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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A reconstructed marriage online

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" You are not poor, you only feel poor because you
spent so much on Christina."

" Who was a wicked failure, and mother says
you were the prompter of her sinful conduct."

" Me 1 I had no more to do with her final choice
than your mother had. I did not even know the
name of the man she married."

" But you talked sentiment, poetry, honor, and
such stuff to her."

" Never. She would not have understood me if
I had."

" What do you mean? "



A Reconstructed Marriage 233

" What I say, Christina turned sentiment, poetry,
honor, and such stuff, into laughter. She saw only
one side of any person or thing the comic side.
If she could mimic you, she partly understood you;
if she could not mimic you, then you were uninter
esting and unknowable. But Christina was as kind
to me as she could be to any one. She is gone, and
I have no friend left here."

"Am I not your friend?"

" You are my husband. I have had many friends,
none of them were the least like you."

" A poor man between his mother and his wife
is in a desperate fix."

" He is, because he has no business to be in such
a position. It is an unnatural one a forbidden one.
Until a man is willing to give up his mother, he has
no right to take a wife. Under all conditions it
must be one or the other; the two existing happily
together are so rare, that they are merely exceptions
that prove the rule."

" It would have been very hard on my mother,
had I given her up for a wife."

" Yet your mother took her husband away from
his mother, and so backward goes it, to the Eden
days of every race. And you also made the same
mistake that Rebekah told Isaac she was weary of
her life for you married a stranger, and because
of this, she is continually asking, as Rebekah did,
What good is my life to me with this daughter of
Heth under my roof? And also she has made our
lives of no good to us ! "



234 A Reconstructed Marriage

" Is it not my duty to love and honor my mother?
Is it not right?"

" It is your duty, and your right also, to love and
honor the wife whom you have persuaded to leave
her father and mother, her home and friends."

" Then the right of the mother, and the right of
the wife, are both positive?"

" So positive that both cannot be served in the
same place, and at the same time; for the one right
will be broken to pieces against the other right, since
there is no community of feeling between the family
claim of the mother and the moral and natural claim
of the wife."

" Then what is a man to do? "

" ' A man shall leave father and mother, and
cleave unto his wife.' That is the imperative, and
ultimate decision of the God and Father of us all.
And if it were not the nearly universal rule, what
miserable, loveless children would be born, and how
the jealous, quarrelling families of the earth would
have become hateful in God's sight. We have only
to consider our own case. Until your mother came
between us, we loved each other truly, and were very
happy."

" A man with a big business, Dora, has something
else to think of than love."

"In his hours of business, yes; but in his hours
of relaxation, his love ought to rest and refresh him.
There was a movement in the next room, and Theo
dora went there with light, swift steps. Robert was
walking moodily up and down, and through the



A Reconstructed Marriage 235

open door he saw her kneeling by a large chair, and
David's arms were round her neck, and she was tell
ing him he must now go to bed. " Were you tired,
that you fell asleep here?" she asked, and he an
swered: "I was waiting for you, mother, to hear
my prayer, and kiss me good-night; and the sleep
came to me."

Then she sat down, and David knelt at her knees,
and said the Lord's prayer, adding to it a petition
for blessing on his father, his grandmother Camp
bell, his aunts Isabel and Christina, his grandfather
and grandmother Newton, and his dear mother, with
a final petition that God would love David and make
him a good boy. It was a scene so sweet and
natural that Robert stood still in respect to the simple
rite, vaguely wondering in what forgotten life he
had spoken words like them.

Then Theodora called Ducie, and gave the child
into her care, but as he was leaving the room he
saw his father, and running to him, he said: " Father,
kiss David too." Robert's heart stirred to the eager
request, and he lifted the little lad in his arms, and
actually did kiss him. In that moment the pretty
face with its glances so free, so bright, so seeking,
without guile or misgiving, impressed itself on Rob
ert's memory forever. Even after the child had
gone away, he felt as if he still held him, and the
consciousness of the soft, rosy cheek against his own
was so vivid that he put his hand up and stroked
his cheek until the sensation left him.

