Complete Poetical Works

Her Last Letter

Being a Reply to “His Answer

Bret Harte

JUNE 4th! Do you know what that date means?
    June 4th!    By this air and these pines!
Well,—only you know how I hate scenes,—
    These might be my very last lines!
For perhaps, sir, you’ll kindly remember—
    If some other things you’ve forgot—
That you last wrote the 4th of december,—
    Just six months ago!—from this spot;

From this spot, that you said was “the fairest
    For once being held in my thought.”
Now, really I call that the barest
    Of—well, I won’t say what I ought!
For here I am back from my “riches,”
    My “triumphs,” my “tours,” and all that;
And you’re not to be found in the ditches
    Or temples of Poverty Flat!

From Paris we went for the season
    To London, when Pa wired, “Stop.”
Mama says “his health” was the reason.
    (I’ve heard that some things took a “drop.”)
But she said if my patience I’d summon
    I could go back with him to the Flat—
Perhaps I was thinking of some one
    Who of me—well—was not thinking that!

Of course you will say that I “never
    Replied to the letter you wrote.”
That is just like a man!    But, however,
    I read it—or how could I quote?
And as to the stories you’ve heard (No,
    Don’t tell me you haven’t—I know!),
You’ll not believe one blessed word, Joe;
    But just whence they came, let them go!

And they came from Sade Lotski of Yolo,
    Whose father sold clothes on the Bar—
You called him Job-lotski, you know, Joe,
    And the boys said her value was par.
Well, we met her in Paris—just flaring
    With diamonds, and lost in a hat
And she asked me “how Joseph was faring
    In his love-suit on Poverty Flat!”

She thought it would shame me!    I met her
    With a look, Joe, that made her eyes drop;
And I said that your “love-suit fared better
    Than any suit out of their shop!”
And I didn’t blush then—as I’m doing
    To find myself here, all alone,
And left, Joe, to do all the “sueing”
    To a lover that’s certainly flown.

In this brand-new hotel, called “The Lily”
    (I wonder who gave it that name?)
I really am feeling quite silly,
    To think I was once called the same;
And I stare from its windows, and fancy
    I’m labeled to each passer-by.
Ah! gone is the old necromancy,
    For nothing seems right to my eye.

On that hill there are stores that I knew not;
    There’s a street—where I once lost my way;
And the copse where you once tied my shoe-knot
    Is shamelessly open as day!
And that bank by the spring—I once drank there,
    And you called the place Eden, you know;
Now I’m banished like Eve—though the bank there
    Is belonging to “Adams and Co.”

There’s the rustle of silk on the sidewalk;
    Just now there passed by a tall hat;
But there’s gloom in this “boom” and this wild talk
    Of the “future” of Poverty Flat.
There’s a decorous chill in the air, Joe,
    Where once we were simple and free;
And I hear they’ve been making a mayor, Joe,
    Of the man who shot Sandy McGee.

But there’s still the “lap, lap” of the river;
    There’s the song of the pines, deep and low.
(How my longing for them made me quiver
    In the park that they call Fontainebleau!)
There’s the snow-peak that looked on our dances,
    And blushed when the morning said, “Go!”
There’s a lot that remains which one fancies—
    But somehow there’s never a Joe!

Perhaps, on the whole, it is better,
    For you might have been changed like the rest;
Though it’s strange that I’m trusting this letter
    To papa, just to have it addressed.
He thinks he may find you, and really
    Seems kinder now I’m all alone.
You might have been here, Joe, if merely
    To look what I’m willing to own.

Well, well! that’s all past; so good-night, Joe;
    Good-night to the river and Flat;
Good-night to what’s wrong and what’s right, Joe;
    Good-night to the past, and all that—
To Harrison’s barn, and its dancers;
    To the moon, and the white peak of snow;
And good-night to the canyon that answers
    My “Joe!” with its echo of “No!”


I’ve just got your note.    You deceiver!
    How dared you—how could you?    Oh, Joe!
To think I’ve been kept a believer
    In things that were six months ago!
And it’s you’ve built this house, and the bank, too,
    And the mills, and the stores, and all that!
And for everything changed I must thank you,
    Who have “struck it” on Poverty Flat!

How dared you get rich—you great stupid!—
    Like papa, and some men that I know,
Instead of just trusting to Cupid
    And to me for your money?    Ah, Joe!
Just to think you sent never a word, dear,
    Till you wrote to papa for consent!
Now I know why they had me transferred here,
    And “the health of papa”—what that meant!

Now I know why they call this “The Lily;”
    Why the man who shot Sandy McGee
You made mayor!    ’Twas because—oh, you silly!—
    He once “went down the middle” with me!
I’ve been fooled to the top of my bent here,
    So come, and ask pardon—you know
That you’ve still got to get my consent, dear!
    And just think what that echo said—Joe!

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