Page images
PDF
EPUB

Arranged a country dance, and flew thro' light

And shadow, while the twangling violin

Struck up with Soldier-laddie, and overhead

The broad ambrosial aisles of lofty lime

Made noise with bees and breeze from end to end.

Strange was the sight and smacking of the time ;

And long we gazed, but satiated at length

Came to the ruins. High-arch'd and ivy-claspt,
Of finest Gothic lighter than a fire,
Thro' one wide chasm of time and frost they gave

The park, the crowd, the house ; but all within

The sward was trim as any garden lawn :

And here we lit on Aunt Elizabeth,

And Lilia with the rest, and lady friends

From neighbour seats : and there was Ralph himself,
A broken statue propt against the wall,
As gay as any. Lilia, wild with sport,

Half child half woman as she was, had wound

A scarf of orange round the stony helm,

And robed the shoulders in a rosy silk,

That made the old warrior from his ivied nook

Glow like a sunbeam : near his tomb a feast

Shone, silver-set ; about it lay the guests,

And there we join'd them : then the maiden Aunt

Took this fair day for text, and from it preach'd

An universal culture for the crowd,

And all things great ; but we, unworthier, told
Of college : he had climb'd across the spikes,
And he had squeez'd himself betwixt the bars,
And he had breathed the Proctor's dogs ; and one

Discuss'd his tutor, rough to common men
But honeying at the whisper of a lord ;
And one the Master, as a rogue in grain
Veneer'd with sanctimonious theory.

But while they talk’d, above their heads I saw The feudal warrior lady-clad ; which brought My book to mind : and opening this I read Of old Sir Ralph a page or two that rang

With tilt and tourney ; then the tale of her
That drove her foes with slaughter from her walls,
And much I praised her nobleness, and · Where,'
Ask'd Walter, patting Lilia's head (she lay

Beside him) • lives there such a woman now ?'

Quick answer'd Lilia • There are thousands now

Such women, but convention beats them down :

It is but bringing up ; no more than that :

You men have done it : how I hate

you

all !

Ah, were I something great! I wish I were
Some mighty poetess, I would shame you then,
That love to keep us children! 0 I wish

That I were some great Princess, I would build

Far off from men a college like a man's,
And I would teach them all that men are taught ;

We are twice as quick!' And here she shook aside The hand that play'd the patron with her curls.

And one said smiling Pretty were the sight

If our old halls could change their sex, and flaunt

With prudes for proctors, dowagers for deans,
And sweet girl-graduates in their golden hair.

I think they should not wear our rusty gowns,
But move as rich as Emperor-moths, or Ralph
Who shines so in the corner ; yet I fear,

If there were many Lilias in the brood,

However deep you might embower the nest,
Some boy would spy

it.'

At this upon the sward She tapt her tiny silken-sandal'd foot : • That 's your light way ; but I would make it death

For

any male thing but to peep at us.'

Petulant she spoke, and at herself she laugh’d;

A rosebud set with little wilful thorns,

And sweet as English air could make her, she :

But Walter hail'd a score of names upon her,

And petty Ogress,' and 'ungrateful Puss,'

And swore he long'd at College, only long'd,
All else was well, for she-society.

They boated and they cricketed ; they talk'd
At wine, in clubs, of art, of politics ;

They lost their weeks; they vext the souls of deans ; They rode ; they betted ; made a hundred friends,

And caught the blossom of the flying terms,
But miss'd the mignonette of Vivian-place,
The little hearth-flower Lilia. Thus he spoke,

Part banter, part affection.

• True,' she said,

* We doubt not that. O yes, you miss'd us much. I'll stake my ruby ring upon it

you

did.'

She held it out ; and as a parrot turns Up thro' gilt wires a crafty loving eye, And takes a lady's finger with all care,

And bites it for true heart and not for harm,

So he with Lilia's.

Daintily she shriek'd

« PreviousContinue »