ITS SHADOWS AND SUNSHINE
T. S. ARTHUR.
THE highest, purest, best and holiest relation in life is that of marriage, which ought never to be regarded as a mere civil contract, entered into from worldly ends, but as an essential union of two minds, by which each gains a new power, and acquires! new capacities for enjoyment and usefulness. Much has been said and written about the equality of the sexes, and the rights of woman; but little of all that has been said or written on this subject is based upon a discriminating appreciation of the difference between man and woman; a difference provided by the Creator, who made them for each other, and stamped upon the spirit of each an irresistible tendency towards conjunction.
The many evils resulting from marriage do not arise from a failure in our sex to recognise the equality of man and woman, or the rights of the latter; but from hasty, ill-judged and discordant alliances, entered into in so many cases, from motives of a mere external nature, and with no perception of internal qualities tending to a true spiritual conjunction. Oppression and wrong cannot flow from true affection, for love seeks to bless its object.—If, therefore, man and woman are not happy in marriage, the fault lies in an improper union, and no remedy can be found in outward constraints or appliances. Let each, under such circumstances, remove from himself or herself a spirit of selfish opposition; let forbearance, gentleness, and a humane consideration, the one for the other, find its way into the heart, and soon a better and a brighter day will dawn upon them; for then will begin that true interior conjunction which only can be called marriage. Happily, we have the intellectual ability to see what is true, and the power to compel ourselves to do what reason shows us to be right. And here lies the power of all to rise above those ills of life which flow from causes in themselves. To aid in this work, so far as discordant marriage relations are concerned, and to bind in closer bonds those whose union is internal, is the present volume prepared. That it will tend to unite rather than separate, where discord unhappily exists, and to warn those about forming alliances against the wrong of improper ones, the author is well assured.
This book is the second in the series of "ARTHUR'S LIBRARY FOR THE HOUSEHOLD." The third in the series will be "THE TWO WIVES; OR, LOST AND WON," which is nearly ready for publication.
THREE WAYS OF MANAGING A HUSBAND. RULING A WIFE. THE INVALID WIFE. THE FIRST AND LAST QUARREL. GUESS WHO IT IS. MARRYING A TAILOR. THE MAIDEN'S CHOICE. THE FORTUNE-HUNTER. IS MARRIAGE A LOTTERY? THE UNLOVED ONE.
THREE WAYS OF MANAGING A HUSBAND.
TO those who have never tried the experiment, the management of a husband may seem a very easy matter. I thought so once, but a few years' hard experience has compelled me to change my mind. When I married Mr. John Smith, which was about ten years ago, I was not altogether blind to his faults and peculiarities; but then he had so many solid virtues, that these were viewed as minor considerations. Besides, I flattered myself that it would be the easiest thing in the world to correct what was not exactly to my taste. It is no matter of especial wonder that I should have erred in this, for Mr. John Smith, while a lover, really appeared to have no will of his own, and no thought of himself. It was only necessary for me to express a wish, and it was gratified.
I soon found, much to my disappointment, that there is a marked difference between a husband and a lover: it was at least so in the case of Mr. Smith, and observation, since I have had my eyes open, satisfies me that it is so in most cases. I must own, in justice to all parties, however, that this difference is made more apparent by a want of knowledge, on the other side, in regard to the difference between the relation of a wife and a sweetheart—between the wooed and the won.
There were a good many little things in Mr. Smith, which I had noticed before marriage, that I made up my mind to correct as soon as I had an opportunity to apply the proper means. He had a fashion of saying "Miss" for "Mrs.," as "Miss Jones" and "Miss Peters" for "Mrs. Jones" and "Mrs. Peters." This sounded exceedingly vulgar to my ears, and I waited almost impatiently for the time to come when I could use the prerogative of a wife for its correction. He had, an ungraceful way of lounging in his chair and half reclining on the sofa, even in company, that was terrible. It made me uneasy from head to foot. Then he said, "I shew it to him" for "I showed it to him,"—"of-ten" for "oft'n"—and "obleeged" for "obliged."
Besides these, there were sundry other things that worried me not a little. But I consoled myself with the reflection that when I became Mrs. Smith all these little matters would vanish like frost in the sunshine. I was, alas! doomed to be mistaken. But let me give my experience for the benefit of those who are to come after me.
We had been married just ten days, and I had begun to feel that I was really a wife, and had a right to say and do a little as I pleased, when Mr. Smith said to me, as we sat quite lover-like on the sofa in the evening,
"I met Miss Williams as I came home this evening—"
"For mercy's sake, Mr. Smith! don't say Miss when you speak of a married woman. It is excessively vulgar." I was not aware that I had spoken in a very offensive way, but I noticed an instant change in Mr. Smith. He replied, with some dignity of tone, and manner—
"I ask your pardon, madam; but I didn't say Miss. I am not quite so ignorant as all that comes to."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Smith, but you did say it," I replied, quite astonished at this unexpected denial.
"Excuse me for saying that you are in error," he returned, drawing himself up. "I never say Miss for Mrs."
"Why, Mr. Smith! You always say it. I have noticed it a hundred times. I believe I can hear pretty correctly."
"In this instance you certainly have not."
Mr. Smith was growing warm, and I felt the blood rushing to my face. A rather tart reply was on my lips, but I bit them hard and succeeded in keeping them closed.
A deep silence followed. In a little while Mr. Smith took up a newspaper and commenced reading, and I found some relief for a heavy pressure that was upon my bosom, in the employment of hem-stitching a fine pocket-handkerchief.
And this was the return I had met for a kind attempt to correct a mistake of my husband's, that made him liable to ridicule on the charge of vulgarity! And to deny, too, that he said "Miss," when I had been worried about it for more than a year! It was too bad!
After this Mr. Smith was very particular in saying, when he spoke of a married woman to me, Misses. The emphasis on the second syllable was much too strongly marked to be pleasant on my ears. I was terribly afraid he would say "Mistress," thus going off into the opposite extreme of vulgarity.
This first attempt to put my husband straight had certainly not been a very pleasant one. He had shown, unexpectedly to me, a humour that could by no means be called amiable; and by which I was both grieved, and astonished. I made up my mind that I would be very careful in future how I tried my hand at reforming him. But his oft-repeated "he shew it to me," and "obleeged," soon fretted me so sorely, that I was forced to come down upon him again, which I did at a time when I felt more than usually annoyed. I cannot remember now precisely what I said to him, but I know that I put him into an ill-humour, and that it was cloudy weather in the house for a week, although the sun shone brightly enough out of doors. "He shew it to me," and "obleeged" were, however, among the things that had been, after that. So much was gained; although there were times when I half suspected that I had lost more than I had gained. But I persevered, and, every now and then, when I got "worked up" about something, administered the rod of correction.
Gradually I could see that my husband was changing, and, as I felt, for the worse. Scarcely a year had passed before he would get into a pet if I said the least word to him. He couldn't bear any thing from me. This seemed very unreasonable, and caused me not only to sigh, but to shed many a tear over his perverseness. From the thoughtful, ever considerate, self-sacrificing lover, he had come to be disregardful of my wishes, careless of my comfort, and indifferent to my society. Still I felt by no means inclined to give him up; was by no means disposed to let him have his own way. It was clear to my mind that I had rights as well as he had; and I possessed resolution enough to be ready to maintain them. His self-will and indifference to my wishes roused in me a bitter and contentious spirit; and, in an evil hour, I determined that I would make a struggle for the mastery. An opportunity was not long delayed. The Philharmonic Society had announced one of its splendid concerts. A lady friend, who had frequently attended these concerts, called in to see me, and, by what she said, filled me with a desire to enjoy the fine musical treat that had been announced for that very evening.
When Mr. Smith came home at dinner he said, before I had time to mention the concert—
"Mary, I've taken a fancy to go and see Fanny Ellsler to-night, and, as there will be no chance of getting a good seat this afternoon, I took the precaution to secure tickets as I came home to dinner. I would have sent the porter with a note to know whether there was any thing to prevent your going to-night, but he has been out all the morning, and I concluded that, even if there should be some slight impediment in the way, you could easily set it aside."
Now this I thought too much. To go and buy tickets to see Fanny Ellsler dance, and take it for granted that I would lay every thing aside to go, when I had set my heart on attending the Philharmonic concert!
"You are a strange man, Mr. Smith," said I. "You ought to know that I don't care a fig about seeing Fanny Ellsler. I don't relish such kind of performances. You at least might have waited until you came home to dinner and asked the question. I don't believe a word about the good seats all being taken this morning. But it's just like you! To go and see this dancers toss her feet about was a thing you had made up your mind to do, and I was to go along whether I liked it or not."
