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´╗┐Title: Bitter-Sweet: A Poem
Author: Holland, J. G. (Josiah Gilbert)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bitter-Sweet: A Poem" ***

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BITTER-SWEET

A Poem

By J. G. HOLLAND



CONTENTS.

       *       *       *       *       *

PICTURE

PERSONS

PRELUDE

FIRST MOVEMENT--COLLOQUIAL.

The Question Stated and Argued

FIRST EPISODE.

The Question Illustrated by Nature

SECOND MOVEMENT--NARRATIVE.

The Question Illustrated by Experience

SECOND EPISODE.

The Question Illustrated by Story

THIRD MOVEMENT--DRAMATIC.

The Question Illustrated by the Denouement

L'ENVOY



PICTURE.


  Winter's wild birthnight! In the fretful East
  The uneasy wind moans with its sense of cold,
  And sends its sighs through gloomy mountain gorge,
  Along the valley, up the whitening hill,
  To tease the sighing spirits of the pines,
  And waste in dismal woods their chilly life.
  The sky is dark, and on the huddled leaves--
  The restless, rustling leaves--sifts down its sleet,
  Till the sharp crystals pin them to the earth,
  And they grow still beneath the rising storm.
  The roofless bullock hugs the sheltering stack,
  With cringing head and closely gathered feet,
  And waits with dumb endurance for the morn.
  Deep in a gusty cavern of the barn
  The witless calf stands blatant at his chain;
  While the brute mother, pent within her stall,
  With the wild stress of instinct goes distraught,
  And frets her horns, and bellows through the night.
  The stream runs black; and the far waterfall
  That sang so sweetly through the summer eyes,
  And swelled and swayed to Zephyr's softest breath,
  Leaps with a sullen roar the dark abyss,
  And howls its hoarse responses to the wind.
  The mill is still. The distant factory,
  That swarmed yestreen with many-fingered life,
  And bridged the river with a hundred bars
  Of molten light, is dark, and lifts its bulk,
  With dim, uncertain angles, to the sky.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Yet lower bows the storm. The leafless trees
  Lash their lithe limbs, and, with majestic voice,
  Call to each other through the deepening gloom;
  And slender trunks that lean on burly boughs
  Shriek with the sharp abrasion; and the oak,
  Mellowed in fiber by unnumbered frosts,
  Yields to the shoulder of the Titan Blast,
  Forsakes its poise, and, with a booming crash,
  Sweeps a fierce passage to the smothered rocks,
  And lies a shattered ruin.

       *       *       *       *       *

                                Other scene:--
  Across the swale, half up the pine-capped hill,
  Stands the old farmhouse with its clump of barns--
  The old red farmhouse--dim and dun to-night,
  Save where the ruddy firelights from the hearth
  Flap their bright wings against the window panes,--
  A billowy swarm that beat their slender bars,
  Or seek the night to leave their track of flame
  Upon the sleet, or sit, with shifting feet
  And restless plumes, among the poplar boughs--
  The spectral poplars, standing at the gate.

  And now a man, erect, and tall, and strong,
  Whose thin white hair, and cheeks of furrowed bronze,
  And ancient dress, betray the patriarch,
  Stands at the window, listening to the storm;
  And as the fire leaps with a wilder flame--
  Moved by the wind--it wraps and glorifies
  His stalwart frame, until it flares and glows
  Like the old prophets, in transfigured guise,
  That shape the sunset for cathedral aisles.
  And now it passes, and a sweeter shape
  Stands in its place. O blest maternity!
  Hushed on her bosom, in a light embrace,
  Her baby sleeps, wrapped in its long white robe;
  And as the flame, with soft, auroral sweeps,
  Illuminates the pair, how like they seem,
  O Virgin Mother! to thyself and thine!
  Now Samuel comes with curls of burning gold
  To hearken to the voice of God without:
  "Speak, mighty One! Thy little servant hears!"
  And Miriam, maiden, from her household cares
  Comes to the window in her loosened robe,--
  Comes with the blazing timbrels in her hand,--
  And, as the noise of winds and waters swells,
  It shapes the song of triumph to her lips:
  "The horse and he who rode are overthrown!"
  And now a man of noble port and brow,
  And aspect of benignant majesty,
  Assumes the vacant niche, while either side
  Press the fair forms of children, and I hear:
  "Suffer the little ones to come to me!"



PERSONS.


  Here dwells the good old farmer, Israel,
  In his ancestral home--a Puritan
  Who reads his Bible daily, loves his God,
  And lives serenely in the faith of Christ.
  For threescore years and ten his life has run
  Through varied scenes of happiness and woe;
  But, constant through the wide vicissitude,
  He has confessed the Giver of his joys,
  And kissed the hand that took them; and whene'er
  Bereavement has oppressed his soul with grief,
  Or sharp misfortune stung his heart with pain,
  He has bowed down in childlike faith, and said,
  "Thy will, O God--Thy will be done, not mine!"
  His gentle wife, a dozen summers since,
  Passed from his faithful arms and went to heaven;
  And her best gift--a maiden sweetly named--
  His daughter Ruth--orders the ancient house,
  And fills her mother's place beside the board,
  And cheers his life with songs and industry.
  But who are these who crowd the house to-night--
  A happy throng? Wayfaring pilgrims, who,
  Grateful for shelter, charm the golden hours
  With the sweet jargon of a festival?
  Who are these fathers? who these mothers? who
  These pleasant children, rude with health and joy?

  It is the Puritan's Thanksgiving Eve;
  And gathered home, from fresher homes around,
  The old man's children keep the holiday--
  In dear New England, since the fathers slept--
  The sweetest holiday of all the year.
  John comes with Prudence and her little girls,
  And Peter, matched with Patience, brings his boys--
  Fair boys and girls with good old Scripture names--
  Joseph, Rebekah, Paul, and Samuel;
  And Grace, young Ruth's companion in the house,
  Till wrested from her last Thanksgiving Day
  By the strong hand of Love, brings home her babe
  And the tall poet David, at whose side
  She went away. And seated in the midst,
  Mary, a foster-daughter of the house,
  Of alien blood--self-aliened many a year--
  Whose chastened face and melancholy eyes
  Bring all the wondering children to her knee,
  Weeps with the strange excess of happiness,
  And sighs with joy.
                     What recks the driving storm
  Of such a scene as this? And what reck these
  Of such a storm? For every heavy gust
  That smites the windows with its cloud of sleet,
  And shakes the sashes with its ghostly hands,
  And rocks the mansion till the chimney's throat
  Through all its sooty caverns shrieks and howls,
  They give full bursts of careless merriment,
  Or songs that send it baffled on its way.



PRELUDE.


  Doubt takes to wings on such a night as this;
  And while the traveler hugs her fluttering cloak,
  And staggers o'er the weary waste alone,
  Beneath a pitiless heaven, they flap his face,
  And wheel above, or hunt his fainting soul,
  As, with relentless greed, a vulture throng,
  With their lank shadows mock the glazing eyes
  Of the last camel of the caravan.
  And Faith takes forms and wings on such a night.
  Where love burns brightly at the household hearth,
  And from the altar of each peaceful heart
  Ascends the fragrant incense of its thanks,
  And every pulse with sympathetic throb
  Tells the true rhythm of trustfulest content,
  They flutter in and out, and touch to smiles
  The sleeping lips of infancy; and fan
  The blush that lights the modest maiden's cheeks;
  And toss the locks of children at their play.

  Silence is vocal if we listen well;
  And Life and Being sing in dullest ears
  From morn to night, from night to morn again,
  With fine articulations; but when God
  Disturbs the soul with terror, or inspires
  With a great joy, the words of Doubt and Faith
  Sound quick and sharp like drops on forest leaves;
  And we look up to where the pleasant sky
  Kisses the thunder-caps, and drink the song.



A SONG OF DOUBT.


  The day is quenched, and the sun is fled;
    God has forgotten the world!
  The moon is gone, and the stars are dead;
    God has forgotten the world!

  Evil has won in the horrid feud
    Of ages with The Throne;
  Evil stands on the neck of Good,
    And rules the world alone.

  There is no good; there is no God;
    And Faith is a heartless cheat
  Who bares the back for the Devil's rod,
    And scatters thorns for the feet.

  What are prayers in the lips of death,
    Filling and chilling with hail?
  What are prayers but wasted breath
    Beaten back by the gale?

  The day is quenched, and the sun is fled;
    God has forgotten the world!
  The moon is gone and the stars are dead;
    God has forgotten the world!



A SONG OF FAITH.


  Day will return with a fresher boon;
    God will remember the world!
  Night will come with a newer moon;
    God will remember the world!

  Evil is only the slave of Good;
    Sorrow the servant of Joy;
  And the soul is mad that refuses food
    Of the meanest in God's employ.

  The fountain of joy is fed by tears,
    And love is lit by the breath of sighs;
  The deepest griefs and the wildest fears
    Have holiest ministries.

  Strong grows the oak in the sweeping storm;
    Safely the flower sleeps under the snow;
  And the farmer's hearth is never warm
    Till the cold wind starts to blow.

  Day will return with a fresher boon;
    God will remember the world!
  Night will come with a newer moon;
    God will remember the world!



FIRST MOVEMENT.

LOCALITY--_The square room of a New England farmhouse_.

PRESENT--ISRAEL, _head of the family_; JOHN,
PETER, DAVID, PATIENCE, PRUDENCE, GRACE,
MARY, RUTH, _and_ CHILDREN.

THE QUESTION STATED AND ARGUED.


_Israel_.

  Ruth, touch the cradle. Boys, you must be still!
  The baby cannot sleep in such a noise.
  Nay, Grace, stir not; she'll soothe him soon enough,
  And tell him more sweet stuff in half an hour
  Than you can dream, in dreaming half a year.

_Ruth_.
                       [_Kneeling and rocking the cradle_.]

  What is the little one thinking about?
  Very wonderful things, no doubt.
    Unwritten history!
    Unfathomed mystery!
  Yet he laughs and cries, and eats and drinks,
  And chuckles and crows, and nods and winks,
  As if his head were as full of kinks
  And curious riddles as any sphinx!
    Warped by colic, and wet by tears,
    Punctured by pins, and tortured by fears,
    Our little nephew will lose two years;
      And he'll never know
      Where the summers go;--
    He need not laugh, for he'll find it so!

  Who can tell what a baby thinks?
  Who can follow the gossamer links
    By which the manikin feels his way
  Out from the shore of the great unknown,
  Blind, and wailing, and alone,
    Into the light of day?--
  Out from the shore of the unknown sea,
  Tossing in pitiful agony,--
  Of the unknown sea that reels and rolls,
  Specked with the barks of little souls--
  Barks that were launched on the other side,
  And slipped from Heaven on an ebbing tide!
    What does he think of his mother's eyes?
  What does he think of his mother's hair?
    What of the cradle-roof that flies
  Forward and backward through the air?
    What does he thinks of his mother's breast--
  Bare and beautiful, smooth and white,
  Seeking it ever with fresh delight--
    Cup of his life and couch of his rest?
  What does he think when her quick embrace
  Presses his hand and buries his face
  Deep where the heart-throbs sink and swell
  With a tenderness she can never tell,
    Though she murmur the words
    Of all the birds--
  Words she has learned to murmur well?
    Now he thinks he'll go to sleep!
    I can see the shadow creep
    Over his eyes, in soft eclipse,
    Over his brow, and over his lips,
    Out to his little finger-tips!
    Softly sinking, down he goes!
    Down he goes! Down he goes!

           [_Rising and carefully retreating to her seat_.]

    See! He is hushed in sweet repose!

_David_.
                                               [_Yawning_.]

  Behold a miracle! Music transformed
  To morphine, and the drowsy god invoked
  By the poor prattle of a maiden's tongue!
  A moment more, and we should all have gone
  Down into dreamland with the babe! Ah, well!
  There is no end of wonders.

_Ruth_.
                             None, indeed!
  When lazy poets who have gorged themselves,
  And cannot keep awake, make the attempt
  To shift the burden of their drowsiness,
  And charge a girl with what they owe to greed.

_David_.

  At your old tricks again! No sleep induced
  By song of yours, or any other bird's,
  Can linger long when you begin to talk.
  Grace, box your sister's ears for me, and save
  The trouble of my rising.

_Ruth_.

           [_Advancing and kneeling by the side of Grace_.]

                                  Sister mine.
  Now give the proof of your obedience
  To your imperious lord! Strike, if you dare!
  I'll wake your baby if you lift your hand.
  Ha! king; ha! poet; who is master now--
  Baby or husband? Pr'ythee, tell me that.
  Were I a man,--thank Heaven I am not!--
  And had a wife who cared not for my will
  More than your wife for yours, I'd hang myself,
  Or wear an [***]. See! she kisses me!

_David_.

  And answers to my will, though well she knows
  I'll spare to her so terrible a task,
  And take the awful burden on myself;
  Which I will do, in future, if she please!

_Ruth_.

  Now have you conquered! Look! I am your slave.
  Denounce me, scourge me, anything but kiss;
  For life is sweet, and I alone am left
  To comfort an old man.

_Israel_.
                    Ruth, that will do!
  Remember I'm a Justice of the Peace,
  And bide no quarrels; and if you and David
  Persist in strife, I'll place you under bonds
  For good behavior, or condemn you both
  To solitary durance for the night.

_Ruth_.

  Father, you fail to understand the case,
  And do me wrong. David has threatened me
  With an assault that proves intent to kill;
  And here's my sister Grace, his wedded wife,
  Who'll take her oath, that just a year ago
  He entered into bonds to keep the peace
  Toward me and womankind.

_David_.

                         I'm quite asleep.

_Israel_.

  We'll all agree, then, to pronounce it quits.

_Ruth_.

  Till he awake again, of course. I trust
  I have sufficient gallantry to grant
  A nap between encounters, to a foe
  With odds against him.

_Israel_.

              Peace, my daughter, peace!
  You've had your full revenge, and we have had
  Enough of laughter since the day began.
  We must not squander all these precious hours
  In jest and merriment; for when the sun
  Shall rise to-morrow, we shall separate,
  Not knowing we shall ever meet again.
  Meetings like this are rare this side of Heaven,
  And seem to me the best mementoes left
  Of Eden's hours.

_Grace_.

                  Most certainly the best,
  And quite the rarest, but, unluckily,
  The weakest, as we know; for sin and pain
  And evils multiform, that swarm the earth,
  And poison all our joys and all our hearts,
  Remind us most of Eden's forfeit bliss.

_David_.

  Forfeit through woman.

_Grace_.

                 Forfeit through her power;--
A power not lost, as most men know, I think,
Beyond the knowledge of their trustful wives.

_Mary_.

           [_Rising, and walking hurriedly to the window_.]

  'Tis a wild night without.

_Ruth_.

                        And getting wild
  Within. Now, Grace, I--all of us--protest
  Against a scene to-night. Look! You have driven
  One to the window blushing, and your lord,
  With lowering brow, is making stern essay
  To stare the fire-dogs out of countenance.
  These honest brothers, with their honest wives,
  Grow glum and solemn, too, as if they feared
  At the next gust to see the windows burst,
  Or a riven poplar crashing through the roof.
  And think of me!--a simple-hearted maid
  Who learned from Cowper only yesterday
  (Or a schoolmaster, with a handsome face,
  And a strange passion for the text), the fact,
  That wedded bliss alone survives the fall.
  I'm shocked; I'm frightened; and I'll never wed
  Unless I--change my mind!

_Israel_.

                          And I consent.

_David_.

  And the schoolmaster with the handsome face
  Propose.

_Ruth_.

         Your pardon, father, for the jest!
  But I have never patience with the ills
  That make intrusion on my happy hours.
  I know the world is full of evil things,
  And shudder with the consciousness. I know
  That care has iron crowns for many brows;
  That Calvaries are everywhere, whereon
  Virtue is crucified, and nails and spears
  Draw guiltless blood; that sorrow sits and drinks
  At sweetest hearts, till all their life is dry;
  That gentle spirits on the rack of pain
  Grow faint or fierce, and pray and curse by turns;
  That Hell's temptations, clad in Heavenly guise
  And armed with might, lie evermore in wait
  Along life's path, giving assault to all--
  Fatal to most; that Death stalks through the earth,
  Choosing his victims, sparing none at last;
  That in each shadow of a pleasant tree
  A grief sits sadly sobbing to its leaves;
  And that beside each fearful soul there walks
  The dim, gaunt phantom of uncertainty,
  Bidding it look before, where none may see,
  And all must go; but I forget it all--
  I thrust it from me always when I may;
  Else I should faint with fear, or drown myself
  In pity. God forgive me! but I've thought
  A thousand times that if I had His power.
  Or He my love, we'd have a different world
  From this we live in.

