MEDORA’S NIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he soared to no such imaginative heights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why should I?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I want to. I like the country.”

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

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

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

“I should hope not, Jordan.”

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

“I should hope you had.”

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

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

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

“Not if you wouldn’t,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He did not mince his words.

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

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

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

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

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

It was long before she forgave him.

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

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

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

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