Mary Conroy Poem by Timothy Thomas Fortune

Mary Conroy

She was young; old Conroy took her,
Took her for herself alone,
For no wealth had she to offer,
Love for him she had not shown.

But, he said, that did not move him;
He of wealth abundance had;
He was old, and she could make him
Less a recluse, lone and sad!

Age had robbed his breast of passion,
And had drained his eyes of tears;
He would leave his ample fortune
To the wife of his last years.

She was all that painters picture,
All that poets deem divine;
Beautiful and virtuous was she—
More than genius can define.

Little cared she for the glitter,
And the pomp of tinsel wealth,
For she knew that much that's deadly
Lurks beneath its show of health.

When her aged father urged her
To accept her suitor's hand,
As he soon fore'er must leave her
Poor and friendless in the land,

She consented without murmuring,
For no other choice had she;
Love, she thought, a vain delusion,
Fruitful source of misery.

So young Mary left a village
For a city's untried life,
Left an humble, happy cottage,
As rich banker Conroy's wife.

And a faithful partner made she,
Filled her husband's heart with pride;
Courted was she as the fairest,
Richest, on the social tide.

Conroy learned to love the maiden
Who was now his queenly bride;
But she smiled—'twas not love-laden—
On the husband at her side—

Told him she could never love him—
That she knew not what love meant—
But would constantly obey him;—
And with this he sought content.

But content was now a stranger
To the husband's love-torn breast,
And about him came and lingered
Jealous thoughts that broke his rest.

Sadly on his lot he pondered,
And him gold no more could charm;
All too late he knew he'd blundered—
Slipped his cable in life's storm!

Soon upon his bed they laid him—
Broken-hearted, silly man!
Mary ever was beside him,
Doing all a woman can;

But, for more than friendship sighed he,
And, since that was still denied,
What relief for crushed hopes had he!
In a short time Conroy died.

When the banker-prince was buried,
And his testament was brought,
It was found, since he was married,
That to spite his wife he'd sought,

As he had by will commanded
That his wife should single live;
But, if she again should marry,
To the poor his riches give!

Mary smiled, and said 'twas kindly
That her aged husband meant;
She'd not barter her blest freedom,
Lest by it she gained content.

So, she lived a life of pleasure,
Loved and sought by noble men,
Men who loved and strove to measure
Beauty with a poet's pen.

But to love she was a stranger,
And, without it, would not wed,
'Though about her men did linger
Pure of heart and wise of head.

And the poet and the artist,
In the Old World and the New,
Merit, worth, howe'er poor it,
Such adored her, such she knew.

All about her hovered fancy,
Wit and humor of the best,
And of such she ne'er grew weary—
Such, indeed, can soothe the breast.

But, a change of life impended,
Such as she, perhaps, ne'er dreamed;
She, whose smile with wealth was blended,
Turned her thoughts to love and deemed

'Twas a boon to her more precious
Than the treasures of Conroy—
Deemed that she could leave the splendid
Halls that gave her now no joy!

Freely had her word been given,
Faithful to the trust reposed,
And the duty now was ended
Which, she found, too much imposed.

He was but a struggling artist;
Little gold could he command;
She, a wealthy, lovely widow,
Rated fairest in the land.

Far too proud to leave his station
And to seek for joy so high,
He, with manly hope, probation
Fixed to labor to her sky.

To the future he committed
All he loved and cherished most:
He would conquer by persistence,
Or fall struggling at his post

And when he to her could offer,
With his love, no empty hand,
He would gladly go and ask her
All to take of love and land!

Mary read his brave intention,
Read it in his anxious eye,
And she knew that great devotion
Swelled his manly bosom high.

But no word by him was spoken
To disclose the burning thought;
Silence, when no longer silence,
Oft destroys the boon most sought!

Thus, the silence was unbroken,
Each content to have it so;
But their loving thoughts had voices—
Voices lovers so well know.

Since Bedell refused to utter
Words which he so longed to speak,
He resolved no more to see her—
For his love had made him weak!

