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The Rivet in Grandfather's Neck A Comedy of Limitations   By: (1879-1958)

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THE RIVET IN GRANDFATHER'S NECK

A Comedy of Limitations

BY

JAMES BRANCH CABELL

" To this new South, who values her high past in chief, as fit foundation of that edifice whereon she labors day by day, and with augmenting strokes ."

1915

TO

PRISCILLA BRADLEY CABELL

"Nightly I mark and praise, or great or small, Such stars as proudly struggle one by one To heaven's highest place, as Procyon, Antarês, Naös, Tejat and Nibal Attain supremacy, and proudly fall, Still glorious, and glitter, and are gone So very soon; whilst steadfast and alone Polaris gleams, and is not changed at all.

"Daily I find some gallant dream that ranges The heights of heaven; and as others do, I serve my dream until my dream estranges Its errant bondage, and I note anew That nothing dims, nor shakes, nor mars, nor changes, Fond faith in you and in my love of you."

CONTENTS

PART ONE PROPINQUITY

PART TWO RENASCENCE

PART THREE TERTIUS

PART FOUR APPRECIATION

PART FIVE SOUVENIR

PART SIX BYWAYS

PART SEVEN YOKED

PART EIGHT HARVEST

PART NINE RELICS

PART TEN IMPRIMIS

In the middle of the cupboard door was the carved figure of a man.... He had goat's legs, little horns on his head, and a long beard; the children in the room called him, "Major General field sergeant commander Billy goat's legs" ... He was always looking at the table under the looking glass where stood a very pretty little shepherdess made of china.... Close by her side stood a little chimney sweep, as black as coal and also made of china.... Near to them stood another figure.... He was an old Chinaman who could nod his head, and used to pretend he was the grandfather of the shepherdess, although he could not prove it. He, however, assumed authority over her, and therefore when "Major general field sergeant commander Billy goat's legs" asked for the little shepherdess to be his wife, he nodded his head to show that he consented.

Then the little shepherdess cried, and looked at her sweetheart, the chimney sweep. "I must entreat you," said she, "to go out with me into the wide world, for we cannot stay here." ... When the chimney sweep saw that she was quite firm, he said, "My way is through the stove up the chimney." ... So at last they reached the top of the chimney.... The sky with all its stars was over their heads.... They could see for a very long distance out into the wide world, and the poor little shepherdess leaned her head on her chimney sweep's shoulder and wept. "This is too much," she said, "the world is too large." ... And so with a great deal of trouble they climbed down the chimney and peeped out.... There lay the old Chinaman on the floor ... broken into three pieces.... "This is terrible," said the shepherdess. "He can be riveted," said the chimney sweep.... The family had the Chinaman's back mended and a strong rivet put through his neck; he looked as good as new, but when "Major General field sergeant commander Billy goat's legs" again asked for the shepherdess to be his wife, the old Chinaman could no longer nod his head.

And so the little china people remained together and were thankful for the rivet in grandfather's neck, and continued to love each other until they were broken to pieces.

PART ONE PROPINQUITY

"A singer, eh?... Well, well! but when he sings Take jealous heed lest idiosyncrasies Entinge and taint too deep his melodies; See that his lute has no discordant strings To harrow us; and let his vaporings Be all of virtue and its victories, And of man's best and noblest qualities, And scenery, and flowers, and similar things .

"Thus bid our paymasters whose mutterings Some few deride, and blithely link their rhymes At random; and, as ever, on frail wings Of wine stained paper scribbled with such rhymes Men mount to heaven, and loud laughter springs From hell's midpit, whose fuel is such rhymes."

PAUL VERVILLE. Nascitur .

I

At a very remote period, when editorials were mostly devoted to discussion as to whether the Democratic Convention (shortly to be held in Chicago) would or would not declare in favor of bi metallism; when golf was a novel form of recreation in America, and people disputed how to pronounce its name, and pedestrians still turned to stare after an automobile; when, according to the fashion notes, "the godet skirts and huge sleeves of the present modes" were already doomed to extinction; when the baseball season had just begun, and some of our people were discussing the national game, and others the spectacular burning of the old Pennsylvania Railway depot at Thirty third and Market Street in Philadelphia, and yet others the significance of General Fitzhugh Lee's recent appointment as consul general to Habana: at this remote time, Lichfield talked of nothing except the Pendomer divorce case... Continue reading book >>




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