The Collected Poems of Dora Sigerson Shorter/Kathleen's Charity
“God bless the work,” said young Kathleen,
She bent her golden head,
And in her cheek that was so pale
The blood crept rosy red.
Quick flew the humming spinning-wheel,
The thread was all but done,
And like the pale shafts of a star
The gleaming strands she spun.
“And when the cloth is mine”—she smiled.
The wheel sang soft and low—
“I'll make a robe all straight and white,
That I a bride may go.”
“The world is good,” she said, and laughed,
A-turning of her wheel.
Then by her stood a beggar maid,
Who prayed with faint appeal.
“I have not gold,” sighed sweet Kathleen,
“Nor silver you to give.
Yet if you go so pale and wan
I fear you scarce can live.”
“So take my thread, 'twill weave a gown
To keep you from the cold.”
The beggar kissed the giving hand.
And blessed a hundred-fold.
“My work is done,” said poor Kathleen,
And put her wheel aside,
“Yet like God's Mother sweet she looked,
So fair and holy-eyed.”
“And though no silken gown I wear
To deck me as a bride,
I yet can pray with grateful heart,
For we have much beside.
“To-morrow in the bare brown earth
We set our golden seed,
The yellow corn we scatter wide,
To make us rich indeed.”
Now as she spake beside her stood
An aged man and frail,
And there all piteous to her ear,
He told a woeful tale.
“I have not silver now nor gold,
Nor cloth to robe you in,
Yet should I giftless drive you forth
It were a grievous sin.”
She gave the sack of golden corn
That was her father's store,
And in her breast her frightened heart
Was beating wild and sore.
“Oh, woe is me,” she turned and cried,
“My father stern and cold,
Oh, cruel will he be to her
Who robbed him of his gold!”
She took the chaff in her two hands
With many a moan and sigh,
And spread it on the bare brown earth
Before her sire went by.
“Ahone,” she said, “to so deceive
My father blind and grey,
For little store shall bear the seed
That I have sown to-day.”
She bent to weep, but by her side
A child stood all alone.
“And 'tis in vain,” poor Kathleen cried,
“That here you make your moan.
“For I have left no gifts to give,
No doth, no food, no gold;
So I must drive you forth,” she said,
“To perish in the cold.”
She took the child unto her heart,
And then her tears let fall,
“Oh, woe it is to bid you go,
And you so weak and small.”
She set him down upon his way
And kissed his cheek and chin,
And then she saw a golden thread
He held his hands within.
“I met a lady on the road,”
The little one replied,
“She said this thread would weave a gown
To robe a happy bride.
“She bade me when I met with one
Whose mercy was so great
She'd give her very tears away
In pity for my state—
“She said, ‘Give her this silken thread
A wedding gown to weave.’”
Fair Kathleen took the golden ball,
But yet her heart did grieve,
“For I have robbed my father dear,
My father old and weak,
And oh, what shall I answer him
When he his grain shall seek?
“And oh, what shall I say to him
That he could me believe
Who sowed the chaff upon the ground.
His dim eyes to deceive?”
And woeful looked she to the north,
And woeful to the south.
And there she saw a little child
With laughter on his mouth.
She looked into her father's field.
Where once the chaff had been,
And lo! the sprouting grain was there,
With ears all high and green.
“The world is good,” said young Kathleen,
And knelt her down to pray,
“I know that some of God's sweet saints
Did visit me to-day.”