Imatges de pàgina



The Ring Fetter.

[August, " At any rate,” sighed Hitty, on the patient, innocent wife for such scenes of breath of a long-drawn sob, “ nobody else vice and reckless dissipation as she had ever loved me, if I am Judge Hyde's not even dreamed could exist. daughter."

Yet for week after week he lingered So Mrs. Perkins went away, and de- away from Greenfield ; even months clared that things had gone too far to be rolled by, and, except for rare and brief prevented; and Abner Dimock came on visits home, Hitty saw no more of her her retreating steps, and Hitty forgot eve husband than if he were not hers. She erything but that he loved her; and the lapsed into her old solitude, varied only next week they were married.

by the mutterings and grumblings of old Here, by every law of custom, ought my Keery, who had lifted up her voice weary pen to fall fat and refuse its office; against Hitty's marriage with more noise for it is here that the fate of every hero- and less effect than Mrs. Perkins, and, ine culminates. For what are women born though she still staid by her old home but to be married ? Old maids are ex- and haunts, revenged herself on fate in crescences in the social system, disa- general and her mistress in particular greeable utilities,- persons who have fail- by a continual course of sulking, all the ed to fulfil their destiny, - and of whom time hiding under this general quarrel it should have been said, rather than of with life a heart that ached with the purghosts, that they are always in the wrong. est tenderness and pity. So some people But life, with pertinacious facts, is too are made, like chestnuts; one gets so apt to transcend custom and the

usage scratched and wounded in the mere atof novel-writers; and though the one tempt to get at the kernel within, that it brings a woman's legal existence to an becomes matter of question whether one end when she merges her independence does not suffer less from wanting their in that of a man, and the other curtails affection than from trying to obtain it. her historic existence at the same point, Yet Hitty Dimock had too little love givbecause the novelist's catechism hath for en her to throw away even Keery's babit its preface this creed, —“ The chief end of kindness to her, and bore with her of woman is to get married ”; still, nei- snaps and snarls as meekly as a saint,ther law nor novelists altogether displace sustained, it is true, by a hope that now this same persistent fact, and a woman began to solace and to occupy her, and to lives, in all capacities of suffering and raise in her oppressed soul some glimmer happiness, not only her wonted, but a of a bright possibility, a faint expectation double life, when legally and religiously that she might yet regain her husband's she binds herself with bond and vow to love, a passion which she began in her seanother soul.

cret heart to fear had found its limit and Happy would it have been for Hitty died out. Still, Hitty, out of her meek, Hyde, if with the legal fiction had chimed self-distrusting spirit, never blamed Abthe actual existent fact! happy indeed ner Dimock for his absence or his coldfor Abner Dimock's wife to have laid ness; rather, with the divine unselfishness her new joy down at the altar, and been that such women manifest, did she blame carried to sleep by her mother under the herself for having linked his handsome mulleins and golden-rods on Greenfield and athletic prime with her faded age, Hill! Scarce was the allotted period of and struggle daily with the morbid conrapture past half its term, scarce had science that accused her of having for; she learned to phrase the tender words gotten his best good in the indulgence of aloud that her heart beat and choked her own selfish ends of happiness. She with, before Abner Dimock began to tire still thought, “ He is so good to me!” still of his incumbrance, and to invent plans idealized the villain to a hero, and, like and excuses for absence; for he dared her kind, predestined to be the prey and not openly declare as yet that he left his the accusing angel of such men, prayed

