutter, startled, out of a pillar rose. Round and round race the little girls After their great white hoops.
Suddenly Minna stops. Her hoop wavers an instant, But she catches it up on her stick. "Listen, Stella!" Both the little girls are listening; And the scents of the garden rise up quietly about them. "It's the chaise! It's Father! Perhaps he's brought us a book from Boston." Twinkle, twinkle, the little criss-cross shoes Up the garden path. Blue—pink—an instant, against the syringa hedge. But the hoops, white as stripped willow-wands, Lie in the grass, And the grasshoppers jump back and forth Over them.
Battledore and Shuttlecock
The shuttlecock soars upward In a parabola of whiteness, Turns, And sinks to a perfect arc. Plat! the battledore strikes it, And it rises again, Without haste, Winged and curving, Tracing its white flight Against the clipped hemlock-trees. Plat! Up again, Orange and sparkling with sun, Rounding under the blue sky, Dropping, Fading to grey-green In the shadow of the coned hemlocks. "Ninety-one." "Ninety-two." "Ninety-three." The arms of the little girls Come up—and up— Precisely, Like mechanical toys. The battledores beat at nothing, And toss the dazzle of snow Off their parchment drums. "Ninety-four." Plat! "Ninety-five." Plat! Back and forth Goes the shuttlecock, Icicle-white, Leaping at the sharp-edged clouds, Overturning, Falling, Down, And down, Tinctured with pink From the upthrusting shine Of Oriental poppies.
The little girls sway to the counting rhythm; Left foot, Right foot. Plat! Plat! Yellow heat twines round the handles of the battledores, The parchment cracks with dryness; But the shuttlecock Swings slowly into the ice-blue sky, Heaving up on the warm air Like a foam-bubble on a wave, With feathers slanted and sustaining. Higher, Until the earth turns beneath it; Poised and swinging, With all the garden flowing beneath it, Scarlet, and blue, and purple, and white— Blurred colour reflections in rippled water— Changing—streaming— For the moment that Stella takes to lift her arm. Then the shuttlecock relinquishes, Bows, Descends; And the sharp blue spears of the air Thrust it to earth.
Again it mounts, Stepping up on the rising scents of flowers, Buoyed up and under by the shining heat. Above the foxgloves, Above the guelder-roses, Above the greenhouse glitter, Till the shafts of cooler air Meet it, Deflect it, Reject it, Then down, Down, Past the greenhouse, Past the guelder-rose bush, Past the foxgloves.
"Ninety-nine," Stella's battledore springs to the impact. Plunk! Like the snap of a taut string. "Oh! Minna!" The shuttlecock drops zigzagedly, Out of orbit, Hits the path, And rolls over quite still. Dead white feathers, With a weight at the end.
The tall clock is striking twelve; And the little girls stop in the hall to watch it, And the big ships rocking in a half-circle Above the dial. Twelve o'clock! Down the side steps Go the little girls, Under their big round straw hats. Minna's has a pink ribbon, Stella's a blue, That is the way they know which is which. Twelve o'clock! An hour yet before dinner. Mother is busy in the still-room, And Hannah is making gingerbread.
Slowly, with lagging steps, They follow the garden-path, Crushing a leaf of box for its acrid smell, Discussing what they shall do, And doing nothing.
"Stella, see that grasshopper Climbing up the bank! What a jump! Almost as long as my arm." Run, children, run. For the grasshopper is leaping away, In half-circle curves, Shuttlecock curves, Over the grasses. Hand in hand, the little girls call to him: "Grandfather, grandfather gray, Give me molasses, or I'll throw you away."
The grasshopper leaps into the sunlight, Golden-green, And is gone.
"Let's catch a bee." Round whirl the little girls, And up the garden. Two heads are thrust among the Canterbury bells, Listening, And fingers clasp and unclasp behind backs In a strain of silence.
White bells, Blue bells, Hollow and reflexed. Deep tunnels of blue and white dimness, Cool wine-tunnels for bees. There is a floundering and buzzing over Minna's head.
"Bend it down, Stella. Quick! Quick!" The wide mouth of a blossom Is pressed together in Minna's fingers. The stem flies up, jiggling its flower-bells, And Minna holds the dark blue cup in her hand, With the bee Imprisoned in it. Whirr! Buzz! Bump! Bump! Whiz! Bang! BANG!! The blue flower tears across like paper, And a gold-black bee darts away in the sunshine.
"If we could fly, we could catch him." The sunshine is hot on Stella's upturned face, As she stares after the bee. "We'll follow him in a dove chariot. Come on, Stella." Run, children, Along the red gravel paths, For a bee is hard to catch, Even with a chariot of doves.
Tall, still, and cowled, Stand the monk's-hoods; Taller than the heads of the little girls. A blossom for Minna. A blossom for Stella. Off comes the cowl, And there is a purple-painted chariot; Off comes the forward petal, And there are two little green doves, With green traces tying them to the chariot. "Now we will get in, and fly right up to the clouds. Fly, Doves, up in the sky, With Minna and me, After the bee."
Up one path, Down another, Run the little girls, Holding their dove chariots in front of them; But the bee is hidden in the trumpet of a honeysuckle, With his wings folded along his back.
The dove chariots are thrown away, And the little girls wander slowly through the garden, Sucking the salvia tips, And squeezing the snapdragons To make them gape. "I'm so hot, Let's pick a pansy And see the little man in his bath, And play we're he." A royal bath-tub, Hung with purple stuffs and yellow. The great purple-yellow wings Rise up behind the little red and green man; The purple-yellow wings fan him, He dabbles his feet in cool green. Off with the green sheath, And there are two spindly legs. "Heigho!" sighs Minna. "Heigho!" sighs Stella. There is not a flutter of wind, And the sun is directly overhead.
