Puslapio vaizdai


bage-board carved in a walrus-tusk, a “That depends upon what you mean, Chinese screen of washed-out gold pa- sir. I teach English. I am not-" godas on faded, weary black. We "You understand poetry, essays, climbed a narrow stair over which jut- literary history?ted, like a secret trap-door, the corner "I am supposed to.” of a mysterious chamber above. My “I 'm kind of a colleague of yours. companion opened a door on the upper Byron-” He stopped, choked frighthall and croaked, "In there."

fully. The repressed woman beside I went in slowly. I am not sure the bed, moving with stingy patience, now, after two years, but I think I wiped his lips. "My name is Byron planned to run out again, to flee down- Sanders. For forty years, till a year stairs, to defend myself with that ago, I edited the ‘Kennuit Beacon.' ivory tusk if I should be attacked by- The nauseating vanity of man! In whatever was lurking in that shadowy, that reverent hour, listening to the ensilent place. As I edged in, about me treaties of a dying man, I was yet crept an odor of stale air and vile medi- piqued at having my stripped athcines and ancient linen. The shutters letic scholarship compared to editing were fast; the light was grudging. I the "Beacon," with its patent-mediwas actually relieved when I saw in the cine advertisements, its two straggly four-poster bed a pitiful, vellum-faced columns of news about John Brown's old man, and the worst monster I cow and Jim White's dory. had to face was normal illness.

His eyes trusting me, Byron Sanders I have learned that Byron Sanders went on: was only seventy-one then, but he "Can't last long. It's come quicker seemed ninety. He was enormous. -no time to plan. I want you to He must have been hard to care for. take the literary remains of my father. His shoulders, in the mended linen He was not a good man, but he was a nightgown thrust up above the patch- genius. I have his poetry here, and work comforter, were bulky; his neck the letters. I have n't read them for was thick; his head a shiny dome years, and-too late give them to an Olympian, majestic even in disso- world. You must," lution.

He was desperately choking. The The room had been lived in too long. still woman crept up, thrust into my It was a whirl of useless things: stag- hands a box of papers and a pile of :

a gering chairs, clothes in piles, greasy note-books which had been lying on medicine-bottles, and a vast writing- the bed. desk pouring out papers, and dingy “You must go," she muttered. books with bindings of speckled brown. “Say, 'Yes,' and go. He can't stand

“ Amid the litter, so still that she seemed

any more." part of it, I was startled to discern "Will you?" the broken giant wailed another woman. Who she may have to me, a stranger! been I have never learned.

"Yes, yes, indeed; I 'll give them to The man was ponderously turning the world," I mumbled, while the in bed, peering at me through the woman pushed me toward the door. shaky light.

I fled down the stairs, through the "You are a professor?" he wheezed. coppery pine-woods, up to the blithe headland that was swept by the sea- something higher than selfishness had breeze.

already come into my devotion to I knew, of course, what the "poetry" Jason Sanders; something of the creaof that poor “genius” his father would tor's passion and the father's pride. be-Christmas doggerel and ditties I was hungry enough, but I walked about "love" and “dove," "heart" and the room contemptuous of it. I felt “must part.” I was, to be honest, unreal. 1918 was fantastically unreal. irritated. I wanted to take this de I had for hours been veritably back in bris back to Mr. Sanders, and that was 1850. It was all there; manuscripts the one thing I could not do. For which had not been touched since once I was sensible: I took it home 1850, which still held in their wrinkles and tried to forget it.

the very air of seventy years ago: a In the next week's “Kennuit Bea- diary; daguerreotypes; and letters, con," discovered on Mrs. Nickerson's preserved like new in the darkness, parlor-table, crowning a plush album, from Poe, Emerson, Thoreau, HawI read that Byron Sanders, “the foun- thorne, and the young Tennyson! der and for many years the highly es- The diary had been intermittently teemed editor of this paper,” had died. kept for fifteen years. It was outline

I sought relatives to whom I could enough for me to reconstruct the story turn over his father's oddments. There of Jason Sanders, born at Kennuit in was no one; he was a widower and 1825, probably died in Greece in 1853. childless. For months the bothersome papers were lost in my desk, back at

82 the university. On the opening day Between Cape Cod and the ocean is of the Christmas vacation I remem- a war sinister and incessant. Here bered that I had not read a word of and there the ocean has gulped a farm, them. I was to go to Quinta Gates's or a lighthouse reared on a cliff, but for tea at a quarter to five, and to her at Kennuit the land has been the serene companionship I looked forward victor. To-day there are sandy flats as, in a tired, after-term desultoriness, and tepid channels where a hundred I sat down to glance at Jason San

years ago was an open harbor brilliant ders's caterwaulings. That was at with a hundred sails, crackling with four. It was after nine when the tidings from the Banks, proud of flabby sensation of hunger brought me whalers back from years of cruising off back to my room and the dead fire. Siberia and of West Indiamen pom

