A Christmas Garland/Blessedness of Apple-Pie Beds
The Blessedness of Apple-Pie Beds
R*ch*rd L* G*ll**nn*
It was Yule-Day Eve and the Poet was doing his hair. All the guests in the great, strange house where he was staying, had gone to their white beds, aweary of their revels, save some sterner males who were keeping the holy vigil of Nicotine. The Poet had been invited to help them keep it, but he had other things to do that night, let alone that the cigarettes in that house were very strong and might prevail. So he was standing before his mirror alone. One by one, he entwined the curl-papers in his hair, till they looked, he thought, just like the tiny waxen candles in the great Christmas Tree downstairs. "But I mustn't light them," he murmured. "For they are the only paper-money I have." And he smiled at his own fancy.
He had passed a very merry evening with the rest, although there were none there who were wise, and but one who was beautiful. This sweet exception was named Beatrice, and she was yet a school-maiden, being, indeed, not past that year which is devoted to blushing. But blushes, like blush-roses, are rather becoming. At least, the Poet thought so. And when all the presents had been given, and all the poor crackers had been pulled in twain, he had sat him down beside the damsel—or damozel, as he liked to call her—and had told her fairy-notions for much more than an hour. Nor would he suffer her to flee from him when she said he was aweary, but began to tell her another. Ere he had finished it, she said to him suddenly, "How do you manage to think of all these things, I wonder?"
"I dream them abed," he answered her. "It is always abed that I dream them. To-night I will dream many more—all for you. And I will tell you them tomorrow morning, in some cosy nook."
Beatrice drooped her eyes in thought.
"Do you know what apple-pie beds are?" she asked him presently in a kind of casual way.
"Alas! I am sadly simple," said the Poet. "You must teach me."
"I will with pleasure," she replied, with eyes all bright. " But not now."
"Ah, do!" he pleaded. "Are they at all like apple-pies; I hope they are. For apple-pies are even as little roofed-in orchards, and oh! the sweet delight to steal in through that soft roof and rob them!" And when she would not tell him what these strange beds really were, he chaffed her gently for her coyness. (That wondrous chaff that comes from lovers' lips! Were I a rich merchant, I would "make a corner" in such chaff, more valuable surely than much grain!) When he would have resumed his unfinished fairy-notion, she told him it was her bedtime and left him there whispering her name. Nor was it long afterwards that he and the other grown-ups said good-night to one another.
You see, he was eager to sleep early, that he might dream many things for his Beatrice. So as soon as he had done his hair he put from him swiftly all his apparel and donned the white shroud of sleep. But lo! as he was slipping in between the sheets, his feet were strangely hindered. In vain he sought to stretch forth his limbs. "May be," he cried, "the servant who made the bed for me thought I had no body, but a soul only." With his own hands he strove to order the sheets according to his fancy, but alas! so simple was he in such tasks that he availed nothing, but rather made things worse.
A very happy idea came to him. Why need he go to bed at all? Surely he could dream his notions at that little writing-table yonder! It would be better so, for then he could write them all down as he dreamt them, with one of those great quills that had been torn from some poor dead goose's back. So he sat him down, and soon beautiful words were quietly following one another over his hostess' note-paper. When, at eight of the clock, a maid came and knocked at his door, he was writing the last sentence of the tenth notion. How many thousands of words he had written I should not dare to say, but there were a great, great many.
The Poet looked a little wan as he entered the dining-room. Some of the guests were already gently breaking their fast. Among them was little Beatrice. Was it but his fancy, or did she blush, as he came in? He could hardly be sure, so quickly did she hide her face in her teacup. Ere he greeted the lady of the house, he stole softly round to the maiden's chair and whispered in her ear, "I not only dreamt ten beautiful things, but have got them in my pocket, all written down for you! I won't be long over my breakfast."
Beatrice, when he came round to her, had still been holding her tea-cup to her lips. But, as he told her his glad tidings, she dropped it with a crash, and all the tea ran out over the tablecloth—like a golden carpet spread upon white snow, the Poet thought.