Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
RELATING TO CERTAIN CONJUGAL INFELICITIES
THE capacity of New England housewives for self-sacrificing devotion to family has been made evident by many a biographical history of favorite sons. When the father and mother are both united in the common purpose of giving their children opportunities which were perhaps almost wholly denied to themselves, it is seldom that serious conjugal differences arise.
But, unfortunately, there are some whose natural good intentions are easily undermined by their distaste for that monotony so commonly associated with carrying out any worthwhile plan.
Dave Left Home
In a certain rural district there was a man known familiarly to his acquaintances as "Dave." He had a wife and several children, also a small farm. To all appearances Dave and his rather unprepossessing appearing wife lived on amicable terms. Both were frugal, industrious, and regarded as well meaning people. Therefore it was with great surprise that the community learned that Dave had disappeared under circumstances that admitted of no doubt that he had acted deliberately.
Although badly upset by Dave's unwarranted action, his wife was determined to keep her little family together and carry on the farm as a means of support. Admiring her grit the neighbors showed their kindness in many helpful ways and thus encouraged, the deserted family managed to complete the yearly cycle in tolerable comfort.
During all this time Dave's disappearance was a continual source of conjecture to the neighborhood. Nothing had been heard of him since that early morning when he had been seen walking rapidly down the road a mile or two away from home.
One evening a man who lived on a farm adjoining the one now being conducted by Mrs. Dave, was reading the weekly news paper. Suddenly there was a faint tapping at a nearby window. Laying down his paper the farmer proceeded to raise the sash. Seeing no one he asked who had rapped. There was a hesitating step forward and a shadowy figure appeared.
"Say," said the visitor, "can't you put on your hat and walk over home with me? It's me, Dave. I've just got back and I'd feel a little easier about showing up to the Old Lady if you were along."
So modest a request could hardly be denied. So the neighbor helped to restore Dave to the tolerance if not the good graces of his wife. On the way to his unsuspecting family, Dave was apologetically garrulous, explaining how he had been working some distance away and could not very well leave his job. As he rambled on making an evident attempt to excuse himself, his companion's patience became exhausted and he turned to Dave with the logical question to be asked by any honorable citizen.
"Dave," said he, "that's all very well that you have been telling me, but what I want to know is, how you could sneak off the way you did and leave your family?"
Dave hesitated and then proceeded to pass out an excuse that probably caused more local feminine indignation than the actual sin of abandonment had ever done in all the surrounding region.
"I guess it was a kind of mean trick," said Dave. "That morning I went off I had no real notion of going. But you see after I had got up, got dressed, and started the fire, I happened to look in the bedroom where my wife was lying asleep, hair all frowzy, mouth wide open, and snoring so you could hear her out in the road."
"Do you know," said he, "she looked so awful homely I just felt as if I couldn't stand it any longer."
It is probable that having variously contributed to supplying the needs of the abandoned family for an entire year, the indignant women before mentioned were careful not to express their views in the hearing of Dave's wife. At any rate the historian mentions no further gaps in the family happiness. So it may be assumed that the couple lived in perfect accord thereafter.
And now, having brought this episode to a delightful ending, it is the more to be regretted that another rupture of conjugal domesticity had a very different conclusion. In this case it was the beloved wife who wandered from home and fireside.
Discouraging Matrimonial Experiences of Bill Jordan
A middle-aged man of good habits but limited executive ability had acquired a small farm on which he lived and kept house for himself. It was a very uneventful life but "Bill" was well seasoned to monotony. As frequently happens this monotony was suddenly interrupted, and as might also be expected, by a woman. Although of unknown antecedents, the lady was bland and ingratiating. She seemed to discover many attractive qualities in Bill which he had never dreamed of possessing heretofore. It is unnecessary to linger over details. A wedding took place at an extremely early date.
Life now seemed worth living and Bill was a happy man. His wife was a good cook and he was a good provider. But somehow the wife did not seem to enjoy her husband's society exclusively and began to make other acquaintances chiefly of the male persuasion. Among them was a gay and debonair widower known as "Jim" who appeared to have much more leisure than Bill had. And when Jim struck out some time later to secure a better paying job in another state, Mrs. Bill decided to go along too.
Bill made no attempt to trace the missing couple, but went back to the old way of living without complaint. When friends told him he was well rid of such a baggage, Bill thought of the good suppers she used to get for him and was mute. For months nothing was heard of the missing spouse, but at last there were developments which can perhaps be best explained in the language of a faithful friend of Bill's, a French-Canadian, named "Joe."
"I seen Bill on the street and I say to him: 'Bill, what makes you look so glum; your wife come back?' "
"No," Bill say, " 'he ain't come back no more; he dead,' "
"I say, 'Aw gwan, Bill! What makes you fink he dead?"
" 'I seen heem on der paper.' "
"I say, 'Aw you don't want ter believe all you see in der paper, Bill. Dey got to print some lies for fill heem up.' "
It appeared that Bill had that morning received a letter from some alleged friend of the strayed woman which contained a clipping mentioning the decease of Mrs. Bill and requesting that forty dollars be advanced for burial expenses, a sum modestly designed to come within the financial capacity of the bereaved husband.
Greatly against the advice of his friend, Joe, Bill insisted on forwarding the forty dollars, after which he resumed his daily routine of attending to his farm and cooking his meals. And again after many months was the same routine interrupted.
One afternoon just as Bill had kindled a new fire in the cook stove, so that his supper could be preparing while he was milking his cows, there came a rapping at the door, which being opened revealed the presence of Mrs. Bill, very much alive and wearing the smile which had been so attractive while it lasted. Naturally there were explanations to be made, but Mrs. Bill soon made it apparent that she had been a sad victim of deception. And when she told Bill to go along and do his milking and she would show him the best supper on his table that he had seen since she went away, Bill was ready to let bygones be bygones. He went to the barn and hustled his various duties, not even grudging the forty dollars of which he had been beguiled for the flimflam funeral. But his jubilation was short lived. No delicious supper was awaiting his return. His wife was missing; likewise forty-six dollars in the bureau drawer which Bill had been carefully saving up little by little for taxes.
Thus did romance fade, and while it must be admitted that in this depressing narrative of a woman's guile there are many suggestions of humor, it is a sordid tale at best. But in another instance of sadly impaired confidence, the victim's faith in a faithless wife was restored to remain unshaken, thus establishing in concrete form the formula that ignorance can really be bliss of a certain quality at least.
Tale of a Confiding Husband
Hosea Wó was the possessor of a small property left to him by his deceased wife who had inherited it from a notoriously frugal father. Hosea was an amiable, simple minded person of very limited earning capacity. Noting his loneliness after his wife's death, Hosea was marked out as a worth-while "prospect" by a widow, to whom to apply the term "designing" would be very inadequate indeed- Of a gracious personality and a keen intellect, it was probably only because of a reluctance to leave familiar scenes that she failed to become another Cassie Chadwick.
As before stated, the widow classified Hosea as being worth her consideration. He had certain small possessions, including a home, and she was practically without a penny. To resolve was to act. The conquest was easy and before the community had any more than a suspicion of the real situation, the marriage knot had been tied.
To have a real home of her own after years of poverty was an agreeable change. But there was a fly in the ointment. Although an adoring husband, Hosea was not only vacant minded, but very economical. The honeymoon, while a rapturous state of affairs to Hosea, became very insipid to his broadly experienced wife. She resolved upon a solution that would both rid herself of a tiresomely ardent husband and give her possession of his property.
She thereupon began to take careful note of certain eccentricities frequently revealed by her spouse. With the data thus collected, she succeeded in persuading a physician that Hosea was in urgent need of mental treatment and secured a certificate to that effect.
The next move was to take the unsuspecting husband on a little tour. Among the interesting towns visited was one in which was located a well-known retreat for the insane. The gracious bride suggested that they inspect the asylum. Shortly thereafter the husband found himself deprived of both wife and liberty.
News of this astonishing transaction spread rapidly. Indignation developed everywhere among old friends and neighbors. They said Hosea was foolish enough without doubt or he would never have married the widow, but that he was no more crazy now than he had always been. Application was made for a writ of habeas corpus and within a very few days the victim was set at liberty.
This rapid change in the order of events was made possible by the fact that the county court was in session. After Hosea had appeared before the judge he received quite an ovation. One by one his friends congratulated him on having not only escaped from a nasty situation, but on having also plenty of evidence on which to base the divorce suit which was to follow.
Hosea expressed his gratitude for having such vigilant friends. He would send his wife packing in record time. Well pleased with themselves, the self-sacrificing neighbors returned to their various homes, picturing to each other the discomfiture of the widow, but they reckoned without their host.
A few days later the news was handed about that Hosea and the widow had "made up." She had convinced him that it was all a mistake. Love had conquered.
To consider this chapter complete at this stage would be to leave a somewhat painful impression upon the reader. This is as unnecessary as it is undesirable. In order therefore that this history of conjugal vicissitudes be made to reflect in greater accuracy that noble institution of matrimony, as it really is in so many happy households, let us speak of the experience of another agriculturalist known familiarly to his associates as a well disposed, amiable citizen with an exceedingly capable wife and promising family.
"Jim" lived on very harmonious terms with his better half, but he had one bad habit. When he had occasion to visit a nearby village for supplies, he was apt to linger rather late. Under these circumstances, his wife, with a proper understanding of the necessity of regularity in farm details, would milk the cows. It is not of course to be expected that she did this very willingly, but she would do it if the occasion seemed to require it.
