Archive for August, 2008

This is what I mean by racist!

Posted in black and white, hate, hate crime with tags , on August 26, 2008 by sweetangel16175

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/Conventions/story?id=5657439&page=1

 

Suspects Allegedly Plotted Obama Shooting

Officials: Men Sought High Vantage Point at Invesco Field but ‘No Credible Threat’ Present

The sources said the men planned to seek a high vantage point overlooking Invesco Field and open fire with .22 and .270 scope-equipped rifles, though federal authorities have emphasized that there was no immediate, credible threat to the senator.

Obama, who will travel to Denver this week, is set to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president and speak at the stadium Thursday.

Sources said that with wind movement and distance, such a shot would not have had a chance of succeeding, and described the alleged plot as “crude.”

According to ABC News sources, the investigation started after police stopped Tharin Robert Gartrell, 28, for erratic driving early Sunday morning.

His rented Dodge Ram truck contained two bulletproof vests, wigs, ski masks, walkie-talkies, methamphetamine, a .270 Remington and a .22 Ruger rifle with scope, sources told ABC News. Police said Monday that they believe one of the guns had been stolen.

Authorities arrested two other men, 32-year-old Nathan Johnson and 33-year-old Shawn Robert Adolph, after questioning Gartrell. All three men had tattoos of white supremacist imagery, authorities told ABC News.

Though authorities claimed all three suspects made admissions, it is unclear how much of what they allegedly said is racist rhetoric and how much is part of any plan, however unsophisticated.

Federal law enforcement sources described Adolph as a “longtime white supremacist thug,” and added that at least one of the men is allegedly linked to the notorious Sons of Silence motorcycle gang.

U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said in a statement that the matter is still under investigation, but that federal authorities are working “hand-in-glove” with the local authorities, specifically the Aurora, Colo., Police Department.

“We can say this: We’re absolutely confident there is no credible threat to the candidate, the Democratic National Convention or the people of Colorado,” Eid added.

 

this is what i am afraid of…. obama becomes president and obama gets shot…

Gay Olympian wins gold

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 24, 2008 by sweetangel16175

Openly gay diver wins gold

Diver Matthew Mitcham, the only openly gay male athlete in the Beijing Olympics, won gold in the 10m platform. He beat Chinese favorite Zhou Luxin by 4.8 points, preventing China from sweeping gold in diving events. Mitcham is the first Aussie to win diving gold since 1924, but that’s not the only thing that makes him a trailblazer.

He is hardly the first gay athlete to compete but he is one of the first to be out while competing. American diver Greg Louganis did not share his orientation until his diving career was over. To Mitcham, he is just living his life as a gay man and as a diver, and there is nothing extraordinary about that:

 

“Being gay and diving are completely separate parts of my life. Of course there’s going to be crossover because some people have issues, but everyone I dive with has been so supportive.”

 

Though he wants to be known as more than a gay man, the LGBT community is proud of their star. At OutSports, a sports Web site that focuses on the gay community, his win is front-page news. The Web site brings up a good question — will NBC mention Mitcham’s orientation during tonight’s broadcast?

To Mitcham, that doesn’t seem to matter. He has gold, and has reached his goals: “I’m happy with myself and where I am. I’m very happy with who I am and what I’ve done.”

UPDATE: NBC did not mention Mitcham’s orientation, nor did they show his family and partner who were in the stands. NBC has made athletes’ significant others a part of the coverage in the past, choosing to spotlight track athlete Sanya Richards‘ fiancee, a love triangle between French and Italian swimmers and Kerri Walsh‘s wedding ring debacle.

 

you guys make a big deal out of nothing!

Sonnet 18

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 9, 2008 by sweetangel16175
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee

 

The Hangman

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 9, 2008 by sweetangel16175
Hangman
by Maurice Ogden
1
Into our town the Hangman came
Smelling of gold and blood and flame
And he paced our bricks with a diffident air
And built his frame on the courthouse square.
The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
Only as wide as the door was wide;
A frame as tall, or little more,
Than the capping sill of the courthouse door.
And we wondered, whenever we had the time,
Who the criminal, what the crime,
The Hangman judged with the yellow twist
Of knotted hemp in his busy fist.
And innocent though we were, with dread
We passed those eyes of buckshot lead;
Till one cried: “Hangman, who is he
For whom you raise the gallows-tree?”
Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:
“He who serves me best,” said he,
“Shall earn the rope of the gallows-tree.”
And he stepped down, and laid his hand
On a man who came from another land,
And we breathed again, for another’s grief
At the Hangman’s hand was our relief;
And the gallows-frame on the courthouse lawn
By tomorrow’s sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way, and no one spoke,
Out of respect for his Hangman’s cloak.
 
2
The next day’s sun looked mildly down
On roof and street in our quiet town,
And stark and black in the morning air,
The gallows-tree on the courthouse square.
And the Hangman stood at his usual stand
With the yellow hemp in his busy hand;
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike
And his air so knowing and businesslike.
And we cried: “Hangman, have you not done
Yesterday with the alien one?”
Then we fell silent, and stood amazed;
“Oh, not for him was the gallows raised…”
 He laughed a laugh as he looked at us:
“…Did you think I’d gone to all this fuss
To hang one man? That’s a thing I do
To stretch the rope when the rope is new.”
Then one cried “Murderer!” One cried “Shame!”
And into our midst the Hangman came
To that man’s place. “Do you hold,” said he,
“With him that was meat for the gallows-tree?”
And he laid his hand on that one’s arm,
And we shrank back in quick alarm,
And we gave him way, and no one spoke,
Out of fear of his Hangman’s cloak.
That night we saw with dread surprise
The Hangman’s scaffold had grown in size:
Fed by the blood beneath the chute
The gallows-tree had taken root;
 Now as wide, or a little more,
Than the steps that led to the courthouse door,
And tall as the writing, or nearly as tall,
Halfway up on the courthouse wall.
 
3
The third he took, we had all heard tell,
Was a usurer and infidel;
And “What,” said the Hangman, “have you to do
With the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?”
 And we cried out, “Is this one he
Who has served you well and faithfully?”
The Hangman smiled: “It’s a clever scheme
To try the strength of the gallows-beam.”
The fourth man’s dark, accusing song
Had scratched our comfort hard and long;
And “What concern,” he gave us back,
“Have you for the doomed — the doomed and Black?”
The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again,
“Hangman, Hangman, is this the man?”
“It’s a trick,” he said, “that we hangmen know
For easing the trap when the trap springs slow.”
And so we ceased, and asked no more,
As the Hangman tallied his bloody score;
And sun by sun, and night by night,
The gallows grew to monstrous height.
The wings of the scaffold opened wide
Till they covered the square from side to side;
And the monster cross-beam, looking down,
Cast its shadow across the town.
 
