Complete Poetical Works

On the Landing

(An Idyl of the Balusters)

Bret Harte

BOBBY, aetat. 3½.    JOHNNY, aetat. 4½.

DO you know why they’ve put us in that back room,
Up in the attic, close against the sky,
And made believe our nursery’s a cloak-room?
        Do you know why?

No more I don’t, nor why that Sammy’s mother,
What Ma thinks horrid, ’cause he bunged my eye,
Eats an ice cream, down there, like any other!
        No more don’t I!

Do you know why Nurse says it isn’t manners
For you and me to ask folks twice for pie,
And no one hits that man with two bananas?
        Do you know why?

No more I don’t, nor why that girl, whose dress is
Off of her shoulders, don’t catch cold and die,
When you and me gets croup when we undresses!
        No more don’t I!

Perhaps she ain’t as good as you and I is,
And God don’t want her up there in the sky,
And lets her live—to come in just when pie is—
        Perhaps that’s why!

Do you know why that man that’s got a cropped head
Rubbed it just now as if he felt a fly?
Could it be, Bobby, something that I dropded?
        And is that why?

Good boys behaves, and so they don’t get scolded,
Nor drop hot milk on folks as they pass by.

JOHNNY (piously)
Marbles would bounce on Mr. Jones’ bald head—
        But I sha’n’t try!

Do you know why Aunt Jane is always snarling
At you and me because we tells a lie,
And she don’t slap that man that called her darling?
        Do you know why?

No more I don’t, nor why that man with Mamma
Just kissed her hand.

                                         She hurt it—and that’s why;
He made it well, the very way that Mamma
        Does do to I.

I feel so sleepy. . . . Was that Papa kissed us?
What made him sigh, and look up to the sky?

We weren’t downstairs, and he and God had missed us,
And that was why!

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