He was really in a great strait of feeling, and,



236 A Reconstructed Marriage

if he could not do right of himself, was in a strait,
out of which there was no other decent way. He
looked longingly at Theodora, who had resumed her
work, and her pale, passionless face touched him by
its complete contrast to the face he had just left
the hard, gossipy, pitiless, scornful face of his
mother. He could not forget his son's prayer. He
knew it well, he himself was never one to prompt,
nor to correct, so it was certain that Theodora had
taught the boy to pray for those who constantly
spoke evil of her. He resolved to tell his mother
of this incident, and again he tried to read the feel
ing on his wife's face. It was not depression, it
was not sorrow, it was far from anger, there was
nothing of indifference in it, and nothing restless or
uncertain. He did not understand it. How could
such a man as Robert understand a life of pure piety
and intelligence, working its way upward through
love and pain.

He sat down by her and touched her hand, but
said only one word: "Theodora! " She lifted her
sad, lovely eyes to his. " Theodora ! " he said again,
and she laid her hand in his, and whispered " Rob
ert!" Then his kiss brought back the color to
her cheeks and the light to her eyes, and when he
vowed that he loved her and David more dearly
than any other mortals, she believed him ; and found
sweet words to excuse all his faults, and to tell him
he was " loved with all her heart."

Was she a foolish woman to forgive so easily,
and so much? It was because she loved so much



A Reconstructed Marriage 237

that she could forgive so much, and of such loving,
foolish hearts is the Kingdom of Heaven. For no
love is so swift and welcome as returning love. Even
the angels desire to witness the reunion of hearts
that have been kept apart by fault, or fate, and as
for Theodora, she had the courage to be happy in
this promise of better days, knowing that she came
not to this house by accident, but that it was the very
place God had chosen for her. Besides which, the
heart has its arguments as well as the head, and at
this hour she was judging Robert by her love, and
not by her understanding.



CHAPTER IX

THE LAST STRAW

FOR a few days Theodora clung tenaciously to her
hope, but it had only told her a flattering tale.
Robert had gradually fallen below the plane moral
and intellectual on which his wife lived; and it was
only by a painful endeavor, that he returned to the
Robert of six years previously. His wife's conver
sation, though bright and clever, was not as pleasant
to him as his mother's biting gossip about the house
and the callers; and he could assume a slippered,
careless toilet in her presence, that made him un
comfortable when at the side of the always prettily
gowned Theodora. For when such a circumstance
happened, he involuntarily felt compelled to apol
ogize, and he did not think apologies belonged to
his position as master of the house. He had lost
his taste for music, unless there was some stranger
present whom he desired to make envious or aston
ished; in fact he had descended to that common
place stage of love, which values a wife or a mistress
only according to the value set upon her by out
siders by their envy and jealousy of himself, as
the clever winner of such an extraordinary artist,
or beauty. Consequently, in a time of economy,
forbidding the entertainment of strangers, Theo-

238



A Reconstructed Marriage 239

dora's hours of supremacy were likely to be few
and far between.

But this fact did not trouble Robert. He came
home from the works tired of the business world,
and the household chatter of his mother was a relief
that cost him no surrender of any kind. Yet had
Theodora attempted the same role, he would have
seen and felt at once its malice and injustice, and
despised her for destroying his ideals and illusions.
Thus, even her excellencies were against her. Again,
Mrs. Campbell disguised much of the real character
of her abuse, in the picturesqueness of the Scotch
patois; nothing she said in this form sounded as
wicked and cruel as it would have done in plain
English. But this disguise would have been
a ridiculous effort in Theodora, and could
only have subjected her to scorn and laugh
ter; while it was native to her enemy, and
a vivid and graphic vehicle both for her malice
and her mockery.

Thus, when Robert was rising to go to his own
parlor, she would say: "Smoke another cigar, Rob
ert, or light your pipe, boy. I dinna dislike a pipe,
I may say freely, I rather fancy it. It doesna re
mind me o' the stable, and I have no nerves to be
shocked by its vulgarity. God be thankit, I was born
before nerves were in fashion ! And He knows that
one nervous woman in a house is mair than enou'.
I am sorry for ye, my lad! "

" It is not Dora's nerves, mother; it is her refined
taste. She thinks a pipe low, common, plebeian,



240 A Reconstructed Marriage

you know, and for the same reason she hates me
to wear a cap she thinks it makes me look like a
workingman. Dora is quite aristocratic, you know,"
and he mimicked the English accent and idioms, and
saw nothing repellent in an old woman giggling at
him.

