Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
The Landlady of the Whinton Inn Tells a Story
By Amy Lowell
 
YES, indeed, Sir,
’Tis pretty up here this time o’ year,
With the sumachs and the maples fer red,
And the birches and the oaks fer yaller,
Sometimes you’d think the sun was shinin’        5
When ’taint nothin’ but leaves.
Ef you was to go up Tollman’s hill,
You’d see the country layin’ out in front o’ yer
Jest like a big flower garden.
I don’t wonder city folks is so partial to the mountains in the Fall.        10
But they don’t all care enough fer it
To come a-ridin’ shanks’s mare
The way you’re doin’.
What was it you wanted I should tell yer?
Oh, yes, ’bout the brick house over on the Danbridge road.        15
I know well the one you mean.
Sort o’ tumble down, ain’t it?—
Run to seed?
That’s the one.
The old Steele farm we call it.        20
It’s in a dretful state.
The last folks had it was a pack o’ Finns,
And I never see such a shiftless set as they be.
Don’t seem to have no idea o’ nothin’.
But the way they can grub a livin’ outer stones        25
Do beat all.
There’s a whole lot on ’em settled around here,
But I guess they wouldn’t ha’ got aholt o’ the Steele place
Only fer it havin’ a kind o’ bad name.
Sort o’ got set in a streak o’ cross luck, somehow.        30
You hitch your chair up clost t’ th’ fire,
And I’ll tell yer ’bout it.
It’s a funny story,
And it ain’t so funny neither,
Come to think of it.        35
I remember Tim’thy Adams well
When I was a girl.
He was innercent and feeble enough by then.
My father’s told me the story often,
But it all happened long ’fore my day;        40
It must ha’ been nigh on to eighty year ago.
Ther was two brothers livin’ over to Danbridge at that time,
Name of Steele,
George and Clif Steele.
Between ’em, they owned that farm you seen,        45
And a hardware store to Main Street.
My father used ter say
Nobody hereabouts thought they could cut a rakeful o’ hay
Or split a log,
Onless they’d bought the scythe, or the saw, or the sickle,        50
To Steele’s.
Funny name for a hardware store, warn’t it,
But them things does happen.
Well, es I said,
They owned the store and the farm, ’tween ’em,        55
Old Steele left it that way.
But ’twas real onhandy,
And, nat’rally, they kep a-treadin’ on each other’s toes.
So ’bout the time I’m speakin’ of,
They made up ther minds to do the splittin’ therselves,        60
And they’d fixed it up that George was to have the store
And Clif was to take the farm.
Clif warn’t more’n five and twenty, then,
And he warn’t married,
And he seen, well as another,        65
That a farm without a wife’s a mighty ticklish thing.
So he told his brother
He’d look around a bit,
And when he found a likely woman,
He’d marry her,        70
And settle right away.
I guess he warn’t quite square ’bout the lookin’ around,
’Cause everyone knowed he’d be’n keepin’ comp’ny
Fer some time.
Mirandy Eccles, ’twas;        75
And Father al’ays said she was a fine, sensible girl,
And a credit to the man that chose her.
Clif used ter take her buggy-ridin’
With a fast sorrel mare he had,
Done two-thirty or somethin’        80
Over to the County Fair.
Clif was proud as punch of her, and of the girl too.
Father said the whole street ’ud set up to look
When they two druv along it
Like a streak o’ lightnin’.        85
Clif thought his courtin’ was goin’ elegant,
And I guess ’twas,
When all of a suddint,
He was drawed for jury duty.
That put a stop to the junketin’s,        90
And Clif was like a bear with a sore head.
’Twas a kind of a queer case.
A man called Tim’thy Adams was bein’ tried
Fer ’saulting his employer and stealin’ four dimonds.
I don’t rec’lect the name o’ the man whose store ’twas,        95
But he was a jeweler and watchmaker,
The only one ther was to Danbridge.
One mornin’ they found him most beat to a jelly,
And bound and gagged,
And four big dimonds was missin’ outer th’ stock.        100
Ther was a candle in the store
Guttered to nothin’,
And Mrs. ———— the storekeeper’s wife—
Said when she last seed it,
Jest as she was goin’ to bed,        105
It was good and long,
And would ha’ burned a couple o’ hours, anyway.
Tim’thy used to come mornin’s and open up the store.