Late one evening in autumn, an acquaintance of Jim's, passing by his establishment, was surprised to see Jim driving his cows in from the pasture, same being presumptive evidence that they had not been milked. As he passed the gateway he met Jim face to face.
"It seems to me you are pretty late getting in your cows, Jim," was the remark.
"Yes," said Jim, "it's pretty late. I have just got back from town."
"Do you have to milk 'em all yourself?" "No," said Jim, "me wife can milk if she's a mind to."
"What's the matter tonight?" was the natural query.
"Oh she's mad at me tonight," said Jim, "she says she's good and tired of doing the milkin' and me loafin' 'round the town."
"Well, Jim," said the traveler, who knew Mrs. Jim and admired her spunk, "when the women get their backs up we have to do about as they say."
"It's right ye are," said Jim, "they know how to raise the divil himself when they feel that way. They are purty bur-r-ds but they have their outs!"
It will be noted by the reader that Jim accepted the inevitable which was certainly the proper attitude. Every normal husband appreciates the fact that the advantages of matrimony greatly outweigh any associated drawbacks. In fact there is an occasional husband who seems to appreciate it too much, which is abundantly illustrated in another legend of rural New England, long since forgotten by most of the local inhabitants.
Wives and Seven Prisons"
A young woman had continued to linger in the parental household until she had considerably passed the average age of marriage. Somehow the young men of her acquaintance had failed to appreciate her. Therefore it was all the more gratifying when a recent arrival in the community, a man of ingratiating appearance, began to pay her marked attentions. Her romantic impulses which had been subdued by untoward circumstances, could now be given full sway. Her admirer was impetuous and would hear of no delays, and they were soon married.
The historian does not furnish any details of the honeymoon nor how long it lasted, but it would appear that the bride, although of a clinging nature, was very curious as to her husband's antecedents, and this, unfortunately, was the weak spot in his armour. The more the aforesaid antecedents were investigated, the more unattractive they proved to be and within a very short time the bride indignantly refused to have any further dealings with her husband, incidentally starting a line of inquiry with startling results; the man was apparently a bigamist.
With indefatigable zeal, the bride and her disgusted parents continued their investigations which soon resulted in the bridegroom being snugly established in the local jail.
Then followed a remarkable series of revelations. A wife was discovered at about every turn in the crooked path of the prisoner, who engaged a lawyer and resigned himself to the inevitable.
Some months were to elapse before a regular session of court and in the meantime the bridegroom found time hanging heavily on his hands. Apparently the game was up and, with the inordinate vanity of certain criminal minds, he decided to write an autobiography. In due course of time there appeared a remarkable book, entitled, "Seven Wives and Seven Prisons," which created a sensation. It also aroused much local feminine indignation, because, in his desire to "get even" with his last wife, whom he regarded as responsible for his present misfortunes, the bigamist declared in his book that of all the wives he had ever had, she was not only the most disagreeable, but also the homeliest and the most generally unattractive.
Apparently masculine depravity could go no further.
French-Canadian Who Wanted a "War for the Womens"
Owing to the frailties of poor human nature, it often happens that even the most docile of husbands when disciplined, justifiably, of course, by their life partners, will seem to resent it. This is no doubt due to a yet remaining trace of that philosophy of the stone age which made the husband regard his wife as being subject to correction by himself. Of course with most enlightened husbands this quality, if it exists, is merely atavistic.
"Pete" was pretty well Americanized, but under stress of a little excitement was apt to have relapses of his early struggles with his verbs, singulars and plurals, etc. He was an estimable citizen in many ways and fully appreciated by his wife, a buxom lady who could, however, show a terrorizing sense of indignation on occasions when "Pete" had lingered too long with the bottle.
One of these interviews had just occurred and his wife's disapproval had reached a new high record. A neighbor happened along just as the lecture was finished and "Pete" ambling somewhat uncertainly and disgustedly toward his barn was heard muttering to himself:
"Ought to be a war for the womens; too many womens; kill off some of the womens."
But Pete was always glad to accept the olive branch and with his own natural good sense and the loyal regard and good judgment of his wife as factors, domestic felicity was always restored as soon as the sobering up process was ended.
Thus it appears that conjugal life, often looked upon with great skepticism by certain unmarried people, too cautious for their own good, as being monotonous in the extreme, is very frequently much the reverse; also that, generally speaking, husbands, especially of advanced age, will agree that they have deserved most of the wifely discipline they have experienced in their married lives, although they may, especially if in a certain part of New England, quote to prospective husbands, from the old time song:
young man, how little you know,
What trials do from wedlock flow.
You have a few days and nights of ease,
And then you've a scolding wife to please."