MEDORA’S NIGHT

In a rowan-red gown and her best hat, Medora had left Ashprington while
it was yet twilight of morning. She carried only a light travelling
basket made of cane, for she took little more than the clothes on her
back. She proposed to begin the new life in new clothes, which would be
bought in London. Even her wedding ring was left behind and she told
herself that she would not wear such a thing again until Jordan Kellock
set it on her finger.

She met him as they had arranged, at Newton Abbot, and together they
proceeded to London. He was serious on the journey and extraordinarily
solicitous for Medora’s mental and physical comfort. She told him all
that she had done and he explained his own purposes. At Bristol he
got her a cup of tea and a piece of cake. They had enjoyed privacy so
far; but now others entered the carriage and they could talk no more.
So Mrs. Dingle fell back on her thoughts and pictured the sequence of
events at home, while Kellock read a newspaper. Her heart beat high
when London was reached and the train plunged into Paddington.

“I’m afraid we must practice a little guile, Medora,” he said as they
walked down Praed Street, Jordan carrying their luggage; “but as little
as possible.”

They proceeded to Edgeware Road, where the man knew a small hotel.

“Keep on your gloves for the moment,” he advised. “The first thing I
shall do to-morrow will be to buy you a wedding ring.”

“We are married,” declared Medora. “Already I feel as properly married
to you as I can be.”

But he soared to no such imaginative heights.

“Marriage is marriage,” he answered. “We must possess our souls in
patience.”

He spoke as though he were not going to find this difficult. Indeed he
was nervous and anxious to have certain preliminaries completed. At the
“Edgeware Arms” Kellock asked for two bedrooms with a firm voice and
registered their names as “Mr. and Mrs. Jordan Kellock, from Totnes,
Devonshire.”

They went upstairs together, led by a boy who carried Medora’s
travelling basket and the man’s leather portmanteau. The bedrooms
adjoined and Kellock invited Medora to choose her room. He then left
her luggage there and went into the other himself.

She unpacked with some emotion and wondered when he would come in to
see her; but he did not come. She put on a pair of shoes and a white
blouse. She washed and did her hair again, for it was untidy. Then she
sat down to wait. Presently he knocked at the outer door.

“Are you coming to supper?” he asked, and she rose and joined him.

“Are you rested? I’m afraid you must be sinking.”

“I’m quite all right. Is your room nice?”

“Very comfortable. You don’t mind them adjoining?”

“Why should I?”

“There’s certainly no reason,” he admitted.

They supped together cheerfully and he made her drink hot soup. He was
a teetotaller but Medora asked for some beer.

“I dare say I’ll get used to giving it up soon,” she said. “In fact I
mean to. Where I can be like you, Jordan, I shall be. But I’m used to a
glass for supper and I’m extra tired to-day.”

He ordered a small bottle of Bass and under the stimulant she grew
happy and confidential. She talked a great deal.

“I didn’t think I should have been able to eat a bit,” she said, “but I
never enjoyed a meal more.”

“Nor me,” he answered. “When you’ve done, we’ll go and sit in the
writing room. That’ll be empty, and we can chat. But I know you’re
dog-tired, so I shan’t let you stop up long.”

The smoking room looked more attractive to Medora. There was a haze
in the air and a tang of cigar about the portal. A chink of glass and
sound of laughter might be heard there. She would have liked to be
seen sitting by Mr. Kellock in some comfortable corner, while he too
smoked a cigar and drank some whiskey and soda perhaps, or one of the
bright drinks in very little glasses. But she blamed herself for the
wish. There must be no small fancies of this sort. Her triumph would
never be displayed in public smoking rooms. She must realise that from
the first. As though to mark the austere heights on which henceforth
she would move, Jordan led the way to an empty writing room silent and
dark. A decayed fire was perishing in the grate. He fumbled for an
electric light and turned it on. Then he shut the door and drew an arm
chair to the remains of the fire for her. He took a light chair and
placed it opposite her.

“Here we can talk in private,” he said.

She looked at a sofa, but he failed to perceive her glance.

“To-morrow,” he told her, “I begin the day by writing to Mr. Trenchard
and your husband.”

“For God’s sake don’t call him that any more. You’ll be telling me I’m
Mrs. Dingle in a minute.”

“As a matter of fact you are, Medora. We mustn’t dream beautiful dreams
yet. We’ve got to face reality till we alter reality.”

“My life’s not been reality so far—only a nightmare.”

“Reality is nothing more than a question of time now. In fact you may
say it’s begun, Medora.”

“Yes, indeed, Jordan dear. You can’t guess what heaven it is to me to
know I’m in your strong hands. I’ve come to rest after being tossed by
cruel storms—to rest in your arms.”

“I hope I’ll prove all you think me. I want to have the future clear
and the past off our minds; and then we’ll just enjoy ourselves and
have a bit of good fun.”

She wondered what his idea of good fun would be. But she was not yet
feeling much like fun. While the evening wore on and the fire went out
and Kellock’s level voice proceeded to indicate the future as he hoped
and desired it to be, she began to feel cold and depressed.

“I shall inform Mr. Trenchard that I will return, or leave as he
prefers. It really doesn’t matter to me; because, thank God, my ability
makes me independent. Of course if you don’t want to go back, I
shouldn’t think of doing so; but you do want to.”

“Yes, I want to. I like the country.”

“That will mean that your—that Mr. Dingle leaves.”

“So he should; but he’s just the man not to see it.”

“Obviously he must leave, or I must. I bear him a very bitter grudge
for his cruelty to you, and I’m not going to pretend that I care about
his future.”

“I should hope not, Jordan.”

“Far from it. Wrong done to you was wrong done to me. At least that is
what it amounts to now. My feeling to Dingle will be the feeling of the
strong to the weak, Medora. He must go if you wish to stop. Of course
I’ve got very different ideas from him.”

“I should hope you had.”

“For instance, I wouldn’t let my wife work as he let you work.”

She yawned presently and he exclaimed that he must not keep her up any
longer.

“You put everything out of your mind and go to bed,” he advised.
“Would you like a cup of tea or anything before you go?”

“Not if you wouldn’t,” she said.

But he explained that he never took anything after his supper, and that
the lighter his last meal, the better he slept.

So she left him. He clasped her right hand in both his and shook it
affectionately for some seconds; but he did not kiss her.

“I shall turn in pretty soon myself,” he said. “But it’s not above ten
o’clock yet. I’ll stop here and draft out those letters—that’ll save
time to-morrow.”

She went upstairs and presently, for curiosity, tried the door between
her room and his. It was open and she went in. Through a Venetian blind
slants of electric light from the street illuminated the chamber; but
that did not show enough, so Medora turned on the light and looked for
evidence of Jordan. They were starkly simple: a brush and comb on the
dressing table, a shaving brush and a tooth brush and a nail brush
and sponge on the washing-stand. Upon his bed lay a night shirt and
against the door hung his overcoat and black squash hat and dark blue
silk neckerchief. A few newspapers and books on economic and industrial
subjects he had also brought. In a drawer of a chest of drawers were
some collars and socks and two blue flannel shirts.