_Israel_.

                 Those are sinful thoughts,
  My daughter, and too surely indicate
  A willful soul, unreconciled to God.

_Ruth_.

  So you have told me often. You have said
  That God is just, and I have looked around
  To seek the proof in human lot, in vain.
  The rain falls kindly on the just man's fields,
  But on the unjust man's more kindly still;
  And I have never known the winter's blast,
  Or the quick lightning, or the pestilence,
  Make nice discriminations when let slip
  From God's right hand.

_Israel_.

                      'Tis a great mystery;
  Yet God is just, and,--blessed be His name!--
  Is loving too. I know that I am weak,
  And that the pathway of His Providence
  Is on the hills where I may never climb.
  Therefore my reason yields her hand to Faith,
  And follows meekly where the angel leads.
  I see the rich man have his portion here,
  And Lazarus, in glorified repose,
  Sleep like a jewel on the breast of Faith
  In Heaven's broad light. I see that whom God loves
  He chastens sorely, but I ask not why.
  I only know that God is just and good:
  All else is mystery. Why evil lives
  Within His universe, I may not know.
  I know it lives, and taints the vital air;
  And that in ways inscrutable to me--
  Yet compromising not His soundless love
  And boundless power--it lives against His will.

_Ruth_.

  I am not satisfied. If evil live
  Against God's will, evil is king of all,
  And they do well who worship Lucifer.
  I am not satisfied. My reason spurns
  Such prostitution to absurdities.
  I know that you are happy; but I shrink
  From your blind faith with loathing and with fear.
  And feel that I must win it, if I win,
  With the surrender, not of will alone,
  But of the noblest faculty that God
  Has crowned me with.

_Israel_.

                O blind and stubborn child!
  My light, my joy, my burden and my grief!
  How would I lead you to the wells of peace,
  And see you dip your fevered palms and drink!
  Gladly to purchase this would I lay down
  The precious remnant of my life, and sleep,
  Wrapped in the faith you spurn, till the archangel
  Sounds the last trump. But God's good will be done!
  I leave you with Him.

_Ruth_.

                   Father, talk not thus!
  Oh, do not blame me! I would do it all,
  If but to bless you with a single joy;
  But I am helpless.

_Israel_.

                 God will help you, Ruth.

_Ruth_.

  To quench my reason? Can I ask the boon?
  My lips would blister with the blasphemy.
  I cannot take your faith; and that is why
  I would forget that I am in a world
  Where evil lives, and why I guard my joys
  With such a jealous care.

_David_.

                    There, Ruth, sit down!
  'Tis the old question, with the old reply.
  You fly along the path, with bleeding feet,
  Where many feet have flown and bled before;
  And he who seeks to guide you to the goal
  Has (let me say it, father) stopped far short,
  And taken refuge at a wayside inn,
  Whose haunted halls and mazy passages
  Receive no light, save through the riddled roof,
  Pierced thick by pilgrim staves, that Faith may lie
  Upon its back, and only gaze on Heaven.
  I would not banish evil if I could;
  Nor would I be so deep in love with joy
  As to seek for it in forgetfulness,
  Through faith or fear.

_Ruth_.

                  Teach me the better way,
  And every expiration from my lips
  Shall be a grateful blessing on your head;
  And in the coming world I'll seek the side
  Of no more gracious angel than the man
  Who gives me brotherhood by leading me
  Home with himself to heaven.

_Israel_.

                                 My son,
  Be careful of your words! 'Tis no light thing
  To take the guidance of a straying soul.

_David_.

  I mark the burden well, and love it, too,
  Because I love the girl and love her Lord,
  And seek to vindicate His love to her
  And waken hers for Him. Be this my plea:
  God is almighty--all-benevolent;
  And naught exists save by His loving will.
  Evil, or what we reckon such, exists,
  And not against His will; else the Supreme
  Is subject, and we have in place of God
  A phantom nothing, with a phantom name.
  Therefore I care not whether He ordain
  That evil live, or whether He permit;
  Therefore I ask not why, in either case,
  As if He meant to curse me, but I ask
  What He would have this evil do for me?
  What is its mission? what its ministry?
  What golden fruit lies hidden in its husk?
  How shall it nurse my virtue, nerve my will,
  Chasten my passions, purify my love,
  And make me in some goodly sense like Him
  Who bore the cross of evil while He lived,
  Who hung and bled upon it when He died,
  And now, in glory, wears the victor's crown?

_Israel_.

  If evil, then, have privilege and part
  In the economy of holiness,
  Why came the Christ to save us from its power,
  And bring us restoration of the bliss
  Lost in the lapse of Eden?

_David_.
                             And would you
  Or Ruth 'have restoration of that bliss,
  And welcome transplantation to the state
  Associate with it?

_Ruth_.

                     Would I? Would I not!
  Oh, I have dreamed of it a thousand times,
  Sleeping and waking, since the torch of thought
  Flashed into flame at Revelation's touch,
  And filled my spirit with its quenchless fire.
  Most envious dreams of innocence and joy
  Have haunted me,--dreams that were born in sin,
  Yet swathed in stainless snow. I've dreamed, and dreamed,
  Of wondrous trees, crowned with perennial green,
  Whose soft still shadows gleamed with golden lamps
  Of pensile fruitage, or were flushed with life
  Radiant and tuneful when broad flocks of birds
  Swept in and out like sheets of living flame.
  I've dreamed of aisles tufted with velvet grass,
  And bordered with the strange intelligence
  Of myriad loving eyes among the flowers,
  That watched me with a curious, calm delight,
  As rows of wayside cherubim may watch
  A new soul, walking into Paradise.
  I've dreamed of sunsets when the sun supine
  Lay rocking on the ocean like a god,
  And threw his weary arms far up the sky,
  And with vermilion-tinted fingers toyed
  With the long tresses of the evening star.
  I've dreamed of dreams more beautiful than all--
  Dreams that were music, perfume, vision, bliss,--
  Blent and sublimed, till I have stood inwrapped
  In the thick essence of an atmosphere
  That made me tremble to unclose my eyes
  Lest I should look on God. And I have dreamed
  Of sinless men and maids, mated in heaven,
  Ere yet their souls had sought for beauteous forms
  To give them human sense and residence,
  Moving through all this realm of choice delights
  For ever and for aye; with hands and hearts
  Immaculate as light; without a thought
  Of evil, and without a name for fear.
  Oh, when I wake from happy dreams like these,
  To the old consciousness that I must die,
  To the old presence of a guilty heart,
  To the old fear that haunts me night and day,
  Why should I not deplore the graceless fall
  That makes me what I am, and shuts me out
  From a condition and society
  As much above a sinful maiden's dreams
  As Eden blest surpasses Eden curst?

_David_.

  So you would be another Eve, and so--
  Fall with the first temptation, like herself!
  God seeks for virtue; you for innocence.
  You'll find it in the cradle--nowhere else--
  Save in your dreams, among the grown-up babes
  That dwelt in Eden--powerless, pulpy souls
  That showed a dimple for each touch of sin.
  God seeks for virtue, and, that it may live,
  It must resist, and that which it resists
  Must live. Believe me, God has other thought
  Than restoration of our fallen race
  To its primeval innocence and bliss.
  If Jesus Christ--as we are taught--was slain
  From the foundation of the world, it was
  Because our evil lived in essence then--
  Coeval with the great, mysterious fact.
  And He was slain that we might be transformed,--
  Not into Adam's sweet similitude--
  But the more glorious image of Himself,
  A resolution of our destiny
  As high transcending Eden's life and lot
  As He surpasses Eden's fallen lord.

_Ruth_.

  You're very bold, my brother, very bold.
  Did I not know you for an earnest man,
  When sacred themes move you to utterance,
  I'd chide you for those most irreverent words
  Which make essential to the Christian scheme
  That which the scheme was made to kill, or cure.

_David_.

  Yet they do save some very awkward words,
  That limp to make apology for God,
  And, while they justify Him, half confess
  The adverse verdict of appearances.
  I am ashamed that in this Christian age
  The pious throng still hug the fallacy
  That this dear world of ours was not ordained
  The theater of evil; for no law
  Declared of God from all eternity
  Can live a moment save by lease of pain.
  Law cannot live, e'en in God's inmost thought,
  Save by the side of evil. What were law
  But a weak jest without its penalty?
  Never a law was born that did not fly
  Forth from the bosom of Omnipotence
  Matched, wing-and-wing, with evil and with good,
  Avenger and rewarder--both of God.

_Ruth_.

  I face your thought and give it audience;
  But I cannot embrace it till it come
  With some of truth's credentials in its hands--
  The fruits of gracious ministries.

_David_.

                                Does he
  Who, driven to labor by the threatening weeds,
  And forced to give his acres light and air
  And traps for dew and reservoirs for rain,
  Till, in the smoky light of harvest time,
  The ragged husks reveal the golden corn,
  Ask truth's credentials of the weeds? Does he
  Who prunes the orchard boughs, or tills the field,
  Or fells the forests, or pursues their prey,
  Until the gnarly muscles of his limbs
  And the free blood that thrills in all his veins
  Betray the health that toil alone secures,
  Ask truth's credentials at the hand of toil?
  Do you ask truth's credentials of the storm
  Which, while we entertain communion here,
  Makes better music for our huddling hearts
  Than choirs of stars can sing in fairest nights?
  Yet weeds are evils--evils toil and storm.
  We may suspect the fair, smooth face of good;
  But evil, that assails us undisguised,
  Bears evermore God's warrant in its hands.

_Israel_.

  I fear these silver sophistries of yours.
  If my poor judgment gives them honest weight,
  Far less than thirty will betray your Lord.
  You call that evil which is good, and good
  That which is evil. You apologize
  For that which God must hate, and justify
  The life and perpetuity of that
  Which sets itself against His holiness,
  And sends its discords through the universe.

_David_.

  I sorrow if I shock you, for I seek
  To comfort and inspire. I see around
  A silent company of doubtful souls;
  But I may challenge any one of them
  To quote the meanest blessing of its life,
  And prove that evil did not make the gift,
  Or bear it from the giver to its hands.
  The great salvation wrought by Jesus Christ--
  That sank an Adam to reveal a God--
  Had never come, but at the call of sin.
  No risen Lord could eat the feast of love
  Here on the earth, or yonder in the sky,
  Had He not lain within the sepulcher.
  'Tis not the lightly laden heart of man
  That loves the best the hand that blesses all;
  But that which, groaning with its weight of sin,
  Meets with the mercy that forgiveth much.
  God never fails in an experiment,
  Nor tries experiment upon a race
  But to educe its highest style of life,
  And sublimate its issues. Thus to me
  Evil is not a mystery, but a means
  Selected from the infinite resource
  To make the most of me.

_Ruth_.

                      Thank God for light!
  These truths are slowly dawning on my soul,
  And take position in the firmament
  That spans my thought, like stars that know their place.
  Dear Lord! what visions crowd before my eyes--
  Visions drawn forth from memory's mysteries
  By the sweet shining of these holy lights!
  I see a girl, once lightest in the dance,
  And maddest with the gayety of life,
  Grow pale and pulseless, wasting day by day,
  While death lies idly dreaming in her breast,
  Blighting her breath, and poisoning her blood.
  I see her frantic with a fearful thought
  That haunts and horrifies her shrinking soul,
  And bursts in sighs and sobs and feverish prayers;
  And now, at last, the awful struggle ends,
  A sweet smile sits upon her angel face,
  And peace, with downy bosom, nestles close
  Where her worn heart throbs faintly; closer still
  As the death shadows gather; closer still,
  As, on white wings, the outward-going soul
  Flies to a home it never would have sought,
  Had a great evil failed to point the way.
  I see a youth whom God has crowned with power,
  And cursed with poverty. With bravest heart
  He struggles with his lot, through toilsome years,--
  Kept to his task by daily want of bread,
  And kept to virtue by his daily task,--
  Till, gaining manhood in the manly strife,--
  The fire that fills him smitten from a flint--
  The strength that arms him wrested from a fiend--
  He stands, at last, a master of himself,
  And, in that grace, a master of his kind.

_David_.

  Familiar visions these, but ever full
  Of inspiration and significance.
  Now that your eyes are opened and you see,
  Your heart should take swift cognizance, and feel.
  How do these visions move you?

_Ruth_.

                             Like the hand
  Of a strong angel on my shoulder laid,
  Touching the secret of the spirit's wings.
  My heart grows brave. I'm ready now to work--
  To work with God, and suffer with His Christ;
  Adopt His measures, and abide His means.
  If, in the law that spans the universe
  (The law its maker may not disobey),
  Virtue may only grow from innocence
  Through a great struggle with opposing ill;
  If I must win my way to perfectness
  In the sad path of suffering, like Him
  The over-flowing river of whose life
  Touches the flood-mark of humanity
  On the white pillars of the heavenly throne,
  Then welcome evil! Welcome sickness, toil,
  Sorrow and pain, the fear and fact of death.

_Israel_

  And welcome sin?

_Ruth_.

                     Ah, David! welcome sin?

_David_.

  The fact of sin--so much;--it must needs be
  Offenses come; if woe to him by whom,
  Then with good reason; but the fact of sin
  Unlocked the door to highest destiny,
  That Christ might enter in and lead the way.
  God loves not sin, nor I; but in the throng
  Of evils that assail us, there are none
  That yield their strength to Virtue's struggling arm
  With such munificent reward of power
  As great temptations. We may win by toil
  Endurance; saintly fortitude by pain;
  By sickness, patience; faith and trust by fear;
  But the great stimulus that spurs to life,
  And crowds to generous development
  Each chastened power and passion of the soul,
  Is the temptation of the soul to sin,
  Resisted, and re-conquered, evermore.

_Ruth_.

  I am content; and now that I have caught
  Bright glimpses of the outlines of your scheme,
  As of a landscape, graded to the sky,
  And seen through trees while passing, I desire
  No vision further till I make survey
  In some good time when I may come alone,
  And drink its beauty and its blessedness.
  I've been forgetful in my earnestness,
  And wearied everyone with talk. These boys
  Are restive grown, or nodding in their chairs,
  And older heads are set, as if for sleep.
  I beg their pardon for my theft of time,
  And will offend no more.

_David_.

                        Ruth, is it right
  To leave a brother in such a plight as this--
  Either to imitate your courtesy,
  Or by your act to be adjudged a boor?

_Ruth_.

  Heaven grant you never note a sin of mine
  Save of your own construction!

_Israel_.

                                Let it pass!
  I see the spell of thoughtfulness is gone,
  Or going swiftly. I will not complain;
  But ere these lads are fastened to their games,
  And thoughts arise discordant with our theme,
  Let us with gratitude approach the throne
  And worship God. I wish once more to lead
  Your hearts in prayer, and follow with my own
  The leading of your song of thankfulness.
  Then will I lease and leave you for the night
  To such divertisement as suits the time,
  And meets your humor.

                  [_They all arise and the old man prays_.]

_Ruth_.

                                         [_After a pause_.]

                    David, let us see
  Whether your memory prove as true as mine.
  Do you recall the promise made by you
  This night one year ago,--to write a hymn
  For this occasion?

_David_.

                           I recall, and keep.
  Here are the copies, written fairly out.
  Here,--father, Mary, Ruth, and all the rest;
  There's one for each. Now what shall be the tune?

_Israel_.

  The old One Hundredth--noblest tune of tunes!
  Old tunes are precious to me as old paths
  In which I wandered when a happy boy.
  In truth, they are the old paths of my soul,
  Oft trod, well worn, familiar, up to God.


THE HYMN.

                            [_In which all unite to sing_.]

  For Summer's bloom and Autumn's blight,
    For bending wheat and blasted maize,
  For health and sickness, Lord of light,
    And Lord of darkness, hear our praise!

  We trace to Thee our joys and woes--
    To Thee of causes still the cause,--
  We thank Thee that Thy hand bestows;
    We bless Thee that Thy love withdraws.

  We bring no sorrows to Thy throne;
    We come to Thee with no complaint;
  In Providence Thy will is done,
    And that is sacred to the saint

  Here on this blest Thanksgiving Night;
    We raise to Thee our grateful voice;
  For what Thou doest, Lord, is right;
    And thus believing, we rejoice.