He had a key,
And that was the only other one ther was,        110
So suspicion fastened on him, good and tight.
He said he hadn’t be’n ther at all
Sence closin’ time,
That he’d be’n fer a walk up the mountain.
But he hadn’t be’n gunnin’,        115
’Cause he didn’t take no gun;
And he hadn’t be’n fishin’,
’Cause he didn’t take no pole;
And nobody b’lieved a man ’ud go walkin’ up the mountain
Jest fer the pleasure o’ gittin’ ther,        120
So it looked bad fer Tim’thy.
Clif set in that court-room,
And twiddled his fingers,
And thought o’ Mirandy,
And never heerd so much as a haystraw o’ th’ evidence;        125
And when lockin’-up time come
He didn’t know no more about the case
Than the town pump.
In them days,
Juries was locked up for fair.        130
They didn’t ’low ’em home nights,
And they sent their meals in,
’Stead o’ marchin’ ’em out to a hotel.
Clif had got awful sick o’ bein’ ther.
He’d cut his name on the table in the jury room        135
Till ’twas all pickled over with it,
(I’ve seed the table, with the name on, myself).
And the night after the ev’dence was in
Ther was a dance to the Town Hall,
And Clif wanted like pisen to be ther.        140
He set in that jury room,
Hackin’ at the table,
Till he couldn’t stand it another minit;
Then he jumped outer th’ winder,
And shinned down a big elm-tree was outside,        145
And went to the party,
And the first person he run acrost when he got inter th’ room
Was the Judge!
That was a awful fix fer Clif,
But the Judge had be’n young once,        150
And he jest turned his back and never seed a thing.
Clif didn’t waste no time.
He went straight up to Mirandy and asked her to marry him,
And she’d missed him so
She said “yes” right out,        155
And Clif went back, and shinned up the elm agin,
And ther he was, spick and span,
When the door was unlocked next mornin’!
But he hadn’t voted on the case,
And the foreman jest whispered to him, would he agree,        160
As they went inter court.
Clif was in such good sperrits,
He’d ha’ agreed to anythin’,
So he jest nodded,
And poor Tim’thy Adams was convicted o’ ’sault and batt’ry,        165
With stealin’,
And sent to States Prison fer twenty year.
I told you ’twas a queer story,
But it’s a heap queerer than you’ve heard yit.
 
Clif married Mirandy,        170
And they went to live to the farm.
They was a well matched pair,
And everythin’ went as fine as roses in July,
’Cept they didn’t have no children.
But after it had all be’n goin’ on like that fer most fifteen year,        175
Somethin’ turned Clif’s mind back to that old jury case.
Bits o’ things he’d heerd in the court-room
Kep a risin’ up in his mind.
They must ha’ be’n ther all the time,
But he’d never sensed ’em;        180
And now they up and slapped him in the face.
The more he thought, the more he felt
That Tim’thy couldn’t ha’ done it.
He was a bit of a dreamer himself,
And he knowed a man could go up a mountain,        185
’Ithout hankerin’ to shoot or fish.
He thought and thought, Clif did,
Till he was so nervous and jumpy
He was all of a twitch from head to foot.
Then one day he druv over to Danbridge        190
To see Judge Proctor.
The Judge was a old man, and retired,
But Clif thought it ’ud ease him some
To see him.
He told the Judge all about it,        195
But the Judge said ’twas past and gone,
And he’d better lay some of his fields down to red rye,
And try replantin’ his wood-lot.
But Clif didn’t buy no red rye seed that day;
He went straight to the lib’ry        200
And read a lot o’ old newspapers.
Then he ferreted out the court clerk,
And fussed and fussed,
Till he let him see the records.
He druv back and forth to Danbridge for weeks,        205
Readin’ all the papers ’bout that trial.
And the more he read ’em, the more he knowed
Tim’thy hadn’t had no head nor hand to do with it.
Clif was most beside himself with worry,
And no wonder,        210
He felt he’d sent a feller critter to States Prison
Who didn’t b’long ther no more’n he did hisself.
He act’ally got to feelin’ he was the one b’longed;
He’d committed a wicked crime,
And he’d got t’ expiate it.        215
I guess he was most mad;
Father often said so.
He was thin as a rail,
And he couldn’t eat nor sleep,
And the farm all went to smithereens        220
’Cause he hadn’t no time to work it,
For readin’ ev’dence.
