When Lydia asked that Medora might come to stop at the farm, Mary and
Tom spoke simultaneously, for each hastened to be the first to accord
They had suffered acute anxieties concerning Mrs. Trivett’s possible
departure, and when she told them that she had determined to remain,
nothing was good enough for her.
In their joy and relief they grovelled before Lydia, heaped compliments
upon her, and declared that never for a moment had they entertained the
least doubt concerning her decision, even while, with every thankful
word and exultant exclamation, they revealed the depth of their past
anxiety and height of their vanished fear. She saw through it, and only
left them uneasy in one particular.
Mr. Knox, so Lydia explained, had taken his disappointment in a
spirit of great self-restraint, and behaved with such magnanimity and
understanding that when he desired the continued friendship of Mrs.
Trivett, she could not deny it.
“For that matter, I’m proud to have him for a friend,” she said. “He’s
full of sense, and as he’s prepared to offer friendship to me and mine,
I’m prepared to accept it, and you mustn’t mind if he comes to tea of a
Sunday sometimes, and such like.”
“He wouldn’t allude to the past, or anything like that, I hope?” asked
Mr. Dolbear doubtfully. “Because, in his rage at his loss, he might be
tempted to give me and my wife the blame; and if he did that, I should
round on him, and there’d be a scene.”
“Fear nothing of the sort,” replied his sister. “You may take it
from me it won’t happen. In fact, I went into it, and I’ve got his
undertaking never to say one word to you or Polly on the subject. And
he’s a man you may say whose word is his bond.”
“Then let him come,” decided Tom. “If he’s got that bee out of his
bonnet, I don’t want to quarrel with him. I never doubted his sense,
save in that fatal matter.”
“He’s got a nice hand with the children, too,” said Mary. “I will say
that for him; and where a child of mine takes, you may generally trust
In the matter of Medora, there was no difficulty; nor did Jordan make
any. Medora, in fact, felt a shadow of disappointment that he agreed so
willingly. It was only a lesser grievance than refusal had been.
She made a great business of her petition, but he made no business
whatever of granting it.
“You’ve got the lecture through now,” he said, “and there won’t be no
need for another copy yet, if at all, and you’ve heard me deliver it so
often that I’ll be glad for you to go and get a rest. Then you’ll come
back all the fresher to it, and to the actual night, when I give it at
Totnes a fortnight hence. Go, by all means, and I’ll come over to tea
So Medora, who would have wearied Heaven with her griefs, had he
questioned the plan, now flushed that he approved it.
“One would think you was glad to get rid of me,” she said.
“Who’d think so?” he asked. “It’s a good idea, and will give you a bit
of a rest.”
“And you, too, perhaps?”
“I don’t want a rest; but life’s been getting on your nerves above a
bit lately, and the calm of the farm and the fun of the children, and
being with your mother, and so on—it’s to the good, Medora. And soon,
I hope, we’ll know something definite, so that this suspense can end.
It’s bad for you, and I should think the man was enough of a man to
know he’s doing a mean and cowardly thing to hang it up like this any
longer. So you go, and rest quietly; and as I told you, if he doesn’t
proceed soon, I shall approach him again with an ultimatum.”
“It’s him that will have the ultimatum, I should think.”
So Medora went to Priory Farm, and since she knew very well how to
please her aunt, made a point of doing so. Indeed, Mrs. Dolbear
considered she was much improved.
“I never thought she would rise to children,” said Mary to her
sister-in-law, “but of late, I may say, there’s hope in that direction.
She’s more patient and quicker to see danger threatening a child. There
was a time I wouldn’t have trusted her too far with Milly or Bobby,
let alone Jenny; but all that’s altered. She may even be a good mother
herself yet in fulness of time.”
Indeed, Medora shone at the farm, and displayed consideration for other
people that might hardly have been predicted even by the sanguine. Mary
Dolbear was one who gave everybody ample opportunities to be unselfish,
and Medora not only perceived these opportunities, but took them. She
had changed, and none realised how much better than Lydia. But still
the wisdom of any meeting between her daughter and Ned seemed doubtful.
