"Sure never," he thought, "was a creature so rare, So docile, so true, as my excellent mare. Lo, here, how I stand" (and he gazed all around), "As safe and as steady as if on the ground, Yet how had it been, if some traveller this way, Had, dreaming no mischief, but chanced to cry Hey?"
He stood with his head in the mulberry tree, And he spoke out aloud in his fond reverie. At the sound of the word, the good mare made a push, And down went the priest in the wild-briar bush. He remembered too late, on his thorny green bed, Much that well may be thought cannot wisely be said.
Lady Clarinda, being prevailed on to take the harp in her turn, sang the following stanzas.
In the days of old, Lovers felt true passion, Deeming years of sorrow By a smile repaid. Now the charms of gold, Spells of pride and fashion, Bid them say good morrow To the best-loved maid.
Through the forests wild, O'er the mountains lonely, They were never weary Honour to pursue. If the damsel smiled Once in seven years only, All their wanderings dreary Ample guerdon knew.
Now one day's caprice Weighs down years of smiling, Youthful hearts are rovers, Love is bought and sold: Fortune's gifts may cease, Love is less beguiling; Wisest were the lovers In the days of old.
The glance which she threw at the captain, as she sang the last verse, awakened his dormant hopes. Looking round for his rival, he saw that he was not in the hall; and, approaching the lady of his heart, he received one of the sweetest smiles of their earlier days.
After a time, the ladies, and all the females of the party, retired. The males remained on duty with punch and wassail, and dropped off one by one into sweet forgetfulness; so that when the rising sun of December looked through the painted windows on mouldering embers and flickering lamps, the vaulted roof was echoing to a mellifluous concert of noses, from the clarionet of the waiting-boy at one end of the hall, to the double bass of the Reverend Doctor, ringing over the empty punch-bowl, at the other.