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Maurine – Part 4 [Maurine, Maurine, ’tis Ten O’clock! Arise]
by [?]

She can be friendly, unrestrained, and kind
Assume no airs of pride or arrogance;
But in her voice, her manner, and her glance,
Convey that mystic something, undefined,
Which men fail not to understand and read,
And, when not blind with egoism, heed.
My task was harder–’twas the slow undoing
Of long sweet months of unimpeded wooing.
It was to hide and cover and conceal
The truth, assuming what I did not feel.
It was to dam love’s happy singing tide
That blessed me with its hopeful, tuneful tone
By feigned indiff’rence, till it turned aside
And changed its channel, leaving me alone
To walk parched plains, and thirst for that sweet draught
My lips had tasted, but another quaffed.
It could be done, for no words yet were spoken –
None to recall–no pledges to be broken.
“He will be grieved, then angry, cold, then cross,”
I reasoned, thinking what would be his part
In this strange drama. “Then, because he
Feels something lacking, to make good his loss
He’ll turn to Helen, and her gentle grace
And loving acts will win her soon the place
I hold to-day; and like a troubled dream
At length, our past, when he looks back, will seem.”

That evening passed with music, chat, and song,
But hours that once had flown on airy wings
Now limped on weary, aching limbs along,
Each moment like some dreaded step that brings
A twinge of pain.
As Vivian rose to go,
Slow bending to me from his greater height,
He took my hand, and, looking in my eyes,
With tender questioning and pained surprise,
Said, “Maurine, you are not yourself to-night;
What is it? Are you ailing?”
“Ailing? No,”
I answered, laughing lightly, “I am not;
Just see my cheek, sir–is it thin, or pale?
Now, tell me, am I looking very frail?”
“Nay, nay,” he answered, “it cannot be SEEN,
The change I speak of–’twas more in your mien –
Preoccupation, or–I know not what!
Miss Helen, am I wrong, or does Maurine
Seem to have something on her mind this eve?”
“She does,” laughed Helen, “and I do believe
I know what ’tis! A letter came to-day
Which she read slyly, and then hid away
Close to her heart, not knowing I was near,
And since she’s been as you have seen her here.
See how she blushes! so my random shot
We must believe has struck a tender spot.”

Her rippling laughter floated through the room,
And redder yet I felt the hot blood rise,
Then surge away, to leave me pale as death
Under the dark and swiftly gathering gloom
Of Vivian’s questioning, accusing eyes,
That searched my soul. I almost shrieked beneath
That stern, fixed gaze, and stood spellbound until
He turned with sudden movement, gave his hand
To each in turn, and said: “You must not stand
Longer, young ladies, in this open door.
The air is heavy with a cold, damp chill.
We shall have rain to-morrow, or before.

He vanished in the darkling shade;
And so the dreaded evening found an end,
That saw me grasp the conscience-whetted blade,
And strike a blow for honour and for friend.

“How swiftly passed the evening!” Helen sighed.
“How long the hours!” my tortured heart replied.
Joy, like a child, with lightsome steps doth glide
By Father Time, and, looking in his face,
Cries, snatching blossoms from the fair roadside,
“I could pluck more, but for thy hurried pace.”
The while her elder brother Pain, man grown,
Whose feet are hurt by many a thorn and stone,
Looks to some distant hilltop, high and calm,
Where he shall find not only rest, but balm
For all his wounds, and cries, in tones of woe,
“Oh, Father Time! why is thy pace so slow?”