Read THE SEARING OF A SOUL : CHAPTER VIII of Snake and Sword A Novel, free online book, by Percival Christopher Wren, on ReadCentral.com.

A SNAKE AVENGES A HADDOCK AND LUCILLE BEHAVES IN AN UN-SMELLIEAN MANNER.

Finding himself free for the afternoon, and the proud possessor of several shillings, “Trooper Matthewson” decided to walk to Folkestone, attend an attractively advertised concert on the pier, and then indulge in an absolutely private meal in some small tea-room or confectioner’s shop.

Arrayed in scarlet shell-jacket, white-striped overalls, and pill-box cap, he started forth, carrying himself as though exceeding proud to be what he was, and wondering whether a swim in the sea, which should end somewhere between Shorncliffe and Dieppe (and end his troubles too), would not be a better pastime.

Arrived at the Folkestone pier, Dam approached the ticket office at the entrance and tendered his shilling to the oily-curled, curly-nosed young Jew who sat at the receipt of custom.

“Clear out o’ this,” said Levi Solomonson.

“I want a ticket for the concert,” said Dam, not understanding.

“Would you like a row o’ stalls to sprawl your dirty carcase on?... Outside, I tell yer, Tommy Atkins, this ain’t a music-’all nor yet a pub. Soldiers not ‘’alf-price to cheap seats’ nor yet full-price nor yet for ten pound a time. Out yer go, lobster.”

The powerful hand of Damocles de Warrenne approached the window and, for a second, Mr. Levi Solomonson was in danger but only for a second. Dam was being well-broken-in, and quickly realized that he was no longer a free British citizen entitled to the rights of such so long as he behaved as a citizen should, but a mere horrible defender of those of his countrymen, who were averse from the toils and possible dangers of self-defence. It was brought home to him, then and there, with some clearness, that the noble Britons who (perhaps) “never never will be slaves,” have a fine and high contempt for those whose life-work is to save them from that distressing position; that the noble Briton, while stoutly (and truly Britishly) refusing to hear of universal service and the doing by each man of his first duty to the State, is informed with a bitter loathing of those who, for wretched hire and under wretched conditions, perform those duties for him. Dam did not mind, though he did not enjoy, doing housemaid’s work in the barrack-room, scrubbing floors, blackleading iron table-legs and grates, sweeping, dusting, and certain other more unpleasant menial tasks; he did not mind, though he did not like, “mucking-out” stables and scavenging; he could take at their proper value the insults of ignorant boors set in authority over him; he could stand, if not enjoy, the hardships of the soldier’s life but he did not see why his doing his duty in that particular sphere an arduous, difficult, and frequently dangerous sphere should earn him the united insult of the united public! Why should an educated and cultured man, a gentleman in point of fact, be absolutely prohibited from hearing a “classical” concert because he wore the Queen’s uniform and did that most important and necessary work which the noble Briton is too slack-baked, too hypocritically genteel, too degenerate, to perform, each man for himself?

In a somewhat bitter frame of mind the unfortunate young man strolled along the Leas and seated himself on a public bench, honestly wondering as he did so, whether he were sufficiently a member of the great and glorious public to have a right to do it while wearing the disgraceful and disgracing garb of a Trooper of the Queen.... Members of that great and glorious public passed him by in rapid succession. Narrow-chested youths of all classes, and all crying aloud in slack-lipped silence for the drill-sergeant to teach them how to stand and walk; for the gymnasium-instructor to make them, what they would never be, men; for some one to give them an aim and an ideal beyond cigarettes, socks, and giggling “gels” or “gals” or “garls” or “gyurls” or “gurrls” according to their social sphere. Vast-stomached middle-aged men of all classes, and all crying aloud in fat-lipped silence of indulgence, physical sloth, physical decay before physical prime should have been reached, of mental, moral, and physical decadence from the great Past incredible, and who would one and all, if asked, congratulate themselves on living in these glorious modern times of ’igh civilization and not in the dark, ignorant days of old.

(Decidedly a bitter young man, this.)

