There is one class of luckless mortals in this world of ours whose sorrows, though often more real than those of other people, never bring them any sympathy. It is those in whom suffering excites an irritating conflict, which makes them intolerable to themselves and others. The more they suffer the more severe, biting and bitter become their words and actions. The very sympathy they long for, by a strange contrariness of nature they throw back on their friends as an injury. Nobody knows where to have them, or how to handle them, and when everybody steers away from them they are inwardly desolate at their loneliness.

After the funeral train had borne away from the old brown farm-house the silent form of her who was its peace, its light, its comfort, Zeph Higgins wandered like an unquiet spirit from room to room, feeling every silent memorial of her who was no longer there as a stab in the yet throbbing wound. Unlovely people are often cursed with an intense desire to be loved, and the more unlovely they grow the more intense becomes this desire. His love for his wife had been unusually strong in the sense of what is often called loving—that is, he needed her, depended on her, and could not do without her. He was always sure that she loved him; he was always sure of her patient ear to whatever he wished to say, of her wish to do to her utmost whatever he wanted her to do. Then he was not without a certain sense of the beauty and purity of her character, and had a sort of almost superstitious confidence in her prayers and goodness, like what the Italian peasant has in his patron saint. He felt a sort of helplessness and terror at the idea of facing life without her. Besides this, he was tormented by a secret unacknowledged sense of his own unloveliness: he was angry with himself—cursed himself, called himself hard names; and he who quarrels with himself has this disadvantage, that his adversary is inseparably his companion—lies down and rises, eats, drinks and sleeps with him.

What intensified this conflict was the remembrance of his wife's dying words, enjoining on him the relinquishment of the bitter quarrel which had alienated him from his church and his neighbors, and placed her in so false a position.

He knew that he was in the wrong; he knew that she was in the right, and that those words spoken on her death-bed were God's voice to him. But every nerve and fiber in him seemed to rebel and resist; he would not humble himself; he would not confess; he would not take a step toward reconciliation.

The storm that was raging within expressed itself outwardly in an impatience and irritability which tried his children to the utmost. Poor Nabby did her best to assume in the family all her mother's cares, but was met at every turn by vexatious fault-finding.

"There now!" he said, coming out one morning, "where's my stockings? Everything's being neglected—not a pair to put on!"

"Oh yes, Father, I sat up and mended your stockings last night before I went to bed. I didn't go into your room, because I was afraid of waking you; but here they are on my basket."

"Give 'em here, then!" said Zeph harshly. "I want my things where I know where they are. Your mother always had everything ready so I didn't have to ask for it."

"Well, I never shall be as good as Mother if I try till I'm gray," said Nabby, impatiently.

"Don't you be snapping back at me," said Zeph. "But it's jest so everywhere. Nobody won't care for me now. I don't expect it."

"Well, Father, I'm sure I try the best I can, and you keep scolding me all the time. It's discouraging."

"Oh, yes, I'm a devil, I suppose. Everybody 's right but me. Well, I shall be out of the way one of these days, and nobody'll care. There ain't a critter in the world cares whether I'm alive or dead—not even my own children."

The sparks flashed through the tears in Nabby's eyes. She was cut to the soul by the cruel injustice of these words, and a hot and hasty answer rose to her lips, but was smothered in her throat.

Nabby had become one of the converts of the recently-commenced revival of religion, and had begun to lay the discipline of the Christian life on her temper and her tongue, and found it hard work. As yet she had only attained so far as repression and indignant silence, while the battle raged tempestuously within.

"I'd like just to go off and leave things to take care of themselves," she said to herself, "and then he'd see whether I don't do anything. Try, and try, and try, and not a word said—nothing but scold, scold, scold. It's too bad! Flesh and blood can't stand everything! Mother did, but I ain't Mother. I must try to be like her, though; but it's dreadful hard with Father. How did Mother ever keep so quiet and always be so pleasant? She used—to pray a great deal. Well, I must pray."

Yet if Nabby could have looked in at that moment and seen the misery in her father's soul her indignation would have been lost in pity; for Zeph in his heart knew that Nabby was a good, warm-hearted girl, honestly trying her very best to make her mother's place good. He knew it, and when he was alone and quiet he felt it so that tears came to his eyes; and yet this miserable, irritable demon that possessed him had led him to say these cruel words to her—words that he cursed himself for saying, the hour after. But on this day the internal conflict was raging stronger than ever. The revival in the neighborhood was making itself felt and talked about, and the Friday evening prayer-meeting in the school-house was at hand.

Zeph was debating with himself whether he would take the first step towards reconciliation with his church by going to it. His wife's dying words haunted him, and he thought he might at least go as far as this in the right direction; but the mere suggestion of the first step roused a perfect whirlwind of opposition within him.

Certain moral conditions are alike in all minds, and this stern, gnarled, grizzled old New England farmer had times when he felt exactly as Milton has described a lost archangel as feeling:

"Oh, then, at last relent! Is there no place

Left for repentance? none for pardon left?

None left but by submission, and that word

Disdain forbids me and my dread of shame."

It is curious that men are not generally ashamed of any form of anger, wrath or malice; but of the first step towards a nobler nature—the confession of a wrong—they are ashamed.

Never had Zeph been more intolerable and unreasonable to his sons in the field-work than on this day.

He was too thoroughly knit up in the habits of a Puritan education to use any form of profane language, but no man knew so well how to produce the startling effect of an oath without swearing; and this day he drove about the field in such a stormy manner that his sons, accustomed as they were to his manners, were alarmed.

"Tell you what," said one of the boys to Abner, "the old man's awful cranky to-day. Reely seems as if he was a little bit sprung. I don't know but he's going crazy!"

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