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A Dark Month

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

I

A month without sight of the sun
Rising or reigning or setting
Through days without use of the day,
Who calls it the month of May?
The sense of the name is undone
And the sound of it fit for forgetting.

We shall not feel if the sun rise,
We shall not care when it sets:
If a nightingale make night’s air
As noontide, why should we care?
Till a light of delight that is done rise,
Extinguishing grey regrets;

Till a child’s face lighten again
On the twilight of older faces;
Till a child’s voice fall as the dew
On furrows with heat parched through
And all but hopeless of grain,
Refreshing the desolate places–

Fall clear on the ears of us hearkening
And hungering for food of the sound
And thirsting for joy of his voice:
Till the hearts in us hear and rejoice,
And the thoughts of them doubting and darkening
Rejoice with a glad thing found.

When the heart of our gladness is gone,
What comfort is left with us after?
When the light of our eyes is away,
What glory remains upon May,
What blessing of song is thereon
If we drink not the light of his laughter?

No small sweet face with the daytime
To welcome, warmer than noon!
No sweet small voice as a bird’s
To bring us the day’s first words!
Mid May for us here is not Maytime:
No summer begins with June.

A whole dead month in the dark,
A dawn in the mists that o’ercome her
Stifled and smothered and sad–
Swift speed to it, barren and bad!
And return to us, voice of the lark,
And remain with us, sunlight of summer.

II

Alas, what right has the dawn to glimmer,
What right has the wind to do aught but moan?
All the day should be dimmer
Because we are left alone.

Yestermorn like a sunbeam present
Hither and thither a light step smiled,
And made each place for us pleasant
With the sense or the sight of a child.

But the leaves persist as before, and after
Our parting the dull day still bears flowers;
And songs less bright than his laughter
Deride us from birds in the bowers.

Birds, and blossoms, and sunlight only,
As though such folly sufficed for spring!
As though the house were not lonely
For want of the child its king!

III

Asleep and afar to-night my darling
Lies, and heeds not the night,
If winds be stirring or storms be snarling;
For his sleep is its own sweet light.

I sit where he sat beside me quaffing
The wine of story and song
Poured forth of immortal cups, and laughing
When mirth in the draught grew strong.

I broke the gold of the words, to melt it
For hands but seven years old,
And they caught the tale as a bird, and felt it
More bright than visible gold.

And he drank down deep, with his eyes broad beaming,
Here in this room where I am,
The golden vintage of Shakespeare, gleaming
In the silver vessels of Lamb.

Here by my hearth where he was I listen
For the shade of the sound of a word,
Athirst for the birdlike eyes to glisten,
For the tongue to chirp like a bird.

At the blast of battle, how broad they brightened,
Like fire in the spheres of stars,
And clung to the pictured page, and lightened
As keen as the heart of Mars!

At the touch of laughter, how swift it twittered
The shrillest music on earth;
How the lithe limbs laughed and the whole child glittered
With radiant riot of mirth!

Our Shakespeare now, as a man dumb-stricken,
Stands silent there on the shelf:
And my thoughts, that had song in the heart of them, sicken,
And relish not Shakespeare’s self.

And my mood grows moodier than Hamlet’s even,
And man delights not me,
But only the face that morn and even
My heart leapt only to see.

That my heart made merry within me seeing,
And sang as his laugh kept time:
But song finds now no pleasure in being,
And love no reason in rhyme.

IV

Mild May-blossom and proud sweet bay-flower,
What, for shame, would you have with us here?
It is not the month of the May-flower
This, but the fall of the year.

Flowers open only their lips in derision,
Leaves are as fingers that point in scorn
The shows we see are a vision;
Spring is not verily born.

Yet boughs turn supple and buds grow sappy,
As though the sun were indeed the sun:
And all our woods are happy
With all their birds save one.

But spring is over, but summer is over,
But autumn is over, and winter stands
With his feet sunk deep in the clover
And cowslips cold in his hands.

His hoar grim head has a hawthorn bonnet,
His gnarled gaunt hand has a gay green staff
With new-blown rose-blossom on it:
But his laugh is a dead man’s laugh.

The laugh of spring that the heart seeks after,
The hand that the whole world yearns to kiss,
It rings not here in his laughter,
The sign of it is not this.

There is not strength in it left to splinter
Tall oaks, nor frost in his breath to sting:
Yet it is but a breath as of winter,
And it is not the hand of spring.

V

Thirty-one pale maidens, clad
All in mourning dresses,
Pass, with lips and eyes more sad
That it seems they should be glad,
Heads discrowned of crowns they had,
Grey for golden tresses.

Grey their girdles too for green,
And their veils dishevelled:
None would say, to see their mien,
That the least of these had been
Born no baser than a queen,
Reared where flower-fays revelled.

Dreams that strive to seem awake,
Ghosts that walk by daytime,
Weary winds the way they take,
Since, for one child’s absent sake,
May knows well, whate’er things make
Sport, it is not Maytime.

VI

A hand at the door taps light
As the hand of my heart’s delight:
It is but a full-grown hand,
Yet the stroke of it seems to start
Hope like a bird in my heart,
Too feeble to soar or to stand.

To start light hope from her cover
Is to raise but a kite for a plover
If her wings be not fledged to soar.
Desire, but in dreams, cannot ope
The door that was shut upon hope
When love went out at the door.

Well were it if vision could keep
The lids of desire as in sleep
Fast locked, and over his eyes
A dream with the dark soft key
In her hand might hover, and be
Their keeper till morning rise;

The morning that brings after many
Days fled with no light upon any
The small face back which is gone;
When the loved little hands once more
Shall struggle and strain at the door
They beat their summons upon.

VII

If a soul for but seven days were cast out of heaven and its mirth,
They would seem to her fears like as seventy years upon earth.

Even and morrow should seem to her sorrow as long
As the passage of numberless ages in slumberless song.

Dawn, roused by the lark, would be surely as dark in her sight
As her measureless measure of shadowless pleasure was bright.

Noon, gilt but with glory of gold, would be hoary and grey
In her eyes that had gazed on the depths, unamazed with the day.

Night hardly would seem to make darker her dream never done,
When it could but withhold what a man may behold of the sun.

For dreams would perplex, were the days that should vex her but seven,
The sight of her vision, made dark with division from heaven.

Till the light on my lonely way lighten that only now gleams,
I too am divided from heaven and derided of dreams.

VIII

A twilight fire-fly may suggest
How flames the fire that feeds the sun:
“A crooked figure may attest
In little space a million.”

But this faint-figured verse, that dresses
With flowers the bones of one bare month,
Of all it would say scarce expresses
In crooked ways a millionth.

A fire-fly tenders to the father
Of fires a tribute something worth:
My verse, a shard-borne beetle rather,
Drones over scarce-illumined earth.

Some inches round me though it brighten
With light of music-making thought,
The dark indeed it may not lighten,
The silence moves not, hearing nought.

Only my heart is eased with hearing,
Only mine eyes are soothed with seeing,
A face brought nigh, a footfall nearing,
Till hopes take form and dreams have being.

IX

As a poor man hungering stands with insatiate eyes and hands
Void of bread
Right in sight of men that feast while his famine with no least
Crumb is fed,

Here across the garden-wall can I hear strange children call,
Watch them play,
From the windowed seat above, whence the goodlier child I love
Is away.

Here the sights we saw together moved his fancy like a feather
To and fro,
Now to wonder, and thereafter to the sunny storm of laughter
Loud and low–

Sights engraven on storied pages where man’s tale of seven
swift ages
All was told–
Seen of eyes yet bright from heaven–for the lips that laughed
were seven
Sweet years old.

X

Why should May remember
March, if March forget
The days that began with December
The nights that a frost could fret?

