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Title: A Child-World

Author: James Whitcomb Riley

Release date: January 1, 2006 [eBook #9651]
Most recently updated: January 2, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Etext produced by David Starner, Maria Cecilia Lim and PG
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HTML file produced by David Widger



James Whitcomb Riley


 The Child-World—long and long since lost to view—
      A Fairy Paradise!—
  How always fair it was and fresh and new—
    How every affluent hour heaped heart and eyes
      With treasures of surprise!

  Enchantments tangible: The under-brink
      Of dawns that launched the sight
  Up seas of gold: The dewdrop on the pink,
    With all the green earth in it and blue height
      Of heavens infinite:

  The liquid, dripping songs of orchard-birds—
      The wee bass of the bees,—
  With lucent deeps of silence afterwards;
    The gay, clandestine whisperings of the breeze
      And glad leaves of the trees.

  O Child-World: After this world—just as when
      I found you first sufficed
  My soulmost need—if I found you again,
    With all my childish dream so realised,
      I should not be surprised.






























  A Child-World, yet a wondrous world no less,
  To those who knew its boundless happiness.
  A simple old frame house—eight rooms in all—
  Set just one side the center of a small
  But very hopeful Indiana town,—
  The upper-story looking squarely down
  Upon the main street, and the main highway
  From East to West,—historic in its day,
  Known as The National Road—old-timers, all
  Who linger yet, will happily recall
  It as the scheme and handiwork, as well
  As property, of "Uncle Sam," and tell
  Of its importance, "long and long afore
  Railroads wuz ever dreamp' of!"—Furthermore,
  The reminiscent first Inhabitants
  Will make that old road blossom with romance
  Of snowy caravans, in long parade
  Of covered vehicles, of every grade
  From ox-cart of most primitive design,
  To Conestoga wagons, with their fine
  Deep-chested six-horse teams, in heavy gear,
  High names and chiming bells—to childish ear
  And eye entrancing as the glittering train
  Of some sun-smitten pageant of old Spain.
  And, in like spirit, haply they will tell
  You of the roadside forests, and the yell
  Of "wolfs" and "painters," in the long night-ride,
  And "screechin' catamounts" on every side.—
  Of stagecoach-days, highwaymen, and strange crimes,
  And yet unriddled mysteries of the times
  Called "Good Old." "And why 'Good Old'?" once a rare
  Old chronicler was asked, who brushed the hair
  Out of his twinkling eyes and said,—"Well John,
  They're 'good old times' because they're dead and gone!"

  The old home site was portioned into three
  Distinctive lots. The front one—natively
  Facing to southward, broad and gaudy-fine
  With lilac, dahlia, rose, and flowering vine—
  The dwelling stood in; and behind that, and
  Upon the alley north and south, left hand,
  The old wood-house,—half, trimly stacked with wood,
  And half, a work-shop, where a workbench stood
  Steadfastly through all seasons.—Over it,
  Along the wall, hung compass, brace-and-bit,
  And square, and drawing-knife, and smoothing-plane—
  And little jack-plane, too—the children's vain
  Possession by pretense—in fancy they
  Manipulating it in endless play,
  Turning out countless curls and loops of bright,
  Fine satin shavings—Rapture infinite!
  Shelved quilting-frames; the toolchest; the old box
  Of refuse nails and screws; a rough gun-stock's
  Outline in "curly maple"; and a pair
  Of clamps and old krout-cutter hanging there.
  Some "patterns," in thin wood, of shield and scroll,
  Hung higher, with a neat "cane-fishing-pole"
  And careful tackle—all securely out
  Of reach of children, rummaging about.

  Beside the wood-house, with broad branches free
  Yet close above the roof, an apple-tree
  Known as "The Prince's Harvest"—Magic phrase!
  That was a boy's own tree, in many ways!—
  Its girth and height meet both for the caress
  Of his bare legs and his ambitiousness:
  And then its apples, humoring his whim,
  Seemed just to fairly hurry ripe for him—
  Even in June, impetuous as he,
  They dropped to meet him, halfway up the tree.
  And O their bruised sweet faces where they fell!—
  And ho! the lips that feigned to "kiss them well"!

  "The Old Sweet-Apple-Tree," a stalwart, stood
  In fairly sympathetic neighborhood
  Of this wild princeling with his early gold
  To toss about so lavishly nor hold
  In bounteous hoard to overbrim at once
  All Nature's lap when came the Autumn months.
  Under the spacious shade of this the eyes
  Of swinging children saw swift-changing skies
  Of blue and green, with sunshine shot between,
  And "when the old cat died" they saw but green.
  And, then, there was a cherry-tree.—We all
  And severally will yet recall
  From our lost youth, in gentlest memory,
  The blessed fact—There was a cherry-tree.

      There was a cherry-tree. Its bloomy snows
      Cool even now the fevered sight that knows
      No more its airy visions of pure joy—
        As when you were a boy.

      There was a cherry-tree. The Bluejay set
      His blue against its white—O blue as jet
      He seemed there then!—But now—Whoever knew
        He was so pale a blue!

      There was a cherry-tree—Our child-eyes saw
      The miracle:—Its pure white snows did thaw
      Into a crimson fruitage, far too sweet
        But for a boy to eat.

      There was a cherry-tree, give thanks and joy!—
      There was a bloom of snow—There was a boy—
      There was a Bluejay of the realest blue—
        And fruit for both of you.

  Then the old garden, with the apple-trees
  Grouped 'round the margin, and "a stand of bees"
  By the "white-winter-pearmain"; and a row
  Of currant-bushes; and a quince or so.
  The old grape-arbor in the center, by
  The pathway to the stable, with the sty
  Behind it, and upon it, cootering flocks
  Of pigeons, and the cutest "martin-box"!—
  Made like a sure-enough house—with roof, and doors
  And windows in it, and veranda-floors
  And balusters all 'round it—yes, and at
  Each end a chimney—painted red at that
  And penciled white, to look like little bricks;
  And, to cap all the builder's cunning tricks,
  Two tiny little lightning-rods were run
  Straight up their sides, and twinkled in the sun.
  Who built it? Nay, no answer but a smile.—
  It may be you can guess who, afterwhile.
  Home in his stall, "Old Sorrel" munched his hay
  And oats and corn, and switched the flies away,
  In a repose of patience good to see,
  And earnest of the gentlest pedigree.
  With half pathetic eye sometimes he gazed
  Upon the gambols of a colt that grazed
  Around the edges of the lot outside,
  And kicked at nothing suddenly, and tried
  To act grown-up and graceful and high-bred,
  But dropped, k'whop! and scraped the buggy-shed,
  Leaving a tuft of woolly, foxy hair
  Under the sharp-end of a gate-hinge there.
  Then, all ignobly scrambling to his feet
  And whinneying a whinney like a bleat,
  He would pursue himself around the lot
  And—do the whole thing over, like as not!...
  Ah! what a life of constant fear and dread
  And flop and squawk and flight the chickens led!
  Above the fences, either side, were seen
  The neighbor-houses, set in plots of green
  Dooryards and greener gardens, tree and wall
  Alike whitewashed, and order in it all:
  The scythe hooked in the tree-fork; and the spade
  And hoe and rake and shovel all, when laid
  Aside, were in their places, ready for
  The hand of either the possessor or
  Of any neighbor, welcome to the loan
  Of any tool he might not chance to own.


  Such was the Child-World of the long-ago—
  The little world these children used to know:—
  Johnty, the oldest, and the best, perhaps,
  Of the five happy little Hoosier chaps
  Inhabiting this wee world all their own.—
  Johnty, the leader, with his native tone
  Of grave command—a general on parade
  Whose each punctilious order was obeyed
  By his proud followers.

                      But Johnty yet—
  After all serious duties—could forget
  The gravity of life to the extent,
  At times, of kindling much astonishment
  About him: With a quick, observant eye,
  And mind and memory, he could supply
  The tamest incident with liveliest mirth;
  And at the most unlooked-for times on earth
  Was wont to break into some travesty
  On those around him—feats of mimicry
  Of this one's trick of gesture—that one's walk—
  Or this one's laugh—or that one's funny talk,—
  The way "the watermelon-man" would try
  His humor on town-folks that wouldn't buy;—
  How he drove into town at morning—then
  At dusk (alas!) how he drove out again.

  Though these divertisements of Johnty's were
  Hailed with a hearty glee and relish, there
  Appeared a sense, on his part, of regret—
  A spirit of remorse that would not let
  Him rest for days thereafter.—Such times he,
  As some boy said, "jist got too overly
  Blame good fer common boys like us, you know,
  To 'sociate with—less'n we 'ud go
  And jine his church!"

                      Next after Johnty came
  His little tow-head brother, Bud by name.—
  And O how white his hair was—and how thick
  His face with freckles,—and his ears, how quick
  And curious and intrusive!—And how pale
  The blue of his big eyes;—and how a tale
  Of Giants, Trolls or Fairies, bulged them still
  Bigger and bigger!—and when "Jack" would kill
  The old "Four-headed Giant," Bud's big eyes
  Were swollen truly into giant-size.
  And Bud was apt in make-believes—would hear
  His Grandma talk or read, with such an ear
  And memory of both subject and big words,
  That he would take the book up afterwards
  And feign to "read aloud," with such success
  As caused his truthful elders real distress.
  But he must have big words—they seemed to give
  Extremer range to the superlative—
  That was his passion. "My Gran'ma," he said,
  One evening, after listening as she read
  Some heavy old historical review—
  With copious explanations thereunto
  Drawn out by his inquiring turn of mind,—
  "My Gran'ma she's read all books—ever' kind
  They is, 'at tells all 'bout the land an' sea
  An' Nations of the Earth!—An' she is the
  Historicul-est woman ever wuz!"
  (Forgive the verse's chuckling as it does
  In its erratic current.—Oftentimes
  The little willowy waterbrook of rhymes
  Must falter in its music, listening to
  The children laughing as they used to do.)

      Who shall sing a simple ditty all about the Willow,
        Dainty-fine and delicate as any bending spray
      That dandles high the happy bird that flutters there to trill a
        Tremulously tender song of greeting to the May.

      Ah, my lovely Willow!—Let the Waters lilt your graces,—
        They alone with limpid kisses lave your leaves above,
      Flashing back your sylvan beauty, and in shady places
        Peering up with glimmering pebbles, like the eyes of love.

  Next, Maymie, with her hazy cloud of hair,
  And the blue skies of eyes beneath it there.
  Her dignified and "little lady" airs
  Of never either romping up the stairs
  Or falling down them; thoughtful everyway
  Of others first—The kind of child at play
  That "gave up," for the rest, the ripest pear
  Or peach or apple in the garden there
  Beneath the trees where swooped the airy swing—
  She pushing it, too glad for anything!
  Or, in the character of hostess, she
  Would entertain her friends delightfully
  In her play-house,—with strips of carpet laid
  Along the garden-fence within the shade
  Of the old apple-trees—where from next yard
  Came the two dearest friends in her regard,
  The little Crawford girls, Ella and Lu—
  As shy and lovely as the lilies grew
  In their idyllic home,—yet sometimes they
  Admitted Bud and Alex to their play,
  Who did their heavier work and helped them fix
  To have a "Festibul"—and brought the bricks
  And built the "stove," with a real fire and all,
  And stovepipe-joint for chimney, looming tall
  And wonderfully smoky—even to
  Their childish aspirations, as it blew
  And swooped and swirled about them till their sight
  Was feverish even as their high delight.
  Then Alex, with his freckles, and his freaks
  Of temper, and the peach-bloom of his cheeks,
  And "amber-colored hair"—his mother said
  'Twas that, when others laughed and called it "red"
  And Alex threw things at them—till they'd call
  A truce, agreeing "'t'uz n't red ut-tall!"

  But Alex was affectionate beyond
  The average child, and was extremely fond
  Of the paternal relatives of his
  Of whom he once made estimate like this:—
  "I'm only got two brothers,—but my Pa
  He's got most brothers'n you ever saw!—
  He's got seben brothers!—Yes, an' they're all my
  Seben Uncles!—Uncle John, an' Jim,—an' I'
  Got Uncle George, an' Uncle Andy, too,
  An' Uncle Frank, an' Uncle Joe.—An' you
  Know Uncle Mart.—An', all but him, they're great
  Big mens!—An' nen s Aunt Sarah—she makes eight!—
  I'm got eight uncles!—'cept Aunt Sarah can't
  Be ist my uncle 'cause she's ist my aunt!"

  Then, next to Alex—and the last indeed
  Of these five little ones of whom you read—
  Was baby Lizzie, with her velvet lisp,—
  As though her Elfin lips had caught some wisp
  Of floss between them as they strove with speech,
  Which ever seemed just in yet out of reach—
  Though what her lips missed, her dark eyes could say
  With looks that made her meaning clear as day.

  And, knowing now the children, you must know
  The father and the mother they loved so:—
  The father was a swarthy man, black-eyed,
  Black-haired, and high of forehead; and, beside
  The slender little mother, seemed in truth
  A very king of men—since, from his youth,
  To his hale manhood now—(worthy as then,—
  A lawyer and a leading citizen
  Of the proud little town and county-seat—
  His hopes his neighbors', and their fealty sweet)—
  He had known outdoor labor—rain and shine—
  Bleak Winter, and bland Summer—foul and fine.
  So Nature had ennobled him and set
  Her symbol on him like a coronet:
  His lifted brow, and frank, reliant face.—
  Superior of stature as of grace,
  Even the children by the spell were wrought
  Up to heroics of their simple thought,
  And saw him, trim of build, and lithe and straight
  And tall, almost, as at the pasture-gate
  The towering ironweed the scythe had spared
  For their sakes, when The Hired Man declared
  It would grow on till it became a tree,
  With cocoanuts and monkeys in—maybe!

  Yet, though the children, in their pride and awe
  And admiration of the father, saw
  A being so exalted—even more
  Like adoration was the love they bore
  The gentle mother.—Her mild, plaintive face
  Was purely fair, and haloed with a grace
  And sweetness luminous when joy made glad
  Her features with a smile; or saintly sad
  As twilight, fell the sympathetic gloom
  Of any childish grief, or as a room
  Were darkened suddenly, the curtain drawn
  Across the window and the sunshine gone.
  Her brow, below her fair hair's glimmering strands,
  Seemed meetest resting-place for blessing hands
  Or holiest touches of soft finger-tips
  And little roseleaf-cheeks and dewy lips.

  Though heavy household tasks were pitiless,
  No little waist or coat or checkered dress
  But knew her needle's deftness; and no skill
  Matched hers in shaping pleat or flounce or frill;
  Or fashioning, in complicate design,
  All rich embroideries of leaf and vine,
  With tiniest twining tendril,—bud and bloom
  And fruit, so like, one's fancy caught perfume
  And dainty touch and taste of them, to see
  Their semblance wrought in such rare verity.

  Shrined in her sanctity of home and love,
  And love's fond service and reward thereof,
  Restore her thus, O blessed Memory!—
  Throned in her rocking-chair, and on her knee
  Her sewing—her workbasket on the floor
  Beside her,—Springtime through the open door
  Balmily stealing in and all about
  The room; the bees' dim hum, and the far shout
  And laughter of the children at their play,
  And neighbor-children from across the way
  Calling in gleeful challenge—save alone
  One boy whose voice sends back no answering tone—
  The boy, prone on the floor, above a book
  Of pictures, with a rapt, ecstatic look—
  Even as the mother's, by the selfsame spell,
  Is lifted, with a light ineffable—
  As though her senses caught no mortal cry,
  But heard, instead, some poem going by.

      The Child-heart is so strange a little thing—
        So mild—so timorously shy and small.—
      When grown-up hearts throb, it goes scampering
        Behind the wall, nor dares peer out at all!—
                  It is the veriest mouse
                  That hides in any house—
        So wild a little thing is any Child-heart!

                      Child-heart!—mild heart!—
                      Ho, my little wild heart!—
                Come up here to me out o' the dark,
                      Or let me come to you!

      So lorn at times the Child-heart needs must be.
        With never one maturer heart for friend
      And comrade, whose tear-ripened sympathy
        And love might lend it comfort to the end,—
                  Whose yearnings, aches and stings.
                  Over poor little things
        Were pitiful as ever any Child-heart.

                      Child-heart!—mild heart!—
                      Ho, my little wild heart!—
                Come up here to me out o' the dark,
                      Or let me come to you!

      Times, too, the little Child-heart must be glad—
        Being so young, nor knowing, as we know.
      The fact from fantasy, the good from bad,
        The joy from woe, the—all that hurts us so!
                  What wonder then that thus
                  It hides away from us?—
        So weak a little thing is any Child-heart!

                      Child-heart!—mild heart!—
                      Ho, my little wild heart!—
                Come up here to me out o' the dark,
                      Or let me come to you!

      Nay, little Child-heart, you have never need
        To fear us,—we are weaker far than you—
      Tis we who should be fearful—we indeed
        Should hide us, too, as darkly as you do,—
                  Safe, as yourself, withdrawn,
                  Hearing the World roar on
        Too willful, woful, awful for the Child-heart!

                      Child-heart!—mild heart!—
                      Ho, my little wild heart!—
                Come up here to me out o' the dark,
                      Or let me come to you!

  The clock chats on confidingly; a rose
  Taps at the window, as the sunlight throws
  A brilliant, jostling checkerwork of shine
  And shadow, like a Persian-loom design,
  Across the homemade carpet—fades,—and then
  The dear old colors are themselves again.
  Sounds drop in visiting from everywhere—
  The bluebird's and the robin's trill are there,
  Their sweet liquidity diluted some
  By dewy orchard spaces they have come:
  Sounds of the town, too, and the great highway—
  The Mover-wagons' rumble, and the neigh
  Of overtraveled horses, and the bleat
  Of sheep and low of cattle through the street—
  A Nation's thoroughfare of hopes and fears,
  First blazed by the heroic pioneers
  Who gave up old-home idols and set face
  Toward the unbroken West, to found a race
  And tame a wilderness now mightier than
  All peoples and all tracts American.
  Blent with all outer sounds, the sounds within:—
  In mild remoteness falls the household din
  Of porch and kitchen: the dull jar and thump
  Of churning; and the "glung-glung" of the pump,
  With sudden pad and skurry of bare feet
  Of little outlaws, in from field or street:
  The clang of kettle,—rasp of damper-ring
  And bang of cookstove-door—and everything
  That jingles in a busy kitchen lifts
  Its individual wrangling voice and drifts
  In sweetest tinny, coppery, pewtery tone
  Of music hungry ear has ever known
  In wildest famished yearning and conceit
  Of youth, to just cut loose and eat and eat!—
  The zest of hunger still incited on
  To childish desperation by long-drawn
  Breaths of hot, steaming, wholesome things that stew
  And blubber, and up-tilt the pot-lids, too,
  Filling the sense with zestful rumors of
  The dear old-fashioned dinners children love:
  Redolent savorings of home-cured meats,
  Potatoes, beans, and cabbage; turnips, beets
  And parsnips—rarest composite entire
  That ever pushed a mortal child's desire
  To madness by new-grated fresh, keen, sharp
  Horseradish—tang that sets the lips awarp
  And watery, anticipating all
  The cloyed sweets of the glorious festival.—
  Still add the cinnamony, spicy scents
  Of clove, nutmeg, and myriad condiments
  In like-alluring whiffs that prophesy
  Of sweltering pudding, cake, and custard pie—
  The swooning-sweet aroma haunting all
  The house—upstairs and down—porch, parlor, hall
  And sitting-room—invading even where
  The Hired Man sniffs it in the orchard-air,
  And pauses in his pruning of the trees
  To note the sun minutely and to—sneeze.

  Then Cousin Rufus comes—the children hear
  His hale voice in the old hall, ringing clear
  As any bell. Always he came with song
  Upon his lips and all the happy throng
  Of echoes following him, even as the crowd
  Of his admiring little kinsmen—proud
  To have a cousin grown—and yet as young
  Of soul and cheery as the songs he sung.

  He was a student of the law—intent
  Soundly to win success, with all it meant;
  And so he studied—even as he played,—
  With all his heart: And so it was he made
  His gallant fight for fortune—through all stress
  Of battle bearing him with cheeriness
  And wholesome valor.

                      And the children had
  Another relative who kept them glad
  And joyous by his very merry ways—
  As blithe and sunny as the summer days,—
  Their father's youngest brother—Uncle Mart.
  The old "Arabian Nights" he knew by heart—
  "Baron Munchausen," too; and likewise "The
  Swiss Family Robinson."—And when these three
  Gave out, as he rehearsed them, he could go
  Straight on in the same line—a steady flow
  Of arabesque invention that his good
  Old mother never clearly understood.
  He was to be a printer—wanted, though,
  To be an actor.—But the world was "show"
  Enough for him,—theatric, airy, gay,—
  Each day to him was jolly as a play.
  And some poetic symptoms, too, in sooth,
  Were certain.—And, from his apprentice youth,
  He joyed in verse-quotations—which he took
  Out of the old "Type Foundry Specimen Book."
  He craved and courted most the favor of
  The children.—They were foremost in his love;
  And pleasing them, he pleased his own boy-heart
  And kept it young and fresh in every part.
  So was it he devised for them and wrought
  To life his quaintest, most romantic thought:—
  Like some lone castaway in alien seas,
  He built a house up in the apple-trees,
  Out in the corner of the garden, where
  No man-devouring native, prowling there,
  Might pounce upon them in the dead o' night—
  For lo, their little ladder, slim and light,
  They drew up after them. And it was known
  That Uncle Mart slipped up sometimes alone
  And drew the ladder in, to lie and moon
  Over some novel all the afternoon.
  And one time Johnty, from the crowd below,—
  Outraged to find themselves deserted so—
  Threw bodily their old black cat up in
  The airy fastness, with much yowl and din.
  Resulting, while a wild periphery
  Of cat went circling to another tree,
  And, in impassioned outburst, Uncle Mart
  Loomed up, and thus relieved his tragic heart:

        "'Hence, long-tailed, ebon-eyed, nocturnal ranger!
        What led thee hither 'mongst the types and cases?
        Didst thou not know that running midnight races
      O'er standing types was fraught with imminent danger?
      Did hunger lead thee—didst thou think to find
        Some rich old cheese to fill thy hungry maw?
        Vain hope! for none but literary jaw
      Can masticate our cookery for the mind!'"

  So likewise when, with lordly air and grace,
  He strode to dinner, with a tragic face
  With ink-spots on it from the office, he
  Would aptly quote more "Specimen-poetry—"
  Perchance like "'Labor's bread is sweet to eat,
  (Ahem!) And toothsome is the toiler's meat.'"

  Ah, could you see them all, at lull of noon!—
  A sort of boisterous lull, with clink of spoon
  And clatter of deflecting knife, and plate
  Dropped saggingly, with its all-bounteous weight,
  And dragged in place voraciously; and then
  Pent exclamations, and the lull again.—
  The garland of glad faces 'round the board—
  Each member of the family restored
  To his or her place, with an extra chair
  Or two for the chance guests so often there.—
  The father's farmer-client, brought home from
  The courtroom, though he "didn't want to come
  Tel he jist saw he hat to!" he'd explain,
  Invariably, time and time again,
  To the pleased wife and hostess, as she pressed
  Another cup of coffee on the guest.—
  Or there was Johnty's special chum, perchance,
  Or Bud's, or both—each childish countenance
  Lit with a higher glow of youthful glee,
  To be together thus unbrokenly,—
  Jim Offutt, or Eck Skinner, or George Carr—
  The very nearest chums of Bud's these are,—
  So, very probably, one of the three,
  At least, is there with Bud, or ought to be.
  Like interchange the town-boys each had known—
  His playmate's dinner better than his own—
  Yet blest that he was ever made to stay
  At Almon Keefer's, any blessed day,
  For any meal!... Visions of biscuits, hot
  And flaky-perfect, with the golden blot
  Of molten butter for the center, clear,
  Through pools of clover-honey—dear-o-dear!—
  With creamy milk for its divine "farewell":
  And then, if any one delectable
  Might yet exceed in sweetness, O restore
  The cherry-cobbler of the days of yore
  Made only by Al Keefer's mother!—Why,
  The very thought of it ignites the eye
  Of memory with rapture—cloys the lip
  Of longing, till it seems to ooze and drip
  With veriest juice and stain and overwaste
  Of that most sweet delirium of taste
  That ever visited the childish tongue,
  Or proved, as now, the sweetest thing unsung.


  Ah, Almon Keefer! what a boy you were,
  With your back-tilted hat and careless hair,
  And open, honest, fresh, fair face and eyes
  With their all-varying looks of pleased surprise
  And joyous interest in flower and tree,
  And poising humming-bird, and maundering bee.

  The fields and woods he knew; the tireless tramp
  With gun and dog; and the night-fisher's camp—
  No other boy, save Bee Lineback, had won
  Such brilliant mastery of rod and gun.
  Even in his earliest childhood had he shown
  These traits that marked him as his father's own.
  Dogs all paid Almon honor and bow-wowed
  Allegiance, let him come in any crowd
  Of rabbit-hunting town-boys, even though
  His own dog "Sleuth" rebuked their acting so
  With jealous snarls and growlings.

                      But the best
  Of Almon's virtues—leading all the rest—
  Was his great love of books, and skill as well
  In reading them aloud, and by the spell
  Thereof enthralling his mute listeners, as
  They grouped about him in the orchard grass,
  Hinging their bare shins in the mottled shine
  And shade, as they lay prone, or stretched supine
  Beneath their favorite tree, with dreamy eyes
  And Argo-fandes voyaging the skies.
  "Tales of the Ocean" was the name of one
  Old dog's-eared book that was surpassed by none
  Of all the glorious list.—Its back was gone,
  But its vitality went bravely on
  In such delicious tales of land and sea
  As may not ever perish utterly.
  Of still more dubious caste, "Jack Sheppard" drew
  Full admiration; and "Dick Turpin," too.
  And, painful as the fact is to convey,
  In certain lurid tales of their own day,
  These boys found thieving heroes and outlaws
  They hailed with equal fervor of applause:
  "The League of the Miami"—why, the name
  Alone was fascinating—is the same,
  In memory, this venerable hour
  Of moral wisdom shorn of all its power,
  As it unblushingly reverts to when
  The old barn was "the Cave," and hears again
  The signal blown, outside the buggy-shed—
  The drowsy guard within uplifts his head,
  And "'Who goes there?'" is called, in bated breath—
  The challenge answered in a hush of death,—
  "Sh!—'Barney Gray!'" And then "'What do you seek?'"
  "'Stables of The League!'" the voice comes spent and weak,
  For, ha! the Law is on the "Chieftain's" trail—
  Tracked to his very lair!—Well, what avail?
  The "secret entrance" opens—closes.—So
  The "Robber-Captain" thus outwits his foe;
  And, safe once more within his "cavern-halls,"
  He shakes his clenched fist at the warped plank-walls
  And mutters his defiance through the cracks
  At the balked Enemy's retreating backs
  As the loud horde flees pell-mell down the lane,
  And—Almon Keefer is himself again!

  Excepting few, they were not books indeed
  Of deep import that Almon chose to read;—
  Less fact than fiction.—Much he favored those—
  If not in poetry, in hectic prose—
  That made our native Indian a wild,
  Feathered and fine-preened hero that a child
  Could recommend as just about the thing
  To make a god of, or at least a king.
  Aside from Almon's own books—two or three—
  His store of lore The Township Library
  Supplied him weekly: All the books with "or"s—
  Sub-titled—lured him—after "Indian Wars,"
  And "Life of Daniel Boone,"—not to include
  Some few books spiced with humor,—"Robin Hood"
  And rare "Don Quixote."—And one time he took
  "Dadd's Cattle Doctor."... How he hugged the book
  And hurried homeward, with internal glee
  And humorous spasms of expectancy!—
  All this confession—as he promptly made
  It, the day later, writhing in the shade
  Of the old apple-tree with Johnty and
  Bud, Noey Bixler, and The Hired Hand—
  Was quite as funny as the book was not....
  O Wonderland of wayward Childhood! what
  An easy, breezy realm of summer calm
  And dreamy gleam and gloom and bloom and balm
  Thou art!—The Lotus-Land the poet sung,
  It is the Child-World while the heart beats young....

      While the heart beats young!—O the splendor of the Spring,
      With all her dewy jewels on, is not so fair a thing!
      The fairest, rarest morning of the blossom-time of May
      Is not so sweet a season as the season of to-day
      While Youth's diviner climate folds and holds us, close caressed,
      As we feel our mothers with us by the touch of face and breast;—
      Our bare feet in the meadows, and our fancies up among
      The airy clouds of morning—while the heart beats young.

      While the heart beats young and our pulses leap and dance.
      With every day a holiday and life a glad romance,—
      We hear the birds with wonder, and with wonder watch their flight—
      Standing still the more enchanted, both of hearing and of sight,
      When they have vanished wholly,—for, in fancy, wing-to-wing
      We fly to Heaven with them; and, returning, still we sing
      The praises of this lower Heaven with tireless voice and tongue,
      Even as the Master sanctions—while the heart beats young.

      While the heart beats young!—While the heart beats young!
      O green and gold old Earth of ours, with azure overhung
      And looped with rainbows!—grant us yet this grassy lap of thine—
      We would be still thy children, through the shower and the shine!
      So pray we, lisping, whispering, in childish love and trust
      With our beseeching hands and faces lifted from the dust
      By fervor of the poem, all unwritten and unsung,
      Thou givest us in answer, while the heart beats young.


  Another hero of those youthful years
  Returns, as Noey Bixler's name appears.
  And Noey—if in any special way—
  Was notably good-natured.—Work or play
  He entered into with selfsame delight—
  A wholesome interest that made him quite
  As many friends among the old as young,—
  So everywhere were Noey's praises sung.

  And he was awkward, fat and overgrown,
  With a round full-moon face, that fairly shone
  As though to meet the simile's demand.
  And, cumbrous though he seemed, both eye and hand
  Were dowered with the discernment and deft skill
  Of the true artisan: He shaped at will,
  In his old father's shop, on rainy days,
  Little toy-wagons, and curved-runner sleighs;
  The trimmest bows and arrows—fashioned, too.
  Of "seasoned timber," such as Noey knew
  How to select, prepare, and then complete,
  And call his little friends in from the street.
  "The very best bow," Noey used to say,
  "Haint made o' ash ner hick'ry thataway!—
  But you git mulberry—the bearin'-tree,
  Now mind ye! and you fetch the piece to me,
  And lem me git it seasoned; then, i gum!
  I'll make a bow 'at you kin brag on some!
  Er—ef you can't git mulberry,—you bring
  Me a' old locus' hitch-post, and i jing!
  I'll make a bow o' that 'at common bows
  Won't dast to pick on ner turn up their nose!"
  And Noey knew the woods, and all the trees,
  And thickets, plants and myriad mysteries
  Of swamp and bottom-land. And he knew where
  The ground-hog hid, and why located there.—
  He knew all animals that burrowed, swam,
  Or lived in tree-tops: And, by race and dam,
  He knew the choicest, safest deeps wherein
  Fish-traps might flourish nor provoke the sin
  Of theft in some chance peeking, prying sneak,
  Or town-boy, prowling up and down the creek.
  All four-pawed creatures tamable—he knew
  Their outer and their inner natures too;
  While they, in turn, were drawn to him as by
  Some subtle recognition of a tie
  Of love, as true as truth from end to end,
  Between themselves and this strange human friend.
  The same with birds—he knew them every one,
  And he could "name them, too, without a gun."
  No wonder Johnty loved him, even to
  The verge of worship.—Noey led him through
  The art of trapping redbirds—yes, and taught
  Him how to keep them when he had them caught—
  What food they needed, and just where to swing
  The cage, if he expected them to sing.

  And Bud loved Noey, for the little pair
  Of stilts he made him; or the stout old hair
  Trunk Noey put on wheels, and laid a track
  Of scantling-railroad for it in the back
  Part of the barn-lot; or the cross-bow, made
  Just like a gun, which deadly weapon laid
  Against his shoulder as he aimed, and—"Sping!"
  He'd hear the rusty old nail zoon and sing—
  And zip! your Mr. Bluejay's wing would drop
  A farewell-feather from the old tree-top!
  And Maymie loved him, for the very small
  But perfect carriage for her favorite doll—
  A lady's carriage—not a baby-cab,—
  But oilcloth top, and two seats, lined with drab
  And trimmed with white lace-paper from a case
  Of shaving-soap his uncle bought some place
  At auction once.

                      And Alex loved him yet
  The best, when Noey brought him, for a pet,
  A little flying-squirrel, with great eyes—
  Big as a child's: And, childlike otherwise,
  It was at first a timid, tremulous, coy,
  Retiring little thing that dodged the boy
  And tried to keep in Noey's pocket;—till,
  In time, responsive to his patient will,
  It became wholly docile, and content
  With its new master, as he came and went,—
  The squirrel clinging flatly to his breast,
  Or sometimes scampering its craziest
  Around his body spirally, and then
  Down to his very heels and up again.

