He saw her from the bottom of the stairs Before she saw him. She was starting down, Looking back over her shoulder at some fear. She took a doubtful step and then undid it To raise herself and look again. He spoke Advancing toward her: 'What is it you see From up there always--for I want to know.' She turned and sank upon her skirts at that, And her face changed from terrified to dull. He said to gain time: 'What is it you see,' Mounting until she cowered under him. 'I will find out now--you must tell me, dear.' She, in her place, refused him any help With the least stiffening of her neck and silence. She let him look, sure that he wouldn't see, Blind creature; and awhile he didn't see. But at last he murmured, 'Oh,' and again, 'Oh.' 'What is it--what?' she said. 'Just that I see.' 'You don't,' she challenged. 'Tell me what it is.' 'The wonder is I didn't see at once. I never noticed it from here before. I must be wonted to it--that's the reason. The little graveyard where my people are! So small the window frames the whole of it. Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it? There are three stones of slate and one of marble, Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight On the sidehill. We haven't to mind those. But I understand: it is not the stones, But the child's mound--' 'Don't, don't, don't, don't,' she cried. She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm That rested on the bannister, and slid downstairs; And turned on him with such a daunting look, He said twice over before he knew himself: 'Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?' 'Not you! Oh, where's my hat? Oh, I don't need it! I must get out of here. I must get air. I don't know rightly whether any man can.' 'Amy! Don't go to someone else this time. Listen to me. I won't come down the stairs.' He sat and fixed his chin between his fists. 'There's something I should like to ask you, dear.' 'You don't know how to ask it.' 'Help me, then.' Her fingers moved the latch for all reply. 'My words are nearly always an offense. I don't know how to speak of anything So as to please you. But I might be taught I should suppose. I can't say I see how. A man must partly give up being a man With women-folk. We could have some arrangement By which I'd bind myself to keep hands off Anything special you're a-mind to name. Though I don't like such things 'twixt those that love. Two that don't love can't live together without them. But two that do can't live together with them.' She moved the latch a little. 'Don't--don't go. Don't carry it to someone else this time. Tell me about it if it's something human. Let me into your grief. I'm not so much Unlike other folks as your standing there Apart would make me out. Give me my chance. I do think, though, you overdo it a little. What was it brought you up to think it the thing To take your mother--loss of a first child So inconsolably--in the face of love. You'd think his memory might be satisfied--' 'There you go sneering now!' 'I'm not, I'm not! You make me angry. I'll come down to you. God, what a woman! And it's come to this, A man can't speak of his own child that's dead.' 'You can't because you don't know how to speak. If you had any feelings, you that dug With your own hand--how could you?--his little grave; I saw you from that very window there, Making the gravel leap and leap in air, Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly And roll back down the mound beside the hole. I thought, Who is that man? I didn't know you. And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs To look again, and still your spade kept lifting. Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice Out in the kitchen, and I don't know why, But I went near to see with my own eyes. You could sit there with the stains on your shoes Of the fresh earth from your own baby's grave And talk about your everyday concerns. You had stood the spade up against the wall Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.' 'I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed. I'm cursed. God, if I don't believe I'm cursed.' 'I can repeat the very words you were saying. "Three foggy mornings and one rainy day Will rot the best birch fence a man can build." Think of it, talk like that at such a time! What had how long it takes a birch to rot To do with what was in the darkened parlor. You couldn't care! The nearest friends can go With anyone to death, comes so far short They might as well not try to go at all. No, from the time when one is sick to death, One is alone, and he dies more alone. Friends make pretense of following to the grave, But before one is in it, their minds are turned And making the best of their way back to life And living people, and things they understand. But the world's evil. I won't have grief so If I can change it. Oh, I won't, I won't!' 'There, you have said it all and you feel better. You won't go now. You're crying. Close the door. The heart's gone out of it: why keep it up. Amy! There's someone coming down the road!' 'You--oh, you think the talk is all. I must go-- Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you--' 'If--you--do!' She was opening the door wider. 'Where do you mean to go? First tell me that. I'll follow and bring you back by force. I will!--'
“Willis, I didn’t want you here to-day:
The lawyer’s coming for the company.
I’m going to sell my soul, or, rather, feet.
Five hundred dollars for the pair, you know.”
“With you the feet have nearly been the soul;
And if you’re going to sell them to the devil,
I want to see you do it. When’s he coming?”
“I half suspect you knew, and came on purpose
To try to help me drive a better bargain.”
“Well, if it’s true! Yours are no common feet.
The lawyer don’t know what it is he’s buying:
So many miles you might have walked you won’t walk.
You haven’t run your forty orchids down.
What does he think?—How are the blessed feet?
