The Story of a New Zealand River
there, now, we begin to see them,” said Mrs. Brayton.
She stood with Alice, Asia and Roland on a cleared track in the gap beside Mt. Pukekaroro. They had come up through the fern and the scrub and the outer fringe of bush by way of the cleared line cut for the tramway. They had passed one gang of men laying rails, and they now stood at the place where the low bush ended and the real forest began, with an open avenue before them, cut as far as they could see down a slight incline through a glorious tangle of undergrowth. The sunlight, sneaking through the tree-tops, picked out spots upon the mauled and trampled ground, and on the trunks of trees, and in the vivid heads of giant ferns.
With a catch of her breath, Alice saw, towering up out of the green depths on either side of that open way, row upon row of colossal grey pillars, seemingly as eternal as the hills, losing themselves above in a roof of impenetrable green. The pungent smell of their innumerable little cones mingled with the heavy smell of banks of moss about their roots. A faint sound of the morning breeze stirring in their topmost fringe of leaves leaked downwards.
“There!” Roland put down the luncheon baskets he was carrying, and waved his hand airily at them. “Best bit of bush in the colony. Nothing to beat it outside of California. Those trees have stood there thousands of years. Might have stood there thousands more.”
“And you are going to cut them down!” exclaimed Alice, as if it were sacrilege.
“You bet I am. Great job too. Takes some tackling.” He was proud that he had dared to stake everything he pos-page 54sessed on this great adventure. He knew that he was being discussed in Auckland business circles as a bold spirit and as a coming man.
“I've told you what I think about it,” said Mrs. Brayton.
“Rot!” laughed Tom Roland. “What would you have people live in in this country? Timber is cheaper than bricks. Those trees make houses for the poor. Somebody has to cut 'em down. Look at the people who can own their own houses in New Zealand. Why? Cheap land, cheap timber. Something you don't have in England. And you talk sentiment to me! Pooh! Come on.” He took up the baskets.
After they had moved on a little way they heard the reverberating sounds of axes swung by a gang of men working on ahead.
Alice walked silently, Asia as usual holding her hand, and gasping and pointing at intervals at things that thrilled her.
They had now been three weeks at the bay, and Alice had learned that there was a village at Kaiwaka, two miles past Mrs. Brayton, where six houses, a church and a store stood within sight of each other. She had learned that there was a fortnightly mail. She had learned also that there were possibilities in Tom Roland's scheme, that there would soon be a village at the bay, with its store, and some day even its school.
She had learned, too, that she might be able to live on by the river without having daily visions of premature decay and death. She was twenty-eight, and healthy, and she knew she would take some killing. She had begun to see the sense of trying to fit in, of readjusting her sense of values, of learning the language that belonged to the mountain and the river.
On two afternoons in the last week she had taken the children to the top of the green hill behind the house, and had sat under the straggly cabbage trees. She had looked across the gully at the block of pines, and had pictured the old lady in the garden within, and the peacocks strutting on page 55 the lawn. And she had looked down the river through the gap at the low hills, indigoed in the vista beyond, and at the walls of forest to the north, and at the mountain cutting a great wedge out of the eastern sky.
Then her thoughts came back to the babies pulling grass beside her, and to Asia making daisy chains. She saw how they loved it, and because it was going to be good for them it had to be good for her. She was determined that, outwardly, at least, she would be cheerful about it. She knew that Mrs. Brayton was the chief factor in this effort at reconstruction. Already she loved the old lady with a passion born of years of longing for some kindred spirit.
As she walked, crumbling twigs and chips underfoot, Alice felt around her the stirring beginnings of things. No one could have realized that invaded silence of ages, have seen those violent assaults upon eternal peace, without feeling that it was a big thing to break in. She heard Tom Roland talking of tramways, of engines and trucks racing along the slopes, of dams and waterways, of mills and ships, as he outlined once more his plans for future greatness. And there was something powerfully arousing about it all. It had fired Mrs. Brayton. It began to fire her.
The ringing thud of axes, the crackle of disturbed undergrowth, the sounds of voices and the clanging of iron tools grew louder. At the end of the avenue they came out upon a clearing beside the rocky bed of a shallow creek. It was here they were to see felled one of the kauri trees.
