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Two Wives, a fiction by T. S. Arthur

Chapter 22

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How the hearts of the mother and her two oldest children trembled with hope and fear! A marked change was apparent in Mr. Ellis when he came home with Kate. He was sober, and very serious, but said nothing; and Mrs. Ellis deemed it prudent to say nothing to him.

On the next morning, he did not rise early. Henry had eaten his breakfast and was away to his work, and Kate had gone to market to get something for dinner, when he got up and dressed himself. Mrs. Ellis was ready for him with a good cup of coffee, a piece of hot toast, some broiled steak, and a couple of eggs. She said little, but her tones were subdued and very kind. Noticing that his hand trembled so that he spilled his coffee in raising his cup to his lips, (his custom was to get a glass of liquor before breakfast to steady his nerves,) she came and stood beside him, saying, as she did so--"Let me hold your cup for you."

Ellis acquiesced; and so his wife held the cup to his lips while he drank.

"Oh, dear! This is a dreadful state to be in Cara!"

The exclamation was spontaneous. Had Ellis thought a moment, his pride would have caused him to repress it.

Mrs. Ellis did not reply, for she was afraid to trust herself to speak, lest her words or voice should express something that would check the better feelings that were in the heart of her husband. But, ere she could repress it, a tear fell upon his hand. Almost with a start, Ellis turned and looked up into her face. It was calm, yet sorrowful. The pale and wasted condition of that face had never so struck him before.

"Ah, Cara," said he, dropping his knife and fork, "it is dreadful to live in this way. Dreadful! dreadful!"

The poor, almost heart-broken wife could command herself no longer; and she laid her face down upon her husband and sobbed--the more convulsively from her efforts to regain self-possession.

"Oh, Henry!" she at length murmured, "if the past were only ours! If we could but live over our lives, with some of the experience that living gives, how differently should we act! But, surely, hope is not clean gone for ever! Is there not yet a better and a brighter day for even us?"

"There is, Cara! There is!" replied Ellis, in tones of confidence. "It has been a long, long night, Cara; a cold and cheerless night. But the morning breaks. There is not much strength left in this poor arm," and he extended his right hand, that trembled like an aspen leaf--"but it can yet do something. It shall not be with us as it has been any longer. In the sight of Heaven, and in the hope of strength from above, I promise that, Cara. Will you help me to keep my promise?"

"Yes--yes--yes," was the emphatic response. "If there is in me a particle of strength, it is yours, and you may lean on it confidently. Oh, Henry! trust in me. The lessons of the past have not been learned in vain."

"I am very weak, Cara; the pressure of a child's hand might throw me over. Do not forget this. Never forget it! If you will keep close to my side, if you will help me, and love me,"--his voice quivered, and he paused, but regained himself in a few moments--"I think all will be well with us again. God helping me, I will try."

"Oh, my husband!" sobbed Mrs. Ellis, drawing her arms lovingly about him--"it will be well with us, for God will help you, I will help you, all will help you. Forget? Oh, no! I can never forget. Have we not all been thoughtful of you, and kind to you in the night that is passing away?"

"Yes, Cara, yes."

"And will we not be kinder and more loving in the brighter future? We will! we will, Henry! Oh! how my glad heart runs over!"

"I saw Mr. Wilkinson yesterday," said Ellis, after both had grown calmer; "and he said that he could and would get me a situation as clerk. I am now going to see him, and, if he be as good as his word, this desert place"--and he glanced about the room--"will soon brighten as the rose."

The entrance of Kate closed the interview. In a little while, Ellis, after shaving himself, and in every possible way improving his appearance, left the house and went direct to the store of Wilkinson.

"Henry! Is it possible!" exclaimed the latter, in surprise, when Ellis stood before him.

"In my right mind again," was the calm, but firmly spoken answer.

"How glad I am to hear you say so!" And Wilkinson grasped the hand of his old friend, and shook it warmly.

"You remember your promise of yesterday?" said Ellis. He spoke seriously.

"To get you a good situation?"


"I have not forgotten my word, Henry; and will keep it. You are a good accountant?"

"I am."

"This morning my book-keeper notified me of his intention to leave as soon as I could supply his place. If you will take the situation at seven hundred and fifty dollars a year, it is open for you."

"John Wilkinson!" exclaimed Ellis, seizing the hand of his friend, and exhibiting much agitation. "Are you indeed in earnest?"

"I never was more so in my life," was replied.

"Then, indeed the day has broken!" said Ellis, with emotion. "When will you want me to begin?" he asked after a short period of silence.

"Now," replied Wilkinson.

"Now, did you say?"

"Yes. I have work that needs attention at once. When will you come?"

"A good beginning never can be made too early. Now."

Wilkinson turned, and the two men walked back to a vacant desk. A number of accounts and letters lay thereon, and, as Wilkinson began to enter into some explanation in regard to them, Ellis took up a pen and laid the point of it on a sheet of paper. The nervous tremor of his hand showed him to be in no condition for the task upon which he was about entering. Wilkinson comprehended this in a moment, and a fear lest the drunkard's delirium should follow so sudden a withdrawal of stimulant from the system of Ellis, sent a chill through his feelings. Instead of putting him to the desk at once, he determined, on the instant, to employ him at more active work about the store for a few weeks, until, if he kept to his good resolution, some degree of firmness was restored to his shattered nerves. In agreement with this humane purpose he acted.

With what trembling anxiety did Mrs. Ellis await the return of her husband at dinner-time! The hours wore slowly away, and, at last, her watchful ear caught the sound of his footsteps. She scarcely breathed until the door opened. One glance sufficed. All was well. How glad was the impulse with which her stilled heart went on again! Tears of joy bedewed her face, when he related the good fortune that had attended his call on Wilkinson.

"Yes, yes," said he, when he had told her all, and glancing around the room as he spoke. "This desert place shall blossom as the rose. I have said it, and I will keep my word."

In the evening, Henry and his father met, for the first time, face to face, since they parted in anger on one side and grief on the other. When Kate came home with the latter on the night previous, Henry had managed to enter the house before them, and so kept out of his father's way. Now, on coming in from his work, he found him already at home, and so changed in appearance, that he gazed upon him with a surprise which he could not at first conceal.

"Henry, my son," said Mr. Ellis, in a kind, self-possessed tone of voice, and he reached out his hand as he spoke.

The boy took his father's hand, and looked earnestly into his face.

"Henry, how long have you been with Mr. Wilson?" inquired Mr. Ellis.

"Two years, sir," was answered.

The father looked at the boy's hands, and sighed. They were hard and discolored from labour.

"Tell Mr. Wilson, in the morning," said he, "that I wish you to leave him after this week."

"Sir!" Henry looked surprised.

"Tell him that I wish you to go to school for a year or two."

"Father!" The blood flew suddenly to the lad's face. For a few moments he looked at his father; then turning, he passed quickly into the adjoining room. In the stillness that followed, were audible the sobs that came from his overflowing heart.

A week, a month, a year have passed, yet the promise of that happy time is dimmed not by a single cloud. Firm in his better purpose and fully sustained at home, Henry Ellis is walking steadily the path of safety. Home is what it ever should have been, the pleasantest place in all the world; for she who is its sunlight never meets him with a clouded face. His desert has, indeed, blossomed as the rose. May the bloom and fragrance thereof never fade nor lose its sweetness!

T S Arthur's Book: Two Wives


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