The doctor’s sure you’re going to walk again?”
“He thinks I’ll hobble. It’s both legs and feet.”
“They must be terrible—I mean to look at.”
“I haven’t dared to look at them uncovered.
Through the bed blankets I remind myself
Of a starfish laid out with rigid points.”
“The wonder is it hadn’t been your head.”
“It’s hard to tell you how I managed it.
When I saw the shaft had me by the coat,
I didn’t try too long to pull away,
Or fumble for my knife to cut away,
I just embraced the shaft and rode it out—
Till Weiss shut off the water in the wheel-pit.
That’s how I think I didn’t lose my head.
But my legs got their knocks against the ceiling.”
“Awful. Why didn’t they throw off the belt
Instead of going clear down in the wheel-pit?”
“They say some time was wasted on the belt—
Old streak of leather—doesn’t love me much
Because I make him spit fire at my knuckles,
The way Ben Franklin used to make the kite-string.
That must be it. Some days he won’t stay on.
That day a woman couldn’t coax him off.
He’s on his rounds now with his tail in his mouth
Snatched right and left across the silver pulleys.
Everything goes the same without me there.
You can hear the small buzz saws whine, the big saw
Caterwaul to the hills around the village
As they both bite the wood. It’s all our music.
One ought as a good villager to like it.
No doubt it has a sort of prosperous sound,
And it’s our life.”
“Yes, when it’s not our death.”
“You make that sound as if it wasn’t so
With everything. What we live by we die by.
I wonder where my lawyer is. His train’s in.
I want this over with; I’m hot and tired.”
“You’re getting ready to do something foolish.”
“Watch for him, will you, Will? You let him in.
I’d rather Mrs. Corbin didn’t know;
I’ve boarded here so long, she thinks she owns me.
You’re bad enough to manage without her.”
“And I’m going to be worse instead of better.
You’ve got to tell me how far this is gone:
Have you agreed to any price?”
Five hundred—five—five! One, two, three, four, five.
You needn’t look at me.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I told you, Willis, when you first came in.
Don’t you be hard on me. I have to take
What I can get. You see they have the feet,
Which gives them the advantage in the trade.
I can’t get back the feet in any case.”
“But your flowers, man, you’re selling out your flowers.”
“Yes, that’s one way to put it—all the flowers
Of every kind everywhere in this region
For the next forty summers—call it forty.
But I’m not selling those, I’m giving them,
They never earned me so much as one cent:
Money can’t pay me for the loss of them.
No, the five hundred was the sum they named
To pay the doctor’s bill and tide me over.
It’s that or fight, and I don’t want to fight—
I just want to get settled in my life,
Such as it’s going to be, and know the worst,
Or best—it may not be so bad. The firm
Promise me all the shooks I want to nail.”
“But what about your flora of the valley?”
“You have me there. But that—you didn’t think
That was worth money to me? Still I own
It goes against me not to finish it
For the friends it might bring me. By the way,
I had a letter from Burroughs—did I tell you?—
About my Cyprepedium reginæ;
He says it’s not reported so far north.
There! there’s the bell. He’s rung. But you go down
And bring him up, and don’t let Mrs. Corbin.—
Oh, well, we’ll soon be through with it. I’m tired.”
Willis brought up besides the Boston lawyer
A little barefoot girl who in the noise
Of heavy footsteps in the old frame house,
And baritone importance of the lawyer,
Stood for a while unnoticed with her hands
Shyly behind her.
“Well, and how is Mister——”
The lawyer was already in his satchel
As if for papers that might bear the name
He hadn’t at command. “You must excuse me,
I dropped in at the mill and was detained.”
“Looking round, I suppose,” said Willis.
“Hear anything that might prove useful?”
The Broken One saw Anne. “Why, here is Anne.
What do you want, dear? Come, stand by the bed;
Tell me what is it?” Anne just wagged her dress
With both hands held behind her. “Guess,” she said.
“Oh, guess which hand? My my! Once on a time
I knew a lovely way to tell for certain
By looking in the ears. But I forget it.
Er, let me see. I think I’ll take the right.
That’s sure to be right even if it’s wrong.
Come, hold it out. Don’t change.—A Ram’s Horn orchid!
A Ram’s Horn! What would I have got, I wonder,
If I had chosen left. Hold out the left.
Another Ram’s Horn! Where did you find those,
Under what beech tree, on what woodchuck’s knoll?”
Anne looked at the large lawyer at her side,
And thought she wouldn’t venture on so much.
“Were there no others?”
“There were four or five.
I knew you wouldn’t let me pick them all.”
“I wouldn’t—so I wouldn’t. You’re the girl!
