Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
A Little Girl
By Mary Aldis
  I SEE a little girl sitting bent over
On a white stone door-step.
In the street are other children running about;
The shadows of the waving trees flicker on their white dresses.
  Some one opens the door of the house        5
And speaks to the child on the steps.
She looks up and asks an eager question:
The figure shakes her head and shuts the door;
The child covers up her face
To hide her tears.        10
  Three children are playing in the garden—
Two boys and an awe-struck little girl.
They have plastered the summer-house with clay,
Making it an unlovely object.
  A grown-up person comes along the path.        15
The little girl runs to her
Asking the same question, “Where is my mother?”
The grown-up person does not make any answer.
She looks at the summer-house and passes along the path.
  The little girl goes slowly into the house        20
And climbs the stairs.
  The little girl is alone in the garden,
A white-haired lady of whom she is afraid
Comes to find her and tell her a joyful thing.
  The little girl runs to the nursery.        25
The young nurse is doing her hair in front of the glass—
The little girl sees how white her neck is
And her uplifted arms.
  Tomorrow they will be gone—they will not be here—
They are going to find Her.        30
The young nurse turns and smiles,
And takes the little girl in her arms.
  The little girl is travelling on a railway train.
Everything rushes by very fast—
Houses, and children in front of them,        35
Children who are just staying at home.
  The train cannot go fast enough,
The little girl is saying over and over again,
“My mother—my onliest mother—
I am coming to you, coming very fast.”        40
  The little girl looks up at a great red building
With a great doorway.
It opens and she is led in,
Looking all about her.
A lady in a white dress and white cap comes.        45
  After a long, long time
A man in a black coat comes in.
He says, “She is not well enough, I am afraid.”
The little girl is led away.
She always remembers the words        50
The man in the black coat said.
  The little girl is waiting in the big hallway,
In the house of the white-haired lady,
At the end of the path she can see the summer-house
With its queer gray cover.        55
  The hall clock ticks very slowly.
The hands must go all around again
Before the mother will come.
  Now it is night,
The little girl is lying in her bed.        60
There is a piano going somewhere downstairs.
She is telling herself a story and waiting—
Soon She will come in at the door.
  There will be a swift shaft of light
Across the floor,        65
And She will come in with a rustling sound.
She will lie down on the bed,
And the little girl will stroke her dress and crinkle it
To make the sound again.
  Pretty soon the mother will step slowly and softly to the door,        70
And quietly turn the handle.
The little girl will speak and stop her
Asking something she has asked many times before—
“My Father?”
But the mother has never anything to answer.        75
  The mother and the little girl are sitting together sewing.
Outside there is snow.
A woman with a big white apron
Comes to the door of the room and speaks.
  The mother drops her work on the floor        80
And runs down the stairs.
The little girl stands at the head of the stairs
And cries out, “My Father!” but no one hears,
They pass along the hall…..
  The little girl creeps down the stairs,        85
But the door is closed.
  The little girl is held and rocked—
Held so tightly it hurts her.
She moves herself free.
  Then quickly she puts her face up close,        90
And there is a taste of salt on her tongue.
  In a bed in an upper chamber,
A bed with high curtains,
A woman sits bowed over.
Her hair streams over her shoulders;        95
Her arms are about two children.
  The older one is trying to say comforting things.
The little girl wants to slip away—
There are so many people at the foot of the bed.
  Out of the window, across the yellow river,        100
There are houses climbing up the hillside.
The little girl wonders if anything like this
Is happening in any of those houses.
  Many children and grown-up people
Are standing behind their chairs around a bright table,        105
Waiting for the youngest child to say grace.
  It is very troublesome for the youngest child
To get the big words out properly.
The little girl interrupts and says the grace quickly.
  The white-haired lady of whom the little girl is afraid        110
Is angry.
The little girl breaks away and runs
To the room of the bed with the high curtains.
  She rushes in—
The room is empty.        115
She comes back to the table,
But she does not dare to ask the question.
She remembers the great red building
With the great doorway.
  The little girl is trying to read a fairy story.
There is nobody in the garden,
There is nobody in the house but the white-haired lady.
  Someone comes to tell her her father is there.
She does not want to see him—
She is afraid.        125
  The front door is open;
There is rain, and leaves are whirling about.
A carriage with two horses,
And a coachman high up, holding a long whip,
Stands waiting in front of the door.        130
  The little girl is holding on to the banisters.
They take away her hands from the banisters
And lead her to the carriage in front of the door.
Someone gets in behind her,
The carriage door is shut,        135
The little girl draws herself to the far corner;
They drive away.
The little girl looks back out of the window.
  The little girl is in a strange house,
Where there are young men called uncles        140
Who talk to her and laugh.
A large lady sits by the table and knits and smiles.
In her basket are different colored balls of wool—
Pretty colors, but not enough to make a pattern.
There is a curly soft little black dog        145
That hides under the table.
The uncles pull him out
And he tries to hold to the carpet with his claws.
The little girl laughs—
But at the sound she turns away        150
And goes up to her room and shuts the door.
Pretty soon the large lady comes to her
And takes her on her lap and rocks and sings.

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