Ruling a Wife
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1852
As a lover, Henry Lane was the kindest, most devoted, self-sacrificing person imaginable. He appeared really to have no will of his own, so entire was his deference to his beautiful Amanda; yet, for all this, he had no very high opinion of her as an intelligent being. She was lovely, she was gentle, she was good; and these qualities, combined with personal grace and beauty, drew him in admiration to her side, and filled him with the desire to possess her as his own.
As a husband, Henry Lane was a different being. His relation had changed, and his exterior changed correspondingly. Amanda was his wife; and as such she must be, in a certain sense, under him. It was his judgment that must govern in all matters; for her judgment, in the affairs of life, was held in light estimation. Moreover, as a man, it was his province to control and direct — and her duty to look to him for guidance.
Yet, for all this, if the truth must be told, the thoughts of Amanda's mind were, in ordinary affairs — even more correct than her husband's judgment; for he was governed a great deal by impulses and first impressions, instead of by the reason of which he was so proud — while she came naturally into the woman's quick perceptions of right and propriety. This being the case, it may readily be seen that there was a broad ground-work for unhappiness in the married state. Amanda could not sink into a mere cipher; she could not give up her will entirely to the guidance of another, and cease to act from her own volitions.
It took only a few months to make the young wife feel that her position was to be one of great trial. She was of a mild and gentle character, more inclined to suffer than resist; but her judgment was clear, and she saw the right or wrong of any act almost instinctively. Love did not make her blind to everything in her husband. He had faults and unpleasant peculiarities, and she saw them plainly, and often desired to correct them. But one trial of this kind sufficed to keep her silent. He was offended, and showed his state of mind so plainly, that she resolved never to attempt to correct him again.
As time progressed, the passiveness of Amanda encouraged in Henry his natural love of ruling. His household was his kingdom, and there his will must be the law. In his mind arose the conceit that, in every thing, his judgment was superior to that of his wife. Even in the smaller matters of household economy, he let this be seen. His taste, too, was more correct, and applied itself to guiding and directing her into a proper state of dressing. He decided about the harmony of colors and the choice of patterns. She could not buy even a ribbon without there being some fault found with it, as not possessing the elements of beauty in just arrangements. In company, you would often hear him say — "Oh, my wife has no taste. She would dress like a fright, if I did not watch her all the time."
Though outwardly passive or concurrent when such things were said, Amanda felt them as unjust, and they wounded her more or less severely, according to the character of the company in which she happened at the time to be; but her self-satisfied husband saw nothing of this. And not even when someone, more plainly spoken than others, would reply to such a remark — "She did not dress like a fright before you were married," did he perceive his presumption and his errors.
But passiveness under such a relation does not always permanently remain; it was accompanied from the first by a sense of oppression and injustice, though love kept the feeling subdued. The desire for ruling in any position, gains strength by activity. The more the young wife yielded — the more did the husband assume, until at length Amanda felt that she had no will of her own, so to speak. The conviction of this, when it formed itself in her mind, half involuntarily brought with it an instinctive feeling of resistance. Here was the forming point of antagonism — the beginning of the state of unhappiness foreshadowed from the first. Had Amanda asserted her right to think and act for herself in the early days of her married life, the jar of discord would have been light. It now promised to be most afflicting in its character.
The first activity of Amanda's newly forming state, showed itself in the doing of certain things to which she was inclined, notwithstanding the expression of her husband's disapproval. Accustomed to the most perfect compliance, Henry was disturbed by this.
"Oh, dear! what a horrid looking thing!" said he one day, as he discovered a new dress pattern which his wife had just purchased lying on a chair. "Where in the world did that come from?"
"I bought it this morning," replied Amanda.
"Take it back, or throw it into the fire," was the husband's rude response.
"I think it neat," said Amanda, smiling.
"Neat? It's awful! But you've no taste. I wish you'd let me buy your dresses."
The wife made no answer to this. Henry said a good deal more about it, to all of which Amanda opposed but little. The next Henry saw of the dress — was on his wife!
"Oh, mercy!" he exclaimed, holding up his hand, "I thought you had burnt it. Why did you have it made up?"
"I like it," quietly answered Amanda.
"You like anything."
"I haven't much taste, I know," said Amanda, "but such as it is, it is pleasant to gratify it sometimes."
Something in the way this remark was made, disturbed the self-satisfaction which was a leading feature in Henry's state of mind; he, however, answered — "I wish you would be governed by me in matters of this kind; you know my taste is superior to yours. Do take off that dress, and throw it in the fire!"
Amanda did not reply to this, for it excited feelings and produced thoughts that she had no wish to manifest. But she did not comply with her husband's wishes. She liked the dress and meant to wear it, and she did wear it, notwithstanding her husband's repeated condemnation of her taste.
At this time they had one child — a babe less than a year old. From the first, Henry had encroached upon the mother's province. This had been felt more sensibly than anything else by his wife, for it disturbed the harmonious activity of the natural law which gives to a mother the perception of what is best for her infant. Still, she had been so in the habit of yielding to the force of his will, that she gave way to his interference here, in numberless instances, though she as often felt that he was wrong as right. Conceit of his own intelligence, blinded him to the intelligence of others. Of this Amanda became more and more satisfied every day. At first, she had passively admitted that he knew best; but her own common sense and clear perceptions soon repudiated this idea. While his love of predominance affected only herself, she could bear it with great patience; but when it was exercised, day after day, and week after week, in matters pertaining to her babe — she grew restless under the oppression.
After the decided position taken in regard to her dress, Amanda's mind acquired strength in a new direction. A single gratification of her own will, attained in opposition to the will of her husband, stirred a latent desire for repeated gratifications; and it was not long before Henry discovered this fact, and wondered at the change which had taken place in his wife's temper. She no longer acquiesced in every suggestion, nor yielded when he opposed argument to an assumed position. The pleasure of thinking and acting for herself had been restored, and the delight appertaining to its indulgence was no more to be suppressed. Her husband's reaction on this state put her in greater freedom; for it made more distinctly manifest the quality of his love of ruling, and awoke in her mind a more determined spirit of resistance.
Up to this time, even in the most trifling matters of domestic and social life, Henry's will had been the law. This was to be so no longer. A new will had come into activity; and that will a woman's will. Passive it had been for a long time under a pressure that partial love and a yielding temper permitted to remain; but its inward life was unimpaired; and when its motions became earnest, it was strong and enduring. The effort made by Henry to subdue these motions the moment he perceived them — only gave them a stronger impulse. The hand laid upon her heart to quiet its pulsations, only made it beat with a quicker effort, while it communicated its disturbance to his own.
The causes leading to the result we are to describe have been fully enough set forth; they steadily progressed until the husband and wife were in positions of direct antagonism. Henry could not give up his love of controlling everything around him; and his wife, fairly roused to opposition, followed the promptings of her own will, in matters where right was clearly on her side, with a quiet perseverance that always succeeded. Of course, they were often made unhappy; yet enough forbearance existed on both sides to prevent an open rupture — at least, for a time. That, however, came at last, and was the more violent from the long accumulation of reactive forces.
