The Trouble of Curtiss
who Lodged in the Basement





Ever so little to shew for it
And I shouldn't have cared but I haven't a thing
Excepting her battered turquoise ring
And my finger's so thick it's too small to fit.

Nothing to shew for all the sorrow—
And !—Good God! I am here by myself
With those two watch pockets over our shelf
I must take the red one down tomorrow.

I wonder why she went so fast.
I'm sure she ought to have lived a while,
For the doctor said, with his sawdust smile,
'She's bound to go—but a week she'll last.'

I shouldn't ha' minded , if only I'd known—
But it happened so suddenly—first the gasp
And then—she was holding me tight in her clasp—
The jaw went down, and she fell like a stone.

What came next after the stillness?
Oh! tea, on a tray, with cups for two—
(You see they thought that she'd pull through,
And we'd always taken it so, in her illness.)

That upset me—Lord knows why:
When the slavey left and shut the door
I gulped a bit, and I drop't on the floor
But my throat was so hot I couldn't cry—

And then the business next morning and all
The hideous wrangling over the price
'For three pun ten you can do it nice
But there's ten bob more for the use of the pall

And three bob more if you 'as the bell,
An' then there's the land; we manages that,
And then there's the crape what goes round your 'at
And then there's the parson's fees as well.'

(The worst of it is you can't escape
The detail after a loved one dies,
But must quit at once, gird loins & rise
To haggle for feathers and nails and crape)

'We'll manage it all.' God! What did I care
As he preached in a dreary monotone
Of the different merits of different stone
And asked when the men should come and where.

A wholesale business—mercantile
To the gilt-head letter—nails hammered in—
A matter of money—Who cared a pin
Or thought of my Lottie all the while!


* * * *


Why is it so? What's the good of it all?
I'd ha' kept her alive if they'd let me try—
And she—what need to make her die?
God of the Pestilence answer my call.

Surely our God is a little blind,
Or a little careless maybe—perhaps
He is out of the reach of those awful taps
On the shell that are driving me out of my mind.

All so horrible ! all so strange!
She can't have altered to this so quickly!
Her colour was always a little sickly,
But what a change! Oh what a change!

The straight, lax lines by the curve of the lips,
The stretched wax skin where no colour lingers,
The blackening tips of her little fingers,
And the hollow under the finger tips

Lottie? The heart of our nomad life?
Madcap girl with the reckless tongue?
That her?—Why should she die so young
Scarcely passed from the child to the wife?

Old in the wit that our headrace brings,
But oh! so sweet, so loving, so ready—
Younger than I but she kept me steady
Through a year of trouble and buffetings.

And she's somewhere apart and away from me,
Flown like a wild bird, out of my hand—
There's the pain—Can you understand
How it feels and what it must be

To think of our councils, her head on my breast
And the cash book balanced somehow or other,
With plenty of kisses deficits to smother?
(Foolish of course-but we liked it best)

And then our evening strolls and our talks
On the benches facing the Serpentine,
Retold the old story, her hand in mine,
While darkness settled down on the walks,

Went over the year that joined us two
Step by step—slowly, so slowly—
Till night hid the lapping waters wholly,
And Ifelt her ulster damp with the dew.

Now—just nothing and worse than that
For the room is full of the clothes she wore—
There's her corset lying about on the floor
With her knowing, brown, little sealskin hat.

But the step, and the laugh and the eye are gone—
These things proclaim the fact aloud,
While the sun glares in from the grey smoke cloud,
Lest I miss the bed that she lay upon—

What days those were—and now they're over—
I could work like a slave before 'twas light
All through the day and half the night
But then—I'm Curtiss not Lottie's lover.—

Peace for her, I suppose so—
For me What peace is there, except the lull
After a storm has blown to its full
And the sodden corpses come out of the sea,

There's one thought strikes as the worst of it—
The years will heal the scar they made
And fix it, a youthful escapade
When I'm older—and wiser a little bit

Nothing is fixed—The newer day
Smothers the dead one—New interests crowd
(With little breathing space allowed)
To take the edge of our grief away.—

What have I to keep me out of the pit,
Now you are gone—What chance for me
To make my life as it used to be
With you, sole arbitress of it—

Oh girl wife I was the world to you!
How will it be when we meet again?
You stamped with my seal, that you remain
For ever as loving, as sweet and true.

And I, with the hand some alien she
Presses in fire over the first
Maybe—or else (the last and worst)
My passion frittered utterly

Through a dozen channels of later loves,
No one single, or perfect or clean—
How could I face you Oh my Queen
When we meet again if Fate approves.

I think you would put out your arms as of old,
With that odd, quick gesture—draw my face
Down on your breast in a strict embrace,
And keep it there till the tale was told.—

And after it all—you would turn your head
To the bar—'This man was a god to me
Even as Thou art—set him free
Seeing he stood for a time in thy stead'

What am I raving of? There you lie
And now you are going—I shan't go
I loved you too much in life, you know
To follow up to the cemetery—

You shall be Lottie, a little worn,
And very silent, a little pale
Nothing more—what would it avail
If I walked behind you—where you are borne?

You shall be Lottie—so fast asleep,
That you will not wake though I kiss you now—
Once, twice, thrice-lips, eyes, and brow
And give you our marriage lines to keep

Rest in peace—God bless you—Goodnight
And another kiss before the screw
Comes to sunder me from you
And the top-board shuts your face from sight

The bitterest wrench of it all is near—
Up till now it was nothing—but
God have mercy! It's shut, it's shut
And they're going to take it away from here.

Help me someone! Let it bide!
Open it only once again—
I'm perfectly well, I can bear the pain,
I'll swear that a camphor bag slipped inside—

A great Love spilt, and to shew for it—
Nothing—the white face there is quiet
While the first floor children continue their riot,
And my head is aching fit to split.