“Would to heaven you had been the friend of my girlhood!”
It was all the reply Mrs. Dexter made, as she bowed her head, like one pressed down by a heavy burden.
“You will now comprehend, more clearly than before,” said Mrs. De Lisle, “your present duty to your husband. He thought that he was gaining a wife, and you, in wedding him promised to him to be a wife—promised with a deep conviction in your soul that the words were empty utterances. The case is a sad one, viewed in any aspect; but pardon me for saying, that you were most to blame. He was an ardent lover, whom you had fascinated; a man of superficial character, and not competent, at the time, to weigh the consequences of an act he was so eager to precipitate. To possess, he imagined was to enjoy. But you were better versed in the heart’s lore, and knew he would wake up, ere many moons had passed, to the sad discovery that what he had wooed as substance was only a cheating shadow. And he is waking up. Every day he is becoming more and more clearly convinced that you do not love him, and can never be to him the wife he had fondly hoped to gain. Have you not laid upon yourself a binding obligation? Is it a light thing so to mar the whole life of man? Your duty is plain, Mrs. Dexter. Yield all to him you can, and put on towards him always the sunniest aspects and gentlest semblances of your character. If he is capricious, humor him; if suspicious, act with all promptness in removing suspicion to the extent of your power. Make soft the links of the chain that binds you together, with downy coverings. Truth, honor, duty, religion, all require this.”
“Dear friend!” said Mrs. Dexter, grasping the hand of Mrs. De Lisle, “you have lifted me out of a thick atmosphere, through which my eyes saw everything in an uncertain light, up into a clear seeing region. Yes, truth, honor, duty, religion, all speak to my convictions; and with all the truth that in me lieth, will I obey their voice. But love is impossible, and its semblance in me is so faint that my husband cannot see the likeness. There lies the difficulty. He wants a fond, tender, loving wife—a pet and a plaything. These he can never find in me; for, Heaven help me! Mrs. De Lisle, his sphere grows more and more repulsive every day, and I shudder sometimes at the thought of unmitigated disgust!”
“Do your best, my friend,” was the answer of of Mrs. De Lisle. “Fill, to the utmost of your ability, all your wifely relations, and seek to develop in your husband those higher qualities of thought and feeling to which your spirit can attach itself. And above all, do not listen to such erroneous counsels as Mrs. Anthony gave just now. If followed they will surely produce a harvest of misery.”
“Thanks, good counsellor! I will heed your words. They come in the right time, and strengthen my better purposes,” said Mrs. Dexter. “To-morrow I shall leave with my husband for Newport, and he shall see in me no signs of reluctance. Nor do I care, except to leave your company. I will find as much to keep my thoughts busy at Newport as here.”