"You talk in rather a strange way, Mrs. Smith," said my husband, evidently offended.
"I don't see that I do," replied I, warming. "The fact is, Mr. Smith, you seem to take it for granted that I am nobody. Here I've been making all my calculations to go to the Philharmonic to-night, and you come home with tickets for the theatre! But I can tell you plainly that I am not going to see Fanny Ellsler, and that I am going to the Philharmonic."
This was taking a stand that I had never taken before. In most of my efforts to make my husband go my way, he had succeeded in making me go his way. This always chafed me dreadfully. I fretted and scolded, and "all that sort of thing," but it was no use, I could not manage him. The direct issue of "I won't" and "I will" had not yet been made, and I was some time in coming to the resolution to have a struggle, fiercer than ever, for the ascendency. I fondly believed that for peace' sake he would not stand firm if he saw me resolute. Under this view of the case, I made the open averment that I would not go to the theatre. I expected that a scene would follow, but I was mistaken. Mr. Smith did, indeed, open his eyes a little wider, but he said nothing.
Just then the bell announced that dinner was on the table. Mr. Smith arose and led the way to the dinner-room with a firm step. Before we were married he wouldn't have dreamed of thus preceding me! I was fretted at this little act. It indicated too plainly what was in the man.
Dinner passed in silence. I forced myself to eat, that I might appear unconcerned. On rising from the table, Mr. Smith left the house without saying a word.
You may suppose I didn't feel very comfortable during the afternoon. I had taken my stand, and my intention was to maintain it to the last. That Mr. Smith would yield I had no doubt at first. But, as evening approached, and the trial-time drew near, I had some misgivings.
Mr. Smith came home early.
"Mary," said he, in his usual pleasant way, "I have ordered a carriage to be here at half-past seven. We mustn't leave home later, as the curtain rises at eight."
"What curtain rises? Where do you think of going?"
"To see Fanny Ellsler, of course. I mentioned to you at dinner-time that I had tickets."
This was said very calmly.
"And I told you at dinner-time that I was going to the Philharmonic, and not to see this dancer." I tried to appear as composed as he was, but failed in the attempt altogether.
"You were aware that I had tickets for the theatre before you said that," was the cold answer he made.
"Of course I was."
"Very well, Mary. You can do as you like. The carriage will be here at half-past seven. If you are then ready to go to the theatre, I shall be happy to have your company." And my husband, after saying this with a most unruffled manner, politely bowed and retired to the parlour.
I was on fire. But I had no thought of yielding.
At half-past seven I was ready. I heard the carriage drive up to the door and the bell ring.
"Mary," called my husband at the bottom of the stair-case, in a cheerful tone, "are you ready?"
"Ready to go where?" I asked on descending.
"To the theatre."
"I am ready for the concert," I answered in as composed a voice as I could assume.
"I am not going to the concert to-night, Mrs. Smith. I thought you understood that," firmly replied my husband. "I am going to see Fanny Ellsler. If you will go with me, I shall be very happy to have your company. If not, I must go alone."
"And I am going to the Philharmonic. I thought you understood that," I replied, with equal resolution.
"Oh! very well," said he, not seeming to be at all disturbed. "Then you can use the carriage at the door. I will walk to the theatre."
Saying this, Mr. Smith turned from me deliberately and walked away. I heard him tell the driver of the carriage to take me to the Musical Fund Hall; then I heard the street-door close, and then I heard my husband's footsteps on the pavement as he left the house. Without hesitating a moment for reflection, I followed to the door, entered the carriage, and ordered the man to drive me—where? I had no ticket for the concert; nor could I go alone!
"To the Musical Fund Hall, I believe, madam," he said, standing with his fingers touching the rim of his hat.
I tried to think what I should do. To be conquered was hard. And it was clear that I could not go alone.
"No," I replied, grasping hold of the first suggestion that came to my mind. "Drive me to No.—Walnut street."
I had directed him to the house of my sister, where I thought I would stay until after eleven o'clock, and then return home, leaving my husband to infer that I had been to the concert. But long before I had reached my sister's house, I felt so miserable that I deemed it best to call out of the window to the driver, and direct him to return. On arriving at home, some twenty minutes after I had left it, I went up to my chamber, and there had a hearty crying spell to myself. I don't know that I ever felt so bad before in my life. I had utterly failed in this vigorous contest with my husband, who had come off perfectly victorious. Many bitter things did I write against him in my heart, and largely did I magnify his faults. I believe I thought over every thing that occurred since we were married, and selected therefrom whatever could justify the conclusion that he was a self-willed, overbearing, unfeeling man, and did not entertain for me a particle of affection.
It was clear that I had not been able to manage my spouse, determined as I had been to correct all his faults, and make him one of the best, most conciliating and loving of husbands, with whom my wish would be law. Still I could not think of giving up. The thought of being reduced to a tame, submissive wife, who could hardly call her soul her own, was not for a moment to be entertained. On reflection, it occurred to me that I had, probably, taken the wrong method with my husband. There was a touch of stubbornness in his nature that had arrayed itself against my too earnest efforts to bend him to my will. A better way occurred. I had heard it said by some one, or had read it somewhere, that no man was proof against a woman's tears.
On the present occasion I certainly felt much more like crying than laughing, and so it was no hard matter, I can honestly aver, to appear bathed in tears on my husband's return between eleven and twelve o'clock from the theatre. I cried from vexation as much as from any other feeling.
When Mr. Smith came up into the chamber where I lay, I greeted his presence with half a dozen running sobs, which he answered by whistling the "Craccovienne!" I continued to sob, and he continued to whistle for the next ten minutes. By that time he was ready to get into bed, which he did quite leisurely, and laid himself down upon his pillow with an expression of satisfaction. Still I sobbed on, thinking that every sighing breath I drew was, in spite of his seeming indifference, a pang to his heart. But, from this fond delusion a heavily drawn breath, that was almost a snore, aroused me. I raised up and looked over at the man—he was sound asleep.
A good hearty cry to myself was all the satisfaction I had, and then I went to sleep. On the next morning, I met Mr. Smith at the breakfast table with red eyes and a sad countenance. But he did not seem to notice either.
"I hope you enjoyed yourself at the concert last night," said he. "I was delighted at the theatre. Fanny danced divinely. Hers is truly the poetry of motion!"
Now this was too much! I will leave it to any reader—any female reader, I mean—whether this was not too much. I burst into a flood of tears and immediately withdrew, leaving my husband to eat his breakfast alone. He sat the usual time, which provoked me exceedingly. If he had jumped up from the table and left the house, I would have felt that I had made some impression upon him. But to take things in this calm way! What had I gained? Nothing, as I could see. After breakfast Mr. Smith came up to the chamber, and, seeing my face buried in a pillow, weeping bitterly—I had increased the flow of tears on hearing him ascending the stairs—said in a low voice—
"Are you not well, Mary?"
I made no answer, but continued to weep. Mr. Smith stood for the space of about a minute, but asked no further question. Then, without uttering a word, he retired from the chamber, and in a little while after I heard him leave the house. I cried now in good earnest. It was plain that my husband had no feeling; that he did not care whether I was pleased or sad. But I determined to give him a fair trial. If I failed in this new way, what was I to do? The thought of becoming the passive slave of a domestic tyrant was dreadful. I felt that I could not live in such a state. When Mr. Smith came home at dinner-time I was in my chamber, ready prepared for a gush of tears. As he opened the door I looked up with streaming eyes, and then hid my face in a pillow.
"Mary," said he, with much kindness in his voice, "what ails you? Are you sick?" He laid his hand upon mine as he spoke.
But I did not reply. I meant to punish him well for what he had done as a lesson for the future. I next expected him to draw his arm around me, and be very tender and sympathizing in his words and tones. But no such thing! He quietly withdrew the hand he had placed upon mine; and stood by me, I could feel, though not see, in a cold, erect attitude.
"Are you not well, Mary?" he asked again.
I was still silent. A little while after I heard him moving across the floor, and then the chamber door shut. I was once more alone.
When the bell rang for dinner, I felt half sorry that I had commenced this new mode of managing my husband; but, as I had begun, I was determined to go through with it. "He'll at least take care how he acts in the future," I said. I did not leave my chamber to join my husband at the dinner table. He sat his usual time, as I could tell by the ringing of the bell for the servant to change the plates and bring in the dessert. I was exceedingly fretted; and more so by his returning to his business without calling up to see me, and making another effort to dispel my grief.
