Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A reconstructed marriage online

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look at his wife in wonder as her magnificent voice
lifted that pathetic prayer, which has spoken for the
sorrowful and suffering in all ages:

A Reconstructed Marriage

" O that I had wings like a dove, then would I
flee away and be at rest."

Every note and every word was full of passionate
spiritual desire and tender aspiration, and the music
was as if her guardian angel joined her in it. The
doctor was entranced, and Mrs. Robertson rose and
was standing by the singer's side when she ceased.

" O, my dear, my dear!" she said, "you have
gone straight to my heart."

A long and delightful conversation followed; then
Ducie set an exquisite little service, and gave the
company tea and cake and sweetmeats, and the visit
did not terminate for nearly another hour.

Mrs. Campbell was in a transport of anger. " I
was never even asked after," she complained to her
son, and Dora kept them all of two hours such
ignorance of social customs and I could hear them
talking and singing like a crowd of daffing young

" You ought to have joined them, mother."

" I ought to have been asked to do so, but I was
quite neglected."

A few minutes later Robert said to his wife:
" Why did you not send for mother when the min
ister called? "

" Mother was not asked for, and whenever I do
send for her she makes a point of refusing, often
very rudely, and I did not wish Dr. Robertson to
be refused in our parlor."

"Who was mother rude to? It is not her

126 A Reconstructed Marriage

" To Mrs. Oliphant for one, and there were

" She does not approve of Mrs. Oliphant."

" I did not know whether she approved of Dr.
and Mrs. Robertson. I like them very much. The
doctor was very happy, and Mrs. Robertson told me
' I had gone straight to her heart.' '

" Such extravagance of speech ! But she is Irish,
and the Irish must exaggerate. They are a most
untruthful race."

" They are an affectionate race, and what is the
good of loving people, if you do not tell them so?
They might as well be without such love."

" Do not be foolish, Dora."

" Is that foolishness?"

" Yes."

" Then once you were very foolish. I have not
forgotten the time, when you continually told me
how dearly you loved me. I was very happy then."

He turned and looked at her, and her beauty
conquered him. He took her to his heart, and said :
" I do love you, Dora. Yes, I do love you ! " And
then she grew radiant, and joy transfigured her face,
and they went in to dinner together like lovers.

A little later when Dr. Robertson and his wife
were sitting alone they began to talk of Theodora.
" She has a great heart," said Mrs. Robertson, " and
more's the pity."

" Yes, Kate, more's the pity, if she loves Robert
Campbell; for it's small love she will get in return.
Like ivy on a stone wall, she will obtain only a rigid

A Reconstructed Marriage 127

and niggardly support, and even for that must go
searching all round with humble embraces."

" You may take back your last two words, Angus.
Yonder woman will stand level with her husband, or
not stand with him at all. She would scorn your
humble embraces."

" I fear she is in trouble already. There were
tears in her voice as she sang."

" It would have melted the heart of a stone.
Trouble? Certainly. How can she live with those
three amazing women, and be out of trouble? "

" Well, Kate, the key of life which opens all its
doors, and answers all its questions, is not ' how *
or ' why ' or even ' I wish ' or ' I will.' It is / must.
She must live with them. She must, she must, she
must; and she'll do it."

" She will not do it long. Mind what I say. She
will strive till she is weary, and then she must leave
him or else drift on a sorrowful sea like a dismasted

" She believes in God a believer in God never
does that."

" Then she will have to leave him. Who could
stand the ill-natured nagging of those women, and
his sullen, masterful ways? No one."

"She must! The tooth often bites the tongue,
but they keep together."

" Poor woman ! It is a hard road for her to
walk on."

" It is the ground that we do not walk on, that
supports us. Faith treads on the void, and finds the

128 A Reconstructed Marriage

rock beneath. She has found that rock, or I am
greatly mistaken."

" I feel sure she has found it. Angus, if you
could get her to sing that prayer, ' O For the Wings
of a Dove ' in church, say, while the Elders went
round with the collection boxes, it would do a deal
of good. It would touch every heart they wouldn't
mind their pennies, they might even give a crown
where they have given a shilling."

" That is a capital idea, but I should have to ask
Campbell for his consent."

" He does not own her voice."

