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into the fire-place, striking his head against
the tongs as he fell; having come home a little
while before, with no such thing about him as
his beautiful seal-ring; and being slightly the
worse for liquor, not to say drunk.


You wait my story, next? Ah, well!
Such marvels as you two have told
You must not think that I can tell;
For I am only twelve years old.
Ere long I hope I shall have been
On my first voyage, and wonders seen.
Some princess I may help to free
From pirates on a far-off sea;
Or, on some desert isle be left,
Of friends and shipmates all bereft.

For the first time I venture forth,
From our blue mountains of the north.
My kinsman kept the lodge that stood
Guarding the entrance near the wood,
By the stone gateway gray and old,
With quaint devices carved about,
And broken shields; while dragons bold
Glared on the common world without;
And the long trembling ivy spray
Half hid the centuries' decay.
In solitude and silence grand
The castle towered above the land:
The castle of the Earl, whose name
(Wrapped in old bloody legends) came
Down through the times when Truth and Right
Bent down to armed Pride and Might.
He owned the country far and near;
And, for some weeks in every year,
(When the brown leaves were falling fast
And the long, lingering autumn passed),
He would come down to hunt the deer,
With hound and horse in splendid pride.
The story lasts the live-long year,
The peasant's winter evening fills,
When he is gone and they abide
In the lone quiet of their hills.

I longed, too, for the happy night,
When all with torches flaring bright
The crowding villagers would stand,
A patient, eager, waiting band,
Until the signal ran like flame
"They come!"and, slackening speed, they came.
Outriders first, in pomp and state,
Pranced on their horses thro' the gate;
Then the four steeds as black as night,
All decked with trappings blue and white,
Drew thro' the crowd that opened wide,
The Earl and Countess side by side.
The stern grave Earl, with formal smile
And glistening eyes and stately pride,
Could ne'er my childish gaze beguile
From the fair presence by his side.
The lady's soft sad glance, her eyes
(Like stars that shone in summer skies),
Her pure white face so calmly bent,
With gentle greetings round her sent;
Her look, that always seemed to gaze
Where the blue past had closed again
Over some happy shipwrecked days,
With all their freight of love and pain.
She did not even seem to see
The little lord upon her knee.

And yet he was like angel fair,
With rosy cheeks and golden hair,
That fell on shoulders white as snow.
But the blue eyes that shone below
His clustering rings of auburn curls,
Were not his mother's, but the Earl's.

I feared the Earl, so cold and grim,
I never dared be seen by him.
When thro' our gate he used to ride,
My kinsman Walter bade me hide;
He said he was so stern.
So, when the hunt came past our way,
I always hasten'd to obey,
Until I heard the bugles play
The notes of their return.
But shemy very heart-strings stir
Whene'er I speak or think of her
The whole wide world could never see
A noble lady such as she,
So full of angel charity.

Strange things of her our neighbours told
In the long winter evenings cold,
Around the fire. They would draw near
And speak half-whispering, as in fear:
As if they thought the Earl could hear
Their treason 'gainst his name.
They thought the story that his pride
Had stooped to wed a low-born bride,
A stain upon his fame.
Some said 'twas false; there could not be
Such blot on his nobility:
But others vowed that they had heard
The actual story word for word,
From one who well my lady knew,
And had declared the story true.

In a far village, little known,
She dweltso ran the talealone.
A widowed bride, yet, oh! so bright,
Shone through the mist of grief, her charms;
They said it was the loveliest sight,—
She with her baby in her arms.
The Earl, one summer morning, rode
By the sea-shore where she abode;
Again he came, —that vision sweet
Drew him reluctant to her feet.
Fierce must the struggle in his heart
Have been, between his love and pride,
Until he chose that wondrous part,
To ask her to become his bride.
Yet, ere his noble name she bore,
He made her vow that nevermore
She would behold her child again,
But hide his name and hers from men.
The trembling promise duly spoken,
All links of the low past were broken,
And she arose to take her stand
Amid the nobles of the land.

Then all would wonder, could it be
That one so lowly born as she,
Raised to such height of bliss, should seem
Still living in some weary dream ?
'Tis true she bore with calmest grace
The honours of her lofty place,
Yet never smiled, in peace or joy,
Not even to greet her princely boy.
She heard, with face of white despair,
The cannon thunder through the air,
That she had given the Earl an heir.