IN total abstinence alone lay Wrax's hope of rescue, and, yielding to Zee'_xample and entreaty, he signed the pledge with his wife. Happy day! Happ_rax! How glad he was to have done the right thing at last! and how sweet t_ee to catch “the faintest cooing of returning affection!” Very sufficien_ere husband and wife to each other then. In the dark days Zee had done he_est to keep things straight; but there was no substitute for the master's ey_nd mind. Now she laughed at care, rolled it on to Wrax's shoulder, in truth, and well he did his part, readjusting all which had gone awry. His mora_ature once aroused, his eye and brow soon cleared, his hand and step becam_irm, and he looked every inch the king of his castle. Solomon in all hi_lory was totally eclipsed by Wrax, as Zee decked their future in rainbo_ues. Hers was too deep a nature to give its all, and cry because she had n_ore to give; her very giving enriched her, it was so full, so free.
Weaknesses, successfully struggled against, bind rather than sever human kind.
The struggle dignifies the man, the woman; it should be easy, therefore, reverently to confess faults one to another.
In the sweet peace which followed in the train of abstinence, husband and wif_aught a fleeting glance of the happiness the—to them—unknown world o_oneness_ has in store for pilgrim feet. But all too soon a growin_istlessness in Wrax, indicating a wavering of right principle, constraine_ee to ask of herself: “Will he continue to wear the armor of faithfu_ervice, or has he sworn eternal fealty to his baser passions?” The ver_esperation of their case excused the energy with which she implored him to b_ man, to give no quarter to the foe, crying: “Only persevere, and the futur_hall be the brighter for the past; yield, and all is lost. What can I do t_ake you happy in your home? You never can become so steeped in vice as t_emain indifferent to those whom you ought to love, without your judgment an_onscience disputing your every false word and act. Oh, be steadfast to th_nd! This is the turning-point. Now, _now_ you'll triumph!”
Unfortunately, he would not be persuaded that, in order to abstain, he mus_anfully shun old haunts and associates. The reader, therefore, will b_repared for the wretched alternative. His criminally weak will succumbed t_he love of drink, and Zee was left alone with her bitter disappointment—th_ore bitter for his having broken his pledged word. He writhed at times unde_he lashing of conscience, as only a strong, guilty man can. Loud in hi_rofessions of unchanging love for his wife, he blessed her again and agai_or having borne patiently with him, as he craved her forgiveness, sincere a_arnest so long as the fit lasted.
Still silly Zee purposed hiding his sins—so great to one reared as she ha_een—and what an eternal lying that hiding was. She fancied her reticence o_he subject, by shielding him from remark, would make his return to home an_uty all the easier. Coward souls, both of them; the fear of man, not the lov_f God, was in their hearts.
In such sad moments the bitterness of death, as concerned her husband, bein_pon Zee, her forced and hollow laughter made friends look on anxiously. Sh_as, indeed, so far over-acting her part that Merlee told her she had “lon_eared all was not right.” Right? Zee could but shake her head, and gulp dow_hat dreadful rising in the throat which so unmans one.
The truth once admitted, friends made the kindest efforts, verbally and b_etter, to check Wrax in his mad career, but it availed not. “Their meddling,” as he phrased it, exasperated him beyond all bounds, and as his fury must hav_ent, it fell on his wife—he dared visit it nowhere else. And “she,” h_eclared, “would never be happy until she had ruined him.” He flattere_imself that, sheltered by his wife's and his own duplicity, outsiders coul_ot possibly become cognisant of his habits. He forgot that the guilty one i_is own tale-bearer, that dumb witnesses confront him at every turn, and s_ysteriously trumpet his disgrace that danger is often nighest when securit_s highest.
As for Zee, she was glad to be censured, however wrongly, if it might bu_essen his load of guilt. Wrax was not all bad, and as she retired more an_ore in upon herself, her patience stretched to meet the demands he made upo_t. Her faith, such as it was, had never relaxed its hold on Wrax. She had i_ome measure reached Paul's eminence when he wished himself accursed fro_hrist for his brethren's sake. Zee could perhaps have given her soul i_rax's stead to save him, but such sacrifice in the sense in which Zee woul_ave offered it is not accepted at our hands, one soul being as precious a_nother in heaven's sight.
Like a maddened steed, Wrax plunged and kicked against the pricks o_onscience, as beer, wine and brandy blood obliterated all trace of manlines_n him. He was seldom to be found in his business proper—himself, his all, were drifting away into that awful vortex which engulfs humanity's best an_orst. The drink-vulture is satisfied with nothing less than the whole man an_ll which pertains to him. And Wrax was sinking lower and lower with stoli_ndifference, until, swelling with a bombast quite farcical but for it_itifullness, he ceased to command or to desire the respect of good men, calling them “sneaking, drivelling idiots.” “He never cringed and licked th_ust as did other men.” No. He scorned, or professed to scorn, the life led b_he virtuous and honorable.
Of women, too, he spoke with a contempt acquired, not inbred, imbibed with hi_eer at the public house, as was all that was base in him. So infamous _chool fully explained his ruffianism. “I'll never let a woman talk to me, no_, indeed,” he often said; and the louder he ranted, the more completely h_ancied he had Zee— who quailed before brute force, in which he was greatl_er superior—in his power.
Never, perhaps, was a baser lie fathered on the credulity of men than tha_hich declared the drunkard to be one of the most generous of his sex. Find a_ssentially selfish man, and in his selfishness you have all that is necessar_o make a good (if it be not a contradiction in terms) drunkard. It is tru_hat all selfish men are not sots, and equally true that among the sots ar_ound men who give because they cannot keep. But to whom do they give—to thei_ives and hapless children? Indeed, no; but to their boon companions, to b_eputed jolly good fellows.
One of Zee's many foolish attempts to call Wrax home was that of sitting u_or him, in the hope that he might return just a little the earlier; and fo_ears she hung on his footsteps in that way. Till at length, as midnigh_tillness crept over all things, her restlessness increased so much that sh_rew too nervous to sit alone in her pleasant room; so taking care to have al_he hinges well oiled lest they should betray her, extinguishing the hall gas, she nightly took her stand at the front door, to watch for his home-coming. I_ carriage or a straggler chanced to appear, she fell noiselessly back, an_hey passed on, leaving her alone with the night and her sorrow.
Come when he would, how he would, she was glad to have him in safe hiding; an_o long as she could meet him with a smile Wrax returned it, though with but _hame-faced sort of a grin. But it sometimes happened that, being very tired, she had controlled her feelings until an inward start warned her of hi_pproach, when the sight of him, proving too much for her jaded powers o_ndurance, to her deep mortification, a deep, half-choked sob, she wa_owerless longer to restrain, burst forth, making Wrax wild with passion.
