- chapter: III
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November the third.
THERE is no doubt about it that happiness is an occupation. When I see how long it is since I have added anything worth adding to the Accepted Manuscript, and when I try to define to myself what it is that gives me such a sense of being busy all the time, I find that it is scarcely more than the existence of joy. What I have lost is the leisure of loneliness; what I have gained is the avocation of love.
They teach us that only in heaven can we expect to know happiness. It is not true! I summon mine--a singing witness in the courts of life. I fling down the glove of joy, a challenge to such dismal doctrine. There are whole weeks when I live in poems, I breathe in song. There are entire days when I float in color, and seem to be set free in space, as a bird is, knowing the earth and loving it, but citizen of the skies and homing to them. I fall asleep as if I were a sunset, and I wake as if I were a sunrise, so near
98 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEam I to Nature, so much a part of her beatitude. Nature is joy--I perceive that now. I used to think she was duty. How wonderful it is to live in harmony with her, out of sheer joyousness--not conscript, but volunteer within her mighty and beautiful forces!
I am always reading new chapters in the Story Without an End. Every day I turn a fresh page in the book of love. I did not think that it would be so absorbing. Really, it has plot. For, what is the plot of incident beside that of feeling? A tame affair, as thoroughly displaced as a piece of sensational fiction by the great dramas of the gospels.
Dana and I have been reading the New Testament together on Sunday evenings. He said yesterday: "What a complete situation!" From a histrionic point of view he thinks the life of Christ the most tremendous and well-balanced plot ever conceived. He admitted that he had forgotten how fine it was.
"Morally fine, at least," I said.
"Morally fine, at most; spiritually, if you will," he answered. He spoke quite soberly for Dana. He is a very merry person; he laughs more easily and more often than I do. I am afraid, sometimes, he thinks me too strenuous. (He said so one day, but I felt so badly that he
99 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEkissed the word savagely away.) He is not at all religious. Why does this make me feel as if I ought to become so? I have never thought much about the philosophy of Christianity--I mean as a practical matter that had anything in particular to do with myself--until lately.
"You are a sumptuous little pagan," he said to me Saturday. Now, this did not please me, as he seemed to expect. It left a little dust, like ashes of roses, in my heart. I feel as if I had failed him somewhere.
"I am afraid I am too happy to be religious," I said.
"Then stay irreligious!" he cried. The plea of his lips smothered that spark of sacred feeling; and against the argument of his arms I cannot reason.
How fearful is the philosophy of a kiss! When I think of poor girls--young, ignorant, all woman and all love--I never thought of them before except with a kind of bewildered horror.
I wonder--to anchor to my thought; see, even my thought casts off its moorings as well as my feeling; I seem to be adrift on all sides of my being--I wonder if it is in the nature of suffering to make people in so far divine as it is in that of joy to keep them altogether human.
100 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEI begin to see that there is a conflict as old as the axis of the world. Around its fixed and invisible bar every soul of us revolves--so many revolutions to an ecstasy, so many to a pang; and the sum and nature of these revolutions is the sum and nature of ourselves. When I am old and sad, shall I turn penitent and think about heavens? Oh, I am young, I am glad, I am beloved, and I love! Earth is enough for me, for he is in it.
IT would be impossible for me to put into words the quality of his consideration for me. It is something ineffable and not to be desecrated by expression. It is my atmosphere. His treatment of me is the very devoutness of love. I breathe a devotion for which any tender woman in the world would die. Though I am wife, thus am I goddess, for he deifies me.
My heart lies at his feet.
101 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFE
November the seventh.
MRS. GRAY talked to me a little last week. She said: "My dear, your mother kept your father at her feet. She held him there to the last breath. I tell you a secret, since she cannot. The happiest marriages are those where a wife loves her husband less than he loves her."
"How many such do you know?" I asked her, rather hotly, for my cheeks burned.
She gave me a keen look.
"You have more knowledge of the world than I supposed," she answered slowly, and I thought she sighed.
"Would you have a woman coquet with her husband?" I demanded. "Is marriage an intrigue or a sacrament? You don't know my husband!" I cried--proudly, I suppose, for I was touched a little.
"There, there! Never mind," said Mrs. Gray, as if I had been a pouting child. She began to talk about Robert Hazelton's wedding-present. It is a very odd present. Nobody quite understands it. It is just a gold candlestick made in the shape of a compass, with the candle set at one side as you see them, Dana says, on real compasses. Within is the needle, a black point upon a white enameled dial, pointing to the north. I cannot help liking it; it is so like Rob. Dana asked me if it were meant to convey the
102 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEfidelity of superfluous affection, and I could not, help laughing, it was so like Dana. Yet, when I had laughed, I was a little sorry. Robert has always thought me a much better woman than I am, poor fellow! Dana invited him to dinner once, but he went away early to see some patients. I believe he has an excellent practice. I wish he would marry Minnie Curtis.