" It is nerves, my lad," she answered, " pure
nerves, and nerves are a' imagination. Whenever
did I, or your sisters, or any o' our flesh and blood
have an attack o' the nerves? Whenever did a
decent pipe o' tobacco, or the smell o' a good salt
herring mak' any o' us sick at the stomach? Was
there ever a Campbell made vulgar, or low, by a
cap on his head? 'Deed they are pretty men always,
but prettiest of a' when they are wearing the Glen-
gary wi' a sprig o' myrtle in the front o' it. Dod!
it makes me scunner at some folks' aristocracy. I
trow, I am as weel born as any Methodist preacher's
daughter, and I have kin behind me and around
me to show it; but you can smoke a pipe, or cap
your head, or slipper your feet, and my fine feelings
willna suffer for a moment."

" You are mother you understand."

" To be sure I do. Poor lad, ye hae lots to fret
ye, and nane need a pipe o' tobacco, or an easy
deshabille mair than you do; if you are understand
ing what I mean by deshabille I'm not vera sure
mysel', but I'm thinking it means easy fitting clothes
on ye; that is my meaning o' the word anyhow, and
I don't care a bawbee, whether it is the French
meaning or not."



A Reconstructed Marriage 241

" You are all right, mother. You generally are
all right."

" I am always all right, Robert; and that you find
out in the long run, don't ye, my lad? "

Her conversation was constantly of this vulgar,
commonplace type, but it carried home veiled doubts
and innuendos, as no other form could have done;
and it was homelike and familiar to Robert. With
it as the vehicle for her flattery and her iron will,
she managed her son as no sensitive, truthful, honor
able woman could have done, unless she flung deli
cacy, truth, and honor aside, and went down into
moral slums to find her ways and weapons.

On the fourth evening after the promising recon
ciliation, Robert said: "I want a whiff of strong
tobacco, Dora. I have been fretted all day, so I
will go into the library to smoke to-night."

" I will go with you, Robert. I do not believe
the tobacco will make me sick. You know when it

did so, there were reasons why "

' You must do nothing of the kind, Dora. I
cannot have you made ill, and the fear of it doing
so would take away all the comfort I might derive
from it."

" But, Robert "

" No, no! I shall come to the parlor, and smoke
a cigar, if you insist."

" I shall not insist. You will not stay long away
from me, dear? "

11 When my smoke is finished, I will come."

Then he went to the library, and in a few minutes



242 A Reconstructed Marriage

his mother followed him there. As housekeeper,
she had formulated less extravagant menus for the
table, and some other small economies, and their
discussion was her excellent excuse if she needed
an excuse, which she rarely did. Among these econ
omies, the dismissal of Ducie came to question again,
and Robert said he " thought Ducie would have to
remain. Dora had set her heart on keeping her,"
he continued, " and I think it will also be more com
fortable for me, mother."

" Nonsense ! It will not affect you in any way."

" There is Dora's breakfast, who is to carry it
upstairs to her? "

" It is quite time that nonsense was stopped ! Let
the high-stomached English ' my lady ' come to the
family breakfast table. It is good enou' for the
like o' her. But I'll tell you how it is. McNab
has the habit o' humoring her wi' dainties mush
rooms on toast, a few chicken livers, and the like;
and our decent oatmeal, and bread and feesh, arena
as delicate as food should be, for this daughter o'
a poor Methodist preacher."

" Come, mother, her father at least is a servant
of God, one of His messengers, and there is no nobil
ity like to that in this world. You know well, that
Scotland has always paid more honor to God's serv
ants, than to the servants of earthly princes."

" Scotsmen arena infallible in their religious views.
I ken one thing sure, and that is ministers' daugh
ters hae been the deil's daughters to me, and to my
sons vera Eves o' temptation wi' the apple o' sin



A Reconstructed Marriage 243

and misery in their hands for my two bonnie
lads."

" I wonder, mother, where my brother is."

" He is dead. I comfort mysel' wi' that thought.
Death was the best thing that could happen him.
The poor lad, not long out o' his teens, and tied to
a wife, and to the wife's mother likewise. Never
was a finer lad flung to the mischief than your
brother Da nay, my tongue willna speak his name.
Now then, remember your brother, and don't let
your wife ruin you, Robert."

" There is no mother-in-law in my case it is
my wife that has the mother-in-law," and he laughed
in a grim, self-satisfied way.

