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Chapter 12 “Bitter Pills.”

  • TO draw blood from a stone,  _i.e._ , money from a miserly husband and father, resolves itself into a state of chronic bankruptcy so trying to the wife tha_he really ought to share in the money-getting. That they would “have but on_urse” was a strong point with Wrax on his marriage; and he took care that the “one purse” should be all his own, and so excessive was his love of money tha_he connubial lot with him would not be all honey under favorabl_ircumstances. Contracting no debts, Wrax knew how every farthing o_ousekeeping money was spent; he nevertheless doled it out five shillings at _ime, nor offered a penny till Zee asked for it, then complained, ofte_omplained surlily: “You're always asking for money.” The deeper shame t_imself that she was; he knew she might be trusted with untold gold. It wa_ell that wife and children were indifferent to dainties; Wrax grudged naugh_or himself, his tastes must be studied. The little Piri would look wistfull_t his father's steaming bowl of bread and milk for breakfast, and Zee hope_rax would give the child a little, or give herself an extra sixpence that th_oys might have a treat, but he never did. Such meanness filled Zee wit_ntense disgust. Why, it would have choked her father to have required him, i_ickness, to gobble up the rarest dainties, even on the plea: “They will d_ou good.”
  • Fortunately for Zee, relatives from time to time kindly forwarded to her som_f their half-worn-out clothing for herself and the boys. Wrax's “blood” wa_onsequently rarely drawn for apparel; but a change of seasons necessitatin_ther changes, he gave Zee a sovereign wherewith to make the desire_urchases, and on her return from town positively asked her for “the change,” notwithstanding that she had told him the sovereign was not half enough to bu_hat was needed. Knowing full well that Zee scorned to procure a favor b_rtful aids, Wrax still repulsed her every caressing word or deed with: “Oh, you want a new dress, do you? then you won't get it!” Zee want a ne_ress—faugh!
  • It is delightful to have to chronicle one surprisingly generous act on Wrax'_art. The boys unwittingly fell in with a subtle companion, distressingl_btrusive, though wholly unworthy of entertainment, viz., whooping-cough. An_o dislodge the enemy, Wrax permitted mother and children to spend three week_f Rex's summer vacation in the country. A most happy Christmas it proved, although they neither saw nor heard from Wrax until he summoned them home, whither they returned much benefited by the change.
  • On the occasion of a purse being presented to her minister, the daring Zee'_emerity culminated in her accepting a cunningly-planned I O U for £2, payabl_t two months. The deferred payment quite caught Zee, and she determined, b_orking early and late, to earn the amount in knitting, crochet an_mbroidery. But, sad to tell, pay-day was forthcoming and the money was not, and pride refused to accept defeat; but pride failed to keep her from doing _ean thing. She had repeatedly made the £2 a matter of prayer, but praye_ffered no solution of the difficulty, as, indeed, how should it? the spiri_f true prayer would have saved her from being caught in such a trap, b_iving her the courage to refuse when solicited to give, since she knew tha_rax considered her entitled to nothing beyond necessary food.
  • The last day of grace had arrived and Zee was at her wits' end about th_oney, the utmost extra work she had accomplished amounting to a mere trifle.
  • She had had ample proof that in a certain stage of intoxication Wrax could b_lattered into or out of almost anything by those disposed to take advantag_f his weakness. And Zee, for the first and last time in her life, seized upo_uch a moment to gain her ends. As the devil would have it, Wrax returned t_ea that evening “three sheets in the wind,” and in such a jovial mood tha_ee told him with trepidation what she had done, and asked what she should do.
  • “Do?” returned Wrax, with gushing generosity, “pay the money,” and he thre_wo sovereigns towards her. Zee doubted her senses, and her whole sou_ecoiled from the coins obtained in such a manner; they almost blistered he_ingers when she touched them, and yet her pride was gratified in having the_o give. Had Wrax been himself he would have refused the money point-blank i_ll probability. The deacons of that little church out-devilled the devil i_heir deferred payment scheme. Religion is not served by such tricks, it i_ishonored.
  • In telling of what Wrax became through the love of drink, the reader will se_hat Zee's unfaithfulness helped to drag him down as much as did the drink.
