Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership


See and share Beautiful Nature Photos and amazing photos of interesting places




The Great Adventure of Max Breuck

Written by: Amy Lowell | Biography
 | Quotes (5) |
 1
A yellow band of light upon the street
Pours from an open door, and makes a wide
Pathway of bright gold across a sheet
Of calm and liquid moonshine.
From inside Come shouts and streams of laughter, and a snatch Of song, soon drowned and lost again in mirth, The clip of tankards on a table top, And stir of booted heels.
Against the patch Of candle-light a shadow falls, its girth Proclaims the host himself, and master of his shop.
2 This is the tavern of one Hilverdink, Jan Hilverdink, whose wines are much esteemed.
Within his cellar men can have to drink The rarest cordials old monks ever schemed To coax from pulpy grapes, and with nice art Improve and spice their virgin juiciness.
Here froths the amber beer of many a brew, Crowning each pewter tankard with as smart A cap as ever in his wantonness Winter set glittering on top of an old yew.
3 Tall candles stand upon the table, where Are twisted glasses, ruby-sparked with wine, Clarets and ports.
Those topaz bumpers were Drained from slim, long-necked bottles of the Rhine.
The centre of the board is piled with pipes, Slender and clean, the still unbaptized clay Awaits its burning fate.
Behind, the vault Stretches from dim to dark, a groping way Bordered by casks and puncheons, whose brass stripes And bands gleam dully still, beyond the gay tumult.
4 "For good old Master Hilverdink, a toast!" Clamoured a youth with tassels on his boots.
"Bring out your oldest brandy for a boast, From that small barrel in the very roots Of your deep cellar, man.
Why here is Max! Ho! Welcome, Max, you're scarcely here in time.
We want to drink to old Jan's luck, and smoke His best tobacco for a grand climax.
Here, Jan, a paper, fragrant as crushed thyme, We'll have the best to wish you luck, or may we choke!" 5 Max Breuck unclasped his broadcloth cloak, and sat.
"Well thought of, Franz; here's luck to Mynheer Jan.
" The host set down a jar; then to a vat Lost in the distance of his cellar, ran.
Max took a pipe as graceful as the stem Of some long tulip, crammed it full, and drew The pungent smoke deep to his grateful lung.
It curled all blue throughout the cave and flew Into the silver night.
At once there flung Into the crowded shop a boy, who cried to them: 6 "Oh, sirs, is there some learned lawyer here, Some advocate, or all-wise counsellor? My master sent me to inquire where Such men do mostly be, but every door Was shut and barred, for late has grown the hour.
I pray you tell me where I may now find One versed in law, the matter will not wait.
" "I am a lawyer, boy," said Max, "my mind Is not locked to my business, though 'tis late.
I shall be glad to serve what way is in my power.
7 Then once more, cloaked and ready, he set out, Tripping the footsteps of the eager boy Along the dappled cobbles, while the rout Within the tavern jeered at his employ.
Through new-burst elm leaves filtered the white moon, Who peered and splashed between the twinkling boughs, Flooded the open spaces, and took flight Before tall, serried houses in platoon, Guarded by shadows.
Past the Custom House They took their hurried way in the Spring-scented night.
8 Before a door which fronted a canal The boy halted.
A dim tree-shaded spot.
The water lapped the stones in musical And rhythmic tappings, and a galliot Slumbered at anchor with no light aboard.
The boy knocked twice, and steps approached.
A flame Winked through the keyhole, then a key was turned, And through the open door Max went toward Another door, whence sound of voices came.
He entered a large room where candelabra burned.
9 An aged man in quilted dressing gown Rose up to greet him.
"Sir," said Max, "you sent Your messenger to seek throughout the town A lawyer.
I have small accomplishment, But I am at your service, and my name Is Max Breuck, Counsellor, at your command.
" "Mynheer," replied the aged man, "obliged Am I, and count myself much privileged.
I am Cornelius Kurler, and my fame Is better known on distant oceans than on land.