Along the edge of the garden Walk the little girls. Their hats, round and yellow like cheeses, Are dangling by the ribbons. The grass is a tumult of buttercups and daisies; Buttercups and daisies streaming away Up the hill. The garden is purple, and pink, and orange, and scarlet; The garden is hot with colours. But the meadow is only yellow, and white, and green, Cool, and long, and quiet. The little girls pick buttercups And hold them under each other's chins. "You're as gold as Grandfather's snuff-box. You're going to be very rich, Minna." "Oh-o-o! Then I'll ask my husband to give me a pair of garnet earrings Just like Aunt Nancy's. I wonder if he will. I know. We'll tell fortunes. That's what we'll do." Plump down in the meadow grass, Stella and Minna, With their round yellow hats, Like cheeses, Beside them. Drop, Drop, Daisy petals. "One I love, Two I love, Three I love I say..." The ground is peppered with daisy petals, And the little girls nibble the golden centres, And play it is cake.
A bell rings. Dinner-time; And after dinner there are lessons.
The Trumpet-Vine Arbour
The throats of the little red trumpet-flowers are wide open, And the clangour of brass beats against the hot sunlight. They bray and blare at the burning sky. Red! Red! Coarse notes of red, Trumpeted at the blue sky. In long streaks of sound, molten metal, The vine declares itself. Clang!—from its red and yellow trumpets. Clang!—from its long, nasal trumpets, Splitting the sunlight into ribbons, tattered and shot with noise.
I sit in the cool arbour, in a green-and-gold twilight. It is very still, for I cannot hear the trumpets, I only know that they are red and open, And that the sun above the arbour shakes with heat. My quill is newly mended, And makes fine-drawn lines with its point. Down the long, white paper it makes little lines, Just lines—up—down—criss-cross. My heart is strained out at the pin-point of my quill; It is thin and writhing like the marks of the pen. My hand marches to a squeaky tune, It marches down the paper to a squealing of fifes. My pen and the trumpet-flowers, And Washington's armies away over the smoke-tree to the Southwest. "Yankee Doodle," my Darling! It is you against the British, Marching in your ragged shoes to batter down King George. What have you got in your hat? Not a feather, I wager. Just a hay-straw, for it is the harvest you are fighting for. Hay in your hat, and the whites of their eyes for a target! Like Bunker Hill, two years ago, when I watched all day from the house-top Through Father's spy-glass. The red city, and the blue, bright water, And puffs of smoke which you made. Twenty miles away, Round by Cambridge, or over the Neck, But the smoke was white—white! To-day the trumpet-flowers are red—red— And I cannot see you fighting, But old Mr. Dimond has fled to Canada, And Myra sings "Yankee Doodle" at her milking. The red throats of the trumpets bray and clang in the sunshine, And the smoke-tree puffs dun blossoms into the blue air.
The City of Falling Leaves
Leaves fall, Brown leaves, Yellow leaves streaked with brown. They fall, Flutter, Fall again. The brown leaves, And the streaked yellow leaves, Loosen on their branches And drift slowly downwards. One, One, two, three, One, two, five. All Venice is a falling of Autumn leaves— Brown, And yellow streaked with brown.
"That sonnet, Abate, Beautiful, I am quite exhausted by it. Your phrases turn about my heart And stifle me to swooning. Open the window, I beg. Lord! What a strumming of fiddles and mandolins! 'Tis really a shame to stop indoors. Call my maid, or I will make you lace me yourself. Fie, how hot it is, not a breath of air! See how straight the leaves are falling. Marianna, I will have the yellow satin caught up with silver fringe, It peeps out delightfully from under a mantle. Am I well painted to-day, 'caro Abate mio'? You will be proud of me at the 'Ridotto', hey? Proud of being 'Cavalier Servente' to such a lady?" "Can you doubt it, 'Bellissima Contessa'? A pinch more rouge on the right cheek, And Venus herself shines less..." "You bore me, Abate, I vow I must change you! A letter, Achmet? Run and look out of the window, Abate. I will read my letter in peace." The little black slave with the yellow satin turban Gazes at his mistress with strained eyes. His yellow turban and black skin Are gorgeous—barbaric. The yellow satin dress with its silver flashings Lies on a chair Beside a black mantle and a black mask. Yellow and black, Gorgeous—barbaric. The lady reads her letter, And the leaves drift slowly Past the long windows. "How silly you look, my dear Abate, With that great brown leaf in your wig. Pluck it off, I beg you, Or I shall die of laughing."
A yellow wall Aflare in the sunlight, Chequered with shadows, Shadows of vine leaves, Shadows of masks. Masks coming, printing themselves for an instant, Then passing on, More masks always replacing them. Masks with tricorns and rapiers sticking out behind Pursuing masks with plumes and high heels, The sunlight shining under their insteps. One, One, two, One, two, three, There is a thronging of shadows on the hot wall, Filigreed at the top with moving leaves. Yellow sunlight and black shadows, Yellow and black, Gorgeous—barbaric. Two masks stand together, And the shadow of a leaf falls through them, Marking the wall where they are not. From hat-tip to shoulder-tip, From elbow to sword-hilt, The leaf falls. The shadows mingle, Blur together, Slide along the wall and disappear. Gold of mosaics and candles, And night blackness lurking in the ceiling beams. Saint Mark's glitters with flames and reflections. A cloak brushes aside, And the yellow of satin Licks out over the coloured inlays of the pavement. Under the gold crucifixes There is a meeting of hands Reaching from black mantles. Sighing embraces, bold investigations, Hide in confessionals, Sheltered by the shuffling of feet. Gorgeous—barbaric In its mail of jewels and gold, Saint Mark's looks down at the swarm of black masks; And outside in the palace gardens brown leaves fall, Flutter, Fall. Brown, And yellow streaked with brown.
