Three Ways of
Husband by T. S. Arthur
An Extract From
Married Life, Its Shadows and Sunshine
TO those who have never tried the experiment, the management of a
husband may seem a very easy matter. I thought so once, but a few
years' hard experience has compelled me to change my mind. When I
married Mr. John Smith, which was about ten years ago, I was not
altogether blind to his faults and peculiarities; but then he had so
many solid virtues, that these were viewed as minor considerations.
Besides, I flattered myself that it would be the easiest thing in the
world to correct what was not exactly to my taste. It is no matter of
especial wonder that I should have erred in this, for Mr. John Smith,
while a lover, really appeared to have no will of his own, and no
thought of himself. It was only necessary for me to express a wish,
and it was gratified.
I soon found, much to my disappointment, that there is a marked
difference between a husband and a lover: it was at least so in the
case of Mr. Smith, and observation, since I have had my eyes open,
satisfies me that it is so in most cases. I must own, in justice to
all parties, however, that this difference is made more apparent by a
want of knowledge, on the other side, in regard to the difference
between the relation of a wife and a sweetheart—between the wooed
and the won.
There were a good many little things in Mr. Smith, which I had
noticed before marriage, that I made up my mind to correct as soon as
I had an opportunity to apply the proper means. He had a fashion of
saying "Miss" for "Mrs.," as "Miss Jones" and "Miss Peters" for "Mrs.
Jones" and "Mrs. Peters." This sounded exceedingly vulgar to my ears,
and I waited almost impatiently for the time to come when I could use
the prerogative of a wife for its correction. He had, an ungraceful
way of lounging in his chair and half reclining on the sofa, even in
company, that was terrible. It made me uneasy from head to foot. Then
he said, "I shew it to him" for "I showed it to
him,"—"of-ten" for "oft'n"—and "_obleeged" for "obliged."
Besides these, there were sundry other things that worried me not a
little. But I consoled myself with the reflection that when I became
Mrs. Smith all these little matters would vanish like frost in the
sunshine. I was, alas! doomed to be mistaken. But let me give my
experience for the benefit of those who are to come after me.
We had been married just ten days, and I had begun to feel that I
was really a wife, and had a right to say and do a little as I
pleased, when Mr. Smith said to me, as we sat quite lover-like on the
sofa in the evening,
"I met Miss Williams as I came home this evening—"
"For mercy's sake, Mr. Smith! don't say Miss when you speak
of a married woman. It is excessively vulgar." I was not aware that I
had spoken in a very offensive way, but I noticed an instant change in
Mr. Smith. He replied, with some dignity of tone, and manner—
"I ask your pardon, madam; but I didn't say Miss. I am not
quite so ignorant as all that comes to."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Smith, but you did say it," I replied, quite
astonished at this unexpected denial.
"Excuse me for saying that you are in error," he returned, drawing
himself up. "I never say Miss for Mrs."
"Why, Mr. Smith! You always say it. I have noticed it a hundred
times. I believe I can hear pretty correctly."
"In this instance you certainly have not."
Mr. Smith was growing warm, and I felt the blood rushing to my
face. A rather tart reply was on my lips, but I bit them hard and
succeeded in keeping them closed.
A deep silence followed. In a little while Mr. Smith took up a
newspaper and commenced reading, and I found some relief for a heavy
pressure that was upon my bosom, in the employment of hem-stitching a
And this was the return I had met for a kind attempt to correct a
mistake of my husband's, that made him liable to ridicule on the
charge of vulgarity! And to deny, too, that he said "_Miss," when I
had been worried about it for more than a year! It was too bad!
After this Mr. Smith was very particular in saying, when he spoke
of a married woman to me, Misses. The emphasis on the second
syllable was much too strongly marked to be pleasant on my ears. I was
terribly afraid he would say "_Mistress," thus going off into the
opposite extreme of vulgarity.
