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And after a pause the old man says,
His mind still coming back again
To the one sad thought that haunts his brain, “ Are there any tidings from over sea ?
Ah, why has that wild boy gone from me?”
And the Curate answers, looking down,
Harmless and docile as a lamb,
Young blood! young blood ! It must so be!”
And draws from the pocket of his gown
A handkerchief like an oriflamb,
And wipes his spectacles, and they play
Their little game of lansquenet
In silence for an hour or so,
Till the clock at nine strikes loud and clear
From the village lying asleep below,
And across the courtyard, into the dark
Of the winding pathway in the park,
Curate and lantern disappear,
And darkness reigns in the old château.
The ship has come back from over sea,
She has been signalled from below,
And into the harbor of Bordeaux
She sails with her gallant company.
But among them is nowhere seen
The brave young Baron of St. Castine ;
He hath tarried behind, I ween,
In the beautiful land of Acadie!
And the father paces to and fro
Through the chambers of the old château,
Waiting, waiting to hear the hum
Of wheels on the road that runs below,
Of servants hurrying here and there,
The voice in the courtyard, the step on the stair,
Waiting for some one who doth not come!
But letters there are, which the old man reads
To the Curate, when he comes at night,
Word by word, as an acolyte
Repeats his prayers and tells his beads;
Letters full of the rolling sea,
Full of a young man's joy to be
Abroad in the world, alone and free;
Full of adventures and wonderful scenes
Of hunting the deer through forests vast
In the royal grant of Pierre du Gast ;
Of nights in the tents of the Tarratines ;
Of Madocawando the Indian chief,
And his daughters, glorious as queens,
And beautiful beyond belief ;
And so soft the tones of their native tongue,
The words are not spoken, they are sung !
And the Curate listens, and smiling says: 6 Ah yes, dear friend ! in our young days
We should have liked to hunt the deer
All day amid those forest scenes,
And to sleep in the tents of the Tarratines ;
But now it is better sitting here
Within four walls, and without the fear
Of losing our hearts to Indian queens ;
For man is fire and woman is tow,
And the Somebody comes and begins to blow.”
Then a gleam of distrust and vague surmise
Shines in the father's gentle eyes,
As fire-light on a window-pane
Glimmers and vanishes again ;
But naught he answers; he only sighs,
And for a moment bows his head ;
Then, as their custom is, they play
Their little game of lansquenet,
And another day is with the dead.
Another day, and many a day
And many a week and month depart,
When a fatal letter wings its way
Across the sea, like a bird of prey,
And strikes and tears the old man's heart.
Lo! the young Baron of St. Castine,
Swift as the wind is, and as wild,
Has married a dusky Tarratine,
Has married Madocawando's child !
The letter drops from the father's hand ;
Though the sinews of his heart are wrung,
He utters no cry, he breathes no prayer,
No malediction falls from his tongue;
But his stately figure, erect and grand,
Bends and sinks like a column of sand
In the whirlwind of his great despair.
Dying, yes, dying! His latest breath
Of parley at the door of death
Is a blessing on his wayward son.
Lower and lower on his breast
Sinks his gray head; he is at rest ;
No longer he waits for any one.
For many a year the old château
Lies tenantless and desolate ;
Rank grasses in the courtyard grow,
About its gables caws the crow ;
Only the porter at the gate
Is left to guard it, and to wait
The coming of the rightful heir;
No other life or sound is there ;
No more the Curate comes at night,
No more is seen the unsteady light,
Threading the alleys of the park;
The windows of the hall are dark,
The chambers dreary, cold, and bare !
At length, at last, when the winter is past,
And birds are building, and woods are green,
With flying skirts is the Curate seen
Speeding along the woodland way,
Humming gayly, “ No day is so long
But it comes at last to vesper-song.”
He stops at the porter's lodge to say
That at last the Baron of St. Castine
Is coming home with his Indian queen,
Is coming without a week's delay ;
And all the house must be swept and clean,
And all things set in good array !
And the solemn porter shakes his head;
And the answer he makes is : “ Lackaday !
We will see, as the blind man said !”
Alert since first the day began,
The cock upon the village church
Looks northward from its airy perch,
As if beyond the ken of man
To see the ships come sailing on,
And pass the Isle of Oléron,
And pass the Tower of Cordouan.
In the church below is cold in clay
The heart that would have leaped for joy -
O tender heart of truth and trust!
To see the coming of that day;
In the church below the lips are dust;
Dust are the hands, and dust the feet,
That would have been so swift to meet
The coming of that wayward boy.
At night the front of the old château
Is a blaze of light above and below;
There's a sound of wheels and hoofs in the street,
A cracking of whips, and scamper of feet,
Bells are ringing, and horns are blown,
And the Baron hath come again to his own.
The Curate is waiting in the hall,
Most eager and alive of all
To welcome the Baron and Baroness;
But his mind is full of vague distress,
For he hath read in Jesuit books
Of those children of the wilderness,
And now, good, simple man ! he looks
To see a painted savage stride
Into the room, with shoulders bare,
And eagle feathers in her hair,
And around her a robe of panther's hide.
Instead, he beholds with secret shame
A form of beauty undefined,
A loveliness without a name,