The Hatband

She held it out. " But you can't both have it," she said;
And hesitating they stood. The boom of the bell
For the maiden came across as her fond farewell: —
That one was the friend of the dead,
The second her lover, there needed no words to tell.

They looked at the object — a hatband the parish folk
Would borrow at times of the well-to-do woman who spoke:
Its trailing two-yards' length had grown rusty and bare
From much promiscuous wear.

" Decide between you," she added, and handed it over,
Whereon their faces appeared as much stressed at the choice
As the one at the loss of his friend, of his sweetheart the lover:
And still did the bell throb forth, as with querying voice,
Which head the crape symbol should cover?

" You take it," at last said the friend, standing back with a sigh:
" You were dearer to her than was I."
The streamer was tied on the hat with a love-knot of white,
And they hurried away, and shared in the last sad rite.

Next Sunday came; and pending the due church-hour
There stood, hot, playing at fives, by the western tower,
The ruddy young lover, as often aforetime there:
And the long black love-knotted hatband blew wild in the air
With his rushings everywhere.

Then murmured her friend, as he slowly drew near that day,
" I might just as well, truly, have had it! Alas, could not he
Refrain him for one little week, out of bare loyalty?
But young love is brief; let him play:
Yet never this sight, had the sad sign been worn here by me!"
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