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´╗┐Title: Sons and Lovers
Author: Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sons and Lovers" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



SONS AND LOVERS

D. H. LAWRENCE



CONTENTS

     PART I
     1.   The Early Married Life of the Morels
     2.   The Birth of Paul, and Another Battle
     3.   The Casting Off of Morel--The Taking on of William
     4.   The Young Life of Paul
     5.   Paul Launches into Life
     6.   Death in the Family

     PART II

     7.   Lad-and-Girl Love
     8.   Strife in Love
     9.   Defeat of Miriam
     10.  Clara
     11.  The Test on Miriam
     12.  Passion
     13.  Baxter Dawes
     14.  The Release
     15.  Derelict



PART ONE



CHAPTER I

THE EARLY MARRIED LIFE OF THE MORELS

"THE BOTTOMS" succeeded to "Hell Row". Hell Row was a block of thatched,
bulging cottages that stood by the brookside on Greenhill Lane. There
lived the colliers who worked in the little gin-pits two fields away.
The brook ran under the alder trees, scarcely soiled by these small
mines, whose coal was drawn to the surface by donkeys that plodded
wearily in a circle round a gin. And all over the countryside were these
same pits, some of which had been worked in the time of Charles II, the
few colliers and the donkeys burrowing down like ants into the earth,
making queer mounds and little black places among the corn-fields and
the meadows. And the cottages of these coal-miners, in blocks and pairs
here and there, together with odd farms and homes of the stockingers,
straying over the parish, formed the village of Bestwood.

Then, some sixty years ago, a sudden change took place, gin-pits were
elbowed aside by the large mines of the financiers. The coal and iron
field of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire was discovered. Carston, Waite
and Co. appeared. Amid tremendous excitement, Lord Palmerston formally
opened the company's first mine at Spinney Park, on the edge of Sherwood
Forest.

About this time the notorious Hell Row, which through growing old had
acquired an evil reputation, was burned down, and much dirt was cleansed
away.

Carston, Waite & Co. found they had struck on a good thing, so, down the
valleys of the brooks from Selby and Nuttall, new mines were sunk, until
soon there were six pits working. From Nuttall, high up on the sandstone
among the woods, the railway ran, past the ruined priory of the
Carthusians and past Robin Hood's Well, down to Spinney Park, then on to
Minton, a large mine among corn-fields; from Minton across the farmlands
of the valleyside to Bunker's Hill, branching off there, and running
north to Beggarlee and Selby, that looks over at Crich and the hills of
Derbyshire: six mines like black studs on the countryside, linked by a
loop of fine chain, the railway.

To accommodate the regiments of miners, Carston, Waite and Co. built the
Squares, great quadrangles of dwellings on the hillside of Bestwood,
and then, in the brook valley, on the site of Hell Row, they erected the
Bottoms.

The Bottoms consisted of six blocks of miners' dwellings, two rows
of three, like the dots on a blank-six domino, and twelve houses in a
block. This double row of dwellings sat at the foot of the rather sharp
slope from Bestwood, and looked out, from the attic windows at least, on
the slow climb of the valley towards Selby.

The houses themselves were substantial and very decent. One could walk
all round, seeing little front gardens with auriculas and saxifrage in
the shadow of the bottom block, sweet-williams and pinks in the sunny
top block; seeing neat front windows, little porches, little privet
hedges, and dormer windows for the attics. But that was outside; that
was the view on to the uninhabited parlours of all the colliers' wives.
The dwelling-room, the kitchen, was at the back of the house, facing
inward between the blocks, looking at a scrubby back garden, and then at
the ash-pits. And between the rows, between the long lines of ash-pits,
went the alley, where the children played and the women gossiped and the
men smoked. So, the actual conditions of living in the Bottoms, that
was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because
people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that
nasty alley of ash-pits.

Mrs. Morel was not anxious to move into the Bottoms, which was already
twelve years old and on the downward path, when she descended to it from
Bestwood. But it was the best she could do. Moreover, she had an end
house in one of the top blocks, and thus had only one neighbour; on
the other side an extra strip of garden. And, having an end house, she
enjoyed a kind of aristocracy among the other women of the "between"
houses, because her rent was five shillings and sixpence instead of
five shillings a week. But this superiority in station was not much
consolation to Mrs. Morel.

She was thirty-one years old, and had been married eight years. A rather
small woman, of delicate mould but resolute bearing, she shrank a little
from the first contact with the Bottoms women. She came down in the
July, and in the September expected her third baby.

Her husband was a miner. They had only been in their new home three
weeks when the wakes, or fair, began. Morel, she knew, was sure to make
a holiday of it. He went off early on the Monday morning, the day of
the fair. The two children were highly excited. William, a boy of seven,
fled off immediately after breakfast, to prowl round the wakes ground,
leaving Annie, who was only five, to whine all morning to go also. Mrs.
Morel did her work. She scarcely knew her neighbours yet, and knew no
one with whom to trust the little girl. So she promised to take her to
the wakes after dinner.

William appeared at half-past twelve. He was a very active lad,
fair-haired, freckled, with a touch of the Dane or Norwegian about him.

"Can I have my dinner, mother?" he cried, rushing in with his cap on.
"'Cause it begins at half-past one, the man says so."

"You can have your dinner as soon as it's done," replied the mother.

"Isn't it done?" he cried, his blue eyes staring at her in indignation.
"Then I'm goin' be-out it."

"You'll do nothing of the sort. It will be done in five minutes. It is
only half-past twelve."

"They'll be beginnin'," the boy half cried, half shouted.

"You won't die if they do," said the mother. "Besides, it's only
half-past twelve, so you've a full hour."

The lad began hastily to lay the table, and directly the three sat down.
They were eating batter-pudding and jam, when the boy jumped off his
chair and stood perfectly stiff. Some distance away could be heard the
first small braying of a merry-go-round, and the tooting of a horn. His
face quivered as he looked at his mother.

"I told you!" he said, running to the dresser for his cap.

"Take your pudding in your hand--and it's only five past one, so you
were wrong--you haven't got your twopence," cried the mother in a
breath.

The boy came back, bitterly disappointed, for his twopence, then went
off without a word.

"I want to go, I want to go," said Annie, beginning to cry.

"Well, and you shall go, whining, wizzening little stick!" said the
mother. And later in the afternoon she trudged up the hill under the
tall hedge with her child. The hay was gathered from the fields, and
cattle were turned on to the eddish. It was warm, peaceful.

Mrs. Morel did not like the wakes. There were two sets of horses, one
going by steam, one pulled round by a pony; three organs were grinding,
and there came odd cracks of pistol-shots, fearful screeching of the
cocoanut man's rattle, shouts of the Aunt Sally man, screeches from the
peep-show lady. The mother perceived her son gazing enraptured outside
the Lion Wallace booth, at the pictures of this famous lion that had
killed a negro and maimed for life two white men. She left him alone,
and went to get Annie a spin of toffee. Presently the lad stood in front
of her, wildly excited.

"You never said you was coming--isn't the' a lot of things?--that lion's
killed three men--I've spent my tuppence--an' look here."

He pulled from his pocket two egg-cups, with pink moss-roses on them.

"I got these from that stall where y'ave ter get them marbles in
them holes. An' I got these two in two goes-'aepenny a go-they've got
moss-roses on, look here. I wanted these."

She knew he wanted them for her.

"H'm!" she said, pleased. "They ARE pretty!"

"Shall you carry 'em, 'cause I'm frightened o' breakin' 'em?"

He was tipful of excitement now she had come, led her about the ground,
showed her everything. Then, at the peep-show, she explained the
pictures, in a sort of story, to which he listened as if spellbound. He
would not leave her. All the time he stuck close to her, bristling with
a small boy's pride of her. For no other woman looked such a lady as she
did, in her little black bonnet and her cloak. She smiled when she saw
women she knew. When she was tired she said to her son:

"Well, are you coming now, or later?"

"Are you goin' a'ready?" he cried, his face full of reproach.

"Already? It is past four, I know."

"What are you goin' a'ready for?" he lamented.

"You needn't come if you don't want," she said.

And she went slowly away with her little girl, whilst her son stood
watching her, cut to the heart to let her go, and yet unable to leave
the wakes. As she crossed the open ground in front of the Moon and Stars
she heard men shouting, and smelled the beer, and hurried a little,
thinking her husband was probably in the bar.

At about half-past six her son came home, tired now, rather pale, and
somewhat wretched. He was miserable, though he did not know it, because
he had let her go alone. Since she had gone, he had not enjoyed his
wakes.

"Has my dad been?" he asked.

"No," said the mother.

"He's helping to wait at the Moon and Stars. I seed him through that
black tin stuff wi' holes in, on the window, wi' his sleeves rolled up."

"Ha!" exclaimed the mother shortly. "He's got no money. An' he'll be
satisfied if he gets his 'lowance, whether they give him more or not."

When the light was fading, and Mrs. Morel could see no more to sew, she
rose and went to the door. Everywhere was the sound of excitement, the
restlessness of the holiday, that at last infected her. She went
out into the side garden. Women were coming home from the wakes, the
children hugging a white lamb with green legs, or a wooden horse.
Occasionally a man lurched past, almost as full as he could carry.
Sometimes a good husband came along with his family, peacefully. But
usually the women and children were alone. The stay-at-home mothers
stood gossiping at the corners of the alley, as the twilight sank,
folding their arms under their white aprons.

Mrs. Morel was alone, but she was used to it. Her son and her little
girl slept upstairs; so, it seemed, her home was there behind her,
fixed and stable. But she felt wretched with the coming child. The world
seemed a dreary place, where nothing else would happen for her--at
least until William grew up. But for herself, nothing but this dreary
endurance--till the children grew up. And the children! She could not
afford to have this third. She did not want it. The father was serving
beer in a public house, swilling himself drunk. She despised him, and
was tied to him. This coming child was too much for her. If it were not
for William and Annie, she was sick of it, the struggle with poverty and
ugliness and meanness.

She went into the front garden, feeling too heavy to take herself out,
yet unable to stay indoors. The heat suffocated her. And looking ahead,
the prospect of her life made her feel as if she were buried alive.

The front garden was a small square with a privet hedge. There she
stood, trying to soothe herself with the scent of flowers and the
fading, beautiful evening. Opposite her small gate was the stile that
led uphill, under the tall hedge between the burning glow of the cut
pastures. The sky overhead throbbed and pulsed with light. The glow sank
quickly off the field; the earth and the hedges smoked dusk. As it grew
dark, a ruddy glare came out on the hilltop, and out of the glare the
diminished commotion of the fair.

Sometimes, down the trough of darkness formed by the path under the
hedges, men came lurching home. One young man lapsed into a run down
the steep bit that ended the hill, and went with a crash into the stile.
Mrs. Morel shuddered. He picked himself up, swearing viciously, rather
pathetically, as if he thought the stile had wanted to hurt him.

She went indoors, wondering if things were never going to alter. She was
beginning by now to realise that they would not. She seemed so far
away from her girlhood, she wondered if it were the same person walking
heavily up the back garden at the Bottoms as had run so lightly up the
breakwater at Sheerness ten years before.

"What have I to do with it?" she said to herself. "What have I to do
with all this? Even the child I am going to have! It doesn't seem as if
I were taken into account."

Sometimes life takes hold of one, carries the body along, accomplishes
one's history, and yet is not real, but leaves oneself as it were
slurred over.

"I wait," Mrs. Morel said to herself--"I wait, and what I wait for can
never come."

Then she straightened the kitchen, lit the lamp, mended the fire, looked
out the washing for the next day, and put it to soak. After which
she sat down to her sewing. Through the long hours her needle flashed
regularly through the stuff. Occasionally she sighed, moving to relieve
herself. And all the time she was thinking how to make the most of what
she had, for the children's sakes.

At half-past eleven her husband came. His cheeks were very red and
very shiny above his black moustache. His head nodded slightly. He was
pleased with himself.

"Oh! Oh! waitin' for me, lass? I've bin 'elpin' Anthony, an' what's
think he's gen me? Nowt b'r a lousy hae'f-crown, an' that's ivry
penny--"

"He thinks you've made the rest up in beer," she said shortly.

"An' I 'aven't--that I 'aven't. You b'lieve me, I've 'ad very little
this day, I have an' all." His voice went tender. "Here, an' I browt
thee a bit o' brandysnap, an' a cocoanut for th' children." He laid the
gingerbread and the cocoanut, a hairy object, on the table. "Nay, tha
niver said thankyer for nowt i' thy life, did ter?"

As a compromise, she picked up the cocoanut and shook it, to see if it
had any milk.

"It's a good 'un, you may back yer life o' that. I got it fra' Bill
Hodgkisson. 'Bill,' I says, 'tha non wants them three nuts, does ter?
Arena ter for gi'ein' me one for my bit of a lad an' wench?' 'I ham,
Walter, my lad,' 'e says; 'ta'e which on 'em ter's a mind.' An' so I
took one, an' thanked 'im. I didn't like ter shake it afore 'is eyes,
but 'e says, 'Tha'd better ma'e sure it's a good un, Walt.' An' so, yer
see, I knowed it was. He's a nice chap, is Bill Hodgkisson, e's a nice
chap!"

"A man will part with anything so long as he's drunk, and you're drunk
along with him," said Mrs. Morel.

"Eh, tha mucky little 'ussy, who's drunk, I sh'd like ter know?" said
Morel. He was extraordinarily pleased with himself, because of his day's
helping to wait in the Moon and Stars. He chattered on.

Mrs. Morel, very tired, and sick of his babble, went to bed as quickly
as possible, while he raked the fire.

Mrs. Morel came of a good old burgher family, famous independents
who had fought with Colonel Hutchinson, and who remained stout
Congregationalists. Her grandfather had gone bankrupt in the lace-market
at a time when so many lace-manufacturers were ruined in Nottingham. Her
father, George Coppard, was an engineer--a large, handsome, haughty
man, proud of his fair skin and blue eyes, but more proud still of his
integrity. Gertrude resembled her mother in her small build. But her
temper, proud and unyielding, she had from the Coppards.

George Coppard was bitterly galled by his own poverty. He became foreman
of the engineers in the dockyard at Sheerness. Mrs. Morel--Gertrude--was
the second daughter. She favoured her mother, loved her mother best of
all; but she had the Coppards' clear, defiant blue eyes and their broad
brow. She remembered to have hated her father's overbearing manner
towards her gentle, humorous, kindly-souled mother. She remembered
running over the breakwater at Sheerness and finding the boat. She
remembered to have been petted and flattered by all the men when she had
gone to the dockyard, for she was a delicate, rather proud child. She
remembered the funny old mistress, whose assistant she had become, whom
she had loved to help in the private school. And she still had the Bible
that John Field had given her. She used to walk home from chapel
with John Field when she was nineteen. He was the son of a well-to-do
tradesman, had been to college in London, and was to devote himself to
business.

She could always recall in detail a September Sunday afternoon, when
they had sat under the vine at the back of her father's house. The sun
came through the chinks of the vine-leaves and made beautiful patterns,
like a lace scarf, falling on her and on him. Some of the leaves were
clean yellow, like yellow flat flowers.

"Now sit still," he had cried. "Now your hair, I don't know what it IS
like! It's as bright as copper and gold, as red as burnt copper, and
it has gold threads where the sun shines on it. Fancy their saying it's
brown. Your mother calls it mouse-colour."

She had met his brilliant eyes, but her clear face scarcely showed the
elation which rose within her.

"But you say you don't like business," she pursued.

"I don't. I hate it!" he cried hotly.

"And you would like to go into the ministry," she half implored.

"I should. I should love it, if I thought I could make a first-rate
preacher."

"Then why don't you--why DON'T you?" Her voice rang with defiance. "If I
were a man, nothing would stop me."

She held her head erect. He was rather timid before her.

"But my father's so stiff-necked. He means to put me into the business,
and I know he'll do it."

"But if you're a MAN?" she had cried.

"Being a man isn't everything," he replied, frowning with puzzled
helplessness.

Now, as she moved about her work at the Bottoms, with some experience of
what being a man meant, she knew that it was NOT everything.

At twenty, owing to her health, she had left Sheerness. Her father had
retired home to Nottingham. John Field's father had been ruined; the
son had gone as a teacher in Norwood. She did not hear of him until, two
years later, she made determined inquiry. He had married his landlady, a
woman of forty, a widow with property.

And still Mrs. Morel preserved John Field's Bible. She did not now
believe him to be--Well, she understood pretty well what he might or
might not have been. So she preserved his Bible, and kept his memory
intact in her heart, for her own sake. To her dying day, for thirty-five
years, she did not speak of him.

When she was twenty-three years old, she met, at a Christmas party, a
young man from the Erewash Valley. Morel was then twenty-seven years
old. He was well set-up, erect, and very smart. He had wavy black hair
that shone again, and a vigorous black beard that had never been shaved.
His cheeks were ruddy, and his red, moist mouth was noticeable because
he laughed so often and so heartily. He had that rare thing, a rich,
ringing laugh. Gertrude Coppard had watched him, fascinated. He was
so full of colour and animation, his voice ran so easily into comic
grotesque, he was so ready and so pleasant with everybody. Her own
father had a rich fund of humour, but it was satiric. This man's was
different: soft, non-intellectual, warm, a kind of gambolling.

She herself was opposite. She had a curious, receptive mind which found
much pleasure and amusement in listening to other folk. She was clever
in leading folk to talk. She loved ideas, and was considered very
intellectual. What she liked most of all was an argument on religion or
philosophy or politics with some educated man. This she did not often
enjoy. So she always had people tell her about themselves, finding her
pleasure so.

In her person she was rather small and delicate, with a large brow, and
dropping bunches of brown silk curls. Her blue eyes were very straight,
honest, and searching. She had the beautiful hands of the Coppards.
Her dress was always subdued. She wore dark blue silk, with a peculiar
silver chain of silver scallops. This, and a heavy brooch of twisted
gold, was her only ornament. She was still perfectly intact, deeply
religious, and full of beautiful candour.

Walter Morel seemed melted away before her. She was to the miner that
thing of mystery and fascination, a lady. When she spoke to him, it was
with a southern pronunciation and a purity of English which thrilled
him to hear. She watched him. He danced well, as if it were natural and
joyous in him to dance. His grandfather was a French refugee who had
married an English barmaid--if it had been a marriage. Gertrude Coppard
watched the young miner as he danced, a certain subtle exultation like
glamour in his movement, and his face the flower of his body, ruddy,
with tumbled black hair, and laughing alike whatever partner he bowed
above. She thought him rather wonderful, never having met anyone like
him. Her father was to her the type of all men. And George Coppard,
proud in his bearing, handsome, and rather bitter; who preferred
theology in reading, and who drew near in sympathy only to one man, the
Apostle Paul; who was harsh in government, and in familiarity ironic;
who ignored all sensuous pleasure:--he was very different from the
miner. Gertrude herself was rather contemptuous of dancing; she had not
the slightest inclination towards that accomplishment, and had never
learned even a Roger de Coverley. She was puritan, like her father,
high-minded, and really stern. Therefore the dusky, golden softness of
this man's sensuous flame of life, that flowed off his flesh like the
flame from a candle, not baffled and gripped into incandescence by
thought and spirit as her life was, seemed to her something wonderful,
beyond her.

He came and bowed above her. A warmth radiated through her as if she had
drunk wine.

"Now do come and have this one wi' me," he said caressively. "It's easy,
you know. I'm pining to see you dance."

She had told him before she could not dance. She glanced at his humility
and smiled. Her smile was very beautiful. It moved the man so that he
forgot everything.

"No, I won't dance," she said softly. Her words came clean and ringing.

Not knowing what he was doing--he often did the right thing by
instinct--he sat beside her, inclining reverentially.

"But you mustn't miss your dance," she reproved.


"Nay, I don't want to dance that--it's not one as I care about."

"Yet you invited me to it."

He laughed very heartily at this.

"I never thought o' that. Tha'rt not long in taking the curl out of me."

It was her turn to laugh quickly.

"You don't look as if you'd come much uncurled," she said.

"I'm like a pig's tail, I curl because I canna help it," he laughed,
rather boisterously.

"And you are a miner!" she exclaimed in surprise.

"Yes. I went down when I was ten."

She looked at him in wondering dismay.

"When you were ten! And wasn't it very hard?" she asked.

"You soon get used to it. You live like th' mice, an' you pop out at
night to see what's going on."

"It makes me feel blind," she frowned.

"Like a moudiwarp!" he laughed. "Yi, an' there's some chaps as does
go round like moudiwarps." He thrust his face forward in the blind,
snout-like way of a mole, seeming to sniff and peer for direction. "They
dun though!" he protested naively. "Tha niver seed such a way they get
in. But tha mun let me ta'e thee down some time, an' tha can see for
thysen."

She looked at him, startled. This was a new tract of life suddenly
opened before her. She realised the life of the miners, hundreds of them
toiling below earth and coming up at evening. He seemed to her noble. He
risked his life daily, and with gaiety. She looked at him, with a touch
of appeal in her pure humility.

"Shouldn't ter like it?" he asked tenderly. "'Appen not, it 'ud dirty
thee."

She had never been "thee'd" and "thou'd" before.

The next Christmas they were married, and for three months she was
perfectly happy: for six months she was very happy.

He had signed the pledge, and wore the blue ribbon of a tee-totaller: he
was nothing if not showy. They lived, she thought, in his own house.
It was small, but convenient enough, and quite nicely furnished,
with solid, worthy stuff that suited her honest soul. The women, her
neighbours, were rather foreign to her, and Morel's mother and sisters
were apt to sneer at her ladylike ways. But she could perfectly well
live by herself, so long as she had her husband close.

Sometimes, when she herself wearied of love-talk, she tried to open her
heart seriously to him. She saw him listen deferentially, but without
understanding. This killed her efforts at a finer intimacy, and she had
flashes of fear. Sometimes he was restless of an evening: it was not
enough for him just to be near her, she realised. She was glad when he
set himself to little jobs.

He was a remarkably handy man--could make or mend anything. So she would
say:

"I do like that coal-rake of your mother's--it is small and natty."

"Does ter, my wench? Well, I made that, so I can make thee one!"

"What! why, it's a steel one!"

"An' what if it is! Tha s'lt ha'e one very similar, if not exactly
same."

She did not mind the mess, nor the hammering and noise. He was busy and
happy.

But in the seventh month, when she was brushing his Sunday coat, she
felt papers in the breast pocket, and, seized with a sudden curiosity,
took them out to read. He very rarely wore the frock-coat he was married
in: and it had not occurred to her before to feel curious concerning the
papers. They were the bills of the household furniture, still unpaid.

"Look here," she said at night, after he was washed and had had his
dinner. "I found these in the pocket of your wedding-coat. Haven't you
settled the bills yet?"

"No. I haven't had a chance."

"But you told me all was paid. I had better go into Nottingham on
Saturday and settle them. I don't like sitting on another man's chairs
and eating from an unpaid table."

He did not answer.

"I can have your bank-book, can't I?"

"Tha can ha'e it, for what good it'll be to thee."

"I thought--" she began. He had told her he had a good bit of money left
over. But she realised it was no use asking questions. She sat rigid
with bitterness and indignation.

The next day she went down to see his mother.

"Didn't you buy the furniture for Walter?" she asked.

"Yes, I did," tartly retorted the elder woman.

"And how much did he give you to pay for it?"

The elder woman was stung with fine indignation.

"Eighty pound, if you're so keen on knowin'," she replied.

"Eighty pounds! But there are forty-two pounds still owing!"

"I can't help that."

"But where has it all gone?"

"You'll find all the papers, I think, if you look--beside ten pound as
he owed me, an' six pound as the wedding cost down here."

"Six pounds!" echoed Gertrude Morel. It seemed to her monstrous that,
after her own father had paid so heavily for her wedding, six pounds
more should have been squandered in eating and drinking at Walter's
parents' house, at his expense.

"And how much has he sunk in his houses?" she asked.

"His houses--which houses?"

Gertrude Morel went white to the lips. He had told her the house he
lived in, and the next one, was his own.

"I thought the house we live in--" she began.

"They're my houses, those two," said the mother-in-law. "And not clear
either. It's as much as I can do to keep the mortgage interest paid."

Gertrude sat white and silent. She was her father now.

"Then we ought to be paying you rent," she said coldly.

"Walter is paying me rent," replied the mother.

"And what rent?" asked Gertrude.

"Six and six a week," retorted the mother.

It was more than the house was worth. Gertrude held her head erect,
looked straight before her.

"It is lucky to be you," said the elder woman, bitingly, "to have a
husband as takes all the worry of the money, and leaves you a free
hand."

The young wife was silent.

She said very little to her husband, but her manner had changed towards
him. Something in her proud, honourable soul had crystallised out hard
as rock.

When October came in, she thought only of Christmas. Two years ago, at
Christmas, she had met him. Last Christmas she had married him. This
Christmas she would bear him a child.

"You don't dance yourself, do you, missis?" asked her nearest neighbour,
in October, when there was great talk of opening a dancing-class over
the Brick and Tile Inn at Bestwood.

"No--I never had the least inclination to," Mrs. Morel replied.

"Fancy! An' how funny as you should ha' married your Mester. You know
he's quite a famous one for dancing."

"I didn't know he was famous," laughed Mrs. Morel.

"Yea, he is though! Why, he ran that dancing-class in the Miners' Arms
club-room for over five year."

"Did he?"

"Yes, he did." The other woman was defiant. "An' it was thronged
every Tuesday, and Thursday, an' Sat'day--an' there WAS carryin's-on,
accordin' to all accounts."

This kind of thing was gall and bitterness to Mrs. Morel, and she had
a fair share of it. The women did not spare her, at first; for she was
superior, though she could not help it.

He began to be rather late in coming home.

"They're working very late now, aren't they?" she said to her
washer-woman.

"No later than they allers do, I don't think. But they stop to have
their pint at Ellen's, an' they get talkin', an' there you are! Dinner
stone cold--an' it serves 'em right."

"But Mr. Morel does not take any drink."

The woman dropped the clothes, looked at Mrs. Morel, then went on with
her work, saying nothing.

Gertrude Morel was very ill when the boy was born. Morel was good to
her, as good as gold. But she felt very lonely, miles away from her own
people. She felt lonely with him now, and his presence only made it more
intense.

The boy was small and frail at first, but he came on quickly. He was
a beautiful child, with dark gold ringlets, and dark-blue eyes which
changed gradually to a clear grey. His mother loved him passionately.
He came just when her own bitterness of disillusion was hardest to bear;
when her faith in life was shaken, and her soul felt dreary and lonely.
She made much of the child, and the father was jealous.

At last Mrs. Morel despised her husband. She turned to the child; she
turned from the father. He had begun to neglect her; the novelty of his
own home was gone. He had no grit, she said bitterly to herself. What
he felt just at the minute, that was all to him. He could not abide by
anything. There was nothing at the back of all his show.

There began a battle between the husband and wife--a fearful, bloody
battle that ended only with the death of one. She fought to make him
undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfill his obligations.
But he was too different from her. His nature was purely sensuous, and
she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face
things. He could not endure it--it drove him out of his mind.

While the baby was still tiny, the father's temper had become so
irritable that it was not to be trusted. The child had only to give a
little trouble when the man began to bully. A little more, and the hard
hands of the collier hit the baby. Then Mrs. Morel loathed her husband,
loathed him for days; and he went out and drank; and she cared very
little what he did. Only, on his return, she scathed him with her
satire.

The estrangement between them caused him, knowingly or unknowingly,
grossly to offend her where he would not have done.

William was only one year old, and his mother was proud of him, he was
so pretty. She was not well off now, but her sisters kept the boy in
clothes. Then, with his little white hat curled with an ostrich feather,
and his white coat, he was a joy to her, the twining wisps of hair
clustering round his head. Mrs. Morel lay listening, one Sunday morning,
to the chatter of the father and child downstairs. Then she dozed off.
When she came downstairs, a great fire glowed in the grate, the room was
hot, the breakfast was roughly laid, and seated in his armchair, against
the chimney-piece, sat Morel, rather timid; and standing between
his legs, the child--cropped like a sheep, with such an odd round
poll--looking wondering at her; and on a newspaper spread out upon
the hearthrug, a myriad of crescent-shaped curls, like the petals of a
marigold scattered in the reddening firelight.

Mrs. Morel stood still. It was her first baby. She went very white, and
was unable to speak.

"What dost think o' 'im?" Morel laughed uneasily.

She gripped her two fists, lifted them, and came forward. Morel shrank
back.

"I could kill you, I could!" she said. She choked with rage, her two
fists uplifted.

"Yer non want ter make a wench on 'im," Morel said, in a frightened
tone, bending his head to shield his eyes from hers. His attempt at
laughter had vanished.

The mother looked down at the jagged, close-clipped head of her child.
She put her hands on his hair, and stroked and fondled his head.

"Oh--my boy!" she faltered. Her lip trembled, her face broke, and,
snatching up the child, she buried her face in his shoulder and cried
painfully. She was one of those women who cannot cry; whom it hurts as
it hurts a man. It was like ripping something out of her, her sobbing.

Morel sat with his elbows on his knees, his hands gripped together till
the knuckles were white. He gazed in the fire, feeling almost stunned,
as if he could not breathe.

Presently she came to an end, soothed the child and cleared away the
breakfast-table. She left the newspaper, littered with curls, spread
upon the hearthrug. At last her husband gathered it up and put it at
the back of the fire. She went about her work with closed mouth and very
quiet. Morel was subdued. He crept about wretchedly, and his meals were
a misery that day. She spoke to him civilly, and never alluded to what
he had done. But he felt something final had happened.

Afterwards she said she had been silly, that the boy's hair would have
had to be cut, sooner or later. In the end, she even brought herself to
say to her husband it was just as well he had played barber when he
did. But she knew, and Morel knew, that that act had caused something
momentous to take place in her soul. She remembered the scene all her
life, as one in which she had suffered the most intensely.

This act of masculine clumsiness was the spear through the side of her
love for Morel. Before, while she had striven against him bitterly, she
had fretted after him, as if he had gone astray from her. Now she ceased
to fret for his love: he was an outsider to her. This made life much
more bearable.

Nevertheless, she still continued to strive with him. She still had her
high moral sense, inherited from generations of Puritans. It was now a
religious instinct, and she was almost a fanatic with him, because
she loved him, or had loved him. If he sinned, she tortured him. If he
drank, and lied, was often a poltroon, sometimes a knave, she wielded
the lash unmercifully.

The pity was, she was too much his opposite. She could not be content
with the little he might be; she would have him the much that he ought
to be. So, in seeking to make him nobler than he could be, she destroyed
him. She injured and hurt and scarred herself, but she lost none of her
worth. She also had the children.

He drank rather heavily, though not more than many miners, and always
beer, so that whilst his health was affected, it was never injured.
The week-end was his chief carouse. He sat in the Miners' Arms until
turning-out time every Friday, every Saturday, and every Sunday evening.
On Monday and Tuesday he had to get up and reluctantly leave towards ten
o'clock. Sometimes he stayed at home on Wednesday and Thursday evenings,
or was only out for an hour. He practically never had to miss work owing
to his drinking.

But although he was very steady at work, his wages fell off. He was
blab-mouthed, a tongue-wagger. Authority was hateful to him, therefore
he could only abuse the pit-managers. He would say, in the Palmerston:

"Th' gaffer come down to our stall this morning, an' 'e says, 'You know,
Walter, this 'ere'll not do. What about these props?' An' I says to him,
'Why, what art talkin' about? What d'st mean about th' props?' 'It'll
never do, this 'ere,' 'e says. 'You'll be havin' th' roof in, one o'
these days.' An' I says, 'Tha'd better stan' on a bit o' clunch, then,
an' hold it up wi' thy 'ead.' So 'e wor that mad, 'e cossed an' 'e
swore, an' t'other chaps they did laugh." Morel was a good mimic. He
imitated the manager's fat, squeaky voice, with its attempt at good
English.

"'I shan't have it, Walter. Who knows more about it, me or you?' So
I says, 'I've niver fun out how much tha' knows, Alfred. It'll 'appen
carry thee ter bed an' back."'

