"Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Bessie's lover, Basil Underwood, is sentenced to be executed at the ringing of the curfew. To save the lover's life, Bessie goes to the sexton and pleads with him not to ring, but the latter, faithful to the duty that he has performed for many years, cannot be dissuaded. Seeing her only recourse, the heroine climbs the stairs of the bell tower. Just as the bell is about to sound, she leaps, grasps the clapper of the bell, and clings to it to keep it silent. The sexton, who is deaf, does not realize that no sound is coming from the bell. When the bell stops swinging, Bessie descends and goes to meet the approaching Cromwell, who, on hearing the girl's tale and seeing her bruised hands, says, "Go, your lover lives!" In the second stanza Bessie pleads with the old sexton:

"Sexton," Bessie's white lips faltered, pointing to the prison old,
With its turrets tall and gloomy, with its walls, dark, damp and cold–
"I've a lover in the prison, doomed this very night to die
At the ringing of the curfew, and no earthly help is nigh.
Cromwell will not come till sunset"; and her face grew strangely white
As she breathed the husky whisper, "Curfew must not ring tonight!"