Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/207

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89
THE READING-CLUB.

Ranges dark bottles and cruses, which show
Marks of long years in clamp vaults below.
The richest juices age can display
Are quickly spread in tempting array.
Wines of Bordeaux and Seville are there,
With liquors and cordials sparkling and rare;
And bottles are opened, and glasses are filled.
When all in a moment the tumult is stilled,
As he who presides with dignified grace
High raises his goblet, and stands in his place:—
"I give you, friends, no warrior's name
Your hearts to thrill, your blood to flame;
No toast to beauty shall my lips repeat,
Where we to-night in sacred friendship meet
To part with one, who, in our boyhood's days,
Earnest and true, won all our love and praise;
Who, on the morrow, plays the hero's part,
And seeks the battle with a loyal heart.
His health I give with an earnest prayer,
That, while on his mission of peril and care,
Success may be his, and, by deeds renowned,
He may meet us again with laurels crowned."
All glasses are raised, when a gentle hand
Is heard at the door—all silent stand
As it slowly opens, and into the light
An old man steps, his features bright:
The long white hairs o'er his shoulders stream,
Like silver threads in the warm rays beam.
Wrinkled his brow, and pale his face.
Wasted his form, and tottering his pace,
Shrunken his cheek; but the eye above
Tells of gentleness, kindliness, love.
And silent stand all as he slowly seeks
A place near the table, and gently speaks:—

"Young men, but a moment I check your mirth,
And bring you back to the common earth.
Unbidden I come with an old man's prayer:
May it seek your hearts, and gain entrance there!
Look on my face, seamed, not with crime,
But with marks of age before their time:
These long white hairs should not have shown
Till ten more years had by me flown.