What Medora expected to see she did not know, but what she did see
depressed her. She put out the light and went back to her own room.
Then all manners of doubts and wonders occupied her mind and her first
purpose was to undress and get into bed as fast as possible before the
man came upstairs. She hesitated about locking the door between them
and decided to do so. His importunities would be rather delightful and
human. For she felt that the humanity of Jordan was what she hungered
and thirsted for. She adored his chivalry and wonderful tenderness
and forethought; she perceived what a white knight he was—all these
manifestations were duly recorded and valued. But now—surely it was
her turn to reward a spirit so rare and worthy of reward?

She was soon in bed with her light out; and presently she heard him
arrive and saw a streak of illumination beneath the intervening door.
She listened and heard him take off his boots and put them outside his
door. But at last he flicked off his light and pulled up the Venetian
blind. She remembered that he had told her he always slept with his
blind up.

Her heart beat hard now and her ears strained for the next sound. It
was not, however, the door-handle that creaked, but Kellock’s bed.
There was a squeak and jolt followed by silence.

The unwonted noise of the streets kept Medora awake and she became the
prey of thoughts that grew more and more unpleasant. A brief peace
sank over London, but bells beating the hour would not let her sleep.
During the small hours and with vitality at low ebb, her mind sank into
a region of nervous gloom. For the moment her triumph became divested
of all its brilliance and there was thrust upon her very forcibly
the other aspect of such action as she had taken. She considered her
mother and Ned. For some reason, and not a little to her annoyance,
thought took the bit in its teeth respecting Ned and absolutely refused
to dwell on the black side of him. As a matter of fact Medora proved
too weary to pretend any longer. She was now disarmed; the sleight
of her own creation, which had risen as a sort of shield between her
and reality, for the present fell; and she found that her reflections
obstinately refused to follow the line she had of late persisted in.
The mind that she had drilled to think as she wished, for once in a way
threw off allegiance and refused to be loyal to Medora’s impersonation.
Instead it stumbled painfully but with determination along the way
of truth and reduced her to despair by persistently bringing before
her vision pictures of good days with Ned and memories from the past
wherein he figured to advantage.

She tossed and turned, grew very sorry for herself and finally centred
her thoughts on Kellock. She considered his chaste attitude to the
present situation rather absurd. Then she fell to wondering whether
this delicate matter did not more properly belong to her. He was so
high-minded where she was concerned—a miracle of tender refinement.
For a long time she resisted an inclination to go to him, but presently
persuaded herself that it would be the truest kindness to do so. Her
own nature prompted her strongly to seek comfort from him, for she
was exceedingly miserable now and awake with a hateful alertness. She
thought it was more than probable that he lay on the other side of the
wall similarly enduring. Surely if she went to him, an everlasting bond
would be established between them and their union sealed gloriously
by her initiative. He was just that subtle man to appreciate such
an evidence of her perfect trust. Still some voice in her argued
contrariwise and not until a clock chimed three did Medora decide. Then
she made a dash for him.

She unlocked the door between their rooms, opened it gently and found
Kellock lying peacefully asleep with the wan light from his bared
window irradiating the chamber. The window was open and the room
felt exceedingly cold. She had not wakened him and for a moment she
hesitated and even went so far as to creep half-way back to the door.

He looked very pale and very handsome asleep. He slumbered easily with
a pleasant, happy expression upon his face. She fastened upon it and
told herself that he was glad to have won her and more than strong
enough to keep her for ever. She longed to be close to him and feel his
arms round her. A man so strong and physically splendid could not lack
for fire. It only awaited Medora’s awakening, and she was in a mood to
wake it. If she was to sleep at all that night, she must sleep with
him, she told herself.

Perhaps even now a whisper warned her; but she was beyond warning. She
wanted him and bent down and kissed him on the mouth.

“My darling dear, I can’t sleep alone,” she said. “Why didn’t you come
to me?”

He started up instantly, and she saw him break from sleep to waking and
stare with half-seeing eyes as round as an owl’s. He grew exceedingly
white and his jaw fell. From an expression of content and peace, his
countenance became miserable and rather idiotic. It is not too much
to say that as soon as he found himself awake with Medora in her
nightdress beside him, he grew frightened.

“Good God—what’s the matter?” he asked in a hollow voice.

“I’m the matter,” she answered. “I can’t be martyred all night. I want
to come and sleep beside you.”

Then his face grew suddenly red with a wave of blood and he was as wide
awake as Medora herself.

He did not mince his words.

“Go back to bed, Medora, at once! You don’t know what you’re doing.
You’re dreaming—sleep-walking—surely. You mean it innocently. I’ll
explain in the morning. Please, please go—instantly, Medora.”

She stared at him, stood upright and did not immediately obey his
command to depart.

“We don’t want to look back at this great thing we have done and feel
any shadow upon it,” he declared. “We want to be able to look into
each other’s faces and know that we have nothing whatever, before God
or man, to reproach ourselves with. We’ve started on the highest plane
and we’ll keep on the highest plane. You understand me. Indeed the
beautiful thing has always been that we do understand each other so
perfectly. So—please, Medora.”

She did not answer, but obeyed. Burning and shaking to her very bones
she vanished and slammed the door behind her; then she leapt into her
bed and huddled under the clothes in a fury. But she did not hate
herself long; she hated Kellock. It took Medora till five o’clock
in the morning to cool down. An incident contributed to return of
calm, because, after she had left him, the man turned on his electric
light—she saw it under the door. And apparently he kept it on. She
could also hear him walking about. It was clear therefore that she had
disturbed him a good deal.

“I wonder he didn’t turn over and go to sleep again,” she reflected
bitterly.

It was long before she forgave him.

“Even if he didn’t want me, he oughtn’t to have said so,” reflected
Medora. “He ought to have pretended he was glad. To send me away like a
naughty school child after all I’ve done for him!”

She determined that he must be punished and decided that she would not
get up at all next day, but stop in her room and pretend to be ill.
And in a thousand other ways she would punish him also. He should see
that she could be as frosty as he. Indeed he had frozen her effectually
now. And she told herself that it would be a very long time before she
thawed again.

She slept heavily at last, and when she was called, found that her
will to hit back had weakened. By daylight she perceived that nothing
was to be gained in quarrelling with Jordan. He had said that he would
explain in the morning and she felt it would be better to hear him.
She smouldered still and resented her experience extremely; but she
was ready when he knocked at her door and they went down to breakfast
together.

