‘Twas Ben! – she complain’d so long painful to wait:
Deep design hung his looks, he but mumbled “Tis Late,”
And pass’d her, and bid her come on.
The mind plainly pictures that night-hour of dread,
In the midst of a wood! Where the trees over head
The darkness increased – a dungeon they spread,
And the clock at the moment toll’d one!
Nell fain would have forc’d, as she follow’d, some chat;
And trifled, on purpose, with this thing and that;
And complain’d of the dew-droppings spoiling her hat;
But nothing Ben’s silence would break.
Extensive the forest, the roads to and fro,
And this way that that way, above and below,
As crossing the ridings, as winding they go –
“Ah! What road or way can he seek?”
Her eye, ever watchful, now caught an alarm;
Lights gleam, and tools tinkle, as if nigh a farm:
“O don’t walk so fast, Ben – I’m fearful of harm!
She said, and shrugg’d closer behind.
“That light’s from my house!” ‘twas the first word she caught
From his lips, since he through the dark wood had her brought.
A house in a wood! Oh, good God! What a thought;
What sensations then rush’d on her mind!
The things, which her friends and her neighbours had said,
Afresh at that moment all jump’d in her head;
And mistrust, for the first time, now fill’d her with dread:
And as she approach’d, she could see
How better, for her, their advice to have ta’en;
And she wish’d to herself then she had – but in vain:
A heap of fresh mould, and a spade, she was plain,
And a lantern tied up to a tree.
“Here they come!” a voice whispers; - “Haste! put out the light.”
“No: dig the grave deeper!” – “Very dark is the night.”
Slow mitterings mingled. – Oh, dismal the sight!
The fate of poor Nelly was plain.
Fear chill’d through her heart – but Hope whisper’d her – Fly!
Chance seiz’d on the moment, a wind-gust blew high,
She slipt in the thicket – he turn’d not his eye,
And the grave-diggers waited in vain.