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DOMESDAY BOOK: AT FAIRBANKS, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Bill, look here! Here's the times. You see this picture
Last Line: Within the banner: to be brave, nor flinch.
Subject(s): Death; News; Dead, The

Bill, look here! Here's the Times. You see this picture,
Read if you like a little later. You never
Heard how I came to Fairbanks, chanced to stay.
It's eight years now. You see in nineteen eleven
I lived in Hammond, Indiana, thought
I'd like a trip, see mountains, see Alaska,
Perhaps find fortune or a woman -- well
You know from your experience how it is.
It was July and from the train I saw
The Canadian Rockies, stopped at Banff a day,
At Lake Louise, and so forth. At Vancouver
Found travelers feasting, Englishmen in drink,
Flirtations budding, coming into flower;
And eager spirits waiting for the boat.
Up to this time I hadn't made a friend,
Stalked silently about along the streets,
Drank Scotch like all the rest, as much besides.

Well, then we took the steamship Princess Alice
And started up the Inland Channel -- great!
Got on our cheeks the breezes from the crystal
Cradles of the north, began at once
To find the mystery, silence, see clear stars,
The whites and blacks and greens along the shores.
And still I had no friend, was quite alone.
Just as I came on deck I saw a face,
Looked, stared perhaps. Her eyes went over me,
Would not look at me. At the dinner table
She sat far down from me, I could not see her,
But made a point to rise when she arose,
Did all I could to catch her eye -- no use.
So things went and I gave up -- still I wondered
Why she had no companion. Was she married?
Was husband waiting her, at Skagway? -- well
I fancied something of the sort, at last,
And as I said, gave up.

But on a morning
I rose to see the sun rise, all the sky
First as a giant pansy, petals flung
In violet toward the zenith streaked with fire;
The silver of the snows change under light,
Mottled with shadows of the mountain tops
Like leaves that shadow, flutter on a lawn.
At last the topaz splendors shoot to heaven,
The sun just peeks and gilds the porcelain
Of snow with purest gold. And in the valleys
Darkness remains, Orician ebony
Is not more black. You've seen this too, I know,
And recognize my picture. There I stood,
Believed I was alone, then heard a voice,
"Is it not beautiful?" and looked around,
And saw my girl, who had avoided me,
Would not make friends before. This is her picture,
Name, Elenor Murray. So the matter started.
I had my seat at table changed and sat
Next to my girl to talk with her. We walked
The deck together. Then she said to me
Her home was in Chicago, so it is
Travelers abroad discover they are neighbors
When they are home. She had been teaching school,
And saved her money for this trip, had planned
To go as far as Fairbanks. As for me,
I thought I'd stop with Skagway -- Oh this life!
Your hat blows off, you chase it, bump a woman,
Then beg her pardon, laugh and get acquainted,
And marry later.

As we steamed along
She was the happiest spirit on the deck.
The Wrangell Narrows almost drove her wild,
There where the mountains are like circus tents,
Big show, menagerie and all the rest,
But white as cotton with perennial snow.
We swum past aisles of pine trees where a stream
Rushed down in terraces of hoary foam.
The nights were glorious. We drank and ate
And danced when there was dancing.

Well, at first,
She seemed a little school ma'am, quaint, demure,
Meticulous and puritanical.
And then she seemed a school ma'am out to have
A time, so far away, where none would know,
And like a woman who had heard of life
And had a teasing interest in its wonder,
Too long caged up. At last my vision blurred:
I did not know her, lost my first impressions
Amid succeeding phases which she showed.

But when we came to Skagway, then I saw
Another Elenor Murray. How she danced
And tripped from place to place -- such energy!
She almost wore me out with seeing sights.
But now behold! The White Pass she must see
Upon the principle of missing nothing --
But oh the grave of "Soapy" Smith, the outlaw,
The gambler and the heeler, that for her!

We went four miles and found the cemetery,
The grave of "Soapy" Smith. -- Came back to town
Where she would see the buildings where they played
Stud poker, Keno, in the riotous days.
Time came for her to go. She looked at me
And said "Come on to Fairbanks." As for that,
I'd had enough, was ready to return,
But sensed an honorarium, so I said,
"You might induce me," with a pregnant tone.
That moment we were walking 'cross the street,
She stopped a moment, shook from head to heels,
And said, "No man has talked to me that way."
I dropped the matter. She renewed it -- said,
"Why do you hurry back? What calls you back?
Come on to Fairbanks, see the gardens there,
That tag the blizzards with their rosy hands
And romp amid the snows." She smiled at me.
Well, then I thought -- why not? And smiled her back,
And on we went to Fairbanks, where my hat
Blows off, as I shall tell you.

