A Leak in the Dike

A Story of Old Holland

by PHOEBE CARY (1824-1871)

The good dame looked from her cottage
At the close of the pleasant day,
And cheerily called to her little son
Outside the door at play:
“Come, Peter, come! I want you to go,
While there is light to see,
To the hut of the blind old man who lives
Across the dike, for me;
And take these cakes I made for him—
They are hot and smoking yet;
You have time enough to go and come
Before the sun is set.”

Then the good-wife turned to her labor,
Humming a simple song,
And thought of her husband, working hard
At the sluices all day long;
And set the turf a-blazing,
And brought the coarse black bread;
That he might find a fire at night,
And find the table spread.

And Peter left the brother,
With whom all day he had played,
And the sister who had watched their sports
In the willow’s tender shade;
And told them they ‘d see him back before
They saw a star in sight,
Though he would n’t be afraid to go
In the very darkest night!
For he was a brave, bright fellow,
With eye and conscience clear;
He could do whatever a boy might do,
And he had not learned to fear.
Why, he wouldn’t have robbed a bird’s nest,
Nor brought a stork to harm,
Though never a law in Holland
Had stood to stay his arm!

And now, with his face all glowing,
And eyes as bright as the day
With the thoughts of his pleasant errand,
He trudged along the way;
And soon his joyous prattle
Made glad a lonesome place—
Alas! if only the blind old man
Could have seen that happy face!
Yet he somehow caught the brightness
Which his voice and presence lent;
And he felt the sunshine come and go
As Peter came and went.

And now, as the day was sinking,
And the winds began to rise,
The mother looked from her door again,
Shading her anxious eyes;
And saw the shadows deepen
And birds to their homes come back,
But never a sign of Peter
Along the level track.
But she said: “He will come at morning,
So I need not fret or grieve—
Though it isn’t like my boy at all
To stay without my leave.”

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