The Poet and The Peasent by O Henry credits:
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The Poet and the Peasant by O Henry

(The poet and the Peasant is a work by O Henry. )
THE OTHER DAY a poet friend of mine, who has lived in close
communication with nature all his life, wrote a poem and took it
to an editor.
It was a living pastoral, full of the genuine breath of the fields,
the song of birds, and the pleasant chatter of trickling streams.
When the poet called again to see about it, with hopes of a
beefsteak dinner in his heart, it was handed back to him with the
‘Too artificial.’
Several of us met over spaghetti and Dutchess County chianti,
and swallowed indignation with the slippery forkfuls.
And there we dug a pit for the editor. With us was Conant, a
well-arrived writer of fiction – a man who had trod on asphalt all
his life, and who had never looked upon bucolic scenes except with
sensations of disgust from the windows of express trains.
Conant wrote a poem and called it ‘The Doe and the Brook.’ It
was a fine specimen of the kind of work you would expect from a
poet who had strayed with Amaryllis only as far as the florist’s
windows, and whose sole ornithological discussion had been carried
on with a waiter. Conant signed this poem, and we sent it to
the same editor.
But this has very little to do with the story.
Just as the editor was reading the first line of the poem, on the
next morning, a being stumbled off the West Shore ferryboat, and
loped slowly up Forty-second Street.
The invader was a young man with light blue eyes, a hanging

lip, and hair the exact colour of the little orphan’s (afterward discovered
to be the earl’s daughter) in one of Mr. Blaney’s plays. His
trousers were corduroy, his coat short-sleeved, with buttons in the
middle of his back. One bootleg was outside the corduroys. You
looked expectantly, though in vain, at his straw hat for ear-holes,
its shape inaugurating the suspicion that it had been ravaged from
a former equine possessor. In his hand was a valise – description of
it is an impossible task; a Boston man would not have carried his
lunch and law books to his office in it. And above one ear, in his
hair, was a wisp of hay – the rustic’s letter of credit, his badge of
innocence, the last clinging touch of the Garden of Eden lingering
to shame the goldbrick men.
Knowingly, smilingly, the city crowds passed him by. They saw
the raw stranger stand in the gutter and stretch his neck at the tall
buildings. At this they ceased to smile, and even to look at him. It
had been done so often. A few glanced at the antique valise to see
what Coney ‘attraction’ or brand of chewing-gum he might be
thus dinning into his memory. But for the most part, he was
ignored. Even the newsboys looked bored when he scampered like
a circus clown out of the way of cabs and street-cars.
At Eighth Avenue stood ‘Bunco Harry,’ with his dyed moustache
and shiny, good-natured eyes. Harry was too good an artist
not to be pained at the sight of an actor overdoing his part. He
edged up to the countryman, who had stopped to open his mouth
at a jewelry store window, and shook his head.
‘Too thick, pal,’ he said critically – ‘too thick by a couple of
inches. I don’t know what your lay is, but you’ve got the properties
on too thick. That hay, now – why, they don’t even allow that on
Proctor’s circuit any more.’
‘I don’t understand you, mister,’ said the green one. ‘I’m not
lookin’ for any circus. I’ve just run down from Ulster County to
look at the town, bein’ that the hayin’s over with. Gosh! but it’s a
whopper. I thought Poughkeepsie was some punkins; but this here
town is five times as big.’
‘Oh, well,’ said ‘Bunco Harry,’ raising his eyebrows, ‘I didn’t
mean to butt in. You don’t have to tell. I thought you ought to
tone down a little, so I tried to put you wise. Wish you success at
your graft, whatever it is. Come and have a drink, anyhow.’
‘I wouldn’t mind having a glass of lager beer,’ acknowledged the
They went to a café frequented by men with smooth faces and
shifty eyes and sat at their drinks.

