Foxdale Camp: Canto 4: Tuesday

 

1. Why did I vow that I should go this day
With Harry to the village, when the tent
Is warm and cosy? Great was my dismay
To find the sun of yesterday was spent
And in its place hung mist-shrouds that were rent
By splashing rain that swelled the wayside stream
And made long grass-paths rivers, and that bent
The bushes weeping, and that rose like steam
From the road surface in a mist where it did teem.

2. Clad all in macintosh and rubber shoon
Swiftly we made our way unto the stores,
And though the clock proclaimed it afternoon,
Still was the village, shut the streaming doors,
And no one moved outside. On upper floors
They seemed to dwell, for oft a peeping face
Through a wet window did we see. Old Moore’s
The cobbler’s shop, was also a shut place
As down the shining road two campers wet did pace.

3. “Good morning, Mistress Parr!” thus I began,
When we were safe inside and door fast shut
Against the elements, and that young man,
Harry by name, did in a “Hee-haw” put.
With glance at clock, “Good afternoon!” did add.
At this Harry about the shop did strut
In dudgeon high (he is a fiery lad),
I asked, “Canst tell me where cigars are to be had?”

4. My volatile companion almost choked,
But he was in a corner so ‘twas lost
Upon the dame. She knew not that we joked.
So she replied, “No, but I saw a host
“Of ends upon the step!” At that we tossed,
Harry and I, a laugh into the air
And having made our purchase quickly glossed
Over the past night’s escapade and there
Left it; the look upon her face was really rare.

5. To-day was one of great expectancy
For Shiel and Haidee were to pay a call.
By half-past eight no girls. Downcast were we,
So, since the long day’s rain had ceased to fall,
Harry and I, by mute consent of all,
Donned our outgoing clothes and made prepare
To seek the mineral shop, a Bacchanal
We planned. But, going out, upon the air
Came maiden voices and their owners did appear.

6. Now Hal and I at this were much surprised,
And for a moment knew not what to do.
We in our minds were greatly exercised,
But thought at length, “They cannot miss just two!”
Thus with apologies we twain withdrew,
Secretly happy no to entertain.
For minerals hold a lure, they gassy brew
We oft consume. So through paths fresh from rain
We strolled and vowed for long not to return again.

7. Beneath grey skies the roadway wore a veil,
A glistening veil and wet. Our thoughts were sour
As we walked silent side by side, not ale
The brownest nor even the mineral’s power
But brighten us in that mis’rable hour.
We spoke not. All was dull, the eving dull,
And we were far from merry. We did glower
Upon the road. All seemed in one great lull
When suddenly the sun came forth, and both our hearts were full.

8. We sang, our usual sign of happiness,
The day was young again, so near to night
Had been before the sun came out to bless
The sodden earth, e’en though but sickly light
It gave, it brought us both newborn delight.
We flew as if on wings, the shop drew near
A lovely, yea, a most refreshing sight,
Pervading all the countryside with cheer.
We entered and poured troubles into Killey’s ear.

9. Forth with our purchases we staggered soon
And down the road beneath red skies made way.
The breezes in the trees did softly croon
A peaceful anthem to the dying day,
And birds shrill warbled a belated lay.
Parr’s was our destination, for Kathleen
Would now be home. She held a powerful sway
Over our hearts. The grasses seemed more green,
The road no longer slobbered, not it had a sheen.

10. Kathleen was there, and all her grace and charm
Heaped high our joy, we were like things possessed.
Our wounds were healed by her restoring barm,
And we lived in a paradise most blest.
Long did we stay and laughed o’er many a jest,
Nor to the fleeting hours did we pay heed
Till the good dame came in and to her rest
Sent the fair daughter, early hours her creed.
We bade goodnight, and forthwith up the road did speed.

11. Now it was dark, the winds were strong and loud,
Great trees swayed drunkenly beneath their lash.
No moon rode high; above, a mass of clouds
Covered the stars; by chapel did we dash
And in the distance heard the waters splash
Tenfold down o’er the waterfall. We passed
Through two iron gates; the bridge was all awash,
But through the gloomy glade we hurried fast,
Nor missed the path, not stumbled, reached the tent at last.

12. There, snug and warm they sat, all five,
Charlie and Frank and Arthur, maidens twain.
The tent with their low droning seemed a hive.
No greeting waited us, just looks of pain
As if we were two slugs brought out by rain.
We were not daunted by this welcome bleak,
But doffed our macs and sprawled at ease. And then,
A conversation lull and we did speak,
We two, of things to bring a blush to maiden cheek.

13. For bringing back the drink we got no thanks,
No gratitude from those three am’rous men,
Leering at girls. For them we trod frail planks
O’er turgid stream, and pierced the Stygian glen
Where one false footstep would from mortal ken
Have cast two youths. We did not want their praise,
Acknowledgement at least was ours. Ah, then,
May the gassed liquor as their mus they raise
Tingle their nostrils, close their throats, and end their days!

14. We did not utter many words that night,
Harry and I, to either bashful maid;
Rather we did our utmost to incite
Arthur and Charles to wrath, or shock the staid
And righteous Shiel. Thus, thus we sat and played
And reaped malignant joy from this our fun.
We ate with them, of course, but gave no aid
To the preparing of the meal. Still none
Questioned our actions till the maiden twain had gone.

15. We saw them home, Haidee at least we four
Escorted to her cottage, Sheil had Art,
Her faithful Art, she could not want for more.
They went their ways, from us at tent did part,
Two with a single lamp, a single heart.
Did Haidee hope to have me quite alone?
If so, sorrow was hers, she felt a smart
In tender bosom. No, my heart a stone
For her, so four of us; no lover’s word were known.

16. Not long we stood beside the cottage gate,
Nor tender were the few farewells we said.
We thought it silly in the night to wait
Talking to girls, when we might be in bed.
So a last word, she mutely bent her head,
Turned on her heel and stumbled up the path.
Charlie would stay whilst precious moments sped,
I took his arm, forgetting my first wrath,
Joined then with Harry, he waith with Frank, and then came Arth.