Treasure Island

James Whitcomb Riley

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

He Called Her In


I

He called her in from me and shut the door.
And she so loved the sunshine and the sky!--
She loved them even better yet than I
That ne'er knew dearth of them--my mother dead,
Nature had nursed me in her lap instead:
And I had grown a dark and eerie child
That rarely smiled,
Save when, shut all alone in grasses high,
Looking straight up in God's great lonesome sky
And coaxing Mother to smile back on me.
'Twas lying thus, this fair girl suddenly
Came to me, nestled in the fields beside
A pleasant-seeming home, with doorway wide--
The sunshine beating in upon the floor

Like golden rain.--
O sweet, sweet face above me, turn again
And leave me! I had cried, but that an ache
Within my throat so gripped it I could make
No sound but a thick sobbing. Cowering so,
I felt her light hand laid
Upon my hair--a touch that ne'er before
Had tamed me thus, all soothed and unafraid--
It seemed the touch the children used to know
When Christ was here, so dear it was--so dear,--
At once I loved her as the leaves love dew
In midmost summer when the days are new.
Barely an hour I knew her, yet a curl
Of silken sunshine did she clip for me
Out of the bright May-morning of her hair,
And bound and gave it to me laughingly,
And caught my hands and called me '_Little girl_,'
Tiptoeing, as she spoke, to kiss me there!
And I stood dazed and dumb for very stress
Of my great happiness.
She plucked me by the gown, nor saw how mean
The raiment--drew me with her everywhere:
Smothered her face in tufts of grasses green:
Put up her dainty hands and peeped between
Her fingers at the blossoms--crooned and talked
To them in strange, glad whispers, as we walked,--
Said _this_ one was her angel mother--_this_,
Her baby-sister--come back, for a kiss,
Clean from the Good-World!--smiled and kissed them, then
Closed her soft eyes and kissed them o'er again.
And so did she beguile me--so we played,--
She was the dazzling Shine--I, the dark Shade--
And we did mingle like to these, and thus,
Together, made
The perfect summer, pure and glorious.
So blent we, till a harsh voice broke upon
Our happiness.--She, startled as a fawn,
Cried, 'Oh, 'tis Father!'--all the blossoms gone
From out her cheeks as those from out her grasp.--
Harsher the voice came:--She could only gasp
Affrightedly, 'Good-bye!--good-bye! good-bye!'
And lo, I stood alone, with that harsh cry
Ringing a new and unknown sense of shame
Through soul and frame,
And, with wet eyes, repeating o'er and o'er,--
'He called her in from me and shut the door!'


II

He called her in from me and shut the door!
And I went wandering alone again--
So lonely--O so very lonely then,
I thought no little sallow star, alone
In all a world of twilight, e'er had known
Such utter loneliness. But that I wore
Above my heart that gleaming tress of hair
To lighten up the night of my despair,
I think I might have groped into my grave
Nor cared to wave
The ferns above it with a breath of prayer.
And how I hungered for the sweet, sweet face
That bent above me in my hiding-place
That day amid the grasses there beside
Her pleasant home!--'Her _pleasant_ home!' I sighed,
Remembering;--then shut my teeth and feigned
The harsh voice calling _me_,--then clinched my nails
So deeply in my palms, the sharp wounds pained,
And tossed my face toward heaven, as one who pales
In splendid martyrdom, with soul serene,
As near to God as high the guillotine.
And I had _envied_ her? Not that--O no!
But I had longed for some sweet haven so!--
Wherein the tempest-beaten heart might ride
Sometimes at peaceful anchor, and abide
Where those that loved me touched me with their hands,
And looked upon me with glad eyes, and slipped
Smooth fingers o'er my brow, and lulled the strands
Of my wild tresses, as they backward tipped
My yearning face and kissed it satisfied.
Then bitterly I murmured as before,--
'He called her in from me and shut the door!'


III

He called her in from me and shut the door!
After long struggling with my pride and pain--
A weary while it seemed, in which the more
I held myself from her, the greater fain
Was I to look upon her face again;--
At last--at last--half conscious where my feet
Were faring, I stood waist-deep in the sweet
Green grasses there where she
First came to me.--
The very blossoms she had plucked that day,
And, at her father's voice, had cast away,
Around me lay,
Still bright and blooming in these eyes of mine;
And as I gathered each one eagerly,
I pressed it to my lips and drank the wine
Her kisses left there for the honey-bee.
Then, after I had laid them with the tress

Of her bright hair with lingering tenderness,
I, turning, crept on to the hedge that bound
Her pleasant-seeming home--but all around
Was never sign of her!--The windows all
Were blinded; and I heard no rippling fall
Of her glad laugh, nor any harsh voice call;--
But clutching to the tangled grasses, caught
A sound as though a strong man bowed his head
And sobbed alone--unloved--uncomforted!--
And then straightway before
My tearless eyes, all vividly, was wrought
A vision that is with me evermore:--
A little girl that lies asleep, nor hears
Nor heeds not any voice nor fall of tears.--
And I sit singing o'er and o'er and o'er,--
'God called her in from him and shut the door!'

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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