You see Anne has her lesson learned by heart.”
“I wanted there should be some there next year.”
“Of course you did. You left the rest for seed,
And for the backwoods woodchuck. You’re the girl!
A Ram’s Horn orchid seedpod for a woodchuck
Sounds something like. Better than farmer’s beans
To a discriminating appetite,
Though the Ram’s Horn is seldom to be had
In bushel lots—doesn’t come on the market.
But, Anne, I’m troubled; have you told me all?
You’re hiding something. That’s as bad as lying.
You ask this lawyer man. And it’s not safe
With a lawyer at hand to find you out.
Nothing is hidden from some people, Anne.
You don’t tell me that where you found a Ram’s Horn
You didn’t find a Yellow Lady’s Slipper.
What did I tell you? What? I’d blush, I would.
Don’t you defend yourself. If it was there,
Where is it now, the Yellow Lady’s Slipper?”
“Well, wait—it’s common—it’s too common.”
The Purple Lady’s Slipper’s commoner.”
“I didn’t bring a Purple Lady’s Slipper
To You—to you I mean—they’re both too common.”
The lawyer gave a laugh among his papers
As if with some idea that she had scored.
“I’ve broken Anne of gathering bouquets.
It’s not fair to the child. It can’t be helped though:
Pressed into service means pressed out of shape.
Somehow I’ll make it right with her—she’ll see.
She’s going to do my scouting in the field,
Over stone walls and all along a wood
And by a river bank for water flowers,
The floating Heart, with small leaf like a heart,
And at the sinus under water a fist
Of little fingers all kept down but one,
And that thrust up to blossom in the sun
As if to say, ‘You! You’re the Heart’s desire.’
Anne has a way with flowers to take the place
Of that she’s lost: she goes down on one knee
And lifts their faces by the chin to hers
And says their names, and leaves them where they are.”
The lawyer wore a watch the case of which
Was cunningly devised to make a noise
Like a small pistol when he snapped it shut
At such a time as this. He snapped it now.
“Well, Anne, go, dearie. Our affair will wait.
The lawyer man is thinking of his train.
He wants to give me lots and lots of money
Before he goes, because I hurt myself,
And it may take him I don’t know how long.
But put our flowers in water first. Will, help her:
The pitcher’s too full for her. There’s no cup?
Just hook them on the inside of the pitcher.
Now run.—Get out your documents! You see
I have to keep on the good side of Anne.
I’m a great boy to think of number one.
And you can’t blame me in the place I’m in.
Who will take care of my necessities
Unless I do?”
“A pretty interlude,”
The lawyer said. “I’m sorry, but my train—
Luckily terms are all agreed upon.
You only have to sign your name. Right—there.”
“You, Will, stop making faces. Come round here
Where you can’t make them. What is it you want?
I’ll put you out with Anne. Be good or go.”
“You don’t mean you will sign that thing unread?”
“Make yourself useful then, and read it for me.
Isn’t it something I have seen before?”
“You’ll find it is. Let your friend look at it.”
“Yes, but all that takes time, and I’m as much
In haste to get it over with as you.
But read it, read it. That’s right, draw the curtain:
Half the time I don’t know what’s troubling me.—
What do you say, Will? Don’t you be a fool,
You! crumpling folkses legal documents.
Out with it if you’ve any real objection.”
“Five hundred dollars!”
“What would you think right?”
“A thousand wouldn’t be a cent too much;
You know it, Mr. Lawyer. The sin is
Accepting anything before he knows
Whether he’s ever going to walk again.
It smells to me like a dishonest trick.”
“I think—I think—from what I heard to-day—
And saw myself—he would be ill-advised——”
“What did you hear, for instance?” Willis said.
“Now the place where the accident occurred——”
The Broken One was twisted in his bed.
“This is between you two apparently.
Where I come in is what I want to know.
You stand up to it like a pair of cocks.
Go outdoors if you want to fight. Spare me.
When you come back, I’ll have the papers signed.
Will pencil do? Then, please, your fountain pen.
One of you hold my head up from the pillow.”
Willis flung off the bed. “I wash my hands—
I’m no match—no, and don’t pretend to be——”
The lawyer gravely capped his fountain pen.
“You’re doing the wise thing: you won’t regret it.
We’re very sorry for you.”
“Who’s we?—some stockholders in Boston?
I’ll go outdoors, by gad, and won’t come back.”
“Willis, bring Anne back with you when you come.
Yes. Thanks for caring. Don’t mind Will: he’s savage.
He thinks you ought to pay me for my flowers.
You don’t know what I mean about the flowers.
Don’t stop to try to now. You’ll miss your train.
Good-bye.” He flung his arms around his face.