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The Face On the Floor

From the Newark Evening Star, May 9, 1914

’Twas a balmy summer evening, and a goodly crowd was there,
Which well-nigh filled Joe’s barroom, on the corner of the square;
And as songs and witty stories came through the open door,
A vagabond crept slowly in and posed upon the floor.

“Where did it come from?” someone said. “The wind has blown it in.”
“What does it want?” another cried. “Some whiskey, rum or gin?”
“Here, Toby, seek him, if your stomach’s equal to the work—
I wouldn’t touch him with a fork, he’s filthy as a Turk.”

This badinage the poor wretch took with stoical good grace—
In fact, he smiled as though he thought he’d struck the proper place;
“Come, boys, I know there’s kindly hearts among so good a crowd—
To be in such good company would make a deacon proud.

“Give me a drink—that’s what I want—I’m out of funds, you know.
When I had cash to treat the gang, this hand was never slow;
What? You laugh as if you thought this pocket never held a sou.
I once was fixed as well, my boys, as any one of you.

“There, thanks, that’s braced me nicely; God bless you one and all.
Next time I pass this good saloon, I’ll make another call;
Give you a song? No, I can’t do that; my singing days are past,
My voice is cracked, my throat’s worn out, and my lungs are going fast.

“Say, give me another whiskey, and I’ll tell you what I’ll do—
I’ll tell you a funny story, and a fact, I promise, too;
That I was ever a decent man, not one of you would think,
But I was, some four or five years back. Say, give us another drink.

“Fill her up, Joe; I want to put some life into my frame—
Such little drinks to a bum like me are miserably tame;
Five fingers—there, that’s the scheme—and corking whiskey, too.
Well, here’s luck, boys, and landlord, my best regards to you.

“You’ve treated me very kindly, and I’d like to tell you how
I came to be the dirty sot you see before you now.
As I told you, once I was a man, with muscle, frame, and health,
And, but for a blunder, ought to have made considerable wealth.

“I was a painter—not one that daubed on bricks and wood,
But an artist, and for my age, was rated pretty good;
I worked hard at my canvas, and was bidding fair to rise,
For gradually I saw the star of fame before my eyes.

“I made a picture perhaps you’ve seen, ’tis called the Chase of Fame.
It brought me fifteen hundred pounds, and added to my name;
And then I met a woman—now comes the funny part—
With eyes that petrified my brain, and sunk into my heart.

“Why don’t you laugh? ’Tis funny that the vagabond you see
Could ever love a woman, and expect her love for me;
But ’twas so, and for a month or two, her smile was freely given,
And when her loving lips touched mine, it carried me to Heaven.

“Boys, did you ever see a girl for whom your soul you’d give,
With a form like Milo Venus, too beautiful to live;
With eyes that would beat the Kohinoor, and a wealth of chestnut hair?
If so, ’twas she, for there never was another half so fair.

“I was working on a portrait, one afternoon in May,
Of a fair-haired boy, a friend of mine, who lived across the way;
And Madeline admired it, and much to my surprise,
Said that she’d like to know the man that had such dreamy eyes.

“It didn’t take long to know him, and before the month had flown,
My friend had stole my darling, and I was left alone;
And ere a year of misery had passed above my head,
The jewel I had treasured so had tarnished and was dead.

“That’s why I took to drink, boys. Why, I never saw you smile,
I thought you’d be amused and laughing all the while;
Why, what’s the matter, friend? There’s a tear-drop in your eye.
Come, laugh like me, ’tis only babes and women that should cry.

“Say, boys, if you give me another whiskey I’ll be glad,
And I’ll draw right here a picture of the face that drove me mad;
Give me that piece of chalk with which you mark the baseball score—
You shall see the lovely Madeline upon the barroom floor.”

Another drink, and with chalk in hand, the vagabond began
To sketch a face that well might buy the soul of any man.
Then, as he placed another lock upon the shapely head,
With a fearful shriek, he leaped and fell across the picture—dead.

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