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Too white, for the flower of life is red ;
Her flesh was the soft seraphic screen Of a soul that is meant (her parents said) ! To just see earth, and hardly be seen, And blossom in heaven instead.
Yet earth saw one thing, one how fair !
One grace that grew to its full on earth : Smiles might be sparse on her cheek so spare,
And her waist want half a girdle's girth, But she had her great gold hair.
Hair, such a wonder of Alix and floss,
Freshness and fragrance-floods of it, too ! Gold, did I say? Nay, gold 's mere dross :
Here, Life smiled, “ Think what I meant to do !" And Love sighed, “Fancy my loss !”
So, when she died, it was scarce more strange
Than that, when some delicate evening dies, And you follow its spent sun's pallid range,
There 's a shoot of colour startles the skies With sudden, violent change,
That, while the breath was nearly to seek,
As they put the little cross to her lips,
A spark from her eye in mid-eclipse,
"Not my hair !” made the girl her moan
"All the rest is gone or to go ; “But the last, last grace, my all, my own,
“Let it stay in the grave, that the ghosts may know ! “Leave my poor gold hair alone !"
Her parents sobbed their worst on that,
For indeed the hair was to wonder at, As it spread—not flowing free,
And coiled beside her cheeks, like a cap,
To her breast, pressed flat, without a gap l' the gold, it reached her gown.
All kissed that face, like a silver wedge
'Mid the yellow wealth, nor disturbed its hair : E'en the priest allowed death's privilege,
As he planted the crucifix with care On her breast, 'twixt edge and edge.
And thus was she buried, inviolate
Of body and soul, in the very space By the altar ; keeping saintly state
In Pornic church, for her pride of race, Pure life and piteous fate.
And in after-time would your fresh tear fall,
Though your mouth might twitch with a dubious smile, As they told you of gold both robe and pall,
How she prayed them leave it alone awhile, So it never was touched at all.
Years flew; this legend grew at last
The life of the lady; all she had done, All been, in the memories fading fast
Of lover and friend, was summed in one Sentence survivors passed :
Had turned an angel before the time :
Of frailty, all you could count a crime Was-she knew her gold hair's worth.
It chanced, the pavement wanted repair,
A certain sacred space lay bare, And the boys began research.
'T was the space where our sires would lay a saint,
A benefactor,- a bishop, suppose,
Dame with chased ring and jewelled rose
So we come to find them in after-days
When the corpse is presumed to have done with gauds Of use to the living, in many ways :
For the boys get pelf, and the town applauds, And the church deserves the praise.
They grubbed with a will : and at length- cor
Humanum, pectora cæca, and the rest !They found—no gaud they were prying for,
No ring, no rose, but, who would have guessed ?A double Louis-d'or !
Marked, inwardly digested, laid
“ Chirps in my ear : " then, “ Bring a spade, “ Dig deeper !”—he gave the word.
And lo, when they came to the coffin-lid,
Or rotten planks which composed it once, Why, there lay the girl's skull wedged amid
A mint of money, it served for the nonce To hold in its hair-heaps hid !
(She the stainless soul) to treasure up . Money, earth's trash and heaven's affront ?
Had a spider found out the communion-cup, Was a toad in the christening-font?
Truth is truth : too true it was.
Gold! She hoarded and hugged it first, Longed for it, leaned o'er it, loved it- alas
Till the humour grew to a head and burst, And she cried, at the final pass,
“ Talk not of God, my heart is stone !
“Nor lover nor friend—be gold for both ! “Gold I lack; and, my all, my own,
" It shall hide in my hair. I scarce die loth " If they let my hair alone !"
And duly double, every piece.
With parents preventing her soul's release
With heaven's gold gates about to ope,
With friends' praise, gold-like, lingering still, An instinct had bidden the girl's hand grope
For gold, the true sort—“Gold in heaven, if you will ; “But I keep earth's too, I hope."
Enough! The priest took the grave's grim yield :
The parents, they eyed that price of sin As if thirty pieces lay revealed
On the place to bury strangers in, The hideous Potter's Field.