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JOAN CARROLL'S WIFE - A CHRISTMAS
BY WM. GEOGHEGAN.
Nearly five years ago she entered that A quaint, old-fashioned room, form- room; that had been her first glimpse ing the setting to a picture as bright of her new home; and a happy smile and pretty as any one of the home in- rippled over her lips as she remembered teriors which the domestic painters of how closely her husband watched her the Academy love to depict-a room to catch the first gleam of pleasure or that might have been built in the reign disappointment. of Queen Anne, so full was it of nooks "I told him then that I knew I and angles, in which no modern furni- should like it; and I almost think I ture could by any possibility be induced | love it now—my dear, happy home,” to fit-a
that matter-of-fact murmured Hester, and she tried to people, with an eye to the economical remember exactly how it looked then ; catting of their carpets, call uncomfort- but that was not so easy; there able and awkward; but a room which, so many little additions and improvehaving once known, you never forgot. ments, that had come one by one, but that You might have been happy or you seemed part and parcel of the room now. might have been sorry there; but so There were the lace curtains she had surely as in after years you looked bought with her first pocket-money, the back upon your happiness or your couch her husband had got for her sorrow, back came the remembrance during some slight illness, the workof the thick walls, in which the doors table that had been another of his stood as it were in recesses—walls on presents, and the fern case that was her which somehow the modern paper own last extravagance. looked out of character; and you loved “It was not so untidy then,” thought or hated the room accordingly as you Hester, looking at the grand piano loved or hated the people you had met strewn with loose sheets of manuscript within it.
music, and her glance wandering round; Something of this Hester Carroll felt the things were new, but it looks more rather than thought, as, with her busy home-like now, and I'm a better little hands lying in unwonted idleness manager. I'm sure the arrangement on her lap, she sat waiting for her of the tea-table is a masterpiece; and husband's return on the evening of the I don't believe a professed cook could fifth anniversary of her wedding day. make a better cake. The first I made,
all the currants settled at the bottom. limits of the law, so that until she was I never found out how that was; I–” carried off to bed, John and Hester
“ Didn't stir it up, perhaps.” were constituted willing subjects of the
“Oh, John, how silly you are!” imperious little fairy. cried Hester. " You need not come up For some time after Amy's departure so quietly another time.”
John sat playing whilst Hester put “My boots were so fearfully muddy, away the scattered toys; then, coming that I took them off in the hall, for fear to his side, she laid her hands on his of leaving my trail bebind me on the shoulders, saying playfully, “I think stair-carpet,” he replied; “but let's you have had enough of “shop' by this have tea, darling; I'm both hungry and time, and it is my day, you know, dear; tired."
come and talk to me, John.” “And wet through, too, I believe," Her husband smiled at the eager said Hester, putting her hand on her face bent over him, and closing the husband's coat-sleeve as he kissed her. piano, rose and put his arms round his “Have you walked all the way down wife. Broadway, John ? "
“Your day is it, my Hester? Do “Yes, dear, the stages were more un- you know I am not sure that I don't pleasant than walking, and I could not wish it could be completely blotted out afford a cab.”
of the calendar ?" “ You could afford a cab, it seems to “Our wedding day blotted out, me, John, better than you could afford John! You are growing tired of me." to catch cold,” said Hester, as she cut “No, I'm not, little wife. There ! her cake with a great deal of savage don't try to look indignant; the fact is, determination ; "you have no business I am beginning to fear,” to do it-you ought to think of Amy “What?" she asked. and me."
" That the tide is turning," he re“Ah, where is Amy?” he asked, plied. “The first four years after we
were married went by so smoothly, “No; she's asleep on the hearth-rug," without the vestige of a trouble ; but replied Hester; "take your coat off this last season has been terribly bad; and ring. the bell, John, before you I have not earned as much as we have touch her."
spent for some time, Hester." Very obediently, being a model hus- “ Then we must spend less," was the band, John attended to this injunction, determined reply; and Hester looked and then very gently, as if she were at the fire, half wondering whether she composed of something extremely likely ought not to begin retrenching at once, to break, he lifted the sleeping child and take off a large lump of coal she from the floor, and Amy, after rubbing had just put on, but John understood her eyes for some time, and becoming the look, and laughed outright. gradually aware of the fact that she - We won't give up fires just yet, was to be allowed to share the delights darling,” he said, “and don't you of a “high tea,” forthwith proceeded to worry about what I have told
you. extend her privileges to the utmost Things must take a turn sooner or later,
'gone to bed ?"
