Sudden the play-time ended. All at once
“You must be wed,” they told me. “What is wed?”
I asked; but with the word I bent my brow,
Let them put on the garland, smiled to see
The glancing jewels tied about my neck;
And so, half-pleased, half-puzzled, was led forth
By my grave husband, older than my sire.
O the long years that followed! It would seem
That the sun never shone in all those years,
Or only with a sudden, troubled glint
Flashed on Antonio’s curls, as he went by
Doffing his cap, with eyes of wistful love
Raised to my face,—my conscious, woful face.
Were we so much to blame? Our lives had twined
Together, none forbidding, for so long.
They let our childish fingers drop the seed,
Unhindered, which should ripen to tall grain;
They let the firm, small roots tangle and grow,
Then rent them, careless that it hurt the plant.
I loved Antonio, and he loved me.
Life was all shadow, but it was not sin!
I loved Antonio, but I kept me pure,
Not for my husband’s sake, but for the sake
Of him, my first-born child, my little child,
Mine for a few short weeks, whose touch, whose look
Thrilled all my soul and thrills it to this day.
I loved; but, hear me swear, I kept me pure!
(Remember that, Madonna, when I come
Before thy throne to-morrow. Be not stern,
Or gaze upon me with reproachful look,
Making my little angel hide his face
And weep, while all the others turn glad eyes
Rejoicing on their mothers.)
It was hard
To sit in darkness while the rest had light,
To move to discords when the rest had song,
To be so young and never to have lived.
I bore, as women bear, until one day
Soul said to flesh, “This I endure no more,”
And with the word uprose, tore clay apart,
And what was blank before grew blanker still.
It was a fever, so the leeches said.
I had been dead so long, I did not know
The difference, or heed. Oil on my breast,
The garments of the grave about me wrapped,
They bore me forth, and laid me in the tomb.
The rich and beautiful and dreadful tomb,
Where all the buried Amteris lie,
Beneath the Duomo’s black and towering shade.
Open the curtain, child. Yes, it is night.
It was night then, when I awoke to feel
That deadly chill, and see by ghostly gleams
Of moonlight, creeping through the grated door,
The coffins of my fathers all about.
Strange, hollow clamors rang and echoed back,
As, struggling out of mine, I dropped and fell.
With frantic strength I beat upon the grate.
It yielded to my touch. Some careless hand
Had left the bolt half-slipped. My father swore
Afterward, with a curse, he would make sure
Next time. Next time. That hurts me even now!