A LITTLE thing clouded the brow of Mrs. Abercrombie–a very little thing. But if she had known how wide the shadows were often diffused, and how darkly they fell, at times, on some hearts, she would have striven more earnestly, we may believe, to keep the sky of her spirit undimmed.
It will not be uninstructive to note the incidents, in a single day, of Mrs. Abercrombie’s life–to mark the early cloud upon her brow, and then to glance at the darkly falling shadows.
Mr. Abercrombie was a man of sensitive feelings, and though he had striven for many years to overcome his sensitiveness, he had been no more able to change this hereditary weakness than the leopard his spots or the Ethiopian his skin. At home, the lightest jar of discord disturbed him painfully, and the low vibration ceased not, often, for many hours. The clouded brow of his wife ever threw his heart into shadow; and the dusky vail was never removed, until sunlight radiated again from her countenance. It was all in vain that he tried to be indifferent to these changeful moods–to keep his spirits above their influence: in the very effort at disenthralment he was more firmly bound.
From some cause, unknown to her husband, there was a cloud on the brow of Mrs. Abercrombie one morning, as she took her place at the breakfast-table. Mr. Abercrombie was reading, with his usual interest, the newspaper, and the children were sporting in the nursery, when the bell summoned them to the dining-room. All gathered, with pleasant thoughts of good cheer, around the table, and Mr. Abercrombie, after helping the little ones, was about mentioning to his wife some pleasant piece of news which he had just been reading, when, on lifting his eyes to her countenance, he saw that it was clouded. The words died on his lips; a shadow darkened over his feelings, and the meal passed in almost total silence–at least so far as he was concerned. Once or twice he ventured a remark to Mrs. Abercrombie; but the half-fretful tone in which she replied, only disturbed him the more.
Soon the pleasant aspect of the children’s countenances changed, and they became captious and irritable. Both parents were fretted at this reaction upon their own states of mind, and manifested, at some slight misconduct on the part of one or two of the children, a degree of ill-nature that instantly transferred itself to those against whom it was directed, and became apparent in their intercourse one with another.
Before summoned from the nursery, these children were playing together in the utmost harmony and good feeling; on returning thereto, the activity of another and far less amiable spirit was manifest; and instead of merry shouts and joyous laughter, angry words and complaining cries sounded through the apartment.
As Mr. Abercrombie left the house, Mrs. Abercrombie entered the nursery, attracted by the notes of discord. Had there been sunshine on her countenance, and firm but gentle remonstrance on her tongue, a quick change would have become apparent. But, ere this, the shadows she had thrown around her had darkened the atmosphere of her dwelling, and were now reflected back upon her heart, enshrouding it in deeper gloom. The want of harmony among her children increased her mental disturbance, obscured her perceptions, and added to her state of irritability. She could not speak calmly to them, nor wisely endeavour to restore the harmony which had been lost. Her words, therefore, while, by their authoritative force, they subdued the storm, left the sky black with clouds that poured down another and fiercer tempest the moment her presence was removed.
But this state of things could not be permitted. The mother reappeared, and, after some hurried inquiries into the cause of disturbance among her children, took for granted the statement of those who were most forward in excusing themselves and accusing others, and unwisely resorted to punishment–unwisely, in the first place, because she decided hastily and from first appearances; and in the second place, because she was in no state of mind to administer punishment. The consequence was, that she punished those least to blame, and thereby did a great wrong. Of this she was made fully aware after it was too late. Then, indignant at the, false accusation by which she had been led into the commission of an unjust act, she visited her wrath with undue severity, and in unseemly passion, upon the heads of the real offenders.