So Morel would go on to the amusement of his boon companions. And some
of this would be true. The pit-manager was not an educated man. He had
been a boy along with Morel, so that, while the two disliked each other,
they more or less took each other for granted. But Alfred Charlesworth
did not forgive the butty these public-house sayings. Consequently,
although Morel was a good miner, sometimes earning as much as five
pounds a week when he married, he came gradually to have worse and worse
stalls, where the coal was thin, and hard to get, and unprofitable.

Also, in summer, the pits are slack. Often, on bright sunny mornings,
the men are seen trooping home again at ten, eleven, or twelve o'clock.
No empty trucks stand at the pit-mouth. The women on the hillside look
across as they shake the hearthrug against the fence, and count the
wagons the engine is taking along the line up the valley. And the
children, as they come from school at dinner-time, looking down the
fields and seeing the wheels on the headstocks standing, say:

"Minton's knocked off. My dad'll be at home."

And there is a sort of shadow over all, women and children and men,
because money will be short at the end of the week.

Morel was supposed to give his wife thirty shillings a week, to
provide everything--rent, food, clothes, clubs, insurance, doctors.
Occasionally, if he were flush, he gave her thirty-five. But these
occasions by no means balanced those when he gave her twenty-five. In
winter, with a decent stall, the miner might earn fifty or fifty-five
shillings a week. Then he was happy. On Friday night, Saturday, and
Sunday, he spent royally, getting rid of his sovereign or thereabouts.
And out of so much, he scarcely spared the children an extra penny or
bought them a pound of apples. It all went in drink. In the bad times,
matters were more worrying, but he was not so often drunk, so that Mrs.
Morel used to say:

"I'm not sure I wouldn't rather be short, for when he's flush, there
isn't a minute of peace."

If he earned forty shillings he kept ten; from thirty-five he kept five;
from thirty-two he kept four; from twenty-eight he kept three; from
twenty-four he kept two; from twenty he kept one-and-six; from eighteen
he kept a shilling; from sixteen he kept sixpence. He never saved a
penny, and he gave his wife no opportunity of saving; instead, she had
occasionally to pay his debts; not public-house debts, for those never
were passed on to the women, but debts when he had bought a canary, or a
fancy walking-stick.

At the wakes time Morel was working badly, and Mrs. Morel was trying
to save against her confinement. So it galled her bitterly to think
he should be out taking his pleasure and spending money, whilst she
remained at home, harassed. There were two days' holiday. On the Tuesday
morning Morel rose early. He was in good spirits. Quite early, before
six o'clock, she heard him whistling away to himself downstairs. He
had a pleasant way of whistling, lively and musical. He nearly always
whistled hymns. He had been a choir-boy with a beautiful voice, and had
taken solos in Southwell cathedral. His morning whistling alone betrayed
it.

His wife lay listening to him tinkering away in the garden, his
whistling ringing out as he sawed and hammered away. It always gave
her a sense of warmth and peace to hear him thus as she lay in bed, the
children not yet awake, in the bright early morning, happy in his man's
fashion.

At nine o'clock, while the children with bare legs and feet were sitting
playing on the sofa, and the mother was washing up, he came in from his
carpentry, his sleeves rolled up, his waistcoat hanging open. He was
still a good-looking man, with black, wavy hair, and a large black
moustache. His face was perhaps too much inflamed, and there was about
him a look almost of peevishness. But now he was jolly. He went straight
to the sink where his wife was washing up.

"What, are thee there!" he said boisterously. "Sluthe off an' let me
wesh mysen."

"You may wait till I've finished," said his wife.

"Oh, mun I? An' what if I shonna?"

This good-humoured threat amused Mrs. Morel.

"Then you can go and wash yourself in the soft-water tub."

"Ha! I can' an' a', tha mucky little 'ussy."

With which he stood watching her a moment, then went away to wait for
her.

When he chose he could still make himself again a real gallant. Usually
he preferred to go out with a scarf round his neck. Now, however, he
made a toilet. There seemed so much gusto in the way he puffed and
swilled as he washed himself, so much alacrity with which he hurried to
the mirror in the kitchen, and, bending because it was too low for him,
scrupulously parted his wet black hair, that it irritated Mrs. Morel. He
put on a turn-down collar, a black bow, and wore his Sunday tail-coat.
As such, he looked spruce, and what his clothes would not do, his
instinct for making the most of his good looks would.

At half-past nine Jerry Purdy came to call for his pal. Jerry was
Morel's bosom friend, and Mrs. Morel disliked him. He was a tall,
thin man, with a rather foxy face, the kind of face that seems to lack
eyelashes. He walked with a stiff, brittle dignity, as if his head were
on a wooden spring. His nature was cold and shrewd. Generous where he
intended to be generous, he seemed to be very fond of Morel, and more or
less to take charge of him.

Mrs. Morel hated him. She had known his wife, who had died of
consumption, and who had, at the end, conceived such a violent dislike
of her husband, that if he came into her room it caused her haemorrhage.
None of which Jerry had seemed to mind. And now his eldest daughter,
a girl of fifteen, kept a poor house for him, and looked after the two
younger children.

"A mean, wizzen-hearted stick!" Mrs. Morel said of him.

"I've never known Jerry mean in MY life," protested Morel. "A
opener-handed and more freer chap you couldn't find anywhere, accordin'
to my knowledge."

"Open-handed to you," retorted Mrs. Morel. "But his fist is shut tight
enough to his children, poor things."

"Poor things! And what for are they poor things, I should like to know."

But Mrs. Morel would not be appeased on Jerry's score.

The subject of argument was seen, craning his thin neck over the
scullery curtain. He caught Mrs. Morel's eye.

"Mornin', missis! Mester in?"

"Yes--he is."

Jerry entered unasked, and stood by the kitchen doorway. He was not
invited to sit down, but stood there, coolly asserting the rights of men
and husbands.

"A nice day," he said to Mrs. Morel.

"Yes.

"Grand out this morning--grand for a walk."

"Do you mean YOU'RE going for a walk?" she asked.

"Yes. We mean walkin' to Nottingham," he replied.

"H'm!"

The two men greeted each other, both glad: Jerry, however, full of
assurance, Morel rather subdued, afraid to seem too jubilant in presence
of his wife. But he laced his boots quickly, with spirit. They were
going for a ten-mile walk across the fields to Nottingham. Climbing the
hillside from the Bottoms, they mounted gaily into the morning. At the
Moon and Stars they had their first drink, then on to the Old Spot. Then
a long five miles of drought to carry them into Bulwell to a glorious
pint of bitter. But they stayed in a field with some haymakers whose
gallon bottle was full, so that, when they came in sight of the city,
Morel was sleepy. The town spread upwards before them, smoking vaguely
in the midday glare, fridging the crest away to the south with spires
and factory bulks and chimneys. In the last field Morel lay down under
an oak tree and slept soundly for over an hour. When he rose to go
forward he felt queer.

The two had dinner in the Meadows, with Jerry's sister, then repaired
to the Punch Bowl, where they mixed in the excitement of pigeon-racing.
Morel never in his life played cards, considering them as having some
occult, malevolent power--"the devil's pictures," he called them! But
he was a master of skittles and of dominoes. He took a challenge from
a Newark man, on skittles. All the men in the old, long bar took sides,
betting either one way or the other. Morel took off his coat. Jerry held
the hat containing the money. The men at the tables watched. Some
stood with their mugs in their hands. Morel felt his big wooden ball
carefully, then launched it. He played havoc among the nine-pins, and
won half a crown, which restored him to solvency.

By seven o'clock the two were in good condition. They caught the 7.30
train home.

In the afternoon the Bottoms was intolerable. Every inhabitant remaining
was out of doors. The women, in twos and threes, bareheaded and in white
aprons, gossiped in the alley between the blocks. Men, having a rest
between drinks, sat on their heels and talked. The place smelled stale;
the slate roofs glistered in the arid heat.

Mrs. Morel took the little girl down to the brook in the meadows, which
were not more than two hundred yards away. The water ran quickly over
stones and broken pots. Mother and child leaned on the rail of the old
sheep-bridge, watching. Up at the dipping-hole, at the other end of the
meadow, Mrs. Morel could see the naked forms of boys flashing round the
deep yellow water, or an occasional bright figure dart glittering over
the blackish stagnant meadow. She knew William was at the dipping-hole,
and it was the dread of her life lest he should get drowned. Annie
played under the tall old hedge, picking up alder cones, that she called
currants. The child required much attention, and the flies were teasing.

The children were put to bed at seven o'clock. Then she worked awhile.

When Walter Morel and Jerry arrived at Bestwood they felt a load off
their minds; a railway journey no longer impended, so they could put the
finishing touches to a glorious day. They entered the Nelson with the
satisfaction of returned travellers.

The next day was a work-day, and the thought of it put a damper on the
men's spirits. Most of them, moreover, had spent their money. Some were
already rolling dismally home, to sleep in preparation for the morrow.
Mrs. Morel, listening to their mournful singing, went indoors. Nine
o'clock passed, and ten, and still "the pair" had not returned. On a
doorstep somewhere a man was singing loudly, in a drawl: "Lead, kindly
Light." Mrs. Morel was always indignant with the drunken men that they
must sing that hymn when they got maudlin.

"As if 'Genevieve' weren't good enough," she said.

The kitchen was full of the scent of boiled herbs and hops. On the hob a
large black saucepan steamed slowly. Mrs. Morel took a panchion, a great
bowl of thick red earth, streamed a heap of white sugar into the bottom,
and then, straining herself to the weight, was pouring in the liquor.

Just then Morel came in. He had been very jolly in the Nelson, but
coming home had grown irritable. He had not quite got over the feeling
of irritability and pain, after having slept on the ground when he was
so hot; and a bad conscience afflicted him as he neared the house.
He did not know he was angry. But when the garden gate resisted his
attempts to open it, he kicked it and broke the latch. He entered just
as Mrs. Morel was pouring the infusion of herbs out of the saucepan.
Swaying slightly, he lurched against the table. The boiling liquor
pitched. Mrs. Morel started back.

"Good gracious," she cried, "coming home in his drunkenness!"

"Comin' home in his what?" he snarled, his hat over his eye.

Suddenly her blood rose in a jet.

"Say you're NOT drunk!" she flashed.

She had put down her saucepan, and was stirring the sugar into the
beer. He dropped his two hands heavily on the table, and thrust his face
forwards at her.

"'Say you're not drunk,'" he repeated. "Why, nobody but a nasty little
bitch like you 'ud 'ave such a thought."

He thrust his face forward at her.

"There's money to bezzle with, if there's money for nothing else."

"I've not spent a two-shillin' bit this day," he said.

"You don't get as drunk as a lord on nothing," she replied. "And,"
she cried, flashing into sudden fury, "if you've been sponging on your
beloved Jerry, why, let him look after his children, for they need it."

"It's a lie, it's a lie. Shut your face, woman."

They were now at battle-pitch. Each forgot everything save the hatred of
the other and the battle between them. She was fiery and furious as he.
They went on till he called her a liar.

"No," she cried, starting up, scarce able to breathe. "Don't call me
that--you, the most despicable liar that ever walked in shoe-leather."
She forced the last words out of suffocated lungs.

"You're a liar!" he yelled, banging the table with his fist. "You're a
liar, you're a liar."

She stiffened herself, with clenched fists.

"The house is filthy with you," she cried.

"Then get out on it--it's mine. Get out on it!" he shouted. "It's me as
brings th' money whoam, not thee. It's my house, not thine. Then ger out
on't--ger out on't!"

"And I would," she cried, suddenly shaken into tears of impotence. "Ah,
wouldn't I, wouldn't I have gone long ago, but for those children. Ay,
haven't I repented not going years ago, when I'd only the one"--suddenly
drying into rage. "Do you think it's for YOU I stop--do you think I'd
stop one minute for YOU?"

"Go, then," he shouted, beside himself. "Go!"

"No!" She faced round. "No," she cried loudly, "you shan't have it ALL
your own way; you shan't do ALL you like. I've got those children to see
to. My word," she laughed, "I should look well to leave them to you."

"Go," he cried thickly, lifting his fist. He was afraid of her. "Go!"

"I should be only too glad. I should laugh, laugh, my lord, if I could
get away from you," she replied.

He came up to her, his red face, with its bloodshot eyes, thrust
forward, and gripped her arms. She cried in fear of him, struggled to be
free. Coming slightly to himself, panting, he pushed her roughly to the
outer door, and thrust her forth, slotting the bolt behind her with a
bang. Then he went back into the kitchen, dropped into his armchair, his
head, bursting full of blood, sinking between his knees. Thus he dipped
gradually into a stupor, from exhaustion and intoxication.

The moon was high and magnificent in the August night. Mrs. Morel,
seared with passion, shivered to find herself out there in a great white
light, that fell cold on her, and gave a shock to her inflamed soul.
She stood for a few moments helplessly staring at the glistening great
rhubarb leaves near the door. Then she got the air into her breast. She
walked down the garden path, trembling in every limb, while the child
boiled within her. For a while she could not control her consciousness;
mechanically she went over the last scene, then over it again, certain
phrases, certain moments coming each time like a brand red-hot down on
her soul; and each time she enacted again the past hour, each time the
brand came down at the same points, till the mark was burnt in, and the
pain burnt out, and at last she came to herself. She must have been half
an hour in this delirious condition. Then the presence of the night came
again to her. She glanced round in fear. She had wandered to the side
garden, where she was walking up and down the path beside the currant
bushes under the long wall. The garden was a narrow strip, bounded from
the road, that cut transversely between the blocks, by a thick thorn
hedge.

She hurried out of the side garden to the front, where she could stand
as if in an immense gulf of white light, the moon streaming high in face
of her, the moonlight standing up from the hills in front, and filling
the valley where the Bottoms crouched, almost blindingly. There, panting
and half weeping in reaction from the stress, she murmured to herself
over and over again: "The nuisance! the nuisance!"

She became aware of something about her. With an effort she roused
herself to see what it was that penetrated her consciousness. The tall
white lilies were reeling in the moonlight, and the air was charged with
their perfume, as with a presence. Mrs. Morel gasped slightly in fear.
She touched the big, pallid flowers on their petals, then shivered.
They seemed to be stretching in the moonlight. She put her hand into
one white bin: the gold scarcely showed on her fingers by moonlight. She
bent down to look at the binful of yellow pollen; but it only appeared
dusky. Then she drank a deep draught of the scent. It almost made her
dizzy.

Mrs. Morel leaned on the garden gate, looking out, and she lost herself
awhile. She did not know what she thought. Except for a slight feeling
of sickness, and her consciousness in the child, herself melted out like
scent into the shiny, pale air. After a time the child, too, melted with
her in the mixing-pot of moonlight, and she rested with the hills and
lilies and houses, all swum together in a kind of swoon.

When she came to herself she was tired for sleep. Languidly she looked
about her; the clumps of white phlox seemed like bushes spread with
linen; a moth ricochetted over them, and right across the garden.
Following it with her eye roused her. A few whiffs of the raw, strong
scent of phlox invigorated her. She passed along the path, hesitating at
the white rose-bush. It smelled sweet and simple. She touched the white
ruffles of the roses. Their fresh scent and cool, soft leaves reminded
her of the morning-time and sunshine. She was very fond of them. But she
was tired, and wanted to sleep. In the mysterious out-of-doors she felt
forlorn.

There was no noise anywhere. Evidently the children had not been
wakened, or had gone to sleep again. A train, three miles away,
roared across the valley. The night was very large, and very strange,
stretching its hoary distances infinitely. And out of the silver-grey
fog of darkness came sounds vague and hoarse: a corncrake not far off,
sound of a train like a sigh, and distant shouts of men.

Her quietened heart beginning to beat quickly again, she hurried down
the side garden to the back of the house. Softly she lifted the latch;
the door was still bolted, and hard against her. She rapped gently,
waited, then rapped again. She must not rouse the children, nor the
neighbours. He must be asleep, and he would not wake easily. Her heart
began to burn to be indoors. She clung to the door-handle. Now it was
cold; she would take a chill, and in her present condition!

Putting her apron over her head and her arms, she hurried again to the
side garden, to the window of the kitchen. Leaning on the sill, she
could just see, under the blind, her husband's arms spread out on the
table, and his black head on the board. He was sleeping with his face
lying on the table. Something in his attitude made her feel tired of
things. The lamp was burning smokily; she could tell by the copper
colour of the light. She tapped at the window more and more noisily.
Almost it seemed as if the glass would break. Still he did not wake up.

After vain efforts, she began to shiver, partly from contact with the
stone, and from exhaustion. Fearful always for the unborn child, she
wondered what she could do for warmth. She went down to the coal-house,
where there was an old hearthrug she had carried out for the rag-man the
day before. This she wrapped over her shoulders. It was warm, if grimy.
Then she walked up and down the garden path, peeping every now and then
under the blind, knocking, and telling herself that in the end the very
strain of his position must wake him.

At last, after about an hour, she rapped long and low at the window.
Gradually the sound penetrated to him. When, in despair, she had ceased
to tap, she saw him stir, then lift his face blindly. The labouring of
his heart hurt him into consciousness. She rapped imperatively at the
window. He started awake. Instantly she saw his fists set and his
eyes glare. He had not a grain of physical fear. If it had been
twenty burglars, he would have gone blindly for them. He glared round,
bewildered, but prepared to fight.

"Open the door, Walter," she said coldly.

His hands relaxed. It dawned on him what he had done. His head dropped,
sullen and dogged. She saw him hurry to the door, heard the bolt chock.
He tried the latch. It opened--and there stood the silver-grey night,
fearful to him, after the tawny light of the lamp. He hurried back.

When Mrs. Morel entered, she saw him almost running through the door
to the stairs. He had ripped his collar off his neck in his haste to
be gone ere she came in, and there it lay with bursten button-holes. It
made her angry.

She warmed and soothed herself. In her weariness forgetting everything,
she moved about at the little tasks that remained to be done, set his
breakfast, rinsed his pit-bottle, put his pit-clothes on the hearth
to warm, set his pit-boots beside them, put him out a clean scarf and
snap-bag and two apples, raked the fire, and went to bed. He was already
dead asleep. His narrow black eyebrows were drawn up in a sort of
peevish misery into his forehead while his cheeks' down-strokes, and his
sulky mouth, seemed to be saying: "I don't care who you are nor what you
are, I SHALL have my own way."

Mrs. Morel knew him too well to look at him. As she unfastened her
brooch at the mirror, she smiled faintly to see her face all smeared
with the yellow dust of lilies. She brushed it off, and at last lay
down. For some time her mind continued snapping and jetting sparks,
but she was asleep before her husband awoke from the first sleep of his
drunkenness.



CHAPTER II

THE BIRTH OF PAUL, AND ANOTHER BATTLE

AFTER such a scene as the last, Walter Morel was for some days abashed
and ashamed, but he soon regained his old bullying indifference. Yet
there was a slight shrinking, a diminishing in his assurance. Physically
even, he shrank, and his fine full presence waned. He never grew in the
least stout, so that, as he sank from his erect, assertive bearing, his
physique seemed to contract along with his pride and moral strength.

But now he realised how hard it was for his wife to drag about at her
work, and, his sympathy quickened by penitence, hastened forward with
his help. He came straight home from the pit, and stayed in at evening
till Friday, and then he could not remain at home. But he was back again
by ten o'clock, almost quite sober.

He always made his own breakfast. Being a man who rose early and had
plenty of time he did not, as some miners do, drag his wife out of bed
at six o'clock. At five, sometimes earlier, he woke, got straight out of
bed, and went downstairs. When she could not sleep, his wife lay waiting
for this time, as for a period of peace. The only real rest seemed to be
when he was out of the house.

He went downstairs in his shirt and then struggled into his
pit-trousers, which were left on the hearth to warm all night. There
was always a fire, because Mrs. Morel raked. And the first sound in
the house was the bang, bang of the poker against the raker, as Morel
smashed the remainder of the coal to make the kettle, which was filled
and left on the hob, finally boil. His cup and knife and fork, all he
wanted except just the food, was laid ready on the table on a newspaper.
Then he got his breakfast, made the tea, packed the bottom of the doors
with rugs to shut out the draught, piled a big fire, and sat down to an
hour of joy. He toasted his bacon on a fork and caught the drops of fat
on his bread; then he put the rasher on his thick slice of bread, and
cut off chunks with a clasp-knife, poured his tea into his saucer,
and was happy. With his family about, meals were never so pleasant. He
loathed a fork: it is a modern introduction which has still scarcely
reached common people. What Morel preferred was a clasp-knife. Then, in
solitude, he ate and drank, often sitting, in cold weather, on a little
stool with his back to the warm chimney-piece, his food on the fender,
his cup on the hearth. And then he read the last night's newspaper--what
of it he could--spelling it over laboriously. He preferred to keep the
blinds down and the candle lit even when it was daylight; it was the
habit of the mine.

At a quarter to six he rose, cut two thick slices of bread and butter,
and put them in the white calico snap-bag. He filled his tin bottle with
tea. Cold tea without milk or sugar was the drink he preferred for the
pit. Then he pulled off his shirt, and put on his pit-singlet, a vest
of thick flannel cut low round the neck, and with short sleeves like a
chemise.

Then he went upstairs to his wife with a cup of tea because she was ill,
and because it occurred to him.

"I've brought thee a cup o' tea, lass," he said.

"Well, you needn't, for you know I don't like it," she replied.

"Drink it up; it'll pop thee off to sleep again."

She accepted the tea. It pleased him to see her take it and sip it.

"I'll back my life there's no sugar in," she said.

"Yi--there's one big 'un," he replied, injured.

"It's a wonder," she said, sipping again.

She had a winsome face when her hair was loose. He loved her to grumble
at him in this manner. He looked at her again, and went, without any
sort of leave-taking. He never took more than two slices of bread and
butter to eat in the pit, so an apple or an orange was a treat to him.
He always liked it when she put one out for him. He tied a scarf round
his neck, put on his great, heavy boots, his coat, with the big pocket,
that carried his snap-bag and his bottle of tea, and went forth into
the fresh morning air, closing, without locking, the door behind him. He
loved the early morning, and the walk across the fields. So he appeared
at the pit-top, often with a stalk from the hedge between his teeth,
which he chewed all day to keep his mouth moist, down the mine, feeling
quite as happy as when he was in the field.

Later, when the time for the baby grew nearer, he would bustle round
in his slovenly fashion, poking out the ashes, rubbing the fireplace,
sweeping the house before he went to work. Then, feeling very
self-righteous, he went upstairs.

"Now I'm cleaned up for thee: tha's no 'casions ter stir a peg all day,
but sit and read thy books."

Which made her laugh, in spite of her indignation.

"And the dinner cooks itself?" she answered.

"Eh, I know nowt about th' dinner."

"You'd know if there weren't any."

"Ay, 'appen so," he answered, departing.

When she got downstairs, she would find the house tidy, but dirty. She
could not rest until she had thoroughly cleaned; so she went down to the
ash-pit with her dustpan. Mrs. Kirk, spying her, would contrive to have
to go to her own coal-place at that minute. Then, across the wooden
fence, she would call:

"So you keep wagging on, then?"

"Ay," answered Mrs. Morel deprecatingly. "There's nothing else for it."

"Have you seen Hose?" called a very small woman from across the road. It
was Mrs. Anthony, a black-haired, strange little body, who always wore a
brown velvet dress, tight fitting.

"I haven't," said Mrs. Morel.

"Eh, I wish he'd come. I've got a copperful of clothes, an' I'm sure I
heered his bell."

"Hark! He's at the end."

The two women looked down the alley. At the end of the Bottoms a
man stood in a sort of old-fashioned trap, bending over bundles of
cream-coloured stuff; while a cluster of women held up their arms to
him, some with bundles. Mrs. Anthony herself had a heap of creamy,
undyed stockings hanging over her arm.

"I've done ten dozen this week," she said proudly to Mrs. Morel.

"T-t-t!" went the other. "I don't know how you can find time."

"Eh!" said Mrs. Anthony. "You can find time if you make time."

"I don't know how you do it," said Mrs. Morel. "And how much shall you
get for those many?"

"Tuppence-ha'penny a dozen," replied the other.

"Well," said Mrs. Morel. "I'd starve before I'd sit down and seam
twenty-four stockings for twopence ha'penny."

"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Anthony. "You can rip along with 'em."

Hose was coming along, ringing his bell. Women were waiting at the
yard-ends with their seamed stockings hanging over their arms. The
man, a common fellow, made jokes with them, tried to swindle them, and
bullied them. Mrs. Morel went up her yard disdainfully.

It was an understood thing that if one woman wanted her neighbour, she
should put the poker in the fire and bang at the back of the fireplace,
which, as the fires were back to back, would make a great noise in the
adjoining house. One morning Mrs. Kirk, mixing a pudding, nearly started
out of her skin as she heard the thud, thud, in her grate. With her
hands all floury, she rushed to the fence.

"Did you knock, Mrs. Morel?"

"If you wouldn't mind, Mrs. Kirk."

Mrs. Kirk climbed on to her copper, got over the wall on to Mrs. Morel's
copper, and ran in to her neighbour.

"Eh, dear, how are you feeling?" she cried in concern.

"You might fetch Mrs. Bower," said Mrs. Morel.

Mrs. Kirk went into the yard, lifted up her strong, shrill voice, and
called:

"Ag-gie--Ag-gie!"

The sound was heard from one end of the Bottoms to the other. At last
Aggie came running up, and was sent for Mrs. Bower, whilst Mrs. Kirk
left her pudding and stayed with her neighbour.

Mrs. Morel went to bed. Mrs. Kirk had Annie and William for dinner. Mrs.
Bower, fat and waddling, bossed the house.

"Hash some cold meat up for the master's dinner, and make him an
apple-charlotte pudding," said Mrs. Morel.

"He may go without pudding this day," said Mrs. Bower.

Morel was not as a rule one of the first to appear at the bottom of the
pit, ready to come up. Some men were there before four o'clock, when the
whistle blew loose-all; but Morel, whose stall, a poor one, was at this
time about a mile and a half away from the bottom, worked usually till
the first mate stopped, then he finished also. This day, however, the
miner was sick of the work. At two o'clock he looked at his watch, by
the light of the green candle--he was in a safe working--and again at
half-past two. He was hewing at a piece of rock that was in the way for
the next day's work. As he sat on his heels, or kneeled, giving hard
blows with his pick, "Uszza--uszza!" he went.

"Shall ter finish, Sorry?" cried Barker, his fellow butty.

"Finish? Niver while the world stands!" growled Morel.

And he went on striking. He was tired.

"It's a heart-breaking job," said Barker.

But Morel was too exasperated, at the end of his tether, to answer.
Still he struck and hacked with all his might.

"Tha might as well leave it, Walter," said Barker. "It'll do to-morrow,
without thee hackin' thy guts out."

"I'll lay no b---- finger on this to-morrow, Isr'el!" cried Morel.

"Oh, well, if tha wunna, somebody else'll ha'e to," said Israel.

Then Morel continued to strike.

"Hey-up there--LOOSE-A'!" cried the men, leaving the next stall.

Morel continued to strike.

"Tha'll happen catch me up," said Barker, departing.

When he had gone, Morel, left alone, felt savage. He had not finished
his job. He had overworked himself into a frenzy. Rising, wet with
sweat, he threw his tool down, pulled on his coat, blew out his candle,
took his lamp, and went. Down the main road the lights of the other men
went swinging. There was a hollow sound of many voices. It was a long,
heavy tramp underground.

He sat at the bottom of the pit, where the great drops of water fell
plash. Many colliers were waiting their turns to go up, talking noisily.
Morel gave his answers short and disagreeable.

"It's rainin', Sorry," said old Giles, who had had the news from the
top.

Morel found one comfort. He had his old umbrella, which he loved, in the
lamp cabin. At last he took his stand on the chair, and was at the top
in a moment. Then he handed in his lamp and got his umbrella, which he
had bought at an auction for one-and-six. He stood on the edge of
the pit-bank for a moment, looking out over the fields; grey rain was
falling. The trucks stood full of wet, bright coal. Water ran down the
sides of the waggons, over the white "C.W. and Co.". Colliers, walking
indifferent to the rain, were streaming down the line and up the field,
a grey, dismal host. Morel put up his umbrella, and took pleasure from
the peppering of the drops thereon.

All along the road to Bestwood the miners tramped, wet and grey and
dirty, but their red mouths talking with animation. Morel also walked
with a gang, but he said nothing. He frowned peevishly as he went. Many
men passed into the Prince of Wales or into Ellen's. Morel, feeling
sufficiently disagreeable to resist temptation, trudged along under
the dripping trees that overhung the park wall, and down the mud of
Greenhill Lane.

Mrs. Morel lay in bed, listening to the rain, and the feet of the
colliers from Minton, their voices, and the bang, bang of the gates as
they went through the stile up the field.

"There's some herb beer behind the pantry door," she said. "Th'
master'll want a drink, if he doesn't stop."

But he was late, so she concluded he had called for a drink, since it
was raining. What did he care about the child or her?

She was very ill when her children were born.

"What is it?" she asked, feeling sick to death.

"A boy."

And she took consolation in that. The thought of being the mother of men
was warming to her heart. She looked at the child. It had blue eyes,
and a lot of fair hair, and was bonny. Her love came up hot, in spite of
everything. She had it in bed with her.

Morel, thinking nothing, dragged his way up the garden path, wearily
and angrily. He closed his umbrella, and stood it in the sink; then he
sluthered his heavy boots into the kitchen. Mrs. Bower appeared in the
inner doorway.

"Well," she said, "she's about as bad as she can be. It's a boy childt."

The miner grunted, put his empty snap-bag and his tin bottle on the
dresser, went back into the scullery and hung up his coat, then came and
dropped into his chair.

"Han yer got a drink?" he asked.

The woman went into the pantry. There was heard the pop of a cork. She
set the mug, with a little, disgusted rap, on the table before Morel. He
drank, gasped, wiped his big moustache on the end of his scarf, drank,
gasped, and lay back in his chair. The woman would not speak to him
again. She set his dinner before him, and went upstairs.

"Was that the master?" asked Mrs. Morel.

"I've gave him his dinner," replied Mrs. Bower.

After he had sat with his arms on the table--he resented the fact that
Mrs. Bower put no cloth on for him, and gave him a little plate, instead
of a full-sized dinner-plate--he began to eat. The fact that his wife
was ill, that he had another boy, was nothing to him at that moment.
He was too tired; he wanted his dinner; he wanted to sit with his arms
lying on the board; he did not like having Mrs. Bower about. The fire
was too small to please him.

After he had finished his meal, he sat for twenty minutes; then he
stoked up a big fire. Then, in his stockinged feet, he went reluctantly
upstairs. It was a struggle to face his wife at this moment, and he was
tired. His face was black, and smeared with sweat. His singlet had
dried again, soaking the dirt in. He had a dirty woollen scarf round his
throat. So he stood at the foot of the bed.

"Well, how are ter, then?" he asked.

"I s'll be all right," she answered.

"H'm!"

He stood at a loss what to say next. He was tired, and this bother was
rather a nuisance to him, and he didn't quite know where he was.

"A lad, tha says," he stammered.

She turned down the sheet and showed the child.

"Bless him!" he murmured. Which made her laugh, because he blessed by
rote--pretending paternal emotion, which he did not feel just then.

"Go now," she said.

"I will, my lass," he answered, turning away.

Dismissed, he wanted to kiss her, but he dared not. She half wanted
him to kiss her, but could not bring herself to give any sign. She only
breathed freely when he was gone out of the room again, leaving behind
him a faint smell of pit-dirt.

Mrs. Morel had a visit every day from the Congregational clergyman. Mr.
Heaton was young, and very poor. His wife had died at the birth of his
first baby, so he remained alone in the manse. He was a Bachelor of Arts
of Cambridge, very shy, and no preacher. Mrs. Morel was fond of him, and
he depended on her. For hours he talked to her, when she was well. He
became the god-parent of the child.