_Grace_.

  A good old tune, indeed, and strongly sung;
  But, in my mind, the man who wrote the hymn
  Had seemed more modest, had he paused a while.
  Ere by a trick he furnished other tongues
  With words he only has the heart to sing.

_David_.

  Oh, Grace! Dear Grace!

_Ruth_.

                    You may well cry for grace,
  If that's the company you have to keep.

_Grace_.

  I thought you convert to his sophistry.
  It makes no difference to him, you know,
  Whether I plague or please.

_Ruth_.

                              It does to you.

_Israel_.

  There, children! No more bitter words like those!
  I do not understand them; they awake
  A sad uneasiness within my heart.
  I found but Christian meaning in the hymn;
  Aye, I could say _amen_ to every line,
  As to the breathings of my own poor prayer.
  But let us talk no more. I'll to my bed.
  Good-night, my children! Happy thoughts be yours
  Till sleep arrive--then happy dreams till dawn!

_All_.

  Father, good-night!

                                        [ISRAEL _retires_.]

_Ruth_.

                    There, little boys and girls--
  Off to the kitchen! Now there's fun for you.
  Play blind-man's-buff until you break your heads;
  And then sit down beside the roaring fire,
  And with wild stories scare yourselves to death.
  We'll all be out there, by and by. Meanwhile,
  I'll try the cellar; and if David, here,
  Will promise good behavior, he shall be
  My candle-bearer, basket-bearer, and--
  But no! The pitcher I will bear myself.
  I'll never trust a pitcher to a man
  Under this house, and--seventy years of age.

                    [_The children rush out of the room with a
                               shout, which wakes the baby_.]

  That noisy little youngster on the floor
  Slept through theology but wakes with mirth--
  Precocious little creature! He must go
  Up to his chamber. Come, Grace, take him off--
  Basket and all. Mary will lend a hand,
  And keep you company until he sleeps.

     [GRACE _and_ MARY _remove the cradle to the chamber,
        and_ DAVID _and_ RUTH retire to the cellar_.]

_John_.

                                     [_Rising and yawning_]

  Isn't she the strangest girl you ever saw?

_Prudence_.

  Queer, rather, I should say. Grace, now, is strange.
  I think she treats her husband shamefully.
  I can't imagine what possesses her,
  Thus to toss taunts at him with every word.
  If in his doctrines there be truth enough,
  He'll be a saint.

_Patience_.

                     If he live long enough.

_John_.

  Well, now I tell you, such wild men as he,--
  Men who have crazy crotchets in their heads,--
  Can't make a woman happy. Don't you see?
  He isn't settled. He has wandered off
  From the old landmarks, and has lost himself
  I may judge wrongly; but if truth were told
  There'd be excuse for Grace, I warrant ye.
  Grace is a right good girl, or was, before
  She married David.

_Patience_.

                      Everybody says
  He makes provision for his family,
  Like a good husband.

_Peter_.

                        We can hardly tell.
  When men get loose in their theology
  The screws are started up in everything.
  Of course, I don't apologize for Grace.
  I think she might have done more prudently
  Than introduce her troubles here to-night,
  But, after all, we do not know the cause
  That stirs her fretfulness.

                              Well, let it go!
  What does the evening's talk amount to? Who
  Is wiser for the wisdom of the hour?
  The good old paths are good enough for me.
  The fathers walked to heaven in them, and we,
  By following mekly where they trod, may reach
  The home they found. There will be mysteries;
  Let those who like, bother their heads with them.
  If Ruth and David seek to fathom all,
  I wish them patience in their bootless quest.
  For one, I'm glad the misty talk is done,
  And we, alone.

_Patience_.

  And I.

_John_.

  I, too.

_Prudence_.

  And I.



FIRST EPISODE.

LOCALITY--_The cellar stair and the cellar_.
PRESENT--DAVID _and_ RUTH.

THE QUESTION ILLUSTRATED BY NATURE.

_Ruth_.

  Look where you step, or you'll stumble!
    Care for your coat, or you'll crock it!
  Down with your crown, man! Be humble!
    Put your head into your pocket,
    Else something or other will knock it.
  Don't hit that jar of cucumbers
    Standing an the broad-stair!
  They have not waked from their slumbers
    Since they stood there.

_David_.

  Yet they have lived in a constant jar!
  What remarkable sleepers they are!

_Ruth_.

  Turn to the left--shun the wall--
  One step more--that is all!
  Now we are safe on the ground,
  I will show you around.

  Sixteen barrels of cider
  Ripening all in a row!
  Open the vent-channels wider!
  See the froth, drifted like snow.
  Blown by the tempest below!
  Those delectable juices
  Flowed through the sinuous sluices
  Of sweet springs under the orchard;
  Climbed into fountains that chained them;
  Dripped into cups that retained them,
  And swelled till they dropped, and we gained them.
  Then they were gathered and tortured
  By passage from hopper to vat,
  And fell-every apple crushed flat.
  Ah! how the bees gathered round them,
  And how delicious they found them!
  Oat-straw, as fragrant as clover,
  Was platted, and smoothly turned over,
  Weaving a neatly ribbed basket;
  And, as they built up the casket,
  In went the pulp by the scoop-full,
  Till the juice flowed by the stoup-full,--
  Filling the half of a puncheon
  While the men swallowed their luncheon.
  Pure grew the stream with the stress
    Of the lever and screw,
  Till the last drops from the press
    Were as bright as the dew.
  There were these juices spilled;
  There were these barrels filled;
  Sixteen barrels of cider--
  Ripening all in a row!
  Open the vent-channels wider!
  See the froth, drifted like snow,
  Blown by the tempest below!

_David_.

  Hearts, like apples, are hard and sour,
  Till crushed by Pain's resistless power;
  And yield their juices rich and bland
  To none but Sorrow's heavy hand.
  The purest streams of human love
    Flow naturally never,
  But gush by pressure from above
    With God's hand on the lever.
  The first are turbidest and meanest;
  The last are sweetest and serenest.

_Ruth_.

  Sermon quite short for the text!
  What shall we hit upon next?
  Lift up the lid of that cask;
    See if the brine be abundant;
  Easy for me were the task
    To make it redundant
  With tears for my beautiful Zephyr--
    Pet of the pasture and stall--
  Whitest and comeliest heifer,
    Gentlest of all!
    Oh, it seemed cruel to slay her!
    But they insulted my prayer
    For her careless and innocent life,
    And the creature was brought to the knife
      With gratitude in her eye;
  For they patted her back, and chafed her head,
  And coaxed her with softest words, as they led
    Her up to the ring to die.
  Do you blame me for crying
  When my Zephyr was dying?
  I shut my room and my ears,
  And opened my heart and my tears,
  And wept for the half of a day;
    And I could not go
    To the rooms below
  Till the butcher went away.

_David_.

  Life evermore is fed by death,
    In earth and sea and sky;
  And, that a rose may breathe its breath,
          Something must die.

  Earth is a sepulcher of flowers,
    Whose vitalizing mold
  Through boundless transmutation towers,
          In green and gold.

  The oak tree, struggling with the blast,
    Devours its father tree,
  And sheds its leaves and drops its mast,
          That more may be.

  The falcon preys upon the finch,
    The finch upon the fly,
  And nought will loose the hunger-pinch
          But death's wild cry.

  The milk-haired heifer's life must pass
    That it may fill your own,
  As passed the sweet life of the grass
          She fed upon.

  The power enslaved by yonder cask
    Shall many burdens bear;
  Shall nerve the toiler at his task,
          The soul at prayer.

  From lowly woe springs lordly joy;
    From humbler good diviner;
  The greater life must aye destroy
          And drink the minor.

  From hand to hand life's cup is passed
    Up Being's piled gradation,
  Till men to angels yield at last
          The rich collation.

_Ruth_.

  Well, we are done with the brute;
  Now let us look at the fruit,--
  Every barrel, I'm told,
  From grafts half a dozen years old.
  That is a barrel of russets;
  But we can hardly discuss its
    Spheres of frost and flint,
  Till, smitten by thoughts of Spring,
  And the old tree blossoming,
  Their bronze takes a yellower tint,
  And the pulp grows mellower in't.
  But oh! when they're sick with the savors
    Of sweets that they dream of,
  Sure, all the toothsomest flavors
    They hold the cream of!
  You will be begging in May,
  In your irresistible way,
  For a peck of the apples in gray.

  Those are the pearmains, I think,--
  Bland and insipid as eggs;
  They were too lazy to drink
    The light to its dregs,
  And left them upon the rind--
  A delicate film of blue--
  Leave them alone;--I can find
  Better apples for you.

  Those are the Rhode Island greenings;
  Excellent apples for pies;
  There are no mystical meanings
   In fruit of that color and size.
  They are too coarse and too juiceful;
  They are too large and too useful.
  There are the Baldwins and Flyers,
  Wrapped in their beautiful fires!
  Color forks up from their stems
   As if painted by Flora,
  Or as out from the pole stream the flames
   Of the Northern Aurora.

  Here shall our quest have a close;
  Fill up your basket with those;
  Bite through their vesture of flame,
   And then you will gather
  All that is meant by the name,
   "Seek-no-farther!"

_David_.

  The native orchard's fairest trees,
   Wild springing on the hill,
  Bear no such precious fruits as these,
          And never will;


  Till ax and saw and pruning knife
    Cut from them every bough,
  And they receive a gentler life
          Than crowns them now.

  And Nature's children, evermore,
    Though grown to stately stature,
  Must bear the fruit their fathers bore--
          The fruit of nature;

  Till every thrifty vice is made
    The shoulder for a scion,
  Cut from the bending trees that shade
          The hills of Zion.

  Sorrow must crop each passion-shoot,
    And pain each lust infernal,
  Or human life can bear no fruit
          To life eternal.

  For angels wait on Providence;
    And mark the sundered places,
   To graft with gentlest instruments
          The heavenly graces.

_Ruth_.

  Well, you're a curious creature!
  You should have been a preacher.
    But look at that bin of potatoes--
  Grown in all singular shapes--
  Red and in clusters, like grapes,
    Or more like tomatoes.
  Those are Merinoes, I guess;
    Very prolific and cheap;
  They make an excellent mess
    For a cow, or a sheep,
  And are good for the table, they say,
  When the winter has passed away.

  Those are my beautiful Carters;
  Every one doomed to be martyrs
    To the eccentric desire
  Of Christian people to skin them,--
    Brought to the trial of fire
  For the good that is in them!
  Ivory tubers--divide one!
    Ivory all the way through!
  Never a hollow inside one;
    Never a core, black or blue!
  Ah, you should taste them when roasted!
    (Chestnuts are not half so good;)
  And you would find that I've boasted
     Less than I should.
  They make the meal for Sunday noon;
    And, if ever you eat one, let me beg
    You to manage it just as you do an egg.
  Take a pat of butter, a silver spoon,
  And wrap your napkin round the shell:
  Have you seen a humming-bird probe the bell
  Of a white-lipped morning-glory?
  Well, that's the rest of the story!
  But it's very singular, surely,
  They should produce so poorly.
  Father knows that I want them,
  So he continues to plant them;
  But, if I try to argue the question,
    He scoffs, as a thrifty farmer will;
  And puts me down with the stale suggestion--
    "Small potatoes, and few in a hill."

_David_.

  Thus is it over all the earth!
    That which we call the fairest,
  And prize for its surpassing worth,
          Is always rarest.

  Iron is heaped in mountain piles,
    And gluts the laggard forges;
  But gold-flakes gleam in dim defiles
          And lonely gorges.

  The snowy marble flecks the land
    With heaped and rounded ledges,
  But diamonds hide within the sand
          Their starry edges.

  The finny armies clog the twine
    That sweeps the lazy river,
  But pearls come singly from the brine,
          With the pale diver.

  God gives no value unto men
    Unmatched by meed of labor;
  And Cost of Worth has ever been
          The closest neighbor.

  Wide is the gate and broad the way
    That opens to perdition,
  And countless multitudes are they
          Who seek admission.

  But strait the gate, the path unkind,
    That lead to life immortal,
  And few the careful feet that find
          The hidden portal.

  All common good has common price;
    Exceeding good, exceeding;
  Christ bought the keys of Paradise
          By cruel bleeding;

  And every soul that wins a place
    Upon its hills of pleasure,
  Must give its all, and beg for grace
          To fill the measure.

  Were every hill a precious mine,
    And golden all the mountains;
  Were all the rivers fed with wine
          By tireless fountains;

  Life would be ravished of its zest,
    And shorn of its ambition,
  And sinks into the dreamless rest
          Of inanition.

  Up the broad stairs that Value rears
    Stand motives beckoning earthward,
  To summon men to nobler spheres,
          And lead them worthward.

_Ruth_.

  I'm afraid to show you anything more;
    For parsnips and art are so very long,
  That the passage back to the cellar-door
    Would be through a mile of song.
  But Truth owns me for an honest teller;
    And, if the honest truth be told,
  I am indebted to you and the cellar
    For a lesson and a cold.
  And one or the other cheats my sight;
    (O silly girl! for shame!)
  Barrels are hooped with rings of light,
    And stopped with tongues of flame.
  Apples have conquered original sin,
    Manna is pickled in brine,
  Philosophy fills the potato bin,
    And cider will soon be wine.
  So crown the basket with mellow fruit,
    And brim the pitcher with pearls;
  And we'll see how the old-time dainties suit
    The old-time boys and girls.

                                [_They ascend the stairs_.]



SECOND MOVEMENT.

LOCALITY--_A chamber_.

PRESENT--GRACE, MARY, _and the_ BABY.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE QUESTION ILLUSTRATED BY EXPERIENCE.

_Grace_.

                                                [_Sings_.]
  Hither, Sleep! A mother wants thee!
    Come with velvet arms!
  Fold the baby that she grants thee
    To thy own soft charms!

  Bear him into Dreamland lightly!
    Give him sight of flowers!
  Do not bring him back till brightly
    Break the morning hours!

  Close his eyes with gentle fingers!
    Cross his hands of snow!
  Tell the angels where he lingers
    They must whisper low!

  I will guard thy spell unbroken
    If thou hear my call;
  Come then, Sleep! I wait the token
    Of thy downy thrall.

  Now I see his sweet lips moving;
    He is in thy keep;
  Other milk the babe is proving
    At the breast of sleep!

_Mary_.

  Sleep, babe, the honeyed sleep of innocence!
  Sleep like a bud; for soon the sun of life
  With ardors quick and passionate shall rise,
  And, with hot kisses part the fragrant lips--
  The folded petals of thy soul! Alas!
  What feverish winds shall tease and toss thee, then!
  What pride and pain, ambition and despair,
  Desire, satiety, and all that fill
  With misery life's fretful enterprise,
  Shall wrench and blanch thee, till thou fall at last,
  Joy after joy down fluttering to the earth,
  To be apportioned to the elements!
  I marvel, baby, whether it were ill
  That He who planted thee should pluck thee now,
  And save thee from the blight that comes on all.
  I marvel whether it would not be well
  That the frail bud should burst in Paradise,
  On the full throbbing of an angel's heart!

_Grace_.

  Oh, speak not thus! The thought is terrible.
  He is my all; and yet, it sickens me
  To think that he will grow to be a man.
  If he were not a boy!

_Mary_.

                        Were not a boy?
  That wakens other thoughts. Thank God for that!
  To be a man, if aught, is privilege
  Precious and peerless. While I bide content
  The modest lot of woman, all my soul
  Gives truest manhood humblest reverence.
  It is a great and god-like thing to do!
  'Tis a great thing, I think, to be a man.
  Man fells the forests, plows and tills the fields,
  And heaps the granaries that feed the world.
  At his behest swift Commerce spreads her wings,
  And tires the sinewy sea-birds as she flies,
  Fanning the solitudes from clime to clime.
  Smoke-crested cities rise beneath his hand,
  And roar through ages with the din of trade.
  Steam is the fleet-winged herald of his will,
  Joining the angel of the Apocalypse
  'Mid sound and smoke and wond'rous circumstance,
  And with one foot upon the conquered sea
  And one upon the subject land, proclaims
  That space shall be no more. The lightnings veil
  Their fiery forms to wait upon his thought,
  And give it wing, as unseen spirits pause
  To bear to God the burden of his prayer.
  God crowns him with the gift of eloquence,
  And puts a harp into his tuneful hands,
  And makes him both his prophet and his priest.
  'Twas in his form the great Immanuel
  Revealed himself; the Apostolic Twelve,
  Like those who since have ministered the Word,
  Were men. 'Tis a great thing to be a man.

