The Hapless Child

Michael Mantler


Edward Gorey / Michael Mantler

Oh look, there’s something way up high;
A creature floating in the sky.

It is not merely sitting there,
But falling slowly through the air.

The clouds grew pink and gold;: its knees
Were level with the evening trees.

Morose, inflexible, aloof,
It hovered just above the roof.

Its gone right through and come to rest
On great grand-uncle Ogdred's chest.

It settled further in the night,
And gave the maid an awful fright.

Head first, without a look or word,
Its lefts the fourth floor for the third.

The week went by it made its way
A little lower every day.

Each time one thought it might have stopped
One found, however, it had dropped.

One wonders just what can be meant
By this implacable descent.

It did not linger after all,
Forever in the upstairs hall.

It found the drawing room in turn,
And slipped inside the Chinese urn.

It now declines in fretful curves
Among the pickles and preserves.

It's gone beneath the cellar floor,
We shall not see it any more.

Edward Gorey / Michael Mantler

It was already Thursday.
but his lordship's artificial limb could not be found;
therefore, having directed the servants to fill the baths,
he seized the tongs
and set out at once for the edge of the lake,
where the Throbblefoot Spectre still loiteredin a distraught manner.
He presented it with a lenght of string
and passed on to the statue of Corrupted Endeavour
to await the arrival of autumn.
Meanwhile, on the tower,
Madame O_____ in conversation with an erstwhile cousin
saw that his moustache was not his own,
on which she flung herself over the parapet
and surreptitiously vanished.
He descended, destroying the letter unread,
and stepped backwards into the water for a better view.
Heavens, how dashing! cried the people in the dinghy,
and Echo answered: count the spoons!
On the shore a bat, or possibly an umbrella,
disengaged itself from the shrubbery,
causing those nearby to recollect the miseries of chidhood.
It now became apparent (despite the lack of library paste)
that something had happened to the vicar:
guns began to go off in the distance.
At twilight, however, no message had come from the asylum,
so the others retired to the kiosk,
only to discover the cakes iced a peculiar shade of green
and the tea-urn empty
save for a card on which was writtent the single word:

Edward Gorey / Michael Mantler

O what has become of Millicent Frastley?
Is there any hope that she's still alive?
Why haven't they found her? It’s rather ghastly
To think that the child was not yet five.

The dear little thing was last seen playing
Alone by herself at the edge of the park;
There was no one with her to keep her from straying
Away in the shadows and oncoming dark.

Before she could do so, a silent and glittering Black motor drew up where she sat nibbling grass;
From within came a nearly inaudible twittering.
A tiny green face peered out through the glass.

She was ready to flee, when the figure beckoned;
An arm with two elbows held out a tin
Full of cinnamon balls; she paused; a second Reached out as she took one, and lifted her in.

The nurse was discovered collapsed in some shrubbery
But her reappearance was not much use;
Her eyes were askew, her extremities rubbery.
Her clothing was stained with a brownish juice.

She was questioned in hopes of her answers revealing
What had happened: she merely repeatedly said "I hear them walking about on the ceiling"
She had gone irretrievably out of her head.

O feelings of horror, resentment, and pity
For things, which so seldom turn out for the best;
The car, unobserved, sped away from the city
As last of the light died out in the west.

The Frastleys grew sick with apprehension. Which a heavy tea only served to increase; Though they felt it was scarcely genteel to mention
The loss of their child, they called in the police.

Through unvisited hamlets the car went creeping,
With its head lamps unlit and its curtains drawn;
Those natives who happened not to be sleeping Heard it pass, and lay awake until dawn.

The police with their torches and notebooks descended
On the haunts of the underworld, looking for clues;
In spite of their praiseworthy efforts, they ended
With nothing at all in the way of news.

The car, after hours and hours of travel,
Arrived at a gate in an endless wall;
It rolled up a drive and stopped on the gravel
At the foot of a vast and crumbling hall.

As the night wore away hope started to languish
And soon was replaced by all manner of fears;
The family twisted their fingers in anguish,
Or got them all damp from the flow of their tears.
They removed the child to the ball-room, whose hangings
And mirrors were streaked with a luminous slime;
They leapt through the air with buzzings and twangings
To work themselves up to a ritual crime.

They stunned her, and stripped off her garments, and lastly
They suffed her inside a kind of pod;
And then it was that Millicent Frastley
Was sacrificed to THE INSECT GOD.