10 My ship has tasted water in strange seas, And bartered goods at still uncharted isles.
She's oft coquetted with a tropic breeze, And sheered off hurricanes with jaunty smiles.
" "Tush, Kurler," here broke in the other man, "Enough of poetry, draw the deed and sign.
" The old man seemed to wizen at the voice, "My good friend, Grootver, --" he at once began.
"No introductions, let us have some wine, And business, now that you at last have made your choice.
" 11 A harsh and disagreeable man he proved to be, This Grootver, with no single kindly thought.
Kurler explained, his old hands nervously Twisting his beard.
His vessel he had bought From Grootver.
He had thought to soon repay The ducats borrowed, but an adverse wind Had so delayed him that his cargo brought But half its proper price, the very day He came to port he stepped ashore to find The market glutted and his counted profits naught.
12 Little by little Max made out the way That Grootver pressed that poor harassed old man.
His money he must have, too long delay Had turned the usurer to a ruffian.
"But let me take my ship, with many bales Of cotton stuffs dyed crimson, green, and blue, Cunningly patterned, made to suit the taste Of mandarin's ladies; when my battered sails Open for home, such stores will I bring you That all your former ventures will be counted waste.
13 Such light and foamy silks, like crinkled cream, And indigo more blue than sun-whipped seas, Spices and fragrant trees, a massive beam Of sandalwood, and pungent China teas, Tobacco, coffee!" Grootver only laughed.
Max heard it all, and worse than all he heard The deed to which the sailor gave his word.
He shivered, 'twas as if the villain gaffed The old man with a boat-hook; bleeding, spent, He begged for life nor knew at all the road he went.
14 For Kurler had a daughter, young and gay, Carefully reared and shielded, rarely seen.
But on one black and most unfriendly day Grootver had caught her as she passed between The kitchen and the garden.
She had run In fear of him, his evil leering eye, And when he came she, bolted in her room, Refused to show, though gave no reason why.
The spinning of her future had begun, On quiet nights she heard the whirring of her doom.
15 Max mended an old goosequill by the fire, Loathing his work, but seeing no thing to do.
He felt his hands were building up the pyre To burn two souls, and seized with vertigo He staggered to his chair.
Before him lay White paper still unspotted by a crime.
"Now, young man, write," said Grootver in his ear.
"`If in two years my vessel should yet stay From Amsterdam, I give Grootver, sometime A friend, my daughter for his lawful wife.
' Now swear.
" 16 And Kurler swore, a palsied, tottering sound, And traced his name, a shaking, wandering line.
Then dazed he sat there, speechless from his wound.
Grootver got up: "Fair voyage, the brigantine!" He shuffled from the room, and left the house.
His footsteps wore to silence down the street.
At last the aged man began to rouse.
With help he once more gained his trembling feet.
"My daughter, Mynheer Breuck, is friendless now.
Will you watch over her? I ask a solemn vow.
" 17 Max laid his hand upon the old man's arm, "Before God, sir, I vow, when you are gone, So to protect your daughter from all harm As one man may.
" Thus sorrowful, forlorn, The situation to Max Breuck appeared, He gave his promise almost without thought, Nor looked to see a difficulty.
"Bred Gently to watch a mother left alone; Bound by a dying father's wish, who feared The world's accustomed harshness when he should be dead; 18 Such was my case from youth, Mynheer Kurler.
Last Winter she died also, and my days Are passed in work, lest I should grieve for her, And undo habits used to earn her praise.
My leisure I will gladly give to see Your household and your daughter prosperous.
" The sailor said his thanks, but turned away.
He could not brook that his humility, So little wonted, and so tremulous, Should first before a stranger make such great display.
19 "Come here to-morrow as the bells ring noon, I sail at the full sea, my daughter then I will make known to you.
'Twill be a boon If after I have bid good-by, and when Her eyeballs scorch with watching me depart, You bring her home again.
She lives with one Old serving-woman, who has brought her up.
But that is no friend for so free a heart.
