The Poetry of Elsie Strawn Armstrong
"SKETCHES OF MY LIFE"
Pages

Transcribed and Donated by Leslie Howard Strawn


The following is a recital on the subject of being robbed five times.
Lately my pocket book was carried off and brought back and thrown in the yard.
My property has been stolen from time to time since I have been afflicted with sore eyes.
August 22, 1860.

I fondly cherished social joys

And in my children took delight

I loved to see those cheerful boys

All pleasantly step in at night.

My sleep was sound, I felt secure,

While those I loved were being near,

I felt protected all the while

When my sons did round me smile.

The toil was bliss and care was sweet

When happy hearts beat near my own,

But now I scarce a son can meet,

And I’m alone, yes, all alone.

No morning sun illumes my way,

No evening star illumes my track,

But phantoms in my pathway stay,

To fright coming pleasures back.

If I could see, I would not fear,

But almost blind and hard to hear,

Sometimes I feel as if neglected,

And O, how sad and unprotected!

When in the night I hear a noise,

It startles and it annoys me,

For thieves and robbers round me roam,

And take my clothing from my home.

They stole my gold watch chain

And silk dresses,

From my trunk

And from my presses.

My satin dress

And lots of clothes,

Silk gloves and gaiters,

And my hose.

Gold pen and collar,

Fringe and laces,

My spectacles,

Likewise, their cases.

My black silk scarf

Trimmed with silk lace,

Silk velvet ribbon,

In good taste.

And my black veil,

‘Twas rich silk lace,

And given to me-

What a hard case.

That I should lose

So fine a present,

Such things to me

Are quite unpleasant.

My finest and best sheets

And tape trimmed pillowcases,

My needle worked nice nightcaps,

Trimmed with fancy laces.

My Irish linen tablecloths,

My India rubber shoes,

My new diaper towels,

Those things I need to use.

Took every glove I had,

Kid, cotton and lisle thread

My fancy quilts, new counterpanes,

The coverings of my bed.

My finest, best made nightgowns,

And my best skirts and tidies,

The best of all I had

Still seemed to suit their ideas.

My woolen gloves and mittens,

And my best underclothes,

Likewise my silver thimble

That lay upon my stand.

Off of my parlor table

They stole my nice new books,

My dress and my skirts

That hung in the room on hooks.

My knives and forks

And spoons and dishes,

Whate’er they saw

That met their wishes.

My buckets and tin pails,

Likewise my chairs and stools,

My augurs and my chisels,

And different kinds of tools.

Stole my hammers and my hatchet,

Ax and spade and shovel,

Likewise my hoe and rake

I need to make my garden level.

They yearly rob my garden

And also steal my currants,

And have broken off my lock,

And also robbed my barn.

Whate’er they found my house about

They pilfered and they carried out,

They stole my cobs, likewise my coal,

And used me badly on the whole.

I made myself some under sleeves,

They were all I ever had,

And them they had to steal

And that was rather bad.

***

My pocket book they robbed,

From one time to another,

But last Saturday night the

Boldest and meanest of all other.

On Saturday, two young ladies,

Each scarcely twenty-five,

And blithe and gay and pleasant

As any now alive.

Made me their usual visit,

Which was nearly every day,

And stayed till after night

Before they went away.

When it was growing dark

One said, “Come, let’s go home,”

The other was not willing,

Her errand was not done.

She expressed an anxious wish

To see me safe in bed,

“Not while I have company,

I’d rather not,” I said.

She seemed to be so social,

So pleasant and so kind,

Little did I think there was

Robbery in her mind.

And still she kept insisting,

And urging me so,

That, unfortunately, for me,

With reluctance, said , “I’ll go.”

Soon as I gave consent,

To undressing me, they went,

They undressed me in a flirt

But I thought they meant no hurt.

And for fear they’d tear my dress

I said, “Now stop, O, stay,

Till I take off my pockets

And get them out of the way.”

