Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > T. S. Arthur > Two Wives > This page

Two Wives, a fiction by T. S. Arthur

Chapter 17

< Previous
Table of content
Next >

"WILL you have the money now, dear?" said Mrs. Wilkinson, as she arose, with her husband, from the dinner-table, on the day she announced to him the fact that she had saved a few hundred dollars, out of the amount given her for the expenses of the family.

"No, not to-day," replied Wilkinson. "In fact, Mary," he added, "I don't feel just right about taking your money; and I think I must manage to get along without it."

"John!" Mrs. Wilkinson seemed hurt by her husband's words.

"It is yours, Mary," was replied with much tenderness of manner. "You have saved it for some particular purpose, and I shall not feel happy to let it go back again and become absorbed in my business."

"Have we divided interests, John?" said Mrs. Wilkinson, in a low, serious voice, as she clung to her husband's arm, and looked steadily into his face.

"I hope not, Mary."

"Am I not your wife?"

"Yes, yes; and one of the best of wives."

"And do I not love you?"

"Never for a single moment has a doubt of your love been whispered in my heart."

"Such a whisper would have wronged me. Yes, my husband, I do love you, and as my very life."

Wilkinson bent down and pressed his lips to hers.

"Love ever seeks to bless its object," continued Mary, "and finds, in doing so, its purest delight. Do you think I could use the money I have, in any way that would bring me so much pleasure as by placing it in your hands? Surely your heart says no."

"I will take it, dear," said Wilkinson, after a slight pause. His voice was unsteady as he spoke; "and you will have your reward," he added, in tones filled with a prophecy for the future.

"Never--never--never shall act of mine bring a shadow to that dear face!" was the mental ejaculation of Wilkinson, as, with an impulse of affection he could not restrain, he threw his arms around his wife and hugged her to his bosom.

"Bless you! Bless you, Mary!" came, almost sobbing, from his overflowing heart.

On his way to his store, that afternoon, Wilkinson felt the old desire to stop and get his usual glass of brandy, and he was actually about to enter a drinking-house, when the image of his wife came so distinctly before his mind, that it seemed almost like a personal presence. He saw a shadow upon her face, and the dimness of tears was in her tender blue eyes.

"No!" said he resolutely, and with an audible expression, and quickly passed on.

How his bosom rose and fell, with a panting motion, as if from some strong physical effort.

"What an escape! It was the very path of danger!" such were his thoughts. "To venture into that path again were the folly of a madman. No, Mary, no! Your love shall draw me back with its strong attraction. A new light seems breaking all around me. I see as I never saw before. There is the broad way to destruction, and here winds the narrow but pleasant path of safety. Ruined hopes, broken hearts, and sad wrecks of humanity are scattered thickly along the first, but heavenly confidence, joyful hearts, and man, with the light of celestial truth upon his upturned face, is to be found in the other. Shall I hesitate in which to walk? No!"

With a quicker and more elastic step Wilkinson pursued his way, and reached his store just as a customer from the country, who had been waiting for him, was leaving.

"Just in time," said the latter. "I've been waiting for you over half an hour."

"I dined later to-day than usual," returned Wilkinson.

"I wanted to settle my bill, but there were two or three items which your clerk could not explain. So I concluded to let the matter stand over until I was in the city again, which will be in the course of a few weeks. However, as you are here, we will arrange it now."

So the two men walked back to the desk upon which lay Wilkinson's account books. The customer's bill was referred to, and one or two slight discrepancies reconciled. The amount of it was nearly two hundred dollars.

"You will take off five per cent. for cash, I presume?"

"Certainly," replied Wilkinson.

The money was paid down.

"So much for not stopping on the way to business for a glass of brandy."

This thought was spontaneous in the mind of Wilkinson. After his customer had left, he fell into a musing state, in which many thoughts were presented, that, from the pain and self-condemnation they occasioned, he tried to push from his mind. But he was not able to do this. Much of the history of his daily life for the past few years presented itself, and, in reviewing it, many things stood out in bold relief, which were before regarded as of little moment. Not until now did he clearly see the dangerous position in which he stood.

"So near the brink of ruin!" he sighed. "I knew the path to be a dangerous one; I knew that other feet had slipped; but felt secure in my own strength. Ah! that strength was weakness itself. I a drunkard!" He shuddered as the thought presented itself. "And Mary, the hopeless, brokenhearted wife of one lost to every ennobling sentiment of the human mind! It is awful to think of it!"

Wilkinson was deeply disturbed. For some time longer his mind dwelt on this theme: then, in the depths of his own thoughts, and in the presence of Heaven, he resolved to be in safety, by avoiding the path of danger; to put forever from his lips the cup from which he had so often drank confusion.

