||AND so in the death-darkened chamber they met,
The woman that once he had loved and the one he loved yet—
The wife who had warped his desire and the woman he could not forget.
They stood by the bier where between them he slept,
And the love he had lost in his wife to her swimming eyes leapt;
But the woman his life had belonged to—his paramour—spoke not nor wept.
It was only a story of sated desire—
Of a love merely sensual burnt to an ash by its fire,
And a husband who turned to a more luscious love that was his for the hire.
All had sinned. For the husband had killed by his clutch,
Rough-handed, the fruit of a love that had dropped at his touch.
One woman's great sin was not loving, his wife's was in loving too much.
And so he had died; it was over at last;
And across him the two women looked at each other aghast—
Across his cold corse, and across the cold corse of the loathsome dead Past!
Then the smouldering love of the wife leapt to flame,
And she poured forth her kisses upon him, and called on his name.
But the other said “No, he is nothing to you; soul and body I claim!”
They looked at each other awhile. Said the wife wearily,
“He is mine; for I loved him, and ever shall love him; let be!”
But the other sneered, “No, he is mine, and mine only, because he loved me!”
Then the two laid their hands on the body between;
And fought for it, wife against paramour, fiercely, unseen—
For the body diseased and polluted, as ever his spirit had been.
And this is a question for answer in Hell:
To which of the two did his spirit belong, can you tell?
Think, was it the woman he loved, or the one who had loved him too well?
Arthur Henry Adams