Ethelyn's Mistake (Chapter 5, page 2 of 9)


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Chapter 5

Ethie fairly groaned as she clasped her bracelets upon her arms and
shook down the folds of her blue silk; then after a moment she
continued: "You can talk to me, and why not to others?"

"You are my wife, Ethie, and I love you, which makes a heap of
difference," Richard said, and winding his arms around Ethie's waist he
drew her face toward his own and kissed it affectionately.

They had been three days at Saratoga when this little scene occurred
and their room was one of those miserable little apartments in the
Ainsworth block which look out upon nothing but a patch of weeds and the
rear of a church. Ethelyn did not like it at all, and liked it the less
because she felt that to some extent her husband was to blame. He ought
to have written and engaged rooms beforehand--Aunt Van Buren always did,
and Mrs. Col. Tophevie, and everybody who understood the ins and outs of
fashionable life. But Richard did not understand them. He believed in
taking what was offered to him without making a fuss, he said. He had
never been to Saratoga before, and he secretly hoped he should never
come again, for he did not enjoy those close, hot rooms and worm-eaten
furniture any better than Ethelyn did, but he accepted it with a better
grace, saying, when he first entered it, that "he could put up with
'most anything, though to be sure it was hotter than an oven."

His mode of expressing himself had never suited Ethelyn. Particular, and
even elegant in her choice of language, it grated upon her sensitive
ear, and forgetting that she had all her life heard similar expressions
in Chicopee, she charged it to the West, and Iowa was blamed for the
faults of her son more than she deserved. At Saratoga, where they met
many of her acquaintances, all of whom were anxious to see the
fastidious Ethelyn's husband, it seemed to her that he was more remiss
than ever in those little things which make up the finished gentleman,
while his peculiar expressions sometimes made every nerve quiver with
pain. The consequence of this was that Ethelyn became a very little
cross, as Richard thought, though she had never so openly attacked him
as on that day, the third after their arrival, when to her horror he
took off his coat, preparatory to a little comfort, while she was
dressing for dinner. At Ethelyn's request, however, he put it on again,
saying as he did so, that he was "sweating like a butcher," which remark
called out his wife's contemptuous inquiries concerning his habits at
home. Richard was still too much in love with his young wife to feel
very greatly irritated. In word and deed she had done her duty toward
him thus far, and he had nothing to complain of. It is true she was very
quiet and passive, and undemonstrative, never giving him back any caress
as he had seen wives do. But then he was not very demonstrative himself,
and so he excused it the more readily in her, and loved her all the
same. It amused him that a girl of twenty should presume to criticise
him, a man of thirty-two, a Judge, and a member of Congress, to whom the
Olney people paid such deference, and he bore with her at first just as
a mother would bear with the little child which assumed a
superiority over her.

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