BEING the true copy of a paper read in my library to my wife and Jennie.
I AM going now to write on another cause of family unhappiness, more subtile than either of those before enumerated. In the General Confession of the Church, we poor mortals all unite in saying two things: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those tilings which we ought not to have done.” These two heads exhaust the subject of human frailty.
It is the things left undone which we ought to have done, the things left unsaid which we ought to have said, that constitute the subject I am now to treat of.
I remember my school-day speculations over an old “Chemistry” I used to study as a text-book, which informed me that a substance called Caloric exists in all bodies. In some it exists in a latent state : it is there, but it affects neither the senses nor the thermometer. Certain causes develop it, when it raises the mercury and warms the hands. I remember the awe and wonder with which, even then, I reflected on the vast amount of blind, deaf, and dumb comforts which Nature had thus stowed away. How mysterious it seemed to me that poor families every winter should be shivering, freezing, and catching cold, when Nature had all this latent caloric locked up in her storecloset,—when it was all around them, in everything they touched and handled !
In the spiritual world there is an exact analogy to this. There is a great life-giving, warming power called Love, which exists in human hearts dumb and unseen, but which has no real life, no warming power, till set tree by expression.
Did you ever, in a raw, chilly day, just before a snow-storm, sit at work in a room that was judiciously warmed by an exact thermometer? You do not freeze, but you shiver; your fingers do not become numb with cold, but you have all the while an uneasy craving for more positive warmth. You look at the empty grate, walk mechanically towards it, and, suddenly awaking, shiver to see that there is nothing there. You long for a shawl or cloak; you draw yourself within yourself; you consult the thermometer, and are vexed to find that there is nothing there to be complained of,—it is standing most provokingly at the exact temperature that all the good books and good doctors pronounce to be the proper thing, —the golden mean of health; and yet perversely you shiver;, and feel as if the face of an open fire would be to you as the smile of an angel.
Such a lifelong chill, such an habitual shiver, is the lot of many natures, which are not warm, when all ordinary rules tell them they ought to be warm,— whose life is cold and barren and meagre,—which never see the blaze of an open fire.
I will illustrate my meaning by a page out of my own experience.
I was twenty-one when I stood as groomsman for my youngest and favorite sister Emily. I remember her now as she stood at the altar,—a pale, sweet, flowery face, in a half-shimmer between smiles and tears, looking out of vapory clouds of gauze and curls and all the vanishing mysteries of a bridal morning.
Everybody thought the marriage such a fortunate one !—for her husband was handsome and manly, a man of worth, of principle good as gold and solid as adamant,—and Emmy had always been such a flossy little kitten of a pet, so full of all sorts of impulses, so sensitive and nervous, we thought her kind, strong, composed, stately husband made just on purpose for her. “It was quite a Providence,” sighed all the elderly ladies, who sniffed tenderly, and wiped their eyes, according to approved custom, during the marriage ceremony.
I remember now the bustle of the day,—the confused whirl of white gloves, kisses, bridemaids, and bridecakes, the losing of trunk-keys and breaking of lacings, the tears of mamma—God bless her !—and the jokes of irreverent Christopher, who could, for the life of him, see nothing so very dismal in the whole phantasmagoria, and only wished he were as well off himself.
And so Emmy was wheeled away from us on the bridal tour, when her letters came back to us almost every day, just like herself, merry, frisky little bits of scratches,—as full of little nonsense-beads as a glass of Champagne, and all ending with telling us how perfect he was, and how good, and how well he took care of her, and how happy, etc., etc.
Then came letters from her new home. His house was not yet built; but while it was building, they were to live with his mother, who was “such a good woman,” and his sisters, who were also “such nice women.”
but somehow, after this, a change came over Emmy’s letters. They grew shorter; they seemed measured in their words; and in place of sparkling nonsense and bubbling outbursts of glee, came anxiously worded praises of her situation and surroundings, evidently written for the sake of arguing herself into the belief that she was extremely happy.
