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Saxe Holm's Stories   By: (1830-1885)

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[by Helen Hunt Jackson]



Draxy Miller's Dowry The Elder's Wife Whose Wife Was She? The One Legged Dancers How One Woman Kept Her Husband Esther Wynn's Love Letters

Draxy Miller's Dowry.

Part I.

When Draxy Miller's father was a boy, he read a novel in which the heroine was a Polish girl, named Darachsa. The name stamped itself indelibly upon his imagination; and when, at the age of thirty five, he took his first born daughter in his arms, his first words were "I want her called Darachsa."

"What!" exclaimed the doctor, turning sharply round, and looking out above his spectacles; "what heathen kind of a name is that?"

"Oh, Reuben!" groaned a feeble voice from the baby's mother; and the nurse muttered audibly, as she left the room, "There ain't never no luck comes of them outlandish names."

The whole village was in a state of excitement before night. Poor Reuben Miller had never before been the object of half so much interest. His slowly dwindling fortunes, the mysterious succession of his ill lucks, had not much stirred the hearts of the people. He was a retice'nt man; he loved books, and had hungered for them all his life; his townsmen unconsciously resented what they pretended to despise; and so it had slowly come about that in the village where his father had lived and died, and where he himself had grown up, and seemed likely to live and die, Reuben Miller was a lonely man, and came and went almost as a stranger might come and go. His wife was simply a shadow and echo of himself; one of those clinging, tender, unselfish, will less women, who make pleasant, and affectionate, and sunny wives enough for rich, prosperous, unsentimental husbands, but who are millstones about the necks of sensitive, impressionable, unsuccessful men. If Jane Miller had been a strong, determined woman, Reuben would not have been a failure. The only thing he had needed in life had been persistent purpose and courage. The right sort of wife would have given him both. But when he was discouraged, baffled, Jane clasped her hands, sat down, and looked into his face with streaming eyes. If he smiled, she smiled; but that was just when it was of least consequence that she should smile. So the twelve years of their married life had gone on slowly, very slowly, but still surely, from bad to worse; nothing prospered in Reuben's hands. The farm which he had inherited from his father was large, but not profitable. He tried too long to work the whole of it, and then he sold the parts which he ought to have kept. He sunk a great portion of his little capital in a flour mill, which promised to be a great success, paid well for a couple of years, and then burnt down, uninsured. He took a contract for building one section of a canal, which was to pass through part of his land; sub contractors cheated him, and he, in his honesty, almost ruined himself to right their wrong. Then he opened a little store; here, also, he failed. He was too honest, too sympathizing, too inert. His day book was a curiosity; he had a vein of humor which no amount of misfortune could quench; and he used to enter under the head of "given" all the purchases which he knew were not likely to be paid for. It was at sight of this book, one day, that Jane Miller, for the first and only time in her life, lost her temper with Reuben.

"Well, I must say, Reuben Miller, if I die for it," said she, "I haven't had so much as a pound of white sugar nor a single lemon in my house for two years, and I do think it's a burnin' shame for you to go on sellin' 'em to them shiftless Greens, that'll never pay you a cent, and you know it!"

Reuben was sitting on the counter smoking his pipe and reading an old tattered copy of Dryden's translation of Virgil. He lifted his clear blue eyes in astonishment, put down his pipe, and, slowly swinging his long legs over the counter, caught Jane by the waist, put both his arms round her, and said,

"Why, mother, what's come over you! You know poor little Eph's dyin' of that white swellin'... Continue reading book >>

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