At the age of 37, Charles S. Brooks (1878-1934) gave up a successful career in business to become a writer. Motivated by "an appreciation of the subtlety of words, of their cadence, and overtone," he soon achieved a different kind of success with his popular essays, stories, and plays.
In this essay from the collection Chimney-Pot Papers (1919), Brooks relies on personification and description to convey the pleasures of a rainstorm in the city. If you enjoy "On a Rainy Morning," you may be interested in reading "On the Difference Between Wit and Humor" and "The Writing of Essays," also by Charles S. Brooks.
On a Rainy Morning
by Charles S. Brooks
A northeaster blew up last night and this morning we are lashed by wind and rain. M--- foretold the change yesterday when we rode upon a 'bus top at nightfall. It was then pleasant enough and to my eye all was right aloft. I am not, however, weather-wise. I must feel the first patter of the storm before I hazard a judgment. To learn even the quarter of a breeze--unless there is a trail of smoke to guide me--I must hold up a wet finger. In my ignorance clouds sail across the heavens on a whim. Like white sheep they wander here and there for forage, and my suspicion of bad weather comes only when the tempest has whipped them to a gallop. Even a band around the moon--which I am told is primary instruction on the coming of a storm--stirs me chiefly by its deeper mystery, as if astrology, come in from the distant stars, lifts here a warning finger. But M--- was brought up beside the sea, and she has a sailor's instinct for the weather. At the first preliminary shifting of the heavens, too slight for my coarser senses, she will tilt her nose and look around, then pronounce the coming of a storm. To her, therefore, I leave all questions of umbrellas and raincoats, and on her decision we go abroad.
Last night when I awoke I knew that her prophecy was right again, for the rain was blowing in my face and slashing on the upper window. The wind, too, was whistling along the roofs, with a try at chimney-pots and spouts. It was the wolf in the fairy story who said he'd huff and he'd puff, and he'd blow in the house where the little pig lived; yet tonight his humor was less savage. Down below I heard ash-cans toppling over all along the street and rolling to the gutters. It lacks a few nights of Hallowe'en, but doubtless the wind's calendar is awry and he is out already with his mischief. When a window rattles at this season, it is the tick-tack of his roguish finger. If a chimney is overthrown, it is his jest. Tomorrow we shall find a broken shutter as his rowdy celebration of the night.
This morning is by general agreement a nasty day. I am not sure that I assent. If I were the old woman at the corner who sells newspapers from a stand, I would not like the weather, for the pent roof drops water on her stock. Scarcely is the peppermint safe beyond the splatter. Nor is it, I fancy, a profitable day for a street-organ man, who requires a sunny morning with open windows for a rush of business. Nor is there any good reason why a house-painter should be delighted with this blustering sky, unless he is an idle fellow who seeks an excuse to lie in bed. But except in sympathy, why is our elevator boy so fiercely disposed against the weather? His cage is snug as long as the skylight holds. And why should the warm dry noses of the city, pressed against ten thousand windows up and down the streets, be flat and sour this morning with disapproval?
It may savor of bravado to find pleasure in what is so commonly condemned. Here is a smart fellow, you may say, who sets up a paradox--a conceited braggart who professes a difference to mankind. Or worse, it may appear that I try my hand at writing in a "happy vein." God forbid that I should be such a villain! For I once knew a man who, by reading these happy books, fell into pessimism and a sharp decline. He had wasted to a peevish shadow and had taken to his bed before his physician discovered the seat of his anemia. It was only by cutting the evil dose, chapter by chapter, that he finally restored him to his friends. Yet neither supposition of my case is true. We who enjoy wet and windy days are of a considerable number, and if our voices are seldom heard in public dispute, it is because we are overcome by the growling majority. You may know us, however, by our stout boots, the kind of battered hats we wear, and our disregard of puddles. To our eyes alone, the rain swirls along the pavements like the mad rush of sixteenth notes upon a music staff. And to our ears alone, the wind sings the rattling tune recorded.
Certainly there is more comedy on the streets on a wet and windy day than there is under a fair sky. Thin folk hold on at corners. Fat folk waddle before the wind, their racing elbows wing and wing. Hats are whisked off and sail down the gutters on excited purposes of their own. It was only this morning that I saw an aristocratic silk hat bobbing along the pavement in familiar company with a stranger bonnet--surely a misalliance, for the bonnet was a shabby one. But in the wind, despite the difference of social station, an instant affinity had been established and an elopement was under way.
Persons with umbrellas clamp them down close upon their heads and proceed blindly like the larger and more reckless crabs that you see in aquariums. Nor can we know until now what spirit for adventure resides in an umbrella. Hitherto it has stood in a Chinese vase beneath the stairs and has seemed a listless creature. But when a November wind is up it is a cousin of the balloon, with an equal zest to explore the wider precincts of the earth and to alight upon the moon. Only persons of heavier ballast--such as have been fed on sweets--plump pancake persons--can hold now an umbrella to the ground. A long stowage of muffins and sugar is the only anchor.
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