John, of course, was not as much with her now: he had his business to attend to, which took him away all day, and at night he was very tired. Still he was very good and thoughtful of her, and how thankful she ought to be ! And his mother was very good indeed, and did all for her that she could reasonably expect,—of course she could not be like her own mamma; and Mary and Jane were very kind,—“in their way,” she wrote, but scratched it out, and wrote over it, “very kind indeed.” They were the best people in the world,—a great deal better than she was; and she should try to learn a great deal from them.
“Poor little Em!” I said to myself, “I am afraid these very nice people are slowly freezing and starving her.” And so, as I was going up into the mountains for a summer tour, I thought I would accept some of John’s many invitations and stop a day or two with them on my way, and see how matters stood. John had been known among us in college as a taciturn fellow, but good as gold. I had gained his friendship by a regular siege, carrying parallel after parallel, till, when I came into the fort at last, I found the treasures worth taking.
I had little difficulty in finding Squire Evans’s house. It was the house of the village,—a true, model, New England house,—a square, roomy, old-fashioned mansion, which stood on a hillside under a group of great, breezy old elms, whose wide, wind-swung arms arched over it like a leafy firmament. Under this bower the substantial white house, with all its window-blinds closed, with its neat white fences all tight and trim, stood in its faultless green turfy yard, a perfect Pharisee among houses, it looked like a house all finished, done, completed, labelled, and set on a shelf for preservation; but, as is usual with this kind of edifice in our dear New England, it had not the slightest appearance of being lived in, not a door or window open, not a wink or blink of life: the only suspicion of human habitation was the thin, pale-blue smoke from the kitchen-chimney.
And now for the people in the house.
In making a New England visit in winter, was it ever your fortune to be put to sleep in the glacial spare-chamber, that had been kept from time immemorial as a refrigerator for guests, —that room which no ray of daily sunshine and daily living ever warms, whose blinds are closed the whole year round, whose fireplace knows only the complimentary blaze which is kindled a few moments before bed-time in an atmosphere where you can see your breath? Do you remember the process of getting warm in a bed of most faultless material, with linen sheets and pillow-cases, slippery and cold as ice? You did get warm at last, but you warmed your bed by giving out all the heat of your own body.
Such are some families where you visit. They are of the very best quality, like your sheets, but so cold that it takes all the vitality you have to get them warmed up to the talking-point. You think, the first hour after your arrival, that they must have heard some report to your disadvantage, or that you misunderstood your letter of invitation, or that you came on the wrong day; but no, you find in due course that you were invited, you were expected, and they are doing for you the best they know how, and treating you as they suppose a guest ought to be treated.
If you are a warm-hearted, jovial fellow, and go on feeling your way discreetly, you gradually thaw quite a little place round yourself in the domestic circle, till, by the time you are ready to leave, you really begin to think it is agreeable to stay, and resolve that you will come again. They are nice people; they like you ; at last you have got to feeling at home with them.
Three months after, you go to see them again, when, lo ! there you are, back again just where you were at first. The little spot which you had thawed out is frozen over again, and again you spend all your visit in thawing it and getting your hosts limbered and in a state for comfortable converse.
The first evening that I spent in the wide, roomy front-parlor, with Judge Evans, his wife, and daughters, fully accounted for the change in Emmy’s letters. Rooms, I verily believe, get saturated with the aroma of their spiritual atmosphere ; and there are some so stately, so correct, that they would paralyze even the friskiest kitten or the most impudent Scotch terrier. At a glance, you perceive, on entering, that nothing but correct deportment, an erect posture, and strictly didactic conversation is possible there.