The mother-in-law in question was not offended,
far from it; she laughed too, and then answered:
u Ay, the poor lass has the mother-in-law, but you
hae the mother, and be thankfu' for the gift and the
grace o' her. Your mother willna see you wronged,
nor put upon. She'll back you up in a' that is for
your authority and welfare. She will that ! "

" Well, well! We were talking of Ducie."

" Ducie is the backer-up against you, and she be
to go to her ain folks to-morrow. That is what I
intend."

" I do not believe you will succeed in getting rid
of her."

" If you will leave the matter entirely to me, I
will rid the house o' her."

With this question unsettled between them, it was
easy to make trouble, and Robert was cowardly



244 A Reconstructed Marriage

enough to leave it to the women, though he knew
well that a few decisive words from himself would
put an end to the dispute. Mrs. Campbell was
glad he did not say them. She enjoyed the thought
of the probable fray, and only waited until Robert
had gone to business the next day to begin it.

" Jepson," she then said, " you will tell Ducie to
come to my parlor at once."

Ducie was expecting this call, and she was in the
mood to stand upon her rights, which released her
from all obligations to obey Mrs. Traquair Camp
bell's orders. So she loitered in her room putting
curls over her brow, in the way they were peculiarly
offensive to Mrs. Campbell, adding to this saucy
misdemeanor earrings, and two pink bows, a ring
on her engagement finger, an embroidered apron,
and slippers with rosettes holding a small imitation
diamond buckle. Before these preparations were
quite complete there was another very peremptory
message for her, and she laughingly told Jepson to
inform his mistress, that she " hadn't made up her
mind yet, whether she would call on her, or not."

Jepson toned down this message to a respectful
apology for delay, and Mrs. Campbell was on the
point of sending another order, when Ducie entered
her room.

" I sent for you to come at once. Why didn't
you?"

" I was busy."

" What were you doing? "

" Dressing myself."



A Reconstructed Marriage 245

" You have dressed yourself like a fool."

" Please, ma'am, that is something you have
nought to do with. My mistress told me how to
dress. I am going out with her and Master David
to dinner."

" Where are you going to dinner? "

" I was not bid to say where."

" You were bid not to tell me."

" My mistress did not name you."

" You cannot go out. You will help McNab in
the kitchen until two o'clock."

" I am not forced to do anything you tell me,
ma'am, and I don't know as I ever will again."

" You are a lazy, impudent baggage."

" Now then, that will do, ma'am. You are the
last that ought to speak of my laziness, for I've been
working for you three months, and never got a six
pence, or a penny piece, for all I did. Thanks, I
never expected; for it's only black words you keep
by you; and as for black looks, if you could sell
them by the yard, you might start an undertaking
business."

" Do you know who you are talking to? "

" Yes, but I don't know as ever I talked with a
worse woman."

" I will make you suffer for your impertinence."

" That's likely, for you hurt people out of pure
wickedness."

"Your month is up to-day at five o'clock. You
will help McNab until two. Then you will pack
your trunk, and come to me for your wage. There



246 A Reconstructed Marriage

is a train for Kendal at four o'clock. You will
take it. You will leave this house at half-past three."

" It caps all to listen to you. But the outside of
this house is the right side for anybody who expects
decent treatment. I am going with my mistress at
half-past eleven, and I shall come back here with
her, when she returns. And thanks be, ma'am, I
am not going to Kendal. I am going to be married,
and teach one Glasgow man how to treat a wife."

" You will come to me at three o'clock for your
month's wage."

" You did not hire me, ma'am, and I don't take
my pay from you. My mistress is now waiting for
me," and with these words she turned to leave the
room.

" Ducie! Ducie! Come here instantly! "

But Ducie had closed the door, and did not hear,
at least she did not answer. Then Mrs. Campbell
followed her, and in something of a passion assailed
Theodora.

" That impudent wench of yours has been behav
ing most rudely to me, Dora. I want her until two
o'clock, can you not make her obey me? "

" I am going out to dinner, and need her very
much. She has to take charge of David."

" Leave the boy at home."

" I cannot."

" Where are you going? "

" To Mrs. Oliphant's. They are dining early
to-day, and I shall be home before dark."

" That will be too late. I must have her now."



A Reconstructed Marriage 247

" I cannot make her work for you, if she does
not wish." Then turning to Ducie she asked, " if she
would not obey Mrs. Campbell's desire? "

" No, ma'am," was the straight answer. " I
would not lift a finger for Mrs. Campbell."

