Alice O. Howell
Niobe :The Snob
Niobe was a snob.
The ornaments on her Hepplewhite sideboard
outvalued those on the altar
of her church -- hers, mark you
Her husband, about whom more later,
had provided her with a suitable hive
a small swarm of sons and daughters
with uniformed drones to care for them.
The seams in Niobe's stockings
were always straight; the heels of her shoes
bore her proudly down the street.
Her glance was serene, confident
in all the wealth of her stature,
her impeccable blessings, her splendid household,
and her progeny.
Her charities were discreet,
her glance direct, benign, and overpowering,
but Niobe was a snob
Some say her splendid character
was the invitation to disaster -
her perfections tempted fate.
One wrathful night in a massive storm
five of her six children were killed
on the way to the movies.
only the driver, a Miss Artemis, escaped.
The stunning blow made the national news.
Niobe walked past five small white coffins
on her husband's shaking arm,
her very soul streaming inwardly with tears.
The caption under the AP photograph
said she bore up heroically, giving strength
and inspiration to all.
Within three months
her youngest died
with his mother beside the hospital crib.
The drones departed,
the grief-stricken father,
never again to be consoled,
turned to drink, lost his job,
ended up in a sanitorium
at two hundred dollars a day
until he died.
Niobe got the message.
She dismissed the servants,
sold the house,
settled in a small but chic apartment,
retaining only the Hepplewhite sideboard
which had belonged to her great-grandfather.
She began wearing low heels and mute tweeds.
She took a job in a real estate office
and could be seen sitting up straight at her desk
pencil tapping her lips
staring out the window, impassive.
She had no close friends,
Her tragedy set her apart as surely as a leper.
The only thing that betrayed her
in her new role of humility
was the awesome burden of grief
which so surpassed
that of others.
She still walked with certainty
looked you straight in the eye
ennobled further by her soul-tearing loss.
She smiled rarely
accepted a cigarette when one was offered
but never laughed.
And those who did not know
would still give her a fleeting glance
and say of her:
Niobe is a snob.
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