Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 10 “Too Much the Broke.”

  • THE “noble savages,” the early inhabitants of New Zealand, were a curiosity t_ee. When she said: “tenakohi” (how do you do?), to her dark-skinned brother,
  • he strode about with a blanket guiltless of tie or tag, folded lengthway_ound his brawny shoulders, of which shoulders one chanced occasionally to se_ore than one wished, notwithstanding that, on the whole, he managed his full-
  • dress toggery very adroitly. And the natives being stealthy in thei_ovements, Zee was often startled to find a grim, hobgoblin face flattene_gainst her window-pane, taking stock of all within. Entering the hous_ithout any form of “by your leave,” they raked an ember from the fire, an_ropping it into their horrid pipes (both sexes smoke), puffed away clouds o_irty tobacco-smoke. Then, but not till then, to business, bartering thei_ares for old clothing, may be, at which they snapped eagerly, first lookin_he garment over and over; and if they spied a hole, they would thrust _inger through, with “Too much the broke, too much the broke,” and Zee had t_un it up. Her conjuring art served its turn at last, for she converted man_ell-worn shirts, coats, trousers, dresses, etc., into kits of deliciou_eaches.
  • Wahine (female) is a guy, dress her how you will. She not infrequently becam_namored of the shapely dress which adorned the compressed figure of her whit_ister; and if an old dress were offered her, she put it on, hoping it migh_nvelope her ample charms, but on finding it too small grunted her protest i_nmeasured disdain either against madam's elfin or her own elephantin_roportions. A Maori beauty, seeing herself in a glass for the first time,
  • possibly, burst into a very uncivilised sort of a laugh as she made signs t_ee for brush and comb; but no, not for all Maoridom would Zee have understoo_hose signs; but to have seen the weird face as reflected in the glass woul_ave moved the risibilities of the gravest.
  • They regarded it as childish to give, and rarely betrayed the weakness, ye_ere they importunate beggars. Beating their breasts and making a wry face,
  • they would point to the cupboard saying, with a well-assumed whine: “Too muc_he hungry, too much the hungry,” but brightened wonderfully if kai, kai
  • (food), “very dood,” “kapai,” were given them. If Zee wished them to go, the_ecame as dense as their primeval forests, or else, shrinking to half thei_ize, they would cry, with a lugubrious expression of countenance: “Too muc_he cold,” or “Too much the rain.” But “clear out” or “hook it” from th_akeha (man—foreigner) was magical in effect; hence their visits were made i_is probable absence. They were scrupulously honest, or their liberties woul_ave been abridged. Still, amusing though they were, it was not alway_leasant to have them prying round.
  • They courted and were flattered by the notice of Europeans, and locating nea_he beach, Zee passed their rookery in taking her boys for sea-bathing. On_ent entertained a bridal party, some of whom were at their early mornin_oilette outside their tent when Zee passed. “The brave” wore a shirt, coat,
  • pants and boots, and the ladies' style was of the flashiest “pure red an_right yallar,” predominating over a monster crinoline. The dusky belle mus_ave had her own conceptions of beauty, for she consulted the small glass sh_eld in her hand as complacently as the cream of Belgravia consult thei_heval.
  • Wahine wears her sex's badge of disgrace—she is schooled, as is her faire_ister who ought to know better, in all the arts of coquetry, coaxing, ogling,
  • wheedling, giggling. Will woman ever dare to be true–true in thought, true i_ord, true in deed, with that perfect truthfulness which makes coquetr_mpossible? If it be objected it is natural for woman to please, even to th_acrifice of honor, yes, natural to uncultured savage nature, but eightee_enturies of Christianity should have produced other results in English women.
  • What human nature is, is seen in the noblest, purest type of man, of woman;
  • elsewhere only savage nature, ever affirming its baser self, not its divin_ature, is seen in various degrees of coarseness. To call the life commonl_ived human nature is a libel on God and man.
  • When Maori friend meets friend, they demonstrate affection by “rubbing noses;”
  • the men thus greet each other in public, and appear to enjoy it; wahin_ever—never at least to the writer's knowledge. Whether she is les_ffectionate, less demonstrative, or beneath such superlative distinction i_nknown. She is not permitted to eat with “the braves,” except at a respectfu_istance. Again extremes meet; by sharing in the good things provided, sh_riumphs over the grand dames of Belgravia, who are only permitted to see th_ions feed at public banquets, etc.
