Chapter XIII. Free Verse--a la Susan

And persistently, systematically Susan did, indeed, keep "peggin' away." No sooner had she roused Keith to the point of accomplishing one task than she set for him another. No sooner could he pilot himself about one room than she inveigled him into another. And when he could go everywhere about the house she coaxed him out into the yard. It was harder here, for Keith had a morbid fear of being stared at. And only semi-occasionally would he consent at all to going out.

It was then that with stern determination Susan sought Daniel Burton.

"Look a-here, Daniel Burton," she accosted him abruptly, "I've done all I can now, an' it's up to you."

The man looked up, plainly startled.

"Why, Susan, you don't mean--you aren't--going, are you?"

"Goin' nothin'--shucks!" tossed Susan to one side disdainfully. "I mean that Keith ain't goin' to get that good red blood he's needin' sittin' 'round the house here. He's got to go off in the woods an' walk an' tramp an' run an' scuff leaves. An' you've got to go with him. I can't, can I?"

The man shifted his position irritably.

"Do you think that boy will let me lead him through the streets, Susan? Well, I know he won't."

"I didn't say 'lead him.' I said go with him. There's an awful lot of difference between leadin' an' accommodatin'. We don't none of us like to be led, but we don't mind goin' with folks 'most anywheres. Put your arm into his an' walk together. He'll walk that way. I've tried it. An' to see him you wouldn't know he was blind at all. Oh, yes, I know you're hangin' back an' don't want to. I know you hate to see him or be with him, 'cause it makes you know what a terrible thing it is that's come to you an' him. But you've got to, Daniel Burton. You an' me is all he's got to stand between him an' utter misery. I can feed his stomach an' make him do the metaphysical things, but it's you that's got to feed his soul an' make him do the menial things."

"Oh, Susan, Susan!" half groaned the man. There was a smile on his lips, but there were tears in his eyes.

"Well, it's so," argued Susan earnestly. "Oh, I read to him, of course. I read him everything I can get hold of, especially about men an' women that have become great an' famous an' extinguished, even if they was blind or deaf an' dumb, or lame--especially blind. But I can't learn him books, Mr. Burton. You've got to do that. You've got to be eyes for him, an' he's got to go to school to you. Mr. Burton," --Susan's voice grew husky and unsteady,--"you've got a chance now to paint bigger an' grander pictures than you ever did before, only you won't be paintin' 'em on canvas backs. You'll be paintin' 'em on that boy's soul, an' you'll be usin' words instead of them little brushes."

"You've put that--very well, Susan." It was the man who spoke unsteadily, huskily, now.

"I don't know about that, but I do know that them pictures you're goin' to paint for him is goin' to be the makin' of him. Why, Mr. Burton, we can't have him lazin' behind, 'cause when he does get back his eyes we don't want him to be too far behind his class."

"But what--if he doesn't ever get his eyes", Susan?"

"Then he'll need it all the more. But he's goin' to get 'em, Mr. Burton. Don't you remember? The nurse said if he got well an' strong he could have somethin' done. I've got the doctor, an' all I need now is the money. An'--an' that makes me think." She hesitated, growing suddenly pink and embarrassed. Then resolutely she put her hand into the pocket of her apron and pulled out two folded papers.

"I was goin' to tell you about these, anyhow, so I might as well do it now," she explained. "You know, them--them other poems didn't sell much--there was only one went, an' the man wouldn't take that till he'd made me promise he could print my letter, too, that I'd wrote with it--jest as if that was worth anything!--but he only paid a measly dollar anyhow. "Susan's voice faltered a little, though her chin was at a brave tilt. "An' I guess now I know the reason. Them kind of poems ain't stylish no longer. Rhymes has gone out. Everything's 'free verse' now. I've been readin' up about it. So I've wrote some of 'em. They're real easy to do--jest lines chopped off free an' easy, anywheres that it happens, only have some long, an' some short, for notoriety, you know, like this." And she read:

"A great big cloud That was black Came up Out of the West. An' I knew Then For sure That a storm was brewin'. An' it brewed."

"Now that was dead easy--anybody could see that. But it's kind of pretty, I think, too, jest the same. Them denatured poems are always pretty, I think--about trees an' grass an' flowers an' the sky, you know. Don't you?"

"Why, er--y-yes, of course," murmured the man faintly.

"I tried a love poem next. I don't write them very often. They're so common. You see 'em everywhere, you know. But I thought I would try it--'twould be different, anyhow, in this new kind of verses. So I wrote this:

     Oh, love of mine,
     I love
     Thy hair is yellow like the
     Golden squash.
     Thy neck so soft
     An' slender like a goose,
     Is encompassed in filtered lace
     So rich an'
     Thy eyes in thy pallid face like
     Blueberries in a
     Saucer of milk.
     Oh, love of mine,
     I love

"Have you sent--any of these away yet, Susan?" Daniel Burton was on his feet now, his back carefully turned.

"No, not yet; but I'm goin' to pretty quick, an' I guess them will sell." Susan nodded happily, and smiled. But almost instantly her face grew gravely earnest again. "But all the money in the world ain't goin' to do no good Mr. Burton, unless we do our part, an' our part is to get him well an' strong for that operator. Now I'm goin' to send Keith in to you. I ain't goin' to tell him he's goin' to walk with you, 'cause if I did he wouldn't come. But I'm expectin' you to take him, jest the same," she finished severely, as she left the room.

Keith and his father went to walk. It was the first of many such walks. Almost every one of these crisp November days found the two off on a tramp somewhere. And because Daniel Burton was careful always to accompany, never to lead, the boy's step gained day by day in confidence and his face in something very like interest. And always, for cold and stormy days, there were the books at home.

Daniel Burton was not painting pictures--pigment pictures--these days. His easel was empty. "The Woodland Path," long since finished, had been sent away "to be sold." Most of Daniel Burton's paintings were "sent away to be sold," so that was nothing new. What was new, however, was the fact that no fresh canvas was placed on the easel to take the place of the picture sent away. Daniel Burton had begun no new picture. The easel, indeed, was turned face to the wall. And yet Daniel Burton was painting pictures, wonderful pictures. His brushes were words, his colors were the blue and gold and brown and crimson of the wide autumn landscape, his inspiration was the hungry light on a boy's face, and his canvas was the soul of the boy behind it. Most assuredly Daniel Burton was giving himself now, heart and mind and body, to his son. Even the lynx-eyed, alert Susan had no fault to find. Daniel Burton, most emphatically, was "doing his part."