The Caricature

Of the Lady Lu there were stories told,
For she was a woman of comely mould,
In heart-experience old.

Too many a man for her whimful sake
Had borne with patience chill and ache,
And nightly lain awake!

This epicure in pangs, in her tooth
For more of the sweet, with a calm unruth
Cast eyes on a painter-youth.

Her junior he; and the bait of bliss
Which she knew to throw—not he to miss—
She threw, till he dreamed her his.

To her arts not blind, he yet sued long,
As a songster jailed by a deed of wrong
Will shower the doer with song;

Till tried by tones now smart, now suave,
He would flee in ire, to return a slave
Who willingly forgave.

When no! One day he left her door,
‘I'll ease mine agony!’ he swore,
‘And bear this thing no more!

‘I'll practise a plan!’ Thereon he took
Her portrait from his sketching-book,
And, though his pencil shook,

He moulded on the real its mock;
Of beauteous brow, lip, eye, and lock
Composed a laughingstock.

Amazed at this satire of his long lure,
Whenever he scanned it he'd scarce endure
His laughter. 'Twas his cure.

And, even when he woke in the night,
And chanced to think of the comic sight,
He laughed till exhausted quite.

‘Why do you laugh?’ she said one day
As he gazed at her in a curious way.
‘Oh—for nothing,’ said he. ‘Mere play.’

—A gulf of years then severed the twain;
Till he heard—a painter of high attain—
She was dying on her domain.

‘And,’ dryly added the friend who told,
‘You may know or not that, in semblance cold,
She loved once, loved whole-souled;

‘And that you were the man? Did you break your vow?
Well, well; she is good as gone by now . . .
But you hit her, all allow!’

Ah, the blow past bearing that he received!
In his bachelor quiet he grieved and grieved;
How cruel; how self-deceived!

Did she ever know? . . . Men pitied his state
As the curse of his own contrivance ate
Like canker into his fate.

For ever that thing of his evil craft
Uprose on his grief—his mocking draught—
Till, racked, he insanely laughed.

Thence onward folk would muse in doubt
What gloomed him so as he walked about,
But few, or none, found out.
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