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XI. Ah, happy chance! The aged creature came, Shuffling along with ivory-headed wand, To where he stood, hid from the torch's flame, Behind a broad hall pillar, far beyond The sound of merriment and chorus bland. He startled her: but soon she knew his face, And grasp'd his fingers in her palsied hand, Saying, “Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this
place; They are all here to-night, the whole blood-thirsty
“Get hence! get hence! there's dwarfish Hilde
brand : He had a fever late, and in the fit He cursed thee and thine, both house and land: Then there's that old Lord Maurice, not a whit More tame for his grey hairs — Alas me! flit! Flit like a ghost away.”—“Ah, Gossip dear, We 're safe enough; here in this arm-chair sit, And tell me how"_“Good saints! not here,
not here; Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier."
XIII. He follow'd through a lowly arched way, Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume; And as she mutter'd “Well-a-well-a-day !.” He found him in a little moonlight room, Pale, latticed, chill, and silent as a tomb. “Now tell me where is Madeline," said he, “O tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
Which none but secret sisterhood may see, When they St. Agnes' wool are weaving piously.”
XIV. “St. Agnes! Ah! it is St. Agnes' Eve Yet men will murder upon holy days. Thou must hold water in a witch's sieve, And be liege-lord of all the Elves and Fays, To venture so: it fills me with amaze To see thee, Porphyro !--St. Agnes' Eve! God's help! my lady fair the conjuror plays
This very night: good angels her deceive! But let me laugh awhile,—I've mickle time to grieve.”
xv. Feebly she laugheth in the languid moon, While Porphyro upon her face doth look, Like puzzled urchin on an aged crone Who keepeth closed a wondrous riddle-book, As spectacled she sits in chimney nook. But soon his eyes grew brilliant, when she told His lady's purpose; and he scarce could brook
Tears, at the thought of those enchantments cold, And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old.
XVI. Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose, Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart Made purple riot : then doth he propose A stratagem, that makes the beldame start: “A cruel man and impious thou art ! Sweet lady! let her pray, and sleep and dream
Alone with her good angels, far apart
From wicked men like thee. Go, go! I deem Thou canst not surely be the same that thou didst seem."
XVII. “I will not harm her, by all saints I swear!” Quoth Porphyro: “O may I ne'er find grace When my weak voice shall whisper its last prayer, If one of her soft ringlets I displace, Or look with ruffian passion in her face. Good Angela, believe me, by these tears; Or I will, even in a moment's space,
Awake, with horrid shout, my foemen's ears, And beard them, though they be more fang'd than
wolves and bears."
XVIII. “Ah! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul ? A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, churchyard thing, Whose passing-bell may ere the midnight toll; Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening, Were never miss'd.” Thus plaining, doth she bring A gentler speech from burning Porphyro; So woeful, and of such deep sorrowing,
That Angela gives promise she will do Whatever he shall wish, betide her weal or woe.
XIX. Which was, to lead him, in close secrecy, Even to Madeline's chamber, and there hide Him in a closet, of such privacy That he might see her beauty unespied, VOL. III.
And win perhaps that night a peerless bride,
Never on such a night have lovers met,
xx. “ It shall be as thou wishest," said the Dame: “ All cates and dainties shall be stored there Quickly on this feast-night: by the tambour frame Her own lute thou wilt see: no time to spare, For I am slow and feeble, and scarce dare On such a catering trust my dizzy head. Wait here, my child, with patience kneel in prayer
The while. Ah! thou must needs the lady wed, Or may I never leave my grave among the dead."
XXI. So saying she hobbled off with busy fear. The lover's endless minutes slowly pass'd; The dame return'd, and whisper'd in his ear To follow her; with aged eyes aghast From fright of dim espial. Safe at last Through many a dusky gallery, they gain The maiden's chamber, silken, hush'd and chaste; Where Porphyro took covert, pleased amain. His poor guide hurried back with agues in her brain.
Her faltering hand upon the balustrade,
With silver tand down the Now prepared;
Rose, like a mission'd spirit, unaware:
Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed; She comes, she comes again, like ring-dove fray'd and fled.
As though a tongueless nightingale should swell Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled, in her dell.
XXIV. A casement high and triple-arch'd there was, All garlanded with carven imageries, Of fruits and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass, And diamonded with panes of quaint device, Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes, As are the tiger-moth's deep-damask'd wings; And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries,
And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, A shielded scutcheon blush'd with blood of queens and kings.
xxv. Full on this casement shone the wintry moon, And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast,