Read CHAPTER V of An Echo Of Antietam 1898, free online book, by Edward Bellamy, on ReadCentral.com.

Philip’s body was brought home for burial, and the funeral was a great event in the village.  Business of all kinds was suspended, and all the people united in making of the day a solemn patriotic festival.  Mr. Morton preached the funeral sermon.

“Oh, talk about the country,” sobbed Grace, when he asked her if there was anything in particular she would like him to speak of.

“For pity’s sake don’t let me feel sorry now that I gave him up for the Union.  Don’t leave me now to think it would have been better if I had not let him go.”

So he preached of the country, as ministers sometimes did preach in those days, making it very plain that in a righteous cause men did well to die for their native land and their women did well to give them up.  Expounding the lofty wisdom of self-sacrifice, he showed how truly it was said that “whosoever will save his life shall lose it:  and whosoever will lose his life... shall find it,” and how none make such rich profit out of their lives as the heroes who seem to throw them away.

They had come, he told the assembled people, to mourn no misadventure, no misfortune; this dead soldier was not pitiable.  He was no victim of a tear-compelling fate.  No broken shaft typified his career.  He was rather one who had done well for himself, a wise young merchant of his blood, who having seen a way to barter his life at incredible advantage, at no less a rate indeed than a man’s for a nation’s, had not let slip so great an opportunity.

So he went on, still likening the life of a man to the wares of a shopkeeper, worth to him only what they can be sold for and a loss if overkept, till those who listened began to grow ill at ease in presence of that flag-draped coffin, and were vaguely troubled because they still lived.

Then he spoke of those who had been bereaved.  This soldier, he said, like his comrades, had staked for his country not only his own life but the earthly happiness of others also, having been fully empowered by them to do so.  Some had staked with their own lives the happiness of parents, some that of wives and children, others maybe the hopes of maidens pledged to them.  In offering up their lives to their country they had laid with them upon the altar these other lives which were bound up with theirs, and the same fire of sacrifice had consumed them both.  A few days before, in the storm of battle, those who had gone forth had fulfilled their share of the joint sacrifice.  In a thousand homes, with tears and the anguish of breaking hearts, those who had sent them forth were that day fulfilling theirs.  Let them now in their extremity seek support in the same spirit of patriotic devotion which had upheld their heroes in the hour of death.  As they had been lifted above fear by the thought that it was for their country they were dying, not less should those who mourned them find inspiration in remembering it was for the nation’s sake that their tears were shed, and for the country that their hearts were broken.  It had been appointed that half in blood of men and half in women’s tears the ransom of the people should be paid, so that their sorrow was not in vain, but for the healing of the nation.

It behooved these, therefore, to prove worthy of their high calling of martyrdom, and while they must needs weep, not to weep as other women wept, with hearts bowed down, but rather with uplifted faces, adopting and ratifying, though it might be with breaking hearts, this exchange they had made of earthly happiness for the life of their native land.  So should they honor those they mourned, and be joined with them not only in sacrifice but in the spirit of sacrifice.

So it was in response to the appeal of this stricken girl before him that the minister talked of the country, and to such purpose was it that the piteous thing she had dreaded, the feeling, now when it was forever too late, that it would have been better if she had kept her lover back, found no place in her heart.  There was, indeed, had she known it, no danger at all that she would be left to endure that, so long as she dreaded it, for the only prayer that never is unanswered is the prayer to be lifted above self.  So to pray and so to wish is but to cease to resist the divine gravitations ever pulling at the soul.  As the minister discoursed of the mystic gain of self-sacrifice, the mystery of which he spoke was fulfilled in her heart.  She appeared to stand in some place overarching life t and death, and there was made partaker of an exultation whereof if religion and philosophy might but catch and hold the secret, their ancient quest were over.

Grazing through streaming eyes upon the coffin of her lover, she was able freely to consent to the sacrifice of her own life which he had made in giving up his own.