Occasionally the minister stayed to tea with Mrs. Morel. Then she laid
the cloth early, got out her best cups, with a little green rim, and
hoped Morel would not come too soon; indeed, if he stayed for a pint,
she would not mind this day. She had always two dinners to cook, because
she believed children should have their chief meal at midday, whereas
Morel needed his at five o'clock. So Mr. Heaton would hold the baby,
whilst Mrs. Morel beat up a batter-pudding or peeled the potatoes, and
he, watching her all the time, would discuss his next sermon. His ideas
were quaint and fantastic. She brought him judiciously to earth. It was
a discussion of the wedding at Cana.

"When He changed the water into wine at Cana," he said, "that is a
symbol that the ordinary life, even the blood, of the married husband
and wife, which had before been uninspired, like water, became filled
with the Spirit, and was as wine, because, when love enters, the whole
spiritual constitution of a man changes, is filled with the Holy Ghost,
and almost his form is altered."

Mrs. Morel thought to herself:

"Yes, poor fellow, his young wife is dead; that is why he makes his love
into the Holy Ghost."

They were halfway down their first cup of tea when they heard the
sluther of pit-boots.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel, in spite of herself.

The minister looked rather scared. Morel entered. He was feeling rather
savage. He nodded a "How d'yer do" to the clergyman, who rose to shake
hands with him.

"Nay," said Morel, showing his hand, "look thee at it! Tha niver
wants ter shake hands wi' a hand like that, does ter? There's too much
pick-haft and shovel-dirt on it."

The minister flushed with confusion, and sat down again. Mrs. Morel
rose, carried out the steaming saucepan. Morel took off his coat,
dragged his armchair to table, and sat down heavily.

"Are you tired?" asked the clergyman.

"Tired? I ham that," replied Morel. "YOU don't know what it is to be
tired, as I'M tired."

"No," replied the clergyman.

"Why, look yer 'ere," said the miner, showing the shoulders of his
singlet. "It's a bit dry now, but it's wet as a clout with sweat even
yet. Feel it."

"Goodness!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Mr. Heaton doesn't want to feel your
nasty singlet."

The clergyman put out his hand gingerly.

"No, perhaps he doesn't," said Morel; "but it's all come out of me,
whether or not. An' iv'ry day alike my singlet's wringin' wet. 'Aven't
you got a drink, Missis, for a man when he comes home barkled up from
the pit?"

"You know you drank all the beer," said Mrs. Morel, pouring out his tea.

"An' was there no more to be got?" Turning to the clergyman--"A man gets
that caked up wi' th' dust, you know,--that clogged up down a coal-mine,
he NEEDS a drink when he comes home."

"I am sure he does," said the clergyman.

"But it's ten to one if there's owt for him."

"There's water--and there's tea," said Mrs. Morel.

"Water! It's not water as'll clear his throat."

He poured out a saucerful of tea, blew it, and sucked it up through his
great black moustache, sighing afterwards. Then he poured out another
saucerful, and stood his cup on the table.

"My cloth!" said Mrs. Morel, putting it on a plate.

"A man as comes home as I do 's too tired to care about cloths," said
Morel.

"Pity!" exclaimed his wife, sarcastically.

The room was full of the smell of meat and vegetables and pit-clothes.

He leaned over to the minister, his great moustache thrust forward, his
mouth very red in his black face.

"Mr. Heaton," he said, "a man as has been down the black hole all day,
dingin' away at a coal-face, yi, a sight harder than that wall--"

"Needn't make a moan of it," put in Mrs. Morel.

She hated her husband because, whenever he had an audience, he whined
and played for sympathy. William, sitting nursing the baby, hated him,
with a boy's hatred for false sentiment, and for the stupid treatment of
his mother. Annie had never liked him; she merely avoided him.

When the minister had gone, Mrs. Morel looked at her cloth.

"A fine mess!" she said.

"Dos't think I'm goin' to sit wi' my arms danglin', cos tha's got a
parson for tea wi' thee?" he bawled.

They were both angry, but she said nothing. The baby began to cry, and
Mrs. Morel, picking up a saucepan from the hearth, accidentally knocked
Annie on the head, whereupon the girl began to whine, and Morel to shout
at her. In the midst of this pandemonium, William looked up at the big
glazed text over the mantelpiece and read distinctly:

"God Bless Our Home!"

Whereupon Mrs. Morel, trying to soothe the baby, jumped up, rushed at
him, boxed his ears, saying:

"What are YOU putting in for?"

And then she sat down and laughed, till tears ran over her cheeks, while
William kicked the stool he had been sitting on, and Morel growled:

"I canna see what there is so much to laugh at."

One evening, directly after the parson's visit, feeling unable to bear
herself after another display from her husband, she took Annie and the
baby and went out. Morel had kicked William, and the mother would never
forgive him.

She went over the sheep-bridge and across a corner of the meadow to the
cricket-ground. The meadows seemed one space of ripe, evening light,
whispering with the distant mill-race. She sat on a seat under the
alders in the cricket-ground, and fronted the evening. Before her, level
and solid, spread the big green cricket-field, like the bed of a sea of
light. Children played in the bluish shadow of the pavilion. Many rooks,
high up, came cawing home across the softly-woven sky. They stooped in
a long curve down into the golden glow, concentrating, cawing, wheeling,
like black flakes on a slow vortex, over a tree clump that made a dark
boss among the pasture.

A few gentlemen were practising, and Mrs. Morel could hear the chock
of the ball, and the voices of men suddenly roused; could see the white
forms of men shifting silently over the green, upon which already the
under shadows were smouldering. Away at the grange, one side of the
haystacks was lit up, the other sides blue-grey. A waggon of sheaves
rocked small across the melting yellow light.

The sun was going down. Every open evening, the hills of Derbyshire were
blazed over with red sunset. Mrs. Morel watched the sun sink from the
glistening sky, leaving a soft flower-blue overhead, while the western
space went red, as if all the fire had swum down there, leaving the
bell cast flawless blue. The mountain-ash berries across the field stood
fierily out from the dark leaves, for a moment. A few shocks of corn in
a corner of the fallow stood up as if alive; she imagined them bowing;
perhaps her son would be a Joseph. In the east, a mirrored sunset
floated pink opposite the west's scarlet. The big haystacks on the
hillside, that butted into the glare, went cold.

With Mrs. Morel it was one of those still moments when the small frets
vanish, and the beauty of things stands out, and she had the peace and
the strength to see herself. Now and again, a swallow cut close to her.
Now and again, Annie came up with a handful of alder-currants. The baby
was restless on his mother's knee, clambering with his hands at the
light.

Mrs. Morel looked down at him. She had dreaded this baby like a
catastrophe, because of her feeling for her husband. And now she felt
strangely towards the infant. Her heart was heavy because of the child,
almost as if it were unhealthy, or malformed. Yet it seemed quite well.
But she noticed the peculiar knitting of the baby's brows, and the
peculiar heaviness of its eyes, as if it were trying to understand
something that was pain. She felt, when she looked at her child's dark,
brooding pupils, as if a burden were on her heart.

"He looks as if he was thinking about something--quite sorrowful," said
Mrs. Kirk.

Suddenly, looking at him, the heavy feeling at the mother's heart melted
into passionate grief. She bowed over him, and a few tears shook swiftly
out of her very heart. The baby lifted his fingers.

"My lamb!" she cried softly.

And at that moment she felt, in some far inner place of her soul, that
she and her husband were guilty.

The baby was looking up at her. It had blue eyes like her own, but its
look was heavy, steady, as if it had realised something that had stunned
some point of its soul.

In her arms lay the delicate baby. Its deep blue eyes, always looking up
at her unblinking, seemed to draw her innermost thoughts out of her. She
no longer loved her husband; she had not wanted this child to come, and
there it lay in her arms and pulled at her heart. She felt as if the
navel string that had connected its frail little body with hers had not
been broken. A wave of hot love went over her to the infant. She held it
close to her face and breast. With all her force, with all her soul she
would make up to it for having brought it into the world unloved. She
would love it all the more now it was here; carry it in her love. Its
clear, knowing eyes gave her pain and fear. Did it know all about her?
When it lay under her heart, had it been listening then? Was there a
reproach in the look? She felt the marrow melt in her bones, with fear
and pain.

Once more she was aware of the sun lying red on the rim of the hill
opposite. She suddenly held up the child in her hands.

"Look!" she said. "Look, my pretty!"

She thrust the infant forward to the crimson, throbbing sun, almost with
relief. She saw him lift his little fist. Then she put him to her bosom
again, ashamed almost of her impulse to give him back again whence he
came.

"If he lives," she thought to herself, "what will become of him--what
will he be?"

Her heart was anxious.

"I will call him Paul," she said suddenly; she knew not why.

After a while she went home. A fine shadow was flung over the deep green
meadow, darkening all.

As she expected, she found the house empty. But Morel was home by ten
o'clock, and that day, at least, ended peacefully.

Walter Morel was, at this time, exceedingly irritable. His work seemed
to exhaust him. When he came home he did not speak civilly to anybody.
If the fire were rather low he bullied about that; he grumbled about his
dinner; if the children made a chatter he shouted at them in a way that
made their mother's blood boil, and made them hate him.

On the Friday, he was not home by eleven o'clock. The baby was unwell,
and was restless, crying if he were put down. Mrs. Morel, tired to
death, and still weak, was scarcely under control.

"I wish the nuisance would come," she said wearily to herself.

The child at last sank down to sleep in her arms. She was too tired to
carry him to the cradle.

"But I'll say nothing, whatever time he comes," she said. "It only works
me up; I won't say anything. But I know if he does anything it'll make
my blood boil," she added to herself.

She sighed, hearing him coming, as if it were something she could not
bear. He, taking his revenge, was nearly drunk. She kept her head
bent over the child as he entered, not wishing to see him. But it
went through her like a flash of hot fire when, in passing, he lurched
against the dresser, setting the tins rattling, and clutched at the
white pot knobs for support. He hung up his hat and coat, then returned,
stood glowering from a distance at her, as she sat bowed over the child.

"Is there nothing to eat in the house?" he asked, insolently, as if to a
servant. In certain stages of his intoxication he affected the
clipped, mincing speech of the towns. Mrs. Morel hated him most in this
condition.

"You know what there is in the house," she said, so coldly, it sounded
impersonal.

He stood and glared at her without moving a muscle.

"I asked a civil question, and I expect a civil answer," he said
affectedly.

"And you got it," she said, still ignoring him.

He glowered again. Then he came unsteadily forward. He leaned on the
table with one hand, and with the other jerked at the table drawer to
get a knife to cut bread. The drawer stuck because he pulled sideways.
In a temper he dragged it, so that it flew out bodily, and spoons,
forks, knives, a hundred metallic things, splashed with a clatter and a
clang upon the brick floor. The baby gave a little convulsed start.

"What are you doing, clumsy, drunken fool?" the mother cried.

"Then tha should get the flamin' thing thysen. Tha should get up, like
other women have to, an' wait on a man."

"Wait on you--wait on you?" she cried. "Yes, I see myself."

"Yis, an' I'll learn thee tha's got to. Wait on ME, yes tha sh'lt wait
on me--"

"Never, milord. I'd wait on a dog at the door first."

"What--what?"

He was trying to fit in the drawer. At her last speech he turned round.
His face was crimson, his eyes bloodshot. He stared at her one silent
second in threat.

"P-h!" she went quickly, in contempt.

He jerked at the drawer in his excitement. It fell, cut sharply on his
shin, and on the reflex he flung it at her.

One of the corners caught her brow as the shallow drawer crashed into
the fireplace. She swayed, almost fell stunned from her chair. To her
very soul she was sick; she clasped the child tightly to her bosom. A
few moments elapsed; then, with an effort, she brought herself to.
The baby was crying plaintively. Her left brow was bleeding rather
profusely. As she glanced down at the child, her brain reeling, some
drops of blood soaked into its white shawl; but the baby was at least
not hurt. She balanced her head to keep equilibrium, so that the blood
ran into her eye.

Walter Morel remained as he had stood, leaning on the table with one
hand, looking blank. When he was sufficiently sure of his balance,
he went across to her, swayed, caught hold of the back of her
rocking-chair, almost tipping her out; then leaning forward over her,
and swaying as he spoke, he said, in a tone of wondering concern:

"Did it catch thee?"

He swayed again, as if he would pitch on to the child. With the
catastrophe he had lost all balance.

"Go away," she said, struggling to keep her presence of mind.

He hiccoughed. "Let's--let's look at it," he said, hiccoughing again.

"Go away!" she cried.

"Lemme--lemme look at it, lass."

She smelled him of drink, felt the unequal pull of his swaying grasp on
the back of her rocking-chair.

"Go away," she said, and weakly she pushed him off.

He stood, uncertain in balance, gazing upon her. Summoning all her
strength she rose, the baby on one arm. By a cruel effort of will,
moving as if in sleep, she went across to the scullery, where she bathed
her eye for a minute in cold water; but she was too dizzy. Afraid lest
she should swoon, she returned to her rocking-chair, trembling in every
fibre. By instinct, she kept the baby clasped.

Morel, bothered, had succeeded in pushing the drawer back into its
cavity, and was on his knees, groping, with numb paws, for the scattered
spoons.

Her brow was still bleeding. Presently Morel got up and came craning his
neck towards her.

"What has it done to thee, lass?" he asked, in a very wretched, humble
tone.

"You can see what it's done," she answered.

He stood, bending forward, supported on his hands, which grasped his
legs just above the knee. He peered to look at the wound. She drew away
from the thrust of his face with its great moustache, averting her
own face as much as possible. As he looked at her, who was cold and
impassive as stone, with mouth shut tight, he sickened with feebleness
and hopelessness of spirit. He was turning drearily away, when he saw
a drop of blood fall from the averted wound into the baby's fragile,
glistening hair. Fascinated, he watched the heavy dark drop hang in
the glistening cloud, and pull down the gossamer. Another drop fell. It
would soak through to the baby's scalp. He watched, fascinated, feeling
it soak in; then, finally, his manhood broke.

"What of this child?" was all his wife said to him. But her low, intense
tones brought his head lower. She softened: "Get me some wadding out of
the middle drawer," she said.

He stumbled away very obediently, presently returning with a pad, which
she singed before the fire, then put on her forehead, as she sat with
the baby on her lap.

"Now that clean pit-scarf."

Again he rummaged and fumbled in the drawer, returning presently with a
red, narrow scarf. She took it, and with trembling fingers proceeded to
bind it round her head.

"Let me tie it for thee," he said humbly.

"I can do it myself," she replied. When it was done she went upstairs,
telling him to rake the fire and lock the door.

In the morning Mrs. Morel said:

"I knocked against the latch of the coal-place, when I was getting a
raker in the dark, because the candle blew out." Her two small children
looked up at her with wide, dismayed eyes. They said nothing, but their
parted lips seemed to express the unconscious tragedy they felt.

Walter Morel lay in bed next day until nearly dinner-time. He did not
think of the previous evening's work. He scarcely thought of anything,
but he would not think of that. He lay and suffered like a sulking dog.
He had hurt himself most; and he was the more damaged because he would
never say a word to her, or express his sorrow. He tried to wriggle out
of it. "It was her own fault," he said to himself. Nothing, however,
could prevent his inner consciousness inflicting on him the punishment
which ate into his spirit like rust, and which he could only alleviate
by drinking.

He felt as if he had not the initiative to get up, or to say a word, or
to move, but could only lie like a log. Moreover, he had himself violent
pains in the head. It was Saturday. Towards noon he rose, cut himself
food in the pantry, ate it with his head dropped, then pulled on his
boots, and went out, to return at three o'clock slightly tipsy and
relieved; then once more straight to bed. He rose again at six in the
evening, had tea and went straight out.

Sunday was the same: bed till noon, the Palmerston Arms till 2.30,
dinner, and bed; scarcely a word spoken. When Mrs. Morel went upstairs,
towards four o'clock, to put on her Sunday dress, he was fast asleep.
She would have felt sorry for him, if he had once said, "Wife, I'm
sorry." But no; he insisted to himself it was her fault. And so he
broke himself. So she merely left him alone. There was this deadlock of
passion between them, and she was stronger.

The family began tea. Sunday was the only day when all sat down to meals
together.

"Isn't my father going to get up?" asked William.

"Let him lie," the mother replied.

There was a feeling of misery over all the house. The children breathed
the air that was poisoned, and they felt dreary. They were rather
disconsolate, did not know what to do, what to play at.

Immediately Morel woke he got straight out of bed. That was
characteristic of him all his life. He was all for activity. The
prostrated inactivity of two mornings was stifling him.

It was near six o'clock when he got down. This time he entered without
hesitation, his wincing sensitiveness having hardened again. He did not
care any longer what the family thought or felt.

The tea-things were on the table. William was reading aloud from "The
Child's Own", Annie listening and asking eternally "why?" Both children
hushed into silence as they heard the approaching thud of their father's
stockinged feet, and shrank as he entered. Yet he was usually indulgent
to them.

Morel made the meal alone, brutally. He ate and drank more noisily than
he had need. No one spoke to him. The family life withdrew, shrank
away, and became hushed as he entered. But he cared no longer about his
alienation.

Immediately he had finished tea he rose with alacrity to go out. It was
this alacrity, this haste to be gone, which so sickened Mrs. Morel. As
she heard him sousing heartily in cold water, heard the eager scratch
of the steel comb on the side of the bowl, as he wetted his hair, she
closed her eyes in disgust. As he bent over, lacing his boots, there
was a certain vulgar gusto in his movement that divided him from the
reserved, watchful rest of the family. He always ran away from the
battle with himself. Even in his own heart's privacy, he excused
himself, saying, "If she hadn't said so-and-so, it would never have
happened. She asked for what she's got." The children waited in
restraint during his preparations. When he had gone, they sighed with
relief.

He closed the door behind him, and was glad. It was a rainy evening. The
Palmerston would be the cosier. He hastened forward in anticipation. All
the slate roofs of the Bottoms shone black with wet. The roads, always
dark with coal-dust, were full of blackish mud. He hastened along. The
Palmerston windows were steamed over. The passage was paddled with wet
feet. But the air was warm, if foul, and full of the sound of voices and
the smell of beer and smoke.

"What shollt ha'e, Walter?" cried a voice, as soon as Morel appeared in
the doorway.

"Oh, Jim, my lad, wheriver has thee sprung frae?"

The men made a seat for him, and took him in warmly. He was glad. In a
minute or two they had thawed all responsibility out of him, all shame,
all trouble, and he was clear as a bell for a jolly night.

On the Wednesday following, Morel was penniless. He dreaded his wife.
Having hurt her, he hated her. He did not know what to do with
himself that evening, having not even twopence with which to go to the
Palmerston, and being already rather deeply in debt. So, while his wife
was down the garden with the child, he hunted in the top drawer of
the dresser where she kept her purse, found it, and looked inside. It
contained a half-crown, two halfpennies, and a sixpence. So he took the
sixpence, put the purse carefully back, and went out.

The next day, when she wanted to pay the greengrocer, she looked in the
purse for her sixpence, and her heart sank to her shoes. Then she sat
down and thought: "WAS there a sixpence? I hadn't spent it, had I? And I
hadn't left it anywhere else?"

She was much put about. She hunted round everywhere for it. And, as she
sought, the conviction came into her heart that her husband had taken
it. What she had in her purse was all the money she possessed. But that
he should sneak it from her thus was unbearable. He had done so twice
before. The first time she had not accused him, and at the week-end he
had put the shilling again into her purse. So that was how she had known
he had taken it. The second time he had not paid back.

This time she felt it was too much. When he had had his dinner--he came
home early that day--she said to him coldly:

"Did you take sixpence out of my purse last night?"

"Me!" he said, looking up in an offended way. "No, I didna! I niver
clapped eyes on your purse."

But she could detect the lie.

"Why, you know you did," she said quietly.

"I tell you I didna," he shouted. "Yer at me again, are yer? I've had
about enough on't."

"So you filch sixpence out of my purse while I'm taking the clothes in."

"I'll may yer pay for this," he said, pushing back his chair in
desperation. He bustled and got washed, then went determinedly upstairs.
Presently he came down dressed, and with a big bundle in a blue-checked,
enormous handkerchief.

"And now," he said, "you'll see me again when you do."

"It'll be before I want to," she replied; and at that he marched out
of the house with his bundle. She sat trembling slightly, but her heart
brimming with contempt. What would she do if he went to some other
pit, obtained work, and got in with another woman? But she knew him too
well--he couldn't. She was dead sure of him. Nevertheless her heart was
gnawed inside her.

"Where's my dad?" said William, coming in from school.

"He says he's run away," replied the mother.

"Where to?"

"Eh, I don't know. He's taken a bundle in the blue handkerchief, and
says he's not coming back."

"What shall we do?" cried the boy.

"Eh, never trouble, he won't go far."

"But if he doesn't come back," wailed Annie.

And she and William retired to the sofa and wept. Mrs. Morel sat and
laughed.

"You pair of gabeys!" she exclaimed. "You'll see him before the night's
out."

But the children were not to be consoled. Twilight came on. Mrs. Morel
grew anxious from very weariness. One part of her said it would be a
relief to see the last of him; another part fretted because of keeping
the children; and inside her, as yet, she could not quite let him go. At
the bottom, she knew very well he could NOT go.

When she went down to the coal-place at the end of the garden, however,
she felt something behind the door. So she looked. And there in the dark
lay the big blue bundle. She sat on a piece of coal and laughed. Every
time she saw it, so fat and yet so ignominious, slunk into its corner in
the dark, with its ends flopping like dejected ears from the knots, she
laughed again. She was relieved.

Mrs. Morel sat waiting. He had not any money, she knew, so if he stopped
he was running up a bill. She was very tired of him--tired to death. He
had not even the courage to carry his bundle beyond the yard-end.

As she meditated, at about nine o'clock, he opened the door and came in,
slinking, and yet sulky. She said not a word. He took off his coat, and
slunk to his armchair, where he began to take off his boots.

"You'd better fetch your bundle before you take your boots off," she
said quietly.

"You may thank your stars I've come back to-night," he said, looking up
from under his dropped head, sulkily, trying to be impressive.

"Why, where should you have gone? You daren't even get your parcel
through the yard-end," she said.

He looked such a fool she was not even angry with him. He continued to
take his boots off and prepare for bed.

"I don't know what's in your blue handkerchief," she said. "But if you
leave it the children shall fetch it in the morning."

Whereupon he got up and went out of the house, returning presently and
crossing the kitchen with averted face, hurrying upstairs. As Mrs. Morel
saw him slink quickly through the inner doorway, holding his bundle, she
laughed to herself: but her heart was bitter, because she had loved him.



CHAPTER III

THE CASTING OFF OF MOREL--THE TAKING ON OF WILLIAM

DURING the next week Morel's temper was almost unbearable. Like all
miners, he was a great lover of medicines, which, strangely enough, he
would often pay for himself.

"You mun get me a drop o' laxy vitral," he said. "It's a winder as we
canna ha'e a sup i' th' 'ouse."

So Mrs. Morel bought him elixir of vitriol, his favourite first
medicine. And he made himself a jug of wormwood tea. He had hanging in
the attic great bunches of dried herbs: wormwood, rue, horehound, elder
flowers, parsley-purt, marshmallow, hyssop, dandelion, and centaury.
Usually there was a jug of one or other decoction standing on the hob,
from which he drank largely.

"Grand!" he said, smacking his lips after wormwood. "Grand!" And he
exhorted the children to try.

"It's better than any of your tea or your cocoa stews," he vowed. But
they were not to be tempted.

This time, however, neither pills nor vitriol nor all his herbs would
shift the "nasty peens in his head". He was sickening for an attack of
an inflammation of the brain. He had never been well since his sleeping
on the ground when he went with Jerry to Nottingham. Since then he had
drunk and stormed. Now he fell seriously ill, and Mrs. Morel had him
to nurse. He was one of the worst patients imaginable. But, in spite of
all, and putting aside the fact that he was breadwinner, she never
quite wanted him to die. Still there was one part of her wanted him for
herself.

The neighbours were very good to her: occasionally some had the children
in to meals, occasionally some would do the downstairs work for her, one
would mind the baby for a day. But it was a great drag, nevertheless.
It was not every day the neighbours helped. Then she had nursing of baby
and husband, cleaning and cooking, everything to do. She was quite worn
out, but she did what was wanted of her.

And the money was just sufficient. She had seventeen shillings a week
from clubs, and every Friday Barker and the other butty put by a portion
of the stall's profits for Morel's wife. And the neighbours made broths,
and gave eggs, and such invalids' trifles. If they had not helped her so
generously in those times, Mrs. Morel would never have pulled through,
without incurring debts that would have dragged her down.

The weeks passed. Morel, almost against hope, grew better. He had a fine
constitution, so that, once on the mend, he went straight forward to
recovery. Soon he was pottering about downstairs. During his illness his
wife had spoilt him a little. Now he wanted her to continue. He often
put his band to his head, pulled down the comers of his mouth, and
shammed pains he did not feel. But there was no deceiving her. At first
she merely smiled to herself. Then she scolded him sharply.

"Goodness, man, don't be so lachrymose."

That wounded him slightly, but still he continued to feign sickness.

"I wouldn't be such a mardy baby," said the wife shortly.

Then he was indignant, and cursed under his breath, like a boy. He was
forced to resume a normal tone, and to cease to whine.

Nevertheless, there was a state of peace in the house for some time.
Mrs. Morel was more tolerant of him, and he, depending on her almost
like a child, was rather happy. Neither knew that she was more tolerant
because she loved him less. Up till this time, in spite of all, he had
been her husband and her man. She had felt that, more or less, what he
did to himself he did to her. Her living depended on him. There were
many, many stages in the ebbing of her love for him, but it was always
ebbing.

Now, with the birth of this third baby, her self no longer set towards
him, helplessly, but was like a tide that scarcely rose, standing off
from him. After this she scarcely desired him. And, standing more aloof
from him, not feeling him so much part of herself, but merely part of
her circumstances, she did not mind so much what he did, could leave him
alone.

There was the halt, the wistfulness about the ensuing year, which
is like autumn in a man's life. His wife was casting him off, half
regretfully, but relentlessly; casting him off and turning now for love
and life to the children. Henceforward he was more or less a husk. And
he himself acquiesced, as so many men do, yielding their place to their
children.

During his recuperation, when it was really over between them, both made
an effort to come back somewhat to the old relationship of the first
months of their marriage. He sat at home and, when the children were in
bed, and she was sewing--she did all her sewing by hand, made all shirts
and children's clothing--he would read to her from the newspaper, slowly
pronouncing and delivering the words like a man pitching quoits. Often
she hurried him on, giving him a phrase in anticipation. And then he
took her words humbly.

The silences between them were peculiar. There would be the swift,
slight "cluck" of her needle, the sharp "pop" of his lips as he let out
the smoke, the warmth, the sizzle on the bars as he spat in the fire.
Then her thoughts turned to William. Already he was getting a big boy.
Already he was top of the class, and the master said he was the smartest
lad in the school. She saw him a man, young, full of vigour, making the
world glow again for her.

And Morel sitting there, quite alone, and having nothing to think about,
would be feeling vaguely uncomfortable. His soul would reach out in its
blind way to her and find her gone. He felt a sort of emptiness, almost
like a vacuum in his soul. He was unsettled and restless. Soon he could
not live in that atmosphere, and he affected his wife. Both felt an
oppression on their breathing when they were left together for some
time. Then he went to bed and she settled down to enjoy herself alone,
working, thinking, living.

Meanwhile another infant was coming, fruit of this little peace and
tenderness between the separating parents. Paul was seventeen months old
when the new baby was born. He was then a plump, pale child, quiet, with
heavy blue eyes, and still the peculiar slight knitting of the brows.
The last child was also a boy, fair and bonny. Mrs. Morel was sorry when
she knew she was with child, both for economic reasons and because she
did not love her husband; but not for the sake of the infant.

They called the baby Arthur. He was very pretty, with a mop of gold
curls, and he loved his father from the first. Mrs. Morel was glad this
child loved the father. Hearing the miner's footsteps, the baby would
put up his arms and crow. And if Morel were in a good temper, he called
back immediately, in his hearty, mellow voice:

"What then, my beauty? I sh'll come to thee in a minute."

And as soon as he had taken off his pit-coat, Mrs. Morel would put an
apron round the child, and give him to his father.

"What a sight the lad looks!" she would exclaim sometimes, taking back
the baby, that was smutted on the face from his father's kisses and
play. Then Morel laughed joyfully.

"He's a little collier, bless his bit o' mutton!" he exclaimed.

And these were the happy moments of her life now, when the children
included the father in her heart.

Meanwhile William grew bigger and stronger and more active, while Paul,
always rather delicate and quiet, got slimmer, and trotted after his
mother like her shadow. He was usually active and interested, but
sometimes he would have fits of depression. Then the mother would find
the boy of three or four crying on the sofa.

"What's the matter?" she asked, and got no answer.

"What's the matter?" she insisted, getting cross.

"I don't know," sobbed the child.

So she tried to reason him out of it, or to amuse him, but without
effect. It made her feel beside herself. Then the father, always
impatient, would jump from his chair and shout:

"If he doesn't stop, I'll smack him till he does."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," said the mother coldly. And then she
carried the child into the yard, plumped him into his little chair, and
said: "Now cry there, Misery!"

And then a butterfly on the rhubarb-leaves perhaps caught his eye, or
at last he cried himself to sleep. These fits were not often, but they
caused a shadow in Mrs. Morel's heart, and her treatment of Paul was
different from that of the other children.

Suddenly one morning as she was looking down the alley of the Bottoms
for the barm-man, she heard a voice calling her. It was the thin little
Mrs. Anthony in brown velvet.

"Here, Mrs. Morel, I want to tell you about your Willie."

"Oh, do you?" replied Mrs. Morel. "Why, what's the matter?"

"A lad as gets 'old of another an' rips his clothes off'n 'is back,"
Mrs. Anthony said, "wants showing something."

"Your Alfred's as old as my William," said Mrs. Morel.

"'Appen 'e is, but that doesn't give him a right to get hold of the
boy's collar, an' fair rip it clean off his back."

"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "I don't thrash my children, and even if I did,
I should want to hear their side of the tale."

"They'd happen be a bit better if they did get a good hiding," retorted
Mrs. Anthony. "When it comes ter rippin' a lad's clean collar off'n 'is
back a-purpose--"

"I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose," said Mrs. Morel.

"Make me a liar!" shouted Mrs. Anthony.

Mrs. Morel moved away and closed her gate. Her hand trembled as she held
her mug of barm.

"But I s'll let your mester know," Mrs. Anthony cried after her.

At dinner-time, when William had finished his meal and wanted to be off
again--he was then eleven years old--his mother said to him:

"What did you tear Alfred Anthony's collar for?"

"When did I tear his collar?"

"I don't know when, but his mother says you did."

"Why--it was yesterday--an' it was torn a'ready."

"But you tore it more."

"Well, I'd got a cobbler as 'ad licked seventeen--an' Alfy Ant'ny 'e
says:

     'Adam an' Eve an' pinch-me,
     Went down to a river to bade.
     Adam an' Eve got drownded,
     Who do yer think got saved?'

An' so I says: 'Oh, Pinch-YOU,' an' so I pinched 'im, an' 'e was mad,
an' so he snatched my cobbler an' run off with it. An' so I run after
'im, an' when I was gettin' hold of 'im, 'e dodged, an' it ripped 'is
collar. But I got my cobbler--"

He pulled from his pocket a black old horse-chestnut hanging on a
string. This old cobbler had "cobbled"--hit and smashed--seventeen other
cobblers on similar strings. So the boy was proud of his veteran.

"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "you know you've got no right to rip his
collar."

"Well, our mother!" he answered. "I never meant tr'a done it--an' it was
on'y an old indirrubber collar as was torn a'ready."

"Next time," said his mother, "YOU be more careful. I shouldn't like it
if you came home with your collar torn off."