In those five hours I had discovered pous with rum and sugar and the pest. a genius. The poetry at which I had Captain Bethuel Sanders, master so abominably sneered was minted and owner of the Sally S., was on a glory.

voyage out of Kennuit to Pernambuco I stood up, and in that deserted dor- when his only child, Jason Sanders, mitory I shouted, and listened to the was born. He never came back. In tremor of the lone sound and defiantly every Cape Cod burying-ground, beshouted again. That I was "excited" side the meeting-house, there are a is too pallid a word. My life of Jonson score of headstones with "Lost at could go hang! I was selfish about it: sea.” There is one, I know now, at it meant fame for me. But I think Kennuit for Bethuel Sanders.

His widow, daughter of a man of become a grocer, and chided by his God who for many years had been mother because he had no calling to pastor at Truro, was a tight, tidy, the ministry. Nobody, apparently, capable woman. Bethuel left her a took the trouble to understand him. competence. She devoted herself to The combination of reading and solikeeping house and to keeping her son tude led him inevitably to scribbling. from going to sea. He was not to die On new-washed Cape Cod afternoons, as his father had, perhaps alone, last when grasses rustled on the creamman on a wave-smashed brig. Theirs shadowed dunes, he sat looking out to was a neat, unkindly cottage with no sea, chin in hand, staring at ardent windows on the harbor side. The little waves and lovely sails that

. sailors' women-folks did not greatly bloomed and vanished as the schoonesteem the view to sea, for thither went ers tacked; and through evenings the strong sons who would never re- rhythmic with the surf he sought with turn. In a cottage with a low wall words which should make him enviblank toward the harbor lived Mrs. able to justify himself and his mocked Sanders, ardently loving her son, bit courage. terly restraining him. Jason was ob- At twenty he ran off to sea on a fishsessed by her. She was mother, fath- ing schooner. er, sweetheart, teacher, tyrant. He Twenty he was and strong, but stroked her cheeks, and he feared her when he returned his mother larruped eye, which was a frozen coal when she him. Apparently he submitted; his caught him lying.

comment in the famous diary is: In the first pages of Jason's diary, “Mother kissed me in welcome, then, when he was only thirteen, he raged being a woman of whimsies somewhat that while his schoolmates were al- distasteful to a man of my sober ready off to the Banks or beholding, nature, she stripped off my jacket as cabin-boys, the shining Azores, he and lashed me with a strip of whalewas kept at his lessons, unmanned, bone long and surprisingly fanged. in apron-strings. Resources of books I shall never go a-whaling if so very he had from his parson grandsire: little of a whale can be so very Milton, Jeremy Taylor, Pope. If the unamiable." returned adventurers sneered at him, This process neatly finished, Mrs. he dusted their jackets. He must have Sanders—she was a swift and diligent been hardy and reasonably vicious. woman-immediately married

the He curtly records that he beat Peter young bandit off to a neighbor woman Williams, son of the Reverend Abner four years his senior, a comely woman, Williams, "till he could scarce move," pious, and gifted with dullness. Withand that for this ferocity he was read in the year was born a son, the Byron out of meeting. He became a hermit, Sanders whom I saw dying as a corthe village "bad boy."

pulent elder. He was at once scorned as a "softy" That was in 1847, and Jason was by his mates because he did not go twenty-two. to sea, dreaded by their kin because He went to work-dreaming and the he was a marking fighter, bombarded painful carving of beautiful words not by his Uncle Ira because he would not being work-in the Mammoth Store


and Seamen's Outfitters. He was dis records without comment, "showed charged for, imprimis, being drunk me the door." and abusive; further, stealing a knife No, he was not virtuous save in belliof the value of two shillings. For five cose courage, and he was altogether or six years he toiled in a sail-loft. I casual about deserting his wife and fancy that between stitchings of thick child when, the year after his mother canvas he read poetry, a small book died, he ran away to the Crimean hidden in the folds of a topsail, and War. But I think one understands with a four-inch needle he scratched that better in examining, as I have on shingles a plan of Troy. He was examined with microscope and aching discharged now and then for roister- eye, the daguerreotypes of Jason and ing, and now and then was grudgingly his wife and boy. hired again.

