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- Rose and Roof-Tree - 13/13 -


Upon them, calmly. Jerry paused, o'erwhelmed. Reuben, surprised, glanced at him, and then said, "Yonder's the house." Old Jerry gazed on him, And trembled; for before him slowly grew Through the boy's face the mingled features there Of father and of mother--Grace's mouth, Ripe, pouting lips, and Reuben's square-framed eyes. But, mastering well his voice, he bade the boy Wait by the wall, till he a little while Went forward, and prepared. So Reuben stayed; And Jerry with uncertain step advanced, As dreaming of his youth and this his home. Slowly he passed between the gateless posts Before the unused front door, slowly too Beyond the side porch with its woodbine thick Draping autumnal splendor. Thus he came Before the kitchen window, where he saw A gray-haired woman bent o'er needle-work In gathering twilight. And without a voice, Rooted, he stood. He stirred not, but his glance Burned through the pane; uneasily she turned, And seeing that shaggy stranger standing there Expectant, shook her head, as though to warn Some chance, wayfaring beggar. He, though, stood And looked at her immovably. Then, quick The sash upthrowing, she made as if to speak Harshly; but still he held his quiet eyes Upon her. Now she paused; her throat throbbed full; Her lips paled suddenly, her wan face flamed, A fertile stir of memory strove to work Renewal in those features wintry cold. And so she hung, while Jerry by a step Drawn nearer, coming just beneath her, said, "Grace!" And she murmured, "Jerry!" Then she bent Over him, clasping his great matted head With those worn arms, all joyless; and the tears Fell hot upon his forehead from her eyes. For now in this dim gloaming their two souls Unfruited, by an instant insight wild, Delicious, found the full, mysterious clew Of individual being, each in each. But, tremulously, soon they drew themselves Away from that so sweet, so sad embrace, The first, the last that could be theirs. Then he, Summing his story in a word, a glance, Added, "But though you see me broken down And poor enough, not empty-handed quite I come. For God set in my way a gift, The best I could have sought. I bring it you In memory of the love I bore. Not now Must that again be thought of! Waste and black My life's fields lie behind me, and a frost Has stilled the music of my hopes, but here If I may dwell, nor trouble you, such a joy Were mine, I dare not ask it. Oh forgive The weakness! Come and see my gift!"

Ah, tears Flowed fast, that night, from springs of love unsealed Once more within the ancient house--rare tears Of reconciliation, grief, and joy! A miracle, it seemed, had here been wrought, The dead brought back to life. And with him came The prodigal, repenting.

So, thenceforth, A spirit of peace within the household dwelt. In Jerry a swift-sent age these years had brought, To soften him, wrought with all the woe at home Such open, gracious dignity, that all For cheer and guidance learned to look to him. But chiefly th' younger Reuben sought his aid, And he with homely wisdom shaped the lad To a life's loving duty. Yet not long, Alas! the kind sea-farer with them stayed. After some years his storm-racked body drooped. The season came when crickets cease to sing And flame-curled leaves fly fast; and Jerry sank Softly toward death. Then, on a boisterous morn That beat the wrecked woods with incessant gusts To wrest some last leaf from them, he arose And passed away. But those who loved him watched His fading, half in doubt, and half afraid, As if he must return again; for now Entering the past he seemed, and not a life Beyond; and some who thought of that old grave In the orchard, dreamed a breath's space that the man Long buried had come back, and could not die. But so he died, and, ceasing, made request Beside that outcast of the deep to lie. None other mark desired he but the stone Set there long since, though at a stranger's grave, In heavy memory of him thought dead.

They marked the earth with one more mound beside The other, near a gap in the low wall That looked out seaward. There you ever hear The deep, remorseful requiem of the sea; And there, in autumn, windfalls, showering thick Upon the grave, score the slow, voiceless hours With unrebounding stroke. All round about Green milkweed rankly thrives, and golden-rod Sprouts from his prostrate heart in fine-poised grace Of haughty curve, with every crest in flower.


Rose and Roof-Tree - 13/13

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