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“ Man with Pigeons”

By WILLIAM ROSE BENÉT

Decorations by Earl Schrack

I

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HEARD him with his trilling whistle call

The iridescent-breasted pigeons, fluttering,
Strutting the gutters, flapping up, to fall
In feathery circlings down.
His hand from out his pocket sifted grain.
His lips were ever muttering
A ritual, it seemed,
To exorcise some stain
That spread before his eyes whene'er he dreamed,
Some Nemesis that stalked him through his mind.
Gentle he was, and kind
To every dove, pearl-gray or banded brown,
That conquered fear and tilted on his fist
Or perched his wrist
For yellow corn that always came.
His shabby suit was always just the same;
His battered derby hat
A thing incongruous 'mid that cloud of wings,
Yet more incongruous things
Have been, to teach us all humility.
No more I trace,
Though day by day I try,
His plain, thought-furrowed, unsuccessful face,
Where sagging lines showed how defeats can harden
The gentlest soul.
The red-eyed doves still peck, and miss his dole,
Near Madison Square Garden.
His trilling whistle is no longer heard
Of any bird;
And corner loafers and pedestrians, passing,
That pause in their harassing

Or leisure moments for a glimpse of wings
And strange New Testament things
Where the doves flutter
And preen between the cornice and the gutter,
They do not know, it seems,
About my dreamer of the hounded dreams!

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For it was rude and crude
When the swift Present burst on his beatitude
Guised as a motor-horn
That honked its scorn,
Whence, in a blinding cloud of opal, green, and gray,
The doves were all away
High in the air,
Where motor-horns have no more power to scare;
While he
Stood with his outstretched wrist distressfully,
Still only half awake,
Watching his bubbles break--
What bubble-dreams I know not, siiver-crescent,
And iridescent
As the neck-feathers of those pigeons cooing
So soft to his undoing.

There is a white-sand walk
In heaven, where the tall golden-haired angels sit and talk
On marble benches.
There are no gutters in that place, no streets of noise and stenches,
But hedge on hedge and bed on bed of flowers,
And dreamy and eternal sun-splashed noontide hours.
Watching the splendid interplay of color
That ne'er grows duller
Pulsing along the furled and snowy pinions
Of your

kind hosts in those remote dominions,
There, if you sat
And thought to leap your glance
From countenance to glorious countenance,
Skipping each stole and aureole, I 'll wager you
'Mid many golden sandals would glimpse a dingy shoe,
And through that same
Gold wealth of nimbus-flame
Mark down a certain battered derby hat!

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«« « Oh, the señor said he would know me, and he did!' she exclaimed,

with wondering awe in her voice"

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IT

T was very hot in Camagüey that after- They disclosed, Caxton was pleased to

noon, and very still. High in the bur- fancy, the presence of gentle breeding; but nished-silver sky a vulture wheeled slowly the eyes were beautiful and held the poon motionless wings, the only living crea- tentiality of supreme devotion. He told ture that Caxton's wandering gaze en- himself that they could be no other than countered. A lingering touch of the ner- the

eyes of a young girl as yet untouched vous restlessness that had forced him to by love or great joy or sorrow, so starry seek a long rest in the tropics had driven pure was their gaze, so fearlessly childlike. him forth from his hotel while all Cama- A certain susceptibility of his nature to güey was hushed in the siesta, and already romantic influences that had something alregretting his abnormal activity, he had most boyish in its disregard of convention stopped for a moment in the shadowed re- was deeply stirred. The familiar story of cess of an orange-hued wall. Above the Cuvier's power to reconstruct a prehistop of the opposite wall of the narrow toric animal from a single bone came to street he caught the sound of the heaving him now with none of his old awe of surge of wind-blown boughs; but there Cuvier's genius. From these eyes alone, was no coolness in the sound or in the ac- he told himself fervidly, he might with tual pressure of the trade-wind on his reasonable certainty reconstruct their harAushed face. He gasped in the hot rush of monious abode. All at once he awoke to the scented air; for a moment he felt the the length of his scrutiny. light-headed and incorporeal sensation of "Pardon, Señorita,” he said. “I was one suddenly awakened from fevered sleep. hardly aware of my rude staring.”

The feeling passed, and presently he Something that he was pleased to transbecame aware of a new sensation : he felt late as amused interest came to her eyes as that he was not alone. Turning slowly, she said: his gaze met the fixed look of a woman's “I could have gone away, Señor." eyes. A narrow, grated window set in the “But you did not,” he replied. “Ah, shadowed wall brought its sill slightly you would know that it was not intenabove the level of his head, and above the tional rudeness. I might have known that sill, a little back from the opening, her you would understand.” eyes gazed straight into his.

“Understand?" she repeated questionThe black mantilla that dropped to the ingly. edge of her clearly marked brows was held "All that I saw in your eyes,” he exin such fashion that only the eyes, with a plained. narrow setting of face, and the slender Unmistakably her eyes laughed then. hand that held the mantilla in place were "The señor is perhaps a fortune-teller?" to be seen.

The rimming face and the she queried mockingly. hand were ivory-hued, the fingers delicate, "No; only confident of your past," he shapely, and untouched by marks of tol. answered.

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