The particulars of this rupture we need not give; it arose in a dispute about the child when she was two years old. As usual, Henry had attempted to set aside the judgment of his wife in something pertaining to the child, as inferior to his own — and she had not submitted. Warm words ensued, in which he said a good deal about a wife's knowing her place and keeping it.
"I am not your slave!" said Amanda, indignantly; the cutting words of her husband throwing her off her guard.
"You are my wife," he calmly and half contemptuously replied; "and, as such, are bound to submit yourself to your husband."
"To my husband's intelligence — not to his mere will," answered Amanda, less warmly, but more resolutely than at first.
"Yes, to his will!" said Henry, growing blind from anger.
"That I have done long enough," returned the wife. "But the time is past now. By your intelligence, when I see in it superior light to what exists in my own, I will be guided; but, by your will — never!"
The onward moving current of years, which, for some time, had been chafing amid obstructions, now met a sudden barrier, and flowed over in a raging torrent. A sharp retort met this firm declaration of Amanda, stinging her into anger, and producing a state of contention. While in this state, she spoke plainly of his assumption of authority over her from the first — of her passiveness for a time — of being finally aroused to opposition.
"And now," she added, in conclusion, "I am content to be your wife and equal, but will be no longer your passive and obedient slave!"
"Your duty is to obey. You can occupy no other position as my wife," returned the blind and excited husband.
"Then we must part."
"Be it so." And as he said this, Henry turned hurriedly away and left the house.
Fixed as a statue, for a long time, sat the stunned and wretched wife. As the current of thoughts again flowed on, and the words of her husband presented themselves in even a more offensive light than when they were first uttered, indignant pride took the uppermost place in her mind.
"He will not treat me as a wife and equal," she said, "and I will no longer be his slave."
In anger Henry turned from his wife; and for hours after parting with her, this anger burned with an all-consuming flame. For him to yield was out of the question. His manly pride would never consent to this. She must go back into her true position. He did not return home, as usual, at dinner-time; but absented himself, in order to give her time for reflection, as well as to awaken her fears lest he would abandon her altogether.
Towards night, imagining his wife in a state of penitence and distressing anxiety, and feeling some commiseration for her on that account — Henry went back to his dwelling. As he stepped within the door, a feeling of desertion and loneliness came over him; and unusual silence seemed to pervade the house. He sat down in the parlor for some minutes; but hearing no movement in the chamber above, nor catching even a murmur of his child's voice, a sound for which his ears were longing, he ascended the stairs, but found no one there. As he turned to go down again he met a servant.
"Where is Mrs. Lane?" he asked.
"I don't know," was answered. "She went out this morning, and has not returned."
"Where is Mary?"
"She took Mary with her."
"Didn't she say where she was going?"
Henry asked no more questions, but went back into the room from which he had just emerged, and, sitting down, covered his face with his hands, and endeavored to collect his thoughts.
"Has she deserted me?" he asked of himself in an audible husky whisper.
His heart grew faint in the pause that followed. As the idea of desertion became more and more distinct, Henry commenced searching about in order to see whether his wife had not left some communication for him, in which her purpose was declared. But he found none. She had departed without leaving a sign. The night that followed was a sleepless one to Henry. His mind was agitated by many conflicting emotions. For hours, on the next day, he remained at home, in the expectation of seeing or hearing from Amanda. But no word came. Where had she gone? That was the next question. If he must go in search of her — in what direction should he turn his steps? She had no relations in the city, and with those who resided at a distance, she had cultivated no intimacy.
The whole day was passed in a state of irresolution. To make the fact known was to expose a family difficulty that concerned only himself and wife; and give room for idle gossip and gross detraction. As bad as the case was, the public would make it appear a great deal worse than the reality. In the hope of avoiding this, he concealed the sad affair for the entire day, looking, in each recurring hour, for the return of his repentant wife. But he looked in vain. Night came gloomily down, and she was still absent.
He was sitting, about eight o'clock in the evening, undetermined yet what to do, when a gentleman with whom he was but slightly acquainted named Edmondson, called at the door and asked to see him.
On being shown in, the latter, with some embarrassment in his manner, said —
"I have called to inform you, that Mrs. Lane has been at my house since yesterday."
"At your house!"
"Yes. She came there yesterday morning; and, since that time, my wife has been doing her best to induce her to return home. But, so far, she has not been able to make the smallest impression. Not wishing to become a party to the matter, I have called to see you on the subject. I regret, exceedingly, that any misunderstanding has occurred, and do not intend that either myself or family shall take sides in so painful an affair. All that I can do, however, to heal the difficulty, shall be done cheerfully."
"What does she say?" asked Lane, when he had composed himself.
"She makes no specific complaint."
"What does she propose doing?"
"She avows her intention of living separate from you, and supporting herself and child by her own efforts."
This declaration aroused a feeling of indignant pride in the husband's mind. "It is my child as well as hers," said he. "She may desert me, if she will; but she cannot expect me to give up my child! To that I will never submit."
"My dear sir," said Mr. Edmondson, "do not permit your mind to chafe, angrily, over this unhappy matter. That will widen — not heal the breach. In affairs of this kind, pardon me for the remark, there are always faults on both sides; and the duty of each is to put away his or her own state of anger and antagonism and seek to reconcile the other, rather than to compel submission. As a man, you have the advantage of a stronger and clearer judgment — exercise it as a man. Feeling and impulse often rule in a woman's mind, from the very nature of her mental conformation; and we should remember this when we pass judgment on her actions. There is often more honor in yielding a point, than in contending for it to the end, in the face of threatened disaster. Let me then urge you to seek a reconciliation, while there is yet opportunity, and permit the veil of oblivion to fall, while it may, over this painful event. As yet, the fact has not passed from the knowledge of myself and wife. Heal the breach, and the secret remains where it is."
"If she will return, I will receive her, and forgive and forget all. Will you say this to her from me?"
"Why not go to her at once? See her face to face. This is the best and surest way."
"No," said Henry, coldly. "She has left me of her own choice; and, now, she must return. I gave her no cause for the rash act. Enough for me that I am willing to forgive and forget all this. But I am not the man to humble myself at the feet of a capricious woman. It is not in me!"
"Mr. Lane, you are wrong!" said the visitor, in a decided tone. "All wrong. Do you believe that your wife would have fled from you without a real or imagined cause?"
"No. But the cause is only in her imagination."
"Then see her and convince her of this. It is the same to her, at present, whether the cause is real or imaginary. She believes it real, and feels all its effects as real. Show her that it is imaginary — and all is healed."
Lane shook his head.
"I have never humbled myself before a man — much less a woman!" said he.
