Afterward, with his head on her bare chest, Matthew asks Mary why she didn't tell him about the surgery. I don't like that something could have happened and I wouldn't have known, he says, as if the apparent success of the endeavor means nothing did happen, nothing notable, and it's then that she understands why she has felt slightly cross with him all afternoon.

He speaks quietly. They are in Aunt Rosamund's guestroom. They aren't familiar with the thickness of the walls, the proximity of other sleepers. The doctor said to be gentle, she warned Matthew as they closed the door, and he was, the two of them making love quickly, simply, small moves in a tight embrace, because it has been two weeks and he is not the only one who has missed the intimacy. And now Matthew asks why she didn't tell him, and this is what bothered her about his response during tea. He hadn't asked this question then. He hadn't asked if she was quite all right or asked about what she may have gone through. Just a small, hungry smile and his thoughts past her already, talking again about a baby.

Mama said not to trouble you with it, Mary says. She decides to take her mother's advice and try to leave the matter at that. Sure enough, Matthew is soon asleep, and there is no trouble. Her mother has given her much of this advice the past few weeks.

You are still new at marriage, her mother said. You will learn there is an art to omission. We do not tell our husbands everything. They do not tell us everything, either.

Mary was surprised how quickly her mother retrieved the doctor's information, no more than an hour, a piece of folded paper carefully tucked into Mary's hand before the dressing gong. She wondered how many other hands had passed it, what secret women's circle she was entering. Her mother laid out the plan. You will say you are visiting a friend of mine whose daughter is getting married, she said. They want to discuss wedding arrangements. Matthew will ask if you can handle the trip without him.

I don't suppose you mind a solo journey, Matthew said, laughing, and Mary as instructed kissed him and said, No, if you won't miss me too terribly much.

She travelled alone, not even Anna for company. She paid for a small room with a false name, feeling criminal, and sat on the bed by herself. To avoid a scandal, was the understanding, this time not for anything she had done but something she perhaps could not. Something wrong with Mary, herself. In the morning, the doctor confirmed what she had suspected from that odd ache that had felt wrong, and she learned that she was incapable of the only thing ever truly expected of her.

Do not tell Matthew, her mother said on the phone. Whispering. An echo of talk behind her. Let's see first if the operation is a success. Crawley men do not handle complications of this nature well. Something will change between you. Something will be different. He may start to treat you like you were delicate. I know how you would hate that.

Yes, Mary said. Had she stopped crying by then? Surely.

At the doctor's office, the ether. A tug, a pinch, a pressure. She felt ill when coming back to herself, vomited over the edge of the bed. The nurse told Mary, Everything is all right, the same lie Mary had told Matthew and the other soldiers. It's all right, the nurse said. Everything is all right, Mrs. Levinson.

My name, it's not… Mary said, in the drug forgetting herself.

The nurse nodded. Mrs. Levinson, she repeated slowly, a reminder in a teacher's tone, a knowing and forgiving one, understanding and agreeing to the false stories women told there.

That evening in her small room Mary let herself cry because there would be no chance to later, when she returned to Downton. Her mother called before bed. I have suggested to your father that he take Matthew and Tom to see the London house in two days. You will just barely miss each other in transit and lament the mix-up. It will buy you a week of recovery, and we can figure out something else, after.

I will not do this, Mary said. She was angry with her mother for sending her to London alone, to suffer by herself in this room. There was the pain, too, not dangerous but sharp, and she could not explain it to the owner who heard her moan and asked through the door if he might help. She did not want to listen to her mother anymore, wanted only to speak to Matthew, wanted to tell him, Please, come.

My Darling, my dear Darling. Her mother's voice a soft song, as if reciting an old lullaby. If you do get caught, tell him the truth. But answer only the questions he asks you.

Everything had gone to plan. When Matthew called from London, Mary said how sorry she was to have missed their message that they were coming to town. When they were both home and she was resisting his advances, she went to her mother in the mornings. She stroked Mary's hair across the breakfast tray and said, It will work out, I promise, in the long-term. You are not the only one.

Then, after the doctor announces her recovery complete, after Matthew knows and the secret is out, Edith says at dinner that she is returning to London. That she has had bad news. Mary does not often trouble herself with her sister's problems, but she hears an omission. She asks about it, and Matthew cuts in, saying it is not their business before Edith can reply.

It is a new type of crossness Mary feels, seeing how many things the Crawley men and women keep from each other, and how readily they uphold it. All these talks of scandal, some shadowy threat, and yet none ever seem to materialize. Richard Carlisle hasn't published, Isobel and Ethel have not been exiled. Always a plea to keep quiet, but what really is fair or merciful about suffering alone?

She dismisses Anna for the night. As Matthew takes off his robe, Mary says, unprompted, There was some scar tissue, you see.

Scar tissue? He does not yet understand what she is saying.

Not much, but it was in the way and needed to be removed. That was what the problem was, we think.

Now he understands. Mary sees it in his face. How, but I… he says. Did I hurt you?

What? She has not expected this. No, no, Darling. No. Not you.

His expression changes. Mary feels herself turning red.

You see, all they tell us, really, is that it's going to hurt at first. So, at the time, I just assumed...

Matthew sits on the mattress. I could kill him, he says. God, Darling, I feel like I could kill him.

Don't speak ill of the dead, she says. He has paid. I have paid. If the operation hasn't worked, if we're wrong, and I have done this to the family, if I have done this to you and I… She stops there, pushes her face into the pillow. She wonders what her mother would do now. She has reached the limit of her courage tonight. Matthew is quiet behind her. She feels the blankets shift as he gets into bed.

He did this, Matthew says into her ear. Not you.

When she and Matthew start to move, she recognizes that something does feel different. Her mother was right. Something is different from before the operation as she and Matthew make love. It is small difference, but it is there. A feeling new and raw, yet slightly pleasantly so. She can feel it. She doesn't dislike it. Afterward she will ask him if he could feel it too.