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The Ink
by [?]

The ink-pot contained a shallow sediment, with short hairs, grit, and a little moisture in it. It came out on the pen in chunks. When I had spoiled the second postcard, Eliza said I was not to talk like that.

“Very well, then,” I said, “why don’t you have the ink-pot refilled? I’m not made of postcards, and I hate waste.”

She replied that anybody would think I was made of something to hear me talk. I thought I had never heard a poorer retort, and told her so. I did not stay to argue it further, as I had to be off to the city. On my return I found the ink-pot full. “This,” I thought to myself, “is very nice of Eliza.” I had a letter I wanted to write, and sat down to it.

I wrote one word, and it came out a delicate pale gray. I called Eliza at once. I was never quieter in my manner, and it was absurd of her to say that I needn’t howl the house down.

“We will not discuss that,” I replied. “Just now I sat down to write a letter—-“

“What do you want to write letters for now? You might just as well have done them at the office.”

I shrugged my shoulders in a Continental manner. “You are probably not aware that I was writing to your own mother. She has so few pleasures. If you do not feel rebuked now—-“

“I don’t think mamma will lend you any more if you do write.”

“We will not enter into that. Why did you fill the ink-pot with water?”

“I didn’t.”

“Then who did?”

“Nobody did. I didn’t think of it until tea-time, and then–well, the tea was there.”

I once read a story where a man laughed a low, mirthless laugh. The laugh came to me quite naturally on this occasion. “Say no more,” I said. “This is contemptible. Now I forbid you to get the ink–I will get it myself.”

* * * * *

On the following night she asked me if I had bought that ink. I replied, “No, Eliza; it has been an exceptionally busy day, and I have not had the time.”

“I thought you had forgotten it, perhaps.”

“I supposed you would say that,” I said. “In you it does not surprise me.”

* * * * *

A week later Eliza said that she wanted to do her accounts. “I am glad of that,” I said. “Now you will know the misery of living without ink in the house.”

“No, I sha’n’t,” she said, “because I always do my accounts in pencil.”

“About three months ago I asked you to fill that ink-pot with ink. Why is it not done?”

“Because you also definitely forbade me to get any ink to fill it with. And you said you’d get it yourself. And it wasn’t three months ago.”

“I always knew you could not argue, Eliza,” I replied. “But I am sorry to see that your memory is failing you as well.”

* * * * *

On the next day I bought a penny bottle of ink and left it behind me in an omnibus. There was another bottle (this must have been a week later) which I bought, but dropped on the pavement, where it broke. I did not mention these things to Eliza, but I asked her how much longer she was going to cast a shade over our married life by neglecting to fill the ink-pot.

“Why,” she said, “that has been done days and days ago! How can you be so unjust?”

* * * * *

It was as she had said. I made up my mind at once to write to Eliza’s mother–who, rightly or wrongly, considers that I have a talent for letter-writing. I felt happier now than I had done for some time, and made up my mind to tell Eliza that I had forgiven her. I wrote a long, cheerful letter to her mother, and thought I would show it to Eliza before I posted it. I called up-stairs to her, “Come down, darling, and see what I’ve done.”

Then I sat down again, and knocked the ink-pot over. The ink covered the letter, the table, my clothes, and the carpet; a black stream of it wandered away looking for something else to spoil.

Then Eliza came down and saw what I had done. To this day she cannot see that it was partly her own fault. The bottle, of course, was too full.