A STORY FOR THE EVENING AFTER

After writing last night’s “drunken post”, I was reminded of the following gem from More of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, by Paul Aurandt:

The Woman in White

Folks in and about Amherst, Massachusetts, sometimes called her “the woman in white.” 

She was small “like a wren,” with large eyes and bold dark hair.  Her voice was soft, frightened, breathless, almost childlike.  And all her life she had lived in the big red brick house at 208 Main Street.

And she wore only white.

In fierce seclusion she drew the walls of her home around her like a coverlet.  Except for a few, her secret was safe.

Like many who purposely lead their lives away from the world, the woman in white had become a topic of neighborhood talk.

What did she do all day all alone in the big brick house on Main?

Truth is, her life was as uneventful as the speculation of her neighbors was pretentious.

She was the daughter of a prominent lawyer bound for the United States Congress.  Better educated than most young ladies of the nineteenth century, she was remembered by her schoolmates for her quick wit and her comic valentines.

By her mid-twenties most of her childhood friends had married and left town.  It was then that she drifted imperceptibly into a habit of seclusion.

Accompanied by her little dog, she often strolled at twilight in the garden in back of her parents’ home.  To those who watched at a distance this was apparently her greatest pleasure.  Flowers and sunsets and solitude, the gentle, quiet, inward existence of the woman in white.

With her father’s death and her mother’s prolonged illness her uneasiness with strangers became a fear and her fear, phobic.

Then her mother died and she was alone, left to her secret self.

The years passed; glimpses of her were fewer and further between.  In May of 1886 the woman in white followed her beloved parents into the hereafter.

No longer would schoolboys stop outside the big brick house on Main and dare each other to knock on the door; no more would the reclusive lady’s face be seen through the curtain lace, nor her silhouette in the garden at sundown.

Discovered among her personal effects and private papers were these handwritten words:

I’m Nobody!  Who are you?

Are you–Nobody–too?

But the woman in white, a nobody all her life long, would posthumously and forever be Somebody.  That is THE REST OF THE STORY.

Her private papers, written in the solitude of her room and guarded like a secret journal while she lived, comprised the myriad descriptions of life as she saw it:  the tiny ecstacies and candid intuitions, the speculations on the timeless mysteries of love and death.

With language stripped of superfluous words she wrote for her eyes only . . . poems.  One thousand seven hundred and seventy-five poems!

This was the secret joy of the woman in white, the young lady irresistibly drawn into her own cryptic self, whose entirely uneventful life was spent in seclusion . . . yet culminated in the immortal art . . . of Emily Dickinson.

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