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.

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