  And Little Lizzie loved him, as a bee
  Loves a great ripe red apple—utterly.
  For Noey's ruddy morning-face she drew
  The window-blind, and tapped the window, too;
  Afar she hailed his coming, as she heard
  His tuneless whistling—sweet as any bird
  It seemed to her, the one lame bar or so
  Of old "Wait for the Wagon"—hoarse and low
  The sound was,—so that, all about the place,
  Folks joked and said that Noey "whistled bass"—
  The light remark originally made
  By Cousin Rufus, who knew notes, and played
  The flute with nimble skill, and taste as wall,
  And, critical as he was musical,
  Regarded Noey's constant whistling thus
  "Phenominally unmelodious."
  Likewise when Uncle Mart, who shared the love
  Of jest with Cousin Rufus hand-in-glove,
  Said "Noey couldn't whistle 'Bonny Doon'
  Even! and, he'd bet, couldn't carry a tune
  If it had handles to it!"

                      —But forgive
  The deviations here so fugitive,
  And turn again to Little Lizzie, whose
  High estimate of Noey we shall choose
  Above all others.—And to her he was
  Particularly lovable because
  He laid the woodland's harvest at her feet.—
  He brought her wild strawberries, honey-sweet
  And dewy-cool, in mats of greenest moss
  And leaves, all woven over and across
  With tender, biting "tongue-grass," and "sheep-sour,"
  And twin-leaved beach-mast, prankt with bud and flower
  Of every gypsy-blossom of the wild,
  Dark, tangled forest, dear to any child.—
  All these in season. Nor could barren, drear,
  White and stark-featured Winter interfere
  With Noey's rare resources: Still the same
  He blithely whistled through the snow and came
  Beneath the window with a Fairy sled;
  And Little Lizzie, bundled heels-and-head,
  He took on such excursions of delight
  As even "Old Santy" with his reindeer might
  Have envied her! And, later, when the snow
  Was softening toward Springtime and the glow
  Of steady sunshine smote upon it,—then
  Came the magician Noey yet again—
  While all the children were away a day
  Or two at Grandma's!—and behold when they
  Got home once more;—there, towering taller than
  The doorway—stood a mighty, old Snow-Man!

  A thing of peerless art—a masterpiece
  Doubtless unmatched by even classic Greece
  In heyday of Praxiteles.—Alone
  It loomed in lordly grandeur all its own.
  And steadfast, too, for weeks and weeks it stood,
  The admiration of the neighborhood
  As well as of the children Noey sought
  Only to honor in the work he wrought.
  The traveler paid it tribute, as he passed
  Along the highway—paused and, turning, cast
  A lingering, last look—as though to take
  A vivid print of it, for memory's sake,
  To lighten all the empty, aching miles
  Beyond with brighter fancies, hopes and smiles.
  The cynic put aside his biting wit
  And tacitly declared in praise of it;
  And even the apprentice-poet of the town
  Rose to impassioned heights, and then sat down
  And penned a panegyric scroll of rhyme
  That made the Snow-Man famous for all time.

  And though, as now, the ever warmer sun
  Of summer had so melted and undone
  The perishable figure that—alas!—
  Not even in dwindled white against the grass—
  Was left its latest and minutest ghost,
  The children yet—materially, almost—
  Beheld it—circled 'round it hand-in-hand—
  (Or rather 'round the place it used to stand)—
  With "Ring-a-round-a-rosy! Bottle full
  O' posey!" and, with shriek and laugh, would pull
  From seeming contact with it—just as when
  It was the real-est of old Snow-Men.


  Even in such a scene of senseless play
  The children were surprised one summer-day
  By a strange man who called across the fence,
  Inquiring for their father's residence;
  And, being answered that this was the place,
  Opened the gate, and with a radiant face,
  Came in and sat down with them in the shade
  And waited—till the absent father made
  His noon appearance, with a warmth and zest
  That told he had no ordinary guest
  In this man whose low-spoken name he knew
  At once, demurring as the stranger drew
  A stuffy notebook out and turned and set
  A big fat finger on a page and let
  The writing thereon testify instead
  Of further speech. And as the father read
  All silently, the curious children took
  Exacting inventory both of book
  And man:—He wore a long-napped white fur-hat
  Pulled firmly on his head, and under that
  Rather long silvery hair, or iron-gray—
  For he was not an old man,—anyway,
  Not beyond sixty. And he wore a pair
  Of square-framed spectacles—or rather there
  Were two more than a pair,—the extra two
  Flared at the corners, at the eyes' side-view,
  In as redundant vision as the eyes
  Of grasshoppers or bees or dragonflies.
  Later the children heard the father say
  He was "A Noted Traveler," and would stay
  Some days with them—In which time host and guest
  Discussed, alone, in deepest interest,
  Some vague, mysterious matter that defied
  The wistful children, loitering outside
  The spare-room door. There Bud acquired a quite
  New list of big words—such as "Disunite,"
  And "Shibboleth," and "Aristocracy,"
  And "Juggernaut," and "Squatter Sovereignty,"
  And "Anti-slavery," "Emancipate,"
  "Irrepressible conflict," and "The Great
  Battle of Armageddon"—obviously
  A pamphlet brought from Washington, D. C.,
  And spread among such friends as might occur
  Of like views with "The Noted Traveler."


  While any day was notable and dear
  That gave the children Noey, history here
  Records his advent emphasized indeed
  With sharp italics, as he came to feed
  The stock one special morning, fair and bright,
  When Johnty and Bud met him, with delight
  Unusual even as their extra dress—
  Garbed as for holiday, with much excess
  Of proud self-consciousness and vain conceit
  In their new finery.—Far up the street
  They called to Noey, as he came, that they,
  As promised, both were going back that day
  To his house with him!

                      And by time that each
  Had one of Noey's hands—ceasing their speech
  And coyly anxious, in their new attire,
  To wake the comment of their mute desire,—
  Noey seemed rendered voiceless. Quite a while
  They watched him furtively.—He seemed to smile
  As though he would conceal it; and they saw
  Him look away, and his lips purse and draw
  In curious, twitching spasms, as though he might
  Be whispering,—while in his eye the white
  Predominated strangely.—Then the spell
  Gave way, and his pent speech burst audible:
  "They wuz two stylish little boys,
    and they wuz mighty bold ones,
  Had two new pairs o' britches made
    out o' their daddy's old ones!"
  And at the inspirational outbreak,
  Both joker and his victims seemed to take
  An equal share of laughter,—and all through
  Their morning visit kept recurring to
  The funny words and jingle of the rhyme
  That just kept getting funnier all the time.


  At Noey's house—when they arrived with him—
  How snug seemed everything, and neat and trim:
  The little picket-fence, and little gate—
  It's little pulley, and its little weight,—
  All glib as clock-work, as it clicked behind
  Them, on the little red brick pathway, lined
  With little paint-keg-vases and teapots
  Of wee moss-blossoms and forgetmenots:
  And in the windows, either side the door,
  Were ranged as many little boxes more
  Of like old-fashioned larkspurs, pinks and moss
  And fern and phlox; while up and down across
  Them rioted the morning-glory-vines
  On taut-set cotton-strings, whose snowy lines
  Whipt in and out and under the bright green
  Like basting-threads; and, here and there between,
  A showy, shiny hollyhock would flare
  Its pink among the white and purple there.—
  And still behind the vines, the children saw
  A strange, bleached, wistful face that seemed to draw
  A vague, indefinite sympathy. A face
  It was of some newcomer to the place.—
  In explanation, Noey, briefly, said
  That it was "Jason," as he turned and led
  The little fellows 'round the house to show
  Them his menagerie of pets. And so
  For quite a time the face of the strange guest
  Was partially forgotten, as they pressed
  About the squirrel-cage and rousted both
  The lazy inmates out, though wholly loath
  To whirl the wheel for them.—And then with awe
  They walked 'round Noey's big pet owl, and saw
  Him film his great, clear, liquid eyes and stare
  And turn and turn and turn his head 'round there
  The same way they kept circling—as though he
  Could turn it one way thus eternally.

  Behind the kitchen, then, with special pride
  Noey stirred up a terrapin inside
  The rain-barrel where he lived, with three or four
  Little mud-turtles of a size not more
  In neat circumference than the tiny toy
  Dumb-watches worn by every little boy.

  Then, back of the old shop, beneath the tree
  Of "rusty-coats," as Noey called them, he
  Next took the boys, to show his favorite new
  Pet 'coon—pulled rather coyly into view
  Up through a square hole in the bottom of
  An old inverted tub he bent above,
  Yanking a little chain, with "Hey! you, sir!
  Here's comp'ny come to see you, Bolivur!"
  Explanatory, he went on to say,
  "I named him 'Bolivur' jes thisaway,—
  He looks so round and ovalish and fat,
  'Peared like no other name 'ud fit but that."

  Here Noey's father called and sent him on
  Some errand. "Wait," he said—"I won't be gone
  A half a' hour.—Take Bud, and go on in
  Where Jason is, tel I git back agin."

  Whoever Jason was, they found him there
  Still at the front-room window.—By his chair
  Leaned a new pair of crutches; and from one
  Knee down, a leg was bandaged.—"Jason done
  That-air with one o' these-'ere tools we call
  A 'shin-hoe'—but a foot-adz mostly all
  Hardware-store-keepers calls 'em."—(Noey made
  This explanation later.)

                      Jason paid
  But little notice to the boys as they
  Came in the room:—An idle volume lay
  Upon his lap—the only book in sight—
  And Johnty read the title,—"Light, More Light,
  There's Danger in the Dark,"—though first and best—
  In fact, the whole of Jason's interest
  Seemed centered on a little dog—one pet
  Of Noey's all uncelebrated yet—
  Though Jason, certainly, avowed his worth,
  And niched him over all the pets on earth—
  As the observant Johnty would relate
  The Jason-episode, and imitate
  The all-enthusiastic speech and air
  Of Noey's kinsman and his tribute there:—


  "That little dog 'ud scratch at that door
  And go on a-whinin' two hours before
  He'd ever let up! There!—Jane: Let him in.—
  (Hah, there, you little rat!) Look at him grin!
          Come down off o' that!—
          W'y, look at him! (Drat
  You! you-rascal-you!)—bring me that hat!
  Look out!—He'll snap you!He wouldn't let
  You take it away from him, now you kin bet!
  That little rascal's jist natchurly mean.—
  I tell you, I never (Git out!! ) never seen
  A spunkier little rip! (Scratch to git in,
  And now yer a-scratchin' to git out agin!
  Jane: Let him out!) Now, watch him from here
  Out through the winder!—You notice one ear
  Kindo' in side-out, like he holds it?—Well,
  He's got a tick in it—I kin tell!
          Yes, and he's cunnin'—
          Jist watch him a-runnin',
  Sidelin'—see!—like he ain't 'plum'd true'
  And legs don't 'track' as they'd ort to do:—
  Plowin' his nose through the weeds—I jing!
  Ain't he jist cuter'n anything!

  "W'y, that little dog's got grown-people's sense!—
  See how he gits out under the fence?—
  And watch him a-whettin' his hind-legs 'fore
  His dead square run of a miled er more—
  'Cause Noey's a-comin', and Trip allus knows
  When Noey's a-comin'—and off he goes!—
  Putts out to meet him and—There they come now!
  Well-sir! it's raially singalar how
          That dog kin tell,—
          But he knows as well
  When Noey's a-comin' home!—Reckon his smell
  'Ud carry two miled?—You needn't to smile—
  He runs to meet him, ever'-once-n-a-while,
  Two miled and over—when he's slipped away
  And left him at home here, as he's done to-day—
  'Thout ever knowin' where Noey wuz goin'—
  But that little dog allus hits the right way!
  Hear him a-whinin' and scratchin' agin?—
  (Little tormentin' fice!) Jane: Let him in.

          "—You say he ain't there?—
          Well now, I declare!—
  Lem me limp out and look! ... I wunder where—
  Heuh, Trip!—Heuh, Trip!—Heuh, Trip!... ThereThere he is!—Little sneak!—What-a'-you-'bout?—
  There he is—quiled up as meek as a mouse,
  His tail turnt up like a teakittle-spout,
  A-sunnin' hisse'f at the side o' the house!
  Next time you scratch, sir, you'll haf to git in,
  My fine little feller, the best way you kin!
  —Noey he learns him sich capers!—And they—
  Both of 'em's ornrier every day!—
  Both tantalizin' and meaner'n sin—
  Allus a—(Listen there!)—Jane: Let him in.

  "—O! yer so innocent! hangin' yer head!—
  (Drat ye! you'd better git under the bed!)
          —Listen at that!—
          He's tackled the cat!—
  Hah, there! you little rip! come out o' that!—
  Git yer blame little eyes scratched out
  'Fore you know what yer talkin' about!—
  Here! come away from there!—(Let him alone—
  He'll snap you, I tell ye, as quick as a bone!)
  Hi, Trip!—Hey, here!—What-a'-you-'bout!—
  Oo! ouch! 'Ll I'll be blamed!—Blast ye! GIT OUT!
  ... O, it ain't nothin'—jist scratched me, you see.—
  Hadn't no idy he'd try to bite me!
  Plague take him!—Bet he'll not try that agin!—
  Hear him yelp.—(Pore feller!) Jane: Let him in."


  "Hey, Bud! O Bud!" rang out a gleeful call,—
  "The Loehrs is come to your house!" And a small
  But very much elated little chap,
  In snowy linen-suit and tasseled cap,
  Leaped from the back-fence just across the street
  From Bixlers', and came galloping to meet
  His equally delighted little pair
  Of playmates, hurrying out to join him there—
  "The Loehrs is come!—The Loehrs is come!" his glee
  Augmented to a pitch of ecstasy
  Communicated wildly, till the cry
  "The Loehrs is come!" in chorus quavered high
  And thrilling as some paean of challenge or
  Soul-stirring chant of armied conqueror.
  And who this avant courier of "the Loehrs"?—
  This happiest of all boys out-o'-doors—
  Who but Will Pierson, with his heart's excess
  Of summer-warmth and light and breeziness!
  "From our front winder I 'uz first to see
  'Em all a-drivin' into town!" bragged he—
  "An' seen 'em turnin' up the alley where
  Your folks lives at. An' John an' Jake wuz there
  Both in the wagon;—yes, an' Willy, too;
  An' Mary—Yes, an' Edith—with bran-new
  An' purtiest-trimmed hats 'at ever wuz!—
  An' Susan, an' Janey.—An' the Hammonds-uz
  In their fine buggy 'at they're ridin' roun'
  So much, all over an' aroun' the town
  An' ever'wheres,—them city-people who's
  A-visutin' at Loehrs-uz!"

                      Glorious news!—
  Even more glorious when verified
  In the boys' welcoming eyes of love and pride,
  As one by one they greeted their old friends
  And neighbors.—Nor until their earth-life ends
  Will that bright memory become less bright
  Or dimmed indeed.

                      ... Again, at candle-light,
  The faces all are gathered. And how glad
  The Mother's features, knowing that she had
  Her dear, sweet Mary Loehr back again.—
  She always was so proud of her; and then
  The dear girl, in return, was happy, too,
  And with a heart as loving, kind and true
  As that maturer one which seemed to blend
  As one the love of mother and of friend.
  From time to time, as hand-in-hand they sat,
  The fair girl whispered something low, whereat
  A tender, wistful look would gather in
  The mother-eyes; and then there would begin
  A sudden cheerier talk, directed to
  The stranger guests—the man and woman who,
  It was explained, were coming now to make
  Their temporary home in town for sake
  Of the wife's somewhat failing health. Yes, they
  Were city-people, seeking rest this way,
  The man said, answering a query made
  By some well meaning neighbor—with a shade
  Of apprehension in the answer.... No,—
  They had no children. As he answered so,
  The man's arm went about his wife, and she
  Leant toward him, with her eyes lit prayerfully:
  Then she arose—he following—and bent
  Above the little sleeping innocent
  Within the cradle at the mother's side—
  He patting her, all silent, as she cried.—
  Though, haply, in the silence that ensued,
  His musings made melodious interlude.

      In the warm, health-giving weather
        My poor pale wife and I
      Drive up and down the little town
        And the pleasant roads thereby:
      Out in the wholesome country
       We wind, from the main highway,
      In through the wood's green solitudes—
        Fair as the Lord's own Day.

      We have lived so long together.
        And joyed and mourned as one,
      That each with each, with a look for speech,
        Or a touch, may talk as none
      But Love's elect may comprehend—
        Why, the touch of her hand on mine
      Speaks volume-wise, and the smile of her eyes,
        To me, is a song divine.

      There are many places that lure us:—
        "The Old Wood Bridge" just west
      Of town we know—and the creek below,
        And the banks the boys love best:
      And "Beech Grove," too, on the hill-top;
        And "The Haunted House" beyond,
      With its roof half off, and its old pump-trough
        Adrift in the roadside pond.