Continue Reading

LYDIA’S DAY

Lydia Trivett always remembered the seventeenth day of March as the
most remarkable anniversary in her career. For upon that day she
experienced such a succession of extraordinary and unexpected shocks
and strains, that, looking back afterwards, she marvelled how any human
mind was strong enough to endure them and not break down under such
massive and accumulated provocation.

Enough adventures overtook Lydia on the seventeenth of March to suffice
a well balanced woman for ten years.

The day was Sunday and opened without incident; but hardly had Mrs.
Trivett got her brother’s children off to church, when Tom Dolbear
descended from his wife with the news that he was going for the doctor
and calling for the nurse.

“To-day makes or mars me,” he said. “If ’tis another girl, Lydia, I
don’t know how I’ll bear up against it.”

“Be hopeful,” she urged. “There’s a law called the law of averages, so
Mr. Knox tells me, and according to that, a boy’s very nearly certain.”

But Mr. Dolbear did not understand.

“Tell the man he’s a fool then,” he answered as he laced up his boots.
“Children can’t be regulated by law, though it’s just like the cussed
conceit of lawyers to think they can. And God help us if they could
ordain these things, for they’d drive tidy hard bargains I’ll warrant.”

“’Tis a law of nature, not of lawyers,” explained his sister. “I don’t
know nothing about it myself, but the common sense is that after such
a lot of girls, you’ve a right to expect a boy, and no doubt so it will
be.”

He departed and Lydia went to Mary. She was in no way concerned for
her, because Mrs. Dolbear managed these matters very successfully and
with the least possible trouble to herself. Nature invariably smiled
upon her and her present anxiety merely echoed her husband’s.

“God send it’s a man-child, or else I shan’t hear the last of it,” she
murmured.

All was ready to welcome the new-comer and in half an hour Mrs.
Dolbear’s ally, Mrs. Damerell from the village, joined her. The
children came home from church and Lydia gave them their dinner and
told them that a new brother or sister was about to arrive. They shared
the family ambition and prayed Aunt Lydia to let it be a brother.

“I think it will be,” she said, “but that’s for God to decide.”

“Nobody don’t want no more girls,” declared the eldest daughter, and
her aunt told her not to speak so.

“’Tisn’t what we want; ’tis what our Father in Heaven wants, Milly. And
if He sends father and mother a little girl, we must welcome it just so
hearty as you and your sisters were welcomed in your turn.”

Mr. Dolbear was restless, but he ate as good a dinner as usual and
then, having heard that all was going well, went into the orchard with
his pipe. The children were despatched to Sunday school and presently
an old doctor arrived, visited Mary and then joined the farmer under
the apple trees.

“A matter of form,” he said. “I come as a matter of form, Tom.”

Mr. Dolbear enquired as to the law of averages, and the medical man
advised him to set no faith upon it.

“When you’re dealing with the statistics and the population as a whole,
such things work out pretty regular, I grant you,” he explained, “but
when you’re dealing with one woman, who has got into a habit, then
it’s not wise to indulge in general principles. Habit is stronger than
anything but death, Tom; and though you may fairly hope for a son, I
may say in sporting language that the betting is a shade against.”

“You think ’twill be a girl, doctor?”

“I do—not long odds, but about two to one.”

Within doors Lydia was standing reading a letter with shaking hands,
while silent, strained, staring, humped up in the chair opposite her,
sat Ned Dingle. He had come from Ashprington, burst in upon her while
she was helping a maiden to wash up, ordered her to follow him to the
parlour and then broken the fatal news.

“She’s gone—run away—Medora,” he said. “She rose afore I was awake
this morning, and when I came down house, I got this to breakfast. The
post-man brought it, just as I was wondering what the mischief had
become of her. Read it.”

He handed Lydia Medora’s epistle and sat and watched her while she read
it. He did not interrupt but kept his eyes on her face and gnawed his
knuckles as she read.

When she had finished, she let the fatal sheet fall on the ground and
took off her glasses. Then she bent down and picked up the letter.

“A cheerful, damned sort of thing for a husband to get,” said Ned.
“Going to marry Kellock, you see.”

“As to that, she’ll marry Kellock when you please and not before,”
answered Lydia quietly. “I don’t know what to say to you, Ned. This
is beyond anything. I never guessed for a moment she’d sink to such
wickedness. God’s my judge I didn’t know she was having any truck with
that man.”

The nurse looked in.

“Where’s doctor?” she asked.

“In the orchard with Mr. Dolbear,” answered Lydia. Mrs. Damerell
departed and she turned again to Ned.

“It’s an insulting letter. I’m terribly shocked. I don’t pretend to
understand the rising generation, my dear. After they grow out of
childhood, they get too deep for me. But I couldn’t have thought any
daughter of mine and my husband’s would ever have done this.”

“It’s all very plain to understand now,” he answered. “She wanted that
man and she couldn’t chuck me without some sort of excuse, so she
worked up this idea, that I was a brute and tormenting her to death and
so on. Then she made Kellock believe it; and though he kept perfectly
straight, so far as I know, while he thought Medora was happily married
to me, as soon as she began about me being a cruel devil that made her
life hell and all that, then Kellock no doubt believed her. Why, he
went so far as to lecture me a while back along, and I knocked him in
the water for doing so. I’ll swear he had no thought to run away with
her then—unless he’s the biggest traitor that ever walked the earth.
But he ain’t that sort. I simply can’t see that man doing this job.”

“I’m glad you can keep so cool and sensible, Ned. Nothing’s gained
by getting angered, though I’m angered I promise you, and anger’s a
righteous thing sometimes. I’m struck to the heart over this; and if
I’d thought for an instant ’twas in her wicked mind even as a shadow,
I’d have given you due notice. But I never dreamed it. I’ve talked
to her again and again and tried to show her sense; but she’s doomed
herself by her own nature.”

“The mischief is I couldn’t read her,” answered Mr. Dingle. “Not that
I didn’t at first. She married me for love—no other reason—and for
the first six months—nay ten—of our life together, I read her like a
book. But after that she changed. And she got stranger and stranger,
as we went on, till be damned if I didn’t find myself living with a
different woman! And, mind this, I was never rough nor harsh to her,
till she’d egged me on to being so. I put up with a devil of a lot and
kept my temper in a manner that surprised myself if not her; but she
was out to make me lose it, because, till I did so, the things she
wanted to happen couldn’t. And after a bit I did lose it. Who wouldn’t?
Yet God’s my judge I was never very much enraged with her, because I
always felt she was play-acting and making believe half the time; and
that had a funny side; and sometimes it amused me more than it angered
me. And above that was the sure knowledge that any open quarrel would
be an unmanly thing and might lead to lasting trouble; and above that,
again, was the fact that I loved Medora well. I never ceased to love
her in her maddest tantrums.