_Grace_.

  And fortunate to have an advocate
  Across whose memory convenient clouds
  Come floating at convenient intervals.
  The harvest fields that man has honored most
  Are those where human life is reaped like grain.
  There never rose a mart, nor shone a sail,
  Nor sprang a great invention into birth,
  By other motive than man's love of gold.
  It is for wrong that he is eloquent;
  For lust that he indites his sweetest songs.
  Christ was betrayed by treason of a man,
  And scourged and hung upon a tree by men;
  And the sad women who were at his cross,
  And sought him early at the sepulcher,
  And since that day, in gentle multitudes
  Have loved and followed him, have been man's slaves,--
  The victims of his power and his desire.

_Mary_.

  And you, a wedded wife-well wedded, too,
  Can say all this, and say it bitterly!

_Grace_.

  Perhaps because a wife; perhaps because--

_Mary_.

  Hush, Grace! No more! I beg you, say no more.
  Nay! I will leave you at another word;
  For I could listen to a blasphemy,
  Falling from bestial lips, with lighter chill
  Than to the mad complainings of a soul
  Which God has favored as he favors few.
  I dare not listen when a woman's voice,
  Which blessings strive to smother, flings them off
  In mad contempt. I dare not hear the words
  Whose utterance all the gentle loves dissuade
  By kisses which are reasons, while a throng
  Of friendships, comforts, and sweet charities--
  The almoners of the All-Bountiful--
  With folded wings stand sadly looking on.
  Believe me, Grace, the pioneer of judgment--
  Ordained, commissioned--is Ingratitude;
  For where it moves, good withers; blessings die;
  Till a clean path is left for Providence,
  Who never sows a good the second time
  Till the torn bosom of the graceless soil
  Is ready for the seed.

_Grace_.

                         Oh, could you know
  The anguish of my heart, you would not chide!
  If I repine, it is because my lot
  Is not the blessed thing it seems to you.
  O Mary! Could you know! Could you but know!

_Mary_.

  Then why not tell me all? You know me, love.
  And know that secrets make their graves with me.

  So, tell me all; for I do promise you
  Such sympathy as God through suffering
  Has given me power to grant to such as you.
  I bought it dearly, and its largess waits
  The opening of your heart.

_Grace_.

                             I am ashamed,--
  In truth I am ashamed--to tell you all.
  You will not laugh at me?

_Mary_.

                         I laugh at you?

_Grace_.

  Forgive me, Mary, for my heart is weak;
  Distrustful of itself and all the world.
  Ah, well! To what strange issues leads our life!
  It seems but yesterday that you were brought
  To this old house, an orphaned little girl,
  Whose large shy eyes, pale cheeks, and shrinking ways
  Filled all our hearts with wonder, as we stood
  And stared at you, until your heart o'erfilled
  With the oppressive strangeness, and you wept.
  Yes, I remember how I pitied you--
  I who had never wept, nor even sighed,
  Save on the bosom of my gentle mother;
  For my quick heart caught all your history
  When with a hurried step you sought the sun,
  And pressed your eyes against the windowpane
  That God's sweet light might dry them. Well I knew
  Though all untaught, that you were motherless.
  And I remember how I followed you,--
  Embraced and kissed you--kissed your tears away--
  Tears that came faster, till they bathed the lips
  That would have sealed their flooded fountain-heads;
  And then we wound our arms around each other,
  And passed out-out under the pleasant sky,
  And stood among the lilies at the door.

  I gave no formal comfort; you, no thanks;
  For tears had been your language, kisses mine,
  And we were friends. We talked about our dolls,
  And all the pretty playthings we possessed.
  Then we revealed, with childish vanity,
  Our little stores of knowledge. I was full
  Of a sweet marvel when you pointed out
  The yellow thighs of bees that, half asleep,
  Plundered the secrets of the lily-bells,
  And called the golden pigment honeycomb.
  And your black eyes were opened very wide
  When I related how, one sunny day,
  I found a well, half covered, down the lane,
  That was so deep and clear that I could see
  Straight through the world, into another sky!

_Mary_.

  Do you remember how the Guinea hens
  Set up a scream upon the garden wall,
  That frightened me to running, when you screamed
  With laughter quite as loud?

_Grace_.

                               Aye, very well;
  But better still the scene that followed all.
  Oh, that has lingered in my memory
  Like that divinest dream of Raphael--
  The Dresden virgin prisoned in a print--
  That watched with me in sickness through long weeks,
  And from its frame upon the chamber-wall
  Breathed constant benedictions, till I learned
  To love the presence like a Roman saint.

  My mother called us in; and at her knee,
  Embracing still, we stood, and felt her smile
  Shine on our upturned faces like the light
  Of the soft summer moon. And then she stooped;
  And when she kissed us, I could see the tears
  Brimming her eyes. O sweet experiment!
  To try if love of Jesus and of me
  Could make our kisses equal to her lips!
  Then straight my prescient heart set up a song,
  And fluttered in my bosom like a bird.

  I knew a blessing was about to fall,
  As robins know the coming of the rain,
  And bruit the joyous secret, ere its steps
  Are heard upon the mountain tops. I knew
  You were to be my sister; and my heart
  Was almost bursting with its love and pride.
  I could not wait to hear the kindly words
  Our mother spoke--her counsels and commands--
  For you were mine--my sister! So I tore
  Your clinging hand from hers with rude constraint,
  And took you to my chamber, where I played
  With you, in selfish sense of property,
  The whole bright afternoon.

                             And here again,
  Within this same old chamber we are met.
  We told our secrets to each other then;
  Thus let us tell them now; and you shall be
  To my grief-burdened soul what you have said,
  So many times that I have been to yours.

_Mary_.

  Alas! I never meant to tell my tale
  To other ear than God's; but you have claims
  Upon my confidence,--claims just rehearsed,
  And other claims which you have never known.

_Grace_.

  And other claims which I have never known!
  You speak in riddles, love. I only know
  You grew to womanhood, were beautiful,
  Were loved and wooed, were married and were blest;--

  That after passage of mysterious years
  We heard sad stories of your misery,
  And rumors of desertion; but your pen
  Revealed no secrets of your altered life.
  Enough for me that you are here to-night,
  And have an ear for sorrow, and a heart
  Which disappointment has inhabited.
  My history you know. A twelvemonth since
  This fearful, festive night, and in this house,
  I gave my hand to one whom I believed
  To be the noblest man God ever made;--
  A man who seemed to my infatuate heart
  Heaven's chosen genius, through whose tuneful soul
  The choicest harmonies of life should flow,
  Growing articulate upon his lips
  In numbers to enchant a willing world.
  I cannot tell you of the pride that filled
  My bosom, as I marked his manly form,
  And read his soul through his effulgent eyes,
  And heard the wondrous music of his voice,
  That swept the chords of feeling in all hearts
  With such a divine persuasion as might grow
  Under the transit of an angel's hand.
  And, then, to think that I, a farmer's child,
  Should be the woman culled from all the world
  To be that man's companion,--to abide
  The nearest soul to such a soul--to sit
  Close by the fountain of his peerless life--
  The welling center of his loving thoughts--
  And drink, myself, the sweetest and the best,--
  To lay my head upon his breast, and feel
  That of all precious burdens it had borne
  That was most precious--Oh! my heart was wild
  With the delirium of happiness--
  But, Mary, you are weeping!

_Mary_.

                               Mark it not.
  Your words wake memories which you may guess,
  And thoughts which you may sometime know--not now.

_Grace_.

  Well, we were married, as I said; and I
  Was not unthankful utterly, I think;
  Though, if the awful question had come then,
  And stood before me with a brow severe
  And steady finger, bidding me decide
  Which of the two I loved the more, the God
  Who gave my husband to me, or his gift,
  I know I should have groaned, and shut my eyes.

  We passed a honeymoon whose atmosphere,
  Flooded with inspiration, and embraced
  By a wide sky set full of starry thoughts,
  And constellated visions of delight,
  Still wraps me in my dreams--itself a dream.
  The full moon waned at last, and in my sky,
  With horn inverted, gave its sign of tears;
  And then, when wasted to a skeleton,
  It sank into a heaving sea of tears
  That caught its tumult from my sighing soul.
  My husband, who had spent whole months with me,
  Till he was wedded to my every thought,
  Left me through dreary hours,--nay, days,--alone!
  He pleaded business--business day and night;
  Leaving me with a formal kiss at morn,
  And meeting me with strange reserve at eve;
  And I could mark the sea of tenderness
  Upon whose beach I had sat down for life,
  Hoping to feel for ever, as at first,
  The love-breeze from its billows, and to clasp
  With open arms the silver surf that ran
  To wreck itself upon my bosom, ebb,
  Day after day receding, till the sand
  Grew dry and hot, and the old hulls appeared
  Of hopes sent out upon that faithless main
  Since woman loved, and he she loved was false.
  Night after night I sat the evening out,
  And heard the clock tick on the mantel-tree
  Till it grew irksome to me, and I grudged
  The careless pleasures of the kitchen maids
  Whose distant laughter shocked the lapsing hours.

_Mary_.

  But did your husband never tell the cause
  Of this neglect?

_Grace_.

                    Never an honest word.
  He told me he was writing; and, at home,
  Sat down with heart absorbed and absent look.
  I was offended, and upbraided him.
  I knew he had a secret, and that from
  The center of its closely coiling folds
  A cunning serpent's head, with forked tongue,
  Swayed with a double story--one for me,
  And one for whom I knew not--whom he knew.
  His words, which wandered first as carelessly
  As the free footsteps of a boy, were trained
  To the stern paces of a sentinel
  Guarding a prison door, and never tripped
  With a suggestion.

                     I despaired at last
  Of winning what I sought by wiles and prayers;
  So, through long nights of sleeplessness I lay,
  And held my ear beside his silent lips--
  An eager cup--ready to catch the gush
  Of the pent waters, if a dream-swung rod
  Should smite his bosom. It was all in vain.
  And thus months passed away, and all the while
  Another heart was beating under mine.
  May Heaven forgive me! but I grieved the charms
  The unborn thing was stealing, for I felt
  That in my insufficiency of power
  I had no charm to lose.

_Mary_.

                           And he did not,
  In this most tender trial of your heart,
  Turn in relenting?--give you sympathy?

_Grace_.

  No--yes! Perhaps he pitied me, and that
  Indeed was very pitiful; for what
  Has love to do with pity? When a wife
  Has sunk so hopelessly in the regard
  Of him she loves that he can pity her,--
  Has sunk so low that she may only share
  The tribute which a mute humanity
  Bestows on those whom Providence has struck
  With helpless poverty, or foul disease;
  She may he pitied, both by earth and heaven,
  Because he pities her. A pitied child
  That begs its bread from door to door is blest;
  A wife who begs for love and confidence,
  And gets but alms from pity, is accurst.

  Well, time passed on; and rumor came at last
  To tell the story of my husband's shame
  And my dishonor. He was seen at night,
  Walking in lonely streets with one whose eyes
  Were blacker than the night,--whose little hand
  Was clinging to his arm. Both were absorbed
  In the half-whispered converse of the time;
  And both, as if accustomed to the path,
  Turned down an alley, climbed a flight of steps,
  Entered a door, and closed it after them--
  A door of adamant 'twixt hope and me.
  I had my secret; and I kept it, too.
  I knew his haunt, and it was watched for me,
  Till doubt and prayers for doubt,--pale flowers
  I nourished with my tears--were crushed
  By the relentless hand of Certainty.

  Oh, Mary! Mary! Those were fearful days.
  My wrongs and all their shameful history
  Were opened to me daily, leaf by leaf,
  Though he had only shown their title-page:
  That page was his; the rest were in my heart.
  I knew that he had left my home for hers;
  I knew his nightly labor was to feed
  Other than me;--that he was loaded down
  With cares that were the price of sinful love.

_Mary_.

  Grace, in your heart do you believe all this?
  I fear--I know--you do your husband wrong.
  He is not competent for treachery.
  He is too good, too noble, to desert
  The woman whom he only loves too well.
  You love him not!

_Grace_.

                    I love him not? Alas!
  I am more angry with myself than him
  That, spite his falsehood to his marriage vows,
  And spite my hate, I love the traitor still.
  I love him not? Why am I here to-night--
  Here where my girlhood's withered hopes are strewn
  Through every room for him to trample on--
  But in my pride to show him to you all,
  With the dear child that publishes a love
  That blessed me once, e'en if it curse me now?
  You know I do my husband wrong! You think,
  Because he can talk smoothly, and befool
  A simple ear with pious sophistries,
  He must be e'en the saintly man he seems.
  We heard him talk to-night; it was done well.
  I saw the triumph of his argument,
  And I was proud, though full of spite the while.
  His stuff was meant for me; and, with intent
  For selfish purpose, or in irony,
  He tossed me bitterness, and called it sweet.
  My heart rebelled, and now you know the cause
  Of my harsh words to him.

_Mary_.

                            'Tis very sad!
  Oh very--very sad! Pray you go on!
  Who is this woman?

_Grace_.

                     I have never learned.
  I only know she stole my husband's heart,
  And made me very wretched. I suppose
  That at the time my little babe was born,
  She went away; for David was at home
  For many days. That pain was bliss to me--
  I need no argument to teach me that--
  Which caused neglect of her, and gave offense.
  Since then, he has not where to go from me;
  And, loving well his child, he stays at home.

  So he lugs round his secret, and I mine.
  I call him husband; and he calls me wife;
  And I, who once was like an April day,
  That finds quick tears in every cloud, have steeled
  My heart against my fate, and now am calm.
  I will live on; and though these simple folk
  Who call me sister understand me not,
  It matters little. There is one who does;
  And he shall have no liberty of love
  By any word of mine. 'Tis woman's lot,
  And man's most weak and wicked wantonness.
  Mine is like other husbands, I suppose;
  No worse--no better.

_Mary_.

                        Ask you sympathy
  Of such as I? I cannot give it you,
  For you have shut me from the privilege.

_Grace_.

  I asked it once; you gave me unbelief.
  I had no choice but to grow hard again.
  'Tis my misfortune and my misery
  That every hand whose friendly ministry
  My poor heart craves, is held--withheld--by him;
  And I must freeze that I may stand alone.

_Mary_.

  And so, because one man is false, or you
  Imagine him to be, all men are false;
  Do I speak rightly?

_Grace_.

                      Have it your own way.
  Men fit to love, and fitted to be loved,
  Are prone to falsehood. I will not gainsay
  The common virtue of the common herd.
  I prize it as I do the goodish men
  Who hold the goodish stuff, and know it not.
  These serve to fill an easy-going world,
  And that to clothe it with complacency.

_Mary_.

  I had not thought misanthropy like this
  Could lodge with you; so I must e'en confess
  A tale which never passed my lips before,
  Nor sent its flush to any cheek but mine.
  In this, I'll prove my friendship, if I lose
  The friendship which demands the sacrifice.

  I have come back, a worse than widowed wife;
  Yet I went out with dream as bright as yours,--
  Nay, brighter,--for the birds were singing then,
  And apple-blossoms drifted on the ground
  Where snow-flakes fell and flew when you were wed.
  The skies were soft; the roses budded full;
  The meads and swelling uplands fresh and green;--
  The very atmosphere was full of love.
  It was no girlish carelessness of heart
  That kept my eyes from tears, as I went forth
  From this dear shelter of the orphan child.
  I felt that God was smiling on my lot,
  And made the airs his angels to convey
  To every sense and sensibility
  The message of his favor. Every sound
  Was music to me; every sight was peace;
  And breathing was the drinking of perfume.
  I said, content, and full of gratitude,
  "This is as God would have it; and he speaks
  These pleasant languages to tell me so."