This remark exhibited to Mr. Edmondson the whole ground-work of the difficulty. Henry regarded a woman as inferior to a man, and had for her, in consequence, a latent feeling of contempt. He could understand, now, why his wife had left him; for he saw, clearly, that, with such an estimation of woman, he would attempt to degrade her from her true position; and, if she possessed an independent spirit, render her life well-near instolerable. Earnestly did he seek to convince Henry of his error; but to no good effect. As soon as all doubt was removed from the mind of the latter in regard to where his wife had gone, and concerning the spirit which governed her in her separation from him, his natural pride and self-esteem — self-respect, he called it — came back into full activity. No, he would never humble himself to a woman! That was the unalterable state of his mind. If Amanda would return, and assume her old place and her old relation — he would forget and forgive all. This far he would go, and no farther. She had left of her own free will — and that must bring her back.
"You can say all this to her in any way you please; but I will not seek her and enter into an humble supplication for her return. I have too much self-respect — and am too much of a man — for that. If she finds the struggle to do so hard and humiliating — she will be the more careful how she places herself again in such a position. The lesson will last her a life-time."
"You are wrong; depend upon it, you are wrong!" urged Mr. Edmondson. "There must be yielding and conciliation on both sides."
"I can do no more than I have said. Passive I have been from the first, and passive I will remain. As for our child, I wish you to say to her, that I shall not consent to a separation. It is my child as much as hers; moreover, as father, my responsibility is greatest, and I am not the man to delegate my duties to another. Possession of the child, if driven to that extremity, I will obtain through aid of the law. This I desire that she shall distinctly understand. I make no idle threat. I do not wish her to view the declaration in that light. I affirm only the truth, that she may clearly understand all the consequences likely to flow from her ill-advised step."
The more Mr. Edmondson sought to convince Henry of his error — the more determinedly did he cling to it; and he retired at last, under the sad conviction that the unhappy couple had seen but the beginning of troubles.
Alone with his own thoughts, an hour had not elapsed before Henry half repented of his conduct in taking so unyielding a position. A conviction forced itself upon his mind that he had gone too far and was asking too much; and he wished that he had not been quite so exacting in his declarations to Mr. Edmondson. But, having made them, his false pride of consistency, prompted him to adhere to what he had said.
The night passed in broken and troubled sleep; and morning found him supremely wretched. Yet resentment still formed a part of Henry's feelings. He was angry with his wife, whom he had driven from his side, and was in no mood to bend in order to effect a reconciliation. At mid-day he returned from his business, hoping to find her at home. But his house was still desolate. With the evening he confidently expected her, but she was not there. Anxiously he sat, hour after hour, looking for another visit from Mr. Edmondson, but he did not come again.
In leaving her husband's house, Amanda had gone, as has been seen, to the house of a friend. Mrs. Edmondson was an old school companion, between whom and herself had continued to exist, as they grew up, the tenderest relations. When she turned from her husband, she fled, with an instinct of affection and sympathy, to this friend, and poured her tears in agony, upon her bosom. In leaving her husband, she was not governed by a sudden caprice; nor was the act intended to humble him to her feet. Nothing of this was in her mind. He had entrenched upon her province as a wife and mother; interfered with her freedom as an individual; and, at last, boldly assumed the right to command and control her as an inferior. The native independence of her character, which had long fretted under this rule of subordination, now openly rebelled, and, panting for freedom, she had sprung from her fetters with few thoughts as to future consequences.
The first day of absence was a day of weeping. Mrs. Edmondson could not and did not approve of what had been done.
"I am afraid, Amanda, that you have only made matters worse," said she, as soon as she could venture to suggest anything at all upon the subject. "It is always easier to prevent, than to heal a breach. The day has not yet closed. There is time to go back. Your husband need never know what has been in your mind. This hasty act may be entirely concealed from him."
But the long suffering wife had been roused to opposition. A new current of feeling was sweeping across and controlling her mind. She was, therefore, deaf to the voice of reason. Still her friend, as in duty bound, urged her to think more calmly on the subject, and to retrace the steps she had taken. But all was in vain. This being so, her husband, as has been seen, called upon Mr. Lane, and informed him that his wife was at his house. From this interview, Mr. Edmondson returned disheartened, and reported all that had been said on both sides to his wife.
"My husband saw Henry last evening," said Mrs. Edmondson to Amanda on the next day.
"He did!" Amanda looked eagerly into the face of her friend, while she became much agitated.
"Yes. He called to let him know that you were here."
"What did he say?"
"He wishes you to return. All will be forgotten and forgiven."
"He said that?"
"I have done nothing for which I desire forgiveness," said Amanda, coldly, and with the air of one who is hurt by the words of another. "If he will not have me return as his wife and equal — I can never go back."
"For the sake of your child, Amanda, you should be willing to bear much."
"My child shall not grow up and see her mother degraded."
"She is his child as well as yours. Do not forget that," said Mrs. Edmondson. "And it is by no means certain that he will permit you to retain the possession of an object so dear to him."
The face of Amanda instantly flushed at this, a suggestion which had not before been presented to her mind.
"Did he refer to this subject in conversing with your husband?" inquired Amanda, with forced calmness.
"What did he say?"
"That, in any event, he could not and would not be separated from his child. And you know, Amanda, that the law will give to him its guardianship."
"The law!" There was a huskiness in Amanda's voice.
"Yes, Amanda, the law. It is well for you to view this matter in all its relations. The law regards the father as the true guardian of the child. If, therefore, you separate yourself from your husband, you must expect to bear a separation from your child; for that will be most likely to follow."
"Did he speak of the law?" asked Amanda, in a still calmer voice, and with a steady eye.
"It would not be right to conceal from you this fact, Amanda. He did do so. And can you wholly blame him? It is his child as well as yours. He loves it, as you well know; and, as its father, he is responsible for it to society and to God. This separation is your act. You may deprive him of your own society; but, have you a right, at the same time, to rob him of his child? I speak plainly; I would not be your friend did I not do so. Try, for a little while, to look away from yourself, and think of your husband's perspective; and especially of the consequences likely to arise to your child from your present act. It will not be a mere separation with passive endurance of pain on either side. There will come the prolonged effort of the father to recover his child, and the anguish and fear of the mother, as she lives in the constant dread of having it snatched from her hands. And then must come, inevitably, the final separation. You will have to part from your child, Amanda, if not in the beginning, yet finally.
You know your husband to be of a resolute temper. Do not give him a chance to press you to extremity. If he should come to the determination to recover his child from your hands, he will not stop short of any means to accomplish his purpose."
Amanda made no reply to this; nor did she answer to any further remark, appeal, or suggestion of her friend, who soon ceased to speak on the subject and left her to her own reflections, hoping that they might lead her to some better purpose than had yet influenced her in the unhappy business. On the day after, Mr. Edmondson met Henry in the street.
"I was about calling to see you," said the latter, "on the subject of this unhappy difficulty, to which, so reluctantly to yourself, you have become a party. It may be that I am something to blame. Perhaps I have been too exacting — too jealous of my prerogative as a husband. At any rate, I am willing to admit that such has been the case; and willing to yield something to the morbid feelings of my wife. What is her present state of mind?"
