In his preface to the poem Martin had simply written:
I intended to give you this poem after you accepted my marriage proposal. As that was not to be, I am sending it as you depart for Montreal. Thank you for the statue of Buddah Amitofu. Like you and my great-grandfather, it means a great deal to me.
A four stanza poem followed, beginning:
The still of my heart
Measures my lonely existence
And now falls with anguish
Allowing only indifferece
On my own, no more.
The beat of my heart
Echoes in time with another
And now soars with longing
It runs like a child to its mother.
The final line shattered Edith. Ellingham, the unloved child of a despicable mother, found in her the love he never knew as a child. And that very mother damaged him so badly that he could not express his love for Edith until the poem. She would phone him the second she arrived in Montreal. They had to work out a way for the next few years as her parents had done.
Edith's lodgings were with an equestrian friend of her mother's near Parc Rutherford in Montreal. Although she would spend most of her days and many nights working, she needed accommodations away from the hospital. Her landlady, Marjorie McManus, was a true horsewoman who had little use for people and found horses much more to her liking. On her arrival at a small rowhouse, Edith discovered a note pinned to the front door, instructing her to collect the key from a neighbour and make herself at home. Marjorie was at a horse show in Calgary and would return in a few days.
Windows were being replaced in the building housing Martin's bedsit, and he was reluctantly staying a few days with his parents. Steeling herself Edith placed a call to the Ellingham residence, hoping at this late hour in London that Martin would pick up. Instead, Margaret Ellingham answered and frostily told Edith her son was dining with his old tutor, Robert Southwood. Swallowing her distaste for the woman, Edith politely asked that Martin phone her the next day. She repeated the telephone number twice, and Mrs. Ellingham – somewhat graciously – read it back to her. With a lighter heart, Edith had a bite to eat, unpacked and retired early knowing that Martin would ring her tomorrow.
Ellingham did not phone the next day nor any other day. Edith had obviously mis-interpreted his poem. Reading it again and again, perhaps he meant that he still longed for the love of his mother, and no other woman could provide that love.
By his November birthday, she thought it appropriate to send a card. In it she wrote a short description of her training and duties, hoping that he might respond in kind. Not until late January did she receive a response. Scrawled on the back of a postcard was his brief wish for a happy New Year – nothing more. Another exchange of cards occurred before she returned to Larchmont for two weeks in July.
She must make one more attempt to see him and thought to phone him at St. Mary's. The ward sister who answered asked her twice if she really meant Martin Ellingham. No one had ever phoned him. Edith assured her that was correct and waited a long time before Martin picked up the call. He made it quickly known that he had no interest in seeing her and rang off abruptly. How foolish of her. He had found another woman and would not dream of even talking with Edith. It was not in his nature.
After that her only knowledge of him was her mother's annual comment that she had sent a Christmas card to Martin and received one in return. Four or five years ago, Mum reported her card was returned by post, and she had received nothing from Martin. Perhaps Rose would finally give up her long-cherished idea that she and Ellingham might marry. Never mind Edwin or Patrick, Mum still held out hope for Martin. Edith did not share that hope.
As the years passed, she gained perspective on Ellingham, remembering him as a brilliant student and considerate lover who made medical school bearable. Meeting Edwin during her second year at Royal Victoria helped relegate Martin to her memories. Like Ellingham, he was brilliant and quiet, but he had a more developed personality - possibly because he was 20 years older.
They had the same easy relationship she enjoyed with Ellingham. Neither asked much of the other, and they fell into a comfortable pattern of seeing each other as they had time. Too worn down by her arduous training, she did not have the strength to decline Edwin's marriage proposal at the end of her four year residency. They were quickly married that summer at Larchmont Hall and returned to Montreal and Edith's two year fellowship in the hospital's fertility clinic.
A few summers later, Edwin had his unsavoury affair with Lilly Wu, Arthur's ex-wife, whose two sons still lived with their stepfather. Lilly's relationship to the Buddah she gave Ellingham reminded her of Martin at a time other than Christmas. Suddenly she had a longing to ring him, even if in the guise of a catch-up. The next day she wisely reconsidered knowing he probably had expunged all memories of her from his considerable brain.
Edwin was well-ensconced at McGill Medical School, making it uncomfortable for Edith to remain. Her pride had been hurt more than anything, and she could not bear the gossip and knowing looks arising from their divorce. When Cornell beckoned, Edith quickly accepted the post.
There, of course, she met Patrick who helped create the one pure love of her life: Nicholas. Even with their mutual love for the child, it was not sufficient to sustain their marriage. Now Edith was again divorced, again ready to embark on a dreaded re-creation of her life, just as she had once moaned to Ellingham she must do in Montreal.
Again, looking into the foyer, Edith knew that some of her old life must be faced. She had promised Robert she would search out Ellingham and persuade him to return to surgery. Along with his note, Southwood had left the card of a psychologist specializing in phobic disorders. At a minimum, she was to extract a promise from Martin that he would consult the young doctor. Both of them knew that if he pledged to do something, Ellingham would see it through. That much would never change with him.
Only left for her to do in London was her meeting with the dreaded General Medical Council to fetch her licence, and then she could return to Larchmont Hall. There she would have a few weeks to rest before taking Nicholas to St. Benedict's and going on to Truro. Blast Walter Zeffren for his scheme to have her work one day each week at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
Chris Parsons was chief executive of the local PCT, and he was quite zealous about women's medical issues, particularly hospital care. Poor ratings plagued the Royal Cornwall, and Edith had been charged with improving standards, a task she did not relish. Managing people was not her strong suit. Creating babies for infertile couples – attractive or otherwise – was where the money could be found.
In her work at the Royal Cornwall, she would of necessity be in contact with Parsons. If nothing else, it might be that he could ease her way into meeting with Ellingham. Surely the two remained friends. Robert made it clear that Martin would accept help only from Chris following his fall from the grace of surgery.
Lifting her head as her mother had always admonished her to do, Edith was ready for the next challenge of her life. Establishing herself in Truro would be easy compared to convincing Ellingham to seek help from a psychologist. Emotions were not his strong suit.
Well, then, her task of returning him to surgery would begin soon. Double blast Robert Southwood for charming her into this quest for Ellingham. In her mind, there was no one more stubborn, obstinate or bloody, bloody hardheaded than Martin Christopher Henry Ellingham.
A sequel to this story follows.
Thank you to the steadfast readers and reviewers who had the fortitude to follow a story featuring Edith Montgomery, perhaps the most-disliked character in Doc Martin. To the anonymous author who wrote the last stanza of Martin's poem, I beg your forgiveness for adding my doggerel to your brilliant work.
When I began writing this story, I sent a note to Lia Williams, the actress who played Edith Montgomery, asking for any insight into the character. My note was sent as a lark, and I never expected to hear from her. A month or so later, I received a long email from the actress with her thoughts on Edith. Some of these have been incorporated into this story and the sequel that follows. In my return email, I sent a link to the Doc Martin fan fiction website. Should you be reading this, Ms. Williams, I hope you – and all the readers – enjoyed my version of Edith's back story.