Roland explained that this was to be the site of a camp and tool and truck depot. Four tents stood to one side. Near them a group of men were putting up the framework of a wooden building. Great piles of rough hewn sleepers were stacked up here and there. Logs had been jacked to one side, and the earth flattened by their rolling over it. The ground was covered with chips and small branches crushed into the loose soil. Men in all kinds of singlets and dungarees were sawing logs, squaring sleepers, clearing page 56 away the wrecks of tree heads, and making ready to dynamite a large stump.
“There's our tree,” said Roland, pointing straight across the clearing at a grey pillar, exposed against the forest background. “Biggest we've tackled yet. It's right in the way of the tramway.”
They saw men at its base blocking an unsightly gash upon its farther side. Roland laid down his baskets.
“They'll be ready soon,” he said, moving forward to a group of men, whom he hailed with a free and easy air.
With varying degrees of accuracy of aim and thoroughness, they all sent a hand to their heads or caps as they caught sight of the women of the party.
Alice saw David Bruce standing some distance away, guarding the dynamite. Her eyes rested on him for some seconds. Asia saw him too.
“Mother, there's Mr. Bruce,” she said, as if she were claiming an old friend.
“I see,” said Alice frigidly.
“My dear,” broke in Mrs. Brayton, “do you see that thin, fair man talking to your husband? He's the son of an earl. There are some queer mixtures in this bush. Just look at this face nearest us. Roland says he is the most reckless blackguard he has ever known. They call him Shiny. They must be a sweet family to manage. My God! What has he done?”
The man named Shiny had suddenly dropped his axe, and doubled up with a violent volley of oaths.
“Oh, he's hurt,” cried Alice, and to the astonishment of Mrs. Brayton, she ran towards him. She saw blood gushing from his thick boot. “Tom,” she called. But already two men had reached his side, and Alice heard Bruce's name shouted sharply.
Shiny stopped blaspheming as he saw her.
“Pardon, ma'am,” he said gruffly, as he began to undo his boot.
As Alice stood helpless, with no notion as to what to do page 57 first, but with an instinctive feeling that she ought to help, David Bruce ran up. She saw the men gathered round make way for him, and she saw that he was the man for that emergency.
“Rags,” he commanded.
“And salt,” added Shiny.
Two men started for the tents. Bruce knelt down, and as he pulled off Shiny's boot a jet of blood shot out from the gashed foot. Alice turned her head away. Then she forced herself to look back.
“I have clean towels,” she said to Bruce.
“Yes, please,” he answered, looking up at her, as he closed the wound with his hands.
As she hurried to the luncheon baskets she wondered if the look in his eyes had been meant for approval, and she knew she hoped it had been.
By the time she reached him the men from the tent ran up with a bundle of rags and the kitchen bag of salt. The wounded man, who had sat up throughout, reached for the latter, and dived his dirty hand into it.
“Lord! man,” exclaimed Bruce.
“Best thing to stop bleedin',” answered Shiny defiantly.
“Yes, if you can stand it.”
Bruce took off his sock, and Shiny rammed the handful of clean salt into his gaping, squirting wound. They saw him clench his hands, but he never made a sound. Even the boss looked at him with admiration.
Alice leaned down with her towels.
“Thank you,” said Bruce, looking up again into her face. He made a pad of one towel, cut the other into strips, and rapidly bandaged the foot and doubled up the leg.
Alice walked back to the place where Mrs. Brayton stood holding Asia's hand. Somehow the accident had affected her feeling for the place, had put a touch of kinship into it that was not there before.
“That man put a handful of salt in that cut, and never groaned,” she said hoarsely.page 58
Mrs. Brayton smiled.
“Why not? They have marvellous nerve, some of these men.”
“Are there often accidents?” gasped Alice, anticipating fresh horrors. “What will they do here without a doctor?”
“Why, there is a doctor. David Bruce is a doctor. Didn't you know that?”
Alice looked at her, too amazed to speak.
“Yes, my dear. He isn't registered in New Zealand, and can't practise for money, but he is a fully qualified English surgeon. He could get registered any time he chose. He's the only doctor this place is likely to have. And it's lucky to have him, considering Dr. Mount, of Maungaturoto, is eighteen miles away.”
Alice looked down, overwhelmed by the thought that had entered her mind.
The group about Shiny had broken up, and now Bruce and the boss and one of the men were carrying him to the camp. The women waited where they were till Roland returned.
“Nasty cut,” he said. “Good man, too. No use for a week or two now. Always the way when you're in a hurry. Now, they're about ready over there.”