All their griefs are done with
Now the bright months bless
Fit souls to rejoice in the sun with,
Fit heads for the wind’s caress;

Souls of children quickening
With the whole world’s mirth,
Heads closelier than field-flowers thickening
That crowd and illuminate earth,

Now that May’s call musters
Files of baby bands
To marshal in joyfuller clusters
Than the flowers that encumber their hands.

Yet morose November
Found them no less gay,
With nought to forget or remember
Less bright than a branch of may.

All the seasons moving
Move their minds alike
Applauding, acclaiming, approving
All hours of the year that strike.

So my heart may fret not,
Wondering if my friend
Remember me not or forget not
Or ever the month find end.

Not that love sows lighter
Seed in children sown,
But that life being lit in them brighter
Moves fleeter than even our own.

May nor yet September
Binds their hearts, that yet
Remember, forget, and remember,
Forget, and recall, and forget.

XI

As light on a lake’s face moving
Between a cloud and a cloud
Till night reclaim it, reproving
The heart that exults too loud,

The heart that watching rejoices
When soft it swims into sight
Applauded of all the voices
And stars of the windy night,

So brief and unsure, but sweeter
Than ever a moondawn smiled,
Moves, measured of no tune’s metre,
The song in the soul of a child;

The song that the sweet soul singing
Half listens, and hardly hears,
Though sweeter than joy-bells ringing
And brighter than joy’s own tears;

The song that remembrance of pleasure
Begins, and forgetfulness ends
With a soft swift change in the measure
That rings in remembrance of friends

As the moon on the lake’s face flashes,
So haply may gleam at whiles
A dream through the dear deep lashes
Whereunder a child’s eye smiles,

And the least of us all that love him
May take for a moment part
With angels around and above him,
And I find place in his heart.

XII

Child, were you kinless and lonely–
Dear, were you kin to me–
My love were compassionate only
Or such as it needs would be.

But eyes of father and mother
Like sunlight shed on you shine:
What need you have heed of another
Such new strange love as is mine?

It is not meet if unruly
Hands take of the children’s bread
And cast it to dogs; but truly
The dogs after all would be fed.

On crumbs from the children’s table
That crumble, dropped from above,
My heart feeds, fed with unstable
Loose waifs of a child’s light love.

Though love in your heart were brittle
As glass that breaks with a touch,
You haply would lend him a little
Who surely would give you much.

XIII

Here is a rough
Rude sketch of my friend,
Faint-coloured enough
And unworthily penned.

Fearlessly fair
And triumphant he stands,
And holds unaware
Friends’ hearts in his hands;

Stalwart and straight
As an oak that should bring
Forth gallant and great
Fresh roses in spring.

On the paths of his pleasure
All graces that wait
What metre shall measure
What rhyme shall relate

Each action, each motion,
Each feature, each limb,
Demands a devotion
In honour of him:

Head that the hand
Of a god might have blest,
Laid lustrous and bland
On the curve of its crest:

Mouth sweeter than cherries,
Keen eyes as of Mars,
Browner than berries
And brighter than stars.

Nor colour nor wordy
Weak song can declare
The stature how sturdy,
How stalwart his air.

As a king in his bright
Presence-chamber may be,
So seems he in height–
Twice higher than your knee.

As a warrior sedate
With reserve of his power,
So seems he in state–
As tall as a flower:

As a rose overtowering
The ranks of the rest
That beneath it lie cowering,
Less bright than their best.

And his hands are as sunny
As ruddy ripe corn
Or the browner-hued honey
From heather-bells borne.

When summer sits proudest,
Fulfilled with its mirth,
And rapture is loudest
In air and on earth,

The suns of all hours
That have ripened the roots
Bring forth not such flowers
And beget not such fruits.

And well though I know it,
As fain would I write,
Child, never a poet
Could praise you aright.

I bless you? the blessing
Were less than a jest
Too poor for expressing;
I come to be blest,

With humble and dutiful
Heart, from above:
Bless me, O my beautiful
Innocent love!

This rhyme in your praise
With a smile was begun;
But the goal of his ways
Is uncovered to none,

Nor pervious till after
The limit impend;
It is not in laughter
These rhymes of you end.

XIV

Spring, and fall, and summer, and winter,
Which may Earth love least of them all,
Whose arms embrace as their signs imprint her,
Summer, or winter, or spring, or fall?

The clear-eyed spring with the wood-birds mating,
The rose-red summer with eyes aglow,
The yellow fall with serene eyes waiting,
The wild-eyed winter with hair all snow?

Spring’s eyes are soft, but if frosts benumb her
As winter’s own will her shrewd breath sting:
Storms may rend the raiment of summer,
And fall grow bitter as harsh-lipped spring.

One sign for summer and winter guides me,
One for spring, and the like for fall:
Whichever from sight of my friend divides me,
That is the worst ill season of all.

XV

Worse than winter is spring
If I come not to sight of my king:
But then what a spring will it be
When my king takes homage of me!

I send his grace from afar
Homage, as though to a star;
As a shepherd whose flock takes flight
May worship a star by night.

As a flock that a wolf is upon
My songs take flight and are gone:
No heart is in any to sing
Aught but the praise of my king.

Fain would I once and again
Sing deeds and passions of men:
But ever a child’s head gleams
Between my work and my dreams.

Between my hand and my eyes
The lines of a small face rise,
And the lines I trace and retrace
Are none but those of the face.

XVI

Till the tale of all this flock of days alike
All be done,
Weary days of waiting till the month’s hand strike
Thirty-one,
Till the clock’s hand of the month break off, and end
With the clock,
Till the last and whitest sheep at last be penned
Of the flock,
I their shepherd keep the count of night and day
With my song,
Though my song be, like this month which once was May,
All too long.

XVII

The incarnate sun, a tall strong youth,
On old Greek eyes in sculpture smiled:
But trulier had it given the truth
To shape him like a child.

No face full-grown of all our dearest
So lightens all our darkness, none
Most loved of all our hearts hold nearest
To far outshines the sun,

As when with sly shy smiles that feign
Doubt if the hour be clear, the time
Fit to break off my work again
Or sport of prose or rhyme,

My friend peers in on me with merry
Wise face, and though the sky stay dim
The very light of day, the very
Sun’s self comes in with him.

XVIII

Out of sight,
Out of mind!
Could the light
Prove unkind?

Can the sun
Quite forget
What was done
Ere he set?

Does the moon
When she wanes
Leave no tune
That remains

In the void
Shell of night
Overcloyed
With her light?

Must the shore
At low tide
Feel no more
Hope or pride,

No intense
Joy to be,
In the sense
Of the sea–

In the pulses
Of her shocks
It repulses,
When its rocks

Thrill and ring
As with glee?
Has my king
Cast off me,

Whom no bird
Flying south
Brings one word
From his mouth?

Not the ghost
Of a word.
Riding post
Have I heard,

Since the day
When my king
Took away
With him spring,

And the cup
Of each flower
Shrivelled up
That same hour,

With no light
Left behind.
Out of sight,
Out of mind!

XIX

Because I adore you
And fall
On the knees of my spirit before you–
After all,

You need not insult,
My king,
With neglect, though your spirit exult
In the spring,

Even me, though not worth,
God knows,
One word of you sent me in mirth,
Or one rose

Out of all in your garden
That grow
Where the frost and the wind never harden
Flakes of snow,

Nor ever is rain
At all,
But the roses rejoice to remain
Fair and tall–

The roses of love,
More sweet
Than blossoms that rain from above
Round our feet,

When under high bowers
We pass,
Where the west wind freckles with flowers
All the grass.