  But I had no such honeymoon as yours.
  A few brief days of happiness, and then
  The dream was over. I had married one
  Who was the sport of vagrant impulses.
  We had not been a fortnight wed, when he
  Came home to me with brandy in his brain--
  A maudlin fool--for love like mine to hide
  As if he were an unclean beast. O Grace!
  I cannot paint the horrors of that night.
  My heart, till then serene, and safely kept
  In Trust's strong citadel, quaked all night long,
  As tower and bastion fell before the rush
  Of fierce convictions; and the tumbling walls
  Boomed with dull throbs of ruin through my brain.
  And there were palaces that leaned on this--
  Castles of air, in long and glittering lines,
  Which melted into air, and pierced the blue
  That marks the star-strewn vault of heaven;--all fell,
  With a faint crash like that which scares the soul
  When dissolution shivers through a dream
  Smitten by nightmare,--fell and faded all
  To utter nothingness; and when the morn
  Flamed up the East, and with its crimson wings
  Brushed out the paling stars that all the night
  In silent, slow procession, one by one,
  Had gazed upon me through the open sash,
  And passed along, it found me desolate.

  The stupid dreamer at my side awoke,
  And with such helpless anguish as they feel
  Who know that they are weak as well as vile.
  I saw, through all his forward promises,
  Excuses, prayers, and pledges that were oaths
  (What he, poor boaster, thought I could not see),
  That he was shorn of will, and that his heart
  Was as defenseless as a little child's;--
  That underneath his fair good fellowship
  He was debauched, and dead in love with sin;--
  That love of me had made him what I loved,--
  That I could only hold him till the wave
  Of some overwhelming impulse should sweep in,
  To lift his feet and bear him from my arms.
  I felt that morn, when he went trembling forth,
  With bloodshot eyes and forehead hot with woe,
  That henceforth strife would be 'twixt Hell and me--
  The odds against me--for my husband's soul.

_Grace_.

  Poor dove! Poor Mary! Have you suffered thus?
  You had not even pride to keep you up.
  Were he my husband, I had left him then--
  The ingrate!

_Mary_.

                Not if you had loved as I;
  Yet what you know is but a bitter drop
  Of the full cup of gall that I have drained.
  Had he left me unstained,--had I rebelled
  Against the influence by which he sought
  To bring me to a compromise with him,--
  To make my shrinking soul meet his half way,
  It had been better; but he had an art,
  When appetite or passion moved in him,
  That clothed his sins with fair apologies,
  And smoothed the wrinkles of a haggard guilt
  With the good-natured hand of charity.
  He knew he was a fool, he said, and said again;
  But human nature would be what it was,
  And life had never zest enough to bear
  Too much dilution; those who work like slaves
  Must have their days of frolic and of fun.
  He doubted whether God would punish sin;
  God was, in fact, too good to punish sin;
  For sin itself was a compounded thing,
  With weakness for its prime ingredient.
  And thus he fooled a heart that loved him well;
  And it went toward his heart by slow degrees,
  Till Virtue seemed a frigid anchorite,
  And Vice, a jolly fellow--bad enough,
  But not so bad as Christian people think.

  This was the cunning work of months--nay, years;
  And, meantime, Edward sank from bad to worse.
  But he had conquered. Wine was on his board,
  Without my protest--with a glass for me!
  His boon companions came and went, and made
  My home their rendezvous with my consent.
  The doughty oath that shocked my ears at first,
  The doubtful jest that meant, or might not mean,
  That which should set a woman's brow aflame,
  Became at last (oh, shame of womanhood!)
  A thing to frown at with a covert smile;
  Anything to smile at with a decent frown;
  A thing to steal a grace from, as I feigned
  The innocence of deaf unconsciousness.
  And I became a jester. I could jest
  In a wild way on sacred things and themes;
  And I have thought that in his better moods
  My husband shrank with horror from the work
  Which he had wrought in me.

                              I do not know
  If, during all these downward-tending years,
  Edward kept well his faith with me. I know
  He used to tell me, in his boastful way,
  How he had broke the hearts of pretty maids.
  And that if he were single--well-a-day!
  The time was past for thinking upon that!
  And I had heart to toss the badinage
  Back in his teeth, with pay of kindred coin;
  And tell him lies to stir his bestial mirth;
  And make my boast of conquests; and pretend
  That the true heart I had bestowed on him
  Had flown, and left him but an empty hand.

  I had some days of pain and penitence.
  I saw where all must end. I saw, too well,
  Edward was growing idle,--that his form
  Was gathering disgustful corpulence,--
  That he was going down, and dragging me
  To shame and ruin, beggary and death.
  But judgment came, and overshadowed us;
  And one quick bolt shot from the awful cloud
  Severed the tie that bound two worthless lives.
  What God hath joined together, God may part:--
  Grace, have you thought of that?

_Grace_.

                     You scare me, Mary!
  Nay! Do not turn on me with such a look!
  Its dread suggestion gives my heart a pang
  That stops its painful beating.

_Mary_.

                               Let it pass!
  One morn we woke with the first flush of light,
  Our windows jarring with the cannonade
  That ushered in the nation's festal day.
  The village streets were full of men and boys,
  And resonant with rattling mimicry
  Of the black-throated monsters on the hill,--
  A crashing, crepitating war of fire,--
  And as we listened to the fitful feud,
  Dull detonations came from far away,
  Pulsing along the fretted atmosphere,
  To tell that in the ruder villages
  The day had noisy greeting, as in ours.

  I know not why it was, but then, and there,
  I felt a sinking sadness, passing tears--
  A dark foreboding I could not dissolve,
  Nor drive away. But when, next morn, I woke
  In the sweet stillness of the Sabbath day,
  And found myself alone, I knew that hearts
  Which once have been God's temple, and in which
  Something divine still lingers, feel the throb
  Along the lines that bind them to the Throne
  When judgment issues; and, though dumb and blind,
  Shudder and faint with prophecies of ill.
  How--by what cause--calamity should come,
  I could not guess; that it was imminent
  Seemed just as certain as the morning's dawn.
  We were to have a gala day, indeed.
  There were to be processions and parades;
  A great oration in a mammoth tent,
  With dinner following, and toast and speech
  By all the wordy magnates of the town;
  A grand balloon ascension afterwards;
  And, in the evening, fireworks on the hill.
  I knew that drink would flow from morn till night
  In a wild maelstrom, circling slow around
  The village rim, in bright careering waves,
  But growing turbulent, and changed to ink
  Around the village center, till, at last,
  The whirling, gurgling vortex would engulf
  A maddened multitude in drunkenness.
  And this was in my thought (the while my heart
  Was palpitating with its nameless fear),
  As, wrapped in vaguest dreams, and purposeless,
  I laced my shoe and gazed upon the sky.
  Then strange determination stirred in me;
  And, turning sharply on my chair, I said,
  "Edward, where'er you go to-day, I go!"
  If I had smitten him upon the face,
  It had not tingled with a hotter flame.
  He turned upon me with a look of hate--
  A something worse than anger--and, with oaths,
  Raved like a fiend, and cursed me for a fool.
  But I was firm; he could not shake my will;
  So, through the morning, until afternoon,
  He stayed at home, and drank and drank again,
  Watching the clock, and pacing up and down,
  Until, at length, he came and sat by me,
  To try his hackneyed tricks of blandishment.
  He had not meant, he said, to give offense;
  But women in a crowd were out of place.
  He wished to see the aeronauts embark,
  And meet some friends; but there would be a throng
  Of boys and drunken boors around the car,
  And I should not enjoy it; more than this,
  The rise would be a finer spectacle
  At home than on the ground. I gave assent,
  And he went out. Of course, I followed him;
  For I had learned to read him, and I knew
  There was some precious scheme of sin on foot.

  The crowd was heavy, and his form was lost
  Quick as it touched the mass; but I pressed on,
  Wild shouts and laughter punishing my ears,
  Till I could see the bloated, breathing cone,
  As if it were some monster of the sky
  Caught by a net and fastened to the earth--
  A butt for jeers to all the merry mob.
  But I was distant still; and if a man
  In mad impatience tore a passage from
  The crowd that pressed upon him, or a girl,
  Frightened or fainting, was allowed escape,
  I slid like water to the vacant space,
  And thus, by deftly won advances, gained
  The stand I coveted.

                         We waited long;
  And as the curious gazers stood and talked
  About the diverse currents of the air,
  And wondered where the daring voyagers
  Would find a landing-place, a young man said,
  In words intended for a spicy jest,
  A man and woman living in the town
  Had taken passage overland for hell!

  Then at a distance rose a scattering shout
  That fixed the vision of the multitude,
  Standing on eager tiptoe, and afar
  I saw the crowd give way, and make a path
  For the pale heroes of the crazy hour.
  Hats were tossed wildly as they struggled on,
  And the gap closed behind them, till, at length,
  They stood within the ring. Oh, damning sight!
  The woman was a painted courtezan;
  The man, my husband! I was dumb as death.
  My teeth were clenched together like a vise,
  And every heavy heart-throb was a chill.
  But there I stood, and saw the shame go on.
  They took their seats; the signal gun was fired;
  The cords were loosed; and then the billowy bulk
  Shot toward the zenith!

                          Never bent the sky
  With a more cloudless depth of blue than then;
  And, as they rose, I saw his faithless arm
  Slide o'er her shoulder, and her dizzy head
  Drop on his breast. Then I became insane.
  I felt that I was struggling with a dream--
  A horrid phantasm I could not shake off.
  The hollow sky was swinging like a bell;
  The silken monster swinging like its tongue;
  And as it reeled from side to side, the roar
  Of voices round me rang, and rang again,
  Tolling the dreadful knell of my despair.

  At the last moment I could trace his form,
  Edward leaned over from his giddy seat,
  And tossed out something on the air. I saw
  The little missive fluttering slowly down,
  And stretched my hand to catch it, for I knew,
  Or thought I knew, that it would come to me.
  And it did come to me--as if it slid
  Upon the cord that bound my heart to his--
  Strained to its utmost tension--snapped at last.
  I marked it as it fell. It was a rose.
  I grasped it madly as it struck my hand,
  And buried all its thorns within my palm;
  But the fierce pain released my prisoned voice,
  And, with a shriek, I staggered, swooned, and fell.

  That night was brushed from life. A passing friend
  Directed those who bore me rudely off;
  And I was carried to my home, and laid
  Entranced upon my bed. The Sabbath morn
  That followed all this din and devilry
  Swung noiseless wide its doors of yellow light,
  And in the hallowed stillness I awoke.
  My heart was still; I could not stir a hand.
  I thought that I was dying, or was dead.--
  That I had slipped through smooth unconsciousness
  Into the everlasting silences.
  I could not speak; but winning strength, at last,
  I turned my eyes to seek for Edward's face,
  And saw an unpressed pillow. He was gone!

  I was oppressed with awful sense of loss;
  And, as a mother, by a turbid sea
  That has engulfed her fairest child, sits down
  And moans over the waters, and looks out
  With curious despair upon the waves,
  Until she marks a lock of floating hair,
  And by its threads of gold draws slowly in,
  And clasps and presses to her frenzied breast
  The form it has no power to warm again,
  So I, beside the sea of memory,
  Lay feebly moaning, yearning for a clew
  By which to reach my own extinguished life.
  It came. A burning pain shot through my palm,
  And thorns awoke what thorns had put to sleep.
  It all came back to me--the roar, the rush,
  The upturned faces, the insane hurrahs,
  The skyward-shooting spectacle, the shame--
  And then I swooned again.

_Grace_.

                            But was he killed?
  Did his foolhardy venture end in wreck?
  Or did it end in something worse than wreck?
  Surely, he came again!

_Mary_.

                         To me, no more.
  He had his reasons, and I knew them soon;
  But, first, the fire enkindled in my brain
  Burnt through long weeks of fever--burnt my frame
  Until it lay upon the sheet as white
  As the pale ashes of a wasted coal.
  Then, when strength came to me, and I could sit,
  Braced by the double pillows that were mine,
  A kind friend took my hand, and told me all.

  The day that Edward left me was the last
  He could have been my husband; for the next
  Disclosed his infamy and my disgrace.
  He was a thief, and had been one, for years,--
  Defrauding those whose gold he held in trust;
  And he was ruined--ruined utterly.
  The very bed I sat on was not his,
  Nor mine, except by tender charity.
  A guilty secret menacing behind,
  A guilty passion burning in his heart,
  And, by his side, a guilty paramour,
  He seized upon this reckless whim, and fled
  From those he knew would curse him ere he slept.

  My cup was filled with wormwood; and it grew
  Bitter and still more bitter, day by day,
  Changing from shame and hate, to stern revenge.
  Life had no more for me. My home was lost;
  My heart unfitted to return to this;
  And, reckless of the future, I went forth--
  A woman stricken, maddened, desperate.
  I sought the city with as sure a scent
  As vultures track a carcass through the air.
  I knew him there, delivered up to sin,
  And longed to taunt him with his infamy,--
  To haunt his haunts; to sting his perjured soul
  With sharp reproaches; and to scare his eyes--
  With visions of his work upon my face.

  But God had other means than my revenge
  To humble him, and other thought for me.
  I saw him only once; we did not meet;
  There was a street between us; yet it seemed
  Wide as the unbridged gulf that yawns between
  The rich man and the beggar.

                               'Twas at dawn.
  I had arisen from the sleepless bed
  Which my scant means had purchased, and gone forth
  To taste the air, and cool my burning brow.
  I wandered on, not knowing where I went,
  Nor caring whither. There were few astir;
  The market wagons lumbered slowly in,
  Piled high with carcasses of slaughtered lambs,
  Baskets of unhusked corn, and mint, and all
  The fresh, green things that grow in country fields.
  I read the signs--the long and curious names--
  And wondered who invented them, and if
  Their owners knew how very strange they were.
  A corps of weary firemen met me once,
  Late home from service, with their gaudy car,
  And loud with careless curses. Then I stopped,
  And chatted with a frowsy-headed girl
  Who knelt among her draggled skirts, and scrubbed
  The heel-worn doorsteps of a faded house.
  Then, as I left her, and resumed my walk,
  I turned my eyes across the street, and saw
  A sight which stopped my feet, my breath, my heart.
  It was my husband. Oh, how sadly changed!
  His bloodshot eyes stared from an anxious face;
  His hat was battered, and his clothes were torn
  And splashed with mud. His poisoned frame
  Had shrunk away, until his garments hung
  In folds about him. Then I knew it all:
  His life had been a measureless debauch
  Since his most shameless flight; and in his eye,
  Eager and strained, and peering down the stairs
  That tumbled to the anterooms of hell,
  I saw the thirst which only death can quench.
  He did not raise his eyes; I did not speak;
  There was no work for me to do on him;
  And when, at last, he tottered down the steps
  Of a dark gin-shop, I was satisfied,
  And half relentingly retraced my way.

  I cannot tell the story of the months
  That followed this. I toiled and toiled for bread,
  And for the shelter of one stingy room.
  Temptation, which the hand of poverty
  Bears oft seductively to woman's lips,
  To me came not. I hated men like beasts;
  Their flattering words, and wicked, wanton leers,
  Sickened me with ineffable disgust.
  At length there came a change. One warm Spring eve,
  As I sat idly dreaming of the past,
  And questioning the future, my quick ear
  Caught sound of feet upon the creaking stairs,
  And a light rap delivered at my door.
  I said, "Come in!" with half-defiant voice,
  Although I longed to see a human face,
  And needed labor for my idle hands.
  But when the door was opened, and there stood
  A man before me, with an eye as pure
  And brow as fair as any little child's,
  Matched with a form and carriage which combined
  All manly beauty, dignity, and grace,
  A quick blush overwhelmed my pallid cheeks,
  And, ere I knew, and by no act of will,
  I rose and gave him gentle courtesy.

  He took a seat, and spoke with pleasant voice
  Of many pleasant things--the pleasant sky,
  The stars, the opening foliage in the park;
  And then he came to business. He would have
  A piece of exquisite embroidery;
  My hand was cunning if report were true;
  Would it oblige him? It would do, I said,
  That which it could to satisfy his wish;
  And when he took the delicate pattern out,
  And spread the dainty fabric on his knees,
  I knew he had a wife.

                        He went away
  With kind "Good night," and said that, with my leave,
  He'd call and watch the progress of the work.
  I marked his careful steps adown the stairs,
  And then, his brisk, firm tread upon the pave,
  Till in the dull roar of the distant streets
  It mingled and was lost. Then I was lost,--
  Lost in a wild, wide-ranging reverie--
  From which I roused not till the midnight hush
  Was broken by the toll from twenty towers.
  This is a man, I said; a man in truth;
  My room has known the presence of a man,
  And it has gathered dignity from him.
  I felt my being flooded with new life.
  My heart was warm; my poor, sore-footed thoughts
  Sprang up full fledged through ether; and I felt
  Like the sick woman who had touched the hem
  Of Jesus' garment, when through all her veins
  Leaped the swift tides of youth.

