Washington Irving’s essay, The Wife continued from here
After additional patience, I finally persuaded Leslie to go home and unburden his sad heart to his wife. The next morning I was eager to know the results.
In inquiring, I found that Leslie had made the the disclosure.
“And how did she bear it?”
“Like an angel! It seemed rather to be a relief to her mind, for she threw her arms round my neck, and asked if this was all that had lately made me unhappy.
But poor girl!” added he, “she can not realize the change we must undergo. She has no idea of poverty but in the abstract; she has only read of it in poetry, where it is allied to love. She feels yet no privation; she suffers no loss of accustomed conveniences nor elegance. When we come practically to experience
its sordid cares, its paltry wants, its petty humiliations, then will be the real trial.”
Some days afterward he called upon me in the evening. He had disposed of his dwelling house, and taken a small cottage in the country, a few miles from town.
He had been busied all day in sending out furniture. The new establishment required few articles, and those of the simplest kind.
He was going to the cottage where his wife had been all day superintending its arrangement. My feelings had become strongly interested in the progress of the family story, and as it was evening, I offered
to accompany him. He was wearied with the fatigues of the day, and as he walked out, fell into a fit of gloomy musing.
“Poor Mary!” at length broke, with a heavy sigh from his lips.
“And what of her?” asked I; “has anything happened to her?”
“What!” said he, darting an impatient glance; “is it nothing to be reduced to this paltry situation, to be caged in a miserable cottage, to be obliged
to toil almost in the menial concerns of her wretched habitation?”
“Repined! She has been nothing but sweetness and good humor. Indeed, she seems in better spirits than I ever known her; she has been to me all love and tenderness and comfort!”
“Admirable girl!” exclaimed I. “You call yourself poor, my friend, you never were so rich, you never knew the boundless treasures of excellence you possess in that woman.”
“Oh! but, my friend, if this, our first meeting at the cottage were over, I think I could then be comfortable. But this is the first day of real experience; she has been introduced into a humble dwelling;
she has been employed all day in arranging the miserable equipment; she has for the first time, known fatigues of domestic employment; she has, for the first time, looked around her on a home
destitute of everything elegant, almost everything convenient; and now may be sitting down exhausted and spiritless, brooding over a prospect of future poverty.
There was a degree of probability in this picture that I could not gainsay; so we walked on in silence. After turning from the main road up a narrow lane,
so thickly shaded with forest trees as to give it a complete air of seclusion, we came in sight of the cottage. It was humble enough in its appearance for the most pastoral poet;
and yet it had a pleasing rural look. A wild vine had overrun one end with a profusion of foliage; a few trees threw their branches gracefully over it; and I observed several pots of flowers
tastefully disposed about the door, and on the grass-plot in front.
A small wicket gate opened upon a footpath that wound through some shrubbery to the door. Just as we approached, we heard the sound of music. Leslie grabbed my arm.
We paused and listened. It was Mary’s voice, singing in a style of the most touching simplicity, a little air of which her husband was peculiarly fond. I felt Leslie’s hand tremble on my arm.
He stepped forward, to hear more distinctly. His step made a noise on the gravel walk.
A bright, beautiful face glanced out of the window and vanished, a light footstep was heard, and Mary came tripping forth to meet us. She was in a pretty rural dress of white;
a few wildflowers were twisted in her fine hair, a fresh bloom was on her cheek, her whole countenance beamed with smiles. I had never seen her look so lovely.
“My dear Leslie,” cried she, “I am so glad you are come! I have been watching and watching for you; and running down the lane, and looking for you. I’ve set out a table under a beautiful tree behind the cottage; and I’ve been
gathering some of the most delicious strawberries, for I know you are fond of them, and we have such excellent cream, and everything is so sweet and still here! Oh!” said she putting her arm within his,
and looking brightly in his face – “Oh, we shall be so happy.”
Poor Leslie was overcome. He caught her to his bosom, he folded his arms around her, he kissed her again and again, he could not speak, but the tears gushed into his eyes;
and he has often assured me that, though the world has since gone prosperously with him, and his life has, indeed been a happy one, yet never has he experienced a moment of more exquisite felicity.
P.s. The story is used in my Fascinating Womanhood Course to illustrate ‘Sympathetic Understanding‘ a quality of elegant wives.
In general, men experience failure a bit differently from women. They’ve got that innate drive to win wars, climb mountains more than women but when they fail,
they crash and burn much harder. There is that intense humiliation that they experience, even worse than the failure itself.
‘When a woman meets such a crisis with sympathetic understanding, and the strength of a noble character, her husband can come to idolize her and love her as never before.’ Quote from the Fascinating Womanhood.
After reading this, all I could think was, ‘Oh Lord, help me become this woman!’
I’ve come across this essay many times, yet I never fail to be inspired! I hope it encourages you too. xoxo