“By his ill treatment of her; he beat her and trampled upon her. I well remember the nights when he came home in his fits of frenzy. She never said a word, and did everything he bade her. Yet he would beat her so, my heart felt ready to break. I used to cover up my head and pretend to be asleep, but I cried all night.
And then, when he saw her lying on the floor, quite suddenly he would change, and lift her up and kiss her till she screamed and said he smothered her. Mother forbade me ever to say a word of this; but it wore her out. And in all these long years since father died, she has never been able to get well again. And if she should soon die—which God forbid!—I know who it was that killed her.”
The little curato’s head wagged slowly to and from he seemed uncertain how far to acquiesce in the young girl’s reasons. At length he said: “Forgive him, as your mother has forgiven! And turn your thoughts from such distressing pictures, Laurella; there may be better days in store for you, which will make you forget the past.”
“Never shall I forget that!” she said, and shuddered. “And you must know, padre, it is the reason why I have resolved to remain unmarried. I never will be subject to a man, who may beat and then caress me. Were a man now to want to beat or kiss me, I could defend myself; but mother could not—neither from his blows nor kisses—because she loved him. Now, I will never so love a man as to be made ill and wretched by him.”
“You are but a child, and you talk like one who knows nothing at all of life. Are all men like that poor father of yours? Do all ill treat their wives, and give vent to every whim and gust of passion? Have you never seen a good man yet? Or known good wives, who live in peace and harmony with their husbands?”
Suffer without Resistanc
“But nobody ever knew how father was to mother; she would have died sooner than complain or tell of him, and all because she loved him. If this be love—if love can close our lips when they should cry out for help—if it is to make us suffer without resistance, worse than even our worst enemy could make us suffer—then, I say, I never will be fond of mortal man.”
“I tell you; you are childish; you know not what you are saying. When your time comes, you are not likely to be consulted whether you choose to fall in love or not.” After a pause, he added, “And that painter: did you think he could have been cruel?”
“He made those eyes I have seen my father make, when he begged my mother’s pardon and took her in his arms to make it up. I know t hose eyes. A man may make such eyes, and yet find it in his heart to beat a wife who never did a thing to vex him! It made my flesh creep to see those eyes again.”
After this she would not say another word. The curato also remained silent. He bethought himself of more than one wise saying, wherewith the maiden might have been admonished; but he refrained, in consideration of the young boatman, who had been growing rather restless toward the close of this confession.