I am writing somehow pettily this evening. I don't know why. My soul seems shriveled a little. Dana is dining out with some gentlemen: I believe it has something to do with politics. It is the first time. I would not have believed that I could be so ridiculous about it. I have devoted myself to Father the whole evening, but the more devoted I was the worse it grew.
It seemed to me all the while as if the sky were put out, and the earth had stopped, and Dana were dead. Then it seemed as if there never had been any Dana, and never would be or could be. Father was so pleased with having me to himself again that it was quite touching. He even called Job, and told him to stand on his head; and nothing could be more pathetic, for Father is not one of the dog people. He is polite to Job, for he recognizes that Job is a gentleman, too; but he has never loved him. On Job's part it is a wholly unrequited attachment.
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But for me, I could have cried all the evening. And Job would not stand on his head; he has forgotten how.
He is up here with me now, just as he used to be, quite by ourselves. Poor Job! He kisses me as if he had not seen me for six months--not obtrusively, but with a shy rapture of which no being but a dog is capable. He does not get used to sleeping in the bath-room, but Dana prefers to have him there. He says if we cannot have a home to ourselves, at least we can have our own rooms as he likes them, which is perfectly reasonable in Dana. I find he is always reasonable when he has his preferences consulted. I hope Job will overcome that air of settled melancholy which he wears whenever he regards my husband. It cannot be denied that he never "meets him with a smile." Sometimes I think this vexes Dana. I used to think he loved Job as much as I did.
Dana is very late. It is more than half-past ten. I admit I am rather tired of petting Job. This occupation does not seem as absorbing as it used to be. I cannot read, I have tried, but I listen so that I understand nothing I read. I hear his footsteps on the concrete walk, past the electric light in the street, whose cool, fair light falls into our room and across it when the
104 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEgas is out. (Dana likes that light as much as I do; it was a delight to me to find that he understands the way I have always felt about it.)
As I sit here alone I hear him and I hear him, but they are not his footsteps at all, only the footsteps of my heart. I have seen a picture of "Eurydice Listening," and her body was curved a little like an ear.
It is as if I had become an ear--heart and body; I seem to hear with my forehead and my hair. A lifelong invalid told me once that she heard with her cheeks.
It is eleven o'clock. Job barks in his dreams of the grasshoppers at Sanchester; he has distinctly a grasshopper bark. I know politics stay out late nights, but I did not know Dana meant to go into politics. He told me to go to sleep. Men say such singular things to women.
Job is asleep on my lounging-gown; I hate to move him. I did not have a new one, for I'm fond of this; but Maggie trimmed it up for me very daintily with yards of fresh chantilly. Dana likes me in this gown. He likes the lace, and he likes the color. He says it is the shade of my ruby. I think that must be Dana this time....
105 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEslippers, and fix his candle and all his little things the way he likes, he will be here.
I have put fresh wood on the fire, for it is quite a cold night. The blaze springs, as if it laughed. Crossing before the pier-glass just now, I was half startled at the figure I saw there--tall, all that lace and velvet, and all that color, and curved a little, like Eurydice--bent so, just an ear.
I wonder if Orpheus was in politics?
The leaping fire flares upon my ruby; deep, deep, without a flaw, guardian and glad above my wedding-ring. I think a ruby has never been quite understood. I see now--of all the jewels God created one for women. A ruby is the heart of a wife.
Oh, there! After all! He is striding up the avenue. How he swings along! As if he had the world beneath his ringing feet.
I will not run down. I will make believe that I am asleep, or not pleased that he was out so late. And when he gets to the top of the stairs, and as far as the door--
106 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthe Grays' in the storm, and I wore the lace dress because you like it; but it was pretty thin. And I had darned the stockings myself,--I would not leave them to Maggie,--and I was so sure I had filled every single cavity! What a poor dentist I should make! See, I am trying to laugh. But, really, I have cried. It is the first time you have ever spoken so to me, Darling. No woman ever forgets the first time that the man she loves speaks sharply to her: of that I am sure. Everything else would go out of her consciousness first.
"I was so afraid I should cry on the spot, and that would have shamed me before you and to myself, for I don't like people to see me cry. And I think it was because I tried so hard not to cry that I 'answered back' a little.
"Dear, I am sorry. I was wrong. Forgive me, my own! Love never needs to answer back; it is too great to be so small. Silence would be the nobler way. It is, I think, the stronger weapon. But there need be no weapons, God be thanked! between yourself and"MARNA, your Wife.
