Everything is Possible to Will
Chapter V. Doves
Chapter V. Doves.
One of the maddest, merriest evenings gave cordial welcome to the trio as they dived far into the heart of Kent to explore its beauties. Nature put on bridal robes as Zee laid hers aside. What a gorgeous dress of living green the good mother wore, after having fresh washed her face, and smoothed out every wrinkle! The sun, meanwhile blithely holding the glass up to her, crooned over her “good-night.” But she was in such a wild humor that her eyelids fell with fitful wantonness, though spicy breezes wafted her to the land of nod. The very birds, too, whose matins had been interrupted by the downpour, were loth to leave their daily task undone.
During their jaunt the travellers visited an aunt of the girls, one of the kindliest creatures extant, to whom the grosser forms of selfishness were impossible. And with much wifely wisdom she counselled Zee to be hand, head, heart, love, duty, and delight to her husband; to anticipate his every word and whim, and all that. Possessing unbounded faith in mankind, the aunt little thought that ill-judged devotion could minister only to selfishness in the evilly disposed; so her wise saws were not laid by with her sheets in lavender, the only strife between herself and her husband being how best to emulate each other in self-forgetful love.
Applauding the aunt's policy to the echo, Wrax vowed he would recommend all Benedicts to take their wives to her for good advice, which, if well followed, would prevent all domestic ills. Zee, though never rash in making promises, accepted the said policy in all seriousness. If her judgment approved, it was page 52 easy, yea delightful, to her to obey. Her father ruled by love; Wrax would be as gentle and true as he.
Girls, as a rule, start well on the untried path, and the responsibilities of wifehood improve them, whereas husbands too often deteriorate grievously. Bolstered up in the belief insensibly fostered by social, educational, and political advantages, that marriage entitles a man to do as he likes, even though he likes to do wrong, Self is enthroned god forthwith, and the husband not unfrequently rules by everything but love. There ought to be but one code of morals between husband and wife. William and Mary must ascend the throne together; and he or she who knows how to rule will say very little about it—certainly never suffer the two wills to clash, nor be for ever thrusting the sceptre into the other's face. What matter whose hand holds the sceptre, if the rule be right?
Saying that he wished to speak to her, Wrax led Zee into another room, of which he locked the door. Then, taking her hands lovingly, sorrowfully, he suddenly became convulsed with emotion. Attempting to speak, he but wept the more excitedly, crying, “O, Zee, Zee, Zee!” Possessing no clue to any confession he might desire to make, Zee, though as anxious to share his sorrows as his joys, could not help him by so much as a word. But, becoming alarmed, she tenderly implored him to be calm—words which served but to increase his anguish, until at length she begged him to defer whatever communication he might desire to make. Oh, fatal blunder! A bad beginning for Zee. She ought not to have left that room until he had told her what he had to tell. Together with the agitation, alas! passed away the desire to take her into his confidence, to have done which would probably have given a different coloring to their whole lives. He never once reverted to the circumstance, and Zee felt that confidence must be voluntary to be of any worth; besides which, no Delilah-like efforts of hers, could she have stooped to make them, would have wormed his secrets from him.
Short as sweet was the mythical “moon,” leaving the more honey wherewith to consecrate their new page 53 dwelling, to which they slyly wended their way earlier than expected, hoping thereby to forestall the jubilant announcement that So and So “had brought home his bride.” Vain hope! Scarcely had they sheltered beneath the old roof-tree than the bells of the various churches rung out their tale-telling peal, which impudent officiousness must be paid for, else will the backward ringing of the bells publish far and wide the meanness of the newly wed, who for the time being are so over-ballasted with honors, merited or otherwise, that they have not the courage to torture the ears of the “oldest inhabitant” by the backward ringing of the would-be-joyous bells.
Having spent a pleasant evening with friends, the young couple started for their own cosy home, the door of which was opened by Emma, whose every feature beamed a glad welcome on the heads of the household as they entered their, in a new sense, own home—the home in which Zee then for the first time set foot, so fearful was she prior to marriage of being suspected of “nesting.” But now as they, Adam and Eve in Paradise, whisked in and out and round about each sly corner, they declared there was nothing half so sweet in life as their own snug cot, which the sisters had made home-like.
