Her patience and self-suppression had had the effect, as years went on, of making a tyrant of her husband. When in one of his dark moods now, he would not tolerate the slightest contradiction from her or from any one in the house, and all she could do was to be quietly cheerful and affectionate, and to try her best to avoid falling into any of the traps which he would lay to catch her, and to make her, by some chance word or other, or even by a slightly displeased or resigned expression, give his bad humour an excuse for breaking out. She had to weigh every word she uttered, and to take the most roundabout methods of avoiding his sensitiveness, and after all, she would perhaps commit herself when she least expected it; upon which a scene would immediately ensue, that would be all the more unpleasant from his never expressing himself directly. Sometimes Salve was really desperate, and would terrify her with all kinds of threats, not against her, but against himself—and she knew he was just the man to carry them out. It had often happened that for some unlucky word of hers he had gone to sea again an hour after coming home; and once in such weather that she had not the faintest hope of ever seeing him return.
She would sit at home and weep for hours together, striving to repress the angry feelings of resentment which would rise from time to time when she thought how little return she received for all she gave; how less than little her happiness was considered; and how meagre a reward for all she had to endure were the two or three days perhaps of occasional happy calm and sunshine in her home, when she seemed to have him with her as he had been in the first early days of their married life, and when he would find it as hard to tear himself away from his home again as she knew he had often found it to return. What a heart he had in reality! She alone knew that—the others judged him only by his hard and harsh exterior. And how proud she was of him when she heard the others talking of the daring things he had done, and saw how they all looked up to him! But it was not enough. And in the dulness and loneliness of her life out there on Merdoe, she enjoyed to the full, during these many weary years, her woman’s privilege of suffering for the man she loved. But it was not to be so always. Brighter days—little as she now expected them—were still in store for her.
We may leave for a moment the contemplation of a domestic history lighted up at present by such few and fitful gleams of sunshine, and glance at the married life of another pair who have figured in this story, and who have not been without their influence upon whatever there may have been of tragic in its development.