“Then comes this letter, and I can assure you it’s a bolt from the
blue. And yet it’s all unreal somehow—I can’t grasp it home to me. I
can’t believe it. I could almost laugh and say to myself it’s a dream
and I shall wake up alongside Medora any minute.”

His face was full of pain, as yet he showed more stunned surprise than
anger.

“I knew her so well—think of it,” he went on. “She must have her bit
of fun and her bit of flattery; and she got both with me. But him—good
God Almighty—she turned him down once for all eighteen months ago,
and she told me why in very good plain words. And now she’s gone to
him. Yet he’s not changed. He can’t change. There’s men I can see
her with perhaps—though none as easy as I can see her with me—but
him—Kellock—he’ll never satisfy her. It’s impossible.”

“You’re right there,” said Lydia. “My daughter’s not the sort to be
content to shine with her husband’s reflected light. The little fool
wants to be somebody herself. It’s vanity quite as much as wickedness
has made her do this. But she won’t shine with Kellock anyway; and
after doing such a hateful, wicked thing, he won’t shine either. His
light’s out now in the eyes of all self-respecting, honourable people.”

“No, it isn’t,” he answered. “It will make a deuce of a lot of
difference to Medora, but not to him, because he’s the sort that don’t
let any outward thing alter their inward disposition. He’s thought it
all out. He knows there’s not half a dozen men in the kingdom can make
paper like him, and so he’s safe and beyond any punishment whatever he
does. He’s done nothing the law can touch him for. And when I touch
him, the law will be on his side against me.”

Ned was still amazingly calm. Indeed his self-control astonished her.

“So far I don’t know what’s happening,” he proceeded. “I don’t know
where they are, or what they have planned. I’m keeping an open mind. I
shall see him presently. I may swing for him yet; or I may find—Lord
knows what I may find. It’s all hidden so far.”

“I feel as if I was twenty years older for this news—older and broken
too,” said Lydia. “If there was time, I’d weep a river for this, and
I shall yet; but not now. There’s a baby coming upstairs, and you
can’t think of two things to once and do ’em both justice. I’ll see
you to-morrow in the dinner hour. Perhaps you’ll hear more by then.
Kellock was a man very nice on speech, as well as manners. He’ll feel
it’s up to him to—there, what am I saying?—the strangeness! Well may
you say as though you was in a dream. So I feel; and I won’t throw up
hope either. God often waits till the very last minute afore He throws
the light of truth into a mind. He may prevail with Medora, and so I
wouldn’t say nothing yet—nothing to nobody.”

“I’m dazed,” he told her. “I scarce know what I’ve been doing since
breakfast. Here’s your children coming back from Sunday school. I’ll be
gone. It’s a bad job—an ugly, cruel job; but grasp hold of this tight,
and whether you tell or whether you do not tell, remember the fault
weren’t mine. I never treated her bad, not yet bullied her, nor played
tyrant upon her; and if she said I did, she was a liar; and if ever I
handled her rough, I was sorry after; and the worst ever I did weren’t
a twentieth part of what she deserved.”

“I know all that,” said Lydia; then the children clattered down the
passage with shrill questions: “Be the baby come?” “Be it a boy?” “Oh,
say ’tis a boy, Aunt Lydia!”

Ned went off through the orchards, while his mother-in-law, scarce
knowing what she did, gave the children their tea.

Under the trees Mr. Dolbear padded up and down. He was in no fear for
Mary, but suffering the extremity of anxiety as to the sex of the
coming child.

Ned told him the news.

“My wife’s run away from me, Tom,” he said.

“Have she? Fancy! The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be
the Name. I never did like Medora, and you’ll bear me out. Where’s she
run then?”

“I don’t know. She’s gone with Jordan Kellock, the vatman.”

“God’ll see to it—trust Him, and don’t take the law in your own hands.”

They talked for ten minutes; then a child appeared at the gate by the
house. It was Milly, Mr. Dolbear’s favourite.

“The news be come,” cried Tom, and ignoring Dingle, he hastened to his
daughter, while Ned departed. The first shock was over and his deep
disgrace and bitter wrong began to grind into him. So far he had kept
amazingly temperate. But he was to experience many moods before he
slept that night.

Meantime Milly in tears broke bad news to the farmer.

“There’s another beastly little girl come,” she piped, and her father
gazed tragically at her and turned silently to his home. Lydia met him
at the door.

“Did Ned tell you of this awful misfortune?” she asked.

“No,” he answered. “Milly told me, and I say here and now that it’s an
outrage and undeserved.”

“I’m thinking of Medora, Tom.”

But Dolbear had no room in his mind for Medora. The children were all
cast down and some wept.

“I must go and comfort the woman,” said Mary’s husband. “She’ll feel
this only less than I do. And I should like to hear parson justify
it—not that he could. Just a piece of saucy cruelty against them
who’ve done nought to deserve it. That’s what it is.”

“Don’t you go souring her mind against the baby,” urged Lydia. “That
wouldn’t be kind after all her trouble and patience. Say you’re
pleased, Tom, and cheer her up.”

“’Twould only be a lie if I did and nobody would know it better than
her. I’ll go up and forget myself and comfort her as best I can—and
God’s my judge, Lydia, I won’t have no more children.”

“Don’t you say what you’ll be sorry for.”

“I mean it. Them that plant the seed have a right to call the crops in
my opinion; and there did ought to be fair give and take between the
creature and his Creator. There weren’t no rhyme nor reason in planting
another girl on me, and I ain’t going to be the plaything of the
Almighty no more—and more shan’t Mary. We’ve done—through no fault of
our own neither.”

He ascended to a weary and apologetic partner who shared his view of
the situation.

“It’s the living daps of the last,” she said. “A nice little, heavy
girl; but I can’t do no more, Tom; I can’t fight against Providence.”

“No you can’t,” he declared, “and what’s more, you shan’t. You’ve
broke the law of averages by all accounts; and that’s about the limit.
And Somebody shall see that two can play at that game in the future.
Providence have shut down on the boys; and I’ll shut down on the girls.
It ain’t going to be all one way.”

Mrs. Dolbear shed tears, but she shared his indignation and did not
blame his attitude to the baby.

Mrs. Damerell was shocked.

“I wouldn’t open my mouth so wide if I was you, farmer,” she answered.
“Who are you to dictate what you want? Here’s a fine female child come
into the world, to be your right hand and the joy of your life for all
you know to the contrary. I’m sure I never yet saw a pair receive a
child in such a way, since the day that Honor Michelmore got one with
no thumbs and cussed God. But in your case, Nature have always done
her part to the full, and you’re saying things you didn’t ought, Mr.
Dolbear.”

“If you’re so pleased with it, you’d better take it home with you,”
he answered. “It never can be no favourite of mine now, and I won’t
pretend different.”

Beneath Lydia was seeking to allay the disappointment of the family.

