And then the talk flowed on with brimming tide
Through the still night,
While she with influence light
Controlled it, as the moon the flood.
She knew where I had been, what I had done,
What work was planned, and what begun;
My troubles, failures, fears she understood,
And touched them with a heart so kind,
That every care was melted from my mind,
And every hope grew bright,
And life seemed moving on to happy ends.
(Ah, what self-beggared fool was he
That said a woman cannot be
The very best of friends?)
Then there were memories of old times,
Recalled with many a gentle jest;
And at the last she brought the book of rhymes
We made together, trying to translate
The Songs of Heine (hers were always best).
“Now come,” she said,
“To-night we will collaborate
Again; I’ll put you to the test.
Here’s one I never found the way to do,—
The simplest are the hardest ones, you know,—
I give this song to you.”
And then she read:
Mein Kind, wir waren Kinder,
Zwei Kinder, jung und froh.
* * * * *
But all the while, a silent question stirred
Within me, though I dared not speak the word:
“Is it herself, and is she truly here,
And was I dreaming when I heard
That she was dead last year?
Or was it true, and is she but a shade
Who brings a fleeting joy to eye and ear,
Cold though so kind, and will she gently fade
When her sweet ghostly part is played
And the light-curtain falls at dawn of day?”
But while my heart was troubled by this
So deeply that I could not speak it out,
Lest all my happiness should disappear,
I thought me of a cunning way
To hide the question and dissolve the doubt.
“Will you not give me now your hand,
Dear Marguerite,” I asked, “to touch and hold,
That by this token I may understand
You are the same true friend you were of old?”
She answered with a smile so bright and calm
It seemed as if I saw the morn arise
In the deep heaven of her eyes;
And smiling so, she laid her palm
In mine. Dear God, it was not cold
But warm with vital heat!
“You live!” I cried, “you live, dear Marguerite!”
When I awoke; but strangely comforted,
Although I knew again that she was dead.
Yes, there’s the dream! And
was it sweet or sad?
Dear mistress of my waking and my sleep,
Present reward of all my heart’s desire,
Watching with me beside the winter fire,
Interpret now this vision that I had.
But while you read the meaning, let me keep
The touch of you: for the Old Year with storm
Is passing through the midnight, and doth shake
The corners of the house,—and oh! my heart would break
Unless both dreaming and awake
My hand could feel your hand was warm, warm, warm!