GOING UP CORKSCREW HILL

Below Bow Bridge a row of narrow-headed stepping-stones are regularly
placed across the river with their noses pointing up stream. The
current sets thin lines of light trickling away, where the stones break
its surface. Above the crossing, trees overhang the water and throw
shadows to break the white sheen of stickles and the flash of foam;
beneath the stepping-stones the channel widens and flows forward to the
estuary. A dead tree had fallen here and upon one bough, overhanging
a still pool, sat a kingfisher, like a spark of blue fire against the
grey and umber colours spread round him. Beyond, where the stream
bent eastward, there rose a fir-clad hill, and at water’s brink stood
cottages with irregular thatched roofs. Their white-washed faces
represented the highest light of the scene and were a centre and focus
for that rural picture.

Beside the stepping-stones Ned Dingle sat and smoked his pipe. The
water at his feet had run fine after a spell of dry weather, and there
was only the motion of the lazy stream, broken now and then by a small
fish. White ducks paddled close by in a shallow, where the afternoon
sunshine turned the water to liquid amber and made the birds golden
bright.

Ned thought of an autumn day, when he had landed not far off with
Kellock and Medora at the boathouse; and he retraced all the months
between. He was in melancholy mood and as yet had not determined on his
future actions; but he had seen Matthew Trenchard, given notice and
left the Mill.

The master was sympathetic and friendly. He accepted the situation and
on this Saturday, as Dingle awaited others at the stepping-stones, the
beaterman reflected that his activities at Dene were ended. He was now
about to seek work elsewhere. On Monday, Kellock would return, and Mrs.
Trivett reported that Jordan had already taken rooms for the present at
“The Waterman’s Arms,” a little inn standing up the valley between Dene
and Ashprington, at Bow Bridge.

Dingle still failed to grasp the extent of the disaster that had
overtaken him. His moods alternated between wrath and grief and
bewilderment at his loss. Mrs. Trivett supported him frankly and she
introduced an element of mystery into the scandal, for she continued
to declare it was not in Kellock’s character to do this thing. Even
the fact that he had done it was powerless to alter her reiterated
assertion. She never greatly blamed Kellock, even when others pointed
out that men do not run away with other men’s wives on compulsion; and
one fact she never ceased to dwell upon, which comforted Dingle in a
negative sort of fashion.

She repeated her assurance this evening; for now there came to Dingle,
Lydia and the girl, Daisy Finch, Medora’s friend. They were at leisure,
since the day was Saturday, and they had joined him by appointment to
fulfil a certain task. Mrs. Trivett, unaware of Medora’s sentiments on
the subject, had suggested that her daughter’s things should be moved
from Ned’s house and taken to “The Waterman’s Arms,” there to await
her, and Ned agreed. His purpose was to leave no trace of Medora in his
house; and soon there would be no trace of him either, for he was about
to seek work elsewhere and doubted not to find it.

As they ascended the hill to Ashprington, Lydia repeated her assurance.
She had good private reasons for uttering more ferocious sentiments
than perhaps she felt.

“It can’t be that he’ll ever make her happy,” she said. “It’s out of
that man’s power to do it. And not only I say so, for Philander Knox,
who is very understanding, said so, last week without any promptings
from me. He said so from his knowledge of Kellock, while I say so from
my knowledge of my child. And so I tell you, Ned, as I’ve told you
before, that you’ll be very properly revenged, without lifting your
hand to anybody.”

“I shall do what I shall do,” he answered, “and I don’t know more than
you what I shall do. I may take forty shillings or a month out of the
man yet. Some days I feel like that; other days I do not. For all she’s
done I know this: I understand your blasted daughter better than ever
Kellock will.”

“Mr. Knox says they’ll both get their punishment and he hopes you’ll
let ’em be. And if you did, that would be the worst punishment. In
Philander’s opinion there’s no call for anybody to interfere, because
let ’em alone and they’ll punish each other to their dying day. That’s
the terrible picture he paints of it.”

“I’ll never understand,” he answered. “I’ll never know what choked her
off me. There must have been secret enemies at work lying against me
I reckon. But she could never put a case against me worth its weight
in words, and to the last I didn’t dream what she was up to. A base,
treacherous bit of play-acting I call it. And to crown all by that
beastly letter.”

“If you could believe in such things, I’d say Medora had the evil eye
put upon her and was ill-wished into this,” said Daisy. “Such a girl as
she was—so happy, and so fond of an outing, and so fond of cheerful
company; and used to be so fond of Ned, I’m sure, for when you was
first married, she was always telling me how she cared for you. Then
the change came over her like bad weather. What did Jordan Kellock say,
Ned, if I may ask?”

“There’s no secrets. The letter’s like the man—cut and dried. Nobody
else on God’s earth could have written it I should think. He feels that
Medora made a mistake, but that it needn’t be fatal to all three of us;
and that, as we all respect ourselves, and are responsible members of
society, we can put the mistake right in a reasonable and dignified
sort of way. Never a word of shame. He seems to think he’s only got to
state the facts, as he sees them, for me to fall in with them. He says,
of course, my first thought will be consideration for Medora, so that
her sensitive and delicate nature may be spared as much as possible.
He feels quite sure that he can leave the subject in my hands, and
assures me that he will do everything possible to assist me. That’s the
divorce of course. Medora wasn’t so nice in her letter. She ordered me
to divorce her sharp. But even so, I’d sooner have her insults than
his civility. Civility by God! From him. She’d worked herself up to a
pitch of temper when she wrote that trash, and let out the poison he’s
put into her mind. She’s a damned silly woman and that’s all there is
to her; but faithless, worthless wretch that she is, I can forgive her
easier than him. I don’t feel as if I wanted to shoot her, or cut her
throat, or anything like that. My feeling to her is beyond my power to
put into words at present, though no doubt it will clear itself. But I
see him clear enough for a foul hypocrite—smug and sly and heartless.
He’s played for his own hand for a year and slowly worked her up to the
outrage she’s put on me. In fact I don’t see how I can very well help
breaking his neck, when it comes to the point.”

