Half an Hour Before Supper

A poem by Francis Bret Harte

“So she’s here, your unknown Dulcinea, the lady you met on the train,
And you really believe she would know you if you were to meet her again?”

“Of course,” he replied, “she would know me; there never was womankind yet
Forgot the effect she inspired. She excuses, but does not forget.”

“Then you told her your love?” asked the elder. The younger looked up with a smile:
“I sat by her side half an hour what else was I doing the while?

“What, sit by the side of a woman as fair as the sun in the sky,
And look somewhere else lest the dazzle flash back from your own to her eye?

“No, I hold that the speech of the tongue be as frank and as bold as the look,
And I held up herself to herself, that was more than she got from her book.”

“Young blood!” laughed the elder; “no doubt you are voicing the mode of To-Day:
But then we old fogies at least gave the lady some chance for delay.

“There’s my wife (you must know), we first met on the journey from Florence to Rome:
It took me three weeks to discover who was she and where was her home;

“Three more to be duly presented; three more ere I saw her again;
And a year ere my romance began where yours ended that day on the train.”

“Oh, that was the style of the stage-coach; we travel to-day by express;
Forty miles to the hour,” he answered, “won’t admit of a passion that’s less.”

“But what if you make a mistake?” quoth the elder. The younger half sighed.
“What happens when signals are wrong or switches misplaced?” he replied.

“Very well, I must bow to your wisdom,” the elder returned, “but submit
Your chances of winning this woman your boldness has bettered no whit.

“Why, you do not at best know her name. And what if I try your ideal
With something, if not quite so fair, at least more en regle and real?

“Let me find you a partner. Nay, come, I insist you shall follow this way.
My dear, will you not add your grace to entreat Mr. Rapid to stay?

“My wife, Mr. Rapid Eh, what! Why, he’s gone yet he said he would come.
How rude! I don’t wonder, my dear, you are properly crimson and dumb!”

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