He set off towards the creek, and called to the men who were working at the base of the tree. It was to fall across the stream, and a little to one side. Roland selected a safe spot in the clearing, some sixty yards from it.
A sharp whistle rang out. Some of the men laid down their tools to watch. There were cries of “Ready,” and answering calls from those in the danger zone. Then the little group of fellers put in the last wedges and drew away from the base of the doomed tree.
“Now, then,” said Roland.
The little party stood tense, their faces turned upwards to the magnificent head of spreading branches stretched into the deep morning blue. There was not yet a quiver in all the dark mass of foliage, no sign of capitulation to the wan-page 59ton needs of man. Straight as the course of a falling stone the slaty grey trunk shot up seventy feet without a knot. Nothing could seem more triumphantly secure.
Suddenly there was a suggestion of quiver. The sky line wavered.
“She's coming,” said Roland.
The whole world seemed to lurch, slowly, slowly; then the top branches shook, the great trunk swayed, the foundations cracked. The whole tree gave one gigantic shiver, poised for an instant, suspended, hesitating, and then, realizing as it were, the remorselessness of fate, it plunged forward, filling the whole visible world, and cracking horribly, till its longest branches caught the ground with a series of tearing, ripping sounds, preliminary to the resounding roar as the massive trunk struck and rebounded and rolled upon the earth.
The air was filled with dust and flying twigs, the whole clearing shook, and from the sides of Pukekaroro the echoes came rolling back. There followed a short extraordinary silence, into which there returned by degrees the familiar sounds of the axes and the revolving handles of the jacks.
“There, that's over,” said the boss cheerfully. “I guess we can have lunch now. You stay here. This is a good place by the creek.”
He could not understand why Alice had tears in her eyes, or why she looked at him as if he had committed a crime. He set off for the luncheon baskets, swinging his arms and whistling gaily.
Mrs. Brayton, Alice, and even Asia stood silent till Bruce came up to them.
“I'm afraid you will have to move,” he said. “We are going to dynamite a stump, and things will fly about a bit. Will you go to the edge of the forest there, by the creek?” He led the way. “This is safe,” he said finally, selecting a spot, where he left them.
“There are times when I hate being a woman,” said Mrs. Brayton with disgust. “This is where you and I are no-page 60body.” Folding her heavy tweed skirt under her, she sat down upon a rock. “This is why men dominate us, my dear,” she waved her hand at the clearing. “Sheer brute strength.”
Alice, who had always been a drawing-room woman, took her words too seriously. She looked round the clearing at the various evidences of that brute strength, and felt herself trapped into submission by it. Never in her life before had she been face to face with such an exhibition of physical power. It overwhelmed her with a sense of her own helplessness.
“Mother, look!” cried Asia, pointing to the stump.
With a loud explosion, the earth about its roots heaved up, and the stump itself was lifted several feet into the air. Then it settled down, the torn roots obtruding.
Asia danced about, shrieking with delight. Killing her impulse to subdue her, Alice sat down beside Mrs. Brayton.
“No wonder women have to submit to men,” she said dejectedly.
“Goodness! Don't say that! I've never submitted to them. My dear, you don't know how to manage them. They're more afraid of our tongues than we are of their muscles. Cultivate a tongue.”
Alice smiled doubtfully at her. But she said nothing, for she did not want to convey the impression that she did not know how to manage Roland. Asia rushed up to her.
“Mother, is Mr. Bruce coming to our picnic?”
They saw him coming towards them with the boss.
“Very likely.” Alice tried to speak naturally.
Mrs. Brayton was amused at the sudden change in her. Asia ran to meet the men.
“You are coming to our picnic?” she cried to Bruce.
“I have been invited,” he answered solemnly. He had not had a meal with them since the day of their arrival, though it had sometimes been difficult to dodge Roland's peremptory invitations.
“Oh, how nice,” said the child.page 61
Alice bowed with restrained courtesy as Bruce raised his hat to her. The boss examined the ground around them.
“Yes, this isn't a bad spot. We can make a fire there. Did you bring a billy?”
“Dear me, no,” said Mrs. Brayton.
“Plenty at the camp,” said Bruce promptly. “I'll get one.”
“Oh, may I go too, Mother?” asked Asia.
But Alice silenced her by a look.
“Good heavens!” burst out her husband. “Nothing will harm her. The men won't eat her. She's got to get used to them, anyway.”
