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Charity Cross by Margaret Mason

Tinted are her cheeks with rose

She is waiting in the snows

Of the falling apple-blows.

Tinklings of a drowsy rill

Come from the upland orchard hill,

Niches in her dreams to fill.

Dotted is her rustic shawl

With the apple-leaves that fall:

Twilight splendors cover all.

Deeper lined than earthly grace,

Rest of heaven doth in her face

Rejoice in its abiding-place.

Charity Cross, it groweth late:

Household duties for you wait,

Just beyond the garden-gate.

Leave the apple-blooms to fall,

Far-off brook to vainly call:

Lightly climb the orchard wall.

All your dreamings softly fold:

Let them drift away untold

In the dying sunset's gold.

Down the path that leads between

Ferns and mosses, shaded green,

The gabled house is dimly seen.

Winds, with poplar trees at play,

Chafe with tossing boughs all day

Weather-beaten walls of gray.

Open wide the trellised door:

Sunset glories go before,

Fall upon the kitchen floor,

Turn to gold the swinging loom

Standing in the corner's gloom

Of the low brown-raftered room.

Brazen dogs that ever sleep

Silently the entrance keep

Of the fireplace huge and deep.

Charity, stop no more to dream:

Covers lift with puffing steam;

Waiting stands the risen cream.

Change to white your apron gray,

Sprinkled clothes to fold away,

Ready for another day.

Quickly now the table spread

With its homespun cloth of red,

Savory meats and snowy bread.

On the shelf a pink-lipped shell,

That for ever tries to tell

Ocean music, learned so well.

Tiptoe on the cricket stand:

Take it in your sun-browned hand—

Shell from eastern tropic land.

Let your clear voice through it ring,

Homeward the hired help to bring

From the distant meadow-spring.

Far away they hear the call:

Look! they come by orchard wall,

Where the apple-blossoms fall.

One that foremost leads the plough

Sees you in the doorway now—

Breaks a bending apple-bough;

Waves it by the meadow creek:

Answering blushes on your cheek

Tell the words you do not speak.

Out upon the rippling river

Purple lights of sunset quiver,

Rustling leaves reflected shiver.

Shell in hand, she goes to greet

Her lover, where the turf-grown street

And the meadow pathway meet.

Insect voices far away,

Hushed in silence through the day,

Whisper in the night of May,

While in vain the pink-lipped shell,

Murmuring in its hollow cell,

Would its own love-story tell.

Through the drifting apple-snow,

Where the four-leafed clovers grow,

Hand in hand they homeward go;

And they vow, whate'er the weather,

Mid the brier, through the heather,

They will walk life's way together.

Parting when the day grows late,

If a moment at the gate

One alone is left to wait,

Yet each other they will greet

Where life's shadeless, dusty street

And the heavenly pathway meet.