"P.S. I have been all over them--the brown ones, and the green, and the gray, and the speckly kinds that are so hard to find the holes in; I
107 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEhave worked over the whole pile for a long while, to be sure there are none of those tiny places the barbed-wire fence bites between the pattern. I hope you will not find me so careless and stupid again. I am not much used to mending stockings. Maggie has always done it for Father. But I will see to yours, if you wish me to; of course I will. One day you said so,--had you forgotten?--'Marna, I wish you would mend my clothes yourself. I have always thought how nice it would be to have my wife do such things for me.' So I tried. Dear, I am more than willing to please you about these little things. I care for nothing else but to please you. My heart leans to you all the time. Waking and sleeping I dream, and all my dreams are yours. All my being has become a student in the science of love; and all my art is to learn how skilfully to make you happy. Your frown is my exile. Your smile is my Eden. Your arms are my heaven. Once, ah, once I was--who could believe it now?--your Wilderness Girl. Now, your happy captive, I kiss my chains. Hold them lightly, Love, for I wear them so I heavily! Yet lock them; I shall but love you more. Do you remember the day I told you to throw the key away?
108 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFESon of Battle! You hurled me over your shoulder and ran. Do you know how Father misses me, though we are in the very one self-same house? You have torn me from him, from my own life, from myself. From a depth that you knew not, you drew me, and you slew me; for I tell you in a love like mine is a being slain. To a depth that I know not, you drag me. Ah, be merciful--I love you!--for love's sake!
"If ever the time should come when I could not pour out words like these upon you, if ever the day should dawn when I should be sorry that I had written so to you, or that I had suffered you so to see the beating of my heart, for indeed such words are but drops of my heart's blood--but I scorn myself for that unworthy 'if.' When thought moves without a brain, when blood leaps without a heart, when the moon forgets to swim on summer nights above the tree-house where my lips first drank your kiss, then may I be sorry that I have written as I write to-night to you.
"And I am sure you will never speak again as you did to-day. It was the first time, as it will be the last. I thought if I told you, if I showed you how it slays a woman, if just this once I should put by something in myself that
109 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEstands guard over my nature and says, 'Do not let him know,' I thought that perhaps it would be worth while. You might, I can understand, you might hurt me, not knowing. Knowing that you did, I 'll swear you never would, because you never could."
December the third.
DANA has gone into the law office of Mrs. Gray's brother, Mr. Mellenway--J. Harold Mellenway. He is so busy that I see him only evenings, and not always then. I am trying to get used to it. Father says he is making a remarkable beginning in his profession, and that if he sustains his promise I shall have reason to be proud of him. Father repeats that he is a brilliant young man. Dana does not have much time to devote himself to Father now. He seems to be whirled along. We all seem to be whirled along like the figures in the Wheel of Life drawn by some ancient Oriental people,--I forget who,--all ignorant that they are helpless, and all hurled on to a blind fate.
I have been married nearly seven weeks. If he came in some night and said, "Marna, do you know it is seven years?" I should not feel surprised. It is as if I had never existed before I loved him, and it is as if I had lived cycles
110 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEsince I became his wife. I have traversed worlds that astronomy never knew, and I am transmuted into a being whose nature I do not recognize.
Here in my own room, where I have been such a happy and solitary girl, I see everywhere the careless, precious signs of him--his slippers on my hearth, his necktie tossed upon my bureau, the newspapers that he always flings upon the floor, and that I go and pick up; a messenger from heaven could not have convinced me six months ago that I would ever do it.
So, upon my heart, upon my brain, he flings the traces of his presence, the impress of his nature. It is to me as if my soul were a nickel plate on which is etched a powerful and beautiful picture, of which I know that I know not yet the composition or the scope, and though I love the picture, I fear it, because it is unfinished. But he--he dips a rosebud in a rainbow, and paints him garlands and Cupids, smiling steadily, so debonair he is. There are times (dear Accepted Manuscript, you will never tell) when the lightness of his heart seems to me disarranged from mine--only for the moment, of course, I mean. But yet I love him for the rainbow in him. And perhaps, as Dana says, there is a zone of twilight in my soul. A man does not like to be loved too solemnly; whereas I think a
111 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEwoman builds within her heart an altar to an unknown god, and leaves her happiest hour to steal away and worship.
December the tenth.
I HAVE discovered a new planet: Dana has a real though untrained musical nature. He has flitted to the piano off and on, of course, and I have sometimes said, "What a touch!" But he has never truly played for me before. Last week he came home with a violin. It seems he sent it somewhere to be mended a year ago, and forgot it (which is quite like him); and now that he has remembered, I am half jealous of the violin, he so devotes himself. He plays with a kind of feeling that I do not know how to define, unless to say that it is passionate, imperious, and fitful. If I said the utter truth to my very soul, perhaps I could not call it tender music. But why say? I have already found that the first lesson a wife must learn is not to admit the utter truth about her husband to her own soul. If she mistranslates, she is unhappy; if she overvalues him, she may be more so. Marriage needs something of the opalescent haze such as betrothal breathes, and daily life goes a beggar for the element of romance. This vanished something Dana's playing seems to be about to recall to us. Just now he has gone music-mad. From
112 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEviolin to piano, and back to violin, he sways like a mast in a storm. As I write he is singing; there are beautiful tones in his voice, and tears are on my cheeks as I listen. He comes to an unaccountable stop, and runs, dashing up the stairs, to see me.--
I am staying in my room with a headache and a kind of foolish languor. He is so kind to me that I could weep for happiness. What wife was ever so cherished as I? Listen! He sings that exquisite thing which his voice seems to have created, and for me. In point of fact I believe it is Handel's.
Trees where you sit shall crowd into a shade.
On my Arab shod with fire;
And the winds are left behind
In the speed of my desire.
With a love that shall not die!
113 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEstill in the hall, with quivering ears, music-smitten, as delicately organized dogs sometimes are. The eternal bridegroom rings in my husband's singing-joyous, imperial, master of the present and dauntless of the future. Oh, I love thee, master of my heart and of my life!
I cannot stand this any longer. What's a headache? I think if I get into the warm red gown, and steal down very softly, and up behind him before he knows it, and just put my arms about his neck, with no sound at all, and lay my cheek to his (though the tears are on it still)--Oh, hark! How sure and glad he is!
And the stars are old,
And the leaves of the Judgment Book unfold!
December the twelfth.
DANA was displeased with me about something (a little thing, too small to write) to-day, and went to his day's work without kissing me. It is the first time. I shut myself in here and cried half the morning. Job's head is quite a mop, for he tried to comfort me.
114 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthe office, for I could not, could not, bear it. This is the veracious record of our interview:
HE: Oh! That you, Marna? Glad to hear from you. What a lovely telephone voice you have! Well, what is it?
I: I have felt so unhappy, Dear, all the morning! I thought--perhaps--
HE: Unhappy? What in thunder for?
I: Why, of course, Dana, you know--
HE: I have no more idea what you are talking about than you have of the English common law. Do be quick, Marna! I'm busy.
I: Oh, have you forgotten that you went off without--without--
HE: I went off without my handkerchief, if that 's what you mean.
HE: Marna! Go find it, Dear, and dry the tears out of your voice. I tell you I 'm busy. Good-by. Oh, by the way. Don't wait dinner for me if I'm not home on time. I am rushed to death to-day. Good-by.
I: But, Dana dear--
HE: But, Marna dear! Don't bother me. Good-by.
115 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEany relation to myself--would have brought the blood stinging to my cheeks. Now it brings only the tears starting to my eyes.
December the seventeenth.
DANA is obsessed with an idea. I find he has a good many ideas. Father was a little vexed I with him to-day, and called them notions. In point of fact, Dana wants to build a house, and Father thinks it quite unnecessary and expensive. He wants Dana to wait until his legal income is more assured, offering us till such time our present home in his own house. It is large enough, I admit; we have our own suite, and every comfort, and no more care than if we were figures on a fresco.
Father's old Ellen looks after everything; she has been in the house since I was a baby, and rules the family like a Chinese ancestor. I do not think of Ellen any more than I do of the atmosphere. I don't think I have ever so much as mentioned her in the Accepted Manuscript; she is a matter of course. I suppose my life has been more free from care than that of many girls, especially motherless girls, and that I shall have a good deal to learn if I keep house. But if Dana wishes it I should not mind the trouble; I should like to please Dana. I asked Ellen
116 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEwhether she thought I could do it so as to please him. She looked at me and did not say anything, only she patted me on the head with her wrinkled hand; I couldn't make out at all what Ellen meant. Then I asked Maggie, quite confidentially, whether she would like to work for me if I kept house; for I suppose we could not afford more than one servant, or two at the most. But Maggie said:
"Is it the lady's-maid ye 'd be wanting, Miss Marna? It's not a housemaid I am accustomed to call myself"
I never felt uncomfortable before the servants before. Sometimes I think they don't like my husband as much as they do me. I never should have believed that it could make any difference to anybody whether they did or not.
I have left the two gentlemen talking it out in the library. Job and I hear their voices as we curl up here upon my lounge to rest. I don't know why I am so tired. Everything seems to agitate or excite me, and then I am tired because I have been agitated. I feel things too much; I am surcharged, like a Leyden jar, and every now and then there is a crash, a sort of explosion of the nerve-force, and I find I am a little weak and spent. I live all the time in an electric world, where everything is tense, and
117 CONFESSIONS A WIFEam liable to accidents of feeling for which I can never be prepared. Dana is always in a hurry, and a more nervous man than I thought him. I think he wants calm and comfort all the time. Sometimes I wonder if he didn't need a serener girl than I am--some one quite poised and comfortable--a girl who doesn't mind things. It would break my heart if I thought any woman in the world could have made Dana happier than I can.
Father's voice is quite low and controlled, perfectly modulated, always; he never loses himself. Poor Dana must be disturbed about something. All those tones in his voice that I love least are uppermost to-night. I feel as if I wanted to go down and put my arms about him, and put my lips to his, and kiss part of his voice out of his nature.
December the eighteenth.