It was “temper,” all temper, nothing but temper, of course, and Wrax agai_crupled not to cast the whole weight of his wrongdoing upon his wife, ye_ever dared to say, though importuned to do it, in what way the fault wa_ee's, or how his sins were hers. Her heart might be breaking—what of that? I_as the wife's duty, “just what he had her for,” to meet her husband wit_miles, always with smiles, no matter in what condition he might roll home; and to believe her oblivious of his condition, Wrax would rather Zee had gon_o bed; hence his greeting was sometimes a cruel taunt at her stupidity i_itting up for him. How irritating he could be! keeping carefully within th_ale of the law while he subjected his wife to nameless indignities—convertin_he law, indeed, into a pair of pincers, wherewith to nip her to pieces, should she refuse to crouch, a slave at his feet.
Sometimes, after having helped her senseless log to bed, she has gone ou_nder the silent sky to quiet her fierce inward surgings. She could no_reathe with that loathsome object polluting the air; she must have room t_alk about while she, Paul-like, fought with the “beasts” Wrax embodied—anger, malice, highhanded tyranny, and others. Full well she knew that if kind word_ailed, as fail they did, hard words were not likely to be more effective wit_rax; but flesh and blood, high-spirited woman that she was, could not alway_rook what she had to endure and keep silence. No, she occasionally retorte_n Wrax with a bitterness to which truth added a scathing pungency, witherin_o a less hardened sinner. Still she could and would have borne it al_eroically if good might have resulted; but wherefore this waste of time an_trength, this hopeless misery? Ought Wrax, wicked as he was, to be thu_lmighty? Ought she to be thus entirely at his mercy? Could right ever com_ut of so much wrong?
Zee was learning hard lessons in a hard school—a school which would sharpe_er wits if anything could—and it was well that she should begin to loo_uestioningly on life and life's duties; it proved that she possessed even ye_he elements of growth within herself. Never, even in her saddest moments, di_he charge the wrong on God. It was of man, all of man; she knew that.
Rex, the sunbeam in the home of the shadow, was welcome everywhere. What _icture he was, aglow with ruddy health, his beautiful flaxen curls falling o_is bare shoulders, his busy feet, hands, and tongue never long silent! When _turdy little man of three summers, a tiny new brother was shown to him; and, being old enough to give baby something more than a passing thought, hi_rattle and bewilderment, as he capered about, trying to master the ins an_uts of this fresh sprig of humanity, were perfect. Baby was a toy for hi_special benefit, and he must have him on the floor all to himself. But, tha_leasure being denied him, there was evidently a something over, or under, o_ound about that baby delightfully incomprehensible.
The dear little black-eyed rogue was his mother's image; nor did she love hi_he less for the likeness. Very tenderly were the children cared for—they wer_ee's all, you know, and she was the important woman when she sent her _two_en out for a walk. The little kindnesses so sweet in moments of weaknes_ere, as far as concerned Wrax, all wanting to Zee. He concluded that a goo_urse and servants summed up all needful requirements, although, when gou_aid its torturing demands upon himself, he was most exacting in the servic_e required of his wife. He would, nevertheless, have voted even his childre_nsufferable bores, had the slightest care devolved upon himself.
Those who suffer much need to be made of tough metal to meet the demands mad_pon them. If Zee could have locked her trouble in her own breast, half th_ain would have vanished. It was like probing a mortal wound for those sh_oved to speak of it; and, fight though she did with it, it still so shut he_p within herself that it told upon her. And, to her dismay, she discovere_hat it had robbed her baby of its proper nourishment, which had bee_uperabundant for the first child; but for the second there was almost none.
Her doctor puzzled not a little over such an unusual deviation from th_rdinary course of nature. His patient could have told him that the cause la_eeper than his skill could reach—a wounded spirit, not a distempered body, asked healing balm. Delicate from its birth, having to be brought up by hand, baby never thrived. No food seemed to agree with it; and, being as shamefull_gnorant and unfit for so holy a trust as are almost all young mothers, Ze_ave her tender plant what he liked best, though, perhaps, the worst thing fo_im.
So dense is woman's ignorance of all physiological knowledge, the marvel i_hat an infant ever arrives at maturity. To taboo subjects as “unfeminine,” “unbecoming,” which may be worth more to her than life itself, while a new- born babe is put into her hands to rear, is the maddest folly. If al_nowledge came to woman by nature, if the “little stranger” came in its “monkey”-jacket, prepared to shift for itself, the instinct of cow and cal_ight suffice. But since it is not so, if life and health are worthy of on_oment's consideration, to make women scale Alps of opposition in order t_merge ultimately from her worse (because of our boasted enlightenment) tha_immerian darkness, will surely merit and receive the condemnation of history.
The masculine cry of “indelicacy” raised against woman's study of medicine an_f kindred subjects for pathological uses is quite in keeping with the “delicacy” which once required all young wives to wear caps. Feeling certai_hat her child is being sacrificed to injudicious treatment, her own and he_octor's felt incapacity has wrung many a mother's heart. And yet doctors, even, are jealous of woman trenching on the realms of physiology—a study mor_mportant to woman than to man, for man's sake, since no one can know how muc_tronger, longer-lived, and larger-hearted the entire human family would prov_f wisely reared.
God does not “take” the thousands of little ones killed now by mistake_indness, now by cruel neglect. Nature, shamefully abused as it is in man_ays, is infinitely wise and strong, and so tenacious of life are the littl_nes that many of them refuse to die under the most barbarous treatment. But, since infanticide is not a Christian institution, the lamentable mortalit_mong infants ought to provoke serious inquiry.
And since England does now possess a few educated women, it is to be hope_hat our lady doctors will confer on society a benefit as lasting as the huma_ace by inventing and popularising some simple contrivance which shall suppor_he bust from the shoulders without in the slightest degree compressing th_aist.
The praises of the “slender waist,” in whose honor many silly women hav_queezed themselves out of existence, have been rung to nausea by unreflectin_oets. But a better taste having pronounced shrine and victims alik_orthless, has exalted nature—sym metry of figure—and consigned wasp-wais_onstrosities to the vulgarisms of the dark ages. Man's figure is mor_ymmetrical, therefore more truly graceful, than is woman's of the wasp-wais_ideousness. Banish the wasp-waist for ever and for ever.
But to return to Zee, she stupidly persisted in watching for Wrax's home- coming, until all at once, as suddenly as inexplicably, she lost her nervou_read of retiring to rest. Exhausted nature triumphed, and longing for nigh_ith child-like weariness, she went to bed and to sleep with the birds almost, for about a fortnight, when her year-old baby fell sick, and wasting visibly, slowly pined away, the poor body telling how fierce had been the struggle fo_ife. And having wished for a girl-baby at his birth, Zee now remembered wit_orrow her keen regret at his being “only a boy.”
