The July house was an old, old house,
With an old, old man inside,
Who told them stories of other days,
Stories of pluck and pride.
His beard was long and his hair was white,
But his keen eyes were not dim,
As he told them things that old, old men
Had long ago told him.
At first Amos and Ann stood a little in awe of the old man in the July
house; but he looked so jolly and friendly, and J. M. seemed to know him
so well, that they were soon set at ease.
Little Ann made bold to ask him a question. “Do you remember the American
Revolution?” she said.
“My sakes alive, Ann!” cried Amos, a good deal embarrassed.
But the old man did not seem at all offended. “Well,” he answered slowly,
“I can tell you this much about it:
“The little boys of ’76–
They did their chores and swam and fished,
And hunted hares and whittled sticks,
While all the time they wished and wished
To hear a sudden summons come,
Each waiting day, each listening night:
‘We need the boys for flag and drum,
So send them to the fight!’
“The little girls of ’76–
They rocked their dollies to and fro,
And taught the kittens pretty tricks,
And heard their mothers talking low;
Then climbed into the hayloft high,
They peered through every glimmering crack,
And longed to raise a joyful cry:
‘The men are marching back!'”
Amos was inclined to think that maybe Ann’s question hadn’t been such a
foolish one, after all.
“Perhaps,” he ventured, “you knew my great-great-great-grandfather. Can
you tell me anything about him, sir?”
“I can tell you this,” the old man said:–
Was a little chap like you,
When suddenly one summer
Bugles of battle blew,
And bells rang in the towers,
And flags at windows flew.
“He heard the tramp of horses
And the fall of marching feet;
He saw a dust on the hill road,
Regiments in the street,
While men were thick in the highway
And drums in the market beat.
“He watched how the townsfolk hurried
Eagerly to and fro;
He heard the voice of his mother,
Quiet and brave and low;
And he saw his father shoulder
A queer old gun and go.
Sturdy and strong like you,
Glad of the blowing bugles,
Proud of the flags that flew,
Was glad and proud as you, lad–
Son of a soldier, too!”
“Why, I _am_ the son of a soldier!” Amos cried, delighted. “Though I don’t
know how you found it out, to be sure.”
“Now, Amos,” the Journeying Man put in, “it’s only fair that you should
give us your poem about a band.”
Amos turned red. “My poem about a band!” he echoed. “I don’t know any poem
about a band.”
“One–two–three,” chimed an old grandfather clock on the stairs; and all
at once the little boy, much to his astonishment, began to recite. This is
what he recited:–
“A band is such a brave, bright thing,
With tassels tossed, and burnished brass,
And music quick and fluttering–
I love to see one pass.
“Sometimes it sounds for turning wheels,–
A circus coming into town,–
And then the tune gets in my heels
And shakes them up and down.
“Sometimes it sounds for marching men,
With cry of bugles in the street,
And fair flags blowing free–and then
I cannot hold my feet.
“I follow, follow on and on;
I let it lead me where it will;
And when the last clear notes are gone,
Somehow I hear them still.”
The old man was plainly pleased with the verses; he told Amos that little
boys had always felt that way about bands, and probably always would.
“Wait a moment,” he said, as the Journeying Man made the move to go. “Did
the June fellow tell them the story of Contrary Mary?”
“Yes, he did,” the children answered in duet. “And oh, wasn’t she curious,
“Well, she had a right to be queer,” the old man said meditatively. “She
inherited queerness. Fact of the matter is, her family name was Queeribus.
Let me tell you about _her_ great-great-great-grandfather!
“Old Quin Queeribus–
He loved his garden so,
He wouldn’t have a rake around,
A shovel or a hoe.
“For each potato’s eyes he bought
Fine spectacles of gold,
And mufflers for the corn, to keep
Its ears from getting cold.
“On every head of lettuce green–
What do you think of that?–
And every head of cabbage, too,
He tied a garden hat.
“Old Quin Queeribus–
He loved his garden so,
He couldn’t eat his growing things,
He only let them grow!”
(Nancy Byrd Turner)
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Based on Keywords: townsfolk, whittled, duet, chores, dollies, quin, one-two-three, mufflers, hayloft, queerness, meditatively
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