An Ember-Picture

HOW strange are the freaks of memory !
The lessons of life we forget,
While a trifle, a trick of color,
In the wonderful web is set, —
Set by some mordant of fancy,
And, despite the wear and tear
Of time or distance or trouble,
Insists on its right to be there.
A chance had brought us together ;
Our talk was of matters of course ;
We were nothing, one to the other,
But a short half-hour’s resource.
We spoke of French acting and actors,
And their easy, natural way, —
Of the weather, for it was raining
As we drove home from the play.
We debated the social nothings
Men take such pains to discuss ;
The thunderous rumors of battle
Were silent the while for us.
Arrived at her door, we left her
With a drippingly hurried adieu,
And our wheels went crunching the gfavel
Of the oak-darkened avenue.
As we drove away through the. shadow,
The candle she held in the door,
From rain-varnished tree-trunk to tree-trunk
Flashed fainter, and flashed no more, —
Flashed fainter and wholly faded
Before we had passed the wood ;
But the light of the face behind it
Went with me and stayed for good.
The vision of scarce a moment,
And hardly marked at the time,
It comes unbidden to haunt me,
Like a scrap of ballad-rhyme.
Had she beauty ? Well, not what they call so:
You may find a thousand as fair,
And yet there’s her face in my memory,
With no special right to be there.
As I sit sometimes in the twilight,
And call back to life in the coals
Old faces and hopes and fancies
Long buried, — good rest to their souls ! —
Her face shines out of the embers ;
I see her holding the light,
And hear the crunch of the gravel
And the sweep of the rain that night.
’T is a face that can never grow older,
That never can part with its gleam ;
’T is a gracious possession forever,
For what is it all but a dream?