“It ain’t for me to stand up for him against you,” admitted Lydia. “All
the same, my instinct tells me to pray you not to be rough, Ned. You’ve
got right on your side, and it’s easier in some ways to suffer wrong
than commit it.”

“Depends what you call wrong,” he answered. “If Kellock thought it no
wrong to kindiddle my wife away from me, why should I think it wrong
to get back a bit of my own? Men have killed men for less than this,
and a jury of husbands have said they wasn’t guilty. I may not be the
sort to kill anybody; but I’ll let him that bleats such a lot about
self-respect see I’ve got my self-respect as well as he has, and mean
to act according. It’s all in the air—I don’t know what I shall do.
I’ve got to make him eat his self-respect somehow and show him what he
is; and that’s a long way different from what he thinks he is. I’ll
make ’em look a pair of fools sooner or later—if no worse.”

“So you will then; and take it in a high spirit and do nought to make
yourself look a fool,” urged Lydia; but he declared that it was too
late for that.

“I look a fool all right,” he said. “I’m not such a sand-blind sort of
man that I don’t know very well what I look like. People always laugh
at a chap in my fix. Let ’em. Perhaps I shall laugh too presently.
The difference between me and that man is that I can stand a bit of
laughter; but he couldn’t. Laughter would kill him. He’d stand up to
blame and hard words and curses. He likes ’em—he told me so—because
it shows his ideas go deep and fret people’s accepted opinions. Every
reformer must make enemies, or he’s not doing his job right—so he
said to Knox one day, and I heard him. But laughter and scorn and
contempt—that’s different.”

They reached Ned’s house and, for his sake, set about their painful
task with resolution.

“It’s like as if we was going through a dead woman’s things,” whispered
Daisy to Mrs. Trivett and the elder agreed.

“She is dead as far as poor Ned’s concerned,” she answered. “And if
anything on earth could shame her to death, surely it will be to see
all her clothes and everything she’s got in the world waiting for her
when she arrives.”

Daisy, however, argued for her friend while they collected her garments
and tied them in brown paper parcels.

“I don’t want to say a word against Mr. Dingle, but all the same no
such dreadful thing could have happened if he’d been the right one.
There’s always two sides to every trouble and there must be excuses
that we don’t know about.”

Mrs. Trivett admitted this.

“There’s always excuses for everybody that we don’t know about, Daisy.
We all do things we can’t explain—good as well as bad; and if we can’t
explain ourselves to ourselves, then it’s right and reasonable as we
shouldn’t be too sure we can explain other people.”

They made parcels of everything that belonged to Medora, then Ned
brought to them a work-box, two pictures in frames and a sewing-machine.

“These have all got to go also,” he said. “And this lot you’d better
give her when you see her. It’s her trinkrums and brooches and such
like.”

He gave Mrs. Trivett a little box which she put in her pocket without
speaking.

Another woman joined them. She was Ned’s old aunt, who had come to
him to keep his house as long as he should remain in it. She talked
venomously of Medora.

Presently they carried the parcels down the lane to the foot of the
hill and left them at “The Waterman’s Arms,” in a little parlour on
one side of the entrance. Then Ned went home and Daisy Finch and Mrs.
Trivett returned to Dene. There the girl left Lydia, and the latter,
after a cup of tea with a neighbour, prepared to climb the Corkscrew
Hill and return to Cornworthy.

Then it was that she found a man waiting for her and Philander Knox
appeared.

“I knew your movements,” he said, “and I knew that you’d be setting out
for the farm just about now, so I thought as I’d keep you company up
the hill. For I always find, going up the Corkscrew, that it’s easier
travelled in company.”

She was gratified.

“You’re a kind soul and I’m very glad, if you’ve got nothing better to
do. My thoughts ain’t pleasant companions to-night, Mr. Knox.”

“They should be,” he answered, “for your thoughts can’t bully you, nor
yet accuse you of things left undone, or done ill, like most of us have
got to suffer from them. You can face your thoughts same as you can
face your deeds, with a good conscience all the time.”

“Who can? I can’t. I’m cruel vexed now. That slip of a child, Daisy
Finch, have been showing me that I may have been too hard on my
own daughter. And yet—how can one feel too hard? ’Tisn’t as if I
didn’t know Ned Dingle. But I do. He’s took this in a very Christian
spirit—so far. I’d never have thought for a moment he’d have held in
so well, or been such a gentleman over it. Some people might almost
think he didn’t care and didn’t feel it; but he does—with all his
heart he does. He couldn’t speak when I left him just now.”

“That’s true—he certainly does feel it properly. But it’s a very
peculiar case, along of Kellock being the man he is. I haven’t got to
the bottom of the thing yet. As a rule I’m not great on other people’s
business, as you know, but in this case, along of my hopes where you’re
concerned, Lydia, I take this to be a part of my business; and I’m
going to get to the bottom of it by strategy and find out what made him
take her away from Ned.”