But a child’s thoughts bear
More bright
Sweet visions by day, and more fair
Dreams by night,

Than summer’s whole treasure
Can be:
What am I that his thought should take pleasure,
Then, in me?

I am only my love’s
True lover,
With a nestful of songs, like doves
Under cover,

That I bring in my cap
Fresh caught,
To be laid on my small king’s lap–
Worth just nought.

Yet it haply may hap
That he,
When the mirth in his veins is as sap
In a tree,

Will remember me too
Some day
Ere the transit be thoroughly through
Of this May–

Or perchance, if such grace
May be,
Some night when I dream of his face.
Dream of me.

Or if this be too high
A hope
For me to prefigure in my
Horoscope,

He may dream of the place
Where we
Basked once in the light of his face,
Who now see

Nought brighter, not one
Thing bright,
Than the stars and the moon and the sun,
Day nor night.

XX

Day by darkling day,
Overpassing, bears away
Somewhat of the burden of this weary May.

Night by numbered night,
Waning, brings more near in sight
Hope that grows to vision of my heart’s delight.

Nearer seems to burn
In the dawn’s rekindling urn
Flame of fragrant incense, hailing his return.

Louder seems each bird
In the brightening branches heard
Still to speak some ever more delightful word.

All the mists that swim
Round the dawns that grow less dim
Still wax brighter and more bright with hope of him.

All the suns that rise
Bring that day more near our eyes
When the sight of him shall clear our clouded skies.

All the winds that roam
Fruitful fields or fruitless foam
Blow the bright hour near that brings his bright face home.

XXI

I hear of two far hence
In a garden met,
And the fragrance blown from thence
Fades not yet.

The one is seven years old,
And my friend is he:
But the years of the other have told
Eighty-three.

To hear these twain converse
Or to see them greet
Were sweeter than softest verse
May be sweet.

The hoar old gardener there
With an eye more mild
Perchance than his mild white hair
Meets the child.

I had rather hear the words
That the twain exchange
Than the songs of all the birds
There that range,

Call, chirp, and twitter there
Through the garden-beds
Where the sun alike sees fair
Those two heads,

And which may holier be
Held in heaven of those
Or more worth heart’s thanks to see
No man knows.

XXII

Of such is the kingdom of heaven,
No glory that ever was shed
From the crowning star of the seven
That crown the north world’s head,

No word that ever was spoken
Of human or godlike tongue,
Gave ever such godlike token
Since human harps were strung.

No sign that ever was given
To faithful or faithless eyes
Showed ever beyond clouds riven
So clear a Paradise.

Earth’s creeds may be seventy times seven
And blood have defiled each creed:
If of such be the kingdom of heaven,
It must be heaven indeed.

XXIII

The wind on the downs is bright
As though from the sea:
And morning and night
Take comfort again with me.

He is nearer to-day,
Each night to each morning saith,
Whose return shall revive dead May
With the balm of his breath.

The sunset says to the moon,
He is nearer to-night
Whose coming in June
Is looked for more than the light.

Bird answers to bird,
Hour passes the sign on to hour,
And for joy of the bright news heard
Flower murmurs to flower.

The ways that were glad of his feet
In the woods that he knew
Grow softer to meet
The sense of his footfall anew.

He is near now as day,
Says hope to the new-born light:
He is near now as June is to May,
Says love to the night.

XXIV

Good things I keep to console me
For lack of the best of all,
A child to command and control me,
Bid come and remain at his call.

Sun, wind, and woodland and highland,
Give all that ever they gave:
But my world is a cultureless island,
My spirit a masterless slave.

And friends are about me, and better
At summons of no man stand:
But I pine for the touch of a fetter,
The curb of a strong king’s hand.

Each hour of the day in her season
Is mine to be served as I will:
And for no more exquisite reason
Are all served idly and ill.

By slavery my sense is corrupted,
My soul not fit to be free:
I would fain be controlled, interrupted,
Compelled as a thrall may be.

For fault of spur and of bridle
I tire of my stall to death:
My sail flaps joyless and idle
For want of a small child’s breath.

XXV

Whiter and whiter
The dark lines grow,
And broader opens and brighter
The sense of the text below.

Nightfall and morrow
Bring nigher the boy
Whom wanting we want not sorrow,
Whom having we want no joy.

Clearer and clearer
The sweet sense grows
Of the word which hath summer for hearer,
The word on the lips of the rose.

Duskily dwindles
Each deathlike day,
Till June rearising rekindles
The depth of the darkness of May.

XXVI

“In his bright radiance and collateral light
Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.”

Stars in heaven are many,
Suns in heaven but one:
Nor for man may any
Star supplant the sun.

Many a child as joyous
As our far-off king
Meets as though to annoy us
In the paths of spring.

Sure as spring gives warning,
All things dance in tune:
Sun on Easter morning,
Cloud and windy moon,

Stars between the tossing
Boughs of tuneful trees,
Sails of ships recrossing
Leagues of dancing seas;

Best, in all this playtime,
Best of all in tune,
Girls more glad than Maytime,
Boys more bright than June;

Mixed with all those dances,
Far through field and street
Sing their silent glances,
Ring their radiant feet.

Flowers wherewith May crowned us
Fall ere June be crowned:
Children blossom round us
All the whole year round.

Is the garland worthless
For one rose the less,
And the feast made mirthless?
Love, at least, says yes.

Strange it were, with many
Stars enkindling air,
Should but one find any
Welcome: strange it were,

Had one star alone won
Praise for light from far:
Nay, love needs his own one
Bright particular star.

Hope and recollection
Only lead him right
In its bright reflection
And collateral light.

Find as yet we may not
Comfort in its sphere:
Yet these days will weigh not
When it warms us here;

When full-orbed it rises,
Now divined afar:
None in all the skies is
Half so good a star;

None that seers importune
Till a sign be won:
Star of our good fortune,
Rise and reign, our sun!

XXVII

I pass by the small room now forlorn
Where once each night as I passed I knew
A child’s bright sleep from even to morn
Made sweet the whole night through.

As a soundless shell, as a songless nest,
Seems now the room that was radiant then
And fragrant with his happier rest
Than that of slumbering men.

The day therein is less than the day,
The night is indeed night now therein:
Heavier the dark seems there to weigh,
And slower the dawns begin.

As a nest fulfilled with birds, as a shell
Fulfilled with breath of a god’s own hymn,
Again shall be this bare blank cell,
Made sweet again with him.

XXVIII

Spring darkens before us,
A flame going down,
With chant from the chorus
Of days without crown–
Cloud, rain, and sonorous
Soft wind on the down.

She is wearier not of us
Than we of the dream
That spring was to love us
And joy was to gleam
Through the shadows above us
That shift as they stream.

Half dark and half hoary,
Float far on the loud
Mild wind, as a glory
Half pale and half proud
From the twilight of story,
Her tresses of cloud;

Like phantoms that glimmer
Of glories of old
With ever yet dimmer
Pale circlets of gold
As darkness grows grimmer
And memory more cold.

Like hope growing clearer
With wane of the moon,
Shines toward us the nearer
Gold frontlet of June,
And a face with it dearer
Than midsummer noon.

XXIX

You send me your love in a letter,
I send you my love in a song:
Ah child, your gift is the better,
Mine does you but wrong.

No fame, were the best less brittle,
No praise, were it wide as earth,
Is worth so much as a little
Child’s love may be worth.

We see the children above us
As they might angels above:
Come back to us, child, if you love us,
And bring us your love.

XXX

No time for books or for letters:
What time should there be?
No room for tasks and their fetters:
Full room to be free.

The wind and the sun and the Maytime
Had never a guest
More worthy the most that his playtime
Could give of its best.

If rain should come on, peradventure,
(But sunshine forbid!)
Vain hope in us haply might venture
To dream as it did.