Place Mister Albert Pringle, Insurance Agent; Mister Peter Snagget, Grocer; Mister Alphonso Pumper, Rate Collector; Mister Bill ’Iggins, Publican; Mister Walter Weed, Clerk; Mister Jeremiah Ramsmouth, Local Preacher; Mr. ’Ookey Snagg, Loafer; Mister William Guppy, Potman place them beside Hybrias, Goat-herd; Damon, Shepherd; Phydias, Writer; Nicarchus, Ploughman; Balbus, Bricklayer; Glaucus, Potter; Caius, Carter; Marcus, Weaver; Aeneas, Bronze-worker; Antonius, Corn-seller; Canidius, Charioteer and then talk of the glorious modern times of high civilization and the dark ignorant days of old!...

And as he sat musing thus foolishly and pessimistically, who should loom upon his horizon but of all people in the world the Haddock, the fishy, flabby, stale, unprofitable Haddock! Most certainly Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like this. A beautiful confection of pearly-grey, pearl-buttoned flannel draped his droopy form, a pearly-grey silk tie, pearl-pinned, encircled his lofty collar, pearly-grey silk socks spanned the divorcing gap ’twixt beautiful grey kid shoes and correctest trousers, a pearly-grey silk handkerchief peeped knowingly from the cuff of his pearly-grey silk shirt by his pearly-grey kid glove, and his little cane was of grey lacquer, and of pearl handle. One could almost have sworn that a pearl-grey smile adorned the scarce-shut mouth of the beautiful modern product of education and civilization, to carry on the so well-devised colour-scheme to the pearly-grey grey-ribboned soft hat.

The Haddock’s mind wandered not in empty places, but wrestled sternly with the problem would it not have been better, after all, perhaps, to have worn the pearly-grey spats (with the pearl buttons) instead of relying on the pearly-grey socks alone? When one sat down and modestly protruded an elegant foot as one crossed one’s legs and gently drew up one’s trouser (lest a baggy knee bring black shame), one could display both the spat itself, and, above it, the sock. Of course! To the passer-by, awe-inspired, admiring, stimulated, would then have been administered the double shock and edification. While gratefully observing the so-harmonizing grey spat and grey shoe he would have noted the Ossa of grey silk sock piled upon that Pelion of ultra-fashionable foot-joy! Yes. He had acted hastily and had erred and strayed from the Perfect Way and a cloud, at first no bigger than a continent or two, arose and darkened his mental sky.

But what of the cloud that settled upon him, black as that of the night’s Plutonian shore, a cloud much bigger than the Universe, when a beastly, awful, ghastly, common private soldier arose from a seat a common seat for which you do not pay a penny and show your selectitude arose, I say, from a beastly common seat and SEIZED HIM BY THE ARM and remarked in horrible, affected, mocking tones:

“And how’s the charming little Haddock, the fourpenny, common breakfast Haddock?”

Yes, in full sight of the Leas of Folkestone, and the nobility, gentry, shopmen, nurse-girls, suburban yachtsmen, nuts, noisettes, bath-chairmen and all the world of rank and fashion, a common soldier took the pearly-grey arm of the Haddon Berners as he took the air and walked abroad to give the public a treat. And proved to be his shameful, shameless, disgraced, disgraceful, cowardly relative, Damocles de Warrenne!

The Haddock reeled, but did not fall.

On catching sight of the beautiful young man, Dam’s first impulse was to spring up and flee, his second to complete the work of Mr. Levi Solomonson of the pier concert and see for himself, once again, how he was regarded by the eyes of all right-minded and respectable members of society, including those of a kinsman with whom he had grown up.

Yes, in his bitterness of soul, and foolish youthful revolt against Fate, he was attracted by the idea of claiming acquaintance with the superb Haddock in his triumphant progress, take him by the arm, and solemnly march him the whole length of the Leas! He would, by Jove! He did.

Confronting the resplendent languid loafer, he silkily observed, as he placed his cutting-whip beneath his left arm and extended his white cotton-gloved right hand:

“And how’s the charming little Haddock, the fourpenny, common breakfast Haddock?”

Had it been Ormonde Delorme, any friend of Monksmead days, any school or Sandhurst acquaintance, had it been any other relative, had it been Lucille, he would have fled for his life, he would have seen his hand paralysed ere he would have extended it, he would have been struck dumb rather than speak, he would have died before he would have inflicted upon them the indignity of being seen in the company of a common soldier. But the Haddock! ’twould do the Haddock a world of good; the Haddock who had mocked him as he fought for sanity and life on the lawn at Monksmead the Haddock who “made love” to Lucille.

The Haddock affected not to see the hand.

“I er don’t ah know you, surely, do I?” he managed to mumble as he backed away and turned to escape.