"I don't care, our mother; I never did it a-purpose."

The boy was rather miserable at being reprimanded.

"No--well, you be more careful."

William fled away, glad to be exonerated. And Mrs. Morel, who hated any
bother with the neighbours, thought she would explain to Mrs. Anthony,
and the business would be over.

But that evening Morel came in from the pit looking very sour. He stood
in the kitchen and glared round, but did not speak for some minutes.
Then:

"Wheer's that Willy?" he asked.

"What do you want HIM for?" asked Mrs. Morel, who had guessed.

"I'll let 'im know when I get him," said Morel, banging his pit-bottle
on to the dresser.

"I suppose Mrs. Anthony's got hold of you and been yarning to you about
Alfy's collar," said Mrs. Morel, rather sneering.

"Niver mind who's got hold of me," said Morel. "When I get hold of 'IM
I'll make his bones rattle."

"It's a poor tale," said Mrs. Morel, "that you're so ready to side
with any snipey vixen who likes to come telling tales against your own
children."

"I'll learn 'im!" said Morel. "It none matters to me whose lad 'e is;
'e's none goin' rippin' an' tearin' about just as he's a mind."

"'Ripping and tearing about!'" repeated Mrs. Morel. "He was running
after that Alfy, who'd taken his cobbler, and he accidentally got hold
of his collar, because the other dodged--as an Anthony would."

"I know!" shouted Morel threateningly.

"You would, before you're told," replied his wife bitingly.

"Niver you mind," stormed Morel. "I know my business."

"That's more than doubtful," said Mrs. Morel, "supposing some
loud-mouthed creature had been getting you to thrash your own children."

"I know," repeated Morel.

And he said no more, but sat and nursed his bad temper. Suddenly William
ran in, saying:

"Can I have my tea, mother?"

"Tha can ha'e more than that!" shouted Morel.

"Hold your noise, man," said Mrs. Morel; "and don't look so ridiculous."

"He'll look ridiculous before I've done wi' him!" shouted Morel, rising
from his chair and glaring at his son.

William, who was a tall lad for his years, but very sensitive, had gone
pale, and was looking in a sort of horror at his father.

"Go out!" Mrs. Morel commanded her son.

William had not the wit to move. Suddenly Morel clenched his fist, and
crouched.

"I'll GI'E him 'go out'!" he shouted like an insane thing.

"What!" cried Mrs. Morel, panting with rage. "You shall not touch him
for HER telling, you shall not!"

"Shonna I?" shouted Morel. "Shonna I?"

And, glaring at the boy, he ran forward. Mrs. Morel sprang in between
them, with her fist lifted.

"Don't you DARE!" she cried.

"What!" he shouted, baffled for the moment. "What!"

She spun round to her son.

"GO out of the house!" she commanded him in fury.

The boy, as if hypnotised by her, turned suddenly and was gone. Morel
rushed to the door, but was too late. He returned, pale under his
pit-dirt with fury. But now his wife was fully roused.

"Only dare!" she said in a loud, ringing voice. "Only dare, milord, to
lay a finger on that child! You'll regret it for ever."

He was afraid of her. In a towering rage, he sat down.

When the children were old enough to be left, Mrs. Morel joined
the Women's Guild. It was a little club of women attached to the
Co-operative Wholesale Society, which met on Monday night in the long
room over the grocery shop of the Bestwood "Co-op". The women were
supposed to discuss the benefits to be derived from co-operation, and
other social questions. Sometimes Mrs. Morel read a paper. It seemed
queer to the children to see their mother, who was always busy about
the house, sitting writing in her rapid fashion, thinking, referring
to books, and writing again. They felt for her on such occasions the
deepest respect.

But they loved the Guild. It was the only thing to which they did not
grudge their mother--and that partly because she enjoyed it, partly
because of the treats they derived from it. The Guild was called by some
hostile husbands, who found their wives getting too independent, the
"clat-fart" shop--that is, the gossip-shop. It is true, from off
the basis of the Guild, the women could look at their homes, at the
conditions of their own lives, and find fault. So the colliers found
their women had a new standard of their own, rather disconcerting. And
also, Mrs. Morel always had a lot of news on Monday nights, so that the
children liked William to be in when their mother came home, because she
told him things.

Then, when the lad was thirteen, she got him a job in the "Co-op."
office. He was a very clever boy, frank, with rather rough features and
real viking blue eyes.

"What dost want ter ma'e a stool-harsed Jack on 'im for?" said Morel.
"All he'll do is to wear his britches behind out an' earn nowt. What's
'e startin' wi'?"

"It doesn't matter what he's starting with," said Mrs. Morel.

"It wouldna! Put 'im i' th' pit we me, an' 'ell earn a easy ten shillin'
a wik from th' start. But six shillin' wearin' his truck-end out on a
stool's better than ten shillin' i' th' pit wi'me, I know."

"He is NOT going in the pit," said Mrs. Morel, "and there's an end of
it."

"It wor good enough for me, but it's non good enough for 'im."

"If your mother put you in the pit at twelve, it's no reason why I
should do the same with my lad."

"Twelve! It wor a sight afore that!"

"Whenever it was," said Mrs. Morel.

She was very proud of her son. He went to the night school, and learned
shorthand, so that by the time he was sixteen he was the best shorthand
clerk and book-keeper on the place, except one. Then he taught in the
night schools. But he was so fiery that only his good-nature and his
size protected him.

All the things that men do--the decent things--William did. He could
run like the wind. When he was twelve he won a first prize in a race;
an inkstand of glass, shaped like an anvil. It stood proudly on the
dresser, and gave Mrs. Morel a keen pleasure. The boy only ran for her.
He flew home with his anvil, breathless, with a "Look, mother!" That was
the first real tribute to herself. She took it like a queen.

"How pretty!" she exclaimed.

Then he began to get ambitious. He gave all his money to his mother.
When he earned fourteen shillings a week, she gave him back two for
himself, and, as he never drank, he felt himself rich. He went about
with the bourgeois of Bestwood. The townlet contained nothing higher
than the clergyman. Then came the bank manager, then the doctors, then
the tradespeople, and after that the hosts of colliers. Willam began
to consort with the sons of the chemist, the schoolmaster, and
the tradesmen. He played billiards in the Mechanics' Hall. Also he
danced--this in spite of his mother. All the life that Bestwood offered
he enjoyed, from the sixpenny-hops down Church Street, to sports and
billiards.

Paul was treated to dazzling descriptions of all kinds of flower-like
ladies, most of whom lived like cut blooms in William's heart for a
brief fortnight.

Occasionally some flame would come in pursuit of her errant swain. Mrs.
Morel would find a strange girl at the door, and immediately she sniffed
the air.

"Is Mr. Morel in?" the damsel would ask appealingly.

"My husband is at home," Mrs. Morel replied.

"I--I mean YOUNG Mr. Morel," repeated the maiden painfully.

"Which one? There are several."

Whereupon much blushing and stammering from the fair one.

"I--I met Mr. Morel--at Ripley," she explained.

"Oh--at a dance!"

"Yes."

"I don't approve of the girls my son meets at dances. And he is NOT at
home."

Then he came home angry with his mother for having turned the girl away
so rudely. He was a careless, yet eager-looking fellow, who walked with
long strides, sometimes frowning, often with his cap pushed jollily to
the back of his head. Now he came in frowning. He threw his cap on to
the sofa, and took his strong jaw in his hand, and glared down at
his mother. She was small, with her hair taken straight back from her
forehead. She had a quiet air of authority, and yet of rare warmth.
Knowing her son was angry, she trembled inwardly.

"Did a lady call for me yesterday, mother?" he asked.

"I don't know about a lady. There was a girl came."

"And why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I forgot, simply."

He fumed a little.

"A good-looking girl--seemed a lady?"

"I didn't look at her."

"Big brown eyes?"

"I did NOT look. And tell your girls, my son, that when they're running
after you, they're not to come and ask your mother for you. Tell them
that--brazen baggages you meet at dancing-classes."

"I'm sure she was a nice girl."

"And I'm sure she wasn't."

There ended the altercation. Over the dancing there was a great strife
between the mother and the son. The grievance reached its height when
William said he was going to Hucknall Torkard--considered a low town--to
a fancy-dress ball. He was to be a Highlander. There was a dress he
could hire, which one of his friends had had, and which fitted him
perfectly. The Highland suit came home. Mrs. Morel received it coldly
and would not unpack it.

"My suit come?" cried William.

"There's a parcel in the front room."

He rushed in and cut the string.

"How do you fancy your son in this!" he said, enraptured, showing her
the suit.

"You know I don't want to fancy you in it."

On the evening of the dance, when he had come home to dress, Mrs. Morel
put on her coat and bonnet.

"Aren't you going to stop and see me, mother?" he asked.

"No; I don't want to see you," she replied.

She was rather pale, and her face was closed and hard. She was afraid of
her son's going the same way as his father. He hesitated a moment, and
his heart stood still with anxiety. Then he caught sight of the Highland
bonnet with its ribbons. He picked it up gleefully, forgetting her. She
went out.

When he was nineteen he suddenly left the Co-op. office and got a
situation in Nottingham. In his new place he had thirty shillings a week
instead of eighteen. This was indeed a rise. His mother and his father
were brimmed up with pride. Everybody praised William. It seemed he was
going to get on rapidly. Mrs. Morel hoped, with his aid, to help her
younger sons. Annie was now studying to be a teacher. Paul, also very
clever, was getting on well, having lessons in French and German from
his godfather, the clergyman who was still a friend to Mrs. Morel.
Arthur, a spoilt and very good-looking boy, was at the Board school, but
there was talk of his trying to get a scholarship for the High School in
Nottingham.

William remained a year at his new post in Nottingham. He was studying
hard, and growing serious. Something seemed to be fretting him. Still
he went out to the dances and the river parties. He did not drink. The
children were all rabid teetotallers. He came home very late at night,
and sat yet longer studying. His mother implored him to take more care,
to do one thing or another.

"Dance, if you want to dance, my son; but don't think you can work in
the office, and then amuse yourself, and THEN study on top of all. You
can't; the human frame won't stand it. Do one thing or the other--amuse
yourself or learn Latin; but don't try to do both."

Then he got a place in London, at a hundred and twenty a year. This
seemed a fabulous sum. His mother doubted almost whether to rejoice or
to grieve.

"They want me in Lime Street on Monday week, mother," he cried, his
eyes blazing as he read the letter. Mrs. Morel felt everything go silent
inside her. He read the letter: "'And will you reply by Thursday whether
you accept. Yours faithfully--' They want me, mother, at a hundred and
twenty a year, and don't even ask to see me. Didn't I tell you I could
do it! Think of me in London! And I can give you twenty pounds a year,
mater. We s'll all be rolling in money."

"We shall, my son," she answered sadly.

It never occurred to him that she might be more hurt at his going
away than glad of his success. Indeed, as the days drew near for his
departure, her heart began to close and grow dreary with despair. She
loved him so much! More than that, she hoped in him so much. Almost she
lived by him. She liked to do things for him: she liked to put a cup for
his tea and to iron his collars, of which he was so proud. It was a joy
to her to have him proud of his collars. There was no laundry. So she
used to rub away at them with her little convex iron, to polish them,
till they shone from the sheer pressure of her arm. Now she would not do
it for him. Now he was going away. She felt almost as if he were going
as well out of her heart. He did not seem to leave her inhabited with
himself. That was the grief and the pain to her. He took nearly all
himself away.

A few days before his departure--he was just twenty--he burned his
love-letters. They had hung on a file at the top of the kitchen
cupboard. From some of them he had read extracts to his mother. Some
of them she had taken the trouble to read herself. But most were too
trivial.

Now, on the Saturday morning he said:

"Come on, Postle, let's go through my letters, and you can have the
birds and flowers."

Mrs. Morel had done her Saturday's work on the Friday, because he was
having a last day's holiday. She was making him a rice cake, which
he loved, to take with him. He was scarcely conscious that she was so
miserable.

He took the first letter off the file. It was mauve-tinted, and had
purple and green thistles. William sniffed the page.

"Nice scent! Smell."

And he thrust the sheet under Paul's nose.

"Um!" said Paul, breathing in. "What d'you call it? Smell, mother."

His mother ducked her small, fine nose down to the paper.

"I don't want to smell their rubbish," she said, sniffing.

"This girl's father," said William, "is as rich as Croesus. He owns
property without end. She calls me Lafayette, because I know French.
'You will see, I've forgiven you'--I like HER forgiving me. 'I told
mother about you this morning, and she will have much pleasure if you
come to tea on Sunday, but she will have to get father's consent also. I
sincerely hope he will agree. I will let you know how it transpires. If,
however, you--'"

"'Let you know how it' what?" interrupted Mrs. Morel.

"'Transpires'--oh yes!"

"'Transpires!'" repeated Mrs. Morel mockingly. "I thought she was so
well educated!"

William felt slightly uncomfortable, and abandoned this maiden, giving
Paul the corner with the thistles. He continued to read extracts from
his letters, some of which amused his mother, some of which saddened her
and made her anxious for him.

"My lad," she said, "they're very wise. They know they've only got to
flatter your vanity, and you press up to them like a dog that has its
head scratched."

"Well, they can't go on scratching for ever," he replied. "And when
they've done, I trot away."

"But one day you'll find a string round your neck that you can't pull
off," she answered.

"Not me! I'm equal to any of 'em, mater, they needn't flatter
themselves."

"You flatter YOURSELF," she said quietly.

Soon there was a heap of twisted black pages, all that remained of the
file of scented letters, except that Paul had thirty or forty pretty
tickets from the corners of the notepaper--swallows and forget-me-nots
and ivy sprays. And William went to London, to start a new life.



CHAPTER IV

THE YOUNG LIFE OF PAUL

PAUL would be built like his mother, slightly and rather small. His fair
hair went reddish, and then dark brown; his eyes were grey. He was a
pale, quiet child, with eyes that seemed to listen, and with a full,
dropping underlip.

As a rule he seemed old for his years. He was so conscious of what other
people felt, particularly his mother. When she fretted he understood,
and could have no peace. His soul seemed always attentive to her.

As he grew older he became stronger. William was too far removed from
him to accept him as a companion. So the smaller boy belonged at first
almost entirely to Annie. She was a tomboy and a "flybie-skybie", as her
mother called her. But she was intensely fond of her second brother. So
Paul was towed round at the heels of Annie, sharing her game. She raced
wildly at lerky with the other young wild-cats of the Bottoms. And
always Paul flew beside her, living her share of the game, having as
yet no part of his own. He was quiet and not noticeable. But his sister
adored him. He always seemed to care for things if she wanted him to.

She had a big doll of which she was fearfully proud, though not so fond.
So she laid the doll on the sofa, and covered it with an antimacassar,
to sleep. Then she forgot it. Meantime Paul must practise jumping off
the sofa arm. So he jumped crash into the face of the hidden doll.
Annie rushed up, uttered a loud wail, and sat down to weep a dirge. Paul
remained quite still.

"You couldn't tell it was there, mother; you couldn't tell it was
there," he repeated over and over. So long as Annie wept for the doll
he sat helpless with misery. Her grief wore itself out. She forgave
her brother--he was so much upset. But a day or two afterwards she was
shocked.

"Let's make a sacrifice of Arabella," he said. "Let's burn her."

She was horrified, yet rather fascinated. She wanted to see what the boy
would do. He made an altar of bricks, pulled some of the shavings out of
Arabella's body, put the waxen fragments into the hollow face, poured
on a little paraffin, and set the whole thing alight. He watched with
wicked satisfaction the drops of wax melt off the broken forehead of
Arabella, and drop like sweat into the flame. So long as the stupid big
doll burned he rejoiced in silence. At the end be poked among the embers
with a stick, fished out the arms and legs, all blackened, and smashed
them under stones.

"That's the sacrifice of Missis Arabella," he said. "An' I'm glad
there's nothing left of her."

Which disturbed Annie inwardly, although she could say nothing. He
seemed to hate the doll so intensely, because he had broken it.

All the children, but particularly Paul, were peculiarly against their
father, along with their mother. Morel continued to bully and to drink.
He had periods, months at a time, when he made the whole life of the
family a misery. Paul never forgot coming home from the Band of Hope
one Monday evening and finding his mother with her eye swollen and
discoloured, his father standing on the hearthrug, feet astride, his
head down, and William, just home from work, glaring at his father.
There was a silence as the young children entered, but none of the
elders looked round.

William was white to the lips, and his fists were clenched. He waited
until the children were silent, watching with children's rage and hate;
then he said:

"You coward, you daren't do it when I was in."

But Morel's blood was up. He swung round on his son. William was bigger,
but Morel was hard-muscled, and mad with fury.

"Dossn't I?" he shouted. "Dossn't I? Ha'e much more o' thy chelp, my
young jockey, an' I'll rattle my fist about thee. Ay, an' I sholl that,
dost see?"

Morel crouched at the knees and showed his fist in an ugly, almost
beast-like fashion. William was white with rage.

"Will yer?" he said, quiet and intense. "It 'ud be the last time,
though."

Morel danced a little nearer, crouching, drawing back his fist to
strike. William put his fists ready. A light came into his blue eyes,
almost like a laugh. He watched his father. Another word, and the men
would have begun to fight. Paul hoped they would. The three children sat
pale on the sofa.

"Stop it, both of you," cried Mrs. Morel in a hard voice. "We've had
enough for ONE night. And YOU," she said, turning on to her husband,
"look at your children!"

Morel glanced at the sofa.

"Look at the children, you nasty little bitch!" he sneered. "Why, what
have I done to the children, I should like to know? But they're like
yourself; you've put 'em up to your own tricks and nasty ways--you've
learned 'em in it, you 'ave."

She refused to answer him. No one spoke. After a while he threw his
boots under the table and went to bed.

"Why didn't you let me have a go at him?" said William, when his father
was upstairs. "I could easily have beaten him."

"A nice thing--your own father," she replied.

"'FATHER!'" repeated William. "Call HIM MY father!"

"Well, he is--and so--"

"But why don't you let me settle him? I could do, easily."

"The idea!" she cried. "It hasn't come to THAT yet."

"No," he said, "it's come to worse. Look at yourself. WHY didn't you let
me give it him?"

"Because I couldn't bear it, so never think of it," she cried quickly.

And the children went to bed, miserably.

When William was growing up, the family moved from the Bottoms to a
house on the brow of the hill, commanding a view of the valley, which
spread out like a convex cockle-shell, or a clamp-shell, before it. In
front of the house was a huge old ash-tree. The west wind, sweeping from
Derbyshire, caught the houses with full force, and the tree shrieked
again. Morel liked it.

"It's music," he said. "It sends me to sleep."

But Paul and Arthur and Annie hated it. To Paul it became almost a
demoniacal noise. The winter of their first year in the new house their
father was very bad. The children played in the street, on the brim of
the wide, dark valley, until eight o'clock. Then they went to bed. Their
mother sat sewing below. Having such a great space in front of the house
gave the children a feeling of night, of vastness, and of terror. This
terror came in from the shrieking of the tree and the anguish of the
home discord. Often Paul would wake up, after he had been asleep a long
time, aware of thuds downstairs. Instantly he was wide awake. Then he
heard the booming shouts of his father, come home nearly drunk, then the
sharp replies of his mother, then the bang, bang of his father's fist on
the table, and the nasty snarling shout as the man's voice got higher.
And then the whole was drowned in a piercing medley of shrieks and
cries from the great, wind-swept ash-tree. The children lay silent in
suspense, waiting for a lull in the wind to hear what their father was
doing. He might hit their mother again. There was a feeling of horror,
a kind of bristling in the darkness, and a sense of blood. They lay with
their hearts in the grip of an intense anguish. The wind came through
the tree fiercer and fiercer. All the chords of the great harp hummed,
whistled, and shrieked. And then came the horror of the sudden silence,
silence everywhere, outside and downstairs. What was it? Was it a
silence of blood? What had he done?

The children lay and breathed the darkness. And then, at last, they
heard their father throw down his boots and tramp upstairs in his
stockinged feet. Still they listened. Then at last, if the wind allowed,
they heard the water of the tap drumming into the kettle, which their
mother was filling for morning, and they could go to sleep in peace.

So they were happy in the morning--happy, very happy playing, dancing at
night round the lonely lamp-post in the midst of the darkness. But they
had one tight place of anxiety in their hearts, one darkness in their
eyes, which showed all their lives.

Paul hated his father. As a boy he had a fervent private religion.

"Make him stop drinking," he prayed every night. "Lord, let my father
die," he prayed very often. "Let him not be killed at pit," he prayed
when, after tea, the father did not come home from work.

That was another time when the family suffered intensely. The children
came from school and had their teas. On the hob the big black saucepan
was simmering, the stew-jar was in the oven, ready for Morel's dinner.
He was expected at five o'clock. But for months he would stop and drink
every night on his way from work.

In the winter nights, when it was cold, and grew dark early, Mrs. Morel
would put a brass candlestick on the table, light a tallow candle to
save the gas. The children finished their bread-and-butter, or dripping,
and were ready to go out to play. But if Morel had not come they
faltered. The sense of his sitting in all his pit-dirt, drinking, after
a long day's work, not coming home and eating and washing, but sitting,
getting drunk, on an empty stomach, made Mrs. Morel unable to bear
herself. From her the feeling was transmitted to the other children. She
never suffered alone any more: the children suffered with her.

Paul went out to play with the rest. Down in the great trough of
twilight, tiny clusters of lights burned where the pits were. A few last
colliers straggled up the dim field path. The lamplighter came along. No
more colliers came. Darkness shut down over the valley; work was done.
It was night.

Then Paul ran anxiously into the kitchen. The one candle still burned on
the table, the big fire glowed red. Mrs. Morel sat alone. On the hob
the saucepan steamed; the dinner-plate lay waiting on the table. All
the room was full of the sense of waiting, waiting for the man who was
sitting in his pit-dirt, dinnerless, some mile away from home, across
the darkness, drinking himself drunk. Paul stood in the doorway.

"Has my dad come?" he asked.

"You can see he hasn't," said Mrs. Morel, cross with the futility of the
question.

Then the boy dawdled about near his mother. They shared the same
anxiety. Presently Mrs. Morel went out and strained the potatoes.

"They're ruined and black," she said; "but what do I care?"

Not many words were spoken. Paul almost hated his mother for suffering
because his father did not come home from work.

"What do you bother yourself for?" he said. "If he wants to stop and get
drunk, why don't you let him?"

"Let him!" flashed Mrs. Morel. "You may well say 'let him'."

She knew that the man who stops on the way home from work is on a quick
way to ruining himself and his home. The children were yet young, and
depended on the breadwinner. William gave her the sense of relief,
providing her at last with someone to turn to if Morel failed. But the
tense atmosphere of the room on these waiting evenings was the same.

The minutes ticked away. At six o'clock still the cloth lay on the
table, still the dinner stood waiting, still the same sense of anxiety
and expectation in the room. The boy could not stand it any longer. He
could not go out and play. So he ran in to Mrs. Inger, next door but
one, for her to talk to him. She had no children. Her husband was good
to her but was in a shop, and came home late. So, when she saw the lad
at the door, she called:

"Come in, Paul."

The two sat talking for some time, when suddenly the boy rose, saying:

"Well, I'll be going and seeing if my mother wants an errand doing."

He pretended to be perfectly cheerful, and did not tell his friend what
ailed him. Then he ran indoors.

Morel at these times came in churlish and hateful.

"This is a nice time to come home," said Mrs. Morel.

"Wha's it matter to yo' what time I come whoam?" he shouted.

And everybody in the house was still, because he was dangerous. He ate
his food in the most brutal manner possible, and, when he had done,
pushed all the pots in a heap away from him, to lay his arms on the
table. Then he went to sleep.

Paul hated his father so. The collier's small, mean head, with its black
hair slightly soiled with grey, lay on the bare arms, and the face,
dirty and inflamed, with a fleshy nose and thin, paltry brows, was
turned sideways, asleep with beer and weariness and nasty temper. If
anyone entered suddenly, or a noise were made, the man looked up and
shouted:

"I'll lay my fist about thy y'ead, I'm tellin' thee, if tha doesna stop
that clatter! Dost hear?"

And the two last words, shouted in a bullying fashion, usually at Annie,
made the family writhe with hate of the man.

He was shut out from all family affairs. No one told him anything.
The children, alone with their mother, told her all about the day's
happenings, everything. Nothing had really taken place in them until it
was told to their mother. But as soon as the father came in, everything
stopped. He was like the scotch in the smooth, happy machinery of the
home. And he was always aware of this fall of silence on his entry,
the shutting off of life, the unwelcome. But now it was gone too far to
alter.

He would dearly have liked the children to talk to him, but they could
not. Sometimes Mrs. Morel would say:

"You ought to tell your father."

Paul won a prize in a competition in a child's paper. Everybody was
highly jubilant.

"Now you'd better tell your father when he comes in," said Mrs. Morel.
"You know how be carries on and says he's never told anything."

"All right," said Paul. But he would almost rather have forfeited the
prize than have to tell his father.

"I've won a prize in a competition, dad," he said. Morel turned round to
him.

"Have you, my boy? What sort of a competition?"

"Oh, nothing--about famous women."

"And how much is the prize, then, as you've got?"

"It's a book."

"Oh, indeed!"

"About birds."

"Hm--hm!"

And that was all. Conversation was impossible between the father and any
other member of the family. He was an outsider. He had denied the God in
him.

The only times when he entered again into the life of his own people
was when he worked, and was happy at work. Sometimes, in the evening, he
cobbled the boots or mended the kettle or his pit-bottle. Then he always
wanted several attendants, and the children enjoyed it. They united with
him in the work, in the actual doing of something, when he was his real
self again.

He was a good workman, dexterous, and one who, when he was in a good
humour, always sang. He had whole periods, months, almost years, of
friction and nasty temper. Then sometimes he was jolly again. It was
nice to see him run with a piece of red-hot iron into the scullery,
crying:

"Out of my road--out of my road!"

Then he hammered the soft, red-glowing stuff on his iron goose, and made
the shape he wanted. Or he sat absorbed for a moment, soldering. Then
the children watched with joy as the metal sank suddenly molten, and was
shoved about against the nose of the soldering-iron, while the room was
full of a scent of burnt resin and hot tin, and Morel was silent and
intent for a minute. He always sang when he mended boots because of the
jolly sound of hammering. And he was rather happy when he sat putting
great patches on his moleskin pit trousers, which he would often do,
considering them too dirty, and the stuff too hard, for his wife to
mend.

But the best time for the young children was when he made fuses. Morel
fetched a sheaf of long sound wheat-straws from the attic. These he
cleaned with his hand, till each one gleamed like a stalk of gold, after
which he cut the straws into lengths of about six inches, leaving, if he
could, a notch at the bottom of each piece. He always had a beautifully
sharp knife that could cut a straw clean without hurting it. Then he set
in the middle of the table a heap of gunpowder, a little pile of black
grains upon the white-scrubbed board. He made and trimmed the straws
while Paul and Annie rifled and plugged them. Paul loved to see the
black grains trickle down a crack in his palm into the mouth of the
straw, peppering jollily downwards till the straw was full. Then he
bunged up the mouth with a bit of soap--which he got on his thumb-nail
from a pat in a saucer--and the straw was finished.

"Look, dad!" he said.

"That's right, my beauty," replied Morel, who was peculiarly lavish of
endearments to his second son. Paul popped the fuse into the powder-tin,
ready for the morning, when Morel would take it to the pit, and use it
to fire a shot that would blast the coal down.

Meantime Arthur, still fond of his father, would lean on the arm of
Morel's chair and say:

"Tell us about down pit, daddy."

This Morel loved to do.

"Well, there's one little 'oss--we call 'im Taffy," he would begin. "An'
he's a fawce 'un!"

Morel had a warm way of telling a story. He made one feel Taffy's
cunning.

"He's a brown 'un," he would answer, "an' not very high. Well, he comes
i' th' stall wi' a rattle, an' then yo' 'ear 'im sneeze.

"'Ello, Taff,' you say, 'what art sneezin' for? Bin ta'ein' some snuff?'

"An' 'e sneezes again. Then he slives up an' shoves 'is 'ead on yer,
that cadin'.

"'What's want, Taff?' yo' say."

"And what does he?" Arthur always asked.

"He wants a bit o' bacca, my duckie."

This story of Taffy would go on interminably, and everybody loved it.

Or sometimes it was a new tale.

"An' what dost think, my darlin'? When I went to put my coat on at
snap-time, what should go runnin' up my arm but a mouse.

"'Hey up, theer!' I shouts.

"An' I wor just in time ter get 'im by th' tail."

"And did you kill it?"

"I did, for they're a nuisance. The place is fair snied wi' 'em."

"An' what do they live on?"

"The corn as the 'osses drops--an' they'll get in your pocket an' eat
your snap, if you'll let 'em--no matter where yo' hing your coat--the
slivin', nibblin' little nuisances, for they are."

These happy evenings could not take place unless Morel had some job
to do. And then he always went to bed very early, often before the
children. There was nothing remaining for him to stay up for, when he
had finished tinkering, and had skimmed the headlines of the newspaper.

And the children felt secure when their father was in bed. They lay and
talked softly a while. Then they started as the lights went suddenly
sprawling over the ceiling from the lamps that swung in the hands of the
colliers tramping by outside, going to take the nine o'clock shift. They
listened to the voices of the men, imagined them dipping down into the
dark valley. Sometimes they went to the window and watched the three
or four lamps growing tinier and tinier, swaying down the fields in the
darkness. Then it was a joy to rush back to bed and cuddle closely in
the warmth.

Paul was rather a delicate boy, subject to bronchitis. The others were
all quite strong; so this was another reason for his mother's difference
in feeling for him. One day he came home at dinner-time feeling ill. But
it was not a family to make any fuss.

"What's the matter with YOU?" his mother asked sharply.

"Nothing," he replied.

But he ate no dinner.

"If you eat no dinner, you're not going to school," she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"That's why."

So after dinner he lay down on the sofa, on the warm chintz cushions the
children loved. Then he fell into a kind of doze. That afternoon Mrs.
Morel was ironing. She listened to the small, restless noise the boy
made in his throat as she worked. Again rose in her heart the old,
almost weary feeling towards him. She had never expected him to live.
And yet he had a great vitality in his young body. Perhaps it would have
been a little relief to her if he had died. She always felt a mixture of
anguish in her love for him.

He, in his semi-conscious sleep, was vaguely aware of the clatter of the
iron on the iron-stand, of the faint thud, thud on the ironing-board.
Once roused, he opened his eyes to see his mother standing on the
hearthrug with the hot iron near her cheek, listening, as it were, to
the heat. Her still face, with the mouth closed tight from suffering and
disillusion and self-denial, and her nose the smallest bit on one side,
and her blue eyes so young, quick, and warm, made his heart contract
with love. When she was quiet, so, she looked brave and rich with life,
but as if she had been done out of her rights. It hurt the boy keenly,
this feeling about her that she had never had her life's fulfilment:
and his own incapability to make up to her hurt him with a sense of
impotence, yet made him patiently dogged inside. It was his childish
aim.

She spat on the iron, and a little ball of spit bounded, raced off the
dark, glossy surface. Then, kneeling, she rubbed the iron on the sack
lining of the hearthrug vigorously. She was warm in the ruddy firelight.
Paul loved the way she crouched and put her head on one side. Her
movements were light and quick. It was always a pleasure to watch her.
Nothing she ever did, no movement she ever made, could have been found
fault with by her children. The room was warm and full of the scent of
hot linen. Later on the clergyman came and talked softly with her.

Paul was laid up with an attack of bronchitis. He did not mind much.
What happened happened, and it was no good kicking against the pricks.
He loved the evenings, after eight o'clock, when the light was put out,
and he could watch the fire-flames spring over the darkness of the walls
and ceiling; could watch huge shadows waving and tossing, till the room
seemed full of men who battled silently.

On retiring to bed, the father would come into the sickroom. He was
always very gentle if anyone were ill. But he disturbed the atmosphere
for the boy.