“Oh, very well.” Alice flushed with anger as she turned to unpack the baskets. She hated interference between herself and Asia, and this incident was enough to spoil the day for her.
Bruce and Asia returned immediately, the child swinging the tin can. She was allowed to fill it with water from the creek, and then the boss fixed it cunningly on cleft sticks above his fire, while Alice spread out the lunch on a clean table-cloth. Mrs. Brayton had supplied most of the food. There were two chickens, ham sandwiches, home-made bread and butter, and honey.
The fire blazed merrily beside them and the stream trickled slowly along its shallow stony bed. The clearing had grown strangely quiet as one by one the men had thrown down their tools and gathered in the kitchen tent. Intermittent sounds of gruff laughter drifted over to them. The sun shone out above the clearing in a cloudless sky. They smelt the earth, and the sweet chips, and the moss and the fern on the banks of the stream. Black and white fantails flew about them inquisitively, to Asia's delight. The breeze murmured in the forest behind.
“Now, what's wrong with this?” demanded Roland, looking at his wife, as he set down the boiling billy. “Don't this beat your drawing-room teas?”
Alice determined to be pleasant.
“I think it is very enjoyable,” she said.page 62
They arranged themselves around the table-cloth. Asia sat herself next to Bruce, and during a lull she fired one of those bombshells that had made Alice decide a dozen times never to go out with her again.
“Mother,” she said, looking very puzzled and serious, “I wish you would like Mr. Bruce. I think he's lovely.” Then she choked on her sandwich as she saw the swift gleam that flashed across her mother's eye.
For an instant there was one of those awful silences when a group of people are struck dumb, self-conscious, helpless, before the open expression of things they are not accustomed to express.
David Bruce did not lose his presence of mind. His profession had taught him to deal with people as children. He had found that simpleness and naturalness could take the wind out of the sails of the most persistent convention.
He turned his sad eyes upon Asia, who was looking as if she were on the verge of tears.
“I'm glad you like me,” he said gravely. “But that is no reason why everybody should, or why they should show that they do in the way you show it. Don't you know that everybody is different? Don't you know that we all like different things and different people, and that we all have different ways of showing that we like the same thing? When you see something you like you jump into the air, and shriek, and clap your hands. Now, I like lots of things you like, but I don't jump and shriek at them. I did when I was a boy, but we alter as we grow up.” He took a deliberate bite out of his sandwich and went on. “You think that because your mother doesn't call me David, as Mrs. Brayton does, or rush at me and take my hand, as you do”—here Roland broke into a loud guffaw—“that she doesn't like me. But all people treat me differently, even all the people who like me, and why shouldn't they?”
Asia was now looking up at him with great interest. He had been determined to restore her peace of mind. He could never bear the unhappiness of children. He had a very page 63 different feeling towards adults who manufactured and perpetuated so much of their own embarrassment.
“Why are people different?” she asked.
“We don't know. But don't you think it's a good thing they are?” He smiled.
“I don't know,” she said, very puzzled. “I think grown-up people are very queer.”
“Yes, my dear,” he said gravely, “we are often very queer and very stupid, and I'm sure I don't know why we are.” There was a note of weariness in his voice.
“Shall I be queer?” she asked. She had now forgotten the origin of the conversation.
“Very, I should say,” he replied with emphasis.
And at that Mrs. Brayton and Roland laughed loudly.
“Oh, dear,” said Asia.
“Oh, never mind,” smiled Bruce, his eyes lighting up. “Everybody else will be queerer than you.”
During this time Alice had sat forcing herself to eat and drink. She had not dared to look at anybody. For the first moment she had been too sick to think. She had always felt embarrassment as positive pain. She had never been able to cope with a difficult situation. And she was one of those who always make the situation worse for everybody else. The worst thing about this was that her attitude to Bruce had been put into words. She felt now as if a net had been drawn round her from which she could never escape. The thing said was so much worse than unsaid. She would hear it when she looked at Mrs. Brayton. She was afraid Roland might speak about it to her.
But, as Bruce had talked on, another element had entered into her feeling. She was amazed at his simpleness and naturalness, and at the power of personality that lay behind his management of the situation. He had done so easily what to her was an impossible thing. In spite of herself she had to admire him and be grateful to him.
She could not recover her self-possession during that page 64 meal, but she managed to get through it without attracting attention, or she thought she did.
Mrs. Brayton got a chance after lunch to speak to Bruce.
