Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 9/"No change!"
I’m standing by the little school,
Where I stood five long years ago—
Five years—ay, more! for then the snow
Lay gleaming in the light of yule.
The grey old church across the way
Had sunset-fires upon its panes—
The Parsonage, so bare to-day,
Was garlanded with holly-chains.
Ah! let me see, in this old room
That night there was a “fancy-fair”—
Gay lights had eaten up the gloom
That lived in cobwebb’d corners there;
Gay stalls were planted on each side,
Loaded with many curious things,
And Charity, the gentle-eyed,
Of course looked on with outspread wings!
I know that many a goddess seemed,
That night, behind the stalls to stand;
I know that while I looked I dreamed
It was the old, old fairyland!
Though certainly it did seem strange,
That goddesses should come to earth,
To sell small caps for twice their worth,
And, when you paid them, give no change!
I think the object of the thing
Was the extension of a wall,
Or building on the school a wing,
To shelter and to form the small.
I know, whate’er it was, ’twas good,
And when a sweet young curate came,
And led me on to where there stood
A lady whom “I dare not name,”
And tempted me, young curate-wise,
To buy a dress—a little one:
I turned and only saw her eyes—
She gave no “change”—I wanted none!
Oh! curate with the sunny hair,
And looks so wickedly demure,
You could not guess what form should wear
That little garment, I am sure.
Was it her palm’s electric touch
That thrilled me as I gave the gold—
So soft and velvety—as such
Young palms are ever? Was I bold
To glide behind the little stall,
And help to sell her dainty wares?
“Without reserve” we sold them all;
The “sacrifice,” of course, in shares.
And when they brought a cup of tea,
’Twas her refreshment, and ’twas mine—
I took the cup, the saucer she:
’Twas Congou (bad), it seemed like wine.
Oh! dream of other days (ah! when
Shall we not dream?)—there stands a crowd
Of babbling imps where she stood then,
And cobwebs half the window shroud.
I’ve said the “cause” I cannot tell
For which those pretty things were made,
For which white fingers worked so well,
In mysteries of beads and braid.
I know it did not fail—the tall
Young curate said so. I, for one,
Gained, at that dear old corner stall,
Love without change—I wanted none!