“It don’t much matter now. The past is past and it won’t help us to
know more than we know.”

“You can’t say that. You can read the future in the past if you’ve got
understanding eyes. And I haven’t hid from you I’m far from hopeful
about the future, because I can’t see them two suiting each other
through a lifetime. They won’t.”

“So you said.”

They stood to rest at a bend in the tremendous hill. Mr. Knox dabbed
his brow with a red cotton handkerchief.

“This blessed mountain brings the beads to the forehead every time I
come up to it,” he declared. “You’re a wonder; you hop up like a bird.”

“I’m Devonshire—born to hills.”

“You can’t have valleys without ’em.”

“That’s true. We’ve all got to take the rough with the smooth, and the
steep with the level.”

“To take the rough smoothly is the whole art of living,” declared
Philander, “and I thought I was pretty clever at it till I met you. But
you can give us all a start and a beating. Well, this may or may not be
a likely moment to come back to the all important question; but impulse
guides right as often as wrong, and if I’m wrong there’s no harm done I
hope. Have you had time to turn it over, or have you been too busy?”

“I owed it to you to turn it over,” she answered after a short pause.
“You’ve got as much right to go on with your life as I have to go on
with mine. Time don’t stand still because men and women are in two
minds.”

“If you’re in two minds—”

“I don’t say that; yet I don’t deny it. I have thought about you.
You’re a good chap and very restful to the nerves; and your sense,
coming on the foolishness of some people, shows up in a bright light.”

“You’ve hardly seen a twinkle of it yet, Lydia. I don’t want to blow my
own trumpet, or nothing like that; but with all my faults, you’d find
the sense was here, and the patience.”

“You’re a marrying sort of man, no doubt, and you’ve got all the
makings of a good, restful husband—I see that too. But I reckon you
haven’t looked round far enough yet. There’s a lot against me. I ain’t
a free woman by any manner of means, and you don’t want to be saddled
with my troubles. That’s the worse of marriage in my opinion. A man
says, ‘I take the woman and not her family,’ and the woman says the
same; but things don’t fall out like that in life. There’s always the
families, and nobody can escape from ’em.”

“True, but we can be very good friends with our relations without
doing nursemaid’s work for ’em as well as our own work. ’Tis time you
stopped working altogether in my opinion, and had a bit of rest and
comfort to your life—such a dignified creature as you are by nature.
The farm gets stuffier and stuffier and you can’t deny it. It will tell
on your health and break you down. So why not do as I beg of you and
come to me?”

“Have you ever thought of that nice woman, Alice Barefoot?” asked Lydia
suddenly, and Mr. Knox stopped dead, stared at her through the gloaming
and mopped his head and neck again.

“Good God! What d’you mean?”

“A woman without a care or encumbrance and—”

“Stop,” he said. “That’s not a worthy remark, and I’ll start to forget
and forgive it, if you please, this moment. If you just think all
that goes to such a speech as that, you’ll be sorry you made it. A
man tells you he loves you, and you say ‘Try next door.’ That’s bad
enough in itself; but there’s more to it and worse even than that. For
it means either you don’t know Alice, or you don’t know me. You ought
to understand perfectly well that a woman like her is no more use to
me than a Red Indian. And you do know it; and if you’d thought half a
minute, you’d never have let yourself say such a wild and unkind and
silly thing as that. It shows a very great lack of interest in me—far
less interest than I thought you felt in fact. I’m shook, Lydia; I
thought we understood each other better.”

“She’s a fine and a good woman,” said Mrs. Trivett feebly.

“Good she may be, in a bleak sort of way; fine she is not and you know
it. Besides, surely at my time of life a man wants a mind, if he’s
got one himself. No doubt you think the world of Alice Barefoot; but
even you ain’t going to argue she’s got more mind than would go on a
three-penny piece and leave a margin.”

“I’m sorry—I was quite wrong,” confessed Lydia.

“You were, and since you’re sorry, enough said. I’ll resume another
time. Here’s the top and I won’t go no farther to-night. You ain’t
yourself, I’m afraid.”

“Do please come and have a glass of cider. Tom thinks the world of you,
Philander.”

“That’s better. If you say ‘come,’ then of course I’ll come. But don’t
let there be any false pretences about it. We’ve all got to pretend
a lot in this world; but I ain’t going to pretend nothing about Tom
Dolbear. I don’t visit at Priory Farm for his company, but for yours;
and, if God wills, I’ll get you out of it sooner or later, Lydia.”

“He don’t suspect nothing like that,” she said.

“He does not—that’s certain, else he wouldn’t offer me his cider or
anything else. But a time is at hand when he’ll have to face it—and
his wife also. Most women would have seen through it by now; but she’s
always asleep, or half asleep, while you do her work.”

“Poor Mary,” said Mrs. Trivett.

“Her doom is coming near I hope and trust,” he answered. “You’re not
doing right at all in standing between that woman and her duty. You
come to me, and then she’ll find that she’s only got time to sleep
eight hours in the twenty-four; and she’ll also find the meaning of a
family.”

They proceeded together and Knox presently smoked a pipe with Tom; but
he seemed not as amiable as usual and contradicted the farmer’s opinion
flatly on more than one occasion.

Mr. Dolbear, however, thought very highly of the vatman and doubted not
that Mr. Knox was right.

“I learn from you,” he said.