For a day
We did the town together, and that night
I thought to win her. First we dined together,
Had many drinks, my little school ma'am drank
Of everything I ordered, had a place
For more than I could drink. And truth to tell
At bed time I was woozy, ten o'clock.
We had not registered. And so I said,
"I'm Mr. Kelly and you're Mrs. Kelly."
She shook her head. And so to make an end
I could not win her, signed my name in full;
She did the same, we said good night and parted.

Next morning when I woke, felt none too good,
Got up at last and met her down at breakfast;
Tried eggs and toast, could only drink some coffee;
Got worse; in short, she saw it, put her hand
Upon my head and said, "Your head is hot,
You have a fever." Well, I lolled around
And tried to fight it off till noon -- no good.
By this time I was sick, lay down to rest.
By night I could not lift my head -- in short,
I lay there for a month, and all the time
She cared for me just like a mother would.
They moved me to a suite, she took the room
That opened into mine, by night and day
She nursed me, cheered me, read to me. At last
When I sat up, was soon to be about,
She said to me, "I'm going on to Nome,
St. Michael first. They tell me that you cross
The Arctic Circle going to St. Michael,
And I must cross the Arctic Circle -- think
To come this far and miss it. I must see
The Indian villages." And there again
I saw, but clearer than before, the spirit
Adventuresome and restless, what you call
The heart American. I said to her,
"I'm not too well, I'm lonely, -- yes, and more --
I'm fond of you, you have been good to me,
Stay with me here. -- She darted in and out
The room where I was lying, doing things,
And broke my pleadings just like icicles
You shoot against a wall.

But here she was,
A month in Fairbanks, living at expense,
Said "I am short of money -- lend me some,
I'll go to Nome, return to you and then
We'll ship together for the States."

You see
I really owed her money for her care,
Her loss in staying -- then I loved the girl,
Had played all cards but one -- I played it now:
"Come back and marry me." Her eyes looked down.
"I will be fair with you," she said, "and think.
Away from you I can make up my mind
If I have love enough to marry you."
I gave her money and she went away,
And for some weeks I had a splendid hell
Of loneliness and longing, you might know,
A stranger in Alaska, here in Fairbanks,
In love besides, and mulling in my mind
Our days and nights upon the steamer Alice,
Our ramblings in the Northland.

Weeks went by,
No letter and no girl. I found my health
Was vigorous again. One morning walking
I kicked a twenty dollar gold piece up
Right on the side-walk. Picked it up and said:
"An omen of good luck, a letter soon!
Perhaps this town has something for me!" Well,
I thought I'd get a job to pass the time
While waiting for my girl. I got the job
And here I am to-day; I've flourished here,
Worked to the top in Fairbanks in eight years,
And thus my hat blew off.

What of the girl?
Six weeks or more a letter came from her,
She crossed the Arctic Circle, went to Nome,
Sailed back to 'Frisco where she wrote to me.
Sent all the money back I loaned to her,
And thanked me for the honor I had done her
In asking her in marriage, but had thought
The matter over, could not marry me,
Thought in the circumstances it was useless
To come to Fairbanks, see me, tell me so.

Now, Bill, I'm egotist enough to think
This girl could do no better. Now it seems
She's dead and never married -- why not me?
Why did she ditch me? So I thought about it,
Was piqued of course, concluded in the end
There was another man. A woman's no
Means she has someone else, expects to have,
More suited to her fancy. Then one morning
As I awoke with thoughts of her as usual
Right in my mind there plumped an incident
On shipboard when she asked me if I knew
A certain man in Chicago. At the time
The question passed amid our running talk,
And made no memory. But you watch and see
A woman when she asks you if you know
A certain man, the chances are the man
Is something in her life. So now I lay
And thought there is a man, and that's the man;
His name is stored away, I'll dig it up
Out of the cells subliminal -- so I thought
But could not bring it back.

I found at last
The telephone directory of Chicago,
And searched and searched the names from A to Z.
Some mornings would pronounce a name and think
That is the name, then throw the name away --
It did not fit the echo in my brain.

But now at last -- look here! Eight years are gone,
I'm healed of Elenor Murray, married too;
And read about her death here in the Times,
And turn the pages over -- column five --
Chicago startled by a suicide --
Gregory Wenner kills himself -- behold
The name, at last, she spoke!

So much for waters in Alaska. Now
Turn eyes upon the waters nearer home.
Anton Sosnowski has a fateful day
And Winthrop Marion runs the story down,
And learns Sosnowski read the Times the day,
He broke from brooding to a dreadful deed;
Sosnowski saw the face of Elenor Murray
And Rufus Fox upon the self-same page,
And afterwards was known to show a clipping
Concerning Elenor Murray and the banner
Of Joan of Arc, the words she wrote and folded
Within the banner: to be brave, nor flinch.

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