for and adored her husband as if he had grim old house. Care and kindness were been the best and tenderest of gentlemen. lavished on the delicate woman, who would Providence has its mysteries; but if there scarce bave needed either in her present be one that taxes faith and staggers pa- delight; every ury that could add to tience more than another, it is the long her slowly increasing strength, every atmisery that makes a good woman cringe tention that could quiet her fluttering and and writhe and agonize in silence under unstrung nerves, was showered on her, the utter rule and life-long sovereignty of and for a time her brightest hopes seema bad man. Perhaps such women do not ed all to have found fruition. suffer as we fancy; for after much trial As she recovered and was restored to every woman learns that it is possible to strength, of course these cares ceased. But love where neither respect nor admira- now the new instincts of motherhood abtion can find foothold,- that it even be- sorbed her, and, brooding over the rosy comes necessary to love some men, as child that was her own, caressing its wakthe angels love us all, from an untroubled ing, or hanging above its sleep, she scarce height of pity and tenderness, that, while noted that her husband's absences from it sees and condemns the sin and folly home grew more and more frequent, that and uncleanness of its object, yet broods strange visitors asked for him, that he over it with an all-shielding devotion, la- came home at midnight oftener than at boring and beseeching and waiting for dusk. Nor was it till her child was near its regeneration, upheld above the depths a year old that Hitty discovered her husof suffering and regret by the immortal band's old and rewakened propensity, power of a love so fervent, so pure, so that Abner Dimock came home drunk, self-forgetting, that it will be a millstone not drunk as many men are, foolish and about the necks that disregard its tender helpless, mere beasts of the field, who clasping now, to sink them into a bottom- know nothing and care for nothing but less abyss in the day of the Lord. the filling of their insatiable appetite;

Now bad one long and not unhappy this man's nature was too hard, too iron in autumn, a lingering winter, a desolate its moulding, to give way to temporary im. spring, a weary summer, passed away, becility; liquor made him savage, fierce, and from an all-unconscious and pro- brutal, excited his fiendish temper to its tracted wrestling with death Hitty Dim- height, nerved his muscular system, inock awoke to find her hope fulfilled, flamed his brain, and gave him the aspect fair baby nestled on her arm, and her of a devil; and in such guise he entered husband, not all-insensible, smiling be- his wife's peaceful Eden, where she broodside her.

ed and cooed over her child's slumbers, It is true, that, had she died then, Abner with one gripe of his hard hand lifted her Dimock would have regretted her death; from her chair, kicked the cradle before for, by certain provisions of her father's him, and, with an awful though muttered will, in case of her death, the real estate, oath, thrust mother and child into the enotherwise at her own disposal, became a try, locked the door upon them, and fell trust for her child or children, and such a upon the bed to sleep away his carouse. contingency ill suited Mr. Dimock’s plans. Here was an undeniable fact before So long as Hitty held a rood of land or a Hitty Dimock, one she could no way coin of silver at her own disposal, it was evade or gloss over; no gradual lesson, also at his; but trustees are not women, no shadow of foreboding, preluded the happily for the world at large, and the revelation ; her husband was unmistakcontemplation of that fact brought Fitty ably, savagely drunk. She did not sit Hyde's husband into a state of mind well down and cry; - drearily she gathered fitted to give him real joy at her recovery. her baby in her arms, hushed it to sleep

So, for a little while, the sun shone on with kisses, passed down into the kitchen, this bare New England hill-side, into this woke up the brands of the ash-hidden


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fire to a flame, laid on more wood, and, by just or unjust, forever shining and fordragging old Keery's rush-bottomed chair ever pure. But honor hini ! could that in front of the blaze, held her baby in be done? What respect or trust was it her arms till morning broke, careless of possible to keep for a self-degraded man anything without or within but her child's like that? And where honor goes down, sleep and her husband's drunkenness. obedience is sucked into the vortex, and Long and sadly in that desolate night the wreck flies far over the lonely sea, did she revolve this new misery in her historic and prophetic to ship and shore. mind; the fact was fare to face, and No! there was nothing to do! her vow must be provided for,— but how to do it ? was taken, past the power of man to What could she do, poor weak woman, break; nothing now remained but endureven to conceal this disgrace, much more Perhaps another woman, with a to check it? Long since she had dis- strong will and vivid intellect, might have covered that between her and her hus- set herself to work, backed by that very band there was no community of tastes vow that defied poor Hitty, and, by sheer or interests; he never talked to her, he resolution, have dragged her husband up never read to her, she did not know that from the gulf and saved him, though as he read at all; the garden he disliked by fire; or a more buoyant and younger as a useless trouble; he would not drive, wife might have passed it by as a first except such a gay horse that Hitty dared offence, hopeful of its being also the only not risk her neck behind it, and felt a one. But an instinctive knowledge of the shudder of fear assail her whenever his man bereft Hitty of any such hope; she gig left the door; neither did he care for knew it was not the first time; from his his child. Nothing at home could keep own revelations and penitent confessions him from his pursuits; that she well knew; while she was yet free, she knew he had and, hopeful as she tried to be, the future sinned as well as suffered, and the past spread out far away in misty horror and augured the future. Nothing was left dread. What night not become of her boy, her, she could not escape, she must shut with such a father's influence ? was her her eyes and her mouth, and only keep first thought;- nay, who could tell but in out of his way as far as she could. So some fury of drink he might kill or maim she clasped her child more tightly, and, him? A chill of horror crept over Hitty closing her heavy eyes, rocked back and at the thought, — and then, what had not forth till the half-waked boy slept again; she to dread? Oh, for some loophole and there old Keery found her mistress, of escape, some way to fly, some refuge in the morning, white as the cold drifts for her baby's innocent lite ! No,—no, without, and a depth of settled agony in no! She was his wife; she had married her quiet eyes that dimmed the old womhim; she had vowed to love and honor an's only to look at. and obey, — vow of tearful import now, Neither spoke; nor when her husband though uttered in all pureness and truth, strode into the breakfast-room and took as to a man who owned her whole heart! his usual place, sober enough, but scarceLove him!- that was not the dread; love ly regretful of the over-night developwas as much her life as her breath was; ment, did any word of reproach or allu, she knew no interval of loving for the sion pass