  • Cannibalism is of the past; civilisation has deteriorated human flesh in th_aori's estimation: “White man too salt.” A favorite Maori being offered _hoice between roast pork and roast mutton from Wrax's table one day, did no_uzzle the carver by saying: “I have no choice,” as mock-modest young ladie_re prone to do, but answered instantly: “Poaka, sheep no good,” politel_ntimating that “sheep” disagreed with his delicate stomach, whereas his lov_f “poaka” was excessive; and taking his plate, he seated himself at _espectful distance from the table, using his knife and fork like a Christian,
  • and to as good purpose.
  • The Maori devil (tipo) is white! the color of his skin is favored probably b_he conceit which makes the white man's devil black, that each may repudiat_ll kindred with his black-white majesty with a show of consistency. If “tipo”
  • is understood to be intimately related to the press, the Maori is less witles_han some would make believe. But as there may be farther talk (koreru) abou_im, he is for the present dismissed.
  • A striking contrast presents itself in turning from the child of nature to th_ophisticated colonist, whose life appeared so fast, so unlike the old-worl_og-trot that Zee longed to creep into a corner and let it pass. But give_ime to penetrate beneath the surface, Zee found repose. The cautious ol_olonist locked shop and its cares up in his counting-house, and revelling i_is well-earned relaxation, he could be seen of an evening in his pleasan_uburban residence as fresh as if accustomed to kill time among sof_ushions—more so, indeed; soft cushions enervate and take the edge off al_ational enjoyment. The very baby talked and crowed as if it knew tha_appiness and papa came in together. And in the house-sphere, the wives o_uch men fully equalled their husbands, though in a different way.
  • Queenly natures are found in every walk of life—women, so far proof agains_he vulgarity hard-work and hard - fare are said to engender, that nothin_eems to stain or harden even the native delicacy of their hands. Zee wa_urprised to observe how cheerfully and well the women of the upper circle_orked, making poetry of their daily cares, nor dreamed of apologising fo_eing busy. Contempt was the portion of those only who pretended to be abov_ork. When a visitor called, if mamma happened to be engaged, she wa_epresented by a small, grave man or woman, of seven years perhaps, with a_ntertaining simplicity quite fascinating.
  • Not that the young folk are of the Goody-Two-Shoes order, by any means; but s_uch is expected of them, and put upon them, that the old head on youn_houlders is not unfrequently seen.
  • There are quite too many sprigs of over-bearing insolence in the “uppercrust”
  • families, and there is juvenile depravity, alas, poor children! down among th_rounds of society. Large families are the rule in this land of the sun, an_nfants appear to be six weeks' old at birth, giving almost no trouble, a_hey develop with hot-house rapidity, without its forcing and frailty. A ru_s spread in the shade for the short-coated dot, and a step-above baby is se_o mind it.
  • Try how Zee would to make home attractive, Wrax could not have appeared les_illing to have entered it, had it been one of the filthiest of dens, and Ze_n old hag ready to tear his hair and talk him to death. The crossing of hi_wn threshold soured him; she had known him turn with a smile from a mal_riend to hiss darkling speech at her, that scorched her; he was mixing u_hose “bitter pills” she was to swallow. Loving punctuality, its practice wa_asy to Zee, but to Wrax the word had no meaning; yet come when he would, al_hings must be ready on the instant. How she trembled at his step! She ough_o have been in possession of the veritable Aladdin's Lamp. She, nevertheless,
  • resolutely cherished secret anticipations of brighter days, nor swerved fro_er high purpose of bracing him to manly effort.
  • And those, indeed, were happy days that saw Wrax usefully employed; he did a_ast give to business such energy as remained to him; and having made a start,
  • it was never so wholly neglected as in England, from whence he had brough_etters of introduction to men of position in Auckland. But scorning—wisely i_onsistently carried out—to owe an obligation to any one, he threw the letter_ehind the fire. Quite as good treatment as they deserved, doubtless. In poin_f education and business capacity, Wrax was the equal of the first men in th_ity, and as able as they to make an honorable position for himself. The_ight have formed a desirable circle of acquaintance, too; but husband an_ife were still as wide apart as right and wrong could make them, and differe_n tastes and habits so widely that Zee's friends would have been an aversio_o Wrax; besides which his uniformly contemptuous treatment of herself,
  • together with doubt as to the condition in which he might return home,
  • precluded the hope of enjoyment. So she made no friends.
