Wax candles were placed, each in a small,

And slim, and burnished candlestick

Of pewter. The old man lit each wick,

And the room leapt more obviously

Upon my mind, and I could see

What the flickering fire had hid from me.

Above the chimney's yawning throat,

Shoulder high, like the dark wainscote,

Was a mantelshelf of polished oak

Blackened with the pungent smoke

Of firelit nights; a Cromwell clock

Of tarnished brass stood like a rock

In the midst of a heaving, turbulent sea

Of every sort of cutlery.

There lay knives sharpened to any use,

The keenest lancet, and the obtuse

And blunted pruning bill-hook; blades

Of razors, scalpels, shears; cascades

Of penknives, with handles of mother-of-pearl,

And scythes, and sickles, and scissors; a whirl

Of points and edges, and underneath

Shot the gleam of a saw with bristling teeth.

My head grew dizzy, I seemed to hear

A battle-cry from somewhere near,

The clash of arms, and the squeal of balls,

And the echoless thud when a dead man falls.

A smoky cloud had veiled the room,

Shot through with lurid glares; the gloom

Pounded with shouts and dying groans,

With the drip of blood on cold, hard stones.

Sabres and lances in streaks of light

Gleamed through the smoke, and at my right

A creese, like a licking serpent's tongue,

Glittered an instant, while it stung.

Streams, and points, and lines of fire!

The livid steel, which man's desire

Had forged and welded, burned white and cold.

Every blade which man could mould,

Which could cut, or slash, or cleave, or rip,

Or pierce, or thrust, or carve, or strip,

Or gash, or chop, or puncture, or tear,

Or slice, or hack, they all were there.

Nerveless and shaking, round and round,

I stared at the walls and at the ground,

Till the room spun like a whipping top,

And a stern voice in my ear said, "Stop!

I sell no tools for murderers here.

Of what are you thinking! Please clear

Your mind of such imaginings.

Sit down. I will tell you of these things."

He pushed me into a great chair

Of russet leather, poked a flare

Of tumbling flame, with the old long sword,

Up the chimney; but said no word.

Slowly he walked to a distant shelf,

And brought back a crock of finest delf.

He rested a moment a blue-veined hand

Upon the cover, then cut a band

Of paper, pasted neatly round,

Opened and poured. A sliding sound

Came from beneath his old white hands,

And I saw a little heap of sands,

Black and smooth. What could they be:

"Pepper," I thought. He looked at me.

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