A Revery in the Station-House

Last night I walked along the city street
And smiled at men; they saw the ancient sin
In my young eyes, and one said, "Come with me."
I went with him, believing my poor purse
Would fatten with his gold. He brought me here
And turned the key upon me. In an hour,
I shall be called before the judge and fined,
Because I have solicited. How strange
And inexplicable a thing is law--
How curious its whys, and why-nots! I
Was young and innocent of evil thought
A few brief years ago. My brother's friend,
A social favorite to whom all doors
Were open (and a church communicant),
Sought me, soliciting my faith and trust,
And brushed the dew of virtue from my lips;
Then left me to my solitary thoughts.
Death and misfortune entered on the scene;
I was thrown out to battle with the world,
And hide the anguish of a maid deflowered.

I left my first employer,--left because
He, too, solicited those favors that
No contract mentions, but which seem to be
Expected duties by unwritten law
In many business-houses. Soon I learned
That virtue is, indeed, its own reward.
And often finds no other. My poor wage
For honest labor and a decent life
Scarce kept me fed and sheltered. Everywhere
In office, boarding-house, and in church aisles
I met the eyes of men soliciting.
They supplemented pleading looks by words,
And laughed at all my scruples. Finally,
The one compelling lover had his way,
And when he wearied of me I began
The dreary treadmill of the city streets,
Soliciting whoever crossed my path
To take my favors and to give me gold.

Somehow, I cannot seem to understand
Why there is law to punish me for that,
And none to punish any of the men
Who have pursued me with soliciting
Right from the threshold of my childhood's home
To this grim station-house.
                                               My case is called?
Well, lead the way, and I will follow you.

World Voices by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
New York : Hearst's International Library Company 1916.

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