Zee sighed after a degree of wifely perfection by no means easy of attainment. Having read “Cœlebs in Search of a Wife,”38 her ideal woman was very much after Miss Hannah More's39 mind, considering herself the more perfect the more Moreish she became.
Left to herself in her new home, Zee gathered sweets bee-fashion as she flitted about putting a hallowing touch on all things great and small, taking possession of Wrax and his belongings in the fullest sense, for had he not endowed her—her, mind; not himself—with all his worldly goods? “They are mine.” she murmured; “he has given them all to me, but he is better than them all.” “He must be God's good gift,” she argued, “since he had not forbidden the banns,” in arriving at which conclusion a millstone rolled off her heart, and she dared to be thankfully, joyously happy. Her lot was by no means a hard lot, after all page 54 Having given herself, her best energies would follow, and her new duties, rightly appreciated, would become the best possible recreation for both body and mind.
Busy fancy wrapped Zee in Elysium. How could one who lived on day-dream unsubstantialities be expected to think of such mundane affairs as eating and drinking? Oh, for the rod of the necromancer! Behold the dinner hour, and with it the hungry Wrax; but the gods had not provided the feast! The empty larder flashed on Zee's mind in an instant, and, throwing up her hands, she looked at Wrax aghast. Divining the state of the case, he kissed away Zee's regrets a thousand times over as, laughing heartily, he promised to make capital against a rainy day out of all her blunders, asking, further, how long she considered it necessary they should live on air? The old home, to which Emma was despatched with a note telling of the dilemma, was better than the conjurer's rod, for in double quick time Emma placed on the table a piping hot repast, to which even the ghost of a Zee did ample justice.
Hey - day, young wife! wool - gathering already? What would Miss Hannah have said of her disciple? “No dinner,” was a standing joke against the model housewife, and she was well roasted instead of the joint. The mother would have amply supplied their larder had they not taken time by the forelock. Since dreamland and fairies of wonder-working notoriety had failed Zee at the critical moment, Emma, who had concluded that her master and mistress were to dine from home, since she heard no mention of dinner, was enjoined by Zee to refresh her memory should it again play truant, lest Wrax should fall into many a snare, in his haste to grow rich out of the capital her blunders supplied. What a beautiful course life's rugged journey would become if a like glamor were thrown over its small vexations! It is strange that simple joys should pall; perpetual love-making, like perpetual motion, awaits discovery; self-love is the bane of the former, and of the latter, may be, who knows?
Zee's mishaps were a godsend to Wrax, whose delight page 55 was extravagant in having, as he said, “his wife all to himself in his own home.” He had been kept at arm's length so long, that his now merry gambols were the safety-valve of his long pent-up emotions. For Zee had seated him upon his throne as her lord by right divine; having absolved him of all treachery, though with many serpent wiles he once tried to hold her with so tight a grip that, with all his tact and diplomacy, he could never feel sure that he had gained an inch in her good graces.
And thankfully taking note of his hilarity, she met him with a gay enthusiasm which told better than words how perfect was her trust. And as Wrax went out into the world so old and yet so new, with a bounding step indicative of a lightness of heart pleasant to witness, Zee said fondly: “This must last. Gleesome and frisky as a kitten now, sir, you must not settle down into a grumpy old Tom with long, sharp claws; nor must you sport with me as if I were a toy. Our love shall grow young as we grow old together, that each in the heart of the other may fill as large and green a space fifty years hence as to-day, or woe-betide us. Hand in hand, strong in that oneness of soul which alone constitutes true union, we will, with bold front, together breast the full tide of prosperity or adversity as it advances.” Meanwhile Wrax placed her on the pinnacle of the temple of fancy, saying: “Admire my idol, all ye that pass by!” What would Miss Pout have said to the “idol”? And if in her May-day splendor Zee was made too much of, it may stand over against the period when she received justice at the hands of no one.