  • She should have lived to have secured his good rather than his goodwill; bu_he latter was grateful to selflove, the former demanded self-crucifixion, an_ee kept back part of the price. Those who live truly must be a means o_iscipline to those who do not; there is no choice in the matter.
  • Unfaithful though she was, she was yet the spring of whatever good there wa_n Wrax; she could prompt him to a kindly deed if mortal could. In truth h_ould be base, act basely, better out of her sight than in it; and had sh_een faithful to her God she might have cheated him out of himself, if no_nto heaven, into a holier life; but a do-evil-that-good-may-come religio_ever could have influenced Wrax, it must be the genuine article. In menta_ust and ashes Zee has learnt precious truths, and all too late mourns th_eglect of her God-given powers, sacrificed on the altar of false teaching.
  • She is “found wanting,” and though she cannot excuse herself, it were almos_o be wished, knowing what her teachers were, that some excuse could b_ffered for her; but right for right's sake forbids it, she should have use_er brains.
  • Her minister was just a parrot, nothing more. His mind had become stereotype_y his having adopted certain dogmas early in life which, without variation, he parroted forth, year in year out. With her spiritual instincts keenly aliv_he has gone to the so-called house of God, eagerly scanning the preacher'_ace to see what of divine impulse it reflected, as she begged with a soul- hunger impossible to express for one, just one crumb of the bread of life t_each her how to live day by day, through all the jibes and sneers by whic_rax tried to undermine such faith (credulity he called it) as she possessed.
  • But she got husks cut and dried, nothing but husks; she had better have bee_ontent with her God and her Bible in her closet.
  • The circumstances of the preacher's life made Zee's needs incomprehensible t_im; he recognised the needs of the polemic soul, but of no other; the creed- bound man was ever impotently wrestling with an imaginary foe, and enforcin_nconditional submission to man's will on woman. He was content if th_houghtless said of him: “Isn't he a dear man?” “Isn't he nice?” and of hi_ermons that they were “acceptable,” “comforting,” “delicious,” according t_aste, so that his moralising generalities flattered rather than condemned th_anity and conceit of men. Possibly as Zee listened to her parrot, could sh_ave put her thoughts into words, she would have said: “For pity's sake, man, hold your peace, and let me speak from bitter experience. Swallow-like, yo_kim truth's surface, and catch a fly here and there on which your own sou_tarves, as you dish up your unsavoury meat with herbs too flat even to b_itter. Know you not that sheep worried by dogs, in human form, cannot live o_he bleak mountain's brow, they must be led to the green pastures beside stil_aters? You have never dug for hid treasure with half the enthusiasm wit_hich men tear out the bowels of the earth to possess themselves of it_oards; but if you would be about your Master's business you must delve n_ess persistently in this world's vineyard than in the Gospel-mine, where eac_as treasures as inexhaustable as are their source, in either of which nugget_f fine gold are found only at great cost and by those whose feet are in th_ight path.”
  • Zee had now reached the least anxious period of her colonial experience; ther_as a man at the helm of affairs, and she was happy. Wrax had taken a working- partner into his business relationships, which lay so wide as to necessitat_is spending the summer in the country, whither, to their delight, he remove_is family, who loved the country well. And as it was over-run with Imperia_roops, in consequence of the native war then raging, they resolved to furnis_heir sparse house accommodation with barest necessaries, picnic fashion.
  • Oh, exquisite relief to Zee! no more fruitless business anxieties, but th_est and quiet of trees and fields. In the country, she found kind friends.
  • She carried an introduction to one family living in a grand house, reposin_icturesquely in its ample grounds, whose possessors were crowned with well - earned laurels, in the earning of which the lady of the house bore a prominen_art; and she would have contested the point with some spirit, had her husban_resumed to speak of their joint property as “mine”—it was “ours,” as th_ossessions of man and wife ought to be. The imposing dignity of the mansio_omewhat scared Zee, but chancing to cross its mistress's path, the name o_heir mutual friend proved an opening to pleasant intercourse. For the lad_romptly called on Zee, who, in alluding to the narrow limits of her picni_orceries, was made to feel that her make-shifts were infinitesima_xceedingly, by her guest exclaiming: “Why, you have a palace to what we ha_hen we first settled here!” Her path of roses now had been rugged in th_ast, and the fine old dame was justly proud of the useful figure she had cut; and pulling both together with might and main, her lively description of he_wn and husband's efforts to make both ends meet, within doors and without, evidenced a degree of good sense that ought to be appreciated.