‘I’m glad I come across you, mister,’ said Haylock. ‘How’d you
like to play a game or two of seven-up? I’ve got the keerds.’
He fished them out of Noah’s valise – a rare, inimitable deck,
greasy with bacon suppers and grimy with the soil of cornfields.
‘Bunco Harry’ laughed loud and briefly.
‘Not for me, sport,’ he said firmly. ‘I don’t go against that
make-up of yours for a cent. But I still say you’ve overdone it. The
Reubs haven’t dressed like that since ’79. I doubt if you could
work Brooklyn for a key-winding watch with that lay-out.’
‘Oh, you needn’t think I ain’t got the money,’ boasted Haylocks.
He drew forth a tightly rolled mass or bills as large as a
teacup, and laid it on the table.
‘Got that for my share of grandmother’s farm,’ he announced.
‘There’s $950 in that roll. Thought I’d come into the city and
look around for a likely business to go into.’
‘Bunco Harry’ took up the roll of money and looked at it with
almost respect in his smiling eyes.
‘I’ve seen worse,’ he said critically. ‘But you’ll never do it in
them clothes. You want to get light tan shoes and a black suit and
a straw hat with a coloured band, and talk a good deal about Pittsburg
and freight differentials, and drink sherry for breakfast in
order to work off phony stuff like that.’
‘What’s his line?’ asked two or three shifty-eyed men of ‘Bunco
Harry’ after Haylocks had gathered up his impugned money and
‘The queer, I guess,’ said Harry. ‘Or else he’s one of Jerome’s
men. Or some guy with a new graft. He’s too much hayseed. Maybe
that his – I wonder now – oh no, it couldn’t have been real money.’
Haylocks wandered on. Thirst probably assailed him again, for
he dived into a dark groggery on a side-street and bought beer.
Several sinister fellows hung upon one end of the bar. At first sight
of him their eyes brightened; but when his insistent and exaggerated
rusticity became apparent their expressions changed to wary
Haylocks swung his valise across the bar.
‘Keep that awhile for me, mister,’ he said, chewing at the end of
a virulent claybank cigar. ‘I’ll be back after I knock around a spell.
And keep your eye on it, for there’s $950 inside of it, though
maybe you wouldn’t think so to look at me.’
Somewhere outside a phonograph struck up a band piece, and
Haylocks was off for it, his coat-tail buttons flopping in the middle
of his back.

‘Divvy? Mike,’ said the men hanging upon the bar, winking
openly at one another.
‘Honest, now,’ said the bartender, kicking the valise to one side.
‘You don’t think I’d fall to that, do you? Anybody can see he ain’t
no jay. One of McAdoo’s come-on squad, I guess. He’s a shine if
he made himself up. There ain’t no parts of the country now
where they dress like that since they run rural free delivery to
Providence, Rhode Island. If he’s got nine-fifty in that valise it’s a
ninety-eight-cent Waterbury that’s stopped at ten minutes to ten.’
When Haylocks had exhausted the resources of Mr. Edison to
amuse he returned for his valise. And then down Broadway he gallivanted,
culling the sights with his eager blue eyes. But still and
evermore Broadway rejected him with curt glances and sardonic
smiles. He was the oldest of the ‘gags’ that the city must endure.
He was so flagrantly impossible, so ultra-rustic, so exaggerated
beyond the most freakish products of the barnyard, the hayfield
and the vaudeville stage, that he excited only weariness and suspicion.
And the wisp of hay in his hair was so genuine, so fresh and
redolent of the meadows, so clamorously rural, that even a shellgame
man would have put up his peas and folded his table at the
sight of it.
Haylocks seated himself upon a flight of stone steps and once
more exhumed his roll of yellow-backs from the valise. The outer
one, a twenty, he shucked off and beckoned to a newsboy.
‘Son,’ said he, ‘run somewhere and get this changed for me. I’m
mighty nigh out of chicken feed; I guess you’ll get a nickel if you’ll
hurry up.’
A hurt look appeared through the dirt on the newsy’s face.
‘Aw, watchert’ink! G’wan and get yer funny bill changed yerself.
Dey ain’t no farm clothes yer got on. G’wan wit yer stage money.’
On a corner lounged a keen-eyed steerer for a gamblinghouse.
He saw Haylocks, and his expression suddenly grew cold
and virtuous.
‘Mister,’ said the rural one. ‘I’ve heard of places in this here
town where a fellow could have a good game of old sledge or peg a
card at keno. I got $950 in this valise, and I come down from old
Ulster to see the sights. Know where a fellow could get action on
about $9 or $10? I’m goin’ to have some sport, and then maybe I’ll
buy out a business of some kind.’
The steerer looked pained, and investigated a white speck on his
left forefinger nail.
‘Cheese it, old man,’ he murmured reproachfully. ‘The Central

