Out of the church she followed them
With a lofty step and mien:
His bride was like a village maid,
Maude Clare was like a queen.
“Son Thomas, ” his lady mother said,
With smiles, almost with tears:
“May Nell and you but live as true
As we have done for years;
“Your father thirty years ago
Had just your tale to tell;
But he was not so pale as you,
Nor I so pale as Nell.”
My lord was pale with inward strife,
And Nell was pale with pride;
My lord gazed long on pale Maude Clare
Or ever he kissed the bride.
“Lo, I have brought my gift, my lord,
Have brought my gift, ” she said:
To bless the hearth, to bless the board,
To bless the marriage-bed.
“Here’s my half of the golden chain
You wore about your neck,
That day we waded ankle-deep
For lilies in the beck:
“Here’s my half of the faded leaves
We plucked from the budding bough,
With feet amongst the lily leaves, –
The lilies are budding now.”
He strove to match her scorn with scorn,
He faltered in his place:
“Lady, ” he said, – “Maude Clare, ” he said, –
“Maude Clare, ” – and hid his face.
She turn’d to Nell: “My Lady Nell,
I have a gift for you;
Though, were it fruit, the blooms were gone,
Or, were it flowers, the dew.
“Take my share of a fickle heart,
Mine of a paltry love:
Take it or leave it as you will,
I wash my hands thereof.”
“And what you leave, ” said Nell, “I’ll take,
And what you spurn, I’ll wear;
For he’s my lord for better and worse,
And him I love Maude Clare.
“Yea, though you’re taller by the head,
More wise and much more fair:
I’ll love him till he loves me best,
Me best of all Maude Clare.