For three days I tried this experiment upon my husband, who bore it with the unflinching heroism of a martyr. I was forced, at last, to come to; but I was by no means satisfied that my new mode was a failure. For all Mr. Smith's assumed indifference, I knew that he had been troubled at heart, and I was pretty well satisfied that he would think twice before provoking me to another essay of tears. Upon the whole, I felt pretty sure that I had discovered the means of doing with him as I pleased.
A few weeks of sunshine passed—I must own that the sun did not look so bright, nor feel so warm as it had done in former times—and then our wills came once more into collision. But my tears fell upon a rock. I could not see that they made the least perceptible impression. Mr. Smith had his own way, and I cried about it until I got tired of that sport, and in very weariness gave over. For the space of a whole year I stood upon tears as my last defensible position. Sometimes I didn't smile for weeks. But my husband maintained his ground like a hero.
At last I gave up in despair. Pride, self-will, anger—all were conquered. I was a weak woman in the hands of a strong-minded man. If I could not love him as I wished to love him, I could at least obey. In nothing did I now oppose him, either by resolute words or tears. If he expressed a wish, whether to me agreeable or not, I acquiesced.
One day, not long after this change in my conduct towards my husband, he said to me, "I rather think, Mary, we will spend a couple of weeks at Brandywine Springs, instead of going to Cape May this season."
I replied, "Very well, dear;" although I had set my heart on going to the Capes. My sister and her husband and a number of my friends were going down, and I had anticipated a good deal of pleasure. I did not know of a single person who was going to the Brandywine Springs. But what was the use of entering into a contest with my husband? He would come off the conqueror, spite of angry words or ineffectual tears.
"The Springs are so much more quiet than the Capes," said my husband.
"Yes," I remarked, "there is less gay company there."
"Don't you think you will enjoy yourself as well there as at the Capes?"
Now this was a good deal for my husband to say. I hardly knew what to make of it.
"If you prefer going there, dear, let us go by all means," I answered. I was not affecting any thing, but was in earnest in what I said.
Mr. Smith looked into my face for some moments, and with unusual affection I thought.
"Mary," said he, "if you think the time will pass more pleasantly to you at the Capes, let us go there by all means."
"My sister Jane is going to the Capes," I remarked, with some little hesitation; "and so is Mrs. L—and Mrs. D—, and a good many more of our friends. I did think that I would enjoy myself there this season very much. But I have no doubt I shall find pleasant society at the Springs."
"We will go to the Capes," said my husband promptly and cheerfully.
"No," said I, emulous now for the first time in a new cause. "I am sure the time will pass agreeably enough at the Springs. And as you evidently prefer going there, we will let the Capes pass for this year."
"To the Capes, Mary, and nowhere else," replied my husband, in the very best of humours. "I am sure you will enjoy yourself far better there. I did not know your sister was going."
And to the Capes we went, and I did enjoy myself excellently well. As for my husband, I never saw him in a better state of mind. To me he was more like a lover than a husband. No, I will not say that either, for I can't admit that a husband may not be as kind and affectionate as a lover; for he can and will be if managed rightly, and a great deal more so. Whenever I expressed a wish, it appeared to give him pleasure to gratify it. Seeing this, instead of suffering myself to be the mere recipient of kind attentions, I began to vie with him in the sacrifice of selfish wishes and feelings.
It is wonderful how all was changed after this. There were no more struggles on my part to manage my husband, and yet I generally had things my own way. Before I could not turn him to the right nor the left, though I strove to do so with my utmost strength. Now I held him only with a silken fetter, and guided him, without really intending to do so, in almost any direction.
Several years have passed since that ever-to-be-remembered, happy visit to Cape May. Not once since have I attempted any management of my husband, and yet it is a rare thing that my wish is not, as it used to be before we were married, his law. It is wonderful, too, how he has improved. I am sure he is not the same man that he was five years ago. But, perhaps, I see with different eyes. At any rate, I am not the same woman; or, if the same, very unlike what I then was.
So much for my efforts to manage a husband. Of the three ways so faithfully tried, my fair readers will be at no loss to determine which is best. I make these honest confessions for the good of my sex. My husband, Mr. John Smith, will be no little surprised if this history should meet his eye. But I do not believe it will interrupt the present harmonious relations existing between us, but rather tend to confirm and strengthen them.
RULING A WIFE.
AS a lover, Henry Lane was the kindest, most devoted, self-sacrificing person imaginable. He appeared really to have no will of his own, so entire was his deference to his beautiful Amanda; yet, for all this, he had no very high opinion of her as an intelligent being. She was lovely, she was gentle, she was good; and these qualities, combined with personal grace and beauty, drew him in admiration to her side, and filled him with the desire to possess her as his own.
As a husband, Henry Lane was a different being. His relation had changed, and his exterior changed correspondingly. Amanda was his wife; and as such she must be, in a certain sense, under him. It was his judgment that must govern in all matters; for her judgment, in the affairs of life, was held in light estimation. Moreover, as a man, it was his province to control and direct and her duty to look to him for guidance.
Yet, for all this, if the truth must be told, the conclusions of Amanda's mind were, in ordinary affairs, even more correct than her husband's judgment; for he was governed a great deal by impulses and first impressions, instead of by the reason of which he was so proud, while she came naturally into the woman's quick perceptions of right and propriety. This being the case, it may readily be seen that there was a broad ground-work for unhappiness in the married state. Amanda could not sink into a mere cipher; she could not give up her will entirely to the guidance of another, and cease to act from her own volitions.
It took only a few months to make the young wife feel that her position was to be one of great trial. She was of a mild and gentle character, more inclined to suffer than resist; but her judgment was clear, and she saw the right or wrong of any act almost instinctively. Love did not make her blind to every thing in her husband. He had faults and unpleasant peculiarities, and she saw them plainly, and often desired to correct them. But one trial of this kind sufficed to keep her silent. He was offended, and showed his state of mind so plainly, that she resolved never to stand in that relation to him again.
As time progressed, the passiveness of Amanda encouraged in Lane his natural love of ruling. His household was his kingdom, and there his will must be the law. In his mind arose the conceit that, in every thing, his judgment was superior to that of his wife: even in the smaller matters of household economy, he let this be seen. His taste, too, was more correct, and applied itself to guiding and directing her into a proper state of dressing. He decided about the harmony of colours and the choice of patterns. She could not buy even a ribbon without there being some fault found with it, as not possessing the elements of beauty in just arrangements. In company, you would often hear him say—"Oh, my wife has no taste. She would dress like a fright if I did not watch her all the time."
Though outwardly passive or concurrent when such things were said, Amanda felt them as unjust, and they wounded her more or less severely, according to the character of the company in which she happened at the time to be; but her self-satisfied husband saw nothing of this. And not even when some one, more plainly spoken than others, would reply to such a remark—"She did not dress like a fright before you were married," did he perceive his presumption and his errors.
But passiveness under such a relation does not always permanently remain; it was accompanied from the first by a sense of oppression and injustice, though love kept the feeling subdued. The desire for ruling in any position gains strength by activity. The more the young wife yielded, the more did the husband assume, until at length Amanda felt that she had no will of her own, so to speak. The conviction of this, when it formed itself in her mind, half involuntarily brought with it an instinctive feeling of resistance. Here was the forming point of antagonism—the beginning of the state of unhappiness foreshadowed from the first. Had Amanda asserted her right to think and act for herself in the early days of her married life, the jar of discord would have been light. It now promised to be most afflicting in its character.
The first activity of Amanda's newly forming state showed itself in the doing of certain things to which she was inclined, notwithstanding the expression of her husband's disapproval. Accustomed to the most perfect compliance, Mr. Lane was disturbed by this.
"Oh, dear! what a horrid looking thing!" said he one day, as he discovered a new dress pattern which his wife had just purchased lying on a chair. "Where in the world did that come from?"
"I bought it this morning," replied Amanda.
"Take it back, or throw it into the fire," was the husband's rude response.
"I think it neat," said Amanda, smiling.
"Neat? It's awful! But you've no taste. I wish you'd let me buy your dresses."
The wife made no answer to this. Lane said a good deal more about it, to all of which Amanda opposed but little. However, her mind was made up to one thing, and that was to take it to the mantuamaker's. The next Lane saw of the dress was on his wife.
"Oh, mercy!" he exclaimed, holding up his hand, "I thought you had burnt it. Why did you have it made up?"