" He thinks he does, and he must have his say-
so. But if she could touch every heart as she touched
ours what a gracious gift of song it would be ! "

" I believe she could. Ask Robert Campbell."

" I will."

Under all circumstances Robert would have re
ceived the minister with extreme courtesy, for a
Scotchman can no more afford to quarrel with the
dominie of his Kirk than a Catholic in Rome can
afford to quarrel with the Pope in Rome. Also,
he had a great respect for Dr. Robertson, and when
he was told of the sermon he intended to preach on
the following Sabbath he was very proud of the con
fidence, and still prouder to be of service in promot
ing its effectiveness.

" Of course," he said, " Mrs. Campbell would
sing. Why not? Was he not always happy to
oblige the doctor and benefit the church? " And it
never struck him that he was assuming an absolute

A Reconstructed Marriage 129

right in Theodora's voice, and in her use of it; be
cause he actually felt what he assumed. Nor did
he see that in giving her voice to benefit the church
he was thinking solely of the church as a religious
society, and the souls composing it were never for
a moment in his calculation. Both of these facts
were clear to the minister, and he hoped that when
Campbell saw and felt the effects of his concession
he would be disposed to give some thanks to Theo
dora, and so get a glimpse of what he owed to a
wife so good, so clever, and so lovely.

It was remarkable that he never named the sub
ject to his mother, and to Theodora he only spoke
of the minister's visit, and asked if he had called
on her.

" Yes," she answered, " I made all arrangements
with him." She did not dare to express her pleasure,
for in that case she knew by experience he would
probably cancel his concession. She permitted him
to think she was willing to oblige the doctor, because
he wished it, and then he felt it necessary to say
that it was for " the good of the church, and that
he had only consented to her singing for that rea

Two days afterwards Mrs. Robertson called on
Theodora and they went out together, nor did Theo
dora return until after ten o'clock. At that hour
Mrs. Campbell, sent for her son to discuss Dora's
absence with him. She found him satisfied, instead
of angry, as she supposed he would be.

" It is quite right, mother," he said. " Dora is

130 A Reconstructed Marriage

dining with the Robertsons. I was invited, but I
preferred to remain at home."

" You did the proper thing. Neither I nor your
sisters were invited. I consider our neglect a great

" No insult was intended, mother. They are in
fatuated with Dora, and I dare say have invited some
of the congregation to meet her. Why, there she
is now ! " he exclaimed, " and I wonder who is with

" I advise you to find out."

He followed the advice, and went to the open
door. Theodora was in the embrace of Mrs. Oli-
phant. " You darling," she was saying, " I can
hardly wait for Sunday. O, how are you, Mr.
Campbell? You ought to have been with us. We
have had the loveliest evening with your adorable
wife but we have brought her safe home."

Then Mr. Oliphant laughed: " You ought to keep
at her side, Campbell. Every man o' us would like
to run awa' with her."

He said the words jokingly, but Robert was very
angry, and Theodora felt that his permission for
the Sunday singing wavered in the balance. But
the danger passed in his criticisms of the offender,
whom he stigmatized as " the most uxorious and
foolish of husbands."

Except to Theodora, he did not name the subject
of her singing on the coming Sabbath, and as neither
Mrs. Campbell nor her daughters spoke of it, Theo
dora followed the example set her and kept silence.

A Reconstructed Marriage 131

When Sunday arrived, she went quietly out of the
house while the rest were dressing, and at the last
moment Robert joined his family, saying: "I will
go to church with you this morning, mother." He
gave no reason for his conduct, nor did Mrs. Camp
bell ask for one. She concluded that Theodora was
sick, or that more likely she had had a dispute with
her husband about the service, and in consequence
had refused to attend it.

As it happened Mrs. Campbell had only heard
Theodora sing from a distance, or behind closed
doors, and Isabel was very near in the same igno
rance of her voice and its ability. Christina was
more likely to recognize the singer, for she had fre
quently heard her, but she did not, or at least only
in a vague and uncertain manner. She wished Theo
dora had been present, that she might learn her
deficiencies, and she wondered that two people should
have voices so similar; but she reflected, that her
own voice was so like Isabel's that her mother fre
quently mistook them. But Robert knew, and his
heart melted to the passionate stress and longing of
her cry: "O that I had wings like a dove," and
thrilled to the joy and triumph of the rest hoped for.

