As the air turned colder last week, the change in the weather left me spending a planned day off with a very un-planned sore throat. I couldn't talk, even to myself. I didn't want to do much but read and lie around.
Between cups of tea, I lay and watched the vertical blinds move. (They were closed against my headache, which came with the sore throat, and the heater was on for one of the first times this fall.) I knew that the heater was making the blinds move, but I couldn't help remembering that I'd once thought of another cause: an imagined visit from Robert Louis Stevenson. (Catch up to it here.)
It had been a while since I'd "realized" that Louis was still around -- the last time was when I caught up on two of his books, "Kidnapped" and "Treasure Island."
But when I'm sick, I don't reach quickly for new books. I want my old favorites -- and they don't get much older for me than "A Child's Garden of Verses," RLS's book of poems for small children.
The afternoon reminded me of a section from the poem in "A Garden" called "North-West Passage." In the part called "In Port," Stevenson wrote:
"Last, to the chamber where I lie
My fearful footsteps patter nigh,
And come out from the cold and gloom
Into my warm and cheerful room."
My copy of the book has long left my hands, if not my mind, and I didn't want to go out into the cold and gloom to the library. Thus, I decided to put my little phone to a test and Googled the book. Several of the poems came up. It was like getting text messages from Louis himself! (After all, I have gotten a package from him -- that's what the return address said.)
Musing about what Louis might make of modern phones is for another day -- dare I call it another "visit"?
Finding "Picture-Books in Winter" was the best help that achy day, almost as soothing as the action (or lack of it?) the poem describes:
"How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading Picture story books?"
So even though I was still too hoarse to talk in real life, Louis and I had a chat in my imagination:
"Rest your throat, lass," he said. "Have a rest and a good read."
I smiled and nodded.
"Come out from the cold and gloom/Into my warm and cheerful room," he added.
"Different poem!" I whispered. "I remember."
"Wheesht," he said. "I knew you would ken 'North-West Passage.'"
I had hushed, as I was told, but I whispered, "Same book."
"Wheesht!" he said, more sternly this time. "Rest your throat!"
"All right," I whispered -- but why did I have to in my imagination?
"But don't go, Louis," I added.
"Go?" he said, his eyes twinkling in the low light. "But I'm home. Maybe on my grave in Samoa, it should actually say
'Here I am where I longed to be
with a reader who loves me still.' "
Still and ever, Louis! As we settled before, since he was never really here, he never really leaves.
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