4
Then through the town the Hangman came
And called in the empty streets my name —
And I looked at the gallows soaring tall
And thought, “There is no one left at all
For hanging, and so he calls to me
To help pull down the gallows-tree.”
And I went out with right good hope
To the Hangman’s tree and the Hangman’s rope.
He smiled at me as I came down
To the courthouse square through the silent town,
And supple and stretched in his busy hand
Was the yellow twist of the hempen strand.
And he whistled his tune as he tried the trap,
And it sprang down with a ready snap;
And then with a smile of awful command
He laid his hand upon my hand.
“You tricked me, Hangman!” I shouted then,
“That your scaffold was built for other men…
And I no henchman of yours,” I cried,
“You lied to me, Hangman, foully lied!”
Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye:
“Lied to you? Tricked you?” he said. “Not I.
For I answered straight and I told you true:
The scaffold was raised for none but you.
For who has served me more faithfully
Than you with your coward’s hope?” said he,
“And where are the others that might have stood
Side by your side in the common good?”
“Dead,” I whispered, and amiably
“Murdered,” the Hangman corrected me:
“First the alien, then the Jew…
I did no more than you let me do.”
Beneath the beam that blocked the sky
None stood so alone as I;
And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there
Cried “Stay!” for me in the empty square.

The Highwayman

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 9, 2008 by sweetangel16175

  Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

                                   The Highwayman

                                        PART ONE

                                                 I

    THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
    The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
    The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
    And the highwayman came riding—
                      Riding—riding—
    The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

                                                 II

    He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
    A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
    They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
    And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
                      His pistol butts a-twinkle,
    His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

                                                 III

    Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
    And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
    He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
    But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
                      Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
    Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

                                                 IV

    And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
    Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
    His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
    But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
                      The landlord’s red-lipped daughter,
    Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

                                                 V

    “One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
    But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
    Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
    Then look for me by moonlight,
                      Watch for me by moonlight,
    I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

                                                 VI

    He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
    But she loosened her hair i’ the casement! His face burnt like a brand
    As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
    And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
                      (Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
    Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.

 

                                        PART TWO

                                                 I

    He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
    And out o’ the tawny sunset, before the rise o’ the moon,
    When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
    A red-coat troop came marching—
                      Marching—marching—
    King George’s men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

                                                 II

    They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
    But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
    Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
    There was death at every window;
                      And hell at one dark window;
    For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

                                                 III

    They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
    They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
    “Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her.
                      She heard the dead man say—
    Look for me by moonlight;
                      Watch for me by moonlight;
    I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

                                                 IV

    She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
    She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
    They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
    Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
                      Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
    The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

                                                 V

    The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
    Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
    She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
    For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
                      Blank and bare in the moonlight;
    And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love’s refrain .

                                                 VI

        Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
    Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
    Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
    The highwayman came riding,
                      Riding, riding!
    The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

                                                 VII

    Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
    Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
    Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
    Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
                      Her musket shattered the moonlight,
    Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

                                                 VIII

    He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
    Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
    Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
    How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
                      The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
    Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

                                                 IX

    Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
    With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
    Blood-red were his spurs i’ the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
                      Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

                  *           *           *           *           *           *

                                                 X

    And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
    When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
    When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
    A highwayman comes riding—
                      Riding—riding—
    A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

                                                 XI

    Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
    He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
    He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
    But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
                      Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
    Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

The Tell Tale Heart

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 9, 2008 by sweetangel16175

The Tell-Tale Heart

TRUE!—NERVOUS—VERY, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out—“Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;—just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no!—it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself—“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney—it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel—although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense?—now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not even his—could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all—ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart,—for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled,—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct:—It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness—until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale;—but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men—but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now—again!—hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! here, here!—It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

The Monkey’s Paw

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 9, 2008 by sweetangel16175

THE MONKEY’S PAW (1902)

from The lady of the barge (1906, 6th ed.)
London and New York
Harper & Brothers, Publishers

by W.W. Jacobs


 

I.

WITHOUT, the night was cold and wet, but in the small parlour of Laburnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire burned brightly. Father and son were at chess, the former, who possessed ideas about the game involving radical changes, putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even provoked comment from the white-haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire.

  “Hark at the wind,” said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it.

  “I’m listening,” said the latter, grimly surveying the board as he stretched out his hand. “Check.”

  “I should hardly think that he’d come to-night,” said his father, with his hand poised over the board.

  “Mate,” replied the son.

  “That’s the worst of living so far out,” bawled Mr. White, with sudden and unlooked-for violence; “of all the beastly, slushy, out-of-the-way places to live in, this is the worst. Pathway’s a bog, and the road’s a torrent. I don’t know what people are thinking about. I suppose because only two houses on the road are let, they think it doesn’t matter.”

  “Never mind, dear,” said his wife soothingly; “perhaps you’ll win the next one.”

  Mr. White looked up sharply, just in time to intercept a knowing glance between mother and son. The words died away on his lips, and he hid a guilty grin in his thin grey beard.

  “There he is,” said Herbert White, as the gate banged to loudly and heavy footsteps came toward the door.

  The old man rose with hospitable haste, and opening the door, was heard condoling with the new arrival. The new arrival also condoled with himself, so that Mrs. White said, “Tut, tut!” and coughed gently as her husband entered the room, followed by a tall burly man, beady of eye and rubicund of visage.

  “Sergeant-Major Morris,” he said, introducing him.

  The sergeant-major shook hands, and taking the proffered seat by the fire, watched contentedly while his host got out whisky and tumblers and stood a small copper kettle on the fire.

  At the third glass his eyes got brighter, and he began to talk, the little family circle regarding with eager interest this visitor from distant parts, as he squared his broad shoulders in the chair and spoke of strange scenes and doughty deeds; of wars and plagues and strange peoples.

  “Twenty-one years of it,” said Mr. White, nodding at his wife and son. “When he went away he was a slip of a youth in the warehouse. Now look at him.”

  “He don’t look to have taken much harm,” said Mrs. White, politely.

