THOUGH sunken in his hede, his eyes were brighte
Shriveli'd his lippes, his haire was silverie wbite;
And seldom spake that lonesomme, grave old manne
Save at the ingle side, when night beganne.
There would a' tell some historie in rhyme
Or legend terrible of olden time.
At first he spake in age's treble-tones,
Soft as the wind when through the grave it moans ;
But as the plotte progrestte his voice, at laste
Encreas'd and deepen'd like the tempest's blaste,
Then his rapt listeners would holde their breathe
Dumb with expectancy, until the tale would end with joy or deathe."


'Twas in the prime of summer time,

An evening calm and cool,
And four-and-twenty happy boys

Came bounding out of school :
There were some that ran, and some that leapt,

Like troutlets in a pool.

Away they sped with gainsome minds,

And souls untouch'd by sin;
To a level mead they came, and there

They drave the wickets in :
Pleasantly shone the setting sun

Over the town of Lynn.

Like sportive deer they coursed about,

And shouted as they rang-
Turning to mirth all things of earth,

As only boyhood can:
But the usher sat remote from all,

A melancholy man!

His hat was off, his vest apart,

To catch Heaven's blessed breeze ; For a burning thought was in his brow,

And his bosom ill at ease : So he lean’d his head on his hands, and read

The book between his knees!

Leaf after leaf he turn'd it o'er,

Nor ever glanced aside ;
For the peace of his soul he read that book

In the golden eventide :
Much study had made him very lean,

And pale and leaden-eyed.

At last he shut the ponderous tome;

With a fast and a fervid grasp He strain'd the dusky covers close,

And fix'd the brazen hasp: “O God! could I so close my mind,

And clasp it with a clasp !"

Then leaping on his feet upright,

Some moody turns he took,Now up the mead, then down the mead,

And past a shady nook, And, lo! he saw a little boy

That pored upon a book!

“ My gentle lad, what is't you read

Romance or fairy fable? Or is it some historic page,

Of kings and crowns unstable?” The young boy gave an upward glance,

" It is The Death of Abel.'

The usher took six hasty strides,

As smit with sudden pain,-
Six hasty strides beyond the place,

Then slowly back again ;
And down he sat beside the lad,

And talked with him of Cain ;

And long since then, of bloody men,

Whose deeds tradition saves !
Of lonely folk cut off unseen,

And hid in sudden graves;
Of horrid stabs, in groves forlorn,

And murders done in caves;

And how the sprites of injured men

Shriek upward from the sod,
Ay, how the ghostly hand will point

To show the burial clod!
And unknown facts of guilty acts

Are seen in dreams from God !

He told how murderers walk'd the earth

Beneath the curse of Cain,-
With crimson clouds before their eyes,

And flames about their brain;
For blood has left upon their souls

Its everlasting stain!

“And well," quoth he, “ I know, for truth,

Their pangs must be extreme,Woe, woe, unutterable woe

Who spill life's sacred stream! For why? Methought, last night, I wrought

A murder in a dream!

“ One that had never done me wrong

A feeble man, and old ; I led him to a lonely field,

The moon shone clear and cold : Now here, said I, this man shall die,

And I will have his gold !

“ Two sudden blows with a ragged stick,

And one with a heavy stone,
One hurried gash with a hasty knife,–

And then the deed was done :
There was nothing lying at my foot

But lifeless flesh and bone !

“ Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone,

That could not do me ill;
And yet I fear'd him all the more,

For lying there so still :
There was a manhood in his look,

That murder could not kill!

- And lo! the universal air

Seem'd lit with ghastly flame,-
Ten thousand thousand dreadful eyes

Were looking down in blame:
I took the dead man by the hand,

And called upon his name !

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