() (Thomas Hardy)

Squire Hooper

Hooper was ninety. One September dawn
He sent a messenger
For his physician, who asked thereupon
What ailed the sufferer
Which he might circumvent, and promptly bid begone.

Doctor, I summoned you, the squire replied 
Pooh-pooh me though you may 
To ask whats happened to me  burst inside,
It seems  not much, Id say 
But awkward with a house-full here for a shoot to-day.

And he described the symptoms. With bent head
The listener looked grave.
Hm. . . . Youre a dead man in six hours, he said. 
I speak out, since you are brave 
And best tis you should know, that last things may be sped.

Right, said the squire. And now comes  what to do?
One thing: on no account
Must I now spoil the sport Ive asked them to 
My guests are paramount 
They must scour scrub and stubble; and big bags bring as due.

He downed to breakfast, and bespoke his guests: 
I find I have to go
An unexpected journey, and it rests
With you, my friends, to show
The shoot can go off gaily, whether Im there or no.

Thus blandly spoke he; and to the fields they went,
And Hooper up the stair.
They had a glorious day; and stiff and spent
Returned as dusk drew near. 
Gentlemen, said the doctor, hes not back as meant,

To his deep regret!  So they took leave, each guest
Observing: I dare say
Business detains him in the town: tis best
We should no longer stay
Just now. Well come again anon; and they went their way.

Meeting two men in the obscurity
Shouldering a box a thin
Cloth-covering wrapt, one sportsman cried: Damn me,
I thought them carrying in,
At first, a coffin; till I knew it could not be.

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