Blue-black, the sky over Venice, With a pricking of yellow stars. There is no moon, And the waves push darkly against the prow Of the gondola, Coming from Malamocco And streaming toward Venice. It is black under the gondola hood, But the yellow of a satin dress Glares out like the eye of a watching tiger. Yellow compassed about with darkness, Yellow and black, Gorgeous—barbaric. The boatman sings, It is Tasso that he sings; The lovers seek each other beneath their mantles, And the gondola drifts over the lagoon, aslant to the coming dawn. But at Malamocco in front, In Venice behind, Fall the leaves, Brown, And yellow streaked with brown. They fall, Flutter, Fall.
The Fruit Shop
Cross-ribboned shoes; a muslin gown, High-waisted, girdled with bright blue; A straw poke bonnet which hid the frown She pluckered her little brows into As she picked her dainty passage through The dusty street. "Ah, Mademoiselle, A dirty pathway, we need rain, My poor fruits suffer, and the shell Of this nut's too big for its kernel, lain Here in the sun it has shrunk again. The baker down at the corner says We need a battle to shake the clouds; But I am a man of peace, my ways Don't look to the killing of men in crowds. Poor fellows with guns and bayonets for shrouds! Pray, Mademoiselle, come out of the sun. Let me dust off that wicker chair. It's cool In here, for the green leaves I have run In a curtain over the door, make a pool Of shade. You see the pears on that stool— The shadow keeps them plump and fair." Over the fruiterer's door, the leaves Held back the sun, a greenish flare Quivered and sparked the shop, the sheaves Of sunbeams, glanced from the sign on the eaves, Shot from the golden letters, broke And splintered to little scattered lights. Jeanne Tourmont entered the shop, her poke Bonnet tilted itself to rights, And her face looked out like the moon on nights Of flickering clouds. "Monsieur Popain, I Want gooseberries, an apple or two, Or excellent plums, but not if they're high; Haven't you some which a strong wind blew? I've only a couple of francs for you." Monsieur Popain shrugged and rubbed his hands. What could he do, the times were sad. A couple of francs and such demands! And asking for fruits a little bad. Wind-blown indeed! He never had Anything else than the very best. He pointed to baskets of blunted pears With the thin skin tight like a bursting vest, All yellow, and red, and brown, in smears. Monsieur Popain's voice denoted tears. He took up a pear with tender care, And pressed it with his hardened thumb. "Smell it, Mademoiselle, the perfume there Is like lavender, and sweet thoughts come Only from having a dish at home. And those grapes! They melt in the mouth like wine, Just a click of the tongue, and they burst to honey. They're only this morning off the vine, And I paid for them down in silver money. The Corporal's widow is witness, her pony Brought them in at sunrise to-day. Those oranges—Gold! They're almost red. They seem little chips just broken away From the sun itself. Or perhaps instead You'd like a pomegranate, they're rarely gay, When you split them the seeds are like crimson spray. Yes, they're high, they're high, and those Turkey figs, They all come from the South, and Nelson's ships Make it a little hard for our rigs. They must be forever giving the slips To the cursed English, and when men clips Through powder to bring them, why dainties mounts A bit in price. Those almonds now, I'll strip off that husk, when one discounts A life or two in a nigger row With the man who grew them, it does seem how They would come dear; and then the fight At sea perhaps, our boats have heels And mostly they sail along at night, But once in a way they're caught; one feels Ivory's not better nor finer—why peels From an almond kernel are worth two sous. It's hard to sell them now," he sighed. "Purses are tight, but I shall not lose. There's plenty of cheaper things to choose." He picked some currants out of a wide Earthen bowl. "They make the tongue Almost fly out to suck them, bride Currants they are, they were planted long Ago for some new Marquise, among Other great beauties, before the Chateau Was left to rot. Now the Gardener's wife, He that marched off to his death at Marengo, Sells them to me; she keeps her life From snuffing out, with her pruning knife. She's a poor old thing, but she learnt the trade When her man was young, and the young Marquis Couldn't have enough garden. The flowers he made All new! And the fruits! But 'twas said that he Was no friend to the people, and so they laid Some charge against him, a cavalcade Of citizens took him away; they meant Well, but I think there was some mistake. He just pottered round in his garden, bent On growing things; we were so awake In those days for the New Republic's sake. He's gone, and the garden is all that's left Not in ruin, but the currants and apricots, And peaches, furred and sweet, with a cleft Full of morning dew, in those green-glazed pots, Why, Mademoiselle, there is never an eft Or worm among them, and as for theft, How the old woman keeps them I cannot say, But they're finer than any grown this way." Jeanne Tourmont drew back the filigree ring Of her striped silk purse, tipped it upside down And shook it, two coins fell with a ding Of striking silver, beneath her gown One rolled, the other lay, a thing Sparked white and sharply glistening, In a drop of sunlight between two shades. She jerked the purse, took its empty ends And crumpled them toward the centre braids. The whole collapsed to a mass of blends Of colours and stripes. "Monsieur Popain, friends We have always been. In the days before The Great Revolution my aunt was kind When you needed help. You need no more; 'Tis we now who must beg at your door, And will you refuse?" The little man Bustled, denied, his heart was good, But times were hard. He went to a pan And poured upon the counter a flood Of pungent raspberries, tanged like wood. He took a melon with rough green rind And rubbed it well with his apron tip. Then he hunted over the shop to find Some walnuts cracking at the lip, And added to these a barberry slip Whose acrid, oval berries hung Like fringe and trembled. He reached a round Basket, with handles, from where it swung Against the wall, laid it on the ground And filled it, then he searched and found The francs Jeanne Tourmont had let fall. "You'll return the basket, Mademoiselle?" She smiled, "The next time that I call, Monsieur. You know that very well." 'Twas lightly said, but meant to tell. Monsieur Popain bowed, somewhat abashed. She took her basket and stepped out. The sunlight was so bright it flashed Her eyes to blindness, and the rout Of the little street was all about. Through glare and noise she stumbled, dazed. The heavy basket was a care. She heard a shout and almost grazed The panels of a chaise and pair. The postboy yelled, and an amazed Face from the carriage window gazed. She jumped back just in time, her heart Beating with fear. Through whirling light The chaise departed, but her smart Was keen and bitter. In the white Dust of the street she saw a bright Streak of colours, wet and gay, Red like blood. Crushed but fair, Her fruit stained the cobbles of the way. Monsieur Popain joined her there. "Tiens, Mademoiselle, c'est le General Bonaparte, partant pour la Guerre!"
How the slates of the roof sparkle in the sun, over there, over there, beyond the high wall! How quietly the Seine runs in loops and windings, over there, over there, sliding through the green countryside! Like ships of the line, stately with canvas, the tall clouds pass along the sky, over the glittering roof, over the trees, over the looped and curving river. A breeze quivers through the linden-trees. Roses bloom at Malmaison. Roses! Roses! But the road is dusty. Already the Citoyenne Beauharnais wearies of her walk. Her skin is chalked and powdered with dust, she smells dust, and behind the wall are roses! Roses with smooth open petals, poised above rippling leaves... Roses ... They have told her so. The Citoyenne Beauharnais shrugs her shoulders and makes a little face. She must mend her pace if she would be back in time for dinner. Roses indeed! The guillotine more likely.
The tiered clouds float over Malmaison, and the slate roof sparkles in the sun.
Gallop! Gallop! The General brooks no delay. Make way, good people, and scatter out of his path, you, and your hens, and your dogs, and your children. The General is returned from Egypt, and is come in a 'caleche' and four to visit his new property. Throw open the gates, you, Porter of Malmaison. Pull off your cap, my man, this is your master, the husband of Madame. Faster! Faster! A jerk and a jingle and they are arrived, he and she. Madame has red eyes. Fie! It is for joy at her husband's return. Learn your place, Porter. A gentleman here for two months? Fie! Fie, then! Since when have you taken to gossiping. Madame may have a brother, I suppose. That—all green, and red, and glitter, with flesh as dark as ebony—that is a slave; a bloodthirsty, stabbing, slashing heathen, come from the hot countries to cure your tongue of idle whispering.
A fine afternoon it is, with tall bright clouds sailing over the trees.
"Bonaparte, mon ami, the trees are golden like my star, the star I pinned to your destiny when I married you. The gypsy, you remember her prophecy! My dear friend, not here, the servants are watching; send them away, and that flashing splendour, Roustan. Superb—Imperial, but.. . My dear, your arm is trembling; I faint to feel it touching me! No, no, Bonaparte, not that—spare me that—did we not bury that last night! You hurt me, my friend, you are so hot and strong. Not long, Dear, no, thank God, not long."
The looped river runs saffron, for the sun is setting. It is getting dark. Dark. Darker. In the moonlight, the slate roof shines palely milkily white.
The roses have faded at Malmaison, nipped by the frost. What need for roses? Smooth, open petals—her arms. Fragrant, outcurved petals—her breasts. He rises like a sun above her, stooping to touch the petals, press them wider. Eagles. Bees. What are they to open roses! A little shivering breeze runs through the linden-trees, and the tiered clouds blow across the sky like ships of the line, stately with canvas.
The gates stand wide at Malmaison, stand wide all day. The gravel of the avenue glints under the continual rolling of wheels. An officer gallops up with his sabre clicking; a mameluke gallops down with his charger kicking. 'Valets de pied' run about in ones, and twos, and groups, like swirled blown leaves. Tramp! Tramp! The guard is changing, and the grenadiers off duty lounge out of sight, ranging along the roads toward Paris.
The slate roof sparkles in the sun, but it sparkles milkily, vaguely, the great glass-houses put out its shining. Glass, stone, and onyx now for the sun's mirror. Much has come to pass at Malmaison. New rocks and fountains, blocks of carven marble, fluted pillars uprearing antique temples, vases and urns in unexpected places, bridges of stone, bridges of wood, arbours and statues, and a flood of flowers everywhere, new flowers, rare flowers, parterre after parterre of flowers. Indeed, the roses bloom at Malmaison. It is youth, youth untrammeled and advancing, trundling a country ahead of it as though it were a hoop. Laughter, and spur janglings in tessellated vestibules. Tripping of clocked and embroidered stockings in little low-heeled shoes over smooth grass-plots. India muslins spangled with silver patterns slide through trees—mingle—separate—white day fireflies flashing moon-brilliance in the shade of foliage.
"The kangaroos! I vow, Captain, I must see the kangaroos."
"As you please, dear Lady, but I recommend the shady linden alley and feeding the cockatoos."
"They say that Madame Bonaparte's breed of sheep is the best in all France."
"And, oh, have you seen the enchanting little cedar she planted when the First Consul sent home the news of the victory of Marengo?"
Picking, choosing, the chattering company flits to and fro. Over the trees the great clouds go, tiered, stately, like ships of the line bright with canvas.
Prisoners'-base, and its swooping, veering, racing, giggling, bumping. The First Consul runs plump into M. de Beauharnais and falls. But he picks himself up smartly, and starts after M. Isabey. Too late, M. Le Premier Consul, Mademoiselle Hortense is out after you. Quickly, my dear Sir! Stir your short legs, she is swift and eager, and as graceful as her mother. She is there, that other, playing too, but lightly, warily, bearing herself with care, rather floating out upon the air than running, never far from goal. She is there, borne up above her guests as something indefinably fair, a rose above periwinkles. A blown rose, smooth as satin, reflexed, one loosened petal hanging back and down. A rose that undulates languorously as the breeze takes it, resting upon its leaves in a faintness of perfume.
There are rumours about the First Consul. Malmaison is full of women, and Paris is only two leagues distant. Madame Bonaparte stands on the wooden bridge at sunset, and watches a black swan pushing the pink and silver water in front of him as he swims, crinkling its smoothness into pleats of changing colour with his breast. Madame Bonaparte presses against the parapet of the bridge, and the crushed roses at her belt melt, petal by petal, into the pink water.
A vile day, Porter. But keep your wits about you. The Empress will soon be here. Queer, without the Emperor! It is indeed, but best not consider that. Scratch your head and prick up your ears. Divorce is not for you to debate about. She is late? Ah, well, the roads are muddy. The rain spears are as sharp as whetted knives. They dart down and down, edged and shining. Clop-trop! Clop-trop! A carriage grows out of the mist. Hist, Porter. You can keep on your hat. It is only Her Majesty's dogs and her parrot. Clop-trop! The Ladies in Waiting, Porter. Clop-trop! It is Her Majesty. At least, I suppose it is, but the blinds are drawn.
"In all the years I have served Her Majesty she never before passed the gate without giving me a smile!"
You're a droll fellow, to expect the Empress to put out her head in the pouring rain and salute you. She has affairs of her own to think about.
Clang the gate, no need for further waiting, nobody else will be coming to Malmaison to-night.
White under her veil, drained and shaking, the woman crosses the antechamber. Empress! Empress! Foolish splendour, perished to dust. Ashes of roses, ashes of youth. Empress forsooth!
Over the glass domes of the hot-houses drenches the rain. Behind her a clock ticks—ticks again. The sound knocks upon her thought with the echoing shudder of hollow vases. She places her hands on her ears, but the minutes pass, knocking. Tears in Malmaison. And years to come each knocking by, minute after minute. Years, many years, and tears, and cold pouring rain.
"I feel as though I had died, and the only sensation I have is that I am no more."
Rain! Heavy, thudding rain!
The roses bloom at Malmaison. And not only roses. Tulips, myrtles, geraniums, camelias, rhododendrons, dahlias, double hyacinths. All the year through, under glass, under the sky, flowers bud, expand, die, and give way to others, always others. From distant countries they have been brought, and taught to live in the cool temperateness of France. There is the 'Bonapartea' from Peru; the 'Napoleone Imperiale'; the 'Josephinia Imperatrix', a pearl-white flower, purple-shadowed, the calix pricked out with crimson points. Malmaison wears its flowers as a lady wears her gems, flauntingly, assertively. Malmaison decks herself to hide the hollow within.
The glass-houses grow and grow, and every year fling up hotter reflections to the sailing sun.
The cost runs into millions, but a woman must have something to console herself for a broken heart. One can play backgammon and patience, and then patience and backgammon, and stake gold napoleons on each game won. Sport truly! It is an unruly spirit which could ask better. With her jewels, her laces, her shawls; her two hundred and twenty dresses, her fichus, her veils; her pictures, her busts, her birds. It is absurd that she cannot be happy. The Emperor smarts under the thought of her ingratitude. What could he do more? And yet she spends, spends as never before. It is ridiculous. Can she not enjoy life at a smaller figure? Was ever monarch plagued with so extravagant an ex-wife. She owes her chocolate-merchant, her candle-merchant, her sweetmeat purveyor; her grocer, her butcher, her poulterer; her architect, and the shopkeeper who sells her rouge; her perfumer, her dressmaker, her merchant of shoes. She owes for fans, plants, engravings, and chairs. She owes masons and carpenters, vintners, lingeres. The lady's affairs are in sad confusion.
And why? Why?
Can a river flow when the spring is dry?
Night. The Empress sits alone, and the clock ticks, one after one. The clock nicks off the edges of her life. She is chipped like an old bit of china; she is frayed like a garment of last year's wearing. She is soft, crinkled, like a fading rose. And each minute flows by brushing against her, shearing off another and another petal. The Empress crushes her breasts with her hands and weeps. And the tall clouds sail over Malmaison like a procession of stately ships bound for the moon.
Scarlet, clear-blue, purple epauletted with gold. It is a parade of soldiers sweeping up the avenue. Eight horses, eight Imperial harnesses, four caparisoned postilions, a carriage with the Emperor's arms on the panels. Ho, Porter, pop out your eyes, and no wonder. Where else under the Heavens could you see such splendour!
They sit on a stone seat. The little man in the green coat of a Colonel of Chasseurs, and the lady, beautiful as a satin seed-pod, and as pale. The house has memories. The satin seed-pod holds his germs of Empire. We will stay here, under the blue sky and the turreted white clouds. She draws him; he feels her faded loveliness urge him to replenish it. Her soft transparent texture woos his nervous fingering. He speaks to her of debts, of resignation; of her children, and his; he promises that she shall see the King of Rome; he says some harsh things and some pleasant. But she is there, close to him, rose toned to amber, white shot with violet, pungent to his nostrils as embalmed rose-leaves in a twilit room.
Suddenly the Emperor calls his carriage and rolls away across the looping Seine.
