Unspoken Dialogue.

Above the trailing mignonette1
That deck’d the window-sill,2
A lady sat, with lips firm-set,3
And looks of earnest will :4
Four decades o’er her life had met,5
And left her lovely still.6
Not to the radiant firmament,7
Not to the garden’s grace,8
The courses of her mind were bent,9
But where, with sweetest face,10
Forth from the other window leant11
The daughter of the place.12
Thus ran her thoughts : “ O wretched day !13
When She was born so fair :14
Well could I let my charms decay,15
If she were not their heir ;16
I loathe the sunbeams as they play17
About her golden hair.18
Yet why ? she is too good, too mild,19
So madly’ to aspire ;20
He is no boy to be beguil’d21
By sparks of colour’d fire :22
I will not dream a pretty child23
Can mar my deep desire.24
Her fatherless and lonely days25
Are sere before their time :26
In scenes of gaiety and praise27
She will regain her prime,28
And cease to haunt these wooded ways29
With sentimental rhyme.”30
A woman looks down toward a girl’s face. She holds the girl’s hand with her left hand and touches the handle of a door with her right hand. The girl hangs her head and looks toward the ground. Background features curtains, a window, and a door. Full-page illustration.
On to the conscious maiden pass’d31
Those words without the tongue ;32
Half petulantly back she cast33
The glist’ning curls that hung34
About her neck, and answer’d fast :35
Yes, I am young—too young :36
Yet am I graver than my wont,37
Gravest when he is here ;38
Beneath the glory of his front39
I tremble—not with fear :40
But as I read, Bethesda’s font41
Felt with the Angel near.42
Must I mate only with my kind,43
With something as unwise44
As my poor self ; and never find45
Affection I can prize46
At once with an adoring mind,47
And with admiring eyes ?”48
My mother trusts to drag me down49
To some low range of life,50
By pleasures of the clam’rous town,51
And vanity’s mean strife ;52
And in such selfish tumult drown53
My hope to be his wife.”54
Then darker round the lady grew55
The meditative cloud,—56
And stormy thoughts began to brew57
She dar’d not speak aloud ;58
For then without disguise she knew59
That rivalry avow’d.60
What is my being if I lose61
My love’s last stake ? while she62
Has the fair future where to choose63
Her woman’s destiny64
Free scope those means and powers to use,65
Which time denies to me.66
Was it for this her baby arms67
About my neck were flung ?68
Was it for this I found such charms69
In her uncertain tongue ?70
Was it for this those vain alarms71
My mother-soul unstrung ?72
Oh, horrible ! to wish my child73
My sole one left—unborn,74
And, seeing her so meek and mild,75
To hold such gifts in scorn ;76
My nature is grown waste and wild,77
My heart with fury torn !”78
Speechless—enchanted to the spot79
The girl could scarce divine80
The whole disaster of her lot,—81
But without sound or sign82
She cried, “ O Mother ! love him not ;—83
Oh ! let his love be mine !84
You have had years of full delight,85
Your girlhood’s passion-dream86
Was realized to touch and sight87
As bright as it could seem ;—88
And now you interpose, like Night,89
Before my life’s first gleam.90
Yet you were once what I am now,—91
You wore your maiden prize ;92
You told me of my Father, how93
You lived but in his eyes ;—94
You spoke of the perpetual vow,95
The troth that never dies.96
Dear Mother ! dearer, kinder far,97
If by my childhood’s bed98
Your care had never stood to bar99
Misfortune from my head ;—100
But laid me where my brothers are,101
Among the quiet dead.102
Ah ! why not die ? This cruel strife,103
Can thus—thus only—cease ?104
Dear God ! take home this erring life105
This struggling soul release :106
From Heaven, perchance, upon his wife107
I might look down in peace.”108
That prayer—like some electric flame,109
Struck with resistless force110
The lady’s agitated frame,—111
Nor halted in its course,112
Till her hard pride was turn’d to shame,113
Her passion to remorse.114
She spoke—her words were very low,115
But resolute in tone116
Dear child ! he comes.—Nay, blush not so117
To have your secret known :118
Tis best, ’tis best, that I should go119
And leave you here alone.”120
Then, as his steps grew near and fast,121
Her hand was on the door,122
Her heart by holy grace had cast123
The demon from its core,—124
And on the threshold calm she pass’d125
The man she loved no more.126