      We find our way to "The Marshes"—
        At least where they used to be;
      And "The Old Camp Grounds"; and "The Indian Mounds,"
        And the trunk of "The Council Tree:"
      We have crunched and splashed through "Flint-bed Ford";
        And at "Old Big Bee-gum Spring"
      We have stayed the cup, half lifted up.
        Hearing the redbird sing.

      And then, there is "Wesley Chapel,"
        With its little graveyard, lone
      At the crossroads there, though the sun sets fair
        On wild-rose, mound and stone ...
      A wee bed under the willows—
        My wife's hand on my own—
      And our horse stops, too ... And we hear the coo
        Of a dove in undertone.

      The dusk, the dew, and the silence.
        "Old Charley" turns his head
      Homeward then by the pike again,
        Though never a word is said—
      One more stop, and a lingering one—
        After the fields and farms,—
      At the old Toll Gate, with the woman await
        With a little girl in her arms.
  The silence sank—Floretty came to call
  The children in the kitchen, where they all
  Went helter-skeltering with shout and din
  Enough to drown most sanguine silence in,—
  For well indeed they knew that summons meant
  Taffy and popcorn—so with cheers they went.


  The Hired Man's supper, which he sat before,
  In near reach of the wood-box, the stove-door
  And one leaf of the kitchen-table, was
  Somewhat belated, and in lifted pause
  His dextrous knife was balancing a bit
  Of fried mush near the port awaiting it.

  At the glad children's advent—gladder still
  To find him there—"Jest tickled fit to kill
  To see ye all!" he said, with unctious cheer.—
  "I'm tryin'-like to he'p Floretty here
  To git things cleared away and give ye room
  Accordin' to yer stren'th. But I p'sume
  It's a pore boarder, as the poet says,
  That quarrels with his victuals, so I guess
  I'll take another wedge o' that-air cake,
  Florett', that you're a-learnin' how to bake."
  He winked and feigned to swallow painfully.—

  "Jest 'fore ye all come in, Floretty she
  Was boastin' 'bout her biscuits—and they air
  As good—sometimes—as you'll find anywhere.—
  But, women gits to braggin' on their bread,
  I'm s'picious 'bout their pie—as Danty said."
  This raillery Floretty strangely seemed
  To take as compliment, and fairly beamed
  With pleasure at it all.

                      —"Speakin' o' bread—
  When she come here to live," The Hired Man said,—
  "Never ben out o' Freeport 'fore she come
  Up here,—of course she needed 'sperience some.—
  So, one day, when yer Ma was goin' to set
  The risin' fer some bread, she sent Florett
  To borry leaven, 'crost at Ryans'—So,
  She went and asked fer twelve.—She didn't know,
  But thought, whatever 'twuz, that she could keep
  One fer herse'f, she said. O she wuz deep!"

  Some little evidence of favor hailed
  The Hired Man's humor; but it wholly failed
  To touch the serious Susan Loehr, whose air
  And thought rebuked them all to listening there
  To her brief history of the city-man
  And his pale wife—"A sweeter woman than
  She ever saw!"—So Susan testified,—
  And so attested all the Loehrs beside.—
  So entertaining was the history, that
  The Hired Man, in the corner where he sat
  In quiet sequestration, shelling corn,
  Ceased wholly, listening, with a face forlorn
  As Sorrow's own, while Susan, John and Jake
  Told of these strangers who had come to make
  Some weeks' stay in the town, in hopes to gain
  Once more the health the wife had sought in vain:
  Their doctor, in the city, used to know
  The Loehrs—Dan and Rachel—years ago,—
  And so had sent a letter and request
  For them to take a kindly interest
  In favoring the couple all they could—
  To find some home-place for them, if they would,
  Among their friends in town. He ended by
  A dozen further lines, explaining why
  His patient must have change of scene and air—
  New faces, and the simple friendships there
  With them, which might, in time, make her forget
  A grief that kept her ever brooding yet
  And wholly melancholy and depressed,—
  Nor yet could she find sleep by night nor rest
  By day, for thinking—thinking—thinking still       \
  Upon a grief beyond the doctor's skill,—
  The death of her one little girl.

                      "Pore thing!"
  Floretty sighed, and with the turkey-wing
  Brushed off the stove-hearth softly, and peered in
  The kettle of molasses, with her thin
  Voice wandering into song unconsciously—
  In purest, if most witless, sympathy.—

                 "'Then sleep no more:
                 Around thy heart
          Some ten-der dream may i-dlee play.
                 But mid-night song,
                 With mad-jick art,
          Will chase that dree muh-way!'"

  "That-air besetment of Floretty's," said
  The Hired Man,—"singin—she inhairited,—
  Her father wuz addicted—same as her—
  To singin'—yes, and played the dulcimer!
  But—gittin' back,—I s'pose yer talkin' 'bout
  Them Hammondses. Well, Hammond he gits out
  Pattents on things—inventions-like, I'm told—
  And's got more money'n a house could hold!
  And yit he can't git up no pattent-right
  To do away with dyin'.—And he might
  Be worth a million, but he couldn't find
  Nobody sellin' health of any kind!...
  But they's no thing onhandier fer me
  To use than other people's misery.—
  Floretty, hand me that-air skillet there
  And lem me git 'er het up, so's them-air
  Childern kin have their popcorn."

                      It was good
  To hear him now, and so the children stood
  Closer about him, waiting.

                      "Things to eat,"
  The Hired Man went on, "'s mighty hard to beat!
  Now, when I wuz a boy, we was so pore,
  My parunts couldn't 'ford popcorn no more
  To pamper me with;—so, I hat to go
  Without popcorn—sometimes a year er so!—
  And suffer'n' saints! how hungry I would git
  Fer jest one other chance—like this—at it!
  Many and many a time I've dreamp', at night,
  About popcorn,—all busted open white,
  And hot, you know—and jest enough o' salt
  And butter on it fer to find no fault—
  Oomh!—Well! as I was goin' on to say,—
  After a-dreamin' of it thataway,
  Then havin' to wake up and find it's all
  A dream, and hain't got no popcorn at-tall,
  Ner haint had none—I'd think, 'Well, where's the use!'
  And jest lay back and sob the plaster'n' loose!
  And I have prayed, whatever happened, it
  'Ud eether be popcorn er death!.... And yit
  I've noticed—more'n likely so have you—
  That things don't happen when you want 'em to."

  And thus he ran on artlessly, with speech
  And work in equal exercise, till each
  Tureen and bowl brimmed white. And then he greased
  The saucers ready for the wax, and seized
  The fragrant-steaming kettle, at a sign
  Made by Floretty; and, each child in line,
  He led out to the pump—where, in the dim
  New coolness of the night, quite near to him
  He felt Floretty's presence, fresh and sweet
  As ... dewy night-air after kitchen-heat.

  There, still, with loud delight of laugh and jest,
  They plied their subtle alchemy with zest—
  Till, sudden, high above their tumult, welled
  Out of the sitting-room a song which held
  Them stilled in some strange rapture, listening
  To the sweet blur of voices chorusing:—

      "'When twilight approaches the season
        That ever is sacred to song,
       Does some one repeat my name over,
        And sigh that I tarry so long?
       And is there a chord in the music
        That's missed when my voice is away?—
       And a chord in each heart that awakens
        Regret at my wearisome stay-ay—
         Regret at my wearisome stay.'"

  All to himself, The Hired Man thought—"Of course
  They'll sing Floretty homesick!"

                      ... O strange source
  Of ecstasy! O mystery of Song!—
  To hear the dear old utterance flow along:—

      "'Do they set me a chair near the table
         When evening's home-pleasures are nigh?—
       When the candles are lit in the parlor.
         And the stars in the calm azure sky.'"...

  Just then the moonlight sliced the porch slantwise,
  And flashed in misty spangles in the eyes
  Floretty clenched—while through the dark—"I jing!"
  A voice asked, "Where's that song 'you'd learn to sing
  Ef I sent you the ballat?'—which I done
  Last I was home at Freeport.—S'pose you run
  And git it—and we'll all go in to where
  They'll know the notes and sing it fer ye there."
  And up the darkness of the old stairway
  Floretty fled, without a word to say—
  Save to herself some whisper muffled by
  Her apron, as she wiped her lashes dry.

  Returning, with a letter, which she laid
  Upon the kitchen-table while she made
  A hasty crock of "float,"—poured thence into
  A deep glass dish of iridescent hue
  And glint and sparkle, with an overflow
  Of froth to crown it, foaming white as snow.—
  And then—poundcake, and jelly-cake as rare,
  For its delicious complement,—with air
  Of Hebe mortalized, she led her van
  Of votaries, rounded by The Hired Man.


  Within the sitting-room, the company
  Had been increased in number. Two or three
  Young couples had been added: Emma King,
  Ella and Mary Mathers—all could sing
  Like veritable angels—Lydia Martin, too,
  And Nelly Millikan.—What songs they knew!—

      "'Ever of Thee—wherever I may be,
      Fondly I'm drea-m-ing ever of thee!'"

  And with their gracious voices blend the grace
  Of Warsaw Barnett's tenor; and the bass
  Unfathomed of Wick Chapman—Fancy still
  Can feel, as well as hear it, thrill on thrill,
  Vibrating plainly down the backs of chairs
  And through the wall and up the old hall-stairs.—
  Indeed young Chapman's voice especially
  Attracted Mr. Hammond—For, said he,
  Waiving the most Elysian sweetness of
  The ladies' voices—altitudes above
  The man's for sweetness;—but—as contrast, would
  Not Mr. Chapman be so very good
  As, just now, to oblige all with—in fact,
  Some sort of jolly song,—to counteract
  In part, at least, the sad, pathetic trend
  Of music generally. Which wish our friend
  "The Noted Traveler" made second to
  With heartiness—and so each, in review,
  Joined in—until the radiant basso cleared
  His wholly unobstructed throat and peered
  Intently at the ceiling—voice and eye
  As opposite indeed as earth and sky.—
  Thus he uplifted his vast bass and let
  It roam at large the memories booming yet:

      "'Old Simon the Cellarer keeps a rare store
        Of Malmsey and Malvoi-sie,
      Of Cyprus, and who can say how many more?—
        But a chary old so-u-l is he-e-ee—
          A chary old so-u-l is he!
      Of hock and Canary he never doth fail;
      And all the year 'round, there is brewing of ale;—
      Yet he never aileth, he quaintly doth say,
      While he keeps to his sober six flagons a day.'"

  ... And then the chorus—the men's voices all
  Warred in it—like a German Carnival.—
  Even Mrs. Hammond smiled, as in her youth,
  Hearing her husband—And in veriest truth
  "The Noted Traveler's" ever-present hat
  Seemed just relaxed a little, after that,
  As at conclusion of the Bacchic song
  He stirred his "float" vehemently and long.

  Then Cousin Rufus with his flute, and art
  Blown blithely through it from both soul and heart—
  Inspired to heights of mastery by the glad,
  Enthusiastic audience he had
  In the young ladies of a town that knew
  No other flutist,—nay, nor wanted to,
  Since they had heard his "Polly Hopkin's Waltz,"
  Or "Rickett's Hornpipe," with its faultless faults,
  As rendered solely, he explained, "by ear,"
  Having but heard it once, Commencement Year,
  At "Old Ann Arbor."

                      Little Maymie now
  Seemed "friends" with Mr. Hammond—anyhow,
  Was lifted to his lap—where settled, she—
  Enthroned thus, in her dainty majesty,
  Gained universal audience—although
  Addressing him alone:—"I'm come to show
  You my new Red-blue pencil; and she says"—
  (Pointing to Mrs. Hammond)—"that she guess'
  You'll make a picture fer me."

                      "And what kind
  Of picture?" Mr. Hammond asked, inclined
  To serve the child as bidden, folding square
  The piece of paper she had brought him there.—
  "I don't know," Maymie said—"only ist make
  A little dirl, like me!"

                      He paused to take
  A sharp view of the child, and then he drew—
  Awhile with red, and then awhile with blue—
  The outline of a little girl that stood
  In converse with a wolf in a great wood;
  And she had on a hood and cloak of red—
  As Maymie watched—"Red Riding Hood!" she said.
  "And who's 'Red Riding Hood'?"

                      "W'y, don't you know?"
  Asked little Maymie—

                      But the man looked so
  All uninformed, that little Maymie could
  But tell him all about Red Riding Hood.


  W'y, one time wuz a little-weenty dirl,
  An' she wuz named Red Riding Hood, 'cause her—
  Her Ma she maked a little red cloak fer her
  'At turnt up over her head—An' it 'uz all
  Ist one piece o' red cardinal 'at 's like
  The drate-long stockin's the store-keepers has.—
  O! it 'uz purtiest cloak in all the world
  An' all this town er anywheres they is!
  An' so, one day, her Ma she put it on
  Red Riding Hood, she did—one day, she did—
  An' it 'uz Sund'y—'cause the little cloak
  It 'uz too nice to wear ist ever' day
  An' all the time!—An' so her Ma, she put
  It on Red Riding Hood—an' telled her not
  To dit no dirt on it ner dit it mussed
  Ner nothin'! An'—an'—nen her Ma she dot
  Her little basket out, 'at Old Kriss bringed
  Her wunst—one time, he did. And nen she fill'
  It full o' whole lots an' 'bundance o' good things t' eat
  (Allus my Dran'ma she says ''bundance,' too.)
  An' so her Ma fill' little Red Riding Hood's
  Nice basket all ist full o' dood things t' eat,
  An' tell her take 'em to her old Dran'ma—
  An' not to spill 'em, neever—'cause ef she
  'Ud stump her toe an' spill 'em, her Dran'ma
  She'll haf to punish her!

                      An' nen—An' so
  Little Red Riding Hood she p'omised she
  'Ud be all careful nen an' cross' her heart
  'At she wont run an' spill 'em all fer six—
  An' nen she kiss her Ma doo'-bye an' went
  A-skippin' off—away fur off frough the
  Big woods, where her Dran'ma she live at.—No!—
  She didn't do a-skippin', like I said:—
  She ist went walkin'—careful-like an' slow—
  Ist like a little lady—walkin' 'long
  As all polite an' nice—an' slow—an' straight—
  An' turn her toes—ist like she's marchin' in
  The Sund'y-School k-session!

  She 'uz a-doin' along—an' doin' along—
  On frough the drate big woods—'cause her Dran'ma
  She live 'way, 'way fur off frough the big woods
  From her Ma's house. So when Red Riding Hood
  She dit to do there, allus have most fun—
  When she do frough the drate big woods, you know.—
  'Cause she ain't feared a bit o' anything!
  An' so she sees the little hoppty-birds
  'At's in the trees, an' flyin' all around,
  An' singin' dlad as ef their parunts said
  They'll take 'em to the magic-lantern show!
  An' she 'ud pull the purty flowers an' things
  A-growin' round the stumps—An' she 'ud ketch
  The purty butterflies, an' drasshoppers,
  An' stick pins frough 'em—No!—I ist said that!—
  'Cause she's too dood an' kind an' 'bedient
  To hurt things thataway.—She'd ketch 'em, though,
  An' ist play wiv 'em ist a little while,
  An' nen she'd let 'em fly away, she would,
  An' ist skip on adin to her Dran'ma's.

  An' so, while she uz doin' 'long an' 'long,
  First thing you know they 'uz a drate big old
  Mean wicked Wolf jumped out 'at wanted t' eat
  Her up, but dassent to—'cause wite clos't there
  They wuz a Man a-choppin' wood, an' you
  Could hear him.—So the old Wolf he 'uz 'feared
  Only to ist be kind to her.—So he
  Ist 'tended like he wuz dood friends to her
  An' says "Dood-morning, little Red Riding Hood!"—
  All ist as kind!

                      An' nen Riding Hood
  She say "Dood-morning," too—all kind an' nice—
  Ist like her Ma she learn'—No!—mustn't say
  "Learn," cause "Learn" it's unproper.—So she say
  It like her Ma she "teached" her.—An'—so she
  Ist says "Dood-morning" to the Wolf—'cause she
  Don't know ut-tall 'at he's a wicked Wolf
  An' want to eat her up!

                      Nen old Wolf smile
  An' say, so kind: "Where air you doin' at?"
  Nen little Red Riding Hood she says: "I'm doin'
  To my Dran'ma's, 'cause my Ma say I might."
  Nen, when she tell him that, the old Wolf he
  Ist turn an' light out frough the big thick woods,
  Where she can't see him any more. An so
  She think he's went to his house—but he haint,—
  He's went to her Dran'ma's, to be there first—
  An' ketch her, ef she don't watch mighty sharp
  What she's about!

