2. A Son of Adam
When Susanna Nelson at seventeen married John Hathaway, she had the usual cogent
reasons for so doing, with some rather more unusual ones added thereto. She was alone in
the world, and her life with an uncle, her mother's only relative, was an unhappy one. No
assistance in the household tasks that she had ever been able to render made her a
welcome member of the family or kept her from feeling a burden, and she belonged no
more to the little circle at seventeen than she did when she became a part of it at twelve.
The hope of being independent and earning her own living had sustained her through the
last year; but it was a very timid, self-distrustful, love-starved little heart that John
Hathaway stormed and carried by assault. Her girl's life in a country school and her
uncle's very rigid and orthodox home had been devoid of emotion or experience; still, her
mother had early sown seeds in her mind and spirit that even in the most arid soil were
certain to flower into beauty when the time for flowering came; and intellectually
Susanna was the clever daughter of clever parents. She was very immature, because, after
early childhood, her environment had not been favorable to her development. At
seventeen she began to dream of a future as bright as the past had been dreary and
uneventful. Visions of happiness, of goodness, and of service haunted her, and
sometimes, gleaming through the mists of dawning womanhood, the figure, all luminous,
of The Man!
When John Hathaway appeared on the horizon, she promptly clothed him in all the
beautiful garments of her dreams; they were a grotesque misfit, but when we intimate that
women have confused the dream and the reality before, and may even do so again, we
make the only possible excuse for poor little Susanna Nelson.
John Hathaway was the very image of the outer world that lay beyond Susanna's village.
He was a fairly prosperous, genial, handsome young merchant, who looked upon life as a
place furnished by Providence in which to have "a good time." His parents had frequently
told him that it was expedient for him to "settle down," and he supposed that he might
finally do so, if he should ever find a girl who would tempt him to relinquish his liberty.
(The line that divides liberty and license was a little vague to John Hathaway!) It is
curious that he should not have chosen for his life-partner some thoughtless, rosy,
romping young person, whose highest conception of connubial happiness would have
been to drive twenty miles to the seashore on a Sunday, and having partaken of all the
season's delicacies, solid and liquid, to come home hilarious by moonlight. That,
however, is not the way the little love-imps do their work in the world; or is it possible
that they are not imps at all who provoke and stimulate and arrange these strange
marriages not imps, but honest, chastening little character-builders? In any event, the
moment that John Hathaway first beheld Susanna Nelson was the moment of his
surrender; yet the wooing was as incomprehensible as that of a fragile, dainty little
hummingbird by a pompous, greedy, big-breasted robin.