She hesitated to bring it about, and was still hesitating when chance
Medora had been at Cornworthy for ten days and once Jordan came to tea
during that time. He was full of some alterations in his lecture, but
brought no news of interest to his future wife.
Then she went for a walk by the ponds above the Mill, where emerald
reflections of alder and willow and birch were washed over the silver
surface of the little mere, and a great wealth of green leapt again
above the mats and tussocks of the sedge and rush. Golden kingcups
flashed along the shallows, and bluebells wove their light into the
banks above the water.
Medora was actually engaged in the innocent business of picking flowers
when she came plump upon Ned. They met at a narrow beach running into
the lake under a limestone crag; and he, too, was there on pleasure,
for he was fishing. Strangely enough, each was possessed with the same
idea, and seemed to think it necessary to explain to the other the
situation in which they stood revealed.
Ned scowled and started; Medora blushed. While he stared, she spoke,
without any preliminaries and as though no terrific events separated
them. It seemed as if the trivial accident of being there picking
flowers demanded first consideration.
“You mustn’t think I’m here for pleasure,” she said. “I’m only killing
time. We’ve got to wait your will, and I’ve got to go on living as best
as I can. We’re at your mercy.”
He, too, fastened on the moment.
“As to that, same here. It’s true I’m fishing, but only to kill time,
same as you. I’m not in any mood for pleasure, I can tell you, woman.”
“I dare say not,” she answered. “People often fall back on little
things when big things are hanging over them. I know how you feel,
because I feel the same.”
“You don’t know how I feel,” he answered. “And don’t you dare to say
you do, please. What do you know about feeling? You’re the senseless
rubbish that can hurt others, but you’re not built to suffer yourself
more than a stinging nettle.”
She felt no pang of anger at his rough challenge. After Kellock’s
steadfast voice, the ferocious accents of Ned were rather agreeable
than not. His tone for once was deep, as an angry bull. She liked it,
and thought he looked exceedingly well.
“As long as he don’t throw me in the water, I’ll speak to him,” thought
Ned expected a stinging reply to his preliminary challenge, but she
did not answer it. Instead, she spoke of an utter triviality.
“What d’you think’s in my mind—to show how little things get hold
on you? The first thing that come in it when I saw you so close was
pleasure, because I was wearing a pink sunbonnet—that being your
favourite colour for me. But Mr. Kellock don’t know what I wear.”
He started with genuine astonishment.
“What in thunder be women made of? You can babble like that and pick
flowers, and be a hen devil all the time?”
“If I am a hen devil, then I’m in the proper place for devils, and
that’s hell,” she said. “D’you think a woman can’t pick flowers and
wear pink and yet be broken to pieces heart and soul?”
“So you ought to be. You was always playing at being a martyr, and now
you damned well can be one. And I hope you are. The trouble with you
was that I spoiled you and fooled you to the top of your bent, and let
you bully-rag me, and never turned round and gave you a bit of the
naked truth yourself.”
“I know it,” she said. “You were a great deal too fond of me for my
good, Ned, and if you hadn’t loved me so well, I dare say you’d have
been a better husband.”
“I couldn’t have been a better husband,” he answered, “and if you’d
been made of decent stuff, you’d have known it. Not that I didn’t see
the ugly truth about you—I did; but I hoped and hoped that with time
you’d get more sense, and so I held my tongue and held on.”
“How I wish you’d told me my faults, Ned.”
“You oughtn’t to want telling. If you’d got any conscience, which you
never had, you’d have seen your faults and suffered from ’em, as you
ought. For one thing, you were greedy as the grave, and that envious
that you didn’t like anybody else to have anything you lacked. If you
saw a worm on the ground, you wished you was a bird. ’Twas always so.
Everybody else was better off than you, and had got nicer cats and
gardens and husbands and everything. A filthy jealousy it was that made
you miserable, when you ought to have been happy, and tempted you off
to try your luck with this thing, that’s only a machine, not a man.