  “I’d like to go to India myself,” said the old man, “just to look round a bit, you know.”

  “Better where you are,” said the sergeant-major, shaking his head. He put down the empty glass, and sighing softly, shook it again.

  “I should like to see those old temples and fakirs and jugglers,” said the old man. “What was that you started telling me the other day about a monkey’s paw or something, Morris?”

  “Nothing,” said the soldier hastily. “Leastways, nothing worth hearing.”

  “Monkey’s paw?” said Mrs. White curiously.

  “Well, it’s just a bit of what you might call magic, perhaps,” said the sergeant-major off-handedly.

  His three listeners leaned forward eagerly. The visitor absentmindedly put his empty glass to his lips and then set it down again. His host filled it for him.

  “To look at,” said the sergeant-major, fumbling in his pocket, “it’s just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy.”

  He took something out of his pocket and proffered it. Mrs. White drew back with a grimace, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously.

  “And what is there special about it?” inquired Mr. White, as he took it from his son and, having examined it, placed it upon the table.

  “It had a spell put on it by an old fakir,” said the sergeant-major, “a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”

  His manner was so impressive that his hearers were conscious that their light laughter jarred somewhat.

  “Well, why don’t you have three, sir?” said Herbert White cleverly.

  The soldier regarded him in the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth. “I have,” he said quietly, and his blotchy face whitened.

  “And did you really have the three wishes granted?” asked Mrs. White.

  “I did,” said the sergeant-major, and his glass tapped against his strong teeth.

  “And has anybody else wished?” inquired the old lady.

  “The first man had his three wishes, yes,” was the reply. “I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That’s how I got the paw.”

  His tones were so grave that a hush fell upon the group.

  “If you’ve had your three wishes, it’s no good to you now, then, Morris,” said the old man at last. “What do you keep it for?”

  The soldier shook his head. “Fancy, I suppose,” he said slowly.

  “If you could have another three wishes,” said the old man, eyeing him keenly, “would you have them?”

  “I don’t know,” said the other. “I don’t know.”

  He took the paw, and dangling it between his front finger and thumb, suddenly threw it upon the fire. White, with a slight cry, stooped down and snatched it off.

  “Better let it burn,” said the soldier solemnly.

  “If you don’t want it, Morris,” said the old man, “give it to me.”

  “I won’t,” said his friend doggedly. “I threw it on the fire. If you keep it, don’t blame me for what happens. Pitch it on the fire again, like a sensible man.”

  The other shook his head and examined his new possession closely. “How do you do it?” he inquired.

  “Hold it up in your right hand and wish aloud,’ said the sergeant-major, “but I warn you of the consequences.”

  “Sounds like the Arabian Nights,” said Mrs White, as she rose and began to set the supper. “Don’t you think you might wish for four pairs of hands for me?”

  Her husband drew the talisman from his pocket and then all three burst into laughter as the sergeant-major, with a look of alarm on his face, caught him by the arm.

  “If you must wish,” he said gruffly, “wish for something sensible.”

  Mr. White dropped it back into his pocket, and placing chairs, motioned his friend to the table. In the business of supper the talisman was partly forgotten, and afterward the three sat listening in an enthralled fashion to a second instalment of the soldier’s adventures in India.

  “If the tale about the monkey paw is not more truthful than those he has been telling us,” said Herbert, as the door closed behind their guest, just in time for him to catch the last train, “we shan’t make much out of it.”

  “Did you give him anything for it, father?” inquired Mrs. White, regarding her husband closely.

  “A trifle,” said he, colouring slightly. “He didn’t want it, but I made him take it. And he pressed me again to throw it away.”

  “Likely,” said Herbert, with pretended horror. “Why, we’re going to be rich, and famous, and happy. Wish to be an emperor, father, to begin with; then you can’t be henpecked.”

  He darted round the table, pursued by the maligned Mrs. White armed with an antimacassar.

  Mr. White took the paw from his pocket and eyed it dubiously. “I don’t know what to wish for, and that’s a fact,” he said slowly. “It seems to me I’ve got all I want.”

  “If you only cleared the house, you’d be quite happy, wouldn’t you?” said Herbert, with his hand on his shoulder. “Well, wish for two hundred pounds, then; that’ll just do it.”

  His father, smiling shamefacedly at his own credulity, held up the talisman, as his son, with a solemn face somewhat marred by a wink at his mother, sat down at the piano and struck a few impressive chords.

  “I wish for two hundred pounds,” said the old man distinctly.

  A fine crash from the piano greeted the words, interrupted by a shuddering cry from the old man. His wife and son ran toward him.

  “It moved, he cried, with a glance of disgust at the object as it lay on the floor. “As I wished it twisted in my hands like a snake.”

  “Well, I don’t see the money,” said his son, as he picked it up and placed it on the table, “and I bet I never shall.”

  “It must have been your fancy, father,” said his wife, regarding him anxiously.

  He shook his head. “Never mind, though; there’s no harm done, but it gave me a shock all the same.”

  They sat down by the fire again while the two men finished their pipes. Outside, the wind was higher than ever, and the old man started nervously at the sound of a door banging upstairs. A silence unusual and depressing settled upon all three, which lasted until the old couple rose to retire for the night.

  “I expect you’ll find the cash tied up in a big bag in the middle of your bed,” said Herbert, as he bade them good-night, “and something horrible squatting up on top of the wardrobe watching you as you pocket your ill-gotten gains.”

  He sat alone in the darkness, gazing at the dying fire, and seeing faces in it. The last face was so horrible and so simian that he gazed at it in amazement. It got so vivid that, with a little uneasy laugh, he felt on the table for a glass containing a little water to throw over it. His hand grasped the monkey’s paw, and with a little shiver he wiped his hand on his coat and went up to bed.

 

II.

IN the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the breakfast table Herbert laughed at his fears. There was an air of prosaic wholesomeness about the room which it had lacked on the previous night, and the dirty, shrivelled little paw was pitched on the sideboard with a carelessness which betokened no great belief in its virtues.

  “I suppose all old soldiers are the same,” said Mrs White. “The idea of our listening to such nonsense! How could wishes be granted in these days? And if they could, how could two hundred pounds hurt you, father?”

  “Might drop on his head from the sky,” said the frivolous Herbert.

  “Morris said the things happened so naturally,” said his father, “that you might if you so wished attribute it to coincidence.”

