THE DOCTOR

As soon as Mrs. Trivett heard the bad news she stopped work, explained
to her second in command the gravity of the situation, and hastened
home as fast as she could go to Medora. Now or never might her daughter
show what she was worth, and she felt that her girl’s place should be
beside the sufferer. Duty and love alike prompted in that direction;
indeed, Medora herself appeared to view the disaster with her mother’s
eyes.

“Good Lord! Lost his stroke! Poor man,” she cried. “I must go to him.
Is he ill? Have you seen him? What was the cause of it? Does he say
what he’s going to do about it?”

“I haven’t seen him. He’s gone back to the inn, and Mr. Trood takes him
into Totnes presently to the doctor. And it’s your place to go along
with them in my opinion.”

Medora’s mind moved swiftly. She knew that Kellock was to have seen Ned
Dingle on the previous evening, and eagerly she awaited information of
what had happened at that meeting. Jordan intended to have come over
to Priory Farm after working hours; but now she could hear even sooner
than she expected.

“I shan’t leave him if he’s very bad,” said Medora.

“In no case, better or worse, will you leave him,” declared Lydia.
“This is a fearful thing to overtake a vatman, and you, of all people,
ought to be at his side to cheer him and encourage him and help him to
hope. It’s a nervous breakdown along of all this waiting and trouble.”

“More likely the lecture,” suggested Medora. “Small wonder if his
lecture is got on his mind and upset him. And he was to see Ned
yesterday. Perhaps Ned said something to do it.”

Lydia sighed.

“Things be come to a climax, seemingly. Mr. Knox whispered to me that
Ned might have a bit of good news for Kellock. On the other hand,
perhaps he had not. Any way, your good is Jordan’s good, and his evil
is your evil now; so you’d best to get to him as quick as you can, and
stop with him if he wishes you to do so, as he doubtless will.”

In a couple of hours Medora sat at “The Waterman’s Arms.” She expected
an emotional meeting, and indeed felt emotional. For a time Jordan’s
sufferings weighed with her, and she found sympathy wakening for him.
But he appeared much as usual, and while gratified at her swift return,
held himself well in hand and made no great parade of his misfortune.

“Mother properly scared me to death,” explained Medora. “I do hope to
God it’s not as bad as she said. How d’you feel, dear? You look pale.”

“I feel all right in myself.”

“It’s that lecture. Why don’t you give it up?”

“No, Medora. It’s nothing to do with the lecture. I can think of the
lecture calmly enough. I’m very glad you came so quick. It’s a comfort
to me first, and second, I’ve got a lot to tell you. You must brace
yourself, for it’s bad news.”

“More?”

“What has lost me my stroke happened last night, Medora. I saw Mr.
Dingle, and I heard more than enough to put any man off his stroke.”

“You don’t mean to say he’s going to take your money?”

“My money! Good powers, what’s that? He can have my money to the last
penny if he likes. It’s far worse. I hate to say it—it’s enough to
kill any pure woman—it’s very nearly killed me, I believe; but
you’ve got to hear it, Medora, though it sweeps away the firm ground
from under our feet and leaves us without any foothold. He—he won’t
divorce you!”

She exhibited ample concern at this intelligence. Indeed, she very
nearly fainted in earnest, and Kellock, who only observed the physical
shock, doubted not that it sprang from emotion entirely creditable to
Medora.

“You can guess what I felt and how I tried to bring him to a better
frame of mind. But he’s a different man from what he used to be. I
couldn’t believe I was listening to Dingle. Changed into something
outside his real character. It shows how weak natures can be
influenced. Others have been getting at him—enemies to us for certain.
It’s a cruel, wicked thing, and it knocked me out, as you see. But I’m
not concerned with myself. I’ve got to think of you, Medora, and the
future—our future. Of course, what really hurts the soul of man or
woman is what they inflict upon themselves; but all the same—there it
is—if he don’t divorce you, where are we?”

“Where we were,” she said, and strove to make her voice sufficiently
mournful. But she guessed that it would be difficult to discuss this
tremendous information without sooner or later revealing her true
sentiments.

“Don’t let’s talk about it for the present,” she continued. “The future
will take care of itself—it always does. For the minute, I’m only
troubled about your health and happiness, Jordan. Whatever comes of
this, we’ve been through a great experience, and the end of it all is
this shock to your nerves.”

“‘The end of it all,’ Medora?”

“I mean, so far as we’ve got. You are the only one to think about for
the minute—not me and not Dingle. The first thing is your health and
strength, and I’m not going to leave you again, Jordan, till you’re set
up, and find yourself as clever as ever you were.”

“If you come to the lecture, that would go a long way to quieting my
nerves.”

“Of course I’ll come. I always meant to come. It was only a bit of
temper saying I wouldn’t—I never thought not to come. But will you be
well enough to give it?”

“Oh, yes. This flurry arose from causes outside the lecture, and quite
outside _the_ Cause. You understand?”

“Yes,” she answered. “I do understand, and I’m thankful for it, Jordan;
because I know very well it means much more to you than your own trade.
And our little lives are as nothing to the big things in your mind.”

“If I never made paper again,” he assured her, “it would be less—far
less—of a grief and disaster to me than if I was shut off from taking
my part in the great struggle for Labour.”

“You’ll do both; you’ll do both. It’s only a passing shock. You’ll
forget all about it, I hope, and be at work again as well as ever in a
few days.”

“I don’t think so, Medora. As far as that goes, I believe it’s serious.
I haven’t had time to collect my thoughts yet, and it’s no good
worrying till I’ve seen the doctor; but I’m none too hopeful. If the
stroke once goes, it wants a lot of careful nursing to get it back, and
often enough it’s gone for good.”

“Only with men who drink, and that kind of thing. Such a one as you—a
saint—and strong in body and mind, and healthy every way—of course it
will come back.”

“We must be frank with ourselves,” he said. “We must tell the doctor
the truth. My stroke was shocked away. And sometimes what’s shocked
away can only be shocked back.”

“That’s an idea,” said Medora.

She was always quick to fasten on ideas and his words made her
thoughtful for a moment. She registered his statement for future
consideration, then flowed on again. She was cheerful, sympathetic,
and full of consolation. Indeed, presently, as Kellock grew grateful,
she began to think she might be overdoing the part. For it was, if not
wholly, at least in large measure an impersonation now. She was acting
again, and she played with a purpose and exceeding concern to touch the
right note, but avoid overemphasis upon it. Kellock appeared to be in
two minds, and he looked at her and held her hand.

“I want to say something,” he declared presently; “but I won’t. I’ll
keep it off, because I’m not very strong for the moment, and the spoken
word once spoken remains. This is a great crisis all round. I hope good
will come out of trouble, as it often does. We’ve had enough to shake
us cruelly to-day—both of us—and I won’t add to it. And what’s in my
thoughts may look different to-morrow, so I’ll keep it there.”

“Don’t think any more about anything,” she begged him. “Just let your
mind rest, or talk about the lecture. And don’t you think, whatever
happens, and whatever is in store for me, that it is going to lessen
your great future. Perhaps it was the strangeness of your ideas that
made me shrink from them.”

He began to discuss his ruling passion. She kept him easily to that.

Presently they ate together, and when Ernest Trood drove up in a
dog-cart, lent by Mr. Trenchard, he found Kellock calm and contented.
Medora sat behind, and joined in the conversation as they trotted
through the green lanes to Totnes.

The master had sent cheering messages to Jordan, and hoped to see him
on the following day.

“He’s not a bit troubled,” said Trood. “He reckons that with a man of
your fine physique and constitution—a man that lives the life you
lead—this is a flea-bite—just a shake-up along of some trifle. And if
you’ve got to chuck it and go away for six weeks even, he’s not going
to trouble about it.”

“Like him,” said Kellock. “But it won’t be any question of six weeks,
or six days, Ernest. I’ve got a feeling about this that I shall be
right in twenty-four hours, or not at all. I’m not letting it get on my
nerves, you understand. If it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s plenty of work
for me in the world, whether at the vat, or somewhere else.”

“Never heard better sense,” answered the foreman. “All the same, don’t
you throw up the sponge—that would be weak. You must remember you’re a
great paper maker, Jordan, and there are not any too many of ’em left
in England now-a-days. So it’s up to every man that’s proud of his
business to stick to it.”

“You take that to heart, Jordan,” advised Medora. “Not that there isn’t
greater work in the world than paper-making—we all know that.”

“No, we don’t know anything of the sort,” answered Trood. “Don’t you
talk nonsense, Medora, because I won’t hear it. Paper stands for
civilisation, and the better the paper, the higher the civilisation.
You’d soon see that if anything happened to spoil paper and raise the
price of rag. If the quality of paper goes down, that’s a sure sign the
quality of civilisation’s doing the same. By its paper you can judge a
nation, and English paper, being the best in the world, helps to show
we’re first in the world. And if a man like Kellock was to hide his
light under a bushel, his conscience would very soon tell him about it.”

Jordan smiled at Mr. Trood’s enthusiasm.

“I love my work,” he said, “and should never give it up, unless it gave
me up, Ernest, but for one reason—that I could do something better.”

“That you never would, if they made you king of England,” replied
the foreman. “You’d never be so good at anything else as you are at
paper-making, because you’ve got the natural genius for the job. That’s
your gift—and you may lecture or you may stand on your head, or do any
other mortal thing, but you won’t do it as well as you do your work at
the vat.”

The doctor found not much amiss with Jordan. He heard all particulars,
and made a searching examination of the patient’s fine frame.

“Never saw a healthier, or more perfect man,” he declared. “You’re a
long way above the average, and as healthy as a ten year old. Muscles
hypertrophied a bit—you’d be muscle-bound in fact for any other work
but your own; but your organs are as sound as a bell; there’s nothing
whatever to show why you’ve broken down. It would be cruelty to animals
to give you physic. What d’you drink and smoke?”

“I drink water, doctor. I don’t smoke.”

“Might have known it. Well, go away for a fortnight. Run up to
Dartmoor, and walk ten miles a day, or twenty, if you like. Then you’ll
be all right. This breakdown must have been mental, seeing it was
nothing else. Have you got anything on your mind?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Get it off then, and you’ll be all right.”

Kellock nodded.

“Thank you very much. I shall soon see a way, I hope.”

“Let a way come then; don’t worry to find it. Don’t worry about
anything. Go up to Dartmoor—Dartmoor’s a very good doctor—though his
fees get higher every year, they tell me. I seem to know your name, by
the way. Where did I see it?”

“Posted up perhaps, doctor. I’m going to give a lecture here next week.”

“Ah—so it was. Socialism—eh? Is the lecture getting on your nerves?”

“No, not at all. But I hope it’ll get on other people’s. I look forward
to it.”

“Well, get to Dartmoor, and if your stroke doesn’t come back when you
return, see me again.”

Kellock repeated his interview exactly, and Mr. Trood was much
gratified. They went home in the best of spirits, and that evening
Medora devoted to Jordan. He became more and more distracted and
pre-occupied, however. She avoided personal subjects, and wanted him to
read the lecture aloud; but this he would not do.

“Now that you are going to hear it,” he said, “I’ll let you off till
then.”

