43

At last Max spoke, "Dear Heart, this night is ours,

To watch it pale, together, into dawn,

Pressing our souls apart like opening flowers

Until our lives, through quivering bodies drawn,

Are mingled and confounded. Then, far spent,

Our eyes will close to undisturbed rest.

For that desired thing I leave you now.

To pinnacle this day's accomplishment,

By telling Grootver that a bootless quest

Is his, and that his schemes have met a knock-down blow."

44

But Christine clung to him with sobbing cries,

Pleading for love's sake that he leave her not.

And wound her arms about his knees and thighs

As he stood over her. With dread, begot

Of Grootver's name, and silence, and the night,

She shook and trembled. Words in moaning plaint

Wooed him to stay. She feared, she knew not why,

Yet greatly feared. She seemed some anguished saint

Martyred by visions. Max Breuck soothed her fright

With wisdom, then stepped out under the cooling sky.

45

But at the gate once more she held him close

And quenched her heart again upon his lips.

"My Sweetheart, why this terror? I propose

But to be gone one hour! Evening slips

Away, this errand must be done." "Max! Max!

First goes my father, if I lose you now!"

She grasped him as in panic lest she drown.

Softly he laughed, "One hour through the town

By moonlight! That's no place for foul attacks.

Dearest, be comforted, and clear that troubled brow.

46

One hour, Dear, and then, no more alone.

We front another day as man and wife.

I shall be back almost before I'm gone,

And midnight shall anoint and crown our life."

Then through the gate he passed. Along the street

She watched his buttons gleaming in the moon.

He stopped to wave and turned the garden wall.

Straight she sank down upon a mossy seat.

Her senses, mist-encircled by a swoon,

Swayed to unconsciousness beneath its wreathing pall.

47

Briskly Max walked beside the still canal.

His step was firm with purpose. Not a jot

He feared this meeting, nor the rancorous gall

Grootver would spit on him who marred his plot.

He dreaded no man, since he could protect

Christine. His wife! He stopped and laughed aloud.

His starved life had not fitted him for joy.

It strained him to the utmost to reject

Even this hour with her. His heart beat loud.

"Damn Grootver, who can force my time to this employ!"

48

He laughed again. What boyish uncontrol

To be so racked. Then felt his ticking watch.

In half an hour Grootver would know the whole.

And he would be returned, lifting the latch

Of his own gate, eager to take Christine

And crush her to his lips. How bear delay?

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