James Whitcomb Riley

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

Noey's Night-Piece


'They ain't much 'tale' about it!' Noey said.--
'K'tawby grapes wuz gittin' good-n-red
I rickollect; and Tubb Kingry and me
'Ud kindo' browse round town, daytime, to see
What neighbers 'peared to have the most to spare
'At wuz git-at-able and no dog there
When we come round to git 'em, say 'bout ten
O'clock at night when mostly old folks then
Wuz snorin' at each other like they yit
Helt some old grudge 'at never slep' a bit.
Well, at the _Pars'nige_--ef ye'll call to mind,--
They's 'bout the biggest grape-arber you'll find
'Most anywheres.--And mostly there, we knowed
They wuz _k'tawbies_ thick as ever growed--
And more'n they'd _p'serve_.--Besides I've heerd
Ma say k'tawby-grape-p'serves jes 'peared
A waste o' sugar, anyhow!--And so
My conscience stayed outside and lem me go
With Tubb, one night, the back-way, clean up through
That long black arber to the end next to
The house, where the k'tawbies, don't you know,
Wuz thickest. And t'uz lucky we went _slow_,--
Fer jest as we wuz cropin' tords the gray-
End, like, of the old arber--heerd Tubb say
In a skeered whisper, 'Hold up! They's some one
Jes slippin' in here!--and _looks like a gun_
He's carryin'!' I _golly!_ we both spread
Out flat aginst the ground!

''What's that?' Tubb said.--
And jest then--'_plink! plunk! plink!_' we heerd something
Under the back-porch-winder.--Then, i jing!
Of course we rickollected 'bout the young
School-mam 'at wuz a-boardin' there, and sung,
And played on the melodium in the choir.--
And she 'uz 'bout as purty to admire
As any girl in town!--the fac's is, she
Jest _wuz_, them times, to a dead certainty,
The belle o' this-here bailywick!--But--Well,--
I'd best git back to what I'm tryin' to tell:--
It wuz some feller come to serenade
Miss Wetherell: And there he plunked and played
His old guitar, and sung, and kep' his eye
Set on her winder, blacker'n the sky!--
And black it _stayed_.--But mayby she wuz 'way
From home, er wore out--bein' _Saturday!_

'It _seemed_ a good-'eal _longer_, but I _know_
He sung and plunked there half a' hour er so
Afore, it 'peared like, he could ever git
His own free qualified consents to quit
And go off 'bout his business. When he went
I bet you could a-bought him fer a cent!

'And now, behold ye all!--as Tubb and me
Wuz 'bout to raise up,--right in front we see
A feller slippin' out the arber, square
Smack under that-air little winder where
The _other_ feller had been standin'.--And
The thing he wuz a-carryin' in his hand
Wuzn't no _gun_ at all!--It wuz a _flute_,--
And _whoop-ee!_ how it did git up and toot
And chirp and warble, tel a mockin'-bird
'Ud dast to never let hisse'f be heerd
Ferever, after sich miracalous, high
Jim-cracks and grand skyrootics played there by
Yer Cousin Rufus!--Yes-sir; it wuz him!--
And what's more,--all a-suddent that-air dim
Dark winder o' Miss Wetherell's wuz lit
Up like a' oyshture-sign, and under it
We see him sort o' wet his lips and smile
Down 'long his row o' dancin' fingers, while
He kindo' stiffened up and kinked his breath
And everlastin'ly jest blowed the peth
Out o' that-air old one-keyed flute o' his.
And, bless their hearts, that's all the 'tale' they is!'

And even as Noey closed, all radiantly
The unconscious hero of the history,
Returning, met a perfect driving storm
Of welcome--a reception strangely warm
And _unaccountable_, to _him_, although
Most _gratifying_,--and he told them so.
'I only urge,' he said, 'my right to be
Enlightened.' And a voice said: '_Certainly:_--
During your absence we agreed that you
Should tell us all a story, old or new,
Just in the immediate happy frame of mind
We knew you would return in.'

So, resigned,
The ready flutist tossed his hat aside--
Glanced at the children, smiled, and thus complied.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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