So I took off my pockets

And threw them at my bed’s head,

And in the shortest order

They covered my in bed.

In the act of going to bed

I was so badly hurried,

I never thought of pockets,

Nor about them worried.

One sat upon my bedside

With her hand upon my arm,

The other at the head,

And I thought she meant no harm.

She made excuses, out

In the next room she walked about,

And there gathered up her load,

To be ready for the road.

Stole my Sunday pocket handkerchief,

Out of my upper drawer,

My cake of maple sugar

From within my cupboard door.

Likewise a pound of starch

That in the cupboard lay,

She gathered all those things

Before she went away.

And again sat by my head

With her arm upon my bed,

And I knew that she was fumbling

Between my pillow and bed’s head.

No doubt but she was fixing

And rolled up my pockets then,

And took her load away

Before the clock struck ten.

Then in her loving kindness

Not quite as sweet as honey,

Gave me a Judas Kiss

And carried off my money.

Between the hours of twelve and one,

At that late hour of night,

Came back, shoved up my window,

And the noise did me affright.

Being wakened out of sleep

I said, “What’s that? Who’s there?

Who is at my window,

And what is your errand there?”

Then I thought of my pockets,

And for them I grabbed around,

But my pockets were not there,

They were not to be found.

I said, “Now nail down the window,

With the hammer, drive the nail,

If they try to shove it up

In that they may fail.”

And when that work was done

I said, “Now go back to bed

And try to go to sleep,

And I will, too.” I said.

But that old calfskin pocket book

I have carried thirty years,

Sometimes contained some money,

But now it’s all gone, clear.

But, O, the thieves and robber,

‘Tis hard to endure,

But I’ll put my trust in God,

For I know my bread is sure.

Likewise about those papers,

Them I wish I had,

Those notes and those receipts

For me to lose now, would be bad.

But I think that I shall find them,

They will do them no good,

Leave them about the yard

I think they surely would

So I composed myself to sleep,

And a pleasant nap I had,

But Betsey slept no more,

She said she felt so bad.

Next morning, very early

She went out to see

What traces of the thief

Or their footsteps there might be.

Put there fell a heavy rain

Between that time and day,

And that effaced their footsteps

And washed them all away.

My pockets on the rose bush,

My papers strewed around,

And in a puddle of water

My pocket book was found.

But the money all was gone

Except a little mite,

In one corner of the pocket book,

And it was out of sight.

Well now, what shall I do?

The case looks hard to say,

I’d better take what’s left,

And try to go away.

And try to gather up

What little yet remains,

And put it on a dray

And take it to the train.

And then I hardly know

What way I’d better go.

Whether to go East or West,

Which way would be the best?

I hardly can

Make up my mind,

Which way I feel

The most inclined.

Why should I longer stay

Where hopes are fading one by one,

No morning sun illumes my way,

And I’m alone, yes, all alone.

DECEMBER 24, 1860

Twenty-fourth day of December,

The weather very cold,

And I am all-alone

And seventy-one years old.

And I am almost blind

And my eyes are very sore,

Seventy-one years old

And exactly one month more.

These cold December mornings,

Am starting my fire,

I am weak and feeble,

And would much rather hire.

DECEMBER 29th

But now my prospect’s changed,

A family has come in,

Helpful, kind and pleasant

Thus far to me have been.

DECEMBER 31st

The weather most terrific cold,

But find myself in care,

Attentive, kind and pleasant,

Still to me they are.

She still comes in and starts my fire,

And friendly bakes my pies,

She threads my needles, helps me on,

And kindly picks my eyes.

Her husband, he is gone,

He went to see his mother,

She has been very sick,

Went with his younger brother.

And she is here alone

With her little son and daughter,

Her son is large enough

To bring her in some water.

And she’s a sweet young woman,

Pleasant, bright and gay,

You will not find a handsomer,

In a long summer’s day.

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