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November 15, 1941 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-11-15

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Page Four


Pag F or 1 P1:x 7 C T T TJ17
...Continued from Page 3

tensely, but each of them was affected.
In his first class the next day the in-
strc'etor managed to tell his students, in
soft tones, that a dear friend of his, a
woman who had shared her home with
him for six years, was going to die. Var-
ious'members of the class assumed facial
expressions proper to the occasion, and
some of the others laughed without mov-
ing their faces. After the hour the in-
structor sat for a long time in his small
office, thinking. After that he wrote a
short essay in German on the inevitabil-
ity and beauty of death, using three
quotations, two from Geothe and one
fr Rilke.
Mr. Webb thought about it as he
walked about in his room. Sometimes
his face changed slightly, and sometimes'
he rubbed his palm over his forehead
and eyes and mouth and then struck
himself foolishly on the thigh with his
fist. In little more than an hour he
smoked a package of cigarettes, taking
only two or three long puffs on each
one before pressing it out in the ashtray.
He did not go out for supper, having lost
his appetite, but later in the evening
when he decided on a walk he stopped
downstairs, intending perhaps to say
something-kind to Mr. Gauss. Then the
old man came-out Weeping, his hands
working indications of inexpressible woe
and his face a mask of the profoundest
grief, and Mr. Webb lost his desire in
revulsion, broke away without saying a
single word. Mr. Gauss felt the insult:
SHORTLY BEFORE Mrs. Gauss' death
the doctor allowed the German in-
structor to visit her in her room. Mr.

Wilde waited in the parlor, speaking
to the doctor while the visit was made,
wondering at the thought of death.
Upon entering the room Mr. York, the
instructor, tried to be cheerful, smiled
behind his brisk British accent.
"Well," he smiled, speaking softly,
"how does the patient feel today?"
She must have heard him, for she
looked up, working her lips clumsily, her
nose twitching. "Pray for me to the
Holy Mother of God when I'm gone."
She moaned, and her vole fell into a
The German instructor was very em-
barrassed and shaken. He tried to quiet
her by stroking her forehead, but the
nurse asked him to refrain from exciting
her. He drew back then and sat on a
chair by her bed, looking at her, then at
the nurse, trying to think of something
appropriate to say or do. The nurse sat
knitting by the window, looking up only
-occasionally to be certain that all was as
it should be. Mrs. Gauss' head rolled
back and forth on the pillow, her eyes
opened like almonds, looking around the
room and at the chandelier and at the
bottles, her voice praying, then crying,
then bursting into moans. Half drugged
she was, and talking in the soft dream
time when to think was an effort that
kept her from the terrible sleep. She
felt sighs of sleep rising in her body to
swell and' stem the warm blood in her
thick head. She felt helpless rubber rest
in the relax of muscle in the arms and
hands and fingers and legs and thighs
and calves and toes. This is death com-
ing for me, she thought.

The quiet mumble in the large room,
the soft afternoon sunlight coming
through the yellow ihades, the nurse
knitting purl, curl, stitch, purl. The
German instructor was frightened, con-
fused in the presence of something with
which he was so familiar in Heine and
Goethe and Rilke, in the presence of so
simple a thing as death. He tried to
speak to Mrs. Gauss again, and she
turned toward him, her mouth soft,
soggy and half open, her almond eyes
looking at him as though through water,
sometimes knowing him and his voice,
sometimes calling on him to pray for
her. When lie finally got up from the
chair to leave the room he was sweating,
could feel it on his forehead and sides.
The strength in his slim legs had gone
into shaky nervousness which he could
not control.
Mr. Wilde, the sophomore, met him in
the parlor and saw that he had to _be-
helped up the stairs. The instructor
went to sit in his room, alone, and a
little while later he went to the bath-
room for a moment. Mr. Wilde inspected
his own reactions and found himself, to
tell the truth, not deeply affected.
MRS.GAUSS DIED at five o'clock in
the morning, just as the first pink
gold of the morning sun came flowing
across the sky. Removed from the room,
in the clear space of the coming day,
there was a bird somewhere concerned
with his breakfast. In the room the
nurse heard the song. The doctor wasj
not there, but she went to waken Mr.
Gauss, and he came to stand in his