“I shouldn’t wonder if she was the nicest little sister any of you ever
had, my dears. A proper little fairy very likely, and the one you’ll
all like best.”

They vowed it never could be and Milly said: “Father hates her a’ready,
so I be going to do the same.”

Then Mrs. Trivett preached very seriously against this inhuman spirit
and was still preaching when there came Philander Knox.

“I thought the better the day the better the deed,” he explained, “and
I hoped your young people would be going to church after their tea, so
I might have a yarn with you.”

“Very kind of you, I’m sure. Perhaps you’ll be able to distract my
brother’s mind a thought. He’s very much under the weather. And I dare
say it would be a good thing if a few of you was to go to church.”

Milly, who loved church, but did not often attend evening service, was
pleased at this plan and she took her younger sisters with her. Tom
came down, smoked a pipe and grew calmer in the company of Mr. Knox;
Lydia put the other children to bed—for the present the penultimate
baby was in her room—and then Philander’s opportunity arrived, and
after Mr. Dolbear had gone up the village, he enjoyed Lydia’s society
for half an hour before interruption came.

She told him what had happened to Medora and he wondered, while he
discussed the tragedy, whether it might not, after all, help rather
than hinder his own designs.

“At first sight,” he said, “the human instinct is always to say that
anything out of the common must be wrong; but that’s only our natural
cowardice and love of letting life alone. And I, for one, am not going
to say that because a woman changes husbands, or a man changes wives,
it follows they are doing the wrong thing. Often a pinch of pluck
will break a partnership to the advantage of both parties, and it’s a
darned sight better than shaking their chains and making a nuisance
of themselves in the face of the people. An unhappy marriage is a bad
advertisement for the institution, and a man like me, who believes
heart and soul in marriage, is always sorry to see an unhappy marriage
go on.”

“But if every young pair who quarrelled before their first child came
was to part like this, the world couldn’t go on. Those that God have
joined let no man put asunder.”

“No man can,” he answered. “You needn’t worry about that. If God
joins up a man and woman, man can’t put ’em asunder, nor yet anything
else. They’re one body and soul till death parts ’em. But because a
pair marry, it don’t follow that God have had anything to do with it.
There’s a lot of other institutions besides God. We make mistakes in
all walks of life and in none oftener than in marriage. And in my
opinion it’s one of the things, like any other partnership, that God
don’t specially take under His protection. Love is a trick of nature,
and Nature says to herself, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try
again.’ Nature’s trying again with your daughter, Mrs. Trivett.”

She sighed.

“I wish to Heaven as Nature had left her alone then, for she was
married to a good man, and whatever she feels about him, there’s no
doubt he was ready and willing enough to love her to the end of his
life.”

“It often happens,” he answered, “and of course that sort of parting’s
the saddest, where one party don’t want to part and t’other does. When
both are fed up, then they can break loose with self-respect and mutual
applause; but if one’s got to run away from the other, then the case is
altered. But no doubt Ned Dingle will rise to it. He’s clever enough
to know that it’s useless keeping a wife if she’s breaking her heart
to escape. The fact that Medora has done this venturesome act and gone
to another man, will show your son-in-law the game’s up. If she’d just
gone off on her own, he might have hunted after her and won her back
perhaps—if he wanted her back; but since she’s gone with somebody else
and is ready to face all that means—well, that leaves her husband in
no doubt of her meaning, don’t it?”

“None whatever,” admitted Lydia. “You’ve got a brain, Mr. Knox, so
perhaps you’ll tell me what you think of Kellock. She was divided
between ’em in the past and decided for Ned—wisely as I thought,
because it always seemed to me that Jordan Kellock was too wrapped up
in reading and learning and high views about labour to make a young
woman happy. If you’d asked me, I should have said it weren’t in him to
run away with another man’s wife. I should have thought he was such a
well-drilled man in his mind that he’d have stopped loving Medora the
moment he heard she was going to marry Dingle.”

“Kellock,” answered Philander Knox, “is all you say; but he’s young
and he’s got a romantical turn, though it takes the practical shape of
wanting to better the world at large. That’s all true, but he’s short
of thirty still, and, under thirty, you never can say with certainty a
man is complete in his make-up. He loved her, and if he thought she’d
took a fatal mistake and married the wrong one, and if she told him
so, as no doubt she did, then it’s not out of his character to find
himself loving her again. And the instinct to fight the cause of the
weak, which is a part of the man, wouldn’t be any less strong because
he happened to love the weak party for herself. So it all fits in very
natural so far, and your daughter may trust Kellock to champion her and
be very tender and jealous and all that. He’ll treat her well without a
doubt.”

“And what sort of a husband will he make for my girl?”

“That I can’t say,” answered Knox. “For the reason that I don’t know
what your girl wants. If Ned didn’t suit her, then as Kellock’s just
the opposite of him in every way, perhaps he will.”

“Ned did suit her—that’s the shocking thing,” declared Lydia. “He
suited her so perfectly that he suited her too well, if you can
understand that. There was all sunshine and no shade, and Medora, so
far as I can see, instead of blessing her good luck got sick of so much
uneventful happiness, like a child gets sick of too much barley-sugar.
Then she turned by a sort of restless instinct to find a bit of change.
Of course she’s said for months that she was miserable; but she
invented most of her misery in my opinion.”

“Very interesting, and no doubt you know. But we middle-aged people can
always see the young looking for trouble. ’Tis part of their natural
curiosity and daring. They don’t know they’re born in fact, and that’s
a thing you can’t teach a person. Each has got to learn it themselves.
And some never do. We’ll watch and pray, Mrs. Trivett. That’s about all
we can do for the young. And now I’ll tell you what I came about. And
I’ll also promise that, so far as it lies in my power, I’ll befriend
Medora if she comes back here.”

“She can’t come back—she can’t do that.”

“Leave her—you never know what the young can do, and what they can’t
do. I’m here about you, not her. We’ve not known each other above six
months, but knowledge of our fellow creatures ain’t a matter of time.
’Tis understanding of character and like to like and so on. Another,
finding you in trouble to-day, would hold off no doubt. But, just
because you are in trouble, I’m going to hold on and say what I came
to say. I respect and admire you very much out of the common, Mrs.
Trivett, and I feel that it’s a crying shame to see you in this rabbit
hutch, living the life of a maid-of-all-work for other people, when you
ought to be the mistress of your own home. I say you ought to have a
man to work for you, and look after you, and not let you toil and wear
your fingers to the bone, either here, over your brother’s children, or
in the rag shop. Your sense of justice must cry out against it, and so
it ought and I feel it very much to heart. You drew me, from the first
minutes I set eyes on you, for I saw all that you were and found, as I
knew you better, you were even better than I thought. And, in a word,
if you’ll throw over these Dolbears and come to me, I can promise a
very faithful and friendly husband and one who will make it his first
business and pleasure in life to give you a good time. ’Tis thought
silly of a man over fifty-two to speak of love; but rest assured that
such a man knows a darned sight more about it than green youth. You’ve
had a good husband and I’ve had a good wife, according to her lights;
then what’s to prevent us joining forces if you think half so well of
me as I do of you?”