But never may come, of all comers
Least welcome, the rain,
To mix with his servant the summer’s
Rose-garlanded train!

He would write, but his hours are as busy
As bees in the sun,
And the jubilant whirl of their dizzy
Dance never is done.

The message is more than a letter,
Let love understand,
And the thought of his joys even better
Than sight of his hand.

XXXI

Wind, high-souled, full-hearted
South-west wind of the spring!
Ere April and earth had parted,
Skies, bright with thy forward wing,
Grew dark in an hour with the shadow behind it, that bade not a
bird dare sing.

Wind whose feet are sunny,
Wind whose wings are cloud,
With lips more sweet than honey
Still, speak they low or loud,
Rejoice now again in the strength of thine heart: let the depth of
thy soul wax proud.

We hear thee singing or sighing,
Just not given to sight,
All but visibly flying
Between the clouds and the light,
And the light in our hearts is enkindled, the shadow therein of the
clouds put to flight.

From the gift of thine hands we gather
The core of the flowers therein,
Keen glad heart of heather,
Hot sweet heart of whin,
Twin breaths in thy godlike breath close blended of wild spring’s
wildest of kin.

All but visibly beating
We feel thy wings in the far
Clear waste, and the plumes of them fleeting,
Soft as swan’s plumes are,
And strong as a wild swan’s pinions, and swift as the flash of the
flight of a star.

As the flight of a planet enkindled
Seems thy far soft flight
Now May’s reign has dwindled
And the crescent of June takes light
And the presence of summer is here, and the hope of a welcomer
presence in sight.

Wind, sweet-souled, great-hearted
Southwest wind on the wold!
From us is a glory departed
That now shall return as of old,
Borne back on thy wings as an eagle’s expanding, and crowned with
the sundawn’s gold.

There is not a flower but rejoices,
There is not a leaf but has heard:
All the fields find voices,
All the woods are stirred:
There is not a nest but is brighter because of the coming of one
bright bird.

Out of dawn and morning,
Noon and afternoon,
The sun to the world gives warning
Of news that brightens the moon;
And the stars all night exult with us, hearing of joy that shall
come with June.

King Cotton

by Horatio Alger, Jr.

King Cotton looks from his window
  Towards the westering sun,
And he marks, with an anguished horror,
  That his race is almost run.

His form is thin and shrunken;
  His cheek is pale and wan;
And the lines of care on his furrowed brow
  Are dread to look upon.

But yesterday a monarch,
  In the flush of his pomp and pride,
And, not content with his own broad lands,
  He would rule the world beside.

He built him a stately palace,
  With gold from beyond the sea;
And he laid with care the corner-stone,
  And he called it Slavery:

He summoned an army with banners,
  To keep his foes at bay;
And, gazing with pride on his palace walls,
  He said, “They will stand for aye!”

But the palace walls are shrunken,
  And partly overthrown,
And the storms of war, in their violence,
  Have loosened the corner-stone.

Now Famine stalks through the palace halls,
  With her gaunt and pallid train;
You can hear the cries of famished men,
  As they cry for bread in vain.

The king can see, from his palace walls.
  A land by his pride betrayed;
Thousands of mothers and wives bereft.
  Thousands of graves new-made.

And he seems to see, in the lowering sky,
  The shape of a flaming sword;
Whereon he reads, with a sinking heart,
  The anger of the Lord.

God speed the time when the guilty king
  Shall be hurled from his blood-stained throne;
And the palace of Wrong shall crumble to dust,
  With its boasted corner-stone.

A temple of Freedom shall rise instead,
  On the desecrated site:
And within its shelter alike shall stand
  The black man and the white.

The Forest Reverie

by Edgar Allan Poe
      ‘Tis said that when
      The hands of men
    Tamed this primeval wood,
  And hoary trees with groans of wo,
  Like warriors by an unknown foe,
    Were in their strength subdued,
      The virgin Earth
      Gave instant birth
    To springs that ne’er did flow–
      That in the sun
      Did rivulets run,
  And all around rare flowers did blow–
      The wild rose pale
      Perfumed the gale,
  And the queenly lily adown the dale
      (Whom the sun and the dew
      And the winds did woo),
  With the gourd and the grape luxuriant grew.

      So when in tears
      The love of years
    Is wasted like the snow,
  And the fine fibrils of its life
  By the rude wrong of instant strife
    Are broken at a blow–
      Within the heart
      Do springs upstart
    Of which it doth now know,
      And strange, sweet dreams,
      Like silent streams
  That from new fountains overflow,
      With the earlier tide
      Of rivers glide
  Deep in the heart whose hope has died–
  Quenching the fires its ashes hide,–
    Its ashes, whence will spring and grow
      Sweet flowers, ere long,–
    The rare and radiant flowers of song!

Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER XVI

by Eleanor H. Porter

A GIRL AND A BIT OF LOWESTOFT
Immediately after breakfast the next morning,
Billy was summoned to the telephone.

“Oh, good morning, Uncle William,” she called,
in answer to the masculine voice that replied to
her “Hullo.”

“Billy, are you very busy this morning?”

“No, indeed–not if you want me.”

“Well, I do, my dear.”  Uncle William’s
voice was troubled.  “I want you to go with me,
if you can, to see a Mrs. Greggory.  She’s got a
teapot I want.  It’s a genuine Lowestoft, Harlow
says.  Will you go?”

“Of course I will!  What time?”

“Eleven if you can, at Park Street.  She’s
at the West End.  I don’t dare to put it off for
fear I’ll lose it.  Harlow says others will have to
know of it, of course.  You see, she’s just made up
her mind to sell it, and asked him to find a
customer.  I wouldn’t trouble you, but he says
they’re peculiar–the daughter, especially–and
may need some careful handling.  That’s why I
wanted you–though I wanted you to see the tea-pot,
too,–it’ll be yours some day, you know.”

Billy, all alone at her end of the line, blushed.
That she was one day to be mistress of the Strata
and all it contained was still anything but “common”
to her.

“I’d love to see it, and I’ll come gladly; but
I’m afraid I won’t be much help, Uncle William,”
she worried.

“I’ll take the risk of that.  You see, Harlow
says that about half the time she isn’t sure she
wants to sell it, after all.”

“Why, how funny!  Well, I’ll come.  At
eleven, you say, at Park Street?”

“Yes; and thank you, my dear.  I tried to
get Kate to go, too; but she wouldn’t.  By the
way, I’m going to bring you home to luncheon.
Kate leaves this afternoon, you know, and it’s
been so snowy she hasn’t thought best to try to
get over to the house.  Maybe Aunt Hannah would
come, too, for luncheon.  Would she?”

“I’m afraid not,” returned Billy, with a rueful
laugh.  “She’s got _three_ shawls on this morning,
and you know that always means that she’s
felt a draft somewhere–poor dear.  I’ll tell her,
though, and I’ll see you at eleven,” finished Billy,
as she hung up the receiver.

Promptly at the appointed time Billy met Uncle
William at Park Street, and together they set
out for the West End street named on the paper
in his pocket.  But when the shabby house on
the narrow little street was reached, the man looked
about him with a troubled frown.

“I declare, Billy, I’m not sure but we’d better
turn back,” he fretted.  “I didn’t mean to take
you to such a place as this.”

Billy shivered a little; but after one glance at
the man’s disappointed face she lifted a determined
chin.

“Nonsense, Uncle William!  Of course you
won’t turn back.  I don’t mind–for myself;
but only think of the people whose _homes_ are
here,” she finished, just above her breath.

Mrs. Greggory was found to be living in two
back rooms at the top of four flights of stairs,
up which William Henshaw toiled with increasing
weariness and dismay, punctuating each flight
with a despairing:  “Billy, really, I think we
should turn back!”

