EMOTIONS OF MEDORA

When Jordan returned to Medora, by a quality of our common nature
which he would have been the first to deprecate, he was not entirely
sorry to bring her unpleasant news. To himself he said that a trial
of her patience would be good for her character, and so explained his
own frame of mind; but the truth was different. He had heard something
concerning Medora which annoyed him and made him anxious; and the
result of his annoyance was that he imparted painful facts without any
very great regret. It was true that they affected him as well as his
future wife, but his nature was qualified to bear them far better than
was hers.

“I am a great deal hurt,” he began, as they sat together in their
little parlour at the inn.

“You were bound to be,” she answered. “And you might have been hurt in
body as well as in mind. It’s something if he’s enough broken in to
treat you properly.”

“As to that, he did. I’ll come to him. But what’s hurt me, Medora, a
long way worse than anything Mr. Dingle had to say has got to do with
you.”

“If you’ve been believing his lies—”

“It ain’t so much his lies as yours. I’m not one to use hard words as a
rule. But it’s your letter to him.”

“Well, what about it?”

“I’ve read it—that’s all.”

She realised the significance of this and blushed hotly.

“Why didn’t you send the letter I helped you to write?” he asked.

“Because—because when you’re boiling with injustice and wicked
injury—when I read it, I saw it was you and not me. He’d have known
you wrote it, yet it was to be my letter; so I made it mine and told
him the ugly truth about himself, which you’d been careful not to do.
According to your letter, there was no reason why I should leave him
at all that I could see. It was that nice and cool. But I was going to
do things that you don’t do when you’re nice and cool, so I told him
the truth straight out, as he deserved to hear it. It’s no good mincing
your meaning with a man like him.”

“You told me you’d sent our letter, however.”

“I couldn’t when I came to read it. It was a silly letter.”

“Well, I’m not one to go back to the past, because it’s generally a
waste of time, Medora. It would have been honester if you’d told me the
truth. Your letter was pretty hot, certainly.”

“I hope he found it so.”

“He did, and unfortunately he’s kept it. If he’d been wiser than he is,
he’d have burned it; instead of that he’s letting it burn him, if you
understand me. From the look of the letter, I should say he’d read it a
great many times and the result is that he’s still in a very bad frame
of mind.”

“What frame of mind did you think he’d be in? We can’t all keep a hand
on ourselves, like you.”

“I hoped that time enough had passed over him to steady him. But I
can’t honestly say it has. He made some curious remarks. I thought once
he was going to let himself go and fly at me. But I kept my eye on him
and never raised my voice. There’s plenty of good qualities in him.”

“I’m glad you’re so pleased with him,” she said, growing hot again.
“Naturally you think well of a man who’s used me so kindly!”

“No, I’m not much pleased with him. In fact, quite the reverse,
Medora. There’s good in everybody—that’s all I mean. But he’s got no
good will to us.”

“Thank God for that then!”

“You needn’t thank God in too much of a hurry. In a word, he’s going to
take his own time about this business. He’s done nothing so far.”

“Done nothing!” gasped Medora.

“Nothing whatever.”

“That’s my letter—the coward.”

“I shouldn’t have said so to you; but I’m glad you’re clever enough to
see it, Medora. Yes, your letter no doubt. You can’t have anything for
nothing in this world, and as you gave yourself the pleasure of telling
him what you thought of him, he’ll give himself the pleasure apparently
of making us pay for your fun.”

“‘Fun’! A lot you know about fun.”

“You wrote what you thought would hurt; and I expect it did hurt; and
the result, so far as I can see, is a very nasty and obstinate frame of
mind in Mr. Dingle. I won’t tell you all he said, though he was more
respectful to you than me. But he hasn’t done with it by a lot and
he’ll very likely ask for heavy damages.”

“What does that mean?”

“My money, Medora.”

“Could he sink to that?”

“It wouldn’t be sinking from his point of view. It ain’t regarded as
sinking by the law. The idea certainly hadn’t struck me till I heard
him on the subject; but I dare say it will happen. It’s within his
power.”