  • With the conservatism of ignorance, English-born colonial youth zealousl_esist all invasion of their supposed rights, as sons of the soil, b_eterminedly beating off intruders. Hence, being a stranger to the countr_outh, Rex, a peculiarly sensitive lad, found to his disgust that for som_ays, go which road he would to school, the boys barred his way in a provokin_anner. Recounting his trials at night and the threats held out for the nex_ay, Piri (that boy was born to fight the Goliaths of the nineteenth century), in allusion to the threats, panted and swelled with defiance as he exclaimed: “Let them! let them! I wouldn't mind!”
  • The small hero was his mother's sage, philosopher, and friend, and being to_oung to go to school, his artlessness and keen sense of the ridiculous kep_im bubbling over with a merriment most grateful to her in her many (but fo_im) sad and lonely hours. Filled with admiration at the oft-recounte_xploits of a certain “spring-heeled Jack,” the terror of Zee's neighborhoo_n her youthful days, Piri suggested: “If we had but spring-heels, mamma,” as, in strolling along a road bounded on either side by a high hawthorn hedge, they met “a mob” of some 200 wild cattle; and though by no means frightened o_er own account, Zee would have shown the “white feather” for the boy's sak_f the leaping of a stile or a stone wall would have placed the rough-lookin_erd at a safe distance; but as the “spring-heels” were not forthcoming, Ze_njoined silence on Piri as she hid him under her cloak, then passed slowl_hrough the dread phalanx. Hugging the hedge on the opposite side of the road, the cattle eyed Zee askance with vicious eyes, as if a woman were a ne_evelation to them. On nearing the men following on horseback, they exclaime_ith one accord: “You've got some pluck, upon my word, Miss!” The indomitabl_ee looked up in surprise, ignorant of the fact that the cattle had just bee_riven in off the run, and were consequently “dangerous.”
  • In his leisure hours, Rex had to don his coarse apron and clean knives, boots, etc., work which, according to conventionalism, would not have been require_f a boy occupying the position his father ought to have secured to him; bu_hat did not disturb either the boy or his mother; he would be none the worse, and might be all the better for doing it. The Anglican clergyman, calling on_aturday morning, caught Rex at his work in full trim, and encouraged the la_y saying: “That's right, my boy, work away! I often have such work to do.” The good man, blessed with eighteen children, was passing rich at the rate o_orty pounds a year. Poverty, obtrusive visitor that it is, often peeped in a_is window.
  • All too soon the charming picnic came to an end, and the family returned t_own to find there was not an empty house; the red-coats swarmed in the tow_ven more than in the country. They naturally turned to their own cottage wit_ sense of proprietorship, but it was tenanted by a lady and her little boy, who were, however, on the eve of starting for San Francisco, and therefor_indly gave up two of their rooms to Wrax and his family, by whom they wer_ratefully appropriated.
  • The lady, Mrs. H., fell in love with Piri at first sight, and they soon becam_uch friends that she offered, at his request, to buy him for a penny. H_esired above all things to be a sailor, hence his fancy was captivated by th_rospect of going in the ship with her and her son, of Piri's age, an_romising “never to come back to his mother any more,” he begged her to sel_im for the penny, and she readily accepted the terms offered. On giving he_he penny he danced and sung “I'm sold! I'm sold! I'm sold!” with th_iveliest satisfaction. Mamma had no longer any right or title to him; he wa_rs. H.'s boy, and she must put him in his bath, and sharing the bed of hi_ew brother, they discussed their future together with regal independence, until their disjointed syllablings proved that drowsiness was creeping o_pace.
  • Silence reigned around, until Piri burst into a fit of piteous weeping, screaming: “Mamma, mamma, mamma.” Zee purposely hung back, and Mrs. H. went t_im, which served but to increase his terror; he would neither look at her no_llow her to touch him as he stood on the bed the incarnation of misery Ze_ntering the room on his distress becoming unbearable, he flew with a grea_ound into his mother's arms, and, clinging round her neck, almost choked her, as he cried between his sobs: “Oh, take me back, take me back, take me back, mamma, mamma, mamma!” He was almost convulsed with terror, indeed, lest Mrs.
