“Don’t get up and act uneasy,
Rest yourself, now, if you can,
You don’t mind me like Jim Johnson—
He’s a most obedient man.
You went off and left your eighty,
Roaming where the luck-wind blows,
Like a tumbleweed in winter,
Where you’ve been, Lord only knows.
While Jim’s gone we’ll talk together,
As we used to, months ago,
When I tried to quench the burning
Of a love I didn’t know.
Listen, Billy, while I tell you
All about my ‘fickle part’;
When I’m done you may know better
How God made a woman’s heart.
“While you’re resting, I’ll get
Though there ain’t much here to eat,
’Cepting bran, to make some muffins,
And a little rabbit meat.
Wish I had that pinch of coffee
I saved up for—oh, so long,
Till one day I went and used it,
Though I somehow felt ’twas wrong;
For I kind o’ thought that sometime
Some one might be coming here
Worn out with a long, long journey,
And would crave that kind o’ cheer.
Now, then, Billy, draw your stool up;
What we’ve got is scant and plain—
I ain’t hungry—honest—Billy,
While you eat—why—I’ll ‘explain.’”
“I went off and left you, Billy,
’Cause I’m used to being free,
And I love my dear old daddie—
He has been so good to me.
Ever since I learned to toddle
We’ve been living on the run,
And my first and only playthings
Were a saddle and a gun.
When I went away with daddie,
After trav’ling nigh a week,
We were caught up by the posse
In the bend on Old Man’s Creek.
Think I’d let them take my daddie?
No: I held them all at bay,
While the boys hitched up the horses,
Crossed the creek and got away.
“I just told them I would follow
After all the fuss was through,
But instead, all night I wandered,
Thinking all the time of you;
For when we were last together
You cast over me a spell
That just seemed to change my nature,
In a way that words can’t tell;
For it left a fire a-burning
Like a live and glowing coal,
That at length blazed into longing
Till I craved with all my soul
To be back, somehow, where you were,
And to hear you tell once more
That you loved me. That man-story
I had never heard before.
“Then I trailed back o’er the prairie,
Riding steady every night,
Picking out the wildest country
With my luck to guide me right.
When I’d see the hungry morning
Eat the stars up in the East,
I would hide in gulch or timber
Like a wild and hunted beast.
How I learned to love the darkness
As it spread its mighty arm,
Close around me, like a lover,
Fondly shielding me from harm!
And I knew the sweet caresses
Of the earth and sky above,
As the night’s mysterious voices
Soothed me with their tale of love.