My folks think I'm a serving maid Each time I visit home; They do not dream I ply a trade As old as Greece or Rome; For if they found I'd fouled their name And was not white as snow, I'm sure that they would die of shame . . . Please, God, they'll never know.
I clean the paint from off my face, In sober black I dress; Of coquetry I leave no trace To give them vague distress; And though it causes me a pang To play such sorry tricks, About my neck I meekly hang A silver crufix.
And so with humble step I go Just like a child again, To greet their Christmas candle-glow, A soul without a stain; So well I play my contrite part I make myself believe There's not a stain within my heart On Holy Christmas Eve.
With double natures we are vext, And what we feel, we are; A saint one day, a sinner next, A red light or a star; A prostitute or proselyte, And in each part sincere: So I become a vestal white One week in every year.
For this I say without demur From out life's lurid lore, Each righteous women has in her A tincture of the whore; While every harpy of the night, As I have learned too well; Holds in her heart a heaven-light To ransom her from hell.
So I'll go home and sweep and dust; I'll make the kitchen fire, And be a model of daughters just The best they could desire; I'll fondle them and cook their food, And Mother dear will say: "Thank God! my darling is as good As when she went away."
But after New Year's Day I'll fill My bag and though they grieve, I'll bid them both good-bye until Another Christmas Eve; And then . . . a knock upon the door: I'll find them waiting there, And angel-like I'll come once more In answer to their prayer.
Then Lo! one night when candle-light Gleams mystic on the snow, And music swells of Christmas bells, I'll come, no more to go: The old folks need my love and care, Their gold shall gild my dross, And evermore my breast shall bear My little silver cross.