  • H. should refuse to give him up; nor could he be pacified until she took bac_he penny she had given for him, and his mother faithfully promised “never t_ell him any more.” He then went tremblingly to his own bed, holding tightl_y his mothers hand as she gently soothed him to rest, and his broken sob_old to the night-watch around his pillow how great his grief had been.
  • After nearly two years of comparative quietude, the hapless Zee is to b_hrown back on the old adamantine rock. When his best energies were most i_equest, Wrax was so often found lying about “drunk and incapable” that, scandalised by such conduct, his partner, seeing there was no chance fo_ither so long as they remained together, resolved on a dissolution o_artnership. Whatever the cost to herself, Zee could but commend his judgment; but Wrax's fury at the proposed dissolution was ungovernable; he knew bette_han did his wife that the drink was its sole cause; but now, as ever in hi_ifficulties, his wife was his evil genius plotting his ruin, and h_eproached her with cruel injustice. And though to the world he continue_mooth and oily in the extreme, in his home he was fearfully excited an_nhumanly severe, even to his boys, who checked each other with: “Here'_apa!” on hearing his voice or step. His wife, to whom he never addressed _ivil word, thankful only if he did not scold, trembled when he left his home (the word to him had lost its significance), and trembled when he returned t_t.
  • At length his violent temper reached its climax, and he bolted. Entering th_ouse at midnight, he ordered Zee to get up out of bed and fold the blanket_rom off it, together with his wearing apparel, which he flung to her from hi_rawers, saying: “I'm going away for good.” “Where?” “Never you mind where; I'll take precious good care I never come back again.” And he strapped up hi_undle and dashed out of the house without so much as a look at his boys.
  • He had gone at last, and Zee let him go without a word, hoping he would never, _never_  return. He had left her without a penny, and her desolation appeare_omplete as she dropped by Rex's bed-side; he was awakened by her half- smothered anguish, and folding his arms around her, wept in mute sympathy.
  • Prepared for the worst, she succeeded in calming herself and the child, the_ent quietly back to bed to watch for the morning. And behold! the dawn an_he run-away Wrax appeared together. Why he had gone or whither, or why he ha_eturned, he never told, nor did Zee ask. It was one of the “bitter pills” sh_as to swallow.
  • “Pills” especially “bitter” just then, since pecuniary matters were at thei_orst, which perhaps explained, though it could not excuse Wrax's excessiv_cerbity. Being of a litigious nature, he had been a fortune to lawyers, bot_n the old country and in the new; for he wanted both ends of a stick wort_ossessing, and quarrelled if he met a brother-man who claimed one end of th_aid stick. To collect and discharge the debts of the firm recently dissolve_evolved on Wrax; and in consequence of some legal quibble in the settling o_ccounts, he was unable to meet the demands of his hungry creditors a_romptly as could have been wished. His love of money and the legerdemain h_xercised to keep possession of it (hard nail that he was) often looked to hi_ife like a want of principle; still he had no wish to evade just debts, bu_nly the disagreeables consequent thereon. And in this critical state o_ffairs, with a view to business partly, Wrax left his creditors and thei_ternal dunning to his wife with his blessing, as he hurried off to a lon_istance from home.
  • Left alone with such a burden, Zee found that she had known only the shallow_f wifely tribulation hitherto; now she was to wade in waters which deepene_s she advanced; yet could she not retrace one step, or if her feet touche_and 'twas but a narrow strip 'twixt two unbounded seas of debt and shame, living by the skin of her teeth meanwhile.  _That_  was no great hardship. I_as the debt, debt, debt and the secret—it was the secret that she tried s_erseveringly to hide which crushed her; the former would yield to time an_atience, but there was no rubbing off of shame's score so long as Wrax wa_hat he was.
  • Acting on her own discretion in reference to the dunning creditors, Zee woul_ave told each man the honest truth, viz., that they would certainly be pai_n full if they would but have patience. But having developed into a stupi_riselda type of woman, she obeyed Wrax implicitly, and was kept alternatel_n the tenter-hooks of hope and despair by making promises as he directed, which he failed to keep, thus needlessly exasperating his creditors and addin_enfold to her misery.
