Images de page

Ten years twice told had pass'd, since Helen Græme
For Walter Hay's exchanged her virgin name.
Of life's viscissitudes they'd had their share,
Sunshine and shade; yet in his eyes as fair,
And dearer far than the young blooming Bride
Was she, the long-tried partner; who espied
No change in him, but such as gave a cast
More tender to the love would time outlast.
They had rejoiced together at the birth
Of six fair infants: Sorrowing, to the earth
(With mutual sorrow, but submissive heart)
Committed three. Hard trial 'twas to part
(Young parents!) with their first-born bud of bliss
And they who follow'd!-with the last cold kiss
Their hearts seem'd breaking, that on each they press'd.
But He so will'd it "who doth all things best.'
Out of their sight they hid their early dead,
And wept together-and were comforted.
And of their loved ones, now a lovely three
Were left, that well a parent's boast might be.
Those two bold, blithesome boys, of stature near,
(Their ages differing only by a year,)


Walter and William named in reminiscence dear,
And a small sister, like a green-hill Fay,
Younger by eight-a little Helen Hay,
The household darling. To her father's ear,
'Twas ever music that sweet name to hear.
And now she sate, as still as still could be,
Her little stool drawn close beside his knee;
Her paly ringlets so profusely shed,
In the warm hearth-glow gleaming golden red,
As o'er the book upon her lap she bent,
On Jack the Giant-killer's feats intent.

Fit subject for some limner's skill had been
That quiet, tender-toned, heart-soothing scene,
All in fine keeping! The old spacious room,
Half hall, half kitchen, dark'ning into gloom,
As it receded from that cavern vast-
The open hearth; whence blazing oak logs cast
Rich, ruddy beams on rafter, beam, and wall,
'Twixt monstrous shadows that fantastic fall.
And all around, in picturesque array,
Hung rustic implements for use and play,
For manly sport and boyish holiday.
Basket, and net, and rifle, rod, and spear,
Coil'd lines, and weather-season'd fishing gear,
And bills and hedging gloves; and, modell❜d neat,
A little schooner, (Willy's proudest feat,)
Matching a mimic plough, with graver thought
"On improved principles," by Walter wrought-
Proud folk the parents of those works, I wot!
And tatter'd straw hats, plaited once so white
And neat, in leisurely long winter night,
By the boy brothers; while their father read
From one of those brown volumes overhead,
(No mindless untaught churl was Walter Hay,)
Some pleasant theme, instructive, grave, or gay:
His list'ning household, men, and maids, and all,
Assembled round him in his rustic hall;
Together closing the laborious day,
As in the good old time, the good old way.



There stood a spinning-wheel, whose humming sound
Accompanied the reader's voice, not drown'd.
There hung a half-done cabbage-net; and there,
Nursing her kitten in the old stuff'd chair,
Purr'd a grave Tabby; while a faithful friend,
A worn-out Sheep-Dog, to his long life's end
Fast hastening, slumber'd at his master's feet.
It was a pleasant picture !-very sweet
To look upon, its beautiful repose-

One earthly scene, undimm'd by human woes.

Alas! was ever spot on earth so bless'd,
Where human hearts in perfect peace might rest?
One bosom sorrow, one corroding thought,
(The dark thread with his woof of life enwrought,)
Help'd on the work of time with Walter Hay,
Stole half the brightness of his smile away,

And streak'd in manhood's prime his dark curl'd locks with

A hasty quarrel-an intemperate cup,

A hard word spoken when the blood was up,
A blow as madly dealt, but not in hate,
Repented soon and sorely, but too late-

Too late!-Ah! simple words of solemn sense,
Avenging disregarded Providence!

Remembrance of these things, and what ensued,
It was, that clouded oft his sunniest mood,
Casting a dark cold shadow o'er the life
Perhaps too prosperous else. His gentle wife
Whose wife-like tenderness could scarce descry
A fault in him she honour'd, oft would try
To pluck away the thorn he sternly press'd
(Severe in self-infliction) to his breast.
"Not yours alone," she soothingly would say,
"The blame of what befell that luckless day;
You had borne much, my husband! well I know,
Much before anger overcame you so:
And both of you that night had made too free
(Alas! that youth should so unthinking be!)
With the good ale in careless company.
How could you bear such taunts before them all,
As he unjust and violent-let fall?

