The Widow Betrothed

I passed the lodge and avenue
   To her fair tenement,
And sunset on her window-panes
   Reflected our intent.

The creeper on the gable nigh
   Was fired to more than red,
And when I came to halt thereby
   “Bright as my joy!” I said.

Of late days it had been her aim
   To meet me in the hall;
Now at my footsteps no one came,
   And no one to my call.

Again I knocked, and tardily
   An inner tread was heard,
And I was shown her presence then
   With a mere answering word.

She met me, and but barely took
   My proffered warm embrace;
Preoccupation weighed her look,
   And hardened her sweet face.

“To-morrow–could you–would you call?
   Shorten your present stay?
My child is ill–my one, my all!–
   And can’t be left to-day.”

And then she turns, and gives commands
   As I were out of sound,
Or were no more to her and hers
   Than any neighbour round. . . .

—As maid I loved her; but one came
   And pleased, and coaxed, and wooed,
And when in time he wedded her
   I deemed her gone for good.

He won, I lost her; and my loss
   I bore I know not how;
But I do think I suffered then
   Less wretchedness than now.

For Time, in taking him, unclosed
   An unexpected door
Of bliss for me, which grew to seem
   Far surer than before. . . .

Yet in my haste I overlooked
   When secondly I sued
That then, as not at first, she had learnt
   The call of motherhood. . . .

Her word is steadfast, and I know
   That firmly pledged are we:
But a new love-claim shares her since
   She smiled as maid on me.

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