He didn’t know much law,
And it ’curred to him,
That ef he got all the jury that done the convictin’        225
To change ther minds,
That would stop the sentence right where ’twas,
And Tim’thy could walk out o’ jail.
So the poor lunatic started to git aholt o’ the jury.
’Twarn’t no easy matter to do,        230
Fer some was moved away, and some was dead;
But he wrote, and he travelled,
And he run here and ther like a hen ’ithout its head,
And, in the end, he got all the livin’ members o’ that jury
To sign papers reversin’ ther decision.        235
Is that very remarkable, Sir?
P’raps you’re right.
Anyhow, he done it.
When he’d got all the papers
He went back to Judge Proctor,        240
And asked him, would he please arrange things
So Tim’thy’d be free.
O’ course, the Judge told him ’twarn’t no manner o’ use.
That all the papers in the world wouldn’t git Tim’thy out,
Onless ther was new ev’dence,        245
Which, don’t you see, ther warn’t,
Not a scrap.
So Clif went home, all broke to bits,
And put his papers in the chimbly cupboard,
And Mirandy had all she could do        250
To git a little bacon and coffee down him.
It’s al’ays the women gits it in the end, you know, Sir?
 
Well, byme-bye it come time fer Tim’thy to be let out o’ jail.
He’d served his term, barrin’ what was took off fer good conduct.
The very day he stepped out o’ prison,        255
Standin’ d’rectly in front o’ the gate
Wher he couldn’t miss him,
Was Clif Steele.
Tim’thy was took all aback
And made to git out o’ th’ way,        260
But Clif up and hitched his arm inter his
And marched him off, real brotherly.
“Tim’thy Adams,” says Clif,
“I done yer a great wrong.
I know you never ’saulted nobody        265
And never took no dimonds,
And I come here to-day to make it up to yer best I can,” he says.
“Come to yer senses, have yer?” says Tim’thy.
“Yes, I have,” says Clif.
“An’ I’m goin’ to take yer right along home with me.”        270
Mebbe Tim’thy wouldn’t ha’ gone,
Only his sperrits was all squeezed to nothin’
By bein’ so long in jail.
Anyhow, Clif wouldn’t hear no.
And them two went home together        275
Like a pair o’ old shoes.
Folks wondered, would Mirandy like it?
All I c’n say is, ef she didn’t, she darsn’t say so.
I guess she was some feared ’bout Clif’s stayin’ in his right mind.
Whatever was th’ reason, she acted pleased as pie.        280
So the three on ’em lived in the brick house,
And after a little, nobody heeded ’em no more.
But Clif was all played out;
The worry’d done fer him,
And two year come the next winter        285
He died o’ pneumony.
Tim’thy and the widder
Stuck it out fer a bit as they was.
But tongues got to waggin’
And they must ha’ heerd ’em,        290
Anyways, one fine day they up and got married,
And that settled the talk fer keeps.
Then the good times seemed come fer Tim’thy and Mirandy.
They warn’t young no more, but they was real well suited.
Folks kind o’ fergot ’bout the jail,        295
And Mirandy took a new lease o’ life.
Why, the kitchin winders was all jammed full o’ flower-pots!
You never seed sich rose-geraniums,
Everybody wanted slips from ’em.
I don’t know jest how it come ’bout,        300
But one way or ’tother, Tim’thy took to tinkerin’ clocks agin.
He had a wonderful knack at makin’ ’em go.
Not the batteredest old clock es ever was, beat him.
He’d set ther in that kitchin,
Snuffin’ up the smell o’ them geraniums        305
And foolin’ with little wheels and wires,
And all of a suddint he’d have the clock as good as new.
Most everybody has a broken clock;
Well, they brought ’em all to Tim’thy.
The house was full on ’em.        310
 
Now comes the queer part,
And ther ain’t no explainin’ it, nohow.
Many’s the time I’ve heerd my father tell it,
But I never give over startin’ when I think of it.
One day Tim’thy was overhaulin’ a fine wall clock,        315
The kind with big weights hangin’ down under it,
When he give a cry,
So loud Mirandy heerd it out in the clothes-yard.
She come runnin’ in
With her heart in her mouth,        320
And ther was Tim’thy,
Starin’ as though he seed a ghost,
And holdin’ four big dimonds in his hand.