"Are ter asleep, my darlin'?" Morel asked softly.

"No; is my mother comin'?"

"She's just finishin' foldin' the clothes. Do you want anything?" Morel
rarely "thee'd" his son.

"I don't want nothing. But how long will she be?"

"Not long, my duckie."

The father waited undecidedly on the hearthrug for a moment or two. He
felt his son did not want him. Then he went to the top of the stairs and
said to his wife:

"This childt's axin' for thee; how long art goin' to be?"

"Until I've finished, good gracious! Tell him to go to sleep."

"She says you're to go to sleep," the father repeated gently to Paul.

"Well, I want HER to come," insisted the boy.

"He says he can't go off till you come," Morel called downstairs.

"Eh, dear! I shan't be long. And do stop shouting downstairs. There's
the other children--"

Then Morel came again and crouched before the bedroom fire. He loved a
fire dearly.

"She says she won't be long," he said.

He loitered about indefinitely. The boy began to get feverish with
irritation. His father's presence seemed to aggravate all his sick
impatience. At last Morel, after having stood looking at his son awhile,
said softly:

"Good-night, my darling."

"Good-night," Paul replied, turning round in relief to be alone.

Paul loved to sleep with his mother. Sleep is still most perfect, in
spite of hygienists, when it is shared with a beloved. The warmth, the
security and peace of soul, the utter comfort from the touch of the
other, knits the sleep, so that it takes the body and soul completely in
its healing. Paul lay against her and slept, and got better; whilst she,
always a bad sleeper, fell later on into a profound sleep that seemed to
give her faith.

In convalescence he would sit up in bed, see the fluffy horses feeding
at the troughs in the field, scattering their hay on the trodden yellow
snow; watch the miners troop home--small, black figures trailing slowly
in gangs across the white field. Then the night came up in dark blue
vapour from the snow.

In convalescence everything was wonderful. The snowflakes, suddenly
arriving on the window-pane, clung there a moment like swallows,
then were gone, and a drop of water was crawling down the glass. The
snowflakes whirled round the corner of the house, like pigeons dashing
by. Away across the valley the little black train crawled doubtfully
over the great whiteness.

While they were so poor, the children were delighted if they could do
anything to help economically. Annie and Paul and Arthur went out early
in the morning, in summer, looking for mushrooms, hunting through the
wet grass, from which the larks were rising, for the white-skinned,
wonderful naked bodies crouched secretly in the green. And if they got
half a pound they felt exceedingly happy: there was the joy of finding
something, the joy of accepting something straight from the hand of
Nature, and the joy of contributing to the family exchequer.

But the most important harvest, after gleaning for frumenty, was the
blackberries. Mrs. Morel must buy fruit for puddings on the Saturdays;
also she liked blackberries. So Paul and Arthur scoured the coppices and
woods and old quarries, so long as a blackberry was to be found, every
week-end going on their search. In that region of mining villages
blackberries became a comparative rarity. But Paul hunted far and wide.
He loved being out in the country, among the bushes. But he also could
not bear to go home to his mother empty. That, he felt, would disappoint
her, and he would have died rather.

"Good gracious!" she would exclaim as the lads came in, late, and tired
to death, and hungry, "wherever have you been?"

"Well," replied Paul, "there wasn't any, so we went over Misk Hills. And
look here, our mother!"

She peeped into the basket.

"Now, those are fine ones!" she exclaimed.

"And there's over two pounds--isn't there over two pounds"?

She tried the basket.

"Yes," she answered doubtfully.

Then Paul fished out a little spray. He always brought her one spray,
the best he could find.

"Pretty!" she said, in a curious tone, of a woman accepting a
love-token.

The boy walked all day, went miles and miles, rather than own himself
beaten and come home to her empty-handed. She never realised this,
whilst he was young. She was a woman who waited for her children to grow
up. And William occupied her chiefly.

But when William went to Nottingham, and was not so much at home, the
mother made a companion of Paul. The latter was unconsciously jealous of
his brother, and William was jealous of him. At the same time, they were
good friends.

Mrs. Morel's intimacy with her second son was more subtle and fine,
perhaps not so passionate as with her eldest. It was the rule that Paul
should fetch the money on Friday afternoons. The colliers of the five
pits were paid on Fridays, but not individually. All the earnings of
each stall were put down to the chief butty, as contractor, and he
divided the wages again, either in the public-house or in his own home.
So that the children could fetch the money, school closed early on
Friday afternoons. Each of the Morel children--William, then Annie,
then Paul--had fetched the money on Friday afternoons, until they went
themselves to work. Paul used to set off at half-past three, with a
little calico bag in his pocket. Down all the paths, women, girls,
children, and men were seen trooping to the offices.

These offices were quite handsome: a new, red-brick building, almost
like a mansion, standing in its own grounds at the end of Greenhill
Lane. The waiting-room was the hall, a long, bare room paved with blue
brick, and having a seat all round, against the wall. Here sat the
colliers in their pit-dirt. They had come up early. The women and
children usually loitered about on the red gravel paths. Paul always
examined the grass border, and the big grass bank, because in it grew
tiny pansies and tiny forget-me-nots. There was a sound of many voices.
The women had on their Sunday hats. The girls chattered loudly. Little
dogs ran here and there. The green shrubs were silent all around.

Then from inside came the cry "Spinney Park--Spinney Park." All the folk
for Spinney Park trooped inside. When it was time for Bretty to be paid,
Paul went in among the crowd. The pay-room was quite small. A counter
went across, dividing it into half. Behind the counter stood two
men--Mr. Braithwaite and his clerk, Mr. Winterbottom. Mr. Braithwaite
was large, somewhat of the stern patriarch in appearance, having a
rather thin white beard. He was usually muffled in an enormous silk
neckerchief, and right up to the hot summer a huge fire burned in the
open grate. No window was open. Sometimes in winter the air scorched the
throats of the people, coming in from the freshness. Mr. Winterbottom
was rather small and fat, and very bald. He made remarks that were not
witty, whilst his chief launched forth patriarchal admonitions against
the colliers.

The room was crowded with miners in their pit-dirt, men who had been
home and changed, and women, and one or two children, and usually a dog.
Paul was quite small, so it was often his fate to be jammed behind the
legs of the men, near the fire which scorched him. He knew the order of
the names--they went according to stall number.

"Holliday," came the ringing voice of Mr. Braithwaite. Then Mrs.
Holliday stepped silently forward, was paid, drew aside.

"Bower--John Bower."

A boy stepped to the counter. Mr. Braithwaite, large and irascible,
glowered at him over his spectacles.

"John Bower!" he repeated.

"It's me," said the boy.

"Why, you used to 'ave a different nose than that," said glossy Mr.
Winterbottom, peering over the counter. The people tittered, thinking of
John Bower senior.

"How is it your father's not come!" said Mr. Braithwaite, in a large and
magisterial voice.

"He's badly," piped the boy.

"You should tell him to keep off the drink," pronounced the great
cashier.

"An' niver mind if he puts his foot through yer," said a mocking voice
from behind.

All the men laughed. The large and important cashier looked down at his
next sheet.

"Fred Pilkington!" he called, quite indifferent.

Mr. Braithwaite was an important shareholder in the firm.

Paul knew his turn was next but one, and his heart began to beat. He was
pushed against the chimney-piece. His calves were burning. But he did
not hope to get through the wall of men.

"Walter Morel!" came the ringing voice.

"Here!" piped Paul, small and inadequate.

"Morel--Walter Morel!" the cashier repeated, his finger and thumb on the
invoice, ready to pass on.

Paul was suffering convulsions of self-consciousness, and could not
or would not shout. The backs of the men obliterated him. Then Mr.
Winterbottom came to the rescue.

"He's here. Where is he? Morel's lad?"

The fat, red, bald little man peered round with keen eyes. He pointed at
the fireplace. The colliers looked round, moved aside, and disclosed the
boy.

"Here he is!" said Mr. Winterbottom.

Paul went to the counter.

"Seventeen pounds eleven and fivepence. Why don't you shout up when
you're called?" said Mr. Braithwaite. He banged on to the invoice a
five-pound bag of silver, then in a delicate and pretty movement, picked
up a little ten-pound column of gold, and plumped it beside the silver.
The gold slid in a bright stream over the paper. The cashier finished
counting off the money; the boy dragged the whole down the counter to
Mr. Winterbottom, to whom the stoppages for rent and tools must be paid.
Here he suffered again.

"Sixteen an' six," said Mr. Winterbottom.

The lad was too much upset to count. He pushed forward some loose silver
and half a sovereign.

"How much do you think you've given me?" asked Mr. Winterbottom.

The boy looked at him, but said nothing. He had not the faintest notion.

"Haven't you got a tongue in your head?"

Paul bit his lip, and pushed forward some more silver.

"Don't they teach you to count at the Board-school?" he asked.

"Nowt but algibbra an' French," said a collier.

"An' cheek an' impidence," said another.

Paul was keeping someone waiting. With trembling fingers he got his
money into the bag and slid out. He suffered the tortures of the damned
on these occasions.

His relief, when he got outside, and was walking along the Mansfield
Road, was infinite. On the park wall the mosses were green. There were
some gold and some white fowls pecking under the apple trees of an
orchard. The colliers were walking home in a stream. The boy went near
the wall, self-consciously. He knew many of the men, but could not
recognise them in their dirt. And this was a new torture to him.

When he got down to the New Inn, at Bretty, his father was not yet come.
Mrs. Wharmby, the landlady, knew him. His grandmother, Morel's mother,
had been Mrs. Wharmby's friend.

"Your father's not come yet," said the landlady, in the peculiar
half-scornful, half-patronising voice of a woman who talks chiefly to
grown men. "Sit you down."

Paul sat down on the edge of the bench in the bar. Some colliers were
"reckoning"--sharing out their money--in a corner; others came in. They
all glanced at the boy without speaking. At last Morel came; brisk, and
with something of an air, even in his blackness.

"Hello!" he said rather tenderly to his son. "Have you bested me? Shall
you have a drink of something?"

Paul and all the children were bred up fierce anti-alcoholists, and he
would have suffered more in drinking a lemonade before all the men than
in having a tooth drawn.

The landlady looked at him _de haut en bas_, rather pitying, and at
the same time, resenting his clear, fierce morality. Paul went home,
glowering. He entered the house silently. Friday was baking day, and
there was usually a hot bun. His mother put it before him.

Suddenly he turned on her in a fury, his eyes flashing:

"I'm NOT going to the office any more," he said.

"Why, what's the matter?" his mother asked in surprise. His sudden rages
rather amused her.

"I'm NOT going any more," he declared.

"Oh, very well, tell your father so."

He chewed his bun as if he hated it.

"I'm not--I'm not going to fetch the money."

"Then one of Carlin's children can go; they'd be glad enough of the
sixpence," said Mrs. Morel.

This sixpence was Paul's only income. It mostly went in buying birthday
presents; but it WAS an income, and he treasured it. But--

"They can have it, then!" he said. "I don't want it."

"Oh, very well," said his mother. "But you needn't bully ME about it."

"They're hateful, and common, and hateful, they are, and I'm not going
any more. Mr. Braithwaite drops his 'h's', an' Mr. Winterbottom says
'You was'."

"And is that why you won't go any more?" smiled Mrs. Morel.

The boy was silent for some time. His face was pale, his eyes dark and
furious. His mother moved about at her work, taking no notice of him.

"They always stan' in front of me, so's I can't get out," he said.

"Well, my lad, you've only to ASK them," she replied.

"An' then Alfred Winterbottom says, 'What do they teach you at the
Board-school?'"

"They never taught HIM much," said Mrs. Morel, "that is a fact--neither
manners nor wit--and his cunning he was born with."

So, in her own way, she soothed him. His ridiculous hypersensitiveness
made her heart ache. And sometimes the fury in his eyes roused her, made
her sleeping soul lift up its head a moment, surprised.

"What was the cheque?" she asked.

"Seventeen pounds eleven and fivepence, and sixteen and six stoppages,"
replied the boy. "It's a good week; and only five shillings stoppages
for my father."

So she was able to calculate how much her husband had earned, and could
call him to account if he gave her short money. Morel always kept to
himself the secret of the week's amount.

Friday was the baking night and market night. It was the rule that Paul
should stay at home and bake. He loved to stop in and draw or read; he
was very fond of drawing. Annie always "gallivanted" on Friday nights;
Arthur was enjoying himself as usual. So the boy remained alone.

Mrs. Morel loved her marketing. In the tiny market-place on the top
of the hill, where four roads, from Nottingham and Derby, Ilkeston
and Mansfield, meet, many stalls were erected. Brakes ran in from
surrounding villages. The market-place was full of women, the streets
packed with men. It was amazing to see so many men everywhere in the
streets. Mrs. Morel usually quarrelled with her lace woman, sympathised
with her fruit man--who was a gabey, but his wife was a bad 'un--laughed
with the fish man--who was a scamp but so droll--put the linoleum man
in his place, was cold with the odd-wares man, and only went to the
crockery man when she was driven--or drawn by the cornflowers on a
little dish; then she was coldly polite.

"I wondered how much that little dish was," she said.

"Sevenpence to you."

"Thank you."

She put the dish down and walked away; but she could not leave the
market-place without it. Again she went by where the pots lay coldly on
the floor, and she glanced at the dish furtively, pretending not to.

She was a little woman, in a bonnet and a black costume. Her bonnet was
in its third year; it was a great grievance to Annie.

"Mother!" the girl implored, "don't wear that nubbly little bonnet."

"Then what else shall I wear," replied the mother tartly. "And I'm sure
it's right enough."

It had started with a tip; then had had flowers; now was reduced to
black lace and a bit of jet.

"It looks rather come down," said Paul. "Couldn't you give it a
pick-me-up?"

"I'll jowl your head for impudence," said Mrs. Morel, and she tied the
strings of the black bonnet valiantly under her chin.

She glanced at the dish again. Both she and her enemy, the pot man,
had an uncomfortable feeling, as if there were something between them.
Suddenly he shouted:

"Do you want it for fivepence?"

She started. Her heart hardened; but then she stooped and took up her
dish.

"I'll have it," she said.

"Yer'll do me the favour, like?" he said. "Yer'd better spit in it, like
yer do when y'ave something give yer."

Mrs. Morel paid him the fivepence in a cold manner.

"I don't see you give it me," she said. "You wouldn't let me have it for
fivepence if you didn't want to."

"In this flamin', scrattlin' place you may count yerself lucky if you
can give your things away," he growled.

"Yes; there are bad times, and good," said Mrs. Morel.

But she had forgiven the pot man. They were friends. She dare now finger
his pots. So she was happy.

Paul was waiting for her. He loved her home-coming. She was always her
best so--triumphant, tired, laden with parcels, feeling rich in spirit.
He heard her quick, light step in the entry and looked up from his
drawing.

"Oh!" she sighed, smiling at him from the doorway.

"My word, you ARE loaded!" he exclaimed, putting down his brush.

"I am!" she gasped. "That brazen Annie said she'd meet me. SUCH a
weight!"

She dropped her string bag and her packages on the table.

"Is the bread done?" she asked, going to the oven.

"The last one is soaking," he replied. "You needn't look, I've not
forgotten it."

"Oh, that pot man!" she said, closing the oven door. "You know what a
wretch I've said he was? Well, I don't think he's quite so bad."

"Don't you?"

The boy was attentive to her. She took off her little black bonnet.

"No. I think he can't make any money--well, it's everybody's cry alike
nowadays--and it makes him disagreeable."

"It would ME," said Paul.

"Well, one can't wonder at it. And he let me have--how much do you think
he let me have THIS for?"

She took the dish out of its rag of newspaper, and stood looking on it
with joy.

"Show me!" said Paul.

The two stood together gloating over the dish.

"I LOVE cornflowers on things," said Paul.

"Yes, and I thought of the teapot you bought me--"

"One and three," said Paul.

"Fivepence!"

"It's not enough, mother."

"No. Do you know, I fairly sneaked off with it. But I'd been
extravagant, I couldn't afford any more. And he needn't have let me have
it if he hadn't wanted to."

"No, he needn't, need he," said Paul, and the two comforted each other
from the fear of having robbed the pot man.

"We c'n have stewed fruit in it," said Paul.

"Or custard, or a jelly," said his mother.

"Or radishes and lettuce," said he.

"Don't forget that bread," she said, her voice bright with glee.

Paul looked in the oven; tapped the loaf on the base.

"It's done," he said, giving it to her.

She tapped it also.

"Yes," she replied, going to unpack her bag. "Oh, and I'm a wicked,
extravagant woman. I know I s'll come to want."

He hopped to her side eagerly, to see her latest extravagance. She
unfolded another lump of newspaper and disclosed some roots of pansies
and of crimson daisies.

"Four penn'orth!" she moaned.

"How CHEAP!" he cried.

"Yes, but I couldn't afford it THIS week of all weeks."

"But lovely!" he cried.

"Aren't they!" she exclaimed, giving way to pure joy. "Paul, look at
this yellow one, isn't it--and a face just like an old man!"

"Just!" cried Paul, stooping to sniff. "And smells that nice! But he's a
bit splashed."

He ran in the scullery, came back with the flannel, and carefully washed
the pansy.

"NOW look at him now he's wet!" he said.

"Yes!" she exclaimed, brimful of satisfaction.

The children of Scargill Street felt quite select. At the end where
the Morels lived there were not many young things. So the few were more
united. Boys and girls played together, the girls joining in the fights
and the rough games, the boys taking part in the dancing games and rings
and make-belief of the girls.

Annie and Paul and Arthur loved the winter evenings, when it was not
wet. They stayed indoors till the colliers were all gone home, till it
was thick dark, and the street would be deserted. Then they tied their
scarves round their necks, for they scorned overcoats, as all the
colliers' children did, and went out. The entry was very dark, and at
the end the whole great night opened out, in a hollow, with a little
tangle of lights below where Minton pit lay, and another far away
opposite for Selby. The farthest tiny lights seemed to stretch out the
darkness for ever. The children looked anxiously down the road at the
one lamp-post, which stood at the end of the field path. If the little,
luminous space were deserted, the two boys felt genuine desolation. They
stood with their hands in their pockets under the lamp, turning their
backs on the night, quite miserable, watching the dark houses. Suddenly
a pinafore under a short coat was seen, and a long-legged girl came
flying up.

"Where's Billy Pillins an' your Annie an' Eddie Dakin?"

"I don't know."

But it did not matter so much--there were three now. They set up a game
round the lamp-post, till the others rushed up, yelling. Then the play
went fast and furious.

There was only this one lamp-post. Behind was the great scoop of
darkness, as if all the night were there. In front, another wide, dark
way opened over the hill brow. Occasionally somebody came out of this
way and went into the field down the path. In a dozen yards the night
had swallowed them. The children played on.

They were brought exceedingly close together owing to their isolation.
If a quarrel took place, the whole play was spoilt. Arthur was very
touchy, and Billy Pillins--really Philips--was worse. Then Paul had to
side with Arthur, and on Paul's side went Alice, while Billy Pillins
always had Emmie Limb and Eddie Dakin to back him up. Then the six would
fight, hate with a fury of hatred, and flee home in terror. Paul never
forgot, after one of these fierce internecine fights, seeing a big red
moon lift itself up, slowly, between the waste road over the hilltop,
steadily, like a great bird. And he thought of the Bible, that the moon
should be turned to blood. And the next day he made haste to be friends
with Billy Pillins. And then the wild, intense games went on again under
the lamp-post, surrounded by so much darkness. Mrs. Morel, going into
her parlour, would hear the children singing away:

     "My shoes are made of Spanish leather,
     My socks are made of silk;
     I wear a ring on every finger,
     I wash myself in milk."

They sounded so perfectly absorbed in the game as their voices came
out of the night, that they had the feel of wild creatures singing.
It stirred the mother; and she understood when they came in at eight
o'clock, ruddy, with brilliant eyes, and quick, passionate speech.

They all loved the Scargill Street house for its openness, for the great
scallop of the world it had in view. On summer evenings the women would
stand against the field fence, gossiping, facing the west, watching the
sunsets flare quickly out, till the Derbyshire hills ridged across the
crimson far away, like the black crest of a newt.

In this summer season the pits never turned full time, particularly the
soft coal. Mrs. Dakin, who lived next door to Mrs. Morel, going to the
field fence to shake her hearthrug, would spy men coming slowly up the
hill. She saw at once they were colliers. Then she waited, a tall, thin,
shrew-faced woman, standing on the hill brow, almost like a menace to
the poor colliers who were toiling up. It was only eleven o'clock. From
the far-off wooded hills the haze that hangs like fine black crape at
the back of a summer morning had not yet dissipated. The first man came
to the stile. "Chock-chock!" went the gate under his thrust.

"What, han' yer knocked off?" cried Mrs. Dakin.

"We han, missis."

"It's a pity as they letn yer goo," she said sarcastically.

"It is that," replied the man.

"Nay, you know you're flig to come up again," she said.

And the man went on. Mrs. Dakin, going up her yard, spied Mrs. Morel
taking the ashes to the ash-pit.

"I reckon Minton's knocked off, missis," she cried.

"Isn't it sickenin!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel in wrath.

"Ha! But I'n just seed Jont Hutchby."

"They might as well have saved their shoe-leather," said Mrs. Morel. And
both women went indoors disgusted.

The colliers, their faces scarcely blackened, were trooping home again.
Morel hated to go back. He loved the sunny morning. But he had gone to
pit to work, and to be sent home again spoilt his temper.

"Good gracious, at this time!" exclaimed his wife, as he entered.

"Can I help it, woman?" he shouted.

"And I've not done half enough dinner."

"Then I'll eat my bit o' snap as I took with me," he bawled
pathetically. He felt ignominious and sore.

And the children, coming home from school, would wonder to see their
father eating with his dinner the two thick slices of rather dry and
dirty bread-and-butter that had been to pit and back.

"What's my dad eating his snap for now?" asked Arthur.

"I should ha'e it holled at me if I didna," snorted Morel.

"What a story!" exclaimed his wife.

"An' is it goin' to be wasted?" said Morel. "I'm not such a extravagant
mortal as you lot, with your waste. If I drop a bit of bread at pit, in
all the dust an' dirt, I pick it up an' eat it."

"The mice would eat it," said Paul. "It wouldn't be wasted."

"Good bread-an'-butter's not for mice, either," said Morel. "Dirty or
not dirty, I'd eat it rather than it should be wasted."

"You might leave it for the mice and pay for it out of your next pint,"
said Mrs. Morel.

"Oh, might I?" he exclaimed.

They were very poor that autumn. William had just gone away to London,
and his mother missed his money. He sent ten shillings once or twice,
but he had many things to pay for at first. His letters came regularly
once a week. He wrote a good deal to his mother, telling her all his
life, how he made friends, and was exchanging lessons with a Frenchman,
how he enjoyed London. His mother felt again he was remaining to her
just as when he was at home. She wrote to him every week her direct,
rather witty letters. All day long, as she cleaned the house, she
thought of him. He was in London: he would do well. Almost, he was like
her knight who wore HER favour in the battle.

He was coming at Christmas for five days. There had never been such
preparations. Paul and Arthur scoured the land for holly and evergreens.
Annie made the pretty paper hoops in the old-fashioned way. And there
was unheard-of extravagance in the larder. Mrs. Morel made a big and
magnificent cake. Then, feeling queenly, she showed Paul how to blanch
almonds. He skinned the long nuts reverently, counting them all, to see
not one was lost. It was said that eggs whisked better in a cold place.
So the boy stood in the scullery, where the temperature was nearly at
freezing-point, and whisked and whisked, and flew in excitement to his
mother as the white of egg grew stiffer and more snowy.

"Just look, mother! Isn't it lovely?"

And he balanced a bit on his nose, then blew it in the air.

"Now, don't waste it," said the mother.

Everybody was mad with excitement. William was coming on Christmas Eve.
Mrs. Morel surveyed her pantry. There was a big plum cake, and a rice
cake, jam tarts, lemon tarts, and mince-pies--two enormous dishes. She
was finishing cooking--Spanish tarts and cheese-cakes. Everywhere was
decorated. The kissing bunch of berried holly hung with bright and
glittering things, spun slowly over Mrs. Morel's head as she trimmed her
little tarts in the kitchen. A great fire roared. There was a scent of
cooked pastry. He was due at seven o'clock, but he would be late. The
three children had gone to meet him. She was alone. But at a quarter to
seven Morel came in again. Neither wife nor husband spoke. He sat in his
armchair, quite awkward with excitement, and she quietly went on with
her baking. Only by the careful way in which she did things could it be
told how much moved she was. The clock ticked on.

"What time dost say he's coming?" Morel asked for the fifth time.

"The train gets in at half-past six," she replied emphatically.

"Then he'll be here at ten past seven."

"Eh, bless you, it'll be hours late on the Midland," she said
indifferently. But she hoped, by expecting him late, to bring him early.
Morel went down the entry to look for him. Then he came back.

"Goodness, man!" she said. "You're like an ill-sitting hen."

"Hadna you better be gettin' him summat t' eat ready?" asked the father.

"There's plenty of time," she answered.

"There's not so much as I can see on," he answered, turning crossly in
his chair. She began to clear her table. The kettle was singing. They
waited and waited.

Meantime the three children were on the platform at Sethley Bridge,
on the Midland main line, two miles from home. They waited one hour.
A train came--he was not there. Down the line the red and green lights
shone. It was very dark and very cold.

"Ask him if the London train's come," said Paul to Annie, when they saw
a man in a tip cap.

"I'm not," said Annie. "You be quiet--he might send us off."

But Paul was dying for the man to know they were expecting someone by
the London train: it sounded so grand. Yet he was much too much scared
of broaching any man, let alone one in a peaked cap, to dare to ask. The
three children could scarcely go into the waiting-room for fear of being
sent away, and for fear something should happen whilst they were off the
platform. Still they waited in the dark and cold.

"It's an hour an' a half late," said Arthur pathetically.

"Well," said Annie, "it's Christmas Eve."

They all grew silent. He wasn't coming. They looked down the darkness
of the railway. There was London! It seemed the utter-most of distance.
They thought anything might happen if one came from London. They were
all too troubled to talk. Cold, and unhappy, and silent, they huddled
together on the platform.

At last, after more than two hours, they saw the lights of an engine
peering round, away down the darkness. A porter ran out. The children
drew back with beating hearts. A great train, bound for Manchester, drew
up. Two doors opened, and from one of them, William. They flew to him.
He handed parcels to them cheerily, and immediately began to explain
that this great train had stopped for HIS sake at such a small station
as Sethley Bridge: it was not booked to stop.

Meanwhile the parents were getting anxious. The table was set, the chop
was cooked, everything was ready. Mrs. Morel put on her black apron.
She was wearing her best dress. Then she sat, pretending to read. The
minutes were a torture to her.

"H'm!" said Morel. "It's an hour an' a ha'ef."

"And those children waiting!" she said.

"Th' train canna ha' come in yet," he said.

"I tell you, on Christmas Eve they're HOURS wrong."

They were both a bit cross with each other, so gnawed with anxiety. The
ash tree moaned outside in a cold, raw wind. And all that space of night
from London home! Mrs. Morel suffered. The slight click of the works
inside the clock irritated her. It was getting so late; it was getting
unbearable.

At last there was a sound of voices, and a footstep in the entry.

"Ha's here!" cried Morel, jumping up.

Then he stood back. The mother ran a few steps towards the door and
waited. There was a rush and a patter of feet, the door burst open.
William was there. He dropped his Gladstone bag and took his mother in
his arms.

"Mater!" he said.

"My boy!" she cried.

And for two seconds, no longer, she clasped him and kissed him. Then she
withdrew and said, trying to be quite normal:

"But how late you are!"

"Aren't I!" he cried, turning to his father. "Well, dad!"

The two men shook hands.

"Well, my lad!"

Morel's eyes were wet.

"We thought tha'd niver be commin'," he said.

"Oh, I'd come!" exclaimed William.

Then the son turned round to his mother.

"But you look well," she said proudly, laughing.

"Well!" he exclaimed. "I should think so--coming home!"

He was a fine fellow, big, straight, and fearless-looking. He looked
round at the evergreens and the kissing bunch, and the little tarts that
lay in their tins on the hearth.

"By jove! mother, it's not different!" he said, as if in relief.

Everybody was still for a second. Then he suddenly sprang forward,
picked a tart from the hearth, and pushed it whole into his mouth.

"Well, did iver you see such a parish oven!" the father exclaimed.

He had brought them endless presents. Every penny he had he had spent
on them. There was a sense of luxury overflowing in the house. For his
mother there was an umbrella with gold on the pale handle. She kept
it to her dying day, and would have lost anything rather than that.
Everybody had something gorgeous, and besides, there were pounds of
unknown sweets: Turkish delight, crystallised pineapple, and such-like
things which, the children thought, only the splendour of London could
provide. And Paul boasted of these sweets among his friends.

"Real pineapple, cut off in slices, and then turned into crystal--fair
grand!"

Everybody was mad with happiness in the family. Home was home, and they
loved it with a passion of love, whatever the suffering had been. There
were parties, there were rejoicings. People came in to see William, to
see what difference London had made to him. And they all found him "such
a gentleman, and SUCH a fine fellow, my word"!

When he went away again the children retired to various places to weep
alone. Morel went to bed in misery, and Mrs. Morel felt as if she were
numbed by some drug, as if her feelings were paralysed. She loved him
passionately.

He was in the office of a lawyer connected with a large shipping firm,
and at the midsummer his chief offered him a trip in the Mediterranean
on one of the boats, for quite a small cost. Mrs. Morel wrote: "Go, go,
my boy. You may never have a chance again, and I should love to think of
you cruising there in the Mediterranean almost better than to have you
at home." But William came home for his fortnight's holiday. Not even
the Mediterranean, which pulled at all his young man's desire to travel,
and at his poor man's wonder at the glamorous south, could take him away
when he might come home. That compensated his mother for much.



CHAPTER V

PAUL LAUNCHES INTO LIFE

MOREL was rather a heedless man, careless of danger. So he had endless
accidents. Now, when Mrs. Morel heard the rattle of an empty coal-cart
cease at her entry-end, she ran into the parlour to look, expecting
almost to see her husband seated in the waggon, his face grey under his
dirt, his body limp and sick with some hurt or other. If it were he, she
would run out to help.

About a year after William went to London, and just after Paul had left
school, before he got work, Mrs. Morel was upstairs and her son was
painting in the kitchen--he was very clever with his brush--when there
came a knock at the door. Crossly he put down his brush to go. At the
same moment his mother opened a window upstairs and looked down.

A pit-lad in his dirt stood on the threshold.

"Is this Walter Morel's?" he asked.

"Yes," said Mrs. Morel. "What is it?"

But she had guessed already.

"Your mester's got hurt," he said.

"Eh, dear me!" she exclaimed. "It's a wonder if he hadn't, lad. And
what's he done this time?"

"I don't know for sure, but it's 'is leg somewhere. They ta'ein' 'im ter
th' 'ospital."

"Good gracious me!" she exclaimed. "Eh, dear, what a one he is! There's
not five minutes of peace, I'll be hanged if there is! His thumb's
nearly better, and now--Did you see him?"

"I seed him at th' bottom. An' I seed 'em bring 'im up in a tub, an'
'e wor in a dead faint. But he shouted like anythink when Doctor Fraser
examined him i' th' lamp cabin--an' cossed an' swore, an' said as 'e wor
goin' to be ta'en whoam--'e worn't goin' ter th' 'ospital."

The boy faltered to an end.

"He WOULD want to come home, so that I can have all the bother. Thank
you, my lad. Eh, dear, if I'm not sick--sick and surfeited, I am!"

She came downstairs. Paul had mechanically resumed his painting.

"And it must be pretty bad if they've taken him to the hospital," she
went on. "But what a CARELESS creature he is! OTHER men don't have all
these accidents. Yes, he WOULD want to put all the burden on me. Eh,
dear, just as we WERE getting easy a bit at last. Put those things away,
there's no time to be painting now. What time is there a train? I know I
s'll have to go trailing to Keston. I s'll have to leave that bedroom."

