[Editor: This poem by Elise Espinasse was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]
The Price of a Kiss.
Where the ranges dip down to the plain at their base,
In the lap of the gully lies Tressider’s place,
And the dancers are footing it merry and bright
For the honour of Kitty, his daughter, to-night.
With a clatter of hoofs and a jingle of belts
The troopers ride up, and the merriment melts,
And men stand aghast, who were laughing before,
At the glitter of steel, as they crowd to the door.
Tom Govan, long-hunted, is captured at last.
And the days of his riding and raiding are past ;
They bring him a prisoner, half-ended their task,
And to rest there the night is the favour they ask.
In the stable they lash him to post and to ring,
For the strength of his arm is a marvellous thing;
Then they join in the dance and the night wanes apace,
And there ’s laughing and loving at Tressider’s place.
But Kitty creeps out and stands weeping apart,
For the love of Tom Govan that lies at her heart ;
For in good and in evil, through sin and through shame,
The love of a woman alone is the same.
But a form is beside her, a voice at her ear,
The voice that of all she least wishes to hear —
’T is the trooper who first ran her lover to earth,
And whose love she had treated with scorning and mirth.
“Kate,” he whispers, “to-night bid your lover good-bye;
If he leaves here to-morrow Tom Govan will die;
But just smile on me kindly and give me one kiss,
And to prove how I love you I ’ll give you — see this !”
He holds up his hand and he shows her a key —
One turn in the lock and Tom Govan is free —
He would barter his honour, with traitors claim kin,
For one smile from the woman he never can win.
She falters a moment, then raises her face.
Puts her hand in his own — “You may kiss me,” she says . . .
“When you ’re both far away,” and he toys with her hair,
“You might give me a thought — if you ’ve any to spare.”
* * * * *
There is saddling and mounting at Tressider’s place,
For of Tom and his sweetheart no man finds a trace —
But One lies on the grass, a revolver he grips :
’Tis the smile he bought, maybe, that’s still on his lips !
A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 89-90