“Probably not, dear Haddock,” replied the embittered desperate Dam, “but you’re going to. We’re going for a walk together.”

“Are you ah dwunk, fellow? Do you suppose I walk with ah soldiers?”

“I don’t, my Fish, but you’re going to now if I have to carry you. And if I have to do that I’ll slap you well, when I put you down!”

“I’ll call a policeman and give you in charge if you dare molest me. What do you ah desire? Money?... If you come to my hotel this evening ” and the hapless young man was swung round, his limp thin arm tucked beneath a powerful and mighty one, and he was whirled along at five miles an hour in the direction of the pier, gasping, feebly struggling, and a sight to move the High Gods to pity.

“To the pier, my Haddock, and then back to the turnpike gate, and if you let a yell, or signal a policeman, I’ll twist your little neck. Fancy our Haddock in a vulgar street row with a common soldier and in the Police Court! Step it out, you worm!”

Then the agonized Haddock dropped pretence.

“Oh, Dam, I’m awf’ly sorry. I apologize, old chap. Let up I say this is awful.... Good God, here’s Lady Plonk, the Mayor’s wife!”

“You shall introduce me, Lovely One but no, we mustn’t annoy ladies. You must not go trying to introduce your low companions nay, relations to Lady Plonkses. Step out and look happy.”

“Dam for God’s sake, let me go! I didn’t know you, old chap. I swear I didn’t. The disgrace will kill me. I’ll give you ”

“Look here, wee Fish, you offer me money again and I’ll I’ll undress you and run away with your clothes. I will, upon my soul.”

“I shall call to this policeman,” gasped the Haddock.

“And appear with your low-class relation in Court? Not you, Haddock. I’d swear you were my twin brother, and that you wouldn’t pay me the four pence you borrowed of me last week.”

And the cruel penance was inflicted to the last inch. Near the end the Haddock groaned: “Here’s Amelia Harringport Oh! my God,” and Dam quickly turned his face unto the South and gazed at the fair land of France. He remembered that General Harringport dwelt in these parts.

At the toll-gate Dam released the perspiration-soaked wretch, who had suffered the torments of the damned, and who seemed to have met every man and woman whom he knew in the world as he paraded the promenade hanging lovingly to the arm of a common soldier! He thought of suicide and shuddered at the bare idea.

“Well, I’m awf’ly sorry to have to run away and leave you now, dear Haddock. I might have taken you to all the pubs in Folkestone if I’d had time. I might have come to your hotel and dined with you. You will excuse me, won’t you? I must go now. I’ve got to wash up the tea things and clean the Sergeant’s boots,” said Dam, cruelly wringing the Haddock’s agonized soft hand, and, with a complete and disconcerting change, added, “And if you breathe a word about having seen me, at Monksmead, or tell Lucille, I’ll seek you out, my Haddock, and we will hold converse with thee”. Then he strode away, cursing himself for a fool, a cad, and a deteriorated, demoralized ruffian. Anyhow, the Haddock would not mention the appalling incident and give him away.

Nemesis followed him.

Seeking a quiet shop in a back street where he could have the long-desired meal in private, he came to a small taxidermist’s, glanced in as he passed, and beheld the pride and joy of the taxidermist’s heart a magnificent and really well-mounted boa-constrictor, and fell shrieking, struggling, and screaming in the gutter.

That night Damocles de Warrenne, ill, incoherent, and delirious, passed in a cell, on a charge of drunk and disorderly and disgracing the Queen’s uniform.

Mr. Levi Solomonson had not disgraced it, of course.

“If we were not eating this excellent bread-and-dripping and drinking this vile tea, what would you like to be eating and drinking, Matthewson?” asked Trooper Nemo (formerly Aubrey Roussac d’Aubigny of Harrow and Trinity).

“Oh, ... a little real turtle,” said Dam, “just a lamina of sole frite, a trifle of vol an vent a la financière, a breast of partridge, a mite of pate de fois gras, a peach a la Melba, the roe of a bloater, and a few fat grapes ”

“’Twould do. ’Twould pass,” sighed Trooper Burke, and added, “I would suggest a certain Moselle I used to get at the Byculla Club in Bombay, and a wondrous fine claret that spread a ruby haze of charm o’er my lunch at the Yacht Club of the same fair city. A ’Mouton Rothschild something,’ which was cheap at nine rupees a small bottle on the morrow of a good day on the Mahaluxmi Racecourse.” (It was strongly suspected that Trooper Burke had worn a star on his shoulder-strap in those Indian days.)

