“Did you read that criticism on the lady lecturer? I tell you, that same Philemon W. Strain has a peculiar genius for that sort of an article.”
“What did you say, Brier?” asked his better half, glancing at Clemence, as if she was the offending party, “you don’t mean that a woman’s got brass enough to mount a rostrum and harangue an audience?”
“You’ve just said the very thing now, Marthy. I knew you would be down on that sort of business. Nothing masculine about you, thank goodness! I’ve often felt thankful that I was spared the infliction of a strong-minded woman. That’s one thing I couldn’t stand.”
“Well, I guess we are agreed on that subject,” said the lady, bridling at the compliment, and allowing her thin lips to relax into the faintest possible shadow of a smile, “for if there’s one thing I absolutely abhor, it’s these so-called intellectual women. To my mind, a woman that pushes her way along to a profession, or aspires to address the public, either through the medium of the pen, or on the rostrum, ought to be banished from good society, and frowned upon by all respectable married women. It’s disgraceful, outrageous, scandalous!” and, as she uttered, vehemently, these ejaculations, the greenish gray eyes flashed upon Clemence a look so malicious and spiteful, as to have a totally opposite effect from what it was intended, for she returned it with one of quiet amusement, and burst out laughing. She saw at once that the conversation had been introduced solely for her own benefit, and wondered how they should surmise that she could possibly be interested in it. This was the oddest couple she had met in all her peregrinations. Mr. Brier was naturally greatly superior to his wife, as Mrs. Wynn had said, but was biased in his opinions by that lady, who ruled him with no gentle sway. With another woman, whose society would have had a tendency to elevate him, there is no telling what this man might have become. But having been entrapped into an early marriage, with a woman of inferior intellect and but little ambition, he had sunk down several grades lower than nature intended him.
He felt this, too, even after all these years had drifted aimlessly away, and the knowledge did not make him better. He grew morose and cynical, hating everybody who did not move in his own narrow circle. As one might suppose, he had not many friends, and his life was not a happy one.
“How much misery there is in the world,” thought Clemence, as she walked towards the school-house. It seems as if almost every one had some secret sorrow of their own—and what a singular and deplorable effect grief has upon some people, rendering them selfish, and closing the heart to pity, instead of remembering their own sorrows, only to commiserate and alleviate those of others.
That evening, as Clemence sat alone with her friend, she asked her the question which had perplexed herself, and which she had never been able to solve: “Ulrica, why are so many people unhappy?”