Dorinda's Joy

THE CONTRIBUTORS’ CLUB

‘ Why do you do this thing ? ’ asked a London magistrate of a man, brought before him for wife-beating, for the fourth time.

‘Ah, ye gotta biff ’em abaht,’ answered the defendant, ‘ it mikes ’em love ye! ’

WE, Theophilus and Jane and I, were talking about the Robinsons. Theophilus and Jane are sound in Christian doctrine; they say grace before meat, have family prayers, and hold to orthodoxy as to an handmaiden of righteousness. If I had not always known them I might be a little frightened at them, because our angles of vision differ. As it is, Jane and I always agree (or at least Jane persuades me that we do), and Theophilus and I always make allowances for each other.

The Robinsons, John and Dorinda, are warm friends of Theophilus and Jane. I know them but slightly, nevertheless I shall speak with the familiarity of a closer acquaintance. John has a good business, and is doing well, although his income does not make him rich. Dorinda is rich in her own right; her income is probably thrice John’s; nevertheless John maintains the family, so that Dorinda’s income is set aside. This is in accord with John’s wholesome view that it behooves him to care for and support his own family.

In our discussion, Theophilus said, ‘Dorinda is a woman of very fine character. She has great nobility of spirit. For instance, she would like very much to have an automobile. Living where they do, it would be a great convenience to her, and we know that she wants one in the worst way. But John says, “ no” he declares that his income does not warrant the expense, and Dorinda, like the good and dutiful wife that she is, not only submits, but does it gladly. She neither complains nor protests. Of course, she herself could maintain half a dozen automobiles if she wanted to, and yet you never hear a complaint from her because she has none.’

‘The incidence of comment,’ I replied, ‘seems to be on John rather than on Dorinda. That she meets a difficult and disagreeable situation without wincing is doubtless creditable, and it would be unfair to her to refer to her submission as a lazy way of avoiding trouble.’

Both Theophilus and Jane agreed in unison that there was nothing lazy about Dorinda.

‘But, as for John,’ I continued, ‘there is an expression which fits him perfectly, and which is clearly indicated in the situation: John is a hog!’

By this it was evident that I had adventured into trouble. Theophilus and Jane were unanimous in protesting that I failed entirely to understand the situation. There is, they assured me, perfect accord between John and Dorinda, and John is kindness itself. John is a splendid fellow, — generous, strong, fine, noble. The vision of John was wrapped in adjectives of praise.

I remained unconvinced; it seemed to me that it was John’s pompous vanity, and that alone, which debarred his wife from the enjoyment of what was rightfully hers.

The many protests which followed made it evident that we were out of sympathy in regard to John; and Jane, who is something of a diplomat and something of a psychologist, changed the subject to the heresy trials in Atlanta, with a view to driving the thought of John out of my head by the mention of the heresy-hunters.

On the way home that evening, my thoughts reverted again to Dorinda. Never having been a woman, so far as I am aware, I cannot tell how I should have considered John, had skirts encompassed me. But it occurred to me that Dorinda may be blissfully happy in her submission. She knows that she has this strong and kindly lord who decides for her and keeps her from error; she knows that he is trustworthy, and her heart is all aflame with the feeling that he loves her. Of what use is a motor-car, save as an incidental convenience? And of what trifling value is the convenience, compared to her repose in John’s judgment, and her faith in him? She enjoys restfulness of a quality such as no selfish woman can provide for herself. They have, between them,’unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and in all things charity.’

John, of course, determines the essentials, which he is quite well able to do. And Dorinda — who is nobody’s fool —agrees with him. Probably she is very happy.

Nevertheless, I think John is a hog.