A decrepit windmill stands behind a leafless tree. The tree is adjacent to a marsh with grasses on its banks. To the right of the windmill, there are graves and remnants of a building. The moon is low in the sky, surrounded by dark clouds. Full-page frontispiece contained within a single-ruled border.


A North Country Idyll.

Up in the North, when waving woods were
By the departing summer’s fondest rays,2
Three happy tourists, weary o’ Cockaigne—3
We sketched, wrote verses, gave our wit full fling,4
Each hungering for the topmost mastership5
In arts, belles lettres, science, and the rest.6
In merry mood we plodded o’er the hills ;7
Stood bathed in sunshine on the purpling moors ;8
Grew learned on light and shade, and deeply moved9
By the reflected glory o’ the sky,10
While standing on th’ margin of a lake ;11
Were garrulous in verse, and cast abroad12
Whole quires o’ “ copy” to the wayward winds ;13
Framed legends about beauteous shepherd youths ;14
And sighed for antique stories, bright as stars,15
In the eternal silence o’ th’ past.16
At last—it was the day before we left17
The breezy uplands for th’ toiling town—18
We reached, as evening came across th’ land,19
A modest maid, wi’ downward-looking eyes.20
A little village shining ’mid the hills ;21
The fragrant heather, like a purple zone,22
Encircled it. The orchard boughs down-hung,23
Heavy with fruit ; and fields o’ golden corn24
Went idly swaying in th’ ianguid breeze.25
Each cottage door was trim wi’ bright-hued flowers ;26
And here and there a modest mansion stood,27
Betokening a sort o’ affluence.28
Near to th’ village green we found our inn,29
And therein took our ease ; until th’ moon30
Came slowly o’er the seaward-stretching hills :31
A weird, sad lover who had travelled far,32
Nor found her long-lost love, nor comfort found.33
Then went we forth to meditate, and cast34
A fragrant incense to th’ evening star.35
Ah, who would think,” said Beetroot, with a
That here, where peace and plenty shine afar,37
Sorrow and suffering have held their own ?38
High on th’ moor you saw—just ere we took39
The lane which led us to th’ village green—40
A crazy mill, with torn and tattered sails,41
O’ershadowing a melancholy pool,42
All fringed with nettles, flags, and rotting weeds.43
A stunted willow tries in vain to shoot44
Young buds upon its old and withering boughs ;45
Which, as the sad winds sweep down from th’ hills,46
Moan like a spirit racked by fiercest pain.47
You know the way in which th’ story runs,48
Which every village gossip here details,49
With cautious beckonings and whispers low ?”50
No,” answer you.  “ How strange ! ’twas told to
Twelve months ago, when rusticating here.52
But, take this path. Yonder the rotten mill53
Catches the fitful gleaming o’ th’ moon.”54
Ere long we stood beside th’ turgid pool ;55
Then, lying—not without an anxious air—56
Along the long, sleek grass, attention gave,57
And melancholy grew o’er Janet’s fate.58
Too true the tale !” said he ; “ as well they
know ;
Who knew the maiden; and not fondly framed,60
On some long summer day, by idle poet.61
Down in a little cottage by the brook,62
Lived Janet with her mother : there these twain,63
Contented, led a quiet and happy life,64
Free from the troubles o’ the noisy world,65
And ignorant of all its bitterness.66
Rich they were not ; but yet had modest wealth,67
The product o’ long years o’ patient toil68
Upon th’ farm across th’ distant hills—69
Sold when her father died, some years ago.70
Janet was what is called a comely maid ;71
Truly, not handsome ; but with winning ways,72
Rivalling the charms which beauty might have lent.73
The village cronies, passing by the door,74
While she went deftly spinning at her wheel,75
Said, ‘ Ah ! if ours were only half as good76
As Janet, what a comfort it would be !’77
In neatest kirtle at the village church,78
Sweetly demure, with roses red and white79
Upon her cheeks, she sat ; and you might hear,80
Through the shrill trebles and the deeper bass81
Of sturdy choristers, her clear, sweet voice,82
Give us, O Lord, this day our daily bread.’83
The little children, after service time,84
Clung round her, and, all shy and tremulous,85
Said, ‘ Janet, take us with you by the brook,86
And show us pretty flowers, and where the birds87
Build, and the bees make honey all th’ day.’88
And Janet did so ; and the matrons, pleased,89
Said, ‘ What a wife this Janet, now, will make !’90
The brook by which she and the children strayed91
Is fed from this sad tarn; and on its banks92
Grew many a moorland flower, and richest ferns ;93
And there were found the nests of rarest birds,94
And strange fowls, blown here from the neighbour-
ing sea.
