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Meyer, Ernest L. (ed.) / Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XVII, Number 1 (October 1917)

Knowlton, Helen
Liberation,   pp. 3-6


Page 3

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
3
Liberation
JESSICA MARSH was not aware that she had
experienced tragic enlightenment.  As a result
of her own life and her naturally reflective mind she
had early cast out illusions and reached a rather pessi-
mistic philosophy. But her convictions about the world
and the ultimate did not effect her practically,-she
found real joy in living. The twins were a problem;
they had thrived under her care, and now at the age of
ten, were developing a power of discrimination and
judgment that was unfortunate in a household with
Mr. Marsh as master. Jessica thought whimsically that
these two little engines of health and activity had come
and stolen all her mother's vigor-she had lived only
a few months after they had entered the world to de-
mand sustenance and guidance. Little Alice, who
would always seem the baby, on account of her fragil-
ity, at once troubled and comforted Jessica. Little
Alice's docility and clinging sweetness were a refuge
from the turbulent family, but Jessica yearned to pro-
tect the child from her father. Mr. Marsh's misfor-
tunes and moods called forth great floods of sympathy
from the frail twelve-year-old girl; she was often found
weeping in a corner after her father had confided his'
literary failures to her. Magazines failed to recognize
the strength in his lines of poetry * * *
Jessica kissed the children good-night, and after re-
quiring extra prayers from the twins, who had been un-
usually recalcitrant during the day, she wrapped her-
self in a long, daik coat. She buttoned it to the chin
and than ran swiftly down the front stairs to the door.
Her father's imperious, "Jessie, Jessie, where are you
going?" she disregarded and danced through the yard
and down the street with no remorse over her temerity.
She had learned to fashion her life after her own choos-
ing-else she would have been utterly smothered with
restriction.
It was a lovely winter evening, with more promise
of spring than snap of cold in the air. The moon was
a clear, round circle, and frequent black clouds were
blown over it, darkening the world for the while. Jessi-
ca's hair blew back from her face and she would have
been exultant had she seen the waves which the damp-
ness provoked in it. She had always sighed for curls,
curls that would dangle and frisk about over her ears.
At the end of a long and serious argument about im-
mortality, she had once declared to Prof. Haegel, the
only man who brought her fresh and fascinating ideas,
"Well Prof Haegel, you can believe in a God if you
want to; but-you see-I wasn't given curly hair."'
Her music teacher had thrilled at this modern, reckless
coquetry; but Mr. Marsh, who was reading in the
adjoining room, had rebuked his frivolous Jessica for
her levity. His was not a deeply religious nature, in
fact he prided himself on his freedom from popular
theological beliefs, but such flagrant irreverence fright-
ened him.
Jessica joined Prof Haegel at the corner and in an
ecstasy of spirits, evoked by her defiance of parental
authority, she started off for the concert.
Mr. Marsh was very angry at his daughter's lack of
respect for him. He went immediately to little Alice's
room and endeavored to learn Jessica's whereabouts
from the child. She was as ignorant as he, and could
only lean out of bed and pat his cheek soothingly.
"Never mind, father, Jessica will be all right. Why,
she takes care of us all!" But Mr. Marsh was not
comforted; he protested to his little girl in a tone of
self-righteous indignation.
"I have no authority in my own household. My
children utterly disregard my wishes." Then he left
Little Alice puzzling fruitlessly over the debt of chil-
dren to parents.
Mr. Marsh went to his study and gave himself up
to mental prognostications. Jessie would disgrace them
all with her headstrong behavior; she would surely
come to some harm; she had had too much power in
the household * M *
And then, when her buoyant young figure dashed in-
to the room and she leaned over him to awake him to
send him to bed, his first reaction was one of impa-
tience, of injury. Jessie in the flesh was outrageously
innocent, sensible. Mr. Marsh disliked having his fa-
talisms invalidated. And he would so much rather not
have been found dozing * * *
Jessica sat down on the sofa beside him, hoping to
disarm him with affection. Mr. Marsh's position of
defeat melted her; she saw that his nap had placed him
at a disadvantage and she yearned to comfort him.
She felt that she had been a bit cruel to catch him thus
* * * She patted his hand and laughed. "Father
needs me to look after him. He ought not to have been
asleep sitting right up straight. Come, I'll turn down
your bed and then you can jump right in." His weak-
ness was appealing to her. He struggled to resume his
dignity; he drew away from his offending daughter and
faced her accusingly.
"Where did you go tonight? It's eleven o'clock,
disgracefully late for a nice girl to be on the streets.
And I have been worrying every minute." His voice,
which was always too treble for disciplinary purposes,
annoyed him, for it broke with huskiness from his nap.
Jessica still felt kindly toward him.
October, 1917


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