The Circus Eighty Years Ago 3

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and beyond the best he went in his grotesque red and yellow bravery. The crowd yelled their joy with the craze of the clown - exciting him to more. But he does not get up. He is shamming now. He is waiting to do something funnier yet. Of a sudden it is still - still - he does not move. He has broken his neck. Without any word, light careless feet ran behind the curtains with the pallid creature of fun. He was dead. I was scared beyond control and clutched my friend's arm, burying my face on his shoulder and crying like a child, brokenly imploring 'O take me home, take me home!'

"Poor fellow, he did take me home but I ran almost every step of the way, sobbing in a shaken fashion. I clambered in the rose trellis, refusing his tender offers of assistance, sprang through my open window, and threw myself on my bed where I cried until dawn; while over and over my young conscience urged, 'It would not have happened if I had not gone!'

"My eyes were red at breakfast, confirming my life of a bad headache, but for that I cared nothing. Only the poor, dead, clown was grieving me to death. In proper time my escort, - I will only call him Mr B., for his own sake, since he is a Sunday-school superintendent now and his early life must not be traduced, - called to inquire for me. But as others were calling, too, we were obliged to carry on our conversation in cipher. A letter received from him soon after brought the climax of my circus woes. It was a proposal of marriage, a very nice, manly love letter, asking me to let him care for me through all life's woes and srorows - and so on. I was very young and very much more scared than even when I saw the poor clown fall. I again locked myself in my room, and wrote my refusal of his life guard. I remember only one sentence verbatim, - wishing to seem gentle and throw in a touch of sentiment, at the close of the note, I exclaimed, 'How can you be such a very foolish man, as to let the ivy of your affections twine around such a stubborn oak as I am.'"

Here, my aunt, a tiny little body, always covered her roguish face with her slender white fingers, laughing heartily. After which she would sometimes add - "There are some verses about a clown that impress me deeply. Are we not always saddest when we sing?" And she would recite in her soft staccata voice the following lines: -

 

Fool in the day! But when alone at night
Swift comes the right;
Cooling the fevered fancy for the time,
Changing to God's own soul the mime -
Shall I not thankful be -
Rejoice in ecstasy?

High thought the nonce! To-morrow can and bells!
O hell of hells!
Hush, hush again! I tell thee fevered soul
Cometh a day, when thou i' faith all whole,
Shall clasp the Father's hand,
Shall know and understand.

At the end there was never a gleam of mischief left on her face, and the brilliant dark eyes held a hint of real tragedy, as if the years had set her back in that fatal night of her girlhood again.