Continue Reading

THE DRYING LOFTS

A dozen great piles of “water leaf” had come up from the vat room to
the hand presses, and here the paper, from which tons of crystal water
had already been expressed below, under new and tremendous pressure
yielded still more. Indeed, with half a dozen men bearing on the levers
of the presses, the “water leaf,” that had appeared so dry, beaded and
glittered and then exuded further rivulets of moisture. For the last
turn of the screw a great beam was thrust into the press and as many
men as could get purchase upon it lent their united strength. Ernest
Trood, passing through the pressing room, gave a hand, and a stack of
newly made paper was subjected to such strain that one had thought it
must disintegrate beneath it.

Here, under this tremendous impost, the grain mark, or pattern imparted
to each sheet by the felts at the first pressing in the vat room, was
removed.

For the drying lofts the paper was next destined and hither Ernest
Trood now found himself summoned by a messenger. Mr. Trenchard desired
to speak with him.

The drying lofts were enormous airy chambers that ascended to an
unceiled roof. Through the twilight gloom of these apartments,
the sheets of paper, large and small, glimmered, hanging aloft in
multi-coloured reams like fairy washing; pink and blue, yellow and
snow-white. The paper seemed to make dim rainbows aloft, where it
ascended tier on tier in many thousands of separate pieces. Every sheet
was suspended over ropes, strung across transverse beams on light
scaffolding, that filled the lofts and ascended into the dark dome of
the roof. Above them spun drying fans, to expel the exhausted air and
suck away the moisture exuding from the masses of paper; while on the
floors beneath there wound and twisted an elaborate system of hot-air
pipes, which raised the temperature at will.

Drying is a process that demands watchfulness and judgment, for wet
paper suspended here on the tackle does not respond in all its parts
simultaneously. From the deckle edge it dries inward and the last spot
to dry is the centre of each sheet. The dry workers, with a hand-tool
like a T square, hang their sheets over the russet, cow-hair ropes;
then when the rope is loaded, pull it aloft; but the art of drying lies
in the regulation of heat and air. The heat is great, yet regular;
every operation is ordered for cleanliness and purity, so that not a
speck of dust may fall to mar a sheet.

Here came Matthew Trenchard upon a question of temperature. The talk
concerned technical details of ventilation and did not take long, since
Trood and his master seldom differed. But there was a more doubtful
human problem upon which Trenchard desired to learn Trood’s opinion.

“I’ve heard from Kellock,” he said, “and before I answer him, I want to
hear you speak—also Pinhey.”

“It’s not likely that Nicholas Pinhey and me would say the same,”
answered Ernest. “We differ where we can on most subjects, and shall on
this, I reckon.”

“He won’t influence me—more will you,” answered Trenchard. “You and
I will probably think alike, as we’re used to do. What I want from
Nicholas has to do with Mrs. Dingle, who works in the glazing house—or
did. Let’s go into the flat room and I’ll send for him.”

The flat room was another chamber for paper drying. Hither came
the great sheets of “double elephant” and “imperial”—precious and
wonderful papers for the artist and draughtsman, that could not be hung
over a rope or creased. They rested upon beds of webbing, which were
lifted one above the other and offered free access to the warm air that
plied through them. Here dried noble sheets of a quality that rejoiced
the painter who touched their surface, and felt their solid texture.

Nicholas Pinhey, spotless and trim, with shining spectacles and a white
apron, appeared and Mr. Trenchard briefly stated the situation. He
was carrying a “cross,” the little tool used to hang the paper on the
lines, and he tapped his points against the wall of the flat room as he
uttered them.

“It seems Kellock, who is on holiday, has run away with Mrs. Dingle.
I’ve just heard from him stating the facts as far as they may be
supposed to concern me. He doesn’t seem to think it is anybody’s
business but his own.”

“A man may be ill and not know it,” said Mr. Pinhey, “and he may be
suffering from the sickness of sin and not know it. But we know it.”

“I’m not a sin-doctor—I’m a paper maker, Nicholas. And the sole
question for me is whether Kellock comes back, or does not. He writes
very decently, says he is prepared to justify his conduct if I feel it
is any concern of mine, and adds that he will be well pleased to return
if I want him.”

“Don’t let him slip, for the Lord’s sake,” begged Ernest Trood. “You’ll
wait a month of Sundays before you’ll get another vatman in the same
street as him. Vatmen will be as rare as curates very soon. He’s a
most orderly chap and a rare worker, which the clever ones often are
not, and a great believer in discipline. You may be sure, according to
his lights, that he’s done the best for all parties in this matter of
Medora Dingle.”

“How can you, Trood?” asked Mr. Pinhey indignantly. “And you call
yourself a Christian man, for I’ve heard you do it.”

“The mistake you make, Nicholas, is to drag religion into a lot of
things where it don’t belong,” answered Trood.

“There’s nothing where religion don’t belong,” declared the finisher,
“and if that was understood and religion applied to every problem of
living and working and dying, this world would be different from what
it is.”

“The question is, of course, Ned Dingle,” explained Trenchard. “I don’t
want to back up one man against the other or interfere in any way over
their domestic affairs. I’m not here to probe and pry, but to make
paper along with the rest of you. Both Ned and Jordan are very good
fellows; but it’s quite clear they won’t see alike in this matter.”

“Don’t be too sure,” advised Mr. Trood. “Least said soonest mended, and
for all anybody can swear to the contrary it may be a put-up thing.
Of course Ned would have to pretend a lot of temper in that case—to
blind the public eye; because if it got out that Kellock had agreed
to take over his wife for the better happiness and understanding of
all parties, the Law would step in very quick and queer their pitch.
If these things were settled by common sense, the Law would lose
money—the last thing it ever loses. But it may be like that—Kellock
being such a shrewd and long-sighted man. So I should just keep Jordan
and let Dingle say what he’s going to do. Ned’s not showing more
feeling, so far, than the case demands. He may be thanking God in
secret and be quite as religious-minded as Nicholas could wish.”

“It’s generally known of course,” said Trenchard.

“Such things can’t be hid and didn’t ought to be,” replied Mr. Pinhey.
“We’re a very high-toned lot here for the most part, and me and Trood
have something to do with that I believe; and I should be very sorry if
he was to pander to evil.”

“Nobody’s pandering to evil, Nicholas,” explained Matthew Trenchard.
“But business is business and will continue to be so. I don’t lose
Kellock if I can help it; but Dingle’s a very good man, too, and I wish
to consider him.”

“Dingle’s nothing to Kellock,” asserted Trood; “and I shouldn’t for an
instant say Kellock was all wrong and Dingle all right. Women don’t run
away from their husbands for nothing. I believe Ned’s been knocking her
about, and she was divided between them in the past, and now, finding
she backed the wrong one, she’s gone over to the other. It seems to be
a private affair in my opinion.”

“Sin’s never a private affair. It’s everybody’s affair and ought to be
everybody’s enemy,” said Pinhey.

“Then let nature take its course,” suggested Ernest Trood. “Let Dingle
divorce her in a respectable way, and let us spare their feelings all
we can.”

“Obviously they can’t both stop here after this,” observed Trenchard,
“and if Kellock comes back, Dingle will go.”

“You’ll be putting a premium on vice if you agree to that, Mr.
Trenchard.”

“There’s no vice in it, Nicholas,” answered Trood. “It’s like an old
woman to talk that way. You know very well indeed that Jordan Kellock’s
not a vicious person.”

“I know very well he is, then. And them as don’t go to church, or
chapel, like him, have nothing to stand between them and temptation.
And this is the result.”

Trenchard laughed at Pinhey.

“That’s where the shoe pinches—eh, Nicholas? But we mustn’t be
narrow-minded because we live in a narrow valley. That’s what I tell
others besides you. Kellock is a man of high feelings and great ideals.
I don’t agree with much that he dreams; but I know this: that the
dreamer who makes his dreams come true is the salt of the earth. He’s
very young and he’s got a mighty lot to learn—and he’ll learn it.
Whether he has the brains to go far I can’t say, but at present he’s
very valuable to me and as he’s willing to come back, I take him back.
As for Ned, I shall see him to-day and hear all that he cares to tell
me. I’m heartily sorry for his troubles; but he’s a sane sort of chap,
too, and no doubt has come to some conclusion about the future.”

“That only leaves the woman then,” said Trood.

“She’ll go in any case,” declared the master.

“I won’t answer for the glazing room if she don’t,” promised Mr.
Pinhey. “In a manner of speaking, after five-and-twenty years there,
I may be said to set the tone of the glazing room, Mr. Trenchard, and
if she were to come into it again and take her place at the crib, the
other women, if I know ’em, would rise up and depart.”

“Not them, Nicholas. You don’t know women if you think that. Women
don’t cut off their noses to spite their faces in my experience.”

“You can’t touch pitch and not be defiled, Ernest.”

“Who wants to touch pitch? The girl ain’t pitch; and if she were, she’s
not the sort to influence anybody. Just a silly, everyday, selfish
creature, vain of her good looks and with no more sense than, please
God, she should have. The mystery is that Lydia Trivett, who’s made of
sense, should have put none into her child.”

“She’ll go as a matter of course,” repeated Matthew Trenchard. “Her own
feeling would decide that question. I hate interfering with anybody
here, Pinhey, and because a great many of you pay me the compliment to
consult me about your private affairs, that’s no reason why I should
ever go into them on my own account.”

“But when those that work under you do wrong, then, as their employer
and leader, I submit in all civility it’s up to you to learn them
right,” argued Nicholas. “It’s putting a bonus on sin if Kellock stops
here.”

Trood snorted and called Pinhey a fool; but Trenchard spoke gently to
him.

“I admire your clean and resolute religious views of life, if I don’t
always share them,” he answered; “but we mustn’t be self-righteous,
Nick, and we mustn’t think our own standard of conduct covers all the
ground. You wait till we know more about it. Sin’s like conscience, a
matter of education, Nicholas, and what’s sin in one man is no sin at
all in another. We mustn’t fling the first stone too readily, because
few of us have got the judicial mind, or the impartial and unprejudiced
outlook, or the knowledge of the facts that belong, or ought to belong,
to the judgment seat.”

“We can all read the Scriptures,” answered Mr. Pinhey firmly, “and if
our judgment is founded on the Word, Mr. Trenchard, it is founded on
the Rock of Ages, with Whom is no shadow of turning. And I don’t say
I’ll stop under the same roof as an adulterer, I don’t indeed.”

“You’ll do your duty, Nicholas; I’m sure of that,” answered the other,
and Pinhey, sighing profoundly, went his way.

“There’s no fool like a pious fool,” said Trood scornfully, “and I hope
to Heaven you’ll let Kellock stop. Beatermen, like Dingle, are got
again, but such vatmen as Jordan Kellock are not.”

“I know that mighty well, Ernest, and just for that reason we must
look sharp into it and not let self-interest bend us into anything
wrong. With some men I’d fire them on a job like this and have no more
words about it; but Kellock’s different. He’s honourable, so far as my
experience goes, and scrupulous in small things—a straight man every
way. He has himself well in hand and he’s got ambitions. He would
hardly have done such a grave thing as this on foolish impulse. But I
don’t want to be prejudiced for him any more than against him. I’ll
leave it till I’ve heard Ned.”

“And don’t you let Dingle turn you from him,” begged Ernest. “It stands
to reason that Dingle won’t have much good to say of him. Whatever he
feels in secret, he must curse Kellock openly. In my opinion you ought
to hear Kellock also on his own defence, before you sack him.”

“Perhaps I ought; and perhaps I will,” answered the other. “I shan’t
lose Kellock if it’s in right and reason to keep him. Send Ned to me
after dinner at one o’clock.”

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IN LONDON

Jordan Kellock made no allusion whatever to Medora’s nocturnal
aberration as they ate together, but directed her as to his taste in
tea and was very anxious to know her own likes and dislikes in matters
of food.

“I’ll write final copies of my letters,” he said, “then we’ll go out
and get the ring.”

Could it be possible, she wondered, that a ring made any difference to
his mind? It seemed too childish; yet even the cleverest men retained a
streak of the boy. It was from the eternal boy, as exemplified in Ned,
that she had escaped. Was Kellock going to be boyish also? He had never
shown any sign of it.

She need not have feared.

He did not ask Medora to read the letters to Mr. Trenchard and Ned
Dingle; but he had finished them and posted them by ten o’clock and
then they set out.

He knew London and took Medora to the British Museum first. She had
waited for him to speak about the previous night, while he, apparently,
expected her to do so. She had changed her views as to his punishment
and believed that she had quite forgiven him. But this was not the case
and before the end of the day he found it out.

At the Museum he surprised her by the extent of his knowledge. She had
heard enough by the time they went to lunch and better liked the Park,
where they sat for a while in the afternoon. Medora saw wealth and
beauty and power pass by while Kellock commented.

“That’s the sort of thing we’re out to alter,” he said. But she was not
feeling in a socialistic mood.

“Why?” she asked. “Why shouldn’t there be beautiful horses and
beautiful clothes in the world?”

“It isn’t the horses and clothes. It’s where they come from, Medora.
The horses are bred for money, and the clothes are spun and made for
money. But who makes the money? Do the people that ride the horses and
wear the clothes make it? No—you and I make it. The workers make it.
You and I have just as much right to ride in a carriage as the Queen of
England.

“The wealth of the world is exploited,” he explained, “and the result
is poverty and superfluity. The world could get on perfectly well
without those horses and those clothes—yes, and those people; but it
couldn’t get on without us. We’re carrying on the work of civilisation,
not those dolls and puppets toying together. Poverty and wealth are
the result of the same vicious factor in our social system. They are
interdependent and spring from the same rotten roots. Banish poverty
and you do away with hunger and ignorance and misery and immorality
and other ills, all of which spring from it. And there’s only one
way to banish poverty, and that’s to banish wealth. Then you get a
self-respecting order of humanity instead of the present arrangement.
If the nation’s rich, the people are rich. It all comes back to brain
power, and the moment labour is strong enough in brain power, the rest
follows. The Trade Unions are only a first little instalment. In fact
they’re almost past their work now. We’ve gone beyond them. Syndicalism
says good-bye to the poor and good-bye to the rich. Then we shall get
face to face with reality.”

“And what becomes of all these handsome, dashing, prosperous people
then?” she asked.

“Nothing worse than what becomes of us. They will be left with a great
deal more than they deserve, because they’ve never lifted their fingers
to help the real good of the world. The revolution in this country,
when it comes, will be bloodless—merely a readjustment in conformity
with reason and justice. We’re out against the system, not against the
individual which battens on it. When we make war on rats and sparrows
and wood pigeons, we’re not quarrelling with the individual rat or
sparrow, but against the class. They’ve got to go, because they’re
unsocial and harm the community and take for themselves what was grown
and garnered for their betters. And that’s what the classes are doing.
They take for themselves what was earned by their betters.”

“Why are we their betters?”

“Because we justify our existence and they do not. Our lives are a
round of work; their lives are a round of luxury and pleasure. We earn
the money and they spend it. We save and they waste. Do they spend it
on the community? No. They spend it on themselves.”

“They’re taxed and all that.”

“So are we. And taxing is a wrong system anyway. All sources of wealth
ought to pour straight into the State and return to everybody in the
shape of dignified conditions of life. Money is the source of all
evil to people and it ought not to be handled by people, but by the
State. If you once knock the idea of money out of the human mind and
teach it to think in different values and occupy itself, not with mean
necessities and still meaner luxuries and possessions, but the things
of the soul—then you get on a higher plane at once.”

But she was more interested in things as they were. A man or two
obviously admired her, and the fact that she sat beside Kellock did not
seem to prevent their open admiration. This cheered her and put her
into good spirits.

“How cheeky the gentlemen are,” she said. “They don’t seem to have any
manners at all. They look at you that bold, as if they’d known you all
their lives.”

“Because they’re rich and know that money is power. These silk-hatted
brutes have got nothing better to do than to make eyes at every pretty
woman they pass. Many of them have never done a stroke of honest work
in their lives, and never intend to. They are lower than the tom cats
and yet—that’s the amazing thing—satisfied with themselves—pleased
with themselves—and treated as decent members of society by the
trash like them. I’d have them breaking stones if I could, instead of
insulting women with their goggling eyes.”