slippers and watch his wife die. She was
very quiet, her great bosom moving only
slightly beneath the blanketing, her
face soft, the features so relaxed hat
they could scarcely be distinguished. He
could not bring himself to touch her but
remained at the foot of the bed, holding
onto the wooden post at the corner; he
was afraid, and yet he did not cry. He
did not grip with tight fingers. He stood
quietly, painful in his heart, cold on his
spine, quietly watching as his wife died,
died with nothing to tell it but the stop
of motion under the blanketing. After
the nurse had felt for her pulse he left,
going back to his room. He lay flat on
his back, rubbing the dr<,palm of his
hand across his forehead, thinking of
For one day the body lay in its coffin
in the parlor of the house. Neighbors
came with black handkerchiefs, the wo-
men bringing consolation, the men
standing restlessly somewhere in the
roomd. There was wine, and they drank
from fat glasses through which the light
came in a deep rich purple. The three
roomers came to pay their final respects,
and the German instructor remained
long enough to have a glass of the wine.
The sophomore went to the'florist and
bought flowers to be pfit on the grave
after the burial. The graduate student
came to stand for a moment in the
parlor, looking down at the body. He did
not seem to be much affected by all the
ceremony, and though Mr. Gauss did not
find the time to ask him to leave the
house, he moved within one month.
No one was sorry that he had gone.

.Continued from Page 2

rhubarb left over from supper, the big
pieces of cake, slices of cold meat, the
five gallon coffee pot standing to one
side: of the glowing red center plate of
the stove. And so for awhile my mother
was dead.
I had not seen the moon after we left
the house, forthe houses along the street
had shut it out there in the east, but
here it was in the sky again, higher now,
farther away and harder looking. The
white floodlights made the unlighted
stretches seem very dark in spite of the
moonlight, and our shadows often went
three ways at once, two sharp from the
lights, and one blurred from the moon.
We passed the roundhouse and the ser-
Vice building and the big wooden vats
with the bad smell, and finally with
cinders in both my shoes, both of us
scuffing in the dust, we came to the
tall cement buil'ding that hummed, and
went through the arch under the hop-
pers out to the dock.
The boat was black and high now be-
cause it was nearly unloaded. The after
ladder was down right in front of us,
and two deckhands came down it to
take our stuff. Both of them said hello
to the captain and shook hands with
me. Mark took the suitcase and duffel
bag, and Don said did I want a ride
up,. but I said I wanted to climb the
ladder. The captain came right up be-
hind me, making the ladder sag and
bounce a little with his weight, but I
knew he was just making sure I didn't
slip so I didn't mind.
"You want these up for'ard sir?" Mark
said, and the captain said yes, just put
them in the room. Mark went up the
deck, and we went into the galley to
4offee up. The first assistant engineer
snd the cook were there, and the cook
was drunk. He was telling about what
some old barfly had said up at Min's
tonight, but he stopped talking when we

came in, and both of them said hello to
the captain as if they were sort of un-
easya Then they shook hands with me,
and Terry, the cook, said he had some
cookies in the pantry for me, and he
took me in there, msking me laugh at
the way he slammed boxes around and
juggled two cans of beans as he got
out the cardboard box with the cookies
in it. I heard Mr. Blair, the first assis-
tant say "Jim, I just want you to know
we all feel mighty bad about the Mrs.-"
and the captain said "Thanks, Aleck,"
but then Terry was telling me a story
about an old Irishman in Killaloo, On-
tarioTerry's home town, so I didn't hear"
any more of what they said in the galley.
I ate some cookies and watched Terry
put things away, and once he did a clog
dance for me, and then we went back in
the galley to get me a cup of coffee with
lots of canned milk in it. The captain
and Mr. Blair were talking about the
fuel coal they had put on down in
Toledo, and then Mr. Blair said well he
had to get tkck dowh there and see
how Harry was getting along, and the
captain said we'd better get up for'ard,
she must be pretty near unloaded now.
I said goodnight to Mr. Blair and thank-
ed Terry for the cookies, and they said
goodnight, see you at' breakfast, Jim,
and laughed because sometimes I didn't
get up in time for breakfast, it was at
six o'clock. The captain and I went up
the deck, past the after hatches with
their covers on, and past the for'ard
hatches with their covers piled up on
deck so you had to walk crabwise past
them, your back rubbing against the
cables of the rail. Down in the number
one hatch there was a ladder, and I saw
Mark and Don straddling the bottom of
the hoppers, pounding with their hoes
to shake loose a few stray chunks of
Archy the Indian was on watch up on

