Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A reconstructed marriage online

. (page 6 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 6 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of angry disappointment.

Dora went to his side and praised again all he
had done. She said she would forget all that was
spoiled, or broken, or stolen for his sake, and for
sweet love's sake, and she emphasized all her tender
words with kisses and endearing names.

And she found, as many women find, that the
more she renounced her just displeasure and chagrin
the harder it was to conciliate her husband's.
Whether he enjoyed Dora's efforts to comfort him,
or was really of that childish temper which gets
more and more injured, as it is more and more con
soled, it was at this stage of her married life im
possible for Theodora to decide. However, in a
little while he condescended to forgive Theodora for
the annoyances others had caused him, and said: " It
is later than I thought it. We have forgotten tea."

" I do not want any."

" I am going to speak to mother. Shall I send
you a cup? "

" No, thank you. Do not stop long, Robert."

She went to the window and looked out into the
dreary night. A heavy rain was falling, and not
a star was visible in that muffled atmosphere. Sor
rowful feelings pervaded all her thoughts, and she



A Reconstructed Marriage 89

asked her soul eagerly for some password out of
the tangle of small trials, which like brambles made
her path difficult and painful. For the circum
stances in which she so suddenly found herself, con
founded and troubled her. Had Robert deceived
her? Had she been deceived in Robert?

It was, however, a consciousness of having fallen
below herself, which hurt her worst of all. She
had made concessions, where concession was wrong;
she had made apologies for her husband, whereas
he ought to have made them to her.

" I have been weak," she whispered to her Inner
Woman, and that truthful monitor replied:

" To be weak is to be wicked."

" I have resigned my just rights and my just
anger."

"And so have encouraged others to be unjust and
unkind, and to sin against you."

" And I have gained nothing by my cowardly self-
sacrifice."

" Nothing but humiliation and suffering, which
you deserve."

"What can I do?"

" Retrace your first wrong step, in order to take
your first right step."

Ere this mental catechism was finished, Ducie en
tered the rooms with her arms full of clean linen,
and Theodora said: " I see you have got the linen,
Ducie. Make up my bed first."

" Got it ! Yes, ma'am, after a fight for it. The
chambermaid was willing enough, but madame held



90 A Reconstructed Marriage

the keys, and madame said the beds had been
changed four days ago, and she would not have
them changed but once a week. I refused to go
away, and the girl went back to her, and was ordered
to leave the room. Then I went, and told her that
whether she was willing or unwilling I had to have
clean linen, as the beds had been stripped, and Mr.
Campbell wanted to go to sleep, and Mrs. Camp
bell had a headache. Then she flew into a passion,
and I do not think I durst have stayed in her pres
ence longer, but Mr. Campbell was heard coming,
so she flung the keys to one of the young ladies,
and told her to ' see to it.' Then I had a fresh
fight for pillow-cases, and covers for the dressing
tables, and I was told to remember that I would get
no more linen for a week. ' Fresh linen once a week
is the rule in this house,' the young lady said, ' and
no rules will be broken for Mrs. Robert. You can
tell her Miss Campbell said so.' '

" Well, Ducie, we must look out for ourselves.
I will buy linen to-morrow, and then we can change
every day in the week, if we want to."

Robert had been requested not to stay long, but
his interview with his mother proved to be both long
and stormy. The old lady had felt the irritation of
the dinner table, and though she herself was wholly
to blame for its quarrelsome atmosphere, she was
not influenced by a truth she chose to ignore. Ever
since dinner she had been talking to her daughters
of Theodora, and her smouldering dislike was now
a flaming one. The application for clean linen had



A Reconstructed Marriage 91

made her furious, and she was scolding about it
when Robert entered the room. But he knew before
he opened the door of his mother's parlor what he
had to meet, and the dormant demon of his own
temper roused itself for the encounter. He went
into her presence with a face like a thundercloud,
and asked angrily:

" Why did you let any one I say any one into
my rooms, mother? I think their occupancy with
out my permission a scandalous piece of business."

" Keep your temper, Robert Campbell, for your
wife. She will need it, I warrant."

" Answer my question, if you please! "

" Well, then, if it is scandalous to entertain your
kindred, it would have been much more scandalous
to have turned them out of the house."

" Kindred! It is a far cry to call kindred with
that Crawford and Laird crowd. I will not have
them here! Take notice of that."

" They will come here when they come to Glas
gow."

