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Then, as he opened the door, he beheld the form of
the maiden Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a
snow-drift Piled at her knee, her white bands feeding the raven
ous spindle, While with her foot on the treadle she guided the
wheel in its motion. Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of
Ainsworth, Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music to
gether, Rough-hewn, angular notes, like stones in the wall of
a churchyard, Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the
228 Wheel: what sort of wheel is this? Can you give a description of it? Where did she get the wool?
229 Ravenous: why is the spindle called ravenous ?
231 Ainsworth: a saintly leader and teacher among the Puritans. He was forced to remove to Holland, and there occupied his life with writings on the different books of the Bible. He died about 1622.
233, 234 A good description of a page of the hymn book. The art of printing was introduced in 1454. The use of such an art grows slowly, so that after the lapse of a century and a half the printing was still rough.
Such was the book from whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem,
235 She, the Puritan girl, in the solitude of the forest, Making the humble house and the modest apparel of
homespun Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of
her being ! Over him rushed, like a wind that is keen and cold
and relentless, Thoughts of what might have been, and the weight
and woe of his errand; All the dreams that had faded, and all the hopes that
had vanished, All his life henceforth a dreary and tenantless man
sion, Haunted by vain regrets, and pallid, sorrowful faces. Still he said to himself, and almost fiercely he said it, “Let not him that putteth his hand to the plough look backwards;
245 Though the ploughshare cut through the flowers of
life to its fountains,
287, 238 Compare these lines from Herbert's “Elixir":
“ Who sweeps a room as by Thy laws
Makes that and the action fine."
246 Look up Luke ix. 62.
Though it pass o'er the graves of the dead and thi
hearths of the living, It is the will of the Lord; and his mercy endureth for
So he entered the house; and the hum of the wheel
and the singing Suddenly ceased; for Priscilla, aroused by his step on the threshold,
250 Rose as he entered and gave him her hand, in signal
of welcome, Saying, “I knew it was you, when I heard your step
in the passage; For I was thinking of you, as I sat there singing and
spinning.” Awkward and dumb with delight, that a thought of
him had been mingled Thus in the sacred psalm, that came from the heart of the maiden,
255 Silent before her he stood, and gave her the flowers for
an answer, Finding no words for his thought. He remembered
that day in the winter, After the first great snow, when he broke a path from the village,
247 Look up Psalm cxxxvi.
Reeling and plunging along through the drifts that
encumbered the doorway, Stamping the snow from his feet as he entered the house, and Priscilla
260 Laughed at his snowy locks, and gave him a seat by
the fireside, Grateful and pleased to know he had thought of her
in the snowstorm. Had he but spoken then! perhaps not in vain had he
spoken; Now it was all too late; the golden moment had van
ished! So he stood there abashed, and gave her the flowers for an answer.
Then they sat down and talked of the birds and the
beautiful Springtime; Talked of their friends at home, and the Mayflower
that sailed on the morrow. “I have been thinking all day,” said gently the Puri
tan maiden, “ Dreaming all night, and thinking all day, of the
hedge-rows of England, 269 Hedge-rows: the hedge-rows of England are celebrated. Every visitor to England remembers them. They serve instead of fences to divide the fields, and in the spring are a tangle of running vines, and are full of blossoms.
They are in blossom now, and the country is all like
a garden; Thinking of lanes and fields, and the song of the lark
and the linnet, Seeing the village street, and familiar faces of neigh
bors Going about as of old, and stopping to gossip to
gether, And, at the end of the street, the village church, with
Climbing the old gray tower, and the quiet graves in
the churchyard. Kind are the people I live with, and dear to me my
religion; Still my heart is so sad, that I wish myself back in
Old England. You will say it is wrong, but I cannot help it: I al
most Wish myself back in Old England, I feel so lonely
Thereupon answered the youth: “Indeed I do not condemn you;
280 Stouter hearts than a woman's have quailed in this
270-275 A beautiful description of an English village.