  • Not to have saved her reason could she have spoken of her wrongs except t_hose as familiar with them as herself; Wrax was bent on hiding his sin, an_he would still help him. Help him! the mountebanks they both were in thei_utile attempts to hide a vice eloquent in its very shamelessness. Its bran_s on the coward brow, the lying lips, the tottering step, the palsied hand.
  • Who can paint half its hideousness? Who can dare to tell the half of what i_akes of a man? Help him to hide it! Zee might as well have tried to hide th_oonday sun by holding up her hand, as hope to delude anyone as to what wer_er husband's habits.
  • She felt this, too, in a dim sort of a way, and dreading lest her broke_romises should constrain the angry men to hold her skeleton up to view, sh_nswered each peremptory knock at the door with a gasp that made her look lik_ white-livered thief and liar, as she glanced at the men with furtive, feverish eagerness, believing—so entirely, to her excited sensibilities, di_he skeleton fill her world of vision—that she saw its shadow in the impatien_reditor's clouded brow, or indignant jerk of the body, and almost heard it_ateful echo on the lip. But it came not, they were kind to her. For them t_ave said to her that they were the sport of a drunken rascal would hav_roved too much for Zee, and she would either have flung herself tiger-like i_heir face, or have dropped like lead at their feet.
  • Yet uttered scorn would not have been harder to bear than expresse_ommiseration; to hang out signs of distress was a too great humiliation, s_ong as a hope of Wrax remained; she therefore avoided almost everyone lest, knowing what her husband was, they should desire to avoid her. Thus sh_lutched at her despair, and it ate in upon her very life. She had lon_xpected that insanity would terminate her husband's career, but now i_ppeared only too likely to terminate her own; reason reeled and was all bu_nseated. She could see naught but the madhouse looming in the distance, an_elt its dungeon-walls closing in upon her on all sides. And to the madhous_he following circumstance seemed to root her.
  • Mrs. H.'s departure for San Francisco having been somewhat delayed, sh_orrowed a silk umbrella of Zee the day before she sailed, and left it at th_unatic asylum, of all places. The umbrella was too good to lose, and ye_hattered and unstrung as were Zee's nerves, she shrank with instinctiv_orror from going to the asylum for it. But prevailing at length on a lad_riend to accompany her she went, and heard nothing of her lost property o_ourse, but what she did hear of the unearthly yells and shouts of th_sylum's unhappy inmates were not to be forgotten. Furthermore the matron, _ersonal friend of Mrs. H., volunteered the information that there “were mor_omen in the house, deranged through the ill-treatment of their drunke_usbands, than from all other causes put together.” Why did she tell Zee that?
  • To Zee's morbidly-active fancy it was clear that—knowing as Mrs. H. coul_carcely fail to do, living in the same house, what Wrax was and what hi_reatment of his wife—while enlarging on each subject in confidence to he_riend the matron, she (Mrs. H.) had suggested the probable fatal consequence_o Zee; and the matron, priding herself on her professional sagacity, hal_njoyed hinting obliquely at Zee's possible fate. But it was neither kind no_ise. In some such way barbed arrows are pointed at defenceless breasts.
  • Day and night those dreadful scenes and yells grated on Zee's nerves, painfully sensitive because out of tune. The horrors were upon her, and d_hat she would she failed to dispel the notion that she too would go to swel_he dismal howlings of the demented. For a season sleep rarely closed he_yes, she was distracted. And as to what would become of those worse tha_atherless boys of hers, now that she felt herself to be in danger of “goin_ark,” as she phrased it, filled her with a thousand anxieties. Would Wra_eliver them up to English friends, or would they be allowed to become cit_rabs? A not unnatural question, acute as were the mother's then discordan_ensibilities.
  • Wrax had returned to his house, and so great was Zee's unrest, one night, tha_he was constrained to disturb his snoring to tell him she” was certain sh_hould go out of her mind.” But she met with a rebuff so insolently full o_old unconcern that she would never again in her senses have appealed to hi_ympathy. His brutality was precisely the counter-irritation her case at th_oment needed; it made her think less of herself than of him. It brough_ividly before her mind the morning when she, for the first time in her life, asked Wrax to “rise and make her a cup of tea.” Ill or well, how could sh_ave asked it? She ought to have known him better. He growled out: “Rex can d_t.” Another “bitter pill.” She choked back rebellious tears, and raising he_ching head from the pillow, left the big, strong fellow lying there, wholl_ndisturbed by compunctions of conscience.
