The Whaler's Wife

I never pass that inn ‘The Ring of Bells’
Without recalling what its signpost tells
To recollection:
A tale such as all houses yield, maybe,
That ever have known of fealties, phantasy,
Hate, or affection.

He has come from a whaling cruise to settle down
As publican in his small native town,
Where his wife dwells.
It is a Sunday morning; she has gone
To church with others. Service still being on,
He seeks ‘The Bells’.

‘Yes: she's quite thriving; very much so, they say.
I don't believe in tales; 'tis not my way!
I hold them stuff.
But—as you press me—certainly we know
He visits her once at least each week or so,
Fair weather or rough.

‘And, after all, he's quite a gentleman,
And lonely wives must friend them where they can.
She'll tell you all,
No doubt, when prayers are done and she comes home.
I'm glad to hear your early taste to roam
Begins to pall.’

‘I'll stroll out and await her,’ then said he.
Anon the congregation passed, and she
Passed with the rest,
Unconscious of the great surprise at hand
And bounding on, and smiling—fair and bland—
In her Sunday best.

Straight she was told. She fainted at the news,
But rallied, and was able to refuse
Help to her home.
There she sat waiting all day—with a look—
A look of joy, it seemed, if none mistook . . .
But he did not come.

Time flew: her husband kept him absent still,
And by slow slips the woman pined, until,
Grown thin, she died—
Of grief at loss of him, some would aver,
But how could that be? They anyway buried her
By her mother's side.

And by the grave stood, at the funeral,
A tall man, elderly and grave withal;
Gossip grew grim:
He was the same one who had been seen before;
He paid, in cash, all owing; and no more
Was heard of him.

At the pulling down of her house, decayed and old,
Many years after, was the true tale told
By an ancient swain.
The tall man was the father of the wife.
He had beguiled her mother in maiden life,
And to cover her stain,

Induced to wive her one in his service bred,
Who brought her daughter up as his till wed.
—This the girl knew,
But hid it close, to save her mother's name,
Even from her seaman spouse, and ruined her fame
With him, though true.
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