Squire Hooper

Hooper was ninety. One September dawn
He sent a messenger
For his physician, who asked thereupon
What ailed the sufferer
Which he might circumvent, and promptly bid begone.

" Doctor, I summoned you," the squire replied —
" Pooh-pooh me though you may —
To ask what's happened to me — burst inside,
It seems — not much, I'd say —
But awkward with a house-full here for a shoot to-day."

And he described the symptoms. With bent head
The listener looked grave.
" H'm. . . . You're a dead man in six hours ," he said. —
" I speak out, since you are brave —
And best 'tis you should know, that last things may be sped."

" Right," said the squire. " And now comes — what to do?
One thing: on no account
Must I now spoil the sport I've asked them to —
My guests are paramount —
They must scour scrub and stubble; and big bags bring as due."

He downed to breakfast, and bespoke his guests: —
" I find I have to go
An unexpected journey, and it rests
With you, my friends, to show
The shoot can go off gaily, whether I'm there or no."

Thus blandly spoke he; and to the fields they went,
And Hooper up the stair.
They had a glorious day; and stiff and spent
Returned as dusk drew near. —
" Gentlemen," said the doctor, " he's not back as meant,

To his deep regret!" — So they took leave, each guest
Observing " I dare say
Business detains him in the town: 'tis best
We should no longer stay
Just now. We'll come again anon;" and they went their way.

Meeting two men in the obscurity
Shouldering a box a thin
Cloth-covering wrapt, one sportsman cried: " Damn me,
I thought them carrying in,
At first, a coffin; till I knew it could not be."
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