The First and
Last Quarrel by T. S. Arthur
An Extract From
Married Life, Its Shadows and Sunshine
"IF I am his wife, I am not his slave!" said young Mrs. Huntley,
indignantly. "It was more than he dared do a month ago."
"If you love me, Esther, don't talk in this way," said Mrs.
"Am I his slave aunt?" and the young bride drew herself up, while
her eyes flashed.
"No, Esther, you are his wife."
"To be loved, and not commanded! That is the difference, and he has
got to learn it."
"Were Edward to see and hear you now, do you think your words,
manner, and expression would inspire him with any new affection for
"I have nothing to do with that. I only express a just indignation,
and that is a right I did not alienate when I consented to become his
"You are a silly girl, Esther," said Mrs. Carlisle, "and I am
afraid will pay dear for your folly. Edward has faults, and so have
you. If you understood the duties and responsibilities of your
position, and felt the true force of your marriage vows, you would
seek to bend into better forms the crooked branches of your husband's
hereditary temper, rather than commit an irreparable injury by roughly
breaking them. I was not pleased with Edward's manner of speaking; but
I must admit that he had provocation: that you were first, and,
therefore, most to blame."
"I objected to going with him to the opera, because I particularly
wanted to call and see Anna Lewis to-night. I had made up my mind to
this, and when I make up my mind to any thing I do not like to be
turned from my purpose."
"Edward resembles you rather too much in that respect. Therefore,
there must be a disposition to yielding and self-denial on one side
or the other, or unhappiness will follow. Hitherto, as far as I have
been able to see, the yielding has all been on the part of Edward,
who has given up to you in everything. And now, when he shows that he
has a will of his own, you become very indignant, and talk bout not
being his slave."
"It is too bad for you to speak so, aunt! You never think I do any
thing right." And Esther burst into tears.
Meantime, Edward Huntley, the husband, was at the opera, listening
to, but not enjoying, the beauties Norma. It was only a month since
he had led to the altar his beautiful bride, and felt himself the
happiest man in the world. Before marriage, he thought only of how he
should please Esther. The preference of his own wishes to hers was
felt as no sacrifice. But, after the hymeneal contract had been
gratified, his feelings began gradually to change. What he had
yielded in kindness was virtually demanded as a right, and against
this, the moment it was perceived, his spirit rose in rebellion. In
several instances, he gave way to what savoured, much more than he
liked, of imperiousness.
Norma had just been brought out, and received with unprecedented
favour. The newspapers were filled with its praises, and the beauties
of the opera were spoken of by every one. A friend lauded it with more
than usual enthusiasm, on the day it was advertised for a third
"You haven't heard it yet!" said he, with surprise, on learning
that Huntley had yet to enjoy that pleasure.
"No, but I think I will buy tickets for to-night."
"Do by all means! And get them at once, or you will not be able to
secure a seat."
It was in the afternoon, and Huntley could not ask his young wife
about it, unless he made a special errand home, which, as he lived
some distance away from his office, would be inconvenient. Not in the
least doubting, however, that Esther would be pleased to go to the
opera, as she had more than once expressed a wish to see and hear
Norma, he secured tickets and considered the matter settled.
Now that the gratification of hearing the opera was so near at
hand, Huntley kept thinking of the enjoyment he was to have, and
wishing for the time to pass more rapidly. He pictured, too, the
pleasure that Esther would feel and express when she found that he had
procured tickets. Half an hour earlier than usual he was at home. He
found Esther and her aunt, Mrs. Carlisle, with whom they were living,
in the parlour.
"We are going to see Norma to-night," said Huntley, in a gay voice,
and with a broad smile upon his face, as he sat down beside Esther
and took her hand.
The tone and look with which this was said chilled the warm
feelings of the young man.
"_I am, at least," said he, in a changed voice.
"And I am not," as promptly, and much more decidedly,
"Oh, yes you are." This was said with a suddenly assumed, half
playful, yet earnest manner. "I have bought tickets, and we will go
"The least you could have done was to have asked me before you
bought tickets," returned Esther. "I wish to go somewhere else
"But, as I have the tickets now, you will go, of course. To-morrow
night will do as well for a visit."
"I wish to make it to-night."
"Esther, you are unreasonable." Huntley knit his brows and
compressed his lips.
"We are quite even then." The pretty lip of the bride curled.
"Esther!" said Huntley, assuming a calm but cold exterior, and
speaking in a firm voice. "I have bought tickets for the opera
to-night, thinking that to go would give you pleasure, and now my
wish is that you accompany me."
"A wish that you will certainly not have gratified. I believe I am
your wife, not your slave to command."