The family, in fact, were all eminently didactic, bent on improvement, laboriously useful. Not a good work or charitable enterprise could put forth its head in the neighborhood, of which they were not the support and life. Judge Evans was the stay and staff of the village and township of—; he bore up the pillars thereof. Mrs. Evans was known in the gates for all the properties and deeds of the virtuous woman, as set forth by Solomon; the heart of her husband did safely trust in her. But when I saw them, that evening, sitting, in erect propriety, in their respective corners each side of the great, stately fireplace, with its tall, glistening brass andirons, its mantel adorned at either end with plated candlesticks, with the snuffer-tray in the middle,— she so collectedly measuring her words, talking in all those well-worn grooves of correct conversation which are designed, as the phrase goes, to “entertain strangers,” and the Misses Evans, in the best of grammar and rhetoric, and in most proper time and way possible, showing themselves for what they were, most high-principled, well-informed, intelligent women,—I set myself to speculate on the cause of the extraordinary sensation of stiffness and restraint which pervaded me, as if I had been dipped in some petrifying spring and was beginning to feel myself slightly crusting over on the exterior.
This kind of conversation is such as admits quite easily of one’s carrying on another course of thought within; and so, as I found myself like a machine, striking in now and then in good time and tune, I looked at Judge Evans, sitting there so serene, self-poised, and cold, and began to wonder if he had ever been a boy, a young man,—if Mrs. Evans ever was a girl,—if he was ever in love with her, and what he did when he was.
I thought of the lock of Emmy’s hair which I had observed in John’s writingdesk in days when he was falling in love with her,—of sundry little movements in which at awkward moments I had detected my grave and serious gentleman when I had stumbled accidentally upon the pair in moonlight strolls or retired corners,—and wondered whether the models of propriety before me had ever been convicted of any such human weaknesses. Now, to be sure, I could as soon imagine the stately tongs to walk up and kiss the shovel as conceive of any such bygone effusion in those dignified individuals. But how did they get acquainted? how came they ever to be married?
I looked at John, and thought I saw him gradually stiffening and subsiding into the very image of his father. As near as a young fellow of twenty-five can resemble an old one of sixty-two, he was growing to be exactly like him, with the same upright carriage, the same silence and reserve. Then I looked at Emmy: she, too, was changed,—she, the wild little pet, all of whose pretty individualities were dear to us,—that little unpunctuated scrap of life’s poetry, full of little exceptions referable to no exact rule, only to be tolerated under the wide score of poetic license. Now, as she sat between the two Misses Evans, I thought I could detect a bored, anxious expression on her little mobile face, —an involuntary watchfulness and selfconsciousness, as if she were trying to be good on some quite new pattern. She seemed nervous about some of my jokes, and her eye went apprehensively to her mother-in-law in the corner; she tried hard to laugh and make things go merrily for me; she seemed sometimes to look an apology for me to them, and then again for them to me. For myself, I felt that perverse inclination to shock people which sometimes comes over one in such situations, I had a great mind to draw Emmy on to my knee and commence a brotherly romp with her, to give John a thump on his very upright back, and to propose to one of the Misses Evans to strike up a waltz, and get the parlor into a general whirl, before the very face and eyes of propriety in the corner: but “the spirits” were too strong for me; I could n’t do it.
I remembered the innocent, saucy freedom with which Emmy used to treat her John in the days of their engagement,—the little ways, half loving, half mischievous, in which she alternately petted and domineered over him, Now she called him “Mr. Evans,” with an anxious affectation of matronly gravity. Had they been lecturing her into these conjugal proprieties ? Probably not. I felt sure, by what I now experienced in myself, that, were I to live in that family one week, all such little deviations from the one accepted pattern of propriety would fall off, like manycolored sumach - leaves after the first hard frost. I began to feel myself slowly stiffening, my courage getting gently chilly. I tried to tell a story, but had to mangle it greatly, because I felt in the air around me that parts of it were too vernacular and emphatic; and then, as a man who is freezing makes desperate efforts to throw off the spell, and finds his brain beginning to turn, so I was beginning to be slightly insane, and was haunted with a desire to say some horribly improper or wicked thing which should start them all out of their chairs. Though never given to profane expressions, I perfectly hankered to let out a certain round, unvarnished, wicked word, which I knew would create a tremendous commotion on the surface of this enchanted mill-pond,—in fact, I was so afraid that I should make some such mad demonstration, that I rose at an early hour and begged leave to retire. Emmy sprang up with apparent relief, and offered to get my candle and marshal me to my room.