"I like it," quietly answered Mrs. Lane.
"You like any thing."
"I haven't much taste, I know," said Amanda, "but such as it is, it is pleasant to gratify it sometimes."
Something in the way this remark was made it disturbed the self-satisfaction which was a leading feature in Mr. Lane's state of mind; he, however, answered—"I wish you would be governed by me in matters of this kind; you know my taste is superior to yours. Do take off that dress, and throw it in the fire."
Amanda did not reply to this, for it excited feelings and produced thoughts that she had no wish to manifest. But she did not comply with her husband's wishes. She liked the dress and meant to wear it, and she did wear it, notwithstanding her husband's repeated condemnation of her taste.
At this time they had one child—a babe less than a year old. From the first, Lane had encroached upon the mother's province. This had been felt more sensibly than any thing else by his wife, for it disturbed the harmonious activity of the natural law which gives to a mother the perception of what is best for her infant. Still, she had been so in the habit of yielding to the force of his will, that she gave way to his interference here in numberless instances, though she as often felt that he was wrong as right. Conceit of his own intelligence blinded him to the intelligence of others. Of this Amanda became more and more satisfied every day. At first, she had passively admitted that he knew best; but her own common sense and clear perceptions soon repudiated this idea. While his love of predominance affected only herself, she could bear it with great patience; but when it was exercised, day after day, and week after week, in matters pertaining to her babe, she grew restless under the oppression.
After the decided, position taken in regard to her dress, Amanda's mind acquired strength in a new direction. A single gratification of her own will, attained in opposition to the will of her husband, stirred a latent desire for repeated gratifications; and it was not long before Lane discovered this fact, and wondered at the change which had taken place in his wife's temper. She no longer acquiesced in every suggestion, nor yielded when he opposed argument to an assumed position. The pleasure of thinking and acting for herself had been restored, and the delight appertaining to its indulgence was no more to be suppressed. Her husband's reaction on this state put her in greater freedom; for it made more distinctly manifest the quality of his ruling affection, and awoke in her mind a more determined spirit of resistance.
Up to this time, even in the most trifling matters of domestic and social life, Lane's will had been the law. This was to be so no longer. A new will had come into activity; and that will a woman's will. Passive it had been for a long time under a pressure that partial love and a yielding temper permitted to remain; but its inward life was unimpaired; and when its motions became earnest, it was strong and enduring. The effort made by Lane to subdue these motions the moment he perceived them, only gave them a stronger impulse. The hand laid upon her heart to quiet its pulsations only made it beat with a quicker effort, while it communicated its disturbance to his own.
The causes leading to the result we are to describe have been fully enough set forth; they steadily progressed until the husband and wife were in positions of direct antagonism. Lane could not give up his love of controlling every thing around him, and his wife, fairly roused to opposition, followed the promptings of her own will, in matters where right was clearly on her side, with a quiet perseverance that always succeeded. Of course, they were often made unhappy; yet enough forbearance existed on both sides to prevent an open rupture—at least, for a time. That, however, came at last, and was the more violent from the long accumulation of reactive forces.
The particulars of this rupture we need not give; it arose in a dispute about the child when she was two years old. As usual, Lane had attempted to set aside the judgment of his wife in something pertaining to the child, as inferior to his own, and she had not submitted. Warm words ensued, in which he said a good deal about a wife's knowing her place and keeping it.
"I am not your slave!" said Amanda, indignantly; the cutting words of her husband throwing her off her guard.
"You are my wife," he calmly and half contemptuously replied; "and, as such, are bound to submit yourself to your husband."
"To my husband's intelligence, not to his mere will," answered Amanda, less warmly, but more resolutely than at first.
"Yes, to his will!" said Lane, growing blind from anger.
"That I have done long enough," returned the wife. "But the time is past now. By your intelligence, when I see in it superior light to what exists in my own, I will be guided, but, by your will—never!"
The onward moving current of years, which, for some time, had been chafing amid obstructions, now met a sudden barrier, and flowed over in a raging torrent. A sharp retort met this firm declaration of Amanda, stinging her into anger, and producing a state of recrimination. While in this state, she spoke plainly of his assumption of authority over her from the first,—of her passiveness for a time,—of being finally aroused to opposition.
"And now," she added, in conclusion, "I am content to be your wife and equal, but will be no longer your passive and obedient slave."
"Your duty is to obey. You can occupy no other position as my wife," returned the blind and excited husband.
"Then we must part."
"Be it so." And as he said this, Lane turned hurriedly away and left the house.
Fixed as a statue, for a long time, sat the stunned and wretched wife. As the current of thoughts again flowed on, and the words of her husband presented themselves in even a more offensive light than when they were first uttered, indignant pride took the uppermost place in her mind.
"He will not treat me as a wife and equal," she said, "and I will no longer be his slave."
In anger Lane turned from his wife; and for hours after parting with her this anger burned with an all-consuming flame. For him to yield was out of the question. His manly pride would never consent to this. She must fall back into her true position. He did not return home, as usual, at dinner-time; but absented himself, in order to give her time for reflection, as well as to awaken her fears lest he would abandon her altogether. Towards night, imagining his wife in a state of penitence and distressing anxiety, and feeling some commiseration for her on that account, Mr. Lane went back to his dwelling. As he stepped within the door, a feeling of desertion and loneliness came over him; and unusual silence seemed to pervade the house. He sat down in the parlour for some minutes; but hearing no movement in the chamber above, nor catching even a murmur of his child's voice, a sound for which his ears were longing, he ascended the stairs, but found no one there. As he turned to go down again he met a servant.
"Where is Mrs. Lane?" he asked.
"I don't know," was answered. "She went out this morning, and has not returned."
"Where is Mary?"
"She took Mary with her."
"Didn't she say where she was going?"
Mr. Lane asked no more questions, but went back into the room from which he had just emerged, and, sitting down, covered his face with his hands, and endeavoured to collect his thoughts.
"Has she deserted me?" he asked of himself in an audible husky whisper.
His heart grew faint in the pause that followed. As the idea of desertion became more and more distinct, Mr. Lane commenced searching about in order to see whether his wife had not left some communication for him, in which her purpose was declared. But he found none. She had departed without leaving a sign. The night that followed was a sleepless one to Lane. His mind was agitated by many conflicting emotions. For hours, on the next day, he remained at home, in the expectation of seeing or hearing from Amanda. But no word came. Where had she gone? That was the next question. If he must go in search of hers in what direction should he turn his steps? She had no relations in the city, and with those who resided at a distance she had cultivated no intimacy.
The whole day was passed in a state of irresolution. To make the fact known was to expose a family difficulty that concerned only himself and wife; and give room for idle gossip and gross detraction. Bad as the case was, the public would make it appear a great deal worse than the reality. In the hope of avoiding this, he concealed the sad affair for the entire day, looking, in each recurring hour, for the return of his repentant wife. But he looked in vain. Night came gloomily down, and she was still absent.
He was sitting, about eight o'clock in the evening, undetermined yet what to do, when a gentleman with whom he was but slightly acquainted named Edmondson, called at the door and asked to see him.
On being shown in, the latter, with some embarrassment in his manner, said—
"I have called to inform you, that Mrs. Lane has been at my house since yesterday."
"At your house!"
"Yes. She came there yesterday morning; and, since that time, my wife has been doing her best to induce her to return home. But, so far, she has not been able to make the smallest impression. Not wishing to become a party to the matter, I have called to see you on the subject. I regret, exceedingly, that any misunderstanding has occurred, and do not intend that either myself or family shall take sides in so painful an affair. All that I can do, however, to heal the difficulty, shall be done cheerfully."
"What does she say?" asked Lane, when he had composed himself.
"She makes no specific complaint."
"What does she propose doing?"
"She avows her intention of living separate from you, and supporting herself and child by her own efforts."
This declaration aroused a feeling of indignant pride in the husband's mind. "It is my child as well as hers," said he. "She may desert me, if she will; but she cannot expect me to give up my child. To that I will never submit."
"My dear sir," said Mr. Edmondson, "do not permit your mind to chafe, angrily, over this unhappy matter. That will widen not heal, the breach. In affairs of this kind, pardon me for the remark, there are always faults on both sides; and the duty of each is to put away his or her own state of anger and antagonism and seek to reconcile the other, rather than to compel submission. As a man, you have the advantage of a stronger and clearer judgment,—exercise it as a man. Feeling and impulse often rule in a woman's mind, from the very nature of her mental conformation; and we should remember this when we pass judgment on her actions. There is often more honour in yielding a point than in contending for it to the end, in the face of threatened disaster. Let me then urge you to seek a reconciliation, while there is yet opportunity, and permit the veil of oblivion to fall, while it may, over this painful event. As yet, the fact has not passed from the knowledge of myself and wife. Heal the breach, and the secret remains where it is."