" Then I shall turn them out."

" Then I shall go out with them."

" My rooms "

" Preserve us ! No harm has been done to your
rooms."

" They have been defiled in every way old curl
papers, dirty hairpins, stains on the carpets and
covers. I burn with shame when I think of my wife
seeing their vulgar remains."

"Your wife? Your wife, indeed! She is "



92 A Reconstructed Marriage

" I don't want your opinion of my wife."

"You born idiot! What do you want?"

" I want you to write to the women who opened
my wife's trunks, and ruined her clothing, and stole
her jewelry, or I "

" Don't you dare to throw ( or ' at me. I can
say ' or ' as big as you. What before earth and
heaven are you saying ! "

" That my rooms have been entered, my wife's
trunks broken open "

"You have said that once already! I had the
Dalkeiths in my spare rooms. Was I to turn the
Crawfords and the Lairds on to the sidewalk because
your rooms had been refurnished for Dora New
ton?"

" Campbell is my wife's name."

" I thank God your kindred had the first use of
your rooms ! You ought to be glad of the circum
stance. And pray, what harm is there in opening
a bride's trunks? "

" Only burglary."

" Don't be a tenfold fool. A bride's costumes are
always examined by her women kin and friends. My
trunks were all opened by the Campbells before your
father brought me home. Every Scotch bride ex
pects it, and if you have married a poor, silly Eng
lish girl, who knows nothing of the ways and
manners of your native country, I am not to
blame."

" Let me tell you "

" Let me finish, sir. I wish to say there was noth-



A Reconstructed Marriage 93

ing in Dora Newton's trunks worth looking at
home-made gowns, and the like."

" Yet two of them have been worn and ruined."

" Jean Crawford and Bell Greenhill wore them
a few times. They wanted to go to the theatre or
somewhere, and had not brought evening gowns with
them. I told them to wear some of Dora's things.
Why not? She is in the family now, more's the
pity."

" They had no right to touch them."

" I'm sure I wish they had not worn them. Jean
and Bell are stylish-looking girls in their own gowns.
Dora's made them look dowdy and common. I was
fairly sorry for them."

"Which of them wore Theodora's ring? That
ring must come back must, I say. Understand me,
mother, it must come back."

" If it is lost-

" It will be a case for the police sure as
death ! "

The oath frightened her. " You have lost your
senses, Robert," she cried; " you are fairly bewitched.
And oh, what a miserable woman I am ! Both my
lads ! " and she covered her face with her handker
chief, and began to sigh and sob bitterly.

Then Isabel went to her mother's side, and as she
did so said with scornful anger:

" You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Robert
Campbell. You have nearly broken your mother's
heart by your disgraceful marriage. Can you not
make Dora behave decently, and not turn the old



94 A Reconstructed Marriage

home and our poor simple lives upside down, with
all she requires? "

" Isabel, do you think it was right to put people
in the rooms I had spent so much time and money
in furnishing? "

" Quite right, seeing the people were our own
kindred. It was not right to spend all the time and
money you spent on those rooms for a stranger.
You ought to be glad some of your own family got
a little pleasure in them first of all."

" They did not know how to use them. Both
the Crawfords and Lairds are vulgar, common, and
uneducated women. They know nothing of the
decencies of life."

" That may be true, but they are mother's kin,
and blood is thicker than water. The Crawfords
and Lairds are blood-kin; Dora is only water."

" Theodora is my wife. I see that mother will
no longer listen to me. Try and convince her that
I am in earnest. My rooms are my rooms, and no
one comes into them unless they are invited by Theo
dora or myself. My wife's clothing and ornaments
of all kinds belong to my wife, and not to the whole
family. Write to Jean Crawford, and Bell Green-
hill, and tell them to return all they have taken, or
I shall make them do so."

" I suppose, Robert, they have only borrowed
whatever they have. They often borrow my rings
and brooches and even my dresses."

" Isabel, when people borrow even a ring, without
the knowledge and consent of the owner, the law



A Reconstructed Marriage 95

calls it stealing; and the person who has so borrowed
it, the law calls a thief. I hope you understand me."

He was leaving the room when his mother sobbed
out: "Oh, Robert, Robert! "

For a moment he hesitated; then he went to her
side and asked: " What is it you wish, mother? "

" I did not mean to hurt you I was brought
up so different. I thought it would be all right
with you that you, at least would understand. I
expected you knew all about the marriage customs
you are Scotch. Oh, dear, dear! My poor heart
will break!"

