One Body and One Spirit

Next week Zachariah found it necessary to consult with Caillaud again. The Major was to be there. The intended meeting was announced to Mrs. Coleman by her husband at breakfast on the day before, and he informed her that he should probably be late, and that no supper need be kept for him.

“Why do you never meet here, Zachariah? Why must it always be at Caillaud’s?”

“Did you not say that they should not come to this house again?”

“Yes; but I meant I did not want to see them as friends. On business there is no reason why Caillaud should not come.”

“I cannot draw the line.”

“Zachariah, do you mean to call unconverted infidels your friends?”

They were his friends⁠—he felt they were⁠—and they were dear to him; but he was hardly able as yet to confess it, even to himself.

“It will not do,” he said. “Besides, Caillaud will be sure to bring his daughter.”

“She will not be so bold as to come if she is not asked. Do I go with you anywhere except when I am asked?”

“She has always been used to go out with her father wherever he goes. She knows all his affairs, and is very useful to him.”

“So it seems. She must be very useful. Well, if it must be so, and it is on business, invite her too.”

“I think still it will be better at Caillaud’s; there more room. There would be five of us.”

“How do you make five?”

“There is the Major. And why, by the way, do you object to Caillaud and Pauline more than the Major? He is not converted.”

“There is plenty of room here. I didn’t say I didn’t object to the Major. Besides, there is a difference between French infidels and English people, even if they are not church members. But I see how it is. You want to go there, and you will go. I am of no use to you. You care nothing for me. You can talk to such dreadful creatures as Caillaud and that woman who lives with him, and you never talk to me. Oh, I wish Mr. Bradshaw were here, or I were back again at home! What would Mr. Bradshaw say?”

Mrs. Coleman covered her face in her hands. Zachariah felt no pity. His anger was roused. He was able to say hard things at times, and there was even a touch of brutality in him.

“Whose fault is it that I do not talk to you? When did I ever get any help from you? What do you understand about what concerns me, and when have you ever tried to understand anything? Your home is no home to me. My life is blasted, and it might have been different. The meeting shall not be here, and I will do as I please.”

He went out of the room in a rage, and downstairs into the street, going straight to his work. It is a terrible moment when the first bitter quarrel takes place, and when hatred, even if it be hatred for the moment only first finds expression. That moment can never be recalled! Is it ever really forgotten, or really forgiven? Some of us can call to mind a word, just one word, spoken, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago, which rings in our ears even today as distinctly as when it was uttered, and forces the blood into the head as it did then. When Zachariah returned that night he and his wife spoke to each other as if nothing had happened, but they spoke only about indifferent things. The next day Mrs. Coleman wondered whether, after all, he would repent; but the evening came and she waited and waited in vain. The poor woman for hours and hours had thought one thought and one thought only, until at last she could bear it no longer. At about eight o’clock she rose, put on her cloak, and went out of doors. She made straight for Caillaud’s house. It was cold, and the sky was clear at intervals, with masses of clouds sweeping over the nearly full moon. What she was to do when she got to Caillaud’s had not entered her head. She came to the door and stopped. It had just begun to rain heavily. The sitting-room was on the ground-floor, abutting on the pavement. The blind was drawn down, but not closely, and she could see inside. Caillaud, Pauline, and Zachariah were there, but not the Major. Caillaud was sitting by the fireside; her husband and Pauline were talking earnestly across the table. Apparently both of them were much interested, and his face was lighted up as she never saw it when he was with her. She was fascinated, and could not move. It was a dull lonely street and nobody was to be seen that wet night. She had no protection from the weather but her cloak, and in ten minutes, as the rain came down more heavily, she was wet through and shivering from head to foot⁠—she who was usually so careful, so precise, so singularly averse from anything like disorder. Still she watched⁠—watched every movement of those two⁠—every smile, every gesture; and when Caillaud went out of the room, perhaps to fetch something, she watched with increasing and self-forgetting intensity. She had not heard footsteps approaching. The wind had risen; the storm was ever fiercer and fiercer, and the feverish energy which poured itself into her eyes had drained and deadened every other sense.

“Well, my good woman, what do you want?”

She turned with a start, and it was the Major!

Mrs. Coleman! Good God! what are you doing here? You are soaked. Why don’t you come in?”

“Oh no, Major Maitland indeed I cannot. I⁠—I had been out, and I had just stopped a moment. I didn’t know it was going to rain.”

“But I say you are dripping. Come in and see your husband; he will go with you.”

“Oh no, Major, please don’t; please don’t mention it to him; oh no, please don’t; he would be very vexed. I shall be all right; I will go on at once and dry myself.”

“You cannot go alone. I will see you as far as your house. Here, take my coat and put it over your shoulders.”

The Major took off a heavy cloak with capes, wrapped it round her, drew her arm through his, and they went to her lodgings. She forgot Zachariah, Caillaud, and Pauline. When they arrived she returned the cloak and thanked him. She dared not ask him upstairs and he made no offer to stay.

“Please say nothing to my husband; promise you will not. He would be in such a way if he thought I had been out; but I could not help it.”

“Oh, certainly not, Mrs. Coleman, if you wish it; though I am sure he wouldn’t, he couldn’t be angry with you.”

She lingered as he took the coat.

“Come inside and put it on, Major Maitland; why, it is you who are dripping now. You will not wear that over your sopped clothes. Cannot I lend you something? Won’t you have something hot to drink?”

“No, thank you. I think not; it is not so bad as all that.”

He shook hands with her and had gone.

She went upstairs into her dark room. The fire was out. She lighted no candle, but sat down just as she was, put her head on the table, and sobbed as if her heart would break. She was very seldom overcome by emotion of this kind, and used to be proud that she had never once in her life fainted, and was not given to hysterics. Checked at last by a deadly shivering which came over her, she took off her wet garments, threw them over a chair, and crept into bed, revolving in her mind the explanation which she could give to her husband. When she saw him, and he inquired about her clothes, she offered some trifling excuse, which seemed very readily to satisfy him, for he made scarcely any reply, and was soon asleep. This time it was her turn to lie awake, and the morning found her restless, and with every symptom of a serious illness approaching.