“Doesn’t that show I said nothing in my letter he didn’t deserve? A man
who’d do that—”

Medora felt a shadow of dislike towards Jordan. It was not the first
time that any suspicion of such an alarming sensation had coloured her
thoughts before his temperate statements and unimpassioned speeches.
Was he never to let himself go? But she fled from her impatience as
from a supreme danger. Kellock must be her hero, or nothing. She must
continue to see in him her salvation and her tower of strength; she
must let him feel and understand the reverence, the adoration in which
she held him and his superb sacrifice on the altar of the conventions.
For such a man the things that he had done were greater far than they
had been in the case of others. He had his future to think of as well
as Medora’s. He must not be allowed off his pedestal in her regard for
an instant. She realised that, and perceived how her own peace of mind
depended entirely on keeping him there. Her histrionic gifts were again
to be called to her assistance.

Watchfully she would guard her own mind against any doubt of Jordan’s
essential qualities. His virtue and valour culminated, of course, in
the heroism that had run away with her and rescued her from her dragon.
The only weak and unintelligent action impartial judges might have
brought against Kellock must be to Medora his supreme expression of
masterful will and manly humanity. Even granting his love, indifferent
spectators had criticised Kellock most for believing Medora at all,
or allowing the assurances of such a volatile person to influence him
upon such a crucial matter. His real heroism and distinction of mind
was lost upon Medora; the achievements she valued in him belonged to
his weakness of imagination and a lack of humour destined to keep him
a second class man. He belonged to the order of whom it may be said
that they are “great and good,” not that they are “great.” But the good
qualifies—even discounts—the great.

While Jordan had to be supported on his pillar at any cost if Medora’s
position was to be endurable, conversely it was necessary to preserve
her acute sense of Ned Dingle’s evil doing. There must be no slackening
of her detestation there; and that it now became necessary to practise
a large patience with Jordan and take no farther steps to impress upon
him her scorn of one so mean and base as Ned, quite distracted Medora.
Herein Kellock’s composure at first mystified her until he made clear
the need for it.

“To reasonable minds like yours and mine,” he said, “no doubt it does
appear rather improper that we should have to be worldly wise about Mr.
Dingle. But, though the wisdom of the world is foolishness in the mind
of most clean thinking and honourable men, Medora, especially in a case
like this, yet I don’t see that we can do anything. We must just bend
to the law and mark time, I suppose. I don’t go so far as to say we
should demean ourselves to cultivate Mr. Dingle and be humble to him,
or anything like that; but it’s no good going out of the way to vex him
more than we are bound to do; because, the law, being what it is—all
on his side seemingly, we’re more or less powerless and quite in his
hands. It’s abominably wrong it should be; but we’ve got to recognise
the world as it is, and pay it the hypocrisy that virtue owes to vice
sometimes. In fact we’ve got to keep our nerve and lie low and wait for
him. And being what he is—hard and up against us and still smarting
under what happened—he may not be moved to do right all in a minute.”

“He’s making fools of us in fact—that’s his low revenge,” said Medora.

“He may think so in his ignorance, but he’s wrong. Only two people can
make fools of us,” answered Jordan, “and that’s we ourselves. We’ve
took the high line and we’re safe accordingly. All he’ll get out of
delay is the pangs of conscience; and what’s more he’ll put himself
wrong with the rest of the world.”

“That’s some comfort,” said Medora. “They smart most who smart last, I
reckon. All the same it’s a blackguard thing on his part.”

“The law moves a lot slower than human passion,” he explained, “and
though we say hard speeches against it, there is some advantage in
a machine that can’t be got to gallop as fast as man’s hate. It may
happen that, as time goes on, he’ll come to see that it’s a very
unmanly thing to talk about damages, because when it comes to that,
what price the damage he inflicted on your heart and nature? Many a
woman would have gone down under the persecution, and it was only your
own fine spirit and bed-rock pluck and courage that kept you from doing
so.”

Medora approved these opinions, for praise was her favourite food, and
had Kellock understood the powers of flattery, he had always succeeded
in calming her tempests and exacting patience and obedience. But he
loved her and his love saw her in roseal light as a rule. He forgave
her little turpitudes and bitternesses and ebullitions, for was it not
natural that one who had so cruelly suffered should sometimes betray
those human weaknesses from which none is free?

