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Thomas Hardy (1840–1928). Wessex Poems and Other Verses. 1898.

45. The Slow Nature

“THY husband—poor, poor Heart!—is dead—

Dead, out by Moreford Rise;

A bull escaped the barton-shed,

Gored him, and there he lies!”

—“Ha, ha—go away! ’Tis a tale, methink,

Thou joker Kit!” laughed she.

“I’ve known thee many a year, Kit Twink,

And ever hast thou fooled me!”

—“But, Mistress Damon—I can swear

Thy goodman John is dead!

And soon th’lt hear their feet who bear

His body to his bed.”

So unwontedly sad was the merry man’s face—

That face which had long deceived—

That she gazed and gazed; and then could trace

The truth there; and she believed.

She laid a hand on the dresser-ledge,

And scanned far Egdon-side;

And stood; and you heard the wind-swept sedge

And the rippling Froom; till she cried:

“O my chamber’s untidied, unmade my bed,

Though the day has begun to wear!

‘What a slovenly hussif!’ it will be said,

When they all go up my stair!”

She disappeared; and the joker stood

Depressed by his neighbor’s doom,

And amazed that a wife struck to widowhood

Thought first of her unkempt room.

But a fortnight thence she could take no food,

And she pined in a slow decay;

While Kit soon lost his mournful mood

And laughed in his ancient way.