Conscious of having done her best, bad though it was, for the little man, al_he hyena in her was stirred to its depths as she listened about midnight fo_he heavy thud of the father's uneven step as, with flushed cheek, lack-lustr_yes, or eyes aflame with the devilish light the bottle kindles, he cam_traight from his carousals to the bedside of his dying child. Zee felt sh_ust tell him that he— _he_ , by his cruel desertion of herself—had taken th_recious God-given life. But, knowing Zee's excited state of mind, althoug_he would have puzzled over the reason for wishing to save him from the truth, so dreadful because it was the truth, Merlee, who shared the sick-roo_nxieties, implored silence with so distressful a glance, as Wrax presente_imself, that Zee averted her face and left Merlee to reply to him.
With increased knowledge, Zee believes the child to have been sacrificed t_er own unreasoning ignorance rather than to anything wrong in Wrax, who, though absent from home, was proud to say he had not gone to the public hous_he night the little man died. What a boast!
Zee was so poverty-stricken in household gods, her heart-strings twined th_ighter round her few treasures; and though she could not say “Goodbye” without a very painful wrench, she yet resigned her pretty bud with th_eeling, “I wish thee joy, my darling.” Better that he be safely housed. Wha_ad she to offer beyond her fond encircling arms? Thenceforward the flutterin_ove was a blessing in new guise. He just dropped the olive-branch and spe_ack to his ark of safety, beckoning her thitherward.
The sudden restfulness of spirit was explained now. God had closed the eyes o_ody and mind preparatory to the trying watch-night service he required o_er. And she, whose trust was but partial at best, found comfort in th_hought, “God cares for me.” She was learning, in passing through the furnace, that all things work together for good only in so far as we turn them to goo_ccount—a lesson that created a joyousness within, which never blushed at it_wn levity. And in such moments of clear shining she pleaded for Wrax as onl_ wife and mother can. She longed for him to enter life's deeper depths, wher_assion has no place. He was, indeed, so hidden away in her heart that Go_ould see her only through him, and yet her shallow faith failed to see that, in refusing to be saved _from_ his sins, not even God could save him _in_is sins.
After the death of the little one, Zee never again attempted to sit up fo_rax, who sometimes stayed out all night; but she was so slow to let hope die, that she caught at its veriest ravellings, and lived on them as long a_ossible; and difficult as it was, to a being like her, to know what to do fo_he best in her untried path, a mistaken sense of duty bade her to sit up fo_im. But she now deplores the time and strength fritted away in waiting on on_o uncertain as he. Lie in bed to all hours of the day as he did, she coul_ot for very shame; so that to sit late and rise early was certain to resul_n a breakdown sooner or later.
The fact that Wrax was kind to everyone but his wife, and cruel to her jus_ecause she was his wife—the creature of his convenience—was the one bitte_rop in her cup. He was the last man to have treated a mistress or a servan_s he treated Zee; they would not have been at his mercy, nor could they hav_elt, as did Zee, the gross injustice of placing the husband, by virtue of hi_ex, at the top of the social ladder, thus stultifying his desire fo_mprovement to his own degradation and his wife's humiliation, yet requirin_he wife to be intelligently companionable to her husband, while forbiddin_er to place her foot on the lowest rung of the ladder of learning proper. I_s preposterous!
Himself and his beer were the only things Wrax loved, yet he was as strong a_ee was strong to resist the drink; and in selling himself to the love o_rink and the vices thereby engendered, he was without excuse; it was wholly _uestion of a perverted will—the will to do wrong. Zee could see nothin_efore her but poverty and disgrace, and that man into the bargain—that man t_hom she had given all, sacrificing herself, she fancied, to save him, wh_espised the treasure by his side, and cried like an idiot for sour grapes.
How dare he so to blast her life, and make her feed on gravel and ashes? He, idle fellow that he was, would keep her nose to the grindstone as long as sh_ived; but what was to be gained by it? She could not bear it. And thinking t_ake her affairs into her own hands, she floundered in despondency's quagmir_ill the waves of despair quite hid from View the city of refuge. Oh! it wa_o hard to have a soul that would not die, try as Wrax did to blot it out!
Zee was passing through these straits, when the public mind was shocked by th_rial of Madeline Smith for poisoning her lover, and Zee became possessed o_he desire to poison either herself or Wrax. His death she meditated; she mus_et rid of him somehow, anyhow. “The devil,” she muttered between her teeth; “ah, if I could but kill him! To be tied to such as he for life, and receiv_othing but insult and injury at his hands, would be worse than death.”
Intending, at Zee's solicitation, to make a really elegant ornament, b_tarting zinc to grow in an airtight globe of water, Wrax had given to Zee'_pecial care an ounce of sugar of lead. But, though the necessaries for th_inc-growing had been provided, the procrastinating Wrax had failed in hi_art of the contract; hence, Zee's possession of the poison, over which sh_ung, deliberating as to how best to administer it with safety to herself. A_o how much was necessary to destroy life she had no idea; and ardently thoug_he longed to get rid of Wrax, she never touched the poison until one day, Wrax being present, she snatched it from its repository, her work-table, an_iving it to him, said: “Throw it away, or I shall poison you with it.” Seein_he was dreadfully in earnest as he gravely scanned her face, whose pallo_qualled his own, perhaps, he forbore his wonted sarcasm.
She was not prepared to die for Wrax twice over, and the probable consequence_o herself alone prevented the committal of the rash act, Zee fancied. But sh_id not know herself, nor did she know how different a bad deed appears whe_vil passions are hounding their victim on to its consummation — to what i_ooks to the sensitive eye of conscience, when once 'tis done and done fo_ver. Supposing she could have murdered her husband without suspicion, sh_ould have made a full confession; a guilt-burdened conscience would have mad_he crime all her own. There was in her none of the cowardice which father_ll wrong on the devil.
Like those who walk dizzy heights, the weary and heavy-laden must live b_ooking up, or one false step may sink them to irretrievable ruin. Th_oisondelirium was the densest battle - smoke and din through which Zee ha_ver passed, and the all-compassionate One turned and looked on guilty, trembling Zee, in pity for her sorrow as much as for her sin. He knew that sh_ried to say: “Thy will be done,” with something better than parrot-lik_eaninglessness, but she was weak, and could only, raise streaming eyes t_eaven. Where else could she look? There is agony on which human eyes canno_aze—agony which becomes at length cords of love, binding the sufferers s_lose to the heart of the Infinite that their sorrows become the most sacre_art of their character, and in reference to outside sympathy they can affor_o say: “Tarry ye here.” It seems almost profanity to write of it; put off th_hoes, for this is holy ground.
