Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh: Ch. 13

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“Dearest Theobald—dearest Theobald, forgive me; I have been very, very wrong.  Please do not be angry with me.  I will order the—the—” but the word “dinner” was checked by rising sobs.

When Theobald heard these words a load began to be lifted from his heart, but he only looked towards her, and that not too pleasantly.

“Please tell me,” continued the voice, “what you think you would like, and I will tell the landlady when we get to Newmar—” but another burst of sobs checked the completion of the word.

The load on Theobald’s heart grew lighter and lighter.  Was it possible that she might not be going to henpeck him after all?  Besides, had she not diverted his attention from herself to his approaching dinner?

He swallowed down more of his apprehensions and said, but still gloomily, “I think we might have a roast fowl with bread sauce, new potatoes and green peas, and then we will see if they could let us have a cherry tart and some cream.”

After a few minutes more he drew her towards him, kissed away her tears, and assured her that he knew she would be a good wife to him.

“Dearest Theobald,” she exclaimed in answer, “you are an angel.”

Theobald believed her, and in ten minutes more the happy couple alighted at the inn at Newmarket.

Bravely did Christina go through her arduous task.  Eagerly did she beseech the landlady, in secret, not to keep her Theobald waiting longer than was absolutely necessary.

“If you have any soup ready, you know, Mrs Barber, it might save ten minutes, for we might have it while the fowl was browning.”

See how necessity had nerved her!  But in truth she had a splitting headache, and would have given anything to have been alone.

The dinner was a success.  A pint of sherry had warmed Theobald’s heart, and he began to hope that, after all, matters might still go well with him.  He had conquered in the first battle, and this gives great prestige.  How easy it had been too!  Why had he never treated his sisters in this way?  He would do so next time he saw them; he might in time be able to stand up to his brother John, or even his father.  Thus do we build castles in air when flushed with wine and conquest.

The end of the honeymoon saw Mrs Theobald the most devotedly obsequious wife in all England.  According to the old saying, Theobald had killed the cat at the beginning.  It had been a very little cat, a mere kitten in fact, or he might have been afraid to face it, but such as it had been he had challenged it to mortal combat, and had held up its dripping head defiantly before his wife’s face.  The rest had been easy.

Strange that one whom I have described hitherto as so timid and easily put upon should prove such a Tartar all of a sudden on the day of his marriage.  Perhaps I have passed over his years of courtship too rapidly.  During these he had become a tutor of his college, and had at last been Junior Dean.  I never yet knew a man whose sense of his own importance did not become adequately developed after he had held a resident fellowship for five or six years.  True—immediately on arriving within a ten mile radius of his father’s house, an enchantment fell upon him, so that his knees waxed weak, his greatness departed, and he again felt himself like an overgrown baby under a perpetual cloud; but then he was not often at Elmhurst, and as soon as he left it the spell was taken off again; once more he became the fellow and tutor of his college, the Junior Dean, the betrothed of Christina, the idol of the Allaby womankind.  From all which it may be gathered that if Christina had been a Barbary hen, and had ruffled her feathers in any show of resistance Theobald would not have ventured to swagger with her, but she was not a Barbary hen, she was only a common hen, and that too with rather a smaller share of personal bravery than hens generally have.