deck. He squatted at the head of the
ladder looking down in the hatch at
Mark and Don, and just as we went by,
one of the boys whistled loud from
down there, and Archy looked up at the
captain and said "All through, captain."
"All right," the captain said. "Get one
of those men up her and out on the dock
to handle the lines."
The conveyor man, Alvy, had shut off
the engine that made the big wheel turn,
and now after an instant that was very
quiet he started swinging the boom in-
board with the noisy, steamy little don-
key. The wheelman came out from the
foc'sle carrying his spittoon and stood
there waiting for the captain to go ahead
of him up the steps to the pilot house.
Mark and Don climbed up out of the
hatch and hauled the ladder up.
The captain said "You coming up on
top with me, Jim, or do you want to
hang around on deck here for awhile?"
I said I guessed I'd stay and watch the
deck engines if it was all right. The
captain went up, and the wheelsman
after him. What I really wanted to
watch was Archy, and talk to him too.
I hadn't found out about his being a real
Indian until the last trip last summer.
Of course he was only a Mackinac Is-
land Indian, and I had been there and
all they did now was drive carriakes
around the Island or sell souvenirs,
moccasins or porcupine quill baskets,
but I had read some about Inidians, just
stories, and Archy seemed even here in
his dungarees and work shoes, a lot more
like the Indians in the stories than the
ones on the Island. It was mostly that
he seemed proud, not like he wanted to
make anybody think he had a tough
time getting along. So I wanted to talk
to Archy, and get him to tell me stories
or teach me the sign language, and I
wanted to look at him for a long time
and know he was a real Indian. I

thought maybe he might have a toma-
hawk he'd give me, or a bow and arrow
he would teach me to shoot.' But more
than getting him to give me or showme
anything, I wanted to look at his face,
dark and lined like the leather of my
aunt Del's briefcase, and at the sharp,
broken way his nose was, and at his
long black'hair, and when I thought how
he would look if he had a feather bonnet
on his head, or just a single feather in
his hair, it was like the proud chief pic-
tures in my books, or the Indians on
the nickels and some of the pennies,
Archy sent Mark out on the dock to
throw the lines off, and Don went back
aft to run the deck engines there. The
whistle blew one blast and Archy waved
his arms upward at the rail, and then
the deck engines started jangling and
crashing here where I was and back
aft too, and then they snapped into
hissing silence here as the cable nooses
ran dripping to the drums, and I saw
Mark climb up the after ladder and then
haul it up, and the deck winches aft
stopped and the dock started to move
slowly astern.
Archy was busy, and when I asked him
what he was going to do he said he had
to rinse down soon as they got those
hatch covers on, so I went up in the
pilot house to watch the river for awhile.
I wanted to help rinse down, but I had
my good pants on, and I didn't think
I'd better.
I sat in the high chair on the star-
board side where I was out of the way.
The captain looked over.at me and said
"Aren't you going to turn in pretty
soon?" I said no,~I'd like to stay up till
we got out of the river. My uncle Bob
was in the pilot house, and Oley the
wheelsman. Uncle Bob was first mate,
and he really wasn't my uncle, he was
my godfather, but he wasn't married,
(Continued on Page Eight)

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