A Wife and Another

          “War ends, and he’s returning
                       Early; yea,
          The evening next to-morrow’s!” —
                       —This I say
To her, whom I suspiciously survey,

          Holding my husband’s letter
                       To her view. —
          She glanced at it but lightly,
                       And I knew
That one from him that day had reached her too.

          There was no time for scruple;
                       Secretly
          I filched her missive, conned it,
                       Learnt that he
Would lodge with her ere he came home to me.

          To reach the port before her,
                       And, unscanned,
          There wait to intercept them
                       Soon I planned:
That, in her stead, I might before him stand.

          So purposed, so effected;
                       At the inn
          Assigned, I found her hidden:—
                       O that sin
Should bear what she bore when I entered in!

          Her heavy lids grew laden
                       With despairs,
          Her lips made soundless movements
                       Unawares,
While I peered at the chamber hired as theirs.

          And as beside its doorway,
                       Deadly hued,
          One inside, one withoutside
                       We two stood,
He came — my husband — as she knew he would.

          No pleasurable triumph
                       Was that sight!
          The ghastly disappointment
                       Broke them quite.
What love was theirs, to move them with such might!

          “Madam, forgive me!” said she,
                       Sorrow bent,
          “A child — I soon shall bear him . . .
                       Yes — I meant
To tell you — that he won me ere he went.”

          Then, as it were, within me
                       Something snapped,
          As if my soul had largened:
                       Conscience-capped,
I saw myself the snarer — them the trapped.

          “My hate dies, and I promise,
                       Grace-beguiled,”
          I said, “to care for you, be
                       Reconciled;
And cherish, and take interest in the child.”

          Without more words I pressed him
                       Through the door
          Within which she stood, powerless
                       To say more,
And closed it on them, and downstairward bore.

          “He joins his wife — my sister,”
                       I, below,
          Remarked in going — lightly —
                       Even as though
All had come right, and we had arranged it so . . .

          As I, my road retracing,
                       Left them free,
          The night alone embracing
                       Childless me,
I held I had not stirred God wrothfully.

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