That had not cheered me long-ere, looking

round Upon that tranquil ruin, I returned, And begged of the old Man that, for my sake, He would resume his story.

He replied,
“It were a wantonness, and would demand
Severe reproof, if we were men whose hearts
Could hold vain dalliance with the misery
Even of the dead; contented thence to draw
A momentary pleasure, never marked
By reason, barren of all future good.
But we have known that there is often found
In mournful thoughts, and always might be

A power to virtue friendly; were't not so,
I am a dreamer among men, indeed
An idle dreamer! 'Tis a common tale,
An ordinary sorrow of man's life,
A tale of silent suffering, hardly clothed
In bodily form.But without further bidding
I will proceed.

" While thus it fared with them,
To whom this cottage, till those hapless years,
Had been a blessed home, it was my, chance
To travel in a country far remote ;
And when these lofty elms once more appeared,
What pleasant expectations lured me on

O'er the flat Common !-With quick step I

reached The threshold, lifted with light hand the lateh ; But, when I entered, Margaret looked at me A little while; then turned her head away Speechless,--and, sitting down upon a chair, Wept bitterly. I wist not what to do, Nor how to speak to her. Poor Wretch ! at

last She rose from off her seat, and then,-0 Sir! I cannot tell how she pronounced my name :With fervent love, and with a face of grief Unutterably helpless, and a look That seemed to cling upon me, she enquired If I had seen her husband. As she spake, A strange surprise and fear came to my heart, Nor had I power to answer ere she told That he had disappeared-not two months

gone. He left his house: two wretched days had past, And on the third, as wistfully she raised Her head from off her pillow, to look forth Like one in trouble, for returning light, Within her chamber-casement she espied A folded paper, lying as if placed To meet her waking eyes. This tremblingly She opened-found no writing, but beheld Pieces of money carefully enclosed, Silver and gold. 'I shuddered at the sight,' Said Margaret, 'for I knew it was his hand

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

That must have placed it there, and ere that

Was ended, that long anxious day, I learned
From one who by my husband had been sent
With the sad news, that he had joined a troop
Of soldiers, going to a distant land.
-He left me thus-he could not gather heart
To take a farewell of me; for he feared
That I should follow with my babes, and sink
Beneath the misery of that wandering life.'

“ This tale did Margaret tell with many tears:
And, when she ended, I had little power
To give her comfort, and was glad to take
Such words of hope from her own mouth as

served To cheer us both. But long we had not talked Ere we built up a pile of better thoughts, And with a brighter eye she looked around As if she had been shedding tears of joy. We parted.—'Twas the time of early spring ; I left her busy with her garden tools; And well remember, o'er that fence she look'd, And, while I paced along the foot-way path, Called out, and sent a blessing after me, With tender cheerfulness; and with a voice That seemed the very sound of happy thoughts

“I roved o'er many a hill and many a dale, With my accustomed load ; in heat and cold.

Through many a wood, and many an open

ground, In sunshine and in shade, in wet and fair, Drooping or blithe of heart, as might befal ; My best companions now the driving winds, And now the trotting brooks' and whispering

trees, And now the music of my own sad steps, With many a short-lived thought that passed

between, And disappeared.

“I journeyed back this way, When, in the warmth of midsummer, the wheat Was yellow; and the soft and bladed grass, Springing afresh, had o'er the hay-field spread Its tender verdure. At the door arrived, I found that she was absent. In the shade, Where now we sit, I waited her return. Her cottage, then a cheerful object, wore Its customary look,-only, it seemed, The honeysuckle, crowding round the porch, Hung down in heavier tufts: and that bright

weed, The yellow stone-crop, suffered to take root Along the window's edge, profusely grew, Blinding the lower panes. I turned aside, And strolled into her garden. It appeared To lag behind the season, and had lost Its pride of neatness. Daisy-flowers and thrift

Had broken their trim lines, and straggled o'er
The paths they used to deck: carnations, once
Prized for surpassing beauty, and no less
For the peculiar pains they had required,
Declined their languid heads, wanting support.
The cumbrous bind-weed, with its wreaths and

bells, Had twined about her two small rows of peas, And dragged them to the earth.

Ere this an hour Was wasted.-Back I turned my restless steps; A stranger passed; and, guessing whom I

sought, He said that she was used to ramble far,

— The sun was sinking in the west ; and now I sate with sad impatience. From within Her solitary infant cried aloud; Then, like a blast that dies away self-stilled, The voice was silent. From the bench I rose; But neither could divert nor soothe my thoughts. The spot, though fair, was very desolateThe longer I remained more desolate : And, looking round me, now I first observed The corner stones, on either side the porch, With dull red stains discoloured, and stuck o'er With tufts and hairs of wool, as if the sheep, That fed upon the Common, thither came Familiarly; and found a couching-place Eren at her threshold. Deeper shadows fel!

« 上一页继续 »