Lydia was inconsequent.

“If anybody had told me when I opened my eyes this morning what the day
was going to bring forth,” she said, “God’s my judge I shouldn’t have
had the heart, or courage to put on my clothes.”

“Yes, you would,” he answered. “You’re the sort to meet all that comes
steadfast and patient, with the pluck of an army. You’d have rose up as
usual. And what about it?”

“Nothing on earth is farther from my thoughts at present than a
second,” she answered. “I regard myself as an old woman.”

“Only because you live among all these messy children. You’re not old:
you’re in your prime, and if you was to rest your flesh a bit, instead
of wearing it out morning, noon and night, you’d very soon be surprised
to find what a comely creature you’d find yourself.”

“That’s all past. Duty is duty and God’s found the work to do.”

“God’s also found me,” answered Mr. Knox, “and you must weigh me along
with everything else. And if, as I see in your face, your inclination
is to say ‘no,’ then I beg you’ll not say it—at any rate not this
evening. You’re far too nice to decide the future career of a fellow
creature, let alone your own, without turning it over fairly in your
mind. I didn’t ask you to say ‘yes,’ all of a minute, because this is
sprung upon you—you expected no such thing; but though I didn’t count
on ‘yes,’ Lydia, I’m equally determined not to hear ‘no.’ So you can
think all round it, and I wish you’d got more time to do so. However
you’re a fair woman—fair and just to all but yourself—so I very well
leave it at that for the present.”

“To think a good-looking, clever man like you should have looked at a
little every-day woman like me!” she said.

“You won’t be every day no more if you’re Mrs. Knox,” he promised. “Far
from it. You should go in a carriage and pair if it could be done, and
though I can’t promise that, I can promise a nice house, and a bit of
garden, and a professed cook to look after the kitchen and do your
bidding. Think upon it.”

“Don’t hope, however; ’tis a very unlikely thing that I should change
my state with so many calls.”

“Come to your own conclusions anyway,” he said. “I know what human
nature is very well and I know what you are in this house. But don’t
let selfishness on the part of other people decide you against me.
That would be very unfair to me, and you can’t be unfair to a man that
thinks of you as I do.”

“I’ll do nothing unfair to you, Mr. Knox. In fact I’ll do nothing at
all for the present. My sister-in-law mustn’t hear a word in her weak
state, or the consequences might be bad; and my brother’s cast down
also, and so am I. In fact trouble’s everywhere.”

“Regard me as the silver lining to the cloud then. I quite see it was
a bit of a staggerer this coming to-day of all days; but at any rate
you know now you’ve got a valuable friend. And such I shall remain,
whatever happens. Now, no doubt, you’re itching to get supper for
all them brats, so I’ll go my way. And I pray God’s blessing on your
thoughts, Lydia—I do indeed.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “Yes, you go now. I can’t stand no more, else
I shall break down—a thing I’m never known to do. I dare say I’ll see
you at the works to-morrow. And don’t say nothing about Medora.”

“Trust me,” he answered. “My one hope will be to help you in that
quarter if I can. Don’t you despair. It may straighten out yet, though
where two men and a woman’s the matter, there’s seldom more than one
chance in fifty that things will come right.”

Continue Reading

THE LETTER

In the vat house there took place the transformation from liquid to
solid, from pulp to paper, from a gruel-like, tenuous compound to a
substance strong enough to stand strain of many pounds and last for
centuries.

Here was the largest building in the Mill—a very lofty, brightly
lighted, airy hall, from whose open roof descended electric lights
hanging above each vat. A steady whirr and throb of noisy engines made
a din here, but the vatmen and their couchers were used to it and could
hear themselves speak through the familiar riot.

To the right, elevated under the roof, stood the range of chests—huge,
round vessels, like little gasometers, into which the pulp descended
from Ned Dingle when he had perfected it. There were eight of these fat
monsters ranged in a row, and from them flowed the material to the vats
as it was needed. The vats stood on the floor of the chamber—large,
wide-mouthed troughs heated by steam from within. For the pulp is warm
for the vatman, and some of the finest and most enduring papers demand
such a high temperature that an operative’s hands are blistered and
boiled at his work. Beside each vat is a hand-box of cold water, to dip
and refresh the vatman’s fingers when the need arises.

Within the vat revolves the “hog,” a toothed roller, which keeps the
heavy pulp mixed and moving, and prevents any settlement of the fibre.

On stages before the breasts of the vats stood the paper makers, and
the wooden bands against which they leaned were polished with the
friction of their aprons. Their tools were two—the mould—a flat,
rectangular tray, or sieve, of copper wire as fine as gauze, with the
water-mark let in upon it to tell the story of the future paper, and
the deckle—a light wood and metal frame of four sides which fitted
exactly over the mould and lifted an edge all round it to hold the
pulp. The moulds varied from the size of two open sheets of notepaper,
to great squares of “double elephant,” the noblest stuff the Mill
produced. Moulds for these immense pieces once immersed in the pulp,
called for great physical power to draw them cleanly and steadily back
from the clinging fluid with their weight of material spread upon them.

Kellock was making “double elephant” in a mighty mould. With his thumbs
firmly set on the deckle edge, he lowered the tray into the snow-white
pulp, sloping it towards him as he did so. He put it in, sank it flat
under the pulp and drew it out again with one beautiful, rhythmic
movement.

The pulp sucked hard at the great mould, to drag it to the depths,
but the man’s strength brought it steadily forth; and then he made
his “stroke”—a complicated gesture, which levelled and settled the
pulp on the mould and let the liquid escape through the gauze. Kellock
gave a little jog to the right and to the left and ended with an
indescribable, subtle, quivering movement which completed the task. It
was the work of two seconds, and in his case a beautiful accomplishment
full of grace and charm. He stood easily and firmly while every muscle
of breast and arm, back and loins played its appointed part in the
“stroke.”

Mr. Trood often stood and watched Jordan for the pleasure of the sight.
It was the most perfect style he had ever seen. He was a theorist and
calculated that Kellock produced the very greatest amount of physical
power for the least possible expenditure of muscular loss; while
others, who made as good paper as he, squandered thousands of pounds
of dynamical energy by a stroke full of superfluous gesture. But the
stroke is never the same in any two vatmen. It develops, with each
artificer’s knowledge of the craft, to produce that highly co-ordinated
effort embraced in the operation of making a sheet of paper.

Mr. Knox operated at the next vat and offered an object lesson. He did
the same things that Kellock did; dipped his mould, drew it to him,
brought it squarely out, jogged to right and left and gave that subtle,
complex touch of completion; yet in his achievement a wholly different
display met the observer. It seemed that he performed a piece of
elaborate ritual before the altar of the vat.