  “Well, don’t break into the money before I come back,” said Herbert, as he rose from the table. “I’m afraid it’ll turn you into a mean, avaricious man, and we shall have to disown you.”

  His mother laughed, and following him to the door, watched him down the road, and returning to the breakfast table, was very happy at the expense of her husband’s credulity. All of which did not prevent her from scurrying to the door at the postman’s knock, nor prevent her from referring somewhat shortly to retired sergeant-majors of bibulous habits when she found that the post brought a tailor’s bill.

  “Herbert will have some more of his funny remarks, I expect, when he comes home,” she said, as they sat at dinner.

  “I dare say,” said Mr. White, pouring himself out some beer; “but for all that, the thing moved in my hand; that I’ll swear to.”

  “You thought it did,” said the old lady soothingly.

  “I say it did,” replied the other. “There was no thought about it; I had just—-What’s the matter?”

  His wife made no reply. She was watching the mysterious movements of a man outside, who, peering in an undecided fashion at the house, appeared to be trying to make up his mind to enter. In mental connection with the two hundred pounds, she noticed that the stranger was well dressed and wore a silk hat of glossy newness. Three times he paused at the gate, and then walked on again. The fourth time he stood with his hand upon it, and then with sudden resolution flung it open and walked up the path. Mrs. White at the same moment placed her hands behind her, and hurriedly unfastening the strings of her apron, put that useful article of apparel beneath the cushion of her chair.

  She brought the stranger, who seemed ill at ease, into the room. He gazed at her furtively, and listened in a preoccupied fashion as the old lady apologized for the appearance of the room, and her husband’s coat, a garment which he usually reserved for the garden. She then waited as patiently as her sex would permit, for him to broach his business, but he was at first strangely silent.

  “I–was asked to call,” he said at last, and stooped and picked a piece of cotton from his trousers. “I come from Maw and Meggins.”

  The old lady started. “Is anything the matter?” she asked breathlessly. “Has anything happened to Herbert? What is it? What is it?”

  Her husband interposed. “There, there, mother,” he said hastily. “Sit down, and don’t jump to conclusions. You’ve not brought bad news, I’m sure, sir” and he eyed the other wistfully.

  “I’m sorry—-” began the visitor.

  “Is he hurt?” demanded the mother.

  The visitor bowed in assent. “Badly hurt,” he said quietly, “but he is not in any pain.”

  “Oh, thank God!” said the old woman, clasping her hands. “Thank God for that! Thank—-”

  She broke off suddenly as the sinister meaning of the assurance dawned upon her and she saw the awful confirmation of her fears in the other’s averted face. She caught her breath, and turning to her slower-witted husband, laid her trembling old hand upon his. There was a long silence.

  “He was caught in the machinery,” said the visitor at length, in a low voice.

  “Caught in the machinery,” repeated Mr. White, in a dazed fashion, “yes.”

  He sat staring blankly out at the window, and taking his wife’s hand between his own, pressed it as he had been wont to do in their old courting days nearly forty years before.

  “He was the only one left to us,” he said, turning gently to the visitor. “It is hard.”

  The other coughed, and rising, walked slowly to the window. “The firm wished me to convey their sincere sympathy with you in your great loss,” he said, without looking round. “I beg that you will understand I am only their servant and merely obeying orders.”

  There was no reply; the old woman’s face was white, her eyes staring, and her breath inaudible; on the husband’s face was a look such as his friend the sergeant might have carried into his first action.

  “I was to say that Maw and Meggins disclaim all responsibility,” continued the other. “They admit no liability at all, but in consideration of your son’s services they wish to present you with a certain sum as compensation.”

  Mr. White dropped his wife’s hand, and rising to his feet, gazed with a look of horror at his visitor. His dry lips shaped the words, “How much?”

  “Two hundred pounds,” was the answer.

  Unconscious of his wife’s shriek, the old man smiled faintly, put out his hands like a sightless man, and dropped, a senseless heap, to the floor.

 

III.

  IN the huge new cemetery, some two miles distant, the old people buried their dead, and came back to a house steeped in shadow and silence. It was all over so quickly that at first they could hardly realize it, and remained in a state of expectation as though of something else to happen–something else which was to lighten this load, too heavy for old hearts to bear.

  But the days passed, and expectation gave place to resignation–the hopeless resignation of the old, sometimes miscalled, apathy. Sometimes they hardly exchanged a word, for now they had nothing to talk about, and their days were long to weariness.

  It was about a week after that that the old man, waking suddenly in the night, stretched out his hand and found himself alone. The room was in darkness, and the sound of subdued weeping came from the window. He raised himself in bed and listened.

  “Come back,” he said tenderly. “You will be cold.”

  “It is colder for my son,” said the old woman, and wept afresh.

  The sound of her sobs died away on his ears. The bed was warm, and his eyes heavy with sleep. He dozed fitfully, and then slept until a sudden wild cry from his wife awoke him with a start.

  “The paw!” she cried wildly. “The monkey’s paw!”

  He started up in alarm. “Where? Where is it? What’s the matter?”

  She came stumbling across the room toward him. “I want it,” she said quietly. “You’ve not destroyed it?”

  “It’s in the parlour, on the bracket,” he replied, marvelling. “Why?”

  She cried and laughed together, and bending over, kissed his cheek.

  “I only just thought of it,” she said hysterically. “Why didn’t I think of it before? Why didn’t you think of it?”

  “Think of what?” he questioned.

  “The other two wishes,” she replied rapidly. “We’ve only had one.”

  “Was not that enough?” he demanded fiercely.

  “No,” she cried, triumphantly; “we’ll have one more. Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again.”

  The man sat up in bed and flung the bedclothes from his quaking limbs. “Good God, you are mad!” he cried aghast.

  “Get it,” she panted; “get it quickly, and wish—- Oh, my boy, my boy!”

  Her husband struck a match and lit the candle. “Get back to bed,” he said, unsteadily. “You don’t know what you are saying.”

  “We had the first wish granted,” said the old woman, feverishly; “why not the second.”

  “A coincidence,” stammered the old man.

  “Go and get it and wish,” cried the old woman, quivering with excitement.

  The old man turned and regarded her, and his voice shook. “He has been dead ten days, and besides he–I would not tell you else, but–I could only recognize him by his clothing. If he was too terrible for you to see then, how now?”

  “Bring him back,” cried the old woman, and dragged him toward the door. “Do you think I fear the child I have nursed?”