There was something so cutting in the way this was said, that
Huntley could not bear it. Without a word he arose, and, taking his
hat, left the house. In a fever of excitement he walked the street
for an hour and a half, and then, scarcely reflecting upon what he
did, went to the opera. But the music was discord in his ears, and he
left before the performance was half over.
The moment Esther heard the street-door close upon her husband, she
arose and went from the room where she was sitting with her aunt,
moving erect and with a firm step. Mrs. Carlisle did not see her for
two hours. The tea bell rang, but she did not come down from her
chamber, where, as the aunt supposed, she was bitterly repenting what
she had done. In this, however, she was mistaken, as was proved, when,
on joining her in her room for the purpose of striving to console her,
the conversation with which our story opens took place.
When the fit of weeping with which Esther received the reproof her
aunt felt called upon to give, had subsided, Mrs. Carlisle said, in a
most solemn and impressive manner,
"What has occurred this evening may prove the saddest event of your
whole life. There is no calculating the result. No matter whose the
fault, the consequences that follow may be alike disastrous to the
happiness of both. Are you prepared, thus early, for a sundering of
the sacred bonds that have united you? And yet, even this may follow.
It has followed with others, and may follow with you. Oh! the
consequences of a first quarrel! Who can anticipate them?"
The voice of Mrs. Carlisle trembled, and then sank almost into a
sob. Her manner more than her words startled Esther.
"What do you mean, aunt?" said she.
But her aunt was too much disturbed to speak for some minutes.
"Esther," she at length said, speaking in a voice that still
trembled, "I knew a girl, who, at your age, married an excellent, but
proud-spirited young man. Like Edward, the lover yielded too much
when, as the husband, he began to be a little less considerate, and to
act as if he had a will of his own, his wife set herself against him
just as you set yourself against Edward. This chafed him, although he
strove to conceal his feelings. But, in an un- guarded moment, when
his young wife was unusually self-willed, a quarrel of no more serious
character than the one that has occurred this evening, between you and
Edward, took place. They parted in anger as you parted, and—"
The aunt was unable for some time to control her voice sufficiently
to finish the sentence—
"And never met again," she at length said, with such visible
emotion as betrayed more than she had wished to reveal.
"Never met again!" ejaculated Esther, a sudden fear trembling
through her heart, and causing her cheeks to grow pale.
"Never!" was the solemn response.
"Why, dear aunt? Why?" eagerly inquired Esther.
"Pride caused him," said Mrs. Carlisle, recovering her
self-possession, "after a breach had been made, to leave not only his
home, but the city in which he lived. Repenting of her ungenerous
contact, his bride waited anxiously for his return at evening, but
waited it vain. Sadly enough passed the lonely hours of that dreadful
night, and morning found her a sleepless watcher. Days passed, but no
word came from the unhappy wanderer from home and love. A week, and
still all was silence and mystery. At the end of that time a letter
was received from a neighbouring city, which brought intelligence to
his friends that he was there, and lying dangerously ill. By the next
conveyance his almost frantic wife started for the purpose of joining
him. Alas! she was too late. When she stood beside the bed upon which
he lay, she looked only upon the inanimate form of her husband. Death
had been there before her. Esther! thirty years have passed since
then, but the anguish I felt when I stood and looked upon the cold,
dead, face of my husband, in that terrible hour, time has not
Esther had risen to her feet, and now stood with her pale lips
parted, and her cheeks blanched to an ashy whiteness.
"Dear aunt is all this true?" she asked huskily, while she grasped
the arm of her relative.
"Heaven knows it is too true, my child! It was the first and, the
last quarrel I had with my husband. And now, as you value your own
and Edward's peace of mind, be warned by my sad example, and let the
present unhappy difference that has occurred be quickly reconciled.
Acknowledge your error the moment you see him, and make a firm
resolution that you will, under no circumstances, permit the
slightest misunderstanding again to take place. Yield to him, and you
will find him ready as before to yield to you. What he was not ready
to give under the force of a demand, love will prompt him cheerfully
"Oh! if Edward should never return!" Esther said, clasping her
hands together. She had scarcely heard the last sentence of her aunt.
"You need not fear on that account, my child," replied Mrs.
Carlisle, in a voice meant to inspire confidence. "Edward will no
doubt return. Few men act so rashly as to separate themselves at the
first misunderstanding, although, too often, the first quarrel is but
the prelude to others of a more violent kind, that end in severing the
most sacred of all bonds, or rendering the life that might have been
one of the purest felicity, an existence of misery. When Edward comes
home to-night, forget every thing but your own error, and freely
confess that. Then, all will be sunshine in a moment, although the
light will fall and sparkle upon dewy tear-drops."
"I was mad to treat him so!" was Esther's response to this, as she
paced the floor, with uneasy step. "Oh! if he should never return."
