By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I was smoking a cigarette;
Maud, my wife, and the tenor McKey
Were singing together a blithe duet,
And days it were better I should forget
Came suddenly back to me,
Days when life seemed a gay masque ball
And to love and be loved as the sum of it all.
As they sang together the whole scene fled,
The room-s rich hangings, the sweet home air,
Stately Maud, with her proud blonde head,
And I seemed to see in her place instead
A wealth of blue-black hair,
And a face, ah! your face, – yours, Lisette,
A face it were wiser I should forget.
We were back – well, no matter when or where,
But you remember, I know, Lisette,
I saw you, dainty, and debonnaire,
With the very same look you used to wear
In the days I should forget.
And your lips, as red as the vintage we quaffed,
Were pearl-edged bumpers of wine when you laughed.
Two small slippers with big rosettes
Peeped out under your kilt-skirt there,
While we sat smoking our cigarettes
(Oh, I shall be dust when my heart forgets!)
And singing that selfsame air;
And between the verses for interlude,
I kissed your throat, and your shoulders nude.
You were so full of a subtle fire,
You were so warm and so sweet, Lisette;
You were everything men admire,
And there were no fetters to make us tire;
For you were – a pretty grisette.
But you loved, as only such natures can,
With a love that makes heaven of hell for a man.
* * * *
They have ceased singing that old duet,
Stately Maud and the tenor McKey.
-You are burning your coat with your cigarette,
And qu-avez-vous, dearest, your lids are wet, –
Maud says, as she leans o-er me.
And I smile, and lie to her, husband-wise,
-Oh, it is nothing but smoke in my eyes.-