Songs of the Common Day, and Ave!

An Ode for the Shelley Centenary

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

A CHRISTMAS-EVE COURTIN'


 

THE snow'd laid deep that winter from the middle of November;
The goin', as I remember, was the purtiest kind of goin';
An' as the time drawed nigh fur turkeys an' mince pie
The woods, all white an' frosted, was a sight worth showin'.

The snow hung down the woodpiles all scalloped like an' curled.

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You'd swear in all the world ther' warn't no fences any more.
The cows kep' under cover, an' the chickens scratched twice over
The yaller ruck of straw a-layin' round the stable door.

'Twas Christmas Eve, in the afternoon, an' the store was jest a-hummin'
When we seen the parson comin' in his pung along the road;

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An' as he passed the store he called in through the door,
'Church to-night at the Crossroads! Come, boys, and bring a load!'

'Twas a new idee in them parts, an' Bill Simmons made 'n oration
About 'High Church innovation,' an' 'a-driftin' back to Rome,'
But I backed the parson's rights to have Church o' moonlight nights;

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An' I thought of Nance's cute red lips, an' pinted straight for home.

I wasn't long a-gittin' the chores done up, you bet,
An' the supper that I eat wouldn't more'n a' fed a fly!
Then I hitched the mare in the pung an' soon was bowlin' along
Down by the crick to Nance's while the moon was white an' high.

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She didn't keep me waitin', fur church was at half-pas' seven;
An' my idee of Heaven, as I tucked her into the furs,
Was a'ridin' with Nance at night when the moon was high an' white,
An' the deep sky all a-sparkle like them laughin' eyes of hers.

I had a heap to say, but I couldn't jest find my tongue;

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But my heart it sung an' sung, like canaries was into it.
So I chirruped to the mare with a kind of easy air,
An' Nance has to do the talkin',—as was jest the one could do it!

An' I could feel her shoulder, kind of comfortin' an' warm,
Nestlin' agin my arm,—sech a sweet an' cunnin' shoulder.

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My heart was all afire, but I kep' gittin' shyer an' shyer,
An' wished that I'd been born a leetle sassier an' bolder.

We come to them there Crossroads 'fore I'd time to say a word;
An' I reckon as how I heard mighty little of the sarvice.
But 'twas grand to hear Nance sing 'Glory to the newborn King,'

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Tho' the way the choir folks stared at us, it made me kind of narvous.

I wished the parson'd stop an' give me another chance
Out there in the night with Nance, under the stars an' moon;
An' I vowed I'd have my say in the tidiest kind of way,
An' she shouldn't have no more call to think me a blame gossoon.

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At last the preachin' come to an end, an' the folks all crowded out.
'Fore I knowed what I was about we was on the road fur home.
But the sky was overcast an' a thick snow droppin' fast,
An' a big wind down from the mountins got a-rantin' an moanin' some.

We hadn't rode two mile when it blowed like all possessed,

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An' at that I kind of guessed we was in fur a ticklish night.
We couldn't go more'n a walk, an' Nance she forgot to talk;
Then I jest slipped my arm around her, an' she never kicked a mite.

Well, now, if the hull blame roof'd blowed off I wouldn't 'a keered,
But I seen as how Nance was skeered, so I sez, 'By gracious, Nance,

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I guess if we don't turn, an' cut back for the Crossroads, durn
The shelter we'll git to-night by any kind of a chance!'

Then the mare stopped short an' whinnied, an' Nance jest said, 'Oh, Sir!'
An' then commenced to cry, till I felt like cryin' too;
I forgot about the storm, an' jest hugged her close an' warm,

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An' kissed her, an' kissed her, an' swore as how I'd be true.

Then Nance she quit her cryin' an' said she wastn't skeered
So long's she knowed I keered jest a leetle mite fur her;
But she guessed we'd better try an' git home, an' 'by-an'-by
The storm'll stop, an' anyways, it ain't so very fur!'

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My heart was that chock full I couldn't find a word to say,
But she understood the way that I looked into her eyes!
In buffaler robe an' rug I wrapped her warm an' snug,
An' got out an' broke the mare a road all the way to Barnes's Rise.

'Twas a tallish tramp, I tell you, a-leadin' that flounderin' mare

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Thro' snow drifts anywheres from four to six foot deep.
An' a 'painter' now an' then howled out from his mountin den;
But Nance, she never heered it, fur she must 'a fell to sleep.

It wasn't fur from mornin' when we come to Barnes's Rise,—
An' I found to my surprise I'd tramped nine mile an' wasn't tired.

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I was in sech a happy dream it didn't hardly seem
As the ride had been any tougher'n jest what I'd desired.

It was easier goin' now, an' Nance woke up all rosy.
She was sweeter'n any posy as I kissed her at the gate.
The dawn was jest a-growin' so I wished her a Merry Christmas,

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An' remarked I must be goin' as it might be gittin' late!

We was married at the Crossroads jest six weeks from Christmas Eve;
An' Nance an' me believe in our parson's innovations;
We ain't much skeered o' Rome, an' we reckon he can preach some,
An' we call that evenin' sarvice a Providential Dispensation.

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