Thompson, Priscilla Jane
|MY FATHER'S STORY.|
THERE is an ancient story,
That my father used to tell--
When out side all were hoary,
And still the snowdrops fell;
While the rolling hills about us,
Seemed sinking to the dell,
When heavy snows, prevented,
All outside exercise,
Our fam'ly group, contented,
Sought amusement otherwise;
Then, my father, smiling blandly,
Would tell his tale this wise:
"When a boy, I well remembah,
How th' ole folks use to tell,
'Bout a rich man, in Virginyah,
Who was mean and close as well:
And his po' slaves late and early.
Tilled his fields, whate'er befell,
All day long with oaths tremendous,
He, his weary slaves would! drive,
And his urging lash, malicious,41Did the setting sun survive;
And each sunrise found his bondmen,
Grieving that they were alive,
Oft the piercing cry of woman--
Rent the placid ev'ning air,
And the foul lash, at his summun,
Left her swooning in despair;
While the rude whelks on her person,
Marred the beauty, ling'ring there,
Oft the aged, maimed and feeble,
Fell before his brutal blow,
While he hurried on, unheedful,
Of their groans of utter woe--
Or the look of bitter anguish,
In their tearful eyes of sole,
One ev'ning, after set of sun,
When the moon-beams faintly shown,
When two day's work were forced in one,
By the dint of fierceness shown,
This evil man sat on his porch,
Which vines had overgrown,
And the blue smoke, odorif'rous,
Rose up from his pipe of clay,
While his evil mind, assiduous,
Labored o'er a sternah way,
To force from his wornout bondmen,
Greatah tasks the coming day.
Pond'ring thus, with evil foresight,
With his glassy eyes half closed--
Through the smoke and misty moonlight,
An uncanny object rose;
'Though he rubbed his eyes with vigah,
Still it lingered in repose.
'Twas an object, grim and massive,
Lurking near his grand abode;
Crouching ever, calm and passive,
Whilst the misty moonbeams glowed,
And its rude shape, in the dim light,
Loomed up like a giant toad.
Up he sprung, by terrah shakened--
With his hands to temples pressed.
And the spook, as if awakened,
From its deep, still, passiveness,
Quivered in a blue blaze, frightful--
Then, dissolved to nothingness.
Long he stood there, terrah strickened,
Staring at the vacance, grim,
And his heart within him sickened--43While a trembling seized his limbs--
And the cold sweat on his forehead,
Glistened in the moonlight, dim.
Thenceforth, when with over fierceness,
He would press his bondmen, sore,
And his cruel, foul, perverseness,
Made them their sad and lot deplore,
This grim spook, at fall of ev'ning,
Threat'ningly would haunt his door.
But, by frequent visitation,
Ever harmless, ling'ring near--
'Last, its evil premonition,
Lost its meaning on his ear;
And with recklessness, defiant,
He forgot his cow'ring fear.
Once, when with unusual madness,
He, his viciousness, had shown.
And his bondmen, bowed in sadness--
To their wretched huts, had gone,
In the quietness of even,
He sat on his porch, alone.
Softly, zephyrs from the rushes,
Swept the smooth cut lawn of green,
While the shadows, of the bushes,
Like black dye on grass did seem,
And the dew, on bud and leaflet,
Shown like gems of Orient dream,
As he sat there staring idly,
Out into the lovely night,
Wrapt in blue blaze, quiv'ring wildly.
His old haunt flashed on his sight--
And with sudden impulse, quickly,
Anger took the place of fright.
With an oath, he seized his rifle;
And with coolness, took good aim;
But his gun hung fire a trifle,
Seeming fearful of the game--
And was loath to speed its bullet,
To that ghostly, frightful, flame.
When the rifle range out clearly,
And the bullet true, had sped,
This old spook, with his and groanings,
Leapt into a huge blaze red,
And, with flying sparks, o'er covered,
This vile man, fell backward, dead.
Children, God sent forth that spirit,
As a warning, to that man;
But he passed it by, unheeded;
So God took another plan--
And he called him to his judgment,45As he oft does sinful man.
Then my father, sadly smiling,
With his patient, worn, hands claspt,
Would, with gentle air, beguiling,
Fall to musing on the past--
Of his earlier life in bondage--
Mindless of the winter's blast.