IT is very suddenly decided--for that is Dana's way: to do things at once. We are to build a cottage of our own here on Father's place. Father will deed the land to me, but Dana builds the house. We shall have to mortgage it, he says. This seems to me somehow a little disgraceful. Dana threw back his curling head and laughed when I said so. I told him he laughed like the young god Pan, so I laughed,
118 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEtoo. Dana's spirits are contagious; that is, all but sometimes. Once in a while I feel as if he tried to laugh away things which are not laughable, and then I am not merry. Father is rather quiet; he does not talk much about the cottage. He only said that it was perfectly natural for a man to want his own home; he finds no fault at all with Dana.
"It will be a good deal of a care for you just now," he said, but that was all.
Dana's voice--his best voice--soars all over the house., He is singing:
The bird is safest in its nest;
O'er all that flutter their wings and fly.
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.
119 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFElike the angel Joy, strong and beautiful. It is as I said those first few weeks beside the autumn sea: Eden waits in every weather. Oh, I love him! I love him so that it is as if I could perish of loving and not know that I had been slain.
December the twenty-fourth.
WE are all so happy to-night that it seems a kind of theft from joy to take the time to say so. The angel of life is bearing us along on quiet wings. Father is quite well, better than usual, and Dana has done some brilliant thing at court which pleases the governor. The ground is to be broken to-morrow for our new house; it is to stand just behind Ararat, in the garden, near the wall and the electric light. Dana is very merry and kind; no one can be so kind as Dana. For me, I am better, and I am happy, too. The doctor (old Dr. Curtis) has quite talked me out of the blues I was in awhile ago. And to-morrow--I thought I had pages to say about to-morrow; but my pen is deaf and dumb. I find I cannot speak, even to my own heart--only to his. I will leave a note upon his pillow; I hope he will like it. At first it was a joy to write them because it was clearly such a joy to him to read them. My brain seemed to be stimulated, as well as my heart, by happiness; thought it-
120 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEself was sharpened, and all my feeling and expression refined. There is no inspiration like that which comes of being beloved. I think, if I had been born a writer or a poet, I could have written a great book or song in my bridal weeks.
Dana has been so busy lately that I have not written him many love-notes. It is quite a while since I left one upon his pillow. I put this blank white paper to my lips, and I breathe words upon it, and love them into meaning.
I should like to say that to you which fails me in the saying, for it is our first Christmas eve together, and to-morrow will mean something for us which no other Christmas in our lives can mean. Just this little time while you are reading to Father (I am glad you thought to offer him that pleasure) I am taking the leisure of my heart to write you a wife-note. Do you remember how you used to kiss them! I shall put this you know where.
"The night is strong and still. There is not much wind, and a mighty frost. The snow is like the shield of the great Venus (supposing her to have been a Victory; you know I always fancied that idea; I like to think that she lost her arms trying to defend herself--she, Victory, vanquished). See! the pagan is not drowned
121 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEout of me yet, though you haven't called it 'sumptuous' for quite a time, and to-night how can imagination cherish any but the Christian images?
"I admit that the others ring rather hollow. Even the great Venus, solemn and strong, ideal of Unattained Love,--perhaps, who knows? of the Unattainable,--woman from the first heartbeat, but goddess to the end, even she, the glory of paganism--she bows with the shepherds before the Child of Bethlehem. Can't you see just how she would look, the awful Venus, on her knees? I can.
"I am writing by the firelight and the electric street-light, crumpled upon a cricket between the two, the paper on my lap and, Dear, the tears upon my cheeks. I am thinking of the strange light that blossomed on the sky that night in Palestine. I have always thought it was deep pink, like a bursting rose. I am thinking of the village khan and the grotto stable; it flits before me like the plates in a sacred magic-lantern at some religious scene, now this slide, now that, returning on themselves and repeating the effect, and always centering upon one group.
122 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthing. I shall fold it in this note, it is so small. For when I tried to think what I could give you, it seemed to me that there was nothing left. I have given you all I am. How can I, who am so spendthrift of myself for your dear sake--how can I offer you any small thing on this, on this first Christmas of our life together? I chose the little gold Madonna for your watch-guard because I could not bring myself to anything else. It was made for me in Paris (if you care to know), but it is to me as if Love had ordered it for me out of heaven. Wear it, Dear, because you love me, because you love us.
"I find I cannot write to-night; I cannot think; I dare not dream. I find it out of my power to admit your soul altogether to my own. For I begin to feel now, as I used to do before we were married, that a woman must not exact too much of a man; she must not expect him to understand; she must remind herself that he is a man, and cannot. For a time we have been one, you and I, husband and wife, and the eternal and almighty difference has been smitten out between us by strong love, which makes of twain one being.
123 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEunited, to deviate, nature from nature, sex from sex. Already, thou dear lord of me and of mine, I feel with blinding tears that I stand apart from thee, when most cherished by thee. Already I see that I begin to tread a separate and a solemn road.
"Dana! Dana! My heart reaches out to you with an unutterable cry. Try to interpret its inarticulate meaning.
"Forgive this too solemn letter, my dear Love, and love me better for it if you can. If your love does not advance with my need of it, I shall perish of that pause.
