His Answer to “Her Letter”

A poem by Francis Bret Harte

Being asked by an intimate party,
Which the same I would term as a friend,
Though his health it were vain to call hearty,
Since the mind to deceit it might lend;
For his arm it was broken quite recent,
And there’s something gone wrong with his lung,
Which is why it is proper and decent
I should write what he runs off his tongue.

First, he says, Miss, he’s read through your letter
To the end, and “the end came too soon;”
That a “slight illness kept him your debtor,”
(Which for weeks he was wild as a loon);
That “his spirits are buoyant as yours is;”
That with you, Miss, he “challenges Fate,”
(Which the language that invalid uses
At times it were vain to relate).

And he says “that the mountains are fairer
For once being held in your thought;”
That each rock “holds a wealth that is rarer
Than ever by gold-seeker sought.”
(Which are words he would put in these pages,
By a party not given to guile;
Though the claim not, at date, paying wages,
Might produce in the sinful a smile.)

He remembers the ball at the Ferry,
And the ride, and the gate, and the vow,
And the rose that you gave him, that very
Same rose he is “treasuring now.”
(Which his blanket he’s kicked on his trunk, Miss,
And insists on his legs being free
And his language to me from his bunk, Miss,
Is frequent and painful and free.)

He hopes you are wearing no willows,
But are happy and gay all the while;
That he knows (which this dodging of pillows
Imparts but small ease to the style,
And the same you will pardon) he knows, Miss,
That, though parted by many a mile,
Yet, were he lying under the snows, Miss,
They’d melt into tears at your smile.”

And “you’ll still think of him in your pleasures,
In your brief twilight dreams of the past;
In this green laurel spray that he treasures,
It was plucked where your parting was last;
In this specimen, but a small trifle,
It will do for a pin for your shawl.”
(Which, the truth not to wickedly stifle,
Was his last week’s “clean up,” and his all.)

He’s asleep, which the same might seem strange, Miss,
Were it not that I scorn to deny
That I raised his last dose, for a change, Miss,
In view that his fever was high;
But he lies there quite peaceful and pensive.
And now, my respects, Miss, to you;
Which my language, although comprehensive,
Might seem to be freedom, is true.

For I have a small favor to ask you,
As concerns a bull-pup, and the same,
If the duty would not overtask you,
You would please to procure for me, game;
And send per express to the Flat, Miss,
For they say York is famed for the breed,
Which, though words of deceit may be that, Miss,
I’ll trust to your taste, Miss, indeed.

P.S. Which this same interfering
Into other folks’ way I despise;
Yet if it so be I was hearing
That it’s just empty pockets as lies
Betwixt you and Joseph, it follers
That, having no family claims,
Here’s my pile, which it’s six hundred dollars,
As is yoURS, with respects,

TRUTHFUL JAMES.

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