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over the hills yonder: one could fancy the earth were tired of the hot Day, and said, Evening, I want you;' and so Evening cast the shadow of her shadow down to tell Day she was coming.
Poet. Evening, to thy sister Day,
She pants for thee, she faints for thee,
Mary Anne. I wish I could extemporize so! I might try for an hour ere I could make a rhyme for time. Mignionette. Come, try; begin
Mary Anne. How smoothly we glide o'er the soft-flowing Avon! (Pause.)
Mignionette. Far better than jolting o'er roads that are paven.
Old Ashford. Allow me to suggest that paved is the proper word. Mary Anne. What a find that bank would be for a day-dreamer! Poet. Cannot you fancy the boy, Shakspeare, lying on that very bank watching the even current, till the external sense became, by the continued and gentle motion, lulled into rest-like a hushed child on the bosom of its mother-then, from the recesses of his mind, would steal forth, like shadows, the half-created forms of beauty, that were one day to become multitudes of creatures, true to the workings of human thought and human passion.
L. So true, that they are to us as beings who have lived and moved and had their being in this busy world of ours, rather than the unsubstantial creations of a poet's brain.
Old Ashford. I don't like the look of those clouds at all.
Young Ashford. You have been talking of Shakspeare, what say you to a little farce, 'Where shall I dine?'
Mary Anne. At Marl Cliff. There's a green carpet close to the water's edge; trees for shelter, a cliff for our back-ground.
Master. We must not go too far-those are queer-looking clouds yonder, I confess.
Old Ashford. Did you bring cloaks and umbrellas? I should say, better land here.
Mignionette. Oh, no! 'tis not much further, is it? the coward clouds will scarcely venture to do battle with such a sun as this, until it is going down in the world.
Master. Boy, pull away as fast as you can.
Mary Anne. We are just there.
L. and Mignionette. Beautiful!
Old Ashford. (Looking up.) I'm sure I felt a drop.
Young Ashford. Now then
Old Ashford. Steady, steady, pray do not rise-where are your cloaks, girls? One at a time-very imprudent!-What, no more than these! and such thin dresses! Very imprudent, indeed!
Master. Here, boy, take the baskets, and be quick here-under this ash-tree.
L. The graceful canopy!
Mignionette. And what a smooth piece of golden green velvet for our carpet!
Mary Anne. 'Tis like to be wel vett, a cockney would sayMignionette. O Mary Anne! but come, let us sit down and take the goods the gods provide us.
Old Ashford. (Looking up.) That was a drop.
Mary Anne. At the worst, my dear sir, 'twill only be an additional cold duck for our dinner; and if the clouds were to pelt, 'twould only be an additional whet to our appetites.
L. Mary Anne, you are incorrigible.
Old Ashford. (Rising.) This is no joking matter, girls, we had better think of returning at once; look at those black clouds, I say. Young Ashford. Well; one song, we must have one song, and then away home.
Old Ashford. Singing is out of the question-what umbrellas have
Poet. Just one
Old Ashford. Only one?
Poet. Song I meant.
Old Ashford. They must lose no time, then; meanwhile I'll see after the boat.
L. What shall it be?
Mignionette. Gather, gather, gather,' to harmonize with the clouds?
Mary Anne. That Invocation to the sunshine.'
L. And look, what a gleam! It has travelled half way to meet our invocation. Now-while it lasts
Mignionette. Sister, speak! why watchest thou
With eager eye and lifted brow-
L. Ask the flower, with chill dew bowed,
Ask the lark, its sweet song bringing,
Together. 'Tis the sun-the glorious sun-
L. Where are thy magic gleams of light?
Together. Come, thou sun, thou glorious sun, That maketh the world a gladsome one! Mary Anne. Look up, what says his sunship? A decided not at home' from a black servant.
L. The gleam is quite gone!
Mignionette. And 'tis going to pelt-and heavily too.
Mary Anne. Run, run, under the trees. Why, L. has floated there already, as fast as her favorite sun-gleam. But she always seems to me to have dealings with the fairies.
Mignionette. 'Tis only a shower.
Mary Anne. Just a sprinkle from a beatified Brobdignagian's bouquet, that's all.
Old Ashford. Now, what had we better do?
Mignionette. Mary Anne, just hold your parasol a little more on one side or the other.
Master. The trees give but little shelter, I fear.
Poet. This is indeed a weeping ash.
Old Ashford. What's to be done?
Mignionette. We must be patient,' as Ophelia says.
Master. But meanwhile you will all take cold. Ashford, there seems little chance of its clearing up; had we not better send the boy home with the boat, and make the best of our way to Bidford?
Old Ashford. Only, shall we get house-room and dry clothes when we get there? You know there's an archery meeting to-morrow. Mary Anne. Delightful!
Mignionelle. Is it Shakspeare's Bidford?
Master. The same; and only a short walk from hence. And I can answer for house-room, and a welcome, too.
Old Ashford. If it can be arranged
Mary Anne. Quite well, and we had better get on as fast as we can, as we are only taking cold while we stand here: what shall we do with L.? she will be carried away in the flood.'
Poet. Fear not for her. She is a spirit of air so gentle, that the sister elements must love, and could not work her harm.