                      An' nen when the old Wolf
  Dit to her Dran'ma's house, he's purty smart,—
  An' so he 'tend-like he's Red Riding Hood,
  An' knock at th' door. An' Riding Hood's Dran'ma
  She's sick in bed an' can't come to the door
  An' open it. So th' old Wolf knock two times.
  An' nen Red Riding Hood's Dran'ma she says
  "Who's there?" she says. An' old Wolf 'tends-like he's
  Little Red Riding Hood, you know, an' make'
  His voice soun' ist like hers, an' says: "It's me,
  Dran'ma—an' I'm Red Riding Hood an' I'm
  Ist come to see you."

                      Nen her old Dran'ma
  She think it is little Red Riding Hood,
  An' so she say: "Well, come in nen an' make
  You'se'f at home," she says, "'cause I'm down sick
  In bed, and got the 'ralgia, so's I can't
  Dit up an' let ye in."

                      An' so th' old Wolf
  Ist march' in nen an' shet the door adin,
  An' drowl, he did, an' splunge up on the bed
  An' et up old Miz Riding Hood 'fore she
  Could put her specs on an' see who it wuz.—
  An' so she never knowed who et her up!

  An' nen the wicked Wolf he ist put on
  Her nightcap, an' all covered up in bed—
  Like he wuz her, you know.

                      Nen, purty soon
  Here come along little Red Riding Hood,
  An' she knock' at the door. An' old Wolf 'tend
  Like he's her Dran'ma; an' he say, "Who's there?"
  Ist like her Dran'ma say, you know. An' so
  Little Red Riding Hood she say "It's me,
  Dran'ma—an' I'm Red Riding Hood and I'm
  Ist come to see you."

                      An' nen old Wolf nen
  He cough an' say: "Well, come in nen an' make
  You'se'f at home," he says, "'cause I'm down sick
  In bed, an' got the 'ralgia, so's I can't
  Dit up an' let ye in."

                      An' so she think
  It's her Dran'ma a-talkin'.—So she ist
  Open' the door an' come in, an' set down
  Her basket, an' taked off her things, an' bringed
  A chair an' clumbed up on the bed, wite by
  The old big Wolf she thinks is her Dran'ma.—
  Only she thinks the old Wolf's dot whole lots
  More bigger ears, an' lots more whiskers, too,
  Than her Dran'ma; an' so Red Riding Hood
  She's kindo' skeered a little. So she says
  "Oh, Dran'ma, what big eyes you dot!" An' nen
  The old Wolf says: "They're ist big thataway
  'Cause I'm so dlad to see you!"

                      Nen she says,—
  "Oh, Dran'ma, what a drate big nose you dot!"
  Nen th' old Wolf says: "It's ist big thataway
  Ist 'cause I smell the dood things 'at you bringed
  Me in the basket!"

                      An' nen Riding Hood
  She say "Oh-me-oh-my! Dran'ma! what big
  White long sharp teeth you dot!"

                      Nen old Wolf says:
  "Yes—an' they're thataway," he says—an' drowled—
  "They're thataway," he says, "to eat you wiv!"
  An' nen he ist jump' at her.—

                      But she scream'—
  An' scream', she did—So's 'at the Man
  'At wuz a-choppin' wood, you know,—he hear,
  An' come a-runnin' in there wiv his ax;
  An', 'fore the old Wolf know' what he's about,
  He split his old brains out an' killed him s'quick
  It make' his head swim!—An' Red Riding Hood
  She wuzn't hurt at all!

                      An' the big Man
  He tooked her all safe home, he did, an' tell
  Her Ma she's all right an' ain't hurt at all
  An' old Wolf's dead an' killed—an' ever'thing!—
  So her Ma wuz so tickled an' so proud,
  She divved him all the dood things t' eat they wuz
  'At's in the basket, an' she tell him 'at
  She's much oblige', an' say to "call adin."
  An' story's honest truth—an' all so, too!


  The audience entire seemed pleased—indeed
  Extremely pleased. And little Maymie, freed
  From her task of instructing, ran to show
  Her wondrous colored picture to and fro
  Among the company.

                      "And how comes it," said
  Some one to Mr. Hammond, "that, instead
  Of the inventor's life you did not choose
  The artist's?—since the world can better lose
  A cutting-box or reaper than it can
  A noble picture painted by a man
  Endowed with gifts this drawing would suggest"—
  Holding the picture up to show the rest.
  "There now!" chimed in the wife, her pale face lit
  Like winter snow with sunrise over it,—
  "That's what I'm always asking him.—But heWell, as he's answering you, he answers me,—
  With that same silent, suffocating smile
  He's wearing now!"

                      For quite a little while
  No further speech from anyone, although
  All looked at Mr. Hammond and that slow,
  Immutable, mild smile of his. And then
  The encouraged querist asked him yet again
  Why was it, and etcetera—with all
  The rest, expectant, waiting 'round the wall,—
  Until the gentle Mr. Hammond said
  He'd answer with a "parable," instead—
  About "a dreamer" that he used to know—
  "An artist"—"master"—all—in embryo.




  He was a Dreamer of the Days:
    Indolent as a lazy breeze
  Of midsummer, in idlest ways
    Lolling about in the shade of trees.
  The farmer turned—as he passed him by
    Under the hillside where he kneeled
  Plucking a flower—with scornful eye
    And rode ahead in the harvest field
  Muttering—"Lawz! ef that-air shirk
    Of a boy was mine fer a week er so,
  He'd quit dreamin' and git to work
    And airn his livin'—er—Well! I know!"
  And even kindlier rumor said,
  Tapping with finger a shaking head,—
  "Got such a curious kind o' way—
  Wouldn't surprise me much, I say!"

  Lying limp, with upturned gaze
  Idly dreaming away his days.
  No companions? Yes, a book
  Sometimes under his arm he took
  To read aloud to a lonesome brook.
    And school-boys, truant, once had heard
  A strange voice chanting, faint and dim—
  Followed the echoes, and found it him,
    Perched in a tree-top like a bird,
  Singing, clean from the highest limb;
  And, fearful and awed, they all slipped by
  To wonder in whispers if he could fly.
  "Let him alone!" his father said
    When the old schoolmaster came to say,
  "He took no part in his books to-day—
  Only the lesson the readers read.—
    His mind seems sadly going astray!"
  "Let him alone!" came the mournful tone,
  And the father's grief in his sad eyes shone—
  Hiding his face in his trembling hand,
  Moaning, "Would I could understand!
  But as heaven wills it I accept
  Uncomplainingly!" So he wept.

  Then went "The Dreamer" as he willed,
  As uncontrolled as a light sail filled
  Flutters about with an empty boat
  Loosed from its moorings and afloat:
  Drifted out from the busy quay
  Of dull school-moorings listlessly;
  Drifted off on the talking breeze,
  All alone with his reveries;
  Drifted on, as his fancies wrought—
  Out on the mighty gulfs of thought.

  The farmer came in the evening gray
    And took the bars of the pasture down;
  Called to the cows in a coaxing way,
  "Bess" and "Lady" and "Spot" and "Brown,"
  While each gazed with a wide-eyed stare,
  As though surprised at his coming there—
  Till another tone, in a higher key,
  Brought their obeyance lothfully.

    Then, as he slowly turned and swung
  The topmost bar to its proper rest,
    Something fluttered along and clung
  An instant, shivering at his breast—
    A wind-scared fragment of legal cap,
  Which darted again, as he struck his hand
    On his sounding chest with a sudden slap,
  And hurried sailing across the land.
  But as it clung he had caught the glance
  Of a little penciled countenance,
  And a glamour of written words; and hence,
  A minute later, over the fence,
  "Here and there and gone astray
  Over the hills and far away,"
  He chased it into a thicket of trees
  And took it away from the captious breeze.

  A scrap of paper with a rhyme
  Scrawled upon it of summertime:
  A pencil-sketch of a dairy-maid,
  Under a farmhouse porch's shade,
  Working merrily; and was blent
  With her glad features such sweet content,
  That a song she sung in the lines below
  Seemed delightfully apropos:—


      "Why do I sing—Tra-la-la-la-la!
      Glad as a King?—Tra-la-la-la-la!
        Well, since you ask,—
        I have such a pleasant task,
      I can not help but sing!

      "Why do I smile—Tra-la-la-la-la!
      Working the while?—Tra-la-la-la-la!
        Work like this is play,—
        So I'm playing all the day—
      I can not help but smile!

      "So, If you please—Tra-la-la-la-la!
      Live at your ease!—Tra-la-la-la-la!
        You've only got to turn,
        And, you see, its bound to churn—
      I can not help but please!"

  The farmer pondered and scratched his head,
    Reading over each mystic word.—
  "Some o' the Dreamer's work!" he said—
    "Ah, here's more—and name and date
  In his hand-write'!"—And the good man read,—
  "'Patent applied for, July third,
    Eighteen hundred and forty-eight'!"
  The fragment fell from his nerveless grasp—
  His awed lips thrilled with the joyous gasp:
    "I see the p'int to the whole concern,—
    He's studied out a patent churn!"


  All seemed delighted, though the elders more,
  Of course, than were the children.—Thus, before
  Much interchange of mirthful compliment,
  The story-teller said his stories "went"
  (Like a bad candle) best when they went out,—
  And that some sprightly music, dashed about,
  Would wholly quench his "glimmer," and inspire
  Far brighter lights.

                      And, answering this desire,
  The flutist opened, in a rapturous strain
  Of rippling notes—a perfect April-rain
  Of melody that drenched the senses through;—
  Then—gentler—gentler—as the dusk sheds dew,
  It fell, by velvety, staccatoed halts,
  Swooning away in old "Von Weber's Waltz."
  Then the young ladies sang "Isle of the Sea"—
  In ebb and flow and wave so billowy,—
  Only with quavering breath and folded eyes
  The listeners heard, buoyed on the fall and rise
  Of its insistent and exceeding stress
  Of sweetness and ecstatic tenderness ...
  With lifted finger yet, Remembrance—List!—
  "Beautiful isle of the sea!" wells in a mist
  Of tremulous ...

                      ... After much whispering
  Among the children, Alex came to bring
  Some kind of letter—as it seemed to be—
  To Cousin Rufus. This he carelessly
  Unfolded—reading to himself alone,—
  But, since its contents became, later, known,
  And no one "plagued so awful bad," the same
  May here be given—of course without full name,
  Fac-simile, or written kink or curl
  Or clue. It read:—

        "Wild Roved an indian Girl
      Brite al Floretty"
                        deer freind
                          I now take
  *this* These means to send that Song to you & make
  my Promus good to you in the Regards
  Of doing What i Promust afterwards,
  the notes & Words is both here Printed SOS
  you *kin* can git uncle Mart to read you *them* those
  & cousin Rufus you can git to Play
  the notes fur you on eny Plezunt day
  His Legul Work aint *Pressin* Pressing.
                               Ever thine
      As shore as the Vine
      doth the Stump intwine
      thou art my Lump of Sackkerrine
        Rinaldo Rinaldine
        the Pirut in Captivity.

                      ... There dropped
  Another square scrap.—But the hand was stopped
  That reached for it—Floretty suddenly
  Had set a firm foot on her property—
  Thinking it was the letter, not the song,—
  But blushing to discover she was wrong,
  When, with all gravity of face and air,
  Her precious letter handed to her there
  By Cousin Rufus left her even more
  In apprehension than she was before.
  But, testing his unwavering, kindly eye,
  She seemed to put her last suspicion by,
  And, in exchange, handed the song to him.—

  A page torn from a song-book: Small and dim
  Both notes and words were—but as plain as day
  They seemed to him, as he began to play—
  And plain to all the singers,—as he ran
  An airy, warbling prelude, then began
  Singing and swinging in so blithe a strain,
  That every voice rang in the old refrain:
  From the beginning of the song, clean through,
  Floretty's features were a study to
  The flutist who "read notes" so readily,
  Yet read so little of the mystery
  Of that face of the girl's.—Indeed one thing
  Bewildered him quite into worrying,
  And that was, noticing, throughout it all,
  The Hired Man shrinking closer to the wall,
  She ever backing toward him through the throng
  Of barricading children—till the song
  Was ended, and at last he saw her near
  Enough to reach and take him by the ear
  And pinch it just a pang's worth of her ire
  And leave it burning like a coal of fire.
  He noticed, too, in subtle pantomime
  She seemed to dust him off, from time to time;
  And when somebody, later, asked if she
  Had never heard the song before—"What! me?"
  She said—then blushed again and smiled,—
  "I've knowed that song sence Adam was a child!—
  It's jes a joke o' this-here man's.—He's learned
  To read and write a little, and its turned
  His fool-head some—That's all!"

                      And then some one
  Of the loud-wrangling boys said—"Course they's none
  No more, these days!—They's Fairies ust to be,
  But they're all dead, a hunderd years!" said he.

  "Well, there's where you're mustakened!"—in reply
  They heard Bud's voice, pitched sharp and thin and high.—

  "An' how you goin' to prove it!"

                      "Well, I kin!"
  Said Bud, with emphasis,—"They's one lives in
  Our garden—and I see 'im wunst, wiv my
  Own eyes—one time I did."

                      "Oh, what a lie!"

                      "Well, nen," said the skeptic—seeing there
  The older folks attracted—"Tell us where
  You saw him, an' all 'bout him!'

                      "Yes, my son.—
  If you tell 'stories,' you may tell us one,"
  The smiling father said, while Uncle Mart,
  Behind him, winked at Bud, and pulled apart
  His nose and chin with comical grimace—
  Then sighed aloud, with sanctimonious face,—
      "'How good and comely it is to see
      Children and parents in friendship agree!'—
  You fire away, Bud, on your Fairy-tale—
  Your Uncle's here to back you!"

                      Somewhat pale,
  And breathless as to speech, the little man
  Gathered himself. And thus his story ran.


  Some peoples thinks they ain't no Fairies now
  No more yet!—But they is, I bet! 'Cause ef
  They wuzn't Fairies, nen I' like to know
  Who'd w'ite 'bout Fairies in the books, an' tell
  What Fairies does, an' how their picture looks,
  An' all an' ever'thing! W'y, ef they don't
  Be Fairies anymore, nen little boys
  'U'd ist sleep when they go to sleep an' wont
  Have ist no dweams at all,—'Cause Fairies—good
  Fairies—they're a-purpose to make dweams!
  But they is Fairies—an' I know they is!
  'Cause one time wunst, when its all Summertime,
  An' don't haf to be no fires in the stove
  Er fireplace to keep warm wiv—ner don't haf
  To wear old scwatchy flannen shirts at all,
  An' aint no fweeze—ner cold—ner snow!—An'—an'
  Old skweeky twees got all the gween leaves on
  An' ist keeps noddin', noddin' all the time,
  Like they 'uz lazy an' a-twyin' to go
  To sleep an' couldn't, 'cause the wind won't quit
  A-blowin' in 'em, an' the birds won't stop
  A-singin' so's they kin.—But twees don't sleep,
  I guess! But little boys sleeps—an' dweams, too.—
  An' that's a sign they's Fairies.

                      So, one time,
  When I ben playin' "Store" wunst over in
  The shed of their old stable, an' Ed Howard
  He maked me quit a-bein' pardners, 'cause
  I dwinked the 'tend-like sody-water up
  An' et the shore-nuff cwackers.—W'y, nen I
  Clumbed over in our garden where the gwapes
  Wuz purt'-nigh ripe: An' I wuz ist a-layin'
  There on th' old cwooked seat 'at Pa maked in
  Our arber,—an' so I 'uz layin' there
  A-whittlin' beets wiv my new dog-knife, an'
  A-lookin' wite up through the twimbly leaves—
  An' wuzn't 'sleep at all!—An'-sir!—first thing
  You know, a little Fairy hopped out there!
  A leetle-teenty Fairy!—hope-may-die!
  An' he look' down at me, he did—An' he
  Ain't bigger'n a yellerbird!—an' he
  Say "Howdy-do!" he did—an' I could hear
  Him—ist as plain!

                      Nen I say "Howdy-do!"
  An' he say "I'm all hunkey, Nibsey; how
  Is your folks comin' on?"

                      An' nen I say
  "My name ain't 'Nibsey,' neever—my name's Bud.
  An' what's your name?" I says to him.

  Ist laugh an' say "'Bud's' awful funny name!"
  An' he ist laid back on a big bunch o' gwapes
  An' laugh' an' laugh', he did—like somebody
  'Uz tick-el-un his feet!

