A Noted Traveler

A poem by James Whitcomb Riley

Even in such a scene of senseless play
The children were surprised one summer-day
By a strange man who called across the fence,
Inquiring for their father's residence;
And, being answered that this was the place,
Opened the gate, and with a radiant face,
Came in and sat down with them in the shade
And waited - till the absent father made
His noon appearance, with a warmth and zest
That told he had no ordinary guest
In this man whose low-spoken name he knew
At once, demurring as the stranger drew
A stuffy notebook out and turned and set
A big fat finger on a page and let
The writing thereon testify instead
Of further speech. And as the father read
All silently, the curious children took
Exacting inventory both of book
And man: - He wore a long-napped white fur-hat
Pulled firmly on his head, and under that
Rather long silvery hair, or iron-gray -
For he was not an old man, - anyway,
Not beyond sixty. And he wore a pair
Of square-framed spectacles - or rather there
Were two more than a pair, - the extra two
Flared at the corners, at the eyes' side-view,
In as redundant vision as the eyes
Of grasshoppers or bees or dragonflies.
Later the children heard the father say
He was "A Noted Traveler," and would stay
Some days with them - In which time host and guest
Discussed, alone, in deepest interest,
Some vague, mysterious matter that defied
The wistful children, loitering outside
The spare-room door. There Bud acquired a quite
New list of big words - such as "Disunite,"
And "Shibboleth," and "Aristocracy,"
And "Juggernaut," and "Squatter Sovereignty,"
And "Anti-slavery," "Emancipate,"
"Irrepressible conflict," and "The Great
Battle of Armageddon" - obviously
A pamphlet brought from Washington, D. C.,
And spread among such friends as might occur
Of like views with "The Noted Traveler."

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