-'tis only a question of time; and, “I can't help it, darling," he said, thank God, we can afford to wait a one morning as he seated himself at the little. The fact is, I have'nt felt very breakfast table; “it does annoy me well the last few days, and perhaps to have so much idle time on my that makes me look on the dark side of hands. I feel as if it must be my the picture.”
fault.” Hester glanced up anxiously into “ It would not mend matters to have her husband's face, and she fancied he la doctor's bill to pay, John, dear; and seemed unusually pale and tired; but I know you will end by making yourshe answered cheerfully, striving to self ill. Amy, where's papa's paper ?” divert his attention, although she felt John took the paper from the child, instinctively that the shadow of a great and sat reading it whilst he drank his dread had fallen upon her heart and coffee. · Hester was busy in attending home.
to Amy's numerous wants; but after a For a week after that John Carroll few moments she spoke to John, and, went on working, and thinking, and receiving no answer, looked up at him, composing, with the feverish energy of as she repeated her question, the words a man who feels that anxiety for the dying away on her lips as she noticed future is weighing more heavily on the strange, fixed looked on his face. his mind than he would care to confess. “John,” she cried, starting to his Hitherto, at the end of every year, there side, “what is it, dear? had been something saved; but this ill ?” There was no answer to the last season had been very dull; and terrified inquiry, her husband simply now that it was ended, John knew that pointed to a paragraph in the paper ; no exertions on his part during the then putting his arms on the table, he autumn months, when pupils were out rested his head on them, whilst Hester of town and publishers disinclined to read the account of the failure of the bring out new music, could make the bank in which was placed their little money he earned sufficient for their fortune of two or three thousand dollars, expenses. John's temperament was every cent of which represented more not sanguine, and he had had to work or less hard work and self-denial. too hard, had had too many knocks in With a sinking heart Hester laid winning the place he held in his pro- down the paper. It needed no explanfession, to have remained so, had he ation to show her the full significance been naturally inclined to such a feel of the blow that had fallen upon them; ing. He had married early—too early, but, like a true woman, her first friends said; but had never repented the thought was for her husband's grief, step. He loved his wife and child very and scarcely knowing what to say, she dearly, and his jealous fear least sorrow stood smoothing his hair with that soft, should cross their paths, was never ab- caressing touch that sometimes tells a sent from his mind. Hester saw all more eloquent tale than words, and this, and tried hard to banish the de- that is often longed for when the fingers pression that was settling upon him; are in the grave. but her efforts met with small success. For a minute, that seemed like an
hour, the silence remained unbroken; John Carroll hid his face in his hands, then Amy, who had put down her mug with something that sounded like a sob. of milk, and sat looking on in quiet “Don't, John, my love, my husband,” astonishment, said, timidly, “Papa!” cried Hester. “Oh, if you knew how and Hester, noticing that John started this pains me ; there must be some way at the sound, lifted the child down and out of this difficulty; it can't be intended bade her
go to the servant. Then, that we are to yield to it without a strugkneeling beside her husband, she put gle. Let us leave here as soon as posher arms round him, and drew his head sible. Amy is very little trouble now, on her shoulder.