Crystal-blue brightness over the glass-houses. Crystal-blue streaks and ripples over the lake. A macaw on a gilded perch screams; they have forgotten to take out his dinner. The windows shake. Boom! Boom! It is the rumbling of Prussian cannon beyond Pecq. Roses bloom at Malmaison. Roses! Roses! Swimming above their leaves, rotting beneath them. Fallen flowers strew the unraked walks. Fallen flowers for a fallen Emperor! The General in charge of him draws back and watches. Snatches of music—snarling, sneering music of bagpipes. They say a Scotch regiment is besieging Saint-Denis. The Emperor wipes his face, or is it his eyes. His tired eyes which see nowhere the grace they long for. Josephine! Somebody asks him a question, he does not answer, somebody else does that. There are voices, but one voice he does not hear, and yet he hears it all the time. Josephine! The Emperor puts up his hand to screen his face. The white light of a bright cloud spears sharply through the linden-trees. 'Vive l'Empereur!' There are troops passing beyond the wall, troops which sing and call. Boom! A pink rose is jarred off its stem and falls at the Emperor's feet.
"Very well. I go." Where! Does it matter? There is no sword to clatter. Nothing but soft brushing gravel and a gate which shuts with a click.
"Quick, fellow, don't spare your horses."
A whip cracks, wheels turn, why burn one's eyes following a fleck of dust.
Over the slate roof tall clouds, like ships of the line, pass along the sky. The glass-houses glitter splotchily, for many of their lights are broken. Roses bloom, fiery cinders quenching under damp weeds. Wreckage and misery, and a trailing of petty deeds smearing over old recollections.
The musty rooms are empty and their shutters are closed, only in the gallery there is a stuffed black swan, covered with dust. When you touch it, the feathers come off and float softly to the ground. Through a chink in the shutters, one can see the stately clouds crossing the sky toward the Roman arches of the Marly Aqueduct.
Frindsbury, Kent, 1786
Bang! Bang! Tap! Tap-a-tap! Rap! All through the lead and silver Winter days, All through the copper of Autumn hazes. Tap to the red rising sun, Tap to the purple setting sun. Four years pass before the job is done. Two thousand oak trees grown and felled, Two thousand oaks from the hedgerows of the Weald, Sussex had yielded two thousand oaks With huge boles Round which the tape rolls Thirty mortal feet, say the village folks. Two hundred loads of elm and Scottish fir; Planking from Dantzig. My! What timber goes into a ship! Tap! Tap! Two years they have seasoned her ribs on the ways, Tapping, tapping. You can hear, though there's nothing where you gaze. Through the fog down the reaches of the river, The tapping goes on like heart-beats in a fever. The church-bells chime Hours and hours, Dropping days in showers. Bang! Rap! Tap! Go the hammers all the time. They have planked up her timbers And the nails are driven to the head; They have decked her over, And again, and again. The shoring-up beams shudder at the strain. Black and blue breeches, Pigtails bound and shining: Like ants crawling about, The hull swarms with carpenters, running in and out. Joiners, calkers, And they are all terrible talkers. Jem Wilson has been to sea and he tells some wonderful tales Of whales, and spice islands, And pirates off the Barbary coast. He boasts magnificently, with his mouth full of nails. Stephen Pibold has a tenor voice, He shifts his quid of tobacco and sings: "The second in command was blear-eyed Ned: While the surgeon his limb was a-lopping, A nine-pounder came and smack went his head, Pull away, pull away, pull away! I say; Rare news for my Meg of Wapping!" Every Sunday People come in crowds (After church-time, of course) In curricles, and gigs, and wagons, And some have brought cold chicken and flagons Of wine, And beer in stoppered jugs. "Dear! Dear! But I tell 'ee 'twill be a fine ship. There's none finer in any of the slips at Chatham."
The third Summer's roses have started in to blow, When the fine stern carving is begun. Flutings, and twinings, and long slow swirls, Bits of deal shaved away to thin spiral curls. Tap! Tap! A cornucopia is nailed into place. Rap-a-tap! They are putting up a railing filigreed like Irish lace. The Three Town's people never saw such grace. And the paint on it! The richest gold leaf! Why, the glitter when the sun is shining passes belief. And that row of glass windows tipped toward the sky Are rubies and carbuncles when the day is dry. Oh, my! Oh, my! They have coppered up the bottom, And the copper nails Stand about and sparkle in big wooden pails. Bang! Clash! Bang! "And he swigg'd, and Nick swigg'd, And Ben swigg'd, and Dick swigg'd, And I swigg'd, and all of us swigg'd it, And swore there was nothing like grog." It seems they sing, Even though coppering is not an easy thing. What a splendid specimen of humanity is a true British workman, Say the people of the Three Towns, As they walk about the dockyard To the sound of the evening church-bells. And so artistic, too, each one tells his neighbour. What immense taste and labour! Miss Jessie Prime, in a pink silk bonnet, Titters with delight as her eyes fall upon it, When she steps lightly down from Lawyer Green's whisky; Such amazing beauty makes one feel frisky, She explains. Mr. Nichols says he is delighted (He is the firm); His work is all requited If Miss Jessie can approve. Miss Jessie answers that the ship is "a love". The sides are yellow as marigold, The port-lids are red when the ports are up: Blood-red squares like an even chequer Of yellow asters and portulaca. There is a wide "black strake" at the waterline And above is a blue like the sky when the weather is fine. The inner bulwarks are painted red. "Why?" asks Miss Jessie. "'Tis a horrid note." Mr. Nichols clears his throat, And tells her the launching day is set. He says, "Be careful, the paint is wet." But Miss Jessie has touched it, her sprigged muslin gown Has a blood-red streak from the shoulder down. "It looks like blood," says Miss Jessie with a frown.
