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So, leaving both, to change the scene,
I turned toward the shutter,
And peered out vacantly between
A water-butt and gutter.
Below, the Doctor's garden lay,
If thus imagination
May dignify a square of clay
Unused to vegetation,
Filled with a dismal-looking swing-
That brought to mind a gallows-
An empty kennel, mouldering,
And two dyspeptic aloes.
No sparrow chirped, no daisy sprung,
About the place deserted;
Only across the swing-board hung
A battered doll, inverted,
Which sadly seemed to disconcert
The vagrant cat that scanned it,
Sniffed doubtfully around the skirt,
But failed to understand it.
A dreary spot! And yet, I own,
Half hoping that, perchance, it
Might, in some unknown way, atone
For Jones and for "The Lancet,"
I watched; and by especial grace,
Within this stage contracted,
Saw presently before my face
A classic story acted.
DRAMA OF THE DOCTOR'S WINDOW
Ah, World of ours, are you so gray
And weary, World, of spinning,
That you repeat the tales to-day
You told at the beginning?
For lo! the same old myths that made
The early "stage successes,"
Stillhold the boards," and still are played,
"With new effects and dresses."
Small, lonely" three-pair-backs" behold,
To-day, Alcestis dying;
To-day, in farthest Polar cold,
Ulysses' bones are lying;
Still in one's morning "Times
How fell an Indian Hector;
Still clubs discuss Achilles' steeds,
Briseis' next protector ;—
Still Menelaus brings, we see,
His oft-remanded case on;
Still somewhere sad Hypsipyle
Bewails a faithless Jason;
And here, the Doctor's sill beside,
Do I not now discover
A Thisbe, whom the walls divide
From Pyramus, her lover?
Act I. began. Some noise had scared
The cat, that like an arrow
Shot up the wall and disappeared;
And then, across the narrow,
Unweeded path, a small dark thing,
Hid by a garden-bonnet,
Passed wearily towards the swing,
Paused, turned, and climbed upon it.
A child of five, with eyes that were
At least a decade older,
A mournful mouth, and tangled hair
Flung careless round her shoulder,
Dressed in a stiff ill-fitting frock,
Whose black, uncomely rigour
Sardonically seemed to mock
The plaintive, slender figure.
What was it? Something in the dress
That told the girl unmothered;
Or was it that the merciless
Black garb of mourning smothered
Life and all light :-but rocking so,
In the dull garden-corner,
The lonely swinger seemed to grow
More piteous and forlorner.
Then, as I looked, across the wall
Of "next-door's" garden, that is-
To speak correctly-through its tall
Surmounting fence of lattice,
Peeped a boy's face, with curling hair,
Ripe lips, half drawn asunder,
And round, bright eyes, that wore a stare
Of frankest childish wonder.
DRAMA OF THE DOCTOR'S WINDOW
Rounder they grew by slow degrees,
Until the swinger, swerving,
Made, all at once, alive to these
Intentest orbs observing,
Gave just one brief, half-uttered cry,
And, as with gathered kirtle,
Nymphs fly from Pan's head suddenly
Thrust through the budding myrtle,-
A moment's space,
The eyes looked almost tragic;
Then, when they caught my watching face,
Vanished as if by magic;
And, like some sombre thing beguiled
To strange, unwonted laughter,
The gloomy garden, having smiled,
Became the gloomier after.
Yes they were gone, the stage was bare,—
Blank as before; and therefore,
Sinking within the patient's chair,
Half vexed, I knew not wherefore,
I dozed; till, startled by some call,
A glance sufficed to show me,
The boy again above the wall,
The girl erect below me.
The boy, it seemed, to add a force
To words found unavailing,
Had pushed a striped and spotted horse
Half through the blistered paling,
Where now it stuck, stiff-legged and straight,
While he, in exultation,
Chattered some half-articulate
Meanwhile, the girl, with upturned face,
Stood motionless, and listened;
The ill-cut frock had gained a grace,
The pale hair almost glistened;
The figure looked alert and bright,
Buoyant as though some power
Had lifted it, as rain at night
Uplifts a drooping flower.
The eyes had lost their listless way,-
The old life, tired and faded,
Had slipped down with the doll that lay
Before her feet, degraded;
She only, yearning upward, found
In those bright eyes above her
The ghost of some enchanted ground
Where even Nurse would love her.
Ah, tyrant Time! you hold the book,
We, sick and sad, begin it;
You close it fast, if we but look
Pleased for a meagre minute;
You closed it now, for, out of sight,
Some warning finger beckoned; Exeunt both to left and right;— Thus ended Act the Second.