And for her, if the man had only been a husband to her, nothing on
earth would have shaken her resolution, or weakened her will power. But
that he was not, and her state of widowhood proved exceedingly painful
to one of Medora’s sanguine temperament, though this was the last
thing in her heart she could confess to Kellock. She panted in fact
for a lover sometimes; yet the consciousness that Jordan never panted
for anything of the sort made it impossible to hint at such a human
weakness.

She found the line of least resistance was humble surrender to
Kellock’s high qualities. She abased her spirit at thought of his
sacrifice and really saw aright in the question of his love for her.
About that she could not make any mistake, for she had a mind quick
enough in sundry particulars and sufficiently realised that she had
won a man who would never fail her—a tower of strength—even though
the tower threw rather a heavy shadow. Her own nature was subdued to
what it had to work in; she wandered far from herself under these
excitations. She was, indeed, so little herself that she did not want
to be herself any more. But that ambition could not last. She felt
herself moving sometimes—the love of laughter and pleasure, the need
for stimulus, the cry for something to anticipate with joy. There was
no room for these delights, at any rate at present, in the purview of
Kellock. He continued solemn and staid, patient and wise, sometimes
quite inscrutable. He was magnificent, but not life—as Medora saw
life. Living with Jordan almost suggested living in church; and church
never had been Medora’s life, but rather an occasional interlude,
depending for its charm on the clothes she was wearing at the time. She
became a good deal depressed at this season and wept many secret tears.

Then a little relaxation offered of the mildest. Mrs. Trivett was able
to report that Mary Dolbear and her husband had forgiven Medora, and
she and Kellock were invited to tea at Priory Farm.

He agreed to go and assured her that here promised the beginning of
better times.

“The people are coming to see the light of truth,” he said. “You can
always count on the natural good feeling of your fellow creatures,
Medora, if you’ll only be patient with them and give them time.”

They arrived upon a Sunday afternoon in Spring and Jordan improved the
occasion as they walked through the green lanes.

“The Spring teaches us that nothing is an end to itself, but everything
a beginning to something else,” he said. “You realise that more in the
Spring than the Summer, or Winter, and yet it’s just as true all the
year round.”

“I’m sure it is,” said Medora.

“And so with our present situation. It’s not complete in itself.”

“Good Lord, no; I hope not.”

“But just a becoming.”

“It’s becoming unbearable if you ask me.”

“No; we can stand it, because our position is impregnable. We can
afford to be patient; that’s the fine thing about rectitude: it can
always be patient. Wrong-doing can’t. Perhaps he’s spoken to your
mother on the subject. If he has not, then I shall feel it will soon be
my duty to see him again, Medora.”

She was silent and presently, as they topped the hill and reached the
Priory ruins in Tom Dolbear’s orchard, Jordan spoke again.

“That crowing cock reminds me of something I thought on in the night,”
he said; and Medora, glad that the ruin had not put him in recollection
of the last time they were there, expressed interest.

“You think a lot at night, I know,” she said.

“It was a bird in the inn yard crowing, and I thought how wise men are
like the cock and crow in the night of ignorance to waken up humanity.
But nobody likes to be woke up, and so they only get a frosty greeting
and we tell them to be quiet, so that we may sleep again.”

“A very true thought, I’m sure,” she answered, smothering a yawn. Then,
as they entered the orchard by a side gate, a child or two ran to meet
Medora. At tea Mrs. Dolbear expressed tolerant opinions.

“I judge nobody,” she said. “More does my husband. I only hope you’ll
soon put it right, so as not to give evil-disposed people the power to
scoff. However, of course, that’s not in your power. Ned Dingle will
suit his own convenience no doubt, and you must try and bear it best
way you can.”

“There’s no difficulty as to that,” declared Medora, “knowing we’re in
the right.”

“You bluffed it through very well by all accounts,” said Tom Dolbear;
“but you can’t defy the laws of marriage and expect the people as a
whole to feel the same to you. However, you’ll live it down no doubt.”

Medora asked her mother whether Ned had taken further steps and Lydia
did not know.

“Not to my knowledge,” she said. “He’s not one to do anything he’ll
regret. He’s thinking of damages against Mr. Kellock, and I believe his
lawyer’s of the same mind.”

“Is he going to leave here?”

