THERE was an instant when he might have said
He could not see the lady; but instead
He nodded with a blank, impassive face,
And waited, never moving from his place
Beside the window, till a moment more
And she was there, leaning against the door
Which she had closed. She stood there, silent, staring,
Trembling with fear at her own act of daring,
But not with fear of him. Erect and slim,
White as the daytime moon, she spoke to him.
"I know," she said, "that it was not your plan
That we should ever meet: I know a man
Assumes despotic power, assumes his voice
In cases such as ours shall have the choice. . .
"But is that just, I ask. . . is that fair play
That you should have the right to throw away,
Crush and destroy and utterly deny
Our joint possession. . . or rather mine, for I
Value our friendship so much more than you
Appear to . . ." "No," he said, "That is not true."
She shook her head. "Ah, if you thought it rare,
Precious and wonderful, you would not dare
Destroy it by yourself. . . not even you."
He answered: "I not only would. I do.
You speak of friendship. What a silly word,
And as dishonest as I ever heard.
Let us at least be candid, for God's sake,
And speak the truth. . . what difference does it make?
It is not friendship we are speaking of,
But the first moments of a passionate love...."
"You're wrong," she cried, "you're absolutely wrong.
Not everything emotional and strong
Between a man and woman needs must be
Physical love. . . People like you and me
Are wise enough and old enough to take
This fiery elemental thing and make
Something for every day, serene and cool. . .
I am not of the all-or-nothing school."
He smiled. "We light hell-fires, and you engage
They'll warm our palsied hands in our old age,"
At this she paused, and then she said:"Your tone
Wounds me. I live so terribly alone,
I am perhaps too eager for a friend. . .
But not a lover. Oh, please comprehend
I want no lovers. Think me vain or not
But I assure you I might have a lot
Of them. But friendship such as you could give -
Wisdom and strength and knowledge how to live
In this harsh world in which I draw my breath
With so much pain. . . it seems a sort of death
To yield so rich a promise. . . to forego
Such happiness. . ," She heard him laugh. "You know
All that is nonsense," "Nonsense?" "All but this."
And on her willing lips she felt his kiss.