In the best chamber of the house,
Shut up in dim, uncertain light,
There stood an antique chest of drawers,
Of foreign wood, with brasses bright.
One day a woman, frail and gray,
Stepped totteringly across the floor–
‘Let in,’ said she, ‘the light of day,
Then, Jean, unlock the bottom drawer.
The girl, in all youth’s loveliness,
Knelt down with eager, curious face;
Perchance she dreamt of Indian silks,
Of jewels, and of rare old lace.
But when the summer sunshine fell
Upon the treasures hoarded there,
The tears rushed to her tender eyes,
Her heart was solemn as a prayer.
‘Dear Grandmamma,’ she softly sighed,
Lifted a withered rose and palm;
But on the elder face was naught
But sweet content and peaceful calm.
Leaning upon her staff, she gazed
Upon a baby’s half-worn shoe;
A little frock of finest lawn;
A hat with tiny bows of blue;
A ball made fifty years ago;
A little glove; a tasselled cap;
A half-done ‘long division’ sum;
Some school-books fastened with a strap.
She touched them all, with trembling lips–
‘How much,’ she said, ‘the heart can bear!
Ah, Jean! I thought that I should die
The day that first I laid them there.
‘But now it seems so good to know
That through these weary, troubled years
Their hearts have been untouched by grief,
Their eyes have been unstained by tears.
Dear Jean, we see with clearer sight
When earthly life is almost o’er;
Those children wait me in the skies,
For whom I locked the sacred drawer.’