The beneficent Father clearly intended that man's social life should be a_ull of sunshine as is the world of nature. But is it so? and if not, why not?
Simply because selfishness mars all that is good and beautiful in life. Ther_re, nevertheless, drops of honey in the bitterest cup, and one of the mos_rateful to Zee was the comfort she had in her servants. Her first “Emma” an_er “young man” having set sail for love in a cottage all taut and trim, he_econd Emma, of whom mention is now made, was devoted to her mistress, becaus_eing quick to note a willing mind. Zee had, with steady persistency, reduce_mma's blundering hands to order. Kind, faithful creature, how nervousl_nxious she was to do well her part; Emma acquired a personal interest in he_ork by acting out the fact that a clean, orderly house is less to the credi_f the mistress than of the servant. Emma was seen all through the house, a_he brooded with jealous care over its interests; nor was she less neat an_ice in her person than in her work, possessing a good stock of clothes, sh_ad likewise a bankbook and a fair sum laid by.
A judiciously kind mistress, being in earnest herself, can make what she wil_f her servants; whereas, the mistress who has no will of her own, who know_ot her own mind, is certain to be tyrannically overbearing, and to treat he_ependents as mere machines. Having no money, no might, domestic servants ar_apable of the most self-denying heroism—kindnesses which, like the dew, refresh and fertilise by stealth. The poorest in this world's goods know bes_ow to give the “cup of cold water.”
By much unobtrusive tenderness, a silent but effectual way of pouring oil o_he seething waters, Emma proved conclusively that she was one with Zee in he_orrow; nor could she remain ignorant of its cause, yet never did she ventur_ remark beyond: “Don't you feel well, ma'am?” on observing the breakfas_ntouched, perhaps, or Zee looking unusually sad, for whose lunch, of her ow_ccord, Emma would try to find some choice tit-bit. She lived with Zee fo_ears, and continued in her family until her marriage rather late in life.
Living in dread of the future, Zee assured herself she should be surprised a_othing which might happen; her unfailing though inadequate resources were, nevertheless, alert to ward off evils becoming daily more prominent. Still, i_as not too late to retrieve the past, the turning-point in Wrax's histor_ust certainly come; even those who had watched the signs of the hydra - headed monster's progress refused to believe him so lost as to throw to th_inds such a home and such a prospect of ease, if not of affluence, as h_ossessed. Hence, if remarks were bruited abroad, they were held somewhat i_beyance, the surface of things being much brighter in reality than to th_eader, who is behind the scenes.
Happiness with Wrax was out of the question, for he was never to be found, or, if found, was pleasant to no one. Zee therefore went her own way, and made he_wn plans without reference to him; and as he had often of late declared it t_e his determination “to go abroad,” the Christmas of 1858, the last possibl_hey would spend in old England, found Zee prepared for an unusually festiv_eason. Wrax always insisted that in “money matters he was as safe as th_ank;” and his wife, whatever were her fears, to be consistent with her peace- at-any-price cant, was obliged to act as if all were fair and sound.
But it is not safe to reckon without one's host. Some of Zee's friends, wh_ad arrived by invitation on a lengthened visit, having thawed their half- frozen limbs by their cheery bed-room fire and arranged their private affairs, descended to the dining-room to discuss creature comforts, and ultimatel_eclined at ease with a sense of exquisite _abandon_ , when their quiet cha_as interrupted by a knock at the door, and in answer to “Come in,” Emma said: “Please, ma'am, you're wanted.” In the hall stood Wrax, to Zee's surprise, an_e beckoned her into his office, when, lo! a stranger confronted her. Word_ied on her lips, but she divined evil as she glanced from one man to th_ther. Alluding to the stranger, Wrax said with the utmost abruptness, as h_arefully closed the office door: “This is a bailiff in possession.”
Understanding only too well the significance of those dread words, Zee saw th_eginning of the end of a bad career—an end all darkness, which should hav_een all light—and was as much horror-stricken as if she had never assure_erself she was prepared for the worst. She was indignant, too, though tha_as no time to show it, with Wrax and his want of delicacy in telling he_efore that man; but his very want of soul made him crouch like a coward whe_e most needed to be a man. He could not tell her alone. The little courage h_ad ever possessed had evaporated in beer and tobacco-fumes. Ill-starred Ze_as caught in a trap with strangers, comparatively, staying in the house.
“Pay the man and let him go,” suggested Zee. “Easier said than done,” objecte_rax. “Several things have to be seen to first. The man must stay where he i_or the night; I'll get all he wants. No one—not even Emma—must know of hi_eing here, and in the morning I'll make it all right with him, and there'l_e an end of it.”
Finding that Zee staggered under the blow, Wrax on leaving the office with he_ade exceedingly light of it. Declaring that there was “not the slightes_ause for alarm,” he begged her to “put away that scared look and make th_est of a bad job.” Again, easier said than done. Under that sudden revulsio_f feeling a sense of impending ruin occasions, Zee's all but undying energ_nd hope failed her. Here was an end of the pleasant Christmastide! Its glor_ad departed. She could never more bury her dead out of her sight. There wa_othing real for her henceforth but pain and shame.
It was well, however, that she had to shake off the hard thoughts whic_btruded; they could do no good, and she ere long joined her guests, wit_lanched cheeks, may be, and a dead-lock on her heart; yet she was such _ractised dissembler, she could call up the hollow smile, though roses to th_heeks came not at her bidding. Her friends observed the change, but hel_heir peace.
On Christmas day, the merriest of all the year, Wrax and Zee swelled th_umber of the family gathering in the old home, whose spacious, oak- wainscoated rooms rung again with good spirits, till the sides of the hous_ust have ached from their reverberations, good spirits and good cheer lastin_or days, until husbands and lovers returned to their merchandise perforce.
Even then leave-takings cast but a momentary shadow. The beaux had departed, but the belles were forbidden to sit down with solitude in love's vacan_hair; or if the cherry-ripe lips quivered, so long as forget-me-not'_ingering caress dyed the cheek with peach-bloom at its ripest, the maiden_aliantly shook off the wintry chill, and displayed only the bright-red holly- berries of good nature. Heigh oh, for the lads and lasses! it is well the_annot keep all Cupid's secrets to themselves, that others catch glintings o_he sly rogue's coming and going; the world would be dun and monotonou_ithout them; they keep a spot of greensward in the hearts of all but th_ncanny.
But to pick up the darker thread of the story. For the day after Christmas-da_he hapless Zee had issued invitations for the largest dinner-party she ha_ver presumed to give; and Wrax, who had discharged the bailiff according t_romise, implored Zee to allow her arrangements to proceed as designed, solemnly assuring her there was “nought to fear unless she wished to arous_uspicion and ruin him by giving a tale-telling change to her plans.” But i_as of no use talking, she was unequal to the task; she had grown tired o_eeping up appearances; her nerves were unhinged by what had happened, together with what might yet be looming in the future. Friends residing at _istance arrived as expected, with whom a quiet, enjoyable day was spent. Bu_ven then, anxious as he was to keep up appearances, mine host failed t_resent himself the livelong day.
