FOUR o’clock, the resting time of the day;
Sunlight with shade a fantastic patchwork weaves,
But the shadows lengthen; the wind, while dying away,
Lingers to rustle the quivering aspen leaves.
I ’m under the pear-tree, sitting all alone;
My garden is gay with asters, pinks, and phlox,
And many a posy for others’ pleasure sown,
But here, for myself, I have planted four-o’clocks.
“ Old-fashioned,” you think, and cannot my choice approve;
Rarer blossoms your fancy craves, no doubt;
But after all, it is n’t the flowers we love,
But the dear old times that they make us think about.
It’s a way they have of making us love them so;
We care not long how fragrant and gay they may be;
But deep in our hearts they strike their roots, and grow,
Tangled and twined with various memory.
Do you see that building yonder among the trees?
Years ago it was there that I went to school.
The master was good, but strict and hard to please,
And I was wayward and never would heed the rule.
Lois studied with me, but I was slow,
Though she always was ready to help me if she might;
But Lois was early through, and free to go,
While I was kept in the school-house every night.
Kept in, kept in! ’T was a weary time to wait,
But Lois would never play until I was free;
I always found her down by the garden gate,
Watching the four-o’clocks closing, waiting for me.
We left the school, and our childhood too, behind,
But we both had entered the Master’s school for life;
And Lois loved the Master good and kind,
And I loved Lois, and she became my wife.
The hardest lessons began when our children died, —
Drowned they were, in the river. I see them now:
John, whose eyes of black were his mother’s pride,
And blue-eyed Archie, my boy with the thoughtful brow.
They brought them home, but Lois did not cry;
Never a sob was heard, or a womanish scream; Pule as theirs was her face, but her eyes were dry,
And she walked about as one who is in a dream.
I spoke to her, and pressed her passive hand;
My tears flowed fast, for I hoped to make her weep;
But she only said, “I am trying to understand;”
And for days my Lois could neither eat nor sleep.
Four was my resting hour, and I loved this spot
Because of the tree which shelters and keeps it cool;
And my boys had planted this patch with four-o’clocks
To tell me when to expect them home from school.
After they died I sat here all alone,
Sat here and listened, knowing that they were gone,
But the mocking wind could whistle with Johnnie’s tone,
And Archie’s footstep rustled among the corn.
So Lois came one day and found me here;
Her smile was as sweet as ever, but more subdued,
And her sweet blue eyes now shone with the wished-for tear:
Lois had learned the lesson, — she understood.
“Husband,” she said, “I know why we lost our boys,”
And she sought my face with never a shade of doubt:
“ They are kept for us as the master kept our toys,
And our joy will be only greater when school is out.”
Kept in, kept in! I was always dull and slow,
And my tasks are hard, for the world is a weary school.
My Lois finished and went home long ago;
She was quick to learn, was Lois, easy to rule.
So I sit and watch for the four-o’clocks to close,
While the lengthening shadows tell of the sinking sun,
For after the working cometh the sweet repose,
And my life is closing, my day is nearly done.
Perhaps my Lois is waiting at home for me,
As she used to stand and watch at the garden gate;
Perhaps, — if it ’s right to think that this may be.
But who shall say it? I only watch and wait.
H. E. Sanford.