Some chaps would have took you two and smashed your heads together
like egg-shells, as you deserved; but I’m above anything like that.
You thought I was a fool; but I wasn’t such a fool as to do that. You
wrecked me, but I wasn’t going to wreck you.”
“I’ve wrecked myself, more likely,” said Medora.
“I don’t know nothing about that. Whatever you get won’t be half what
Ned appeared to have changed for the better in Medora’s eyes. The
harsher were his words, the better she liked them. Here was real
martyrdom. The emotion of this suffering became a luxury. She wept, but
was not in the least unhappy.
“I’ve ruined two very fine men—that’s what I’ve done,” said Medora.
She flung down her kingcups and bluebells, and sat on a stone and
covered her face with her pocket-handkerchief.
He looked at her fiercely, and rated her from a savage heart.
“Crocodile tears! You never even cried like a decent woman, from your
heart, because you haven’t got a heart.”
“Don’t say that,” she said. “Your heart can’t break if you haven’t got
one, and mine’s broken all right now. With all my dreadful faults, I’m
human—only too much so. I know what I’ve done, and what I’ve lost.”
“And what you’ve won, too—a lunatic, that will very likely end on the
gallows as a traitor to the country, or some such thing.”
“No, he won’t,” she replied. “He’s too dull for that.”
“You can call him dull, can you?”
“You’ve no right to make me talk about him,” answered she; “all the
same, honesty’s no crime, and I say he’s a dull man, because anybody
with only one idea is dull.”
“Yes, no doubt; if you’re not his one idea yourself, you find him dull.
And when you were my only idea, you still wanted more—always wanted
more—more than you had of everything but trouble; and now you’ve
brewed that for yourself. And what d’you mean, when you say you’ve
ruined his life as well as mine?”
Medora enjoyed the lash of his scornful voice.
“You’ll kill me if you speak so harsh,” she said. “I meant—I meant—I
don’t know what I meant. Only it’s clear to me that I shan’t make him
the wife he thinks I shall.”
“That’s true for once. You’re no wife for any man. And as for him, he
don’t want a flesh and blood woman for his partner, and if you hadn’t
thrown yourself at his head, like a street-walker, he’d never have
taken you. The shamelessness—the plotting—the lies. When you grasp
hold of what you’ve done, you ought to want to drown yourself.”
“I may do it sooner than you think for,” she answered. “Rub it in—I
deserve it; but don’t fancy I’m not being paid worse coin than any word
of yours. I’m only a woman—not much more than a girl, you may say; and
I’ve done you bitter wrong, but there’s always two sides to everything,
and justice will be done to me—in fact, it’s begun. You say Kellock
never wanted a flesh and blood woman, and that’s true—truer than
you know. So you can see what my future’s going to be. Once you’re
free, you can find a better and prettier and wiser creature than me
to-morrow; but I’m done for to the end of my life. He’s much too good
for me—I know that—so were you—far too good; but there it is. I’m
done for—down and out, as you would say. He’ll go and live in a town
presently. Think of me in a town!”
“Sorry for yourself always—and never for nobody else.”
“I’m sorry for everybody that ever I was born. I don’t want to bring
any more trouble on people; and very like, I may find the best way is
to drop into the water some night, and let the river carry my poor dust
out to sea.”
“You haven’t the pluck to do that,” he said. “Anyway, you belong to him
now, and have got to play the game and stick to him.”
They argued for some time, the man minatory and harsh, the woman
resigned. But once he amused her. Then Ned harked back to her threat.
“You talk of being down on your luck, and suicide, and all that
twaddle. But you never looked better in your life. You’re bursting with
“I’m not,” she cried indignantly. “You’ve no right to say it. And if I
am, what about you? You’re a lot fatter and handsomer than ever you was
in my time.”
“That’s a lie,” he said, “and you needn’t think I’m made of stone,
though you are.”
“If I’m a stone, ’tis a rolling one,” she answered, “and that sort
don’t gather no moss. I’m glad I’ve met you, Ned, because I’m very
wishful for you to know, for your peace of mind, I’m not happy—far,
far from it. You deserve to know that. You made me laugh just now, I
grant, and that’s the first time I’ve laughed since I left you—God
judge me, if it isn’t. The very first time, and the sound was so
strange that it made me jump.”
