But she preyed upon our minds dreadfully. We felt our inexperience, and were unable to help ourselves. We should have been at her mercy, if she had had any; but she was a remorseless woman, and had none. She was the cause of our first little quarrel.
'My dearest life,' I said one day to Dora, 'do you think Mary Anne has any idea of time?'
'Why, Doady?' inquired Dora, looking up, innocently, from her drawing.
'My love, because it's five, and we were to have dined at four.'
Dora glanced wistfully at the clock, and hinted that she thought it was too fast.
'On the contrary, my love,' said I, referring to my watch, 'it's a few minutes too slow.'
My little wife came and sat upon my knee, to coax me to be quiet, and drew a line with her pencil down the middle of my nose; but I couldn't dine off that, though it was very agreeable.
'Don't you think, my dear,' said I, 'it would be better for you to remonstrate with Mary Anne?'
'Oh no, please! I couldn't, Doady!' said Dora.
'Why not, my love?' I gently asked.
'Oh, because I am such a little goose,' said Dora, 'and she knows I am!'
I thought this sentiment so incompatible with the establishment of any system of check on Mary Anne, that I frowned a little.
'Oh, what ugly wrinkles in my bad boy's forehead!' said Dora, and still being on my knee, she traced them with her pencil; putting it to her rosy lips to make it mark blacker, and working at my forehead with a quaint little mockery of being industrious, that quite delighted me in spite of myself.
'There's a good child,' said Dora, 'it makes its face so much prettier to laugh.' 'But, my love,' said I.
'No, no! please!' cried Dora, with a kiss, 'don't be a naughty Blue Beard! Don't be serious!'
'My precious wife,' said I, 'we must be serious sometimes. Come! Sit down on this chair, close beside me! Give me the pencil! There! Now let us talk sensibly. You know, dear'; what a little hand it was to hold, and what a tiny wedding-ring it was to see! 'You know, my love, it is not exactly comfortable to have to go out without one's dinner. Now, is it?'
'N-n-no!' replied Dora, faintly.
'My love, how you tremble!'
'Because I KNOW you're going to scold me,' exclaimed Dora, in a piteous voice.
'My sweet, I am only going to reason.'
'Oh, but reasoning is worse than scolding!' exclaimed Dora, in despair. 'I didn't marry to be reasoned with. If you meant to reason with such a poor little thing as I am, you ought to have told me so, you cruel boy!'
I tried to pacify Dora, but she turned away her face, and shook her curls from side to side, and said, 'You cruel, cruel boy!' so many times, that I really did not exactly know what to do: so I took a few turns up and down the room in my uncertainty, and came back again.
'Dora, my darling!'
'No, I am not your darling. Because you must be sorry that you married me, or else you wouldn't reason with me!' returned Dora.
I felt so injured by the inconsequential nature of this charge, that it gave me courage to be grave.
'Now, my own Dora,' said I, 'you are very childish, and are talking nonsense. You must remember, I am sure, that I was obliged to go out yesterday when dinner was half over; and that, the day before, I was made quite unwell by being obliged to eat underdone veal in a hurry; today, I don't dine at all — and I am afraid to say how long we waited for breakfast — and then the water didn't boil. I don't mean to reproach you, my dear, but this is not comfortable.'
'Oh, you cruel, cruel boy, to say I am a disagreeable wife!' cried Dora.
'Now, my dear Dora, you must know that I never said that!'
'You said, I wasn't comfortable!' cried Dora. 'I said the housekeeping was not comfortable!'
'It's exactly the same thing!' cried Dora. And she evidently thought so, for she wept most grievously.
I took another turn across the room, full of love for my pretty wife, and distracted by self-accusatory inclinations to knock my head against the door. I sat down again, and said: