James Whitcomb Riley

7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana

Floretty's Musical Contribution

All seemed delighted, though the elders more,
Of course, than were the children.--Thus, before
Much interchange of mirthful compliment,
The story-teller said _his_ stories 'went'
(Like a bad candle) _best_ when they went _out_,--
And that some sprightly music, dashed about,
Would _wholly_ quench his 'glimmer,' and inspire
Far brighter lights.

And, answering this desire,
The flutist opened, in a rapturous strain
Of rippling notes--a perfect April-rain
Of melody that drenched the senses through;--
Then--gentler--gentler--as the dusk sheds dew,
It fell, by velvety, staccatoed halts,
Swooning away in old 'Von Weber's Waltz.'
Then the young ladies sang 'Isle of the Sea'--
In ebb and flow and wave so billowy,--
Only with quavering breath and folded eyes
The listeners heard, buoyed on the fall and rise
Of its insistent and exceeding stress
Of sweetness and ecstatic tenderness ...
With lifted finger _yet_, Remembrance--List!--
'_Beautiful isle of the sea!_' wells in a mist
Of tremulous ...

... After much whispering
Among the children, Alex came to bring
Some kind of _letter_--as it seemed to be--
To Cousin Rufus. This he carelessly
Unfolded--reading to himself alone,--
But, since its contents became, later, known,
And no one '_plagued_ so _awful_ bad,' the same
May here be given--of course without full name,
Fac-simile, or written kink or curl
Or clue. It read:--

'Wild Roved an indian Girl
Brite al Floretty'
deer freind
I now take
*this* These means to send that _Song_ to you & make
my Promus good to you in the Regards
Of doing What i Promust afterwards,
the _notes_ & _Words_ is both here _Printed_ SOS
you *kin* can git _uncle Mart_ to read you *them* those
& cousin Rufus you can git to _Play_
the _notes_ fur you on eny Plezunt day
His Legul Work aint *Pressin* Pressing.
Ever thine
As shore as the Vine
doth the Stump intwine
thou art my Lump of Sackkerrine
Rinaldo Rinaldine
the Pirut in Captivity.

... There dropped
Another square scrap.--But the hand was stopped
That reached for it--Floretty suddenly
Had set a firm foot on her property--
Thinking it was the _letter_, not the _song_,--
But blushing to discover she was wrong,
When, with all gravity of face and air,
Her precious letter _handed_ to her there
By Cousin Rufus left her even more
In apprehension than she was before.
But, testing his unwavering, kindly eye,
She seemed to put her last suspicion by,
And, in exchange, handed the song to him.--

A page torn from a song-book: Small and dim
Both notes and words were--but as plain as day
They seemed to him, as he began to play--
And plain to _all_ the singers,--as he ran
An airy, warbling prelude, then began
Singing and swinging in so blithe a strain,
That every voice rang in the old refrain:
From the beginning of the song, clean through,
Floretty's features were a study to
The flutist who 'read _notes_' so readily,
Yet read so little of the mystery
Of that face of the girl's.--Indeed _one_ thing
Bewildered him quite into worrying,
And that was, noticing, throughout it all,
The Hired Man shrinking closer to the wall,
She ever backing toward him through the throng
Of barricading children--till the song
Was ended, and at last he saw her near
Enough to reach and take him by the ear
And pinch it just a pang's worth of her ire
And leave it burning like a coal of fire.
He noticed, too, in subtle pantomime
She seemed to dust him off, from time to time;
And when somebody, later, asked if she
Had never heard the song before--'What! _me?_'
She said--then blushed again and smiled,--
'I've knowed that song sence _Adam_ was a child!--
It's jes a joke o' this-here man's.--He's learned
To _read_ and _write_ a little, and its turned
His fool-head some--That's all!'

And then some one
Of the loud-wrangling boys said--'_Course_ they's none
No more, _these_ days!--They's Fairies _ust_ to be,
But they're all dead, a hunderd years!' said he.

'Well, there's where you're _mustakened_!'--in reply
They heard Bud's voice, pitched sharp and thin and high.--

'An' how you goin' to _prove_ it!'

'Well, I _kin_!'
Said Bud, with emphasis,--'They's one lives in
Our garden--and I _see_ 'im wunst, wiv my
Own eyes--_one_ time I did.'

'_Oh, what a lie_!'

'Well, nen,' said the skeptic--seeing there
The older folks attracted--'Tell us _where_
You saw him, an' all _'bout_ him!'

'Yes, my son.--
If you tell 'stories,' you may tell us one,'
The smiling father said, while Uncle Mart,
Behind him, winked at Bud, and pulled apart
His nose and chin with comical grimace--
Then sighed aloud, with sanctimonious face,--
''_How good and comely it is to see
Children and parents in friendship agree!_'--
You fire away, Bud, on your Fairy-tale--
Your _Uncle's_ here to back you!'

Somewhat pale,
And breathless as to speech, the little man
Gathered himself. And thus his story ran.
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