When she had ushered me into the chilly hospitality of that stately apartment, she seemed suddenly disenchanted. She set down the candle, ran to me, fell on my neck, nestled her little head under my coat, laughing and crying, and calling me her dear old boy; she pulled my whiskers, pinched my ear, rummaged my pockets, danced round me in a sort of wild joy, stunning me with a volley of questions, without stopping to hear the answer to one of them; in short, the wild little elf of old days seemed suddenly to come back to me, as I sat down and drew her on to my knee.
“It does look so like home to see you, Chris !—clear, dear home !—and the dear old folks ! There never, never was such a home !—everybody there did just what they wanted to, did n’t they, Chris ?—and we love each other, don’t we ?”
“Emmy,” said I, suddenly, and very improperly, “you are n’t happy here.”
“Not happy ?” she said, with a halffrightened look,—“what makes you say so? Oh, you are mistaken. I have everything to make me happy. I should be very unreasonable and wicked, if I were not. I am very, very happy, I assure you. Of course, you know, everybody Can’t be like our folks at home. That I should not expect, you know,— people’s ways are different,—but then, when you know people are so good, and all that, why, of course you must be thankful, be happy. It’s better for me to learn to control my feelings, you know, and not give way to impulses. They are all so good here, they never give way to their feelings,—they always do right. Oh, they are quite wonderful!”
“And agreeable?” said I.
“Oh, Chris, we must n’t think so much of that. They certainly are n't pleasant and easy, as people at home are; but they are never cross, they never scold, they always are good. And we ought n’t to think so much of living to be happy; we ought to think more of doing right, doing our duty, don't you think so ?”
“All undeniable truth, Emmy; but, for all that, John seems stiff as a ramrod, and their front-parlor is like a tomb. You must n’t let them petrify him.”
Her face clouded over a little.
“John is different here from what he was at our house. He has been brought up differently,—oh, entirely differently from what we were; and when he comes back into the old house, the old business, and the old place between his father and mother and sisters, he goes back into the old ways. He loves me all the same, but he does not show it in the same ways, and I must learn, you know, to take it on trust. He is very busy,—works hard all day, and all for me ; and mother says women are unreasonable that ask any other proof of love from their husbands than what they give by working for them all the time. She never lectures me, but I know she thought I was a silly little petted child, and she told me one day how she brought up John. She never petted him; she put him away alone to sleep, from the time he was six months old; she never fed him out of his regular hours when he was a baby, no matter how much he cried; she never let him talk baby-talk, or have any baby-talk talked to him, but was very careful to make him speak all his words plain from the very first; she never encouraged him to express his love by kisses or caresses, but taught him that the only proof of love was exact obedience. I remember John’s telling me of his running to her once and hugging her round the neck, when he had come in without wiping his shoes, and she took off his arms and said, 'My son, this is n’t the best way to show love. I should be much better pleased to have you come in quietly and wipe your shoes than to come and kiss me when you forget to do what I say.’”
“Dreadful old jade!” said I, irreverently, being then only twenty-three.
“Now, Chris, I won't have anything to say to you, if this is the way you are going to talk,” said Emily, pouting, though a mischievous gleam darted into her eyes. “Really, however, I think she carried things too far, though she is so good. I only said it to excuse John, and show how he was brought up.”
“Poor fellow!” said I. “I know now why he is so hopelessly shut up, and walled up. Never a warmer heart than he keeps stowed away there inside of the fortress, with the drawbridge down and moat all round.”
“They are all warm-hearted inside,” said Emily. “Would you think she did n’t love him? Once when he was sick, she watched with him seventeen nights without taking off her clothes; she scarcely would eat all the time: Jane told me so. She loves him better than she loves herself. It’s perfectly dreadful sometimes to see how intense she is when anything concerns him; it’s her principle that makes her so cold and quiet.”
