The Jericho Road
By W. Bion Adkins
Public Domain Books
Husband and Father
Miss Frances Power Cobb is right, and she is wrong, when she says: “It is a woman, and only a woman–a woman all by herself, if she likes, and without any man to help her–who can turn a house into a home.” She is unquestionably right in her judgment, that it is a woman who can, if she will, turn a house into a home, but she is much in the wrong in her assertion that it is a woman all by herself, without any man to help her, who can effect such a beneficial transformation. Woman possesses magical powers in the way of building up a home; but home naturally implies the presence and protection of man–and it is man himself, if he likes, and without any woman to help him, who can give that home a semblance of that place where, as some people believe, the wicked suffer after they have “shuffled off this mortal coil.” The husband can never make the home, but he can succeed most admirably, if so he choose, to unmake it, to banish its happiness and comfort, to exile from it its ministering angels of peace and content, to shatter woman’s sweet and blessed work to its very foundation. Let the wife concentrate, all day long, all her care and ingenuity and love upon building up her little paradise at home, let her hands be ever so busy in strewing fresh flowers around the domestic hearth, let her heart be ever so happy throughout the day in the discharge of her domestic duties, let her countenance be ever so beaming in her sweet anticipation of the happy smile of appreciation, of the kind word of sympathy and encouragement, which shall be her reward when her husband returns; and then see this star in her domestic firmament enter, sulking and surly, blind to all that her busy hands have so lovingly prepared, grim and gruff to her and the little ones, who have been fitted up in their neatest and cleanest, in which to welcome their father’s return, and then see whether you can agree with Miss Cobb’s assertion “that it is a woman, and only a woman–a woman all by herself, if she likes, and without any man to help her–who can turn a house into a home.” See how her heart sinks, how her voice, full of mirth and glee and music before his coming, dies in her throat, how the little ones, full of merriment all day long, tremblingly hide in the corner, or withdraw from the room; see how the intrusion of this grim spectre of malcontent shuts the door upon domestic peace and happiness, and withers every pious resolve to make home the dearest, sweetest, most contented and most sacred spot on earth, and then calculate how long, under such disheartening surroundings, woman will be able all by herself, and without any man to help her, to prevent her house from becoming anything and everything except a home.
While studying language, I observed that most of my mistakes in grammar occurred in the feminine gender, and thinking over the cause of it, it dawned upon me that, belonging to the masculine sex, I was in the habit of thinking in that gender, and that my teachers were men, and that my text-books and grammars had been written by men, and that the masculine gender predominated so strongly in the exercises, that it was but natural for me to make the greatest number of mistakes in the gender to which the least attention had been given. When dealing with the social and domestic question, the unbiased among us can not but observe a similar failing. Many a serious mistake has been made by man when speaking or writing concerning women, because our speakers and writers and preachers and teachers belonged from the very beginning of civilization, almost exclusively to the masculine sex, a sex which has never tired in exalting itself at the expense of the weaker sex, in emphasizing woman’s inferiority to man, in asserting its rights, and in complaining about its wrongs, and as woman did not write or speak for herself, we have heard but little of her side of the story, know next to nothing of her just rights and of her grievous wrongs, seldom dream that she, too, has rights that must be respected, and suffers wrongs that must be corrected.
The universities, colleges and all great institutions of learning of this and other lands refused, until quite recently, to recognize woman as a human being possessing a mind in need of training, and therefore excluded her from their privileges, and the order of Odd-Fellows partook of the same spirit and excluded the better half of the human race from its lodge-rooms. Man had ever been a selfish, conceited, cowardly tyrant from the day in which our father Adam disgraced his sex by taking without question the forbidden fruit; and, after eating it, crying with selfish, pusillanimous cowardice: “The woman thou gavest to be with me gave me of the tree and I did eat,” and he has always sought to make and keep woman an inferior, dependent, submissive slave. To this end he has striven to keep her in ignorance, exclude her from all the avenues of knowledge, and then, because she did not possess the knowledge that he had forbidden her, proclaimed throughout the world that she was mentally inferior to man, and in consequence unfit to be admitted to the various institutions and associations in which men sought to improve their minds.
