The Courtship Of Young John

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Fields of lucerne and waving wheat,
White-washed sheds, and cottage neat,
Nesting orchards and mulberry trees,
Scented flowers round hives of bees,
With the cool green creek behind it all,
Where the bell-bird chimed at evenfall
Far from the city’s stir and noise-
This was the home of the ‘Reilly boys.”

There were Matthew and Mark, both lean and grim,
Hard of feature, and strong of limb,
And Luke-poor-Luke had long lain still
In the graveyard under the windy hill,
But his twin remained, the youngest he,
A solemn ‘youth’ of forty-three,
By his elders bossed and put upon,
And always referred to as ‘that young John’.

Their house was speckless, and white as now,
But the dear old neighbour who kept it so,
Old Mrs. Schultz, who lived near by,
In the midst of her labours, found time to die.
And the bachelor brothers were sore perplexed,
Mournfully wondering what they’d do next,
Till Father O’Connell spoke words of cheer,
‘Now one should get married, at least, that’s clear”.

‘There’s Kitty Dempsey-her Aunt Miss Ann
Would like her to wed some decent man,
She’s kindly, and comely, and sensible too,
No end to the clever things she can do—“
And Matthew and Mark spoke up like one,
“She’d just do exactly for ‘that young John”.
But their much-tired victim flung off the yoke,
And these ’re the indignant words he spoke:

“I’ll not be the one to marry, now see;
The hardest jobs are all left to me:
The toughest cows in the milkin’ yard,
Anythin’ at all that is heavy and hard;
You’ve left me stumpin’ the apple-tree flat,
But, be all the powers, I won’t do that!”
Here the reverend adviser’s mirth had sway,
And the good priest hurriedly went his way.

‘Twas a pensive, drowsy afternoon,
The gums aflower and the birds in tune,
But as ‘that young John’ rode up the track,
The wrath in his heart was bitter and black,
For the brothers’ will had prevailed that day,
To send him forth on his courting way,
The maiden heart and hand to seek
Of Kitty Dempsey from over the creek,
And the wretch condemned to the gallow’s tree
Must have carried a cheerfuller heart than he.

On Dempsey’s verandah, the shrinking man
Met a welcome warm from little Miss Ann-
A brisk little lady not too old,
With a sweet lines face and a heart of gold,
And wistful eyes smiling bravely still
On a world that mostly had used her ill,
“Is it you that’s in it? You’re Welcome, John,
But you should have been here some hours a-gone.

For we’ve had a wedding this very day,
Our Kitty’s married and gone away—“
Oh! the glad relief that filled his breast,
As he told the tale of his fruitless quest
With a lightened heart, for the shyest man
Could have felt at ease with little Miss Ann,
As she gravely listened sitting near by,
And her awkward guest forgot to be shy.

‘Now to think of Kit missin’ a chance so grand,
And that home of yours needs a woman’s hand:
The mulberries now are ripenin’ fine
For makin’ pies, or mulberry wine.
I noticed them Sunday-passin’ to Mass-
And the pansy beds are full of grass,
And the fowls want fattenin, for Christmas Day—“
Here a sudden thought took John’s breath away;

For a little brown bird hid down in the creek,
With a merry eye and saucy beak,
Began to trill and ripple and sing,
Like the very essence of rapturous spring.
And Oh! the guile of that little brown bird,
‘Twas the oldest song that the world has heard,
And a flame he never had reckoned upon
Across the heart of ‘that young John’.

The little bird has been silent long,
And the magpies had piped their evensong,
But John had forgotten,
Mid dreams sublime
That he should have been home by milking time;
He sat in the twilight-a different man-
Still clasping the hand of small Miss Ann,
And wondering a little blissfully,
If so daring a chap could be really he.

But he little knew what a treasure he’d won.
What a wonderful life had just begun;
And how bright the sunshine that lay upon
The future pathway of ‘that young John’.

© Alice Guerin Crist