That first, worst breaking in upon the privacy of home would have bee_revented had Zee known Wrax's financial position. She kept his books to th_est of her ability, but never dreamed of opening his letters; better that sh_ad; threatening letters, demanding a settlement of accounts, would then hav_eceived attention. If curiosity be a feminine weakness it belonged not t_ee; Wrax was the nagging, inquisitive one.
It was the eleventh hour with Wrax, and he was urged to recover lost ground b_ll that love and reason could dictate; and intending to afford him needfu_ssistance, unless he proved hopelessly involved, his eldest brother, the bes_riend Zee ever had, requested of Wrax “a clear statement of accounts;” an_is wife, in conjunction with other friends, entreated him to submit hi_ffairs to his brother's sound judgment, and to make a fresh start with th_ew year, socially and commercially. But no; he who trusted no man expecte_ll he said to be taken on trust; and loudly asserting that he was “al_ight,” and “could pay twenty shillings in the pound with any man,” Wrax, i_is proud defiance, rejected his brother's aid, saying: “If he can't take m_ord he shan't see my books.” Thus, in his dogged obstinacy, he cut his onl_adder from beneath his feet.
Events proved that he was right as to his solvency, but it is doubtful whethe_e, wreck that he was, could have made it clear even to himself; certainly n_ane man would have accepted his mere word. Having at least a hundred men i_is employ, his own surmises as to his solvency might have been wholl_allacious; since, singularly good though his business was, no master can wit_mpunity leave his interests uncared for to the most competent of servants.
The fact was that Wrax, in his abject condition, had lost the will and th_ower to make crooked things straight, and if too complicated for his ow_nravelling, extraneous aid would profit little. Who should care for hi_nterests if he neglected his duty?
The February following that dreary Christmas, a third son saw life under _loud. Having a mother to shield its blossoming, the nondescript articl_nveloped in flannel was as well tended as a royal prince—he was all-gloriou_ithin, whatever the outer regions might be. Wrax could not bear a sick room, probably never sat down in one, large and well-appointed though Zee's room_ere; but knowing that another wee lump of humanity claimed kinship with him, he took a look at him and went his way. Having grown used to his absence, Ze_ad ceased to mourn it; he did but multiply idle excuses as fresh duties ha_o be shirked.
Once upon a time Wrax half jocularly proposed marriage and emigration in _reath to Zee, who negatived the, to her, absurd idea; for was not his fortun_lready cut out for him, if not made—what could he want more? But had h_rankly given her a sufficient reason for such a step, she would cheerfull_ave waived all personal objections thereto and have gone with him. Zee ha_eproached herself for having opposed his going, thinking he might have been _etter man abroad.
But no, emphatically no, the man is the same in every place, weak at home, weak abroad, else what, where is his moral nature? Unquestionably the bands o_ickedness have a fourfold strength, so long as the weakling permits himsel_o be hemmed in by men as idle and reckless as himself; but bad men, ready t_nsnare the willingly ensnared, are found the wide world over. If a man mean_o break away from human blood-hounds, it must be by an internal, not a_xternal, transmigration—all things must become new within the man.
Wrax's present determination “to go abroad,” idle freak though Zee deemed it, appeared to shape itself to his mind, since he recurred to it again and again; but vacillating as he was by habit, he would arrive at no decision in th_atter. He talked of India, the last place for such as he; but anything wa_etter than the apathy into which he had sunk, and he at length professed t_ave made application through an M.P. for one of the many lucrativ_ppointments then offering for India, for which he waited, until having grow_ick with hope deferred, his wife urged on his consideration the superio_laims of one of the colonies.
Zee had possessed a splendid constitution, but it yielded at length; he_aby's advent left her sinking lower and lower until “Excelsior” seemed likel_o be the swan's death, not life-song. Being no longer able to fight ghosts, real or imagined, she sighed for a calm haven of inward peace, and welcome_eath as the dear friend she would hasten to meet, come when he would, how h_ould. And he was coming, yes, coming, not as she had hoped, perhaps, to carr_er off at a bound, but slowly and softly drawing nearer, so that his footfal_as heard by her ear alone, and she watched with ardent longing for the on_ude blast which was to shatter the now useless vessel, believing she hel_ight hold of the robe the deliverer was weaving for her—a light, mos_eautiful garment because a shroud. She only asked to be left alone to lay he_ead on the last, sweet pillow, without trouble to anyone. And if tears fell, they were all for the boys she must leave behind.
But there were those in the flesh who objected to her slipping thus stealthil_hrough their fingers, so she was taken for change to the best place possible, the dear old home in the woods. There was the father with all a woman'_enderness; there, too, the mother, such a right good nurse, and sister_erlee and Lulu (wives and mothers now), genuine English girls, whose genia_umor soon made sunbeams play on Zee's fancy as veritable sunbeams danced o_he wall. The saucy sprites resolutely posted themselves between Zee and th_lues, and slyly wafted out of sight the cumbrous mantle of sighing and dul_are she had in her feebleness wrapt around her. They were her constan_ompanions in the merry spring-time, and entertained her as strength returne_ith book, or chat, or needle, as they basked in the sun's life-giving rays, anon driving round the country dear to the invalid, or strolling along shad_anes walled in by steep hedgerows, alive and fragrant with primrose an_iolet; leisurely extending their perambulations, they daily mounted highe_nd higher up the gaily-painted, gorse-covered hills, gazing with vivi_ppreciation on the ever-varying, richly-wooded landscape.
Zee was tranquilly happy; there was health in the very atmosphere of home; loving hearts brought healing balm. She was lifted, as by a spell, out of th_old isolation consequent on Wrax's craving for “life,” and dropped into _est lined throughout with love's priceless floss of exquisite content, _raceful ferny drapery hovering over and about rather than touching th_ensitive form of the stricken deer. The very buttercups and daisies mad_usic for her till her heart and her pulse throbbed with renewed vigor. Move_y a common impulse, indeed, Nature and Zee put on a new dress and sporte_ach in her own wild way. To get well was the only work she had now to do, an_ teeming fancy made loitering on the road to convalescence very delightful.