Mr. Edmondson looked surprised.
Remarking this, Henry said quickly, "Is she not at your house?"
"No," replied Mr. Edmondson, "she left us yesterday. We believed that she had gone home. My wife had a long conversation with her, in which she urged her, by every consideration, to return; and we had reason to think, when she left our house, that she went back to you."
"Such is not the case," said Henry, with disappointment, and something of sadness in his tone. "I have not seen her since the morning of our unhappy difference. Where can she have gone?"
Mr. Edmondson was silent.
"Did she say that she was going to return home?" asked Henry.
"No. But we had reason to think that such was her intention. Have you heard nothing from her?"
"Not a word."
"It is strange!"
Henry heaved a deep sigh. A few more brief questions and answers passed, and then the two men separated. The forsaken husband went home with a sadder heart than he had yet known. The absence of his wife and child for several days — both objects of real affection — and absent under such peculiar and trying circumstances, had subdued, to a great extent, his angry feelings. He was prepared to yield much. He would even have gone to his wife, and acknowledged that he was partly in error, in order to have brought about a reconciliation. Something that she had said during their last, angry interview, which he had rejected as untrue, or not causes of complaint, had represented themselves to his mind; and in the sober reflecting states that were predominant, he saw that he had not in all things treated her as an equal, nor regarded her at all times as possessing a rational freedom as independent as his own. Though he did not excuse her conduct, he yet thought of it less angrily than at first, and was willing to yield something in order to restore the old relations.
Anxiety and alarm now took possession of his mind. The distance between them had become wider, and the prospect of a reconciliation more remote. Amanda had gone, he could not tell where. She had neither money nor friends; he knew not into what danger she might fall, nor what suffering she might encounter. It was plain from the manner of her leaving the house of Mr. Edmondson, that her resolution to remain away from him was fixed. He must, therefore, seek her out, and invite her to return. He must yield if he would reconcile this sad difficulty. And he was now willing to do so. But, where was she? Where should he go in search of the wanderer?
The very means which her friend had taken to induce Amanda to return to her husband — had driven her farther away. The hint touching her husband's legal rights in the child, and his resolution to assert them, filled her with the deepest alarm, and she determined to put it beyond his power, if possible, to deprive her of the only thing in life to which her heart could now cling. Toward her husband, her feelings were those of an oppressed one for an oppressor. From the beginning, he had almost suffocated her own life by his pressure upon her freedom of will. She remembered, with, tears, his tenderness and his love; but soon would come the recollection of his constant interference in matters peculiarly her own; his evident contempt for her intellect; and his final efforts to subdue her rising independence, and make her little less than a domestic slave — and the fountain of her tears would become dry. Added to all this, was the fact of his resolution to recover his child by law. This crushed out all hope from her heart. He had no affection left for her. His love had changed to hate. He had assumed toward her the attitude of a persecutor. Nothing was now left for her, but self-protection.
In leaving the home of her husband, Amanda had exercised no forethought. She made no estimate of consequences, and provided for no future contingencies. She was blind in her faint-heartedness, that was little less than despair. Anything was better than to remain in a state of submission, that had become, she felt, intolerable. Leaving thus, Amanda had taken with her nothing beyond a few dollars in her purse, and it was only an accident that her purse was in her pocket. All her own clothes and those of her child, except what they had on, were left behind.
Alarmed at the threat of her husband, Amanda, a few hours after the conversation with Mrs. Edmondson, in which his views were made known to her, took her child and went away. In parting with her friend, she left upon her mind the impression that she was going home. This was very far from her intention. Her purpose was to leave New York, the city of her residence, as quickly as possible, and flee to some obscure village, where she would remain hidden from her husband. She had resided, some years before, for a short time in Philadelphia; and there she resolved to go, and from thence reach some point in the country. On leaving the house of her friend, Amanda hurried to the river and took passage in the afternoon line for Philadelphia.
As the cars began their swift movement from Jersey City, a feeling of inexpressible sadness came over her, and she began to realize more distinctly than she had yet done — her desolate, destitute, and helpless condition. After paying her passage, she had only two dollars left in her purse; and, without money, how was she to gain friends and shelter in a strange city? To add to her unhappy feelings, her child commenced asking for her Henry.
"Where is papa?" she would repeat every few minutes. "I want to go to my papa."
This was continued until it ended in fretfulness and complaints at the separation it was enduring. Tears and sobs followed; and, finally, the child wept herself to sleep.
A new train of feelings was awakened by this incident. In leaving her husband, Amanda had thought only of herself. She had not once considered the effect of a separation from its father upon her child. Little Mary's heart was full of affection for the two beings whom nature prompted her to love. Her father's return from business had always been to her the happiest event of the day; and, when she sprang into his arms, her whole being would thrill with delight. Days had passed since she had seen her father, and she was pining to see him again to lay her head upon his bosom — to feel his arms clasped tightly around her.
All this was realized by the mother, as the child lay sleeping on her arm, while the swift rolling cars bore them farther and farther away from the home she was leaving. Is this just to our child? Distinctly did this thought present itself in her mind. For a long time she mused over it, her feelings all the while growing more and more tender, until something like repentance for the step she had taken found its way into her mind — not for what she was herself suffering, but for the sake of her child. She had not thought of the effect upon little Mary, until the pain of absence from her father showed itself in complaint.
This idea arose clearly before her — she could not push it aside; and, the more she pondered it, the more troubled did she become, from a new source. Would not the separation so deeply afflict the child, as to rob her of all happiness?
While these thoughts had full possession of the mother's mind, Mary slept on and dreamed of her father, as was evident from the fact that, more than once, she murmured his name.
When night came down, its effect upon Amanda was more sadly depressing, for it brought her into a clearer realization of her unhappy condition. Where was she going? What was the uncertain future to bring forth? All was as dark as the night that had closed around her.
At length the cars reached Bristol, and it became necessary to leave them, and pass into the boat. In lifting Mary in her arms, to bear her from the cars, the child again murmured the name of her father, which so affected Amanda, that her tears gushed forth in spite of her efforts to restrain them. Letting her veil fall over her face to conceal this evidence of affliction from her fellow-passengers, she proceeded with the rest; and, in a little while, was gliding swiftly down the river.
It was ten o'clock when they arrived in Philadelphia. For an hour previous to this time, the mind of the fugitive had been busy in the effort to determine what course she would take on gaining the end of her journey. But the nearer she came to its termination, the more confused did she become, and the less clearly did she see the way before her. Where would she go on reaching the city? There as no one to receive her; no one to whom she could go and claim protection, or even shelter!
This state of irresolution continued until the boat touched the wharf, and the passengers were leaving. Mary was awake again, and kept asking, every few moments, to go home.
"Yes, dear, we will go home," the mother would reply, in a tone of encouragement, while her own mind was in the greatest uncertainty and distress.