"If she will return, I will receive her, and forgive and forget all. Will you say this to her from me?"
"Why not go to her at once? See her face to face. This is the best and surest way."
"No," said Lane, coldly. "She has left me of her own choice; and, now, she must return. I gave her no cause for the rash act. Enough for me that I am willing to forgive and forget all this. But I am not the man to humble myself at the feet of a capricious woman. It is not in me."
"Mr. Lane, you are wrong!" said the visitor, in a decided tone. "All wrong. Do you believe that your wife would have fled from you without a real or imagined cause?"
"No. But the cause is only in her imagination."
"Then see her and convince her of this. It is the same to her, at present, whether the cause be real or imaginary. She believes it real, and feels all its effects as real. Show her that it is imaginary, and all is healed."
Lane shook his head.
"I have never humbled myself before a man, much less a woman," said he.
This remark exhibited to Mr. Edmondson the whole ground-work of the difficulty. Lane regarded a woman as inferior to a man, and had for her, in consequence, a latent feeling of contempt. He could understand, now, why his wife had left him; for he saw, clearly, that, with such an estimation of woman, he would attempt to degrade her from her true position; and, if she possessed an independent spirit, render her life wellnigh insupportable. Earnestly did he seek to convince Lane of his error; but to no good effect. As soon as all doubt was removed from the mind of the latter in regard to where his wife had gone, and touching the spirit which governed her in her separation from him, his natural pride and self-esteem—self-respect, he called it—came back into full activity. No, he would never humble himself to a woman! That was the unalterable state of his mind. If Amanda would return, and assume her old place and her old relation, he would forget and forgive all. This far he would go, and no farther. She had left of her own free will, and that must bring her back.
"You can say all this to her in any way you please; but I will not seek her and enter into an humble supplication for her return. I have too much self-respect—and am too much of a man—for that. If she finds the struggle to do so hard and humiliating, she will be the more careful how she places herself again in such a position. The lesson will last her a life-time."
"You are wrong; depend upon it, you are wrong!" urged Mr. Edmondson. "There must be yielding and conciliation on both sides."
"I can do no more than I have said. Passive I have been from the first, and passive I will remain. As for our child, I wish you to say to her, that I shall not consent to a separation. It is my child as much as hers; moreover, as father, my responsibility is greatest, and I am not the man to delegate my duties to another. Possession of the child, if driven to that extremity, I will obtain through aid of the law. This I desire that she shall distinctly understand. I make no threat. I do not wish her to view the declaration in that light. I affirm only the truth, that she may clearly understand all the consequences likely to flow from her ill-advised step."
The more Mr. Edmondson sought to convince Mr. Lane of his error, the more determinedly did he cling to it; and he retired at last, under the sad conviction that the unhappy couple had seen but the beginning of troubles.
Alone with his own thoughts, an hour had not elapsed before Mr. Lane half repented of his conduct in taking so unyielding a position. A conviction forced itself upon his mind that he had gone too far and was asking too much; and he wished that he had not been quite so exacting in his declarations to Mr. Edmondson. But, having made them, his false pride of consistency prompted him to adhere to what he had said.
The night passed in broken and troubled sleep; and morning found him supremely wretched. Yet resentment still formed a part of Mr. Lane's feelings. He was angry with his wife, whom he had driven from his side, and was in no mood to bend in order to effect a reconciliation. At mid-day he returned from his business, hoping to find her at home. But his house was still desolate. With the evening he confidently expected her, but she was not there. Anxiously he sat, hour after hour, looking for another visit from Mr. Edmondson, but he came not again.
In leaving her husband's house, Mrs. Lane had gone, as has been seen, to the house of a friend. Mrs. Edmondson was an old school companion, between whom and herself had continued to exist, as they grew up, the tenderest relations. When she turned from her husband, she fled, with an instinct of affection and sympathy, to this friend, and poured her tears in a gild agony of affliction upon her bosom. In leaving her husband, she was not governed by a sudden caprice; nor was the act intended to humble him to her feet. Nothing of this was in her mind. He had trenched upon her province as a wife and mother; interfered with her freedom as an individual; and, at last, boldly assumed the right to command and control her as an inferior. The native independence of her character, which had long fretted under this rule of subordination, now openly rebelled, and, panting for freedom, she had sprung from her fetters with few thoughts as to future consequences.
The first day of absence was a day of weeping. Mrs. Edmondson could not and did not approve of what had been done.
"I am afraid, Amanda, that you have only made matters worse," said she, as soon as she could venture to suggest any thing at all upon the subject. "It is always easier to prevent than to heal a breach. The day has not yet closed. There is time to go back. Your husband need never know what has been in your mind. This hasty act may be entirely concealed from him."
But the long suffering wife had been roused to opposition. A new current of feeling was sweeping across and controlling her mind. She was, therefore, deaf to the voice of reason. Still her friend, as in duty bound, urged her to think more calmly on the subject, and to retrace the steps she had taken. But all was in vain. This being so, her husband, as has been seen, called upon Mr. Lane, and informed him that his wife was at his house. From this interview Mr. Edmondson returned disheartened, and reported all that had been said on both sides to his wife.
"My husband saw Mr. Lane last evening," said Mrs. Edmondson to Amanda on the next day.
"He did!" Amanda looked eagerly into the face of her friend, while she became much agitated.
"Yes. He called to let him know that you were here."
"What did he say?"
"He wishes you to return. All will be forgotten and forgiven."
"He said that?"
"I have done nothing for which I desire forgiveness," said Amanda, coldly, and with the air of one who is hurt by the words of another. "If he will not have me return as his wife and equal, I can never go back."
"For the sake of your child, Amanda, you should be willing to bear much."
"My child shall not grow, up and see her mother degraded."
"She is his child as well as yours. Do not forget that," said Mrs. Edmondson. "And it is by no means certain that he will permit you to retain the possession of an object so dear to him."
The face of Mrs. Lane instantly flushed at this, a suggestion which had not before been presented to her mind.
"Did he refer to this subject in conversing with your husband?" inquired Amanda, with forced calmness.
"What did he say?"
"That, in any event, he could not and would not be separated from his child. And you know, Amanda, that the law will give to him its guardianship."
"The law!" There was a huskiness in Mrs. Lane's voice.
"Yes, Amanda, the law. It is well for you to view this matter in all its relations. The law regards the father as the true guardian of the child. If, therefore, you separate yourself from your husband, you must expect to bear a separation from your child; for that will be most likely to follow."
"Did he speak of the law?" asked Mrs. Lane, in a still calmer voice, and with a steady eye.
"It would not be right to conceal from you this fact, Amanda. He did do so. And can you wholly blame him? It is his child as well as yours. He loves it, as you well know; and, as its father, he is responsible for it to society and to Heaven. This separation is your act. You may deprive him of your own society; but, have you a right, at the same time, to rob him of his child? I speak plainly; I would not be your friend did I not do so. Try, for a little while, to look away from yourself, and think of your husband; and especially of the consequences likely to arise to your child from your present act. It will not be a mere separation with passive endurance of pain on either side. There will come the prolonged effort of the father to recover his child, and the anguish and fear of the mother, as she lives in the constant dread of having it snatched from her hands. And that must come, inevitably, the final separation. You will have to part from your child, Amanda, if not in the beginning, yet finally. You know your husband to be of a resolute temper Do not give him a chance to press you to extremity. If he should come to the determination to recover his child from your hands, he will not stop short of any means to accomplish his purpose."
Mrs. Lane made no reply to this; nor did she answer to any further remark, appeal, or suggestion of her friend, who soon ceased to speak on the subject and left her to her own reflections, hoping that they might lead her to some better purpose than had yet influenced her in the unhappy business. On the day after, Mr. Edmondson met Lane in the street.
"I was about calling to see you," said the latter, "on the subject of this unhappy difficulty, to which, so reluctantly to yourself, you have become a party. It may be that I am something to blame. Perhaps I have been too exacting—too jealous of my prerogative as a husband. At any rate, I am willing to admit that such has been the case; and willing to yield something to the morbid feelings of my wife. What is her present state of mind?"
Mr. Edmondson looked surprised.
Remarking this, Lane said quickly, "Is she not at your house?"