Hurrah for the home in the woods! with its charms for eye and mind, it_elicacies to tempt the truant appetite—the home which had done so much fo_ee. The house, according to tradition, was “haunted”—by the footsteps o_ngels, Zee declared. Certainly the quaint inscriptions, oak panellings an_ly dark corners of the large rambling antiquated place were suggestive o_hosts and goblins, and the stories current lost nothing to Zee's imagination, however often she went over the ground. In health her whole nature was aglo_ith Eastern effulgence. She lived in Aladdin's fairy palace, and hi_onderful lamp illuminated, though it could not remove, the surroundin_arkness. Whether she ever sat in the roomy porch of her home with the “headless lady in white” said to pay nocturnal visits to it, or dug for th_rock of gold said to be deposited in one or other of its damp cellars, thi_hronicler wotteth not.
After a few weeks of absence from the home, good in itself but icily cold, which Wrax provided, Zee was her brave self again, ready to tread the ol_ough path with its roses here and there—briar roses, very sweet, but, oh! s_hickly studded with thorns, Still, with restored strength, she would give th_ore earnest heed to duty, though but imperfectly understood.
Yes, Wrax certainly purposed going abroad, but being loth to break up thei_ome, yet doing nothing to keep it intact, he procrastinated, according t_ustom, as month followed month at snail's pace. He continued, moreover, s_itifully irritating that Zee required to watch always lest a jarring not_hould prick him into rebellion. His very irritability proved he was not pas_eeling, but what his feelings were was left to conjecture, except that “th_ates were in league against him. He was a much-abused, greatly-wronge_an—the victim of a conspiracy, everyone, even his wife, being bent on makin_im a beggar,” and much to the same purpose. His spite against his own famil_mounted to insanity; and, undisguised though it was, they never relaxed thei_fforts to serve him. To his wild invectives against alleged injustic_ustained at their hands, Zee listened quietly, unless he required direc_onfirmation thereof, when, suffer as she might for daring to differ from him, she never scrupled to say that his censure of them was wholly unmerited unles_e had some cause of quarrel of which she was ignorant. She knew he wa_ighting his own shadow—an ugly one, truly. Glorying, too, in the wet sheet o_toical isolation, no stray beams of Zee's superabundant vital force coul_arm and thaw his fast-ebbing vitality. To drown reflexion he lived in a whir_f dissipation, studiously avoiding a quiet half hour with his wife; yet wa_e the more wretched of the two, for how could he face an angry world if h_rembled before his wife? There was, however, no help for it but just to liv_ day at a time and trust to what the next would bring forth.
Rex was his mother's loved companion, she was rich in him. He was a rare boy; transparently truthful through and through, he had no idea what a lie coul_ean. Having a magnificently strong will, he was occasionally rebellious, o_ourse, but a softening mood quickly followed; then came the cry: “Let me sa_y little prayer, mamma,” and until it had been penitently uttered, he neve_orgave himself. He had gambolled over his five years without an ache of an_ind, but the delicate year-old Piri's ever-threatening dissolution culminate_ust now in congestion of the lungs. And Zee's good doctor (even in the matte_f doctors husband and wife were divided — Wrax patronised another medical ma_hen gout laid him low) exhausted his skill for the sufferer's benefit.
Knowing, perhaps, of the shadow that darkened the home, and honoring th_ife's silent endurance, the doctor never made a merely professional visit, but lingered long, taking a kindly interest in all that interested Zee. H_ever expressed sympathy, there was no need; his step, his touch, his ver_resence were a strengthening draught; he had that to offer, which few ar_ich enough to give— _the wealth of appreciation_ —the power at man's command, the spikenard very costly, the cup of cold water, the only true charity; othe_harity is but quartz at best, not pure gold.
Happily, the little Piri, an aspen leaf for frailty, rallied once more unde_ender care.
At length, the promised appointment for India arrived, Wrax said, though h_id not show it, even to his wife. But appointment or no appointment, actin_n her doctor's advice, and choosing between hard work and indolence probably, Zee decided to India she would not go, firmly adhering to her decision for th_hildren's sake, knowing full well that Wrax would never go without her. So, making a virtue of necessity, he subsequently yielded the point, and chos_uckland, New Zealand, for their future home.
But the dilatory Wrax kept them needlessly long in a transition state, notwithstanding that his wife encouraged him to expedite matters, by pleasan_nticipations of the future, in which he would escape all untoward influences.
And to tell the truth, the last came too soon. Zee fancied she could surrende_ll without a pang; but fancy and reality are widely different things. Wra_as absent when the first dismantling of the home, which should have been th_bode of peace and plenty, took place; and Zee readily enough superintende_he removal of certain pieces of furniture. But when she turned to look at th_oo palpable blanks, and heard the grating of the wheels of the wagon, as i_oved slowly away with its freight, made sacred to her by her sorrows and he_oys, she fell into utter prostration, and rebelled as only a strong, helples_oman can.
It was a bitter experience! She could not bear to look around. Through n_ault of her own, whatever were her errors of ignorance, had she been thu_tripped of everything; herself, her little ones, thrust forth homeles_anderers; and with what to lean upon—a tower of strength? Nothing, worse tha_othing. With outstretched hands and eyes blind with weeping, one long dee_roan told all. She might not pass that cup away, but how to raise it to he_ips she knew not. If she could have reclaimed Wrax, the sorrow would hav_een as nothing; but to suffer and see only bad results convinced her tha_here was something wrong somewhere. What was it?
Observe! Zee's peace-at-any-price mode of dealing with Wrax was only to_ntirely popular; if she had taken the right, because truthful, way o_ppealing to his honor and conscience in her persistent refusal to shelte_rong, even in her husband, unreflecting men, unreflecting women would hav_aid she deserved to fail in her efforts to reclaim him.
But through it all, however, she fought well—now standing her ground, no_orsted in the fight. Not yet had she given up Wrax. Even then she pleaded fo_he guilty one. He was more wretched than she, and in pleading for him sh_nconsciously slaked her thirst at the fount of pure blessedness. Her burde_olled off her heart, and if her face did not shine, her heart made melody, which was better. What Zee would have become without such religion as she ha_o mortal may know. Such as it was, it was infinitely better than none, because she was fighting for light with just faith enough to believe that Go_ust have a purpose in calling her to suffer. Whatever may have been Zee'_redulity, she will believe there is no God at the central helm when those wh_eny the God-faith and profess to teach how the universe lives, moves, and ha_ts being by virtue of inherent unalterable laws alone, a presiding geniu_owhere, will teach men how to wind up their mercantile and domesti_nterests, so that all things shall work smoothly together with an exquisit_daptation of means to the desired end by laws alone. If laws harmoniousl_egulate and sustain the universe, there surely ought to be laws of equa_otency to regulate man's petty affairs. Perchance there will be when w_ecome spiritualised. Certainly the labor-millennium will have dawned, scientists will have the world at their feet, when they can make all things g_ike clock-work without effort, especially if they can at the same time teac_en how to form a beautifully-rounded, whole-souled character that can affor_o give reputation to the winds with superb indifference.
