Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928 / Dorchester / England)
'A woman never agreed to it!' said my knowing friend to me.
'That one thing she'd refuse to do for Solomon's mines in fee:
No woman ever will make herself look older than she is.'
I did not answer; but I thought, 'You err there, ancient Quiz.'
It took a rare one, true, to do it; for she was surely rare -
As rare a soul at that sweet time of her life as she was fair.
And urging motives, too, were strong, for ours was a passionate case,
Yea, passionate enough to lead to freaking with that young face.
I have told no one about it, should perhaps make few believe,
But I think it over now that life looms dull and years bereave,
How blank we stood at our bright wits' end, two frail barks in distress,
How self-regard in her was slain by her large tenderness.
I said: 'The only chance for us in a crisis of this kind
Is going it thorough!' - 'Yes,' she calmly breathed. 'Well, I don't mind.'
And we blanched her dark locks ruthlessly: set wrinkles on her brow;
Ay - she was a right rare woman then, whatever she may be now.
That night we heard a coach drive up, and questions asked below.
'A gent with an elderly wife, sir,' was returned from the bureau.
And the wheels went rattling on, and free at last from public ken
We washed all off in her chamber and restored her youth again.
How many years ago it was! Some fifty can it be
Since that adventure held us, and she played old wife to me?
But in time convention won her, as it wins all women at last,
And now she is rich and respectable, and time has buried the past.
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