He touched her hand kindly and answered:
" Well, do not cry, mother, I will say no more about
it. Good-night."

"Good (sob) night (sob), Robert!"

But as soon as the door closed, the furious woman
flung down her handkerchief in a rage, saying in
low, passionate tones : " You see, girls ! When you
can't reason with a man, can't touch his brain, you
may try crying about him, for perhaps he has some
thing he calls a heart."

Returning to his own apartments Robert found
that the lights had been lowered and that Theodora
was apparently asleep. He stood looking at her a
few minutes, but decided not to awaken her. She
would, he thought, want to know all that had been
said and he was tired of the subject. His mother's
tears had washed all color and vitality out of it.
She believed herself to be right and from her point
of view he admitted she was. He told himself that



96 A Reconstructed Marriage

Theodora did not comprehend the wonderful com
plexity of the Scotch character he must try and
teach her. And as for her destroyed, or lost adorn
ments, they could be replaced. Of course money
would be, as it were, lost in such replacement, but
it would be a good lesson, and lessons of all kinds
take money. Thus, by a new road, he had come
back to the usual Campbell appreciation of the
Campbells, for though he was keenly alive to the
individual defects of that large family he was at
the same time conscious of their superiority to the
rest of the world.

In the morning he began to give Theodora the
lesson he had himself absorbed. He told her that
it was some of their own relatives who had occupied
the rooms, and then explained the wonderful strength
of the family tie in Scotch families. " I think," he
added, " that under the circumstances, mother did
the only possible thing."

" And the opening of my trunks, Robert dear, and
the use of my clothing, is that also a result of the
Scotch family tie? "

" Yes-s," he answered with easy composure, " they
looked on you as one of us and supposed you would
gladly loan what they needed. Isabel says they
often borrow her brooches and rings and gowns.
Moreover, mother informed me, that it is the com
mon custom to open a bride's trunks, and examine
her belongings."

" A very rude and barbarous custom, I think,
Robert, and it makes no excuse for an infringement



A Reconstructed Marriage 97

of manifest courtesy and kindness. And I am sure
that every one can forgive an injury, easier than an
infringement of their rights."

" You must try and look at the matter reasonably,
dear Dora."

" You mean unreasonably, Robert, but if you do
not care, why should I?" Robert made no reply,
but went on examining his fingernails, apparently
without noticing the look of pained surprise in his
wife's eyes, nor yet the far deeper sign of distress
that dumb lip-biting which indicates an intensity
of outraged feeling.

This was Theodora's first lesson in the complexi
ties of the Scotch character, and it was a dear one.
It cost her many illusions, many hopes, and some
secret tears. And the gain was doubtful. Nature
knows how to profit from every shower of rain, every
glint of sunshine, every drop of dew; but which of
us ever learn from any past experience, how to pre
pare a future that will give us what we desire?

During the night she had plumbed the depths of
depression, but in a short deep morning sleep, she
had found the strength to possess her soul, not in
patience, but in a sweet, firm resistance. She would
accept cheerfully the lot she had chosen, for to bear
dumbly and passively the many petty wrongs which
ill-temper and dislike must bring her would only
tempt those who hated her to a continuance and
enlargement of their sin. Every one, even her hus
band, would despise her, and she suddenly remem
bered how God, when He would reason with Job,



98 A Reconstructed Marriage

bid him rise from his dunghill, stand upon his feet,
and answer Him like a man. So, she would submit
to no injustice, nor suffer without contradiction any
lying accusation, yet her weapons of defence should
be kind and clean, and her victory won by love and
truth and honor for in this way she herself would
rise by

" the things put under her feet,
By what she mastered of good and gain,
By the pride deposed, by the passion slain,
And the 'vanquished ills she would hourly meet."

The prospect of such a victory made her heart swell
with a noble joy, for thus she would be creating her
spiritual self, and so being God-like be also loved of
God.

Her first effort was to compel herself to go to the
breakfast table. She wished to have Ducie bring
her a cup of coffee and a couple of rolls to her room,
but that would only be shirking the inevitable. So
she went to the family table smiling, and almost
radiant in a pretty pink gown, and beautiful white
muslin neckwear. Her manner was cheerful and
conciliatory, but it utterly failed, because the old lady
believed it to be the result of orders from her son.
She was sure Robert had seen the reasonableness
of her conduct, and told Theodora to accept the
circumstances as unavoidable, and perhaps even ex
cusable.

So in spite of her smiles and efforts at conversa
tion, the meal was silent and unhappy and towards



A Reconstructed Marriage 99

the end really distressing. It had begun with oat
meal porridge served on large dinner plates, and she
had accepted her share without remark, though un
able to eat it. But later, when a dish of boiled salt
herring appeared, its peculiar odor made her so sick
that it was with painful difficulty she sat through
the meal. Robert noticed her white face and general
air of distress, and slightly hurried his own meal in
consequence.

"Are you ill, Dora?" he asked, when she fell
nauseated and limp among the sofa cushions.

" It was the smell of the salt fish, Robert. I
could not conquer it."

" But you must try. We have boiled salt herring
every morning. I do not remember a breakfast
without them."

" Then, dear Robert, I must have a cup of coffee
in my dressing-room."

" You might learn to bear the smell."

" The ordeal would be too wasteful of life."

I don't see "

" No one can afford a disagreeable breakfast, Rob
ert. It spoils the whole day. And I might waste
weeks and months trying to like the odor of boiled
salt herring, and never succeed it is sickening to
me."

" It does not make me sick. I have had a boiled
salt herring to breakfast ever since I was seven years
old."

" You have learned to bear them."

" I like them."



ioo A Reconstructed Marriage

" Did you like them at first? "

" No, but I was made to eat them until at last I
learned to relish them. Mother believed them to
be good for me. Now, I do not think my breakfast
perfect without a boiled salt herring."

" We can force nature to take, and even enjoy
poisons like whiskey and opium, but I think such an
education sinful and unclean."

" Dora, you are too fastidious."

" No, because a wronged body means something
to a sensitive soul."

"If you look at such a small thing in a light so
important, you had better take your breakfast alone.
Good-morning! "



CHAPTER IV

FOES IN THE HOUSEHOLD

SHE was ill for some hours, and all day much
troubled at the circumstance. In her proposed fight
against the hatred of her husband's family she had
lost the first move, for she could well imagine the
triumphant mockery of her mother-in-law over her
weakness and squeamishness. In the afternoon she
asked for the carriage, as she wished to do some
shopping, and was told Mrs. Campbell was intend
ing to use it. Then she sent for a cab and while
she was dressing, Christina came into her room wear
ing her street costume.

" Isabel is going out with mother," she said.
" Can I go with you, Theodora? "

The proposal was not welcome, but without hesi
tation Theodora answered: "I shall be obliged if
you will. I have some shopping to do, and you
can tell me the best places to go to."

" I certainly can; I know all the best shops. I
always do the shopping. I like to shop ; Isabel hates
it. She says the shopmen are not civil to her. Isa
bel is so particular about her dignity."

" That is rather a good quality, is it not? "

" I don't know with that kind of people shop
men and the like it is rather a daft thing to do."

"Daft?"

101



IO2 A Reconstructed Marriage

" Silly, I mean. They have to wait on you, why
should you care how they do it? I don't."

" I am ready. Shall we go now? "

" I am ready. What will you buy first? "

" Linen sheets, pillow-cases, table-cloths, napkins,
etc. We shall want a linen draper."

" Then tell cabby to drive us to Smith and Mc
Donald's. It is perfectly lovely to be with you, and
without mother and Isabel to snub me. I feel as if
I were having a holiday."

" Perhaps I might snub you."

" I am sure you will not. I believe I am going
to have a happy afternoon."

And she really had a few hours that perfectly
delighted her. Theodora asked her advice, and fre
quently took it. Theodora bought her gloves and
lace, and after the shopping was finished, they went
into McLeod's confectionery and had ices and cakes,
lemonade and caramels. For once in her life, Chris
tina had felt herself to be well-informed and im
portant. She had told several funny stories also,
and Theodora had laughed and enjoyed them; in
deed, she felt as if Theodora considered her quite
clever.

" I have had such a jolly afternoon," she said as
they parted. " Thank you for taking me with you !
I cannot tell you how happy I have been."

But to Isabel's queries, she answered with an air
of ennui : " You know well, Isabel, what shopping
means. We went here and there, and bought linen
of all kinds, and wine and cakes, and then we went



A Reconstructed Marriage 103

to the large furniture store, and selected a bookcase;
for it seems that Robert, with all his carefulness, for
got one."