“It’s an awful shame we can’t all emerge from the depths and run up to Town to breathe the sweet original atmosphere for just one night before we leave old England,” put in Trooper Punch Peerson (son of a noble lord) who would at that moment have been in the Officers’ Mess but for a congenital weakness in spelling and a dislike of mathematics. “Pity we can’t get ‘leaf,’ and do ourselves glorious at the Carlton, and ‘afterwards’. We could change at my Governor’s place into borrowed, stolen, and hired evening-kit, paint the village as scarlet as Sin or a trooper’s jacket, and then come home, like the Blackbird, to tea. I am going, and if I can’t get ‘leaf’ I shall return under the bread in the rations-cart. Money’s the root of all (successful) evil.”

Trooper Punch Peerson was a born leader of men, a splendid horseman and soldier, and he had the Army in his ardent, gallant blood and bones; but how shall a man head a cavalry charge or win the love and enthusiastic obedience of men and horses when he is weak in spelling and has a dislike of mathematics?

However, he was determined to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors, to serve his country in spite of her, and his Commission was certain and near. Meanwhile he endeavoured to be a first-class trooper, had his uniform made of officers’ materials in Bond Street by his father’s famous tailor, and “got the stick” with ease and frequency.

“We’re not all gilded popinjays (nor poppin’ bottles),” observed a young giant who called himself Adam Goate, and had certainly been one in the days when he was Eugene Featherstonthwaite. “All very well for you to come to the surface and breathe, seeing that you’ll be out of it soon. You’re having nothing but a valuable experience and a hardening. You’re going through the mill. We’ve got to live in it. What’s the good of our stirring everything up again? Dam-silly of a skinned eel to grow another skin, to be skinned again.... No, ’my co-mates and brothers in exile,’ what I say is you can get just as drunk on ‘four-’arf’ as on champagne, and a lot cheaper. Ask my honourable friend, Bear.”

(Trooper Bear gave a realistic, but musical hiccup.)

“Also, to the Philosopher, bread-and-dripping is as interesting and desirable prog as the voluble-varied heterogeny of the menu at the Carlton or the Ritz ’specially when you’ve no choice.”

“Hear, hear,” put in Dam.

“Goatey ol’ Goate!” said Trooper Bear with impressive solemnity. “Give me your hand, Philossiler. I adore dripping. I’ss a (hic) mystery. (No, I don’ want both hands,” as Goate offered his right to Bear’s warm embrace.) I’m a colliseur of Dripping. I understan’ it. I write odes to it. Yesh. A basin of dripping is like a Woman. ’Strornarillily. You never know what’s beneath fair surface.... Below a placid, level, unrevealing surface there may be nothing ... and there may be a rich deposit of glorious, stimulating, piquant essence.”

“Oh, shut up, Bear, and don’t be an Ass,” implored Trooper Burke (formerly Desmond Villiers FitzGerald) ... “but I admit, all the same, there’s lots of worse prog in the Officers’ Mess than a crisp crust generously bedaubed with the rich jellified gravy that (occasionally) lurks like rubies beneath the fatty soil of dripping.”

“Sound plan to think so, anyway,” agreed Trooper Little (ci devant Man About Town and the Honourable Bertie Le Grand). “Reminds me of a proverb I used to hear in Alt Heidelberg, ’What I have in my hand is best’.”

“Qui’ sho,” murmured Trooper Bear with a seraphic smile, “an’ wha’ I have in my ‘place of departed spirits,’ my tummy, is better. Glor’us mixshure. Earned an honest penny sheven sheparate times cleaning the ’coutrements of better men ... ’an look at me for shevenpence’ ...” and he slept happily on Dam’s shoulder.

In liquor, Trooper Bear was, if possible, gentler, kinder, and of sweeter disposition than when sober; wittier, more hopelessly lovable and disarming. These eight men the “gentlemen-rankers” of the Queen’s Greys, made it a point of honour to out-Tommy “Tommy” as troopers, and, when in his company, to show a heavier cavalry-swagger, a broader accent, a quiffier “quiff,” a cuttier cutty-pipe, a smarter smartness; to groom a horse better, to muck out a stall better, to scrub a floor better, to spring more smartly to attention or to a disagreeable “fatigue,” and to set an example of Tomminess from turning out on an Inspection Parade to waxing a moustache.