Tap! Tap! Rap! An October day, with waves running in blue-white lines and a capful of wind. Three broad flags ripple out behind Where the masts will be: Royal Standard at the main, Admiralty flag at the fore, Union Jack at the mizzen. The hammers tap harder, faster, They must finish by noon. The last nail is driven. But the wind has increased to half a gale, And the ship shakes and quivers upon the ways. The Commissioner of Chatham Dockyard is coming In his ten-oared barge from the King's Stairs; The Marine's band will play "God Save Great George Our King"; And there is to be a dinner afterwards at the Crown, with speeches. The wind screeches, and flaps the flags till they pound like hammers. The wind hums over the ship, And slips round the dog-shores, Jostling them almost to falling. There is no time now to wait for Commissioners and marine bands. Mr. Nichols has a bottle of port in his hands. He leans over, holding his hat, and shouts to the men below: "Let her go!" Bang! Bang! Pound! The dog-shores fall to the ground, And the ship slides down the greased planking. A splintering of glass, And port wine running all over the white and copper stem timbers. "Success to his Majesty's ship, the Bellerophon!" And the red wine washes away in the waters of the Medway.
Paris, March, 1814
Fine yellow sunlight down the rue du Mont Thabor. Ten o'clock striking from all the clock-towers of Paris. Over the door of a shop, in gilt letters: "Martin—Parfumeur", and something more. A large gilded wooden something. Listen! What a ringing of hammers! Tap! Tap! Squeak! Tap! Squeak! Tap-a-tap! "Blaise." "Oui, M'sieu." "Don't touch the letters. My name stays." "Bien, M'sieu." "Just take down the eagle, and the shield with the bees." "As M'sieu pleases." Tap! Squeak! Tap! The man on the ladder hammers steadily for a minute or two, Then stops. "He! Patron! They are fastened well, Nom d'un Chien! What if I break them?" "Break away, You and Paul must have them down to-day." "Bien." And the hammers start again, Drum-beating at the something of gilded wood. Sunshine in a golden flood Lighting up the yellow fronts of houses, Glittering each window to a flash. Squeak! Squeak! Tap! The hammers beat and rap. A Prussian hussar on a grey horse goes by at a dash. From other shops, the noise of striking blows: Pounds, thumps, and whacks; Wooden sounds: splinters—cracks. Paris is full of the galloping of horses and the knocking of hammers. "Hullo! Friend Martin, is business slack That you are in the street this morning? Don't turn your back And scuttle into your shop like a rabbit to its hole. I've just been taking a stroll. The stinking Cossacks are bivouacked all up and down the Champs Elysees. I can't get the smell of them out of my nostrils. Dirty fellows, who don't believe in frills Like washing. Ah, mon vieux, you'd have to go Out of business if you lived in Russia. So! We've given up being perfumers to the Emperor, have we? Blaise, Be careful of the hen, Maybe I can find a use for her one of these days. That eagle's rather well cut, Martin. But I'm sick of smelling Cossack, Take me inside and let me put my head into a stack Of orris-root and musk." Within the shop, the light is dimmed to a pearl-and-green dusk Out of which dreamily sparkle counters and shelves of glass, Containing phials, and bowls, and jars, and dishes; a mass Of aqueous transparence made solid by threads of gold. Gold and glass, And scents which whiff across the green twilight and pass. The perfumer sits down and shakes his head: "Always the same, Monsieur Antoine, You artists are wonderful folk indeed." But Antoine Vernet does not heed. He is reading the names on the bottles and bowls, Done in fine gilt letters with wonderful scrolls. "What have we here? 'Eau Imperial Odontalgique.' I must say, mon cher, your names are chic. But it won't do, positively it will not do. Elba doesn't count. Ah, here is another: 'Baume du Commandeur'. That's better. He needs something to smother Regrets. A little lubricant, too, Might be useful. I have it, 'Sage Oil', perhaps he'll be good now; with it we'll submit This fine German rouge. I fear he is pale." "Monsieur Antoine, don't rail At misfortune. He treated me well and fairly." "And you prefer him to Bourbons, admit it squarely." "Heaven forbid!" Bang! Whack! Squeak! Squeak! Crack! CRASH! "Oh, Lord, Martin! That shield is hash. The whole street is covered with golden bees. They look like so many yellow peas, Lying there in the mud. I'd like to paint it. 'Plum pudding of Empire'. That's rather quaint, it Might take with the Kings. Shall I try?" "Oh, Sir, You distress me, you do." "Poor old Martin's purr! But he hasn't a scratch in him, I know. Now let us get back to the powders and patches. Foolish man, The Kings are here now. We must hit on a plan To change all these titles as fast as we can. 'Bouquet Imperatrice'. Tut! Tut! Give me some ink— 'Bouquet de la Reine', what do you think? Not the same receipt? Now, Martin, put away your conceit. Who will ever know? 'Extract of Nobility'—excellent, since most of them are killed." "But, Monsieur Antoine—" "You are self-willed, Martin. You need a salve For your conscience, do you? Very well, we'll halve The compliments, also the pastes and dentifrices; Send some to the Kings, and some to the Empresses. 'Oil of Bitter Almonds'—the Empress Josephine can have that. 'Oil of Parma Violets' fits the other one pat." Rap! Rap! Bang! "What a hideous clatter! Blaise seems determined to batter That poor old turkey into bits, And pound to jelly my excellent wits. Come, come, Martin, you mustn't shirk. 'The night cometh soon'—etc. Don't jerk Me up like that. 'Essence de la Valliere'— That has a charmingly Bourbon air. And, oh! Magnificent! Listen to this!— 'Vinaigre des Quatre Voleurs'. Nothing amiss With that—England, Austria, Russia and Prussia! Martin, you're a wonder, Upheavals of continents can't keep you under." "Monsieur Antoine, I am grieved indeed At such levity. What France has gone through—" "Very true, Martin, very true, But never forget that a man must feed." Pound! Pound! Thump! Pound! "Look here, in another minute Blaise will drop that bird on the ground." Martin shrugs his shoulders. "Ah, well, what then?—" Antoine, with a laugh: "I'll give you two sous for that antiquated hen." The Imperial Eagle sells for two sous, And the lilies go up. A man must choose!
