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The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 5: The Barmaid

by Adelaide Procter

Household Words: A Weekly Journal, vol. 12, Extra Christmas issue (1855)

Pages 30-31

A sample page from The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 5: The Barmaid by Adelaide Procter
From "The Barmaid." Used by permission, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

Introductory Note: “The Holly-Tree Inn” is a portmanteau story, or a story written by several authors. The portmanteau story lends itself well to the medium of weekly publications. It allows for authors to work together to compile a single plot rather quickly. Such stories increased in popularity during the Victorian era. Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and others all contributed to write this special Christmas extra.

Adelaide Proctor's contribution to the series of tales, told in verse, highlights an inn as a place of transit, marking the significant epochs of an individual's life.

Serial Information

This entry was published as the fifth of seven parts:

  1. The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 1: The Guest (1855)
  2. The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 2: The Ostler (1855)
  3. The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 3: The Boots (1855)
  4. The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 4: The Landlord (1855)
  5. The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 5: The Barmaid (1855)
  6. The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 6: The Poor Pensioner (1855)
  7. The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 7: The Bill (1855)

SHE was a pretty, gentle girl—a farmer’s orphan daughter, and the landlord’s niece—whom I strongly suspected of being engaged to be married very shortly, to the writer of the letter that I saw her reading at least twenty times, when I passed the bar, and which I more than believe I saw her kiss one night. She told me a tale of that country which went so pleasantly to the music of her voice, that I ought rather to say it turned itself into verse, than was turned into verse by me.

A little past the village

     The inn stood, low and white,

Green shady trees behind it,

     And an orchard on the right,

Where over the green paling

     The red-cheeked apples hung,

As if to watch how wearily

     The sign-board creaked and swung.



The heavy-laden branches

     Over the road hung low,

Reflecting fruit or blossom

     In the wayside well below;

Where children, drawing water,

     Looked up and paused to see,

Amid the apple branches,

     A purple Judas Tree.



The road stretch’d winding onward

     For many a weary mile—

So dusty footsore wanderers

     Would pause and rest awhile;

And panting horses halted,

     And travellers loved to tell

The quiet of the wayside inn,

     The orchard, and the well.



Here Maurice dwelt; and often

     The sunburnt boy would stand

Gazing upon the distance,

     And shading with his hand

His eyes, while watching vainly

     For travellers, who might need

His aid to loose the bridle,

     And tend the weary steed.



And once (the boy remember’d

     That morning many a day—

The dew lay on the hawthorn,

     The bird sang on the spray)

A train of horsemen, nobler

     Than he had seen before,

Up from the distance gallopp’d,

     And paused before the door.



Upon a milk-white pony,

     Fit for a faery queen,

Was the loveliest little damsel

     His eyes had ever seen;

A servant-man was holding

     The leading rein, to guide

The pony and its mistress

     Who cantered by his side.



Her sunny ringlets round her

     A golden cloud had made,

While her large hat was keeping

     Her calm blue eyes in shade;

One hand held firm the silken reins

     To keep her steed in check,

The other pulled his tangled mane,

     Or stroked his glossy neck.



And as the boy brought water,

     And loosed the rein, he heard

The sweetest voice, that thank’d him

     In one low gentle word;

She turned her blue eyes from him,

     Look’d up, and smiled to see

The hanging purple blossoms

     Upon the Judas Tree.



And show’d it with a gesture,

     Half pleading, half command,

Till he broke the fairest blossom,

     And laid it in her hand;

And she tied it to her saddle

     With a ribbon from her hair,

While her happy laugh rang gaily,

     Like silver on the air.



But the champing steeds were rested—

     The horsemen now spurr’d on,

And down the dusty highway

     They vanish’d and were gone.

Years pass’d, and many a traveller

     Paused at the old inn-door,

But the little milk-white pony

     And the child return’d no more.



Years pass’d, the apple branches

     A deeper shadow shed;

And many a time the Judas Tree,

     Blossom and leaf lay dead;

When on the loitering western breeze

     Came the bells’ merry sound,

And flowery arches rose, and flags

     And banners waved around.



And Maurice stood expectant,

     The bridal train would stay

Some moments at the inn-door,

     The eager watchers say;

They come—the cloud of dust draws near—

     ‘Mid all the state and pride,

He only sees the golden hair

     And blue eyes of the bride.



The same, yet, ah! still fairer,

     He knew the face once more

That bent above the pony’s neck

     Years past at the inn-door:

Her shy and smiling eyes look’d round,

     Unconscious of the place—

Unconscious of the eager gaze

     He fix’d upon her face.




He pluck’d a blossom from the tree—

     The Judas Tree—and cast

Its purple fragrance towards the bride,

     A message from the Past.

The signal came, the horses plunged—

     Once more she smiled around:

The purple blossom in the dust

     Lay trampled on the ground.




Again the slow years fleeted,

     Their passage only known

By the height the Passion-flower

     Around the porch had grown;

And many a passing traveller

     Paused at the old inn-door,

But the bride, so fair and blooming

     Return’d there never more.




One winter morning, Maurice,

     Watching the branches bare,

Rustling and waving dimly

     In the grey and misty air,

Saw blazon’d on a carriage

     Once more the well-known shield,

The azure fleurs-de-lis and stars

     Upon a silver field.




He looked—was that pale woman,

     So grave, so worn, so sad,

The child, once young and smiling,

     The bride, once fair and glad?

What grief had dimm’d that glory

     And brought that dark eclipse

Upon her blue eyes’ radiance,

     And paled those trembling lips?




What memory of past sorrow,

     What stab of present pain,

Brought that deep look of anguish,

     That watch’d the dismal rain,

That watch’d (with the absent spirit

     That looks, yet does not see)

The dead and leafless branches

     Upon the Judas Tree.




The slow dark months crept onward

     Upon their icy way,

‘Till April broke in showers,

     And Spring smiled forth in May,

Upon the apple-blossoms

     The sun shone bright again,

When slowly up the highway

     Came a long funeral train.




The bells toll’d slowly, sadly,

     For a noble spirit fled;

Slowly, in pomp and honour,

     They bore the quiet dead.

Upon a black-plumed charger

     One rode, who held a shield,

Where azure fleurs-de-lis and stars

     Shone on a silver field.




‘Mid all that homage given

     To a fluttering heart at rest,

Perhaps an honest sorrow

     Dwelt only in one breast.

One by the inn-door standing

     Watch’d with fast-dropping tears

The long procession passing,

     And thought of bygone years.




The boyish, silent homage

     To child and bride unknown,

The pitying tender sorrow

     Kept in his heart alone,

Now laid upon the coffin

     With a purple flower, might be

Told to the cold dead sleeper;

     The rest could only see

A fragrant purple blossom

     Pluck’d from a Judas Tree.

This story is continued in The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 6: The Poor Pensioner.

Original Document

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How To Cite (MLA Format)

Procter, Adelaide. "The Holly-Tree Inn, Part 5: The Barmaid." Household Words: A Weekly Journal, vol. 12, 1855, pp. 30-1. Edited by Leslee Thorne-Murphy. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 6 December 2021, https://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/title/the-holly-tree-inn-part-5-the-barmaid/.

Editors

Leslee Thorne-Murphy
Cosenza Hendrickson
Alexandra Malouf

Posted

10 December 2020

Last modified

30 November 2021