"I can finish it," said Paul.

"You needn't. I shall catch the seven o'clock back, I should think. Oh,
my blessed heart, the fuss and commotion he'll make! And those granite
setts at Tinder Hill--he might well call them kidney pebbles--they'll
jolt him almost to bits. I wonder why they can't mend them, the state
they're in, an' all the men as go across in that ambulance. You'd think
they'd have a hospital here. The men bought the ground, and, my sirs,
there'd be accidents enough to keep it going. But no, they must trail
them ten miles in a slow ambulance to Nottingham. It's a crying shame!
Oh, and the fuss he'll make! I know he will! I wonder who's with him.
Barker, I s'd think. Poor beggar, he'll wish himself anywhere rather.
But he'll look after him, I know. Now there's no telling how long he'll
be stuck in that hospital--and WON'T he hate it! But if it's only his
leg it's not so bad."

All the time she was getting ready. Hurriedly taking off her bodice, she
crouched at the boiler while the water ran slowly into her lading-can.

"I wish this boiler was at the bottom of the sea!" she exclaimed,
wriggling the handle impatiently. She had very handsome, strong arms,
rather surprising on a smallish woman.

Paul cleared away, put on the kettle, and set the table.

"There isn't a train till four-twenty," he said. "You've time enough."

"Oh no, I haven't!" she cried, blinking at him over the towel as she
wiped her face.

"Yes, you have. You must drink a cup of tea at any rate. Should I come
with you to Keston?"

"Come with me? What for, I should like to know? Now, what have I to take
him? Eh, dear! His clean shirt--and it's a blessing it IS clean. But it
had better be aired. And stockings--he won't want them--and a towel, I
suppose; and handkerchiefs. Now what else?"

"A comb, a knife and fork and spoon," said Paul. His father had been in
the hospital before.

"Goodness knows what sort of state his feet were in," continued Mrs.
Morel, as she combed her long brown hair, that was fine as silk, and
was touched now with grey. "He's very particular to wash himself to the
waist, but below he thinks doesn't matter. But there, I suppose they see
plenty like it."

Paul had laid the table. He cut his mother one or two pieces of very
thin bread and butter.

"Here you are," he said, putting her cup of tea in her place.

"I can't be bothered!" she exclaimed crossly.

"Well, you've got to, so there, now it's put out ready," he insisted.

So she sat down and sipped her tea, and ate a little, in silence. She
was thinking.

In a few minutes she was gone, to walk the two and a half miles to
Keston Station. All the things she was taking him she had in her bulging
string bag. Paul watched her go up the road between the hedges--a
little, quick-stepping figure, and his heart ached for her, that she was
thrust forward again into pain and trouble. And she, tripping so quickly
in her anxiety, felt at the back of her her son's heart waiting on her,
felt him bearing what part of the burden he could, even supporting her.
And when she was at the hospital, she thought: "It WILL upset that lad
when I tell him how bad it is. I'd better be careful." And when she was
trudging home again, she felt he was coming to share her burden.

"Is it bad?" asked Paul, as soon as she entered the house.

"It's bad enough," she replied.

"What?"

She sighed and sat down, undoing her bonnet-strings. Her son watched her
face as it was lifted, and her small, work-hardened hands fingering at
the bow under her chin.

"Well," she answered, "it's not really dangerous, but the nurse says
it's a dreadful smash. You see, a great piece of rock fell on his
leg--here--and it's a compound fracture. There are pieces of bone
sticking through--"

"Ugh--how horrid!" exclaimed the children.

"And," she continued, "of course he says he's going to die--it wouldn't
be him if he didn't. 'I'm done for, my lass!' he said, looking at me.
'Don't be so silly,' I said to him. 'You're not going to die of a broken
leg, however badly it's smashed.' 'I s'll niver come out of 'ere but in
a wooden box,' he groaned. 'Well,' I said, 'if you want them to carry
you into the garden in a wooden box, when you're better, I've no doubt
they will.' 'If we think it's good for him,' said the Sister. She's an
awfully nice Sister, but rather strict."

Mrs. Morel took off her bonnet. The children waited in silence.

"Of course, he IS bad," she continued, "and he will be. It's a great
shock, and he's lost a lot of blood; and, of course, it IS a very
dangerous smash. It's not at all sure that it will mend so easily. And
then there's the fever and the mortification--if it took bad ways he'd
quickly be gone. But there, he's a clean-blooded man, with wonderful
healing flesh, and so I see no reason why it SHOULD take bad ways. Of
course there's a wound--"

She was pale now with emotion and anxiety. The three children realised
that it was very bad for their father, and the house was silent,
anxious.

"But he always gets better," said Paul after a while.

"That's what I tell him," said the mother.

Everybody moved about in silence.

"And he really looked nearly done for," she said. "But the Sister says
that is the pain."

Annie took away her mother's coat and bonnet.

"And he looked at me when I came away! I said: 'I s'll have to go now,
Walter, because of the train--and the children.' And he looked at me. It
seems hard."

Paul took up his brush again and went on painting. Arthur went outside
for some coal. Annie sat looking dismal. And Mrs. Morel, in her little
rocking-chair that her husband had made for her when the first baby was
coming, remained motionless, brooding. She was grieved, and bitterly
sorry for the man who was hurt so much. But still, in her heart of
hearts, where the love should have burned, there was a blank. Now, when
all her woman's pity was roused to its full extent, when she would have
slaved herself to death to nurse him and to save him, when she would
have taken the pain herself, if she could, somewhere far away inside
her, she felt indifferent to him and to his suffering. It hurt her
most of all, this failure to love him, even when he roused her strong
emotions. She brooded a while.

"And there," she said suddenly, "when I'd got halfway to Keston, I found
I'd come out in my working boots--and LOOK at them." They were an old
pair of Paul's, brown and rubbed through at the toes. "I didn't know
what to do with myself, for shame," she added.

In the morning, when Annie and Arthur were at school, Mrs. Morel talked
again to her son, who was helping her with her housework.

"I found Barker at the hospital. He did look bad, poor little fellow!
'Well,' I said to him, 'what sort of a journey did you have with him?'
'Dunna ax me, missis!' he said. 'Ay,' I said, 'I know what he'd be.'
'But it WOR bad for him, Mrs. Morel, it WOR that!' he said. 'I know,' I
said. 'At ivry jolt I thought my 'eart would ha' flown clean out o' my
mouth,' he said. 'An' the scream 'e gives sometimes! Missis, not for a
fortune would I go through wi' it again.' 'I can quite understand it,'
I said. 'It's a nasty job, though,' he said, 'an' one as'll be a long
while afore it's right again.' 'I'm afraid it will,' I said. I like Mr.
Barker--I DO like him. There's something so manly about him."

Paul resumed his task silently.

"And of course," Mrs. Morel continued, "for a man like your father,
the hospital IS hard. He CAN'T understand rules and regulations. And he
won't let anybody else touch him, not if he can help it. When he smashed
the muscles of his thigh, and it had to be dressed four times a day,
WOULD he let anybody but me or his mother do it? He wouldn't. So, of
course, he'll suffer in there with the nurses. And I didn't like leaving
him. I'm sure, when I kissed him an' came away, it seemed a shame."

So she talked to her son, almost as if she were thinking aloud to him,
and he took it in as best he could, by sharing her trouble to lighten
it. And in the end she shared almost everything with him without
knowing.

Morel had a very bad time. For a week he was in a critical condition.
Then he began to mend. And then, knowing he was going to get better, the
whole family sighed with relief, and proceeded to live happily.

They were not badly off whilst Morel was in the hospital. There were
fourteen shillings a week from the pit, ten shillings from the sick
club, and five shillings from the Disability Fund; and then every week
the butties had something for Mrs. Morel--five or seven shillings--so
that she was quite well to do. And whilst Morel was progressing
favourably in the hospital, the family was extraordinarily happy and
peaceful. On Saturdays and Wednesdays Mrs. Morel went to Nottingham to
see her husband. Then she always brought back some little thing: a small
tube of paints for Paul, or some thick paper; a couple of postcards for
Annie, that the whole family rejoiced over for days before the girl was
allowed to send them away; or a fret-saw for Arthur, or a bit of pretty
wood. She described her adventures into the big shops with joy. Soon the
folk in the picture-shop knew her, and knew about Paul. The girl in
the book-shop took a keen interest in her. Mrs. Morel was full of
information when she got home from Nottingham. The three sat round till
bed-time, listening, putting in, arguing. Then Paul often raked the
fire.

"I'm the man in the house now," he used to say to his mother with joy.
They learned how perfectly peaceful the home could be. And they
almost regretted--though none of them would have owned to such
callousness--that their father was soon coming back.

Paul was now fourteen, and was looking for work. He was a rather small
and rather finely-made boy, with dark brown hair and light blue eyes.
His face had already lost its youthful chubbiness, and was becoming
somewhat like William's--rough-featured, almost rugged--and it was
extraordinarily mobile. Usually he looked as if he saw things, was full
of life, and warm; then his smile, like his mother's, came suddenly and
was very lovable; and then, when there was any clog in his soul's quick
running, his face went stupid and ugly. He was the sort of boy that
becomes a clown and a lout as soon as he is not understood, or feels
himself held cheap; and, again, is adorable at the first touch of
warmth.

He suffered very much from the first contact with anything. When he was
seven, the starting school had been a nightmare and a torture to him.
But afterwards he liked it. And now that he felt he had to go out into
life, he went through agonies of shrinking self-consciousness. He was
quite a clever painter for a boy of his years, and he knew some French
and German and mathematics that Mr. Heaton had taught him. But nothing
he had was of any commercial value. He was not strong enough for heavy
manual work, his mother said. He did not care for making things with his
hands, preferred racing about, or making excursions into the country, or
reading, or painting.

"What do you want to be?" his mother asked.

"Anything."

"That is no answer," said Mrs. Morel.

But it was quite truthfully the only answer he could give. His ambition,
as far as this world's gear went, was quietly to earn his thirty or
thirty-five shillings a week somewhere near home, and then, when his
father died, have a cottage with his mother, paint and go out as he
liked, and live happy ever after. That was his programme as far as doing
things went. But he was proud within himself, measuring people against
himself, and placing them, inexorably. And he thought that PERHAPS he
might also make a painter, the real thing. But that he left alone.

"Then," said his mother, "you must look in the paper for the
advertisements."

He looked at her. It seemed to him a bitter humiliation and an anguish
to go through. But he said nothing. When he got up in the morning, his
whole being was knotted up over this one thought:

"I've got to go and look for advertisements for a job."

It stood in front of the morning, that thought, killing all joy and even
life, for him. His heart felt like a tight knot.

And then, at ten o'clock, he set off. He was supposed to be a queer,
quiet child. Going up the sunny street of the little town, he felt as
if all the folk he met said to themselves: "He's going to the Co-op.
reading-room to look in the papers for a place. He can't get a job. I
suppose he's living on his mother." Then he crept up the stone stairs
behind the drapery shop at the Co-op., and peeped in the reading-room.
Usually one or two men were there, either old, useless fellows, or
colliers "on the club". So he entered, full of shrinking and suffering
when they looked up, seated himself at the table, and pretended to scan
the news. He knew they would think: "What does a lad of thirteen want in
a reading-room with a newspaper?" and he suffered.

Then he looked wistfully out of the window. Already he was a prisoner
of industrialism. Large sunflowers stared over the old red wall of the
garden opposite, looking in their jolly way down on the women who
were hurrying with something for dinner. The valley was full of corn,
brightening in the sun. Two collieries, among the fields, waved their
small white plumes of steam. Far off on the hills were the woods of
Annesley, dark and fascinating. Already his heart went down. He was
being taken into bondage. His freedom in the beloved home valley was
going now.

The brewers' waggons came rolling up from Keston with enormous barrels,
four a side, like beans in a burst bean-pod. The waggoner, throned
aloft, rolling massively in his seat, was not so much below Paul's eye.
The man's hair, on his small, bullet head, was bleached almost white by
the sun, and on his thick red arms, rocking idly on his sack apron, the
white hairs glistened. His red face shone and was almost asleep with
sunshine. The horses, handsome and brown, went on by themselves, looking
by far the masters of the show.

Paul wished he were stupid. "I wish," he thought to himself, "I was fat
like him, and like a dog in the sun. I wish I was a pig and a brewer's
waggoner."

Then, the room being at last empty, he would hastily copy an
advertisement on a scrap of paper, then another, and slip out in immense
relief. His mother would scan over his copies.

"Yes," she said, "you may try."

William had written out a letter of application, couched in admirable
business language, which Paul copied, with variations. The boy's
handwriting was execrable, so that William, who did all things well, got
into a fever of impatience.

The elder brother was becoming quite swanky. In London he found that he
could associate with men far above his Bestwood friends in station. Some
of the clerks in the office had studied for the law, and were more or
less going through a kind of apprenticeship. William always made friends
among men wherever he went, he was so jolly. Therefore he was soon
visiting and staying in houses of men who, in Bestwood, would have
looked down on the unapproachable bank manager, and would merely have
called indifferently on the Rector. So he began to fancy himself as a
great gun. He was, indeed, rather surprised at the ease with which he
became a gentleman.

His mother was glad, he seemed so pleased. And his lodging in
Walthamstow was so dreary. But now there seemed to come a kind of fever
into the young man's letters. He was unsettled by all the change, he did
not stand firm on his own feet, but seemed to spin rather giddily on the
quick current of the new life. His mother was anxious for him. She could
feel him losing himself. He had danced and gone to the theatre, boated
on the river, been out with friends; and she knew he sat up afterwards
in his cold bedroom grinding away at Latin, because he intended to get
on in his office, and in the law as much as he could. He never sent his
mother any money now. It was all taken, the little he had, for his own
life. And she did not want any, except sometimes, when she was in a
tight corner, and when ten shillings would have saved her much worry.
She still dreamed of William, and of what he would do, with herself
behind him. Never for a minute would she admit to herself how heavy and
anxious her heart was because of him.

Also he talked a good deal now of a girl he had met at a dance, a
handsome brunette, quite young, and a lady, after whom the men were
running thick and fast.

"I wonder if you would run, my boy," his mother wrote to him, "unless
you saw all the other men chasing her too. You feel safe enough and vain
enough in a crowd. But take care, and see how you feel when you find
yourself alone, and in triumph." William resented these things, and
continued the chase. He had taken the girl on the river. "If you saw
her, mother, you would know how I feel. Tall and elegant, with the
clearest of clear, transparent olive complexions, hair as black as jet,
and such grey eyes--bright, mocking, like lights on water at night. It
is all very well to be a bit satirical till you see her. And she dresses
as well as any woman in London. I tell you, your son doesn't half put
his head up when she goes walking down Piccadilly with him."

Mrs. Morel wondered, in her heart, if her son did not go walking down
Piccadilly with an elegant figure and fine clothes, rather than with
a woman who was near to him. But she congratulated him in her doubtful
fashion. And, as she stood over the washing-tub, the mother brooded over
her son. She saw him saddled with an elegant and expensive wife, earning
little money, dragging along and getting draggled in some small, ugly
house in a suburb. "But there," she told herself, "I am very likely
a silly--meeting trouble halfway." Nevertheless, the load of anxiety
scarcely ever left her heart, lest William should do the wrong thing by
himself.

Presently, Paul was bidden call upon Thomas Jordan, Manufacturer of
Surgical Appliances, at 21, Spaniel Row, Nottingham. Mrs. Morel was all
joy.

"There, you see!" she cried, her eyes shining. "You've only written four
letters, and the third is answered. You're lucky, my boy, as I always
said you were."

Paul looked at the picture of a wooden leg, adorned with elastic
stockings and other appliances, that figured on Mr. Jordan's notepaper,
and he felt alarmed. He had not known that elastic stockings existed.
And he seemed to feel the business world, with its regulated system of
values, and its impersonality, and he dreaded it. It seemed monstrous
also that a business could be run on wooden legs.

Mother and son set off together one Tuesday morning. It was August and
blazing hot. Paul walked with something screwed up tight inside him.
He would have suffered much physical pain rather than this unreasonable
suffering at being exposed to strangers, to be accepted or rejected. Yet
he chattered away with his mother. He would never have confessed to her
how he suffered over these things, and she only partly guessed. She
was gay, like a sweetheart. She stood in front of the ticket-office at
Bestwood, and Paul watched her take from her purse the money for the
tickets. As he saw her hands in their old black kid gloves getting the
silver out of the worn purse, his heart contracted with pain of love of
her.

She was quite excited, and quite gay. He suffered because she WOULD talk
aloud in presence of the other travellers.

"Now look at that silly cow!" she said, "careering round as if it
thought it was a circus."

"It's most likely a bottfly," he said very low.

"A what?" she asked brightly and unashamed.

They thought a while. He was sensible all the time of having her
opposite him. Suddenly their eyes met, and she smiled to him--a rare,
intimate smile, beautiful with brightness and love. Then each looked out
of the window.

The sixteen slow miles of railway journey passed. The mother and son
walked down Station Street, feeling the excitement of lovers having an
adventure together. In Carrington Street they stopped to hang over the
parapet and look at the barges on the canal below.

"It's just like Venice," he said, seeing the sunshine on the water that
lay between high factory walls.

"Perhaps," she answered, smiling.

They enjoyed the shops immensely.

"Now you see that blouse," she would say, "wouldn't that just suit our
Annie? And for one-and-eleven-three. Isn't that cheap?"

"And made of needlework as well," he said.

"Yes."

They had plenty of time, so they did not hurry. The town was strange
and delightful to them. But the boy was tied up inside in a knot of
apprehension. He dreaded the interview with Thomas Jordan.

It was nearly eleven o'clock by St. Peter's Church. They turned up a
narrow street that led to the Castle. It was gloomy and old-fashioned,
having low dark shops and dark green house doors with brass knockers,
and yellow-ochred doorsteps projecting on to the pavement; then another
old shop whose small window looked like a cunning, half-shut eye. Mother
and son went cautiously, looking everywhere for "Thomas Jordan and
Son". It was like hunting in some wild place. They were on tiptoe of
excitement.

Suddenly they spied a big, dark archway, in which were names of various
firms, Thomas Jordan among them.

"Here it is!" said Mrs. Morel. "But now WHERE is it?"

They looked round. On one side was a queer, dark, cardboard factory, on
the other a Commercial Hotel.

"It's up the entry," said Paul.

And they ventured under the archway, as into the jaws of the dragon.
They emerged into a wide yard, like a well, with buildings all round. It
was littered with straw and boxes, and cardboard. The sunshine actually
caught one crate whose straw was streaming on to the yard like gold. But
elsewhere the place was like a pit. There were several doors, and two
flights of steps. Straight in front, on a dirty glass door at the top of
a staircase, loomed the ominous words "Thomas Jordan and Son--Surgical
Appliances." Mrs. Morel went first, her son followed her. Charles I
mounted his scaffold with a lighter heart than had Paul Morel as he
followed his mother up the dirty steps to the dirty door.

She pushed open the door, and stood in pleased surprise. In front of her
was a big warehouse, with creamy paper parcels everywhere, and clerks,
with their shirt-sleeves rolled back, were going about in an at-home
sort of way. The light was subdued, the glossy cream parcels seemed
luminous, the counters were of dark brown wood. All was quiet and very
homely. Mrs. Morel took two steps forward, then waited. Paul stood
behind her. She had on her Sunday bonnet and a black veil; he wore a
boy's broad white collar and a Norfolk suit.

One of the clerks looked up. He was thin and tall, with a small face.
His way of looking was alert. Then he glanced round to the other end of
the room, where was a glass office. And then he came forward. He did
not say anything, but leaned in a gentle, inquiring fashion towards Mrs.
Morel.

"Can I see Mr. Jordan?" she asked.

"I'll fetch him," answered the young man.

He went down to the glass office. A red-faced, white-whiskered old man
looked up. He reminded Paul of a pomeranian dog. Then the same little
man came up the room. He had short legs, was rather stout, and wore
an alpaca jacket. So, with one ear up, as it were, he came stoutly and
inquiringly down the room.

"Good-morning!" he said, hesitating before Mrs. Morel, in doubt as to
whether she were a customer or not.

"Good-morning. I came with my son, Paul Morel. You asked him to call
this morning."

"Come this way," said Mr. Jordan, in a rather snappy little manner
intended to be businesslike.

They followed the manufacturer into a grubby little room, upholstered
in black American leather, glossy with the rubbing of many customers.
On the table was a pile of trusses, yellow wash-leather hoops tangled
together. They looked new and living. Paul sniffed the odour of new
wash-leather. He wondered what the things were. By this time he was so
much stunned that he only noticed the outside things.

"Sit down!" said Mr. Jordan, irritably pointing Mrs. Morel to a
horse-hair chair. She sat on the edge in an uncertain fashion. Then the
little old man fidgeted and found a paper.

"Did you write this letter?" he snapped, thrusting what Paul recognised
as his own notepaper in front of him.

"Yes," he answered.

At that moment he was occupied in two ways: first, in feeling guilty
for telling a lie, since William had composed the letter; second, in
wondering why his letter seemed so strange and different, in the fat,
red hand of the man, from what it had been when it lay on the kitchen
table. It was like part of himself, gone astray. He resented the way the
man held it.

"Where did you learn to write?" said the old man crossly.

Paul merely looked at him shamedly, and did not answer.

"He IS a bad writer," put in Mrs. Morel apologetically. Then she pushed
up her veil. Paul hated her for not being prouder with this common
little man, and he loved her face clear of the veil.

"And you say you know French?" inquired the little man, still sharply.

"Yes," said Paul.

"What school did you go to?"

"The Board-school."

"And did you learn it there?"

"No--I--" The boy went crimson and got no farther.

"His godfather gave him lessons," said Mrs. Morel, half pleading and
rather distant.

Mr. Jordan hesitated. Then, in his irritable manner--he always seemed to
keep his hands ready for action--he pulled another sheet of paper from
his pocket, unfolded it. The paper made a crackling noise. He handed it
to Paul.

"Read that," he said.

It was a note in French, in thin, flimsy foreign handwriting that the
boy could not decipher. He stared blankly at the paper.

"'Monsieur,'" he began; then he looked in great confusion at Mr. Jordan.
"It's the--it's the--"

He wanted to say "handwriting", but his wits would no longer work even
sufficiently to supply him with the word. Feeling an utter fool, and
hating Mr. Jordan, he turned desperately to the paper again.

"'Sir,--Please send me'--er--er--I can't tell the--er--'two pairs--gris
fil bas--grey thread stockings'--er--er--'sans--without'--er--I can't
tell the words--er--'doigts--fingers'--er--I can't tell the--"

He wanted to say "handwriting", but the word still refused to come.
Seeing him stuck, Mr. Jordan snatched the paper from him.

"'Please send by return two pairs grey thread stockings without TOES.'"

"Well," flashed Paul, "'doigts' means 'fingers'--as well--as a rule--"

The little man looked at him. He did not know whether "doigts" meant
"fingers"; he knew that for all HIS purposes it meant "toes".

"Fingers to stockings!" he snapped.

"Well, it DOES mean fingers," the boy persisted.

He hated the little man, who made such a clod of him. Mr. Jordan looked
at the pale, stupid, defiant boy, then at the mother, who sat quiet and
with that peculiar shut-off look of the poor who have to depend on the
favour of others.

"And when could he come?" he asked.

"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "as soon as you wish. He has finished school
now."

"He would live in Bestwood?"

"Yes; but he could be in--at the station--at quarter to eight."

"H'm!"

It ended by Paul's being engaged as junior spiral clerk at eight
shillings a week. The boy did not open his mouth to say another word,
after having insisted that "doigts" meant "fingers". He followed his
mother down the stairs. She looked at him with her bright blue eyes full
of love and joy.

"I think you'll like it," she said.

"'Doigts' does mean 'fingers', mother, and it was the writing. I
couldn't read the writing."

"Never mind, my boy. I'm sure he'll be all right, and you won't see much
of him. Wasn't that first young fellow nice? I'm sure you'll like them."

"But wasn't Mr. Jordan common, mother? Does he own it all?"

"I suppose he was a workman who has got on," she said. "You mustn't mind
people so much. They're not being disagreeable to YOU--it's their way.
You always think people are meaning things for you. But they don't."

It was very sunny. Over the big desolate space of the market-place the
blue sky shimmered, and the granite cobbles of the paving glistened.
Shops down the Long Row were deep in obscurity, and the shadow was full
of colour. Just where the horse trams trundled across the market was a
row of fruit stalls, with fruit blazing in the sun--apples and piles of
reddish oranges, small green-gage plums and bananas. There was a warm
scent of fruit as mother and son passed. Gradually his feeling of
ignominy and of rage sank.

"Where should we go for dinner?" asked the mother.

It was felt to be a reckless extravagance. Paul had only been in an
eating-house once or twice in his life, and then only to have a cup of
tea and a bun. Most of the people of Bestwood considered that tea and
bread-and-butter, and perhaps potted beef, was all they could afford to
eat in Nottingham. Real cooked dinner was considered great extravagance.
Paul felt rather guilty.

They found a place that looked quite cheap. But when Mrs. Morel scanned
the bill of fare, her heart was heavy, things were so dear. So she
ordered kidney-pies and potatoes as the cheapest available dish.

"We oughtn't to have come here, mother," said Paul.

"Never mind," she said. "We won't come again."

She insisted on his having a small currant tart, because he liked
sweets.

"I don't want it, mother," he pleaded.

"Yes," she insisted; "you'll have it."

And she looked round for the waitress. But the waitress was busy, and
Mrs. Morel did not like to bother her then. So the mother and son waited
for the girl's pleasure, whilst she flirted among the men.

"Brazen hussy!" said Mrs. Morel to Paul. "Look now, she's taking that
man HIS pudding, and he came long after us."

"It doesn't matter, mother," said Paul.

Mrs. Morel was angry. But she was too poor, and her orders were too
meagre, so that she had not the courage to insist on her rights just
then. They waited and waited.

"Should we go, mother?" he said.

Then Mrs. Morel stood up. The girl was passing near.

"Will you bring one currant tart?" said Mrs. Morel clearly.

The girl looked round insolently.

"Directly," she said.

"We have waited quite long enough," said Mrs. Morel.

In a moment the girl came back with the tart. Mrs. Morel asked coldly
for the bill. Paul wanted to sink through the floor. He marvelled at his
mother's hardness. He knew that only years of battling had taught her to
insist even so little on her rights. She shrank as much as he.

"It's the last time I go THERE for anything!" she declared, when they
were outside the place, thankful to be clear.

"We'll go," she said, "and look at Keep's and Boot's, and one or two
places, shall we?"

They had discussions over the pictures, and Mrs. Morel wanted to buy
him a little sable brush that be hankered after. But this indulgence he
refused. He stood in front of milliners' shops and drapers' shops almost
bored, but content for her to be interested. They wandered on.

"Now, just look at those black grapes!" she said. "They make your mouth
water. I've wanted some of those for years, but I s'll have to wait a
bit before I get them."

Then she rejoiced in the florists, standing in the doorway sniffing.

"Oh! oh! Isn't it simply lovely!"

Paul saw, in the darkness of the shop, an elegant young lady in black
peering over the counter curiously.

"They're looking at you," he said, trying to draw his mother away.

"But what is it?" she exclaimed, refusing to be moved.

"Stocks!" he answered, sniffing hastily. "Look, there's a tubful."

"So there is--red and white. But really, I never knew stocks to smell
like it!" And, to his great relief, she moved out of the doorway, but
only to stand in front of the window.

"Paul!" she cried to him, who was trying to get out of sight of the
elegant young lady in black--the shop-girl. "Paul! Just look here!"

He came reluctantly back.

"Now, just look at that fuchsia!" she exclaimed, pointing.

"H'm!" He made a curious, interested sound. "You'd think every second as
the flowers was going to fall off, they hang so big an' heavy."

"And such an abundance!" she cried.

"And the way they drop downwards with their threads and knots!"

"Yes!" she exclaimed. "Lovely!"

"I wonder who'll buy it!" he said.

"I wonder!" she answered. "Not us."

"It would die in our parlour."

"Yes, beastly cold, sunless hole; it kills every bit of a plant you put
in, and the kitchen chokes them to death."

They bought a few things, and set off towards the station. Looking up
the canal, through the dark pass of the buildings, they saw the Castle
on its bluff of brown, green-bushed rock, in a positive miracle of
delicate sunshine.

"Won't it be nice for me to come out at dinner-times?" said Paul. "I can
go all round here and see everything. I s'll love it."

"You will," assented his mother.

He had spent a perfect afternoon with his mother. They arrived home in
the mellow evening, happy, and glowing, and tired.

In the morning he filled in the form for his season-ticket and took it
to the station. When he got back, his mother was just beginning to wash
the floor. He sat crouched up on the sofa.

"He says it'll be here on Saturday," he said.

"And how much will it be?"

"About one pound eleven," he said.

She went on washing her floor in silence.

"Is it a lot?" he asked.

"It's no more than I thought," she answered.

"An' I s'll earn eight shillings a week," he said.

She did not answer, but went on with her work. At last she said:

"That William promised me, when he went to London, as he'd give me a
pound a month. He has given me ten shillings--twice; and now I know
he hasn't a farthing if I asked him. Not that I want it. Only just now
you'd think he might be able to help with this ticket, which I'd never
expected."

"He earns a lot," said Paul.

"He earns a hundred and thirty pounds. But they're all alike. They're
large in promises, but it's precious little fulfilment you get."

"He spends over fifty shillings a week on himself," said Paul.

"And I keep this house on less than thirty," she replied; "and am
supposed to find money for extras. But they don't care about helping
you, once they've gone. He'd rather spend it on that dressed-up
creature."

"She should have her own money if she's so grand," said Paul.

"She should, but she hasn't. I asked him. And I know he doesn't buy her
a gold bangle for nothing. I wonder whoever bought ME a gold bangle."

William was succeeding with his "Gipsy", as he called her. He asked the
girl--her name was Louisa Lily Denys Western--for a photograph to send
to his mother. The photo came--a handsome brunette, taken in profile,
smirking slightly--and, it might be, quite naked, for on the photograph
not a scrap of clothing was to be seen, only a naked bust.

"Yes," wrote Mrs. Morel to her son, "the photograph of Louie is very
striking, and I can see she must be attractive. But do you think, my
boy, it was very good taste of a girl to give her young man that photo
to send to his mother--the first? Certainly the shoulders are beautiful,
as you say. But I hardly expected to see so much of them at the first
view."

Morel found the photograph standing on the chiffonier in the parlour. He
came out with it between his thick thumb and finger.

"Who dost reckon this is?" he asked of his wife.

"It's the girl our William is going with," replied Mrs. Morel.

"H'm! 'Er's a bright spark, from th' look on 'er, an' one as wunna do
him owermuch good neither. Who is she?"

"Her name is Louisa Lily Denys Western."

"An' come again to-morrer!" exclaimed the miner. "An' is 'er an
actress?"

"She is not. She's supposed to be a lady."

"I'll bet!" he exclaimed, still staring at the photo. "A lady, is she?
An' how much does she reckon ter keep up this sort o' game on?"

"On nothing. She lives with an old aunt, whom she hates, and takes what
bit of money's given her."

"H'm!" said Morel, laying down the photograph. "Then he's a fool to ha'
ta'en up wi' such a one as that."

"Dear Mater," William replied. "I'm sorry you didn't like the
photograph. It never occurred to me when I sent it, that you mightn't
think it decent. However, I told Gyp that it didn't quite suit your prim
and proper notions, so she's going to send you another, that I hope
will please you better. She's always being photographed; in fact, the
photographers ask her if they may take her for nothing."

Presently the new photograph came, with a little silly note from the
girl. This time the young lady was seen in a black satin evening bodice,
cut square, with little puff sleeves, and black lace hanging down her
beautiful arms.

"I wonder if she ever wears anything except evening clothes," said Mrs.
Morel sarcastically. "I'm sure I ought to be impressed."

