Forsaking All Others Part 4
WAYNE was looking near and far
After the theatre to find his car.
He had taken his wife to the play that night;
Broadway was glittering hard and bright
With every sort of electric light
Green and scarlet and diamond-white;
And moving letters against the sky
Told you exactly the reason why
This or that was the thing to buy.
And suddenly there at his side was Nell
Vainly seeking her car as well
They talked. for a moment... of meeting again...
And how were Edward and Ruth, and then
'I wonder,' said Nell, 'if you ever see
My lovely friend...' 'You mean,' said he,
'That blue-eyed lady I once sat next.. '
'Exactly,' said Nellie. 'I feel so vexed
With Lee. I haven't seen her this season,
And between you and me, I know the reason.'
'Do you indeed? ' said Wayne.'Oh, yes,'
Nell answered. 'I know... at least I guess.
When a woman like that whom I've seen so much
All of a sudden drops out of touch,
Is always busy and never can
Spare you a moment, it means a MAN.'
Wayne did not smile. 'I am sure you are
Right,' he said. 'Do you go so far
In the magic art as to tell us who
The man may be? ' 'I certainly do,'
Said Nell. 'It's that handsome young romantic
Doctor who's driving the ladies frantic,
So that they flock to be cured in shoals
And talk of nothing but sex and souls,
And self-expression, and physical passion..
Of course, no wonder the man's the fashion.'
'Does Mrs. Kent flock? ' 'Oh, no, I meant
They've called him in to take care of Kent.
Imagine the long deep conversations,
The tears, the intimate revelations...
I wish to all ladies, lonely and sad,
Tied to a husband hopelessly mad
A handsome psychiatrist... good or bad.
Oh, there's my car,' and so with a gay
Good night to Wayne she was driven away.
People will come for miles, they say,
To see a man burnt at the stake, yet none
Turned in that crowd to look at one
Standing quietly burning there,
Suffering more than a man can bear,
Consumed with hideous inner fire,
Believing his love a cheat and a liar...
Believing the moment that Nell had spoken,
For that day of all days Lee had broken
A date... at the time he had thought it queer,
And now, by God, it was perfectly clear,
Perfectly clear, no doubt whatever...
A doctor, handsome and young and clever,
With all this rotten erotic learning....
Strange indeed that no head was turning
To watch this gentleman quietly burning,
In a trance of pain he heard Ruth say:
'Well, dear, what did you think of that play? '
'HOW could you think such a thing? '
'Try to forgive if you can.'
'Spoiling our beautiful Spring! '
'Well, I am only a man.'
'I will forgive, if I can.'
'Jealousy made me insane.'
'I never spoke to the man.'
'I'll never doubt you again.'
'Jealousy made you insane.'
'Lee, you have much to forgive.'
'Oh, never doubt me again.'
'Never as long as I live.'
'Jim, I have much to forgive.'
'Yes, but I've suffered like hell.'
'Trust me as long as you live.'
'Dearest, I love you too well.'
'Poor darling, going through hell.'
'Spoiling our beautiful Spring.'
'I also love you too well.'
'How could I think such a thing? '
LOVERS after a quarrel say to each other lightly:
'Dear, we are closer than ever: I love you better by far;
After the rainstorm is over, the sun shines even more brightly...'
Poor pitiful lovers, trying to hide the unsightly
Stain on the surface of love... the ineffaceable scar.
THE Spring was over, and Summer far advanced,
Lee spent many a hidden week in town,
Days long and enchanted, and nights entranced,
But one thought would not down:
'Is he content with this snatched and broken life? '
She thought, 'when we might be free?
He cannot love that dowdy middle-aged wife.
Does he really love me? '
She was not burnt by jealousy sudden and hot,
But poisoned and chilled that he would not break
A meagre tie to a wife she knew he could not
Love, - yet would not forsake.
One night at her window, looking over the Park,
With his strong hand on her shoulder prest,
And a thunder-cloud rolling up out of the dark,
Rolling out of the West,
Suddenly she heard herself quoting Macbeth:
' 'To be thus is nothing, but to be safely thus.' '
He answered after a pause on a long-drawn breath:
'Safety is not for us.'
AND from that moment Lee began - not nagging,
She was too wise for that - but she began
A secret steady pull, a silent dragging
To break the other tie that bound this man.
And she would brood, injured, remote, self-centred
At any mention that he had a wife;
And something chill and faintly hostile entered
The magic circle of this hidden life.