                             He had a wife!
  Why, to a wrecked, forsaken thing like me
  Did that thought bring a pang? I did not know;
  But, truth to tell, it gave me stinging pain.
  If he was noble, he was naught to me;
  If he was great, it only made me less;
  If he loved truly, I was not enriched.
  So, in my selfishness, I almost cursed
  The unknown woman, thought for whom had brought
  Her loving husband to me. What was I
  To him? Naught but a poor unfortunate,
  Picking her bread up at a needle's point.
  He'll come and criticise my handiwork,
  I said, and when it is at last complete,
  He'll draw his purse and give me so much gold;
  And then, forgetting me for ever, go
  And gather fragrant kisses for the boon,
  From lips that do not know their privilege.
  I could be nothing but the medium
  Through which his love should pass to reach its shrine;
  The glass through which the sun's electric beams
  Kindles the rose's heart, and still remains
  Chill and serene itself--without reward!
  Then came to me the thought of my great wrong.
  A man had spoiled my heart, degraded me;
  A wanton woman had defrauded me;
  I would get reparation how I could!
  He must be something to me--I to him!
  All men, however good, are weak, I thought;
  And if I can arrest no beam of love
  By right of nature or by leave of law,
  I'll stain the glass! And the last words I said,
  As I lay down upon my bed to dream,
  Were those four words of sin: "I'll stain the glass!"

_Grace_.

  Mary, I cannot hear you more; your tale,
  So bitter and so passing pitiful
  I have forgotten tears, and feel my eyes
  Burn dry and hot with looking at your face,
  Now gathers blackness, and grows horrible.

_Mary_.

  Nay, you must hear me out; I cannot pause;
  And have no worse to say than I have said--
  Thank God, and him who put away my toils!
  He came, and came again; and every charm
  God had bestowed on me, or art could frame,
  I used with keenest ingenuities
  To fascinate the sensuous element
  O'er which, mistrusted, and but half asleep,
  His conscience and propriety stood guard.
  I told with tears the story of my woe;
  He listened to me with a thoughtful face,
  And sadly sighed; and thus I won his ruth,
  And then I told him how my life was lost;--
  How earth had nothing more for me but pain;
  Not e'en a friend. At this, he took my hand,
  And said, out of his nobleness of heart,
  That I should have an honest friend in him;
  On which I bowed my head upon his arm,
  And wept again, as if my heart would break
  With the full pressure of his gratitude.
  He put me gently off, and read my face:
  I stood before him hopeless, helpless, his!
  His swift soul gathered what I meant it should.
  He sighed and trembled; then he crossed the floor,
  And gazed with eye abstracted on the sky;
  Then came and looked at me; then turned,
  As if affrighted at his springing thoughts,
  And, with abruptest movement, left the room.

  This time he took with him the broidered thing
  That I had wrought for him; and when I oped
  The little purse that he rewarded me,
  I found full golden payment five times told.
  Given for pity? thought I,--that alone?
  Is manly pity so munificent?
  Pity has mixtures that it knows not of!

  It was a cruel triumph, and I speak
  Of it with utter penitence and shame.
  I knew that he would come again; I knew
  His feet would bring him, though his soul rebelled;
  I knew that cheated heart of his would toy
  With the seductive chains that gave it thrall,
  And strive to reconcile its perjury
  With its own conscience of the better way,
  By fabrication of apologies
  It knew were false.

                      And he did come again;
  Confessing a strange interest in me,
  And doing for me many kindly deeds.
  I knew the nature of the sympathy
  That drew him to my side, better than he;
  Though I could see that solemn change in him
  Which every face will wear, when Heaven and Hell
  Are struggling in the heart for mastery.
  He was unhappy; every sudden sound
  Startled his apprehensions; from his heart
  Rose heavy suspirations, charged with prayer,
  Desire, and deprecation, and remorse;--
  Sighs like volcanic breathings--sighs that scorched
  His parching lips and spread his face with ashes,--
  Sighs born in such convulsions of the soul
  That his strong frame quaked like Vesuvius,
  Burdened with restless lava.

                               Day by day
  I marked this dalliance with sinful thought,
  Without a throb of pity in my heart.
  I took his gifts, which brought immunity
  From toil and care, as if they were my right.
  Day after day I saw my power increase,
  Until that noble spirit was a slave--
  A craven, helpless, self-suspected slave.

  But this was not to last--thank God and him!
  One night he came, and there had been a change.
  My hand was kindly taken, but not held
  In the way wonted. He was self-possessed;
  The powers of darkness and his Christian heart
  Had had a struggle--his the victory;
  And on his manly brow the benison
  Of a majestic peace had been imposed.
  Was I to lose the guerdon of my guile?
  He was my all, and by the only means
  Left to a helpless, reckless thing, like me:
  My heart made pledge the strife should be renewed.
  I took no notice of his altered mood,
  But strove, by all the tricks of tenderness,
  To fan to life again the drooping flame
  Within his heart;--with what success, at last,
  The sequel shall reveal.

                         Strange fire came down
  Responsive to my call, and the quick flash
  That shriveled resolution, vanquished will,
  And with a blood-red flame consumed the crown
  Of peace upon his brow, taught him how weak--
  How miserably imbecile--he had become,
  Tampering with temptation. Such a groan,
  Wrung from such agony, as then he breathed,
  Pray Heaven my ears may never hear again!
  He smote his forehead with his rigid palm,
  And sank, as if the blow had stunned him, to his knees,
  And there, with face pressed hard upon his hands
  Gave utterance to frenzied sobs and prayers--
  The wild articulations of despair.
  I was confounded. He--a man--thought I,
  Blind with remorse by simple look at sin!
  And I--a woman--in the devil's hands,
  Luring him Hellward with no blush of shame!
  The thought came swift from God, and pierced my heart,
  Like a barbed arrow; and it quivered there
  Through whiles of tumult--quivered--and was fast.
  Thus, while I stood and marked his kneeling form,
  Still shocked by deep convulsions, such a light
  Illumed my soul, and flooded all the room,
  That, without thought, I said, "The Lord is here!"
  Then straight my spirit heard these wondrous words:
  "Tempted in all points like ourselves, was He--
  Tempted, but sinless." Oh, what majesty
  Of meaning did those precious words convey!
  'Twas through temptation, thought I, that the Lord--
  The mediator between God and men--
  Reached down the hand of sympathetic love
  To meet the grasp of lost Humanity;
  And this man, kneeling, has the Lord in him,
  And comes to mediate 'twixt Christ and me,
  "Tempted, but sinless;"--one hand grasping mine,
  The other Christ's.

                       Why had he suffered thus?
  Why had his heart been led far down to mine,
  To beat in sinful sympathy with mine,
  But that my heart should cling to his and him,
  And follow his withdrawal to the heights
  From whence he had descended? Then I learned
  Why Christ was tempted; and, as broad and full,
  The heart of the great secret was revealed,
  And I perceived God's dealings with my soul,
  I knelt beside the tortured man and wept,
  And cried to Heaven for mercy. As I prayed,
  My soul cast off its shameful enterprise;
  And when it fell, I saw my godless self--
  My own degraded, tainted, guilty heart,
  Which it had hidden from me. Oh, the pang--
  The poignant throe of uttermost despair--
  That followed the discovery! I felt
  That I was lost beyond the grace of God;
  And my heart turned with instinct sure and swift
  To the strong struggler, praying at my side,
  And begged his succor and his prayers. I felt
  That he must lead me up to where the hand
  Of Jesus could lay hold on me, or I was doomed.
  Temptation's spell was past. He took my hand.
  And, as he prayed that we might be forgiven,
  And pledged our future loyalty to God
  And His white throne within our hearts, I gave
  Responses to each promise; then I crowned
  His closing utterance with such Amen
  As weak hearts, conscious of their weakness, give
  When, bowed to dust, and clinging to the robes
  Of outraged mercy, they devote themselves
  Once and for ever to the pitying Christ.

  Then we arose and stood upon our feet.
  He gave me no reproaches, but with voice
  Attempered to his altered mood, confessed
  His own blameworthiness, and pressed the prayer
  That I would pardon him, as he believed
  That God had pardoned; but my heart was full,--
  So full of its sore sense of wrong to him,
  Of the deep guilt of shameful purposes
  And treachery to worthy womanhood,
  That I could not repeat his Christian words,
  Asking forbearance on my own behalf.

  He sat before me for a golden hour;
  And gave me counsel and encouragement,
  Till, like broad gates, the possibilities
  Of a serener and a higher life
  Were thrown wide open to my eager feet,
  And I resolved that I would enter in,
  And, with God's gracious help, go no more out.

  For weeks he watched me with stern carefulness,
  Nourished my resolution, prayed with me,
  And led me, step by step, to higher ground,
  Till, gathering impulse in the upward walk,
  And strength in purer air, and keener sight
  In the sweet light that dawned upon my soul,
  I grasped the arm of Jesus, and was safe.
  And now, when I look back upon my life,
  It seems as if that noble man were sent
  To give me rescue from the pit of death.
  But from his distant height he could not reach
  And act upon my soul; so Heaven allowed
  Temptation's ladder 'twixt his soul and mine
  That they might meet and yield his mission thrift.
  I doubt not in my grateful soul to-night
  That had he stayed within his higher world,
  And tried to call me to him, I had spurned
  Alike his mission and his ministry.
  That he was tempted, was at once my sin
  And my salvation. That he sinned in thought,
  And fiercely wrestled with temptation, won
  For his own spirit that humility
  Which God had sought to clothe him with in vain,
  By other measures, and that strength which springs
  From a great conflict and a victory.
  We talked of this; and on our bended knees
  We blessed the Great Dispenser for the means
  By which we both had learned our sinful selves,
  And found the way to a diviner life.
  So, with my chastened heart and life, I come
  Back to my home, to live--perhaps to die.
  God's love has been in all this discipline;
  God's love has used those awful sins of mine
  To make me good and happy. I can mourn
  Over my husband; I can pray for him,
  Nay, I forgive him; for I know the power
  With which temptation comes to stronger men.
  I know the power with which it came to me.

  And now, dear Grace, my story is complete.
  You have received it with dumb wonderment,
  And it has been too long. Tell me what thought
  Stirs in your face, and waits for utterance.

_Grace_.

  That I have suffered little--trusted less;
  That I have failed in charity, and been
  Unjust to all men--specially to one.
  I did not think there lived a man on earth
  Who had such virtue as this friend of yours,--
  Weak, and yet strong. 'Twas but humanity
  To give him pity in his awful strife;
  To stint the meed of reverence and praise
  For his triumphant conquest of himself,
  Were infamy. I love and honor him;
  And if I knew my husband were as strong,
  I could fall down before, and worship him;
  I could fall down, and wet his feet with tears--
  Tears penitential for the grievous wrong
  That I have done him. But alas! alas!
  The thought comes back again. O God in heaven!
  Help me with patience to await the hour
  When the great purpose of thy discipline
  Shall be revealed, and, like this chastened one,
  I can behold it, and be satisfied.

_Mary_.

  Hark! They are calling us below, I think.
  We must go down. We'll talk of this again
  When we have leisure. Kiss the little one,
  And thank his weary brain it sleeps so well.

                                          [_They descend_.]



SECOND EPISODE.

       *       *       *       *       *

LOCALITY--_The Kitchen_.

PRESENT--JOSEPH, SAMUEL, REBEKAH, _and other_
CHILDREN.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE QUESTION ILLUSTRATED BY STORY.


_Joseph_.

  Have we not had "Button-Button" enough,
  And "Forfeits," and all such silly stuff?

_Samuel_.

  Well, we were playing "Blind-Man's-Buff"
  Until you fell, and rose in a huff,
  And declared the game was too rude and rough.
  Poor boy! What a pity he isn't tough!

_All_.

  Ha! ha! ha! what a pretty boy!
  Papa's delight, and mamma's joy!
  Wouldn't he like to go to bed,
  And have a cabbage-leaf on his head?

_Joseph_.

  Laugh, if you like to! Laugh till you're gray;
  But I guess you'd laugh another way
  If you'd hit your toe, and fallen like me,
  And cut a bloody gash in your knee,
  And bumped your nose and bruised your shin,
  Tumbling over the rolling-pin
  That rolled to the floor in the awful din
  That followed the fall of the row of tin
  That stood upon the dresser.

_Samuel_.

  Guess again--dear little guesser!
  You wouldn't catch this boy lopping his wing,
  Or whining over anything.
  So stir your stumps,
  Forget your bumps,
  Get out of your dumps,
  And up and at it again;
  For the clock is striking ten,
  And Ruth will come pretty soon and say,
     "Go to your beds
     You sleepy heads!"
  So--quick! What shall we play?

_Rebekah_.

  I wouldn't play any more,
  For Joseph is tired and sore
  With his fall upon the floor.

_All_.

  Then he shall tell a story.

_Joseph_.

  About old Mother Morey?

_All_.

  No! Tell us another.

_Joseph_.

  About my brother?

_Rebekah_.

  Now, Joseph, you shall be good,
  And do as you'd be done by;
  We didn't mean to be rude
  When you fell and began to cry:
  We wanted to make you forget your pain;
  But it frets you, and we'll not laugh again.

_Joseph_.

  Well, if you'll all sit still,
  And not be frisking about,
  Nor utter a whisper till
  You've heard my story out,
  I'll tell you a tale as weird
  As ever you heard in your lives,
  Of a man with a long blue beard,
  And the way he treated his wives.

_All_.

  Oh, that will be nice!
  We'll be still as mice.

_Joseph_.

                [_Relates the old story of Blue Beard, and_
                 DAVID, _and_ RUTH _enter from the cellar
                                               unperceived_.]

  Centuries since there flourished a man,
  (A cruel old Tartar as rich as the Khan),
  Whose castle was built on a splendid plan,
   With gardens and groves and plantations;
  But his shaggy beard was as blue as the sky,
  And he lived alone, for his neighbors were shy.
  And had heard hard stories, by the by,
    About his domestic relations.

  Just on the opposite side of the plain
  A widow abode, with her daughters twain;
  And one of them--neither cross nor vain--
    Was a beautiful little treasure;
  So he sent them an invitation to tea,
  And having a natural wish to see
  His wonderful castle and gardens, all three
    Said they'd do themselves the pleasure.

  As soon as there happened a pleasant day,
  They dressed themselves in a sumptuous way,
  And rode to the castle as proud and gay
    As silks and jewels could make them;
  And they were received in the finest style,
  And saw everything that was worth their while,
  In the halls of Blue Beard's grand old pile,
    Where he was so kind as to take them.

  The ladies were all enchanted quite;
  For they found old Blue Beard so polite
  That they did not suffer at all from fright,
    And frequently called thereafter;
  Then he offered to marry the younger one,
  And as she was willing the thing was done,
  And celebrated by all the ton
    With feasting and with laughter.

  As kind a husband as ever was seen
  Was Blue Beard then, for a month, I ween;
  And she was as proud as any queen,
    And as happy as she could be, too;
  But her husband called her to him one day,
  And said, "My dear, I am going away;
  It will not be long that I shall stay;
    There is business for me to see to.

  "The keys of my castle I leave with you;
  But if you value my love, be true,
  And forbear to enter the Chamber of Blue!
    Farewell, Fatima! Remember!"
  Fatima promised him; then she ran
  To visit the rooms with her sister Ann;
  But when she had finished the tour, she began
    To think about the Blue Chamber.

  Well, the woman was curiously inclined,
  So she left her sister and prudence behind,
  (With a little excuse) and started to find
    The mystery forbidden.
  She paused at the door;--all was still as night!
  She opened it: then through the dim, blue light
  There blistered her vision the horrible sight
    That was in that chamber hidden.

  The room was gloomy and damp and wide,
  And the floor was red with the bloody tide
  From headless women, laid side by side,
    The wives of her lord and master!
  Frightened and fainting, she dropped the key,
  But seized it and lifted it quickly; then she
  Hurried as swiftly as she could flee
    From the scene of the disaster.

  She tried to forget the terrible dead,
  But shrieked when she saw that the key was red,
  And sickened and shook with an awful dread
    When she heard Blue Beard was coming.
  He did not appear to notice her pain;
  But he took his keys, and seeing the stain,
  He stopped in the middle of the refrain
    That he had been quietly humming.