This first attempt to put my husband straight had certainly not
been a very pleasant one. He had shown, unexpectedly to me, a humour
that could by no means be called amiable; and by which I was both
grieved, and astonished. I made up my mind that I would be very
careful in future how I tried my hand at reforming him. But his
oft-repeated "he shew it to me," and "_obleeged," soon fretted
me so sorely, that I was forced to come down upon him again, which I
did at a time when I felt more than usually annoyed. I cannot
remember now precisely what I said to him, but I know that I put him
into an ill-humour, and that it was cloudy weather in the house for a
week, although the sun shone brightly enough out of doors. "_He shew
it to me," and "_obleeged" were, however, among the things that had
been, after that. So .much was gained; although there were times when
I half suspected that I had lost more than I had gained. But I
persevered, and, every now and then, when I got "worked up" about
something, administered the rod of correction.
Gradually I could see that my husband was changing, and, as I felt,
for the worse. Scarcely a year had passed before he would get into a
pet if I said the least word to him. He couldn't bear any thing from
me. This seemed very unreasonable, and caused me not only to sigh,
but to shed many a tear over his perverseness. From the thoughtful,
ever considerate, self-sacrificing lover, he had come to be
disregardful of my wishes, careless of my comfort, and indifferent to
my society. Still I felt by no means inclined to give him up; was by
no means disposed to let him have his own way. It was clear to my mind
that I had rights as well as he had; and I possessed resolution enough
to be ready to maintain them. His self-will and indifference to my
wishes roused in me a bitter and contentious spirit; and, in an evil
hour, I determined that I would make a struggle for the mastery. An
opportunity was not long delayed. The Philharmonic Society had
announced one of its splendid concerts. A lady friend, who had
frequently attended these concerts, called in to see me, and, by what
she said, filled me with a desire to enjoy the fine musical treat that
had been announced for that very evening.
When Mr. Smith came home at dinner he said, before I had time to
mention the concert—
"Mary, I've taken a fancy to go and see Fanny Ellsler to-night,
and, as there will be no chance of getting a good seat this afternoon,
I took the precaution to secure tickets as I came home to dinner. I
would have sent the porter with a note to know whether there was any
thing to prevent your going to-night, but he has been out all the
morning, and I concluded that, even if there should be some slight
impediment in the way, you could easily set it aside."
Now this I thought too much. To go and buy tickets to see Fanny
Ellsler dance, and take it for granted that I would lay every thing
aside to go, when I had set my heart on attending the Philharmonic
"You are a strange man, Mr. Smith," said I. You ought to know that
I don't care a fig about seeing Fanny Ellsler. I don't relish such
kind of performances. You at least might have waited until you came
home to dinner and asked the question. I don't believe a word about
the good seats all being taken this morning. But it's just like you!
To go and see this dancers toss her feet about was a thing you had
made up your mind to do, and I was to go along whether I liked it or
"You talk in rather a strange way, Mrs. Smith," said my husband,
"I don't see that I do," replied I, warming. "The fact is, Mr.
Smith, you seem to take it for granted that I am nobody. Here I've
been making all my calculations to go to the Philharmonic to-night,
and you come home with tickets for the theatre! But I can tell you
plainly that I am not going to see Fanny Ellsler, and that I
am going to the Philharmonic."
This was taking a stand that I had never taken before. In most of
my efforts to make my husband go my way, he had succeeded in making me
go his way. This always chafed me dreadfully. I fretted and scolded,
and "all that sort of thing," but it was no use, I could not manage
him. The direct issue of "I won't" and "I will" had not yet been
made, and I was some time in coming to the resolution to have a
struggle, fiercer than ever, for the ascendency. I fondly believed
that for peace' sake he would not stand firm if he saw me resolute.
Under this view of the case, I made the open averment that I would
not go to the theatre. I expected that a scene would follow, but I
was mistaken. Mr. Smith did, indeed, open his eyes a little wider,
but he said nothing.
Just then the bell announced that dinner was on the table. Mr.
Smith arose and led the way to the dinner-room with a firm step.
Before we were married he wouldn't have dreamed of thus preceding me!