No head to match her questions.
It is done.
And I must sail away to come and brim her cup.
20 My ship's the fastest that owns Amsterdam As home, so not a letter can you send.
I shall be back, before to where I am Another ship could reach.
Now your stipend --" Quickly Breuck interposed.
"When you once more Tread on the stones which pave our streets.
-- Good night! To-morrow I will be, at stroke of noon, At the great wharf.
" Then hurrying, in spite Of cake and wine the old man pressed upon Him ere he went, he took his leave and shut the door.
21 'Twas noon in Amsterdam, the day was clear, And sunshine tipped the pointed roofs with gold.
The brown canals ran liquid bronze, for here The sun sank deep into the waters cold.
And every clock and belfry in the town Hammered, and struck, and rang.
Such peals of bells, To shake the sunny morning into life, And to proclaim the middle, and the crown, Of this most sparkling daytime! The crowd swells, Laughing and pushing toward the quays in friendly strife.
22 The "Horn of Fortune" sails away to-day.
At highest tide she lets her anchor go, And starts for China.
Saucy popinjay! Giddy in freshest paint she curtseys low, And beckons to her boats to let her start.
Blue is the ocean, with a flashing breeze.
The shining waves are quick to take her part.
They push and spatter her.
Her sails are loose, Her tackles hanging, waiting men to seize And haul them taut, with chanty-singing, as they choose.
23 At the great wharf's edge Mynheer Kurler stands, And by his side, his daughter, young Christine.
Max Breuck is there, his hat held in his hands, Bowing before them both.
The brigantine Bounces impatient at the long delay, Curvets and jumps, a cable's length from shore.
A heavy galliot unloads on the walls Round, yellow cheeses, like gold cannon balls Stacked on the stones in pyramids.
Once more Kurler has kissed Christine, and now he is away.
24 Christine stood rigid like a frozen stone, Her hands wrung pale in effort at control.
Max moved aside and let her be alone, For grief exacts each penny of its toll.
The dancing boat tossed on the glinting sea.
A sun-path swallowed it in flaming light, Then, shrunk a cockleshell, it came again Upon the other side.
Now on the lee It took the "Horn of Fortune".
Straining sight Could see it hauled aboard, men pulling on the crane.
25 Then up above the eager brigantine, Along her slender masts, the sails took flight, Were sheeted home, and ropes were coiled.
The shine Of the wet anchor, when its heavy weight Rose splashing to the deck.
These things they saw, Christine and Max, upon the crowded quay.
They saw the sails grow white, then blue in shade, The ship had turned, caught in a windy flaw She glided imperceptibly away, Drew farther off and in the bright sky seemed to fade.
26 Home, through the emptying streets, Max took Christine, Who would have hid her sorrow from his gaze.
Before the iron gateway, clasped between Each garden wall, he stopped.
She, in amaze, Asked, "Do you enter not then, Mynheer Breuck? My father told me of your courtesy.
Since I am now your charge, 'tis meet for me To show such hospitality as maiden may, Without disdaining rules must not be broke.
Katrina will have coffee, and she bakes today.
" 27 She straight unhasped the tall, beflowered gate.
Curled into tendrils, twisted into cones Of leaves and roses, iron infoliate, It guards the pleasance, and its stiffened bones Are budded with much peering at the rows, And beds, and arbours, which it keeps inside.
Max started at the beauty, at the glare Of tints.
At either end was set a wide Path strewn with fine, red gravel, and such shows Of tulips in their splendour flaunted everywhere! 28 From side to side, midway each path, there ran A longer one which cut the space in two.
And, like a tunnel some magician Has wrought in twinkling green, an alley grew, Pleached thick and walled with apple trees; their flowers Incensed the garden, and when Autumn came The plump and heavy apples crowding stood And tapped against the arbour.
Then the dame Katrina shook them down, in pelting showers They plunged to earth, and died transformed to sugared food.
29 Against the high, encircling walls were grapes, Nailed close to feel the baking of the sun From glowing bricks.
Their microscopic shapes Half hidden by serrated leaves.
