“is he dead?” i asked, “will he have a
“no,” she said, “he isn’t dead. He has gone
away, but you can think of him like he was
“Why did he go away?”
“Because he didn’t love mother. That’s why
he went away.”
“i love you, mother,” i said, “i’ll love you
“yes, Son, yes, you love your mother,” she
said, and held me tight against her breast.
So the Scholarly attorney was gone. i was
about six years old then.
Then there was the tycoon, who was gaunt
and bald and wheezed on the stair. “Why does
daddy Ross puff going upstairs?” i said.
“Hush,” my mother said, “hush, Son.”
“Because daddy Ross isn’t well, Son.”
Then the tycoon was dead. He had not
So my mother put me in a school in Con-
necticut and left me to go across the ocean.
When she came back, there was another man,
who was tall and slender and wore white suits
and smoked long thin cigars, and had a thin
black mustache. He was the Count, and my
mother was a Countess. The Count sat in the
room with people and smiled a great deal and
didn’t say much. People looked sideways at him,
but he looked straight at them and smiled to
show the whitest teeth in the world under the
thin, accurate black mustache. When nobody
was there, he played the piano all day and then
went out wearing black boots and tight white
trousers and rode a horse and made it jump
over gates and gallop along the beach till its
sides were flecked with lather and were pump-
ing fit to die. Then the Count came into the
house and drank wis-kee and held a Persian cat
on his knee and stroked it with a hand which
was not big but which was so strong that he
could make men frown when he shook hands
with them. and once i saw four blue-black
parallel marks on my mother’s upper right arm.
“mother,” i said, “look! What happened?”
“nothing,” she said, “i just hurt myself.”
and she pulled the scarf down over her arm.
The building up of a family is a manufacture
very little above the building a house of cards.
Time and accidents are sure to furnish a blast
to blow it down.
—George Savile, c. 1695
the blood and pumped in the embalming fluid.
But that would be a long time off, because he
was just forty-four, and sitting at the desk at
the oil company where he earned the pin money to supplement his allowance wasn’t breaking
him down fast.
Well, i’d sat in that room with all of them,
the Scholarly attorney and the tycoon and
the Count and the young Executive, and had
watched the furniture change. So now i sat and
looked at Theodore and at the new Sheraton
break-front desk, and wondered how permanent they were.
i had come home. i was the thing that
always came back.
From all the King’s men. Born in Guthrie,
Kentucky, in 1905, Warren graduated from
Vanderbilt University in 1925, received his MA
from the University of California, Berkeley, in
1927, and took a doctorate from Oxford University
as a Rhodes scholar in 1930. He founded and edited
The Southern Review in 1935 and emerged as a
leading figure of New Criticism. Warren won three
Pulitzer Prizes (two for poetry, one for fiction) and
was named the first U.S. Poet Laureate in 1986,
three years before his death.