                      An' nen I say—
  "What's your name," nen I say, "afore you bust
  Yo'-se'f a-laughin' 'bout my name?" I says.
  An' nen he dwy up laughin'—kindo' mad—
  An' say "W'y, my name's Squidjicum," he says.
  An' nen I laugh an' say—"Gee! what a name!"
  An' when I make fun of his name, like that,
  He ist git awful mad an' spunky, an'
  'Fore you know, he ist gwabbed holt of a vine—
  A big long vine 'at's danglin' up there, an'
  He ist helt on wite tight to that, an' down
  He swung quick past my face, he did, an' ist
  Kicked at me hard's he could!

                      But I'm too quick
  Fer Mr. Squidjicum! I ist weached out
  An' ketched him, in my hand—an' helt him, too,
  An' squeezed him, ist like little wobins when
  They can't fly yet an' git flopped out their nest.
  An' nen I turn him all wound over, an'
  Look at him clos't, you know—wite clos't,—'cause ef
  He is a Fairy, w'y, I want to see
  The wings he's got—But he's dwessed up so fine
  'At I can't see no wings.—An' all the time
  He's twyin' to kick me yet: An' so I take
  F'esh holts an' squeeze agin—an' harder, too;
  An' I says, "Hold up, Mr. Squidjicum!—
  You're kickin' the w'ong man!" I says; an' nen
  I ist squeeze' him, purt'-nigh my best, I did—
  An' I heerd somepin' bust!—An' nen he cwied
  An' says, "You better look out what you're doin'!—
  You' bust' my spiderweb-suspen'ners, an'
  You' got my woseleaf-coat all cwinkled up
  So's I can't go to old Miss Hoodjicum's
  Tea-party, 's'afternoon!"

                      An' nen I says—
  "Who's 'old Miss Hoodjicum'?" I says

  Says "Ef you lemme loose I'll tell you."

  I helt the little skeezics 'way fur out
  In one hand—so's he can't jump down t' th' ground
  Wivout a-gittin' all stove up: an' nen
  I says, "You're loose now.—Go ahead an' tell
  'Bout the 'tea-party' where you're goin' at
  So awful fast!" I says.

                      An' nen he say,—
  "No use to tell you 'bout it, 'cause you won't
  Believe it, 'less you go there your own se'f
  An' see it wiv your own two eyes!" he says.
  An' he says: "Ef you lemme shore-nuff loose,
  An' p'omise 'at you'll keep wite still, an' won't
  Tetch nothin' 'at you see—an' never tell
  Nobody in the world—an' lemme loose—
  W'y, nen I'll take you there!"

                      But I says, "Yes
  An' ef I let you loose, you'll run!" I says.
  An' he says "No, I won't!—I hope may die!"
  Nen I says, "Cwoss your heart you won't!"

  Ist cwoss his heart; an' nen I weach an' set
  The little feller up on a long vine—
  An' he 'uz so tickled to git loose agin,
  He gwab' the vine wiv boff his little hands
  An' ist take an' turn in, he did, an' skin
  'Bout forty-'leven cats!

                      Nen when he git
  Through whirlin' wound the vine, an' set on top
  Of it agin, w'y nen his "woseleaf-coat"
  He bwag so much about, it's ist all tored
  Up, an' ist hangin' strips an' rags—so he
  Look like his Pa's a dwunkard. An' so nen
  When he see what he's done—a-actin' up
  So smart,—he's awful mad, I guess; an' ist
  Pout out his lips an' twis' his little face
  Ist ugly as he kin, an' set an' tear
  His whole coat off—an' sleeves an' all.—An' nen
  He wad it all togevver an' ist throw
  It at me ist as hard as he kin dwive!

  An' when I weach to ketch him, an' 'uz goin'
  To give him 'nuvver squeezin', he ist flewed
  Clean up on top the arber!—'Cause, you know,
  They wuz wings on him—when he tored his coat
  Clean off—they wuz wings under there. But they
  Wuz purty wobbly-like an' wouldn't work
  Hardly at all—'Cause purty soon, when I
  Throwed clods at him, an' sticks, an' got him shooed
  Down off o' there, he come a-floppin' down
  An' lit k-bang! on our old chicken-coop,
  An' ist laid there a-whimper'n' like a child!
  An' I tiptoed up wite clos't, an' I says "What's
  The matter wiv ye, Squidjicum?"

  Says: "Dog-gone! when my wings gits stwaight agin,
  Where you all cwumpled 'em," he says, "I bet
  I'll ist fly clean away an' won't take you
  To old Miss Hoodjicum's at all!" he says.
  An' nen I ist weach out wite quick, I did,
  An' gwab the sassy little snipe agin—
  Nen tooked my topstwing an' tie down his wings
  So's he can't fly, 'less'n I want him to!
  An' nen I says: "Now, Mr. Squidjicum,
  You better ist light out," I says, "to old
  Miss Hoodjicum's, an' show me how to git
  There, too," I says; "er ef you don't," I says,
  "I'll climb up wiv you on our buggy-shed
  An' push you off!" I says.

                      An nen he say
  All wight, he'll show me there; an' tell me nen
  To set him down wite easy on his feet,
  An' loosen up the stwing a little where
  It cut him under th' arms. An' nen he says,
  "Come on!" he says; an' went a-limpin' 'long
  The garden-path—an' limpin' 'long an' 'long
  Tel—purty soon he come on 'long to where's
  A grea'-big cabbage-leaf. An' he stoop down
  An' say "Come on inunder here wiv me!"
  So I stoop down an' crawl inunder there,
  Like he say.

                      An' inunder there's a grea'
  Big clod, they is—a awful grea' big clod!
  An' nen he says, "Roll this-here clod away!"
  An' so I roll' the clod away. An' nen
  It's all wet, where the dew'z inunder where
  The old clod wuz,—an' nen the Fairy he
  Git on the wet-place: Nen he say to me
  "Git on the wet-place, too!" An' nen he say,
  "Now hold yer breff an' shet yer eyes!" he says,
  "Tel I say Squinchy-winchy!" Nen he say—
  Somepin in Dutch, I guess.—An' nen I felt
  Like we 'uz sinkin' down—an' sinkin' down!—
  Tel purty soon the little Fairy weach
  An' pinch my nose an' yell at me an' say,
  "Squinchy-winchy! Look wherever you please!"
  Nen when I looked—Oh! they 'uz purtyest place
  Down there you ever saw in all the World!—
  They 'uz ist flowers an' woses—yes, an' twees
  Wiv blossoms on an' big ripe apples boff!
  An' butterflies, they wuz—an' hummin'-birds—
  An' yellowbirds an' bluebirds—yes, an' red!—
  An' ever'wheres an' all awound 'uz vines
  Wiv ripe p'serve-pears on 'em!—Yes, an' all
  An' ever'thing 'at's ever gwowin' in
  A garden—er canned up—all ripe at wunst!—
  It wuz ist like a garden—only it
  'Uz little tit o' garden—'bout big wound
  As ist our twun'el-bed is.—An' all wound
  An' wound the little garden's a gold fence—
  An' little gold gate, too—an' ash-hopper
  'At's all gold, too—an' ist full o' gold ashes!
  An' wite in th' middle o' the garden wuz
  A little gold house, 'at's ist 'bout as big
  As ist a bird-cage is: An' in the house
  They 'uz whole-lots more Fairies there—'cause I
  Picked up the little house, an 'peeked in at
  The winders, an' I see 'em all in there
  Ist buggin' wound! An' Mr. Squidjicum
  He twy to make me quit, but I gwab him,
  An' poke him down the chimbly, too, I did!—
  An' y'ort to see him hop out 'mongst 'em there!
  Ist like he 'uz the boss an' ist got back!—
  "Hain't ye got on them-air dew-dumplin's yet?"
  He says.

                An' they says no.

                      An' nen he says
  "Better git at 'em nen!" he says, "wite quick—
  'Cause old Miss Hoodjicum's a-comin'!"

  They all set wound a little gold tub—an'
  All 'menced a-peelin' dewdwops, ist like they
  'Uz peaches.—An', it looked so funny, I
  Ist laugh' out loud, an' dwopped the little house,—
  An' 't busted like a soap-bubble!—An't skeered
  Me so, I—I—I—I,—it skeered me so,
  I—ist waked up.—No! I ain't ben asleep
  An' dream it all, like you think,—but it's shore
  Fer-certain fact an' cwoss my heart it is!


  All were quite gracious in their plaudits of
  Bud's Fairy; but another stir above
  That murmur was occasioned by a sweet
  Young lady-caller, from a neighboring street,
  Who rose reluctantly to say good-night
  To all the pleasant friends and the delight
  Experienced,—as she had promised sure
  To be back home by nine. Then paused, demure,
  And wondered was it very dark.—Oh, no!—
  She had come by herself and she could go
  Without an escort. Ah, you sweet girls all!
  What young gallant but comes at such a call,
  Your most abject of slaves! Why, there were three
  Young men, and several men of family,
  Contesting for the honor—which at last
  Was given to Cousin Rufus; and he cast
  A kingly look behind him, as the pair
  Vanished with laughter in the darkness there.

  As order was restored, with everything
  Suggestive, in its way, of "romancing,"
  Some one observed that now would be the chance
  For Noey to relate a circumstance
  That he—the very specious rumor went—
  Had been eye-witness of, by accident.
  Noey turned pippin-crimson; then turned pale
  As death; then turned to flee, without avail.—
  "There! head him off! Now! hold him in his chair!—
  Tell us the Serenade-tale, now, Noey.—There!"


  "They ain't much 'tale' about it!" Noey said.—
  "K'tawby grapes wuz gittin' good-n-red
  I rickollect; and Tubb Kingry and me
  'Ud kindo' browse round town, daytime, to see
  What neighbers 'peared to have the most to spare
  'At wuz git-at-able and no dog there
  When we come round to git 'em, say 'bout ten
  O'clock at night when mostly old folks then
  Wuz snorin' at each other like they yit
  Helt some old grudge 'at never slep' a bit.
  Well, at the Pars'nige—ef ye'll call to mind,—
  They's 'bout the biggest grape-arber you'll find
  'Most anywheres.—And mostly there, we knowed
  They wuz k'tawbies thick as ever growed—
  And more'n they'd p'serve.—Besides I've heerd
  Ma say k'tawby-grape-p'serves jes 'peared
  A waste o' sugar, anyhow!—And so
  My conscience stayed outside and lem me go
  With Tubb, one night, the back-way, clean up through
  That long black arber to the end next to
  The house, where the k'tawbies, don't you know,
  Wuz thickest. And t'uz lucky we went slow,—
  Fer jest as we wuz cropin' tords the gray-
  End, like, of the old arber—heerd Tubb say
  In a skeered whisper, 'Hold up! They's some one
  Jes slippin' in here!—and looks like a gun
  He's carryin'!' I golly! we both spread
  Out flat aginst the ground!

                      "'What's that?' Tubb said.—
  And jest then—'plink! plunk! plink!' we heerd something
  Under the back-porch-winder.—Then, i jing!
  Of course we rickollected 'bout the young
  School-mam 'at wuz a-boardin' there, and sung,
  And played on the melodium in the choir.—
  And she 'uz 'bout as purty to admire
  As any girl in town!—the fac's is, she
  Jest wuz, them times, to a dead certainty,
  The belle o' this-here bailywick!—But—Well,—
  I'd best git back to what I'm tryin' to tell:—
  It wuz some feller come to serenade
  Miss Wetherell: And there he plunked and played
  His old guitar, and sung, and kep' his eye
  Set on her winder, blacker'n the sky!—
  And black it stayed.—But mayby she wuz 'way
  From home, er wore out—bein' Saturday!

  "It seemed a good-'eal longer, but I know
  He sung and plunked there half a' hour er so
  Afore, it 'peared like, he could ever git
  His own free qualified consents to quit
  And go off 'bout his business. When he went
  I bet you could a-bought him fer a cent!

  "And now, behold ye all!—as Tubb and me
  Wuz 'bout to raise up,—right in front we see
  A feller slippin' out the arber, square
  Smack under that-air little winder where
  The other feller had been standin'.—And
  The thing he wuz a-carryin' in his hand
  Wuzn't no gun at all!—It wuz a flute,—
  And whoop-ee! how it did git up and toot
  And chirp and warble, tel a mockin'-bird
  'Ud dast to never let hisse'f be heerd
  Ferever, after sich miracalous, high
  Jim-cracks and grand skyrootics played there by
  Yer Cousin Rufus!—Yes-sir; it wuz him!—
  And what's more,—all a-suddent that-air dim
  Dark winder o' Miss Wetherell's wuz lit
  Up like a' oyshture-sign, and under it
  We see him sort o' wet his lips and smile
  Down 'long his row o' dancin' fingers, while
  He kindo' stiffened up and kinked his breath
  And everlastin'ly jest blowed the peth
  Out o' that-air old one-keyed flute o' his.
  And, bless their hearts, that's all the 'tale' they is!"

  And even as Noey closed, all radiantly
  The unconscious hero of the history,
  Returning, met a perfect driving storm
  Of welcome—a reception strangely warm
  And unaccountable, to him, although
  Most gratifying,—and he told them so.
  "I only urge," he said, "my right to be
  Enlightened." And a voice said: "Certainly:—
  During your absence we agreed that you
  Should tell us all a story, old or new,
  Just in the immediate happy frame of mind
  We knew you would return in."

                      So, resigned,
  The ready flutist tossed his hat aside—
  Glanced at the children, smiled, and thus complied.


  My little story, Cousin Rufus said,
  Is not so much a story as a fact.
  It is about a certain willful boy—
  An aggrieved, unappreciated boy,
  Grown to dislike his own home very much,
  By reason of his parents being not
  At all up to his rigid standard and
  Requirements and exactions as a son
  And disciplinarian.

                      So, sullenly
  He brooded over his disheartening
  Environments and limitations, till,
  At last, well knowing that the outside world
  Would yield him favors never found at home,
  He rose determinedly one July dawn—
  Even before the call for breakfast—and,
  Climbing the alley-fence, and bitterly
  Shaking his clenched fist at the woodpile, he
  Evanished down the turnpike.—Yes: he had,
  Once and for all, put into execution
  His long low-muttered threatenings—He had
  Run off!—He had—had run away from home!

  His parents, at discovery of his flight,
  Bore up first-rate—especially his Pa,—
  Quite possibly recalling his own youth,
  And therefrom predicating, by high noon,
  The absent one was very probably
  Disporting his nude self in the delights
  Of the old swimmin'-hole, some hundred yards
  Below the slaughter-house, just east of town.
  The stoic father, too, in his surmise
  Was accurate—For, lo! the boy was there!

  And there, too, he remained throughout the day—
  Save at one starving interval in which
  He clad his sunburnt shoulders long enough
  To shy across a wheatfield, shadow-like,
  And raid a neighboring orchard—bitterly,
  And with spasmodic twitchings of the lip,
  Bethinking him how all the other boys
  Had homes to go to at the dinner-hour—
  While he—alas!—he had no home!—At least
  These very words seemed rising mockingly,
  Until his every thought smacked raw and sour
  And green and bitter as the apples he
  In vain essayed to stay his hunger with.
  Nor did he join the glad shouts when the boys
  Returned rejuvenated for the long
  Wet revel of the feverish afternoon.—
  Yet, bravely, as his comrades splashed and swam
  And spluttered, in their weltering merriment,
  He tried to laugh, too,—but his voice was hoarse
  And sounded to him like some other boy's.
  And then he felt a sudden, poking sort
  Of sickness at the heart, as though some cold
  And scaly pain were blindly nosing it
  Down in the dreggy darkness of his breast.
  The tensioned pucker of his purple lips
  Grew ever chillier and yet more tense—
  The central hurt of it slow spreading till
  It did possess the little face entire.
  And then there grew to be a knuckled knot—
  An aching kind of core within his throat—
  An ache, all dry and swallowless, which seemed
  To ache on just as bad when he'd pretend
  He didn't notice it as when he did.
  It was a kind of a conceited pain—
  An overbearing, self-assertive and
  Barbaric sort of pain that clean outhurt
  A boy's capacity for suffering—
  So, many times, the little martyr needs
  Must turn himself all suddenly and dive
  From sight of his hilarious playmates and
  Surreptitiously weep under water.