He from her himself absented,
And he strove to her forget;
In his solitude he brooded;
Oft his checks with tears were wet!

Then he spread the friendly canvas,
And beneath his touch it glowed,
Till his cunning hand had painted
All his soul in secret vowed!

Thus, one day, he sat reviewing
That which he so well had done,
And in anguished silence dreaming
Of the love he longed to own,

When young Mary up behind him,
Softly, quickly treading, stole,
Much amazed so sad to find him—
Find him dreaming out his soul!

Young Bedell, intently musing,
Did not hear her gently sweep
Into his studio's warm stillness,
Into his sweet dream's half sleep!

On his shoulder Mary gently
Laid the pressure of her hand,
And the young Bedell, from musing,
Woke to hear some mild command!

Mary gazed, herself now dreaming,
On the glowing canvas near,
Then upon Bedell, low bending,
Waiting what she said to hear!

'Bedell,' said she, 'this your labor
Plainly tells me what I knew,
Knew, and sadly pondered over,
That, 'though absent, you were true;

'That, from some great pain to shield me,
You have sought your solitude!
But you more than pain have caused me—
Left me on your love to brood!'

'Mary, had I loved you idly,
Loved you with a love less strong,
Thought you less an angel saintly,
I had stayed and worked you wrong;

'But I knew full well my weakness,
And resolved to conquer all,
For I would not have your fortune
To my poor estate to fall.

'Noble men and noble women
Worship at your peerless shrine;
Leave Bedell, who long has striven
'Gainst your charms—they are divine!'

'Why, Bedell, should I now leave you,
When my heart to you is true?
Why should love's injunction pain you?—
Do what duty bids you do!

'You, to hide your love, had left me,
Yes, in haste from me had flown;
I have sought, and, unasked, given
What so long has been your own!

'Tell me why you made me seek you?
Tell me why you spurn my love?
Tell me why my picture moves you,
When I failed, 'though oft I strove?'

'I have ever loved you, Mary;
'Twas for that I left your side!
This, your pictured image, cannot
E'en that boundless love divide!

'I had schooled myself intently
To your cherished face forget,
But my hand, with loving cunning,
Taught me memory knew you yet!

'Why did I fly? You are happy—
You are rich, and, I—am poor!
Would I have you share my misery?
No! I should not see you more!

'Leave me, then, who long has striven
'Gainst your charms—they are divine!
Wealth like yours was never given
Save with equal wealth to twine!'

'Then, Bedell, we now are equal—
Rich, indeed, in equal love—
Richer than the mines of Ophir—
Rich as diamond courts above!

'He who took me from a cottage,
Made me mistress of Conroy,
Left the world in pain and anger,
Left the world without a joy!

'His estate I hold as trustee,
Hold it for the needy poor;
He who takes my hand in marriage
Takes a bride, and nothing more!'

Young Bedell, with joy, embraced her,
Pressed her to his beating heart,
And the world to him looked brighter
Since again they should not part!

But his joy died with the moment;
Cloudy grew his ample brow;
He would not, for his contentment,
Thus accept her marriage vow!

'Mary, you to me are dearer,
Dearer than all earth beside;
But, if marriage make you poorer,
Then, I single must abide!

'Leave me to my sore bereavement!
Leave me with the world to fight!
Time will bring you calmer judgment,
And you'll say Bedell was right!

'When I win the fame I covet,
Win the artist's golden dream,
I to you will then come, speaking
Words you cannot empty deem!'

'Then, I leave you, and shall never,
Never, speak again your name!
I'll not own a timid suitor,
One who waits on laggard fame!

'He who shrinks with life to grapple
Cheered by woman's constant love,
Is a coward, and in conflict
Will his craven nature prove!'

Mary would have left his presence,
But he faced her then and there,
And, with words whose fervent passion
Would have won a queen as fair,

Claimed her hand and ceased his dreaming—
Vowed that they for love would wed—
For her words of scorn and passion
Pointed where his duty led.

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