It pleased her to step in front and sit
Where the cragged slope was green,
While I stood back that I might pencil it
With her amid the scene;
Till it gloomed and rained;
But I kept on, despite the drifting wet
That fell and stained
My draught, leaving for curious quizzings yet
The blots engrained.
And thus I drew her there alone,
Seated amid the guaze
Of moisture, hooded, only her outline shown,
With rainfall marked across.
- Soon passed our stay;
Yet her rainy form is the Genius still of the spot,
Though the place now knows her no more,
and has known her not
Ever since that day.
The flame crept up the portrait line by line
As it lay on the coals in the silence of night's profound,
And over the arm's incline,
And along the marge of the silkwork superfine,
And gnawed at the delicate bosom's defenceless round.
Then I vented a cry of hurt, and averted my eyes;
The spectacle was one that I could not bear,
To my deep and sad surprise;
But, compelled to heed, I again looked furtivewise
Till the flame had eaten her breasts, and mouth,
'Thank God, she is out of it now!' I said at last,
In a great relief of heart when the thing was done
That had set my soul aghast,
And nothing was left of the picture
unsheathed from the past
But the ashen ghost of the card it had figured on.
She was a woman long hid amid packs of years,
She might have been living or dead; she was lost
to my sight,
And the deed that had nigh drawn tears
Was done in a casual clearance of life's arrears;
But I felt as if I had put her to death that night!...
- Well; she knew nothing thereof did she survive,
And suffered nothing if numbered among the dead;
Yet - yet - if on earth alive
Did she feel a smart, and with vague strange
anguish strive ?
If in heaven, did she smile at me sadly
and shake her head?
'Sixpence a week', says the girl to her lover,
'Aunt used to bring me, for she could confide
In me alone, she vowed. 'Twas to cover
The cost of her headstone when she died.
And that was a year ago last June;
I've not yet fixed it. But I must soon.'
'And where is the money now, my dear?'
'O, snug in my purse...Aunt was so slow
In saving it - eighty weeks, or near.'...
'Let's spend it,' he hints. 'For she won't know.
There's a dance to-night at the Load of Hay.'
She passively nods. And they go that way.