" You hear what she says."

" She has talked in the most shameful way to me.
I think Jepson must have left the whiskey bottle
around."

" Oh, no ! Ducie hates whiskey. She would not
touch it."

" Pay her what you owe her, and send her off."

" I have no money to pay anything."

" I will lend you the money."

" I do not wish to discharge her. She satisfies
me thoroughly. I see no reason to send her away."

" You have the best of all reasons my order to
do so."

" I will ask Robert to-night."

" You will ask Robert, will you? So shall I."

Then Theodora called David, and the little lad
came running to her. He was wearing a kilt of
the Campbell tartan, a small philabeg, a black velvet
jacket trimmed with gilt buttons, and a Glengary
ornamented with an eagle's feather. His frank,
beautiful face, his strong vitality, and his pretty
manners were instantly notable, for when he saw his
grandmother was present, he lifted his cap and said:
" Good-fnorning, grandmother." She did not an
swer, though she regarded him a moment with a
pride she could not conceal, and as she left the room



248 A Reconstructed Marriage

she told herself: " The boy is a Scot, in spite of his
English dam. He is a Scot, even if he is not a
Campbell, and please God we will mak' him a Camp
bell yet."

That day Theodora met at Mrs. Oliphant's a
gentleman whom she had seen there not unfrequently
during the winter, an American called Kennedy, and
a very sincere friendship had grown up between
them. After an early dinner he asked permission to
take David to a circus then in Glasgow, and the
boy's entreaties being added, Theodora could not
resist them. They went off in a hurry of delight, and
finding herself alone with Mrs. Oliphant, the long,
carefully hidden sorrows of her heart burst forth in
a flood that bore away all pride, all restraint, and all
the jealously kept barriers of a long reticence and
concealment.

How it happened she never knew, but with pas
sionate weeping she told her friend all the miseries
of her daily life, and the greater olread that black
ened and haunted her future the terror lest David
should be taken from her, and sent to some severe,
disciplinary boarding-school. Weeping in each
other's arms, the confession and consolation went on,
until Margaret Oliphant dared to say the words
Theodora feared to utter.

" You must take your child, and go where Robert
Campbell will never find you, until David is a man,
and able to defend himself."

" Thank you, Margaret. I have been longing to
tell you that I see no other conclusion. But where



A Reconstructed Marriage 249

shall I go? India, Australia, Canada, are all gov
erned by English laws, and so then, anywhere in
these countries, David could be taken from me, and
my husband could force me to return to his home.
So much I have learned, from similar cases to mine,
reported in the newspapers."

" You must go to the United States. There, you
may work and enjoy the money you earn; no hus
band can take it from you. There, you cannot
be forced to live with a husband who treats you
cruelly, and I am sure no court would allow a child
of tender age to be taken from a mother so properly
fitted to bring him up. You must have a talk with
Mr. Kennedy. He can help you. He will be glad
to help you."

" I thought he had business here."

" He has business he thinks of great importance.
His wife is dead, and he brought her two daughters
to a school she remembered in Edinburgh, but not
being sure his children would be happy there, he is
staying to watch over them."

" Are they happy? "

" No. He is going to take them home again,
when the school closes in June perhaps before."

"Then, Margaret?"

"Then you could go with him?"

They went over and over this plan, constantly
evolving new fears and new advantages, and were
yet in the fever of the discussion, when Mr. Ken
nedy and David returned. It was both David's and
Ducie's first visit to a circus, and after a few minutes'



250 A Reconstructed Marriage

rapturous description, they were permitted to go to
another room and talk over the enchanting scenes.

Then Mrs. Oliphant said: " Come now, David
Campbell, and tell your sister Theodora how heart
ily you are at her service." And the supposed Mr.
Kennedy took Theodora's hands, and said: "My
dear sister. I have known all your sad life for the
last half-year. I am here to help you."

But Theodora looked amazed and even troubled,
and he sat down at her side and continued: " I am
really David Campbell, your husband's elder brother.
I am also the foster-son of Mrs. McNab, and I have
heard all from her, and have been waiting here,
knowing that the end to a life so unhappy must come,
and wondering that you have borne it so long."

Then Theodora remembered that she had heard
from Ducie, that McNab had a son come home from


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 14 of 23)