Harold and Alice; or The Reformed Giant

By William Brighty Rands

The Giant sat on a rock up high,
With the wind in his shaggy hair;
And he said, "I have drained the dairies dry,
And stripped the orchards bare;

"I have eaten the sheep, with the wool on their backs,"
(A nasty giant was he!)
"The eggs and the shells, the honey, the wax,
The fowls, and the cock-turkey.

"And now I think I could eat a score
Of babies so plump and small;
And if, after that, I should want any more,
Their brothers and sisters and all.

"Tomorrow, I'll do it. Ha! what was that?"
Said he, for a sound he heard;
"Was it fluttering owl or pattering rat,
Or bough to the breeze that stirred?"

Oh, it was neither rat nor owl,
Giant! nor shaking leaf;
Young Harold has heard your scheme so foul,
And it may come to grief!

One thing which you ate has escaped your mind, —
Young Harold, his guinea-pig dear;
And he has crept up to try and find
His pet, and shakes with fear.

He has hid himself in a corner, you know,
To listen and look about;
And if to the village tomorrow you go,
You may find the babes gone out!


Now, when to the village came Harold back
And told his tale so wild,
Then every mother she cried, "Good lack!
My child, preserve my child!"

And every father took his sword
And sharpened it on a stone;
But little Harold said never a word,
Having a plan of his own.

He laid six harrows outside the stile
That led to the village green,
Then on them a little hay did pile,
For the prongs not to be seen.

A toothsome sucking pig he slew,
And thereby did it lay;
For why? Because young Harold knew
The Giant would pass that way.

Then he went in and said his prayers, —
Not to lie down to sleep;
But at his window up the stairs
A watch all night did keep,

Till the little stars all went pale to bed,
Because the sun was out,
And the sky in the east grew dapple-red,
And the little birds chirped about.


Now, all the village was early awake,
And, with short space to pray,
Their preparations they did make,
To bear the babes away.

The horses were being buckled in, —
The little ones looked for a ride, —
When on came the Giant, as ugly as sin,
With a terrible six-yard stride.

Then every woman and every child
To scream aloud began.
Young Harold up at his watch-tower smiled,
And his sword drew every man;

For now the Giant, fierce and big,
Came near to the stile by the green,
But when he saw that luscious pig
His lips grew wet between!

Now, left foot, right foot, step it again,
He trod on — the harrow spikes!
And how he raged and roared with pain
He may describe who likes.

At last he fell, and as he lay
Loud bellowing on the ground,
The stalwart men of the village, they
With drawn swords danced around.

"O spare my life, I you entreat!
I will be a Giant good!
Take out those thorns that prick my feet,
Which now are bathed in blood!"

Then the little village maids did feel
For this Giant so shaggy-haired,
And to their parents they did kneel,
Saying, "Let his life be spared!"

His bleeding wounds the maids did bind;
They framed a litter strong
With all the hurdles they could find;
Six horses drew him along;

And all the way to his castle rude
Up high on the piney rocks,
He promised to be a Giant good —
The cruel, crafty fox!


"O mother lend me your largest tub!" -
"Why, daughter? tell me quick!" —
"O mother, to make a syllabub
For the Giant who is so sick."

Now in fever-fit the Giant lay,
From the pain in his wounded feet,
And hoping soon would come the day
When he might the babies eat.

"O mother, dress me in white, I beg
With flowers and pretty gear;
For Mary and Madge, and Jess and Peg,
And all my playmates dear,

"We go to the Giant's this afternoon
To carry him something nice, —
A custard three times as big as the moon,
With sugar and wine and spice."

"O daughter, your father shall go with you;
Suppose the Giant is well,
And eats you up, what shall we do?"
Then her thought did Alice tell:

"No, mother dear, we go alone,
And heaven for us will care;
If the Giant bad has a heart of stone,
We will soften it with prayer!"

Now when the Giant saw these maids,
Drest all in white draw near,
He twitched his monstrous shoulder-blades,
And dropped an honest tear!

"Dear Giant, a syllabub nice we bring,
Pray let us tuck you in!"
The Giant said, "Sweet innocent thing!
"Oh, I am a lump of sin!

"Go home, and say to the man of prayer
To make the church door wide,
For I next Sunday will be there,
And kneel, dears, at your side.

"Tell brave young Harold I forgive
Him for the harrow spikes;
And I will do, please Heaven I live,
The penance the prayer man likes.

"Set down, my dears, the syllabub,
And as I better feel,
I'll try and eat a fox's cub
At my next mid-day meal;

"And all my life the village I'll keep
From harmful vermin free;
But never more will eat up the sheep,
The honey or cock-turkey!"


Now Sunday came, and in the aisle
Did kneel the Giant tall;
The priest could not forbear a smile,
The church it looked so small!

And, as the Giant walked away,
He knocked off the roof with his head;
But he quarried stones on the following day,
To build another instead.

And it was high and broad and long,
And a hundred years it stood,
To tell of the Giant so cruel and strong
That kindness had made good.

And when Harold and Alice were married there,
A handsome sight was seen;
For the bridegroom was brave and the bride was fair —


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