Trooper Bear professed to specialize as a model in the carrying of liquor “like a man and a soldier”. When by themselves, they made it a point of honour to behave and speak as though in the clubs to which they once belonged, to eat with washen hands and ordered attire, to behave at table and elsewhere with that truest of consideration that offends no man willingly by mannerism, appearance, word or act, and which is the whole Art of Gentility.

They carefully avoided any appearance of exclusiveness, but sought every legitimate opportunity of united companionship, and formed a “mess” of eight at a table which just held that number, and on a couple of benches each of which exactly fulfilled the slang expression “room for four Dragoons on a form”.

It was their great ambition to avoid the reproach of earning the soubriquet “gentleman-ranker,” a term that too often, and too justly, stinks in the nostrils of officer, non-commissioned officer, and man (for, as a rule, the “gentleman-ranker” is a complete failure as a gentleman and a completer one as a ranker).

To prove a rule by a remarkably fine exception, these eight were among the very smartest and best troopers of one of the smartest and best Corps in the world and to Damocles de Warrenne, their “Society of the Knights of the dirty Square Table” was a Rock and a Salvation in the midst of a howling sea of misery a cool pool in a searing branding Hell.

Trooper Bear’s brief nap appeared to have revived him wonderfully.

“Let us, like the Hosts of Midian, prowl around this happy Sabbeth eve, my dear,” quoth he to Dam, “and, like wise virgins, up and smite them, when we meet the Red-Caps.... No, I’m getting confused. It’s they up and smite us, when we’ve nothing to tip them.... I feel I could be virtuous in your company since you never offer beer to the (more or less) fatherless and widowed and since I’m stony. How did you work that colossal drunk, Matty, when you came home on a stretcher and the Red-Caps said you ’was the first-classest delirious-trimmings as ever was, aseein’ snakes somethink ’orrible,’ and in no wise to be persuaded ’as ‘ow there wasn’t one underyer bloomin’ foot the ’olé time’. Oh you teetotallers!”

Dam shuddered and paled. “Yes, let’s go for as long a walk as we can manage, and get as far from this cursed place as time allows,” he replied.

His hair was still short and horribly hacked from the prison-crop he had had as a preliminary to “168 hours cells,” for “drunk and disorderly”.

“I’ll come too,” announced the Honourable Bertie.

“Yes,” chimed in Trooper Adam Goate, “let’s go and gladden the eyes, if not the hearts of the nurse-maids of Folkestone.”

“Bless their nurse-maidenly hearts,” murmured Trooper Bear. “One made honourable proposals of marriage to me, quite recently, in return for my catching the runaway hat of her young charge.... Come on.” And in due course the four derelicts set forth with a uniformity of step and action that corresponded with their uniformity of dress.

“Let’s take the Lower Road,” said Dam, as they reached the western limit of the front at Folkestone. “I fear we rather contaminate the pure social air of the Upper Road and the fashionable promenade.”

“Where every prospect pleases and only man, in the Queen’s uniform, is vile,” observed Trooper Bear.

Dam remembered afterwards that it was he who sought the quiet Lower Road and he had good reason to remember it. For suddenly, a fashionably dressed and beautiful young girl, sitting alone in a passing private victoria, stood up, called “Stop! Stop!” to the coachman, and ere the carriage well came to a standstill, sprang out, rushed up to the double file of soldiers, and flung her arms around the neck of the outside one of the front rank.

With a cry of “Oh, Dam! Oh, Dammy!” a cry that mightily scandalized a serious-minded policeman who stood monumentally at the corner she kissed him again and again!

Troopers Bear, Goate, and Little, halting not in their stride, glancing not unto the right hand nor unto the left hand, speaking no word, and giving no sign of surprise, marched on in perfect silence, until Trooper Bear observed to the world in general “The lady was not swearing. His name must be Dam short for Damon or Pythias or Iphigenia or something which we may proceed to forget.... Poor old chappie no wonder he’s taking to secret drinking. I should drink, myself. Poor chap!” and Trooper Goate, heaving a sympathetic sigh, murmured also “Poor chap!”

But Trooper Little, once the Hon. Bertie Le Grand, thought “Poor lady!”

The heart of Damocles de Warrenne bounded within him, stood still, and then seemed like to burst.