But Billy would not turn back, and at last
they found themselves in the presence of a white-
haired, sweet-faced woman who said yes, she
was Mrs. Greggory; yes, she was.  Even as she
uttered the words, however, she looked fearfully
over her shoulders as if expecting to hear from
the hall behind them a voice denying her assertion.

Mrs. Greggory was a cripple.  Her slender
little body was poised on two once-costly crutches.
Both the worn places on the crutches, and the
skill with which the little woman swung herself
about the room testified that the crippled condition
was not a new one.

Billy’s eyes were brimming with pity and
dismay.  Mechanically she had taken the chair
toward which Mrs. Greggory had motioned her.
She had tried not to seem to look about her; but
there was not one detail of the bare little room,
from its faded rug to the patched but spotless
tablecloth, that was not stamped on her brain.

Mrs. Greggory had seated herself now, and
William Henshaw had cleared his throat nervously.
Billy did not know whether she herself were the
more distressed or the more relieved to hear him
stammer:

“We–er–I came from Harlow, Mrs. Greggory.
He gave me to understand you had an–
er–teapot that–er–”  With his eyes on
the cracked white crockery pitcher on the table,
William Henshaw came to a helpless pause.

A curious expression, or rather, series of
expressions crossed Mrs. Greggory’s face.  Terror,
joy, dismay, and relief seemed, one after the other
to fight for supremacy.  Relief in the end
conquered, though even yet there was a second
hurriedly apprehensive glance toward the door
before she spoke.

“The Lowestoft!  Yes, I’m so glad!–that
is, of course I must be glad.  I’ll get it.”  Her
voice broke as she pulled herself from her chair.
There was only despairing sorrow on her face
now.

The man rose at once.

“But, madam, perhaps–don’t let me–”  I
he began stammeringly.  “Of course–Billy!”
he broke off in an entirely different voice.  “Jove!
What a beauty!”

Mrs. Greggory had thrown open the door of
a small cupboard near the collector’s chair,
disclosing on one of the shelves a beautifully shaped
teapot, creamy in tint, and exquisitely decorated
in a rose design.  Near it set a tray-like plate of
the same ware and decoration.

“If you’ll lift it down, please, yourself,”
motioned Mrs. Greggory.  “I don’t like to–with
these,” she explained, tapping the crutches at
her side.

With fingers that were almost reverent in their
appreciation, the collector reached for the teapot.
His eyes sparkled.

“Billy, look, what a beauty!  And it’s a
Lowestoft, too, the real thing–the genuine, true soft
paste!  And there’s the tray–did you notice?”
he exulted, turning back to the shelf.  “You
_don’t_ see that every day!  They get separated,
most generally, you know.”

“These pieces have been in our family for
generations,” said Mrs. Greggory with an accent
of pride.  “You’ll find them quite perfect, I
think.”

“Perfect!  I should say they were,” cried the
man.

“They are, then–valuable?” Mrs. Greggory’s
voice shook.

“Indeed they are!  But you must know that.”

“I have been told so.  Yet to me their chief
value, of course, lies in their association.  My
mother and my grandmother owned that teapot,
sir.”  Again her voice broke.

William Henshaw cleared his throat.

“But, madam, if you do not wish to sell–”
He stopped abruptly.  His longing eyes had gone
back to the enticing bit of china.

Mrs. Greggory gave a low cry.

“But I do–that is, I must.  Mr. Harlow
says that it is valuable, and that it will bring
in money; and we need–money.”  She threw
a quick glance toward the hall door, though she
did not pause in her remarks.  “I can’t do much
at work that pays.  I sew–” she nodded
toward the machine by the window–” but with
only one foot to make it go–  You see, the
other is–is inclined to shirk a little,” she finished
with a wistful whimsicality.

Billy turned away sharply.  There was a lump
in her throat and a smart in her eyes.  She was
conscious suddenly of a fierce anger against–
she did not know what, exactly; but she fancied
it was against the teapot, or against Uncle William
for wanting the teapot, or for _not_ wanting
it–if he did not buy it.

“And so you see, I do very much wish to sell,”

Mrs. Greggory said then.  “Perhaps you will
tell me what it would be worth to you,” she concluded
tremulously.

The collector’s eyes glowed.  He picked up
the teapot with careful rapture and examined
it.  Then he turned to the tray.  After a moment
he spoke.

“I have only one other in my collection as
rare,” he said.  “I paid a hundred dollars for
that.  I shall be glad to give you the same for
this, madam.”

Mrs. Greggory started visibly.

“A hundred dollars?  So much as that?” she
cried almost joyously.  “Why, nothing else that
we’ve had has brought–  Of course, if it’s worth
that to you–”  She paused suddenly.  A quick
step had sounded in the hall outside.  The next
moment the door flew open and a young woman,
who looked to be about twenty-three or twenty-
four years old, burst into the room.

“Mother, only think, I’ve–”  She stopped,
and drew back a little.  Her startled eyes went
from one face to another, then dropped to
the Lowestoft teapot in the man’s hands.  Her
expression changed at once.  She shut the door
quickly and hurried forward.

“Mother, what is it?  Who are these people?”
she asked sharply.

Billy lifted her chin the least bit.  She was
conscious of a feeling which she could not name:
Billy was not used to being called “these people”
in precisely that tone of voice.  William Henshaw,
too, raised his chin.  He, also, was not in the habit
of being referred to as “these people.”

“My name is Henshaw, Miss–Greggory, I
presume,” he said quietly.  “I was sent here by
Mr. Harlow.”

“About the teapot, my dear, you know,”
stammered Mrs. Greggory, wetting her lips with
an air of hurried apology and conciliation.  “This
gentleman says he will be glad to buy it.  Er–
my daughter, Alice, Mr. Henshaw,” she hastened
on, in embarrassed introduction; “and Miss–”

“Neilson,” supplied the man, as she looked at
Billy, and hesitated.

A swift red stained Alice Greggory’s face.  With
barely an acknowledgment of the introductions
she turned to her mother.

“Yes, dear, but that won’t be necessary now.
As I started to tell you when I came in, I have two
new pupils; and so”–turning to the man again
“I thank you for your offer, but we have decided
not to sell the teapot at present.”  As she finished
her sentence she stepped one side as if to make
room for the strangers to reach the door.

William Henshaw frowned angrily–that was
the man; but his eyes–the collector’s eyes–
sought the teapot longingly.  Before either the
man or the collector could speak, however; Mrs.
Greggory interposed quick words of remonstrance.

“But, Alice, my dear,” she almost sobbed.
“You didn’t wait to let me tell you.  Mr. Henshaw
says it is worth a hundred dollars to him.
He will give us–a hundred dollars.”

“A hundred dollars!” echoed the girl, faintly.

It was plain to be seen that she was wavering.
Billy, watching the little scene, with mingled
emotions, saw the glance with which the girl
swept the bare little room; and she knew that
there was not a patch or darn or poverty spot in
sight, or out of sight, which that glance did not
encompass.

Billy was wondering which she herself desired
more–that Uncle William should buy the Lowestoft,
or that he should not.  She knew she wished
Mrs. Greggory to have the hundred dollars.
There was no doubt on that point.  Then Uncle
William spoke.  His words carried the righteous
indignation of the man who thinks he has been
unjustly treated, and the final plea of the collector
who sees a coveted treasure slipping from his grasp.

“I am very sorry, of course, if my offer has
annoyed you,” he said stiffly.  “I certainly
should not have made it had I not had Mrs.
Greggory’s assurance that she wished to sell the
teapot.”

Alice Greggory turned as if stung.