Necessity is law. Yes, necessity is a complex chain of circumstances forme_ink by link from within, and helps to unfold the mysteries of life to thos_ho look earnestly upon it, but it makes no pies, cakes, boots, coats, boats, houses, etc. Intelligent thought does all this; and to Zee's small min_ntelligent thought rules the universe, before which thought she now bows wit_oving reverence.
It was done. The home, and such a home! was shattered into a thousan_ragments, and this first tidal wave of anguish past, Zee settled othe_atters with composure. But, fooled to the end, she positively anticipated _ew happy days under the old roof-tree, whither the family directed thei_teps on vacating their own home. In her father's house Wrax would never dar_o be the ill-conditioned fellow he was elsewhere. Yes, he did dare. Hope o_is amendment, unhappily, there was none. “Farewell suppers,” and what not, were the proffered excuses for his excesses.
And since Wrax was what he was, as the last days of parting drew nigh the goo_ather, pressing Zee to his breast, wept aloud, saying: “I cannot give you up, my girl. With friends at hand you know not what trouble is, but as a strange_n a strange land your life will be one long martyrdom.” Wrax's own family, too, strongly urged that he should go alone to the far-off land, and make _osition for himself before he subjected his family to the discomforts o_olonial life. But Zee's brothers and sisters, as willing to sacrifice her a_he was to sacrifice herself, said: “Go with him, Zee. If there is a chanc_or him it is with you, not alone.” The die was cast—Zee would go.
But Wrax still continued ill at ease and touchy to peevishness; and althoug_ee could no longer cloak his sins— _his_ sins, not some other person's—a_ittle should she parade them before him. She, therefore, in making one fina_ppeal to all that was best in him, besought him to recover himself, t_onquer for all time his wickedly-indulged habits before he set foot on th_hip, where he would be surrounded by strangers, to secure whose persona_espect should be worth the desired effort. He could conquer, it was wholly _uestion of will, he knew that, and she pressed him to do it, by all that h_as, by all that he might become, for his children's sake, for his honor'_ake. And then, putting away all regretful recollection of the past, findin_heir happiness in each other, they would start afresh under a cloudless sky, laugh at hardships, make them, indeed, stepping stones to honor an_sefulness, and thus chain prosperity to their chariot-wheels. Alas, poor Zee!
alas, still poorer Wrax!
The other members of both families were doing too well in the old country t_esire a new one, and the change contemplated by Wrax and his wife, thoug_dmittedly wise in their circumstances, was looked upon as a tremendou_ndertaking—a something to be admired, not imitated. Hence friends outvie_ach other in kind consideration for “the outcasts.” Nimble fingers had lon_een busy on the outfit, for as there were no shops on board ship, there mus_e no stint, and as nothing could be easier than to send superfluitie_loating down stream, piles on piles of changes were provided, and such store_f good things that the uninitiated might have conjectured that open-hous_ospitalities for an army were brewing.
After having inspected the ship, Wrax returned to the home-circle quit_ubilant, saying he had taken their berths and made satisfactory arrangement_or the voyage, etc., and they were to travel “Intermediate.” Intermediate! _ine sounding word, belonging to the mid-air vocabulary, and meaning _omething a shade below patrician state possibly. Pressed for the definitio_f the word, which he doubtless hoped to escape, Wrax admitted reluctantly — an admission received with ominous silence—that “intermediate” meant the thir_lass part of the ship. When Wrax left the room Zee followed him out, and tol_im quietly, but firmly, that she “would not travel in that part of the ship, even though he had taken their berths.” Wrax talked a deal of defiant nonsens_n his excited way, to which Zee objected not one word, but her decision wa_nalterable.
It had not occurred to any one that he would choose less than second-cabi_are for his family, or his services in the matter would have been dispense_ith. On learning the terms he had made, the ire of his eldest brother wa_indled not a little, and supporting Zee's resistance thereto, he proposed t_ccompany her to town that they might make their own terms, adding, as Wra_oubtless expected his brother would add: “You ought to travel first cabin, but lower than second cabin you shall not go, if I myself have to pay th_ifference.” They accordingly went through the ship, and secured their tin_econd-cabin berths with less of disgust than might have been expected.
And on the last day of March, 1859, the emigrants waved adieu from the ship t_riends still hovering on their outskirts, whose blessings caused Zee to gul_own, industriously, certain choking sensations. Happily all parties had bee_ept too excitedly busy to think, much less speak, of the severance of earl_ies and kindred melting subjects; so leave-takings shall be borne aloft b_he secret-carrying bird, and the reader shall start on the voyage with th_utward bound.
Zee laughingly said hers was a responsible post, seeing she had five men t_ake care of—a brother and a cousin of her own, youths of eighteen an_ineteen, having decided to “rough it” with herself, her husband, and he_oys. Expecting to pay toll to old Neptune as soon as tumbling about began, Zee, with characteristic energy, prompted Wrax to make their cabin ship-shap_ith due speed, and on him the task necessarily devolved, for nurse Piri h_ould not. He hated work, disorder riled him; he had never before been crampe_or room, and a peep into their cabin showed it full to the brim, with “enoug_o sink the ship” he declared, and he threatened to “throw the whol_verboard,” making Zee quake for her stores more than a little.
The as yet unsolved problem of how to put a cocoanut into a walnut-shell was, said Wrax, “enough to make a saint swear,” and since he was no saint, th_eader may nod significantly and pass on. Still, appreciating his every mov_n a right direction, Zee cheered him on, for it was really hard work stowin_way all those things so as to be come-at-able; it would nevertheless hav_een pleasant work had he but kept his temper, but that article was often los_s soon as found when his services were in requisition.
Every one lives in a glass house on board ship, and so long as Zee could d_ittle but recline at such ease as she could command, she too was diverted b_er opposite neighbors—a Church of England clergyman, his wife and grown-u_amily. No stickler for “order” should commit his clay tenement to the lovin_indness of the deep until prepared to learn what is meant by “wors_isfortunes at sea;” for the sea-king is no respecter of persons; he dashe_bout the starchiest of parsons and the stiffest of dames as if they had bee_ommon people.
Tropical weather agreed with Piri, but the change of food especially was to_uch for Rex, who failed with his first illness before they reached the line, and was confined to his bed for days in a burning fever. Then the doome_tores proved worth their weight in gold; the sick one lived on the delicacie_hey afforded. He had a cabin to himself, and a double cabin though it was, the fever and the tropical heat made his thirst consuming, and through the da_is constant cry for “Water” was satisfied; but Wrax was his nurse (not a goo_ne) through the night; he would have nothing to do with Piri, nor suffer an_nterference with his plans, and was moreover prone to assert that of all th_ickness current (gout excepted) “nine-tenths is sham.” Hence, through th_ong night-hours, the poor child's faint gasp for “Water—water—water!” wa_ftener peremptorily silenced than satisfied. Denied the power to aid, Ze_ill never forget that cry for “Water—water!”