The whole church was moved as if it had been one
spirit and one heart. The place seemed to be on
fire with feeling, and as the marvellous voice died
away in peace and rest a strange but mighty influence
swept over the usually cold and stolid congregation.
Some wept silently, some bowed their heads, and a
few stood and looked upward, while the soft, rolling

132 A Reconstructed Marriage

notes of the organ died away in the benediction.
Very quietly and speechlessly the congregation dis
persed. All went home with the song in their hearts,
but not until they sat down in their homes did they
begin to talk together of the psalm and the singer.
Even Mrs. Campbell was touched and pleased, and
she took a great delight in praising the singer, as
they sat at lunch.

" That was singing," she said, " and the finest
singing I ever heard. Many people pretend to sing
who know nothing about it and have no voice to sing
with but, thank God, for once in my life, I have
heard singing."

" It sounded very like Dora's voice," said Chris

" You are mistaken," replied Isabel, " besides, the
voice we heard this morning is a finely trained voice
I mean, as voices are trained for oratorio and pub
lic singing. It was a soprano, and soprano voices
are very much alike."

No one cared to dispute Isabel's explanation and
the conversation drifted to the sermon from the same
psalm. " It was a good sermon," said Mrs. Camp
bell, " but people will forget it in the song."

" The song was the sermon to-day," said Isabel.

" The sermon was water, the song was wine," said

" I wish you would get the music, Dora. I am
sure you could learn to sing it very well," said Chris
tina; and Theodora smiled and answered, "I will
try and get the music, if you wish, Christina."

A Reconstructed Marriage 133

"No, no!" cried Mrs. Campbell. "I would
not have the memory of this morning's song spoiled
for a great deal."

" Nor I, mother," added Isabel. " Would you,

The better man had possession of Robert at that
hour and he replied with a strong fervor:

" No, not for anything. It is one memory I shall
hope to keep green as long as I live." He looked
at Theodora, and if any there had had eyes to see,
they might have read the secret in their beaming

In their own parlor Robert was more enthusiastic
than Theodora had seen him for a long time. " You
have often gone to my heart, Dora," he said, " but
this morning you touched my soul." And they were
very happy together. This was the man Theodora
loved. This was the man to whom she had given
her heart and hand. Oh, how was she to keep this
Robert Campbell always to the fore?

To do any great thing with the heart of another,
you must vivisect your own, and this truth Theodora
had to practise continually. Her life was one of
such painful self-denial as left all its little pleasant
places bare and barren; but she knew that in this
way only could peace be bought, and she'paid the
price, excepting always, when it struck at her self-
respect or violated her conscience. For she had con
stant opportunities of seeing that the spirit of sub
mission carried too far was responsible for most of
the misery and wrongs of the household; since des-

134 A Reconstructed Marriage

potism is never the sin of one, but comes from the
servility of those around the despot. And as Robert
was not always indifferent, but had frequent visitings
from his better self, she made the most of these
happy times, and took the envy and hatred of the
rest as she took wet weather, or wind, or snow, or
any other exhibition of the Higher Powers. For
if training and education had made Theodora self-
respectful, it had also made her avoid everything
like self-indulgence.

" To her there never came the thought,
That this her life was meant to be
A pleasure house, where peace unbought
Should minister to pride and glee.

" Sublimely she endured each ill

As a plain fact, whose right or wrong
She questioned not; confiding still
That it would last not over long.

" Willing from first to last to take

The mysteries of her life as given,
Leaving her time-worn soul to slake
Its thirst, in an undoubted heaven."

So the weeks passed on in a kind of armed truce
with short intervals of satisfying happiness, when
ever Robert chose to make her happy. She still took
her breakfast alone, and now and then Robert, al
lured by the pretty appetizing table on the cheerful
hearth, drank his coffee and ate a rasher of bacon
beside her. Then how gay and delighted she was,

A Reconstructed Marriage 135

and as on such occasions he gave up his porridge
and salt herring, McNab, in order to pleasure the
mistress whom she loved, always found him some
dainty to atone for his deprivation. And the meal
was so good and cheerful, that it was a wonderful
thing he did not join his wife constantly.

