I there before thee,
in the country that well thou knowest,
Already arrived am inhaling the odorous air.
So it is not vain, perhaps, to try clumsily to tell how this delicious uneasiness first captured the spirit of one who, if not a poet, is at least a lover of poetry. Thus he first looked beyond the sunset; stood, if not on Parnassus, tiptoe upon a little hill. And overhead a great wind was blowing.
THE OLD RELIABLE
“Express train stalled in a snowdrift,” said one. “The irascible old white-haired gentleman in the Pullman smoker; the good-natured travelling salesman; the wistful young widow in the day coach, with her six-year-old blue-eyed little daughter. A coal-black Pullman porter who braves the shrieking gale to bring in a tree from the copse along the track. Red-headed brakeman (kiddies of his own at home), frostbitten by standing all night between the couplings, holding parts of broken steampipe together so the Pullman car will keep warm. Young widow and her child, of course, sleeping in the Pullman; white-haired old gentleman vacates his berth in their favour. Good-natured travelling salesman up all night, making cigar-band decorations for the Tree, which is all ready in the dining car in the morning——”
* * * * *
“Old English inn on a desolate moor,” said another. “Bright fire of coals in the coffee room, sporting prints, yellow old newspaper cutting framed on the mantelpiece describing gruesome murder committed in the house in 1760. Terrible night of storm—sleet tingling on the panes; crimson curtains fluttering in the draught; roads crusted with ice; savoury fumes of roast goose, plum pudding, and brandy. Pretty chambermaid in evident anxiety about something; guest tries to kiss her in the corridor; she’s too distrait to give the matter proper attention. She has heard faint agonized cries above the howling of the gale——”
* * * * *
“I like the sound of hymns,” ventured a third. “Frosty vestibule of fashionable church, rolling thunders of the organ, fringes of icicles silvered by moonlight, poor old Salvation Army Santa Claus shivering outside and tinkling his pathetic little bell. Humane note: those scarlet Christmas robes of the Army not nearly as warm as they look. Hard-hearted vestryman, member of old Knickerbocker family, always wears white margins on his vest, suddenly touched by compassion, empties the collection plate into Santa’s bucket. Santa hurries off to the S.A. headquarters crying ’The little ones will bless you for this.’ Vestryman accused of having pocketed the collection, dreadful scandal, too proud to admit what he had done with it——”
* * * * *