The Iron Rule Or, Tyranny in the Household

Language: English
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ANDREW HOWLAND belonged to that class of rigid moralists who can tolerate in others no wanderings from the right way. His children were forced into the straight jacket of external consistency from their earliest infancy; and if they deviated from the right line in which they were required to walk, punishment was sure to follow.

A child loves his parent naturally. The latter may be harsh, and unreasonable; still the child will look up to him in weak dependence, while love mingles, like golden threads in a dark fabric, amid the fear and respect with which he regards him. Thus it was with the children of Andrew Howland. Their mother was a gentle, retiring woman, with a heart full of the best affections. When the sunshine fell upon her golden locks in the early days of innocence, it was in a home where the ringing laugh, the merry shout, and the wild exuberance of feeling ever bursting from the heart of childhood were rarely checked; or, if repressed, with a hand that wounded not in its firm contraction. She had grown up to womanhood amid all that was gentle, kind and loving. Transplanted, then, like a tender flower from a sunny border, to the cold and formal home of her husband, she drooped in the uncongenial soil, down into which her heart-fibres penetrated in search of nutrition. And yet, while drooping thus, she tenderly loved her husband, and earnestly sought to overcome in herself many true impulses of nature to which he gave the false name of weaknesses. It was less painful thus to repress them herself, than to have them crushed in the iron hand with which he was ever ready to grasp them.

Let it not be thought that Andrew Howland was an evil minded man. In the beginning we have intimated that this was not so. He purposed wrong to no one. Honest he was in all his dealings with the world; honest even to the division of a penny. The radical fault of his character was coldness and intolerance. Toward wrong-doing and wrong-doers, he had no forbearance whatever; and to him that strayed from the right path, whether child or man, he meted out, if in his power, the full measure of consequences. Unfortunately for those who came within the circle of his authority, his ideas of right and wrong were based on warped and narrow views, the result of a defective religious education. He, therefore, often called things wrong, from prejudice, that were not wrong in themselves; and sternly reacted upon others, and drove them away from him, when he might have led and guided them into the paths of virtue.

The first year of Andrew Howland's married life was one of deep trial to the loving young creature he had taken from her sunny home to cherish in his bosom—a bosom too cold to warm into vigorous life new shoots of affection. And yet he loved his wife; loved her wisely, as he thought, not weakly, nor blindly. He saw her faults, and, true to his character, laid his hands upon them. Alas! how much of good was crushed in the rigid pressure!

To Mr. Howland life was indeed a stern reality....