It was now getting near to Christmas, but none
of the family had yet ventured to tell Mrs. Camp
bell the truth concerning the singing in the church
although she frequently spoke of it. In fact, ever
since that Sabbath she had made a point of sending
a note to Theodora whenever she heard the piano.
" I know practising from music," she said in every
note, " and I do not like practising." Only Chris
tina being present at the practising interfered with
the message, and many times it had been sent when
it was the caller who was doing the practising. The
order was always obeyed, lest it should be more
offensively repeated, and to no one but Mrs. Oli-
phant did Theodora confide her reason for closing
the instrument so promptly. The message elicited
from Mrs. Oliphant scornful laughter, and the three
women listening for the manner of its reception were
not surprised.

" They are laughing at my order," said Mrs.
Campbell, " what dreadful manners Americans do
have ! "

" Dora's manners are equally bad. She had no
business to show her the note," said Isabel.

" Dora is English; what can you expect?"

" Dora ought to send for me when she has com-

136 A Reconstructed Marriage

pany," said Christina, " then she would be allowed
to practise, would she not, mother? "

" Christina, I am always willing to sacrifice my
self for my children, and you profess to learn some
thing from her playing."

" I do, and I love to hear her play and sing. Dora
has been kind to me, she isn't half bad."

" Well, Christina, in all proper things I consult
my children's pleasure, rather than my own com

Isabel said nothing, and yet Theodora had made
many whist parties for her pleasure, persuading Rob
ert to invite to them such unmarried men as would
be suitable partners for his sisters in life, as well
as at the whist table. These parties had always
terminated with supper and music, Christina being
the principal, and generally the only performer. She
had taken both of the sisters out with her, dressed
them for entertainments, shown them how to dress
themselves, and taught them those little tricks of the
toilet, which are to women at once so innocent and
so indispensable. Many times these services had
been rendered cheerfully when she was sick or de
pressed, but neither of the girls had any conception
of a kindness, except as it related to themselves
how it benefited their looks or their feelings, and
what results would accrue to them from it. Never
once had they expressed a sense of obligation for
any favor done them. They took every kindness as
their right, for they heard their mother constantly
assert: " Dora could never do enough for them."

A Reconstructed Marriage 137

" She has forced herself into our family without
our desire or permission," she would say, " and if
she could only understand it she is a great wrong
and annoyance to us. If she does teach Christina
music and singing and French, and entertain you
both now and then, it is her bounden duty to do that,
and more. She is a born schoolmistress anyway,
and no doubt feels quite at home teaching you any
little thing she can."

This was not a happy life for Theodora, but she
had chosen it, and our choices are our destiny. It
was now her duty to make the best of it, and if
Robert was only a little loving and just, her fine
spirits and hopeful temper made her gay as a bird
in spring. Her enthusiasms were incomprehensible
to the three women, they were even repulsive; for
neither the selfish, ill-tempered mother, nor the sel
fish, servile daughters, could understand that joy,
which, coming from the inner life, is illimitably glad
and hopeful, " something afar from the sphere of
our sorrow."

But even Robert was now ashamed of his en
thusiasms as a lover, as a married man he considered
them quite out of place. They had served their
purpose and ought to be retired from the sensible
atmosphere of daily life. So he allowed the noblest
and tenderest symbols of love to die of cruel neglect,
and his occasional breakfasts with Theodora were
the only remnant of his once passionate personal
love. He was quite willing to consider Dora as be
longing to the whole family, and he smiled grimly

138 A Reconstructed Marriage

if he remembered the days in which he was intensely
jealous even of her own father and mother's claim
on her affection.

One great reason for Theodora's life being so
troubled by dislike and unrest was doubtless because
her angel was not, and could not, be 'friends with
the angels of her new connections. They had no
business to be in the same house. They got in each
other's way and provoked friction. And though
physical crowding is bad, spiritual crowding is much
worse. Theodora had been well aware of the an
tagonism of her angel to her marriage with Robert
Campbell. By intuitions, presentiments, omens,
dreams, and even by clairaudient words, she had been
warned of matrimonial troubles.