"You are disagreeable, mother," said Paul. "I think the first one with
bare shoulders is lovely."

"Do you?" answered his mother. "Well, I don't."

On the Monday morning the boy got up at six to start work. He had the
season-ticket, which had cost such bitterness, in his waistcoat pocket.
He loved it with its bars of yellow across. His mother packed his dinner
in a small, shut-up basket, and he set off at a quarter to seven to
catch the 7.15 train. Mrs. Morel came to the entry-end to see him off.

It was a perfect morning. From the ash tree the slender green fruits
that the children call "pigeons" were twinkling gaily down on a little
breeze, into the front gardens of the houses. The valley was full of a
lustrous dark haze, through which the ripe corn shimmered, and in which
the steam from Minton pit melted swiftly. Puffs of wind came. Paul
looked over the high woods of Aldersley, where the country gleamed, and
home had never pulled at him so powerfully.

"Good-morning, mother," he said, smiling, but feeling very unhappy.

"Good-morning," she replied cheerfully and tenderly.

She stood in her white apron on the open road, watching him as he
crossed the field. He had a small, compact body that looked full of
life. She felt, as she saw him trudging over the field, that where he
determined to go he would get. She thought of William. He would have
leaped the fence instead of going round the stile. He was away in
London, doing well. Paul would be working in Nottingham. Now she had
two sons in the world. She could think of two places, great centres of
industry, and feel that she had put a man into each of them, that these
men would work out what SHE wanted; they were derived from her, they
were of her, and their works also would be hers. All the morning long
she thought of Paul.

At eight o'clock he climbed the dismal stairs of Jordan's Surgical
Appliance Factory, and stood helplessly against the first great
parcel-rack, waiting for somebody to pick him up. The place was still
not awake. Over the counters were great dust sheets. Two men only had
arrived, and were heard talking in a corner, as they took off their
coats and rolled up their shirt-sleeves. It was ten past eight.
Evidently there was no rush of punctuality. Paul listened to the voices
of the two clerks. Then he heard someone cough, and saw in the office
at the end of the room an old, decaying clerk, in a round smoking-cap of
black velvet embroidered with red and green, opening letters. He waited
and waited. One of the junior clerks went to the old man, greeted him
cheerily and loudly. Evidently the old "chief" was deaf. Then the young
fellow came striding importantly down to his counter. He spied Paul.

"Hello!" he said. "You the new lad?"

"Yes," said Paul.

"H'm! What's your name?"

"Paul Morel."

"Paul Morel? All right, you come on round here."

Paul followed him round the rectangle of counters. The room was second
storey. It had a great hole in the middle of the floor, fenced as with a
wall of counters, and down this wide shaft the lifts went, and the light
for the bottom storey. Also there was a corresponding big, oblong hole
in the ceiling, and one could see above, over the fence of the top
floor, some machinery; and right away overhead was the glass roof, and
all light for the three storeys came downwards, getting dimmer, so that
it was always night on the ground floor and rather gloomy on the second
floor. The factory was the top floor, the warehouse the second, the
storehouse the ground floor. It was an insanitary, ancient place.

Paul was led round to a very dark corner.

"This is the 'Spiral' corner," said the clerk. "You're Spiral, with
Pappleworth. He's your boss, but he's not come yet. He doesn't get here
till half-past eight. So you can fetch the letters, if you like, from
Mr. Melling down there."

The young man pointed to the old clerk in the office.

"All right," said Paul.

"Here's a peg to hang your cap on. Here are your entry ledgers. Mr.
Pappleworth won't be long."

And the thin young man stalked away with long, busy strides over the
hollow wooden floor.

After a minute or two Paul went down and stood in the door of the glass
office. The old clerk in the smoking-cap looked down over the rim of his
spectacles.

"Good-morning," he said, kindly and impressively. "You want the letters
for the Spiral department, Thomas?"

Paul resented being called "Thomas". But he took the letters and
returned to his dark place, where the counter made an angle, where the
great parcel-rack came to an end, and where there were three doors in
the corner. He sat on a high stool and read the letters--those whose
handwriting was not too difficult. They ran as follows:

"Will you please send me at once a pair of lady's silk spiral
thigh-hose, without feet, such as I had from you last year; length,
thigh to knee, etc." Or, "Major Chamberlain wishes to repeat his
previous order for a silk non-elastic suspensory bandage."

Many of these letters, some of them in French or Norwegian, were a great
puzzle to the boy. He sat on his stool nervously awaiting the arrival
of his "boss". He suffered tortures of shyness when, at half-past eight,
the factory girls for upstairs trooped past him.

Mr. Pappleworth arrived, chewing a chlorodyne gum, at about twenty to
nine, when all the other men were at work. He was a thin, sallow man
with a red nose, quick, staccato, and smartly but stiffly dressed. He
was about thirty-six years old. There was something rather "doggy",
rather smart, rather 'cute and shrewd, and something warm, and something
slightly contemptible about him.

"You my new lad?" he said.

Paul stood up and said he was.

"Fetched the letters?"

Mr. Pappleworth gave a chew to his gum.

"Yes."

"Copied 'em?"

"No."

"Well, come on then, let's look slippy. Changed your coat?"

"No."

"You want to bring an old coat and leave it here." He pronounced the
last words with the chlorodyne gum between his side teeth. He vanished
into the darkness behind the great parcel-rack, reappeared coatless,
turning up a smart striped shirt-cuff over a thin and hairy arm. Then
he slipped into his coat. Paul noticed how thin he was, and that his
trousers were in folds behind. He seized a stool, dragged it beside the
boy's, and sat down.

"Sit down," he said.

Paul took a seat.

Mr. Pappleworth was very close to him. The man seized the letters,
snatched a long entry-book out of a rack in front of him, flung it open,
seized a pen, and said:

"Now look here. You want to copy these letters in here." He sniffed
twice, gave a quick chew at his gum, stared fixedly at a letter,
then went very still and absorbed, and wrote the entry rapidly, in a
beautiful flourishing hand. He glanced quickly at Paul.

"See that?"

"Yes."

"Think you can do it all right?"

"Yes."

"All right then, let's see you."

He sprang off his stool. Paul took a pen. Mr. Pappleworth disappeared.
Paul rather liked copying the letters, but he wrote slowly, laboriously,
and exceedingly badly. He was doing the fourth letter, and feeling quite
busy and happy, when Mr. Pappleworth reappeared.

"Now then, how'r' yer getting on? Done 'em?"

He leaned over the boy's shoulder, chewing, and smelling of chlorodyne.

"Strike my bob, lad, but you're a beautiful writer!" he exclaimed
satirically. "Ne'er mind, how many h'yer done? Only three! I'd 'a eaten
'em. Get on, my lad, an' put numbers on 'em. Here, look! Get on!"

Paul ground away at the letters, whilst Mr. Pappleworth fussed over
various jobs. Suddenly the boy started as a shrill whistle sounded near
his ear. Mr. Pappleworth came, took a plug out of a pipe, and said, in
an amazingly cross and bossy voice:

"Yes?"

Paul heard a faint voice, like a woman's, out of the mouth of the tube.
He gazed in wonder, never having seen a speaking-tube before.

"Well," said Mr. Pappleworth disagreeably into the tube, "you'd better
get some of your back work done, then."

Again the woman's tiny voice was heard, sounding pretty and cross.

"I've not time to stand here while you talk," said Mr. Pappleworth, and
he pushed the plug into the tube.

"Come, my lad," he said imploringly to Paul, "there's Polly crying out
for them orders. Can't you buck up a bit? Here, come out!"

He took the book, to Paul's immense chagrin, and began the copying
himself. He worked quickly and well. This done, he seized some strips
of long yellow paper, about three inches wide, and made out the day's
orders for the work-girls.

"You'd better watch me," he said to Paul, working all the while rapidly.
Paul watched the weird little drawings of legs, and thighs, and ankles,
with the strokes across and the numbers, and the few brief directions
which his chief made upon the yellow paper. Then Mr. Pappleworth
finished and jumped up.

"Come on with me," he said, and the yellow papers flying in his hands,
he dashed through a door and down some stairs, into the basement where
the gas was burning. They crossed the cold, damp storeroom, then a
long, dreary room with a long table on trestles, into a smaller, cosy
apartment, not very high, which had been built on to the main building.
In this room a small woman with a red serge blouse, and her black hair
done on top of her head, was waiting like a proud little bantam.

"Here y'are!" said Pappleworth.

"I think it is 'here you are'!" exclaimed Polly. "The girls have been
here nearly half an hour waiting. Just think of the time wasted!"

"YOU think of getting your work done and not talking so much," said Mr.
Pappleworth. "You could ha' been finishing off."

"You know quite well we finished everything off on Saturday!" cried
Pony, flying at him, her dark eyes flashing.

"Tu-tu-tu-tu-terterter!" he mocked. "Here's your new lad. Don't ruin him
as you did the last."

"As we did the last!" repeated Polly. "Yes, WE do a lot of ruining, we
do. My word, a lad would TAKE some ruining after he'd been with you."

"It's time for work now, not for talk," said Mr. Pappleworth severely
and coldly.

"It was time for work some time back," said Polly, marching away with
her head in the air. She was an erect little body of forty.

In that room were two round spiral machines on the bench under the
window. Through the inner doorway was another longer room, with six more
machines. A little group of girls, nicely dressed in white aprons, stood
talking together.

"Have you nothing else to do but talk?" said Mr. Pappleworth.

"Only wait for you," said one handsome girl, laughing.

"Well, get on, get on," he said. "Come on, my lad. You'll know your road
down here again."

And Paul ran upstairs after his chief. He was given some checking
and invoicing to do. He stood at the desk, labouring in his execrable
handwriting. Presently Mr. Jordan came strutting down from the glass
office and stood behind him, to the boy's great discomfort. Suddenly a
red and fat finger was thrust on the form he was filling in.

"MR. J. A. Bates, Esquire!" exclaimed the cross voice just behind his
ear.

Paul looked at "Mr. J. A. Bates, Esquire" in his own vile writing, and
wondered what was the matter now.

"Didn't they teach you any better THAN that while they were at it? If
you put 'Mr.' you don't put Esquire'-a man can't be both at once."

The boy regretted his too-much generosity in disposing of honours,
hesitated, and with trembling fingers, scratched out the "Mr." Then all
at once Mr. Jordan snatched away the invoice.

"Make another! Are you going to send that to a gentleman?" And he tore
up the blue form irritably.

Paul, his ears red with shame, began again. Still Mr. Jordan watched.

"I don't know what they DO teach in schools. You'll have to write better
than that. Lads learn nothing nowadays, but how to recite poetry
and play the fiddle. Have you seen his writing?" he asked of Mr.
Pappleworth.

"Yes; prime, isn't it?" replied Mr. Pappleworth indifferently.

Mr. Jordan gave a little grunt, not unamiable. Paul divined that his
master's bark was worse than his bite. Indeed, the little manufacturer,
although he spoke bad English, was quite gentleman enough to leave his
men alone and to take no notice of trifles. But he knew he did not
look like the boss and owner of the show, so he had to play his role of
proprietor at first, to put things on a right footing.

"Let's see, WHAT'S your name?" asked Mr. Pappleworth of the boy.

"Paul Morel."

It is curious that children suffer so much at having to pronounce their
own names.

"Paul Morel, is it? All right, you Paul-Morel through them things there,
and then--"

Mr. Pappleworth subsided on to a stool, and began writing. A girl came
up from out of a door just behind, put some newly-pressed elastic web
appliances on the counter, and returned. Mr. Pappleworth picked up the
whitey-blue knee-band, examined it, and its yellow order-paper quickly,
and put it on one side. Next was a flesh-pink "leg". He went through
the few things, wrote out a couple of orders, and called to Paul to
accompany him. This time they went through the door whence the girl had
emerged. There Paul found himself at the top of a little wooden flight
of steps, and below him saw a room with windows round two sides, and at
the farther end half a dozen girls sitting bending over the benches
in the light from the window, sewing. They were singing together "Two
Little Girls in Blue". Hearing the door opened, they all turned round,
to see Mr. Pappleworth and Paul looking down on them from the far end of
the room. They stopped singing.

"Can't you make a bit less row?" said Mr. Pappleworth. "Folk'll think we
keep cats."

A hunchback woman on a high stool turned her long, rather heavy face
towards Mr. Pappleworth, and said, in a contralto voice:

"They're all tom-cats then."

In vain Mr. Pappleworth tried to be impressive for Paul's benefit.
He descended the steps into the finishing-off room, and went to the
hunchback Fanny. She had such a short body on her high stool that her
head, with its great bands of bright brown hair, seemed over large, as
did her pale, heavy face. She wore a dress of green-black cashmere, and
her wrists, coming out of the narrow cuffs, were thin and flat, as she
put down her work nervously. He showed her something that was wrong with
a knee-cap.

"Well," she said, "you needn't come blaming it on to me. It's not my
fault." Her colour mounted to her cheek.

"I never said it WAS your fault. Will you do as I tell you?" replied Mr.
Pappleworth shortly.

"You don't say it's my fault, but you'd like to make out as it was," the
hunchback woman cried, almost in tears. Then she snatched the knee-cap
from her "boss", saying: "Yes, I'll do it for you, but you needn't be
snappy."

"Here's your new lad," said Mr. Pappleworth.

Fanny turned, smiling very gently on Paul.

"Oh!" she said.

"Yes; don't make a softy of him between you."

"It's not us as 'ud make a softy of him," she said indignantly.

"Come on then, Paul," said Mr. Pappleworth.

"Au revoy, Paul," said one of the girls.

There was a titter of laughter. Paul went out, blushing deeply, not
having spoken a word.

The day was very long. All morning the work-people were coming to speak
to Mr. Pappleworth. Paul was writing or learning to make up parcels,
ready for the midday post. At one o'clock, or, rather, at a quarter to
one, Mr. Pappleworth disappeared to catch his train: he lived in the
suburbs. At one o'clock, Paul, feeling very lost, took his dinner-basket
down into the stockroom in the basement, that had the long table on
trestles, and ate his meal hurriedly, alone in that cellar of gloom and
desolation. Then he went out of doors. The brightness and the freedom of
the streets made him feel adventurous and happy. But at two o'clock
he was back in the corner of the big room. Soon the work-girls went
trooping past, making remarks. It was the commoner girls who worked
upstairs at the heavy tasks of truss-making and the finishing of
artificial limbs. He waited for Mr. Pappleworth, not knowing what to do,
sitting scribbling on the yellow order-paper. Mr. Pappleworth came at
twenty minutes to three. Then he sat and gossiped with Paul, treating
the boy entirely as an equal, even in age.

In the afternoon there was never very much to do, unless it were near
the week-end, and the accounts had to be made up. At five o'clock all
the men went down into the dungeon with the table on trestles, and there
they had tea, eating bread-and-butter on the bare, dirty boards, talking
with the same kind of ugly haste and slovenliness with which they ate
their meal. And yet upstairs the atmosphere among them was always jolly
and clear. The cellar and the trestles affected them.

After tea, when all the gases were lighted, WORK went more briskly.
There was the big evening post to get off. The hose came up warm and
newly pressed from the workrooms. Paul had made out the invoices. Now he
had the packing up and addressing to do, then he had to weigh his stock
of parcels on the scales. Everywhere voices were calling weights, there
was the chink of metal, the rapid snapping of string, the hurrying to
old Mr. Melling for stamps. And at last the postman came with his sack,
laughing and jolly. Then everything slacked off, and Paul took his
dinner-basket and ran to the station to catch the eight-twenty train.
The day in the factory was just twelve hours long.

His mother sat waiting for him rather anxiously. He had to walk from
Keston, so was not home until about twenty past nine. And he left the
house before seven in the morning. Mrs. Morel was rather anxious about
his health. But she herself had had to put up with so much that she
expected her children to take the same odds. They must go through with
what came. And Paul stayed at Jordan's, although all the time he was
there his health suffered from the darkness and lack of air and the long
hours.

He came in pale and tired. His mother looked at him. She saw he was
rather pleased, and her anxiety all went.

"Well, and how was it?" she asked.

"Ever so funny, mother," he replied. "You don't have to work a bit hard,
and they're nice with you."

"And did you get on all right?"

"Yes: they only say my writing's bad. But Mr. Pappleworth--he's my
man--said to Mr. Jordan I should be all right. I'm Spiral, mother; you
must come and see. It's ever so nice."

Soon he liked Jordan's. Mr. Pappleworth, who had a certain "saloon bar"
flavour about him, was always natural, and treated him as if he had been
a comrade. Sometimes the "Spiral boss" was irritable, and chewed more
lozenges than ever. Even then, however, he was not offensive, but one
of those people who hurt themselves by their own irritability more than
they hurt other people.

"Haven't you done that YET?" he would cry. "Go on, be a month of
Sundays."

Again, and Paul could understand him least then, he was jocular and in
high spirits.

"I'm going to bring my little Yorkshire terrier bitch tomorrow," he said
jubilantly to Paul.

"What's a Yorkshire terrier?"

"DON'T know what a Yorkshire terrier is? DON'T KNOW A YORKSHIRE--" Mr.
Pappleworth was aghast.

"Is it a little silky one--colours of iron and rusty silver?"

"THAT'S it, my lad. She's a gem. She's had five pounds' worth of pups
already, and she's worth over seven pounds herself; and she doesn't
weigh twenty ounces."

The next day the bitch came. She was a shivering, miserable morsel. Paul
did not care for her; she seemed so like a wet rag that would never
dry. Then a man called for her, and began to make coarse jokes. But Mr.
Pappleworth nodded his head in the direction of the boy, and the talk
went on _sotto voce_.

Mr. Jordan only made one more excursion to watch Paul, and then the only
fault he found was seeing the boy lay his pen on the counter.

"Put your pen in your ear, if you're going to be a clerk. Pen in your
ear!" And one day he said to the lad: "Why don't you hold your shoulders
straighter? Come down here," when he took him into the glass office and
fitted him with special braces for keeping the shoulders square.

But Paul liked the girls best. The men seemed common and rather dull.
He liked them all, but they were uninteresting. Polly, the little brisk
overseer downstairs, finding Paul eating in the cellar, asked him if she
could cook him anything on her little stove. Next day his mother gave
him a dish that could be heated up. He took it into the pleasant, clean
room to Polly. And very soon it grew to be an established custom that he
should have dinner with her. When he came in at eight in the morning he
took his basket to her, and when he came down at one o'clock she had his
dinner ready.

He was not very tall, and pale, with thick chestnut hair, irregular
features, and a wide, full mouth. She was like a small bird. He often
called her a "robinet". Though naturally rather quiet, he would sit and
chatter with her for hours telling her about his home. The girls all
liked to hear him talk. They often gathered in a little circle while he
sat on a bench, and held forth to them, laughing. Some of them regarded
him as a curious little creature, so serious, yet so bright and jolly,
and always so delicate in his way with them. They all liked him, and he
adored them. Polly he felt he belonged to. Then Connie, with her mane of
red hair, her face of apple-blossom, her murmuring voice, such a lady in
her shabby black frock, appealed to his romantic side.

"When you sit winding," he said, "it looks as if you were spinning at
a spinning-wheel--it looks ever so nice. You remind me of Elaine in the
'Idylls of the King'. I'd draw you if I could."

And she glanced at him blushing shyly. And later on he had a sketch
he prized very much: Connie sitting on the stool before the wheel, her
flowing mane of red hair on her rusty black frock, her red mouth shut
and serious, running the scarlet thread off the hank on to the reel.

With Louie, handsome and brazen, who always seemed to thrust her hip at
him, he usually joked.

Emma was rather plain, rather old, and condescending. But to condescend
to him made her happy, and he did not mind.

"How do you put needles in?" he asked.

"Go away and don't bother."

"But I ought to know how to put needles in."

She ground at her machine all the while steadily.

"There are many things you ought to know," she replied.

"Tell me, then, how to stick needles in the machine."

"Oh, the boy, what a nuisance he is! Why, THIS is how you do it."

He watched her attentively. Suddenly a whistle piped. Then Polly
appeared, and said in a clear voice:

"Mr. Pappleworth wants to know how much longer you're going to be down
here playing with the girls, Paul."

Paul flew upstairs, calling "Good-bye!" and Emma drew herself up.

"It wasn't ME who wanted him to play with the machine," she said.

As a rule, when all the girls came back at two o'clock, he ran upstairs
to Fanny, the hunchback, in the finishing-off room. Mr. Pappleworth
did not appear till twenty to three, and he often found his boy sitting
beside Fanny, talking, or drawing, or singing with the girls.

Often, after a minute's hesitation, Fanny would begin to sing. She had a
fine contralto voice. Everybody joined in the chorus, and it went well.
Paul was not at all embarrassed, after a while, sitting in the room with
the half a dozen work-girls.

At the end of the song Fanny would say:

"I know you've been laughing at me."

"Don't be so soft, Fanny!" cried one of the girls.

Once there was mention of Connie's red hair.

"Fanny's is better, to my fancy," said Emma.

"You needn't try to make a fool of me," said Fanny, flushing deeply.

"No, but she has, Paul; she's got beautiful hair."

"It's a treat of a colour," said he. "That coldish colour like earth,
and yet shiny. It's like bog-water."

"Goodness me!" exclaimed one girl, laughing.

"How I do but get criticised," said Fanny.

"But you should see it down, Paul," cried Emma earnestly. "It's simply
beautiful. Put it down for him, Fanny, if he wants something to paint."

Fanny would not, and yet she wanted to.

"Then I'll take it down myself," said the lad.

"Well, you can if you like," said Fanny.

And he carefully took the pins out of the knot, and the rush of hair, of
uniform dark brown, slid over the humped back.

"What a lovely lot!" he exclaimed.

The girls watched. There was silence. The youth shook the hair loose
from the coil.

"It's splendid!" he said, smelling its perfume. "I'll bet it's worth
pounds."

"I'll leave it you when I die, Paul," said Fanny, half joking.

"You look just like anybody else, sitting drying their hair," said one
of the girls to the long-legged hunchback.

Poor Fanny was morbidly sensitive, always imagining insults. Polly was
curt and businesslike. The two departments were for ever at war, and
Paul was always finding Fanny in tears. Then he was made the recipient
of all her woes, and he had to plead her case with Polly.

So the time went along happily enough. The factory had a homely feel.
No one was rushed or driven. Paul always enjoyed it when the work got
faster, towards post-time, and all the men united in labour. He liked to
watch his fellow-clerks at work. The man was the work and the work was
the man, one thing, for the time being. It was different with the girls.
The real woman never seemed to be there at the task, but as if left out,
waiting.

From the train going home at night he used to watch the lights of the
town, sprinkled thick on the hills, fusing together in a blaze in the
valleys. He felt rich in life and happy. Drawing farther off, there was
a patch of lights at Bulwell like myriad petals shaken to the ground
from the shed stars; and beyond was the red glare of the furnaces,
playing like hot breath on the clouds.

He had to walk two and more miles from Keston home, up two long hills,
down two short hills. He was often tired, and he counted the lamps
climbing the hill above him, how many more to pass. And from the
hilltop, on pitch-dark nights, he looked round on the villages five
or six miles away, that shone like swarms of glittering living things,
almost a heaven against his feet. Marlpool and Heanor scattered the
far-off darkness with brilliance. And occasionally the black valley
space between was traced, violated by a great train rushing south to
London or north to Scotland. The trains roared by like projectiles level
on the darkness, fuming and burning, making the valley clang with
their passage. They were gone, and the lights of the towns and villages
glittered in silence.

And then he came to the corner at home, which faced the other side
of the night. The ash-tree seemed a friend now. His mother rose with
gladness as he entered. He put his eight shillings proudly on the table.

"It'll help, mother?" he asked wistfully.

"There's precious little left," she answered, "after your ticket and
dinners and such are taken off."

Then he told her the budget of the day. His life-story, like an Arabian
Nights, was told night after night to his mother. It was almost as if it
were her own life.



CHAPTER VI

DEATH IN THE FAMILY

ARTHUR MOREL was growing up. He was a quick, careless, impulsive boy, a
good deal like his father. He hated study, made a great moan if he had
to work, and escaped as soon as possible to his sport again.

In appearance he remained the flower of the family, being well made,
graceful, and full of life. His dark brown hair and fresh colouring, and
his exquisite dark blue eyes shaded with long lashes, together with his
generous manner and fiery temper, made him a favourite. But as he grew
older his temper became uncertain. He flew into rages over nothing,
seemed unbearably raw and irritable.

His mother, whom he loved, wearied of him sometimes. He thought only of
himself. When he wanted amusement, all that stood in his way he
hated, even if it were she. When he was in trouble he moaned to her
ceaselessly.

"Goodness, boy!" she said, when he groaned about a master who, he said,
hated him, "if you don't like it, alter it, and if you can't alter it,
put up with it."

And his father, whom he had loved and who had worshipped him, he came
to detest. As he grew older Morel fell into a slow ruin. His body, which
had been beautiful in movement and in being, shrank, did not seem to
ripen with the years, but to get mean and rather despicable. There came
over him a look of meanness and of paltriness. And when the mean-looking
elderly man bullied or ordered the boy about, Arthur was furious.
Moreover, Morel's manners got worse and worse, his habits somewhat
disgusting. When the children were growing up and in the crucial stage
of adolescence, the father was like some ugly irritant to their souls.
His manners in the house were the same as he used among the colliers
down pit.

"Dirty nuisance!" Arthur would cry, jumping up and going straight out
of the house when his father disgusted him. And Morel persisted the more
because his children hated it. He seemed to take a kind of satisfaction
in disgusting them, and driving them nearly mad, while they were so
irritably sensitive at the age of fourteen or fifteen. So that Arthur,
who was growing up when his father was degenerate and elderly, hated him
worst of all.

Then, sometimes, the father would seem to feel the contemptuous hatred
of his children.

"There's not a man tries harder for his family!" he would shout. "He
does his best for them, and then gets treated like a dog. But I'm not
going to stand it, I tell you!"

But for the threat and the fact that he did not try so hard as he
imagined, they would have felt sorry. As it was, the battle now went on
nearly all between father and children, he persisting in his dirty and
disgusting ways, just to assert his independence. They loathed him.

Arthur was so inflamed and irritable at last, that when he won a
scholarship for the Grammar School in Nottingham, his mother decided
to let him live in town, with one of her sisters, and only come home at
week-ends.

Annie was still a junior teacher in the Board-school, earning about four
shillings a week. But soon she would have fifteen shillings, since she
had passed her examination, and there would be financial peace in the
house.

Mrs. Morel clung now to Paul. He was quiet and not brilliant. But still
he stuck to his painting, and still he stuck to his mother. Everything
he did was for her. She waited for his coming home in the evening, and
then she unburdened herself of all she had pondered, or of all that
had occurred to her during the day. He sat and listened with his
earnestness. The two shared lives.

William was engaged now to his brunette, and had bought her an
engagement ring that cost eight guineas. The children gasped at such a
fabulous price.

"Eight guineas!" said Morel. "More fool him! If he'd gen me some on't,
it 'ud ha' looked better on 'im."

"Given YOU some of it!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Why give YOU some of it!"

She remembered HE had bought no engagement ring at all, and she
preferred William, who was not mean, if he were foolish. But now the
young man talked only of the dances to which he went with his betrothed,
and the different resplendent clothes she wore; or he told his mother
with glee how they went to the theatre like great swells.

He wanted to bring the girl home. Mrs. Morel said she should come at the
Christmas. This time William arrived with a lady, but with no presents.
Mrs. Morel had prepared supper. Hearing footsteps, she rose and went to
the door. William entered.

"Hello, mother!" He kissed her hastily, then stood aside to present a
tall, handsome girl, who was wearing a costume of fine black-and-white
check, and furs.

"Here's Gyp!"

Miss Western held out her hand and showed her teeth in a small smile.

"Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Morel!" she exclaimed.

"I am afraid you will be hungry," said Mrs. Morel.

"Oh no, we had dinner in the train. Have you got my gloves, Chubby?"

William Morel, big and raw-boned, looked at her quickly.

"How should I?" he said.

"Then I've lost them. Don't be cross with me."

A frown went over his face, but he said nothing. She glanced round
the kitchen. It was small and curious to her, with its glittering
kissing-bunch, its evergreens behind the pictures, its wooden chairs and
little deal table. At that moment Morel came in.

"Hello, dad!"

"Hello, my son! Tha's let on me!"

The two shook hands, and William presented the lady. She gave the same
smile that showed her teeth.

"How do you do, Mr. Morel?"

Morel bowed obsequiously.

"I'm very well, and I hope so are you. You must make yourself very
welcome."

"Oh, thank you," she replied, rather amused.

"You will like to go upstairs," said Mrs. Morel.

"If you don't mind; but not if it is any trouble to you."

"It is no trouble. Annie will take you. Walter, carry up this box."

"And don't be an hour dressing yourself up," said William to his
betrothed.

Annie took a brass candlestick, and, too shy almost to speak, preceded
the young lady to the front bedroom, which Mr. and Mrs. Morel had
vacated for her. It, too, was small and cold by candlelight. The
colliers' wives only lit fires in bedrooms in case of extreme illness.

"Shall I unstrap the box?" asked Annie.

"Oh, thank you very much!"

Annie played the part of maid, then went downstairs for hot water.

"I think she's rather tired, mother," said William. "It's a beastly
journey, and we had such a rush."

"Is there anything I can give her?" asked Mrs. Morel.

"Oh no, she'll be all right."

But there was a chill in the atmosphere. After half an hour Miss Western
came down, having put on a purplish-coloured dress, very fine for the
collier's kitchen.

"I told you you'd no need to change," said William to her.

"Oh, Chubby!" Then she turned with that sweetish smile to Mrs. Morel.
"Don't you think he's always grumbling, Mrs. Morel?"

"Is he?" said Mrs. Morel. "That's not very nice of him."

"It isn't, really!"

"You are cold," said the mother. "Won't you come near the fire?"

Morel jumped out of his armchair.

"Come and sit you here!" he cried. "Come and sit you here!"

"No, dad, keep your own chair. Sit on the sofa, Gyp," said William.

"No, no!" cried Morel. "This cheer's warmest. Come and sit here, Miss
Wesson."

"Thank you so much," said the girl, seating herself in the collier's
armchair, the place of honour. She shivered, feeling the warmth of the
kitchen penetrate her.

"Fetch me a hanky, Chubby dear!" she said, putting up her mouth to him,
and using the same intimate tone as if they were alone; which made the
rest of the family feel as if they ought not to be present. The young
lady evidently did not realise them as people: they were creatures to
her for the present. William winced.

In such a household, in Streatham, Miss Western would have been a lady
condescending to her inferiors. These people were to her, certainly
clownish--in short, the working classes. How was she to adjust herself?

"I'll go," said Annie.

Miss Western took no notice, as if a servant had spoken. But when the
girl came downstairs again with the handkerchief, she said: "Oh, thank
you!" in a gracious way.

She sat and talked about the dinner on the train, which had been so
poor; about London, about dances. She was really very nervous, and
chattered from fear. Morel sat all the time smoking his thick twist
tobacco, watching her, and listening to her glib London speech, as he
puffed. Mrs. Morel, dressed up in her best black silk blouse, answered
quietly and rather briefly. The three children sat round in silence and
admiration. Miss Western was the princess. Everything of the best was
got out for her: the best cups, the best spoons, the best table cloth,
the best coffee-jug. The children thought she must find it quite grand.
She felt strange, not able to realise the people, not knowing how to
treat them. William joked, and was slightly uncomfortable.

At about ten o'clock he said to her:

"Aren't you tired, Gyp?"

"Rather, Chubby," she answered, at once in the intimate tones and
putting her head slightly on one side.

"I'll light her the candle, mother," he said.

"Very well," replied the mother.

Miss Western stood up, held out her hand to Mrs. Morel.

"Good-night, Mrs. Morel," she said.

Paul sat at the boiler, letting the water run from the tap into a stone
beer-bottle. Annie swathed the bottle in an old flannel pit-singlet, and
kissed her mother good-night. She was to share the room with the lady,
because the house was full.

