He wandered along old Codshill Street,
Quite late on that Christmas Eve,
And scanned the used haberdashery
Society ladies would leave,
The hats they’d worn, but only the once,
The boots with barely a scuff,
The poplin prints they hadn’t worn since,
A single dance was enough.
He stood outside in his working boots
The ones he wore at the mill,
He hadn’t had time to change himself
He should have been working still.
But in his pocket he clutched the pound
He’d saved for many a day,
He’d squirrelled each shilling away for months
Out of his meagre pay.
And all he could see was Mirabelle,
Who lodged at his heart and eye,
She worked upstairs in the counting room
Above where the shuttles fly,
And he would glimpse her once in a while
Pottering to and fro,
Dressed in a worn and paltry frock
Where the stitching was letting go.
He’d wait outside, and follow her home
To see she was safe and sound,
The rogues that he’d meet in Codshill Street
Would keep their eyes on the ground.
While she was aware of his loving gaze
And sometimes gave him a smile,
Others were bold in their loving ways
And pressed their court for a while.
And so it was on this Christmas Eve
That a Squire had stood at her door,
With a string of pearls you wouldn’t believe
He’d bought in a jeweller’s store,
And she was flushed as she let him in,
So pleased to have such a gift,
For she was only a working girl
And his interest gave her a lift.
But there in the haberdashery
In a window, stood at the side,
Was standing a model, dressed entire
In a gown so fine, he’d cried.
He thought he could see his Mirabelle
In place of the mannequin,
In the gown of grey crushed velvet, so
In a moment then, went in.
‘You know that the gown is second-hand,’
The girl explained to his stare,
‘Here are a couple of tiny stains,
And there is a little tear.
But this, that once cost a hundred pounds
Is a bargain now for a cause,
If you can give me a single pound
This lovely gown can be yours.’
She placed the gown in a long flat box,
And tied a ribbon around,
Then he flew out to his Mirabelle
In hopes she still could be found.
He saw the pearls were around her neck
When she had opened the door,
But once she pulled out the gown, she checked,
And dropped the pearls on the floor.
Her kiss was sweet on that Christmas Eve,
Though he had showed her the stains,
The tears she shed on that gorgeous thread
He said, were like summer rains,
She had no time for the wealthy Squire,
She’d waited for him all along,
Her greatest gift was a second-hand gown
With the love that the gown came from.
David Lewis Paget