"No," replied Mr. Edmondson, "she left us yesterday. We believed that she had gone home. My wife had a long conversation with her, in which she urged her, by every consideration, to return; and we had reason to think, when she left our house, that she went back to you."
"Such is not the case," said Mr. Lane, with disappointment, and something of sadness in his tone. "I have not seen her since the morning of our unhappy difference. Where can she have gone?"
Mr. Edmondson was silent.
"Did she say that she was going to return home?" asked Mr. Lane.
"No. But we had reason to think that such was her intention. Have you heard nothing from her?"
"Not a word."
"It is strange!"
Mr. Lane heaved a deep sigh. A few more brief questions and answers passed, and then the two men separated. The forsaken husband went home with a sadder heart than he had yet known. The absence of his wife and child for several days—both objects of real affection—and absent under such peculiar and trying circumstances, had subdued, to a great extent, his angry feelings. He was prepared to yield much. He would even have gone to his wife, and acknowledged that he was partly in error, in order to have brought about a reconciliation. Something that she had said during their last, exciting interview, which he had rejected as untrue, or not causes of complaint, had represented themselves to his mind; and in the sober reflecting states that were predominant, he saw that he had not in all things treated her as an equal, nor regarded her at all times as possessing a rational freedom as independent as his own. Though he did not excuse her conduct, he yet thought of it less angrily than at first, and was willing to yield something in order to restore the old relations.
Anxiety and alarm now took possession of his mind. The distance between them had become wider, and the prospect of a reconciliation more remote. Amanda had gone, he could not tell whither. She had neither money nor friends; he knew not into what danger she might fall, nor what suffering she might encounter. It was plain from the manner of her leaving the house of Mr. Edmondson, that her resolution to remain away from him was fixed. He must, therefore, seek her out, and invite her to return. He must yield if he would reconcile this sad difficulty. And he was now willing to do so. But, where was she? Whither should he go in search of the wanderer?
The very means which her friend had taken to induce Mrs. Lane to return to her husband, had driven her farther away. The hint touching her husband's legal rights in the child, and his resolution to assert them, filled her with the deepest alarm, and determined her to put it beyond his power, if possible, to deprive her of the only thing in life to which her heart could now cling. Toward her husband, her feelings were those of an oppressed one for an oppressor. From the beginning, he had almost suffocated her own life by his pressure upon her freedom of will. She remembered, with, tears, his tenderness and his love; but soon would come the recollection of his constant interference in matters peculiarly her own; his evident contempt for her intellect; and his final efforts to subdue her rising independence, and make her little less than a domestic slave—and the fountain of her tears would become dry. Added to all this, was the fact of his resolution to recover his child by law. This crushed out all hope from her heart. He had no affection left for her. His love had changed to hate. He had assumed toward her the attitude of a persecutor. Nothing was now left for her but self-protection.
In leaving the home of her husband, Mrs. Lane had exercised no forethought. She made no estimate of consequences, and provided for no future contingencies. She was blind in her faint-heartedness, that was little less than despair. Any thing was better than to remain in a state of submission, that had become, she felt, intolerable. Leaving thus, Mrs. Lane had taken with her nothing beyond a few dollars in her purse, and it was only an accident that her purse was in her pocket. All her own clothes and those of her child, except what they had on, were left behind.
Alarmed at the threat of her husband, Mrs. Lane, a few hours after the conversation with Mrs. Edmondson, in which his views were made known to her, took her child and went away. In parting with her friend, she left upon her mind the impression that she was going home. This was very far from her intention. Her purpose was to leave New York, the city of her residence, as quickly as possible, and flee to some obscure village, where she would remain hidden from her husband. She had resided, some years before, for a short time in Philadelphia; and thither she resolved to go, and from thence reach some point in the country. On leaving the house of her friend, Mrs. Lane hurried to the river and took passage in the afternoon line for Philadelphia.
As the cars began their swift movement from Jersey City, a feeling of inexpressible sadness came over her, and she began to realize more distinctly than she had yet done, her desolate, destitute, and helpless condition. After paying her passage, she had only two dollars left in her purse; and, without money, how was she to gain friends and shelter in a strange city? To add to her unhappy feelings, her child commenced asking for her father.
"Where is papa?" she would repeat every few minutes. "I want to go to my papa."
This was continued until it ended in fretfulness and complaints at the separation it was enduring. Tears and sobs followed; and, finally, the child wept herself to sleep.
A new train of feelings was awakened by this incident. In leaving her husband, Mrs. Lane had thought only of herself. She had not once considered the effect of a separation from its father upon her child. Little Mary's heart was full of affection for the two beings whom nature prompted her to love. Her father's return from business had always been to her the happiest event of the day; and, when she sprang into his arms, her whole being would thrill with delight. Days had passed since she had seen her father, and she was pining to meet him again to lay her head upon his bosom—to feel his arms clasped tightly around her.
All this was realized by the mother, as the child lay sleeping on her arm, while the swift rolling cars bore them farther and farther away from the home she was leaving. Is it just to the child? Distinctly did this thought present itself in her mind. For a long time she mused over it, her feelings all the while growing more and more tender, until something like repentance for the step she had taken found its way into her mind—not for what she was herself suffering, but for the sake of her child. She had not thought of the effect upon little Mary, until the pain of absence showed itself in complaint.
This idea arose clearly before her—she could not push it aside; and, the more she pondered it, the more troubled did she become, from a new source. Would not the separation so deeply afflict the child as to rob her of all happiness?
While these thoughts had full possession of the mother's mind, Mary slept on and dreamed of her father, as was evident from the fact that, more than once, she murmured his name.
When night came down, its effect upon Mrs. Lane was more sadly depressing, for it brought her into a clearer realization of her unhappy condition. Where was she going? What was the uncertain future to bring forth? All was as dark as the night that had closed around her.
At length the cars reached Bristol, and it became necessary to leave them, and pass into the boat. In lifting Mary in her arms, to bear her from the cars, the child again murmured the name of her father, which so affected Mrs. Lane, that her tears gushed forth in spite of her efforts to restrain them. Letting her veil fall over her face to conceal this evidence of affliction from her fellow-passengers, she proceeded with the rest; and, in a little while, was gliding swiftly down the river. It was ten o'clock when they arrived in Philadelphia. For an hour previous to this time, the mind of the fugitive had been busy in the effort to determine what course she should take on gaining the end of her journey. But the nearer she came to its termination, the more confused did she become, and the less clearly did she see the way before her. Where should she go on reaching the city? There as no one to receive her; no one to whom she could go and claim protection, or even shelter.
This state of irresolution continued until the boat touched the wharf, and the passengers were leaving. Mary was awake again, and kept asking, every few moments, to go home.
"Yes, dear, we will go home," the mother would reply, in a tone of encouragement, while her own mind was in the greatest uncertainty and distress.
"Why don't papa come?" asked the child, as one after another moved away, and they were left standing almost alone. At this moment, an Irishman, with a whip in his hand, came up, and said—
"Want a carriage, ma'am?"
Mrs. Lane hesitated a moment or two, while she thought hurriedly, and then replied—
"Very well, ma'am; I'll attend to you. Where is your baggage?"
"I have only this basket with me."
"Ah! well; come along." And Mrs. Lane followed the man from the boat.
"Where shall I drive you?" he asked, after she had entered the carriage.
There was a pause, with apparent irresolution.
"I am a stranger here," said Mrs. Lane innocently. "I want to obtain pleasant accommodations for a day or two. Can you take me to a good place?"
"Faith, and I can—as good as the city will afford. Do you wish one of the tip-top places, where they charge a little fortune a week; or a good comfortable home at a reasonable price?"
"I want a comfortable, retired place, where the charges are not extravagant."
"Exactly; I understand."
And the driver closed the door, and, mounting his box, drove off. At the end of ten minutes the carriage stopped, the steps were let down, and Mrs. Lane, after descending, was shown into a small parlour, with dingy furniture. A broad, red-faced Irish woman soon appeared, at the summons of the driver.
"I've brought you a lady customer, Mrs. McGinnis, d'ye see? And you're just the one to make her at home and comfortable. She's a stranger, and wants a quiet place for a day or two."
"And, in troth, she'll find it here, as ye well say, John Murphy. Will the lady put off her bonnet? We'll have her room ready in a jiffy! Much obleeged to yees, John Murphy, for remembering us. What a darlint of a child; bless its little heart!"
"What must I pay you?" asked Mrs. Lane, hoarsely, turning to the driver.
