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A SMALL brisk woman,
capped with many a bow
,so she says
Who bids me, bustling, “God speed,” when I go,
And gives me, rustling, “Welcome,” when I come.
“Ay, sir, 'tis cold,—and freezing hard,—they say ;
I'd like to give that hulking brute a hitBeating his horse in such a shameful way!
Step here, sir, till your fire's blazed up a bit.”
A musky haunt of lavender and shells,
Quaint-figured Chinese monsters, toys, and traysA life's collection—where each object tells
Of fashions gone and half-forgotten ways:
A glossy screen, where wide-mouth dragons ramp;
A vexed inscription in a sampler-frame ; A shade of beads upon a red-capped lamp;
A child's mug graven with a golden name;
A pictured ship, with full-blown canvas set;
A card, with sea-weed twisted to a wreath, Circling a silky curl as black as jet,
With yellow writing faded underneath.
Looking, I sink within the shrouded chair,
And note the objects slowly, one by one, And light at last upon a portrait there,
Wide-collared, raven-haired. “Yes, 'tis my son !".
“ Where is he?” “ Ah, sir, he is dead—my boy!
Nigh ten long years ago—in 'sixty-three; He's always living in my head—my boy !
He was left drowning in the Southern Sea.
“There were two souls washed overboard, they said,
And one the waves brought back; but he was left. They saw him place the life-buoy o'er his head ;
The sea was running wildly ;-he was left.
“He was a strong, strong swimmer. Do you know,
When the wind whistled yesternight, I cried, And prayed to God,—though 'twas so long ago,–
He did not struggle much before he died.
“ 'Twas his third voyage. That's the box he brought,
Or would have brought-my poor deserted boy!
And these the words the agents sent—they thought
That money, perhaps, could make my loss a joy.
'Look, sir, I've something here that I prize more :
This is a fragment of the poor lad's coat, That other clutched him as the wave went o’er,
And this stayed in his hand. That's what they wrote.
"Well, well, 'tis done. My story's shocking you ;
Grief is for them that have both time and wealth : We can't mourn much, who have much work to do;
Your fire is bright. Thank God, I have my health !"
BEFORE THE CURTAIN.
ISS PEACOCK's called.” And who demurs ?
Not I who write, for certain ;
Should come before the curtain.
And yet, most strange to say, I find
(E'en bards are sometimes prosy) Her
presence here but brings to mind That undistinguished crowd behind
For whom life's not so rosy.
The pleased young premier led her on,
But where are all the others ? Where is that nimble servant John ? And where's the comic Uncle gone?
And where that best of Mothers ?
Where is “Sir Lumley Leycester, Bart.”?
And where the crafty Cousin ? That man may have a kindly heart, And yet each night ('tis in the part)
Must poison half-a-dozen !
Where is the cool Detective,-he
Should surely be applauded ? The Lawyer, who refused the fee ? The Wedding Guests (in number three )?
Why are they all defrauded ?
The men who worked the cataract ?
The plush-clad carpet lifters ? — Where is the countless host, in fact, Whose cue is not to speak, but act,
The “supers" and the shifters ?
Think what a crowd whom none recall,
Unsung,—unpraised,—unpitied ;Women for whom no bouquets fall, And men whose names no galleries bawl,—
The Great un Benefit-ed !
Ah, Reader, ere you turn the page,
I leave you this for Moral :Remember those who tread Life's stage With weary feet and scantest wage,
And ne'er a leaf for laurel !