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Many Voices

by E. Nesbit



I was picking raspberries, my head was in the canes,
And he came behind and kissed me, and I smacked him for his pains.
Says he, "You take it easy! That ain't the way to do!
I love you hot as fire, my girl, and you know you know it too.
So won't you name the day?"
But I said, "That I will not."
And I pushed him away,
Out among the raspberries all on a summer day.
And I says, "You ask in winter, if your love's so hot,
For it's summer now, and sunny, and my hands is full," says I,
"With the fair by and by,
And the village dance and all;
And the turkey poults is small,
And so's the ducks and chicks,
And the hay not yet in ricks,
And the flower-show'll be presently and hop-picking's to come,
And the fruiting and the harvest home,
And my new white gown to make, and the jam all to be done.
Can't you leave a girl alone?
Your love's too hot for me!
Can't you leave a girl be
Till the evenings do draw in,
Till the leaves be getting thin,
Till the fires be lighted early, and the curtains drawed for tea?
That's the time to do your courting, if you come a-courting me!"

* * *

And he took it as I said it, an' not as it was meant.
And he went.

* * *

The hay was stacked, the fruit was picked, the hops were dry and
And everything was garnered, and the year turned upside down,
And the winter it come on, and the fires were early lit,
And he'd never come anigh again, and all my life was sick.
And I was cold alone, with nought to do but sit
With my hands in my black lap, and hear the clock tick.
For father, he lay dead
With the candles at his head,
And his coffin was that black I could see it through the wall;
And I'd sent them all away,
Though they'd offered for to stay.
I wanted to be cold alone, and learn to bear it all.
Then I heard him. I'd a-known it for his footstep just as plain
If he'd brought his regiment with him up the rutty frozen lane.
And I hadn't drawed the curtains, and I see him through the pane;
And I jumped up in my blacks and I threw the door back wide.
Says I, "You come inside;
For it's cold outside for you,
And it's cold here too;
And I haven't no more pride -
It's too cold for that," I cried.

* * *

Then I saw in his face
The fear of death, and desire.
And oh, I took and kissed him again and again,
And I clipped him close and all,
In the winter, in the dusk, in the quiet house-place,
With the coffin lying black and full the other side the wall;
And "YOU warm my heart," I told him, "if there's any fire in men!"
And he got his two arms round me, and I felt the fire then.
And I warmed my heart at the fire.

Turn to the next chapter: POEM: SONG

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