Menella Bute Smedley

Wooden Legs

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Two children sat in the twilight,
Murmuring soft and low;
Said one, “I'll be a sailor-lad,
With my boat ahoy! yo ho!
For sailors are most loved of all
In every happy home,
And tears of grief or gladness fall
Just as they go or come.”

But the other child said sadly,
“Ah, do not go to sea,
Or in the dreary winter nights
What will become of me?
For if the wind began to blow,
Or thunder shook the sky,
Whilst you were in your boat, yo ho!
What could I do but cry?”
Then he said, “I'll be a soldier,
With a delightful gun,
And I'll come home with a wooden leg,
As heroes have often done.”
She screams at that, and prays and begs,
While tears—half anger—start,
“Don't talk about your wooden legs,
Unless you'd break my heart!”

He answer'd her rather proudly,
If so, what can I be,
If I must not have a wooden leg
And must not go to sea?
How could the Queen sleep sound at night,
Safe from the scum and dregs,
If English boys refused to fight
For fear of wooden legs?”
She hung her head repenting,
And trying to be good,
But her little hand stroked tenderly
The leg of flesh and blood!
And with her rosy mouth she kiss'd
The knickerbocker'd knee,
And sigh'd, “Perhaps—if you insist—
You'd better go to sea!”

Then he flung his arms about her,
And laughingly he spoke,
“But I've seen many honest tars
With legs of British oak!
Oh, darling! when I am a man,
With beard of shining black,
I'll be a hero if I can,
And you must not hold me back.”
She kiss'd him as she answer'd,
I'll try what I can do,—
And Wellington had both his legs,
And Cœur de Lion too!
And Garibaldi,” here she sighed,
I know he's lame—but there—
He's such a hero—none beside
Like him could do and dare!”

So the children talk'd in the twilight
Of many a setting sun,
And she'd stroke his chin and clap her hands
That the beard had not begun;
For though she meant to be brave and good
When he play'd a hero's part,
Yet often the thought of the leg of wood
Lay heavy on her heart!

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Menella Bute Smedley