Friday, December 11, 2015

Dry Husks to Eat

Below is a short story from an 1879 publication. I found it enjoyable and I love the language from the time period. Read and see what you think and could you make use of the thoughts and language in this short story in your historical character's lives.

Dry Husks to Eat
Helen J. Mackintosh

John Pompet sat smoking, in his slippers and reading the newspaper, while his aunt Mary placidly knitted, on the other side of the lamp.
"Why do you give Ellen only dry husks to eat?" said aunt Mary, suddenly, looking across at him.
"Only dry husks? What do you mean?"
"Well, why didn't you go out with her, tonight? I think she was hurt."
"I hate parties," was the response; "tea parties, especially. A good cigar is worth all the tea and cakes in the world."
"But what is to become of people, who don't like cigars, and who do like tea-parties? That is the case with your wife. Nor does she like to go to parties, along. Other wives have their husbands with them; and to say the least, it looks odd; in fact, may make people think you don't live happily together."
Aunt Mary had acted as a mother to her nephew, ever since his parents had died; which was when he was an infant. She had educated him at her own expense, and maintained him at the bar until he had won his way to a lucrative practice; and it was understood that he was to inherit her little fortune, after her decease. All this gave her a sort of right to expostulate with him, when she thought he was wrong.
"But I see enough of people, in the day-time."
"Your being tired, would be something of an excuse, if you had urged that in extenuation of your refusal. But do you think Ellen, when she's tired, requires that as an excuse, for not seeing you are to have a good dinner? No, John, its pure selfishness on your part, nothing else. You admit it, in fact, when you say that you see enough people, in the day-time. You take all the cream of life, and give her only dry husks to eat."
"Come, come, aunt, isn't that too severe? If Ellen loves me, as I'm sure she does, she'd rather have me stay at home, and enjoy my cigar, then go out, to a party, where I should be sure to be bored."
"By the same kind of reasoning, John, you ought to go with her, if you loved her; because, you know, she'd enjoy herself most at the party."
This shot went home. John had not a word in reply but puffed vigorously at his cigar. His aunt went on:
"The truth is, nephew--for I don't wish to be too hard on you--you men forget, that, while you have plenty of excitement, during the day, seeing strangers constantly, women have to stay at home, and spend the hours in one unvarying, dull routine of housework. No wonder they get fagged out. No wonder an invitation to a little party is such a relief to them. But husbands forget all this. And when the wife wishes to have a few people to tea, they say, 'what a bore to me, and how absurd in you.' Now, to be frank with you, this is just the way you treat Ellen."
"You surely are mistaken. Ellen at least, never complains."
"No, she is too proud. But the tears came into her eyes, to-night, when you refused to go with her. You'd have seen them, if you hadn't been too intent on your newspaper. Come, John, be just. It is your own comfort you think of, and not her pleasure; and that, not to mince words, is, I repeat it, pure selfishness."
John threw his cigar impatiently down, got up, and walked to and fro in the room.
"Another thing. Not only in refusing to share her amusements with her, but in other things, you are giving Ellen 'dry husks to eat.' You take three or four political papers. But she don't care for political paper; and when, the other day, she asked you to buy her a new book she fancied, you told her you couldn't afford it. Some husbands, I am told, leave their wives to eat cold mutton at home, while they dine sumptuously at a club. You don't do that, John; but you do what is almost as bad. Ellen likes flowers. Before you were married, you often sent her flowers. A few flowers don't cost much; but you tell her, now, you can't afford them. No books, no magazines, no flowers, no tea-parties, no little, lover-like attentions? Nothing but minding the children all day, and overseeing cooking your dinner. Why, John, just think of it."
"Say no more, say no more," cried her nephew, stopping, and seizing her hand. "I never before realized what a selfish fellow I have been. But I promise you, I'll mend, from to-night."
He did mend. In all the land there is not, now, a happier woman than his wife.
"It's because," says aunt Mary, "John gives her, no longer, DRY HUSKS TO EAT."

No comments:

Post a Comment