"For I can see nothing in all the world of visions this Christmas eve but the Mother with the Child upon her breast."Oh, be gentle to "YOUR WIFE."
May the fifteenth.
WHEN I see how long it is since I have opened this book, I do not know whether to laugh or cry. As a rule I find the former works better. Masculine tenderness is said to respond to tears. I do not find it so. Rather, I should say that a man's devotion fades under salt water, like a bathing-suit, proving unserviceable in the very element for which it is supposed to be adapted.
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I never used to be a crying girl; I am quite ashamed of the number of times a week I lock myself into my own rooms to have it out with myself. I suppose it is a physical condition. Nobody sees but Job. He jumps into my lap, more gently than he used to, and kisses my wet face. Heaven knows how he understands that drops on a cheek mean grief in the heart. Sometimes I think that perception of the finer states of one we love is in relation to dumbness. Words, protestations, impulses of the lip, come to mean less as love means more. One of the sages was he who said that conduct is three fourths of life.
Our cottage is done and we move in to-morrow. It is the night before I leave my father's home for our own. There has been too much to do, and I am not quite equal now to the tax upon my strength. I was always such a well, strong girl--poised, I think, in soul and body. Physical malaise is a foreigner to me, and there is no common vocabulary between it and myself. No girl thinks of this. When I expected to be most comforted I find myself most solitary. I suppose it is a common, or at least a frequent, experience. Men are so busy and so insolently strong. There is something cruel in their physical freedom.
125 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthis world. I wonder is there not somewhere, softly whirring through space, a planet that the Ewigweibliche has created? There must be a feminine element in Godhead, or woman would not exist. Suppose this were given its untrammeled and separate expression? I like to think what a world that would be, or may be yet, for aught we know.
I am tired--oh, I am tired! I do not feel much enthusiasm about this new house. The sheer strain of building and furnishing has shaken the romance all out of it. A sensible, middle-aged woman once told me that she and her husband came to the brink of a divorce over the first house they built (they are rather an unusually happy couple), and that the only way she prevented the catastrophe was by saying, "Have it all your own way; I will not express another wish about this house." Yet they lived in it comfortably for fifteen years. She had seven children, most of them born in it.
Dana is happy about the house, quite happy; and I suppose this ought to make me so. It would have, once. But I see so little of my husband now that the proportions of feeling are changing. I am afraid they are changing in me as well as in him. I don't mean--no, no! I could not mean that I care less. But I enjoy
126 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEless and I suffer more. He is away from home all day and many evenings; sometimes most evenings of the week. And he travels more or less on his professional business or on political errands. I try to think that this is all right, and that it is always necessary. In my soul I know it is not. I am already very lonely. I am perplexed and troubled. I used always to feel beloved. Now I feel hurt much of the time. Such a state as this chills a woman to the heart. My husband sometimes calls me cold; he will say this when I am quivering with wounded love, when I am nothing but one nerve of passionate tenderness bruised. I do not reply; I let him say so. I have tried to make him see how it really is. I have tried so often that I have got through. I am beginning to think that he cannot understand.
Perhaps I shall be happier in our new house. And by and by--in October, when I am well again--perhaps he will be different; he will stay at home more; we shall be together as we used to be; and he will be so happy, we shall be so united, that I shall be glad again. I must hold this truth fast; for, from very physical weakness, and a little, I think, from loneliness, it eludes me. The kingdom of love is within us, and "only our own souls can sever us."
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I AM too rebel to the primal laws. No Wilderness Girl should ever be married, I think. Oh, the silence and the freedom and the sacred solitudes of maidenhood! I think of them with a passionate hunger and thirst. I remember how Gwendolen, after one of her scenes with Grandcourt, complained to herself that she could not even make a passionate exclamation, or throw up her arms as she would have done in her maiden days.
But she did not love her husband. I never thought to see the time when I should thank God that I do love mine. But now I perceive that if I did not the foundations of the great deep would be broken up. And I should--What should I do? What could I do?
Job just pulled something from the basket on my sewing-table and brought it to me, wagging rather piteously. It is the little blue blanket that I am trying to embroider for my son. It grows slowly; I never liked to sew.
Let me learn to be divinely patient, as women can, as women must. I must remember that happiness has not fled from my life at all. The angel Joy will return with a sweet and solemn face. "And a little child shall lead them."
128 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFElast night before I leave his house. I had read him to sleep, I thought, before I slid up-stairs. Just now the front door opened (with some unnecessary noise), and I ran to the head of the stairs to tell Dana that Father was asleep. But he had gone on into the library before I could attract his attention.
He stays so long that I wonder why. I believe I will go down....
I went. My red slippers are quite mute, and my old ruby gown never whispers. I did not think that they would not hear me, and I came upon them quite suddenly and unnoticed.
The two men were standing in the dim library, for Father had got into his dressing-gown and had come out to meet my husband; I am afraid he had been listening for his son-in-law to come in. He held Dana's hand in his own. Dana looked very handsome and debonair in his evening dress, with his nonchalant eyes, and smiling steadily. Father did not smile; his face worked. As I stood silent and wondering, I saw the sacred tears stream down my father's face.