The object of Odd-Fellowship is to improve and elevate the character of man, to enlighten his mind and enlarge the sphere of his affections, and of course woman, as being mentally weak and naturally inferior to man, was excluded from its sacred precincts. Now, however, things are changed; nearly all educational institutions worthy of mention admit women, and the Rebekah of today, emulating the Rebekah of old, will be hand in hand with her brothers in all good works. She will accompany him on his errands of mercy, watch beside the bedside of anguish, foregoing pleasure to follow in the path of duty.
I would have every man know–who has a wife–that “mutual benefit from harmonious partnership work” is an axiom in as full a sense as “in union there is strength.”
There are two sides to every question, and in this article I shall deal with the woman’s side. I want to present especially the wife’s side of the question to every Odd-Fellow, hoping that it will be of lasting benefit in many ways. I know full well that only one accustomed to deal with high and holy things, one whose glance is ever at sacred things, one who, as it were, administers the treasures of the kingdom of God, can fittingly touch this subject. It would be easy for me to be a cheap wit, to rake up the old scandal of Mother Eve, to even declaim with windy volubility that a woman betrayed the capital, that a woman lost Mark Anthony the world and left old Troy in ashes. But far be it from me! Rather would I assume a loftier mood; rather would I strike a loftier note, and, with blind Homer, beg for an unwearied tongue to chant the praise of woman. It is true Eve lost us Eden, but in that garden of monotonous delight, had we been born there, we would never have truly known what woman is. O, Felix Culpa! O, happy fault! that has shown the world the mines of rich affection of woman’s heart, that else would never have been discovered. O, happy fault, that has shown the world a wealth of woman’s nature, her capability for love, the radiance of her tenderness, her infinite pity, her unswerving devotion, the solace of her presence in sickness and sorrow, the depth and sweetness of her mercy.
A river of pure delight flowed through paradise, but blind Adam never saw it, never dreamed of it until the flaming sword cut him off forever; but he has since drank of it, and so has every man who has ever tasted the sacramental wine of woman’s true affection. The seamy side of life has been laid bare to me. Its sorrows and its anguishes have I often witnessed, but into that pool of Bethesida of the world’s anguish, with healing do I see ever come an angel, a pitying woman. The influence of wife and mother is ever near me; their faces are the most lovely; their hearts the most tender of all in this world–my mother and my wife. And for their sake, and for the sake of all the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, whom I daily meet doing good, I long and I earnestly yearn for the eloquence and grace to half express the thoughts that rise within me of what the world owes woman.
To me every good woman is the fair fulfillment of dreamed delight. She is the first at the cross and the last at the grave. All that is highest and best in the world is nurtured and fed by the milk of her nobility. The Christ of all greatness and hope was born of a woman. The noble women of the world! O, would that the days of chivalry were not past, that I might unsheath a lance in their name, for their glory! But in our more prosaic days, what can I do but let the will suffice for the deed, and say to the woman, “God bless you.” I propose to let her speak for herself today. I propose to accept her invitation to accompany her through the various spheres of her domestic life, and see whether she alone is responsible for that vice and crime and misfortune which moralists and superintendents of penal and charity institutes trace back to neglects at home; whether it is always the wife and mother that is responsible for unhappiness in marriage and for the increase of divorces; whether the husbands and fathers are always the saints and martyrs, or whether they are not very, very often the root of the whole evil themselves.
We retrace our steps and begin with our observations of the husband and father a few months prior to that solemn day, on which he plighted his vows of protection and faithfulness, on which he took into his care and trust a woman’s life and happiness, on which he sacredly promised, in the name of God, and in the presence of witnesses, to love her, to honor and cherish her, to provide for her, to be faithful to her in all his obligations as husband, in youth and in old age, in sunshine and in darkness, in prosperity and in adversity. We make first his acquaintance in the happy days of his courtship. He is burning with love. He is the facsimile of Shakespeare’s lover, “sighing like a furnace.” Her praises are on his lips always. He avows himself her slave and worships her as a goddess. It is in her company alone that he can find happiness. Whether at home or in society, he is always at her side. Life is dreary where she is not. He wonders how he could have lived so long, or how he could continue existence, without her. How regular and how punctual he is in his calls, and how he scowls at the clock for running away with time so fast! Not a wish does she express, no matter how unreasonable and extravagant, but he eagerly gratifies it. How numerous his little attentions and his kind remembrances! How thoughtful of her birthday, and how lavish in floral tributes and costly presents! How numerous and how lengthy his letters when separated! How sweet their moonlight walks and talks! How bright her future, which he maps out! How many the pledges which he breathes forth between his ardent kisses; never a harsh word shall break on her ear, never a wish of hers shall be ungratified, never a trouble shall mar her happiness; such a love as his has never been before, and will never be again; he only lives for her happiness; his affection will never cool, he will be a lover all his life; their whole wedded life will be one never-waning honeymoon.
