A Scene from Real Life
"My wife feels as though she were laboring very hard for the benefit of others."
This was spoken by a man who considered himself a good husband; but if he had been one in reality, would his wife have been troubled with such feelings?
Let us consider the subject, and take an occurrence from every-day life, to illustrate it.
Mr. Barton arises in the morning with the intention of going to the city, a distance of twenty miles, and back the same day. In his haste to be gone, he does not observe that his wife is paler than usual. Her health has been poor for a long time, and her altered appearance now is not even noticed. Although they are in comfortable circumstances, yet neither feel able to keep hired help. As the husband loves neatness and order, for which the wife is remarkable, the latter determines that her washing shall be done in his absence. But many things arise to hinder — the wood is poor, and will not burn — the babe requires more care than usual. The sun has passed the meridian, and is hastening on his daily course; but her work is not half done. She toils on with an energy beyond her strength, hoping all will yet be well. She pictures to herself the children, quietly sleeping in their snug little bed, the floor mopped, the fire bright and cheerful, the table spread with its snowy cloth, and her husband's favorite dish prepared, before his return.
But, alas! bright anticipations vanish; the day is past, and "evening shadows appear;" the babe becomes more troublesome, and now takes all the mother's time. She has nearly succeeded in quieting it, when she hears the well-known step on the threshold; her husband enters; he sees the unfinished washing, with all its accompaniments of tubs and pails; the fire is nearly gone out, and his little boy, two years old, is splashing water from one thing to another, in great glee. Mr. Barton seizes the child, and places him in a chair in the corner, with so much violence that the room quickly resounds with his screams. He then whips him to still his cries, that his own voice may be heard. Every blow pierces the mother's heart, but she knows remonstrance is vain, and lets things take their course, in silence.
Her turn comes next, and he can hardly find words strong enough to express his indignation; among many other things, he tells her she never has anything in order; he never knew her to have a fire or a meal in time.
By this time the babe was fairly aroused, and it needed considerable exertion to hush its plaintive cries; but by carrying it about in her arms, the mother was at last triumphant.
She next prepared their evening meal with as much alacrity as exhausted nature would allow; and, as her husband sipped his tea, and enjoyed the genial warmth of the fire, the irritability of his temper passed off, and with it all thoughts of the late unhappy occurrence. He soon retired to rest, and in refreshing sleep forgot the toils of the day. His wife had now her washing to finish, and everything to put in its place, even to her husband's clothes; for, with all his love of order, he frequently forgets to put away his own things. When she had accomplished all, she, too, retired to rest, but not to sleep — no: every nerve was unstrung; and as she laid her throbbing head on its pillow, and vainly attempted to sleep, the events of the day would crowd themselves into her mind. Yet she would not allow herself to think unkindly of her husband. She tried to reason thus — "Have I not a good husband? Does he not provide for my actual needs, according to the best of his ability?"
But, notwithstanding all her endeavors, the cruel words which had been uttered by him in wrath, would rush into her mind, like unbidden guests, until tears began to flow in profusion, and memory became busy. Then she thought of the happy home of her girlhood, of the mother that watched over her, of the days when the rose of health bloomed on her cheek, and her brow was unclouded by care. But, most of all, her memory reverted to the bridal day, when her lover promised, in presence of God and man, to love, cherish, and protect, until death should them part. She asked herself if she had ever been unfaithful to the marriage vow; conscience answered no; had she not studied her husband's happiness with untiring zeal, until self was all forgotten, health gone, constitution enfeebled? And now, as she felt herself less able to perform the duties required of her, she felt that her love had been ill repaid. Thus, after a day of over tasked labor, and nearly a night spent in tears, the wife sunk into an uneasy slumber, to be disturbed at intervals by her babe, until the dawn of another day, when the well-rested husband called upon his wife to rise, not doubting that she was as much refreshed as himself.
Now, what had that husband gained by all this? Had not his wife done her best, and what could she do more? It is true, he knew not of her grief and tears; he knew not that such treatment was hastening her to the grave; as she daily sank under the accumulated weight of care, he knew not that the cause was in any way attributable to himself.
Yet it would have required but little forbearance on his part to have spoken a kind word, or sympathized with her a little. She would then have performed the same duties with cheerfulness, and considered herself happy in the possession of such a husband. And when her head rested on its pillow, and she strove to hush its throbbings, no images but such as affection brings would have haunted her imagination; and her slumbers would soon have been as calm as those of the loved ones beside her.
If any man who has a care-worn wife, happen to read this article, let him look well to the subject; and, if he wishes to be met with a smile or look of happiness, let him strive by his own example to sow the good seeds of affection, and he will be sure to reap an abundant harvest, for "virtue is its own reward."