He declared himself tired and went to his bed before ten o’clock. But
he did not sleep. He had much thinking to do, and many hours elapsed
before he arrived at any conclusion. His mind was entirely occupied
with Medora, and her future caused him to pass through deep anxieties
and fruitless regrets. Her loyal attitude that day had moved him much,
for he supposed that Dingle’s decision must have come upon her with
force at least as crushing as it had fallen on himself. Yet how bravely
she had borne it, how unselfishly she had put it away from her, and
devoted herself to him and his tribulations! Doubtless now, alone, she
too considered the gravity of the situation, and lay awake in distress.

He had a human impulse to go and comfort her, to declare that nothing
mattered while they shared their great love, to explain that since
Dingle would not legally release her, they must take the law into their
own hands. But another, and far more characteristic line of thought
developed, and in the dominating and directing forces awakened by it,
he followed his natural bent, and at last arrived at a decision. He
perceived his duty towards Medora, albeit action appeared impossible
until he had spoken with her. Yet, to put the matter before Medora
might defeat his object, for there could be no doubt that Medora was
his, heart and soul. He felt, therefore, that he must, after all, act
without her knowledge, for he believed that if she knew his purpose,
she would strive to prevent it.

Continue Reading

THE STROKE

Medora’s native instinct, to fight for her own hand at the expense
of the community, now held some strife with her appreciation of
what Kellock had done and suffered on her account. At first a sense
of justice strove to remind her of their relations and of Jordan’s
views with respect to her and her future. She was, in fact, as he had
declared, his paramount thought and first object in life. And this
he felt without any diminution of his personal ambitions. But he had
supposed, and she had given him every reason to suppose, that his
ambitions and hers were one; that she desired nothing better than to
help him in his propagandist work. During the earliest days of their
association in London, this had been her purpose and assurance; but it
was so no longer. The artificial existence with Kellock had knocked
all the poetry out of their relation, and his aspirations now found
her averse. Because Kellock could not understand what made life worth
living to her, Medora’s interest and loyalty alike were withered.

Yet now she put up a struggle for him and it lasted longer than might
have been expected. Indeed, it endured for twenty-four hours, until the
morning following upon a sleepless night. Then her chivalry and general
vague sense of her obligations went down before what she believed,
perhaps rightly, was her common sense. She began to see, with a dazzle
of conviction, that Kellock was not at all the husband for her; but
her woman’s wit put it differently: she assured her soul that she was
not the wife for Kellock. This step once taken, those that followed
were exceedingly swift, and they appeared first in a conversation, not
with the man she desired to meet, but with another. For the present she
concealed her new impressions from her family, but on the following
Sunday, Mr. Knox came to tea, and was pleasant and agreeable, according
to his custom. Tom and Mary Dolbear, gratified to observe the large
philosophy with which he had taken his defeat, welcomed him and forgot
the hard things they had said and thought about him.

Then, as the hour came for the visitor to return home, Medora made an
excuse to accompany him. She was going into Dene to see Daisy Finch and
have supper with her and her mother—so she said; and together they
went their way.

She wasted no time with Mr. Knox, and having told him what she hungered
to tell, changed her mind about Daisy Finch, and went home again. Upon
the whole, Mr. Knox disappointed her at this meeting, yet looking back
over their conversation, she felt not sorry it had taken place, though
her face burned a little when she considered the full weight of some
of the vatman’s remarks. He did not spare her; but she began to get
accustomed to hard words now, and her sagacity told Medora that where
there was blame, there was hope. To be past censure is to be past
forgiveness.

She began at once to Mr. Knox upon the subject of her husband, and her
second sentence indicated the vast strides that her ambition had made.
The whole picture of Medora’s future in her own eyes was now changed.
The new vision looked wild indeed, and made even Medora wince a little
to hear it in her own tongue; yet it did not astonish Philander as much
as she imagined, though she had reached it sooner than he expected her
to do so.

“You see Mr. Dingle sometimes, don’t you, Mr. Knox?” began Medora.

“I do, my dear, and you mustn’t object if I say I think very well of
him. Curiously enough I think a lot of Mr. Kellock, too. Each have
got very good points in his way, and you can learn from them as well
as teach them. Of course, it’s a ticklish business being friends with
both, but so I am, and hope to continue.”

“For God’s sake, then, implore of Ned not to divorce me! Oh, Mr.
Knox, you’re wise and old, but you may still remember what it was to
be young. Everything’s gone if he divorces me—everything. I’ve been
pixy-led, fooled—yes, I have. And I’ve ruined two good men, through
no fault of theirs, or mine. It wasn’t Kellock’s fault, nor yet Ned’s;
and I’ll swear on my knees it wasn’t mine—not altogether, because
something not myself drove me and blinded me and dazed me.”

“That’s moonshine, Medora. You’re not going to make anybody believe
that; and don’t you try—else there’ll be the devil to pay. It was your
fault—the fault of your character—because a woman and her character
must be one. But I grant this; if we can’t go outside our characters,
and our characters are us and control all we do and think, then, being
yourself from no fault of your own, you’re not to blame in a sense.
Then, again, that won’t wash either, because if nobody can do anything
outside their characters, then nobody’s ever to blame in themselves for
anything they do, and there’s no such thing as wickedness in the world.
Which is nonsense and moonshine again, because we very well know the
world’s full of wickedness. So it’s no good saying, or fooling yourself
to think, that you’ve not been very wicked indeed, because you have.
However, like a lot of bigger people than you, you’ve got less, so far,
than you deserve, because the punishment never does fit the evil deed,
any more than the reward fits the good one, except in fairy tales. In
other words, Kellock, being what he is—a man of the highest possible
conduct, with a frosty nature to help it—has saved your bacon so
far. You know what I mean. Therefore, there’s a ray of hope—not very
bright, in my opinion, still, a ray.”

“Thank Heaven you think so,” said Medora.

“It’s only my opinion, mind, and I may very likely be wrong; but I’m a
man that sees hope very often where another cannot. A wonderful eye for
hope I’ve got. And if your husband knew all the facts and heard—not
that you’d been pixy-led, but that you was properly ashamed of your
infamous, hard-hearted, senseless, worthless way of going on, and meant
to do better for evermore—luck offering, and the Lord helping—if he
heard that, it’s just on the cards he might give it a second thought.
I don’t say he would. I wouldn’t in his case—not for a moment; but
he’s himself—an amazingly large-minded man. So, out of regard for your
mother, Medora, I’ll venture to touch the subject.”

“I’ll bless your name for evermore if you do.”

“Allow yourself no hope, however. You’ve got to think of Jordan
Kellock, and I tell you frankly I wouldn’t move in this matter if I
didn’t reckon he was utterly mistaken in his opinion of you.”

“He is, he is, Mr. Knox! I’m far ways less than what he fancied.”

“You are; but don’t waste your time eating dirt to me, though you ought
to do it all round, no doubt, and heap ashes on your head.”

“I know I ought; and Jordan’s going to see Ned on Monday evening, so if
you, in your great wisdom, could talk to my husband first—”

“I will do so,” promised Mr. Knox, and he kept his word. It happened,
therefore, that when the hour arrived for the meeting of Kellock and
Dingle, much had fallen out beyond the former’s knowledge.

Jordan had, of course, been left with plenty to think about by Medora,
but since the future was accomplished in his judgment, and its details
only a matter of time, he was concerned with far larger questions
than agitated her mind. His thoughts ran on to the day when they
would be married and their lives mingle happily, to run henceforth
in a single channel. He had never felt fear of that day after once
winning her; and he had, until this moment, enjoyed full confidence
that they were one in thought and ambition already, only waiting for
the completion and crowning of marriage to establish their unity in
the face of the world. But Medora had shaken the ingredients of this
conviction at their last meeting, and Jordan felt uneasy. If she could
speak so strongly on the subject of his lecture, what might she not
presently say on the subject of his life? A disloyal thought once
crossed his mind; something whispered that her objection to hearing
the lecture was humbug. The voice hinted that from no conviction did
Medora hold back, since she had already explicitly accepted his fixed
principles, and avowed herself their supporter. The voice furthermore
ventured to suggest that fixed principles and the lady were never
to be mentioned in one breath by any rational observer. But Kellock
protested against such insinuations, and continued to seek a reason for
her refusal. He could find none, and was forced to accept her own. He
was constrained to believe that she actually had changed her opinions,
and the reflection that she must never be expected to support him with
unqualified enthusiasm cast Jordan down. He did not despair of Medora,
but felt that he would be called to do all over again what he had hoped
was already done. He must convince her that he was right and weary not
until she had come over to his views. After marriage, her mind would
gradually take its colour from him, if the operation were conducted
painlessly. He satisfied himself that this would happen, and had
thought himself into a contented spirit when he went to see Dingle.

Ned said little, and the interview was extraordinary. It did not take
long, yet sent Kellock reeling out into the night bewildered, shocked,
with the whole scheme of his future existence threatened, and no
immediate possibility to retrieve the position.

“You’ve come, then,” began Mr. Dingle. “Well, a good bit has happened
since I saw you last, and, things being what they are here, it looks
rather as if I might return to the Mill.”

“I hadn’t heard nothing of that,” answered Jordan.

“You needn’t mention it; but Mr. Trenchard is quite willing if I see no
objection—so Ernest Trood tells me—and I imagine you’d have nothing
to say against it.”

“As to that, your plans are not my business. Of course, that might
alter my own plans.”

“Well, your plans are not my business. In fact, we needn’t trouble much
about each other in any case.”

Jordan reflected.

“No, it wouldn’t be natural, though I bear no malice, and I hope you
don’t,” he said.

“Have I shown malice?” asked the beaterman. “Have I taken this outrage
in a malicious spirit?”

“You have not.”

“I’ve taken it lying down, and you know it; and I dare say, at the
bottom of your heart, you’ve been more than a bit surprised sometimes
to see how I held in.”

“You’re a thinking, reasonable being.”

“Were you? You’re not surprised at the line I took, because I did
pretty much what you would have done if the positions had been
reversed, and I had run away with your wife. But I should have thought
you had wit to marvel a bit how a man like me took it so tame. If I
could knock you into the water for advising me to be kinder to her,
didn’t it ever strike you I might have done even a bit more when you
stole the woman?”

“As to that, I’ve understood up to the present you meant to do a bit
more. It was made clear to me you were going for damages along with the
divorce.”

“I thought of it, and I could have got them, no doubt; but what held my
hand off you when this happened, holds it still. I’m not going to claim
damages.”

Kellock was silent for some moments, arguing with himself whether he
ought to thank Ned for this concession, or not. He decided against so
doing; but felt it right to explain.

“You might think I ought to thank you for that. But I don’t, because,
if I did, it would be admitting you had waived what was your right.
But I deny you had any right to do such a thing as to try and take
my money. Your wife left you of her own free will, and on her own
judgment, and came to me, and though the law—”

“We needn’t worry about nonsense like that,” interrupted Ned. “I’ve
got a bigger thing than that to say. You’re so great upon defying the
law, and getting everything your own way, and you know so much better
than everyone else, the law included, how life should be run, and how
we should all behave, that you’ve rather defeated your own object,
Kellock. I dare say some people would think it funny what I’m going to
say; but you won’t. In fact, you’ve been hoist with your own bomb, as
the saying is, and the reason I didn’t go to quod for you is just your
own defiance of law. You saved yourself some ugly punishment at the
time; but only to get worse at the finish. So what happened was you
disobeyed the law, not me.”