  "Mighty well, madam!" said he, "mighty well!
  What does this little bloodstain tell?
  You've broken your promise; prepare to dwell
    With the wives I've had before you!
  You've broken your promise, and you shall die."
  Then Fatima, supposing her death was nigh,
  Fell on her knees and began to cry,
    "Have mercy, I implore you!"

  "No!" shouted Blue Beard, drawing his sword;
  "You shall die this very minute," he roared.
  "Grant me time to prepare to meet my Lord,"
    The terrified woman entreated.
  "Only ten minutes," he roared again;
  And holding his watch by its great gold chain,
  He marked on the dial the fatal ten,
    And retired till they were completed.

  "Sister, oh, sister, fly up to the tower!
  Look for release from this murderer's power!
  Our brothers should be here this very hour;--
    Speak! Does there come assistance?"
  "No. I see nothing but sheep on the hill."
  "Look again, sister!" "I'm looking still,
  But naught can I see, whether good or ill,
    Save a flurry of dust in the distance."

  "Time's up!" shouted Blue Beard, out from his room;
  "This moment shall witness your terrible doom,
  And give you a dwelling within the room
    Whose secrets you have invaded."
  "Comes there no help for my terrible need?"
  "There are horsemen twain riding hither with speed."
  "Oh! tell them to ride very fast indeed,
    Or I must meet death unaided."

  "Time's fully up! Now have done with your prayer,"
  Shouted Blue Beard, swinging his sword on the stair;
  Then he entered, and grasping her beautiful hair,
    Swung his glittering weapon around him;
  But a loud knock rang at the castle gate,
  And Fatima was saved from her horrible fate,
  For, shocked with surprise, he paused too late;
     And then the two soldiers found him.

  They were her brothers, and quick as they knew
  What the fiend was doing, their swords they drew,
  And attacked him fiercely, and ran him through,
    So that soon he was mortally wounded.
  With a wild remorse was his conscience filled
  When he thought of the hapless wives he had killed;
  But quickly the last of his blood was spilled,
    And his dying groan was sounded.

  As soon as Fatima recovered from fright,
  She embraced her brothers with great delight;
  And they were as glad and as grateful quite
    As she was glad and grateful.
  Then they all went out from that scene of pain,
  And sought in quietude to regain
  Their minds, which had come to be quite insane,
    In a place so horrid and hateful.

  'Twas a private funeral Blue Beard had;
  For the people knew he was very bad,
  And, though they said nothing, they all were glad
    For the fall of the evil-doer;
  But Fatima first ordered some graves to be made,
  And there the unfortunate ladies were laid,
  And after some painful months, with the aid
    Of her friends, her spirits came to her.

  Then she cheered the hearts of the suffering poor,
  And an acre of land around each door
  And a cow and a couple of sheep, or more,
    To her tenantry she granted.
  So all of them had enough to eat,
  And their love for her was so complete
  They would kiss the dust from her little feet,
    Or do anything she wanted.

_Samuel_.

  Capital! Capital! Wasn't it good!
  I should like to have been her brother;
  If I had been one, you may guess there would
  Have been little work for the other.
  I'd have run him right through the heart, just so;
  And cut off his head at a single blow,
  And killed him so quickly he'd never know
  What it was that struck him, wouldn't I, Joe?

_Joseph_.

  You are very brave with your bragging tongue;
  But if you had been there, you'd have sung
    A very different tune
  Poor Blue Beard! He would have been afraid
  Of a little boy with a penknife blade,
    Or a tiny pewter spoon!

_Samuel_.

  It makes no difference what you say
  (Pretty little boy, afraid to play!)
  But it served him rightly any way,
    And gave him just his due.
  And wasn't it good that his little wife
  Should live in his castle the rest of her life,
    And have all his money, too?

_Rebekah_.

    I'm thinking of the ladies who
    Were lying in the Chamber Blue,
    With all their small necks cut in two.

    I see them lying, half a score,
    In a long row upon the floor,
    Their cold, white bosoms marked with gore.
    I know the sweet Fatima would
    Have put their heads on if she could;
    And made them live--she was so good;

    And washed their faces at the sink;
    But Blue Beard was not sane, I think:
    I wonder if he did not drink!

    For no man in his proper mind
    Would be so cruelly inclined
    As to kill ladies who were kind.

_Ruth_.

                           [_Stepping forward with_ DAVID.]

  Story and comment alike are bad;
  These little fellows are raving mad
    With thinking what they should do,
  Supposing their sunny-eyed sister had
  Given her heart--and her head--to a lad
    Like the man with the Beard of Blue.
      Each little jacket
      Is now a packet
    Of murderous thoughts and fancies;
       Oh, the gentle trade
      By which fiends are made
      With the ready aid
    Of these bloody old romances!
  And the little girl takes the woman's turn,
    And thinks that the old curmudgeon
  Who owned the castle, and rolled in gold
  Over fields and gardens manifold,
  And kept in his house a family tomb,
  With his bowling course and his billiard-room,
  Where he could preserve his precious dead,
  Who took the kiss of the bridal bed
  From one who straightway took their head,
  And threw it away with the pair of gloves
  In which he wedded his hapless loves,
  Had some excuse for his dudgeon.

_David_.

  We learn by contrast to admire
    The beauty that enchains us;
  And know the object of desire
    By that which pains us.

  The roses blushing at the door,
    The lapse of leafy June,
  The singing birds, the sunny shore,
    The summer moon;--

  All these entrance the eye or ear
    By innate grace and charm;
  But o'er them, reaching through the year,
    Hangs Winter's arm.

  To give to memory the sign,
    The index of our bliss,
  And show by contrast how divine
    The Summer is.

  From chilling blasts and stormy skies,
    Bare hills and icy streams,
  Touched into fairest life arise
      Our summer dreams.

  And virtue never seems so fair
    As when we lift our gaze
  From the red eyes and bloody hair
    That vice displays.

  We are too low,--our eyes too dark
    Love's height to estimate,
  Save as we note the sunken mark
     Of brutal Hate.

  So this ensanguined tale shall move
    Aright each little dreamer,
  And Blue Beard teach them how to love
    The sweet Fatima.

  They hate his crimes, and it is well;
    They pity those who died;
  Their sense of justice when he fell
    Was satisfied.

  No fierce revenges are the fruit
    Of their just indignation;
  They sit in judgment on the brute,
    And condemnation;

  And turn to her, his rescued wife,
    Her deeds so kind and human,
  And love the beauty of her life,
    And bless the woman.

_Ruth_.

  That is the way I supposed you would twist it;
    And now that the boys are disposed of,
    And the moral so handsomely closed off,
  What do you say of the girl? That she missed

  When she thought of old Blue Beard as some do of Judas,
  Who with this notion essay to delude us:
      That when he relented,
      And fiercely repented,
      He was hardly so bad
      As he commonly had
    The fortune to be represented?

_David_.

  The noblest pity in the earth
    Is that bestowed on sin.
  The Great Salvation had its birth
      That ruth within.

  The girl is nearest God, in fact;
    The boy gives crime its due;
  She blames the author of the act,
      And pities too.

  Thus, from this strange excess of wrong
    Her tender heart has caught
  The noblest truth, the sweetest song,
      The Saviour taught.

  So, more than measured homily,
    Of sage, or priest, or preacher,
  Is this wild tale of cruelty
      Love's gentle teacher.

  It tells of sin, its deep remorse,
    Its fitting recompense,
  And vindicates the tardy course
      Of Providence.

  These boyish bosoms are on fire
    With chivalric possession,
  And burn with just and manly ire
      Against oppression.

  The glory and the grace of life,
    And Love's surpassing sweetness,
  Rise from the monster to the wife
      In high completeness;

  And thence look down with mercy's eye
    On sin's accurst abuses,
  And seek to wrest from charity
      Some fair excuses.

_Ruth_.

    These greedy mouths are watering
  For the fruit within the basket;
  And, although they will not ask it,
  Their jack-knives all are burning
  And their eager hands are yearning
    For the peeling and the quartering.
  So let us have done with our talk;
  For they are too tired to say their prayers,
  And the time is come they should walk
  From the story below to the story upstairs.



THE THIRD MOVEMENT.

LOCALITY.--_The Kitchen_.

PRESENT.-DAVID, RUTH, JOHN, PETER, PRUDENCE,
_and_ PATIENCE,

THE QUESTION ILLUSTRATED BY THE
DENOUEMENT.

_John_.

  Since the old gentleman retired to bed,
  Things have gone strangely. David, here, and Ruth,
  Have wasted thirty minutes underground
  In explorations. One would think the house
  Covered the entrance of the Mammoth Cave,
  And they had lost themselves. Mary and Grace
  Still hold their chamber and their conference,
  And pour into each other's greedy ears
  Their stream of talk, whose low monotonous hum,
  Would lull to slumber any storm but this.
  The children are play-tired and gone to bed;
  And one may know by looking round the room
  Their place of sport was here. And we, plain folk,
  Who have no gift of speech, especially
  On themes which we and none may understand,
  Have yawned and nodded in the great square room,
  And wondered if the parted family
  Would ever meet again.

_Ruth_.

  John, do you see
  The apples and the cider on the hearth?
  If I remember rightly, you discuss
  Such themes as these with noticeable zest
  And pleasant tokens of intelligence;
  Rather preferring scanty company
  To the full circle. So, sir, take the lead,
  And help yourself.

_John_.

  Aye! That I will, and give
  Your welcome invitation currency,
  In the old-fashioned way. Come! Help yourselves!

_David_.

                           [_Looking out from the window_.]

  The ground is thick with sleet, and still it falls!
  The atmosphere is plunging like the sea
  Against the woods, and pouring on the night
  The roar of breakers, while the blinding spray
  O'erleaps the barrier, and comes drifting on
  In lines as level as the window-bars.
  What curious visions, in a night like this,
  Will the eye conjure from the rocks and trees
  And zigzag fences! I was almost sure
  I saw a man staggering along the road
  A moment since; but instantly the shape
  Dropped from my sight. Hark! Was not that a call--
  A human voice? There's a conspiracy
  Between my eyes and ears to play me tricks,
  Else wanders there abroad some hapless soul
  Who needs assistance. There he stands again,
  And with unsteady essay strives to breast
  The tempest. Hush! Did you not hear that cry?
  Quick, brothers! We must out, and give our aid.
  None but a dying and despairing man
  Ever gave utterance to a cry like that.
  Nay, wait for nothing. Follow me!

_Ruth_.

                                      Alas!
  Who can he be, who on a night like this,
  And on this night, of all nights in the year,
  Holds to the highway, homeless?

_Prudence_.

                                   Probably
  Some neighbor, started from his home in quest
  Of a physician; or, more likely still,
  Some poor inebriate, sadly overcome
  By his sad keeping of the holiday.
  I hope they'll give him quarters in the barn;
  If he sleep here, there'll be no sleep for me.

_Patience_.

  I'll not believe it was a man at all;
  David and Ruth are always seeing things
  That no one else sees.

_Ruth_.

                          I see plainly now
  What we shall all see plainly, soon enough.
  The man is dead, and they are bearing him
  As if he were a log. Quick! Stir the fire,
  And clear the settle! We must lay him there.
  I will bring cordials, and flannel stuffs
  With which to chafe him; open wide the door.

                    [_The men enter bearing a body apparently
                     lifeless, which they lay upon the settle.]

_David_.

  Now do my bidding, orderly and swift;
  And we may save from death a fellow-man.
  Peter, relieve him of those frozen shoes,
  And wrap his feet in flannel. This way, Ruth!
  Administer that cordial yourself.
  John, you are strong, and that rough hand of yours
  Will chafe him well. Work with a will, I say!

       *       *       *       *       *

  My hand is on his heart, and I can feel
  Both warmth and motion. If we persevere,
  He will be saved. Work with a will, I say!

       *       *       *       *       *

  A groan? Ha! That is good. Another groan?
  Better and better!

_Ruth_.

                        It is down at last!--
  A spoonful of the cordial. His breath
  Comes feebly, but is warm upon my hand.

  _David_.

  Give him brisk treatment, and persistent, too;
  And we shall be rewarded presently,
  For there is life in him.

       *       *       *       *       *
                            He moves his lips
  And tries to speak.

       *       *       *       *       *

  And now he opes his eyes.
  What eyes! How wandering and wild they are!

                                       [_To the stranger_.]

  We are your friends. We found you overcome
  By the cold storm without, and brought you in.
  We are your friends, I say; so be at ease,
  And let us do according to your need.
  What is your wish?

_Stranger_.

                    My friends? O God in Heaven!
  They've cheated me! I'm in the hospital.
  Oh, it was cruel to deceive me thus!
  No, you are not my friends. What bitter pain
  Racks my poor body!

_David_.

                      Poor man, how he raves!
  Let us be silent while the warmth and wine
  Provoke his sluggish blood to steady flow,
  And each dead sense comes back to life again,
  O'er the same path of torture which it trod
  When it went out from him. He'll slumber soon,
  And, when he wakens, we may talk with him.

_Prudence_.

                                               [Sotto voce_.]

  Shall I not call the family? I think
  Mary and Grace must both be very cold;
  And they know nothing of this strange affair.
  I'll wait them at the landing, and secure
  Their silent entrance.

_David_.

                        If it please you--well.

                      [PRUDENCE _retires, and returns with_
                       GRACE _and_ MARY.]

_Mary_.

  Why! We heard nothing of it--Grace and I:--
  What a cadaverous hand! How blue and thin!

_David_.

  At his first wild awaking he bemoaned
  His fancied durance in a hospital;
  And since he spoke so strangely, I have thought
  He may have fled a mad-house. Matters not!
  We've done our duty, and preserved his life.

_Mary_.

  Shall I disturb him if I look at him?
  I'm strangely curious to see his face.

_David_.

  Go. Move you carefully, and bring us word
  Whether he sleeps.

                   [MARY _rises, goes to the settle, and sinks
                                             back fainting _]

                   Why! What ails the girl?
  I thought her nerves were iron. Dash her brow,
  And bathe her temples!

_Mary_.

                    There--there,--that will do.
  'Tis over now.

_David_.

  The man is speaking. Hush!

_Stranger_.

  Oh, what a heavenly dream! But it is past,
  Like all my heavenly dreams, for never more
  Shall dream entrance me. Death has never dreams,
  But everlasting wakefulness. The eye
  Of the quick spirit that has dropped the flesh
  May close no more in slumber.

       *       *       *       *       *

                             I must die!
  This painless spell which binds my weary limbs--
  This peace ineffable of soul and sense--
  Is dissolution's herald, and gives note
  That life is conquered and the struggle o'er.
  But I had hoped to see her ere I died;
  To kneel for pardon, and implore one kiss,
  Pledge to my soul that in the coming heaven
  We should not meet as strangers, but rejoin
  Our hearts and lives so madly sundered here,
  Through fault and freak of mine. But it is well!
  God's will be done!

       *       *       *       *       *

                  I dreamed that I had reached
  The old red farmhouse,--that I saw the light
  Flaming as brightly as in other times
  It flushed the kitchen windows; and that forms
  Were sliding to and fro in joyous life,
  Restless to give me welcome. Then I dreamed
  Of the dear woman who went out with me
  One sweet spring morning, in her own sweet spring,
  To--wretchedness and ruin. Oh, forgive--
  Dear, pitying Christ, forgive this cruel wrong,
  And let me die! Oh let me--let me die!
  Mary! my Mary! Could you only know
  How I have suffered since I fled from you.--
  How I have sorrowed through long months of pain,
  And prayed for pardon,--you would pardon me.

_David_.

                                             [_Sotto voce_]

  Mary, what means this? Does he dream alone,
  Or are we dreaming?

_Mary_.

                           Edward, I am here!
  I am your Mary! Know you not my face?
  My husband, speak to me! Oh, speak once more!
  This is no dream, but kind reality.

_Edward_.

            [_Raising himself, and looking wildly around_.]

  You, Mary? Is this heaven, and am I dead?
  I did not know you died: when did you die?
  And John and Peter, Grace and little Ruth
  Grown to a woman; are they all with you?
  'Tis very strange! O pity me, my friends!
  For God has pitied me, and pardoned, too;
  Else I should not be here. Nay, you seem cold,
  And look on me with sad severity.
  Have you no pardoning word--no smile for me?

_Mary_.

  This is not Heaven's, but Earth's reality;
  This is the farm-house--these your wife and friends.
  I hold your hand, and I forgive you all.
  Pray you recline! You are not strong enough
  To bear this yet.

_Edward_.