Mary Anne. Come, then-how the wet grass creaks!
Master. I will hurry on before you to prepare our hostess for your reception.
Old Ashford. And a change of dress for all of them. Mind, girls, that you do change your wet clothes directly you get in doors. Mary Anne. Wet close indeed to such a day.
SCENE II. INN, BIDFORD.
Mignionette. Full many a glorious morning have I seen,' but this outshines them all.
Old Ashford. Remember yesterday, young lady. I should not at all wonder if to-day prove the same. (Pulling out his watch.) Why, 'tis nearly eleven; we ought to be at the ground.
Mignionette. I am sorry the master' cannot go with us.
Young Ashford. So am I; but though we have lost the master,' we must not lose the muster.
Mary Anne. Oh, no; for that is one of the best parts of the pageant. The ground is a high grassy level, backed by a lofty, protecting, green wall of noble trees. You look out upon a lovely valley, and from far and near you see the people hastening in all directions, on foot, on
horseback, in carriages of all sorts; holiday gear on their forms, holiday smiles on their faces.
Mignionette. Why, Mary Anne, as they say of the golden age, what a pretty period!
L. (Singing.) Come, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow
Mignionette. (Singing.) Whither shall I follow, whither shall I follow, whither shall I follow, follow thee?'
L. To the greenwood, to the greenwood, to the greenwood, green. wood tree.'
Old Ashford. Very good advice, and the faster we walk the better. Mignionette. How I do love to see sunshine upon a cottage wall! L. And flowers in a cottage garden.
Old Ashford. Very good, very good; but I wish they had higher wages, and were better clothed and fed.
Young Ashford. Poets speak of time future, rather than time present. L. They should be called hope-feeders; they gather the honey of hope from every flower, and hive it up for others to use.
Mary Anne. Which way should we go?-through the wood, and out upon the ground?
Old Ashford. The path will be very dirty after so much wet.
Young Ashford. The high wind in the night has settled that matter. Mignionette. Well, my little fellow, do you expect this gate to be the high road to fortune? There! What will you do with it, buy a cap ribbon for granny?
Young Ashford. Where's Mignionette?
Mary Anne. Talking to the boy at the gate.
Young Ashford. Come, you will be too late.
Mary Anne. Here she comes! How the people are flocking! Look, there is the Avon, like a huge silver serpent, with its scales flashing in the sunlight. (Aside.) What is the matter with L.?
Mignionette. The tears always rush to her eyes at the sight of a beautiful landscape.
Young Ashford. Look, there is one of the club!
Mignionette. Club,' indeed! You should call them votaresses of Diana !
Mary Anne. There is some one else, too, whom I dread more than any club in the world, even though it were that of Hercules.
Young Ashford. What's the matter?
Mary Anne. Oh, there's Mrs. Croker, and that awful Jemima! Young Ashford. What shall we do? We shall have no peace if she quarters herself upon us.
Mary Anne. Why yes, if she can, like a polypus, quarter herself, there will be nearly one Mrs. Croker a-piece!
Mignionette. Take care, Mary Anne; if you are guilty of a pun, you will have such a black look. It is so shockingly vulgar! Oh, she is
a regular kill-joy!
Mary Anne. Here she comes. Cannot we escape? No, she has
Mrs. Croker. Good morning, Miss Ashford.
Mary Anne. Good morning, Mrs. Croker. How d'ye do, Jemima ? Jemima. (A silent bow.)
Mary Anne. What a charming day!
Mrs. Croker, Yes, but we are certain to have rain.
Mary Anne. What time does the sport begin?
Mrs. Croker. Oh, soon, I hope. I am quite tired already; and I see it is not at all what I and Jemima expected.
Mignionette. A pretty scene, is it not, Mrs. Croker?
Mrs. Croker. Why I must say I am disappointed. There is no one here, and altogether the thing is quite-quite-rather outré, I think. Mignionette. Let us come into the circle. What a pretty rustic table! and what is that lying upon it?
Mrs. Croker. The prize; I believe, of silver; the arrows are of silver too; rather absurd, as they must be very useless.
Mignionette. That beautiful curve? Apollo's lip.
L. See, they have placed it on a cushion of rich green moss, ornamented with flowers. How pretty?
Mary Anne. And by its side is the oak-leaf garland for the brows of the fair victor.
L. It looks like the regalia of the greenwood queen.
Mrs. Croker, All very well for children. Jemima, do you see Lady N. or the duchess?
Jemima. I have been looking, mamma, but I cannot see either. It really was not worth while coming. So very little company.
Mrs. Croker. Not half the display I expected. (Aside to Jemima.) Ah, is not that Sir Edward -?
Jemima. No; but did you ever see such a likeness, mamma? certainly the most distingué person on the ground, and very like Sir Edward.
Young Ashford. Well, Miss Croker, are you going to try for the pretty prize?
Jemima. (Coldly.) Oh, no.
Young Ashford. How is that?
Jemima. Mamma objects to the display.
Young Ashford. They are coming. What a lovely group! Where shall we take our stand?
Mary Anne, Near the singers. We are to have some music after the shooting is over.