  • As time rolled on, he spurned all appeals to right principle: “only fools an_diots were concerned about such rot.” And except that they knew no want o_ood, his wife and children were left utterly uncared for; Zee feared lest hi_ittle chicks, good children though they were, should be a disturbing element;
  • but no, the man himself was wrong, and made all else wrong; the old bligh_till resting on his life, public and private, could never lead to honor an_sefulness. The ill-assorted pair were average man and woman; neither the bes_or the worst by any means, but it is to be hoped that the Wraxes may neve_utnumber the Zees. If Wrax had but performed his part as well as Zee, wit_ll her short-comings, did hers, they would never have crossed England'_orderland, but have gone quietly down to the valley, leaving a numerou_rogeny to carry on their life work.
  • But now cold, cold was the home. Wrax gave his smiles to the world, an_eserved only the frowns for his own hearthstone. Ah, how proud he was of tha_mile of his, and of his absolute control of every muscle of his face when h_urposed to mislead! Resenting the slightest allusion to his habits, he flun_efiance at his wife in the loudest and coarsest manner. Reproaching her wit_iresome iteration as the cause of his wrong-doing, he has flung her Bible (t_hich alone he owed his leave to live) on the fire, calling her “a damne_ypocrite,” careful though she was to parade neither faith nor Bible befor_im, vowing, too, as he never tired of doing, that “he would leave the_ltogether, and that they should never hear of him again.” Zee tried th_arder, under a bondage of fear and torment, to do her best, but with n_etter results. She had long ceased her pretensions to the angelic, an_ailing by her own unaided efforts to discover in what way she ha_isappointed Wrax, she implored him in his best moments to tell her, but i_ain; so she asked of herself, with an agony of intensity words fail t_onvey: Am I wrong just where I think myself most right? Still she dared no_ccept Wrax's definition of right, although she lived in the hourl_xpectation of his putting his oft-repeated threat of “leaving them” int_xecution. He could not blame her in his heart, whatever his lips might utter.
  • His wife ought to have been made to order, no ready-made article ever woul_ave suited him. Such noble women as the late Mrs. J. S. Mill and the Barones_eaconsfield are said to have been, would not have been worth two pins to Wra_s wives. It is believed he would have murdered Zee had she thwarted an_rritated him as some wives do thwart and irritate their really good husbands;
  • there was guilt enough on his conscience without that. Of one woman an_nother who fell short of his standard of wife in perfection, he has said: “I_he were my wife I'd kick her out of doors,” and he would have been as good a_is word. Nothing, however, could have been farther from Wrax's mind than a_mplied compliment to Zee. If she had revelled in such frightful excesses a_id her lord, would he have endured it, think you? It would not have been “un-
  • English” to have locked her up. It is passing strange that the proposition t_reat drunkenness as a criminal offence should have to combat deep-roote_rejudices. “Lock a man up for getting drunk! it's un-English!” exclaim men,
  • excitedly. Alas, that it should be so! English to turn a man into somethin_ess than a brute: “un-English” to turn him back into a man. English to loc_p the scum of the earth for getting drunk; but they are paupers whom nobod_wns.
  • Zee was low enough on the social ladder to realise fully that, as a rule,
  • woman is looked upon and treated as the merest drudge—a necessary evil,
  • possessing no recognised power in the household when deficient in that forc_f character which rises superior to the servility of legal bondage. A long-
  • suffering woman is a phænomenon men cannot understand; they like t_ontemplate her, so she is impaled on the horns of society's altar, a prett_pectacle for men to gape at. And even admitting that her innate purity i_ever more divine than when she is down in the depths with her besotte_usband, the world is surfeited with such pretty spectacles. Nevertheless he_ight to consideration will be disavowed so long as it is believed that he_ocial degradation is her moral elevation, that her finer qualities can ripe_nly in her humiliation, that the lower she lies the more lustrous are he_irtues. How fares man's moral nature? Meanwhile, were the tables of ston_iven to women only?  _Possessing  remedial elements within themselves, th_ircumstances that are the whetstone of many virtues must sound the death-
  • knell of many vices_. Much needless torture of body and mind is endured b_omen for Christ's sake, they fancy; but he has taught that no wrong which ca_e righted, come whence it may, is to be tamely submitted to.
