But what was that to Muriel, though her peace
He would have purchased for her with all prayers,
And costly, passionate, despairing tears?
O what to her that he should find it worse
To bear her life’s undoing than his own?
She let him see her, and she made no moan,
But talked full calmly of indifferent things,
Which when he heard, and marked the faded eyes
And lovely wasted cheek, he started up
With “This I cannot bear!” and shamed to feel
His manhood giving way, and utterly
Subdued by her sweet patience and his pain,
Made haste and from the window sprang, and paced,
Battling and chiding with himself, the maze.
She suffered, and he could not make her well
For all his loving;—he was naught to her.
And now his passionate nature, set astir,
Fought with the pain that could not be endured;
And like a wild thing suddenly aware
That it is caged, which flings and bruises all
Its body at the bars, he rose, and raged
Against the misery: then he made all worse
With tears. But when he came to her again,
Willing to talk as they had talked before,
She sighed, and said, with that strange quietness,
“I know you have been crying”: and she bent
Her own fair head and wept.
She felt the cold—
The freezing cold that deadened all her life—
Give way a little; for this passionate
Sorrow, and all for her, relieved her heart,
And brought some natural warmth, some natural tears.
And after that, though oft he sought her door,
He might not see her. First they said to him,
“She is not well”; and afterwards, “Her wish
Is ever to be quiet.” Then in haste
They took her from the place, because so fast
She faded. As for him, though youth and strength
Can bear the weight as of a world, at last
The burden of it tells,—he heard it said,
When autumn came, “The poor sweet thing will die:
That shock was mortal.” And he cared no more
To hide, if yet he could have hidden, the blight
That was laying waste his heart. He journeyed south
To Devon, where she dwelt with other kin,
Good, kindly women; and he wrote to them,
Praying that he might see her ere she died.
So in her patience she permitted him
To be about her, for it eased his heart;
And as for her that was to die so soon,
What did it signify? She let him weep
Some passionate tears beside her couch, she spoke
Pitying words, and then they made him go,
It was enough they said, her time was short,
And he had seen her. He HAD seen, and felt
The bitterness of death; but he went home,
Being satisfied in that great longing now,
And able to endure what might befall.
And Muriel lay, and faded with the year;
She lay at the door of death, that opened not
To take her in; for when the days once more
Began a little to increase, she felt,—
And it was sweet to her, she was so young,—
She felt a longing for the time of flowers,
And dreamed that she was walking in that wood
With her two feet among the primroses.