|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Drops of Brandy|
We must now pass over a space of several weeks, during which time poor Mrs. Moreland has been an almost constant watcher at the bed-side of either husband or child.
For many days Moreland had lain a mere frame of humanity, pulsating, breathing, but having no mental vitality ; and when the change did come which restored his mental equilibrium, he was so utterly spent, so prostrated, that he required more constant attention than ever, for it
needed but little to quench the flame of life which flickered so feebly. The wife's task was a hard one, but well and faithfully did she accomplish it. As Moreland recovered strength he would often apologise to her for being such a trouble. "But somehow, my dear, nobody seems to be able to do things for me so nicely as you do, and yet I feel ashamed that I should be such a bother to you."
Had he known that the few short hours which she spen fc away from his couch were devoted chiefly to the care of another invalid, who was in almost as evil a case as himself, he,would have suffered anything sooner than accept the ministration that was in reality so much neededt and so acceptable to him.
Mrs. Moreland now sits by the couch of her husband, who, as far as mental health is concerned, is quite himself again ; but in appearance how changed ! The flowing beard had been cut short, the crisp hair close shavent though that fact is hidden by his smoking cap, which he prefers to an ordinary night cap, and by a broad white bandage round his head, from underneath which peep the euds of some strips of adhesive plaster-sure indications that the ghastly wound in his temple was still unhealed. His cheeks are pale and sunken ; his eyes hollow, and wanting much of their original brightness ; his features drawn and pinched as from long and acute suffering ; his strong right arm helpless, and still in splints ; and worse still, one of his legs as helpless as his arm, for it had been broken below the knee : alas ! he is but a wreck of his former self ; and well might such be the case, after having passed through an experience under which all but the very strongest of his fellows would have succumbed ; but, although his eyes are sunken and dim, the glorious light of reason is restored to them, and this fact is enough to repay him and the fond wife who has nursed him so patiently, for all other things, no matter how hard they may have been to bear.
Mrs. Moreland, too, has altered most noticeably ; her rounded form has become thin and feeble looking, and her lovely face very pale and careworn ; but in those fine dark eyes of hers there dwells a light which is born of a spirit at rest, and a heart untroubled. Her dear one was saved to her; snatched from the very jaws of death ; saved from death ; saved from doom ; saved from himself ; for she felt that he was hers as on that day when she first told him of his weakness; how she would never again require to tell him of it ; he had received his lesson, and. she knew it had not been learnt in vain.
The doctors had pronounced Moreland out of danger, and bad withdrawn their injunctions respecting perfect quiet ; and he had permission from them to talk as much as he pleased, which permit he is making the utmost use of just
" There are many things, wife, which I have been puzzling my brain about, but to no purpose, for they are enigmas to me still'; perhaps you can enlighten, now that our good old friend, Dr. Earnest, has removed the restraint from your tongue ?"
" My love! I wish you would not let these things trouble you until you are quite well and strong ; nevertheless, I am willing to answer your questions."
" Then tell me how I got this awful smash ; it is past my comprehension entirely. All is to me a blank after what took place in the study, and that I shall never cease to remember with shame and horror. And also tell me the reason that you have never allowed me to see my boy, although I have frequently asked for him."
" I could not bring him to you, Archie I The poor child has been very, very ill ; but he is now better, and out of danger."
" Why, what has been the matter with my boy ? Fever ? Measles ? Whooping cough ? What ?"
" Alas ! he was sadly hurt, poor child. Some of his ribs were broken, and his leg fractured above the knee."
"His leg! his ribs! Poor little fellow! poor little man ! He, too, crushed, smashed ! I cannot make it out. Lilly, there is something very strange and very terrible in all this, and I beg of you to explain it without delay. Here am I with leg, arm and head broken, and [ know not how or even when . this occurred to me ; and now you tell me that my boy is in the same plight. 1 have given, and still give, my insane love of brandy the credit for all that has befallen me. though in what way I know not. But Archie too, how Can this be?"
"Patience, dear Archie, audi will tell you all, but I fear it will pain you, poor dear."
And she told him all, from the moment when she found him stretched upon the study floor, with the exploded pistol beside him, until the present time.
He lay listening to the narrative of his mad freaks, and large tears coursed slowly down his thin cheeks. At times he would murmur, "My poor child, my noble boy! I have nearly been his murderer 1" And when she had finished her tale, " Oh, wife ! wife ! How can I ever ask you to forgive me ? How expect you to feel for me as you used to feel, or place faith in me, or ever trust me again ? How ask it? how expect it ?"
Her arms were round his neck, her lips pressed to his. " More than ever, Archie, I love you, and trust you. More than ever I honour and believe in you. You fell into temp- tation ; you let it overcome you until you had no strength to resist it ; you let it overcome you because you did not fear it, and knew not its subtle poison until too late. And, oh, how I thank our God, who, in his good providence, has saved you when you were past human help ; for you are saved, my beloved, I feel it, I know it. "
"My poor Lilly, it would make your heart ache to know what I suffered when under the dominion of alcohol. None but God can ever know how I struggled to free myself fiom. the toils ; how I upbraided.; how I cursed myself for my weakness, and strove for strength to resist ; but in vain, it was beyond my power. I had bartered my strength, as the fiend seemed to say, upon that never-to-be-forgotten day, for his drops of brandy ; and every struggle seemed but to rivet its hold tighter upon me until there was no choice left but suicide or othei degradation. God forbid that you should or could realise all this, my darling ; for, if you could, you would have a darker page of human misery revealed to you than ever your mind imagined even during the paroxysm of the most dreadful nightmare. The ordeal through which I have been led has been indeed a fiery one, but it has been fraught with immeasurable good to me ; for, by the grace of God, I have been taught to know my own weakness, and to lean upon a higher power for support in the day of trial than my own self-righteousness. You once accepted my pledge, Lilly ; it was faithfully given, and honourably observed. Gan you trust me again, dearest ? Can you still have faith in a reed that was bent and nearly broken ? Will you accept a pledge from me and have faith
in its fulfilment ?"
" Yes, I will, and can, and do trust you, even without any pledge."
" Lord of the Isles my trust in thee
ls firm as Ailsa rock,"
she quoted, with a smile.
"Thanks, love! But henceforth I will never trust in my own strength, which has proved to be lamentable weak- ness. The enemy has been cast out of the citadel, not by any effort of mine, I acknowledge, but by God's grace alone. It is mine now to guard it against his re-entrance ; and I pledge myself, as your soldier under God, to do it honour- ably and truly, even to iny life's end."