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- Dawn - 11/52 -
"Is it true that by an' by there could be an operator on that boy's eyes?"
"Oper--er--oh, operation! Yes, there might be, if he could only get strong enough to stand it. But it might not be successful, even then."
"But there's a chance?"
"Yes, there's a chance."
"I s'pose it--it would be mighty expulsive, though."
"Expulsive?" The young woman frowned slightly; then suddenly she smiled. "Oh! Oh, yes, I--I'm afraid it would--er--cost a good deal of money," she nodded over her shoulder as she went on into Keith's room.
That evening Susan sought her employer in the studio. Daniel Burton spent all his waking hours in the studio now. The woods and fields were nothing but a barren desert of loneliness to Daniel Burton-- without Keith.
The very poise of Susan's head spelt aggressive determination as she entered the studio; and Daniel Burton shifted uneasily in his chair as he faced her. Nor did he fail to note that she carried some folded papers in her hand.
"Yes, yes, Susan, I know. Those bills are due, and past due," he cried nervously, before Susan could speak. "And I hoped to have the money, both for them and for your wages, long before this. But---"
Susan stopped him short with an imperative gesture.
"T ain't bills, Mr. Burton, an't ain't wages. It's--it's somethin' else. Somethin' very importune." There was a subdued excitement in Susan's face and manner that was puzzling, yet most promising.
Unconsciously Daniel Burton sat a little straighter and lifted his chin--though his eyes were smiling.
"Oh, SUSAN!" It was as if a bubble had been pricked, leaving nothing but empty air.
"But you don't know--you don't understand, yet," pleaded Susan, unerringly reading the disappointment in her employer's face. "It's to sell--to get some money, you know, for the operator on the poor lamb's eyes. I--I wanted to help, some way. An' this is REAL poetry--truly it is!--not the immaculate kind that I jest dash off! I've worked an' worked over this, an' I'm jest sure it'll sell, It's GOT to sell, Mr. Burton. We've jest got to have that money. An' now, I--I want to read 'em to you. Can't I, please?"
And this from Susan--this palpitating, pleading "please"! Daniel Burton, with a helpless gesture that expressed embarrassment, dismay, bewilderment, and resignation, threw up both hands and settled back in his chair.
"Why, of--of course, Susan, read them," he muttered as clearly as he could, considering the tightness that had come into his throat.
And Susan read this:
Oh, gentle Spring, I love thy rills, I love thy wooden, rocky rills, I love thy budsome beauty. But, oh, I hate o'er anything, Thy mud an' slush, oh, gentle Spring, When rubbers are a duty.
"That's the shortest--the other is longer," explained Susan, still the extraordinary, palpitating Susan, with the shining, pleading eyes.
"Yes, go on." Daniel Burton had to clear his throat before he could say even those two short words.
"I called this 'Them Things That Plague,'" said Susan. "An' it's really true, too. Don't you know? Things DO plague worse nights, when you can't sleep. An' you get to thinkin' an' thinkin'. Well, that's what made me write this." And she began to read:
THEM THINGS THAT PLAGUE
They come at night, them things that plague, An' gather round my bed. They cluster thick about the foot, An' lean on top the head.
They like the dark, them things that plague, For then they can be great, They loom like doom from out the gloom, An' shriek: "I am your Fate!"
But, after all, them things that plague Are cowards--Say not you?-- To strike a man when he is down, An' in the darkness, too.
For if you'll watch them things that plague, Till comin' of the dawn, You'll find, when once you're on your feet, Them things that plague--are gone!
"There, ain't that true--every word of it?" she demanded. "An' there ain't hardly any poem license in it, too. I think they're a ways lots better when there ain't; but sometimes, of course, you jest have to use it. There! an' now I've read 'em both to you--an' how much do you s'pose I can get for 'em--the two of 'em, either singly or doubly?" Susan was still breathless, still shining-eyed--a strange, exotic Susan, that Daniel Burton had never seen before. "I've heard that writers--some writers--get lots of money, Mr. Burton, an' I can write more--lots more. Why, when I get to goin' they jest come autocratically--poems do--without any thinkin' at all; an'--But how much DO you think I ought to get?"
"Get? Good Heavens woman!" Daniel Burton was on his feet now trying to shake off the conflicting emotions that were all but paralyzing him. "Why, you can't get anything for those da---" Just in time he pulled himself up. At that moment, too, he saw Susan's face. He sat down limply.
"Susan." He cleared his throat and began again. He tried to speak clearly, judiciously, kindly. "Susan, I'm afraid--that is, I'm not sure--Oh, hang it all, woman"--he was on his feet now--"send them, if you want to--but don't blame me for the consequences." And with a gesture, as of flinging the whole thing far from him, he turned his back and walked away.
"You mean--you don't think I can get hardly anything for 'em?" An extraordinarily meek, fearful Susan asked the question.
Only a shrug of the back-turned shoulders answered her.
"But, Mr. Burton, we--we've got to have the money for that operator; an', anyhow, I--I mean to try." With a quick indrawing of her breath she turned abruptly and left the studio.
That evening, in her own room, Susan pored over the two inexpensive magazines that came to the house. She was searching for poems and for addresses.
As she worked she began to look more cheerful. Both the magazines published poems, and if they published one poem they would another, of course, especially if the poem were a better one--and Susan could not help feeling that they were better (those poems of hers) than almost any she saw there in print before her. There was some SENSE to her poems, while those others--why, some of them didn't mean anything, not anything!--and they didn't even rhyme!
With real hope and courage, therefore, Susan laboriously copied off the addresses of the two magazines, directed two envelopes, and set herself to writing the first of her two letters. That done, she copied the letter, word for word--except for the title of the poem submitted.
It was a long letter. Susan told first of Keith and his misfortune, and the imperative need of money for the operation. Then she told something of herself, and of her habit of turning everything into rhyme; for she felt it due to them, she said, that they know something of the person with whom they were dealing. She touched again on the poverty of the household, and let it plainly be seen that she had high hopes of the money these poems were going to bring. She did not set a price. She would leave that to their own indiscretion, she said in closing.
It was midnight before Susan had copied this letter and prepared the two manuscripts for mailing. Then, tired, but happy, she went to bed.
It was the next day that the nurse went, and that Mrs. Colebrook came.
The doctor said that Keith might be dressed now, any day--that he should be dressed, in fact, and begin to take some exercise. He had already sat up in a chair every day for a week--and he was in no further need of medicine, except a tonic to build him up. In fact, all efforts now should be turned toward building him up, the doctor said. That was what he needed.
All this the nurse mentioned to Mr. Burton and to Susan, as she was leaving. She went away at two o'clock, and Mrs. Colebrook was not to come until half-past five. At one minute past two Susan crept to the door of Keith's room and pushed it open softly. The boy, his face to the wall, lay motionless. But he was not asleep. Susan knew that, for she had heard his voice not five minutes before, bidding the nurse good-bye. For one brief moment Susan hesitated. Then, briskly, she stepped into the room with a cheery:
"Well, Keith, here we are, just ourselves together. The nurse is gone an' I am on--how do you like the weather?"
"Yes, I know, she said she was going." The boy spoke listlessly, wearily, without turning his head.
"What do you say to gettin' up?"
Keith stirred restlessly.
"I was up this morning."
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