Pine, Rose and Fleur de Lis

by Susie Frances Harrison


7 P. M.


Eyes looking out to the darkness—for what?—not the star
That sparkles down there in the distance, or is it a car
With its red light or green at the end of the street that she sees?
Pshaw! she’s not looking that way at all; all her soul’s in the trees
That move darkly above her, and lean to the passionate gust
Of the night wind and rain; there is firmness and sweetness and
In that sweet face of hers. Not the girl nor the woman to mind
The cold drops on cheek and on hail, though the last he will find,
All uncurling and sleek and pushed back from the brows—
       Though is it a lover?
              Who knows?
       I only suppose,
For I do not know her—I caught but her face and her eyes,
As I passed in the rain, muffled up in an autumn disguise
Eager to be with my own by the side of a fire,
My own that count seven every night and never will tire
Of the day’s work and doing told lazily round the big table,
Where with her knee-pinned seam, sits Mabel, wife Mabel.
Years ago—I was rather a desperate fellow they say.
Perhaps they are right, and perhaps I had but my day
Of loud careless deeds and a louder and more careless tongue;
       But then I met Mabel. “Too young!”
       That was flung
In our faces for months, till I suddenly took for my own
What so clearly was meant for me—why, had she lastly not grown
To leap at my coming and fall on my neck? Lovely, too!
This was the wife that I married. Oh! Pity that you,
My good sir, her father, a dear old man too in your way,
Should have met me with curses and begged of your daughter to
Could she stay? That I asked her, but she with her love made
Just turned on her heel, (she too was a wayward child)
       And that was the end of it. Since—
       Why it makes me wince,
When I remember, that only one moment at night,
In a car-flashed glance, did she see that old man alight,
The only time since we were married—Is she still there,
At the door with the rain beating down on her cheeks and her
Rain makes one moralize. Now, I should not like to think
That it is for the lover she waits; not the woman to shrink—
I caught that—from anything. Perhaps, if it be not a lover
It may be her husband. Will women ever discover
How selfish men are and how little worthy the waiting?
       Yet if Mabel had thought so, relating
       Our happy mating
Would be out of the question. Now we are happy of course;
Our struggle for place and position and money—the source
Of all good and beautiful things one would have for one’s own—
All the struggle I say, all our troubles are well-nigh flown
Only sometimes I have thought—how cold the wind grows!
Never mind, but one short block more and then for a coze—
I fervently hope that the unknown and sweet-faced girl,
She with her eyes on the dark and her hair out of curl,
Has gone in from the cold and the rain—I was going to say
       That my wife, with her way,
       —A womanly way—
Might do much—ah! so much—for an old man at home like him,
Her father I mean. I suppose now, my eyes will be dim,
And my walk be a totter, with everything dropping away
Into the echoing past or the echoless future, some day,
And then, why a womanly touch on my shoulder or hair,
Will not be, I grant, a superfluous thing to bear.
But then is not now. For the present, I really believe
That I shook off but yesterday Mabel’s small hand from my sleeve;
I was writing, I think—ah! “Persephone,” now I remember!
The dullest of tragedies grows in a dull November,
       And I do not write,
       With the easy flight
All-compelling of yore, why, it takes me far longer to fill in
One page in these days than a dozen of former distilling,
When the blood (that of youth) was up ever and ever enjoying,
And pleasure and mirth ran high with never a cloying.
The wind, what a wind! Is Mabel, I wonder, peering
Out from her pleasant comfort to watch me steering
My way through the cold dreary mistiness wind and rain?
It’s beating I know, ’gainst her red curtained window pane;
It’s beating directly, I fancy, against another
South window I know, where in summer the roses half smother
Its cosy half-length—I stood among them there often.
Will things ever be better? Who knows? ’Tis for him to soften;
What we have done we have done; yet perhaps had we tried,
Things had been better ere, now and the twelve years’ pride
Broken down or dissolved, or never suffered to live.
After twelve years it is easy to say forgive,
       And as hard to say, forget.
       His Mabel! His pet!
I figure him now by a fire in an easy chair,
But no one to bend over, kissing the whitened hair;
He was fond of the taste of a pipe; on the mantleshelf
It used to be kept—can he reach it now himself?
Ah! a woman care! Now I should like to think that the girl—
She with her eyes on the dark, with her hair out of curl,
Is waiting and watching, neither for friend nor for lover,
Neither for friend nor for brother, while it darkens above her,
But only—ah, Mabel my darling, my loved one—oh! rather,
Rather a thousand times, say, for only her father!
                     *        *        *        *        *       
Four steps, now the door—so dark I can hardly find it,
The red blind at last, and Mabel’s dear shadow behind it!



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