“And a devilish one it is !” said I.
“Chris, you are really growing wicked !”
“I use the word seriously, and in good faith,” said I. “Who but the Father of Evil ever devised such plans for making goodness hateful, and keeping the most heavenly part of our nature so under lock and key that for the greater part of our lives we get no use of it? Of what benefit is a mine of love burning where it warms nobody, does nothing but blister the soul within with its imprisoned heat? Love repressed grows morbid, acts in a thousand perverse ways. These three women, I 'll venture to say, are living in the family here like three frozen islands, knowing as little of each other’s inner life as if parted by eternal barriers of ice, —and all because a cursed principle in the heart of the mother has made her bring them up in violence to Nature.”
“Well,” said Emmy, “sometimes I do pity Jane; she is nearest my age, and, naturally, I think she was something like me, or might have been. The other day I remember her coming in looking so flushed and ill that I could n’t help asking if she were unwell. The tears came into her eyes; but her mother looked up, in her cool, business-like way, and said, in her dry voice,—
“‘Jane, what’s the matter?’
“‘Oh, my head aches dreadfully, and I have pains in all my limbs !’
“I wanted to jump and run to do something for her,—you know at our house we feel that a sick person must be waited on,—but her mother onlysaid, in the same dry way,—
“‘Well, Jane, you ’ve probably got a cold; go into the kitchen and make yourself some good boneset tea, soak your feet in hot water, and go to bed at once’; and Jane meekly departed.
“I wanted to spring and do these things for her; but it ’s curious, in this house I never dare offer to do anything; and mother looked at me, as she went out, with a significant nod,— “‘That’s always my way; if any of the children are sick, I never coddle them; it’s best to teach them to make as light of it as possible.’”
“Dreadful!” said I.
“Yes, it is dreadful,” said Emmy, drawing her breath, as if relieved that she might speak her mind; “it’s dreadful to see these people, who I know love each other, living side by side and never saying a loving, tender word, never doing a little loving thing,—sick ones crawling off alone like sick animals, persisting in being alone, bearing everything alone. But I won't let them; I will insist on forcing my way into their rooms. I would go and sit with Jane, and pet her and hold her hand and bathe her head, though I knew it made her horridly uncomfortable at first; but I thought she ought to learn to be petted in a Christian way, when she was sick. I will kiss her, too, sometimes, though she takes it just like a cat that is n’t used to being stroked, and calls me a silly girl; but I know she is getting to like it. What is the use of people’s loving each other in this horridly cold, stingy, silent way? If one of them were dangerously ill now, or met with any serious accident, I know there would be no end to what the others would do for her; if one of them were to die, the others would be perfectly crushed: but it would all go inward,—drop silently down into that dark, cold, frozen well; they could n’t speak to each other; they could n't comfort each other; they have lost the power of expression; they absolutely can't.”
“Yes,” said I, “they are like the fakirs who have held up an arm till it has become stiffened,—they cannot now change its position; like the poor mutes, who, being deaf, have become dumb through disuse of the organs of speech. Their education has been like those iron suits of armor into which little boys were put in the Middle Ages, solid, inflexible, put on in childhood; enlarged with every year’s growth, till the warm human frame fitted the mould as if it had been melted and poured into it. A person educated in this way is hopelessly crippled, never will be what he might have been.”
“Oh, don't say that, Chris; think of John; think how good he is.”
“I do think how good he is,”—with indignation,—“and how few know it, too. I think, that, with the tenderest, truest, gentlest heart, the utmost appreciation of human friendship, he has passed in the world for a cold, proud, selfish man. If your frank, impulsive, incisive nature had not unlocked gates and opened doors, he would never have known the love of woman: and now he is but half disenchanted; he every da_ tends to go back to stone.”