  • And yet how she had nursed him through his attacks of gout, day and night fo_eeks together, till she almost dropped from exhaustion! Remembering she was _oman, not an angel (God would have made women angels, and given them wings, but that he knew that they are better fitted as they are for the life tha_s), those who know what gout is, and can imagine a man so selfishly exactin_s Wrax, will understand that there must have been a deal of grit between th_oints and marrow of her constitution, since it was never oiled by kindness.
  • His wife had looked him through and through for some sign that he was fles_nd blood, not iron; but she never found it. Of course, there was a better an_ worse in his treatment of her, or it would have been insupportable. He ha_evertheless become selfish to the core of his being. In his softer moods Ze_ad tried to win from him just one kind word in response to some special ac_f devotion on her part. But “just what I had you for” was all he muttered.
  • Ah, there was a world of truth in the reply. The sort of “love” that seek_nly a servant cheap and good in a wife is no compliment, merits no gratitude.
  • Wrax, moreover, continually outraged his wife's sense of right and justice, b_itting her legal bondage against his freedom, before their children too, saying: “Umph! Who are you? You've got no voice; you are nobody. I bought you; you are only part of my goods and chattels.” Most disgraceful truth, humiliating because true. The truth, and the truth only, wounds.
  • Despite her Griselda-like proclivities, her high spirit ill brooked th_ndignities he heaped upon her by virtue of his “goods-and-chattel” creed. Sh_as his property now, and he despised himself and Zee, in that he should onc_ave been ever so little her slave, pounding her in memory's mortar for th_istrust of himself which had made him feed on the apples of discord, instea_f the love apples of his choice. By subtle insinuations peculiarly his own h_ade her feel—as he in effect snapped his fingers in her face, expressive o_he exquisite enjoyment her torture gave him—that she was to pay, wit_nterest and compound interest, the pain she had innocently—the fault bein_ll his own—caused him in courting days. He would have his pound of flesh i_othing else. All men save Wrax will exonerate Zee of cruel designs; howeve_apricious, she was too tender-hearted to inflict pain wantonly. Well, strength had been given her to do what she had done, to bear what she ha_orne, and what that doing and bearing implied the drunkard's wife alone ca_nderstand—it may not be put into words.
  • But an end came to this long night of weeping. Outstanding debts had at las_een cancelled in full. And though far gone in drink, Wrax went home, on_aturday afternoon, very wretched, very repentant, and said to Zee: “If you'l_o down town with me I'll sign the pledge.” Ah, happy words! Of course sh_ould go. But being as he was, she suggested: “Wait til tomorrow.” “No,” objected Wrax, despairingly, “don't put off till to-morrow—I may not fee_nclined to sign to-morrow.” But that the end in view made a man of Wrax, Ze_ertainly would have felt ashamed to have gone out with him in his the_ondition; but waiting only for the friendly twilight, down town they went, boys and all, the latter being fully able to enter into the joyousness of th_ccasion. By way of encouragement Zee added her own signature to that of Wrax, although she, of course, had never broken her first pledge. Here, again, wa_n oasis in the desert to the hotly-pursued, broken-winged bird; things woul_ight themselves, as if by magic, now that Wrax was himself again.
  • To some extent Zee's all of good and ill were dependent on Wrax's habits, an_er monthly letter home, simply written, now in her gladdest moments, now wit_er heart's blood, clearly told, as much from her gayer as her sadder history, that the burden laid upon her was greater than she could bear. And her dea_riend, Wrax's eldest brother, seeing no sufficient reason why she should b_acrificed for naught, wishing to ease her of a part, at least, of her heav_oad, proposed that she should be invited to take the children to England t_e educated, himself bearing the greater part of the expense incurred, i_hich Zee's father gladly shared, warmly supporting the daring proposition.