Paris, April, 1814
Cold, impassive, the marble arch of the Place du Carrousel. Haughty, contemptuous, the marble arch of the Place du Carrousel. Like a woman raped by force, rising above her fate, Borne up by the cold rigidity of hate, Stands the marble arch of the Place du Carrousel. Tap! Clink-a-tink! Tap! Rap! Chink! What falls to the ground like a streak of flame? Hush! It is only a bit of bronze flashing in the sun. What are all those soldiers? Those are not the uniforms of France. Alas! No! The uniforms of France, Great Imperial France, are done. They will rot away in chests and hang to dusty tatters in barn lofts. These are other armies. And their name? Hush, be still for shame; Be still and imperturbable like the marble arch. Another bright spark falls through the blue air. Over the Place du Carrousel a wailing of despair. Crowd your horses back upon the people, Uhlans and Hungarian Lancers, They see too much. Unfortunately, Gentlemen of the Invading Armies, what they do not see, they hear. Tap! Clink-a-tink! Tap! Another sharp spear Of brightness, And a ringing of quick metal lightness On hard stones. Workmen are chipping off the names of Napoleon's victories From the triumphal arch of the Place du Carrousel.
Do they need so much force to quell the crowd? An old Grenadier of the line groans aloud, And each hammer tap points the sob of a woman. Russia, Prussia, Austria, and the faded-white-lily Bourbon king Think it well To guard against tumult, A mob is an undependable thing. Ding! Ding! Vienna is scattered all over the Place du Carrousel In glittering, bent, and twisted letters. Your betters have clattered over Vienna before, Officer of his Imperial Majesty our Father-in-Law! Tink! Tink! A workman's chisel can strew you to the winds, Munich. Do they think To pleasure Paris, used to the fall of cities, By giving her a fall of letters!
It is a month too late. One month, and our lily-white Bourbon king Has done a colossal thing; He has curdled love, And soured the desires of a people. Still the letters fall, The workmen creep up and down their ladders like lizards on a wall. Tap! Tap! Tink! Clink! Clink! "Oh, merciful God, they will not touch Austerlitz! Strike me blind, my God, my eyes can never look on that. I would give the other leg to save it, it took one. Curse them! Curse them! Aim at his hat. Give me the stone. Why didn't you give it to me? I would not have missed. Curse him! Curse all of them! They have got the 'A'!" Ding! Ding! "I saw the Terror, but I never saw so horrible a thing as this. 'Vive l'Empereur! Vive l'Empereur!'" "Don't strike him, Fritz. The mob will rise if you do. Just run him out to the 'quai', That will get him out of the way. They are almost through." Clink! Tink! Ding! Clear as the sudden ring Of a bell "Z" strikes the pavement. Farewell, Austerlitz, Tilsit, Presbourg; Farewell, greatness departed. Farewell, Imperial honours, knocked broadcast by the beating hammers of ignorant workmen. Straight, in the Spring moonlight, Rises the deflowered arch. In the silence, shining bright, She stands naked and unsubdued. Her marble coldness will endure the march Of decades. 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
"Whoa! Victorine. 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." Rap! Tap! 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. See!" "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 Placid tails. 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! Ding-a-ding-dong! It is a long time since any one spoke. Then the blacksmith brushes his hand over his eyes, "Well," he sighs, "He's broke." 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. He's done." "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. They wheeze, And sneeze, 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. Clank! And sunshine twinkles on Victorine's flank, Starting it to blue, Dropping it to black. Clack! Clack! Tap-a-tap! Tap! Lord! What galloping! Some mishap Is making that man ride so furiously. "Francois, you! 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 her ears. What glistens on the anvil? Sweat or tears?
St. Helena, May, 1821
Tap! Tap! Tap! Through the white tropic night. Tap! Tap! Beat the hammers, Unwearied, indefatigable. 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. Tap! Tap! The knocking makes the candles quaver, And the long black hangings waver Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap! In the ears which do not heed. Tap! Tap! Above the eyelids which do not flicker. Tap! Tap! Over the hands which do not stir. Chiselled like a cameo of white agate against the hangings, Struck to brilliance by the falling moonlight, A face! 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.
Tap! Tap! Upholsterer Darling has a fine shop in Jamestown. Tap! Tap! Andrew Darling has ridden hard from Longwood to see to the work in his shop in Jamestown. 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! Haste indeed! 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! 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. Tap! Tap! 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. Tap! Tap! His heart strained at kingdoms And now it is content with a silver dish. Strange World! Strange Wayfarer! Strange Destiny! 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 a cause?
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: PEACE!
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, wet night.
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 Upon silk.
He sat in an upper chamber And painted, 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, And silk. When he could get no more silk He stopped painting And only thought Of roses.
The day the conquerors Entered the city, The old man Lay dying. 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, You know. 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, Ev'n now. 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 Pantin'. 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' That mornin'. 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; That stuck. 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. Good-night.
"Hullo, Alice!" "Hullo, Leon!" "Say, Alice, gi' me a couple O' them two for five cigars, Will yer?" "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, Don't they? 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." "Where? Why? 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 To-night. 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! 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, Did yer? 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! 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, Hey, Alice?" "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." "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. Nothin'! 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. Never was. 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! Yes, Sir. No, Sir. 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. Nothin' will. 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. Neddy! Neddy! 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 here. I'm very sorry, I don't know what I'm sayin'. No, Sir, 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 Fer dinner. 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. There! There! What you holdin' me fer? I want ter go to Ed, He's bleedin'. Stop holdin' me. I got to go. I'm comin', Ed. I'll be ther in a minit. Oh, I'm so tired! (Faints)