They was sparklin’ like icicles on a south winder,
All green, and blue, and red.        325
Father seed ’em,
And he said they was so bright
You could most see to read by the flashin’ they made.
“Wher’d you git them things, Tim’thy Adams?” Mirandy hollered out.
She was struck all of a heap        330
And couldn’t scarcely fetch her breath fer wonder.
“Out o’ the clock,” says Tim’thy, quick, as ef a bee stung him.
“Who put ’em in?” asked Mirandy, kind o’ snappin’ out the words.
“I ain’t no notion,” says Tim’thy.
Now ther was a fine fix, and dimonds agin!        335
Mirandy leaned up against the door-jamb to save herself from fallin’—
“Whose clock is it?” says she.
’Twas old man Smart’s clock, and Tim’thy telled her so.
Well, not to keep a-talkin’ all day, they sent fer old man Smart,
And showed him the dimonds.        340
But he said they warn’t none o’ his.
Tim’thy acted as ef he was afeared on ’em.
He’d put ’em on the chimbly,
And he wouldn’t tech ’em agin, nohow.
Mirandy said she couldn’t sleep with ’em in the house,        345
And ther was a fine hurrah-boys.
The neighbors got wind on it somehow,
And they all come flockin’ to ask fool questions
And git a sight o’ the dimonds.
Tim’thy seemed kind o’ crazed, all to onct.        350
He jest set ther, and whispered: “In the clock! In the clock!”
Nobody couldn’t git another thing out o’ him.
Mirandy’d got to cryin’ by then,
And all the women was soothin’ her,
And burnin’ feathers under her nose.        355
’Twas the awfullest mess ever was,
And all along o’ them pesky dimonds.
Somebody called in Lawyer Cary to Danbridge,
And he took charge o’ the dimonds,
And they got the house cleared somehow.        360
But nothin’ ever warn’t the same after.
Mirandy went inter a sort o’ decline,
And died ’fore Thanksgivin’.
Tim’thy didn’t die, but he didn’t git well neither.
He wouldn’t tech a clock agin fer love nor money.        365
If anyone said: “Clock,” he’d commence shiv’rin’
As though he had th’ ague.
Then a nasty whisper got about,
You know how folks talk;
Well, ’twas said the dimonds warn’t really in the clock at all,        370
That Tim’thy’d had ’em all these years,
And that he only pretended to find ’em
So’s he could sell ’em at last.
Some said ’twas a trade ’twixt him and Clif.
Clif had kep’ ’em for him while he was to States Prison.        375
I guess that was all foolishness,
But what made ’em think so
Was that old man Smart ’lowed he’d bought the clock
To a auction;
And it turned out ’twas the auction o’ that jewel’ry store        380
Where Tim’thy worked.
The man that owned it had sold out and gone away.
Lawyer Cary tried to trace him,
But ’twarn’t a mite o’ use.
He’d gone to Boston, and they couldn’t find out another thing.        385
But ther was the dimonds, and ther was poor old Tim’thy,
Half cracked with findin’ ’em.
Property like that’s a terrible nuisance.
Old man Smart wouldn’t look at the things,
And he told how he’d burnt the clock,        390
Considerin’ it a sort o’ party.
They warn’t Tim’thy’s, that was sure,
And Lawyer Cary said he wouldn’t keep ’em after New Years.
So the selectmen voted to sell ’em,
An’ buy books for the lib’ry with the money.        395
You c’n see ’em now, with a card in ’em:
“Bought with the proceeds o’ the sale o’ four dimonds.”
I must ha’ be’n ’bout ten when Tim’thy died;
I mind it well, ’cause Father told the story at supper
The day they buried him,        400
And I ain’t never forgot it.
Ther was some trouble ’bout the house too.
George Steele had moved to Boston years afore
And his daughter (he didn’t have no sons) had married.
And they had a time findin’ her under her new name.        405
Anyhow, she didn’t want the farm, an’ ’twas sold.
It’s be’n goin’ down hill ever sence.
Lor’s mercy! Ain’t this world a queer place!
Ther was three lives all gone to smash
Over them dimonds,        410
And nothin’ to show fer it but a ramshackle house,
And a passel o’ books in the lib’ry!
Well, that’s the story,
And I must be seein’ to your supper.
It’s gittin’ late.        415
 
 
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