"Why don't papa come?" asked the child, as one after another moved away, and they were left standing almost alone. At this moment, an Irishman, with a whip in his hand, came up, and said —
"Want a carriage, ma'am?"
Amanda hesitated a moment or two, while she thought hurriedly, and then replied —
"Very well, ma'am; I'll attend to you. Where is your baggage?"
"I have only this basket with me."
"Ah! well; come along." And Amanda followed the man from the boat.
"Where shall I drive you?" he asked, after she had entered the carriage.
There was a pause, with apparent irresolution.
"I am a stranger here," said Amanda innocently. "I want to obtain pleasant accommodations for a day or two. Can you take me to a good place?"
"I can — as good as the city will afford. Do you wish one of the tip-top places, where they charge a little fortune a week; or a good comfortable home at a reasonable price?"
"I want a comfortable, retired place, where the charges are not extravagant."
"Exactly; I understand."
And the driver closed the door, and, mounting his seat, drove off. At the end of ten minutes the carriage stopped, the steps were let down, and Amanda, after descending, was shown into a small parlor, with dingy furniture. A broad, red-faced Irish woman soon appeared, at the summons of the driver.
"I've brought you a lady customer, Mrs. McGinnis, d'ye see? And you're just the one to make her at home and comfortable. She's a stranger, and wants a quiet place for a day or two."
"And, in truth, she'll find it here, as you well say, John Murphy. Will the lady take off her bonnet? We'll have her room ready in a jiffy! Much obleeged to you, John Murphy, for remembering us. What a darling of a child; bless its little heart!"
"What must I pay you?" asked Amanda, hoarsely, turning to the driver.
"One dollar, ma'am," was replied.
Amanda drew forth her purse, towards which the Irishwoman glanced eagerly, and took therefrom the sum charged, and paid the man, who immediately retired. The landlady followed him out, and stood conversing with him at the door for several minutes. When she returned, she was less forward in her attentions to her guest, and somewhat inquisitive as to who she was, where she had come from, and where she was going. All these Amanda evaded, and asked to have her room prepared as quickly as possible, as she did not feel very well, and wished to retire. The room was at length ready, and she went up with little Mary, who had again fallen to sleep.
It was small, meagerly furnished, and offensive from lack of cleanliness. In turning down the bed clothes, she found the sheets soiled and rumpled, showing that the linen had not been changed since being used by previous lodgers. The first thing that Amanda did, after laying her sleeping child upon the bed, was to sit down and weep bitterly. The difficulties about to invest her, as they drew nearer and nearer, became more and more apparent; and her heart sank and trembled as she looked at the unexpected forms they were assuming. But a single dollar remained in her purse; and she had an instinctive conviction that trouble with the landlady on account of money was before her. Had she been provided with the means of independence, she would have instantly called a servant, and demanded a better room, and fresh linen for her bed; but, under the circumstances, she dared not do this. She had a conviction that the Irishwoman was already aware of her poverty, and that any call for better accommodations would be met by insult. It was too late to seek for other lodgings, even if she knew where to go, and were not burdened with a sleeping child.
Unhappy fugitive! How new and unexpected were the difficulties that already surrounded her! How dark was the future! dark as that old Egyptian darkness that could be felt. As she sat and wept, the folly of which she was guilty in the step she had taken, presented itself distinctly before her mind, and she wondered at her own blindness and lack of forethought. Already, in her very first step, she had got her feet tangled. How she was to extricate them — she could not see.
Wearied at last with grief and fear, her mind became exhausted with its own activity. Throwing herself upon the bed beside her child, without removing her clothes, she was soon lost in sleep. Daylight was stealing in, when the voice of little Mary awakened her.
"Where's papa?" asked the child, and she looked with such a sad earnestness into her mother's face, that the latter felt rebuked, and turned her eyes away from those of her child. "Want to go home," lisped the unhappy babe — "see papa."
"Yes, dear," soothingly answered the mother.
Little Mary turned her eyes to the door with an expectant look, as if she believed her father, whom she loved, was about to enter, and listened for some moments.
"Papa! papa!" she called in anxious tones, and listened again; but there was no response. Her little lip began to quiver, then it curled grievingly; and, falling over, she hid her face against her mother and began sobbing.
Tenderly did the mother take her weeping child to her bosom, and hold it there in a long embrace. After it had grown calm she arose, and adjusting her rumpled garments, and those of Mary, sat down by the windows to await the events that were to follow. In about half an hour, a bell was rung in the passage below, and soon after a girl came to her room to say that breakfast was ready.
"I wish my breakfast brought to me here," said Amanda.
The girl stared a moment, and then retired. Soon after, the Irish landlady made her appearance.
"What is it you wants, mum?" said that personage, drawing herself up and assuming an air of vulgar dignity and importance.
"Nothing," replied Amanda, "except a little bread and milk for my child."
"Isn't yees coming down to breakfast?"
Amanda shook her head.
"Ye'd better. It's all ready."
"I don't wish anything. But if you'll send me up something for my child, I will be obliged to you."
The landlady stood for some moments, as if undecided what she should do, and then retired. About half an hour afterwards, a dirty looking Irish girl appeared with a waiter, on which were the articles for which she had asked.
"Don't you want anything for yerself, mum?" asked the girl, with some kindness in her voice.
"No thank you," was replied.
"You'd better eat a little."
"I've no appetite," said Amanda, turning her face away to conceal the emotion that was rising to the surface.
The girl retired, and the food brought for the child was placed before her; but she felt as little inclined to eat as her mother, and could not be induced to take a mouthful. Turning from the offered food, she raised her tearful eyes to her mother's face, and in a choking voice said — "Go home, mamma — see papa!"
The words smote, like heavy strokes, upon the mother's heart. How great a wrong had she done her child! But could she retrace her steps now? Could she go back and humble herself under the imperious will of her husband? Her heart shrunk from the thought. Anything but that! it would crush the life out of her. An hour she sat, with these and kindred thoughts passing through her mind, when the girl who had brought up Mary's breakfast came in and said — "Won't yees walk down into the parlor, mum, while I clean up your room?"
"Is anyone down there?" asked Amanda.
"No, mum," was answered by the girl.
With some reluctance, Amanda descended to the small, dingy parlor, which she found adjoining a bar-room, whence there came the loud voices of men. From a window she looked forth upon the street, which was narrow, and crowded with carts, sleds, and other vehicles. Opposite were old houses, in which business of various kinds was carried on. One was occupied by a barrel maker; another used as a storehouse for fish; another for an ale-shop. Everything was dirty and crowded, and all appeared bustle and confusion. It was plain to her that she had fallen in an evil place, and that her first business must be escape. As she sat meditating upon the next step, there came suddenly, from the bar-room, the sound of angry voices, mingled with fierce threats and shocking curses. Springing to her feet in terror, Amanda caught up her child, and was about starting from the door without any covering upon her head, when the landlady intercepted her.
