My chaise the village inn did gain,
Just as the setting sun's last ray
Tipped with refulgent gold the vane
Of the old church across the way.
Across the way I silent sped,
The time till supper to beguile,
In moralizing o'er the dead
That mouldered round the ancient pile.
There many a humble green grave showed
Where want and pain and toil did rest;
And many a flattering stone I viewed
O'er those who once had wealth possest.
A faded beech its shadow brown
Threw o'er a grave where sorrow slept,
On which, though scarce with grass o'ergrown,
Two ragged children sat and wept.
A piece of bread between them lay,
Which neither seemed inclined to take,
And yet they looked so much a prey
To want, it made my heart to ache.
"My little children, let me know
Why you in such distress appear,
And why you wasteful from you throw
That bread which many a one might cheer?"
The little boy in accents sweet,
Replied, while tears each other chased,—
"Lady! we 've not enough to eat,
Ah! if we had, we could not waste.
"But Sister Mary 's naughty grown,
And will not eat whate'er I say,
Though sure I am the bread's her own,
For she has tasted none to-day."
"Indeed," the wan, starved Mary said,
"Till Henry eats, I'll eat no more,
For yesterday I got some bread,
He 's had none since the day before."
My heart did swell, my bosom heave,
I felt as though deprived of speech;
Silent I sat upon the grave,
And clasped the clay-cold hand of each.
With looks of woe too sadly true,
With looks that spoke a grateful heart,
The shivering boy then nearer drew,
And did his simple tale impart:
"Before my father went away,
Enticed by bad men o'er the sea,
Sister and I did naught but play,—
We lived beside yon great ash-tree.
"But then poor mother did so cry,
And looked so changed, I cannot tell;
She told us that she soon should die,
And bade us love each other well.
"She said that when the war was o'er,
Perhaps we might our father see;
But if we never saw him more,
That God our father then would be!
"She kissed us both, and then she died,
And we no more a mother have;
Here many a day we've sat and cried
Together at poor mother's grave.
"But when my father came not here,
I thought if we could find the sea,
We should be sure to meet him there,
And once again might happy be.
"We hand in hand went many a mile,
And asked our way of all we met;
And some did sigh, and some did smile,
And we of some did victuals get.
"But when we reached the sea and found
'T was one great water round us spread,
We thought that father must be drowned,
And cried, and wished we both were dead.
"So we returned to mother's grave,
And only longed with her to be;
For Goody, when this bread she gave,
Said father died beyond the sea.
"Then since no parent we have here,
We'll go and search for God around;
Lady, pray, can you tell us where
That God, our Father, may be found?
"He lives in heaven, our mother said,
And Goody says that mother 's there;
So, if she knows we want his aid,
I think perhaps she 'll send him here."
I clasped the prattlers to my breast,
And cried, "Come, both, and live with me;
I'll clothe you, feed you, give you rest,
And will a second mother be.
"And God shall be your Father still,
'T was he in mercy sent me here,
To teach you to obey his will,
Your steps to guide, your hearts to cheer."