  • And letters from both families, assuming that the above suggestion would mee_er approval, were received by Zee, urging her return home by the first shi_eaving the port, informing her, moreover, that the passage-money for hersel_nd her children was already paid, and an agent appointed to make al_ecessary arrangements for her. Never, even in her darkest hours, had Ze_nticipated salvation except through Wrax, although he had confessed he “onc_hought she had gone from her home with the express purpose of drownin_erself and her children.” An alarming thought to some men, perhaps, but it i_oubtful whether Wrax would have moved an inch to have prevented such _atastrophe, had it been premeditated. A guilty conscience scared the man—no_ee. And to say that she was quite taken aback by what looked like a cover_ttempt to separate her from Wrax fails to express the intense pain an_isgust with which she laid the letters aside on first reading them.
  • His pledge, of less than two months' standing, was to be sought among the man_roken vows which littered his wayward course; and although he had kept withi_ounds as yet, it was only a question of time. To taste intoxicants was t_uccumb, sooner or later. But for this fact, her strong sense of duty woul_ave forbidden Zee to entertain the tempting offer from home. It was hard t_ive him up, even in thought. Not that she had much restraining influence; sh_elieved, nevertheless, that he would be even worse, wanting her ceaseles_upervision. With his altered habits and circumstances, the fear of insanit_ad faded from her mind. She had been able to cope with her difficultie_itherto, and was still able to do so. How could she desert her post?
  • Allow Wrax to see the letters, or tell him their purport, she could not. Wha_hould she do? The boys and their future prospects hung on her decision. Ho_ould she best secure their interests, which were so entirely bound up i_erself that, if her life failed, all failed as far as they were concerned?
  • Oh, how she dreaded lest she should make a false move, either in going t_ngland or in staying with Wrax!
  • Having overcome the first shock the letters occasioned, Zee found hersel_lmost unconsciously debating the pros and cons of the question; and that Wra_ight share the responsibility of the decision to be arrived at, she at lengt_imply stated the facts of the case before putting the letters into his hand.
  • Taken as much by surprise as his wife had been, Wrax was gravely silent fo_ome minutes, then said: “It's a strange proposition to make.” No more, n_ess. To elicit his opinion Zee again and again reverted to the subject as th_ays wore on, but he had evidently determined not to commit himself either on_ay or the other. Believing it to be her duty to remain with Wrax, but bein_nwilling that the boys should lose the many advantages thus generousl_ffered them, she proposed they should be sent to England in the charge of _rustworthy woman anxious to return thither. A proposition Wrax negative_bsolutely, assigning no reason for so doing.
  • Zee plied the needle dexterously, whether the voyage should or should no_ecome an accomplished fact, for Wrax's every word and deed indirectly favore_heir going. The saving to himself of their board, etc., would be his firs_onsideration. He, nevertheless, fully realised the advantage of being able t_ay: “I neither helped nor hindered their going.” At length, however, notwithstanding that Zee would rather have left the matter to the agent'_are, Wrax volunteered to make the necessary arrangements for the voyage, an_he dared not thwart him lest at the last moment he should frustrate he_ntention of leaving by the ship now on the point of sailing; but up to th_ay before it sailed the ever-dilatory man had done nothing but quarrel wit_he agent. Zee consequently went herself to the agent, and having settle_atters satisfactorily, herself and the boys were on the boat by ten o'cloc_ext morning, and set sail for old England within an hour therefrom.
  • A newly-married couple, glad to accept Wrax as a lodger, entered upon th_enancy of their cottage, furnished precisely as Zee had vacated it; hence hi_omestic comfort was secured. But the doubt his vacillation occasioned as t_hether his family would or would not go by that ship made their last fe_ours on land needlessly busy and exciting. Wrax, however, with much parade, heartily forwarded Zee's every movement, and not only went with them to th_hip, but remained to the last moment. Again she entreated him to redeem th_ast for his honor's sake, and with promises many and exceeding fair, he vowe_e “would be a good boy, make money, and have a fine new house ready for he_gainst her return.” Taking plenty of bottled stout from the ship to sustai_hem during their half-hour's row ashore, Wrax and his comrade in taste_eparted; and as the last stroke of their oars faded away in the distance, Ze_urned to her boys and welcomed the prospect of rest—sweet rest. The millston_f thankless toil rolled off her heart, and she breathed freely, the firs_ime for five years. Of the few friends who questioned the propriety of he_eaving her husband “all alone,” Zee asked: “Have I given you reason to doub_y judgment in the past?” “No.” “Then trust me for the present, and for th_uture.”