"What's the matter with yees? Where are you going?"
With quivering lips, and face white with alarm, Amanda replied — "Oh, ma'am! get me my things and let me go!"
"You can go when you pays yer bill," replied the woman.
"How much is it?"
"It's a dollar and a half."
The Irishwoman looked steadily at Amanda, and saw, by the change in her countenance, what she had expected, that she had not as much money in her possession.
"Won't a dollar pay you?" asked Amanda, after standing with her eyes upon the floor for some moments. "I've had nothing but my night's lodging, and surely a dollar will pay for that."
"Indade and it won't! Sure, and yer breakfast was got. If you didn't ate it, I'm not to fault.
"Here is a dollar," said Amanda, taking out her purse. "I'm sure it's full pay for all I've received."
"And d'ye mane to call me an ould cheat, you scamp, you!" indignantly replied the landlady, her face growing red with anger, while she raised her huge fist and shook it at her terrified guest, who retreated back into the parlor, and sank, trembling, into a chair.
"As if I wasn't an honest woman," continued the rugged landlady, following Amanda. "As if I'd rob a lone woman! Give me patience! When you pays the dollar and a half, you can go; but not a foot shall you take from my door until then!"
A scuffle took place in the bar-room at that moment, attended by a new eruption of curses and imprecations.
Quickly sprinting from her chair, Amanda, with Mary in her arms, glided from the room, and ran panting up-stairs to her chamber, the door of which she locked behind her on entering.
Half an hour of as calm reflection as it was possible for Amanda to make, brought her to the resolution to leave the house at all hazards. Where she was to go, was to be an afterthought. The greatest evil was to remain; after escaping that, she would consider the means of avoiding what followed. Putting on her bonnet and shawl, and taking her basket, she went downstairs with her child, determined, if possible, to get away unobserved, and after doing so, to send back, by any means that offered, the only dollar she possessed in the world to the landlady. No one met her on the stairs, and she passed the parlor-door unobserved. But, alas! the street-door was found locked! After a few ineffectual attempts to open it, Amanda went into the parlor, and, standing there, debated for some moments whether she should leave the house by passing through the bar-room, or wait for another opportunity to get away by the private entrance. While still bewildered and undetermined the landlady came in from the bar-room.
The moment she saw her guest, she comprehended the purpose in her mind.
"Where are you going?" said she in a quick sharp voice, the blood rising to her coarse sensual face.
"I am going to leave your house," replied Amanda, in as firm a voice as she could command. As she spoke she drew forth her purse, and taking out the solitary dollar it contained, added — "Unfortunately, this is all the money I have with me, but I will send you the other half-dollar."
But the landlady refused to take the offered money, and replied, indignantly,
"A purty how d'you do, indeed — to come into a genteel house like mine, and then expect to get off without paying yer bill. But you don't know Biddy McGinnis — you don't! If yees wants to go paceable, pay the dollar and a half. But until this is done, you shall not cross my door-step!"
"I can't stay here! What good will it do?" said Amanda, wringing her hands. "It's all the money I've got; and remaining won't increase the sum, while it adds to the debt. Better let me go now."
"Indade, and ye'll not go, then, my lady! I'll tache yees to come into a respectable ladies house without as much money in yer pocket as'll pay for the night's lodging. I wonder who you are, any how! No better than you should be, I'll warrint!"
While speaking, the Irishwoman had drawn nearer and nearer, and now stood with her face only a few inches from that of her distressed guest, who, bursting into tears, clasped her hands together, and sobbed —
"Let me go! let me go! If you have the heart of a woman, let me go!"
"Heart of a woman, indade!" returned Mrs. McGinnis, indignantly. "Yer a purty one to talk to me about the heart of a woman. Stealin' into a lady's house at twelve o'clock at night, and then tryin' to go off without paying for the lodgings and breakfast. Purty doings!"
"What's the matter here?" said a well dressed man, stepping in from the bar-room and closing the door behind him. "What do you mean by talking to the lady in this way, Mrs. McGinnis? I've been listening to you."
There was an instant change in the Irishwoman. Her countenance fell, and she retreated a few steps from the object of her invectives.
"What's all this about? I would like to know," added the man in a decided way. "Will you explain, madam?" addressing Amanda, in a kind voice. "But you are agitated. Sit down and compose yourself."
"Let her pay me my money — that's all I want," muttered the landlady.
In a moment the man's purse was drawn from his pocket. "What does she owe you?"
"A dollar and a half — but she aint got it!"
"There's your money, you old shrew!" And the man handed her the amount. "And now, as you are paid, and have nothing more to say to this lady, please let her be freed from your presence."
"Yees needint call me ill names, Misther Bond," said the woman, in a subdued voice, as she retired. "It doesn't befit a jentilman like you. I didn't mane any harm. I only wanted my pay, and surely I've a right to that."
"Well, you've got your money, though not in a way that does either you or your house much credit," returned the man. "The next time you are so fortunate as to get a lady in your hotel, I hope you'll know better how to treat her."
Mrs. McGinnis retired without further remark, and the man turned to Amanda, and said, in a kind, respectful manner,
"I am sorry to find you so unhappily situated, and will do anything in my power to relieve you from your present embarrassment. Your landlady here is a turbulent woman. How did you happen to fall into her hands?"
Encouraged by the kindness of the man's address, as well as from the fact that he had rescued her from a violent woman, Amanda, after composing herself, said —
"I came in from New York last night, and, being a stranger, asked the cabman to take me to a good hotel. He brought me here. I happened to have but two dollars in my purse, he charged one for carriage hire."
"Finding into what a wretched place he had brought me, I wished to leave this morning, but have been prevented because I could not pay a dollar and a half, when I had only a dollar. I told her to let me go, and I would send her the balance claimed; but she only met the proposition by insult."
"The wretch!" exclaimed the man, indignantly. "I happened to be passing, and, hearing her loud voice, glanced in at the window. In an instant I comprehended, to some extent, the difficulty; and, knowing her of old, came in to see if something were not wrong. She is a bad woman, and her house is a snare for the innocent. It is fortunate for you that I came at the right moment!"
"And now, madam," said the man, "what can I do for you? Have you friends in the city?"
"I am an entire stranger here," replied Amanda.
"Were you going farther?
"Yes," was answered after some hesitation.
"Where do your friends reside?"
"In New York."
"This is your child?" was said, after a pause.
There was something in the man's manner, and in the way he looked at her, that now made Amanda shrink from, as instinctively as she had at first leaned towards him. Beneath his steady eye, her own drooped and rested for some moments on the floor.
"Is your husband in New York?" pursued the man.
This question caused the heart of Amanda to bound with a sudden throb. Her husband! She had deserted him, her natural and lawful protector, and already she was encompassed with difficulties and surrounded by dangers! What would she not at that moment have given to be safely back in the home she had left? To the last question, she gave a simple affirmative.
"Where do you wish to go when you leave here?" inquired the man, who had perceived a change in her and understood its nature.