  He went down in the darkness, and felt his way to the parlour, and then to the mantelpiece. The talisman was in its place, and a horrible fear that the unspoken wish might bring his mutilated son before him ere he could escape from the room seized upon him, and he caught his breath as he found that he had lost the direction of the door. His brow cold with sweat, he felt his way round the table, and groped along the wall until he found himself in the small passage with the unwholesome thing in his hand.

  Even his wife’s face seemed changed as he entered the room. It was white and expectant, and to his fears seemed to have an unnatural look upon it. He was afraid of her.

  “Wish!” she cried, in a strong voice.

  “It is foolish and wicked,” he faltered.

  “Wish!” repeated his wife.

  He raised his hand. “I wish my son alive again.”

  The talisman fell to the floor, and he regarded it fearfully. Then he sank trembling into a chair as the old woman, with burning eyes, walked to the window and raised the blind.

  He sat until he was chilled with the cold, glancing occasionally at the figure of the old woman peering through the window. The candle end, which had burnt below the rim of the china candlestick, was throwing pulsating shadows on the ceiling and walls, until, with a flicker larger than the rest, it expired. The old man, with an unspeakable sense of relief at the failure of the talisman, crept back to his bed, and a minute or two afterward the old woman came silently and apathetically beside him.

  Neither spoke, but both lay silently listening to the ticking of the clock. A stair creaked, and a squeaky mouse scurried noisily through the wall. The darkness was oppressive, and after lying for some time screwing up his courage, the husband took the box of matches, and striking one, went downstairs for a candle.

  At the foot of the stairs the match went out, and he paused to strike another, and at the same moment a knock, so quiet and stealthy as to be scarcely audible, sounded on the front door.

  The matches fell from his hand. He stood motionless, his breath suspended until the knock was repeated. Then he turned and fled swiftly back to his room, and closed the door behind him. A third knock sounded through the house.

  “What’s that?” cried the old woman, starting up.

  “A rat,” said the old man, in shaking tones–“a rat. It passed me on the stairs.”

  His wife sat up in bed listening. A loud knock resounded through the house.

  “It’s Herbert!” she screamed. “It’s Herbert!”

  She ran to the door, but her husband was before her, and catching her by the arm, held her tightly.

  “What are you going to do?” he whispered hoarsely.

  “It’s my boy; it’s Herbert!” she cried, struggling mechanically. “I forgot it was two miles away. What are you holding me for? Let go. I must open the door.”

  “For God’s sake, don’t let it in,” cried the old man trembling.

  “You’re afraid of your own son,” she cried, struggling. “Let me go. I’m coming, Herbert; I’m coming.”

  There was another knock, and another. The old woman with a sudden wrench broke free and ran from the room. Her husband followed to the landing, and called after her appealingly as she hurried downstairs. He heard the chain rattle back and the bottom bolt drawn slowly and stiffly from the socket. Then the old woman’s voice, strained and panting.

  “The bolt,” she cried loudly. “Come down. I can’t reach it.”

  But her husband was on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw. If he could only find it before the thing outside got in. A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberated through the house, and he heard the scraping of a chair as his wife put it down in the passage against the door. He heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey’s paw, and frantically breathed his third and last wish.

  The knocking ceased suddenly, although the echoes of it were still in the house. He heard the chair drawn back and the door opened. A cold wind rushed up the staircase, and a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gave him courage to run down to her side, and then to the gate beyond. The street lamp flickering opposite shone on a quiet and deserted road.

(End.)

The Scarlet Ibis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 9, 2008 by sweetangel16175

The Scarlet Ibis
JAMES HURST

It was in the clove of seasons, summer was dead but autumn
had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree. The
flower garden was strained with rotting brown magnolia petals and
ironweeds grew rank amid the purple phlox. The five o’clocks by the
chimney still marked time, but the oriole nest in the elm was
untenanted and rocked back and forth like an empty cradle. The last
graveyard flowers were blooming, and their smell drifted across the
cotton field and through every room of our house, speaking softy the
names of our dead.

It’s strange that all this is still so clear to me, now that summer
has long since fled and time has had its way. A grindstone stands
where the bleeding tree stood, just outside the kitchen door, and now
if an oriole sings in the elm, its song seems to die up in the leaves, a
silvery dust. The flower garden is prim, the house a gleaming white,
and the pale fence across the yard stands straight and spruce. But
sometimes (like right now), as I sit in the cool, green-draped parlor,
the grindstone begins to turn, and time with all its changes is ground
away-and I remember Doodle.

Doodle was just about the craziest brother a boy every had. Of
course, he wasn’t crazy crazy like old Miss Leedie, who was in love
with President Wilson and wrote him a letter every day, but was a
nice crazy, like someone you meet in your dreams. He was born
when I was six and was, from the outset, a disappointment. He
seemed all head, with a tiny body which was red and shriveled like
an old man’s. Everybody thought he was going to die-everybody
except Aunt Nicey, who had delivered him. She said he would live
because he was born in a caul, and cauls were made from Jesus’
nightgown. Daddy had Mr. Heath, the carpenter, build a little
mahogany coffin for him. But he didn’t die, and when he was three
months old, Mama and Daddy decided they might as well name him.

They named him William Armstrong, which is like tying a big tail on
a small kite. Such a name sounds good only on a tombstone.
I thought myself pretty smart at many things, like holding my
breath, running, jumping, or climbing the vines in Old Woman
Swamp, and I wanted more than anything else someone to race to
Horsehead Landing, someone to box with, and someone to perch
with in the top fork of the great pine behind the barn, where across
the fields and swamps you could see the sea. I wanted a brother. But
Mama, crying, told me that even if William Armstrong lived, he
would never do these things with me. He might not, she sobbed, even
be “all there.” He might, as long as he lived, lie on the rubber sheet in
the center of the bed in the front bedroom where the white Marquette
curtains billowed out in the afternoon sea breeze, rustling like
palmetto fronds.

It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one
who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make
plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow. However, one
afternoon as I watched him, my head poked between the iron posts of
the foot of the bed, he looked straight at me and grinned. I skipped
through the rooms, down the echoing halls, shouting, “Mama, he
smiled. He’s all there! He’s all there!” and he was.