  He wrestled with his awful agony
  Till almost dark; and then, at last—then, with
  The very latest lingering group of his
  Companions, he moved turgidly toward home—
  Nay, rather oozed that way, so slow he went,—
  With lothful, hesitating, loitering,
  Reluctant, late-election-returns air,
  Heightened somewhat by the conscience-made resolve
  Of chopping a double-armful of wood
  As he went in by rear way of the kitchen.
  And this resolve he executed;—yet
  The hired girl made no comment whatsoever,
  But went on washing up the supper-things,
  Crooning the unutterably sad song, "Then think,
  Oh, think how lonely this heart must ever be!"
  Still, with affected carelessness, the boy
  Ranged through the pantry; but the cupboard-door
  Was locked. He sighed then like a wet fore-stick
  And went out on the porch.—At least the pump,
  He prophesied, would meet him kindly and
  Shake hands with him and welcome his return!
  And long he held the old tin dipper up—
  And oh, how fresh and pure and sweet the draught!
  Over the upturned brim, with grateful eyes
  He saw the back-yard, in the gathering night,
  Vague, dim and lonesome, but it all looked good:
  The lightning-bugs, against the grape-vines, blinked
  A sort of sallow gladness over his
  Home-coming, with this softening of the heart.
  He did not leave the dipper carelessly
  In the milk-trough.—No: he hung it back upon
  Its old nail thoughtfully—even tenderly.
  All slowly then he turned and sauntered toward
  The rain-barrel at the corner of the house,
  And, pausing, peered into it at the few
  Faint stars reflected there. Then—moved by some
  Strange impulse new to him—he washed his feet.
  He then went in the house—straight on into
  The very room where sat his parents by
  The evening lamp.—The father all intent
  Reading his paper, and the mother quite
  As intent with her sewing. Neither looked
  Up at his entrance—even reproachfully,—
  And neither spoke.

                      The wistful runaway
  Drew a long, quavering breath, and then sat down
  Upon the extreme edge of a chair. And all
  Was very still there for a long, long while.—
  Yet everything, someway, seemed restful-like
  And homey and old-fashioned, good and kind,
  And sort of kin to him!—Only too still!
  If somebody would say something—just speak—
  Or even rise up suddenly and come
  And lift him by the ear sheer off his chair—
  Or box his jaws—Lord bless 'em!—anything!—
  Was he not there to thankfully accept
  Any reception from parental source
  Save this incomprehensible voicelessness.
  O but the silence held its very breath!
  If but the ticking clock would only strike
  And for an instant drown the whispering,
  Lisping, sifting sound the katydids
  Made outside in the grassy nowhere.

  Down some back-street he heard the faint halloo
  Of boys at their night-game of "Town-fox,"
  But now with no desire at all to be
  Participating in their sport—No; no;—
  Never again in this world would he want
  To join them there!—he only wanted just
  To stay in home of nights—Always—always—
  Forever and a day!

                      He moved; and coughed—
  Coughed hoarsely, too, through his rolled tongue; and yet
  No vaguest of parental notice or
  Solicitude in answer—no response—
  No word—no look. O it was deathly still!—
  So still it was that really he could not
  Remember any prior silence that
  At all approached it in profundity
  And depth and density of utter hush.
  He felt that he himself must break it: So,
  Summoning every subtle artifice
  Of seeming nonchalance and native ease
  And naturalness of utterance to his aid,
  And gazing raptly at the house-cat where
  She lay curled in her wonted corner of
  The hearth-rug, dozing, he spoke airily
  And said: "I see you've got the same old cat!"


  The merriment that followed was subdued—
  As though the story-teller's attitude
  Were dual, in a sense, appealing quite
  As much to sorrow as to mere delight,
  According, haply, to the listener's bent
  Either of sad or merry temperament.—
  "And of your two appeals I much prefer
  The pathos," said "The Noted Traveler,"—
  "For should I live to twice my present years,
  I know I could not quite forget the tears
  That child-eyes bleed, the little palms nailed wide,
  And quivering soul and body crucified....
  But, bless 'em! there are no such children here
  To-night, thank God!—Come here to me, my dear!"
  He said to little Alex, in a tone
  So winning that the sound of it alone
  Had drawn a child more lothful to his knee:—
  "And, now-sir, I'll agree if you'll agree,—
  You tell us all a story, and then I
  Will tell one."

                "But I can't."

                      "Well, can't you try?"
  "Yes, Mister: he kin tell one. Alex, tell
  The one, you know, 'at you made up so well,
  About the Bear. He allus tells that one,"
  Said Bud,—"He gits it mixed some 'bout the gun
  An' ax the Little Boy had, an' apples, too."—
  Then Uncle Mart said—"There, now! that'll do!—
  Let Alex tell his story his own way!"
  And Alex, prompted thus, without delay



  W'y, wunst they wuz a Little Boy went out
  In the woods to shoot a Bear. So, he went out
  'Way in the grea'-big woods—he did.—An' he
  Wuz goin'along—an'goin'along, you know,
  An' purty soon he heerd somepin' go "Wooh!"—
  Ist thataway—"Woo-ooh!" An' he wuz skeered,
  He wuz. An' so he runned an' clumbed a tree—
  A grea'-big tree, he did,—a sicka-more tree.
  An' nen he heerd it agin: an' he looked round,
  An' 't'uz a Bear!—a grea'-big, shore-nuff Bear!—
  No: 't'uz two Bears, it wuz—two grea'-big Bears—
  One of 'em wuz—ist one's a grea'-big Bear.—
  But they ist boff went "Wooh! "—An' here they come
  To climb the tree an' git the Little Boy
  An'eat him up!

                      An' nen the Little Boy
  He 'uz skeered worse'n ever! An' here come
  The grea'-big Bear a-climbin' th' tree to git
  The Little Boy an' eat him up—Oh, no!—
  It 'uzn't the Big Bear 'at clumb the tree—
  It 'uz the Little Bear. So here he come
  Climbin' the tree—an' climbin' the tree! Nen when
  He git wite clos't to the Little Boy, w'y nen
  The Little Boy he ist pulled up his gun
  An' shot the Bear, he did, an' killed him dead!
  An' nen the Bear he falled clean on down out
  The tree—away clean to the ground, he did
  Spling-splung! he falled plum down, an' killed him, too!
  An' lit wite side o' where the' Big Bear's at.

  An' nen the Big Bear's awful mad, you bet!—
  'Cause—'cause the Little Boy he shot his gun
  An' killed the Little Bear.—'Cause the Big Bear
  He—he 'uz the Little Bear's Papa.—An' so here
  He come to climb the big old tree an' git
  The Little Boy an' eat him up! An' when
  The Little Boy he saw the grea'-big Bear
  A-comin', he 'uz badder skeered, he wuz,
  Than any time! An' so he think he'll climb
  Up higher—'way up higher in the tree
  Than the old Bear kin climb, you know.—But he—
  He can't climb higher 'an old Bears kin climb,—
  'Cause Bears kin climb up higher in the trees
  Than any little Boys In all the Wo-r-r-ld!

  An' so here come the grea'-big Bear, he did,—
  A-climbin' up—an' up the tree, to git
  The Little Boy an' eat him up! An' so
  The Little Boy he clumbed on higher, an' higher.
  An' higher up the tree—an' higher—an' higher—
  An' higher'n iss-here house is!—An' here come
  Th' old Bear—clos'ter to him all the time!—
  An' nen—first thing you know,—when th' old Big Bear
  Wuz wite clos't to him—nen the Little Boy
  Ist jabbed his gun wite in the old Bear's mouf
  An' shot an' killed him dead!—No; I fergot,—
  He didn't shoot the grea'-big Bear at all—
  'Cause they 'uz no load in the gun, you know—
  'Cause when he shot the Little Bear, w'y, nen
  No load 'uz anymore nen in the gun!

  But th' Little Boy clumbed higher up, he did—
  He clumbed lots higher—an' on up higher—an' higher
  An' higher—tel he ist can't climb no higher,
  'Cause nen the limbs 'uz all so little, 'way
  Up in the teeny-weeny tip-top of
  The tree, they'd break down wiv him ef he don't
  Be keerful! So he stop an' think: An' nen
  He look around—An' here come th' old Bear!
  An' so the Little Boy make up his mind
  He's got to ist git out o' there some way!—
  'Cause here come the old Bear!—so clos't, his bref's
  Purt 'nigh so's he kin feel how hot it is
  Aginst his bare feet—ist like old "Ring's" bref
  When he's ben out a-huntin' an's all tired.
  So when th' old Bear's so clos't—the Little Boy
  Ist gives a grea'-big jump fer 'nother tree—
  No!—no he don't do that!—I tell you what
  The Little Boy does:—W'y, nen—w'y, he—Oh, yes—
  The Little Boy he finds a hole up there
  'At's in the tree—an' climbs in there an' hides—
  An' nen the old Bear can't find the Little Boy
  Ut-tall!—But, purty soon th' old Bear finds
  The Little Boy's gun 'at's up there—'cause the gun
  It's too tall to tooked wiv him in the hole.
  So, when the old Bear find' the gun, he knows
  The Little Boy ist hid 'round somers there,—
  An' th' old Bear 'gins to snuff an' sniff around,
  An' sniff an' snuff around—so's he kin find
  Out where the Little Boy's hid at.—An' nen—nen—
  Oh, yes!—W'y, purty soon the old Bear climbs
  'Way out on a big limb—a grea'-long limb,—
  An' nen the Little Boy climbs out the hole
  An' takes his ax an' chops the limb off!... Nen
  The old Bear falls k-splunge! clean to the ground
  An' bust an' kill hisse'f plum dead, he did!

  An' nen the Little Boy he git his gun
  An' 'menced a-climbin' down the tree agin—
  No!—no, he didn't git his gun—'cause when
  The Bear falled, nen the gun falled, too—An' broked
  It all to pieces, too!—An' nicest gun!—
  His Pa ist buyed it!—An' the Little Boy
  Ist cried, he did; an' went on climbin' down
  The tree—an' climbin' down—an' climbin' down!—
  An'-sir! when he 'uz purt'-nigh down,—w'y, nen
  The old Bear he jumped up agin!—an he
  Ain't dead ut-tall—ist 'tendin' thataway,
  So he kin git the Little Boy an' eat
  Him up! But the Little Boy he 'uz too smart
  To climb clean down the tree.—An' the old Bear
  He can't climb up the tree no more—'cause when
  He fell, he broke one of his—He broke all
  His legs!—an' nen he couldn't climb! But he
  Ist won't go 'way an' let the Little Boy
  Come down out of the tree. An' the old Bear
  Ist growls 'round there, he does—ist growls an' goes
  "Wooh! woo-ooh!" all the time! An' Little Boy
  He haf to stay up in the tree—all night—
  An' 'thout no supper neever!—Only they
  Wuz apples on the tree!—An' Little Boy
  Et apples—ist all night—an' cried—an' cried!
  Nen when 'tuz morning th' old Bear went "Wooh!"
  Agin, an' try to climb up in the tree
  An' git the Little Boy.—But he can't
  Climb t'save his soul, he can't!—An' oh! he's mad!—
  He ist tear up the ground! an' go "Woo-ooh!"
  An'—Oh,yes!—purty soon, when morning's come
  All light—so's you kin see, you know,—w'y, nen
  The old Bear finds the Little Boy's gun, you know,
  'At's on the ground.—(An' it ain't broke ut-tall—
  I ist said that!) An' so the old Bear think
  He'll take the gun an' shoot the Little Boy:—
  But Bears they don't know much 'bout shootin' guns:
  So when he go to shoot the Little Boy,
  The old Bear got the other end the gun
  Agin his shoulder, 'stid o' th'other end—
  So when he try to shoot the Little Boy,
  It shot the Bear, it did—an' killed him dead!
  An' nen the Little Boy dumb down the tree
  An' chopped his old wooly head off:—Yes, an' killed
  The other Bear agin, he did—an' killed
  All boff the bears, he did—an' tuk 'em home
  An' cooked 'em, too, an' et 'em!

                      —An' that's


  The greeting of the company throughout
  Was like a jubilee,—the children's shout
  And fusillading hand-claps, with great guns
  And detonations of the older ones,
  Raged to such tumult of tempestuous joy,
  It even more alarmed than pleased the boy;
  Till, with a sudden twitching lip, he slid
  Down to the floor and dodged across and hid
  His face against his mother as she raised
  Him to the shelter of her heart, and praised
  His story in low whisperings, and smoothed
  The "amber-colored hair," and kissed, and soothed
  And lulled him back to sweet tranquillity—
  "And 'ats a sign 'at you're the Ma fer me!"
  He lisped, with gurgling ecstasy, and drew
  Her closer, with shut eyes; and feeling, too,
  If he could only purr now like a cat,
  He would undoubtedly be doing that!

  "And now"—the serious host said, lifting there
  A hand entreating silence;—"now, aware
  Of the good promise of our Traveler guest
  To add some story with and for the rest,
  I think I favor you, and him as well,
  Asking a story I have heard him tell,
  And know its truth,in each minute detail:"
  Then leaning on his guest's chair, with a hale
  Hand-pat by way of full indorsement, he
  Said, "Yes—the Free-Slave story—certainly."

  The old man, with his waddy notebook out,
  And glittering spectacles, glanced round about
  The expectant circle, and still firmer drew
  His hat on, with a nervous cough or two:
  And, save at times the big hard words, and tone
  Of gathering passion—all the speaker's own,—
  The tale that set each childish heart astir
  Was thus told by "The Noted Traveler."


  Coming, clean from the Maryland-end
  Of this great National Road of ours,
  Through your vast West; with the time to spend,
  Stopping for days in the main towns, where
  Every citizen seemed a friend,
  And friends grew thick as the wayside flowers,—
  I found no thing that I might narrate
  More singularly strange or queer
  Than a thing I found in your sister-state
  Ohio,—at a river-town—down here
  In my notebook: Zanesville—situate
  On the stream Muskingum—broad and clear,
  And navigable, through half the year,
  North, to Coshocton; south, as far
  As Marietta.—But these facts are
  Not of the story, but the scene
  Of the simple little tale I mean
  To tell directly—from this, straight through
  To the end that is best worth listening to:

  Eastward of Zanesville, two or three
  Miles from the town, as our stage drove in,
  I on the driver's seat, and he
  Pointing out this and that to me,—
  On beyond us—among the rest—
  A grovey slope, and a fluttering throng
  Of little children, which he "guessed"
  Was a picnic, as we caught their thin
  High laughter, as we drove along,
  Clearer and clearer. Then suddenly
  He turned and asked, with a curious grin,
  What were my views on Slavery? "Why?"
  I asked, in return, with a wary eye.
  "Because," he answered, pointing his whip
  At a little, whitewashed house and shed
  On the edge of the road by the grove ahead,—
  "Because there are two slaves there," he said—
  "Two Black slaves that I've passed each trip
  For eighteen years.—Though they've been set free,
  They have been slaves ever since!" said he.
  And, as our horses slowly drew
  Nearer the little house in view,
  All briefly I heard the history
  Of this little old Negro woman and
  Her husband, house and scrap of land;
  How they were slaves and had been made free
  By their dying master, years ago
  In old Virginia; and then had come
  North here into a free state—so,
  Safe forever, to found a home—
  For themselves alone?—for they left South there
  Five strong sons, who had, alas!
  All been sold ere it came to pass
  This first old master with his last breath
  Had freed the parents.—(He went to death
  Agonized and in dire despair
  That the poor slave children might not share
  Their parents' freedom. And wildly then
  He moaned for pardon and died. Amen!)

  Thus, with their freedom, and little sum
  Of money left them, these two had come
  North, full twenty long years ago;
  And, settling there, they had hopefully
  Gone to work, in their simple way,
  Hauling—gardening—raising sweet
  Corn, and popcorn.—Bird and bee
  In the garden-blooms and the apple-tree
  Singing with them throughout the slow
  Summer's day, with its dust and heat—
  The crops that thirst and the rains that fail;
  Or in Autumn chill, when the clouds hung low,
  And hand-made hominy might find sale
  In the near town-market; or baking pies
  And cakes, to range in alluring show
  At the little window, where the eyes
  Of the Movers' children, driving past,
  Grew fixed, till the big white wagons drew
  Into a halt that would sometimes last
  Even the space of an hour or two—
  As the dusty, thirsty travelers made
  Their noonings there in the beeches' shade
  By the old black Aunty's spring-house, where,
  Along with its cooling draughts, were found
  Jugs of her famous sweet spruce-beer,
  Served with her gingerbread-horses there,
  While Aunty's snow-white cap bobbed 'round
  Till the children's rapture knew no bound,
  As she sang and danced for them, quavering clear
  And high the chant of her old slave-days—

      "Oh, Lo'd, Jinny! my toes is so',
      Dancin' on yo' sandy flo'!"

  Even so had they wrought all ways
  To earn the pennies, and hoard them, too,—
  And with what ultimate end in view?—
  They were saving up money enough to be
  Able, in time, to buy their own
  Five children back.