The to be or not to be questionings of Zee's mind having been silenced, she was the last to doubt the propriety of giving full swing to a merriment guileless as free—to roll up the sunshine as a scroll in haste to meet the cloud, to strew her path with thorns instead of with roses. Nay, verily, she was brimful and “running over with animal spirits, sparkling with diamond dew, as, putting on her coronation robes, she surveyed her future from the hill-top reaching to heaven, converting her once waste howling wilderness into a page 56 bower of content. Never in courting-time had she been half so winsome.40
And Wrax had found his tongue. Indeed, he continued so rapturously absorbed he was quite another Wrax, all glorious; and honoring him with a reverence her father's example instilled, Zee would never tire of looking up to him with wide-open, child-like eyes. His love had been no mercenary speculation, no golden reasons had dazed his brain. Believing that Zee was better than gold, he had taken her just as she was, with a disinterestedness quite verdant to those who in marriage sometimes bow so low before the golden calf that they crawl ever afterwards. Gold may be bought at too high a price, and if happiness pure and unalloyed be the quest, it were better to adorn the brow with the beads of honest toil.
As month followed month the honeymoon spread itself out interminably, as the doves revelled in their second Eden. Its spell would never be broken; there were no dregs to such blissful intoxication, no gall in such an entrancing cup; threescore years and ten would find their Eden only the more refined. The triple powers of world, flesh and devil would be powerless to quench the torch lit at and fed from the Zeeshrine—the Zee who found she had to keep square too long to support the dignity due to her position, so accepted wifely homage with her usual ease and impudence.
Having commenced business in an extensive way the day after he attained his majority, and both families being as able as willing to give Wrax substantial support, a career of honorable usefulness opened before him such as is rarely presented to so young a man. Naught but himself could come between him and his wildest hopes until prosperity's cup would scarcely carry a rose-leaf in addition. As a matter of course, Wrax's capital would be locked up in his business, and from the first week of marriage he very properly allowed his wife to share his monetary anxieties, and the dreadful “bills” becoming due this week, next week, always, as it seemed to this inexperienced girl, frightened her possibly more thanpage 57 Wrax intended, for she could scarcely dare to eat with those “bills” hanging over her head. But, assuming those “bills” caused her needless alarm, if he erred at all, Wrax erred, on the right side. It was better at, starting to make their wants and tastes few and simple than, by rushing to the opposite extreme, to drive all before them for a season, then tumble down with a crash.
Responsibilities often change witless girls into reasonable women, women who prefer serge to satin rather than imperil their husband's reputation; for it is so essentially woman's nature to save, to conserve all good, that wasteful extravagance does violence to her nature, so much so, in fine, that meanness is one of the many vices she has to conquer. And the men who have extravagant wives, if such there be, made a false start on the threshold of married life in all probability.
Having put life's harness on, Zee would never wince under a fair share of its burdens. Nothing pleased her better than the taxing of her ingenuity in culinary operations, so long as only moderately rich dishes were expected from nail-parings. She modestly professed to stop short at creation. Deftly, too, her magic needle could make old things new, but in those young days she had no old things to metamorphose, an ample wardrobe having been provided. For wardrobe Sadai would have substituted trousseau doubtless but she was fond of “expressive French,” and talked French to Zee—to Zee, you know, who knew nothing of her mother tongue even. You can fancy how expressive” it would be. And notwithstanding that Sadai condescended to interpret her “expressive French,” Zee's mother-wit occasionally despoiled Sadai's “larnin”’ of its gloss. To the plain-speaking Zee all French and Latin words and phrases (except such as have become popularised) in English books looked very like pedantry.
38 Hannah More's only novel, published in 1809. Her novel envisaged a new kind of wise, educated, active and responsible female. More believed women's education should focus upon the Christian principles of benevolence and charity. It was a very popular novel, with twelve impressions in the first year, and thirty in More's lifetime.
39 Hannah More (1745-1833) was a pre-Victorian writer who also championed a programme of social reform. She was a member of the Bluestocking Circle, and entered a male-dominated public sphere by becoming a polemical writer and social reformer. A stout Evangelical, she not only supported the anti-slavery movement, but also the education of the poor, and the promotion of women working within the public sphere. She strongly believed that virtuous habits and morals would contribute to the reform of English society.
40 Pleasant, delightful, agreeable.