A Rift In The Cloud
Andrew Lee came home at evening from the shop where he had worked all day, tired and out of spirits; came home to his wife, who was also tired, and dispirited.
“A smiling wife, and a cheerful home—what a paradise it would be!” said Andrew to himself as he turned his eyes from the clouded face of Mrs. Lee, and sat down with knitted brow, and a moody aspect.
Not a word was spoken by either. Mrs. Lee was getting supper, and she moved about with a weary step.
“Come,” she said at last, with a side glance at her husband.
There was invitation in the word only, none in the voice of Mrs. Lee.
Andrew arose and went to the table. He was tempted to speak an angry word, but controlled himself, and kept silence. He could find no fault with the chop, nor the sweet home-made bread, and fresh butter. They would have cheered the inward man if there had only been a gleam of sunshine on the face of his wife. He noticed that she did not eat. “Are you not well Mary?” The words were on his lips, but he did not utter them, for the face of his wife looked so repellant, that he feared an irritating reply. And so in moody silence, the twain sat together until Andrew had finished his supper. As he pushed his chair back, his wife arose, and commenced clearing of the table.
“This is purgatory!” said Lee to himself, as he commenced walking the floor of their little breakfast-room, with his hands clasped behind him, and his chin almost touching his breast.
After removing all the dishes and taking them into the kitchen, Mrs. Lee spread a green cover on the table, and placing a fresh trimmed lamp thereon, went out and shut the door, leaving her husband alone with his unpleasant feelings. He took a long, deep breath as she did so, paused in his walk, stood still for some moments, and then drawing a paper from his pocket, sat down by the table, opened the sheet and commenced reading. Singularly enough the words upon which his eyes rested were, “Praise your wife.” They rather tended to increase the disturbance of mind from which he was suffering.
I should like to find some occasion for praising mine.” How quickly his thoughts expressed the ill-natured sentiment. But his eyes were on the page before him, and he read on.
“Praise your wife, man, for pity sake, give her a little encouragement; it won’t hurt her.”
Andrew Lee raised his eyes from the paper and muttered, “Oh, yes. That’s all very well. Praise is cheap enough. But praise her for what? For being sullen, and making your home the most disagreeable place in the world?” His eyes fell again to the paper.
“She has made your home comfortable, your hearth bright and shining, your food agreeable; for pity sake, tell her you thank her, if nothing more. She don’t expect it; it will make her eyes open wider than they have for ten years; but it will do her good for all that, and you, too.”
It seemed to Andrew as if these sentences were written just for him, and just for the occasion. It was the complete answer to his question, “Praise her for what?” and he felt it also as a rebuke. He read no farther, for thought came too busy, and in a new direction. Memory was convicting him of injustice toward his wife. She had always made his home as comfortable as hands could make it, and had he offered the light return of praise or commendation? Had he ever told her of the satisfaction he had known, or the comfort experienced? He was not able to recall the time or the occasion. As he thought thus, Mrs. Lee came in from the kitchen, and taking her work-basket from the closet, placed it on the table, and sitting down without speaking, began to sew. Mr. Lee glanced almost stealthily at the work in her hands, and saw it was the bosom of a shirt, which she was stitching neatly. He knew it was for him that she was at work.
“Praise your wife” The words were before the eyes of his mind, and he could not look away from them. But he was not ready for this yet. He still felt moody and unforgiving. The expression on his wife’s face he interpreted to mean ill-nature, and with ill-nature he had no patience. His eyes fell on the newspaper that spread out before him, and he read the sentence:--
“A kind cheerful word, spoken in a gloomy home is like the rift in the cloud that lets the sunshine through.”
Lee struggled with himself a while longer. His own ill-nature had to be conquered first; his moody, accusing spirit had to be subdued. But he was coming right, and at last he got right, as to will. Next came the question as to how he should begin. He thought of many things to say, yet feared to say them, lest his wife meet his advances with a cold rebuff. At last, leaning towards her, and taking hold of the linen bosom upon which she was at work, he said, in a voice carefully modulated with kindness:--
“You are doing the work very beautifully, Mary.”
Mrs. Lee made no reply. But her husband did not fail to observe that she lost, almost instantly, the rigid erectness with which she had been sitting, nor that the motion of her needle had ceased. “My shirts are better made, and whiter than those of any other man in our shop,” said Lee, encouraged to go on.
“Are they?” Mrs. Lee’s voice was low, and had in it a slight huskiness. She did not turn her face, but her husband saw that she leaned a little toward him. He had broken through the ice, and all was easy now. His hand was among the clouds, and a few feeble rays were already struggling through the rift it had made.
“Yes, Mary,” he answered softly, “and I’ve heard it said more than once, what a good wife Andrew Lee must have.”
Mrs. Lee turned her face towards her husband. There was light in it, and light in her eye. But there was something in the expression of the countenance that puzzled him a little.
“Do you think so?” she asked quite soberly.
“What a question!” ejaculated Andrew Lee, starting up and going around to the side of the table where his wife was sitting:--“What a question, Mary!” he repeated, as he stood before her.
“Do you?” It was all she said.
“Yes, darling,” was the warmly-spoken answer, and he stooped down and kissed her.—“ How strange that you should ask me such a question!”
“If you would only tell me so now and then, Andrew, it would do me good.” And Mrs. Lee arose, and leaning against the manly breast of her husband, stood and wept.
What a strong light broke in upon the mind of Andrew Lee. He had never given to his faithful wife even the small reward of praise for all the loving interest she had manifested daily, until doubt of his love had entered her soul, and made the light thick darkness. No wonder that her face grew clouded, nor what he considered moodiness and ill-nature took possession of her spirit.
“You are good and true, Mary. My own dear wife. I am proud of you—I love you—and my first desire is for your happiness. Oh, If I could always see your face in sunshine, my home would be the dearest place on earth.”
“How precious to me are your words of love and praise, Andrew,” said Mrs. Lee, smiling up through her tears into his face. “With them in my ears, my heart can never lie in shadow.”
How easy had been the work for Andrew Lee. He had swept his hand across the cloudy horizon of his home, and now the bright sunshine was streaming down and flooding that home with joy and beauty.