In the drama the plot usually ends with marriage. At the instant when it is reached, when all obstacles are removed, the curtain falls, and the young people have no further existence for us. But in the practical world the play goes on. The curtain rises again, the same personages reappear, only they frequently play different parts, and what was before a comedy or a melo-drama often changes into a tragedy. Sad and tearful scenes are often enacted by them. The misery and pain are no longer inflicted by their former enemy, but by their own hands. He, who prior to marriage overcame almost insurmountable obstacles to make his lady fair his happy wife, now moves heaven and earth to make that wife as miserable as possible.
A number of years have passed since last we observed the lover. He is husband and father now, but what a change these few years have wrought in him! Forgotten are the lover’s vows. She that once his goddess was, is now his slave. The fulsome flatterer of former times has degenerated into a chronic fault-finder. With the change of her name has begun his change of treatment of her. Cast aside are the many courtesies and expressions of endearment that marked his conduct to her prior to marriage, and which were the thousand golden threads that day by day throughout their courtship wove their hearts closely into one. No bouquets and no costly gifts any more. The anniversary of her birth and of their wedding day passes by unnoticed by him. His former efforts to entertain her, to make himself agreeable to her, have altogether ceased. Rarer, and ever rarer, become his parting and his coming kiss, his “good-bye, dear,” and his “good evening, darling." Fewer and fewer become his words of praise. Irksome becomes the task of staying at home. He, who once upon a time found life dreary where she was not, who vowed that in her company alone he found happiness, who could not await the evening that would bring him to her, who declared that his affection would never cool, and their whole wedded life would be one continuous honeymoon, now finds her company tedious, her home unattractive. He looks upon his home as his boarding and lodging-house, upon his wife as the kitchen scullion, or as the nurse of his children, for which services he generally allows her so many dollars a week. At the breakfast table his face is buried in the morning paper. He rises without interchanging a word with wife and child. Absent from home all day long, he is absent still, even when home in the evening. No sooner has he swallowed his meal, when he buries himself in the newspaper for the rest of the evening, or dozes on the sofa till bedtime, or he has an important business engagement down town, or some meeting to attend, or an important engagement brings other husbands to his house, where they transact any amount of business in the exchange of diamonds for hearts, and clubs for spades.
All day long she has been toiling hard in her home, toiling with hand and brain. She has been preacher and teacher, physician and druggist, provider and manager, cook and laundress. The children had to be attended to, purchases had to be made, the meals had to be provided, the servants to be looked after, the house to be gotten in order; there was mending and sewing and baking and cleaning and scrubbing and scouring, which had to be done; there were the children’s lessons, and practicings that had to be looked after; there were the children’s ailments that had to be cured, and there were the hundred other things the husband never dreams of, and which tax a woman’s nerves and strength as much, and often more, than his occupation taxes him. But not a word of appreciation, not a look of sympathy and encouragement from him, who never tired to sing her praises before they were married, who vowed that never a harsh word should remotely break on her ear, never a trouble should mar her happiness. On the contrary, he has no end of faults to find, and she is doomed to listen to the same old harangue on economy and saving. She has been saving and stinting until she can save and stint no more. She has patched and mended and turned and altered until she could patch and mend and alter no more, and still the same complaints; the table costs too much, the dry goods store bills are too long, the seamstress comes into the house too often, the physician is consulted too much, and of such as these many more. Not a word does he say about the expensive cigars he smokes, the wines he drinks; about his frequent visits to the sample-room, and about the liberality with which he treats his friends there; about the sumptuous dinners he takes at noon in the down-town restaurant, while wife and children content themselves at home with a frugal lunch; about the money he loses at the card table, or in his bets on the games and races and politics. And of the children he takes but little notice. He has not seen them all day long, and he is too tired to be bothered with them in the evening. He must have his rest and quiet. The mother worried with them all day long, she may worry with them in the evening, too. It is enough for him to supply her with the means wherewith to care for their wants, further obligations he has none; these are a mother’s duties, but not a father’s.
