THE YEOMAN'S STORY.
days, the bank holidays, and all the rest, and so build up one big annual saturnalia and there an end. By this means we should know what to expect and when to expect it, and should make our preparations to go abroad accordingly, instead of being always unexpectedly and suddenly brought up as we now are by constantly recurring holidays which scarcely leave a man time to get sober before he is bound by act of Parliament to get drunk again.
From Temple Bar.
THE YEOMAN'S STORY.
Is it you, old neighbor and friend? I'm here in the dark alone;
I wasn't noticing much how sombre the room had grown.
I know by the grasp of your hand the things that you want to say,
But I'd rather you shouldn't say them - at least till another day.
Yes, Will, he has gone at last. My darling is really dead;
All I had left in the world, and I haven't a tear to shed
Give me your arm - there's the moon there, full over the apple-trees,
Let us walk and talk for a little - maybe it'll give me ease.
Will, you remember his mother? You must often have heard it said
There was never a prettier woman, nor one that held higher her head;
Yet only a village beauty, with cheeks like the month of May,
And a mother to slave for her dress, and a father to give her her way …
Philip was comely and tall, but I was richer than he;
Sometimes she liked Philip the best, and sometimes she seemed to like me.
She played fast and loose with us both, as only these young things can
Who fancy no sport so well as to toy with the heart of a man.
Well, Will, without bonnet or shawl she came to my house one night,
Said she had broken with Philip, and if I would have her I might.
Shall I ever forget that moment, when, shaking in every limb,
I seemed to hear music about me more solemn and sweet than a hymn?
We were married within the month, and Philip had gone away -
A happier man than I never looked on the light of day!
I whistled from morning to night, and was blithe as a bird on the wing,
Ah, lad! that a strong man's soul should hang on so weak a thing!
I don't remember exactly when first I noticed the change,
But I know that soon something struck me as not like herself, and strange
Her dimples were not so deep, nor so round her little chin,
And her eyes grew brighter and brighter as her cheeks seemed hollowing in.
She watched my every turn with her large blue wistful eyes,
As though she had something to say - she was full of trouble and sighs;
I thought she was sick for a sight of the old folks down at the mill,
But she wouldn't go near her mother, and that made me uneasy, Will.
She fretted a deal at last, and the child when 'twas born wasn't strong;
But like the fool that I was, I didn't think what was wrong,
Till I came unawares upon her in the beech-copse yonder … she lay
In a heap … with a letter … from Philip … and sobbing her heart away.
It was well she died as she did; she was spared from a heavier fate,
For when he came home from sea, he came just a week too late:
The osiers were binding her bed, and the May rose had burst into bloom,
When I heard he was back in the village. 'Twas close on the evening gloom,
I had opened the churchyard gate, with an armful of lilac flowers
To deck out her grave a little (not green yet in spite of the showers),
When I paused without dropping the latch, for Philip was standing there
With his arms hanging down at his sides, and his lips on the work as in prayer.
I was sorry for him, right sorry - he was so stricken and wan;
His face when he lifted it up was the face of an aged man;
The look that he gave when he saw me will never pass out of my sight,
But I couldn't give him my hand, Will, I couldn't, try as I might!