“But I sha’n’t let him; oh, indeed, I know the danger! I shall bring him out. I shall work on them all. I know they are beginning to love me a good deal: in the first place, because I belong to John, and everything belonging to him is perfect; and in the second place,”—
“In the second place, because they expect to weave, day after day, the fine cobweb lines of their cold system of repression around you, which will harden and harden, and tighten and tighten, till you are as stiff and shrouded as any of them. You remind me of our poor little duck: don't you remember him ?”
“Yes, poor fellow! how he would stay out, and swim round and round, while the pond kept freezing and freezing, and his swimming-place grew smaller and smaller every day ; but he was such a plucky little fellow that”—
“That at last we found him one morning frozen tight in, and he has limped ever since on his poor feet.”
“Oh, but I won't freeze in,” she said, laughing.
“Take care, Emmy! You are sensitive, approbative, delicately organized; your whole nature inclines you to give way and yield to the nature of those around you. One little lone duck such as you, however warm-blooded, lighthearted, cannot keep a whole pond from freezing. While you have any influence, you must use it all to get John away from these surroundings, where you can have him to yourself.”
“Oh, you know we are building our house; we shall go to housekeeping soon.”
“Where? Close by, under the very guns of this fortress, where all your housekeeping, all your little management, will be subject to daily inspection.”
“But mamma never interferes, never advises,—unless I ask advice.”
“No, but she influences; she lives, she looks, she is there; and while she is there, and while your home is within a stone’s throw, the old spell will be on your husband, on your children, if you have any ; you will feel it in the air; it will constrain, it will sway you, it will rule your house, it will bring up your children.”
“Oh, no! never! never! I never could! I never will! If God should give me a dear little child, I will not let it grow up in these hateful ways!”
“Then, Emmy, there will be a constant, still, undefined, but real friction of your life-power, from the silent grating of your wishes and feelings on the cold, positive millstone of their opinion; it will be a life-battle with a quiet, invisible, pervading spirit, who will never show himself in fair fight, but who will be around you in the very air you breathe, at your pillow when you lie down and when you rise. There is so much in these friends of yours noble, wise, severely good,—their aims are so high, their efficiency so great, their virtues so many,—that they will act upon you with the force of a conscience, subduing, drawing, insensibly constraining you into their moulds. They have stronger wills, stronger natures than yours; and between the two forces of your own nature and theirs you will be always oscillating, so that you will never show what you can do, working either in your own way or yet in theirs: your life will be a failure.”
“Oh, Chris, why do you discourage me?”
“I am trying tonic treatment, Emily; I am showing you a real danger; I am rousing you to flee from it. John is making money fast; there is no reason why he should always remain buried in this town. Use your influence as they do,—daily, hourly, constantly,—to predispose him to take you to another sphere. Do not always shrink and yield; do not conceal and assimilate and endeavor to persuade him and yourself that you are happy; do not put the very best face to him on it all; do not tolerate his relapses daily and hourly into his habitual, cold, inexpressive manner; and don't lay aside your own little impulsive, outspoken ways. Respect your own nature, and assert it; woo him, argue with him; use all a woman’s weapons to keep him from falling back into the old Castle Doubting where he lived till you let him out. Dispute your mother’s hateful dogma, that love is to be taken for granted without daily proof between lovers; cry down latent caloric in the market; insist that the mere fact of being a wife is not enough,—that the words spoken once, years ago, are not enough,—that love needs new leaves every summer of life, as much as your elm-trees, and new branches to grow broader and wider, and new flowers at the root to cover the ground,
“Oh, but I have heard that there is no surer way to lose love than to be exacting, and that it never comes for a woman’s reproaches.”
“All true as Gospel, Emmy. I am not speaking of reproaches, or of unreasonable self-assertion, or of ill-temper,—you could not use any of these forces, if you would, you poor little chick! I am speaking now of the highest duty we owe our friends, the noblest, the most sacred,—that of keeping their own nobleness, goodness, pure and incorrupt. Thoughtless, instinctive, unreasoning love and self-sacrifice, such as many women long to bestow on husband and children, soil and lower the very objects of their love. You may grow saintly by self-sacrifice; but do your husband and children grow saintly by accepting it without return? I have seen a verse which says,—
Breathe on it as they bow.’