and I can easily manage without a “John, dear John,” she whispered, servant. We have had so much sun“don't let us give way under the first shine, dear love, that we have no right difficulty that comes in our path. to complain of this passing cloud.” Think how much worse it might have Thus the wife argued, endeavoring been. We might have lost Amy, or to infuse some of her own hopeful spirit you might have been ill; the money into her husband's less trusting nature; would have seemed of little importance and she succeeded, at last, in persuadin comparison with that. We are very ing him from brooding over bis troubles, young, dear love, too young to sit down that by a series of little loving strataand repine.. We must make a fresh gems she left him seated at the pianobeginning, and though I cannot help forte, and the aching heart the young you in your work, I can help you at wife carried about her as she attended home. You don't know how economi- to her household duties seemed in some cal I can be ; only you must try and measure soothed and strengthened by be cheerful. No sorrow can crush us the wild, fitful music of Heller's “Prowhilst we are together; no trouble can menades d'un Solitaire”; but to her husoverwhelm us whilst we trust in heaven band it was only a chaos of sound that and in each other. Perhaps, after all, told no story, conveyed no meaning. it is for the best ; for we have been so His hands wandered mechanically over very, very happy since we were mar- the keys, but his ears were deaf to the ried that we were growing forgetful that poetry of the music. His overexcited there was any trouble in the world.” imagination conjured up a picture of
Well, we are not likely to forget it his wife, grown pale and thin, and Amy, now," returned John. “Hester, do you with all the gladness gone out of her know that we have not thirty dollars in childish features. “ Had I been a comthe world ! I meant to have got some mon workman,” he thought, “I could money from the bank to-day. Now, go from shop to shop, until I found where is it to come from, heaven only work; there's no such ready market for knows! There's none owing to me, brains or talent.” and there are no signs of any busi- John Carroll spoke bitterly, but he ness doing. What am I to do? It spoke as his own experience had taught will drive me mad to see you or the him. He had worked his way in his little one want any of the comforts you profession, every step he took being have been accustomed to have."
won by his own exertions ;
and he had
thoroughly learned the harsh truth that over the bed; and then, forgetting everypoverty in New York, if not confess- thing in her great joy that the boon for edly reckoned a crime, is tacitly treat- which she had pleaded so earnestly was ed as such. Had he been stronger at likely to be granted, she buried her the time, he might have been less de- face in the pillow, murmuring, “Oh, spondent, but his physical weakness John, John! my dear! my love! you made the trouble seem greater, and he will remain with me now. Oh, thank thought and thought until the music be- God for this great mercy
! fore him appeared covered with dancing “Why, little wife, are you crying?” notes. The last thing he recollected was he asked. “Have I been very ill ? " a vain attempt to strike an impossible “There, you must not talk any more; chord; and Amy, coming in shortly go to sleep again, if you can, darling; but after with some childish request, ran at all events keep quiet, and get well, back half frightened, half amused, to for Amy and I are so lonely without tell her mother that "Papa was asleep you. You see I have done crying on the floor."
The terrified wife rushed upstairs So saying, Hester smoothed her husto find her worst fears verified. John band's pillows, gave him his drink, was unconscious ; and the doctor, who and then, after kissing the thin hand was summoned, pronounced the uncon- lying on the coverlet, drew the curtain sciousness the first stage of brain fever. between the bed and her table, and with
Hester did not give way under this a heart so filled with gratitude that there new trouble; there was too much to was no room left for fatigue, she replan, too much to be done, for her to sumed her writing, and wrote far on spare time for any idle indulgence in into the night. grief. If it pleased God to restore John Sweet, patient Hester, type of the to health, she would need all her ener- purest kind of womanly excellence, gies in nursing him; if not—and she surely there is a high place in heaven shuddered as the thought crossed her reserved for your gentle sisterhood. mind—“I shall have a lifetime for The next morning John was still tears then.”
better, and his wife began to dread the
questioning that she knew must come II.
sooner or later; but it was not until “ Hester!” The voice that uttered the doctor had been, and Amy had setthe word was so low, that Hester, writ- tled down for her afternoon sleep, that ing quickly at a little table placed so her husband mentioned the subject that the light of the shaded lamp might of ways and means, and then, after not fall upon the bed, thought her fancy watching her for some minutes, as she must have deceived her, and she paused sat mending a heap of Amy's socks, he to listen before moving; but again, and said, quietly, “You must be terribly in this time more distinctly, the whisper debt by this time, Hester.” thrilled through the room, “Hester, “Indeed I am not,” she replied, my darling!”
“ with the exception of the doctor's “Hush, dear!” she said, as she bent bill, I don't owe a cent."