"One dollar, ma'am," was replied.
Mrs. Lane drew forth her purse, towards which the Irishwoman glanced eagerly, and took therefrom the sum charged, and paid the man, who immediately retired. The landlady followed him out, and stood conversing with him at the door for several minutes. When she returned, she was less forward in her attentions to her guest, and somewhat inquisitive as to who she was, where she had come from, and whither she was going. All these Mrs. Lane evaded, and asked to have her room prepared as quickly as possible, as she did not feel very well, and wished to retire. The room was at length ready, and she went up with little Mary, who had again fallen to sleep. It was small, meagerly furnished, and offensive from want of cleanliness. In turning down the bed clothes, she found the sheets soiled and rumpled, showing that the linen had not been changed since being used by previous lodgers. The first thing that Mrs. Lane did, after laying her sleeping child upon the bed, was to sit down and weep bitterly. The difficulties about to invest her, as they drew nearer and nearer, became more and more apparent; and her heart sank and trembled as she looked at the unexpected forms they were assuming. But a single dollar remained in her purse; and she had an instinctive conviction that trouble with the landlady on account of money was before her. Had she been provided with the means of independence, she would have instantly called a servant, and demanded a better room, and fresh linen for her bed; but, under the circumstances, she dared not do this. She had a conviction that the Irishwoman was already aware of her poverty, and that any call for better accommodations would be met by insult. It was too late to seek for other lodgings, even if she knew where to go, and were not burdened with a sleeping child.
Unhappy fugitive! How new and unexpected were the difficulties that already surrounded her! How dark was the future! dark as that old Egyptian darkness that could be felt. As she sat and wept, the folly of which she was guilty in the step she had taken presented itself distinctly before her mind, and she wondered at her own blindness and want of forethought. Already, in her very first step, she had got her feet tangled. How she was to extricate them she could not see.
Wearied at last with grief and fear, her mind became exhausted with its own activity. Throwing herself upon the bed beside her child, without removing her clothes, she was soon lost in sleep. Daylight was stealing in, when the voice of little Mary awakened her.
"Where's papa?" asked the child, and she looked with such a sad earnestness into her mother's face, that the latter felt rebuked, and turned her eyes away from those of her child. "Want to go home," lisped the unhappy babe—"see papa."
"Yes, dear," soothingly answered the mother.
Little Mary turned her eyes to the door with an expectant look, as if she believed her father, whom she loved, was about to enter, and listened for some moments.
"Papa! papa!" she called in anxious tones, and listened again; but there was no response. Her little lip began to quiver, then it curled grievingly; and, falling over, she hid her face against her mother and began sobbing.
Tenderly did the mother take her weeping child to her bosom, and hold it there in a long embrace. After it had grown calm she arose, and adjusting her rumpled garments, and those of Mary, sat down by the windows to await the events that were to follow. In about half an hour a bell was rung in the passage below, and soon after a girl came to her room to say that breakfast was ready.
"I wish my breakfast brought to me here," said Mrs. Lane.
The girl stared a moment and then retired. Soon after, the Irish landlady made her appearance.
"What is it ye wants, mum?" said that personage, drawing herself up and assuming an air of vulgar dignity and importance.
"Nothing," replied Mrs. Lane, "except a little bread and milk for my child."
"Isn't yees coming down to breakfast?"
Mrs. Lane shook her head.
"Ye'd better. It's all ready."
"I don't wish any thing. But if you'll send me up something for my child, I will be obliged to you."
The landlady stood for some moments, as if undecided what she should do, and then retired. About half an hour afterwards, a dirty looking Irish girl appeared with a waiter, on which were the articles for which she had asked.
"Don't ye want any thing for yerself, mum?" asked the girl, with some kindness in her voice.
"No, I thank you," was replied.
"You'd better eat a little."
"I've no appetite," said Mrs. Lane, turning her face away to conceal the emotion that was rising to the surface.
The girl retired, and the food brought for the child was placed before her; but she felt as little inclined to eat as her mother, and could not be induced to take a mouthful. Turning from the offered food, she raised her tearful eyes to her mother's face, and in a choking voice said—"Go home, mamma—see papa."
The words smote, like heavy strokes, upon the mother's heart. How great a wrong had she done her child! But could she retrace her steps now? Could she go back and humble herself under the imperious will of her husband? Her heart shrunk from the thought. Any thing but that! it would crush the life out of her. An hour she sat, with these and kindred thoughts passing through her mind, when the girl who had brought up Mary's breakfast came in and said—"Won't yees walk down into the parlour, mum, while I clean up your room?"
"Is any one down there?" asked Mrs. Lane.
"No, mum," was answered by the girl.
With some reluctance Mrs. Lane descended to the small, dingy parlour, which she found adjoining a bar-room, whence there came the loud voices of men. From a window she looked forth upon the street, which was narrow, and crowded with carts, drays, and other vehicles. Opposite were old houses, in which business of various kinds was carried on. One was occupied by a cooper; another used as a storehouse for fish; another for a grog-shop. Every thing was dirty and crowded, and all appeared bustle and confusion. It was plain to her that she had fallen in an evil place, and that her first business must be escape. As she sat meditating upon the next step, there came suddenly, from the bar-room, the sound of angry voices, mingled with fierce threats and shocking blasphemy. Springing to her feet in terror, Mrs. Lane caught up her child, and was about starting from the door without any covering upon her head, when the landlady intercepted her.
"What's the matter with yees? Where are ye going?"
With quivering lips, and face white with alarm, Mrs. Lane replied—"Oh, ma'am! get me my things and let me go."
"Ye can go when ye pays yer bill, in welcome," replied the woman.
"How much is it?"
"It's a dollar and a half."
The Irishwoman looked steadily at Mrs. Lane, and saw, by the change in her countenance, what she had expected, that she had not as much money in her possession.
"Won't a dollar pay you?" asked Mrs. Lane, after standing with her eyes upon the floor for some moments. "I've had nothing but my night's lodging and surely a dollar will pay for that."
"Indade and it won't, then! Sure, and yer breakfast was got. If ye didn't ate it, I'm not to fault.
"Here is a dollar," said Mrs. Lane, taking out her purse. "I'm sure it's full pay for all I've received."
"And d'ye mane to call me an ould chate, ye spalpeen, ye!" indignantly replied the landlady, her face growing red with anger, while she raised her huge fist and shook it at her terrified guest, who retreated back into the parlour, and sank, trembling, into a chair.
"As if I wasn't an honest woman," continued the virago, following Mrs. Lane. "As if I'd extort on a lone woman! Give me patience! When ye pays the dollar and a half, ye can go; but not a foot shall ye take from my door until then."
A scuffle took place in the bar-room at that moment, attended by a new eruption of oaths and imprecations.
Quickly sprinting from her chair, Mrs. Lane, with Mary in her arms, glided from the room, and ran panting up-stairs to her chamber, the door of which she locked behind her on entering.
Half an hour of as calm reflection as it was possible for Mrs. Lane to make brought her to the resolution to leave the house at all hazards. Where she was to go, was to be an afterthought. The greatest evil was to remain; after escaping that, she would consider the means of avoiding what followed. Putting on her bonnet and shawl, and taking her basket, she went down-stairs with her child, determined, if possible, to get away unobserved, and after doing so, to send back, by any means that offered, the only dollar she possessed in the world to the landlady. No one met her on the stairs, and she passed the parlour-door unobserved. But, alas! the street-door was found locked and the key withdrawn. After a few ineffectual attempts to open it, Mrs. Lane went into the parlour, and, standing there, debated for some moments whether she should leave the house by passing through the bar-room, or wait for another opportunity to get away by the private en-trance. While still bewildered and undetermined the landlady came in from the bar-room.
The moment she saw her guest, she comprehended the purpose in her mind.
"Where are ye going?" said she in a quick sharp voice, the blood rising to her coarse sensual face.
"I am going to leave your house," replied Mrs. Lane, in as firm a voice as she could command. As she spoke she drew forth her purse, and taking out the solitary dollar it contained, added—"Unfortunately, this is all the money I have with me, but I will send you the other half-dollar."
But the landlady refused to take the proffered money, and replied, indignantly,
"A purty how d'you do, indeed, to come into a genteel body's house, and then expect to get off without paying your bill. But ye don't know Biddy McGinnis—ye don't! If yees wants to go paceable, pay the dollar and a half. But until this is done, ye shall not cross my door-stone."
"I can't stay here! What good will it do?" said Mrs. Lane, wringing her hand. "It's all the money I've got; and remaining won't increase the sum, while it adds to the debt. Better let me go now."
