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  The children sit by the fireside
    With their little faces in bloom;
  And behind, the lily-pale mother,
    Looking out of the gloom,

  Flushes in cheek and forehead
    With a light and sudden start;
  But the father sits there silent,
    From the firelight apart.

  "Now, what dost thou see in the embers?
    Tell it to me, my child,"
  Whispers the lily-pale mother
    To her daughter sweet and mild.

  "O, I see a sky and a moon
    In the coals and ashes there,
  And under, two are walking
    In a garden of flowers so fair.

  "A lady gay, and her lover,
    Talking with low-voiced words,
  Not to waken the dreaming flowers
    And the sleepy little birds."

  Back in the gloom the mother
    Shrinks with a sudden sigh.
  "Now, what dost thou see in the embers?"
    Cries the father to the boy.

  "O, I see a wedding-procession
    Go in at the church's door,--
  Ladies in silk and knights in steel,--
    A hundred of them, and more.

  "The bride's face is as white as a lily,
    And the groom's head is white as snow;
  And without, with plumes and tapers,
    A funeral paces slow."

  Loudly then laughed the father,
    And shouted again for cheer,
  And called to the drowsy housemaid
    To fetch him a pipe and beer.


William Dean Howells