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A WIPE8 STORY.
■was clasped so close and tight in his! We had tea, and then we—Harold and I—went oat into the hay-fields. Aunt ran after us to the door to beg Harold to take care not to knock his head as he went out; and he laughed his honest laugh, and she went smiling back, and up-stairs into my room, to make some last arrangements for me. The hayfields that night 1 For neither of us were there ever such hay-fields again. Oh, my husband, you were happy then!
Next day we were married. I said farewell to my good aunt, to pretty Ilton, to bluil" Mr. Swayne, and we went forth—he and I. For a little while I mused over the anxious, sad expression of Aunt Aston's face, but soon forgot to wonder at it any longer.
So I stood that night—a wild, weird night —leaning against my husband with folded anna; loving to measure my insignificance; to be at his side, not much more than reaching to his elbow, yet as high as his heart,—to look up into the handsome face so far above me when held erect, so often stooped down tenderly to mine. And I mused over the bitter things of my past life, imagined the happiness to come to both of us, the happiness of hours, days, years, and a whole life spent together: never knowing end of love nor weariness of existence. And I felt peace, and knew rest—for a little while—standing secure in the certainty of possession. We were on our way to Scotland. The wind blew round us; sometimes driving the waves so violently against the ship's side that the foam splashed up in my face, and driving the clouds recklessly and violently across the wild sky, and the pale struggling moon. And we were rocked up and down, yet standing firm together, the wind and the sea singing us an inspiriting song, a loud soulthrilling anthem; but too loud and too shrill for an epithalamium.
The other passengers had disappeared one by one,—we were alone. I could have remained there forever, I thought, so supported, so serenaded. Breaking into the world of my imaginings came my husband's voice.
"Annie,darling, it is getting cold! What a rough night it is!" And as he spoke, the strong encircling arm drew my wrappings closer; he went on, " You must not stay here any longer, love; you had better go below, and get a few hours' sleep, for it is long past midnight. I shall get a cigar, and walk up and down a little;
i am quite chilly, and I am sure you must be." No, I was not; and I did not want to go down, out of the wind and the foam-splash into the close atmosphere of the ladies' cabin. I,' above peak of mountains piled leaning there, against his heart, had not thought as I could discern; across the
"Get your cigar, if you must have one, Harold, but let me stay, please," I pleaded. "I am not cold at all, and I know I shall not sleep down there, it will be so warm."
But a drizzly rain began to fall; of course, staying out all night would have been a most irrational proceeding, and my husband was very wisely decided. He took me down stairs, guiding my feet carefully in the uncertain light from the lamp at the bottom, and left me at the door of the den, as I called the crowded sleeping-place. Already I had seen, or fancied that he would expect from me, only an implicit and child-like obedience. As yet I had found it very sweet to obey, where to obey had only been to do what was most pleasant; to-night I was inclined to rebel; it was so stiflingly close and warm down there, " might I not go up again?" But Harold pressed a "Good-night," on my lips, pressing me the while to his heart, and my impatience vanished, and I obeyed.
I lay a long time rocked on my uncomfortable couch, with my eyes obstinately wide open, listening to the firm, rather heavy, footstep pacing to and fro above me. At last, I suppose, I fell asleep listening, and then the step crushed painfully into my heart and brain, and I awoke in trouble and affright It was new to me to be on the sea, it was awful, the waves rushed so fiercely past the little window against which I lay I 1 could but dimly see, yet I heard and felt them; they stirred, not fear, but a wild, half-pleasant excitement within me.
I listened again to the steps above; I felt half-jealous that without me he found pleasure in lingering there so long. At last I heard the sound no longer; "He is going to sleep now," I thought, so I voluntarily closed my eyes, pillowed my cheek on my arm, and composed myself for quiet slumber. When we touched land next day, all was wrapped in a mist-mantle; we could see nothing, but we went on by land to our first resting-place,—reaching it in the evening. On the morrow I saw the sun shine upon one of the most lovely places in the Highlands,—lovely and grand at once, and more beautiful than I could bear.
Harold had thought to surprise me,—thought I should admire it,—was very glad it was fine weather. I had never till now seen anything of mountainous, or even hilly scenery; the pretty country round Ilton was the most beautiful feature of Nature's face I had ever grown acquainted with.