I was fretted at this little act. It indicated too plainly what was in
Dinner passed in silence. I forced myself to eat, that I might
appear unconcerned. On rising from the table, Mr. Smith left the
house without saying a word.
You may suppose I didn't feel very comfortable during the
afternoon. I had taken my stand, and my intention was to maintain it
to the last. That Mr. Smith would yield I had no doubt at first. But,
as evening approached, and the trial-time drew near, I had some
Mr. Smith came home early.
"Mary," said he, in his usual pleasant way, "I have ordered a
carriage to be here at half-past seven. We mustn't leave home later,
as the curtain rises at eight."
"What curtain rises? Where do you think of going?"
"To see Fanny Ellsler, of course. I mentioned to you at dinner-time
that I had tickets."
This was said very calmly.
"And I told you at dinner-time that I was going to the
Philharmonic, and not to see this dancer." I tried to appear as
composed as he was, but failed in the attempt altogether.
"You were aware that I had tickets for the theatre before you said
that," was the cold answer he made.
"Of course I was."
"Very well, Mary. You can do as you like. The carriage will be here
at half-past seven. If you are then ready to go to the theatre, I
shall be happy to have your company." And my husband, after saying
this with a most unruffled manner, politely bowed and retired to the
I was on fire. But I had no thought of yielding.
At half-past seven I was ready. I heard the carriage drive up to
the door and the bell ring.
"Mary," called my husband at the bottom of the stair-case, in a
cheerful tone, "are you ready?"
"Ready to go where?" I asked on descending.
"To the theatre."
"I am ready for the concert, "I answered in as composed a voice as
I could assume.
"_I am not going to the concert to-night, Mrs. Smith. I thought you
understood that," firmly replied my husband. "I am going to see Fanny
Ellsler. If you will go with me, I shall be very happy to have your
company. If not, I must go alone."
"And I am going to the Philharmonic. I thought you understood
that," I replied, with equal resolution.
"Oh! very well," said he, not seeming to be at all disturbed. "Then
you can use the carriage at the door. I will walk to the theatre."
Saying this, Mr. Smith turned from me deliberately and walked away.
I heard him tell the driver of the carriage to take me to the Musical
Fund Hall; then I heard the street-door close, and then I heard my
husband's footsteps on the pavement as he left the house. Without
hesitating a moment for reflection, I followed to the door, entered
the carriage, and ordered the man to drive me—where? I had no ticket
for the concert; nor could I go alone!
"To the Musical Fund Hall, I believe, madam," he said, standing
with his fingers touching the rim of his hat.
I tried to think what I should do. To be conquered was hard. And it
was clear that I could not go alone.
"No," I replied, grasping hold of the first suggestion that came to
my mind. "Drive me to No.—Walnut street."
I had directed him to the house of my sister, where I thought I
would stay until after eleven o'clock, and then return home, leaving
my husband to infer that I had been to the concert. But long before I
had reached my sister's house, I felt so miserable that I deemed it
best to call out of the window to the driver, and direct him to
return. On arriving at home, some twenty minutes after I had left it,
I went up to my chamber, and there had a hearty crying spell to
myself. I don't know that I ever felt so bad before in my life. I had
utterly failed in this vigorous contest with my husband, who had come
off perfectly victorious. Many bitter things did I write against him
in my heart, and largely did I magnify his faults. I believe I thought
over every thing that occurred since we were married, and selected
therefrom whatever could justify the conclusion that he was a
self-willed, overbearing, unfeeling man, and did not entertain for me
a particle of affection.
It was clear that I had not been able to manage my spouse,
determined as I had been to correct all his faults, and make him one
of the best, most conciliating and loving of husbands, with whom my
wish would be law. Still I could not think of giving up. The thought
of being reduced to a tame, submissive wife, who could hardly call
her soul her own, was not for a moment to be entertained. On
reflection, it occurred to me that I had, probably, taken the wrong
method with my husband. There was a touch of stubbornness in his
nature that had arrayed itself against my too earnest efforts to bend
him to my will. A better way occurred. I had heard it said by some
one, or had read it somewhere, that no man was proof against a woman's
On the present occasion I certainly felt much more like crying than
laughing, and so it was no hard matter, I can honestly aver, to
appear bathed in tears on my husband's return between eleven and
twelve o'clock from the theatre. I cried from vexation as much as
from any other feeling.
