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Only A Few Words
by [?]

MR. JAMES WINKLEMAN shut the door with a jar, as he left the house, and moved down the street, in the direction of his office, with a quick, firm step, and the air of a man slightly disturbed in mind.

“Things are getting better fast,” said he, with a touch of irony in his voice, as he almost flung himself into his leather-cushioned chair. “It’s rather hard when a man has to pick his words in his own house, as carefully as if he were picking diamonds, and tread as softly as if he was stepping on eggs. I don’t like it. Mary gets weaker and more foolish every day, and puts a breadth of meaning on my words that I never intended them to have. I’ve not been used to this conning over of sentences and picking out of all doubtful expressions ere venturing to speak, and I’m too old to begin now. Mary took me for what I am, and she must make the most of her bargain. I’m past the age for learning new tricks.”

With these and many other justifying sentences, did Mr. Winkleman seek to obtain a feeling of self-approval. But, for all this, he could not shut out the image of a tearful face, nor get rid of an annoying conviction that he had acted thoughtlessly, to say the least of it, in speaking to his wife as he had done.

But what was all this trouble about? Clouds were in the sky that bent over the home of Mr. Winkleman, and it is plain that Mr. Winkleman himself had his own share in the work of producing these clouds. Only a few unguarded words had been spoken. Only words! And was that all?

Words are little things, but they sometimes strike hard. We wield them so easily that we are apt to forget their hidden power. Fitly spoken, they fall like the sunshine, the dew, and the fertilizing rain; but, when unfitly, like the frost, the hail, and the desolating tempest. Some men speak as they feel or think, without calculating the force of what they say; and then seem very much surprised if any one is hurt or offended. To this class belonged Mr. Winkleman. His wife was a loving, sincere woman, quick to feel. Words, to her, were indeed things. They never fell upon her ears as idle sounds. How often was her poor heart bruised by them!

On this particular morning, Mrs. Winkleman, whose health was feeble, found herself in a weak, nervous state. It was only by an effort that she could rise above the morbid irritability that afflicted her. Earnestly did she strive to repress the disturbed beatings of her heart, but she strove in vain. And it seemed to her, as it often does in such cases, that everything went wrong. The children were fretful, the cook dilatory and cross, and Mr. Winkleman impatient, because sundry little matters pertaining to his wardrobe were not just to his mind.

“Eight o’clock, and no breakfast yet,” said Mr. Winkleman, as he drew out his watch, on completing his own toilet. Mrs. Winkleman was in the act of dressing the last of five children, all of whom had passed under her hands. Each had been captious, cross, or unruly, sorely trying the mother’s patience. Twice had she been in the kitchen, to see how breakfast was progressing, and to enjoin the careful preparation of a favourite dish with which she had purposed to surprise her husband.

“It will be ready in a few minutes,” said Mrs. Winkleman. “The fire hasn’t burned freely this morning.”

“If it isn’t one thing, it is another,” growled the husband. “I’m getting tired of this irregularity. There’d soon be no breakfast to get, if I were always behind time in business matters.”

Mrs. Winkleman bent lower over the child she was dressing, to conceal the expression of her face. What a sharp pain now throbbed through her temples! Mr. Winkleman commenced walking the floor impatiently, little imagining that every jarring footfall was like a blow on the sensitive, aching brain of his wife.