When he was two, if you laid him on his stomach, he began to
move himself, straining terribly. The doctor said that with his weak
heart this strain would probably kill him, but it didn’t. Trembling,
he’d push himself up, turning first red, then a soft purple, and finally
collapse back onto the bed like an old worn-out doll. I can still see
Mama watching him, her hand pressed tight across her mouth, her
eyes wide and unblinking. But he learned to crawl (it was his third
winter), and we brought him out of the front bedroom, putting him
on the rug before the fireplace. For the first time he became one of us.
As long as he lay all the time in bed, we called him William
Armstrong, even though it was formal and sounded as if we were
referring to one of our ancestors, but with his creeping around on
the deerskin rug and beginning to talk, something had to be done about
his name. It was I who renamed him. When he crawled, he crawled
backwards, as if he were in reverse and couldn’t change gears. If you
called him, he’d turn around as if he were going in the other
direction, then he’d back right up to you to be picked up. Crawling
backward made him look like a doodlebug, so I began to call him
Doodle, and in time even Mama and Daddy thought it was a better
name than William Armstrong. Only Aunt Nicey disagreed. She said
caul babies should be treated with special respect since they might
turn out to be saints. Renaming my brother was perhaps the kindest
thing I ever did for him, because nobody expects much from
someone called Doodle.

Although Doodle learned to crawl, he showed no signs of walking, but
he wasn’t idle. He talked so much that we all quit listening to what he said.
It was about this time that Daddy built him a go-cart and I had to pull him
around. At first I just paraded him up and down the piazza, but then he
started crying to be taken out into the yard, and it ended up by my having to
lug him wherever I went. If I so much as picked up my cap, he’d start crying
to go with me and Mama would call from where she was, “Take Doodle
with you.”

He was a burden in many ways. The doctor had said that he mustn’t
get too excited, too hot, too cold, or too tired and that he must always
be treated gently. A long list of don’ts went with him, all of which I
ignored once we got out of the house. To discourage his coming with
me, I’d run with him across the ends of the cotton rows and careen
him around corners on two wheels. Sometimes I accidentally turned
him over, but he never told Mama. His skin was very sensitive, and
he had to wear a big straw hat whenever he went out. When the
going got rough and he had to cling to the sides of the go-cart, the hat
slipped all the way down over his ears. He was a sight. Finally, I
could see I was licked. Doodle was my brother and he was going to
cling to me forever, no matter what I did, so I dragged him across tile
burning cotton field to share with him the only beauty I knew, Old
Woman Swamp. I pulled the go-cart through the saw-tooth fern,
down into the green dimness where the palmetto fronds whispered by
the stream. I lifted him out and set him down in the soft rubber grass
beside a tall pine. His eyes were round with wonder as he gazed
about him, and his little hands began to stroke the rubber grass. Then
he began to cry my shoulder and carried him down the ladder, and
even when we were outside in the bright sunshine, he clung to me,
crying, “Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.”

When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a
brother of that age who couldn’t walk, so I set out to teach him. We
were down in Old Woman Swamp and it was spring and the sicksweet
smell of bay flowers hung everywhere like a mournful song.

“I’m going to teach you to walk, Doodle,” I said.
He was sitting comfortably on the soft grass, leaning back
against the pine. “Why?” he asked.
I hadn’t expected such an answer. “So I won’t have to haul you
around all the time.”
“I can’t walk, Brother,” he said.
“Who says so?” I demanded.
“Mama, the doctor-everybody.
“Oh, you can walk,” I said, and I took him by the arms and
stood him up. He collapsed onto the grass like a half-empty flour
sack. It was as if he had no bones in his little legs.
“Don’t hurt me, Brother,” he warned.
“Shut up. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m going to teach you to
walk.” I heaved him up again, and again he collapsed.
This time he did not lift his face up out of the rubber grass. “I
just can’t do it. Let’s make honeysuckle wreaths.”
“Oh yes you can, Doodle,” I said. “All you got to do is try. Now
come on,” and I hauled him up once more.

It seemed so hopeless from the beginning that it’s a miracle I
didn’t give up. But all of us must have something or someone to be
proud of, and Doodle had become mine. I did not know then that
pride is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life
and death. Every day that summer we went to the pine beside the
stream of Old Woman Swamp, and I put him on his feet at least a
hundred times each afternoon. Occasionally I too became
discouraged because it didn’t seem as if he was trying, and I would
say, “Doodle, don’t you want to learn to walk?”

He’d nod his head, and I’d say, “Well, if you don’t keep trying,
you’ll never learn.” Then I’d paint for him a picture of us as old men,
white-haired, him with a long white beard and me still pulling him
around in the go-cart. This never failed to make him try again.
Finally one day, after many weeks of practicing, he stood alone
for a few seconds. When he fell, I grabbed him in my arms and
hugged him, our laughter pealing through the swamp like a ringing
bell. Now we knew it could be done. Hope no longer hid in the dark
palmetto thicket but perched like a cardinal in the lacy toothbrush
tree, brilliantly visible. “Yes, yes,” I cried, and he cried it too, and the
grass beneath us was soft and the smell of the swamp was sweet.

With success so imminent,4 we decided not to tell anyone until
he could actually walk. Each day, barring rain, we sneaked into Old
Woman Swamp, and by cotton-picking time Doodle was ready to
show what he could do. He still wasn’t able to walk far, but we could
wait no longer. Keeping a nice secret is very hard to do, like holding
your breath. We chose to reveal all on October eighth, Doodle’s sixth
birthday, and for weeks ahead we mooned around the house,
promising everybody a most spectacular surprise. Aunt Nicey said
that, after so much talk, if we produced anything less tremendous
than the Resurrection, she was going to be disappointed.

At breakfast on our chosen day, when Mama, Daddy, and Aunt
Nicey were in the dining room, I brought Doodle to the door in the
gocart just as usual and had them turn their backs, making them cross
their hearts and hope to die if they peeked. I helped Doodle up, and
when he was standing alone I let them look. There wasn’t a sound as
Doodle walked slowly across the room and sat down at his place at
the table. Then Mama began to cry and ran over to him, hugging him
and kissing him. Daddy hugged him too, so I went to Aunt Nicey,
who was thanks praying in the doorway, and began to waltz her
around. We danced together quite well until she came down on my
big toe with her brogans, hurting me so badly I thought I was
crippled for life.

Doodle told them it was I who had taught him to walk, so
everyone wanted to hug me, and I began to cry.
“What are you crying for?” asked Daddy, but I couldn’t answer.

