"She Could Not Think, But Would Not Cease To Speak"

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Context: A serious-minded dealer in toys became a convert to one of the small, strict, dissenting religious sects. His nephew Fulham, to humor his uncle, also joined the church, but the preacher made such an impression on him that he decided always to live in the light of his conscience. At this point, his uncle died and left him the toy store and a sum of money. At first Fulham heeded what his conscience told him, but soon he embarked on dubious courses. He and his conscience had stiff battles, but usually he overrode her. When he observed how profitable the state lottery was, he tied in sales of his toys with counterfeit lottery tickets. When conscience reproached him, he said that the odds against his selling a winning ticket were a hundred thousand to one, and if a winner turned up, he could run away. He overcharged excessively for his goods, much to the distress of his conscience. He changed his religion and got himself elected a trustee of large sums of money held for the benefit of the poor, although he did not immediately make any profit from this activity. One of his fellow trustees was the guardian of a rich young girl who was not mentally much above an idiot. Fulham insinuated himself into the guardian's good graces and married the girl over the strenuous objections of his conscience. He explained that he intended to treat the wife very well, but conscience insisted that the marriage was purely a deal for the sake of the money involved. The wife, however, by no means silently retreated into the background; she asserted herself at every opportunity, and he found himself utterly unable to control her:

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The Wife was pretty, trifling, childish, weak;She could not think, but would not cease to speak:This he forbad–she took the caution ill,And boldly rose against his sovereign will;With idiot-cunning she would watch the hour,When friends were present, to dispute his power:With tyrant-craft, he then was still and calm,But raised in private terror and alarm:By many trials, she perceived how farTo vex and tease, without an open war;And he discover'd that so weak a mindNo art could lead, and no compulsion bind; . . .

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