Dark frost was in the air without,
The dusk was still with cold and gloom,
When less than even a shadow came
And stood within the room.
But the three around the fire,
None turned a questioning head to look,
Still read a clear voice, on and on,
Still stooped they o’er their book.
The children watched their mother’s eyes
Moving on softly line to line;
It seemed to listen too — that shade,
Yet made no outward sign.
The fire-flames crooned a tiny song,
No cold wind moved the wintry tree;
The children both in Faerie dreamed
Beside their mother’s knee.
And nearer yet that spirit drew
Above that heedless one, intent
Only on what the simple words
Of her small story meant.
No voiceless sorrow grieved her mind,
No memory her bosom stirred,
Nor dreamed she, as she read to two,
‘Twas surely three who heard.
Yet when, the story done, she smiled
From face to face, serene and clear,
A love, half dead, sprang up, as she
Leaned close and drew them near.
– Walter de la Mare
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