They tell a story of a learned preacher who had isolated himself from his children on account of his dislike to their noise. One day, while taking a walk, he was attracted by the beauty and wonderful intelligence of a little boy. Inquiring of the nurse whose child it was, she answered, much astonished: “Your own, reverend sir, your own." Judging from the attention that some fathers bestow on their children, I am inclined to believe that this learned preacher has many an imitator among his sex, for whom not even the inexcusable excuse of absorption in studies can be set up. I have read of a business man, who one day thanked God that a commercial crisis had thrown him into bankruptcy. He said it afforded him an opportunity to stay at home for awhile, and get acquainted with his own family, and that for the first time he learned to know the true worth of his wife, and that he found his children the sweetest and dearest creatures that ever lived, and not for all the business of the world would he again deprive himself of their sweet association. Prior to his misfortune, or rather good fortune, his business had so absorbed him that he had altogether forgotten that there were sacred claims at home that demanded his interest and his service.
Not all our orphaned children are in our orphan asylums, or under the supervision of “The Orphans’ Guardians.” There are more of them at home with their fathers and mothers, and especially among our well-to-do families. There are children growing up who scarcely know anything else of their father except that he is referred to during the day by their mother when they are bad, as that dread personage who would inflict a severe chastisement on them when he returns, or whose presence silences their fun and makes their own absence agreeable. He makes no effort to entertain them, takes no interest in their pleasures, in their progress at school. He is simply their punisher, but not their friend, and it is not at all surprising to see children growing up with a conception of their father such as that little boy had, who, when told by a minister of heaven, and of the meeting of the departed there, asked: “And will father be there?” On being told that “of course he would be there,” he at once replied, “Then I don’t want to go.” Occasionally wife and husband spend an evening out, or they entertain company at home, and oh, what a transformation she observes in him. In other people’s homes, or when other people are present, his stock of material for conversation is unlimited. Then and there he is full of fun, bright and cheerful; when alone with his wife he has scarcely a word to say; he moves about the house with the lofty indifference of a lord, and with a heartless disregard of every member of the household. At home he is cold and cross and boorish, in other women’s parlors he is polite and considerate and engaging. He has a smile and a compliment for other women, none for his wife. If they attend an evening reception, he brings his wife there, and he takes her home; during the interval she has little, if any, of his company. She may be shy, she may be a stranger, she may not be much accustomed to society life, she may feel herself out of place in the gay assemblage, she may be unentertained or bored or annoyed, it matters not to him as long as he is having a good time with the boys, or is encircled by the ladies fair, who unanimously think him the most gallant of men, unrivaled in his wit and wisdom and conversational powers, and who secretly sigh if but their husbands were like him.
To such an extent is this wife-neglect carried on that a lady not long ago made a wager that, in nine cases out of ten, she would distinguish between married and unmarried couples. She won the wager. When asked to explain her method of discrimination, she said: “When you see a gentleman and a lady walking in silence side by side, it is a married couple; when their conversation is continuous and animated, and smile-and-laugh-provoking, they are single. When a gentleman sits next to a lady in the theatre, and never keeps his opera glass away from the boxes and galleries and stage, he is her husband; when his eyes rest more on her than on the stage, it is her lover. When a lady, who sits at the side of a gentleman, drops her glove, and she stoops to hunt it, it is a married couple; if he stoops quickly to pick it up it is an unmarried couple. When a lady plays, and a gentleman stands near her, and does not turn for her the pages of the music book, it is her husband; when you see his fingers in eager readiness to turn the leaf, it is not her husband.”