And one Old cherry tossed its branches near the door.
Bordered along the wall, in beds between, Flickering, streaming, nodding in the air, The pride of all the garden, there were more Tulips than Max had ever dreamed or seen.
They jostled, mobbed, and danced.
Max stood at helpless stare.
30 "Within the arbour, Mynheer Breuck, I'll bring Coffee and cakes, a pipe, and Father's best Tobacco, brought from countries harbouring Dawn's earliest footstep.
Wait.
" With girlish zest To please her guest she flew.
A moment more She came again, with her old nurse behind.
Then, sitting on the bench and knitting fast, She talked as someone with a noble store Of hidden fancies, blown upon the wind, Eager to flutter forth and leave their silent past.
31 The little apple leaves above their heads Let fall a quivering sunshine.
Quiet, cool, In blossomed boughs they sat.
Beyond, the beds Of tulips blazed, a proper vestibule And antechamber to the rainbow.
Dyes Of prismed richness: Carmine.
Madder.
Blues Tinging dark browns to purple.
Silvers flushed To amethyst and tinct with gold.
Round eyes Of scarlet, spotting tender saffron hues.
Violets sunk to blacks, and reds in orange crushed.
32 Of every pattern and in every shade.
Nacreous, iridescent, mottled, checked.
Some purest sulphur-yellow, others made An ivory-white with disks of copper flecked.
Sprinkled and striped, tasselled, or keenest edged.
Striated, powdered, freckled, long or short.
They bloomed, and seemed strange wonder-moths new-fledged, Born of the spectrum wedded to a flame.
The shade within the arbour made a port To o'ertaxed eyes, its still, green twilight rest became.
33 Her knitting-needles clicked and Christine talked, This child matured to woman unaware, The first time left alone.
Now dreams once balked Found utterance.
Max thought her very fair.
Beneath her cap her ornaments shone gold, And purest gold they were.
Kurler was rich And heedful.
Her old maiden aunt had died Whose darling care she was.
Now, growing bold, She asked, had Max a sister? Dropped a stitch At her own candour.
Then she paused and softly sighed.
34 Two years was long! She loved her father well, But fears she had not.
He had always been Just sailed or sailing.
And she must not dwell On sad thoughts, he had told her so, and seen Her smile at parting.
But she sighed once more.
Two years was long; 'twas not one hour yet! Mynheer Grootver she would not see at all.
Yes, yes, she knew, but ere the date so set, The "Horn of Fortune" would be at the wall.
When Max had bid farewell, she watched him from the door.
35 The next day, and the next, Max went to ask The health of Jufvrouw Kurler, and the news: Another tulip blown, or the great task Of gathering petals which the high wind strews; The polishing of floors, the pictured tiles Well scrubbed, and oaken chairs most deftly oiled.
Such things were Christine's world, and his was she Winter drew near, his sun was in her smiles.
Another Spring, and at his law he toiled, Unspoken hope counselled a wise efficiency.
36 Max Breuck was honour's soul, he knew himself The guardian of this girl; no more, no less.
As one in charge of guineas on a shelf Loose in a china teapot, may confess His need, but may not borrow till his friend Comes back to give.
So Max, in honour, said No word of love or marriage; but the days He clipped off on his almanac.
The end Must come! The second year, with feet of lead, Lagged slowly by till Spring had plumped the willow sprays.
37 Two years had made Christine a woman grown, With dignity and gently certain pride.
But all her childhood fancies had not flown, Her thoughts in lovely dreamings seemed to glide.
Max was her trusted friend, did she confess A closer happiness? Max could not tell.
Two years were over and his life he found Sphered and complete.
In restless eagerness He waited for the "Horn of Fortune".
Well Had he his promise kept, abating not one pound.
38 Spring slipped away to Summer.
Still no glass Sighted the brigantine.
Then Grootver came Demanding Jufvrouw Kurler.
His trespass Was justified, for he had won the game.