"I wish to be taken to a good hotel, where I can remain a day or two, until I have time to communicate with my friends. My being out of money is owing to an inadvertence. I will receive a supply immediately on writing home."
The man drew his purse from his pocket, and, presenting it, said —
"This is at your service. Take whatever you need."
Amanda thanked him, but drew back.
"Only get me into some safe place, until I can write to my friends," said she, "and you would lay both them and me under the deepest obligations."
The man arose at this, and stepping into the bar-room, asked the bar-keeper to send for a carriage. When it came to the door, he informed Amanda of the fact, and asked if she were ready to go.
"Where will you take me?" she asked.
"To the United States Hotel," replied the man. "You could not be in a safer or better place."
On hearing this, Amanda arose without hesitation, and, going from the house, entered the carriage with the man, and was driven away. Drawing her veil over her face, she shrank into a corner of the vehicle, and remained in sad communion with her own thoughts for many minutes. From this state of abstraction, the stopping of the carriage aroused her. The driver left his seat and opened the door, when her companion stepped forth, saying as he did so —
"This is the place," and offering at the same time his hand.
As Amanda descended to the street, she glanced with a look of anxious inquiry around her. Already a suspicion that all might not be right, was disturbing her mind. Two years before she had been in Philadelphia, and had stayed several days at the United States Hotel. She remembered the appearance of the building and the street, but now she did not recognize a single object. All was strange.
"Is this the United States Hotel?" she asked eagerly.
"Oh, yes, ma'am," was the smiling reply. "We are at the private entrance."
Her bewildered mind was momentarily deceived by this answer, and she permitted herself to be led into a house, which she soon discovered not to be an hotel. The most dreadful suspicions instantly seized her. So soon as she was shown into a parlor, the man retired. A woman came in shortly afterwards, who, from her appearance, seemed to be the mistress of the house. She spoke kindly to Amanda, and asked if she would like to walk up to her room.
"There has been some mistake," said the poor wanderer, her lips quivering in spite of her efforts to assume a firm exterior.
"Oh, no, none at all," quickly replied the woman, smiling.
"Yes, yes there is. I am not in the hotel where I wished to go. Why have I been brought here? Where is the man with whom I came?"
"He has gone away; but will return again. In the mean time do not causelessly distress yourself. You are safe from all harm."
"But I am not where I wished to go," replied Amanda. "Will you be kind enough to give me the direction of the United States Hotel, and I will walk there with my child."
The woman shook her head.
"I could not permit you to go until Mr. Bond returned," said she. "He brought you here, and will expect to find you when he comes back."
"I will not remain." And as she said this in a firm voice, Amanda arose, and, taking her little girl in her arms, made an attempt to move through the door into the passage. But the woman stepped before her quickly, and in a mild, yet decided way, told her that she could not leave the house.
"Why not?" asked the trembling creature.
"Mr. Bond has placed you in my care, and will expect to find you on his return," answered the woman.
"Who is Mr. Bond? What right has he to control my movements?"
"Did you not place yourself in his care?" inquired the woman. "I understood him to say that such was the case."
"He offered to protect me from wrong and harm."
"And, having undertaken to do so, he feels himself responsible to your friends for your safe return to their hands. I am responsible to him."
"Deceived! deceived! deceived!" murmured Amanda, bursting into tears and sinking into a chair, while she hugged her child tightly in her arms, and laid its face against her own.
The woman seemed slightly moved at this exhibition of distress, and stood looking at the quivering frame of the unhappy fugitive, with a slight expression of regret on her face. After Amanda had grown calm, the woman said to her:
"Is your husband living?"
"He is," was answered, in a steady voice.
"Where does he reside?" continued the woman.
"In New York," replied Amanda.
"What is his name?"
Amanda reflected, hurriedly, for some moments, and then gave a correct answer, adding, at the same time, that for any attempted wrong, there would come a speedy and severe retribution. The next inquiry of the woman was as to her husband's occupation, which was also answered correctly.
"And now," added Amanda, with assumed firmness, "you had better let me retire from this place immediately, and thus avoid trouble, which, otherwise, you would be certain to have. My husband is a merchant of influence, and a man who will not stop at half measures in seeking to redress a wrong. This man, whoever he may be, who has so basely deceived me, will find, before long, that he has done an act which will not go unpunished, and that severely. As for yourself, be warned in time, and let me go from this place."
Again Amanda sought to pass from the room, but was prevented. The woman was neither harsh, rude, nor insulting in her manner, but firmly refused to let her leave the house, saying — "I am responsible for your safe keeping, and cannot, therefore, let you go."
She then urged her to go upstairs and lay down her things, but Amanda refused, in the most positive manner, to leave the parlor.
"You will be more comfortable in the chamber we have prepared for you," said the woman, coldly; "but you must do as you like. If you want anything, you can ring for it."
And saying this, she turned from the room, and locked the door through which she retired. The instant she was gone, Amanda sprang towards one of the front windows, threw it up and attempted to draw the bolt which fastened the shutter; but her effort was not successful: the bolt remained immovable. On a closer inspection, she found that it was locked! The back window was open, but a glance into the yard satisfied her that it would be useless to attempt escape in that way. Hopeless in mind and paralyzed in body, she again sank down inactive.
Little Mary, who had been left standing on the floor during this effort to escape, now came up to where she had thrown herself upon a sofa, and, laying her little face upon her bosom, looked tearfully at her, and said, in a low, sorrowful voice — "Won't papa come? I want my papa — my dear papa."
Not a word could the mother reply to her unhappy child, who, in her folly, she had so wronged. Oh, what would she not have given at that moment to see the face of her husband!
Five or six hours had passed. In a small sitting room, near the parlor in which Amanda was still a prisoner, stood the man named Bond, and the woman who had received her.
"Amanda did you say she called herself?" said the man, with a sudden change of manner — "and from New York?"
"Did you inquire her husband's business?"
"She said he was a merchant of standing, and threatened both you and me with the severest consequences, if she were not instantly released."
"Can it be possible!" remarked the man, and he stood in a musing attitude for some time. "I'm a little afraid this affair is not going to turn out quite so pleasantly as I at first supposed. I think I know her husband."
"Yes. We have had several business transactions together, if he is the individual I suppose him to be."
"Then you had better get her off of your hands as quickly as possible; and this will be no hard matter. Only open the cage-door — and the bird will fly!"
"Confound that Irish huzzy! She and her John Murphy have scared up a bit of adventure for me."
"Both you and they ought to have known better than to expect anything but trouble from a woman with a baby. As it is, the best thing for you is to get her off of your hands immediately."
"I don't like to give up after progressing so far. It isn't my disposition."
"A wise man foresees evil, and gets out of its way."
"True; and my better course is to step aside, I suppose. But what shall we do with her?"
"Open the cage-door, as I said, and let her escape."
"Where will she go?"
"Have you any concern on that head?"
