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Pounding the saddles as they rose and sank,
While all alone within the chariot sat
A portly person with three-cornered hat,
A crimson velvet coat, head high in air,
Gold-headed cane, and nicely powdered hair,
And diamond buckles sparkling at his knees,
Dignified, stately, florid, much at ease.
Onward the pageant swept, and as it passed,
Fair Mistress Stavers courtesied low and fast;
For this was Governor Wentworth, driving down
To Little Harbor, just beyond the town,
Where his Great House stood looking out to sea,
A goodly place, where it was good to be.
It was a pleasant mansion, an abode
Near and yet hidden from the great high-road,
Sequestered among trees, a noble pile,
Baronial and colonial in its style ;
Gables and dormer-windows everywhere,
And stacks of chimneys rising high in air, —
Pandæan pipes, on which all winds that blew
Made mournful music the whole winter through.
Within, unwonted splendors met the eye,
Panels, and floors of oak, and tapestry ;
Carved chimney-pieces, where on brazen dogs
Revelled and roared the Christmas fires of logs ;
Doors opening into darkness unawares,
Mysterious passages, and flights of stairs ;
And on the walls, in heavy gilded frames,
The ancestral Wentworths with Old-Scripture names.
Such was the mansion where the great man dwelt, A widower and childless; and he felt
The loneliness, the uncongenial gloom,
That like a presence haunted every room ;
For though not given to weakness, he could feel
The pain of wounds, that ache because they heal.
The years came and the years went, seven in all,
And passed in cloud and sunshine o'er the Hall ;
The dawns their splendor through its chambers shed,
The sunsets flushed its western windows red ;
The snow was on its roofs, the wind, the rain ;
Its woodlands were in leaf and bare again ;
Moons waxed and waned, thc lilacs bloomed and died,
In the broad river ebbed and flowed the tide,
Ships went to sea, and ships came home from sea,
And the slow years sailed by and ceased to be.
And all these years had Martha Hilton served
In the Great House, not wholly unobserved :
By day, by night, the silver crescent grew,
Though hidden by clouds, her light still shining through;
A maid of all work, whether coarse or fine,
A servant who made service seem divine !
Through her each room was fair to look upon ;
The mirrors glistened, and the brasses shone,
The very knocker on the outer door,
If she but passed, was brighter than before.
And now the ceaseless turning of the mill
Of Time, that never for an hour stands still,
Ground out the Governor's sixtieth birthday,
And powdered his brown hair with silver-gray.
The robin, the forerunner of the spring,
The bluebird with his jocund carolling,
The restless swallows building in the eaves,
The golden buttercups, the grass, the leaves,
The lilacs tossing in the winds of May,
All welcomed this majestic holiday !
He gave a splendid banquet, served on plate,
Such as became the Governor of the State,
Who represented England and the King,
And was magnificent in everything.
He had invited all his friends and peers,
The Pepperels, the Langdons, and the Lears,
The Sparhawks, the Penhallows, and the rest;
For why repeat the name of every guest ?
But I must mention one, in bands and gown,
The rector there, the Reverend Arthur Brown
Of the Established Church ; with smiling face
He sat beside the Governor and said grace;
And then the feast went on, as others do,
But ended as none other I e'er knew.
When they had drunk the King, with many a cheer,
The Governor whispered in a servant's ear,
Who disappeared, and presently there stood
Within the room, in perfect womanhood,
A maiden, modest and yet self-possessed,
Youthful and beautiful, and simply dressed.
Can this be Martha Hilton ? It must be !
Yes, Martha Hilton, and no other she !
Dowered with the beauty of her twenty years,
How ladylike, how queenlike she appears ;
The pale, thin crescent of the days gone by
Is Dian now in all her majesty !
Yet scarce a guest perceived that she was there,
Until the Governor, rising from his chair,
Played slightly with his ruffles, then looked down, And said unto the Reverend Arthur Brown: “ This is my birthday: it shall likewise be
My wedding-day; and you shall marry me!
The listening guests were greatly mystified,
None more so than the rector, who replied :
“Marry you? Yes, that were a pleasant task,
Your Excellency; but to whom? I ask.”
The Governor answered: “ To this lady here” ;
And beckoned Martha Hilton to draw near.
She came and stood, all blushes, at his side.
The rector, paused. The impatient Governor cried : “ This is the lady ; do you hesitate ?
Then I command you as Chief Magistrate.”
The rector read the service loud and clear : “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here,” And so on to the end. At his command On the fourth finger of her fair left hand The Governor placed the ring; and that was all: Martha was Lady Wentworth of the Hall !
“ Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled !
That is what the Vision said.
In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on the floor of stone,
Prayed the Monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision,
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial ;
It was noonday by the dial,
And the Monk was all alone.
Suddenly, as if it lightened,
An unwonted splendor brightened
All within him and without him
In that narrow cell of stone;
And he saw the Blessed Vision
Of our Lord, with light Elysian
Like a vesture wrapped about him,
Like a garment round him thrown.
Not as crucified and slain,
Not in agonies of pain,
Not with bleeding hands and feet,
Did the Monk his Master see;
But as in the village street,
In the house or harvest-field,
Halt and lame and blind he healed,
When he walked in Galilee.
In an attitude imploring,
Hands upon his bosom crossed,
Wondering, worshipping, adoring,
Knelt the Monk in rapture lost.
Lord, he thought, in heaven that reignest,
Who am I, that thus thou deignest
To reveal thyself to me?
Who am I, that from the centre
Of thy glory thou shouldst enter
This poor cell, my guest to be?