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Two Wives, a fiction by T. S. Arthur

Chapter 11

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HOW different was it with Wilkinson, when he returned to his wife on the same evening, in a most gloomy, troubled, and desponding state of mind! A review of his affairs had brought little, if any thing, to encourage him. This dead loss of two thousand dollars was more, he felt, than he could bear. Ere this came upon him, there was often great difficulty in making his payments. How should he be able to make them now, with such an extra weight to carry? The thought completely disheartened him.

"I, too, ought to retrench," said he, mentally, his thoughts recurring to the interview which had taken place between him and Ellis. "In fact, I don't see what else is to save me. But how can I ask Mary to give up her present style of living? How can I ask her to move into a smaller house? to relinquish one of her domestics, and in other respects to deny herself, when the necessity for so doing is wholly chargeable to my folly? It is no use; I can't do it. Every change--every step downwards, would rebuke me. No--no. Upon Mary must not rest the evil consequences of my insane conduct. Let me, alone, suffer."

But how, alone, was he to bear, without sinking beneath the weight, the pressure that was upon him?

With the usual glad smile and heart-warm kiss Wilkinson was greeted on his return home.

"God bless you, Mary!" said he, with much feeling, as he returned his wife's salutation.

Mrs. Wilkinson saw that her husband was inwardly moved to a degree that was unusual. She did not remark thereon, but her manner was gentle, and her tones lower and tenderer than usual, when she spoke to him. But few words passed between them, until the bell rang for tea. While sitting at the table, the voice of Ella was heard, crying.

"Agnes!" called Mrs. Wilkinson, going to the head of the stairs that led down into the kitchen--"I wish you would go up to Ella, she is awake."

The girl answered that she would do as desired, and Mrs. Wilkinson returned to her place at the table.

"Where is Anna?" asked Mr. Wilkinson.

Mrs. Wilkinson smiled cheerfully, as she replied,

"Her month was up to-day, and I concluded to let her go."

"What!" Wilkinson spoke in a quick surprised voice.

"She was little more than a fifth wheel to our coach," was replied; "and fifth wheels can easily be dispensed with."

"But who is to take care of Ella? Who is to do the chamber work? Not you!"

"Don't be troubled about that, my good husband!" was answered with a smile. "Leave all to me. I am the housekeeper."

"You are not strong enough, Mary. You will injure your health."

"My health is more likely to suffer from lack, than from excess of effort. The truth is, I want more exercise than I have been in the habit of taking."

"But the confinement, Mary. Don't you see that the arrangement you propose will tie you down to the house? Indeed, I can't think of it."

"I shall not be confined in-doors any more than I am now. Agnes will take care of the baby whenever I wish to go out."

"There is too much work in this house, Mary'" said Mr. Wilkinson, in a decided way. "You cannot get along with but a single domestic."

"There are only you, and Ella, and I!" Mrs. Wilkinson leaned towards her husband, and looked earnestly into his face. There was an expression on her countenance that was full of meaning; yet its import he did not understand.

"Only you, and Ella, and I?" said he.

"Yes; only we three. Now, I have been wondering all day, John, whether there was any real necessity for just we three having so large a house to live in. I don't think there is. It is an expense for nothing, and makes work for nothing."

"How you talk, Mary!"

"Don't I talk like a sensible woman?" said the young wife, smiling.

"We can't go into a smaller house, dear."

"And why not, pray?"

"Our position in society"--

Mr. Wilkinson did not finish the sentence; for he knew that argument would be lost on his wife.

"We are not rich," said Mrs. Wilkinson.

"No one knows that better than myself," replied the husband, with more feeling than he meant to exhibit.

"And, if the truth were known, are living at an expense beyond what we can afford. Speak out plainly, dear, and say if this is not the case."

"I shouldn't just like to say that," returned Wilkinson; yet his tone of voice belied his words.

"It is just as I supposed," said Mrs. Wilkinson, growing more serious. "Why have you not confided in me? Why have you not spoken freely to me on this subject, John? Am I not your wife? And am I not ready to bear all things and to suffer all things for your sake?"

"You are too serious Mary,--too serious by far. I have not said that there was any thing wrong in my circumstances. I have not said that it was necessary to reduce our expenses."

"No matter, dear. We are, by living in our present style, expending several hundred dollars a year more than is necessary. This is useless. Do you not say so yourself?"

It is certainly useless to spend more than is necessary to secure comfort."

"And wrong to spend more than we can afford?"


"Then let us take a smaller house, John, by all means. I shall feel so much better contented."

It was some time before Wilkinson replied. When he did so, he spoke with unusual emotion.

"Ah, my dear wife!" said he, leaning towards her and grasping her hand; "you know not how great a load you have taken from my heart. The change you suggest is necessary; yet I never could have urged it; never could have asked you to give up this for an humbler dwelling. How much rather would I elevate you to a palace!"

"My husband! Why, why have you concealed this from me? It was not true kindness," said Mrs. Wilkinson, in a slightly chiding voice. "It is my province to stand, sustainingly, by your side; not to hang upon you, a dead weight."

But we will not repeat all that was said. Enough that, ere the evening, spent in earnest conversation, closed, all the preliminaries of an early removal and reduction of expenses were settled, and, when Wilkinson retired for the night, it was in a hopeful spirit. Light had broken through a rift in the dark cloud which had so suddenly loomed up; and he saw, clearly, the way of escape from the evil that threatened to overwhelm him. _

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