'The merry devil of some idle mood
Prompted me to it, else it had not been—
This tale I tell you of.
Some years ago
They sent me to a College in the north,
Large, low, and rambling, set in purple moor,
Heather and ling, banked pine-trees thick in front;
Behind, the belted woodland—every shade
Of darkest green-and far away the sea,
A thin grey line—not as we have it here,
Almost beneath the windows. Here, I say,
They sent me, and I liked it well enough
As all things go. The grim preceptors ground
Dry husks of learning hot from many mills
Ere theirs, and forced them down unwilling throats
Agape for something sweeter, drew and proved
Then proved and drew again, how this and that
Were equal or not equal, round or square,
Or else how many bones our bodies bore
Embedded in the flesh they smote upon.
And so the terms passed.
Then there came to us
A youth lean-bodied, marvellously spare,
Raw-wristed, angular,—the precious son
Of some thick-headed county squireling,—
Nurtured amid the hedgerows, taught i' the field,
For so he seemed to me—a very clown,
As unsuspecting as the three-weeks lamb
In spring anemones—Fit prey for me
You reckon, therefore—Ay, but there was one
Whose ways were wilder by the half than mine,
Whose brains were quicker at the jest than mine,
Whose laugh was readier on his lips than mine,
And he was my companion—Thus we two
Met him disconsolate one autumn day
And spoke to him. Some pity at the first,
But thrice as much of mischief in our voice:
"And did he know the legends of the place?
And had he heard the customs of the place?
And if he had not, we would shew the place
Ourselves, and tell him." The red gratitude
Flushed through his sallow visage to the hair,—
Then, as we two still queried, wide he ope'd
he stiff portcullis of his rustic speech,
But spoke no word; and thereupon he grinned.
We waited silent, till the silence grew
Oppressive, for his soul was ill at ease.
And lastly we laid hold on him by force
And dragged him with us—laughter and light jest
To soothe him, as one soothes the late-caught colt,
Between the forehead, lest the quick heels fly.
The night-light fading flickered out.
And he that told the story cried 'Let be,
The tale is long and all our eyes are dull,
Sleep therefore'—So we turned away and slept.
To be continued