“_Wished to sell!_”  She repeated the words
with superb disdain.  She was plainly very angry.
Her blue-gray eyes gleamed with scorn, and her
whole face was suffused with a red that had swept
to the roots of her soft hair.  “Do you think a
woman _wishes_ to sell a thing that she’s treasured
all her life, a thing that is perhaps the last visible
reminder of the days when she was living–not
merely existing?”

“Alice, Alice, my love!” protested the sweet-
faced cripple, agitatedly.

“I can’t help it,” stormed the girl, hotly.  “I
know how much you think of that teapot that
was grandmother’s.  I know what it cost you to
make up your mind to sell it at all.  And then to
hear these people talk about your _wishing_ to
sell it!  Perhaps they think, too, we _wish_ to live
in a place like this; that we _wish_ to have rugs
that are darned, and chairs that are broken, and
garments that are patches instead of clothes!”

“Alice!” gasped Mrs. Greggory in dismayed
horror.

With a little outward fling of her two hands
Alice Greggory stepped back.  Her face had grown
white again.

“I beg your pardon, of course,” she said in a
voice that was bitterly quiet.  “I should not
have spoken so.  You are very kind, Mr. Henshaw,
but I do not think we care to sell the Lowestoft
to-day.”

Both words and manner were obviously a
dismissal; and with a puzzled sigh William Henshaw
picked up his hat.  His face showed very clearly
that he did not know what to do, or what to say;
but it showed, too, as clearly, that he longed to
do something, or say something.  During the
brief minute that he hesitated, however, Billy
sprang forward.

“Mrs. Greggory, please, won’t you let _me_ buy
the teapot?  And then–won’t you keep it for
me–here?  I haven’t the hundred dollars with
me, but I’ll send it right away.  You will let me
do it, won’t you?”

It was an impulsive speech, and a foolish one,
of course, from the standpoint of sense and logic
and reasonableness; but it was one that might be
expected, perhaps, from Billy.

Mrs. Greggory must have divined, in a way,
the spirit that prompted it, for her eyes grew wet,
and with a choking “Dear child!” she reached
out and caught Billy’s hand in both her own–
even while she shook her head in denial.

Not so her daughter.  Alice Greggory flushed
scarlet.  She drew herself proudly erect.

“Thank you,” she said with crisp coldness;
“but, distasteful as darns and patches are to us,
we prefer them, infinitely, to–charity!”

“Oh, but, please, I didn’t mean–you didn’t
understand,” faltered Billy.

For answer Alice Greggory walked deliberately
to the door and held it open.

“Oh, Alice, my dear,” pleaded Mrs. Greggory
again, feebly.

“Come, Billy!  We’ll bid you good morning,
ladies,” said William Henshaw then, decisively.
And Billy, with a little wistful pat on Mrs.
Greggory’s clasped hands, went.

Once down the long four flights of stairs and
out on the sidewalk, William Henshaw drew a long
breath.

“Well, by Jove!  Billy, the next time I take
you curio hunting, it won’t be to this place,” he
fumed.

“Wasn’t it awful!” choked Billy.

“Awful!  The girl was the most stubborn,
unreasonable, vixenish little puss I ever saw.  I
didn’t want her old Lowestoft if she didn’t want
to sell it!  But to practically invite me there, and
then treat me like that!” scolded the collector, his
face growing red with anger.  “Still, I was sorry
for the poor little old lady.  I wish, somehow, she
could have that hundred dollars!”  It was the
man who said this, not the collector.

“So do I,” rejoined Billy, dolefully.  “But
that girl was so–so queer!” she sighed, with a
frown.  Billy was puzzled.  For the first time,
perhaps, in her life, she knew what it was to have
her proffered “ice cream” disdainfully refused.

Eulalie

by Edgar Allan Poe
               I dwelt alone
               In a world of moan,
           And my soul was a stagnant tide,
  Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride–
  Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.
               Ah, less–less bright
               The stars of the night
           Than the eyes of the radiant girl!
               And never a flake
               That the vapor can make
           With the moon-tints of purple and pearl,
  Can vie with the modest Eulalie’s most unregarded curl–
  Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie’s most humble and careless
    curl.
               Now Doubt–now Pain
               Come never again,
           For her soul gives me sigh for sigh,
               And all day long
               Shines, bright and strong,
           Astarté within the sky,
  While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron eye–
  While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye.

They Told Me

by Walter de la Mare
They told me Pan was dead, but I
  Oft marvelled who it was that sang
Down the green valleys languidly
  Where the grey elder-thickets hang.

Sometimes I thought it was a bird
  My soul had charged with sorcery;
Sometimes it seemed my own heart heard
  Inland the sorrow of the sea.

But even where the primrose sets
  The seal of her pale loveliness,
I found amid the violets
  Tears of an antique bitterness.

To Rhea

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thee, dear friend, a brother soothes,
Not with flatteries, but truths,
Which tarnish not, but purify
To light which dims the morning’s eye.
I have come from the spring-woods,
From the fragrant solitudes;–
Listen what the poplar-tree
And murmuring waters counselled me.

If with love thy heart has burned;
If thy love is unreturned;
Hide thy grief within thy breast,
Though it tear thee unexpressed;
For when love has once departed
From the eyes of the false-hearted,
And one by one has torn off quite
The bandages of purple light;
Though thou wert the loveliest
Form the soul had ever dressed,
Thou shalt seem, in each reply,
A vixen to his altered eye;
Thy softest pleadings seem too bold,
Thy praying lute will seem to scold;
Though thou kept the straightest road,
Yet thou errest far and broad.

But thou shalt do as do the gods
In their cloudless periods;
For of this lore be thou sure,–
Though thou forget, the gods, secure,
Forget never their command,
But make the statute of this land.
As they lead, so follow all,
Ever have done, ever shall.
Warning to the blind and deaf,
‘T is written on the iron leaf,
_Who drinks of Cupid’s nectar cup_
_Loveth downward, and not up;_
He who loves, of gods or men,
Shall not by the same be loved again;
His sweetheart’s idolatry
Falls, in turn, a new degree.
When a god is once beguiled
By beauty of a mortal child
And by her radiant youth delighted,
He is not fooled, but warily knoweth
His love shall never be requited.
And thus the wise Immortal doeth,–
‘T is his study and delight
To bless that creature day and night;
From all evils to defend her;
In her lap to pour all splendor;
To ransack earth for riches rare,
And fetch her stars to deck her hair:
He mixes music with her thoughts,
And saddens her with heavenly doubts:
All grace, all good his great heart knows,
Profuse in love, the king bestows,
Saying, ‘Hearken! Earth, Sea, Air!
This monument of my despair
Build I to the All-Good, All-Fair.
Not for a private good,
But I, from my beatitude,
Albeit scorned as none was scorned,
Adorn her as was none adorned.
I make this maiden an ensample
To Nature, through her kingdoms ample,
Whereby to model newer races,
Statelier forms and fairer faces;
To carry man to new degrees
Of power and of comeliness.
These presents be the hostages
Which I pawn for my release.
See to thyself, O Universe!
Thou art better, and not worse.’–
And the god, having given all,
Is freed forever from his thrall.

by Emily Dickinson

I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.

Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.

To Zante

by Edgar Allan Poe
  Fair isle, that from the fairest of all flowers,
    Thy gentlest of all gentle names dost take!
  How many memories of what radiant hours
    At sight of thee and thine at once awake!
  How many scenes of what departed bliss!
    How many thoughts of what entombed hopes!
  How many visions of a maiden that is
    No more–no more upon thy verdant slopes!

  _No more!_ alas, that magical sad sound
    Transforming all! Thy charms shall please _no more_–
  Thy memory _no more!_ Accursed ground
    Henceforward I hold thy flower-enamelled shore,
  O hyacinthine isle! O purple Zante!
    “Isola d’oro! Fior di Levante!”

Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER XIII

by Eleanor H. Porter

CYRIL AND A WEDDING
The twelfth was a beautiful day.  Clear, frosty
air set the blood to tingling and the eyes to sparkling,
even if it were not your wedding day; while
if it were–

It _was_ Marie Hawthorn’s wedding day, and
certainly her eyes sparkled and her blood tingled
as she threw open the window of her room and
breathed long and deep of the fresh morning air
before going down to breakfast.

“They say `Happy is the bride that the sun
shines on,’ ” she whispered softly to an English
sparrow that cocked his eye at her from a
neighboring tree branch.  “As if a bride wouldn’t
be happy, sun or no sun,” she scoffed tenderly,
as she turned to go down-stairs.

As it happens, however, tingling blood and
sparkling eyes are a matter of more than weather,
or even weddings, as was proved a little later
when the telephone bell rang.

Kate answered the ring.

“Hullo, is that you, Kate?” called a despairing
voice.

“Yes.  Good morning, Bertram.  Isn’t this
a fine day for the wedding?”

“Fine!  Oh, yes, I suppose so, though I must
confess I haven’t noticed it–and you wouldn’t,
if you had a lunatic on your hands.”

“A lunatic!”

“Yes.  Maybe you have, though.  Is Marie
rampaging around the house like a wild creature,
and asking ten questions and making twenty
threats to the minute?”

“Certainly not!  Don’t be absurd, Bertram.
What do you mean?”

“See here, Kate, that show comes off at twelve
sharp, doesn’t it?”

“Show, indeed!” retorted Kate, indignantly.
“The _wedding_ is at noon sharp–as the best man
should know very well.”

“All right; then tell Billy, please, to see that it
is sharp, or I won’t answer for the consequences.”

“What do you mean?  What is the matter?”

“Cyril.  He’s broken loose at last.  I’ve been
expecting it all along.  I’ve simply marvelled at
the meekness with which he has submitted himself
to be tied up with white ribbons and topped
with roses.”

“Nonsense, Bertram!”

“Well, it amounts to that.  Anyhow, he thinks
it does, and he’s wild.  I wish you could have
heard the thunderous performance on his piano
with which he woke me up this morning.  Billy
says he plays everything–his past, present,
and future.  All is, if he was playing his future
this morning, I pity the girl who’s got to live it
with him.”

“Bertram!”

Bertram chuckled remorselessly.

“Well, I do.  But I’ll warrant he wasn’t
playing his future this morning.  He was playing his
present–the wedding.  You see, he’s just waked
up to the fact that it’ll be a perfect orgy of women
and other confusion, and he doesn’t like it.  All
the samee,{sic} I’ve had to assure him just fourteen
times this morning that the ring, the license, the
carriage, the minister’s fee, and my sanity are
all O. K.  When he isn’t asking questions he’s
making threats to snake the parson up there an
hour ahead of time and be off with Marie before a
soul comes.”

“What an absurd idea!”

“Cyril doesn’t think so.  Indeed, Kate, I’ve
had a hard struggle to convince him that the
guests wouldn’t think it the most delightful
experience of their lives if they should come and
find the ceremony over with and the bride gone.”

“Well, you remind Cyril, please, that there
are other people besides himself concerned in
this wedding,” observed Kate, icily.

“I have,” purred Bertram, “and he says all
right, let them have it, then.  He’s gone now to
look up proxy marriages, I believe.”

“Proxy marriages, indeed!  Come, come, Bertram,
I’ve got something to do this morning
besides to stand here listening to your nonsense.
See that you and Cyril get here on time–that’s
all!”  And she hung up the receiver with an
impatient jerk.

She turned to confront the startled eyes of the
bride elect.

“What is it?  Is anything wrong–with
Cyril?” faltered Marie.

Kate laughed and raised her eyebrows slightly.

“Nothing but a little stage fright, my dear.”

“Stage fright!”

“Yes.  Bertram says he’s trying to find some
one to play his r<o^>le, I believe, in the ceremony.”

“_Mrs. Hartwell!_”

At the look of dismayed terror that came into
Marie’s face, Mrs. Hartwell laughed reassuringly.

“There, there, dear child, don’t look so horror-
stricken.  There probably never was a man yet
who wouldn’t have fled from the wedding part
of his marriage if he could; and you know how
Cyril hates fuss and feathers.  The wonder to me
is that he’s stood it as long as he has.  I thought I
saw it coming, last night at the rehearsal–and
now I know I did.”

Marie still looked distressed.

“But he never said–I thought–”  She
stopped helplessly.

“Of course he didn’t, child.  He never said
anything but that he loved you, and he never
thought anything but that you were going to be
his.  Men never do–till the wedding day.  Then
they never think of anything but a place to run,”
she finished laughingly, as she began to arrange
on a stand the quantity of little white boxes
waiting for her.

“But if he’d told me–in time, I wouldn’t have
had a thing–but the minister,” faltered Marie.

“And when you think so much of a pretty
wedding, too?  Nonsense!  It isn’t good for a
man, to give up to his whims like that!”

Marie’s cheeks grew a deeper pink.  Her
nostrils dilated a little.

“It wouldn’t be a `whim,’ Mrs. Hartwell, and
I should be _glad_ to give up,” she said with decision.

Mrs. Hartwell laughed again, her amused eyes
on Marie’s face.

“Dear me, child! don’t you know that if men
had their way, they’d–well, if men married
men there’d never be such a thing in the world
as a shower bouquet or a piece of wedding cake!”

There was no reply.  A little precipitately
Marie turned and hurried away.  A moment
later she was laying a restraining hand on Billy,
who was filling tall vases with superb long-stemmed
roses in the kitchen.

“Billy, please,” she panted, “couldn’t we
do without those?  Couldn’t we send them to
some–some hospital?–and the wedding cake,
too, and–”

“The wedding cake–to some _hospital!_”

“No, of course not–to the hospital.  It
would make them sick to eat it, wouldn’t it?”
That there was no shadow of a smile on Marie’s
face showed how desperate, indeed, was her state
of mind.  “I only meant that I didn’t want them
myself, nor the shower bouquet, nor the rooms
darkened, nor little Kate as the flower girl–and
would you mind very much if I asked you not
to be my maid of honor?”

“_Marie!_”

Marie covered her face with her hands then and
began to sob brokenly; so there was nothing for
Billy to do but to take her into her arms with
soothing little murmurs and pettings.  By degrees,
then, the whole story came out.

Billy almost laughed–but she almost cried,
too.  Then she said:

“Dearie, I don’t believe Cyril feels or acts
half so bad as Bertram and Kate make out, and,
anyhow, if he did, it’s too late now to–to send
the wedding cake to the hospital, or make any
other of the little changes you suggest.”  Billy’s
lips puckered into a half-smile, but her eyes were
grave.  “Besides, there are your music pupils
trimming the living-room this minute with evergreen,
there’s little Kate making her flower-girl
wreath, and Mrs. Hartwell stacking cake boxes
in the hall, to say nothing of Rosa gloating over
the best china in the dining-room, and Aunt
Hannah putting purple bows into the new lace
cap she’s counting on wearing.  Only think how
disappointed they’d all be if I should say:  `Never
mind–stop that.  Marie’s just going to have a
minister.  No fuss, no feathers!’  Why, dearie,
even the roses are hanging their heads for grief,”
she went on mistily, lifting with gentle fingers
one of the full-petalled pink beauties near her.
“Besides, there’s your–guests.”

“Oh, of course, I knew I couldn’t–really,”
sighed Marie, as she turned to go up-stairs, all
the light and joy gone from her face.

Billy, once assured that Marie was out of
hearing, ran to the telephone.

