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Maurine – Part 7 [With Much Hard Labour And Some Pleasure Fraught]
by [?]

Then my art
Would be encouraged and pursued the same,
And I could spend my winters all in Rome.
Love never more could touch my wasteful heart
That all its wealth upon one object spent.
Existence would be very bleak and cold,
After long years, when I was gray and old,
With neither home nor children.

Once a wife,
I would forget the sorrow of my life,
And pile new sods upon the grave of pain.
My mind so argued; and my sad heart heard,
But made no comment.

Then the Baron spoke,
And waited for my answer. All in vain
I strove for strength to utter that one word
My mind dictated. Moments rolled away –
Until at last my torpid heart awoke,
And forced my trembling lips to say him nay.
And then my eyes with sudden tears o’erran,
In pity for myself and for this man
Who stood before me, lost in pained surprise.
“Dear friend,” I cried, “dear generous friend, forgive
A troubled woman’s weakness! As I live,
In truth I meant to answer otherwise.
From out its store, my heart can give you naught
But honour and respect; and yet methought
I would give willing answer, did you sue.
But now I know ’twere cruel wrong I planned –
Taking a heart that beat with love most true,
And giving in exchange an empty hand.
Who weds for love alone, may not be wise:
Who weds without it, angels must despise.
Love and respect together must combine
To render marriage holy and divine;
And lack of either, sure as Fate, destroys
Continuation of the nuptial joys,
And brings regret, and gloomy discontent
To put to rout each tender sentiment.
Nay, nay! I will not burden all your life
By that possession–an unloving wife;
Nor will I take the sin upon my soul
Of wedding where my heart goes not in whole.
However bleak may be my single lot,
I will not stain my life with such a blot.
Dear friend, farewell! the earth is very wide;
It holds some fairer woman for your bride;
I would I had a heart to give to you,
But, lacking it, can only say–adieu!”

He whom temptation never has assailed,
Knows not that subtle sense of moral strength;
When sorely tried, we waver, but at length,
Rise up and turn away, not having failed.

* * *

The Autumn of the third year came and went;
The mild Italian winter was half spent,
When this brief message came across the sea:
“My darling! I am dying. Come to me.
Love, which so long the growing truth concealed,
Stands pale within its shadow. Oh, my sweet!
This heart of mine grows fainter with each beat –
Dying with very weight of bliss. Oh, come!
And take the legacy I leave to you,
Before these lips for evermore are dumb.
In life or death,–Yours, Helen Dangerfield.”
This plaintive letter bore a month old date;
And, wild with fears lest I had come too late,
I bade the old world and new friends adieu,
And with Aunt Ruth, who long had sighed for home,
I turned my back on glory, art, and Rome.

All selfish thoughts were merged in one wild fear
That she for whose dear sake my heart had bled,
Rather than her sweet eyes should know one tear,
Was passing from me; that she might be dead;
And, dying, had been sorely grieved with me,
Because I made no answer to her plea.