“Oh, Lucille! Oh, darling!” he groaned, as he kissed her fiercely and then endeavoured to thrust her from him. “Jump into your carriage quickly. Lucille Don’t ... Here ...! Not here.... People are looking ... You ...! A common soldier.... Let me go. Quick.... Your carriage.... Some one may ”

“Let you go, darling ...! Now I have found you.... If you say another word I’ll serve you as you served the Haddock. I’ll hang on to your arm right along the Leas. I’ll hang round your neck and scream if you try to run away. This is poetic justice, darling. Now you know how our Haddock felt. No I won’t leave go of your sleeve. Where shall we go, dearest darling Dammy. Dare you drive up and down the Front with me in Amelia Harringport’s sister’s young man’s mother’s victoria? oh, my darling Dam....” and Lucille burst into happy tears.

“Go up that winding path and I’ll follow in a minute. There will be secluded seats.”

“And you’ll bolt directly I leave go of you?... I ”

“No, darling, God knows I should if I were a man, but I can’t, I can’t. Oh, Lucille!”

“Stay here,” cried the utterly fearless, unashamed girl to the unspeakably astounded coachman of the mother of the minor Canon who had the felicity of being Amelia Harringport’s sister’s young man, and she strode up the pathway that wound, tree-shaded, along the front of the gently sloping cliff.

In the utter privacy of a small seat-enclosing, bush-hidden half-cave, Damocles de Warrenne crushed Lucille to his breast as she again flung her arms around his neck.

“Oh, Lucille, how could you expose yourself to scandal like that; I ought to be hung for not taking to my heels as you came, but I could not believe my eyes, I thought I was going mad again,” and he shivered.

“What should I have cared if every soul in the world who knows me had arranged himself and herself in rows and ranks to get a good view? I’d have done the same if Grumper had been beside me in the carriage. What is the rest of the World to me, beside you, darling?... Oh, your poor hair, and what is that horrid scar, my dearest? And you are a ‘2 Q.G.’ are you, and how soon may you marry? I’m going to disappear from Monksmead, now, just like you did, darling, and I’m coming here and I’m going to be a soldier’s wife. Can I live with you in your house in barracks, Dammy, or must I live outside, and you come home directly your drill and things are finished?”

Dam groaned aloud in hopeless bitterness of soul.

“Lucille listen,” said he. “I earn one-and tuppence a day. I may not marry. If you were a factory-girl or a coster-woman I would not drag you down so. Apart from that, I am unfit to marry any decent woman. I am what you know I am.... I have fits. I am not sound normal I may go m....”

“Don’t be a pure priceless Ass, darling. You are my own splendid hero and I am going to marry you, if I have to be a factory-girl or a coster-woman, and I am going to live either with you or near you. You want looking after, my own boy. I shall have some money, though, when I am of age. When may I run away from Monksmead, darling?”

“Lucille,” groaned the miserable man. “Do you think that the sight of you in the mire in which I wallow would make me happier? Can’t you realize that I’m ruined and done disgraced and smashed? Lucille, I am not sane at times.... The SNAKE ... Do you love me, Lucille? Then if so, I beg and implore you to forget me, to leave me alone, to wait awhile and then marry Delorme or some sane, wholesome man who is neither a coward nor a lunatic nor an epileptic. Lucille, you double and treble my misery. I can’t bear it if I see you. Oh, why didn’t you forget me and do the right and proper thing? I am unfit to touch you! I am a damned scoundrel to be here now,” and leaping up he fled like a maddened horse, bounded down the slope, sprang into the road, nor ceased to run till he fell exhausted, miles away from the spot whereon he had suffered as he believed few men had done before.

And thus and thus we women live!
With none to question, none to give
The Nay or Aye, the Aye or Nay
That might smoothe half our cares away.
O, strange indeed! And sad to know
We pitch too high and doing so,
Intent and eager not to fall,
We miss the low clear note of call.
Why is it so? Are we indeed
So like unto the shaken reed?
Of such poor clay? Such puny strength?
That e’en throughout the breadth and length
Of purer vision’s stern domain
We bend to serve and serve in vain?
To some, indeed, strange power is lent
To stand content. Love, heaven-sent,
(For things or high or pure or rare)
Shows likest God, makes Life less bare.
And, ever and anon there stray
In faint far-reaching virelay
The songs of angels, Heav’nward-found,
Of little children, earthward-bound.

A. L. WREN.