Bertram answered.

“Bertram, tell Cyril I want to speak to him,
please.”

“All right, dear, but go easy.  Better strike
up your tuning fork to find his pitch to-day.
You’ll discover it’s a high one, all right.”

A moment later Cyril’s tersely nervous “Good
morning, Billy,” came across the line.

Billy drew in her breath and cast a hurriedly
apprehensive glance over her shoulder to make
sure Marie was not near.

“Cyril,” she called in a low voice, “if you care
a shred for Marie, for heaven’s sake call her up
and tell her that you dote on pink roses, and pink
ribbons, and pink breakfasts–and pink wedding
cake!”

“But I don’t.”

“Oh, yes, you do–to-day!  You would–if
you could see Marie now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing, only she overheard part of Bertram’s
nonsensical talk with Kate a little while ago, and
she’s ready to cast the last ravelling of white satin
and conventionality behind her, and go with you
to the justice of the peace.”

“Sensible girl!”

“Yes, but she can’t, you know, with fifty
guests coming to the wedding, and twice as many
more to the reception.  Honestly, Cyril, she’s
broken-hearted.  You must do something.  She’s
–coming!”  And the receiver clicked sharply
into place.

Five minutes later Marie was called to the
telephone.  Dejectedly, wistful-eyed, she went.
Just what were the words that hummed across the
wire into the pink little ear of the bride-to-be,
Billy never knew; but a Marie that was anything
but wistful-eyed and dejected left the telephone
a little later, and was heard very soon in the room
above trilling merry snatches of a little song.
Contentedly, then, Billy went back to her roses.

It was a pretty wedding, a very pretty wedding.
Every one said that.  The pink and green of the
decorations, the soft lights (Kate had had her
way about darkening the rooms), the pretty frocks
and smiling faces of the guests all helped.  Then
there were the dainty flower girl, little Kate, the
charming maid of honor, Billy, the stalwart,
handsome best man, Bertram, to say nothing of
the delicately beautiful bride, who looked like
some fairy visitor from another world in the floating
shimmer of her gossamer silk and tulle.  There
was, too, not quite unnoticed, the bridegroom;
tall, of distinguished bearing, and with features
that were clear cut and-to-day-rather pale.

Then came the reception–the “women and
confusion “of Cyril’s fears–followed by the
going away of the bride and groom with its merry
warfare of confetti and old shoes.

At four o’clock, however, with only William
and Bertram remaining for guests, something like
quiet descended at last on the little house.

“Well, it’s over,” sighed Billy, dropping
exhaustedly into a big chair in the living-room.

“And _well_ over,” supplemented Aunt Hannah,
covering her white shawl with a warmer blue one.

“Yes, I think it was,” nodded Kate.  “It
was really a very pretty wedding.”

“With your help, Kate–eh?” teased William.

“Well, I flatter myself I did do some good,”
bridled Kate, as she turned to help little Kate
take the flower wreath from her head.

“Even if you did hurry into my room and scare
me into conniption fits telling me I’d be late,”
laughed Billy.

Kate tossed her head.

“Well, how was I to know that Aunt Hannah’s
clock only meant half-past eleven when it struck
twelve?” she retorted.

Everybody laughed.

“Oh, well, it was a pretty wedding,” declared
William, with a long sigh.

“It’ll do–for an understudy,” said Bertram
softly, for Billy’s ears alone.

Only the added color and the swift glance
showed that Billy heard, for when she spoke she
said:

“And didn’t Cyril behave beautifully?  ‘Most
every time I looked at him he was talking to some
woman.”

“Oh, no, he wasn’t–begging your pardon,
my dear,” objected Bertram.  “I watched him,
too, even more closely than you did, and it was
always the _woman_ who was talking to _Cyril!_”

Billy laughed.

“Well, anyhow,” she maintained, “he listened.
He didn’t run away.”

“As if a bridegroom could!” cried Kate.

“I’m going to,” avowed Bertram, his nose in
the air.

“Pooh!” scoffed Kate.  Then she added
eagerly:  “You must be married in church, Billy,
and in the evening.”

Bertram’s nose came suddenly out of the air.
His eyes met Kate’s squarely.

“Billy hasn’t decided yet how _she_ does want
to be married,” he said with unnecessary emphasis.

Billy laughed and interposed a quick change of
subject.

“I think people had a pretty good time, too,
for a wedding, don’t you?” she asked.  “I was
sorry Mary Jane couldn’t be here–’twould have
been such a good chance for him to meet our
friends.”

“As–_Mary Jane?_” asked Bertram, a little
stiffly.

“Really, my dear,” murmured Aunt Hannah,
“I think it _would_ be more respectful to call him
by his name.”

“By the way, what is his name?” questioned
William.

“That’s what we don’t know,” laughed Billy.

“Well, you know the `Arkwright,’ don’t you?”
put in Bertram.  Bertram, too, laughed, but it
was a little forcedly.  “I suppose if you knew his
name was `Methuselah,’ you wouldn’t call him
that–yet, would you?”

Billy clapped her hands, and threw a merry
glance at Aunt Hannah.

“There! we never thought of `Methuselah,’ ”
she gurgled gleefully.  “Maybe it _is_ `Methuselah,’
now–`Methuselah John’!  You see, he’s told
us to try to guess it,” she explained, turning to
William; “but, honestly, I don’t believe, whatever
it is, I’ll ever think of him as anything but `Mary
Jane.’ ”

“Well, as far as I can judge, he has nobody
but himself to thank for that, so he can’t do any
complaining,” smiled William, as he rose to go.
“Well, how about it, Bertram?  I suppose you’re
going to stay a while to comfort the lonely–eh,
boy?”

“Of course he is–and so are you, too, Uncle
William,” spoke up Billy, with affectionate
cordiality.  “As if I’d let you go back to a forlorn
dinner in that great house to-night!  Indeed,
no!”

William smiled, hesitated, and sat down.

“Well, of course–” he began.

“Yes, of course,” finished Billy, quickly.
“I’ll telephone Pete that you’ll stay here–both
of you.”

It was at this point that little Kate, who had
been turning interested eyes from one brother
to the other, interposed a clear, high-pitched
question.

“Uncle William, didn’t you _want_ to marry my
going-to-be-Aunt Billy?”

“Kate!” gasped her mother, “didn’t I tell
you–”  Her voice trailed into an incoherent
murmur of remonstrance.

Billy blushed.  Bertram said a low word under
his breath.  Aunt Hannah’s “Oh, my grief and
conscience!” was almost a groan.

William laughed lightly.

“Well, my little lady,” he suggested, “let
us put it the other way and say that quite probably
she didn’t want to marry me.”

“Does she want to marry Uncle Bertram?”
“Kate!” gasped Billy and Mrs. Hartwell together
this time, fearful of what might be coming
next.

“We’ll hope so,” nodded Uncle William,
speaking in a cheerfully matter-of-fact voice, intended
to discourage curiosity.

The little girl frowned and pondered.  Her
elders cast about in their minds for a speedy
change of subject; but their somewhat scattered
wits were not quick enough.  It was little Kate
who spoke next.

“Uncle William, would she have got Uncle
Cyril if Aunt Marie hadn’t nabbed him first?”

“Kate!”  The word was a chorus of dismay
this time.

Mrs. Hartwell struggled to her feet.

“Come, come, Kate, we must go up-stairs–to
bed,” she stammered.

The little girl drew back indignantly.

“To bed?  Why, mama, I haven’t had my
supper yet!”

“What?  Oh, sure enough–the lights!  I
forgot.  Well, then, come up–to change your
dress,” finished Mrs. Hartwell, as with a despairing
look and gesture she led her young daughter
from the room.

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