Now, I stood by the side of the loch in the mornings—the early morning—I looked down towards the sea; up to the splendid peak
of being cold. i blue water, to the graceful hanging woods,
DXCTV. LIVING AGE. VOL. XI. 6
and heathery sheep-dotted slopes on the other side. What could I do? My heart was swelling, my eyes kindling and dilating, my cheek flushing and chilling—I clasp edmy hands tightly together, almost as if in pain.
At that moment Harold came up, with a bright, laughing face, and hurrying step, and eyes fixed only on me.
I turned to him; I remember he stopped and looked at me wonderingly; I did not notice that then; I uttered a little of my admiration and delight, in words that seemed to me mockingly poor and feeble. I looked up in my husband's face for sympathy: he smiled down on me, kindly as ever; but somehow my haughty spirit rose up in arms against that smile; a flashing look of something like disdain aimed at him fell back on me, paining only my own heart, and a miserable doubt and dread darted through me.
Breakfast was ready, the urn waiting, and the salmon steaks on the table, Harold said. So I walked in beside him, not taking his offered arm, pretending not to see it.
The day was very warm and lovely, and we spent it on the water. We had hired a light little boat; Harold rowed it across to the other side; we explored that shore a little, then we moored our boat to the stump of a felled tree, and sat in it under the shade of the wood that hung far over the marge. We enjoyed the gentle rocking motion, the sound of the ripple against the side, and the delicious freshness of the light breeze that came up from the sea, and breathed upon our faces. We talked little, and very softly. I had taken off my hat for coolness, and I sat in the bottom of our boat, resting my head against my husband's knee. I liked to feel his hand every now and then, passed caressingly and lovingly over my hair.
"Shall I read to you, Harold ?" I asked, after we had sat so a long while, and I fancied he might be wearying of idleness, though I was not. Already I consciously recognized a difference between us.
"If you like, Annie," he answered; "if it won't tire you; but it is very hot."
I produced my treasured book, the book he had given me. I told him how beautiful it was, how much he would like it; and then I began to read. I read in a low subdued voice; I did not want to break in upon the harmony of the soft music made by wind and water.
How quietly I went on, and yet how deeply and troublously the poet's thoughts moved me! Sometimes I felt my cheek grow chill, and my eyes dim with tears, as some passage thrilled through me.
After I bad read some time, I glanced round.
A WIPES STORY."Is not that true? Have we not felt it?" I said, looking up to my husband's face, seeking to meet his expression of emotion and pleasure.
His eyes were closed, his arm rested on some cushion he had brought for me, and I had not cared to use; his head was thrown back upon that arm, and he was fast asleep! I looked at him long, half in anger, half in love. I see the face now as it looked then. His sleep was child-like in its perfect repose; his brow was so smooth, his mouth so quietly happy in its expression, his breathing so low and regular. At least he must be dreaming some beautiful dream—dreaming only of me, perhaps, I thought
I had lifted my head from its resting-place, I did not replace it; I sat quite erect, and kept myself very still. I put a fern-leaf, from a bunch of them I had in my hat, to mark tho place where I had left off reading, and then closed my book. For some time I sat watching the ripples in the waters, and listening to Harold's breathing, with a cloudy face, and a heart that had not quite made up its resolve whether or no to resent this neglect I got tired of sitting in dignified rigidity. I leaned over the boat's side, and amused myself with the broken reflections of my face and hands in the water; with splashing it up softly to my forehead, and seeing the separate drops, pearllike, fall back upon the face of the loch. And I thought of Undine and water-sprites, good and ill, and tried to look to the bottom of the water, that seemed to repel my glances, by flashing back its own brightness dazzlingly on my eyes,—and imagined the sights fair and foul that might lie there, till I almost saw strange eyes and hands gazing at me, and beckoning to me, from below. Then I drew back to the other side, and folding my hands, gave myself up to day-dreaming. I knew it must be quite late in the afternoon now; the wind had quite died away, the water did not ripple, our boat did not stir, there was a great dream-silence, under-toned by the faint hum and buzz of insects in the near wood.
A very audible yawn and noise of stretching and stirring, told me that my husband was waking at last. The noise broke in jarringly upon my delicious dreaming, it was so loud I I did not look up or speak, but sat looking straight before me far away.
