Page:The torrent and The night before.djvu/53

This page has been validated.

—43—

Pulsed and swayed with a warmth—or something
That seemed so then to my feet—and thrilled me
With a quick, dizzy joy; and the women
And men, like marvellous things of magic,
Floated and laughed and sang by my shoulder.
Sent with a wizard motion. Through it
And over and under it all there sounded
A murmur of life, like bees; and I listened
And laughed again to think of the flower
That grew, blood red, for me! . . . This fellow
Was one of the popular sort who flourish
Unruffled where gods would fall. For a conscience
He carried a snug deceit that made him
The man of the time and the place, whatever
The time or the place might be:—were he sounding
With a genial craft that cloaked its purpose,
Nigh to itself, the depth of a woman
Fooled with his brainless art,—or sending
The midnight home with songs and bottles,—
The cad was there, and his ease forever
Shone with the smooth and slippery polish
That tells the snake.—That night he drifted
Into an up-town haunt and ordered—
Whatever it was—with a soft assurance
That made me mad as I stood behind him,
Gripping his death, and waited.—Coward,
I think, is the name the world has given
To men like me; but I'll swear I never
Thought of my own disgrace when I shot him . . .
Yes, in the back;—I know it. I know it
Now, but what if I do? . . . As I watched him
Lying there dead in the scattered sawdust,
Wet with a day's blown froth, I noted
That things were still:—that the walnut tables,
Where men but a moment before were sitting,
Were gone;—that a screen of something around me
Shut them out of my sight. But the gilded