[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.
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,