But she had an invincible faith in her influence
over her intended husband, and as for a fight with
others, or with circumstances, of neither was she
afraid. She had always won her way triumphantly.
She believed in God, she believed in herself, and she
believed in humanity. The calibre of a Scotch fam
ily composed of three-fourths women, was a com
bination she had never seen, never heard of, never
read of, and could not possibly imagine.

Yes, she had been abundantly counselled, and she
remembered especially the last warning that she re
ceived before her marriage. She was at the Saluta
tion Hotel on Lake Windermere, standing at the
window of her room looking over the lovely scene.
All Nature was calm as a resting wheel, the sky full
of stars; all the mystery and majesty of earth, the

A Reconstructed Marriage 139

lake, the woods, the mountains encompassed her.
And as she stood there musing on the past, and on
the future as connected with Robert Campbell, the
voice she knew so well pleaded with her for the last

" Are you able? " it asked.

" Yes," she answered softly but audibly.

" The fight will be hard."

" I shall win it."

" Though as by fire! "

Then she was alone, and she felt strangely desolate
and afraid.

For though one come from the dead, the soul self-
centred and confident in its own wisdom will not
believe. Then it can only learn its life's lesson by
those cruel experiences from which its good angel
would so gladly have saved it.

" Though as by fire! Though as by fire! " Often
she had thought of that prophecy since her marriage,
when she had been forced day after day to say with

" They have spoken against me with a lying

" They compassed me about with words of hatred,
and fought against me without cause.

u For my love they are my adversaries, and they
have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for
my love."

She was sitting alone one afternoon, and very
weary and disconsolate after a morning of petty
slights, and unkind words, when Robert entered. He

140 A Reconstructed Marriage

was earlier than usual and more responsive to her
smile of welcome.

"I am so glad to see you, Robert, so glad! I
did not expect you for an hour."

" The minister called on me this afternoon, and
I returned to the city with him. He wants you to
sing, Dora, at the New Year's service. He is going
to preach from the first verse of the, fourteenth of
Job : ' Man that is born of a woman is of few days
and full of trouble.' He says the sermon will nec
essarily be solemn and warning, so he wishes you
to sing something that lifts up the heart and looks
hopefully forward."

" Are you willing that I should sing, Robert? "

" Yes, I should like you to do so."

" Then what could be better than Job's triumphant
confession, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth'f"

" That is the very thing ! You sung it once in
Sheffield. I have never forgotten it."

" Has your mother been told about my singing,
' O that I had wings like a dove ' ? "

" No. I have never found a good opportunity
to tell her. I knew she would feel it much. As
soon as you have settled the matter with the doctor,
I will tell her of both together."

The next morning Dr. Robertson called to see
Theodora, and was delighted with her selection. He
did not stay long, but Mrs. Campbell was deeply
offended because she was neither personally visited
by him, nor yet invited by Theodora to meet him
in her parlor. The lunch table was made a fiery

A Reconstructed Marriage 141

furnace for her, and she had not the physical power
to resist the evil. Assailed by a sudden faintness,
she was obliged to leave the room.

" Dora looks ill," said Christina.

" She is always complaining lately. She had Dr.
Fleming in the house twice last week, had she not,
Isabel?" Isabel sighed deeply, and Christina ab
sently nodded assent. She was counting the custard
cups and considering the best way to appropriate the
one intended for Theodora.

Jepson, however, had noticed the white face and
unsteady steps of the sick woman and assisted her
to her own apartments. On his return he was con
fronted by the angry face of his mistress. She laid
down her knife and fork with a clash and asked:

"How dared you leave the room, Jepson? I
hired you to wait on the Miss Campbells and my

" I thought Mrs. Campbell looked very ill,

" You are here to obey orders, not to think. And
/ am Mrs. Campbell, the other is Mrs. Robert. Do
you understand? "

" Yes, ma'am."

For some hours Theodora lay on the sofa in deep
sleep, or in some other form of oblivion. She came
back to consciousness with the feeling of one ship
wrecked on a dark, desolate land, and after a little
sobbing cry, went upstairs to try and dress for din
ner. A depressing anxiety, a horror of the great
darkness from which she had just returned was on

142 A Reconstructed Marriage

her, and as soon as her exhausting toilet was over,
she went back to the parlor, and lifting a book sat
down at a small table with it in her hand.

Isabel, who was with her mother, heard both the

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 8 of 23)