“David, what an awful moment! How could you manage it like that?”
“Good Lord! When you have stood by as many deathbeds as I have, and have seen the backyard side of people as I have, you don't get upset by trifles.”
“It was awful for her.”
“It didn't have to be. But some women enjoy misery. When she has had enough of it she will decide to enjoy something else.”
“She is beginning to like you, David.”
“She is progressing that way. Three weeks ago I was a piece of machinery. To-day I am at least a human being.”
“Good,” laughed the old lady. “I shall expect to hear next week that you are practising the Kreutzer Sonata together.”
“If she's considering that in a year's time she will be very smart.”
“Well, David, if you can't do better than that——” Her eyes gleamed with mischief.
He raised his eyebrows at her. But he knew there was no serious significance in her words. Smiling at her, he turned back to his work.
Mrs. Brayton, Alice and Asia walked back to the bay together in the middle of the afternoon.
The conversation consisted mostly of Asia's questions and observations, and of Mrs. Brayton's answers. Alice made painful efforts to appear natural, and to make casual remarks. Mrs. Brayton helped her by providing all the diversion she could. They stopped to pick ferns and moss, and the old lady explained how they could be kept fresh by careful treatment. She told Asia the names of the trees and the creepers. She told them the strange history of the rata page 65 vine, the powerful forest parasite, and by good luck found one of the chrysalis worms from which it is said to grow. In spite of herself Alice was interested in this story. She was astonished at Mrs. Brayton's fund of information, and envied her her lively interest in everything.
That night, soon after they had finished dinner, Bruce knocked at the boss's back door. He had in his hands the luncheon baskets that Roland had forgotten to bring down from the bush. Alice was just walking out to shake the table-cloth when his figure loomed up in the doorway. The light of the kitchen candle fell upon his face. Bruce ignored the fact that she started and flushed.
“I've just brought your baskets, Mrs. Roland,” he said.
“Oh, thank you,” she stammered, not daring to look at him. Then nervousness drove her to ask after the injured man.
“He's getting on all right, thank you. He isn't worrying. They rather like accidents, some of those chaps. It gives them a rest.”
He was turning away when Roland, who had heard his voice, called from the front room.
“Oh, Bruce, is that you? Come in and give me a hand with these calculations.”
While Alice and Asia washed up, the voices of the two men checking figures formed a low accompaniment.
“Asia,” said her mother, as she hung up the damp towels, “I am going outside for a while. You go to the children if they cry.”
Wrapping a shawl round her head and shoulders, she walked out into the spring night, along the cliffs to a spot where a huge solitary totara tree grew precariously upon the edge. She sat down upon one of the uncovered roots, and with her head in her hands gazed down upon the river, running still under the stars. There was not a sound of lapping against the white beach at her feet.
Alice and Roland had been married four years. They had met in Christchurch soon after her arrival in New Zea-page 66land. In a tragic moment, when she was almost penniless, and sick with dread of the future, he had been kind and helpful. Something told her that he was honest with her, but she had not borrowed money from him without much prayerful consideration. When he suggested that she should come north to Auckland where he lived and knew many people, and where he promised to get her the music pupils she needed, it seemed too much like the finger of the Lord for her to refuse. After many appeals to God to help her, she finally accepted his offer because there was absolutely nothing else between her and starvation.
Roland had done all that he promised, and more. He found her music pupils, and he financed her beginnings. He took her to a quiet boarding-house kept by a friend of his, where she was comfortable and decently fed. He managed her all along by his frankness, his general decency and his vitality.
He had proposed marriage to her almost without any previous signs of affection. He had been rather blunt about it, but she thought that was due to nervousness. She had taken a week to think about it. Every time she was in danger of refusing she had looked at Asia. Every time she was in danger of accepting she had looked into her own heart. Finally, with her eye on Asia, she had accepted him, but not entirely without feeling for him. She saw that people liked him, and she guessed that he would get on. And she was attracted by his impulsive kindness, and by his sweeping energy.
And so she had married him, determined to do her duty, and hoping to get some happiness by the way. But very soon after the marriage the incompatibilities began to assume those undreamt of proportions that are the despair of those who would do their duty. Before a year was over Alice felt that a good deal of her had died.