the wife's white lips. A stranger brute fiend who mocked her with the would have thought her careless and cold. name of husband; no change or chance Abner Dimock knew that she was heartcould alienate her divine tenderness, – broken; but what was that to him? Womeven as the pitiful blue sky above hangs en live for years without that organ; and stainless over reeking battle-fields and while she lived, so long as a cent remainpest-smitten cities, piercing with its sad ed of the Hyde estate, what was it to and holy star-eyes down into the hellish him if she pined away? She could not orgies of men, untouched and unchanged leave him; she was utterly in his power;

she was his — like his boots, his gun, his clinging as only the desperate can cling dog; and till he should tire of her and to this vague chance of life. fling her into some lonely chamber to A rough, half-crazed girl, brought from waste and die, she was bound to serve the alms-house, now did the drudgery of him; he was safe.

the family.

Abner Dimock had grown And she offered no sort of barrier to penurious, and not one cent of money was his full indulgence of his will to drink. given for comfort in that house, scarce for Had she litted one of her slender fingers need. The girl was stupid and rude, but in warning, or given him a look of re- she worked for her board, — recommenproachful meaning, or uttered one cry of dation enough in Mr. Dimock's eyes; and entreaty, at least the conscience within so hard work was added to the other burhim might have visited him with a tem- dens loaded upon his silent wife. And porary shame, and restrained the raging soon came another, all-mysterious, but propensity for a longer interval; but see- from its very mystery a deeper fear. Abing her apparent apathy, knowing how ner Dimock began to stay at home, to be timid and unresisting was her nature, – visited at late hours by one or two men that nothing on earth will lie still and whose faces were full of evil and daring; be trodden on but a woman, - Abner and when, in the dead of the long nights, Dimock rioted and revelled to his full Hitty woke from her broken and feverpleasure, while all his pale and speechless ish sleep, it was to hear muffled sounds wife could do was to watch with fearful from the cellar below, never heard there eyes and straining ears for his coming, before; and once, wrapping a shawl about and slink out of the way with her child, her, she stole down the stairways with lest both should be beaten as well as bare feet, and saw streams of red light cursed; for faithful old Keery, once dar- through the chinks of the cellar-door, ing to face himn with a volley of reproach- and heard the ring of metal, and mutes from her shrill tongue, was levelled to tered oaths, all carefully dulled by such the floor by a blow from his rapid hand, devices as kept the sounds from chance and bore bruises for weeks that warned passers in the street, though vain as far her from interference. Not long, how- as the inhabitants of the house itself were ever, was there danger of her meddling. concerned. Trembling and cold, she stole When the baby was a year and a half back to her bed, full of doubts and fears, old, Keery, in her out-door labors, — now neither of which she dared whisper to grown burdensome enough, since Mr.

any one, or would have dared, had she Dimock neither worked himself nor al possessed a single friend to whom she lowed a man on the premises, — Keery could speak. Troubles thickened fast took a heavy cold, and, worn out with a over Hitty; her husband was always at life of hard work, sank into rest quickly, home now, and rarely sober; the relief her last act of life being to draw Hitty's his absences had been was denied her face down to her own, wrinkled and wan entirely; and in some sunny corner of as it was, scarce so old in expression as the uninhabited rooms up-stairs she spent her mistress's, and with one long kiss her days, toiling at such sewing as was and sob speak the foreboding and anx- needful, and silent as the dead, save as ious farewell she could not utter.

