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- If he could go, the boy should go to-night.”
Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth
With a light heart. The housewife for five days
Was restless morn and night, and all day long
Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare
Things needful for the journey of her son.
But Isabel was glad when Sunday came
To stop her in her work : for, when she lay
By Michael's side, she through the last two nights
Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep ;
And when they rose at morning she could see
That all his hopes were gone.
That day at noon
She said to Luke, while they two by themselves
Were sitting at the door : “ Thou must not go.
We have no other child but thee to lose,
None to remember - do not go away,
For if thou leave thy father he will die."
The youth made answer with a jocund voice ;
And Isabel, when she had told her fears,
Recovered heart. That evening her best fare
Did she bring forth, and all together sat
Like happy people round a Christmas fire.
With daylight Isabel resumed her work ;
And all the ensuing week the house appeared
As cheerful as a grove in spring ; at length
The expected letter from their kinsman came,
With kind assurances that he would do
His utmost for the welfare of the boy ;
To which, requests were added, that forthwith
He might be sent to him. Ten times or more
The letter was read over ; Isabel
Went forth to show it to the neighbors round,
Nor was there at the time on English land
A prouder heart than Luke's. When Isabel
Had to her house returned, the old man said,
He shall depart to-morrow.” To this word
The housewife answered, talking much of things
Which, if at such short notice he should go,
Would surely be forgotten. But at length
She gave consent, and Michael was at ease.
Near the tumultuous brook of Green-head Ghyll,
In that deep valley Michael had designed
To build a sheepfold : and, before he heard
The tidings of his melancholy loss,
For this same purpose he had gathered up
A heap of stones, which by the streamlet's edge
Lay thrown together, ready for the work.
With Luke that evening thitherward he walked :
And soon as he had reached the place he stopped,
And thus the old man spake to him : “My son,
To-morrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart
I look upon thee, for thou art the same
That wert a promise to me ere thy birth
And all thy life hast been my daily joy.
I will relate to thee some little part
Of our two histories ; 'twill do thee good
When thou art far from me, even if I should touch
On things thou canst not know of. – After thou
First cam'st into the world - as oft befalls
The newborn infants — thou didst sleep away
Two days, and blessings from thy father's tongue
Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on,
And still I loved thee with increasing love.
Never to living ear came sweeter sounds
Than when I heard by our own fireside
First uttering, without words, a natural tune;
When thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy,
Sing at thy mother's breast. Month followed month, 345
And in the open fields my life was passed,
And on the mountains ; else I think that thou
Hadst been brought up upon thy father's knees.
But we were playmates, Luke : among these hills,
As well thou knowest, in us the old and young
Have played together, nor with me didst thou
Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.”
Luke had a manly heart ; but at these words
He sobbed aloud. The old man grasped his hand,
And said, “ Nay, do not take it so — I see
That these are things of which I need not speak,
- Even to the utmost I have been to thee
A kind and a good father : and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Received at other's hands ; for, though now old
Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who loved me in my youth.
Both of them sleep together : here they lived
As all their forefathers had done; and when
At length their time was come, they were not loth
To give their bodies to the family mold.
I wished that thou should'st live the life they lived :
But, 'tis a long time to look back, my son,
And see so little gain from threescore years.
These fields were burthened when they came to me ;
Till I was forty years of age, not more
Than half of my inheritance was mine.
I toiled and toiled ; God blessed me in my work,
And till these three weeks past the land was free.
It looks as if it never could endure
Another master. Heaven forgive me, Luke,
If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good
That thou should'st go.
At this the old man paused :
Then, pointing to the stones near which they stood,
Thus, after a short silence, he resumed :
6. This was a work for us ; and now, my son,
It is a work for me. But, lay one stone -
Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands.
Nay, boy, be of good hope ; — we both may live
To see a better day. At eighty-four
I still am strong and hale ; - do thou thy part ;
I will do mine — I will begin again
With many tasks that were resigned to thee:
Up to the heights, and in among the storms,
Will I without thee go again, and do
390 All works which I was wont to do alone, Before I knew thy face. — Heaven bless thee, boy! Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast With many hopes;
it should be so — - yes — yes
I knew that thou could'st never have a wish
To leave me, Luke : thou hast been bound to me
Only by links of love : when thou art gone,
What will be left to us! - But, I forget
My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone,
As I requested ; and hereafter, Luke,
When thou art gone away, should evil men
Be thy companions, think of me, my son,
And of this moment ; hither turn thy thoughts,
And God will strengthen thee ; amid all fear
And all temptations, Luke, I pray that thou
405 May'st bear in mind the life thy fathers lived, Who, being innocent, did for that cause
Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well —
When thou return’st, thou in this place wilt see
A work which is not here : a covenant
"Twill be between us : but, whatever fate
Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last,
And bear thy memory with me to the grave."
The shepherd ended here ; and Luke stooped down,
And, as his father had requested, laid
The first stone of the sheepfold. At the sight
The old man's grief broke from him ; to his heart
He pressed his son. He kissed him and wept ;
And to the house together they returned.
- Hushed was that house in peace, or seeming peace,
Ere the night fell : — with morrow's dawn the boy
Began his journey, and when he had reached
The public way, he put on a bold face ;
And all the neighbors, as he passed their doors,
Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers,
That followed him till he was out of sight.
A good report did from their kinsman come,
Of Luke and his well-doing : and the boy
Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news,
Which, as the housewife phrased it, were throughout
• The prettiest letters that were ever seen.”
Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts.
So, many months passed on: and once again
The shepherd went about his daily work
With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now
Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour
He to that valley took his way, and there
Wrought at the sheepfold. Meantime Luke began