by Elizabeth Akers Allen

After all the house is dark,
And the last soft step is still,
And the elm-bough's clear-cut shadow
Flickers on the window sill—

When the village lights are out,
And the watch-dogs all asleep,
And the misty silver radiance
Makes the shade look black and deep—

When, so silent is the night,
Not a dead leaf dares to fall,
And I only hear the death-watch
Ticking, ticking in the wall—

When no hidden mouse dares gnaw
At the silence dead and dumb,
And the very air seems waiting
For a Something that should come—

Suddenly, there stands my guest,
Whence he came I cannot see;
Not a door has swung before him,
Not a hand touched latch or key,

Not a rustle stirred the air;
Yet he stands there, brave and mute,
In his eyes a look of greeting,
In his hand an old-time flute.

Then, with all the courtly grace
Of the old Colonial school,
From the curtain-shadowed corner
Forth he draws a three-legged stool—

(Ah, it was not there before!
Search as closely as I may,
I can never, never find it
When I look for it by day!)

Places it beside my bed,
And while silently I gaze
Spell-bound by his mystic presence,
Seats himself thereon and plays.

Gracious, stately, grave and tall,
Always dressed from crown to toe
In the quaint elaborate fashion
Of a hundred years ago.

Doublet, small-clothes, silk-clocked hose;
Wears my midnight melodist,
Snowy ruffles in his bosom,
Snowy ruffles at his wrist.

Silver buckle at his knee,
Silver buckle on his shoe;
Powdered hair smoothed back and plaited
In a stiff old-fashioned queue.

If I stir he vanishes;
If I speak he flits away;
If I lie in utter silence,
He will sit for hours and play;

Play old wailing minor airs,
Melancholy, wild and slow,
Such, mayhap, as pleased the maidens
Of a hundred years ago.

All in vain I wait to hear
Ghostly histories of wrong
Unconfessed and unforgiven,
Unavenged and suffered long;

Not a story does he tell,
Not a single word he says—
Only sits and gazes at me
Steadily, and plays and plays.

Who is he, my midnight guest?
Wherefore does he haunt me so;
Coming from the misty shadows
Of a hundred years ago?

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