“I dare say some of them are dukes and earls, if we only knew it,” said
Medora.

“Very likely indeed,” he admitted; “they’re pretty much what you’d
expect dukes and earls to be.”

But even Medora felt this was crude.

“There’s plenty of good men among the Upper Ten,” she assured him. “You
think if a chap isn’t born in the gutter, he can’t be any good.”

This was the first of a succession of little snubs; though Jordan
hardly felt them at the time. But looking back afterwards, he realised
that Medora had her opinions and that, apparently, they did not always
echo his own.

He invited her to end the day where she pleased, and she chose a music
hall.

Here he was obviously and painfully ill at ease; and he was also
surprised to see the extent of Medora’s enjoyment. He felt absolute
astonishment to hear her laugh so heartily at comic songs on the old
familiar lines, and still more amazed that sentimental ditties of the
most puling description should have power to move her. She, for her
part, could not fail to see that the entertainment cast him down. Not
an item of the programme appealed to him and the smoke made him cough.

As they came out, he hoped she had enjoyed it.

“How could I with you so glum?” she asked.

“I wasn’t glum. That sort of thing rather misses me—that’s all. I’ve
not got the bent of mind for it.”

“You’re so clever, you never see anything to make you wonder, and so
wise, you never see anything to make you laugh,” she said.

His eyes grew rather round, but Medora was smiling and had not meant
the speech to be acerb.

“I see plenty to make me wonder in London. Who doesn’t? And I like
a good joke; but these stage people didn’t seem funny to me. And
honestly, the longer I live, the less I see to laugh at in the world,
for a thinking man with high resolves to better things. People laugh
for two reasons, I believe: to throw their neighbours off the scent of
the truth; or else because they are rattle-pated, light-minded fools,
with no more in them than an empty pot. The ‘empties’ make the most
noise, don’t they? All the same, I like to hear you laugh, because you
laugh honest and it means you’re happy. And God knows if there’s one
thing I want to make happy before everybody on earth, it’s you, Medora.”

She relented before this speech and took his arm. He was gallant
and very jealous for her. He was also very tender and gentle. She
acknowledged his consideration as they sat at supper; but he spoiled
all by explaining the very special reason for his care and attention.

“The position is a most delicate one,” he said, “and naturally I must
do nothing to make it more so. You’re at the mercy of the world now, in
a manner of speaking, Medora—a defenceless creature—not maid, wife
or widow, as they say. And so it’s up to me to be extra awake and very
quick to champion you in every way I can think.”

Medora felt that if this were indeed the case, Jordan and not she might
be said to stand in the limelight. She, in fact, must remain as much in
the shade as possible. But he proceeded and explained his future course
of action. It surprised her exceedingly.

“Talking of that and all I owe you for coming to me, you may be sure
I shall pay the debt in a proper manner, Medora. I honour you far too
much to treat you with anything but the greatest respect and delicacy,
I hope; and I certainly would demean myself, or you, to live with
you as a husband till we’re married. But let the world think as it
pleases—which is mostly evil—we shall know what we really are, and
we’ll always be—a self-respecting, high-minded pair. It’s easy enough
to be better than the world thinks you, because it judges others by
itself and the mass of people have a very base standard. The law
itself is disgusting and bestial in this matter. It sticks to the old,
shameful conditions and demands adultery before divorce. So there must
be evidence of that—we’re ordered to sink to furnishing evidence
of it; but we’re made of much too fine stuff to sink to the heathen
reality. We’re a cut above the dirty law—you and me. We want to live
our future lives on a plane of mutual respect and admiration. We don’t
mean all the future to be spoiled by the memory of human weakness.”

He made no other allusion to the previous night and Medora’s wonderful
eyes bent upon him with apparent adoration, while her wonderful heart
grew a little hard. She remembered that she had been married and he
never had.

“You’re a saint,” she said.

“Oh, no—only a clean-minded, honourable man, Medora.”

She fell asleep gently hating him that night; but after many hours of
dreamless slumber, she awoke in better spirits and found herself loving
Kellock again. He was a hero and somewhat abnormal, as heroes must be;
but, after all, she was a heroine, and should therefore find no supreme
difficulty in rising to the heights on which he moved. She saw indeed
that this would be necessary if she wished to be happy.

She met him radiantly next morning and he found her mood easy and
humble. He knew a man at Doulton’s Pottery, and when he suggested going
to see the famous works, she agreed.

“We shall be among our own sort there,” he said. “It will be good for
us. I don’t think sitting in Hyde Park watching the rich was good for
us. I may have said a bit more than I meant about them. They’re not all
worthless wasters, of course, and it’s quite true what you said, that
there may be a bit of class prejudice in me.”

“No, there isn’t—not a scrap,” she answered. “And if there is, they
deserve it. Nobody looks all round things like you do. You’ll live to
see it all altered no doubt, and do your bit to help alter it.”

“If I had my way, them that don’t work shouldn’t eat,” he declared.
“Work’s the saving of mankind, and you can’t be healthy-minded if you
sit and look on at life, any more than you can be healthy-bodied if you
take no exercise. We all owe a lot to every one else, and them that
won’t pay that debt and want to take all and give nought, are wicked
enemies to the State.”

At Doulton’s Medora was genuinely interested, and best she liked the
painting rooms.

“That’s beautiful work,” she said. “If I’d been brought up to that,
I’d have joyed in it, because there’s something to show for it, and
you’d know the flowers and ribbons you painted was brightening up other
people’s homes. But my work—just shifting paper and putting the zinc
between the sheets for the glazing rollers—there’s nothing to it.”