When Mr. Smith came up into the chamber where I lay, I greeted his
presence with half a dozen running sobs, which he answered by
whistling the "Craccovienne!" I continued to sob, and he continued to
whistle for the next ten minutes. By that time he was ready to get
into bed, which he did quite leisurely, and laid himself down upon his
pillow with an expression of satisfaction. Still I sobbed on, thinking
that every sighing breath I drew was, in spite of his seeming
indifference, a pang to his heart. But, from this fond delusion a
heavily drawn breath, that was almost a snore, aroused me. I raised up
and looked over at the man—he was sound asleep.
A good hearty cry to myself was all the satisfaction I had, and
then I went to sleep. On the next morning, I met Mr. Smith at the
breakfast table with red eyes and a sad countenance. But he did not
seem to notice either.
"I hope you enjoyed yourself at the concert last night," said he.
"I was delighted at the theatre. Fanny danced divinely. Hers is truly
the poetry of motion!"
Now this was too much! I will leave it to any reader—any female
reader, I mean—whether this was not too much. I burst into a flood
of tears and immediately withdrew, leaving my husband to eat his
breakfast alone. He sat the usual time, which provoked me
exceedingly. If he had jumped up from the table and left the house, I
would have felt that I had made some impression upon him. But to take
things in this calm way! What had I gained? Nothing, as I could see.
After breakfast Mr. Smith came up to the chamber, and, seeing my face
buried in a pillow, weeping bitterly—I had increased the flow of
tears on hearing him ascending the stairs—said in a low voice—
"Are you not well, Mary?"
I made no answer, but continued to weep. Mr. Smith stood for the
space of about a minute, but asked no further question. Then, without
uttering a word, he retired from the chamber, and in a little while
after I heard him leave the house. I cried now in good earnest. It was
plain that my husband had no feeling; that he did not care whether I
was pleased or sad. But I determined to give him a fair trial. If I
failed in this new way, what was I to do? The thought of becoming the
passive slave of a domestic tyrant was dreadful. I felt that I could
not live in such a state. When Mr. Smith came home at dinner-time I
was in my chamber, ready prepared for a gush of tears. As he opened
the door I looked up with streaming eyes, and then hid my face in a
"Mary," said he, with much kindness in his voice, "what ails you?
Are you sick?" He laid his hand upon mine as he spoke.
But I did not reply. I meant to punish him well for what he had
done as a lesson for the future. I next expected him to draw his arm
around me, and be very tender and sympathizing in his words and
tones. But no such thing! He quietly withdrew the hand he had placed
upon mine; and stood by me, I could feel, though not see, in a cold,
"Are you not well, Mary?" he asked again.
I was still silent. A little while after I heard him moving across
the floor, and then the chamber door shut. I was once more alone.
When the bell rang for dinner, I felt half sorry that I had
commenced this new mode of managing my husband; but, as I had begun,
I was determined to go through with it. "He'll at least take care how
he acts in the future," I said. I did not leave my chamber to join my
husband at the dinner table. He sat his usual time, as I could tell by
the ringing of the bell for the servant to change the plates and bring
in the dessert. I was exceedingly fretted; and more so by his
returning to his business without calling up to see me, and making
another effort to dispel my grief.
For three days I tried this experiment upon my husband, who bore it
with the unflinching heroism of a martyr. I was forced, at last, to
come to; but I was by no means satisfied that my new mode was a
failure. For all Mr. Smith's assumed indifference, I knew that he had
been troubled at heart, and I was pretty well satisfied that he would
think twice before provoking me to another essay of tears. Upon the
whole, I felt pretty sure that I had discovered the means of doing
with him as I pleased.