He bowed his head to right and left; he moved his tongue and his knees;
he jerked his elbows and bent his back over the trough as a priest
consecrating the elements of some sacramental mass. Then he bowed and
nodded once more and the created sheet emerged from his mould. The
effect was grotesque, and seen at a little distance a stranger had
supposed that Mr. Knox was simply playing the fool for the amusement of
his coucher and layer; but in reality he was working hard and making as
fine and perfect paper as Kellock himself. His muscles were tuned to
his task; he had lifted his sheer weight of forty tons or more by the
end of the day and was none the worse for it. Nor could he have omitted
one gesture from his elaborate style without upsetting everything and
losing his stroke.

So the transformation became accomplished and the millions of linen
and cotton fibres scooped on to the mould ran into a thin mat or wad,
which was a piece of paper. Why all these fragile and microscopic
atoms should become so inter-twisted and mingled that they produce
an integral fabric, it is difficult to understand; but this was the
result of the former processes; and those to come would change the
slab of wet, newly created stuff—now no more than a piece of soaked
blotting-paper—to the perfected sheet.

His stroke accomplished and the sediment levelled on the mould, Kellock
brought his mould to the “stay”—a brass-bound ledge on his left hand.
He lifted the deckle from it as he did so and the full mould was drawn
up the stay to the “asp,” where his coucher stood. Then Kellock clasped
the deckle on to his second mould, now returned from the coucher, and
dipped again, while his assistant, taking the full mould from the asp,
turned it over on to the accumulating pile of sheets rising on his
plank. Then he ran the empty mould back along the bridge to Kellock’s
hand and drew to himself the next full mould now waiting for him on the
stay.

So the process was endlessly repeated, and when the coucher’s pile
of paper, with woollen welts between each new sheet, had grown large
enough, it was removed, drawn away on a little trolley, which ran upon
rails down the centre of the vat house, and taken to a press. Here the
mass under a steady strain showed that the new sheets were still half
water, for a fountain poured and spurted away on every side as the
lever was turned.

From this initial pressing each pile came back to the place of its
creation and the layer, the third worker in the trinity at each vat,
separated the paper from the woollens between the sheets and handed the
felts back to the coucher as he needed them for his own task. The three
men worked together like a machine with rhythmic action and wonderful
swiftness. Then came the interval; the din of the machinery ceased for
a while and the vatmen washed their hands.

Each manual craft leaves its own marks, by which one skilled may tell
a worker’s business, and the paper maker’s hands are deeply corned and
calloused along the palms and joints. They are his stock in trade and
he takes the utmost care of them, for a bleeding corn, or cut, or any
wound instantly disables him and he cannot tend the vat until they are
sound again.

At this moment Robert Life was out of action, with a sore on his
thumb, and employed for the time at other labour; but he joined the
men in the dinner hour and shared a discussion concerning the supreme
disaster which may fall to the vatman’s lot.

“Did you ever lose your stroke?” asked Life of Mr. Knox. “I’ve heard of
men that did—and never got it back no more.”

“May it never happen to you, Robert,” answered the elder, “for anything
more dreadful and shattering you can’t imagine. Yes, I lost my stroke
eight years ago; and I can remember every item of the tragedy as if it
was yesterday.”

“Along of illness?” asked Life, “or your own fault?”

“As I’m among friends,” replied Philander, “I’ll confess that it was
my own fault. I tell you these things as a warning to you younger men.
It was whiskey. I’d go on the burst sometimes, though never what you’d
call a drinker. But I held an opinion it was better to have a fair
wallow in it now and again with teetotal intervals, than to be always
drinking, you see; and once I overdid it and lost my stroke. I came
to the vat and dipped, but the touch was gone. I tried and failed and
washed off again and again; but I couldn’t make paper. They came round
me and said hopeful things, and I stood like a stuck pig among ’em and
the sweat poured down my face. Then I dropped the mould and sneaked
away and felt as if the end of the world had come. For I knew bitter
well that often and often the stroke once lost is never got back.”

“You got yours back, however?”

“In my terror I signed the pledge and promised the Almighty a lot of
very fine things if He’d be merciful and let me regain my skill. My
self-respect was gone and I’d have grovelled to God, or anybody who
could help me. My foreman was a very good chap and understood the
nature of the disaster. He cheered me and felt so positive sure I
should get it back, that I began to think I should myself. For in such
case half the battle is to have cheerful, hopeful people about you,
who’ll make light of the tragedy and say it’s going to be all right.
The moral effect of that helps you to hope against hope and recover
your nerve, when you come to try again. It’s all nerve really, and if
you can get back your nerve, then you’ll probably get back your stroke.”

“At the third trial I got mine back anyway, and ’twas a very fine
example of the best in human nature to see how my coucher and layer
shook hands with me when I made my first sheet and how glad my fellow
vatmen were about it.”

“And did you keep all your good promises?” asked Kellock.

“For practical purposes, yes,” answered Philander. “I improved a good
bit after that adventure and never went on the burst again. The pledge,
however, I did not keep, because by experiment I found I could work
better on beer than water; but spirits are a thing of the past. I don’t
drink more than a whiskey or two a week now-a-days.”

Kellock, at one stage in his secret thoughts at this season, had found
his heart faint somewhat, for by temperament thus far he had been
a thinker rather than a doer. His work ended, his leisure had been
largely devoted to the welfare of his class, and he doubted not that he
would turn a great part of his energies to labour questions and even
abandon paper-making for a political career some day. Such was his
dream; but for the present that had been swept aside.

Thoughts of his own future gave him no lasting uneasiness. Whether
he stopped at Dene, or went elsewhere, after running away with Mrs.
Dingle, mattered nothing to him. His skill commanded a ready market
and he could get work for the asking. He guessed, indeed, that Medora
must desire to live as far from the haunts of her tragedy as possible;
but he also knew that Matthew Trenchard would wish to keep him if
he could. A more pressing problem concerned the future of Medora’s
husband. Kellock’s orderly mind above all things would have liked to go
to Ned, state the case clearly, prove to him that he was never destined
to make his wife a happy woman and frankly suggest a change of partners
for Medora. He was actually tempted to do this, and even went so far as
to suggest it to Mrs. Dingle; but she, hiding a secret amazement at any
enterprise so unromantic, assured him that such an action could only
serve greatly to complicate their future if it did not actually ruin
their plans altogether.

“If he was like you,” she said, “and could listen to sense it might
work; but you don’t want to get your head broken, Jordan, and that’s
all that would happen. The more he knows he’s wrong and being wicked
to me, the more he’d fight to keep me. He’s got into a horrible way
of torturing me now. He properly feeds on my sufferings I believe.
It’s now or never, for he’s breaking me down and I shan’t be company
for any man much longer. Don’t think I want to make a scene, or add
difficulties to your life. God knows I only want to be your right hand,
and help you, and work as best I can for all the noble things you mean
to do. But before that happens, you’ve got to play the hero a bit I’m
afraid, and meet his brute force with your bravery and courage.”