Janet was deeply learned on birds and flowers,96
Reading old books while yet she was a child,97
And roamed at will along the uplands sweet.98
Her being took its finest forms and lines99
From Nature, and a strange desire arose100
To learn the secrets of its inmost heart.101
Therefore she was a lover of the fields,102
And the broad moorlands, and the dimpling brook ;103
And brought her dear old books here, botanized,104
Comparing hues and delicate forms of flowers105
With what she saw upon each printed page ;106
And soon—because her people were not used107
To students and the like—she got the name108
Of being curious and fanciful.109
’Twere better,’ said they, ‘ she should sit and spin,110
Than read old books, and wander oft alone.’111
It chanced that, wandering thus, she came one
Following a curious bird with speckled wings—113
To where the brook flows downward from the tarn.114
The white-haired miller, who had owned the mill,115
Had died six months before ; and it was held116
By Hugh, his eldest son, whose wayward life,117
Expanding, guided only by caprice,118
Was flecked by many a flaw. Yet as much grist119
Came to the mill; and as he owned the land120
Which stretched on every side around the mill,121
People were blind to all his grievous sins,122
And off’d their hats whene’er they passed his way—123
Hating the man, but worshipping his goods.124
Charmed by his graceful mien, the guileless
Heard him discourse on things she loved the most ;126
For, in a fashion, he was learnèd too.127
He showed her nooks where grew the choicest
plants ;
And, warmed with bald enthusiasm, found129
Some beauty in the commonest of weeds.130
And he made verses, telling of her charms,131
And bright with love and many pretty things.132
So these twain, wandering along the brook,133
And by the margin of the dismal tarn,134
And hand in hand across the blooming heath,135
Passed many a pleasant summer afternoon.136
Down in the little village, people said,137
This comes of wandering and reading books.’138
Robin the carter, driving from the mill139
One summer night, just when the moon was full,140
Heard a strange cry ; and, looking round, beheld141
Janet and Hugh close to the moonlit mill—142
She with her hands across her pallid face,143
Weeping ; and he careless and unconcerned.144
And people shook their heads, and then forbade145
Their little ones to gather at her side,146
Or wander with her by the dimpled brook,147
To hear her tell of flowers and birds and bees.148
Soon all the guileless maiden’s happy looks149
Deserted her. No more at village church,150
Have mercy on us, Lord! ’ she fondly prayed.151
Her face grew wanner than a wintry dawn.152
Hugh married Janet. Soon he tired of her,153
And oft her mother found her weeping.
One dark night154
They looked for her; and, going to her room,155
Searched all in vain. At last they found this note :156
God help me and protect me !’
Day followed day,157
But she came not again. At last, in fear,158
They searched the brook and dragged the dismal
tarn ;
And there they found a-lock of golden hair,160
A book on ferns, some worn forget-me nots,161
Tied to a stone ; and farther on, a shawl162
Cast off.
Ere yet the early moon had reached its prime,163
Hugh left the mill, and sold the spreading fields.164
He started off for foreign lands. Rumour says,165
He perished lately in a drunken brawl ;166
But none may know for certain.
Janet’s fate167
Conjecture fails to fathom. Years ago,168
A villager, who left his quiet hills169
For London, passing through the gaslit streets,170
Saw a wild face, all rich with faded charms ;171
And as the girl’s eyes met his, she turned away172
And fled, and lost herself in London’s whirl ;173
And this, he says, was Janet. None may know174
Save God, where Hugh’s young wife is hid.”175
We left the dreary spot, not wondering now176
Why village youths and maidens shun the place.177
The owl shrieked wildly in the rotting mill,178
A weary wind went rumbling in the hills,179
And the sad moorfowls crooned across the marsh.180
Faintly below us moved the round of life ;181
And, hastening on, we reached the village inn182
Just as the antique clock was striking ten.183