“This is all a foreign language to me,” answered Jordan.

“Is it? Well, you’ll see the English of it in half a minute. The good
of three people hangs to this, and when I tell you that in my opinion
all three will be the losers by your marrying Medora, perhaps you’ll
begin to see where I’m getting.”

“As to that, you’ll do well to mind your own business. I can brook no
interference from you between me and Medora.”

“It isn’t so much what you can brook, as what is going to happen.
You’ve taken a very high-minded line about Medora, Kellock—so
wonderful high-minded, in fact, that you’ve got left altogether. You
deserve to have a halo and a pair of wings for what you’ve done—so
Philander Knox said, and I quite agree. But you don’t deserve to
have Medora. And you’re not going to have Medora. You said, ‘I’ll
treat this woman with all proper respect, and all that, till I can
marry her’; and that showed you to be a very decent man according to
your own lights; and when I heard about it, I spared you; but there’s
another side. I can’t divorce Medora now, because I’ve got nothing to
divorce her for—see? You might think I ought to help you to hoodwink
the law in the matter, for the sake of honour and decency—things for
which the law has got no use. And I would willingly enough for some
people, but not for you. Because what you’ve done shows a lot of other
things—chief being that Medora and you never would get on, really—not
as husband and wife. Even as brother and sister, there’s been a lot
of friction lately, so I hear; and what would it be if you were
married? So, you see, when I say you don’t deserve Medora, Kellock,
I’m not saying anything particular unkind. In fact, the truth is that
a man with your nice and superior opinions can’t marry another man’s
wife—not according to law. You ought to have thought of that.”

“It’s not too late.”

“Oh, yes, it is—much too late. You can’t go wrong now, even if you
thought of such a thing; which you never could. You’re damned well out
of it in fact; and the longer you live, the better you’ll be pleased
with yourself, I dare say. The divorce laws may be beneath contempt
and only fit for gorillas; but, while they are the laws, you’ve got to
abide by ’em.”

Jordan Kellock stared with round, horrified eyes. Even in his dismay
and grief he could wonder how the simple Ned had reached this high
present standpoint, and was able to address him like a father lecturing
a child. He began to recognise the hand of Mr. Knox.

Now he pulled himself together, rose, and prepared to be gone.

“I can only imagine that others have helped you to this extraordinary
decision, Dingle.”

“I don’t deny it. I never was one to think I could run my own show, or
play a lone hand. A pity you didn’t feel the same. A lone hand always
comes to grief. You talk to Philander Knox about this. He’s a great
admirer of yours. But he’s looked at it from the outside, as a student
of character. He’s got no axe to grind about it.”

“And Medora?”

“I don’t care a cuss about her. As to her line, you’d better inquire at
headquarters. I haven’t seen her again, and don’t much want to.”

“This flings her on to the mercy of society, Dingle.”

“Well, society won’t eat her. Society’s pretty merciful, so far
as I can see. You talk it over with her, and get her views of the
situation—whatever they may be.”

“I’ll only ask one question. Does she know that you don’t intend to
divorce her?”

“She does not. I only decided myself half an hour before you called.”

“Is it possible for me to prevail with you to change your mind, Mr.
Dingle?”

“No; because with your views of what’s straight and honourable, you
won’t try. You know I can’t divorce her. Why? Because you was too good
and clean a man to make it possible. So long. Just you think over all
I’ve said. You don’t know your luck yet, but you will.”

Jordan Kellock went out into the darkness, and he staggered like a man
in drink. He tottered down the hill from Ashprington, and intended to
start then and there for Cornworthy and Medora; but he found himself
physically unequal to any such pilgrimage. His knees shook and his
muscles were turned to wool. He walked to the inn, ascended to bed,
and lay phantom-ridden through the hours of an interminable night.
The shock of what he had heard was so great that his mind was too
stunned to measure it. A situation, that demanded deepest reflection
by its own horror, robbed him of the power to reflect. He lay and
panted like a wounded animal. He could not think by reason of the
force of his feelings. He could only lick his smarting wounds. Then he
fell into genuine grief for Medora’s plight. Actual physical symptoms
intruded. He found his eyes affected and strange movements in his
heart and stomach. His hands shook in the morning, and he cut himself
shaving—a thing that he had not done for years. He could not eat, yet
suffered from a sensation of emptiness. Daylight by no means modified
his sense of loss and chaos. It found him before all things desirous
to see Medora; but, by the time he was up and dressed, this purpose
failed him for a season, and his thoughts were occupied with Knox.
Then he turned again to Medora, and felt that life must be suspended
until he could see her and break to her what had happened. It was now
too late to visit Cornworthy until the day’s work should be done, and
remembering how often work had saved a situation, solved a problem and
helped him through difficult hours, Kellock proceeded to the Mill, and
was thankful to be there. He felt that labour would calm his nerves,
restore his balance, and assist him, before the evening came, to
survey his situation in the light of this convulsion. He found himself
entirely interested in what Medora would do; and he believed that he
knew. His heart bled for her.

Thus absorbed, he reached the vat. He was engaged upon the largest
sheets of drawing-paper at the time—work calling for more than average
lifting power and muscular energy—and he was glad that now, for a
while, work must take the first demand upon mind and body alike.

The vats were full, and the machinery hummed overhead; coucher and
layer stood at their places, and Jordan, slipping his deckle upon the
mould, grasped it with thumb on edge, and sank it into the pulp.

Elsewhere Knox, Robert Life and others had taken up their positions at
the breast of the vats with their assistants about them, and the work
of paper-making went on its immemorial way.