"Some. Moreover, I don't just comprehend the meaning of her visit here alone at night, and without money. I wonder if, after all, there isn't a lover in the case, who has failed to meet her."
"Most likely," returned the woman.
"In that event, why may not I take his place?"
"It will require her consent. Better have nothing more to do with her, and thus keep out of the way of trouble.
"Her husband, if she is the wife of the man I think she is," said Bond, "will hardly stop at half-way measures in an affair like this."
"So much the more reason for keeping out of his way."
"Perhaps so; and yet I like adventure, especially when spiced with a little danger. Upon second thought, I'll let her remain here until tomorrow."
"Just as you like. But I've been unable to get her upstairs; and she can't stay in the parlor all night."
"No. She must go to the chamber you have prepared for her."
"How will we get her there?"
"Use every effort you can to induce her to comply with our wishes in this respect. I will come in after nightfall, and, if you have not been successful, will remove her by force."
With this understanding, the partners in evil separated.
Soon after parting with Mr. Edmondson, who had informed Henry that his wife was no longer at his house, and when the latter had begun to feel exceedingly anxious, he met a gentleman who said to him, "When do you expect Amanda back?"
It was with difficulty that the deserted husband could refrain from the exhibition of undue surprise at such an unexpected question.
"I was over the river yesterday afternoon with a friend who was on his way to Philadelphia," added the man, "and saw your lady in the cars."
"Good grief," said Henry, as he looked at his watch, and then turned away with a hurried manner.
It was half-past eleven o'clock. At twelve a line started for the South. Henry was on board the steamboat when it left the dock. Six hours and a half of most intense anxiety were passed before the unhappy man reached Philadelphia. On arriving, he took a carriage and visited all the principal hotels, but not a word could he hear of his wife. He then bethought him to make some inquiries of the driver of the carriage whom he had employed.
"Were you at the wharf last night when the New York line came in?" he asked, as he stood with his hand on the carriage-door, after leaving one of the hotels, again disappointed in his search.
"I was," replied the driver.
"Did you get any passengers?"
"Did you see anything of a lady with a child?"
The driver thought for a little while, and then replied —
"Yes, I did. There was a lady and a child, nearly the last on the boat. John Murphy drove them away."
"Where can I find John Murphy?" eagerly inquired Henry.
"He's probably on the carriage stand."
"Drive me there if you please." And he sprang into the carriage.
In a few minutes they were at a carriage stand; and Henry heard the driver call out, as he reined up his horses — "Hallo! there, John Murphy! here's a gentleman who wants to see you."
The person addressed came up as Henry descended from the carriage.
"I understand," said Henry, "that you received a lady and child in your carriage, last night, from the New York line. Where did you take them?"
"Who said that I did?" boldly inquired the man addressed.
"I said so!" as firmly replied the driver who had given the information to Henry. "What interest have you in denying it?"
Murphy evinced some surprise at this, and looked a little dashed, but repeated his denial.
A new fear instantly seized Henry. His wife might have been entrapped into some den of infamy, through means of the driver she had employed to convey her to a hotel. The thought affected him like an electric shock.
"You are certain of what you say?" asked Henry, turning to the hackman he had employed.
"Certain," was answered positively.
"Is there a police officer near at hand?" was the next inquiry. This was intended as no idle threat; and Murphy understood its meaning.
The eyes of Henry were fixed on his face, and he saw in it a guilty change. No reply being made to the question about a police officer, Henry said, addressing the accused driver —
"If you wish to escape trouble, take me instantly to the house where I can find the lady you took from the boat last night. She is my wife, and I will go through fire and water to find her; and let him who stands in my way take the consequences!"
Murphy now drew Henry aside, and said a few words to him hurriedly.
"Can I depend upon what you say?" eagerly asked the latter.
"Yes, upon honor!" replied the driver.
"You must go with me," said Henry.
"I cannot leave the stand."
"I will call a policeman and compel you to go with me, if you don't accompany me peaceably. As I live, I will not part from you until I find her! Take your choice — go quietly, or under compulsion."
There was a fierce energy in the excited man that completely subdued the Irish carriage-driver, who, after a further, though feeble remonstrance, got into the carriage with Henry, and was driven off. Some distance beyond Washington Square, the carriage stopped before a house, in which Henry was informed that he would find the woman whom Murphy had taken from the boat the night before. He stepped out quickly, and, as he sprang across the pavement, Murphy, who was out of the carriage almost as soon as he was, glided around the corner of a street, and was beyond recall. A quick jerk of the bell was answered by a female servant, who held the door only partly open, while Henry addressed her.
"Wasn't there a woman and child brought here last night?" said he, in an agitated manner.
"No, sir," replied the girl; and, as she spoke, she made an attempt to close the door, seeing which, Henry thrust a part of his body in and prevented the movement.
"Are you certain?" he asked.
"I am," was positively answered, while the girl strove to shut the door by forcing it against Henry. At this moment something like a smothered cry from within reached his ears, when, throwing open the door with a sudden application of strength that prostrated the girl, he stepped over her body and entered the vestibule. Just then there arose a wild cry for help! He knew the voice; it came from one of the parlors, into which he rushed. There he saw his wife struggling in the arms of a woman and a man, while his frightened child stood near, white and speechless with terror. As he entered, Amanda saw him.
"Oh, my husband!" she exclaimed. In a moment she was released, and the man and woman fled from the room, but not before the face of the former was fully recognized by Henry.
Little Mary had already sprung to her father, and was quivering and panting on his bosom.
"Oh! take me away quickly — quickly!" cried Amanda, staggering towards her husband and falling into his arms.
Without waiting for explanations, Henry went from the house with his wife and child, and, placing them in the carriage at the door, was driven to a hotel.
The reader doubtless understands the scene we have just described. The man named Bond was in the act of carrying out his threat to remove Amanda to a chamber by force, when her husband appeared.
Of all that passed between the severely-tried husband and wife after their meeting, it behooves us not to write. The circumstances we have detailed were exceedingly painful to the parties most interested; but their effect, like the surgeon's knife, was beneficial. Henry afterwards regarded his wife from an entirely different point of view, and found her a very different woman from what he had at first believed her to be. He saw in her a strength of character and a clearness of intellect for which he had never given her credit; and, from looking down upon her as a child or an inferior — came to feel towards her as an equal.
His indignation at the treatment she had received in Philadelphia was extreme. The man named Bond he knew very well, and he at first determined to call him to account personally; but as this would lead to a mortifying notoriety and exposure of the whole affair, he was reluctantly induced to keep silence. Bond has never crossed his way since — and it might not be well for him to do so.
Some years have passed. No one who meets Henry and Amanda, at home or abroad, would dream that, at one time, they were driven asunder by a strong repulsion. Few are more deeply attached, or happier in their domestic relations; but neither trespasses on the other's rights, nor interferes with the other's prerogative. Mutual deference, confidence, respect, and love, unite them with a bond that cannot again be broken.