James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

At Last


A dark, tempestuous night; the stars shut in
With shrouds of fog; an inky, jet-black blot
The firmament; and where the moon has been
An hour agone seems like the darkest spot.
The weird wind--furious at its demon game--
Rattles one's fancy like a window-frame.

A care-worn face peers out into the dark,
And childish faces--frightened at the gloom--
Grow awed and vacant as they turn to mark
The father's as he passes through the room:
The gate latch clatters, and wee baby Bess
Whispers, 'The doctor's tummin' now, I dess!'

The father turns; a sharp, swift flash of pain
Flits o'er his face: 'Amanda, child! I said
A moment since--I see I must AGAIN--
Go take your little sisters off to bed!
There, Effie, Rose, and CLARA MUSTN'T CRY!'
'I tan't he'p it--I'm fyaid 'at mama'll die!'

What are his feelings, when this man alone
Sits in the silence, glaring in the grate
That sobs and sighs on in an undertone
As stoical--immovable as Fate,
While muffled voices from the sick one's room
Come in like heralds of a dreaded doom?

The door-latch jingles: in the doorway stands
The doctor, while the draft puffs in a breath--
The dead coals leap to life, and clap their hands,
The flames flash up. A face as pale as death
Turns slowly--teeth tight clenched, and with a look
The doctor, through his specs, reads like a book.

'Come, brace up, Major!'--'Let me know the worst!'
'W'y you're the biggest fool I ever saw--
Here, Major--take a little brandy first--
There! She's a BOY--I mean HE is--hurrah!'
'Wake up the other girls--and shout for joy--
Eureka is his name--I've found A BOY!'

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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