DEAR heart ! what a little time it is since Francis and I used to walk
From church in the still June evenings together, busy with loving talk ;
And now he is gone, far away over seas, to some strange foreign country, and I
Shall never rise from my bed any more, till the day when I come to die.
I tried not to think of him during the prayers; but when his dear voice I heard,
I failed to take part in the hymn ; for my heart fluttered up to my throat like a bird,
And scarcely a word of the sermon I caught. I doubt 'twas a grievous sin;
But 'twas only one poor little hour in the week that I had to be happy in.
When the blessing was given, and we left the dim aisles for the light of the evening star ;
Though I durst not lift up my eyes from the ground, yet I knew that he was not far.
And I hurried on, though I fain would have stayed, till I heard his footstep draw near ;
And love rising up in my breast like a flame, cast out every shadow of fear.
Ah me ! 'twas a pleasant pathway home, a pleasant pathway and sweet ;
Ankle deep through the purple clover ; breast high 'mid the blossoming wheat ;
I can hear the landrails prate through the dew, and the night-jars' tremulous thrill,
And the nightingale pouring her passionate song from the hawthorn under the hill.
One day, when we came to the wicket gate, 'neath the elms, where we used to part,
His voice began to falter and break as he told me I had his heart.
And I whispered back that mine was his : we knew what we felt long ago ;
Six weeks are as long as a lifetime almost, when you love each other so.
So we put up the banns, and were man and wife, in the sweet fading time of the year,
And till Christmas was over and past, I knew no shadow of sorrow or fear.
It seems like a dream already, alas ! a sweet dream vanished and gone,
So hurried and brief while passing away, so long to look back upon.
I had only had him three little months, and the world lay frozen and dead,
When the summons came, which we feared and hoped, and he sailed over seas for our bread.
Ah, well ! it is fine to be wealthy and grand, and never to need to part ;
But 'tis better far to love and be poor than be rich with an empty heart.
Though I thought 'twould have killed me to lose him at first, yet was he not going for me ?
So I hid deep down in my breast all the grief, which I knew it would pain him to see.
He'd surely be back by the autumn, he said ; and since his last passionate kiss
He has scarcely been out of my thoughts, day or night, for a moment, from that day to this.
When I wrote to him how I thought it would be, and he answered so full of love,
Ah ! there was not an angel happier than I, in all the white chorus above.
And I seemed to be lonely no longer, the days and the weeks passed so swiftly away;
And the March winds died, and the sweet April showers gave place to the blossoms of May.
And then came the sad summer eve, when I sat with the little frock in the sun,
And Patience ran in with the news of the ship Ah, veil ! may His will be done.
They said that all hands were lost, and I swooned away on the floor like a stone ;
And another life came, ere I knew he was safe, and my own was over and gone.
* * * * * * *
And now I lie helpless here, and shall never rise up again ;
I grow weaker and weaker, day by day, till my weakness itself is a pain.
Every morning the slow dawn creeps ; every evening I see from my bed
The orange-gold fade into lifeless gray, and the old evening star overhead.
Sometimes by the twilight dim, or the awful birth of the day,
As I lie, very still, not asleep nor awake, my soul seems to flutter away ;
And I float far beyond the stars, till I thrill with a rapturous pain,
And the feeble touch of a tiny hand recalls me to life again.
And the doctor says she will live. Ah ! 'tis hard to leave her alone,
And to think she will never know, in the world, the love of the mother who's gone.
They will tell her of me, by-and-by, and perhaps she will shed me a tear ;
But if I should stoop to her bed in the night, she would start with a horrible fear.
She will grow into girlhood, I trust, and will bask in the light of love,
And I, if I gain to see her at all, shall only look on from above.
I shall see her and cannot aid, though she fall into evil and woe.
Ah, how can the angels find heart to rejoice, when they think of their dear ones below ?
And Francis, he too will forget me, and go on the journey of life ;
And I hope, though I dare not think of it yet, will take him another wife
It will hardly be Patience, I think, though she liked him in days gone by.
Was that why she came ? But what thoughts are these for one who is soon to die?
I hope he will come ere I go, though I feel no longer the thirst
For the sound of his voice and the light of his eye, which I used to feel at first.
!Tis not that I care for him less, but death dries, with a finger of fire,
The tender springs of innocent love and the torrents of strong desire.
And I know we shall meet again. I have done many things that are wrong,
But surely the Lord of Life and of Love cannot bear to be angry long.
I am only a girl of eighteen, and have had no teacher but love ;
And, it may be, the sorrow and pain I have known will be counted for tna above.
For I doubt if the minister knows all the depths of the goodness of God,
When he says, He is jealous of earthly love, and bids me bow down 'neath the rod.
He is learned and wise, I know, but somehow to dying eyes
God opens the secret doors of the shrine that are closed to the learned and wise.
So now I am ready to go, for I know He will do what is best,
Though He call me away while the sun is on high, like a child sent early to rest.
I should like him to see her first, though the yearning is over and past :
But what is that footstep upon the stair ? Oh, my darling at last, at last!