Then that happened that was long remembered—an incident of interest
and concern for the many, a tragedy for the one. Kellock brought up his
mould, and instead of proceeding with the rhythmic actions to right
and left—those delicate operations of exquisite complexity where
brain telegraphed to muscle, and motor and sensory nerves both played
their part in the completion of the “stroke”—instead of the usual
beautiful and harmonious gestures that drained the mould and laid a
sweet, even face of paper upon it, he found forces invisible at his
elbows and an enemy still more terrible within. His brain hung fire; a
wave of horrible doubt and irresolution swept over him. It ran through
the physical parts engaged—his arms and breast muscles and the small
of his back. He stared at the mould, turned and washed off the faulty
sheet he had created, and made an attempt at a jest to Harold Spry, who
was watching, all eyes.

“Where are my wits, Harold?” he said. Then he took a deep breath, and
dipped the mould again.

Spry and the layer watched sympathetically. To their eyes there seemed
no failure as Kellock drew up his load; but he knew. A condition of
tremendous tension raised his heart-beat to a gallop, and his eyes grew
misty. He gasped like a drowning man, and felt the sweat beading on his
forehead.

“I’ll—I’ll just get a breath of air and come back,” he said, dropped
the mould, and went out of the shop. Spry washed the mould, then he
walked down the line of vats and spoke to Knox. A man came from the
engine house with a message, and Ernest Trood also entered with some
information for Robert Life. What he heard made him hasten out of doors
to find Kellock sitting up on a form at the entrance of the vat house
with his head in his hands.

“What’s the matter, my son?” asked Trood, kindly enough; but a look at
Jordan told him all he feared to hear.

The young man’s expression had changed, and there was fear in his
eyes, as though they had just mirrored some awful thing. The
resolute, closely-knit Kellock seemed to have fallen to pieces. Every
limb indicated the nerve storm under which he suffered. Trood was
experienced, and knew the danger. He believed that Kellock had given in
too soon.

“Fight—fight like hell!” he said. “Don’t run away from it. Don’t give
it time to get into you. Come back now, lad—this minute. At your age,
it’s nothing—just indigestion, or a chill about you. If you let it
fester, you’ll go from bad to worse, and very like have to knock off
for six months before you look at a mould again.”

“It’s no good—it’s gone,” said the younger man; but he obeyed, and
followed Trood into the vat house.

Knox had warned the rest to ignore the sufferer, and no man took any
notice of Kellock as he returned.

Spry was waiting, and greeted him cheerfully.

“You’re all right again—your eyes are all right,” he said.

Trood turned his back on Kellock, and everybody was at work as usual.
He made a tremendous effort with himself, called up his utmost
resolution, smiled and nodded to Spry, who was whistling, gripped his
deckle to the mould, and then strove to think of something else, pursue
his business in the usual mechanical fashion, and let his unconscious
but highly trained energies pursue their road.

But it was not to be. Some link had strained, if not broken, in the
complexus of brain and nerve and muscle. Perfect obedience was lacking;
a rebel had crept into the organism. For once, the man’s expressionless
face was alive with expression; for once his steady and monotonous
voice vibrated.

“It’s all up,” he said to Harold Spry.

Then he put down the mould.

Trood was beside him in an instant, and Knox came also. Elsewhere those
who had no love for Kellock talked under their breath together. Others,
who came and went, took the news.

Trood made the vatman try again; but only once. He saw in a moment that
the breakdown could not be bluffed; the fault in the machine was too
deep.

Jordan put on his coat, and Trood arranged to drive him to Totnes
presently to see a doctor. The young man was calm, but his will power
appeared suspended. He looked into the faces of his companions for any
ray of comfort; and the fact that he could do so was testimony to his
collapse.

He went back to “The Waterman’s Arms” presently; and through the Mill
like lightning flashed the news that Kellock had lost his stroke.

Continue Reading

THE EXPLANATION

After the medley of emotions awakened by her meeting with her husband,
no solid foundation remained to Medora’s mind. Indeed, everything solid
seemed to crumble before the apparition of Ned so close; before all the
little familiar marks of him, his mannerisms, his vibrant voice, his
virility, the flushing colour on his cheeks, the masculine sound and
sight of him. Against that vision, which haunted her pillow at Priory
Farm, arose the spectacle of Kellock—the difference between a stout,
shadow-casting man and one himself a shadow. Kellock was a great hero
still (she clave to that), but none the less he had become something
spectral for her. Ned she knew—her recent meeting reminded her how
well; but Kellock she did not know, and from that long night of thought
there emerged one steadfast emotion: she began to cease to want to
know. Perception of this startling indifference frightened Medora. It
was half-past four o’clock in the morning, and an early thrush already
sang when she made this discovery. She shivered at such a sentiment,
set it down to hunger, and so arose and descended to the larder. She
ate and slept, and in the morning told her mother of the talk with
Dingle.

They walked together to Dene, and before Lydia went to the rag house,
she had heard disquieting things. It was not the facts that concerned
her, for they were to the good. That Ned wished to see Kellock and
had determined not to claim damages, comforted Mrs. Trivett, for that
argued an intention on Ned’s part to be done with the matter, and
take such steps as should enable her daughter to marry at the earliest
opportunity permitted by law; but it was Medora’s attitude to Dingle
that surprised her, and as she reached the Mill, she voiced her
astonishment.

“You’ll keep me ’mazed to my dying day, I reckon,” she said. “My own
daughter, and yet never, never do you do, or say, or look at things how
I should expect.”

“What’s the matter now then?”

“It’s right you should feel obliged to your late husband—I’m not
wondering at that. But now—just because you talked to him, and he
behaved like the man he is, and spoke sense and didn’t break your neck,
as some men might—just because of that, you seem to have turned round
and—and—well, to hear you this morning one would think you and Ned—”

Medora quite understood.