Christine begged time, more time! Midsummer went, And Grootver waxed impatient.
Still the ship Tarried.
Christine, betrayed and weary, sank To dreadful terrors.
One day, crazed, she sent For Max.
"Come quickly," said her note, "I skip The worst distress until we meet.
The world is blank.
" 39 Through the long sunshine of late afternoon Max went to her.
In the pleached alley, lost In bitter reverie, he found her soon.
And sitting down beside her, at the cost Of all his secret, "Dear," said he, "what thing So suddenly has happened?" Then, in tears, She told that Grootver, on the following morn, Would come to marry her, and shuddering: "I will die rather, death has lesser fears.
" Max felt the shackles drop from the oath which he had sworn.
40 "My Dearest One, the hid joy of my heart! I love you, oh! you must indeed have known.
In strictest honour I have played my part; But all this misery has overthrown My scruples.
If you love me, marry me Before the sun has dipped behind those trees.
You cannot be wed twice, and Grootver, foiled, Can eat his anger.
My care it shall be To pay your father's debt, by such degrees As I can compass, and for years I've greatly toiled.
41 This is not haste, Christine, for long I've known My love, and silence forced upon my lips.
I worship you with all the strength I've shown In keeping faith.
" With pleading finger tips He touched her arm.
"Christine! Beloved! Think.
Let us not tempt the future.
Dearest, speak, I love you.
Do my words fall too swift now? They've been in leash so long upon the brink.
" She sat quite still, her body loose and weak.
Then into him she melted, all her soul at flow.
42 And they were married ere the westering sun Had disappeared behind the garden trees.
The evening poured on them its benison, And flower-scents, that only night-time frees, Rose up around them from the beamy ground, Silvered and shadowed by a tranquil moon.
Within the arbour, long they lay embraced, In such enraptured sweetness as they found Close-partnered each to each, and thinking soon To be enwoven, long ere night to morning faced.
43 At last Max spoke, "Dear Heart, this night is ours, To watch it pale, together, into dawn, Pressing our souls apart like opening flowers Until our lives, through quivering bodies drawn, Are mingled and confounded.
Then, far spent, Our eyes will close to undisturbed rest.
For that desired thing I leave you now.
To pinnacle this day's accomplishment, By telling Grootver that a bootless quest Is his, and that his schemes have met a knock-down blow.
" 44 But Christine clung to him with sobbing cries, Pleading for love's sake that he leave her not.
And wound her arms about his knees and thighs As he stood over her.
With dread, begot Of Grootver's name, and silence, and the night, She shook and trembled.
Words in moaning plaint Wooed him to stay.
She feared, she knew not why, Yet greatly feared.
She seemed some anguished saint Martyred by visions.
Max Breuck soothed her fright With wisdom, then stepped out under the cooling sky.
45 But at the gate once more she held him close And quenched her heart again upon his lips.
"My Sweetheart, why this terror? I propose But to be gone one hour! Evening slips Away, this errand must be done.
" "Max! Max! First goes my father, if I lose you now!" She grasped him as in panic lest she drown.
Softly he laughed, "One hour through the town By moonlight! That's no place for foul attacks.
Dearest, be comforted, and clear that troubled brow.
46 One hour, Dear, and then, no more alone.
We front another day as man and wife.
I shall be back almost before I'm gone, And midnight shall anoint and crown our life.
" Then through the gate he passed.
Along the street She watched his buttons gleaming in the moon.
He stopped to wave and turned the garden wall.
Straight she sank down upon a mossy seat.
Her senses, mist-encircled by a swoon, Swayed to unconsciousness beneath its wreathing pall.
47 Briskly Max walked beside the still canal.
His step was firm with purpose.
Not a jot He feared this meeting, nor the rancorous gall Grootver would spit on him who marred his plot.
He dreaded no man, since he could protect Christine.
His wife! He stopped and laughed aloud.
His starved life had not fitted him for joy.
It strained him to the utmost to reject Even this hour with her.
His heart beat loud.