“Don’t you say that. All necessary work is fine if it’s done well, same
as you did it. But there’ll be no more of that sort of work for you.
Your place will be at home; and I shouldn’t be content for you just to
do housewife’s work neither, Medora. You’re going to be my right hand
and look after my papers and help me with the big things I hope to
do—not in the Mill, but out of it.”

“I never shall be clever enough.”

“Yes, you will. You’ll come to it when you get a grasp of all the
questions we’re out to solve. You’ll begin at the beginning, where I
did, and master the theory of socialism—the theories I should say,
because it’s a science that’s in the making and clever men are still
working out the details. There’s a lot of difference of opinion,
and so far as I can see, our leaders—the ‘intellectuals,’ as they
are called—don’t see eye to eye by any means yet. They’re all for
universal democracy, of course, and the government of the people by the
people and the redistribution of wealth and the uplift of the worker
and so on; but they differ as to how it’s to be done and how the mass
is to be brought out of slavery to the promised land. In fact no two of
’em think the same, strange to say.”

“It’s a big subject,” said Medora blankly.

“It’s the only subject.”

“I lay you’ve thought it all out.”

“I’ve got my ideas, and in our evenings I shall put ’em before you and
read you a lot I’ve written about it. We’ll go over it together, and
you’ll bring your own wits to work on it when you’ve mastered all the
different opinions.”

“I wish I was half as clever as you think,” she said.

“You don’t know what you can do till you try. The first thing is to get
interested in it and let it soak into you. Once you feel like I do,
that it is the only thing that really matters for the race, then you’ll
properly live for it.”

“I expect I shall,” replied Medora, with a fainting soul.

“There’s noble women giving up their lives to it, and I hope you’ll be
one of them some day.”

She began to experience the discomfort of the mountain climber, who
ascends into more rarefied air than he is accustomed to breathe. It was
not until she had enjoyed a good lunch and a bottle of lemonade that
Medora felt lighter-hearted.

They went to no more music halls, but Jordan took her to a play of
Shakespeare and a concert. They also visited the Mint, the Tower of
London and the Zoological Gardens. At the last she was interested
and happy. He improved every occasion. On one afternoon they went
to a meeting of the Labour Party and heard great lights discuss the
Internationale. Kellock flamed with enthusiasm afterwards and talked
ceaselessly till bed time. She had never seen him so excited. She
retired with a headache, bewildered and bored to tears.

Of personal matters the only interest centred in a communication from
Mr. Trenchard. As for Dingle, he did not answer Jordan’s letter. Nor
did he come to see Jordan, as Medora half hoped he might. She trusted
that some emotional scenes were to occur in the future; but if drama
lay in store for her, it would doubtless be at Dene, not in London.

She wrote to her mother justifying her conduct; but Lydia did not reply.

“I’ve lost mother,” said Medora, after three days’ silence. “She’s
not going to answer that nice letter I showed you. In fact I’ve lost
everybody but you. And I’d lose them all a hundred times over for you,
Jordan.”

“We must be patient,” he said. “We know we’re right, and those
that know they’re right can afford to be patient. The rest will be
brought to see it in process of time. They must be educated to the
truth. Everything depends on education, Medora. It works through
everything—in private affairs and public affairs alike. Ignorance
makes all the trouble in the world; and once the spread of education
brings the light, then we get a move on and see our way clear. It is
for you and me to show the people that we are sure of ourselves and set
them the example of how to behave.”

“We’ll live it down,” said Medora.

“No; we’ve got nothing to live down,” he declared.

“It’s for them to live down their ignorance of the case. And it is for
us to help them to do it and show them, day by day, that we were right
and they were wrong. But you can’t do big things without suffering big
things. I warn you there will be a lot at first who will side against
us—the sort that judge by the outside, as most do.”

“I dare say we’ll be sent to Coventry.”

“They may cabal against us like that. But the harder the opposition,
the greater the triumph when we show them what we are. We must look to
each other for our comfort and support and to our own hearts and good
conscience. I’m not afraid for myself. A man can weather anything if
he knows he is right. But for a tender creature like you, all full of
nerves and that, it will be harder. But you may trust me to be pretty
wide awake on your behalf, Medora. I’ll be sleepless to shield you and
come between you and every hard word. I’ll fight for you, I promise
you.”

“I know that,” she said. “The pinch will be before we’re married.
Afterwards they’ll soon calm down.”

Her affection and trust were unbounded. She believed that he would
fight for her, and she looked forward not a little to seeing him do so.

Through the atmosphere of the Metropolis, the people at Dene shrank
a little. She was prepared to return with a mind enlarged and a
perspective widened. No doubt she and Jordan would come to London
themselves some day, when he took his place among the leaders. But in
the meantime she would not for anything have missed the return to her
native village. Her new clothes alone must have sufficed to dictate
this step. He, too, at her wish, had bought some new clothes, and
though he hesitated at her choice, which led to rather more radiant
colours than Kellock was wont to wear, yet he told himself, very truly,
that in such a matter no principle was involved. He also felt that it
became him to fall in with his future wife’s wishes when and where it
was possible and reasonable to do so.

They visited the Arts and Crafts Exhibition, where the new Dene
water-mark pictures created daily admiration, completed their holiday
and so returned; and their homecoming was anticipated in various ways,
showing, though ignorance is the root of all evil, as Jordan never
wearied of declaring, that even ignorant hearts may soar to heights of
distinguished humanism.

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