Straight-nosed and strong-lipped I hope that nothing I have said im- was Jason at twenty-six or seven. plies that I consider Jason a young Over his right temple hung an impaman of virtue. I do not. He drank tient lock. He wore the high, but Jamaica rum, he stole strawberries, open and flaring, collar of the day, the his ways with the village girls were space in front filled with the soft folds neither commendable nor in the least of a stock. A fluff of side-whiskers commended, and his temper was such along the jaw set off his resoluteness of that he occasionally helped himself to chin and brow. His coat was longa fight with sailors, and regularly, skirted and heavy, with great collar with or without purpose, thrashed the and wide lapels, a cumbrous garment, unfortunate Peter Williams, son of the yet on him as graceful as a cloak. But Reverend Abner.

his wife! Her eyes stared, and her Once he betrayed a vice far meaner. lips, though for misery and passionate A certain Boston matron, consort of a prayer they had dark power, seem in highly esteemed merchant, came sum- the mirrory old picture to have had mering to Kennuit, first of the tennis- no trace of smiles. Their son was yelping hordes who now infest the dumpy. As I saw him dying there cape and interrupt the meditations in the pine woods, Byron Sanders apof associate professors. This worthy peared a godly man and intelligent; lady was literary, and doubtless musi- but at six or seven he was puddingcal and artistic. She discovered that faced, probably with a trick of howlJason was a poet. She tried to patron- ing. In any case, with or without ize him; in a highfalutin way she coma

reason, Jason foully deserted them. manded him to appear next Sunday, to In 1853, at the beginning of the read aloud and divert her cousins from struggle between Russia and Turkey Boston. For this she would give him that was to develop into the Crimean a shilling and what was left of the War, Greece planned to invade baked chicken. He gravely notes: “I Turkey. Later, to prevent alliance told her to go to the devil. She seemed between Greece and Russia, the put out." The joke is that three weeks French and English forces held later he approached the good matron Piræus; but for a time Greece seemed with a petition to be permitted to do liberated. what he had scorned. She rightly, he Jason's diary closes with a note:


To-morrow I leave this place of sand meekness, the praise of matrons and the and sandy brains; make by friend ladylike. Bearse's porgy boat for Long Island, thence to New York and ship for Piræus, That letter was the last thing I read for the glory of Greece and the memory before dawn on Christmas day. of Byron. How better can a man die?

On the first train after Christmas And perhaps some person of intelligence I hastened down to the winter-clutched there will comprehend me. Thank for

cape. tune my amiable spouse knows naught. If ever she finds this, may she grant for

83 giveness, as I grant it to her!

As Jason had died sixty-five years That is all-all save a clipping from before, none but persons of eighty or the “Lynmouth News Letter” of seven

more would remember him. One years later announcing that as no word woman of eighty-six I found, but beof Mr. Jason Sanders had come since yond, "Heh? Whas sat?" she confided his evanishment, his widow was peti- only: "Jassy Sanders' was a terror to tioning the court to declare him le snakes. Run away from his family, gally dead.

that's what he done! Poetry? Him This is the pinchbeck life of Jason

write poetry? Why, he was a sailSanders. He lived not in life, but in maker!" his writing, and that is tinct with

I heard then of Abiathar Gould, genius. Five years before Whitman eighty-seven years old, and already was known he was composing what to become a myth streaked with blood day we call "free verse." There are and the rust of copper bottoms. He in it impressions astoundingly like had been a wrecker, suspected of luring Amy Lowell. The beauty of a bitter ships ashore with false lights in order tide-scourged garden and of a bitter

that he might plunder them with his sea-scourged woman who walks daily roaring mates. He had had courage in that sterile daintiness is one of his enough, plunging in his whaleboat themes, and the poem is as radiant and through the long swells after a storm, as hard as ice.

but mercy he had not known. He was Then the letters.

not in Kennuit itself; he lived down by Jason had sent his manuscripts to the Judas Shoals, on a lean spit of sand the great men of the day. From most running seven miles below Lobster Pot of them he had non-committal ac

Neck. knowledgments. His only encour

How could one reach him? I asked

I agement came from Edgar Allan Poe, Mrs. Nickerson. who in 1849, out of the depths of his

Oh, that was easy enough: one could own last discouragement, wrote with walk! Yes, and one did walk, five sympathy:

miles against a blast whirling with

snow, grinding with teeth of sand. I I pledge you my heart that you have

cursed with surprising bitterness, and talent. You will go far if you can en

planned to give up cigarettes and to dure hatred and disgust, forgetfulness do patent chest exercises. I wore Mr. and bitter bread, blame for your most

Aaron Bloomer's coonskin coat, Mrs. valorous and for your weakness and Nickerson's gray flannel muffler, David

« AnkstesnisTęsti »