We children were playing round grandmother’s chair,
And grannie joined in with so cheerful an air,
We forgot that she wasn’t just one of ourselves
And wild ran round her like frolicsome elves.
At last she besought us to pause in our riot,
And quick, at her bidding, we dropp’d calm and quiet,
Some four at her feet, and some three at her knee,
“Now, grandmother, tell us a story,” say we.
She smil’d, laid her spectacles down in her lap,
And we saw she’d put on her consid’ring cap;
While, to prompt her, a little one artlessly cried,
“Just tell us about your wee Johnnie who died.”
“Nay, childer, there’s one I’ve ne’er told you afore,
It happened within a few yards of the door,
Over there in the field at the head of the lane,
I can see it from where I am sitting, quite plain.
I worked in those days for my little one’s bread,
There was nobody else, for her father was dead;
And the cutting was on, and our new harvest man
Drove the reaping machine in the place of my Dan.
“A great hulking fellow that one of us knew
(Here grandfather smiled, as he sat full in view),
But somehow it came that the child got to know
That he hadn’t a friend in the place, hadn’t Joe.
“So it seemed, as she took him right under her wing,
And she sat on his knee, and the two used to sing;
She lisping her hymns in her clear little voice,
And he joining by times, or listening by choice.
“I carried her out to the field every day —
For we working women must do as we may
And not as we would — and she totted around,
Or I spread her a shawl, and she sat on the ground.
“Arranging her posies — she doated on flowers —
A few in her hand, she’d be happy for hours;
And I oft fell a-thinking of him that was gone,
And forgot little Mary was left all alone.
“The team rattled past me, and there was a shout;
Can you guess what I saw when I turn’d me about?
There was no time to reach her, my baby just three,
And God only knew what the child was to me.
“She had wander’d right up to the edge of the land
To show off the posy she held in her hand;
The sharp knives were gleaming amid the ripe grain,
And the reaper called Death followed hard in their train.
“‘Twas useless to call her, my innocent lamb!
Were her poor little flowers to be chang’d for ‘The Palm’?
No, Joe saw her danger, and leapt from his seat,
And I fainted for joy as she fell at my feet.
“But the keen knife had caught him — they carried him here
All maimed as he was, for the cottage was near;
I nursed him to health, with my brain in a whirl,
And Joe lost his foot, but he saved me my girl.”
“Why, it’s grand-dad and mammie,” we children cried.
“Yes grandfather saved her,” dear grannie replied.
“And from that day we knew, that though silent and slow,
The heart of a hero was hidden in Joe.”