“Laugh? You haven’t got much to laugh at I should say.”
“That’s true. I’ll never laugh no more. I wouldn’t laugh when I
might—now it’s too late.”
“It’s never too late for anything for one of your sort. And when you
say you’re a rolling stone, I reckon you tell the truth for once. And
things that roll go down hill, remember that. Hell knows where you’ll
roll to before you finish.”
“It won’t be your fault, Ned. You’ve got nothing to blame yourself
with,” she answered humbly, and he judged wrongly of what was in her
“You’d better send Kellock along to me,” he said. “The business is in
hand, and I may tell you, I meant to hit him as hard as I knew how.
But there’s two sides to that, and in the long run what kept me from
getting a gallows out of him is the same that’s going to keep me from
getting damages. And that’s you.”
“I’m not worthy to black your boots, Ned,” declared Medora.
“No, and more’s he—more’s he; mind that. You thought he was the
clever, strong man—the sort of man would be a tower of strength to
any woman, and all the rest of it; and now you know, or you jolly
soon will know, that he’s only a tower of strength for himself—not
for you. A man like him wants a woman to match him, and if you ask
yourself if you match him, and answer yourself honest, if you can, then
you’ll answer that you don’t and never will. You can send him to me at
my convenience. He can call o’ Monday at half-after eight—then I’ll
decide about it.”
“Thank you, Ned. It’s more than we deserve, I dare say. I don’t care
much what happens now if you can forgive me. I suppose you can’t, but
it would mean a lot to me if you could.”
“You think I’ve got something to forgive, then? That’s surprising. I
thought ’twas all the other way.”
“So did I,” she answered, “but I know better now. I shouldn’t be
suffering like I am if I’d done right.”
“You can do right and still suffer,” he answered, “and now be off, and
send the man to me.”
Medora, again weeping freely, and leaving her bunch of flowers on
the ground at his feet, departed without any more words. For once,
her tears were real and her sorrows genuine. They were genuine, yet
contained a measure of sweetness, and comforted her by their reality.
This was an order of grief that she had not known. She persisted in
it for a long time, after she had gone out of his sight, and found a
sunny spot among the bluebells. There she sat and heaped reproaches
on her head; and self-blame was a sensation so novel that it soothed
instead of crushed her. But this phase passed in contemplation of Ned.
He had changed in some mysterious way. He was formidable, masculine—a
thing infinitely superior to herself. Could she dare to say that Ned
was now superior to Kellock? She fled from that thought as from chaos;
but it pursued her; it made to itself feet and wings, and clung to her
mind. She resisted, but it stuck like a burr. Ned was surely translated
into something fine and admirable; while Kellock, now about to be a
conqueror, had waned almost to a second-rate being in Medora’s vision.
A sensation of physical sickness overtook her before this horrible
discovery; for what could such a conclusion do but wreck her future
utterly and hopelessly? If Kellock were to fall from his pedestal, who
And a hundred yards off, still buried in the thoughts sprung from this
remarkable conversation, Ned set up his rod, cast out ground bait, and
began to fish for dace and perch. His mind, however, was far from his
float, and presently his eyes followed Medora, as she moved pensively
along the road on the other side of the pond. She would tell Kellock to
come and see him, and then Ned would—he did not know what he would do.
His thoughts turned to Philander Knox and their last interview. Medora
had said nothing to contradict the vatman’s assurances. Indeed, she
had implicitly supported them. And she was obviously changed. She had
apparently enough proper feeling to be miserable; but whether that
misery was pretended, or sprang from her conscience, or arose from
her futile conjunction with Kellock under the present unsupportable
conditions, Ned could not determine. He examined his own emotions
respecting Medora, and found that she had slightly modified them. He
despised her, and began even to pity her, since, on her own showing,
she was having a bad time. But was she ever built to have a good time?
Dingle doubted it.