They did not know that I did it for myself, that pride, whose slave I
was, spoke to me louder than all their voices, and that Doodle walked
only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother.
Within a few months Doodle had learned to walk well and his
go-cart was put up in the barn loft (it’s still there) beside his little
mahogany coffin. Now, when we roamed off together, resting often,
we never turned back until our destination had been reached,
and to help pass the time, we took up lying. From the beginning
Doodle was a terrible liar and he got me in the habit. Had anyone stopped to
listen to us, we would have been sent off to Dix Hill.

My lies were scary, involved, and usually pointless, but
Doodle’s were twice as crazy. People in his stories all had wings and
flew wherever they wanted to go. His favorite lie was about a boy
named Peter who had a pet peacock with a ten-foot tail. Peter wore a
golden robe that glittered so brightly that when he walked through
the sunflowers they turned away from the sun to face him. When
Peter was ready to go to sleep, the peacock spread his magnificent
tail, enfolding the boy gently like a closing go-to-sleep flower,
burying him in the glorious iridescent, rustling vortex. Yes, I must
admit it. Doodle could beat me lying.

Doodle and I spent lots of time thinking about our future. We
decided that when we were grown we’d live in Old Woman Swamp
and pick dog-tongue for a living. Beside the stream, he planned, we’d
build us a house of whispering leaves and the swamp birds would be
our chickens. All day long (when we weren’t gathering dog-tongue)
we’d swing through the cypresses on the rope vines, and if it rained
we’d huddle beneath an umbrella tree and play stickfrog. Mama and
Daddy could come and live with us if they wanted to. He even came
up with the idea that he could marry Mama and I could marry Daddy.
Of course, I was old enough to know this wouldn’t work out, but the
picture he painted was so beautiful and serene that all I could do was
whisper Yes, yes.

Once I had succeeded in teaching Doodle to walk, I began to
believe in my own infallibility,5 and I prepared a terrific development
program for him, unknown to Mama and Daddy, of course. I would
teach him to run, to swim, to climb trees, and to fight. He, too, now
believed in my infallibility, so we set the deadline for these
accomplishments less that a year away, when, it had been decided,
Doodle could start to school.

That winter we didn’t make much progress, for I was in school
and Doodle suffered from one bad cold after another. But when
spring came, rich and warm, we raised our sights again. Success lay
at the end of summer like a pot of gold, and our campaign got off to a
good start. On hot days, Doodle and I went down to Horsehead
Landing, and I gave him swimming lessons or showed him how to
row a boat. Sometimes we descended into the cool greenness of Old
Woman Swamp and climbed the rope vines or boxed scientifically
beneath the pine where he had learned to walk. Promise hung about
us like the leaves, and wherever we looked, ferns unfurled and birds
broke into song.

That summer, the summer of 1918, was blighted. In May and
June there was no rain and the crops withered, curled up, then died
under the thirsty sun. One morning in July a hurricane came out of
the east, tipping over the oaks in the yard and splitting the limbs of
the elm trees. That afternoon it roared back out of the west, blew the
fallen oaks around, snapping their roots and tearing them out of the
earth like a hawk at the entrails of a chicken. Cotton bolls were
wrenched from the stalks and lay like green walnuts in the valleys
between the rows, while the cornfield leaned over uniformly so that
the tassels touched the ground. Doodle and I followed Daddy out into
the cotton field, where he stood, shoulders sagging, surveying the
ruin. When his chin sank down onto his chest, we were frightened,
and Doodle slipped his hand into mine. Suddenly Daddy straightened
his shoulders, raised a giant knuckle fist, and with a voice that
seemed to rumble out of the earth itself began cursing the weather
and the Republican Party. Doodle and I prodding each other and
giggling, went back to the house, knowing that everything would be
all right.

And during that summer, strange names were heard through the
house: Chateau-Thierry, Amiens, Soissons, and in her blessing at the
supper table, Mama once said, “And bless the Pearsons, whose boy
Joe was lost at Belleau Wood.” So we came to that clove of seasons.
School was only a few weeks away, and Doodle was far behind
schedule. He could barely clear the ground when climbing up the
rope vines, and his swimming was certainly not passable. We
decided to double our efforts, to make that list drive and reach our
pot of gold. I made him swim until he turned blue. and row until he
couldn’t lift an oar. Wherever we went, I purposely walked fast, and
although he kept up, his face turned red and his eyes became glazed.
Once, he could go no further, so he collapsed on the ground and
began to cry.

“Aw, come on, Doodle,” I urged. “You can do it. Do you want
to be different from everybody else when you start school?”
“Does it make any difference?”
“It certainly does,” I said. “Now, come on,” and I helped him
up.

As we slipped through dog days, Doodle began to look feverish,
and Mama felt his forehead, asking him if he felt ill. At night he
didn’t sleep well, and sometimes he had nightmares, crying out until I
touched him and said, “Wake up, Doodle. Wake up.

It was Saturday noon, just a few days before school was to start.
I should have already admitted defeat, but my pride wouldn’t let me.
The excitement of our program had now been gone for weeks, but
still we kept on with a tired doggedness. It was too late to turn back,
for we had both wandered too far into a net of expectations and left
no crumbs behind.

Daddy, Mama, Doodle, and I were seated at the dining-room
table having lunch. It was a hot day, with all the windows and doors
open in case a breeze should come. In the kitchen Aunt Nicey was
humming softly. After a long silence, Daddy spoke. “It’s so calm, I
wouldn’t be surprised if we had a storm this afternoon.”
“I haven’t heard a rain frog,” said Mama, who believed in signs,
as she served the bread around the table.

“I did,” declared Doodle. “Down in the swamp-”
“He didn’t,” I said contrarily.
“You did, eh?” said Daddy, ignoring my denial.
“I certainly did,” Doodle reiterated, scowling at me over the top
of his iced-tea glass, and we were quiet again.

Suddenly, from out in the yard, came a strange croaking noise.
Doodle stopped eating, with a piece of bread poised ready for his
mouth, his eyes popped round like two blue buttons. “What’s that?”
he whispered.

I jumped up, knocking over my chair, and had reached the door
when Mama called, “Pick up the chair, sit down again, and say
excuse me.”

By the time I had done this Doodle had excused himself and
had slipped out into the yard. lie was looking up into the bleeding
tree. “It’s a great big red bird!” he called.

