He Had A Wife As Miserly As Himself; They Were So Miserly That
They Even Conspired To Cheat Each Other.
Whatever the woman could lay
hands on she hid away; a hen could not cackle but she was on the alert
to secure the new-laid egg.
Her husband was continually prying about to
detect her secret hoards, and many and fierce were the conflicts that
took place about what ought to have been common property. They lived in
a forlorn-looking house, that stood alone and had an air of starvation.
A few straggling savin trees, emblems of sterility, grew near it; no
smoke ever curled from its chimney; no traveller stopped at its door. A
miserable horse, whose ribs were as articulate as the bars of a
gridiron, stalked about a field where a thin carpet of moss, scarcely
covering the ragged beds of pudding-stone, tantalized and balked his
hunger; and sometimes he would lean his head over the fence, looked
piteously at the passer-by, and seem to petition deliverance from this
land of famine.
The house and its inmates had altogether a bad name. Tom's wife was a
tall termagant, fierce of temper, loud of tongue, and strong of arm.
Her voice was often heard in wordy warfare with her husband; and his
face sometimes showed signs that their conflicts were not confined to
words. No one ventured, however, to interfere between them; the lonely
wayfarer shrunk within himself at the horrid clamor and
clapper-clawing; eyed the den of discord askance, and hurried on his
way, rejoicing, if a bachelor, in his celibacy.
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