her life appealed to God from the ground, “ Only you now!” whispered Hitty to and called down the curse of Cain upon her child, as Keery's peaceful, shrouded a head she would have shielded from evil face was hidden under the coffin-lid and with her own life. carried away to Greenfield Hill. Pitiful Keen human legislation ! sightless juswhisper! happily all-unmeaning to the tice of men !- one drunken wretch smites child, but full of desolation to the mother, another in a midnight brawl, and sends a floating with but one tiny plank amid the soul to its account with one sharp shudwild wrecks of a midnight ocean, and der of passion and despair, and the maddened creature that remains on earth walk, that he might have a little play suffers the penalty of the law. Every on the green turf, and she cool her hot sense sobered from its reeling fury, weeks eyes and lips in the air. As she sat of terrible expectation heaped upon the there watching the pretty clumsiness of cringing soul, and, in full consciousness, her boy, and springing forward to interthat murderer is strangled before men cept his falls, the intluence of sun and and angels, because he was drunk !-ne- air, the playful joy of the child, the soothcessary enough, one perceives, to the ing stillness of all Nature, stole into her good of society, which thereby loses two heart till it dreamed a dream of hope. worse than useless members; but what, Perhaps the budding blossom of promise in the name of God's justice, should His might become floral and fruitful; pervicegerent, law, visit upon the man who haps her child might yet atone for the wrings another life away by slow tortures, agony of the past; - a time night come and torments heart and soul and flesh for when she should sit in that door, whitelingering years, where the victim is pas- haired and trembling with age, but as sive and tenacious, and dies only after peaceful as the autumn day, watching long-drawn anguish that might fill the cup the sports of his children, while his strong of a hundred sudden deaths ? Yet what arm sustained her into the valley of shadescapes the vicegerent shall the King hin- ow, and his tender eyes lit the way. self visit and judge. · For Ile cometh ! As she sat dreaming, suddenly a figure He cometh to judge the earth; with intercepted the sunshine, and, looking righteousness shall Ile judge the world, up, she saw Abner Dimock's father, the and the people with equity."

elder Abner, entering the little' wicketSix months passed after Keery's death, gate of the garden. A strange, tottering and now from the heights of Greenfield old figure, his nose and chin grimacing and her sunny window Hitty Dimock's at each other, his bleared eyes telling white face looked out upon a landscape unmistakable truths of cider-brandy and of sudden glory; for October, the gold- New England rum, his scant locks of bringer, had come, pouring splendor white lying in contusion over his wrinover the earth, and far and wide the kled forehead and cheeks, his whole air forests blazed; scarlet and green maples, squalid, hopeless, and degraded, -- not so with erect heads, sentinelled the street, much by the poverty of vice as by its gay lifeguards of autumn ; through dark demoralizing stamp penetrating from the green cedars the crimson creeper thread- inner to the outer man, and levelling it ed its sprays of blood-red; birches, gilded eren below the plane of brutes that perto their tops, swayed to every wind, and ish. drooped their graceful boughs earthward Good-day! good-day !” said he to to shower the mossy sward with glittering his son's wife, in a squeaking, tremulous leaves; heavy oaks turned purple-crimson tone, that drove the child to his mother's through their wide-spread boughs; and arms, — “Abner to home ?” the stately chestnuts, with foliage of tawny * No, Sir,” said Hitty, with an involyellow, opened wide their stinging husks untary shudder, that did not escape the to let the nuts fall for squirrel and blue- bleared blue eye that fixed its watery jay. Splendid sadness clothed all the world, opal-hued mists wandered up and “ Cold, a’n’t ye? Better go in, better down the valleys or lingered about the go in! Come, come along! How d'e do, undefined horizon, and the leaf-scented little feller? don't know yer grandper, south wind sighed in the still noon with hey ?” foreboding gentleness.

The child met his advances with an One day, Abner Dimock was gone, ominous scream, and Hitty hurried into and Hitty stole down to the garden-door the house to give him to the servant's with her little child, now just trying to charge, while she returned to the sitting


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gaze upon her.

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