“Doubtless (said I) one might find comfort in it.”
So stealing down the stairs, like one that fear’d detection,
Or was about to act unlawful business
At that dead time of dawn,
I flew to the church, and found the doors wide open.
(Whether by negligence I knew not,
Or some peculiar grace to me vouchsafed,
For all things felt like mystery.)
John. So entering in, not without fear,
I passed into the family pew,
And covering up my eyes for shame,
And deep perception of unworthiness,
Upon the little hassock knelt me down,
Where I so oft had kneel’d,
A docile infant by Sir Walter’s side;
And, thinking so, I wept a second flood
More poignant than the first;
But afterwards was greatly comforted.
It seem’d the guilt of blood was passing from me
Even in the act and agony of tears,
And all my sins forgiven.
A DRAMATIC SKETCH OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
* * * * *
OLD SERVANT in the Family of SIR FRANCIS FAIRFORD. STRANGER.
* * * * *
Servant. One summer night Sir Francis,
as it chanced,
Was pacing to and fro in the avenue
That westward fronts our house,
Among those aged oaks, said to have been planted
Three hundred years ago,
By a neighb’ring prior of the Fairford name.
Being o’ertasked in thought, he heeded not
The importunate suit of one who stood by the gate,
And begg’d an alms.
Some say he shoved her rudely from the gate
With angry chiding; but I can never think
(Our master’s nature hath a sweetness in it)
That he could use a woman, an old woman,
With such discourtesy; but he refused her—
And better had he met a lion in his path
Than that old woman that night;
For she was one who practised the black arts,
And serv’d the devil, being since burnt for witchcraft.
She look’d at him as one that meant to blast him,
And with a frightful noise,
(’Twas partly like a woman’s voice,
And partly like the hissing of a snake,)
She nothing said but this
(Sir Francis told the words):—
A mischief, mischief, mischief,
And a nine-times killing curse,
By day and by night, to the caitiff wight,
Who shakes the poor like snakes from his door,
And shuts up the womb of his purse.
And still she cried—
And a ninefold withering curse:
For that shall come to thee that will undo thee,
Both all that thou fearest and worse.
So saying, she departed,
Leaving Sir Francis like a man, beneath
Whose feet a scaffolding was suddenly falling;
So he described it.
Stranger. A terrible curse! What follow’d?