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Jacob's Room

CHAPTER ONE
"So of course," wrote Betty Flanders, pressing her heels rather deeper in the sand,
"there was nothing for it but to leave."
Slowly welling from the point of her gold nib, pale blue ink dissolved the full stop; for
there her pen stuck; her eyes fixed, and tears slowly filled them. The entire bay
quivered; the lighthouse wobbled; and she had the illusion that the mast of Mr. Connor's
little yacht was bending like a wax candle in the sun. She winked quickly. Accidents
were awful things. She winked again. The mast was straight; the waves were regular;
the lighthouse was upright; but the blot had spread.
"...nothing for it but to leave," she read.
"Well, if Jacob doesn't want to play" (the shadow of Archer, her eldest son, fell across
the notepaper and looked blue on the sand, and she felt chilly--it was the third of
September already), "if Jacob doesn't want to play"--what a horrid blot! It must be
getting late.
"Where IS that tiresome little boy?" she said. "I don't see him. Run and find him. Tell him
to come at once." "...but mercifully," she scribbled, ignoring the full stop, "everything
seems satisfactorily arranged, packed though we are like herrings in a barrel, and
forced to stand the perambulator which the landlady quite naturally won't allow...."
Such were Betty Flanders's letters to Captain Barfoot--many-paged, tear- stained.
Scarborough is seven hundred miles from Cornwall: Captain Barfoot is in Scarborough:
Seabrook is dead. Tears made all the dahlias in her garden undulate in red waves and
flashed the glass house in her eyes, and spangled the kitchen with bright knives, and
made Mrs. Jarvis, the rector's wife, think at church, while the hymn-tune played and
Mrs. Flanders bent low over her little boys' heads, that marriage is a fortress and
widows stray solitary in the open fields, picking up stones, gleaning a few golden
straws, lonely, unprotected, poor creatures. Mrs. Flanders had been a widow for these
two years.
"Ja--cob! Ja--cob!" Archer shouted.
"Scarborough," Mrs. Flanders wrote on the envelope, and dashed a bold line beneath; it
was her native town; the hub of the universe. But a stamp? She ferreted in her bag;
then held it up mouth downwards; then fumbled in her lap, all so vigorously that Charles
Steele in the Panama hat suspended his paint-brush.
Like the antennae of some irritable insect it positively trembled. Here was that woman
moving--actually going to get up--confound her! He struck the canvas a hasty violet-
black dab. For the landscape needed it. It was too pale--greys flowing into lavenders,
 
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