O lovers, those legitimately united
In holy wedlock, and less happy, those
Whose troth may never openly be plighted
(Less happy did I say? Alas, who knows?)
But lovers all, beware, and know the strongest
Of wills may make a strong antagonist:
And that love will not always linger longest
With those who hold it in too clenched a fist.
YET on the whole they were happy, as day by day
The long mysterious Summer passed away.
None guessed their secret - except far off on a shady
Lawn by the coast of Maine, a middle-aged lady
Spending a quiet Summer almost alone
In a great Victorian house of dark gray stone,
Knew as she sat and stared at the cold Maine ocean
Every event, every phase, every emotion
Of that great romance. She knew, none better,
Not by a chance or slip, or anonymous letter,
Not through gossip by any tattler carried,
But because she perfectly knew the man she had married.
'DO not go home for Sunday,
Darling,' Lee's letter said.
'How I hate Friday to Monday!
Stay with me here, instead.
Life is so short, and one day
Soon, we shall both be dead.
'The curse of love like ours
Is that we seem to be
Always cut short by powers
Stronger than you and me.
But if you stayed-what hours,
Glorious, alone and free'
RUTH in her quiet garden beside the sea
Thinking, 'To-morrow at this time Jim will be
Here at my side. It's something to be a wife -
The background dull and assured of everyday life.
He must come home, whether he wants to or not,
To me, to me... All other women must plot,
Arrange, manoeuver to see him...'
And then behind her
She heard the steps of a servant coming to find her:
A footman stood with a telegram held on a tray:
'Terribly sorry I cannot get away
This week-end. Better luck next. Love. Jim.'
She turned her head to the footman, and said to him,
'Say Mr. Wayne will not be here to-morrow.'
And the man withdrew and left her alone with her sorrow.
The sun went down behind the great blue hill;
And she sat there alone in her garden, perfectly still,
Watching the wraiths of fog blow in like smoke,
And her heart as she sat there gently and quietly broke.
AN August Sunday in town,
The Park all sere and brown,
The noise of wheels died down.
Faint tepid breezes wake
Now and again, and make
Lee's slatted curtains shake.
Now and again in the street
The sound of passing feet,
And church bells, faint and sweet.
Faint bells that ought to mean
A village spire seen
Across a meadow green.
Faint bells... Wayne's early youth....
Going to church... in truth
Going to church with Ruth.
Faint bells, and Lee cries, 'Oh,
How I should like to know
Why bells depress me so! '
BEFORE the skulls of Primitive Man,
Lee stood and thought: 'Are we part of a plan
Of Nature's; or are we just a sort
Of Cosmic Coincidence - a sport
Of God - or worse, a sport of chance
Or of Ether - Nature's great romance?
'How queer it would be, if it turned out we
Were merely eddies - Jim and me
Meaningless eddies in ether swirled
In and out of a meaningless world.
Well, if we are it's nice to think
We've had some moments upon the brink
Of dissolution - of absolute chaos
Moments of joy that well repay us.'
And she paused to note that her fellow eddy
Was fifteen minutes late already.
Waiting she wandered from floor to floor,
Every instant becoming more
Uneasy, and going back to the door,
Where Wayne ought to have been at exactly four.
She went from the skulls of Primitive Man
To the mystic temples of Yucatan,
Or studied gray elephants, vast and haughty,
But with eyes like pigs' eyes, shrewd and naughty,
Flamingoes of beautiful coral pink
The ancestry of the missing link
But in between she was always hurrying
Back to the doorway, wondering, worrying -
And then she saw with a horrid sinking
Of heart, it was five! And she went home thinking,
'Something has happened - he's been struck
By a ruthless, rollicking, rumbling truck,
Or crushed by a taxi, and now is lying
In some hospital ward - unknown and dying -
Or if they knew would they send in truth
For me? Oh, no, they would send for Ruth.'
And hurrying fast as the laws enable,
She found a telegram on her table,
Signed as usual, 'J. H. Wayne:'
'Ruth has pneumonia alone in Maine,
Of course I am taking the very first train.
Sorry to miss you before I go.
When I know my plans, I'll let you know.'
The first emotion felt by Lee
Was pure and perfect relief that he
Was safe. And then she felt the force
Of that cruel, domestic calm 'of course.'
And then undeniably into her head
Came the thought unbidden: - 'If Ruth were dead - '
And standing alone: 'Poor thing,' she said