THE EMPEROR RETURNS
'Tis not of the conquering Caesars I sing,
Nor of Constantine - nor Charlemagne, -
Napoleon is dead; so is Alex the Great, -
But an Emperor rides home again.
He comes not with soldiers and armor and spears;
He rides not a chariot gay.
He brings - just one wife, and a daughter (not young),
And they ride in an old Chevrolet.
A conquering hero - eighty years old
Who drove from his southern abode -
Over twelve hundred miles, to raise a new tax
(Rent to you) on our poor Lilac Road.
Yes, Eldoras T., Emperor of Lilac Road, is home again. We, his enslaved subjects, looked for him on May 1st - May Day. We were not exactly planning a Maypole dance, nor a garland of flowers for his royal head. But he always makes sure of collecting the May rent; and to wait beyond the first day of May is unheard of. When he didn't come by the third, one of his loyal subjects drove over to his home, to see if he was ill. And sure enough, the poor old man was quite "done in" by his long journey. He just can't realize that he is getting up in years. Let me digress for a moment, to mention that this is Mother's Day - and, as a sad commentary on that day, or, rather, on motherhood, write of Mr. T's only daughter. When Mr. T. finally came - last Wednesday, the sixth, I asked him if he did all the driving on that long trip ("1237 miles from his Florida back porch to his Cleveland garage".) Yes, he did - because his wife was too nervous to let Mabel, the daughter, drive. Mabel, over forty years old, is truly a slave to her parents' sense of possession; Mabel, who inherited her father's urge toward the medical profession, yielded to her parents' pleas to forget a profession "out of woman's sphere." She became a school teacher, instead. She had a chance to marry; but her ailing mother needed her; all her innate medical skill has had to be confined to the nursing care of one person; all her woman's tenderness has no outlet in the mate and children that God would give her. Over in Mabel's home every day in the year is Mother's Day. She even had to give up her teaching - to look after her mother. There ought to be a law.
But come, pull up a chair by the fire in the radiant heater - on this sixth day of May - and listen with me to this dear old man, whom I could just love, if he were not my landlord. He brings back great tales from New Port Richey, Fla. He and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the writer of that grand book, "The Yearling", have convinced me that Florida is on the "must" list in the itinerary of one's dreams. After Mr. T. and I exchanged such pleasantries as, "Don't you know the rent has gone up?" and "Yes, and I know the property has gone down." Alson, "Your water bill is in excess." And my sweet reply, "If you'd fix the faucets, the water bill wouldn't be excessive." (I know I'm right, for the boys are either afraid of water, or of that old-fashioned tub). Well, after these aforesaid pleasantries, we had a good visit by the fire. I asked about Mrs. B., whose husband died last year, just as Mr. T. was preparing to come north. Mr. S. B. died very suddenly, and his poor wife was bewildered and helpless. Now, both she and her husband had come from "the back country," up in South Carolina; when her "Pa" and "Ma" died, they were "just done up in a blanket" for burial, as she explained to Mr. T. But our kind landlord and his daughter advised her in favor of embalming and a modest coffin. The body was shipped back to S.C. - to rest beside his pa and ma. In the meantime Mabel (our heroine of Mother's Day) took over the tidying up of the little shack of a home. Just in superficial cleaning and tidying she found nearly three hundred dollars lying around. "Why, what kind of person is Mrs. B?" "She doesn't have all her shingles," was Mr. T's original reply. In reply to my inquiry as to her present well-being, Mr. T. said that she is having an awful time with her in-laws. Her husband's sisters feel that "Lizzie" should not be alone. Now - by strange coincidence - the names of the two sisters-in-law who came to spend the winter with her are "Izzie" and "Kizzie." I understand the three of them are having a dizzy time of it. Mrs. B. is terribly suspicious - that her in-laws are plotting to take her property away from her. Mr. T. told her, quite bluntly, that her property is not such as to excite the envy of the poorest hill-billy. Mr. T., as a generous gesture, offered to build her a porch to her little shack, his labor entirely gratis. A lumberman gave her the lumber - but it was awful stuff - so knotted and gnarled and twisted and warped that Mr. T. had one sweet time of it. "Sweet are the uses of adversity," With reluctance, I must close.
Florence B. Taylor
Next - 5/21/42 - For Sale
BY-WAYS Table of Contents