The Rash Bride (I of III)


[Stinsford Church - the home of the Mellstock Quire]

We Christmas-carolled down the Vale, and up the Vale, and round the Vale,
We played and sang that night as we were yearly wont to do -
A carol in a minor key, a carol in the major D,
Then at each house: "Good wishes: many Christmas joys to you!"

Next, to the widow's John and I and all the rest drew on. And I
Discerned that John could hardly hold the tongue of him for joy.
The widow was a sweet young thing whom John was bent on marrying,
And quiring at her casement seemed romantic to the boy.

"She'll make reply, I trust," said he, "to our salute? She must!" said he,
"And then I will accost her gently--much to her surprise! -
For knowing not I am with you here, when I speak up and call her dear
A tenderness will fill her voice, a bashfulness her eyes.

So, by her window-square we stood; ay, with our lanterns there we stood,
And he along with us,--not singing, waiting for a sign;
And when we'd quired her carols three a light was lit and out looked she,
A shawl about her bedgown, and her colour red as wine.

And sweetly then she bowed her thanks, and smiled, and spoke aloud her thanks;
When lo, behind her back there, in the room, a man appeared.
I knew him--one from Woolcomb way--Giles Swetman--honest as the day,
But eager, hasty; and I felt that some strange trouble neared.

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