James Whitcomb Riley

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

The Evening Company


Within the sitting-room, the company
Had been increased in number. Two or three
Young couples had been added: Emma King,
Ella and Mary Mathers--all could sing
Like veritable angels--Lydia Martin, too,
And Nelly Millikan.--What songs they knew!--

_''Ever of Thee--wherever I may be,
Fondly I'm drea-m-ing ever of thee!_''

And with their gracious voices blend the grace
Of Warsaw Barnett's tenor; and the bass
Unfathomed of Wick Chapman--Fancy still
Can _feel_, as well as _hear_ it, thrill on thrill,
Vibrating plainly down the backs of chairs
And through the wall and up the old hall-stairs.--
Indeed young Chapman's voice especially
Attracted _Mr. Hammond_--For, said he,
Waiving the most Elysian sweetness of
The _ladies_' voices--altitudes above
The _man's_ for sweetness;--_but_--as _contrast_, would
Not Mr. Chapman be so very good
As, just now, to oblige _all_ with--in fact,
Some sort of _jolly_ song,--to counteract
In part, at least, the sad, pathetic trend
Of music _generally_. Which wish our friend
'The Noted Traveler' made second to
With heartiness--and so each, in review,
Joined in--until the radiant _basso_ cleared
His wholly unobstructed throat and peered
Intently at the ceiling--voice and eye
As opposite indeed as earth and sky.--
Thus he uplifted his vast bass and let
It roam at large the memories booming yet:

''Old Simon the Cellarer keeps a rare store
Of Malmsey and Malvoi-sie,
Of Cyprus, and who can say how many more?--
But a chary old so-u-l is he-e-ee--
A chary old so-u-l is he!
Of hock and Canary he never doth fail;
And all the year 'round, there is brewing of ale;--
Yet he never aileth, he quaintly doth say,
While he keeps to his sober six flagons a day.''

... And then the chorus--the men's voices all
_Warred_ in it--like a German Carnival.--
Even _Mrs_. Hammond smiled, as in her youth,
Hearing her husband--And in veriest truth
'The Noted Traveler's' ever-present hat
Seemed just relaxed a little, after that,
As at conclusion of the Bacchic song
He stirred his 'float' vehemently and long.

Then Cousin Rufus with his flute, and art
Blown blithely through it from both soul and heart--
Inspired to heights of mastery by the glad,
Enthusiastic audience he had
In the young ladies of a town that knew
No other flutist,--nay, nor _wanted_ to,
Since they had heard _his_ 'Polly Hopkin's Waltz,'
Or 'Rickett's Hornpipe,' with its faultless faults,
As rendered solely, he explained, 'by ear,'
Having but heard it once, Commencement Year,
At 'Old Ann Arbor.'

Little Maymie now
Seemed 'friends' with _Mr. Hammond_--anyhow,
Was lifted to his lap--where settled, she--
Enthroned thus, in her dainty majesty,
Gained _universal_ audience--although
Addressing him alone:--'I'm come to show
You my new Red-blue pencil; and _she_ says'--
(Pointing to _Mrs._ Hammond)--'that she guess'
You'll make a _picture_ fer me.'

'And what _kind_
Of picture?' Mr. Hammond asked, inclined
To serve the child as bidden, folding square
The piece of paper she had brought him there.--
'I don't know,' Maymie said--'only ist make
A _little dirl_, like me!'

He paused to take
A sharp view of the child, and then he drew--
Awhile with red, and then awhile with blue--
The outline of a little girl that stood
In converse with a wolf in a great wood;
And she had on a hood and cloak of red--
As Maymie watched--'_Red Riding Hood!_' she said.
'And who's '_Red Riding Hood'?_'

'W'y, don't _you_ know?'
Asked little Maymie--

But the man looked so
All uninformed, that little Maymie could
But tell him _all about_ Red Riding Hood.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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