The bird croaked loudly again, and Mama and Daddy came out
into the yard. We shaded our eyes with our hands against the hazy
glare of the sun and peered up through the still leaves. On the
topmost branch a bird the size of a chicken, with scarlet feathers and
long legs, was perched precariously. Its wings hung down loosely,
and as we watched, a feather dropped away and floated slowly down
through the green leaves.

“It’s not even frightened of us,” Mama said.
“It looks tired,” Daddy added. “Or maybe sick.”
Doodle’s hands were clasped at his throat, and I had never seen
him stand still so long. “What is it it?” he asked.
Daddy shook his head. “I don’t know, maybe it’s-

At that moment the bird began to flutter, but the wings were
uncoordinated, and amid much flapping and a spray of flying
feathers, it tumbled down, bumping through the limbs of the bleeding
tree and landing at our feet with a thud. Its long, graceful neck jerked
twice into an S, then straightened out, and the bird was still. A white
veil came over the eyes and the long white beak unhinged. Its legs
were crossed and its clawlike feet were delicately curved at rest.
Even death did not mar its grace, for it lay on the earth like a broken
vase of red flowers, and we stood around it, awed by its exotic7
beauty.

“It’s dead,” Mama said.
“What is it?” Doodle repeated.
“Go bring me the bird book,” said Daddy.

I ran into the house and brought back the bird book. As we
watched, Daddy thumbed through its pages. “It’s a scarlet ibis,” he
said, pointing to the picture. “It lives in the tropics-South America to
Florida. A storm must have brought it here.”

Sadly, we all looked back at the bird. A scarlet ibis! How many miles
it had traveled to die like this, in our yard, beneath the bleeding tree.
“Let’s finish lunch,” Mama said, nudging us back toward the
dining room.

“I’m not hungry,” said Doodle, and he knelt down beside the ibis.
“We’ve got peach cobbler for dessert,” Mama tempted from the
doorway.
Doodle remained kneeling. “I’m going to bury him.”
“Don’t you dare touch him,” Mama warned. “There’s no telling
what disease he might have had.”
“All right,” said Doodle. “I won’t.”

Daddy, Mama, and I went back to the dining-room table, but we
watched Doodle through the open door. fie took out a piece of string
from his pocket and, without touching the ibis, looped one end
around its neck. Slowly, while singing softly “Shall We Gather at the
River,” he carried the bird around to the front yard and dug a hole in
the flower garden, next to the petunia bed. Now we were watching
him through the front window, but he didn’t know it. His
awkwardness at digging the hole with a shovel whose handle was
twice as long as he was made us laugh, and we covered our mouths
with our hands so he wouldn’t hear.

When Doodle came into the dining room, he found us seriously
eating our cobbler. He was pale, and lingered just inside the screen
door. “Did you get the scarlet ibis buried?” asked Daddy.
Doodle didn’t speak but nodded his head.

“Go wash your hands, and then you can have some peach
cobbler,” said Mama.
“I’m not hungry,” he said.
“Dead birds is bad luck,” said Aunt Nicey, poking her head
from the kitchen door. “Specialty red dead birds!”

As soon as I had finished eating, Doodle and I hurried off to
Horsehead Landing. Time was short, and Doodle still had a long way
to go if he was going to keep up with the other boys when he started
school. The sun, gilded with the yellow cast of autumn, still burned
fiercely, but the dark green woods through which we passed were
shady and cool. When we reached the landing, Doodle said lie was
too tired to swim, so we got into a skiff and floated down the creek
with the tide. Far off in the marsh a rail was scolding, and over on the
beach locusts were singing in the myrtle trees. Doodle did not speak
and kept his head turned away, letting one hand trail limply in the
water.

After we had drifted a long way, I put the oars in place and
made Doodle row back against the tide. Black clouds began to gather
in the southwest, and he kept watching them, trying to pull the oars a
little faster. When we reached Horsehead Landing, lightning was
playing across half the sky and thunder roared out, hiding even the
sound of the sea. The sun disappeared and darkness descended,
almost like night. Flocks of marsh crows flew by, heading in
land to their roosting trees; and two egrets, squawking, arose from the
oyster-rock shallows and careened away.

Doodle was both tired and frightened, and when he stepped
from the skiff he collapsed onto the mud, sending an armada of
fiddler crabs rustling off into the marsh grass. I helped him up, and as
he wiped the mud off his trousers, he smiled at me ashamedly. He
had failed and we both knew it, so we started back home, racing the
storm. We never spoke (What are the words that can solder cracked
pride?), but I knew he was watching me, watching for a sign of
mercy. The lightning was near now, and from fear he walked so close
behind me he kept stepping on my heels. The faster I walked, the
faster he walked, so I began to run. The rain was coming, roaring
through the pines, and then, like a bursting Roman candle, a gum tree
ahead of us was shattered by a bold of lightning. When the deafening
peal of thunder had died, and in the moment before the rain arrived, I
heard Doodle, who had fallen behind, cry out, “Brother, Brother,
don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!”

The knowledge that Doodle’s and my plans had come to naught
was bitter, and that streak of cruelty within me awakened. I ran as
fast as I could, leaving him far behind with a wall of rain dividing us.
The drops stung my face like nettles, and the wind flared the wet
glistening leaves of the bordering trees. Soon I could hear his voice
no more.

I hadn’t run too far before I became tired, and the flood of
childish spite evanesced as well. I stopped and waited for Doodle.
The sound of rain was everywhere, but the wind had died and it fell
straight down in parallel paths like ropes hanging from the sky. As I
waited, I peered through the downpour, but no one came. Finally I
went back and found him huddled beneath a red nightshade bush
beside the road. He was sitting on the ground, his face buried in his
arms, which were resting on his drawn-up knees. “Let’s go, Doodle,”
I said.

He didn’t answer, so I placed my hand on his forehead and lifted
his head. Limply, he fell backwards onto the earth. He had been
bleeding from the mouth, and his neck and the front of his shirt were
stained a brilliant red.

“Doodle! Doodle!” I cried, shaking him, but there was no
answer but the ropy rain. He lay very awkwardly, with his head
thrown far back, making his vermilion neck appear unusually long
and slim. His little legs, bent sharply at the knees, had never before
seemed so fragile, so thin.

I began to weep, and the tear-blurred vision in red before me
looked very familiar. “Doodle!” I screamed above the pounding
storm and threw my body to the earth above his. For a long time, it
seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis
from the heresy of rain.