Edward Gorey / Michael Mantler

When they answered the bell on that wild winter night,
There was no one expected-and no one in sight.

Then they saw something standing on top of an urn,
Whose peculiar appearance gave them quite a turn.

All at once it leapt down and ran into the hall,
Where it chose to remain with its nose to the wall.

It was seemingly deaf to whatever they said,
So at last they stopped screaming, and went off to bed.

It joined them at breackfast and presently ate
All the syrup and toast, and part of a plate.

It wrenched off the horn from the new gramophone,
And could not be persuaded to leave it alone.

It betrayed a great liking for peering up flues,
And for peeling the soles of its white canvas shoes.

At times it would tear out whole chapters from books,
Or put roomfuls of pictures askew on their hooks.

Every Sunday it brooded and lay on the floor,
Inconveniently close to the drawing-room door.

Now and then it would vanish for hours from the scene,
But alas, be discovered inside a tureen.

It was subject to fits of bewildering wrath,
During which it would hide all the towels from the bath.

In the night through the house it would aimlessly creep,
In spite of the fact of its being asleep.

It would carry off objects of which it grew fond,
And protect them by dropping them into the pond.

It came seventeen years ago-and to this day
It has shown no intention of going away.

Edward Gorey / Michael Mantler

The summer she was eleven, Drusilla went abroad with her parents.
There she climbed endlessflights of stairs.
She tried to make out the subjects of vast dark paintings.
Sometimes she was made ill by curious dishes,
She was called upon to admire views.
When the weather was bad, she leafed through incomprehensible magazines.
One morning her parents, for some reason or other, went on an excursion without her.
After luncheon an acquaintance of the family. Miss Skrim-Pshaw,
took Drusilla with her to pay a call.
They walked to an inn called le Crapaud Bleu.
They were shown into agarden where the topiary was being neglected,
Drusilla was toldshe was going to meet a wonderful old manwho had been or done something lofty and cultured in the dim past.
Eventually Mr Crague appeared.
He kissed Miss Skrim-Pshaws hand, and she presented Drusilla to him.
After they had sat down, Drusilla saw that Mr Crague
Wore no socks.
He and Miss Skrim-Psaw’s mentioned a great many people who had done things in their conversation.
Tea was brought: it was nearly colourless, and there was a plate of crystallized ginger.
Mr Crague asked Drusilla if she liked paper.
He said he would have liked to show her his albums filled with beautiful pieces of it, but they were upstairs in his room.
Drusilla promised when she got home to send him some insides of envelopes she had saved.
Miss Skrim-Pshaw said it was time they made their adieux.
On the way back a few drops of rain fell. Somehow Drusilla was hungrier than she had been before tea.
Days went by.
Weeks went by.
Months went by.
Years went by. Drusilla was still inclined to be forgetful.
One day something reminded her of her promise to Mr Crague.
She began to hunt for the envelope-linings in her room.
On a sheet of newspaper at the bottom of a drawer she read that
Mr Crague had died the autumn after she had been abroad.
When she found the pretty pieces of paper, she felt very sad and
The wind came and took them through an open window: she
watched them blow away.

Edward Gorey / Michael Mantler

There was once a little girl named Charlotte Sophia.
Her parents were kind and well-to-do.
She had a doll whom she called Hortense.
One day her father, a colonel in the army, was
ordered to Africa.
Several months later he was reported killed in a
native uprising.
Her mother fell into a decline that proved fatal.
Her only other relative, an uncle, was brained by
a piece of masonry.
Charlotte Sophia was left in the hands of
the family lawyer.
He at once put her tnto a boarding-school.
There she was punished by the teachers for things
she hadn't done.
Hortense was torn limb from limb by the other pupils.
During the day Charlotte Sophia hid as much as possible.
At night she lay awake weeping and weeping.
When she could bear it no longer she fled from the
school at dawn.
She soon lost consciousness and sank to the pavement
A man came and took the locket with her parents'
pictures inside.
Another man came from the opposite direction and
carried her off.
He brought her to a low place.
He sold her to a drunken brute.
Charlotte Sophia was put to work making artificial
She lived on scraps and tap-water.
From time to time the brute got the horror.
Charlotte Sophia's eyesight began to fail rapidly.
Meanwhile, her father, who was not dead after all,
returned home.
Every day he motored through the streets searching
for her.
At last the brute went off his head.
Charlotte Sophia, now almost blind, ran into the street.
She was at once struck down by a car.
Her father got out to look at the dying child.
She was so changed, he did not recognize her.