                                          [_Sinking back_.]

  O toiling heart! O sick and sinking heart!
  Give me one hour of service, ere I die!
  This is no dream. This hand is precious flesh,
  And I am here where I have prayed to be.
  My God, I thank thee! Thou hast heard my prayer,
  And, in its answer, given me a pledge
  Of the acceptance of my penitence.
  How have I yearned for this one priceless hour!
  Cling to me, dearest, while my feet go down
  Into the silent stream; nor loose your hold,
  Till angels grasp me on the other side.

_Mary_.

  Edward, you are not dying--must not die;
  For only now are we prepared to live.
  You must have quiet, and a night of rest.
  Be silent, if you love me!

_Edward_.

                                 If I love?
  Ah, Mary! never till this blessed hour,
  When power and passion, lust and pride are gone,
  Have I perceived what wedded love may be;--
  Unutterable fondness, soul for soul;
  Profoundest tenderness between two hearts
  Allied by nature, interlocked by life.
  I know that I shall die; but the low clouds
  That closed my mental vision have retired,
  And left a sky as clear and calm as Heaven.
  I must talk now, or never more on earth;
  So do not hinder me.

_Mary_.

                                               [_Weeping_.]

                             Have you a wish
  That I can gratify? Have you any words
  To send to other friends?

_Edward_.

                           I have no friends
  But you and these, and only wish to leave
  My worthless name and memory redeemed
  Within your hearts to pitying respect.
  I have no strength, and it becomes me not,
  To tell the story of my life of sin.
  I was a drunkard, thief, adulterer;
  And fled from shame, with shame, to find remorse.
  I had but few months of debauchery,
  Pursued with mad intent to damp or drown
  The flames of a consuming conscience, when
  My body, poisoned, crippled with disease,
  Refused the guilty service of my soul,
  And at midday fell prone upon the street.
  Thence I was carried to a hospital,
  And there I woke to that delirium
  Which none but drunkards this side of the pit
  May even dream of.

                        But at last there came,
  With abstinence and kindly medicines,
  Release from pain and peaceful sanity;
  And then Christ found me, ready for His hand.
  I was not ready for Him when He came
  And asked me for my youth; and when He knocked
  At my heart's door in manhood's early prime
  With tenderest monitions, I debarred
  His waiting feet with promise and excuse;
  And when, in after years, absorbed in sin,
  The gentle summons swelled to thunderings
  That echoed through the chambers of my soul
  With threats of vengeance, I shut up my ears;
  And then He went away, and let me rush
  Without arrest, or protest, toward the pit.
  I made swift passage downward, till, at length,
  I had become a miserable wreck--
  Pleasure behind me; only pain before;
  My life lived out; the fires of passion dead,
  Without a friend; no pride, no power, no hope;
  No motive in me e'en to wish for life.
  Then, as I said, Christ came, with stern and sad
  Reminders of His mercy and my guilt,
  And the door fell before Him.

                                  I went out,
  And trod the wildernesses of remorse
  For many days. Then from their outer verge,
  Tortured and blinded, I plunged madly down
  Into the sullen bosom of despair;
  But strength from Heaven was given me, and preserved
  Breath in my bosom, till a light streamed up
  Upon the other shore, and I struck out
  On the cold waters, struggling for my life.
  Fainting I reached the beach, and on my knees
  Climbed up the thorny hill of penitence,
  Till I could see, upon its distant brow,
  The Saviour beck'ning. Then I ran--I flew--
  And grasped His outstretched hand. It lifted me
  High on the everlasting rock, and then
  It folded me, with all my griefs and tears,
  My sin-sick body and my guilt-stained soul,
  To the great heart that throbs for all the world.

_Mary_.

  Dear Lord, I bless Thee! Thou hast heard my prayer,
  And saved the wanderer! Hear it once again,
  And lengthen out the life Thou hast redeemed!

_Edward_.

  Mary, my wife, forbear! I may not give
  Response to such petition. I have prayed
  That I may die. When first the love Divine
  Received me on its bosom, and in mine
  I felt the springing of another life,
  I begged the Lord to grant me two requests:
  The first that I might die, and in that world
  Where passion sleeps, and only influence
  From Him and those who cluster at His throne
  Breathes on the soul, the germ of His great life,
  Bursting within me, might be perfected.
  The second, that your life, my love, and mine
  Might be once more united on the earth
  In holy marriage, and that mine might be
  Breathed out at last within your loving arms.
  One prayer is granted, and the other waits
  But a brief space for its accomplishment.

_Mary_.

  But why this prayer to die? Still loving me,--
  With the great motive for desiring life
  And the deep secret of enjoyment won,--
  Why pray for death?

_Edward_.

                    Do you not know me, Mary?
  I am afraid to live, for I am weak.
  I've found a treasure only life can steal;
  I've won a jewel only death will keep.
  In such a heart as mine, the priceless pearl
  Would not be safe. That which I would not take
  When health was with me,--which I spurned away
  So long as I had power to sin, I fear
  Would be surrendered with that power's return
  And the temptation to its exercise.
  For soul like mine, diseased in every part,
  There is but one condition in which grace
  May give it service. For my malady
  The Great Physician draws the blood away
  That only flows to feed its baleful fires;
  For only thus the balsam and the balm
  May touch the springs of healing.

                                     So I pray
  To be delivered from myself,--to be
  Delivered from necessity of ill,--
  To be secured from bringing harm to you.
  Oh, what a boon is death to the sick soul!
  I greet it with a joy that passes speech.
  Were the whole world to come before me now,--
  Wealth with its treasures; Pleasure with its cup;
  Power robed in purple; Beauty in its pride,
  And with Love's sweetest blossoms garlanded;
  Fame with its bays, and Glory with its crown,--
  To tempt me lifeward, I would turn away,
  And stretch my hands with utter eagerness
  Toward the pale angel waiting for me now,
  And give my hand to him, to be led out,
  Serenely singing, to the land of shade.

_Mary_.

  Edward, I yield you. I would not retain
  One who has strayed so long from God and heaven,
  When his weak feet have found the only path
  Open for such as he.

  _Edward_.

                           My strength recedes;
  But ere it fail, tell me how fares your life.
  You have seen sorrow; but it comforts me
  To hear the language of a chastened soul
  From one perverted by my guilty hand.
  You speak the dialect of the redeemed--
  The Heaven-accepted. Tell me it is so,
  And you are happy.

  _Mary_.

                    With sweet hope and trust
  I may reply, 'tis as you think and wish.
  I have seen sorrow, surely, and the more
  That I have seen what was far worse; but God
  Sent His own servant to me to restore
  My sadly straying feet to the sure path;
  And in my soul I have the pledge of grace
  Which shall suffice to keep them there.

_Edward_.

                                   Ah, joy!
  You found a friend; and my o'erflowing heart,
  Welling with gratitude, pours out to him
  For his kind ministry its fitting meed.
  Oh, breathe his name to me, that my poor lips
  May bind it to a benison, and that,
  While dying, I may whisper it with those--
  Jesus and Mary--which I love the best.
  Name him, I pray you.

_Mary_.

                          You would ask of me
  To bear your thanks to him, and to rehearse
  Your dying words?

_Grace_.

             He asks your good friend's name;
  You do not understand him.

_Mary_.

                                   It is hard
  To give denial to a dying wish;
  But, Edward, I've no right to speak his name.
  He was a Christian man, and you may give
  Of the full largess of your gratitude
  All, without robbing God, you have to give,
  And fail, e'en then, of worthy recompense.

_Edward_.

  Your will is mine.

_Grace_.

                      Nay, Mary, tell it him!
  Where is he going he should bruit the name?
  Remember where he lies, and that no ears
  Save those of angels--

_Mary_.

                        There are others here
  Who may not hear it.

_Ruth_.

                        We will all retire.
  It is not proper we should linger here,
  Barring the sacred confidence of hearts
  Parting so sadly.

_David_.

  Mary, you must yield,
  Nor keep the secret longer from your friends,

_Mary_.

  David, you know not what you say.

_David_.

                                     I know;
  So give the dying man no more delay.

_Mary_.

  I will declare it under your command.
  This stranger friend--stranger for many months--
  This man, selectest instrument of Heaven,
  Who gave me succor in my hour of need,
  Snatched me from ruin, rescued me from want,
  Counseled and cheered me, prayed with me, and then
  Led me with careful hand into the light,
  Was he now bending over you in tears--
  David, my brother!

_Edward_.

                      Blessed be his name!
  Brother by every law, above--below!

_Grace_.

                                    [_Pale and trembling_,]

  David? My husband? Did I hear aright?
  You are not jesting! Sure you would not jest
  At such a juncture! Speak, my husband, speak!
  Is this a plot to cheat a dying man,
  Or cheat a wife who, if it be no plot,
  Is worthy death? What can you mean by this?

_Mary_.

  Not more nor less than my true words convey.

_Grace_.

  Nay, David, tell me!

_David_.

                       Mary's words are truth.
_Grace_.

  O mean and jealous heart, what hast thou done!
  What wrong to honor, spite to Christian love,
  And shame to self beyond self-pardoning!
  How can I ever lift my faithless eyes
  To those true eyes that I have counted false;
  Or meet those lips that I have charged with lies;
  Or win the dear embraces I have spurned?
  O most unhappy, most unworthy wife!
  No one but he who still has clung to thee,--
  Proud, and imperious, and impenitent,--
  No one but he who has in silence borne
  Thy peevish criminations and complaints
  Can now forgive thee, when in deepest shame
  Thou bowest with confession of thy faults.
  Dear husband! David! Look upon your wife!
  Behold one kneeling never knelt to you!
  I have abused you and your faithful love,
  And, in my great humiliation, pray
  You will not trample me beneath your feet.
  Pity my weakness, and remember, too,
  That Love was jealous of thee, and not Hate--
  That it was Love's own pride tormented me.
  My husband, take me once more to your arms,
  And kiss me in forgiveness; say that you
  Will be my counselor, my friend, my love;
  And I will give myself to you again,
  To be all yours--my reason, confidence,
  My faith and trust all yours, my heart's best love,
  My service and my prayers, all yours--all yours!

_David_.

  Rise, dearest, rise! It gives me only pain
  That such as you should kneel to such as I.
  Your words inform me that you know how weak
  I am whom you have only fancied weak.
  Forgive you? I forgive you everything;
  And take the pardon which your prayer insures.
  Let this embrace, this kiss, be evidence
  Our jarring hearts catch common rhythm again,
  And we are lovers.

_Ruth_.

  Hush! You trouble him.
  He understands this scene no more than we.
  Mary, he speaks to you.

_Edward_.

                        Dear wife, farewell!
  The room grows dim, and silently and soft
  The veil is dropping 'twixt my eyes and yours,
  Which soon will hide me from you--you from me.
  Only one hand is warm; it rests in yours,
  Whose full, sweet pulses throb along my arm,
  So that I live upon them. Cling to me!
  And thus your life, after my life is past,
  Shall lay me gently in the arms of Death.
  Thus shall you link your being with a soul
  Gazing unveiled upon the Great White Throne.

  Dear hearts of love surrounding me, farewell!
  I cannot see you now; or, if I do,
  You are transfigured. There are floating forms
  That whisper over me like summer leaves;
  And now there comes, and spreads through all my soul.
  Delicious influx of another life,
  From out whose essence spring, like living flowers,
  Angelic senses with quick ultimates,
  That catch the rustle of ethereal robes,
  And the thin chime of melting minstrelsy--
  Rising and falling--answered far away--
  As Echo, dreaming in the twilight woods,
  Repeats the warble of her twilight birds.
  And flowers that mock the Iris toss their cups
  In the impulsive ether, and spill out
  Sweet tides of perfume, fragrant deluges,
  Flooding my spirit like an angel's breath.

       *       *       *       *       *

  And still the throng increases; still unfold
  With broader span and more elusive sweep
  The radiant vistas of a world divine.
  But O my soul! what vision rises now!
  Far, far away, white blazing like the sun,
  In deepest distance and on highest height,
  Through walls diaphanous, and atmosphere
  Flecked with unnumbered forms of missive power,
  Out-going fleetly and returning slow,
  A Presence shines I may not penetrate;
  But on a throne, with smile ineffable,
  I see a form my conscious spirit knows.
  Jesus, my Saviour! Jesus, Lamb of God!
  Jesus who taketh from me all my sins,
  And from the world! Jesus, I come to thee!
  Come thou to me! O come, Lord, quickly! Come!

_David_.

  Flown on the wings of rapture! Is this death?
  His heart is still; his beaded brow is cold;
  His wasted breast struggles for breath no more;
  And his pale features, hardened with the stress
  Of Life's resistance, momently subside
  Into a smile, calm as a twilight lake,
  Sprent with the images of rising stars,
  We have seen Evil in his countless forms
  In these poor lives; have met his armed hosts
  In dread encounter and discomfiture;
  And languished in captivity to them,
  Until we lost our courage and our faith;
  And here we see their Chieftain--Terror's King!
  He cuts the knot that binds a weary soul
  To faithless passions, sateless appetites,
  And powers perverted, and it flies away
  Singing toward heaven. He turns and looks at us,
  And finds us weeping with our gratitude--
  Full of sweet sorrow,--sorrow sweeter far
  Than the supremest ecstasy of joy.

  And this is death! Think you that raptured soul
  Now walking humbly in the golden streets,
  Bearing the precious burden of a love
  Too great for utterance, or with hushed heart
  Drinking the music of the ransomed throng,
  Counts death an evil?--evil, sickness, pain,
  Calamity, or aught that God prescribed
  To cure it of its sin, or bring it where
  The healing hand of Christ might touch it? No!
  He is a man to-night--a man in Christ.
  This was his childhood, here; and as we give
  A smile of wonder to the little woes
  That drew the tears from out our own young eyes,
  The kind corrections and severe constraints
  Imposed by those who loved us--so he sees
  A father's chastisement in all the ill
  That filled his life with darkness; so he sees
  In every evil a kind instrument
  To chasten, elevate, correct, subdue,
  And fit him for that heavenly estate--
  Saintship in Christ--the Manhood Absolute!



L'ENVOY.


  Midnight and silence! In the West, unveiled,
  The broad, full moon is shining, with the stars.
  On mount and valley, forest, roof, and rock,
  On billowy hills smooth-stretching to the sky,
  On rail and wall, on all things far and near,
  Cling the bright crystals,--all the earth a floor
  Of polished silver, pranked with bending forms
  Uplifting to the light their precious weight
  Of pearls and diamonds, set in palest gold.
  The storm is dead; and when it rolled away
  It took no star from heaven, but left to earth
  Such legacy of beauty as The Wind--
  The light-robed shepherdess from Cuban groves--
  Driving soft showers before her, and warm airs,
  And her wide-scattered flocks of wet-winged birds,
  Never bestowed upon the waiting Spring.
  Pale, silent, smiling, cold, and beautiful!
  Do storms die thus? And is it this to die?

  Midnight and silence! In that hallowed room
  God's full-orbed peace is shining, with the stars.
  On head and hand, on brow, and lip, and eye,
  On folded arms, on broad unmoving breast,
  On the white-sanded floor, on everything
  Rest the pale radiance, while bending forms
  Stand all around, loaded with precious weight
  Of jewels such as holy angels wear.
  The man is dead; and when he passed away
  He blotted out no good, but left behind
  Such wealth of faith, such store of love and trust,
  As breath of joy, in-floating from the isles
  Smiled on by ceaseless summer, and indued
  With foliage and flowers perennial,
  Never conveyed to the enchanted soul.
  Do men die thus? And is it this to die?

  Midnight and silence! At each waiting tied,
  Husband and wife, embracing, kneel in prayer;
  And lips unused to such a benison
  Breathe blessings upon evil, and give thanks
  For knowledge of its sacred ministry.
  An infant nestles on a mother's breast,
  Whose head is pillowed where it has not lain
  For months of wasted life--the tale all told,
  And confidence and love for aye secure.

  The widow and the virgin: where are they?
  The morn shall find them watching with the dead,
  Like the two angels at the tomb of Christ,--
  One at the head, the other at the foot,--
  Guarding a sepulcher whose occupant
  Has risen, and rolled the heavy stone away!



THE END.



[Transcriber's Note: In the First Movement, one word was missing from
our print copy; the symbol [***] denotes the missing word.

This work contains some rare words and variants, such as
blent, indites, mekly, reck, ruth (no capital), sprent, and ween.]





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