I heard her crying in the night,—
So long, so long I lay awake,
Watching the moonlight ebb and break
Against the sill like waves of light.
I tried to close my eyes nor heed
And lie quite still—but oh, again
The little voice of fright and pain
Sobbed in the darkness of her need.
Strange shadows led me down the stair;
Creaked as I went the hollow floor;
I drew the bolt and flung the door
Wide, wide, and softly called her there.
Ah me, as happy mothers call
Through the tender twilights to the gay,
Glad truant making holiday
Too long before the evenfall.
The garden odors drifted through,
The scent of earth and box and rose,
And then, as silently as those,
A little wistful child I knew.
So small, so frightened and so cold,
Ah, close, so close I gathered her
Within my arms, she might not stir,
And crooned and kissed her in their hold.
As might a happy mother, when,
Aghast for some quaint, trifling thing,
One runs to her for comforting,
And smiles within her arms again.
All night upon my heart she lay,
All night I held her warm and close,
Until the morning wind arose
And called across the world for day.
The garden odors drifted through
The open door; as still as they
She passed into the awful day,
A little, wistful child I knew.
Think you for this God’s smile may dim
(His are so many, many dead)
Seeing that I but comforted
A child—and sent her back to Him!
Three days she wandered forth from me,
Then sought me as of old.
“I did not know how dark ’twould be,”
She sobbed, “nor yet how cold.
“And it is chill for me to fare
Who have not long been dead.
If thou wouldst give away thy cloak
I might go comforted.”
I would have soothed her on my breast
But that she needs must go.
The dead must journey without rest
Whether they will or no.
But I had kept for love of her
The cloak she wore, the shoes,
And every day I touched the things
She had been wont to use.
All night the dead must hurry on,
They may not ever sleep.
And so I gave away her cloak
That I was fain to keep.
The second time she sought me out
Her eyes were full of need.
“If thou wouldst give away my shoes
Perchance I would not bleed.”
I cried to her aloud, “My child,
They are all I have to keep,
To lay my hand upon and touch
At night before I sleep.
“The earth shall keep the body I bore,
And Heaven thy soul. I may not choose.
Let be—I ask a little thing,
That I should keep thy shoes.