"Oh, be kind to her!" he said. "Be kind to her!"
May the sixteenth.
129 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEseemed a pity not to sanctify the date by one warm word; for we moved over in a cold storm--one of my own northeasters. All the garden trees are tossing like masts in a gale, every green sail flapping. The old apple-tree, on a level with our little library, turns a strange, familiar face to me in the rain, like the face of a friend whom you had never seen cry before; there seems to be no way to wipe off the tears, and they stream on steadily. This is the more noticeable because we really are not sad at all.
The cottage is quite comfortable, and I should not have thought it would seem so attractive by gas-light; it is very bright, and all the colors are warm. There is rose in my own room. Why is it that color means something less to me than it used to do? Once I should have responded to the tinting of this room (it is really very good) in every nerve. Now, somehow, it does not seem to matter very much. I suppose that is physical, too. Most things are, to women. Who said, "There is a spiritual body"? Paul, I suppose. Nevertheless, there is philosophy as sound as it is subtle in those five words.
130 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEby telephone. Job is plainly homesick, and will not go to bed. Every time the apple-tree hits the tree-house he barks in a melancholy manner, and Dana cuffs him for it, for Dana cannot bear anything melancholy.
There is a banshee in my house, I find. My speaking-tube to the cook's room catches the wind and wails beyond belief Job growls at the banshee.
Dana is so happy that I wonder I do not feel happier. There is a new piano, and he sits singing. Somehow he seems to me like a new husband. But I am quite aware that I do not seem to him like a new wife. I wonder if I ever shall again? He plays with his nonchalant touch:
Home-keeping hearts are happiest.
131 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEknow whether this is a right law or a wrong one, a tradition or an instinct. I do not think women are alike in this. Perhaps it is relative, too--so much freedom in her nature to so much love in his. The banshee is quite overborne as he sings joyously:
On my Arab shod with fire.
May the twentieth.
THE new maid (her name is Luella) hit the new sofa bang! against the new library wall to-day, and bit two bites out of the new old-gold calcimine. Dana was very angry. I did not know for quite a while after we were married that he was such a quick-tempered man. I feel very sorry for him; it must be so uncomfortable to be quick-tempered. I am differently constituted myself: I grieve.
I think he thinks it is my fault when he is angry. I wonder if it is? Of course I am not always right; and then, a woman is in such physical discomfort most of the time. To-day I answered Dana very positively. He scolded Luella so that she gave notice on the spot. I never heard a girl give notice before, and it was a disagreeable experience. We never had any trouble with our maids in Father's hose. I have
132 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEalways grown up with the feeling that families that changed servants were not quite respectable. I told Dana that he ought to leave the management of the servants to me. He said, "D--n!" Then he put on his hat and went out. There is no music to-night. Luella and the cook are conspiring in the kitchen, and Job and I are tête-à-tête, exchanging confidences.
May the twenty-first.
DANA was charming this evening. I think he is sorry. I had found some good old prints of Landseer's dogs, and cut them out and pasted them up over the breaks in the calcimine, above the sofa, something like the frieze of a dado; really, they have quite an effect of their own.
"You always were clever," he said, and kissed me twice. Job was positively jealous of the Landseer dogs. We held him up, and I stroked the dogs, and Job growled and snarled and flew at them. Dana was immensely amused. He named one of the dogs David, and the other Dora. We have had a happy evening, and Luella has consented to stay.
133 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEpearl. Dana asked me to come out into the tree-house with him. "Subpœna Job for witness," he said. "He can testify--what you have the air of forgetting, my lady--that I took the first there. Nothing can undo that."
"I wonder if anything can ever undo anything?" I said, laughing too. So I climbed up into the tree-house to please him; but I was so tired and physically wretched that I am afraid I disappointed him, and I could not stay very long. I think Dana really tried to reproduce something of the old glamour, and when he found that it was missing, he thought it was I who failed to supply the materials of romance. No wonder.
I read a story last week in which the author took upon himself to remark that the experience of prospective parentage was equally hard to husband and to wife, because, "while she bore her sufferings, he bore her complaints"! It is unnecessary to observe that this piece of fiction was written by a man. This paragraph is quite superfluous,--I believe women are superfluous by nature,--for Dana has been very kind to me to-day. I have just telephoned to Father that I am quite happy.
"June the tenth.
134 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEdoing you good. And if there is any professional reason, as you say, for prolonging it a few days more, never mind me. I cannot say, to be honest, that I am very well. The hot weather has leaped upon us like a tiger from a jungle; I never was torn by it before. But I am not suffering for anything in particular, except you. I suppose a husband's presence is one of the luxuries that a wife must learn to go without. That seems to be the modern idea. And I am too busy to mope or sentimentalize about you.