Is not this true of all unreasoning love and self-devotion? If we let our friend become cold and selfish and exacting without a remonstrance, we are no true lover, no true friend. Any good man soon learns to discriminate between the remonstrance that comes from a woman’s love to his soul, her concern for his honor, her anxiety for his moral development, and the pettish cry which comes from her own personal wants. It will be your own fault, if, for lack of anything you can do, your husband relapses into these cold, undemonstrative habits which have robbed his life of so much beauty and enjoyment. These dead, barren ways of living are as unchristian as they are disagreeable; and you, as a good little Christian sworn to fight heroically under Christ’s banner, must make headway against this sort of family Antichrist, though it comes with a show of superior sanctity and self-sacrifice. Remember, dear, that the Master’s family had its outward tokens of love as well as its inward life. The beloved leaned on His bosom; and the traitor could not have had a sign for his treachery, had there not been a daily kiss at meeting and parting with His children.”
“I am glad you have said all this,” said Emily, “because now I feel stronger for it. It does not now seem so selfish for me to want what it is better for John to give. Yes, I must seek what will be best for him.”
And so the little one, put on the track of self-sacrifice, began to see her way clearer, as many little women of her sort do. Make them look on selfassertion as one form of martyrdom, and they will come into it.
But, for all my eloquence on this evening, the house was built in the self-same spot as projected; and the family life went on, under the shadow of Judge Evans’s elms, much as if I had not spoken. Emmy became mother of two fine, lovely boys, and waxed dimmer and fainter; while with her physical decay came increasing need of the rule in the household of mamma and sisters, who took her up energetically on eagles’ wings, and kept her house, and managed her children : for what can be done when a woman hovers half her time between life and death?
At last I spoke out to John, that the climate and atmosphere were too severe for her who had become so dear to him,—to them all; and then they consented that the change much talked of and urged, but always opposed by the parents, should be made.
John bought a pretty cottage in our neighborhood, and brought his wife and boys; and the effect of change of moral atmosphere verified all my predictions. In a year we had our own blooming, joyous, impulsive little Emily once more,—full of life, full of cheer, full of energy,—looking to the ways of her household,—the merry companion of her growing boys,—the blithe empress over her husband, who took to her genial sway as in the old happy days of courtship. The nightmare was past, and John was as joyous as any of us in his freedom. As Emmy said, he was turned right side out for life ; and we all admired the pattern. And that is the end of my story.
And now for the moral,—and that is, that life consists of two parts,—Expression and Repression,—each of which has its solemn duties. To love, joy, hope, faith, pity, belongs the duty of expression: to anger, envy, malice, revenge, and all uncharitableness belongs the duty of repression.
Some very religious and moral people err by applying repression to both classes alike. They repress equally the expression of love and of hatred, of pity and of anger. Such forget one great law, as true in the moral world as in the physical,—that repression lessens and deadens. Twice or thrice mowing will kill off the sturdiest crop of weeds; the roots die for want of expression. A compress on a limb will stop its growing ; the surgeon knows this, and puts a tight bandage around a tumor ; but what if we put a tight bandage about the heart and lungs, as some young ladies of my acquaintance do,—or bandage the feet, as they do in China? And what if we bandage a nobler inner faculty, and wrap love in graveclothes?
But again there are others, and their number is legion,— perhaps you and I, reader, may know something of it in ourselves, — who have an instinctive habit of repression in regard to all that is noblest and highest within them, which they do not feel in their lower and more unworthy nature.
It comes far easier to scold our friend in an angry moment than to say how much we love, honor, and esteem him in a kindly mood. Wrath and bitterness speak themselves and go with their own force; love is shame-faced, looks shyly out of the window, lingers long at the door-latch.
How much freer utterance among many good Christians have anger, contempt, and censoriousness, than tenderness and love! I hate is said loud and with all our force. I love is said with a hesitating voice and blushing cheek.