  • Bloody steps will mark woman's way to freedom. Come when it may, as come i_ust, she'll walk over corduroy roads formed by the drink-tyrant's victims.
  • Think of the scenes our police and criminal courts present—think of the poo_attered women—wives and mothers “too much the broke,” pleading for thei_mbruted husbands: “Forgive them, they know not what they do,” “they migh_ave been worse.” My God, what must this world look like to thee, when i_ooks so black to me? black with a devilishness all of man, not of devil. Wil_othing move good men to pity? Must God's garden still be sown thick wit_roken hearts before trees of righteousness will grow in it? Yes, if men ar_evils. All power is in their hands, and they love themselves, love the drink,
  • and are not one-half so faithful to their convictions as bad men are t_heirs, or the world would not be what it is. The devils in hell must stan_ghast at the cruelty of the drunkard, to whom the intelligence of the man an_uch social distinction are added to the fiendishness of the fiend. Neve_ntil the veil is taken off all hearts will it be known how much the worl_wes to woman, how much of evil she has concealed with ill-judged clemency an_isastrous consequences—concealment precious at any price to cowardl_onventionalism.
  • When Christ fainted under his cross, Simon was permitted to carry it. Woman i_ainting under a too heavy cross; is there no Simon anywhere to carry it fo_er? Christ had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again; woma_as power to do neither, yet her Judas-husband is allowed to betray her, no_ith a kiss, now with a kick, until it becomes doubtful whether there is on_rop of human blood in his veins, or in the veins of those who look on wit_allous indifference. Could infinite love have borne with a  _drunken_udas—so foul a blot?
  • So filthy is the drunkard that man would not lodge him with his horses an_ogs: no, not even with his pigs; yet, grateful only if he does not kick an_urse her, his wife must take him in and wash him from head to foot like a_nfant, or he will roll as he is into his bed, and—oh, dreadful thought!—hi_ife's bed also. It is too much to bear! If men are men, not devils,
  • suffering's hallowed shrine will have its votaries as well as it_ictims—victims eloquent in their very helplessness.
  • With a lofty brow, immaculate England has flung her flag in the face of al_ations, seeking to convict them of their sins, while she hugs to her boso_he belief that she is less guilty than are other nations; no one has a ston_o cast at her. She says of herself, in many ways: “The white-robed lily i_ot more chaste than am I. I am guileless and innocent as the sportive lamb.
  • My flag is spotless,  _it_  never floats over a slave.” Strange that no on_as dared to give England the lie; to fling back the taunt, Physician hea_hyself!
  • England owns no slaves? The drunkard's wife and little ones are the slaves,
  • legally, of the vilest slave-holder that ever owned human cattle, or disgrace_is kind. They are his, body and soul; there is no limit to his power, so lon_s he spares life—bare life. If he could sell them, they would escape much o_is brutality, possibly, lest their money value should be endangered thereby.
  • Never did a blacker Legree disgrace American soil than nestles in the bosom o_aintly England, gold-crazed England! What cares she, though her best an_ravest daughters, the pride of her own land, the admiration of other lands,
  • be slain in cold blood? What cares she for the speechless agony of th_elpless ever ringing in God's ears? What can be said that will make her loo_t home at her own sins? It is all for gold—gold, sweet gold!—and heedless o_he death-throes of her children, she shows them a face like a flint, thoug_he knows her gold-dust will one day prove lighter than vanity. Be as saintl_s she may, slave-blood is on her snow-drift skirts, and in a demoralise_eople she reaps the reward of her hypocrisy.
  • Believing that the drink brings only gold to her coffers, she holds out th_atal glass as she cries: “List not to the babblers who talk of shrieks an_roans; but for these bacchanalian scenes, an Englishman's right to do as h_ikes would be imperilled. Here's the Bible for the other world (we think _eal of the Bible), and here's the glass to drown dull care in this world.
  • Take your fill of both; but the more you drink the better it pays. See th_old—see the gold!”