"Why I have been asleep, I declare !" Harold exclaimed. "It is just five o'clock. Why didn't you wake me, Annie? You should have thrown some water in my face. Yon have been sitting there, quiet and patient, waiting for your lord's awakening, eh, you darling little mouse? How stupid you must have thought me?"
"I was very well amused," I answered coldly.
"How? Reading, I suppose?""No; with my own thoughts.""Your own thoughts, you saucy girl! Have you anything belonging to yourself, then? NVere they not partly mine? those amusing thoughts? Eh, Annie?"
"Whatever else I may owe to you, I have still a right to consider my thoughts free, have I not, my lord?" I asked, only halfjestingly.
"You are angry, Annie! Come, you are vexed with me for going to sleep while you were reading! Your voice is so sweet it soothed me. If you had been speaking I should have listened to the words; as it was, I thought only of the dear voice.""Did not the book please you ?" I asked."To tell the truth, I did not understand much of it, I do not care for the poetry; you cannot think how strange it seems to me to think of any man's making it the occupation of a life to rack his brains for out-of-the-way thoughts about men and things, and then to twist and turn them ingeniously up-side down and hind-side before, till he has set them into jingling order."
"And that is your notion of poetry ?" I asked.
■Do you not think it a just one?"
"Do you not like music?""Why do you ask! The two things are to perfectly different. Yes, I like cheerful music; I don't pretend to understand the classicality of the art? But, my dear child, don't let us discuss art, or philosophy, or poetry now. You look quite pale, I am sure you are cold and tired; I am very sorry, it was very stupid of me to fall asleep; please to forgive me, and I wont do so again."
"Pray do, as often as you feel inclined. I will learn not to mind it, I assure you," I an■wered.
"Learn not to mind, Annie! what do you mean? I do not want you to learn anything; I want you to be happy, and leave everything else to me."
"We must learn while we live, people say. It strikes me I shall have much to learn before I shall be able to do what you wish."
Harold sprang up hastily. He nearly upset the boat in doing so: the side on which I was sitting touched the water's edge,—I lost my balance, and should have made acquaintance with the bottom of the loch, concerning which I had been speculating, had not his strong arms been thrown round me."Good Heaven !—Annie—My wife!" I had been on the farther side from the shore—the water was deep—no help near—he could not swim—all this flashed through his mind, and I felt how the heart beat against which I was pressed."God grant you have not saved what you
would have been happier for the losing!" something compelled me to say, as I looked up in his face. There was love himself, most beautiful and perfect, looking out from his eyes into mine, and I did not any longer struggle in his embrace.
"God be praised!" he murmured as he gently released me, and sat me down in the middle of the boat, when, at last, it had ceased its perilous rocking to and fro. I did not cherish my wicked spirit longer. He took the oars and rowed back. We were both grave and silent for a little while: but Harold's gravity soon vanished, so did all traces of emotion, save that he lifted me out of the boat, and put me down far from the edge of the loch, as if he could not trust me near the water again.
"I ordered dinner at five," he said, as ws walked up the beach; "now it is half-past. Mrs. Mac-Something will grumble, I am afraid. You won't be long at your toilette, Annie? remember we are to climb the mountain, to see the sun set this evening."
The evening was only just pleasantly ad-,vanced and cool, when we sat out on our little expedition. Harold had managed to hunt up a pony for me, as we had some two or three miles to go. He was very merry, and we laughed and chatted gayly as he led my steed and strode on beside me. But when wa came to the narrow glen between high threatening masses of rock, that shut out the sunlight and frowned blackly down on us, the light talk and laughter pained me; it seemed impious, my heart echoed it so hollowly. I put my hand on Harold's lips, and said, " Be quiet, please!" very gently. He kissed my hand, and obeyed, seeming to understand; or else it was the gray shade that made his face look grave and pale, and we wound up in silence. I dismounted soon, as the way got rougher; the boy, who had followed us, took the pony; and we went on alone. We two, who should have been not two, but one.
The highest peaks were almost inaccessible, but the one we ascended was comparatively easy to climb, and we had been assured that the view was awfu' grand. When we were at the top, the sun was setting; we were just in time. I drew my arm from Harold's. I planted my feet firmly on the craggy ground. At first everything swam before my eyes in a kind of mist of glory; but after a few minutes' steady gazing, all became distinct.
