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An Awkward Turn
By PHYLLIS BOTTOME
Author of “The Dark Tower"
Illustrations by Arthur William Brown
HE had made the great surrender; was tired of everything-of yachting, of
motoring, of the Russian dancers, even of only for a short time; still, she had given her dressmaker; for several years she had up-all that she had been trained to think been extremely tired of her husband. She a woman must have. Her husband was thought her life was very unreal, and she fishing in Norway, and she was in Corn- assured Edward Lockett that there was wall with the man she loved.
nothing she found so unbearable as unNo one knew that she was there; she reality. Edward Lockett believed her, could go back if she grew tired of it, but though there were moments when he had at present she was n't in the least tired of his doubts. it. She became surer each day that she The worst of these came after he had had been meant for the real things of life: inadvertently kissed her and she wrote simplicity, love, ideal companionship, the that they must part. “Petrarch and Laura spiritual value of ideas.
had done it," Rosamund wrote, "and they Edward Lockett was full of ideas. His must do it, too." Edward Lockett whistiny bungalow on the headland of the cliff, tled when he read about Petrarch and with the rocks and the sea in the garden, Laura; however, they did n't part. was one of them. A long time ago the There were inconveniences attached to farm in which his wife lived, a mile
their situation, and the question was simwas another. He had not been able to ply whether the inconveniences would unite the two. His wife was one of those grow greater than the situation or the capable women, without sympathy, who situation become so absorbing as to overfall by accident into marriages with liter- come the inconveniences. ary men.
In the first place, there was always PeShe made him comfortable, but it is a trarch and Laura to fall back upon, and great mistake to suppose that comfort is in the second, Edward told her of his all that a man of Edward Lockett's type bungalow by the sea. His wife never needs. He needed a woman to make him came near it, and his daily attendant had uncomfortable as well.
never spoken since the day she saw her Rosamund fulfilled this further need. husband and two sons drowned before her When she first met him in London she
It was an
an intensely romantic idea. the gray rocks; the air grew heavy and Rosamund hesitated, because she was eight drowsy with the summer noon. Rosaand twenty and she had never yet been mund slept; she woke with a start at the romantic. It was like eating a new kind sound of sea-gulls laughing overhead. of fruit and not being quite sure if it They shook the silence out of the glen ; would n't poison you. Edward, however, but after they had passed it came back assured her that it would n't. He had again oppressively, as if it were the herald experienced romances before, and he knew of something uneasy and sinister. She that they were extremely nourishing; he looked at her watch and sprang to her always did his best work after them. He feet. It was one o'clock; Edward had did not tell her this, because the great never been so late before. It was Sunday, thing about romance is that it should n't and the woman who looked after the be in the plural. Still, perhaps she guessed house had cleaned up early and left them
for the day; she must have passed close They said it would be for ever; it had by Rosamund while she slept. already lasted a week. The weather was The first change in a definite habit is wonderful for June; the air was full of terrible to lovers. Rosamund felt as if the scent of the short wild thyme.
her perfect world had suddenly been All night long they heard at the foot of guilty of a Alaw; but she was not a young the lawn the summer music of the sea; girl to cry out at the signal for retreat. all day the heavy bees blundered in and Perhaps his work was harder than usual, out of the tiny garden. The narrow, or perhaps, like herself, the drowsy sumempty glen, with its soft-blue summit of mer stillness had sent him to sleep. sky, was as much their own as if they had She crept noiselessly toward the winmade it, untenanted, serene, and brimful dow of the room where he wrote. At first of their love.
she still thought he was asleep. He was Rosamund was amazed at the immens- sitting huddled up in an arm-chair by the ity of her own feelings. Of course she window, with his head fallen forward. It had always said that love was the strong- a very uncomfortable position in est force in the world; but still it was a which to go to sleep. Then he raised his little surprising that, with nothing going eyes, and she saw that he was in pain. He on, she was n't in the least bored. It looked like a creature caught in a trap: seemed to her as if she and the earth and his mouth was open; there were blue lines Lockett had all been made for this one round it; and his chest shook as if someperfect consummation.
thing had got hold of it and was dragging Lockett was clever with her despite it to and fro. But it was his eyes that their solitude; she did not see too much were most terrible, they were like nothing of him. He wrote for three hours every Rosamund had ever seen. They were like morning, and when he joined her she had the eyes of some one who is drowning, and to use all her skill to win him back from cannot drown. They were fighting, but his imaginary world. She said to him be- they did not want to fight; the struggle fore she came there:
was compulsory and hopeless. "Sha'n't I interfere with your work?” She ran forward into the room and And he answered:
bent over him. He moved then ; a strange “The woman one loves always inter- voice croaked at her: feres.”
“Don't! Air!" But he had taken every precaution to She stepped back, half offended and half prevent her interference. When he had terrified. His eyes seemed weighing her; finished writing he came out to her on there was nothing in them but a kind of the rocks. This morning he seemed longer violent prayer, neither recognition nor than usual. The sea's soft, pearly blue acceptance of the presence that had stirred turned hard and flat; deep shadows fell on him to passionate delight. In the same
strange, tortured voice he said, "Go-Ellen-quick!"