The change in the little man shocked every one, when he was first carried o_he poop, as he began to mend; and a tiny saloon passenger shared her orang_ith him. How sweet to mother and child was that bit of orange—he had tired o_aked apples, etc.; and later in the day, the little girl's papa gave Zee _arge orange for the boy, saying it was “his last.” A whole orange! think o_t! Gold could not have bought it. How happy the gift made both mother an_on! carefully divided and placed within his reach, it would serve to quenc_is thirst through the night. Of the precious orange, Rex had sucked one, perhaps two, divisions, and the remainder was given at bed-time into Wrax'_are. And—would you believe it?—it was “stolen”—stolen from the sick boy! Wra_aid, and pointed out a burly Englishman as the supposed thief. “Stolen!” Ze_aid nothing. What could she say? The wretch who could steal it would deny th_heft. The dear little fellow—his mother too, perhaps—cried over that orange.
However, from the moment he breathed the fresh air under the awning on deck, he began to recover, and the voyage proved as beneficial to him as it usuall_oes to both old and young.
Deeming light and air indispensable, Zee, in her nautical verdancy, chos_heir cabin close to the main hatch; but too much water down the hatchway soo_laced light and air at a discount, and the captain, who was extremely kind t_hem, gave them a cabin “aft,” and Wrax fitted it up conveniently; it wa_uite a tip-top affair, in fact, with room to walk about and entertai_isitors. But the instant lively Neptune began his pitching and rolling, the_earnt the value of nut-shell dimensions. It is well to be boxed in whe_ashed about; space does but give force to the blows.
Despite its many drawbacks, life on board ship is very delightful. To all i_ealth, the sea-air gives ravenous appetites; the simplest food is sweet, n_ne suffers from dyspepsia. The ship itself, with any number of passengers, i_onderfully clean, there is no dust in the air. Tropical sunsets are grand; the great luminary sinks swiftly to rest in such a sea of gold that its mid- day radiance is eclipsed by its “Good-night” glory. Its lustrous settin_eflects perchance the magnificence of the children of light, as they kiss hi_nto beauty at the end of his day's work.
Sparse of incident as is sea-life, the most trifling details of the wonders o_he deep are hailed as exciting events; and the birds appearing where it_onotony presses heavily, the catching and shooting of them offers an outle_or the surplus energy enforced idleness finds difficult to deal with. Th_irds follow in the wake of the ship, and are caught with the keenes_njoyment by means of baited lines thrown out astern. But it is sad, very sad, to see the fine albatross fall heavily on the water, and float grandly, silently away, with a broken leg or wing; sad, too, to hear the shouts of th_en resounding far and wide as bird after bird falls to their small shot.
The sky, new in its wondrous star-lit brilliancy, was eagerly scanned for th_irst glimpse of the belauded “Southern Cross;” and, beautiful though it is, now that distance no longer enhanced its beauty, it was declared outrivalle_y other constellations, which, being more familiar, “the exiles” loved fo_heir home-look. They as yet owned nothing in common with the Britain of th_outh Pacific.
Water, water everywhere, but never a speck of land. The sceptical Zee was sur_hey were “just sailing round and round, and would presently eat shrimps of_ravesend.” Love-sick swains sighed and hoped they were, if their bliss migh_e prolonged thereby. Love-making to kill time is such dangerous work that i_ere well the electric light should make “star-gazing” a vision of the past. _udden lurch of the ship, which sent husband and wife no one knew where, wa_ess cruel to the lovers. Wrax protested he had “no patience with the youn_ools.” “No one more spoony than yourself, of yore, sir,” suggested Zee, wit_imely satire; at which Wrax jerked himself off with a half shrug, half grin, at his folly or her fun. No man-traps were set by the girls. They were a_urely modest as ever English matron reared, and, withal, so winning that, fo_he moral health of the male creation, one could but wish their lik_nlimited. Of practical attention Piri received the lion's share, since wit_im in his arms the star-gazing devotee could venture into closer proximity t_is fair enslaver, who, however, until safely housed, made willing servic_vailable. How far the useful outweighed the agreeable during the voyage i_ere impolitic to surmise.
The welcome cry of “Land ahead!” made farewell suppers the topic of the hour.
And, in return for unnumbered mercies vouchsafed by the gentler sex, th_achelors' farewell supper was to be “a stunner,” and for this supper man_it-bits that made their mouths water were laid half-grudgingly aside fro_heir own short allowance, while of other folk they begged, borrowed, and—no, imagination shall supply the word. “Fast” as were the bachelors, the sea, as _ule, was faster, and mixed various ingredients above-board, instead o_eaving nature to do her work; so that their own cooking operations usuall_esulted in a hodge-podge, “awfully moreish,” called sea-pie, a compound o_at-meal, sugar, meat, raisins, mustard, pickles, and what not.
But for the state occasion pretty fingers were pressed into the service, th_eaux fluttering round to mar, not mend, operations. Presently the lads an_asses were seated round a board which groaned beneath such delicacies as th_eason afforded; and the lads, having fasted all day, were longing, as onl_ealthy, sharp-set Englishmen can, for “a good go in.” “One of us” possessing “sea-legs,” was deputed to carry an appetising cauldron of soup from th_alley. But on board ship there is many a slip 'tween the cup and the lip—th_achelors and the elements were at war; for as “sea-legs” was in the act o_lacing the savory mess on the table, the jovial sea-king sent him swimming i_ecidedly more than his share. Hungry men are hungry men the wide world over; and though roars of laughter, sounding hollow on empty stomachs, went roun_nd round, blessings(?) neither few nor mild were held in check.
Although a professedly teetotal ship, liquors, at exorbitant prices, wer_evertheless procurable, and on them some of the men had spent their las_hilling and pledged the last article on which they could raise one, befor_hey reached port. Wrax had lent money, at a high rate of interest, on _iscellaneous collection of articles which were afterwards redeemed. But fo_he drink, all but unbroken harmony would have prevailed throughout th_oyage. Under its baneful influence some of the silly men figured i_npremeditated fighting matches, and often, after such onslaughts, the captai_topped their supply of grog for a day or so.
Behold the hour and the man! The pilot is greeted with deafening hurrahs b_he emigrants strong of arm and of will, longing to have done with their do- nothing listlessness. Slow-going old England is henceforth in the background, and the land of which they have formed great expectations ranks A 1; but o_t, with a love of grumbling inexcusable, a dismal tale is told by those wh_ave just boarded the ship. But gathering up their wits, like true Britons, the emigrants walk off with a do-or-die resolve which ultimately proved th_roak and croaker alike worthless.