He knew your heart, to him so warm and kind,
That passion could but for a moment blind;
Passion, that love as suddenly would check,
And cast you, all-repentant, on his neck:
But he was gone before a word could pass-
Gone in his furious mood, before the glass
Ceased ringing, where he dash'd it on the floor
With that rash oath-to see thy face no more!"

"But I-but I—that ever it should be
Betwixt us so!—had told him bitterly
I never more desired his face to see.
I prosperous-He, a disappointed man-
Quick temper'd, spirit vex'd. Say what you can,
Dear comforter! you cannot take away
The stinging mem'ry of that fatal day."
Thus soothingly, a thousand times before
The loving wife had utter'd o'er and o'er
Mild consolation; on his heart that fell

Balmy, though there no settled peace might dwell:
And thus again, that night whereof I tell,


They talk'd together; on his long-drawn sigh
Following their low-voiced, love-toned colloquy.
And all the while, intent upon her book,
The little maid sat still; an upward look,
(As play'd her father's hand with her soft hair,)
Now and then glancing at the parent pair,

Her heart's contentment full, assured they both were there.

Loud burst the storm, that, fitfully suppress'd,

Had for a moment sobb'd itself to rest.

Creak'd doors and casements, clattering came the rain,
And the old wall's stout timbers groan'd again.

"Would they were back-that I could hear their tread!" List'ning anxiously, the mother said:

"God help, this fearful night, the houseless poor!

One would not turn a dog out from one's door."

"No-not a dog.-And yet I had the heart, To let him homeless from my home depart On such another night. Full well I mind, As the door open'd, how the rain and wind Flash'd in his face, and wellnigh beat him back. Then-had I stretched a hand out! What lone track, Unfriended since, hath he been doom'd to tread? Where hath he found a shelter for his headIn this hard world, or with the happy dead?"

"Nay, doubt it not, my husband!" said the wife,
"He hath been long at rest, where care and strife,
And pain and sorrow enter not. We know
That when he left us, nineteen years ago,

He went a-shipboard straight, and cross'd the seas
To that far, fatal coast, where fell disease

Strikes down its thousands,-that he went ashore,
And up the country, and was seen no more.
Had he not perish'd early, we had heard
Tidings ere long by letter or by word;
For he too had a loving heart, that bore
No malice when the angry fit was o'er.

Be comforted, dear husband! he's at rest,

And let us humbly hope, for Christ's sake-bless'd."

"Hark, mother, hark! I'm sure they're coming back!" Cried little Helen-who with Valiant Jack

Had parted for the night-" That's Willy's call

To Hector, as they turn the garden wall.

Lizzy! come quick and help me let them in

They must be wet, poor brothers, to the skin.'
The rosy maid, already at the door,

Lifted the latch; and bounding on before,

(His rough coat scattering wide a plenteous shower,) Hector sprang in, his master close behind,

Half spent with buffeting the rain and wind;

Gasping for breath and words a moment's space,

His eager soul all glowing in his face.

"Where's Walter ?" cried the mother, pale as death"What's happen'd?" ask'd both parents in a breath. "Safe, Mother dear! and sound-I tell you trueBut, Father! we can't manage without you; Walter and Joe are waiting there down-bye, At the old cart-house by the granary.

As we came back that way, a man we found
(Some shipwreck'd seaman) stretch'd upon the ground
In that cold shelter. Very worn and weak

He seem'd, poor soul! at first could hardly speak;
And, as we held the lantern where he lay,
Moan'd heavily, and turn'd his face away.
But we spoke kindly-bade him be of cheer,
And rise and come with us-our home was near,
Whence our dear father never from his door
Sent weary traveller-weary, sick, or poor.
He listen❜d, turn'd, and lifting up his head,
Look'd in our faces wistfully, and said-

Ye are but lads-(kind lads-God bless you both!) And I, a friendless stranger, should be loath, Unbidden by himself, to make so free

As cross the rich man's threshold: this for me
Is shelter good enough; for worse I've known-
What fitter bed than earth to die upon?'
He spoke so sad, we almost wept; and fain
Would have persuaded him, but all in vain ;—
He will not move-I think he wants to die,
And so he will, if there all night he lie."