A few weeks of sunshine passed—I must own that the sun did not
look so bright, nor feel so warm as it had done in former times—and
then our wills came once more into collision. But my tears fell upon a
rock. I could not see that they made the least perceptible
impression. Mr. Smith had his own way, and I cried about it until I
got tired of that sport, and in very weariness gave over. For the
space of a whole year I stood upon tears as my last defensible
position. Sometimes I didn't smile for weeks. But my husband
maintained his ground like a hero.
At last I gave up in despair. Pride, self-will, anger—all were
conquered. I was a weak woman in the hands of a strong-minded man. If
I could not love him as I wished to love him, I could at least obey.
In nothing did I now oppose him, either by resolute words or tears. If
he expressed a wish, whether to me agreeable or not, I acquiesced.
One day, not long after this change in my conduct towards my
husband, he said to me, "I rather think, Mary, we will spend a couple
of weeks at Brandywine Springs, instead of going to Cape May this
I replied, "Very well, dear;" although I had set my heart on going
to the Capes. My sister and her husband and a number of my friends
were going down, and I had anticipated a good deal of pleasure. I did
not know of a single person who was going to the Brandywine Springs.
But what was the use of entering into a contest with my husband? He
would come off the conqueror, spite of angry words or ineffectual
"The Springs are so much more quiet than the Capes," said my
"Yes," I remarked, "there is less gay company there."
"Don't you think you will enjoy yourself as well there as at the
Now this was a good deal for my husband to say. I hardly knew what
to make of it.
"If you prefer going there, dear, let us go by all means," I
answered. I was not affecting any thing, but was in earnest in what I
Mr. Smith looked into my face for some moments, and with unusual
affection I thought.
"Mary," said he, "if you think the time will pass more pleasantly
to you at the Capes, let us go there by all means."
"My sister Jane is going to the Capes," I remarked, with some
little hesitation; "and so is Mrs. L—and Mrs. D—, and a good many
more of our friends. I did think that I would enjoy myself there this
season very much. But I have no doubt I shall find pleasant society at
"We will go to the Capes," said my husband promptly and cheerfully.
"No," said I, emulous now for the first time in a new cause. "I am
sure the time will pass agreeably enough at the Springs. And as you
evidently prefer going there, we will let the Capes pass for this
"To the Capes, Mary, and nowhere else," replied my husband, in the
very best of humours. "I am sure you will enjoy yourself far better
there. I did not know your sister was going."
And to the Capes we went, and I did enjoy myself excellently well.
As for my husband, I never saw him in a better state of mind. To me
he was more like a lover than a husband. No, I will not say that
either, for I can't admit that a husband may not be as kind and
affectionate as a lover; for he can and will be if managed rightly,
and a great deal more so. Whenever I expressed a wish, it appeared to
give him pleasure to gratify it. Seeing this, instead of suffering
myself to be the mere recipient of kind attentions, I began to vie
with him in the sacrifice of selfish wishes and feelings.
It is wonderful how all was changed after this. There were no more
struggles on my part to manage my husband, and yet I generally had
things my own way. Before I could not turn him to the right nor the
left, though I strove to do so with my utmost strength. Now I held
him only with a silken fetter, and guided him, without really
intending to do so, in almost any direction.
Several years have passed since that ever-to-be-remembered, happy
visit to Cape May. Not once since have I attempted any management of
my husband, and yet it is a rare thing that my wish is not, as it
used to be before we were married, his law. It is wonderful, too, how
he has improved. I am sure he is not the same man that he was five
years ago. But, perhaps, I see with different eyes. At any rate, I am
not the same woman; or, if the same, very unlike what I then was.
So much for my efforts to manage a husband. Of the three ways so
faithfully tried, my fair readers will be at no loss to determine
which is best. I make these honest confessions for the good of my
sex. My husband, Mr. John Smith, will be no little surprised if this
history should meet his eye. But I do not believe it will interrupt
the present harmonious relations existing between us, but rather tend
to confirm and strengthen them.