The Teaching Autobiography, Contents: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4
A Curious Interlude
Now followed a strange interlude, out of character, more like a chapter from some cheap melodrama than a part of the life of those concerned. A few months after his wife's death, John became infatuated with a woman who was almost a complete stranger to his family and friends. She was rather smart, quite attractive to look at, and with a definite purpose which she achieved. She undoubtedly made herself a cheerful and sympathetic companion at a time when John, desperately lonely and unhappy, was peculiarly vulnerable. As Nicholas said later, if he had travelled until he had time to orientate himself, it would never have happened. I think myself, although it was eventually almost an extraneous incident, it was quite definitely a part of his pattern. It changed his outlook so much, made him far more tolerant and considerate towards others and gave him an appreciation of his way of life that, unless he had lost it for a time, he would never have learnt and when that way of life was restored his gratitude endured.
The growing restlessness of John's letters troubled me. He spoke of the emptiness of his life, but gave no hint that this state of mind was a part of his infatuation. My own future was changing shape. Susan, having taken her degree, was offered a post in the North Island. We planned that I should join her and continue to make a home for her. It was at that stage that John's letter, telling me of his intention to remarry, arrived. I was amazed and not happy at such a sudden and unexpected decision. In this letter he said he had not spoken yet to his future wife about the circle, he gave me the impression that it presented difficulties. I wrote a short conventional letter back, wishing him happiness and saying, as far as the circle was concerned, it seemed likely it would just dissolve of itself, as I would be following Susan and he after his marriage would leave Plymouth for the South. That to me was a simple statement of fact, the corollary to his action. It never remotely occurred to me the statement could appear to John as a threat. I had no idea then, nor till many years later, of the effect it had on him. Years later he told me if it had come to a choice between the circle and this new marriage, he must have let the latter go. That may be so but it was not credible to me. Yet I might have been wrong. Looking back I can see so clearly now that John's share was to keep the circle in existence. I am so glad he did fulfil that part of his pattern which from the point of view of the Thought World, was probably the most important.
When he received my letter John wrote to Nicholas in great agitation. Nicholas for the second time did not 'see'. He wrote me a short severe letter, saying he thought no circumstances should exclude John from the circle, that to exercise such a power would be a kind of spiritual blackmail. Having no idea of the context I was bewildered and angry at that expression which seemed to me not only objectionable but in this case meaningless. John was leaving the circle himself and through no action of mine.
In the meantime I had learnt that the circle, with or without, John would continue and I was given one clear direction which I was thankful to follow: "To take each day as it came, facing the immediate decision only, not looking forward." Later I had another letter from John who knew that, before joining Susan in the North Island, I intended staying with Elizabeth at Kaituna on my way through, to renew my acquaintance with Elspeth, now nine month old. John asked me to break my journey by spending a night at Plymouth. This would give him an opportunity for a sitting which he said he was most anxious to have. Apart from the influence of Nicholas' letter, I felt I ought to do that. In answering Nicholas I do not remember what I said but I do remember my feelings. I felt that he had intervened stupidly, that it was fortunate for him that my own directions, so differently given, had happened to coincide with his wishes. I was not used to his not 'seeing' and I was annoyed, having no idea John had asked him to write to me.
I sometimes wonder how much the future casts its shadows across our minds, even though consciously we remain unaware of its shape. Because later when I did meet John, although he did not appear to be in any need of it, I felt sorry for him. He himself was full of his plans and his new attachment. I was glad later I had had his confidence, although there were moments then, when I could not decide if it were more ironic or more absurd. Through that meeting our relationship was renewed on a firm basis. I had had his complete trust. It is only now that I realise, from that day the balance shifted, I to depend less on him and he more on me. When he saw me off to Kaituna next day, I felt a weight lifted and could look forward to Elspeth but John became suddenly pensive. He had the air of a boy still bent on the adventure but suddenly aware of the things he was leaving behind. Perhaps then the shadow of the future touched him too.
For the marriage was disastrous from the very first day. It seemed as if John had suddenly come face to face with the fact that he had thrown away much and gained nothing. Letter after letter expressed his bewilderment, his unhappiness and his dismay as he found himself cut off from his family and friends, in a relationship daily growing more difficult. It was not easy for me because for some weeks John confided in no one else and reverted to his old habit of hoping for personal guidance.