There is in every true woman a spark of divinity, which glows in her heart, and blazes into a most luminous light when a husband’s love and respect and sympathy and appreciation and encouragement fan that spark into activity. But woe to the home where cruel hands quench that flame. The sun is the heater and illuminator of our whole solar system. The vast supplies which it sends forth daily must be compensated, or else it would soon expend itself, and our world would go to ruin. Nature, therefore, hurls millions of meteors every second into the sun’s fiery furnace to keep up the supply of heat and light. The wife is the sun of the household. Her womanly attributes give the light and warmth and happiness of the home to all who cluster around her. But a wife’s love and self-sacrifice for her home are not infinite. They soon exhaust themselves, where love is unreturned, where a husband is a tyrant, where self-sacrifice is unappreciated, where faithful and prudent industry is accepted as a labor of duty, and not as a labor of love, where she is simply regarded as his housekeeper, and not as his devoted helpmate, where his presence alone is sufficient to cast gloom and fear over the entire household. Woman was made to bless mankind, but also to be blessed in return; to make society better for forming a part thereof, but also to receive some recognition for her work.
Endurance is woman’s prerogative. Suffering is her heirloom. Disasters, which would crush the spirit of man, often turn her heart to steel, and she performs deeds grand and heroic. Disheartened by continuous neglect, she will make heroic efforts to throw her influence all the more affectionately over her home. Wounded deeper and ever deeper, she will toil on, hiding from the world the pangs of wounded affection, “as the wounded dove will clasp its wings to its side and cover and conceal the arrow that is preying on its vitals.” But the shafts of continuous neglect will pierce her heart at last–a husband’s continuous neglect extinguish, at last, the sacred flame upon the domestic hearth. She, too, finds home irksome. She, too, learns to find more pleasure abroad than in her home. She, too, thinks light of liberties and indiscretions. The grown children learn to emulate their parents’ example, and seek their pleasures also abroad. The little children are left to servants to finish the corruption begun by parents. And so the home, the very spot designed by God to become the chief school of human virtue, the seminary of social affections, the keystone of the whole fabric of society, the germ-cell of civilization, becomes a hotbed of corruption, and almost as often on account of a husband’s neglect and sins, as on account of a wife’s ignorance or frailties or failings. Our stock of advice to wives and mothers seems inexhaustible. Almost every one of the stronger sex has his fling at woman, and his remedy to offer, which, if immediately followed, will at once eradicate unhappiness in marriage, decrease the number of divorces, and lessen vice and crime in society.
Might not a little advice be also profitable to man? Is there not room for improvement in the stronger sex as well as in the weaker? Reform in the one sex will be of little benefit unless there is reform in the other sex as well. Our husbands and our fathers, too, need reforming, and that reform must begin very early in their lives, before yet they enter into marriage, before yet they enter upon the days of their courtship. Our young men need curbing. Youthful precocity must be checked. ’Cito maturum cito putridum_” says the Latin, “soon ripe, soon rotten.” We allow our young men, some of them exceedingly young, too many liberties. We allow them to sow too many wild oats. If their intention is some day to take unto their care and keeping a woman’s life and happiness, to pluck from out a comfortable and contented home, and from the embrace of devoted parents, a pure and happy and trusting young woman, who has never felt the wrench and shock of life’s storms, nor the cold shoulder of neglect, nor the gnawing tooth of want, then let them see to it in time that they may bring to her a heart as pure and mind as uncorrupted, and character as unpolluted as they expect from her.
The law of heredity, of transmission of ancestral poison, is as operative in the male sex as in the female. A pure and healthy offspring must be preceded by a pure and healthy parentage. A rottening tree never produces luscious fruit. “Like begets like.” An enfeebled father means not only feebleness in the next generation, but also perpetuated misery and vice and crime. Marriage is sacred and necessary and obligatory, but not all marriages are so. There are some marriages from which woman should recoil as much as she would from death itself. Rather that death would woo her than a man–if I may be permitted to honor him with that name–whose constitution is undermined, whose strength is sapped, and whose marrow and blood are poisoned. Rather an old maid than a profligate’s nurse. Rather a life of single blessedness than the housekeeper of a wreck of a husband. Rather single and happy and stainless and conscience-free than a mother of an unfortunate offspring, that have the sins of their father visited upon them, and that shall one day curse their parents for having given existence to them. Another remedy for unhappy marriages will be found in the cessation, of the anxiety on the part of so many parents to get their daughters married off. It is but natural that this constant anxiety should make the daughter feel that she would like to lessen her parents’ dread, and cease being a trouble to them, especially when there are younger sisters crowding fast upon her, and so she says “Yes,” even when the word almost chokes in her throat, even though she knows in her heart that he is not her ideal, nor the man that will make her happy. It is not true that any husband, who can support a wife, is better than no husband. Marriage means more to a sensible woman than an alliance with a husband for the sake of being clothed and fed and housed. She has a heart and soul and mind that have their wants, and if they be starved, unhappy marriage, if nothing worse, is the result.