My soul strove and struggled, it essayed to dilate wide enough to take in all of the beauty, the glory, the grandeur; it endeavored, passionately, to make God's things its own, containing them. It did not, owning humbly its child-like position and dependence upon the same Being, whose glory was now partially revealed to it, then take a meek, a rever
ent, an awful joy, in thinking of the Maker of the Universe, as the Father and Friend of every living soul. No! there was strife and pain, and impotent self-abasement, and as im
r>tent, because as blind, aspiration within me. forgot I was not alone. I cried out in the strange agony, and clenched my hands.
Then I felt myself clasped in his arms, I was turned round, I could see no longer, I felt as if some divine inspiration had been kept off from me by that human presence. Harold's calm, kind voice, was saying—
"You are too excitable, my darling: I would not have brought you here, if I had known it; you will make yourself ill; be quiet, and lean upon me."
But I struggled till I was free. Struggled so fiercely out of the darkness in which he held me, into the red, glorious, glowing light, that he let me go, and stood looking at me, wonderingly. The calmness of his half-pitying look, irritated me yet more. 1 poured out a torrent of wildly passionate words: as soon as they were spoken I would have given more than my life to recall them: but we were both silent. Harold drew my arm through his, and led me down.
I was miserable; ungrateful wretch that I was! I shed bitter tears as we proceeded home in the twilight. I thought I had wounded my husband deeply by my mad, impatient, ungracious words. Before I slept, I had thrown myself on my knees, sobbed out my sorrow, my wretchedness, and entreated his pardon. I remember he took me up and kissed me, as he might have done a child; he did not understand, one whit, what it was all about; he had almost forgotten that he had received any cause of oflence: I found that to him it seemed a light matter; that in future I need not give way to any such agonizing apprehensions of having wounded his calm, not easily-perturbed spirit.
He was too simply, unperplexedly, good for my comprehension. Yet I throned myself on an imagined elevation of intellectual superiority, and scorned his child-like singleness of heart But this unhappy feeling grew up gradually: there was many a struggle first. I wished to believe my husband a hero, and so to worship him; but the only heroic aspect of his character, was the very one in which my eyes could not see him.
I was a heathen, my husband a Christian! Do not be startled and call up visions of Hottentots, or dark-skinned creatures of any nation: I was only spiritually dark. I had always lived with professing Christians; I had heard their professions, and felt their practice, and I was in heart truly a heathen. My aunt Aston was the only person of Christian practice with whom I had been acquainted; of her I bad seen little, and had always in
A WIFES STORY.
clined to indulge something like contempt for her weakness of character and timidity of nature.
While I lived with the Stones, Sunday after Sunday saw my place in the church-pew regularly filled by my person. My person, I say advisedly, for in my life of slavery the time of service on the Sunday, had always been a time of liberty; a time for the indulgence of day-dreamings, and wild, strange fancyings. The Stones lived in an old cathedral-town, and we always attended the cathedral-service; the music there was very fine; the organ was magnificent, and its tones gave a mystical elevation to my musings. Mine was the darkest corner of the pew; there I shrank back, and dreamed with open oyes the long sermon through.
The first Sunday we were in the Highlands, my husband had taken pains to reach a place where the church would be within an easy distance, the evening before.
It was a wild country place; the houses were scattered far and wide, and apparently there were but few of them; yet the church was full to overflowing, and the people in the plain, unadorned old building, neat and sober in attire, serene and reverent in countenance, impressed me forcibly. Everything was sternly simple about the service and the preacher. Sitting beside my husband, I, glancing up into his composed and attentive face, liked its expression, it was grand in its calmness. I would not have ruffled it for the world; and as I found that once or twice his eyes sought mine, and that he then looked uneasy, observing my straying and dreamy glances, I tried to listen too; but the art could not be learned in one day, and my thoughts would wander.
In the evening Harold asked me, rather doubtfully, if I would go again to church or stay at home—he was going. I would go, I said, and his face brightened. The evening service was very short, and we were soon out again. It was a lovely evening. I felt in my husband's words—in many a little expression and turn of thought, that this Sabbath worshipping was, for him, no empty form; that he came from it holier and happier. That evening there was a kind of sweet, serious, chastened gravity in his tone and in his tenderness that drew my heart nearer his than I had felt it before, and yet made me feel half afraid of him. Very docile in spirit as well as in act; for once, I tried to learn of my husband.
