The Turnip-Hoer

Of tides that toss the souls of men
Some are foreseen, and weathered warefully;
More burst at flood, none witting why or when,
And are called Destiny.

—Years past there was a turnip-hoer,
Who loved his wife and child, and worked amain
In the turnip-time from dawn till day out-wore
And night bedimmed the plain.

The thronging plants of blueish green
Would fall in lanes before his skilful blade,
Which, as by sleight, would deftly slip between
Those spared and those low-laid.

'Twas afternoon: he hoed his best,
Unlifting head or eye, when, through the fence,
He heard a gallop dropping from the crest
Of the hill above him, whence,

Descending at a crashing pace,
An open carriage came, horsed by a pair:
A lady sat therein, with lilywhite face
And wildly windblown hair.

The man sprang over, and horse and horse
Faced in the highway as the pair ondrew;
Like Terminus stood he there, and barred their course,
And almost ere he knew

The lady was limp within his arms,
And, half-unconscious, clutched his hair and beard;
And so he held her, till from neighbouring farms
Came hinds, and soon appeared

Footman and coachman on the way:—
The steeds were guided back, now breath-bespent,
And the hoer was rewarded with good pay:—
So passed the accident.

‘She was the Duchess of Southernshire,
They tell me,’ said the second hoe, next day:
‘She's come a-visiting not far from here;
This week will end her stay.’

The hoer's wife that evening set
Her hand to a crusted stew in the three-legged pot,
And he sat looking on in silence; yet
The cooking saw he not,

But a woman, with her arms around him,
Glove-handed, clasping his neck and clutching his blouse,
And ere he went to bed that night he found him
Outside a manor-house.

A page there smoking answered him:
‘Her Grace's room is where you see that light;
By now she's up there slipping off her trim:
The Dook's is on the right.’

She was, indeed, just saying through the door,
‘That dauntless fellow saved me from collapse:
I'd not much with me, or 'd have given him more:
'Twas not enough, perhaps!’

Up till she left, before he slept,
He walked, though tired to where her window shined,
And mused till it went dark; but close he kept
All that was in his mind.

‘What is it, Ike?’ inquired his wife;
‘You are not so nice now as you used to be.
What have I done? You seem quite tired of life!’
‘Nothing at all,’ said he.

In the next shire this lady of rank,
So 'twas made known, would open a bazaar:
He took his money from the savings-bank
To go there, for 'twas far,

And reached her stall, and sighted, clad
In her ripe beauty and the goodliest guise,
His Vision of late. He straight spent all he had,
But not once caught her eyes.

Next week he heard, with heart of clay,
That London held her for three months or so:
Fearing to tell his wife he went for a day,
Pawning his watch to go;

And scanned the Square of her abode,
And timed her moves, as well as he could guess,
That he might glimpse her; till afoot by road
He came home penniless. . . .

—The Duke in Wessex once again,
Glanced at the Wessex paper, where he read
Of a man, late taken to drink, killed by a train
At a crossing, so it said.

‘Why—he who saved your life, I think?’
—‘O no,’ said she. ‘It cannot be the same:
He was sweet-breath'd, without a taint of drink;
Yet it is like his name.’
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