Winifred Virginia Jackson-Fallen Fences

Fallen Fences

THE WOODS grew dark; black shadows rocked
And I could scarcely see
My way along the old tote road,
That long had seemed to me

To wind on aimlessly; but now 5
Came full to life; the rain
Would soon strike down; ahead I saw
A clearing, and a lane

Between gray, fallen fences and
Wide, grayer, grim stone walls; 10
So grim and gray I shrank from thought
Of weary, aching spalles.

On stony knoll great aspens swayed
And swung in browsing teeth
Of wind; slim, silvered yearlings shook 15
And shivered underneath.

Beyond, some ancient oak trees bent
And wrangled over roof
Of weatherbeaten house, and barn
Whose sag bespoke no hoof. 20

And ivy crawled up either end
Of house, to chimney, where
It lashed in futile anger at
The wind wolves of the air.

I thought the house abandoned, and 25
I ran to get inside,
When suddenly the old front door
Was opened and flung wide

And she stood there, with hand on knob,
As I went swiftly in, 30
Then closed the door most softly on
The storm and shrieking din.

A space I stood and looked at her,
So young; ’twas passing strange
That fifty years or more had gone 35
And brought no new style’s change.

The sweetness, daintiness of her
In starched and dotted gown
Of creamy whiteness, over hoops,
With ruffles winding down! 40

We had not much to say, and yet
Of words I felt no lack;
Her smiles slipped into dimples, stopped
A moment, then dropped back.

I felt her pride of race; her taste 45
In silken rug and chair,
And quaintly fashioned furniture
Of patterns old and rare.

On window sill a rose bush stood;
’Twas bringing rose to bud; 50
One full bloomed there but yesterday,
Dropped petals, red as blood.

Quite soon, she asked to be excused
For just a moment, and
Went out, returning with a tray 55
In either slender hand.

My glance could not but linger on
Each thin and lovely cup;
“This came, dear thing, from home!” she sighed
The while she raised it up. 60

And when the storm was done and I
Arose, reluctantly
To go, she too was loath to have
Me go, it seemed to me.

When I reached old Joe Webber’s place, 65
Upon the Corner Road,
I went into the Upper Field
Where Joe, round-shouldered, hoed

Potatoes, culling them with hoe
And practised, calloused hand, 70
In rounded piles that brownly glowed
Upon the fresh-turned land.

“Say, Joe,” I said, “who is that girl
With beauty’s smiling charm,
That lives beyond that hemlock growth, 75
On that old grown-up farm?”

Joe listened, while I told him where
I’d been that afternoon,
Then straightened from his hoe, and hummed,
Before he spoke, a tune. 80

“They cum ter thet old place ter live
Some sixty years ago;
Jest where they cum from, who they ware,
Wy, no one got to know.

“An’ then, one day, he hired Hen’s 85
Red racker an’ the gig;
We never heard from him nor could
We track the hoss or rig.

“Hen waited ’bout a week, an’ then
He went ter see the Wife; 90
He found her in thet settin’ room:
She’d taken of her life.

“An’ no one’s lived in thet house sence;
Some say ’tis haunted,—but
I ain’t no use fer foolishness, 95
So all I say’s tut! tut!”

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