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He listened for the traveller's tread,
The nightingale sung sweet ;He started up, for now he heard
The sound of coming feet;
He started up, and grasped a stake,
And waited for his prey ; There came a lonely traveller,
And Jaspar crossed his way.
But Jaspar's threats and curses failed
The traveller to appal,
Which held his little all.
Awhile he struggled, but he strove
With Jaspar's strength in vain ; Beneath his blows he fell and groaned,
And never spake again.
Jaspar raised up the murdered man,
And plunged him in the flood, And in the running water then
He cleansed his hands from blood.
The waters closed around the corpse,
And cleansed his hands from gore, The willow waved, the stream flowed on,
And murmured as before.
There was no human eye had seen
The blood the murderer spilt,
The avenging goad of guilt.
The gold he gained so ill,
years of secret guilt passed on, And he was needy still.
One eve beside the alehouse fire
He sate as it befell,
Whom Jaspar knew full well.
He sate him down by Jaspar's side,
A melancholy man,
Went hard with Jonathan.
His toil a little earned, and he
With little was content ;
And all was well-nigh spent.
Long, with his wife and little ones,
He shared the scanty meal,
And felt what wretches feel.
Their Landlord, a hard man, that day
Had seized the little left,
Of everything bereft.
He leaned his head upon his hand,
His elbow on his knee,
And not a word said he.
“Nay-why so downcast ?” Jaspar cried,
“Come-cheer up, Jonathan ! Drink, neighbour, drink! 'twill warm thy heart
Come! come ! take courage, man !"
He took the cup that Jaspar gave,
And down he drained it quick; “I have a wife,” said Jonathan,
“And she is deadly sick.
“She has no bed to lie upon,
I saw them take her bed –
That they and I were dead !
“Our Landlord he goes home to-night,
And he will sleep in peace-
For there all troubles cease.
“In vain I prayed him to forbear,
Though wealth enough has he ! God be to him as merciless
As he has been to me!”
When Jaspar saw the poor man's soul
On all his ills intent, He plied him with the heartening cup,
And with him forth he went.
« This Landlord on his homeward road
'Twere easy now to meet. The road is lonesome, Jonathan !
And vengeance, man! is sweet.”
He listened to the tempter's voice,
The thought it made him start ;His head was hot, and wretchedness
Had hardened now his heart.
Along the lonely road they went,
And waited for their prey, They sate them down beside the stream
That crossed the lonely way.
They sate them down beside the stream,
And never a word they said ; They sate, and listened silently
To hear the traveller's tread.
The night was calm, the night was dark,
No star was in the sky;
The stream flowed quietly.
The night was calm, the air was still,
Sweet sung the nightingale ;
His heart began to fail.
“And now the hour is lateMethinks he will not come to-night,
No longer let us wait.”
“ Have patience, man !" the ruffian said,
“ A little we may wait ; But longer shall his wife expect
Her husband at the gate."
Then Jonathan grew sick at heart:
My conscience yet is clear ! Jaspar-it is not yet too late
I will not linger here."
“ How now !" cried Jaspar, “why, I thought
Thy conscience was asleep ;
The river here is deep.”
Whose blood began to freeze, “When there is One above whose eye
The deeds of darkness sees ?"
“We are safe enough,” said Jaspar then,
“ If that be all thy fear ! Nor eye above, nor eye below,
Can pierce the darkness here."
That instant as the murderer spake,
There came a sudden light; Strong as the mid-day sun it shone,
Though all around was night;
It hung upon the willow-tree,
It hung upon the flood,
And all the scene of blood.
The traveller who journeys there,
He surely hath espied A madman who has made his home
Upon the river's side.
His cheek is pale, his eye is wild,
His look bespeaks despair ; For Jaspar since that hour has made
His home unsheltered there.
And fearful are his dreams at night,
And dread to him the day;
And never dares to pray.
The summer suns, the winter storms,
O'er him unheeded roll,
Upon the maniac's soul.