Squire Percy's Pride

by Marietta Holley

Marietta Holley

The Squire was none of your common men
Whose ancestors nobody knows,
But visible was his lineage
In the lines of his Roman nose,
That turned in the true patrician curve —
In the curl of his princely lips,
In his slightly insolent eyelids,
In his pointed finger-tips.

Very erect and grand looked the Squire
As he walked o'er his broad estate,
For he felt that the earth was honored
In bearing his honorable weight;
Proudly he strolled through his wooded park
Deer-haunted and gloomily grand,
Or gazed from his pillared porticoes
On his far-outlying land.

In a tiny whitewashed cottage,
Half-covered with roses wild,
His cheerful-faced old gardener dwelt
Alone with his motherless child;
The Squire owned the very floor he trod,
The grass in his garden lot,
The poor man had only this one little lamb
Yet he envied the rich man not.

Poor was the gardener, yet rich withal
In this priceless pearl of a girl,
So perfect a form, so faultless a face
Never brightened the halls of an Earl;
Her eyes were two fathomless stars of light,
And they shone on the Squire day by day,
Till their warm and perilous splendor
So melted his pride away,

That he fain would have taken this pretty pet lamb
To dwell in his stately fold,
To fetter it fast with a jeweled chain,
And cage it with bars of gold;
But this coy little lamb loved its freedom,
Not so free was she, though, to be true,
But, oh, the dainty and shy little lamb
Well her master's voice she knew.

'Twas vain for the Squire the story to tell
Of his riches and high descent,
As it fell into one rosy shell of an ear
Out of its mate it went;
How one grim old ancestor into the land
With William the Conqueror came,
She thought, the sweet, of a conqueror
She knew with that very name.

So in this tender conflict
The great man was forced to yield
To the handsome, sunburnt ploughman
Who sowed and reaped in his field;
For vainly he poured out his glittering gifts,
Vainly he plead and besought,
Her heart was a tender and soft little heart,
But it was not a heart to be bought.

So strange a thing I warrant you
Happens not every day,
That the pride that had thriven for centuries
One slight little maiden should slay;
Why the proud Squire's Roman features
Quivered and burned with shame,
And the picture of his grim ancestor
Blushed in its antique frame.

Were this a romance, an idle tale,
The Squire would sicken and die,
Slain by the pitiless cruelty,
Of her dark and dazzling eye;
And she in some shadowy convent
Would bow her beautiful head,
But the hand that should have told penitent beads
Wore a plain gold ring instead.

And he, not twice had his oak trees bloomed
Ere he wedded a lady grand,
Whose tall and towering family tree,
Had for ages darkened the land;
'Twas a famous genealogical tree,
With no modernly thrifty shoots,
But a tree with a sap of royalty
Encrusting its mossy old roots.

This leaf he plucked from the outmost twig
Was somewhat withered, 'tis true,
Long years had flown since it lightly danced
To the summer air and the dew;
Not much of a dowry brought she,
In beauty or vulgar pelf,
But she had two or three ancestors
More than the Squire himself.

'Twas much to muse o'er their musty names,
And to think that his children's brains
Should be moved by the sanguine current,
That had flown through such ancient veins;
But I think, sometimes, in his secret heart,
The Squire breathed woeful sighs
For the fresh sweet face of the little maid,
With the dark and wonderful eyes.

But she, no bird ever sang such songs
To its mate from contented nest,
As this wee waiting wife, when the twilight
Was treading the glorious west;
As she looked through the clustering roses,
For the manly form that would come
Up through the cool green evening fields
To this sweet little wife and home.

She could see the great stone mansion
Towering over the oaks' dark green,
And the lawn like emerald velvet,
Fit for the feet of a queen;
But round this brown-eyed princess,
Did Love his ermine fold,
Queen was she of a richer realm,
She had dearer wealth than gold.

Last updated November 04, 2022