“When he’s suited. Not sooner, I think.”

“Knox is after his house, I hear, and has got the first refusal for
it,” said Tom Dolbear. “There’s a man in a hundred—Knox, I mean.
That’s what I call a philosopher sort of man—looks ahead and sees the
future’s only an echo of the past. So nothing he hears surprises him.
We are very much alike in our opinions. What he wants with a house I
don’t know, however. He may think to marry again, which would account
for it.”

“I should hope Mr. Dingle would be gone pretty soon,” said Kellock.
“It’s a bit callous him stopping, I think, things being as they are.
It would be better for all parties if he went off in a dignified way,
before the decree is pronounced.”

“I dare say he thought it was a bit callous when you bolted with his
wife,” answered Mrs. Dolbear. “Least said soonest mended, if you ask
me, young man.”

Whereupon Medora, who was nursing the new baby, hated it suddenly and
handed it back to its mother.

“If you’re going to talk like that, Aunt Polly,” she said, “it wasn’t
much good us coming.”

“Yes, it was,” returned Mrs. Dolbear, “if only to hear sense. You must
be large-minded, or else you’re lost, and instead of quarrelling with
everybody who thinks you’ve done wrong, which will take you all your
time, Medora, better be sensible and sing small and tread on nobody’s
corns more than you can help. We’ve forgiven you for your dear mother’s
sake, and when you’re married to Mr. Kellock, you will be welcome here
and treated without any thought of the past. And so will he; and if
that isn’t Christianity made alive, I should like to know what is.”

Mrs. Dolbear was so pleased with her own charity that neither Medora
nor Jordan had the heart to argue about it. Indeed argument would have
been wasted on Mary’s intelligence. She made Medora nurse the new baby
again, and consideration of the infant occupied her.

“After your mother she has been called,” said Mrs. Dolbear, “and her
name’s the brightest thing about her so far. She’s healthy and seems
to have a live and let live sort of nature.”

“She’s got lovely blue eyes,” said Medora.

“They’ll fade, however,” explained her aunt. “Most of my children have
blue eyes to start with, but it ain’t a fast colour and can’t stand
the light. If you look at my husband’s eyes, you’ll see they be a very
pale, washed-out blue; and the children mostly take after him.”

Lydia, her daughter and Mr. Kellock presently went for a walk before
supper. As a treat, Billy, Milly, Clara and Jenny Dolbear accompanied
them, and Tom himself started with the party. But he disappeared at the
“Man and Gun,” and they proceeded alone to the churchyard, that Lydia
might put some flowers on a new-made grave.

The evening light brought out detail in the great grey tower above
them. Seed of fern had found the ledges and run little lines of dim
green along them. Over the battlements a white image of a cock hung for
weather-vane. The churchyard extended so that the evening sun flung
the shadows of the gravestones upon neighbour mounds, and Mrs. Trivett
pointed this out.

“All his life long Noah Peeke darkened his daughter’s life,” she said,
“and now you see his slate flings a shadow on her grave, poor woman.”

She put her nosegay on the raw-grass-clods built up over the sleeping
place of Miss Peeke, and removed some dead flowers. Then they climbed
the hill and extended their ramble with the children running on before.

“My friend, Nancy Peeke, was father-ridden,” explained Lydia. “She
sacrificed herself to her widowed father, and though a good few offered
for her, she never left him. He reigned over her like a proper tyrant,
but he never saw what he was doing and wasn’t grateful to the day she
closed her eyes. By that time it was too late to do much herself; and
he ruled from the grave you may say, because up to her last illness,
what her father would have done was always the ruling passion in her.
It worked unconsciously; but it worked. He ruined her life so far as
we can say it. However, she’s at peace now. Death’s only a King of
Terrors to the living. He can’t fright her no more—nor her father
can’t neither.”

“Take care people don’t say the same of you,” warned Medora. “You’re
Aunt Polly’s drudge at present, and many people know it quite well and
think it a shameful thing at your age—nobody more than Mr. Knox; and
when Jordan understands about it, he’ll protest as much as I do.”

But Mrs. Trivett never allowed conversation personal to herself if she
could prevent it.

Now she challenged Kellock, who had been very silent, and made him
talk.

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