Roland's reasons for marrying her had been a curious mixture of impulsive need of affection, and business acumen, and a satisfaction in being benevolent. He saw in her a page 67 poor, but beautiful young widow, who would very well fit in with his schemes for future greatness and social recognition. He would never have admitted his class inferiority, but in his secret heart he knew he valued her largely because she belonged to the class that ruled the world. Naturally, he expected a return for his money, and he looked for that when he proposed to her. But at the same time he had a comforting sense of his own goodness in rescuing her from the necessity of making her way slowly by teaching the piano.
There was more heart in it, however, than either he or she suspected. And it was this unsatisfied heart in him that drove him to the other women. To them he went for the stimulus and affection that she could not or would not give, and back to her he came for the logical conclusion that she never refused, because she had contracted to give it.
They had never openly quarrelled. Once or twice, when he had become blustering, she had risen and left the room, afterwards ignoring the breaks. There were times when her calmness nearly drove him mad. But he had extraordinary common sense, and he knew it was useless to rage at her. Within a year he, too, had begun to see that something he had hoped for had gone out of their union, if, indeed, it had ever been in it. The thing that annoyed him most was that he could not make her love him. He felt that something tumultuous lay beneath her calm. It piqued his curiosity. He tried to be good to her. And he wondered why the devil he was always wrong. He was just as determined as she was to do his duty.
Thus far they had drifted when they came to the bay. Ever since learning of the isolation of the bush life, Alice had looked forward, with alternating moments of resolute calm and wild despair, to a future of self-suppression save in so far as she could grow again in her children. The possibility of any other man in her life had never occurred to her.
On this day of the picnic it entered her consciousness for page 68 the first time. She had felt before this that something about David Bruce challenged her. Her thoughts had turned to him many times in those three weeks. Now the knowledge that he was a doctor forced her to think of the possibilities arising from his position. If her children met with sudden illness or accident she would have to send for him. Intimacy seemed to be inevitable. And then she had always surrounded doctors with the halo that most women put upon them and curates, and bishops, and reformers, believing them to be the props of mankind.
Seized with a premonition of evil, she stared up at the stars and then at their reflection in the river. She now saw in Bruce the unconscious breaker of her fine scheme of life-long martyrdom. This meant that he was another thing to fight. She must kill her impulses even to think of him. She tried to feel that she had thought of him only because she had treated him badly, that it would be quite easy not to think of him any more. Because of her behaviour to him she knew he would make no advance, and the best thing would be just to go on as she had begun, and let him think her cold and distant. She could be courteous, of course.
But she was secretly afraid of her impulses. She could not understand why any one who hated them as much as she did should have them so violently. She had been taught and she still believed that impulses were monstrous inventions of evil to be fought and suppressed. Her own experience had already taught her their terrible results. The assurance that “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth” had never filled her with the satisfaction said to be enjoyed by those who believe that God uses them to demonstrate eternal laws.
For years she had lived so apart that she did not realize how in the world about her the impulses and instincts had begun their innings, backed up by biology and the Individualists, as powers to be discussed, lauded, developed, and allowed to run their riotous course unchecked. She did not know that the instincts had now accumulated a cult, along page 69 with the eugenists, the feminists, the cremationists, and Bernard Shaw.
New Zealand, even more than any other part of the world, seethed with the atmosphere of social and moral experiments. But, in its boarding-houses, the last stronghold of organized prudery and artificial and anæmic chastity, no wandering vibrations of the Zeitgeist had ever reached her. No thought of having any fun with any other man had ever entered her mind. She did not see any human relation as fun. And the mere thought that she might come to care for David Bruce filled her with alarm.
But, she reflected as she sat there, if nothing ever began there would be nothing to fight. All she had to do was to prevent the beginnings. She began calmly to think of ways and means. Her treatment of David Bruce now seemed like a blessing in disguise. She would go on as she had begun; that is, she would keep him at the distance she had already made inevitable. In any case there was nothing else for her to do. There was no reason for her to like him if she did not wish to. There was no reason why she should openly accept him as anything but a mere acquaintance.
After all, it was simple. Duty always was when you faced it clearly. She realized that above all things she wanted peace. She thought of her compensations. She had Mrs. Brayton and her children; she had her music and her books. She had a home, such as it was. And there was her husband. She knew now that he was a power in the land. He would make money, and perhaps he really meant to do his best for her and the children. She determined that she would try to think better of him. With tears dropping from her cheeks she bowed her head under the stars and prayed to God to help her.
Then she got up and walked calmly and serenely home.