"Indade, and ye'll not go, thin, my lady! I'll tache yees to come into a respectable body's house without as much money in yer pocket as 'll pay for the night's lodging. I wonder who ye are, any how! No better than ye should be, I'll warrint!"
While speaking, the Irishwoman had drawn nearer and nearer, and now stood with her face only a few inches from that of her distressed guest, who, bursting into tears, clasped her hands together, and sobbed—
"Let me go! let me go! If you have the heart of a woman, let me go!"
"Heart of a woman, indade!" returned Mrs. McGinnis, indignantly. "Yer a purty one to talk to me about the heart of a woman. Stalein into a body's house at twelve o'clock at night, and thin tryin' to go off without paying for the lodgings and breakfast. Purty doings!"
"What's the matter here?" said a well dressed man, stepping in from the bar-room and closing the door behind him. "What do you mean by talking to the lady in this way, Mrs. McGinnis? I've been listening to you."
There was an instant change in the Irishwoman. Her countenance fell, and she retreated a few steps from the object of her vituperation.
"What's all this about? I should like to know," added the man in a decided way. "Will you explain, madam?" addressing Mrs. Lane, in a kind voice. "But you are agitated. Sit down and compose yourself."
"Let her pay me my money, that's all I want," muttered the landlady.
In a moment the man's purse was drawn from his pocket. "What does she owe you?"
"A dollar and a half, bad luck till her!"
"There's your money, you old termagant!" And the man handed her the amount. "And now, as you are paid, and have nothing more to say to this lady, please to retire and let her be freed from your presence."
"Yees needint call me ill names, Misther Bond," said the woman, in a subdued voice, as she retired. "It doesn't become a jentilman like you. I didn't mane any harm. I only wanted my own, and sure I've a right to that."
"Well, you've got your own, though not in a way that does either you or your house much credit," returned the man. "The next time you are so fortunate as to get a lady in your hotel, I hope you'll know better how to treat her."
Mrs. McGinnis retired without further remark, and the man turned to Mrs. Lane, and said, in a kind, respectful manner,
"I am sorry to find you so unhappily situated, and will do any thing in my power to relieve you from your present embarrassment. Your landlady here is a perfect virago. How did you happen to fall into her hands?"
Encouraged by the kindness of the man's address, as well as from the fact that he had rescued her from a violent woman, Mrs. Lane, after composing herself, said—
"I came in from New York last night, and, being a stranger, asked the cabman to take me to a good hotel. He brought me here. I happened to have but two dollars in my purse, he charged one for carriage hire."
"Finding into what a wretched place he had brought me, I wished to leave this morning, but have been prevented because I could not pay a dollar and a half when I had only a dollar. I told her to let me go, and I would send her the balance claimed; but she only met the proposition by insult."
"The wretch!" exclaimed the man, indignantly. "I happened to be passing, and, hearing her loud voice, glanced in at the window. In an instant I comprehended, to some extent, the difficulty; and, knowing her of old, came in to see if something were not wrong. She is a bad woman, and her house is a snare for the innocent. It is fortunate for you that I came at the right moment!"
Mrs. Lane shuddered.
"And now, madam," said the man, "what can I do for you? Have you friends in the city?"
"I am an entire stranger here," replied Mrs. Lane.
"Were you going farther?
"Yes," was answered after some hesitation.
"Where do your friends reside?"
"In New York."
"This is your child?" was said, after a pause.
There was something in the man's manner, and in the way he looked at her, that now made Mrs. Lane shrink from, as instinctively as she had at first leaned towards him. Beneath his steady eye her own drooped and rested for some moments on the floor.
"Is your husband in New York?" pursued the man.
This question caused the heart of Mrs. Lane to bound with a sudden throb. Her husband! She had deserted him, her natural and lawful protector, and already she was encompassed with difficulties and surrounded by dangers. What would she not at that moment have given to be safely back in the home she had left? To the last question she gave a simple affirmative.
"Where do you wish to go when you leave here?" inquired the man, who had perceived a change in her and understood its nature.
"I wish to be taken to a good hotel, where I can remain a day or two, until I have time to communicate with my friends. My being out of money is owing to an inadvertence. I will receive a supply immediately on writing home."
The man drew his purse from his pocket, and, presenting it, said—
"This is at your service. Take whatever you need."
Mrs. Lane thanked him, but drew back.
"Only get me into some safe place, until I can write to my friends," said she, "and you would lay both them and me under the deepest obligations."
The man arose at this, and stepping into the bar room, desired the bar-keeper to send for a carriage. From a stand near by one was called. When it came to the door, he informed Mrs. Lane of the fact, and asked if she were ready to go.
"Where will you take me?" she asked.
"To the United States Hotel," replied the man. "You could not be in a safer or better place."
On hearing this, Mrs. Lane arose without hesitation, and, going from the house, entered the carriage with the man, and was driven away. Drawing her veil over her face, she shrank into a corner of the vehicle, and remained in sad communion with her own thoughts for many minutes. From this state of abstraction, the stopping of the carriage aroused her. The driver left his seat and opened the door, when her companion stepped forth, saying as he did so—
"This is the place," and offering at the same time his hand.
As Mrs. Lane descended to the street, she glanced with a look of anxious inquiry around her. Already a suspicion that all might not be right was disturbing her mind. Two years before she had been in Philadelphia, and had stayed several days at the United States Hotel. She remembered the appearance of the building and the street, but now she did not recognise a single object. All was strange.
"Is this the United States Hotel?" she asked eagerly.
"Oh, yes, ma'am," was the smiling reply. "We are at the private entrance."
Her bewildered mind was momentarily deceived by this answer, and she permitted herself to be led into a house, which she soon discovered not to be an hotel. The most dreadful suspicions instantly seized her. So soon as she was shown into a parlour, the man retired. A woman came in shortly afterwards, who, from her appearance, seemed to be the mistress of the house. She spoke kindly to Mrs. Lane, and asked if she would walk up into her room.
"There has been some mistake," said the poor wanderer, her lips quivering in spite of her efforts to assume a firm exterior.
"Oh, no, none at all," quickly replied the woman, smiling.
"Yes, yes there is. I am not in the hotel where I wished to go. Why have I been brought here? Where is the man with whom I came?"
"He has gone away; but will return again. In the mean time do not causelessly distress yourself. You are safe from all harm."
"But I am not where I wished to go," replied Mrs. Lane. "Will you be kind enough to give me the direction of the United States Hotel, and I will walk there with my child."
The woman shook her head.
"I could not permit you to go until Mr. Bond returned," said she. "He brought you here, and will expect to find you when he comes back."
"I will not remain." And as she said this in a firm voice, Mrs. Lane arose, and, taking her little girl in her arms, made an attempt to move through the door into the passage. But the woman stepped before her quickly, and in a mild, yet decided way, told her that she could not leave the house.
"Why not?" asked the trembling creature.
"Mr. Bond has placed you in my care, and will expect to find you on his return," answered the woman.
"Who is Mr. Bond? What right has he to control my movements?"
"Did you not place yourself in his care?" inquired the woman. "I understood him to say that such was the case."
"He offered to protect me from wrong and insult."
"And, having undertaken to do so, he feels himself responsible to your friends for your safe return to their hands. I am responsible to him."
"Deceived! deceived! deceived!" murmured Mrs. Lane, bursting into tears and sinking into a chair, while she hugged her child tightly in her arms, and laid its face against her own.
The woman seemed slightly moved at this exhibition of distress, and stood looking at the quivering frame of the unhappy fugitive, with a slight expression of regret on her face. After Mrs. Lane had grown calm, the woman said to her:
"Is your husband living?"
"He is," was answered, in a steady voice.
"Where does he reside?" continued the woman.
"In New York," replied Mrs. Lane.
"What is his name?"
Mrs. Lane reflected, hurriedly, for some moments, and then gave a correct answer, adding, at the same time, that for any attempted wrong, there would come a speedy and severe retribution. The next inquiry of the woman was as to her husband's occupation, which was also answered correctly.
"And now," added Mrs. Lane, with assumed firmness, "you had better let me retire from this place immediately, and thus avoid trouble, which, otherwise, you would be certain to have. My husband is a merchant of influence, and a man who will not stop at half measures in seeking to redress a wrong. This man, whoever he may be, who has so basely deceived me, will find, ere long, that he has done an act which will hot go unpunished, and that severely. As for yourself, be warned in time, and let me go from this place."