The Captain's Wife
by Theodore Tilton
We gathered roses, Blanche and I, for little Madge one morning:
Like every soldier's wife, said Blanche,
I dread a soldier's fate.
Her voice a little trembled then, as under some forewarning.
A soldier galloped up the lane, and halted at the gate.
Which house is Malcolm Blake's? he cried;
a letter for his sister!
And when I thanked him, Blanche inquired,
But none for me, his wife?
The soldier played with Madge's curls, and, stooping over, kissed her:
Your father was my captain, child! -- I loved him as my life!
Then suddenly he galloped off, and left the rest unspoken.
I burst the seal, and Blanche exclaimed,
What makes you tremble so?
What answer did I dare to make? How should the news be broken?
I could not shield her from the stroke, yet tried to ease the blow.
A battle in the swamps, I said;
our men were brave, but lost it.
And, pausing there, --
The note, I said,
is not in Malcolm's hand.
And first a flush flamed through her face, and then a shadow crossed it:
Read quick, dear May! -- read all, I pray -- and let me understand!
I did not read it as it stood, but tempered so the phrases
As not at first to hint the worst, -- kept back the fatal word,
And half retold his gallant charge, his shout, his comrades' praises, --
Till, like a statue carved in stone, she neither spoke nor stirred!
O, never yet a woman's heart was frozen so completely! --
So unbaptized with helping tears! -- so passionless and dumb!
Spell-bound she stood, and motionless, till little Madge said sweetly,
Dear mother, is the battle done? and will my father come?
I laid my hand on Madge's lips, and led her to her playing.
Poor Blanche! the winter in her cheek was snowy like her name!
What could she do but kneel, and pray, and linger at her praying?
O Christ! when other heroes die, moan other wives the same?
Must other women's hearts yet break, to keep the Cause from failing?
God pity our brave lovers then, who face the battle's blaze!
And pity wives in widowhood! -- But is it unavailing?
O Lord! give Freedom first, then Peace! -- and unto Thee be praise!
Source:The Sexton's Tale, And Other Poems.
Sheldon And Company, New York.