Mothers and fathers! Have you watched over your daughter from the day of her birth; have you guarded her from infancy to girlhood, and from girlhood to womanhood; have you suffered for her sake; have you surrendered comforts and sacrificed pleasures for her sake; have you toiled and stinted and saved for her sake; have you afforded her the best education and all the pleasures and opportunities that your means will allow, and all to wish yourselves rid of her; to think that any husband, who can support your daughter–sometimes not even so much is expected from him–no matter how old, how uncultured, how unsuitable to her tastes and wants, is better than no husband? A father’s personal attention to the training of his children will in time reduce materially unhappy marriages, and greatly lessen the miseries and vices of society. He owes his children more than support and chastisement. Society holds him responsible for their character. The duties of training devolve upon the father as much as on the mother. A father’s wider experience and worldly wisdom prove valuable contributions to the mother’s simpler knowledge in the raising of their children. A father’s continuous absence, or neglects, or severity, or unkindness, or heartlessness, has made more reprobates and scamps and criminals in this world than all the failings of women combined. Think less of your dignity and more of your duty. Rather that your child should love you than fear you. You can maintain your authority and dignity by love and gentleness as well as by frowns and threats and chastisements. You may walk and talk and study and play with them, and yet have their full respect. The great and warlike Agesilaus did not think it beneath him to entertain his children during his leisure hours, to join them in all their merry sports, and permit himself to crawl on his fours with his little child upon his back. If you would raise good children let your example at home be accordingly. As you will teach them so they will act. If you are a devil they will scarcely be angels. Children are keen observers. An old proverb says that a father is a looking-glass by which children dress themselves. See to it, fathers, that the glass be clean, so that your children’s morals may be pure.
A little more memory on the part of the husband will prove a powerful remedy for the eradication of unhappy marriages and for the lessening of divorces. She is the same woman after marriage that she was during the days of your courtship, and a good deal better. Why so forgetful of all the sacred vows and solemn pledges which you plighted then? Why so constant then and so inconstant now? Why so affable and faithful and loving and attentive then, and why so inattentive and bitter and sullen and neglectful now? Why such a profuseness then in your courtesies and smiles and flowers and gifts and kisses, and why such a lack of them now? Is it because of wrinkles? Is it because of her faded beauty? She has lost it in your service. She has come honestly by her wrinkles. She got them in the sick-bed, in the kitchen, in the nursery, by the bed of your sick children, by the grave of your child, by painful night-watches and overtaxing day toils, by your harsh words, and by your heartless treatment. This is all she has in return for her beauty and youth and cheerful mind and happy disposition, which she laid at your feet when you asked her to join her destiny with yours. A little courtesy, a kind attention, a bouquet of flowers, a small token, a word of appreciation and of encouragement is not much to you, but it is a world to your wife. Your smile is all the reward she craves. Her heart thirsts for it, and when given, its effect upon her soul is as the refreshing dew upon the withered grass. It is a mistake to believe that she can draw in her married life on your love-deposits during courtship. If love is to prosper, the supply must be ever fresh. The love of the past will never satisfy the need of the present. Love constantly and carefully cultivated will increase its blessings as fruit trees double their bearing under the hand of the gardener. It will be killed, as will the fruit tree, if the gardener’s hand grows neglectful and noxious influences are permitted to impede its growth. Let your wife be your helpmate and not your housekeeper. She shares your sorrows, your defeats, let her also share your thoughts and plans. Unbosom your thoughts to her. Lay open to her your heart and soul. Trust her with your confidence, she trusts you with hers. The men who succeed are those who make confidants of their wives. The marriages that are happy are those where husbands and wives have no thoughts apart. The children that are well raised are those that have had the example of loving and confiding parents before them. Proud of your confidence, she will labor to deserve it. She will study to please you. In your prosperity she will be your delight; your stay and comfort in your adversity. She will return your confidence and affection in full measure. Gloom will vanish from the hearth, and happiness will hold dominion within the home. “Her children will rise up before her and call her happy; and her husband will sing aloud her praises.”