Her brain registered the words, but it was some time before she understood what he meant. She had never had anything to do with ill people before. In her world there were always trained nurses, eau de Cologne, and darkened rooms. If people were in too much pain, you did not see them.
The merciless summer sunshine poured through the little bungalow, and the man before her, dressed in his usual clothes, helpless and expecting something from her, was presumably dying-dying in this unsuitable, exacting way on her hands!
He had nothing whatever to do with Edward Lockett. His face had changed in a few hours; he looked like some old, shivering wretch outside a public house on a winter's morning, come to the end of his tether; only there was no ambulance to drive up and take him away.
Ellen was his wife. It was manifestly It was manifestly impossible that Rosamund could go up to the farm and reveal herself to Mrs. Lockett, the one person she must not meet.
Rosamund did not feel so aware of fear now as she did of being aggravated, on edge, utterly uncomfortable, and at a loss. She wanted to put a cushion behind Edward's head, but she was afraid to touch
him, he was shaken so; she was afraid that if she touched him he might break. Why had n't he told her that he had attacks like these? Surely there was something he could take? Was n't there always something that people could take?
She asked him; she spoke very calmly and plainly. She felt vaguely that she ought to speak in a whisper in a sick-room, but this hardly resembled a sick-room. Besides, his breathing was so loud that he could n't have heard her if she had whispered. His breathing was a most peculiar sound; it reminded her of the nightjar they had listened to the evening before in the pines.
He moved his hand out toward the window in the direction of the farm. There was a long silence except for the quick, soft rattle of his breath. Lockett did not look at Rosamund again; he seemed taken up with staring at one of his hands that pulled unceasingly at the chair-cover. A peculiar dark shadow came over his face, like the deep noon shadows Rosamund had just been watching on the rocks outside.
She became suddenly terrified. What she was afraid of was that he would go on like this for hours without dying; she would have given anything in the world. to see him die.
She turned and ran out of the room into the open sunshine. The little glen lay there, serene and empty, like a lovely golden trap. The silence pressed down upon her, and she realized that she could n't get rid of it. She could n't get rid of anything; she must act. She had never been in a position before where one has to act, when one can't ring a bell or send for a servant or go into another room. The nearest house was the farm, a mile
There was nothing else for it; she must sacrifice her reputation, she must meet his wife. She felt an intense relief at this decision, and as she set off by the white ribbon of road her mind became exalted with a rush of ideas. She saw all that she must say to this hard woman to melt her and save the man she loved (the moment she was out of sight of Lockett he was still the man she loved). Words came to her with an ease and clarity which was almost miraculous. She would begin: "We are two womenFar away across the cliffs the church bells were ringing. The sound of them reminded her of her childhood. She used to think angels rang them. Rosamund had always had beautiful thoughts.
A woman stood at the gate in front of her leading to the farm.
"This is private ground," the young woman said briefly. "What do you want?"
They looked at each other, and it occurred to Rosamund that this was Lockett's wife. Nothing else occurred to her; it was as if speech had ceased to exist. The woman before her had evidently just returned from church; she was dressed in black and had a prayer-book in her hand. She was good-looking and had very thick hair.
"What is it?" she repeated, frowning impatiently. "I suppose you want something?"
Then Rosamund heard her own voice; it sounded strangely flat and weak.
"There's a man down there at the bungalow taken very ill," she gasped. "I want help."
"Go back and set the big kettle to boil
ing," said Mrs. Lockett. "I'll be with you in a few minutes." She hurriedly opened the gate, gathered up her black skirts, and ran swiftly along the path toward the farmhouse. Rosamund called after her, but the woman did not stop or even turn her head. The world was just as empty as it had been before. It did not seem possible to Rosamund to go back to the bungalow. Why had n't she gone to Norway with her husband? Then this would never have happened. Nothing ever did happen in Norway (that was why she had not gone there, but she did not remember that now), and certainly she would not have been told to go back and boil a big kettle.
Nevertheless, there was a feeling in her that she must go back. Perhaps Lockett would be better or perhaps he would be dead.
He was neither; he was just the same. She heard as she approached the house the same steady rattle of his breathing; she did not dare go into the room, but through the open window she saw the gray shadow of his face. She hurried into the kitchen and hunted for the big kettle; the old woman had left them a good fire. It took an interminable, terrifying time to find the kettle, and she was still looking for the tap to fill it from when she heard the swift approaching steps of Mrs. Lockett. Mrs. Lockett knew where everything was. She went at once to her husband, but she called out in a businesslike way where Rosamund would find the tap.
She hardly gave her time to fill the kettle before she called her again. Rosamund would have given any great, unreasonable thing to have been spared going into the room of the man she loved, but the woman's voice took her coming profoundly for granted. Rosamund had meant to plead with her to forgive Edward, but she found herself fully occupied in helping Mrs. Lockett move him to the sofa. Mrs. Lockett was apparently not afraid that he would break, but before she moved him she had slit up his sleeve and given him an injection. The strange sound of his breathing altered a little. There were great drops of perspiration on his face,