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Erewhon

14.Mahaina
I continued my sojourn with the Nosnibors. In a few days Mr. Nosnibor had recovered
from his flogging, and was looking forward with glee to the fact that the next would be
the last. I did not think that there seemed any occasion even for this; but he said it was
better to be on the safe side, and he would make up the dozen. He now went to his
business as usual; and I understood that he was never more prosperous, in spite of his
heavy fine. He was unable to give me much of his time during the day; for he was one of
those valuable men who are paid, not by the year, month, week, or day, but by the
minute. His wife and daughters, however, made much of me, and introduced me to their
friends, who came in shoals to call upon me.
One of these persons was a lady called Mahaina. Zulora (the elder of my host's
daughters) ran up to her and embraced her as soon as she entered the room, at the same
time inquiring tenderly after her "poor dipsomania." Mahaina answered that it was just as
bad as ever; she was a perfect martyr to it, and her excellent health was the only thing
which consoled her under her affliction.
Then the other ladies joined in with condolences and the never- failing suggestions which
they had ready for every mental malady. They recommended their own straightener and
disparaged Mahaina's. Mrs. Nosnibor had a favourite nostrum, but I could catch little of
its nature. I heard the words "full confidence that the desire to drink will cease when the
formula has been repeated * * * this confidence is EVERYTHING * * * far from
undervaluing a thorough determination never to touch spirits again * * * fail too often * *
* formula a CERTAIN CURE (with great emphasis) * * * prescribed form * * * full
conviction." The conversation then became more audible, and was carried on at
considerable length. I should perplex myself and the reader by endeavouring to follow the
ingenious perversity of all they said; enough, that in the course of time the visit came to
an end, and Mahaina took her leave receiving affectionate embraces from all the ladies. I
had remained in the background after the first ceremony of introduction, for I did not like
the looks of Mahaina, and the conversation displeased me. When she left the room I had
some consolation in the remarks called forth by her departure.
At first they fell to praising her very demurely. She was all this that and the other, till I
disliked her more and more at every word, and inquired how it was that the straighteners
had not been able to cure her as they had cured Mr. Nosnibor.
There was a shade of significance on Mrs. Nosnibor's face as I said this, which seemed to
imply that she did not consider Mahaina's case to be quite one for a straightener. It
flashed across me that perhaps the poor woman did not drink at all. I knew that I ought
not to have inquired, but I could not help it, and asked point blank whether she did or not.
"We can none of us judge of the condition of other people," said Mrs. Nosnibor in a
gravely charitable tone and with a look towards Zulora.
 
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