“Funny you should say that. I know just what you mean. It came over me
in the night. I got looking back a lot, and I couldn’t help feeling,
when he stood there talking to me in the old way—I couldn’t help
feeling that he’d got his side after all. I dare say I didn’t quite
understand his point of view, or how I looked from it. You’ve got to
be fair, mother. It was as if all that fearful time, when we drifted
apart, had been ruled out for the minute, and we were back at the
starting place. I took all he said in a very proper and patient spirit;
and if you ask him, he’ll tell you I did. And he didn’t mince words
either. And I very much wish for you to see him as soon as you can, and
tell him that I greatly value his advice, and that my eyes were opened
for the first time to my fatal conduct. And, being a fair woman, I’ve
got to admit that I used him badly, along of some weakness in myself
I never knew was there; and I think he was more kind about it than I
deserved. Please see he hears that.”

“And what price, Jordan?” asked Mrs. Trivett.

“This has nothing to do with Jordan. I’m going to see him now and
explain that he must visit Ned at once; and I hope he’ll feel properly
grateful to Ned for his goodness to me. He ought.”

Lydia’s head swam.

“Don’t you see, mother, that Ned is—?”

“I don’t see nothing,” answered Mrs. Trivett. “This is all beyond me.
You’re right to be obliged to him—well you may be; but, for God’s
sake, don’t go blowing Ned’s trumpet to your future husband, else—”

“I’m not going to be narrow-minded about Ned,” answered Medora calmly.
“You can leave it to me. I shall certainly tell Jordan the way I was
treated.”

As a matter of fact, Medora had quite forgotten the way she had been
treated. For reasons far beyond her power to explain—since it was her
quality to avoid directness at any cost—she ignored and put out of her
mind the very harsh things Mr. Dingle had said. She banished them, and
chose rather to dwell on what she regarded as the spirit and general
essence created by their meeting. Detail might be dismissed, and it was
very characteristic of Medora that when, presently, she met Jordan in
the dinner hour, and took him up the valley, and rested her eyes on the
spot beside the lake where she had listened to Mr. Dingle, she created
a suggestion of that interview for the benefit of Kellock amazingly
unlike the real thing.

The vatman ate his bread and cheese as he walked beside her and saw her
on the way homeward to her own meal.

“When are you coming back?” he asked. “I’ve got the lecture dead right
now, and I’d like to run it over once more. I’ve learned the typewriter
myself too, and can give you a start and a beating at it.”

“It’s wonderful to me how you can fasten on a thing like that, while
all my future hangs in the balance,” she said. “I’ve got a bit of
startling news, Jordan. I ran on top of Mr. Dingle yesterday. I was
just picking a bunch of flowers and wondering when something would
happen when—there he was.”

“D’you mean he stopped you?”

“He did. I was shrinking past the man; but that wouldn’t do. He spoke,
and I couldn’t believe my ears, for I’d got to think he was my black
angel, naturally enough. But instead of anything like that, he let the
dead past bury the past in a very gentlemanly manner.”

“Did he?”

“Yes, and I stood in a dream to hear his familiar voice, just friendly
and kind.”

“‘Friendly and kind!’” exclaimed Kellock. “When was he ever friendly
and kind to you?”

“Before—before we fell out. It was like going back to the old, old
days, before he turned on me and drove me to you.”

“He’s learned his lesson then. That’s to the good. But what had he to
say to you? It’s for us to talk to him now. And it’s for him to act,
not to talk.”

“He knows all that. Anything like the reasonableness of the man you
never heard. I couldn’t believe my ears. He’s not going to do anything
wrong—far from it. He wants to see you on Monday evening at half-past
eight, please.”

“Does he?”

“Yes. He’s turned it all over in his mind, and seen his mistakes and
regrets the sad past.”

“How do you know he does?”

“He said so, and, with all his faults, he’s quite as truthful as you
are, Jordan. And to show it, he’s not going to do anything about
damages. He feels that wouldn’t be right. He’s a very just man. He
didn’t only say things I was glad to hear either. He told me some
bitter truths. He said that I’d never be the right wife for you,
Jordan.”

“And you let him?”

“No, I didn’t. I wasn’t going to hear that, of course. But he’s got
a brain—more than we thought—and he said that to a man of your
disposition—but if I’m going to vex you, I’ll leave that alone. Only
don’t think he spoke unkindly. And when you consider what it meant to
him my leaving him—”

“What did he say about my disposition?” interrupted Kellock. “I’ve a
right to know that before I see him, Medora.”

“He said that you’ve got a mind far above women—that a wife to you
would be less than what a wife is to an ordinary man. Because you’re
all intellect and great thoughts for the welfare of everybody, so that
the welfare of one, even your own wife, would be a small thing by
comparison.”

“How little he knows!”

“So I told him.”

She proceeded and surprised Kellock further.

“D’you mean,” he asked presently, “that he could stop you in the open
road and talk like this and say all these wise things, as if he was
your brother? It’s contrary to nature, and I don’t understand it.”

“More did I,” she answered. “I felt in a dream about it. He might have
been a brother. That’s the very word. And last night, as I lay and
thought, it came into my head in a very curious way that between you
and him as things are, I’ve got two brothers and no husband at all. And
God knows, Jordan, if it wouldn’t be better to leave it at that, and
let me go free. For if I could win the respect of two such men as you
and him by stopping as I am and being wife of neither, it might turn
out a lot better for all three of us.”

He stared in deep amazement. He flung away the remains of his meal and
stood still with his mouth open.

“Are all women like you?” he said. “Upon my soul, I wonder
sometimes—but this—it’s all so unlike what goes on in a man’s
mind—where are we? Where are we? You always seem to leave me
guessing.”