                      Ah! the toil gone through!
  And the long delays and the heartaches, too,
  And self-denials that they had known!
  But the pride and glory that was theirs
  When they first hitched up their shackly cart
  For the long, long journey South.—The start
  In the first drear light of the chilly dawn,
  With no friends gathered in grieving throng,—
  With no farewells and favoring prayers;
  But, as they creaked and jolted on,
  Their chiming voices broke in song—

      "'Hail, all hail! don't you see the stars a-fallin'?
              Hail, all hail! I'm on my way.
                        Gideon [1] am
                        A healin' ba'm—
              I belong to the blood-washed army.
                        Gideon am
                        A healin' ba'm—
                                  On my way!'"

  And their return!—with their oldest boy
  Along with them! Why, their happiness
  Spread abroad till it grew a joy
  Universal—It even reached
  And thrilled the town till the Church was stirred
  Into suspecting that wrong was wrong!—
  And it stayed awake as the preacher preached
  A Real "Love"-text that he had not long
  To ransack for in the Holy Word.

  And the son, restored, and welcomed so,
  Found service readily in the town;
  And, with the parents, sure and slow,
  He went "saltin' de cole cash down."

  So with the next boy—and each one
  In turn, till four of the five at last
  Had been bought back; and, in each case,
  With steady work and good homes not
  Far from the parents, they chipped in
  To the family fund, with an equal grace.
  Thus they managed and planned and wrought,
  And the old folks throve—Till the night before
  They were to start for the lone last son
  In the rainy dawn—their money fast
  Hid away in the house,—two mean,
  Murderous robbers burst the door.
  ...Then, in the dark, was a scuffle—a fall—
  An old man's gasping cry—and then
  A woman's fife-like shriek.

                      ...Three men
  Splashing by on horseback heard
  The summons: And in an instant all
  Sprung to their duty, with scarce a word.
  And they were in time—not only to save
  The lives of the old folks, but to bag
  Both the robbers, and buck-and-gag
  And land them safe in the county-jail—
  Or, as Aunty said, with a blended awe
  And subtlety,—"Safe in de calaboose whah
  De dawgs caint bite 'em!"

                      —So prevail
  The faithful!—So had the Lord upheld
  His servants of both deed and prayer,—
  HIS the glory unparalleled—
  Theirs the reward,—their every son
  Free, at last, as the parents were!
  And, as the driver ended there
  In front of the little house, I said,
  All fervently, "Well done! well done!"
  At which he smiled, and turned his head
  And pulled on the leaders' lines and—"See!"
  He said,—"'you can read old Aunty's sign?"
  And, peering down through these specs of mine
  On a little, square board-sign, I read:

      "Stop, traveler, if you think it fit,
      And quench your thirst for a-fip-and-a-bit.
      The rocky spring is very clear,
      And soon converted into beer."

  And, though I read aloud, I could
  Scarce hear myself for laugh and shout
  Of children—a glad multitude
  Of little people, swarming out
  Of the picnic-grounds I spoke about.—
  And in their rapturous midst, I see
  Again—through mists of memory—
  A black old Negress laughing up
  At the driver, with her broad lips rolled
  Back from her teeth, chalk-white, and gums
  Redder than reddest red-ripe plums.
  He took from her hand the lifted cup
  Of clear spring-water, pure and cold,
  And passed it to me: And I raised my hat
  And drank to her with a reverence that
  My conscience knew was justly due
  The old black face, and the old eyes, too—
  The old black head, with its mossy mat
  Of hair, set under its cap and frills
  White as the snows on Alpine hills;
  Drank to the old black smile, but yet
  Bright as the sun on the violet,—
  Drank to the gnarled and knuckled old
  Black hands whose palms had ached and bled
  And pitilessly been worn pale
  And white almost as the palms that hold
  Slavery's lash while the victim's wail
  Fails as a crippled prayer might fail.—
  Aye, with a reverence infinite,
  I drank to the old black face and head—
  The old black breast with its life of light—
  The old black hide with its heart of gold.


  There was a curious quiet for a space
  Directly following: and in the face
  Of one rapt listener pulsed the flush and glow
  Of the heat-lightning that pent passions throw
  Long ere the crash of speech.—He broke the spell—
  The host:—The Traveler's story, told so well,
  He said, had wakened there within his breast
  A yearning, as it were, to know the rest—
  That all unwritten sequence that the Lord
  Of Righteousness must write with flame and sword,
  Some awful session of His patient thought—
  Just then it was, his good old mother caught
  His blazing eye—so that its fire became
  But as an ember—though it burned the same.
  It seemed to her, she said, that she had heard
  It was the Heavenly Parent never erred,
  And not the earthly one that had such grace:
  "Therefore, my son," she said, with lifted face
  And eyes, "let no one dare anticipate
  The Lord's intent. While He waits, we will wait"
  And with a gust of reverence genuine
  Then Uncle Mart was aptly ringing in—

      "'If the darkened heavens lower,
        Wrap thy cloak around thy form;
      Though the tempest rise in power,
        God is mightier than the storm!'"

  Which utterance reached the restive children all
  As something humorous. And then a call
  For him to tell a story, or to "say
  A funny piece." His face fell right away:
  He knew no story worthy. Then he must
  Declaim for them: In that, he could not trust
  His memory. And then a happy thought
  Struck some one, who reached in his vest and brought
  Some scrappy clippings into light and said
  There was a poem of Uncle Mart's he read
  Last April in "The Sentinel." He had
  It there in print, and knew all would be glad
  To hear it rendered by the author.

  All reasons for declining at command
  Exhausted, the now helpless poet rose
  And said: "I am discovered, I suppose.
  Though I have taken all precautions not
  To sign my name to any verses wrought
  By my transcendent genius, yet, you see,
  Fame wrests my secret from me bodily;
  So I must needs confess I did this deed
  Of poetry red-handed, nor can plead
  One whit of unintention in my crime—
  My guilt of rhythm and my glut of rhyme.—

      "Mænides rehearsed a tale of arms,
        And Naso told of curious metatmurphoses;
      Unnumbered pens have pictured woman's charms,
        While crazy I've made poetry on purposes!"

  In other words, I stand convicted—need
  I say—by my own doing, as I read.



  Ho! the old Snow-Man
    That Noey Bixler made!
  He looked as fierce and sassy
    As a soldier on parade!—
  'Cause Noey, when he made him,
    While we all wuz gone, you see,
  He made him, jist a-purpose,
    Jist as fierce as he could be!—
      But when we all got ust to him,
        Nobody wuz afraid
      Of the old Snow-Man
        That Noey Bixler made!

  'Cause Noey told us 'bout him
    And what he made him fer:—
  He'd come to feed, that morning
    He found we wuzn't here;
  And so the notion struck him,
    When we all come taggin' home
  'Tud s'prise us ef a' old Snow-Man
    'Ud meet us when we come!
  So, when he'd fed the stock, and milked,
    And ben back home, and chopped
  His wood, and et his breakfast, he
    Jist grabbed his mitts and hopped
  Right in on that-air old Snow-Man
    That he laid out he'd make
  Er bust a trace a-tryin'—jist
    Fer old-acquaintance sake!—
      But work like that wuz lots more fun.
        He said, than when he played!
      Ho! the old Snow-Man
        That Noey Bixler made!

  He started with a big snow-ball,
    And rolled it all around;
  And as he rolled, more snow 'ud stick
    And pull up off the ground.—
  He rolled and rolled all round the yard—
    'Cause we could see the track,
  All wher' the snow come off, you know,
    And left it wet and black.
  He got the Snow-Man's legs-part rolled—
    In front the kitchen-door,—
  And then he hat to turn in then
    And roll and roll some more!—
  He rolled the yard all round agin,
    And round the house, at that—
  Clean round the house and back to wher'
    The blame legs-half wuz at!
      He said he missed his dinner, too—
        Jist clean fergot and stayed
      There workin'. Ho! the old Snow-Man
        That Noey Bixler made!

  And Noey said he hat to hump
    To git the top-half on
  The legs-half!—When he did, he said,
    His wind wuz purt'-nigh gone.—
  He said, I jucks! he jist drapped down
    There on the old porch-floor
  And panted like a dog!—And then
    He up! and rolled some more!—
  The last batch—that wuz fer his head,—
    And—time he'd got it right
  And clumb and fixed it on, he said—
    He hat to quit fer night!—
  And then, he said, he'd kep' right on
    Ef they'd ben any moon
  To work by! So he crawled in bed—
    And could a-slep' tel noon,
      He wuz so plum wore out! he said,—
        But it wuz washin'-day,
      And hat to cut a cord o' wood
        'Fore he could git away!

  But, last, he got to work agin,—
    With spade, and gouge, and hoe,
  And trowel, too—(All tools 'ud do
    What Noey said, you know!)
  He cut his eyebrows out like cliffs—
    And his cheekbones and chin
  Stuck furder out—and his old nose
    Stuck out as fur-agin!
  He made his eyes o' walnuts,
    And his whiskers out o' this
  Here buggy-cushion stuffin'—moss,
    The teacher says it is.
  And then he made a' old wood'-gun,
    Set keerless-like, you know,
  Acrost one shoulder—kindo' like
    Big Foot, er Adam Poe—
      Er, mayby, Simon Girty,
        The dinged old Renegade!
      Wooh! the old Snow-Man
        That Noey Bixler made!

  And there he stood, all fierce and grim,
    A stern, heroic form:
  What was the winter blast to him,
    And what the driving storm?—
  What wonder that the children pressed
    Their faces at the pane
  And scratched away the frost, in pride
    To look on him again?—
      What wonder that, with yearning bold,
        Their all of love and care
      Went warmest through the keenest cold
        To that Snow-Man out there!

  But the old Snow-Man—
    What a dubious delight
  He grew at last when Spring came on
    And days waxed warm and bright.—
  Alone he stood—all kith and kin
    Of snow and ice were gone;—
  Alone, with constant teardrops in
    His eyes and glittering on
  His thin, pathetic beard of black—
    Grief in a hopeless cause!—
  Hope—hope is for the man that dies—
    What for the man that thaws!
      O Hero of a hero's make!—
        Let marble melt and fade,
      But never you—you old Snow-Man
        That Noey Bixler made!


  And there, in that ripe Summer-night, once more
  A wintry coolness through the open door
  And window seemed to touch each glowing face
  Refreshingly; and, for a fleeting space,
  The quickened fancy, through the fragrant air,
  Saw snowflakes whirling where the roseleaves were,
  And sounds of veriest jingling bells again
  Were heard in tinkling spoons and glasses then.

  Thus Uncle Mart's old poem sounded young
  And crisp and fresh and clear as when first sung,
  Away back in the wakening of Spring
  When his rhyme and the robin, chorusing,
  Rumored, in duo-fanfare, of the soon
  Invading johnny-jump-ups, with platoon
  On platoon of sweet-williams, marshaled fine
  To blooméd blarings of the trumpet-vine.

  The poet turned to whisperingly confer
  A moment with "The Noted Traveler."
  Then left the room, tripped up the stairs, and then
  An instant later reappeared again,
  Bearing a little, lacquered box, or chest,
  Which, as all marked with curious interest,
  He gave to the old Traveler, who in
  One hand upheld it, pulling back his thin
  Black lustre coat-sleeves, saying he had sent
  Up for his "Magic Box," and that he meant
  To test it there—especially to show
  The Children. "It is empty now, you know."—
  He humped it with his knuckles, so they heard
  The hollow sound—"But lest it be inferred
  It is not really empty, I will ask
  Little Jack Janitor, whose pleasant task
  It is to keep it ship-shape."

                      Then he tried
  And rapped the little drawer in the side,
  And called out sharply "Are you in there, Jack?"
  And then a little, squeaky voice came back,—
  "Of course I'm in here—ain't you got the key
  Turned on me!"

                      Then the Traveler leisurely
  Felt through his pockets, and at last took out
  The smallest key they ever heard about!—
  It,wasn't any longer than a pin:
  And this at last he managed to fit in
  The little keyhole, turned it, and then cried,
  "Is everything swept out clean there inside?"
  "Open the drawer and see!—Don't talk to much;
  Or else," the little voice squeaked, "talk in Dutch—
  You age me, asking questions!"

                      Then the man
  Looked hurt, so that the little folks began
  To feel so sorry for him, he put down
  His face against the box and had to frown.—
  "Come, sir!" he called,—"no impudence to me!—
  You've swept out clean?"

                      "Open the drawer and see!"
  And so he drew the drawer out: Nothing there,
  But just the empty drawer, stark and bare.
  He shoved it back again, with a shark click.—

  "Ouch!" yelled the little voice—"un-snap it—quick!—
  You've got my nose pinched in the crack!"

                      And then
  The frightened man drew out the drawer again,
  The little voice exclaiming, "Jeemi-nee!—
  Say what you want, but please don't murder me!"

  "Well, then," the man said, as he closed the drawer
  With care, "I want some cotton-batting for
  My supper! Have you got it?"

                      And inside,
  All muffled like, the little voice replied,
  "Open the drawer and see!"

                      And, sure enough,
  He drew it out, filled with the cotton stuff.
  He then asked for a candle to be brought
  And held for him: and tuft by tuft he caught
  And lit the cotton, and, while blazing, took
  It in his mouth and ate it, with a look
  Of purest satisfaction.

                      "Now," said he,
  "I've eaten the drawer empty, let me see
  What this is in my mouth:" And with both hands
  He began drawing from his lips long strands
  Of narrow silken ribbons, every hue
  And tint;—and crisp they were and bright and new
  As if just purchased at some Fancy-Store.
  "And now, Bub, bring your cap," he said, "before
  Something might happen!" And he stuffed the cap
  Full of the ribbons. "There, my little chap,
  Hold tight to them," he said, "and take them to
  The ladies there, for they know what to do
  With all such rainbow finery!"

                      He smiled
  Half sadly, as it seemed, to see the child
  Open his cap first to his mother..... There
  Was not a ribbon in it anywhere!
  "Jack Janitor!" the man said sternly through
  The Magic Box—"Jack Janitor, did you
  Conceal those ribbons anywhere?"

                      "Well, yes,"
  The little voice piped—"but you'd never guess
  The place I hid 'em if you'd guess a year!"

  "Well, won't you tell me?"

                      "Not until you clear
  Your mean old conscience" said the voice, "and make
  Me first do something for the Children's sake."

  "Well, then, fill up the drawer," the Traveler said,
  "With whitest white on earth and reddest red!—
  Your terms accepted—Are you satisfied?"

  "Open the drawer and see!" the voice replied.

  "Why, bless my soul!"—the man said, as he drew
  The contents of the drawer into view—
  "It's level-full of candy!—Pass it 'round—
  Jack Janitor shan't steal that, I'll be bound!"—
  He raised and crunched a stick of it and smacked
  His lips.—"Yes, that is candy, for a fact!—
  And it's all yours!"

                      And how the children there
  Lit into it!—O never anywhere
  Was such a feast of sweetness!

                      "And now, then,"
  The man said, as the empty drawer again
  Slid to its place, he bending over it,—
  "Now, then, Jack Janitor, before we quit
  Our entertainment for the evening, tell
  Us where you hid the ribbons—can't you?"

  The squeaky little voice drawled sleepily—
  "Under your old hat, maybe.—Look and see!"

  All carefully the man took off his hat:
  But there was not a ribbon under that.—
  He shook his heavy hair, and all in vain
  The old white hat—then put it on again:
  "Now, tell me, honest, Jack, where did you hide
  The ribbons?"

                      "Under your hat" the voice replied.—
  "Mind! I said 'under' and not 'in' it.—Won't
  You ever take the hint on earth?—or don't
  You want to show folks where the ribbons at?—
  Law! but I'm sleepy!—Under—unner your hat!"

  Again the old man carefully took off
  The empty hat, with an embarrassed cough,
  Saying, all gravely to the children: "You
  Must promise not to laugh—you'll all want to—
  When you see where Jack Janitor has dared
  To hide those ribbons—when he might have spared
  My feelings.—But no matter!—Know the worst—
  Here are the ribbons, as I feared at first."—
  And, quick as snap of thumb and finger, there
  The old man's head had not a sign of hair,
  And in his lap a wig of iron-gray
  Lay, stuffed with all that glittering array
  Of ribbons ... "Take 'em to the ladies—Yes.
  Good-night to everybody, and God bless
  The Children."

                      In a whisper no one missed
  The Hired Man yawned: "He's a vantrilloquist"

  So gloried all the night Each trundle-bed
  And pallet was enchanted—each child-head
  Was packed with happy dreams. And long before
  The dawn's first far-off rooster crowed, the snore
  Of Uncle Mart was stilled, as round him pressed
  The bare arms of the wakeful little guest
  That he had carried home with him....

                                          "I think,"
  An awed voice said—"(No: I don't want a dwink.—
  Lay still.)—I think 'The Noted Traveler' he
  'S the inscrutibul-est man I ever see!"
  [Footnote 1: Gilead—evidently.—[Editor.]