In Germany there lived an earl
Who had a charming niece:
And never gave the timid girl
A single moment's peace!
Whatever low and menial task
His fancy flitted through,
He did not hesitate to ask
That shrinking child to do.
(I see with truly honest shame you
Are blushing, and I do not blame you.
A tale like this the feelings softens,
And brings the tears, as does "Two Orphans.")
She had to wash the windows, and
She had to scrub the floors,
She had to lend a willing hand
To fifty other chores:
She gave the dog his exercise,
She read the earl the news,
She ironed all his evening ties,
And polished all his shoes,
She cleaned the tins that filled the dairy,
She cut the claws of the canary,
And then, at night, with manner winsome,
When coal was wanted, carried in some!
But though these tasks were quite enough,
He thought them all too few,
And so her uncle, rude and rough,
Invented something new.
He took her to a little room,
Her willingness to tax,
And pointed out a broken loom
And half a ton of flax,
Observing: "Spin six pairs of trousers!"
His haughty manner seemed to rouse hers.
She met his scornful glances proudly--
But when the earl went down the stair
She yielded to her fears.
Gave way at last to grim despair,
And melted into tears:
When suddenly, from out the wall,
As if he felt at home,
There pounced a singularly small
And much distorted gnome.
He smiled a smile extremely vapid,
And set to work in fashion rapid;
No time for resting he deducted,
And soon the trousers were constructed.
The girl observed: "How very nice
To help me out this way!"
The gnome replied: "A certain price
Of course you'll have to pay.
I'll call to-morrow afternoon,
My due reward to claim,
And then you'll sing another tune
Unless you guess my name!"
He indicated with a gesture
The pile of newly fashioned vesture:
His eyes on hers a moment centered,
And then he went, as he had entered.
As by this tale you have been grieved
And heartily distressed,
Kind sir, you will be much relieved
To know his name she guessed:
But if I do not tell the same,
Pray count it not a crime:--
I've tried my best, and for that name
I can't find any rhyme!
Yet spare me from remarks injurious:
I will not leave you foiled and furious.
If something must proclaim the answer,
And I cannot, the title can, sir!
The Moral is: All said and done,
There's nothing new beneath the sun,
And many times before, a title
Was incapacity's requital!