I never have received directions from the Thought World which would interfere with personal decisions, only help after we have set our own course. Therefore I could only fall back on my own common sense in answers to his appeals. For a while it seemed to me imperative that John must just wait. He had rushed into this position, driven by the impetus of his own desire and it did not seem possible to me that he could improve matters if he rushed out of it, actuated by the same motives, so for many months that was the burden of my song.
Whilst I was in Kaituna, the Recorder was having a bad time. She was in hospital for a week or so and for that period had made arrangements. Now she was faced with another six weeks in hospital and when she left would have to take it easy for some time before she could take on full household cares again. Our three families had always gone to each other in trouble, so it was natural she should turn to us in her predicament. Being at a loose end till Susan was settled, the finger of fate pointed at me and I was more than willing to follow it. Elizabeth helped by taking Joanna, the youngest, for a term and she went to school in Kaituna. I moved into the Recorder's home and coped with Helen and the house. Later when the Recorder left hospital and joined us, we had a pleasant time marred only by the miserable letters from John.
It was one of those letters that nearly caused trouble. I was discreet in my replies but I did not stop John writing as I felt he must have some outlet. It was unfortunate that he should leave on his writing desk a particularly heartfelt screed of woe, written to me just after a terrific row, because when he came back the letter was gone. His wife did not deny taking it but refused to return it. Fortunately John had the sense to write and tell me of the situation at once, he added that he intended to ignore her until the letter was restored, which he felt certain would be soon. What neither of us knew was that she immediately wrote to my husband with the intention of making mischief between us. There she struck bad luck, for although we lived apart, neither of us were the right type for her purpose. Whilst I was staying with the Recorder, I was quite near my old home and talking it over with her she remarked: "If only you could, it would completely floor her if you told your husband the whole tale." I saw at once the wisdom of that course and replied: "Of course I can, I'd hate to go if I had made the muddle but it's a good idea and I will."
Anthony was as I expected him to be, a little scornful of another man's action and mistake but he took the line that although he had not liked or approved of our sittings, he considered such ideas were entirely of my own affair and that even he had no right to interfere. He had never broached the subject to me before. I saw that he had no idea of what they were and tried to explain they had nothing in common with séances but he was not really interested, so I left it at that. He told me he had already had two letters from John's wife which he would have enjoyed answering but on the advice of his lawyer he had ignored them. I am in doubt as to which she would have found the most trying, no answer, or the kind of answer he would have sent. I was grateful to Anthony and in return told him of a half formed intention to settle down in a cottage in the middle of Western Bay. Somewhat to my surprise he encouraged the idea, even offering me one of his kittens, so we parted amicably. When I did settle I did not take one but two of them. They were coal black and at an age when each could comfortably sit on the palm of my hand, Michael and Gabriel, as angelic as their names, who added a great deal to the happiness of my new home.
Years later when Anthony was ill and I went to look after him, he told me what he did not tell me then. In one of her letters to him, John's wife had threatened to drag me into a lawsuit. Anthony did not think she could, or would but as a precaution he paid a retaining fee to one of the leading barristers in Wellington, to defend me if necessary. This touched me very much.
In the meantime, no doubt disheartened by receiving no reply from Anthony and by the detachment of John's behaviour to her, his wife returned the unlucky letter, on the condition it was not sent to me and their unhappy domestic life continued for a few months more. John's chief difficulty was the intense possessiveness of his wife and her jealous attitude towards his children. With John, family ties were very strong. It was the most marked characteristic of the Bodley family and it was her persistent refusal to recognise that claim that opened the way for his escape. What really brought matters to a head were the changing conditions caused by the war. For now Jean, John's second daughter and her small child were left without a home when her husband went overseas. John naturally wanted her to share his home; it was obviously the right course. Both Nicholas and I saw the consequences of such a suggestion but we also felt it would provide an opening that could fairly be taken. So it came about that after a few weeks' trial and some more than usually violent scenes, the conclusion was reached by both that a separation was desirable.