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Wyndham Towers
by [?]

Here dwelt, in the last Tudor’s virgin reign,
One Richard Wyndham, Knight and Gentleman,
(The son of Rawdon, slain near Calais wall
When Bloody Mary lost her grip on France,)
A lonely wight that no kith had nor kin
Save one, a brother–by ill-fortune’s spite
A brother, since ‘t were better to have none–
Of late not often seen at Wyndham Towers,
Where he in sooth but lenten welcome got
When to that gate his errant footstep strayed.
Yet held he dear those gray majestic walls,
Time-stained and crusted with the sea’s salt breath;
There first his eyes took color of the sea,
There did his heart stay when fate drove him thence,
And there at last–but that we tell anon.
Darrell they named him, for an ancestor
Whose bones were whitening in Holy Land,
The other Richard; a crusader name,
Yet it was Darrell had the lion-heart.
No love and little liking served this pair,
In look and word unpaired as white and black–
Of once rich bough the last unlucky fruit.
The one, for straightness like a Norland pine
Set on some precipice’s perilous edge,
Intrepid, handsome, little past blown youth,
Of all pure thought and brave deed amorous,
Moulded the court’s high atmosphere to breathe,
Yet liking well the camp’s more liberal air–
Poet, soldier, courtier, ‘t was the mode;
The other–as a glow-worm to a star–
Suspicious, morbid, passionate, self-involved,
The soul half eaten out with solitude,
Corroded, like a sword-blade left in sheath
Asleep and lost to action–in a word,
A misanthrope, a miser, a soured man,
One fortune loved not and looked at askance.
Yet he a pleasant outward semblance had.
Say what you will, and paint things as you may,
The devil is not black, with horn and hoof,
As gossips picture him: he is a person
Quite scrupulous of doublet and demeanor,
As was this Master Wyndham of The Towers,
Now latterly in most unhappy case,
Because of matters to be here set forth.

A thing of not much moment, as life goes,
A thing a man with some philosophy
Had idly brushed aside, as ‘t were a gnat
That winged itself between him and the light,
Had, through the crooked working of his mind,
Brought Wyndham to a very grievous pass.
Yet ‘t was a grapestone choked Anacreon
And hushed his song. There is no little thing
In nature: in a raindrop’s compass lie
A planet’s elements. This Wyndham’s woe
Was one Griselda, daughter to a man
Of Bideford, a shipman once, but since
Turned soldier; now in white-haired, wrinkled age
Sitting beneath the olive, valiant still,
With sword on nail above the chimney-shelf
In case the Queen should need its edge again.
An officer he was, though lowly born.
The man aforetime, in the Netherlands
And through those ever-famous French campaigns
(Marry, in what wars bore he not a hand?)
In Rawdon Wyndham’s troop of horse had served,
And when he fell that day by Calais wall
Had from the Frenchmen’s pikes his body snatched,
And so much saved of him, which was not much,
The good knight being dead. For this deed’s sake,
That did enlarge itself in sorrow’s eye,
The widow deemed all guerdon all too small,
And held her dear lord’s servant and his girl,
Born later, when that clash of steel was done,
As her own kin, till she herself was laid
I’ the earth and sainted elsewhere. The two sons
Let cool the friendship: one in foreign parts
Did gold and honor seek; at hall stayed one,
The heir, and now of old friends negligent:
Thus fortune hardens the ignoble heart.
Griselda even as a little maid,
Demure, but with more crotchets in the brain,
I warrant ye, than minutes to the hour,
Had this one much misliked; in her child-thought
Confused him somehow with those cruel shapes
Of iron men that up there at The Towers
Quickened her pulse. For he was gaunt, his face,
Mature beyond the logic of his years,
Had in it something sinister and grim,
Like to the visage pregnant fancy saw
Behind the bars of each disused casque
In that east chamber where the harness hung
And dinted shields of Wyndhams gone to grace–
At Poitiers this one, this at Agincourt,
That other on the sands of Palestine:
A breed of fierce man-slayers, sire and son.
Of these seemed Richard, with his steel cross-bow
Killing the doves in very wantonness–
The gentle doves that to the ramparts came
For scattered crumbs, undreamful of all ill.
Each well-sent dart that stained a snowy breast
Straight to her own white-budding bosom went.
Fled were those summers now, and she had passed
Out of the child-world of vain fantasy
Where many a rainbow castle lay in ruin;
But to her mind, like wine-stain to a flask,
The old distrust still clung, indelible,
Holding her in her maidhood’s serious prime
Well pleased from his cold eyes to move apart,
And in her humble fortunes dwell secure.
Indeed, what was she?–a poor soldier’s girl,
Merely a tenant’s daughter. Times were changed,
And life’s bright web had sadder colors in ‘t:
That most sweet gentle lady–rest her soul!–
Shrunk to an epitaph beside her lord’s,
And six lines shorter, which was all a shame;
Gaunt Richard heir; that other at earth’s end,
(The younger son that was her sweetheart once,)
Fighting the Spaniards, getting slain perchance;
And all dear old-time uses quite forgot.
Slowly, unnoted, like the creeping rust
That spreads insidious, had estrangement come,
Until at last, one knew not how it fell,
And little cared, if sober truth were said,
She and the father no more climbed the hill
To Twelfth Night festival or May-day dance,
Nor commerce had with any at The Towers.
Yet in a formless, misty sort of way
The girl had place in Wyndham’s mind–the girl,
Why, yes, beshrew him! it was even she
Whom his soft mother had made favorite of,
And well-nigh spoiled, some dozen summers gone.