“I don’t suppose I can make you see, dear Jordan. I’ve had hours and
hours to think about it. You come to it fresh. Of course, it sounds
strange to you for the minute. You must allow for the surprise. I’m
only a woman, and, what with one thing and another, I’ve been that
driven and harried lately that my mind is all in a whirl. It’ll come
right no doubt. He’s not going to claim damages. That’s one certainty,
and that ought to comfort you. And I think when you see him, at his
orders—”

“‘His orders’?”

“Well, my dear man, do be reasonable. You jump down my throat so! It’s
no good questioning every word I say. It makes me despair. I haven’t
got your flow of language, and if I can’t pick my words, you needn’t
quarrel about them.”

“I’m not picking a quarrel, Medora; I’m only saying there’s no question
of his orders. I’ll see him certainly.”

“And thank him, I should hope. I dare say he’d have had a lot of money
out of you.”

“As to thanking him—however, it’s no good arguing. Leave that for the
present. You can trust me to take the right line with Mr. Dingle. When
are you coming back? They’re going to meet me about the house if I can
take it for three years.”

“Three years is a long time, Jordan. You might want to go to London
before that. I dare say your lecture will get you into notice.”

His eye brightened. Here at last was solid ground.

“You’ll be back at the inn before then. There’s a pretty good lot
coming. I rather want to rehearse it to you and a man or two from the
Mill one evening.”

“I’ll come back, of course, the minute I can; but—I want to tell you,
Jordan, I’m not coming to the lecture. I’ve got my reasons.”

Again he was left without foothold.

“Not coming to my lecture, Medora?”

“No. You always said we must help and not hinder each other, and that
marriage is a co-operation, or nothing. And I’m sure it’s better, where
we don’t think alike, to respect each other’s opinions and go our own
way.”

“What d’you mean? You’ve said you see eye to eye with me in everything.
You’ve never questioned the substance of the lecture.”

“It wasn’t for me to question it. But I don’t agree with a lot of it.”

“Since when?”

“Since first I heard it. I wasn’t brought up to feel everybody’s equal,
and I don’t believe they are.”

“I don’t say they are. What I say is—”

“I know what you say, Jordan. It’s no good arguing. You’d hate me if I
was false and pretended anything.”

“Where do you disagree then?”

“Oh, I don’t believe in fighting and taking their money from people.
I want peace. If you could see what my life is in this storm of doubt
and uncertainty, if you could sympathise with a woman in my position
who has given up so much, then you’d surely understand that I’ve got no
heart for all these theories and ideas at present.”

“You’re getting away from the point,” he said. “I can’t argue with
you because you won’t stick to the subject. I do sympathise—all the
time—every minute; but my lecture doesn’t belong to our private
affairs. It doesn’t alter them, or delay them. I’m going on with that
as quick as Dingle will let me. But I want you to come to the lecture.
I ask it, and I expect it.”

“You haven’t any right to do that. I don’t ask you to come to church,
so you oughtn’t to ask me to come to your lecture. We must be
ourselves, and where we don’t agree, we mustn’t be afraid to say so.”

“This is their work at the farm,” he declared. “Your uncle’s a
benighted, ignorant man, and my ideas terrify him, and so he’s tried to
influence you. And I’m sorry to find he has succeeded.”

“Not at all. Uncle Tom would influence nobody; and if you think he’d
influence me, that shows you don’t respect me as you ought, or give me
credit for my brains—though you’ve praised them often enough.”

“I give you credit for everything. You’re half my life, and the best
half, I should hope. And I trust you to change your mind about this,
Medora. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me, and I think
if you turn it over, you’ll see you ought to be there.”

“I thought I was the biggest thing that had ever happened to you.
However—”

“Leave it—don’t decide yet. I’m proud. I wouldn’t have you come,
of course, if it’s not going to interest you. Whether you agree, or
whether you don’t, I should have thought my first public appearance
would mean a lot to you—me being what I am to you.”

“It does mean a lot—so much that I’d be so cruel nervous that—”

“But you said the reason—”

“Oh dear,” she said, “if you knew how you’re making my head ache,
Jordan. Leave it alone, for God’s sake. I’ll come, of course, if you’re
going to make it a personal thing.”

“Not if you don’t feel it a personal thing. Come back to me soon, and
we’ll have a good long talk about it. There mustn’t be any difference
between us. We’re too much to each other for anything like that. And
don’t see Mr. Dingle again, please, Medora, till I have.”

“I’m not likely to see him again.”

They had walked round to the top of the “Corkscrew” by this time, and
now the bell sounded below that told the dinner hour was ended.

“I must be gone,” he said. “Fix your day for coming back, Medora, and
Mrs. Trivett will tell me to-morrow. The sooner the better.”

“I want to come as quickly as they’ll let me,” she answered.

Doubt and care were in the young man’s eyes. A rare emotion touched
him, and there was something yearning in his voice as he stood and held
her hands.

“Don’t let any shadow rise between us,” he begged.

“Of course not; why should it?”

He put his arms round her, and to her surprise kissed her.

“Good-bye—take care of yourself and come back quickly. I won’t bother
you about the lecture any more,” he promised.

Then he ran down the hill, and Medora watched him go. She was
regretting the kiss. When she had hungered for kisses, they did not
come. Such a thing now was insipid—fruit over-ripe, doubtful as a
delicacy past its season. She believed that she had frightened him into
this display of emotion. His promise not to trouble her again about the
lecture was also a sign of weakness. She thawed, and felt almost sorry
for him. Jordan was growing fainter, it seemed to her. His outlines
began to blur even after a few days’ absence from him. An overpowering
desire to see Ned again oppressed her.

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