"Did you like her?"

" She is good-natured enough. Everywhere we
went the shopmen fell over each other to wait on her.
My! but it is a grand thing to be beautiful."

" Do you really think her beautiful? "

" Every one else does. It matters little what the
Traquair Campbells think. She is rather saucy,
but she is so pleasant about it you can't take offence."

" Was she saucy to you? "

" Yes."

"What did she say?"

" She said she would be much obliged if I would
tap at the door before entering her room."

" The idea ! "

" Oh, she is nice enough ! I wish mother was
not so set against her. I know she plays and sings,
and I adore good music."

' You will be adoring her next."

" No, I will not, but I intend to use her when
I can."

"What for?"

" To give me a little pleasure to show me how
to dress to lend me books and music, and take me
with her when she goes calling and shopping."

" I would not receive such favors from a person
mother disliked so much."

" Mother never finds any one she likes, except the
Campbelton people frowsy, vulgar things, all of



104 A Reconstructed Marriage

them; and I do think it was a shame to use Dora's
dresses and furs and jewelry the way they did."

" Mother said it was right, and Robert seemed
to think so also that is, after mother had explained
the subject to him."

" Whatever mother thinks, Robert finally thinks
the same. He is more afraid of mother than we
are. I despise a man who can't stick to his own
opinion."

" But if his opinion is wrong? "

"All the same, he ought to stick to it; I should.
I think Dora is a lovely woman, and good, and
clever. Mother ought to be proud of her new
daughter."

" Mother had a high ideal for Robert's wife."

" One that nobody but a Traquair Campbell or
a Jane Dalkeith could fill."

" Jane might have pleased her."

"No one pleases mother! If you gave her the
whites of your eyes, she would not be pleased."

" You must not forget, Christina, that she is our
mother, and that the Scriptures command us to honor
her."

" Sometimes, and in some cases, Isabel, that com
mand is a gey hard one I might say an impossible
one."

" Perhaps, but the Holy Word makes no excep
tions good or bad, wise or foolish, they are to be
honored. Dr. Robertson said so, in his last sermon
to the Sunday School."

" Dr. Robertson isna infallible, and ' wi' his ter*



A Reconstructed Marriage 105

romping, rampaging sons and daughters, he be to
lay down a strict law.' That was Jenny McDonald's
commentary on his sermon. I heard her say so,
and I thought to myself ' Jenny McDonald, you
are a vera discerning woman.' I have respected her
ever since, and I shall see she gets a pair of blankets
at the Christmas fair."

" Well, Christina, I shall not quarrel with you
about Dora. I can live without Dora, but you are
essential."

The evening proved to be as pleasant, as the morn
ing had been disagreeable. Robert had doubtless
suffered some qualms of conscience regarding his
wife's treatment, and resolved to make it up to her
by his own attention. For he believed so firmly in
himself, and in Theodora's love for him, that he
really thought a few kind words would atone for
every wrong and unkindness she had suffered.

He found Theodora in the mood he expected.
She was beautifully gowned, and radiant with wel
coming smiles. He forgot to name her morning in
disposition, but asked what she had been doing all
day, and was much pleased when she answered :

" Christina and I have been shopping this after
noon. She was of great assistance to me, and we
had a delightful time. Then she told him what
she had bought, and made some very merry com
ments on the strange shops and polite shopmen."

Two things in her recital were particularly satis
factory one of his own family had shared her pleas
ure, and he had not been asked for money to con-



106 A Reconstructed Marriage

tribute to it. For his wedding expenses had begun
to give him a sense of poverty, and his naturally
economical nature was shocked at their total. But
if Theodora liked to buy more linen and furniture,
and treat his sister and herself he had no objections.
He supposed she had plenty of money, he thought
of what Mr. Newton called her " royalties," and felt
he might at least for a few weeks throw his re
sponsibilities upon them.

On the whole, sitting by Theodora's side and
listening to her pleasant conversation, he felt life
to be decidedly worth living. Her moderated dress
was also in consonance with his desires. For she
had felt her costume on the previous night to be out
of tone with her surroundings, and had therefore
made a much simpler toilet. She had even wondered
if the rich silk and lace, and pearls, were to blame
for the unkindness of her reception; if so, she re
solved not to err in that respect again. So she wore


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 6 of 23)