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With Luke that evening thitherward he walked :
And soon as they had reached the place he stopped,
And thus the old man spake to him :-"My son,
To-morrow thou wilt leave me : with full heart
I look upon thee, for thou art the same
That wert a promise to me ere thy birth,
And all thy life has been my daily joy.
I will relate to thee some little part
Of our two histories ; 'twill do thee good
When thou art from me, even if I should speak
Of things thou canst not know of. After thou
First camest into the world-as oft befalls
To new-born infants—thou didst sleep away
Two days, and blessings from thy father's tongue
Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on,
And still I loved thee with increasing love.
Never to living ear came sweeter sound
Than when I heard thee by our own fireside
First uttering, without words, a natural tune,
When thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy
Sing at thy mother's breast. Month follow'd month,
And in the open fields my life was passed,
And on the mountains, else I think that thou
Hadst been brought up upon thy father's knees.
But we were playmates, Luke ; among these hills,
As well thou knowest, in us the old and young
Have played together, nor with me didst thou
Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.”
Luke had a manly heart; but at these words
He sobbed aloud. The old man grasp'd his hand,
And said, “ Nay do not take it so I see
That these are things of which I need not speak.
Even to the utmost I have been to thee
A kind and a good father; and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Received at others' hands ; for, though now old
Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who loved me in my youth.
Both of them sleep together : here they lived,
As all their forefathers had done; and when
At length their time was come, they were not loth
To give their bodies to the family mould.
I wished that thou shouldst live the life they lived.
But 'tis a long time to look back, my son,
And see so little gain from sixty years.
These fields were burthened when they came to me ;
Till I was forty years of age, not more
Than half of my inheritance was mine.
I toiled and toiled ; God blessed me in my work,
And till these three weeks past the land was free.
It looks as if it never could endure
Another master. Heaven forgive me, Luke,
If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good
That thou shouldst go.” At this the old man paused ;
Then, pointing to the stones near which they stood,
Thus, after a short silence, he resumed :
“ This was a work for us; and now, my son,
It is a work for me. But, lay one stone-
Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands.
Nay, boy, be of good hope !-we both may live
To see a better day. At eighty-four
I still am strong and stout ;-do thou thy part,
I will do mine-I will begin again
With many tasks that were resigned to thee ;
Up to the heights, and in among the storms,
Will I without thee go again, and do
All works which I was wont to do alone,
Before I knew thy face. Heaven bless thee, boy!
Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast
With many hopes-It should be so-Yes-yes-
I knew that thou couldst never have a wish
To leave me, Luke : thou hast been bound to me
Only by links of love : when thou art gone,
What will be left to us! But I forget
My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone,
As I requested ; and hereafter, Luke,
When thou are gone away, should evil men
Be thy companions, think of me, my son,
And of this moment ; hither turn thy thoughts,
And God will strengthen thee : amid all fear
And all temptation, Luke, I pray that thou
Mayst bear in mind the life thy fathers lived,
Who, being innocent, did for that ca ise
Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well-
When thou returnest, thou in this place wilt see
A work which is not here : a covenant
'Twill be between us. But, whatever fate
Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last,
And bear thy memory with me to the grave."
The shepherd ended here ; and Luke stooped down, And, as his father had requested, laid The first stone of the sheepfold. At the sight The old man's grief broke from him : to his heart He pressed his son, he kissed him and wept; And to the house together they returned.
Hushed was that house in peace, or seeming peace,
Ere the night fell : with the morrow's dawn the boy
Began his journey, and when he had reached
The public way, he put on a bold face ;
And all the neighbours as he passed their door
Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers,
That followed him till he was out of sight.
A good report did from their kinsman come,
Of Luke and his well-doing; and the boy
Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news,
Which, as the housewife phrased it, were throughout
“The prettiest letters that were ever seen."
Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts.
So, many months passed on : and once again
The shepherd went about his daily work
With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now
Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour
He to that valley took his way, and there
Wrought at the sheepfold. Meantime Luke began
To slacken in his duty; and at length
He in the dissolute city gave
To evil courses : ignominy and shame
Fell on him, so that he was driven at last
To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.
There is a comfort in the strength of love ;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain or break the heart.
I have conversed with more than one who well
Remember the old man, and what he was
Years after he heard this heavy news.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks
He went, and still looked up towards the sun,
And listened to the wind; and, as before,
Performed all kinds of labour for his sheep,
And for the land his small inheritance.
And to that hollow dell from time to time
Did he repair, to build the fold of which
His flock had need. 'Tis not forgotten yet
The pity which was then in every heart
For the old man—and 'tis believed by all
and many a day he thither went
And never lifted up a single stone.
There, by the sheepfold, sometimes was he seen
Sitting alone, with that his faithful dog,
Then old, beside him, lying at his feet.
The length of full seven years from time to time
He at the building of his sheepfold wrought,
And left the work unfinished when he died.
Three years, or little more, did Isabel
Survive her husband : at her death the estate
Was sold, and went into a stranger's hand.
The cottage, which was named The Evening Star,
Is gone—the ploughshare has been through the ground
On which it stood : great changes have been wrought
In all the neighbourhood : yet the oak is left
That grew beside their door; and the remains
Of the unfinished sheepfold may be seen
Beside the boisterous brook of Greenhead Ghyll.