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Stood undisturbed behind the door.

And when,
In bleak December, I retraced this way,
She told me that her little babe was dead,
And she was left alone. She now, released
From her maternal cares, had taken up
The employment common through these wilds, and

gained,
By spinning hemp, a pittance for herself;
And for this end had hired a neighbour's boy
To give her needful help. That very time
Most willingly she put her work aside,
And walked with me along the miry road,
Heedless how far ; and, in such piteous sort
That any heart had ached to hear her, begged
That, wheresoe'er I went, I still would ask
For him whom she had lost. We parted then-
Our final parting ; for from that time forth
Did many seasons pass ere I returned
Into this tract again.

Nine tedious years ;
From their first separation, nine long years,
She lingered in unquiet widowhood;
A Wife and Widow. Needs must it have been
A sore heart-wasting! I have heard, my Friend,
That in yon arbour oftentimes she sate
Alone, through half the vacant sabbath day;
And, if a dog passed by, she still would quit
The shade, and look abroad. On this old bench
For hours she sate; and evermore her eye
Was busy in the distance, shaping things
That made her heart beat quick. You see that

path, Now faint, -the grass has crept o'er its grey line ; There, to and fro, she paced through many a day Of the warm summer, from a belt of hemp That girt her waist, spinning the long-drawn thread

With backward steps. Yet ever as there passed
A man whose garments showed the soldier's red,
Or crippled mendicant in sailor's garb,
The little child who sate to turn the wheel
Ceased from his task; and she with faltering voice
Made many a fond enquiry ; and when they,
Whose presence gave no comfort, were gone by,
Her heart was still more sad. And by yon gate,
That bars the traveller's road, she often stood,
And when a stranger horseman came, the latch
Would lift, and in his face look wistfully :
Most happy, if, from aught discovered there
Of tender feeling, she might dare repeat
The same sad question. Meanwhile her poor Hut
Sank to decay; for he was gone, whose hand,
At the first nipping of October frost,
Closed up each chink, and with fresh bands of straw
Chequered the green-grown thatch. And so she lived
Through the long winter, reckless and alone;
Until her house by frost, and thaw, and rain,
Was sapped; and while she slept, the nightly damps
Did chill her breast; and in the stormy day
Her tattered clothes were ruffled by the wind,
Even at the side of her own fire. Yet still
She loved this wretched spot, nor would for worlds
Have parted hence; and still that length of road,
And this rude bench, one torturing hope endeared,
Fast rooted at her heart : and here, my Friend, -
In sickness she remained ; and here she died;
Last human tenant of these ruined walls !”

The old Man ceased : he saw that I was moved ; From that low bench, rising instinctively I turned aside in weakness, nor had power To thank him for the tale which he had told. I stood, and leaning o'er the garden wall Reviewed that Woman's sufferings; and it seemed To comfort me while with a brother's love I blessed her in the impotence of grief. Then towards the cottage I returned; and traccd Fondly, though with an interest more mild, That secret spirit of humanity Which, 'mid the calm oblivious tendencies Of nature, 'mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers, And silent overgrowings, still survived. The old Man, noting this, resumed, and said, “My Friend ! enough to sorrow you have given,' The purposes of wisdom ask no more : Nor more would she have craved as due to One Who, in her worst distress, had ofttimes felt The unbounded might of prayer; and learned, with

soul Fixed on the Cross, that consolation springs, From sources deeper far than deepest pain, For the meek Sufferer. Why then should we read The forms of things with an unworthy eye ? She sleeps in the calm earth, and peace is here, I well remember that those very plumes, Those weeds, and the high spear-grass on that wall, By mist and silent rain-drops silvered o'er, As once I passed, into my heart conveyed So still an image of tranquillity, So calm and still, and looked so beautiful Amid the uneasy thoughts which filled my mind, That what we feel of sorrow and despair From ruin and from change, and all the grief That passing shows of Being leave behind, Appeared an idle dream, that could maintain, Nowhere, dominion o'er the enlightened spirit Whose meditative sympathies repose · Upon the breast of Faith. I turned away, And walked along my road in happiness."

He ceased. Ere long the sun declining shot

A slant and mellow radiance, which began
To fall upon us, while, beneath the trees,
We sate on that low bench : and now we felt,
Admonished thus, the sweet hour coming on.
A linnet warbled from those lofty elms,
A thrush sang loud, and other melodies,
At distance heard, peopled the milder air.
The old Man rose, and, with a sprightly mien
Of hopeful preparation, grasped his staff ;
Together casting then a farewell look
Upon those silent walls, we left the shade ;
And, ere the stars were visible, had reached
A village-inn,-our evening resting-place.

BOOK SECOND.

THE SOLITARY.

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