Maria or the Wrongs of Woman
"TOWARDS midnight Mr. Venables entered my chamber; and, with calm
audacity preparing to go to bed, he bade me make haste, 'for that was the best
place for husbands and wives to end their differences. He had been drinking
plentifully to aid his courage.
"I did not at first deign to reply. But perceiving that he affected to take my
silence for consent, I told him that, 'If he would not go to another bed, or allow
me, I should sit up in my study all night.' He attempted to pull me into the
chamber, half joking. But I resisted; and, as he had determined not to give me
any reason for saying that he used violence, after a few more efforts, he retired,
cursing my obstinacy, to bed.
"I sat musing some time longer; then, throwing my cloak around me, prepared
for sleep on a sopha. And, so fortunate seemed my deliverance, so sacred the
pleasure of being thus wrapped up in myself, that I slept profoundly, and woke
with a mind composed to encounter the struggles of the day. Mr. Venables did
not wake till some hours after; and then he came to me half-dressed, yawning
and stretching, with haggard eyes, as if he scarcely recollected what had passed
the preceding evening. He fixed his eyes on me for a moment, then, calling me a
fool, asked 'How long I intended to continue this pretty farce? For his part, he
was devilish sick of it; but this was the plague of marrying women who pretended
to know something.'
"I made no other reply to this harangue, than to say, 'That he ought to be glad
to get rid of a woman so unfit to be his companion--and that any change in my
conduct would be mean dissimulation; for maturer reflection only gave the sacred
seal of reason to my first resolution.'
"He looked as if he could have stamped with impatience, at being obliged to
stifle his rage; but, conquering his anger (for weak people, whose passions seem
the most ungovernable, restrain them with the greatest ease, when they have a
sufficient motive), he exclaimed, 'Very pretty, upon my soul! very pretty, theatrical
flourishes! Pray, fair Roxana, stoop from your altitudes, and remember that you
are acting a part in real life.'
"He uttered this speech with a self-satisfied air, and went down stairs to dress.
"In about an hour he came to me again; and in the same tone said, 'That he
came as my gentleman-usher to hand me down to breakfast.
"'Of the black rod?' asked I.
"This question, and the tone in which I asked it, a little disconcerted him. To
say the truth, I now felt no resentment; my firm resolution to free myself from my
ignoble thraldom, had absorbed the various emotions which, during six years,
had racked my soul. The duty pointed out by my principles seemed clear; and not
one tender feeling intruded to make me swerve: The dislike which my husband
had inspired was strong; but it only led me to wish to avoid, to wish to let him
drop out of my memory; there was no misery, no torture that I would not
deliberately have chosen, rather than renew my lease of servitude.