Number 3 on the Docket

by Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

The lawyer, are you?

Well! I ain't got nothin' to say.

Nothin'!

I told the perlice I hadn't nothin'.

They know'd real well 'twas me.

Ther warn't no supposin',

Ketchin' me in the woods as they did,

An' me in my house dress.

Folks don't walk miles an' miles

In the drifted snow,

With no hat nor wrap on 'em

Ef everythin's all right, I guess.

All right? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Nothin' warn't right with me.

Never was.

Oh, Lord! Why did I do it?

Why ain't it yesterday, and Ed here agin?

Many's the time I've set up with him nights

When he had cramps, or rheumatizm, or somethin'.

I used ter nurse him same's ef he was a baby.

I wouldn't hurt him, I love him!

Don't you dare to say I killed him. 'Twarn't me!

Somethin' got aholt o' me. I couldn't help it.

Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do!

Yes, Sir.

No, Sir.

I beg your pardon, I -- I --

Oh, I'm a wicked woman!

An' I'm desolate, desolate!

Why warn't I struck dead or paralyzed

Afore my hands done it.

Oh, my God, what shall I do!

No, Sir, ther ain't no extenuatin' circumstances,

An' I don't want none.

I want a bolt o' lightnin'

To strike me dead right now!

Oh, I'll tell yer.

But it won't make no diff'rence.

Nothin' will.

Yes, I killed him.

Why do yer make me say it?

It's cruel! Cruel!

I killed him because o' th' silence.

The long, long silence,

That watched all around me,

And he wouldn't break it.

I tried to make him,

Time an' agin,

But he was terrible taciturn, Ed was.

He never spoke 'cept when he had to,

An' then he'd only say "yes" and "no".

You can't even guess what that silence was.

I'd hear it whisperin' in my ears,

An' I got frightened, 'twas so thick,

An' al'ays comin' back.

Ef Ed would ha' talked sometimes

It would ha' driven it away;

But he never would.

He didn't hear it same as I did.

You see, Sir,

Our farm was off'n the main road,

And set away back under the mountain;

And the village was seven mile off,

Measurin' after you'd got out o' our lane.

We didn't have no hired man,

'Cept in hayin' time;

An' Dane's place,

That was the nearest,

Was clear way 'tother side the mountain.

They used Marley post-office

An' ours was Benton.

Ther was a cart-track took yer to Dane's in Summer,

An' it warn't above two mile that way,

But it warn't never broke out Winters.

I used to dread the Winters.

Seem's ef I couldn't abear to see the golden-rod bloomin';

Winter'd come so quick after that.

You don't know what snow's like when yer with it

Day in an' day out.

Ed would be out all day loggin',

An' I set at home and look at the snow

Layin' over everythin';

It 'ud dazzle me blind,

Till it warn't white any more, but black as ink.

Then the quiet 'ud commence rushin' past my ears

Till I most went mad listenin' to it.

Many's the time I've dropped a pan on the floor

Jest to hear it clatter.

I was most frantic when dinner-time come

An' Ed was back from the woods.

I'd ha' give my soul to hear him speak.

But he'd never say a word till I asked him

Did he like the raised biscuits or whatever,

An' then sometimes he'd jest nod his answer.

Then he'd go out agin,

An' I'd watch him from the kitchin winder.

It seemed the woods come marchin' out to meet him

An' the trees 'ud press round him an' hustle him.

I got so I was scared o' th' trees.

I thought they come nearer,

Every day a little nearer,

Closin' up round the house.

I never went in t' th' woods Winters,

Though in Summer I liked 'em well enough.

It warn't so bad when my little boy was with us.

He used to go sleddin' and skatin',

An' every day his father fetched him to school in the pung

An' brought him back agin.

We scraped an' scraped fer Neddy,

We wanted him to have a education.

We sent him to High School,

An' then he went up to Boston to Technology.

He was a minin' engineer,

An' doin' real well,

A credit to his bringin' up.

But his very first position ther was an explosion in the mine.

And I'm glad! I'm glad!

He ain't here to see me now.

Neddy! Neddy!

I'm your mother still, Neddy.

Don't turn from me like that.

I can't abear it. I can't! I can't!

What did you say?

Oh, yes, Sir.

I'm here.

I'm very sorry,

I don't know what I'm sayin'.

No, Sir,

Not till after Neddy died.

'Twas the next Winter the silence come,

I don't remember noticin' it afore.

That was five year ago,

An' it's been gittin' worse an' worse.

I asked Ed to put in a telephone.

I thought ef I felt the whisperin' comin' on

I could ring up some o' th' folks.

But Ed wouldn't hear of it.

He said we'd paid so much for Neddy

We couldn't hardly git along as 'twas.

An' he never understood me wantin' to talk.

Well, this year was worse'n all the others;

We had a terrible spell o' stormy weather,

An' the snow lay so thick

You couldn't see the fences even.

Out o' doors was as flat as the palm o' my hand,

Ther warn't a hump or a holler

Fer as you could see.

It was so quiet

The snappin' o' the branches back in the wood-lot

Sounded like pistol shots.

Ed was out all day

Same as usual.

An' it seemed he talked less'n ever.

He didn't even say `Good-mornin'', once or twice,

An' jest nodded or shook his head when I asked him things.

On Monday he said he'd got to go over to Benton

Fer some oats.

I'd oughter ha' gone with him,

But 'twas washin' day

An' I was afeared the fine weather'd break,

An' I couldn't do my dryin'.

All my life I'd done my work punctual,

An' I couldn't fix my conscience

To go junketin' on a washin'-day.

I can't tell you what that day was to me.

It dragged an' dragged,

Fer ther warn't no Ed ter break it in the middle

Fer dinner.

Every time I stopped stirrin' the water

I heerd the whisperin' all about me.

I stopped oftener'n I should

To see ef 'twas still ther,

An' it al'ays was.

An' gittin' louder

It seemed ter me.

Once I threw up the winder to feel the wind.

That seemed most alive somehow.

But the woods looked so kind of menacin'

I closed it quick

An' started to mangle's hard's I could,

The squeakin' was comfortin'.

Well, Ed come home 'bout four.

I seen him down the road,

An' I run out through the shed inter th' barn

To meet him quicker.

I hollered out, `Hullo!'

But he didn't say nothin',

He jest drove right in

An' climbed out o' th' sleigh

An' commenced unharnessin'.

I asked him a heap o' questions;

Who he'd seed

An' what he'd done.

Once in a while he'd nod or shake,

But most o' th' time he didn't do nothin'.

'Twas gittin' dark then,

An' I was in a state,

With the loneliness

An' Ed payin' no attention

Like somethin' warn't livin'.

All of a sudden it come,

I don't know what,

But I jest couldn't stand no more.

It didn't seem 's though that was Ed,

An' it didn't seem as though I was me.

I had to break a way out somehow,

Somethin' was closin' in

An' I was stiflin'.

Ed's loggin' axe was ther,

An' I took it.

Oh, my God!

I can't see nothin' else afore me all the time.

I run out inter th' woods,

Seemed as ef they was pullin' me;

An' all the time I was wadin' through the snow

I seed Ed in front of me

Where I'd laid him.

An' I see him now.

There! There!

What you holdin' me fer?

I want ter go to Ed,

He's bleedin'.

Stop holdin' me.

I got to go.

I'm comin', Ed.

I'll be ther in a minit.

Oh, I'm so tired!

(Faints)