In an angry mood we do an injury to a loving heart with good, strong, free emphasis; but we stammer and hang back when our diviner nature tells us to confess and ask pardon. Even when our heart is broken with repentance, we haggle and linger long before we can
How many live a stingy and niggardly life in regard to their richest inward treasures ! They live with those they love dearly, whom a few more words and deeds expressive of this love would make so much happier, richer, and better; and they cannot, will not, turn the key and give it out. People who in their very souls really do love, esteem, reverence, almost worship each other, live a barren, chilly life side by side, busy, anxious, preoccupied, letting their love go by as a matter of course, a last year’s growth, with no present buds and blossoms.
Are there not sons and daughters who have parents living with them as angels unawares,—husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, in whom the material for a beautiful life lies locked away in unfruitful silence,—who give time to everything but the cultivation and expression of mutual love ?
The time is coming, they think, in some far future, when they shall find leisure to enjoy each other, to stop and rest side by side, to discover to each other these hidden treasures which lie idle and unused.
Alas ! time flies and death steals on, and we reiterate the complaint of one in Scripture, — “ It came to pass, while thy servant was busy hither and thither, the man was gone.”
The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. “She never knew how I loved her.” “He never knew what he was to me.” “I always meant to make more of our friendship.” “I did not know what he was to me till he was gone.” Such words are the poisoned arrows which cruel Death shoots backward at us from the door of the sepulchre.
How much more we might make of our family life, of our friendships, if every secret thought of love blossomed into a deed! We are not now speaking merely of personal caresses. These may or may not be the best language of affection. Many are endowed with a delicacy, a fastidiousness of physical organization, which shrinks away from too much of these, repelled and overpowered. But there are words and looks and little observances, thoughtfulnesses, watchful little attentions, which speak of love, which make it manifest, and there is scarce a family that might not be richer in heart-wealth for more of them.
It is a mistake to suppose that relations must of course love each other because they are relations. Love must be cultivated, and can be increased by judicious culture, as wild fruits may double their bearing under the hand of a gardener ; and love can dwindle and die out by neglect, as choice flower-seeds planted in poor soil dwindle and grow single.
Two causes in our Anglo-Saxon nature prevent this easy faculty and flow of expression which strike one so pleasantly in the Italian or the French life : the dread of flattery, and a constitutional shyness.
“I perfectly longed to tell So-and-so how I admired her, the other day,” says Miss X.
“And why in the world did n’t you tell her ?”
“Oh, it would seem like flattery, you know.”
Now what is flattery ?
Flattery is insincere praise given from interested motives, not the sincere utterance to a friend of what we deem good and lovely in him.
And so, for fear of flattering, these dreadfully sincere people go on side by side with those they love and admire, giving them all the time the impression of utter indifference. Parents are so airaid of exciting pride and vanity in their children by the expression of their love and approbation, that a child sometimes goes sad and discouraged by their side, and learns with surprise, in some chance way, that they are proud and fond of him. There are times when the open expression of a father’s love would be worth more than church or sermon to a boy; and his father cannot utter it, will not show it.
The other thing that represses the utterances of love is the characteristic shyness of the Anglo-Saxon blood. Oddly enough, a race born of two demonstrative, out-spoken nations—the German and the French—has an habitual reserve that is like neither. There is a powerlessness of utterance in our blood that we should fight against, and struggle outward towards expression. We can educate ourselves to it, if we know and feel the necessity; we can make it a Christian duty, not only to love, but to be loving,—not only to be true friends, but to show ourselves friendly. We can make ourselves say the kind things that rise in our hearts and tremble back on our lips,—do the gentle and helpful deeds which we long to do and shrink back from; and, little by little, it will grow easier,—the love spoken will bring back the answer of love,—the kind deed will bring back a kind deed in return,—till the hearts in the familycircle, instead of being so many frozen, icy islands, shall be full of warm airs and echoing bird-voices answering back and forth with a constant melody of love.