Suddenly he appeared to be lifted above the level he had occupied, into a region whose atmosphere was purer, and to a position from which he saw things in new relations. It was only then that he fully comprehended the real danger from which he had escaped.

"And my wife has saved me!" was the involuntary acknowledgment of his heart.

The rest of the afternoon was spent by Wilkinson in a careful investigation of his affairs. He ascertained the entire amount he would have to pay in the coming six months, and also his probable resources during the time. The result was very discouraging. But for the sum lost to Carlton he would have seen all clear; but the abstraction of so much lessened his available means, and would so clog the wheels of his business as to make all progress exceedingly difficult.

There was a shadow on the brow of Wilkinson when he met his wife that evening, and she saw it the moment he came in, notwithstanding his effort to seem cheerful. This shadow fell upon her heart, but she did not permit its reproduction on her countenance.

After tea, Mary was busied for a short time in getting little Ella to sleep. When she returned, at length, to their sitting-room, she had a small package in her hand, which, with a smiling face, she laid upon the table at which her husband sat reading.

"What is that, dear?" he asked, lifting his eyes to her face.

"We shall soon see," was answered, and Mrs. Wilkinson commenced opening the package. In a moment or two, five or six rolls of coin were produced, nicely enveloped in paper.

"This is my sub-treasury," said she, with a smile. "I took an account of the deposits to-day, and find just five hundred and fifty dollars. So, even if Mr. Ellis should fail to return the two hundred dollars he borrowed, you will still be three hundred and fifty dollars better off than you thought you were. So push every gloomy thought from your heart. All will come out right in the end."

Wilkinson looked at the money like one who could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses.

"This for the present," said Mrs. Wilkinson, leaning towards her husband, and fixing her gentle, yet earnest, loving eyes upon his face. "This for the present. And now let me give you my plans for the future. Your business is to earn money, and mine to expend so much of it as domestic comfort and well-being requires. Thus far I believe the expenditure has not been in a just ratio to the earnings. Speak out plainly, dear husband! and say if I am not right."

Wilkinson sat silent, gradually withdrawing his eyes from those of his wife, and letting them fall to the floor.

"Yes, I am right," said the latter, after a pause. "And such being the case, you have become pressed for money to conduct your business. A change, then, is required. We must lessen our expenses. And now listen to what I have to propose. I went this afternoon to see Mrs. Capron, and she says, that if we will furnish our own room, she will board us and a nurse for ten dollars a week."

"Board us!"

"Yes, dear. Won't it be much better for us to take boarding for two or three years, until we can afford to keep a house?"

"But our furniture, Mary? What is to be done with that?"

"All provided for," said Mrs. Wilkinson, with sparkling eyes, and a countenance flushed with the excitement she felt. "We will have a sale."

"A sale!"

"Yes, a sale. And this will give you more money. We will live at half the present cost, and you will get back into your business at least a thousand dollars that never should have been taken from it."

"But the sacrifice, Mary!" said Wilkinson, as if seeking an argument against his wife.

"Did you never hear of such a thing," she replied, "as throwing over a part of the cargo to save the ship?"

"Bless you! Bless you, Mary!" exclaimed Wilkinson, in a broken voice, as he hid his face upon his wife's bosom. "You have, indeed, saved me from shipwreck, body and soul, just as I was about to be thrown upon the breakers! Heaven will reward your devoted love, your tenderness, your long-suffering and patient forbearance. Thank God for such a wife!"

And the whole frame of the strong man quivered.

It was many minutes before either of them spoke; then Mr. Wilkinson lifted his face, and said calmly--

"Yes, Mary, we will do as you propose; for you have spoken wisely. I will need every dollar in my business that I can get. And now let me say a few words more. In times past I have not been as kind to you--as considerate--"

"Dear husband! let the past be as if it had not been. You were always kind, gentle, loving"--

"Let me speak what is in my mind. I wish to give it utterance," interrupted Wilkinson. "In times past, I have too often sought companionship from home, and such companionship has ever been dangerous and debasing. I have this day resolved to correct that error; and I will keep my resolution. Henceforth, home shall be to me the dearest place. And there is one more thing I wish to say"--

The voice of Wilkinson changed its expression, while a slight flush came into his face.

"There is one habit that I have indulged, and which I feel to be an exceedingly dangerous one. That habit I have solemnly promised, in the sight of Heaven, to correct. I will no longer put to my lips the cup of confusion."

Wilkinson was not prepared for the effect these words had upon his wife, who, instantly uttering a cry of joy, flung herself into her husband's arms, sobbing--

"Oh! I am the happiest woman alive this day!" _

Read next: Chapter 18

Read previous: Chapter 16

Table of content of Two Wives


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book