Marriage is, perhaps, the only game of chance ever invented at which it is possible for both players to lose. Too often, after many sugar-coated words, and several premeditated misdeals on both sides, one draws a blank and the other a booby. After patiently angling in the matrimonial pool, one draws a sunfish and the other a minnow. One expects to capture a demigod, who hits the earth only in high places, but when she has thoroughly analyzed him, she finds nothing genuine, only a wilted chrysanthemum and a pair of patent leather shoes, while he in return expected to wed a wingless angel who would make his Edenic bower one long drawn out sigh of aesthetic bliss. The result is very often that he is tied to a slattern, who slouches around the house with her hair in tins, a dime novel in her hand, with a temper like aqua fortis and a voice like a cat fight–a voice that would make a cub wolf climb a tree; a fashionable butterfly, whose heart is in her finery and her feathers; who neglects her home to train with a lot of intellectual birds; whose glory is small talk; who saves her sweetest smiles for society and her ill temper for her family altar. If I were tied to such a female as that, do you know what I would do? You don’t, eh? Well, neither do I. There was a time, we are told, when to be a Roman was to be greater than to be a king; yet there came a time when to be a Roman was to be a vassal or a slave. Change is the order of the universe, and nothing stands. We must go forward, or we must go backward. We must press on to grander heights, to greater glory, or see the laurels already won turned to ashes upon our brow. We may sometimes slip; shadows may obscure our paths; the boulders may bruise our feet; there may be months of mourning and days of agony; but however dark the night, hope, a poising eagle, will ever burn above the unrisen tomorrow. Trials we may have, and tribulations sore, but I say unto you, O, brothers mine, that while God reigns and the human family endures, this nation, born of our father’s blood, and sanctified by our mother’s tears, shall not pass away, and under heaven, for this great boon, this great blessing, we’ll be indebted to the women of America–God bless them. Finally, brethren, be serious while I impart this concluding lesson: “She–was–a–good–wife–to–me. A good wife, God bless her!” The words were spoken in trembling accents over a coffin-lid. The woman asleep there had borne the heat and burden of life’s long day, and no one had ever heard her murmur; her hand was quick to reach out in helping grasp to those who fell by the wayside, and her feet were swift on errands of mercy; the heart of her husband had trusted in her; he had left her to long hours of solitude, while he amused himself in scenes in which she had no part. When boon companions deserted him, when fickle affection selfishly departed, when pleasure palled, he went home and found her waiting for him.
“Come from your long, long roving, On life’s sea so bleak and rough; Come to me tender and loving, And I shall be blest enough.”
That hath been her long song, always on her lips or in her heart. Children had been born to them. She had reared them almost alone–they were gone! Her hand had led them to the uttermost edge of the morning that has no noon. Then she had comforted him, and sent him out strong and whole-hearted while she stayed at home and–cried. What can a woman do but cry and trust? Well, she is at rest now. But she could not die until he had promised to “bear up,” not fret, but to remember how happy they had been. They? Yes, it was even so.
It was an equal partnership, after all. “She–was–a–good–wife–to–me.” Oh, man! man! Why not have told her so when her ears were not dulled by death? Why wait to say these words over a coffin wherein lies a wasted, weary, gray-haired woman, whose eyes have so long held that pathetic story of loss and suffering and patient yearning, which so many women’s eyes reveal to those who weep? Why not have made the wilderness in her heart blossom like the rose with the prodigality of your love? Now you would give worlds, were they yours to give, to see the tears of joy your words would have once caused, bejeweling the closed windows of her soul. It is too late.
“We have careful thoughts for the stranger, And smiles for the sometime guest, But oft for own, The bitter tone, Though we love our own the best.”