Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1861–1889
Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889
Before the Gate
By William Dean Howells (1837–1920)
THEY gave the whole long day to idle laughter,
  To fitful song and jest
To moods of soberness as idle, after,
  And silences, as idle too as the rest.
But when at last upon their way returning,        5
  Taciturn, late, and loath,
Through the broad meadow in the sunset burning,
  They reached the gate, one fine spell hindered them both.
Her heart was troubled with a subtile anguish
  Such as but women know        10
That wait, and lest love speak or speak not languish,
  And what they would, would rather they would not so;
Till he said,—man-like nothing comprehending
  Of all the wondrous guile
That women won win themselves with, and bending        15
  Eyes of relentless asking on her the while,—
“Ah, if beyond this gate the path united
  Our steps as far as death,
And I might open it!—” His voice, affrighted
  At its own daring, faltered under his breath.        20
Then she—whom both his faith and fear enchanted
  Far beyond words to tell,
Feeling her woman’s finest wit had wanted
  The art he had that knew to blunder so well—
Shyly drew near, a little step, and mocking,        25
  “Shall we not be too late
For tea?” she said. “I’m quite worn out with walking:
  Yes, thanks, your arm. And will you—open the gate?”

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