In fact Medora would not have missed the necessary theatricals for the
world, and a peaceful interchange of husbands did not at all appeal to
her. She had no desire to forego the excitement or the fame. She had
thought a thousand times of the hum at the Mill when her place knew
her no more, and there came the news that she had left her husband for
a better and greater man. Probably she loved Kellock after a fashion;
certainly she believed she did. In the unreal atmosphere that she now
breathed, it seemed to her that Kellock was about to play Perseus to
her Andromeda; but she had no wish that the matter should be settled
amicably with the dragon. Jordan must do his part; otherwise her rôle
would be lessened and reduced below the dignity proper to it.

Since Ned was to blame for everything, reason demanded that retribution
fall upon him. Only so could justice—poetical or otherwise—be done.
If her departure were not to inflict adequate punishment upon him, then
the salt was out of the situation. To Kellock this sounded vindictive,
but he could not deny that it was human and natural. He remembered that
Medora must not be expected to consider Ned’s feelings; though secretly
he wished that she had been able to do so.

But Medora was out for blood and her carnivorous instincts extended
even to Kellock himself. He too must suffer, that she might complete
her performance with due triumph. She pictured Jordan ostracised and
turning to her for comfort and support. She saw herself doubted,
misunderstood, but presently triumphing over everybody. She imagined
Kellock lifted to heights unattainable without her steadfast aid. She
felt a boundless confidence in her own intelligence and inspiration to
help him. But he must certainly run away with her as a preliminary. He
must outrage convention, focus all eyes and appear in the lurid light
that beats on people who have the courage to do such things. She told
him so and assisted at the simple preliminaries.

He was about to take a fortnight’s holiday and it was decided that
a day after he left Dene, Medora would join him at Newton Abbot and
proceed to London with him.

He agreed to this arrangement as the most seemly, and together they
concocted the letter which Mr. Dingle would receive by post on the
morning of Medora’s disappearance. She invited Jordan to assist her in
this composition, but was sorry afterwards that she had done so, for
her lover differed from her on certain particulars and deprecated the
writing of several things that she desired to write.

They planned the communication in the secrecy of the Priory ruin on
a Sunday afternoon, and it was some time before the man had produced
a clean draft for Medora to take away and copy. She wished to insert
a demand, couched somewhat insolently, that Mr. Dingle would divorce
his wife as swiftly as possible; but Kellock forbade this, because he
felt that advice to Ned under such circumstances was undignified and
altogether improper.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “You must be reasonable and take it in a
high-minded way. It’s for you to tell him what you’re going to do and
the reason; but it ain’t for you to tell him what he’s got to do. You
can safely leave that to him. You see in these cases, when they get in
the papers, that a man and woman always go to an hotel together; and
when that’s proved, the other man divorces her as a matter of course.
That’s all there is to it.”

At other points also he declined to support Medora’s wishes. She had
designed some rather flagrant sentiments for this letter and felt that
her action needed them. It was to be the letter of her life and, as
she said, it had become her first wish to make Dingle feel what he had
made her feel. But Kellock was calm and collected upon the subject, and
finding composition of the letter awakened very considerably passion in
Medora, he begged her to let him draft it and accept his idea of what
such a document should be.

“It may be read in open Court some day,” he said—a possibility that
cheered her.

She agreed therefore and hid her disappointment at what she regarded as
a very colourless indictment. Jordan’s idea was something as lifeless
as a lawyer’s letter, but equally crushing in its cold and remorseless
statement of fact. Not a shadow of emotion marked it. There was nothing
but the statement that finding she failed to please or satisfy her
husband, and knowing their continued union could only destroy their
happiness and self-control and self-respect, therefore—for both their
sakes—Medora had decided to leave Ned and cast in her lot with
Jordan Kellock, who was willing and anxious to make her his wife.
Neither anger nor sorrow appeared in this communication as it left
Kellock’s hands.

She took the letter and thanked him gratefully for helping her. Then
they tore up into very tiny fragments the various attempts before the
finished article and so parted—not to meet again until they met for
ever.

And Medora, when alone, read his letter again and liked it less than
before. That night her husband was out and she began her transcription,
but when it came actually to copying Kellock’s sentences, their
icy restraint began to annoy her. She stopped once or twice to ask
herself how it was possible for any human being to write in a manner
so detached. First she praised him for such amazing power and such
remarkable reserve; then she reminded herself that this was to be her
letter to her husband, not Jordan’s. Jordan proposed to write himself
from London. She wondered a great deal what Jordan’s letter would be
like. If the letter he had written for her made her shiver, surely
the letter he wrote for himself would be a freezing matter. She told
herself that Kellock was a saint. She felt uneasily proud of him
already. She kept his heroism in her mind, and felt proud of herself,
too, that such a man was willing to let her share his future, brilliant
as it must certainly be.

But the letter—her letter—stuck. She began arguing with herself about
it. She told herself that it was not her style and Ned would know it.
Obviously Ned must not suppose that Kellock had written the letter.
She noted down a few sentences of the sort of letter she would have
written without anybody’s assistance—the letter she had dreamed of
writing—and it pleased her much. She found such a flow of words as
seemed proper to the tremendous occasion. They glittered and flashed
like knives. Invective and self-justification shared the burning pages.
She surprised herself at the force and vigour of the phrases. Turning
again to Kellock’s composition, she now found it hopelessly inadequate
as compared with her own. It was true that she had promised Jordan
to post it; but she changed her mind and determined to despatch her
own production, as better suited to the parting, far more forcible,
far more dramatic and far more the sort of letter she pictured Ned as
showing to other people, after the blow had fallen.

She paltered with the situation to the extent of writing another letter
embodying a part of Kellock’s. And then she copied this, and copied it
again. She destroyed the debris, including Kellock’s original draft,
and left one letter perfect in every way—an exceedingly outrageous
production.

She sealed it up and next morning assured herself that, for all
practical purposes, it was the letter Kellock had designed. From a
decision to tell him that she had added a phrase or two, she doubted
whether it was worth while. Finally she determined not to tell him that
she had altered the letter.

“It’s no good making needless complications,” she thought.

She was very happy and excited. She lived in a dream for a week, and
the reality of the things she had decided to do lay altogether outside
her calculations and anticipations.

Probably her greatest joy at this juncture centred, not so much in
the happiness she had planned for herself and Jordan, as the thought
of what people would say at Dene about their flight. She felt that to
be invisible among her acquaintances on the morning of her departure,
would have been even a greater delight than the first day in London
with her future husband.

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