"Damn Grootver, who can force my time to this employ!" 48 He laughed again.
What boyish uncontrol To be so racked.
Then felt his ticking watch.
In half an hour Grootver would know the whole.
And he would be returned, lifting the latch Of his own gate, eager to take Christine And crush her to his lips.
How bear delay? He broke into a run.
In front, a line Of candle-light banded the cobbled street.
Hilverdink's tavern! Not for many a day Had he been there to take his old, accustomed seat.
49 "Why, Max! Stop, Max!" And out they came pell-mell, His old companions.
"Max, where have you been? Not drink with us? Indeed you serve us well! How many months is it since we have seen You here? Jan, Jan, you slow, old doddering goat! Here's Mynheer Breuck come back again at last, Stir your old bones to welcome him.
Fie, Max.
Business! And after hours! Fill your throat; Here's beer or brandy.
Now, boys, hold him fast.
Put down your cane, dear man.
What really vicious whacks!" 50 They forced him to a seat, and held him there, Despite his anger, while the hideous joke Was tossed from hand to hand.
Franz poured with care A brimming glass of whiskey.
"Here, we've broke Into a virgin barrel for you, drink! Tut! Tut! Just hear him! Married! Who, and when? Married, and out on business.
Clever Spark! Which lie's the likeliest? Come, Max, do think.
" Swollen with fury, struggling with these men, Max cursed hilarity which must needs have a mark.
51 Forcing himself to steadiness, he tried To quell the uproar, told them what he dared Of his own life and circumstance.
Implied Most urgent matters, time could ill be spared.
In jesting mood his comrades heard his tale, And scoffed at it.
He felt his anger more Goaded and bursting; -- "Cowards! Is no one loth To mock at duty --" Here they called for ale, And forced a pipe upon him.
With an oath He shivered it to fragments on the earthen floor.
52 Sobered a little by his violence, And by the host who begged them to be still, Nor injure his good name, "Max, no offence," They blurted, "you may leave now if you will.
" "One moment, Max," said Franz.
"We've gone too far.
I ask your pardon for our foolish joke.
It started in a wager ere you came.
The talk somehow had fall'n on drugs, a jar I brought from China, herbs the natives smoke, Was with me, and I thought merely to play a game.
53 Its properties are to induce a sleep Fraught with adventure, and the flight of time Is inconceivable in swiftness.
Deep Sunken in slumber, imageries sublime Flatter the senses, or some fearful dream Holds them enmeshed.
Years pass which on the clock Are but so many seconds.
We agreed That the next man who came should prove the scheme; And you were he.
Jan handed you the crock.
Two whiffs! And then the pipe was broke, and you were freed.
" 54 "It is a lie, a damned, infernal lie!" Max Breuck was maddened now.
"Another jest Of your befuddled wits.
I know not why I am to be your butt.
At my request You'll choose among you one who'll answer for Your most unseasonable mirth.
Good-night And good-by, -- gentlemen.
You'll hear from me.
" But Franz had caught him at the very door, "It is no lie, Max Breuck, and for your plight I am to blame.
Come back, and we'll talk quietly.
55 You have no business, that is why we laughed, Since you had none a few minutes ago.
As to your wedding, naturally we chaffed, Knowing the length of time it takes to do A simple thing like that in this slow world.
Indeed, Max, 'twas a dream.
Forgive me then.
I'll burn the drug if you prefer.
" But Breuck Muttered and stared, -- "A lie.
" And then he hurled, Distraught, this word at Franz: "Prove it.
And when It's proven, I'll believe.
That thing shall be your work.
56 I'll give you just one week to make your case.
On August thirty-first, eighteen-fourteen, I shall require your proof.
" With wondering face Franz cried, "A week to August, and fourteen The year! You're mad, 'tis April now.
April, and eighteen-twelve.
" Max staggered, caught A chair, -- "April two years ago! Indeed, Or you, or I, are mad.
I know not how Either could blunder so.
" Hilverdink brought "The Amsterdam Gazette", and Max was forced to read.
