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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

149. Searcy Foote

I WANTED to go away to college

But rich Aunt Persis wouldn’t help me.

So I made gardens and raked the lawns

And bought John Alden’s books with my earnings

And toiled for the very means of life.

I wanted to marry Delia Prickett,

But how could I do it with what I earned?

And there was Aunt Persis more than seventy,

Who sat in a wheel-chair half alive,

With her throat so paralyzed, when she swallowed

The soup ran out of her mouth like a duck—

A gourmand yet, investing her income

In mortgages, fretting all the time

About her notes and rents and papers.

That day I was sawing wood for her,

And reading Proudhon in between.

I went in the house for a drink of water,

And there she sat asleep in her chair,

And Proudhon lying on the table,

And a bottle of chloroform on the book,

She used sometimes for an aching tooth!

I poured the chloroform on a handkerchief

And held it to her nose till she died.—

Oh, Delia, Delia, you and Proudhon

Steadied my hand, and the coroner

Said she died of heart failure.

I married Delia and got the money—

A joke on you, Spoon River?