Office must be bughouse to send you out looking like such a gillie.
You couldn’t get within two blocks of a sidewalk crap game in
them Tony Pastor props. The recent Mr. Scotty from Death
Valley has got you beat a crosstown block in the way of Elizabethan
scenery and mechanical accessories. Let it be skiddoo for
yours. Nay, I know of no gilded halls where one may bet a patrol
wagon on the ace.’
Rebuffed again by the great city that is so swift to detect artificialities,
Haylocks sat upon the kerb and presented his thoughts to
hold a conference.
‘It’s my clothes,’ said he; ‘durned if it ain’t. They think I’m a
hayseed and won’t have nothin’ to do with me. Nobody never
made fun of this hat in Ulster County. I guess if you want folks to
notice you in New York you must dress up like they do.’
So Haylocks went shopping in the bazaars where men spake
through their noses and rubbed their hands and ran the tape line
ecstatically over the bulge in his inside pocket where reposed a red
nubbin of corn with an even number of rows. And messengers
bearing parcels and boxes streamed to his hotel on Broadway
within the lights of Long Acre.
At nine o’clock in the evening one descended to the sidewalk
whom Ulster County would have forsworn. Bright tan were his
shoes; his hat the latest block. His light grey trousers were deeply
creased; a gay blue silk handkerchief flapped from the breast
pocket of his elegant English walking-coat. His collar might have
graced a laundry window; his blond hair was trimmed close; the
wisp of hay was gone.
For an instant he stood, resplendent, with the leisurely air of a
boulevardier concocting in his mind the route for his evening
pleasures. And then he turned down the gay, bright street with the
easy and graceful tread of a millionaire.
But in the instant that he had paused the wisest and keenest eyes
in the city had enveloped him in their field of vision. A stout man
with grey eyes picked two of his friends with a lift of his eyebrows
from the row of loungers in front of the hotel.
‘The juiciest jay I’ve seen in six months,’ said the man with grey
eyes. ‘Come along.’
It was half-past eleven when a man galloped into the West
Forty-seventh Street police-station with the story of his wrongs.
‘Nine hundred and fifty dollars,’ he gasped, ‘all my share of
grandmother’s farm.’
The desk sergeant wrung from him the name Jabez Bulltongue,

of Locust Valley Farm, Ulster County, and then began to take
descriptions of the strong-arm gentlemen.
When Conant went to see the editor about the fate of his poem,
he was received over the head of the office boy into the inner
office that is decorated with the statuettes by Rodin and J. G.
‘When I read the first line of “The Doe and the Brook,” ‘ said
the editor, ‘I knew it to be the work of one whose life has been
heart to heart with nature. The finished art of the line did not
blind me to that fact. To use a somewhat homely comparison, it
was as if a wild, free child of the woods and fields were to don the
garb of fashion and walk down Broadway. Beneath the apparel the
man would show.’
‘Thanks,’ said Conant. ‘I suppose the cheque will be round on
Thursday, as usual.’
The morals of this story have somehow gotten mixed. You can
take your choice of ‘Stay on the Farm’ or ‘Don’t write Poetry.’




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