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The Old Man’s Christmas
by [?]

It was all over in a moment, and it was not repeated. Indeed, Edith was kinder and gentler and more submissive in her manner after that for days, as sweet natures always are when they have once broken over the rules which govern their lives.

Yet the old man always spoke of Edith as a virago after that.

“She’s worse’n ‘Liz’beth,” he said, “and she had a temper of her own at times that would just singe things.”

Ben passed most of his evenings and a good part of his days at the village “store.” He came home the worse for drink occasionally, and he was absolutely indifferent to all the work and care of the farm and family.

“She’s just like ‘Liz’beth,” the old man said to his neighbors; “she don’t make home entertainin’ for her husband. But Ben isn’t balanced like me, and he goes wrong. He’s excitable. I never was. The right kind of a woman could keep him at home.”

After a child came to them matters seemed to mend for a time. So long as the infant lay pink and helpless in its mother’s arms or in its crib, it was a bond to unite them all.

So soon as it began to be an active child, with naughty ways which needed correction, it was another element of discord.

The old man did not think Edith capable of controlling the child, and Ben was hasty and harsh, and he did not like to hear the baby cry. So he stayed more and more at the store, and was an object of fear to the child and of reproach to the mother when he did return.

They drifted farther apart, and the old man constantly widened the breach between them. They had been married six years, and the baby girl was four years old, when Ben struck Edith a blow, one day, and told her to take her child and leave the house.

In less than an hour she had gone, no one knew whither.

“She’ll come back, more’s the pity,” the old man said. “‘Liz’beth, she started off to leave me once, but she concluded to come back and try it over again.”

But Edith did not come back. Months afterward they heard of her in a distant part of the State teaching school and supporting her child.

Ben applied for a divorce on the plea of desertion. Edith never appeared against him, and he obtained it.


One year from the time Edith left him, he married Abby Wilson. She had grown into a voluptuous though coarse maturity, and was dashing in dress and manner. Her father had recently died, leaving her a fine property. She had always coveted Ben, and did not delay the nuptials from any sense of delicacy, but rather hastened the hour which should make him legally her own.

The old man was highly pleased at the turn affairs had taken. After all these years Ben was united to the woman he had chosen for him so long ago, and now surely Ben would settle down, and take the care off his shoulders–shoulders which were beginning to feel the weight of years of labor. In truth, the old man was breaking down.

He fell ill of a low fever soon after Ben’s second marriage, and when he rose from his bed he seemed to have grown ten years older. He was more childish in his fault-finding, and more irritable than ever before, and this new wife of Ben’s had little patience with him. She was not at all like Edith. She bullied him, and frightened him into silence when he began to find fault with her extravagances. For she was extravagant–there was no denying that. She cared only for show and outward appearance. She neglected her home duties, and often left the old man to prepare his own food, while she and Ben dashed over the country, or through the neighboring villages, behind the blooded span she had insisted upon his purchasing soon after their marriage.