57 "Eighteen hundred and twelve," in largest print; And next to it, "April the twenty-first.
" The letters smeared and jumbled, but by dint Of straining every nerve to meet the worst, He read it, and into his pounding brain Tumbled a horror.
Like a roaring sea Foreboding shipwreck, came the message plain: "This is two years ago! What of Christine?" He fled the cellar, in his agony Running to outstrip Fate, and save his holy shrine.
58 The darkened buildings echoed to his feet Clap-clapping on the pavement as he ran.
Across moon-misted squares clamoured his fleet And terror-winged steps.
His heart began To labour at the speed.
And still no sign, No flutter of a leaf against the sky.
And this should be the garden wall, and round The corner, the old gate.
No even line Was this! No wall! And then a fearful cry Shattered the stillness.
Two stiff houses filled the ground.
59 Shoulder to shoulder, like dragoons in line, They stood, and Max knew them to be the ones To right and left of Kurler's garden.
Spine Rigid next frozen spine.
No mellow tones Of ancient gilded iron, undulate, Expanding in wide circles and broad curves, The twisted iron of the garden gate, Was there.
The houses touched and left no space Between.
With glassy eyes and shaking nerves Max gazed.
Then mad with fear, fled still, and left that place.
60 Stumbling and panting, on he ran, and on.
His slobbering lips could only cry, "Christine! My Dearest Love! My Wife! Where are you gone? What future is our past? What saturnine, Sardonic devil's jest has bid us live Two years together in a puff of smoke? It was no dream, I swear it! In some star, Or still imprisoned in Time's egg, you give Me love.
I feel it.
Dearest Dear, this stroke Shall never part us, I will reach to where you are.
" 61 His burning eyeballs stared into the dark.
The moon had long been set.
And still he cried: "Christine! My Love! Christine!" A sudden spark Pricked through the gloom, and shortly Max espied With his uncertain vision, so within Distracted he could scarcely trust its truth, A latticed window where a crimson gleam Spangled the blackness, and hung from a pin, An iron crane, were three gilt balls.
His youth Had taught their meaning, now they closed upon his dream.
62 Softly he knocked against the casement, wide It flew, and a cracked voice his business there Demanded.
The door opened, and inside Max stepped.
He saw a candle held in air Above the head of a gray-bearded Jew.
"Simeon Isaacs, Mynheer, can I serve You?" "Yes, I think you can.
Do you keep arms? I want a pistol.
" Quick the old man grew Livid.
"Mynheer, a pistol! Let me swerve You from your purpose.
Life brings often false alarms --" 63 "Peace, good old Isaacs, why should you suppose My purpose deadly.
In good truth I've been Blest above others.
You have many rows Of pistols it would seem.
Here, this shagreen Case holds one that I fancy.
Silvered mounts Are to my taste.
These letters `C.
D.
L.
' Its former owner? Dead, you say.
Poor Ghost! 'Twill serve my turn though --" Hastily he counts The florins down upon the table.
"Well, Good-night, and wish me luck for your to-morrow's toast.
" 64 Into the night again he hurried, now Pale and in haste; and far beyond the town He set his goal.
And then he wondered how Poor C.
D.
L.
had come to die.
"It's grown Handy in killing, maybe, this I've bought, And will work punctually.
" His sorrow fell Upon his senses, shutting out all else.
Again he wept, and called, and blindly fought The heavy miles away.
"Christine.
I'm well.
I'm coming.
My Own Wife!" He lurched with failing pulse.
65 Along the dyke the keen air blew in gusts, And grasses bent and wailed before the wind.
The Zuider Zee, which croons all night and thrusts Long stealthy fingers up some way to find And crumble down the stones, moaned baffled.
Here The wide-armed windmills looked like gallows-trees.
No lights were burning in the distant thorps.
Max laid aside his coat.
His mind, half-clear, Babbled "Christine!" A shot split through the breeze.
The cold stars winked and glittered at his chilling corpse.



Comments