"Things are going after a fashion in the house. The room being smaller than I am used to, I think I feel the hot nights more. And Luella has given notice again, and again consented to remain.
"Father is a little troubled about the effect of this weather on me, and has been doing something about the Dowe Cottage for August and September. What do you think? He asked me to ask you to telegraph if you approve. The idea is that we should go there (to visit him), and stay till all is over. Dr. Curtis urges it. I must say I should like to go. On these breathless nights, in my stuffy little rose room, I seem to see waves breaking on the window-sill; but they never get over. I can almost smell the salt, but I never feel the spray. And, then, we
135 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEwere so happy there! I can't help feeling as if the old joy were shut up in that cottage, like a tenant who was locked in, and would fly to meet us, and take us in his arms, and bless us both for now and for ever. "I am your loving and your lonely "WIFE."
June the tenth.
I HAVE just written to Dana about the Dowe Cottage. I am afraid it was not exactly a love-letter; somehow, I could not. If I had let him know how much I miss him, I do not think he would quite like it altogether. Why is almighty Nature forever laying a coal of fire upon a woman's lips?
So I wrote quite stiffly and serenely; and when I had finished the letter I cried, for nobody but Job could see.
I just got up and went into his room, and touched all his little things--the brushes on his dressing-case, his slippers lying where he tossed them (for he never likes to have me move them to put them away), his ash-receiver, with a half-burnt cigar just as he left it. Then I went into the closet where his clothes are hanging, and put my cheek to them all, one after the other. His blue velveteen smoking-jacket hung inside the door;
136 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEhe wore that one day when he seemed to love me more than usual, and--I could not help it--I kissed the velveteen coat. I kissed it several times.
June the fifteenth.
I WENT out about the grounds to-day to oversee some workmen who were grading, but was quite overcome by the burning weather, and I think I had something like a faint, or touch of the sun. When they helped me indoors the house seemed to rock and reverberate with Dana's voice, and it was as if he were singing:
"August the tenth. West Sanchester.
You have been very devoted and kind to me ever since we came here, and I want to bless you for it. I know that you have been working too hard and need a change, and I am sure it is quite safe for you to be away for a little while. If you want to try the mountains after Bar Harbor, I would not prevent it on any account. As long as you keep within reach of the telegraph it will be all right. I thank you for giving up the Adirondack trip, for I do think that was too far away just now. Continue to
137 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEwrite and telegraph as faithfully and lovingly as you have done. I depend on that more than you know. A wife is one of the foolish folk; you cannot exact man's poise or wisdom of a woman's heart and body. I never love you so much as when you remember to love me and to comfort me in little ways.
"How handsome you looked the morning you left, my beautiful! You went swinging down the avenue. I wanted to go to the station with you, and because I could not I cried a little; but not till you had quite gone. I watched you till you were out of sight. The light was splendid on your hair and forehead as you lifted your hat and kissed your hand. I thought: 'If I should never see him again, what a vision to keep with me in this world, or to take with me to another!' Women will have such thoughts, my darling; we wait too much to take life lightly. Be patient with"MARNA, your Wife."
TELEGRAM"West Sanchester, August 17. "To Dana Herwin, "Maplewood House, "Bethlehem, New Hampshire.
Come at once."FRANCIS TRENT.
138 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFE
TELEGRAM"West Sanchester, August 18. "To Dana Herwin,
"Care of Conductor, White Mountain Express,
en route for Boston. Try Portsmouth.
"Don't suffer. I am not in any danger now. But the blanket ought to have been pink."MARNA."
"August the eighteenth.
They let me write, in pencil, for I insisted. Father will give it to you at the station. I convinced the doctor it would be better for me than to talk--at first. I don't want to speak. I only want to be touched and kissed--and for you not to go away again. All I want, all I want in this world, is you. I shall get well. There will nothing go wrong now you are here. Oh, I cannot say that it was not hard--without you. At first I thought of everything--motherless young wives, and women with drunken husbands, and the poor, unwedded girls: all womanhood seemed to pass by me in a pathetic procession, drifting through the room. And I thought, 'I am one of them.'
139 CONFESSIONS OF A WIFEthing in earth or heaven but you--not of the baby at all, only you, you.
"Stay by me when you come, Darling! Don't let them persuade you that it will harm me. It will save me, and it is the only thing that will. They thought that I should die, but I could not die when you were so far away. That would have been impossible.
"Dana, Dana, I live, and I love you. For I am"THE MOTHER OF YOUR CHILD."
August the thirtieth.
THIS is the first time I have been allowed to write (to amuse myself), and I am limited to eight lines. "Being happy," I remember Hawthorne said, "he had no questions to put." Being happy because my husband gives me every moment that he can beg or steal from time, being happy because he is so happy, because he blinds me with tenderness, I have no letters to write. Instead, I record the fact that my daughter is two weeks old to-day, and that Job is so jealous of her that we cannot keep them in the same room. I think he is planning definite hostilities. Job finds her more objectionable than David and Dora.
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