Once possessed with the idea that he would not return, the poor
wife was in an agony of fear. No suggestion made by her aunt in the
least relieved her mind. One thought—one fear—absorbed every thing
else. Thus passed the evening, until ten o'clock came. From that time
Esther began to listen anxiously for her husband's return, but hour
after hour went by, and she was still a tearful watcher.
"I shall go mad if I sit here any longer!" murmured Huntley to
himself, as the music came rushing upon his agitated soul, in a wild
tempest, toward the middle of the opera, and, rising abruptly, he
retired from the theatre. How still appeared the half deserted
streets! Coldly the night air fell upon him, but the fever in his
veins was unabated. He walked first up one street and then down
another, with rapid steps, and this was continued for hours. Then the
thought of going home crossed his mind. But he set his teeth firmly,
and murmured audibly,
"Oh! to be defied, and charged with being a tyrant? And has it come
to this so soon?"
The more Huntley brooded, in this unhappy mood, over his wife's
words and conduct, the denser and more widely refracting became the
medium through which he saw. His pride continually excited his mind,
and threw a thick veil over all the gentler emotions of his heart. He
was beside himself.
At one o'clock he found himself standing in front of the United
States Hotel, his mind made up to desert the affectionate young
creature, who, in a moment of thoughtlessness, had set her will in
opposition to his,—to leave the city, under an assumed name, by the
earliest lines, and go, he knew not nor cared not where. Blind
passion was his prompter and guide. In this feverish state he entered
the hotel and called for a bed.
Eleven, twelve, one o'clock came, and found Mrs. Huntley in a state
of wild agitation. Edward had not yet returned. The silence and
evident distress of Mrs. Carlisle struck down the heart of Esther,
almost as much as her own fears. The too vivid recollection of one
terrible event in her own life completely unbalanced the aunt's mind,
and took away all power to sustain her niece.
"I will go in search of him, aunt!" exclaimed Esther, as the clock
struck two. "He cannot leave the city before daylight. I will find
him, and confess all my folly before it is too late."
"But where will you go, my child?" Mrs. Carlisle asked in a sad
"Where—where shall I go?" eagerly inquired Mrs. Huntley.
"It is midnight, Esther. You cannot find him now."
"But I must see him before he leaves me, perhaps for ever! It will
kill me. If I wait until morning, it will be too late."
Mrs. Carlisle bent her eyes to the floor, and for the space of more
than a minute remained in deep thought. She then said, in a calm
"Esther, I cannot believe that Edward will desert you on so slight
a provocation. For a few hours his mind may be blinded with passion,
and be swayed by false judgment. But morning will find him cooler and
more reflective. He will see his error, and repent of any mad act he
may have contemplated. Still, to guard against the worst of
consequences, should this salutary change not take place, I think it
would be best for you to go early to the boat, and by meeting him
prevent a step that may cost you each a life of wretchedness."
"I will do it! He shall not go away! Oh! if I could once more meet
him! all would be reconciled on the instant."
Confident in her own mind that Edward had determined to go away
from the city in the morning, and fully resolved upon what she would
do, Esther threw herself upon the bed, and in snatches of uneasy
slumber passed the remainder of that dreadful night. At day-dawn she
was up, and making preparations for going to the boat to intercept her
"Be self-possessed, my dear niece," urged Mrs. Carlisle, in a voice
that trembled so she could scarcely speak.
Esther tried to reply, but, though her lips and tongue moved, there
was no utterance. Turning away, just as the sun threw his first rays
into her chamber window, she went down stairs, and her aunt, no
longer able to restrain herself, covered her face with her hands and
On the day before, Esther had laid her gloves on one of the parlour
mantels, and she went in to get them. It was so dark that she could
not see, and she, therefore, opened a window and pushed back one of
the shutters. As she did so, a sound between a sigh and a groan fell
upon her ear, and caused her to turn with a start. There lay her
husband, asleep upon one of the sofas! A wild cry that she could not
restrain burst from her lips, and, springing toward him, she threw
her arms about his neck as he arose, startled, from his recumbent
An hour's reflection, alone in the room he had taken at the hotel,
satisfied Huntley that he was wrong in not going home. By the aid of
his night key he entered, silently, at the very time his wife
resolved to seek him in the morning, and, throwing himself upon a
sofa in the parlour to think what he should next do, thought himself
All was, of course, reconciled. With tears of joy and contrition
Esther acknowledged the error she had committed. Huntley had his own
share of blame in his impatient temper, and this he was also ready to
confess He did not, however, own that he had thought of deserting his
wife on such slight provocation, nor did she confess the fearful
suspicion that had crossed her mind.
It was their first and last quarrel.