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PLAIN LANGUAGE FROM TRUTHFUL JAMES 1
Francis Bret Harte (1839-1902) was born in Albany, New York, but spent the early part of his life in California. As in the case of O. Henry, he lived in many places, and had many experiences which he has perpetuated in excellent short stories. His stories of pioneer life in California are inimitable. The Heathen Chinee, which is the popular title for the poem given below, made him famous. The swing of the verse is pleasing, and the humor infectious. Truthful James was a real character living in California and highly respected in his own community. See also:
Halleck's History of American Literature, pp. 345-349, 365.
Ah Sin was his name;
And I shall not deny,
What that name might imply; 1 From Poetical Works. Used by permission of, and by arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company, authorized publishers of Bret Harte's works.
But his smile it was pensive and childlike,
As I frequent remarked to Bill Nye. It was August the third,
And quite soft was the skies;
That Ah Sin was likewise ;
And me in a way I despise.
And Ah Sin took a hand.
He did not understand;
With the smile that was childlike and bland.
Yet the cards they were stocked
In a way that I grieve,
At the state of Nye's sleeve,
And the same with intent to deceive.
By that heathen Chinee,
Were quite frightful to see, —
Which the same Nye had dealt unto me.
And he gazed upon me;
And said, “Can this be?
And he went for that heathen Chinee.
In the scene that ensued
I did not take a hand,
Like the leaves on the strand
In the game "he did not understand.”
In his sleeves, which were long,
He had twenty-four jacks, —
Yet I state but the facts;
What is frequent in tapers, — that's wax.
And my language is plain,
And for tricks that are vain,
SUGGESTIONS FOR ADDITIONAL READINGS
THE AMBITIOUS GUEST 1
ONE September night a family had gathered round their hearth, and piled it high with the driftwood of mountain streams, the dry cones of the pine, and the splintered ruins of great trees that had come crashing down the precipice. Up the chimney roared the fire, and brightened the room with its broad blaze. The faces of the father and mother had a sober gladness; the children laughed; the eldest daughter was the image of Happiness at seventeen; and the aged grandmother, who sat knitting in the warmest place, was the image of Happiness grown old. They had found the “herb, heart's-ease,” in the bleakest spot of all New England. This family were situated in the Notch of the White Hills, where the wind was sharp throughout the year, and pitilessly cold in the winter, — giving their cottage all its fresh inclemency before it descended on the valley of the Saco. They dwelt in a cold spot and a dangerous one; for a mountain towered above their heads, so steep, that the stones would often rumble down its sides and startle them at midnight.
The daughter had just uttered some simple jest that filled them all with mirth, when the wind came through the Notch and seemed to pause before their cottage — rattling the door, with a sound of wailing and lamentation, before it passed into the valley. For a moment it saddened them,
1 Used by permission of, and by arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company, authorized publishers of Hawthorne's works.
family were glad again when they perceived that the latch was lifted by some traveler, whose footsteps had been unheard amid the dreary blast which heralded his approach, and wailed as he was entering, and went moaning away from the door.
Though they dwelt in such a solitude, these people held daily converse with the world. The romantic pass of the Notch is a great artery, through which the lifeblood of internal commerce is continually throbbing between Maine, on one side, and the Green Mountains and the shores of the St. Lawrence, on the other. The stagecoach always drew up before the door of the cottage. The wayfarer, with no companion but his staff, paused here to exchange a word, that the sense of loneliness might not utterly overcome him ere he could pass through the cleft of the mountain, or reach the first house in the valley. And here the teamster, on his way to Portland market, would put up for the night; and, if a bachelor, might sit an hour beyond the usual bedtime, and steal a kiss from the mountain maid at parting. It was one of those primitive taverns where the traveler pays only for food and lodging, but meets with a homely kindness beyond all price. When the footsteps were heard, therefore, between the outer door and the inner one, the whole family rose up, grandmother, children, and all, as if about to welcome some one who belonged to them, and whose fate was linked with theirs.
The door was opened by a young man. His face at first wore the melancholy expression, almost despondency, of one who travels a wild and bleak road, at nightfall and alone, but soon brightened up when he saw the kindly warmth of his reception. He felt his heart spring forward to meet