During the late spring and early summer, my letters from home spoke often of mother’s failing health, and in July one came from her saying her disease had been pronounced cancer, and bidding me come to her. The same mail brought a letter from Dr. Joseph Gazzam, telling me she was certainly on her death-bed, and adding: “Let nothing prevent your coming to your mother at once.”
I was hurt by this call. Was I such a monster that this old family friend thought it necessary to urge me to go to my dying mother? Stunned and stupified with grief, I packed my trunk.
My husband came in at noon, and I handed him the letters. He read them and expressed surprise and sorrow, and I told him to hurry to the wharf and see when the first boat started. He thought I should not go until I heard again. It might not be so bad. Then, after reflecting, said, why go at all, if there was no hope? Of what use could I be? If there was hope, he would agree to my going, but as there was none, he must object. In fact, he did not see how I could think of leaving him with those goods on his hands. How could I be so ready to drop all and not think of the consequences, for what could he do with that stock of dry goods. My mother pretended to be a Christian, but would take me away from my duty. I, too, read the Bible, but paid little heed to its teachings. He brought that book and read all of Paul’s directions to wives, but rested his case on Ephesians, v, 22: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife even as Christ is head of the church; therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
While he continued his comments, I buried my head in pillows, saying, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?”
Milton epitomized Paul when he made Eve say to Adam, “Be God thy law, thou mine;” but was that the mind and will of God? Had he transferred his claim to the obedience of half the human family? Was every husband God to his wife? Would wives appear in the general judgment at all, or if they did, would they hand in a schedule of marital commands?
If the passage meant anything it meant this: One might as well try to be, and not to be, at the same time, as own allegiance to God and the same allegiance to man. I was either God’s subject or I was not. If I was not, I owed him no obedience. Christ as head of the church was her absolute lawgiver, and thus saith the Lord, was all she dare demand. Was I to obey my husband in that way? If so, I had no business with the moral law or any other law, save his commands. Christian England had taken this view, and enacted that a wife should not be punished for any crime committed by command, or in presence of her husband, “because, being altogether subject to him, she had no will of her own;”