We paced along the low, wild sea-shore, under the stars, in the balmy night air, and I tried to make him speak plainly to me of his faith and hope as a Christian. A girlish shyness on his part—or what appeared to me such—prevented my getting at the depth of his religions feeling. He seemed to have a vague awe and dread of speaking of these things If this Religion were a real thing, it seemed to me that it would bear to be looked at in the face—to be spoken of in plain words; but I could get from Harold nothing but indefinite generalizations: of his individual experience I could learn nothing, and I did not want to hear from his lips any of the trite common-places that I heard so often before. I found that my husband could not reason—could not even give a reason for his faith. I ought to have looked to his life for the teaching I wanted.
A WIPES STORY.
After this evening, the subject of religion came to be an avoided one between us. I am sure I had unwittingly pained Harold by my tone, and I think he dreaded to find out how shallow were the waters of my belief. He loved me so well, that even this shadowy imagining and dread weakened his own faith. He loosed his anchor from its firmest hold in the haven of true rest, and so was more at the mercy of the wind and waves, liable to be wearily driven about and tossed.
All my influence—and I gradually grew to have much—over my husband was injurious to him—unhappy for him. It was of a destructive kind for a woman to possess—of a fiendish kind for any woman to wield. He grew to fear my uncertain temper, my scorn or sarcasm, expressed seldom perhaps by words, but often by look and gesture, which he read too much aright. I loved power diabolically, because lor its own sake. I felt my power over him, and made him feel it too.
Our sojourn in the Highlands was, on the whole, a happy one: looked back on from a later time, it showed very fair and bright. I would willingly have prolonged it, but I fancied my husband began to show signs of weariness at the close of a month. So we went
My home was very beautiful. Harold's thoughtful love had collected there, books, birds, pictures, music, flowers; everything he 1 could think of that should help to make my solitary morning hours pass away swiftly and pleasantly. My heart would have been very, very hard had it not been deeply grateful in its first surprise. Our coming to such a home could not be anything but happy. I thought, when he planned and arranged all these things, bow many beautiful anticipations of future happiness must have been clustering and brightening round my dear husband's heart
Such reflections quite subdued me, filling me with a strange pitying love for him. For awhile I kept such a strict watch and ward over my tongue and temper, ruled my rebellious nature with such an iron hand, that
everything went smoothly and prosperously; I guarded Harold's heart from the only thing that would wound it; in cherishing his happiness I found my own. But I had no real and sufficient occupation; so much time and nothing to do in it; such a superfluity of unapplied power—such a lack of necessary patience. I soon became conscious that there was always a great aching void at my heart. Where I thought to find sympathy with every thought and emotion, a constant stimulus to all aspiration and mental exertion, I did not always find myself even understood. After awhile my vague uneasiness deepened into torturing longing and disquiet
In my drawing-room I had found a splendid piano. Harold had said he liked music. I thought I had discovered both an occupation and a motive for it, when I applied myself heart and soul to the cultivation of my musical power. The slightest expression of a wish to take lessons placed the services of a firstrate master at my disposal. I had the taste of a real musician, and was already more than ordinarily accomplished in the art; now I studied root and branch, theory and practice, throwing all my unapplied energy into my endeavor. My zeal lasted through a whole autumn and winter: I wanted to surprise Harold by my performance, so never let him hear my practice. I employed myself in the composition of a piece. I had attempted this before in the long, lonely evenings often spent at the school-room piano at the Stones. The theme of this present effort was very wild and fanciful; mournful in the beginning—more mournful in the end—dying out into the extreme silence of death. Midway between beginning and end was a lively movement, full of some great tumultuous joy.
I submitted my MS. to my master's perusal. He played it through once or twice. I interrupted him impatiently to show him an ill-expressed meaning. When he had finished he bowed and paid me some compliments, showing me tears in his eyes; but I did not listen or heed—I only wanted the use of his knowledge, not the expression of his praise; and so I somewhat haughtily gave him to understand. He bowed again, and then favored me with some straightforward criticisms that were really useful.
It was the London season; my husband wished to see me do the honors of his beautiful house. So we were to give a very largo party. It rather pleased me to be the centre of attraction in a large circle, and yet I despised myself for the pleasure it gave me. In this, as in many things, I felt my two natures at war.
This particular evening it was more pride for my husband than any care for the opinion formed of me, that determined me to appear