"That shall he not," the hearty yeoman said,
Donning his rough great coat; "a warmer bed
Shall pillow here to-night his weary head.
Off with us, Willy! our joint luck we'll try,
And bring him home, or know the reason why."

Warm hearts make willing hands; and Helen Hay Bestirr'd her, while those dear ones were away, Among her maidens, comforts to provide 'Gainst their return: still bustling by her side Her little daughter, with officious care, (Sweet mimicry!) and many a matron air Of serious purpose, helping to spread forth

Warm hose and vestments by the glowing hearth.
From the old walnut press, with kindly thought,

Stout home-spun linen, white and sweet, was brought
In a small decent chamber overhead,

To make what still was call'd" The Stranger's bed."
For many a lone wayfarer, old and poor,
Sick or sore wearied, on the dreary moor
Belated, at the hospitable door

Of the Old Farm ask'd shelter for the night,
Attracted by the far-seen, ruddy light

Of the piled hearth within." A bit of bread
And a night's shelter," was the prayer oft said,
Seldom in vain ;-for Walter would repeat,
With lowly reverence, that assurance sweet-
"How he the stranger's heart with food and rest
Who cheers, may entertain an angel guest;"
Or, giving in Christ's name, for his dear sake be bless'd.

[ocr errors]

Oft they look'd out into the murky night
Tempestuous, for the streaming lantern light;
And hearken'd (facing bold the driving sleet)
For sound of nearing voices-coming feet-
And there it gleams—and there they come at last-
Fitfully sinking, swelling on the blast;

Till clustering forms from out the darkness grow,
Supporting one, with dragging steps and slow,
Feebly approaching.-

"Hold the lantern low-
Courage, my friend! we've but a step to go,"
The yeoman's cheerful voice was heard to say.
"Hillo! good folks there-here, my Helen Hay,
Little and great-I've brought you home a guest
Needs your good tending,-most of all needs rest;
Which he shall find this blessed night, please God,
On softer pallet than the cold bare sod."

As they the threshold pass'd, the cheerful light
Flash'd from within; and shading quick his sight,
(Pain'd by the sudden glare,) upon his brow
The wayworn man his ragged hat pull'd low;
Bow'd down his head, and sigh'd in such a tone,
Deep drawn and heavy, 'twas almost a groan.
They help'd him on, (for he could hardly stand,)
And little Helen drew him by the hand,
Whisperingpoor man!"-At that, a moment's space
Halting, he fix'd his eyes on the young face

Of her who spoke those pitying words so mild,
And tremulously said-" God bless thee, child!"

The strong supporting arm-'twas Walter Hay's-
Tighten'd its clasp, and with a searching gaze
Quick turn'd, he peer'd in those strange features ;—then
(For they were strange) drew back his head again,
Shaking it gently with a sorrowful smile.

The matron and her maids came round the while,
Toward the high-back'd Settle's warmed nook
To lead the weary man; but with a look
Still downcast and aside, he shrunk away,
Articulating faintly, "Not to-day-

Not there to-night. Rest only! only rest!"
So to the allotted room they brought their guest,
And laid him kindly down on the good bed,
With a soft pillow for his old grey head.
The long, thin, straggling locks, that hung adown
His hollow cheeks, had scarce a tinge of brown
Streaking their wintry white; and sorely marr'd
Was all his face: thick seam'd, and deeply scarr'd,
As if in many battles he had fought
Among the foremost.-

"From the first, I thought," Said the young Walter, as he came below, "The fine old fellow had dealt many a blow For England's glory, on her wooden walls." The father smiled. "Not every one who falls In fight, my son! may fall in a good causeAs fiercely in resistance to the laws

Men strive, as in upholding them"

"But here

I'm sure we've a true sailor, father dear!
No lawless, wicked man. When you were gone,
Willy and I some little time stay'd on-
(Mother had sent us up with some warm drink,
Made comforting)-and then you cannot think
How pleasantly, though sadly, he look'd up,
And ask'd our names as he gave back the cup;
And when we told them, took a hand of each,
While his lips moved as if in prayer-not speech,

« PrécédentContinuer »