"You wait a minute," said Mrs. Morel to Annie. And Annie sat nursing
the hot-water bottle. Miss Western shook hands all round, to everybody's
discomfort, and took her departure, preceded by William. In five minutes
he was downstairs again. His heart was rather sore; he did not know why.
He talked very little till everybody had gone to bed, but himself and
his mother. Then he stood with his legs apart, in his old attitude on
the hearthrug, and said hesitatingly:

"Well, mother?"

"Well, my son?"

She sat in the rocking-chair, feeling somehow hurt and humiliated, for
his sake.

"Do you like her?"

"Yes," came the slow answer.

"She's shy yet, mother. She's not used to it. It's different from her
aunt's house, you know."

"Of course it is, my boy; and she must find it difficult."

"She does." Then he frowned swiftly. "If only she wouldn't put on her
BLESSED airs!"

"It's only her first awkwardness, my boy. She'll be all right."

"That's it, mother," he replied gratefully. But his brow was gloomy.
"You know, she's not like you, mother. She's not serious, and she can't
think."

"She's young, my boy."

"Yes; and she's had no sort of show. Her mother died when she was a
child. Since then she's lived with her aunt, whom she can't bear. And
her father was a rake. She's had no love."

"No! Well, you must make up to her."

"And so--you have to forgive her a lot of things."

"WHAT do you have to forgive her, my boy?"

"I dunno. When she seems shallow, you have to remember she's never had
anybody to bring her deeper side out. And she's FEARFULLY fond of me."

"Anybody can see that."

"But you know, mother--she's--she's different from us. Those sort of
people, like those she lives amongst, they don't seem to have the same
principles."

"You mustn't judge too hastily," said Mrs. Morel.

But he seemed uneasy within himself.

In the morning, however, he was up singing and larking round the house.

"Hello!" he called, sitting on the stairs. "Are you getting up?"

"Yes," her voice called faintly.

"Merry Christmas!" he shouted to her.

Her laugh, pretty and tinkling, was heard in the bedroom. She did not
come down in half an hour.

"Was she REALLY getting up when she said she was?" he asked of Annie.

"Yes, she was," replied Annie.

He waited a while, then went to the stairs again.

"Happy New Year," he called.

"Thank you, Chubby dear!" came the laughing voice, far away.

"Buck up!" he implored.

It was nearly an hour, and still he was waiting for her. Morel, who
always rose before six, looked at the clock.

"Well, it's a winder!" he exclaimed.

The family had breakfasted, all but William. He went to the foot of the
stairs.

"Shall I have to send you an Easter egg up there?" he called, rather
crossly. She only laughed. The family expected, after that time of
preparation, something like magic. At last she came, looking very nice
in a blouse and skirt.

"Have you REALLY been all this time getting ready?" he asked.

"Chubby dear! That question is not permitted, is it, Mrs. Morel?"

She played the grand lady at first. When she went with William
to chapel, he in his frock-coat and silk hat, she in her furs and
London-made costume, Paul and Arthur and Annie expected everybody to bow
to the ground in admiration. And Morel, standing in his Sunday suit
at the end of the road, watching the gallant pair go, felt he was the
father of princes and princesses.

And yet she was not so grand. For a year now she had been a sort of
secretary or clerk in a London office. But while she was with the Morels
she queened it. She sat and let Annie or Paul wait on her as if they
were her servants. She treated Mrs. Morel with a certain glibness and
Morel with patronage. But after a day or so she began to change her
tune.

William always wanted Paul or Annie to go along with them on their
walks. It was so much more interesting. And Paul really DID admire
"Gipsy" wholeheartedly; in fact, his mother scarcely forgave the boy for
the adulation with which he treated the girl.

On the second day, when Lily said: "Oh, Annie, do you know where I left
my muff?" William replied:

"You know it is in your bedroom. Why do you ask Annie?"

And Lily went upstairs with a cross, shut mouth. But it angered the
young man that she made a servant of his sister.

On the third evening William and Lily were sitting together in the
parlour by the fire in the dark. At a quarter to eleven Mrs. Morel was
heard raking the fire. William came out to the kitchen, followed by his
beloved.

"Is it as late as that, mother?" he said. She had been sitting alone.

"It is not LATE, my boy, but it is as late as I usually sit up."

"Won't you go to bed, then?" he asked.

"And leave you two? No, my boy, I don't believe in it."

"Can't you trust us, mother?"

"Whether I can or not, I won't do it. You can stay till eleven if you
like, and I can read."

"Go to bed, Gyp," he said to his girl. "We won't keep mater waiting."

"Annie has left the candle burning, Lily," said Mrs. Morel; "I think you
will see."

"Yes, thank you. Good-night, Mrs. Morel."

William kissed his sweetheart at the foot of the stairs, and she went.
He returned to the kitchen.

"Can't you trust us, mother?" he repeated, rather offended.

"My boy, I tell you I don't BELIEVE in leaving two young things like you
alone downstairs when everyone else is in bed."

And he was forced to take this answer. He kissed his mother good-night.

At Easter he came over alone. And then he discussed his sweetheart
endlessly with his mother.

"You know, mother, when I'm away from her I don't care for her a bit. I
shouldn't care if I never saw her again. But, then, when I'm with her in
the evenings I am awfully fond of her."

"It's a queer sort of love to marry on," said Mrs. Morel, "if she holds
you no more than that!"

"It IS funny!" he exclaimed. It worried and perplexed him. "But
yet--there's so much between us now I couldn't give her up."

"You know best," said Mrs. Morel. "But if it is as you say, I wouldn't
call it LOVE--at any rate, it doesn't look much like it."

"Oh, I don't know, mother. She's an orphan, and--"

They never came to any sort of conclusion. He seemed puzzled and rather
fretted. She was rather reserved. All his strength and money went
in keeping this girl. He could scarcely afford to take his mother to
Nottingham when he came over.

Paul's wages had been raised at Christmas to ten shillings, to his great
joy. He was quite happy at Jordan's, but his health suffered from the
long hours and the confinement. His mother, to whom he became more and
more significant, thought how to help.

His half-day holiday was on Monday afternoon. On a Monday morning in
May, as the two sat alone at breakfast, she said:

"I think it will be a fine day."

He looked up in surprise. This meant something.

"You know Mr. Leivers has gone to live on a new farm. Well, he asked me
last week if I wouldn't go and see Mrs. Leivers, and I promised to bring
you on Monday if it's fine. Shall we go?"

"I say, little woman, how lovely!" he cried. "And we'll go this
afternoon?"

Paul hurried off to the station jubilant. Down Derby Road was a
cherry-tree that glistened. The old brick wall by the Statutes ground
burned scarlet, spring was a very flame of green. And the steep swoop
of highroad lay, in its cool morning dust, splendid with patterns of
sunshine and shadow, perfectly still. The trees sloped their great green
shoulders proudly; and inside the warehouse all the morning, the boy had
a vision of spring outside.

When he came home at dinner-time his mother was rather excited.

"Are we going?" he asked.

"When I'm ready," she replied.

Presently he got up.

"Go and get dressed while I wash up," he said.

She did so. He washed the pots, straightened, and then took her boots.
They were quite clean. Mrs. Morel was one of those naturally exquisite
people who can walk in mud without dirtying their shoes. But Paul had to
clean them for her. They were kid boots at eight shillings a pair. He,
however, thought them the most dainty boots in the world, and he cleaned
them with as much reverence as if they had been flowers.

Suddenly she appeared in the inner doorway rather shyly. She had got a
new cotton blouse on. Paul jumped up and went forward.

"Oh, my stars!" he exclaimed. "What a bobby-dazzler!"

She sniffed in a little haughty way, and put her head up.

"It's not a bobby-dazzler at all!" she replied. "It's very quiet."

She walked forward, whilst he hovered round her.

"Well," she asked, quite shy, but pretending to be high and mighty, "do
you like it?"

"Awfully! You ARE a fine little woman to go jaunting out with!"

He went and surveyed her from the back.

"Well," he said, "if I was walking down the street behind you, I should
say: 'Doesn't THAT little person fancy herself!"'

"Well, she doesn't," replied Mrs. Morel. "She's not sure it suits her."

"Oh no! she wants to be in dirty black, looking as if she was wrapped in
burnt paper. It DOES suit you, and I say you look nice."

She sniffed in her little way, pleased, but pretending to know better.

"Well," she said, "it's cost me just three shillings. You couldn't have
got it ready-made for that price, could you?"

"I should think you couldn't," he replied.

"And, you know, it's good stuff."

"Awfully pretty," he said.

The blouse was white, with a little sprig of heliotrope and black.

"Too young for me, though, I'm afraid," she said.

"Too young for you!" he exclaimed in disgust. "Why don't you buy some
false white hair and stick it on your head."

"I s'll soon have no need," she replied. "I'm going white fast enough."

"Well, you've no business to," he said. "What do I want with a
white-haired mother?"

"I'm afraid you'll have to put up with one, my lad," she said rather
strangely.

They set off in great style, she carrying the umbrella William had given
her, because of the sun. Paul was considerably taller than she, though
he was not big. He fancied himself.

On the fallow land the young wheat shone silkily. Minton pit waved its
plumes of white steam, coughed, and rattled hoarsely.

"Now look at that!" said Mrs. Morel. Mother and son stood on the road to
watch. Along the ridge of the great pit-hill crawled a little group
in silhouette against the sky, a horse, a small truck, and a man. They
climbed the incline against the heavens. At the end the man tipped the
wagon. There was an undue rattle as the waste fell down the sheer slope
of the enormous bank.

"You sit a minute, mother," he said, and she took a seat on a bank,
whilst he sketched rapidly. She was silent whilst he worked, looking
round at the afternoon, the red cottages shining among their greenness.

"The world is a wonderful place," she said, "and wonderfully beautiful."

"And so's the pit," he said. "Look how it heaps together, like something
alive almost--a big creature that you don't know."

"Yes," she said. "Perhaps!"

"And all the trucks standing waiting, like a string of beasts to be
fed," he said.

"And very thankful I am they ARE standing," she said, "for that means
they'll turn middling time this week."

"But I like the feel of MEN on things, while they're alive. There's a
feel of men about trucks, because they've been handled with men's hands,
all of them."

"Yes," said Mrs. Morel.

They went along under the trees of the highroad. He was constantly
informing her, but she was interested. They passed the end of
Nethermere, that was tossing its sunshine like petals lightly in
its lap. Then they turned on a private road, and in some trepidation
approached a big farm. A dog barked furiously. A woman came out to see.

"Is this the way to Willey Farm?" Mrs. Morel asked.

Paul hung behind in terror of being sent back. But the woman was
amiable, and directed them. The mother and son went through the wheat
and oats, over a little bridge into a wild meadow. Peewits, with their
white breasts glistening, wheeled and screamed about them. The lake was
still and blue. High overhead a heron floated. Opposite, the wood heaped
on the hill, green and still.

"It's a wild road, mother," said Paul. "Just like Canada."

"Isn't it beautiful!" said Mrs. Morel, looking round.

"See that heron--see--see her legs?"

He directed his mother, what she must see and what not. And she was
quite content.

"But now," she said, "which way? He told me through the wood."

The wood, fenced and dark, lay on their left.

"I can feel a bit of a path this road," said Paul. "You've got town
feet, somehow or other, you have."

They found a little gate, and soon were in a broad green alley of the
wood, with a new thicket of fir and pine on one hand, an old oak glade
dipping down on the other. And among the oaks the bluebells stood in
pools of azure, under the new green hazels, upon a pale fawn floor of
oak-leaves. He found flowers for her.

"Here's a bit of new-mown hay," he said; then, again, he brought her
forget-me-nots. And, again, his heart hurt with love, seeing her hand,
used with work, holding the little bunch of flowers he gave her. She was
perfectly happy.

But at the end of the riding was a fence to climb. Paul was over in a
second.

"Come," he said, "let me help you."

"No, go away. I will do it in my own way."

He stood below with his hands up ready to help her. She climbed
cautiously.

"What a way to climb!" he exclaimed scornfully, when she was safely to
earth again.

"Hateful stiles!" she cried.

"Duffer of a little woman," he replied, "who can't get over 'em."

In front, along the edge of the wood, was a cluster of low red farm
buildings. The two hastened forward. Flush with the wood was the apple
orchard, where blossom was falling on the grindstone. The pond was deep
under a hedge and overhanging oak trees. Some cows stood in the shade.
The farm and buildings, three sides of a quadrangle, embraced the
sunshine towards the wood. It was very still.

Mother and son went into the small railed garden, where was a scent
of red gillivers. By the open door were some floury loaves, put out to
cool. A hen was just coming to peck them. Then, in the doorway suddenly
appeared a girl in a dirty apron. She was about fourteen years old, had
a rosy dark face, a bunch of short black curls, very fine and free, and
dark eyes; shy, questioning, a little resentful of the strangers, she
disappeared. In a minute another figure appeared, a small, frail woman,
rosy, with great dark brown eyes.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, smiling with a little glow, "you've come, then. I
AM glad to see you." Her voice was intimate and rather sad.

The two women shook hands.

"Now are you sure we're not a bother to you?" said Mrs. Morel. "I know
what a farming life is."

"Oh no! We're only too thankful to see a new face, it's so lost up
here."

"I suppose so," said Mrs. Morel.

They were taken through into the parlour--a long, low room, with a great
bunch of guelder-roses in the fireplace. There the women talked, whilst
Paul went out to survey the land. He was in the garden smelling the
gillivers and looking at the plants, when the girl came out quickly to
the heap of coal which stood by the fence.

"I suppose these are cabbage-roses?" he said to her, pointing to the
bushes along the fence.

She looked at him with startled, big brown eyes.

"I suppose they are cabbage-roses when they come out?" he said.

"I don't know," she faltered. "They're white with pink middles."

"Then they're maiden-blush."

Miriam flushed. She had a beautiful warm colouring.

"I don't know," she said.

"You don't have MUCH in your garden," he said.

"This is our first year here," she answered, in a distant, rather
superior way, drawing back and going indoors. He did not notice, but
went his round of exploration. Presently his mother came out, and they
went through the buildings. Paul was hugely delighted.

"And I suppose you have the fowls and calves and pigs to look after?"
said Mrs. Morel to Mrs. Leivers.

"No," replied the little woman. "I can't find time to look after cattle,
and I'm not used to it. It's as much as I can do to keep going in the
house."

"Well, I suppose it is," said Mrs. Morel.

Presently the girl came out.

"Tea is ready, mother," she said in a musical, quiet voice.

"Oh, thank you, Miriam, then we'll come," replied her mother, almost
ingratiatingly. "Would you CARE to have tea now, Mrs. Morel?"

"Of course," said Mrs. Morel. "Whenever it's ready."

Paul and his mother and Mrs. Leivers had tea together. Then they
went out into the wood that was flooded with bluebells, while fumy
forget-me-nots were in the paths. The mother and son were in ecstasy
together.

When they got back to the house, Mr. Leivers and Edgar, the eldest
son, were in the kitchen. Edgar was about eighteen. Then Geoffrey and
Maurice, big lads of twelve and thirteen, were in from school. Mr.
Leivers was a good-looking man in the prime of life, with a golden-brown
moustache, and blue eyes screwed up against the weather.

The boys were condescending, but Paul scarcely observed it. They went
round for eggs, scrambling into all sorts of places. As they were
feeding the fowls Miriam came out. The boys took no notice of her. One
hen, with her yellow chickens, was in a coop. Maurice took his hand full
of corn and let the hen peck from it.

"Durst you do it?" he asked of Paul.

"Let's see," said Paul.

He had a small hand, warm, and rather capable-looking. Miriam watched.
He held the corn to the hen. The bird eyed it with her hard, bright eye,
and suddenly made a peck into his hand. He started, and laughed. "Rap,
rap, rap!" went the bird's beak in his palm. He laughed again, and the
other boys joined.

"She knocks you, and nips you, but she never hurts," said Paul, when the
last corn had gone. "Now, Miriam," said Maurice, "you come an 'ave a
go."

"No," she cried, shrinking back.

"Ha! baby. The mardy-kid!" said her brothers.

"It doesn't hurt a bit," said Paul. "It only just nips rather nicely."

"No," she still cried, shaking her black curls and shrinking.

"She dursn't," said Geoffrey. "She niver durst do anything except recite
poitry."

"Dursn't jump off a gate, dursn't tweedle, dursn't go on a slide,
dursn't stop a girl hittin' her. She can do nowt but go about thinkin'
herself somebody. 'The Lady of the Lake.' Yah!" cried Maurice.

Miriam was crimson with shame and misery.

"I dare do more than you," she cried. "You're never anything but cowards
and bullies."

"Oh, cowards and bullies!" they repeated mincingly, mocking her speech.

     "Not such a clown shall anger me,
     A boor is answered silently,"

he quoted against her, shouting with laughter.

She went indoors. Paul went with the boys into the orchard, where they
had rigged up a parallel bar. They did feats of strength. He was more
agile than strong, but it served. He fingered a piece of apple-blossom
that hung low on a swinging bough.

"I wouldn't get the apple-blossom," said Edgar, the eldest brother.
"There'll be no apples next year."

"I wasn't going to get it," replied Paul, going away.

The boys felt hostile to him; they were more interested in their own
pursuits. He wandered back to the house to look for his mother. As he
went round the back, he saw Miriam kneeling in front of the hen-coop,
some maize in her hand, biting her lip, and crouching in an intense
attitude. The hen was eyeing her wickedly. Very gingerly she put forward
her hand. The hen bobbed for her. She drew back quickly with a cry, half
of fear, half of chagrin.

"It won't hurt you," said Paul.

She flushed crimson and started up.

"I only wanted to try," she said in a low voice.

"See, it doesn't hurt," he said, and, putting only two corns in his
palm, he let the hen peck, peck, peck at his bare hand. "It only makes
you laugh," he said.

She put her hand forward and dragged it away, tried again, and started
back with a cry. He frowned.

"Why, I'd let her take corn from my face," said Paul, "only she bumps a
bit. She's ever so neat. If she wasn't, look how much ground she'd peck
up every day."

He waited grimly, and watched. At last Miriam let the bird peck from
her hand. She gave a little cry--fear, and pain because of fear--rather
pathetic. But she had done it, and she did it again.

"There, you see," said the boy. "It doesn't hurt, does it?"

She looked at him with dilated dark eyes.

"No," she laughed, trembling.

Then she rose and went indoors. She seemed to be in some way resentful
of the boy.

"He thinks I'm only a common girl," she thought, and she wanted to prove
she was a grand person like the "Lady of the Lake".

Paul found his mother ready to go home. She smiled on her son. He took
the great bunch of flowers. Mr. and Mrs. Leivers walked down the fields
with them. The hills were golden with evening; deep in the woods showed
the darkening purple of bluebells. It was everywhere perfectly stiff,
save for the rustling of leaves and birds.

"But it is a beautiful place," said Mrs. Morel.

"Yes," answered Mr. Leivers; "it's a nice little place, if only it
weren't for the rabbits. The pasture's bitten down to nothing. I dunno
if ever I s'll get the rent off it."

He clapped his hands, and the field broke into motion near the woods,
brown rabbits hopping everywhere.

"Would you believe it!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel.

She and Paul went on alone together.

"Wasn't it lovely, mother?" he said quietly.

A thin moon was coming out. His heart was full of happiness till it
hurt. His mother had to chatter, because she, too, wanted to cry with
happiness.

"Now WOULDN'T I help that man!" she said. "WOULDN'T I see to the fowls
and the young stock! And I'D learn to milk, and I'D talk with him, and
I'D plan with him. My word, if I were his wife, the farm would be run,
I know! But there, she hasn't the strength--she simply hasn't the
strength. She ought never to have been burdened like it, you know. I'm
sorry for her, and I'm sorry for him too. My word, if I'D had him, I
shouldn't have thought him a bad husband! Not that she does either; and
she's very lovable."

William came home again with his sweetheart at the Whitsuntide. He had
one week of his holidays then. It was beautiful weather. As a rule,
William and Lily and Paul went out in the morning together for a walk.
William did not talk to his beloved much, except to tell her things from
his boyhood. Paul talked endlessly to both of them. They lay down, all
three, in a meadow by Minton Church. On one side, by the Castle Farm,
was a beautiful quivering screen of poplars. Hawthorn was dropping
from the hedges; penny daisies and ragged robin were in the field, like
laughter. William, a big fellow of twenty-three, thinner now and even a
bit gaunt, lay back in the sunshine and dreamed, while she fingered with
his hair. Paul went gathering the big daisies. She had taken off her
hat; her hair was black as a horse's mane. Paul came back and threaded
daisies in her jet-black hair--big spangles of white and yellow, and
just a pink touch of ragged robin.

"Now you look like a young witch-woman," the boy said to her. "Doesn't
she, William?"

Lily laughed. William opened his eyes and looked at her. In his gaze was
a certain baffled look of misery and fierce appreciation.

"Has he made a sight of me?" she asked, laughing down on her lover.

"That he has!" said William, smiling.

He looked at her. Her beauty seemed to hurt him. He glanced at her
flower-decked head and frowned.

"You look nice enough, if that's what you want to know," he said.

And she walked without her hat. In a little while William recovered, and
was rather tender to her. Coming to a bridge, he carved her initials and
his in a heart.

L. L. W.

W. M.

She watched his strong, nervous hand, with its glistening hairs and
freckles, as he carved, and she seemed fascinated by it.

All the time there was a feeling of sadness and warmth, and a certain
tenderness in the house, whilst William and Lily were at home. But often
he got irritable. She had brought, for an eight-days' stay, five dresses
and six blouses.

"Oh, would you mind," she said to Annie, "washing me these two blouses,
and these things?"

And Annie stood washing when William and Lily went out the next morning.
Mrs. Morel was furious. And sometimes the young man, catching a glimpse
of his sweetheart's attitude towards his sister, hated her.

On Sunday morning she looked very beautiful in a dress of foulard, silky
and sweeping, and blue as a jay-bird's feather, and in a large cream hat
covered with many roses, mostly crimson. Nobody could admire her enough.
But in the evening, when she was going out, she asked again:

"Chubby, have you got my gloves?"

"Which?" asked William.

"My new black SUEDE."

"No."

There was a hunt. She had lost them.

"Look here, mother," said William, "that's the fourth pair she's lost
since Christmas--at five shillings a pair!"

"You only gave me TWO of them," she remonstrated.

And in the evening, after supper, he stood on the hearthrug whilst she
sat on the sofa, and he seemed to hate her. In the afternoon he had
left her whilst he went to see some old friend. She had sat looking at a
book. After supper William wanted to write a letter.

"Here is your book, Lily," said Mrs. Morel. "Would you care to go on
with it for a few minutes?"

"No, thank you," said the girl. "I will sit still."

"But it is so dull."

William scribbled irritably at a great rate. As he sealed the envelope
he said:

"Read a book! Why, she's never read a book in her life."

"Oh, go along!" said Mrs. Morel, cross with the exaggeration,

"It's true, mother--she hasn't," he cried, jumping up and taking his old
position on the hearthrug. "She's never read a book in her life."

"'Er's like me," chimed in Morel. "'Er canna see what there is i' books,
ter sit borin' your nose in 'em for, nor more can I."

"But you shouldn't say these things," said Mrs. Morel to her son.

"But it's true, mother--she CAN'T read. What did you give her?"

"Well, I gave her a little thing of Annie Swan's. Nobody wants to read
dry stuff on Sunday afternoon."

"Well, I'll bet she didn't read ten lines of it."

"You are mistaken," said his mother.

All the time Lily sat miserably on the sofa. He turned to her swiftly.

"DID you ready any?" he asked.

"Yes, I did," she replied.

"How much?"

"I don't know how many pages."

"Tell me ONE THING you read."

She could not.

She never got beyond the second page. He read a great deal, and had a
quick, active intelligence. She could understand nothing but love-making
and chatter. He was accustomed to having all his thoughts sifted through
his mother's mind; so, when he wanted companionship, and was asked in
reply to be the billing and twittering lover, he hated his betrothed.

"You know, mother," he said, when he was alone with her at night, "she's
no idea of money, she's so wessel-brained. When she's paid, she'll
suddenly buy such rot as marrons glaces, and then I have to buy her
season ticket, and her extras, even her underclothing. And she wants to
get married, and I think myself we might as well get married next year.
But at this rate--"

"A fine mess of a marriage it would be," replied his mother. "I should
consider it again, my boy."

"Oh, well, I've gone too far to break off now," he said, "and so I shall
get married as soon as I can."

"Very well, my boy. If you will, you will, and there's no stopping you;
but I tell you, I can't sleep when I think about it."

"Oh, she'll be all right, mother. We shall manage."

"And she lets you buy her underclothing?" asked the mother.

"Well," he began apologetically, "she didn't ask me; but one
morning--and it WAS cold--I found her on the station shivering, not able
to keep still; so I asked her if she was well wrapped up. She said: 'I
think so.' So I said: 'Have you got warm underthings on?' And she
said: 'No, they were cotton.' I asked her why on earth she hadn't got
something thicker on in weather like that, and she said because she HAD
nothing. And there she is--a bronchial subject! I HAD to take her and
get some warm things. Well, mother, I shouldn't mind the money if we
had any. And, you know, she OUGHT to keep enough to pay for her
season-ticket; but no, she comes to me about that, and I have to find
the money."

"It's a poor lookout," said Mrs. Morel bitterly.

He was pale, and his rugged face, that used to be so perfectly careless
and laughing, was stamped with conflict and despair.

"But I can't give her up now; it's gone too far," he said. "And,
besides, for SOME things I couldn't do without her."

"My boy, remember you're taking your life in your hands," said Mrs.
Morel. "NOTHING is as bad as a marriage that's a hopeless failure. Mine
was bad enough, God knows, and ought to teach you something; but it
might have been worse by a long chalk."

He leaned with his back against the side of the chimney-piece, his hands
in his pockets. He was a big, raw-boned man, who looked as if he would
go to the world's end if he wanted to. But she saw the despair on his
face.

"I couldn't give her up now," he said.

"Well," she said, "remember there are worse wrongs than breaking off an
engagement."

"I can't give her up NOW," he said.

The clock ticked on; mother and son remained in silence, a conflict
between them; but he would say no more. At last she said:

"Well, go to bed, my son. You'll feel better in the morning, and perhaps
you'll know better."

He kissed her, and went. She raked the fire. Her heart was heavy now
as it had never been. Before, with her husband, things had seemed to be
breaking down in her, but they did not destroy her power to live. Now
her soul felt lamed in itself. It was her hope that was struck.

And so often William manifested the same hatred towards his betrothed.
On the last evening at home he was railing against her.

"Well," he said, "if you don't believe me, what she's like, would you
believe she has been confirmed three times?"

"Nonsense!" laughed Mrs. Morel.

"Nonsense or not, she HAS! That's what confirmation means for her--a bit
of a theatrical show where she can cut a figure."

"I haven't, Mrs. Morel!" cried the girl--"I haven't! it is not true!"

"What!" he cried, flashing round on her. "Once in Bromley, once in
Beckenham, and once somewhere else."

"Nowhere else!" she said, in tears--"nowhere else!"

"It WAS! And if it wasn't why were you confirmed TWICE?"

"Once I was only fourteen, Mrs. Morel," she pleaded, tears in her eyes.

"Yes," said Mrs. Morel; "I can quite understand it, child. Take no
notice of him. You ought to be ashamed, William, saying such things."

"But it's true. She's religious--she had blue velvet Prayer-Books--and
she's not as much religion, or anything else, in her than that
table-leg. Gets confirmed three times for show, to show herself off, and
that's how she is in EVERYTHING--EVERYTHING!"

The girl sat on the sofa, crying. She was not strong.

"As for LOVE!" he cried, "you might as well ask a fly to love you! It'll
love settling on you--"

"Now, say no more," commanded Mrs. Morel. "If you want to say these
things, you must find another place than this. I am ashamed of you,
William! Why don't you be more manly. To do nothing but find fault with
a girl, and then pretend you're engaged to her!"

Mrs. Morel subsided in wrath and indignation.

William was silent, and later he repented, kissed and comforted the
girl. Yet it was true, what he had said. He hated her.

When they were going away, Mrs. Morel accompanied them as far as
Nottingham. It was a long way to Keston station.

"You know, mother," he said to her, "Gyp's shallow. Nothing goes deep
with her."

"William, I WISH you wouldn't say these things," said Mrs. Morel, very
uncomfortable for the girl who walked beside her.

"But it doesn't, mother. She's very much in love with me now, but if I
died she'd have forgotten me in three months."

Mrs. Morel was afraid. Her heart beat furiously, hearing the quiet
bitterness of her son's last speech.

"How do you know?" she replied. "You DON'T know, and therefore you've no
right to say such a thing."

"He's always saying these things!" cried the girl.

"In three months after I was buried you'd have somebody else, and I
should be forgotten," he said. "And that's your love!"

Mrs. Morel saw them into the train in Nottingham, then she returned
home.

"There's one comfort," she said to Paul--"he'll never have any money to
marry on, that I AM sure of. And so she'll save him that way."

So she took cheer. Matters were not yet very desperate. She firmly
believed William would never marry his Gipsy. She waited, and she kept
Paul near to her.

All summer long William's letters had a feverish tone; he seemed
unnatural and intense. Sometimes he was exaggeratedly jolly, usually he
was flat and bitter in his letter.

"Ah," his mother said, "I'm afraid he's ruining himself against that
creature, who isn't worthy of his love--no, no more than a rag doll."

He wanted to come home. The midsummer holiday was gone; it was a long
while to Christmas. He wrote in wild excitement, saying he could come
for Saturday and Sunday at Goose Fair, the first week in October.

"You are not well, my boy," said his mother, when she saw him. She was
almost in tears at having him to herself again.

"No, I've not been well," he said. "I've seemed to have a dragging cold
all the last month, but it's going, I think."

It was sunny October weather. He seemed wild with joy, like a schoolboy
escaped; then again he was silent and reserved. He was more gaunt than
ever, and there was a haggard look in his eyes.

"You are doing too much," said his mother to him.

He was doing extra work, trying to make some money to marry on, he said.
He only talked to his mother once on the Saturday night; then he was sad
and tender about his beloved.

"And yet, you know, mother, for all that, if I died she'd be
broken-hearted for two months, and then she'd start to forget me. You'd
see, she'd never come home here to look at my grave, not even once."

"Why, William," said his mother, "you're not going to die, so why talk
about it?"

"But whether or not--" he replied.

"And she can't help it. She is like that, and if you choose her--well,
you can't grumble," said his mother.

On the Sunday morning, as he was putting his collar on:

"Look," he said to his mother, holding up his chin, "what a rash my
collar's made under my chin!"

Just at the junction of chin and throat was a big red inflammation.

"It ought not to do that," said his mother. "Here, put a bit of this
soothing ointment on. You should wear different collars."

He went away on Sunday midnight, seeming better and more solid for his
two days at home.

On Tuesday morning came a telegram from London that he was ill. Mrs.
Morel got off her knees from washing the floor, read the telegram,
called a neighbour, went to her landlady and borrowed a sovereign, put
on her things, and set off. She hurried to Keston, caught an express for
London in Nottingham. She had to wait in Nottingham nearly an hour. A
small figure in her black bonnet, she was anxiously asking the porters
if they knew how to get to Elmers End. The journey was three hours. She
sat in her corner in a kind of stupor, never moving. At King's Cross
still no one could tell her how to get to Elmers End. Carrying her
string bag, that contained her nightdress, a comb and brush, she went
from person to person. At last they sent her underground to Cannon
Street.

It was six o'clock when she arrived at William's lodging. The blinds
were not down.

"How is he?" she asked.

"No better," said the landlady.

She followed the woman upstairs. William lay on the bed, with bloodshot
eyes, his face rather discoloured. The clothes were tossed about, there
was no fire in the room, a glass of milk stood on the stand at his
bedside. No one had been with him.

"Why, my son!" said the mother bravely.

He did not answer. He looked at her, but did not see her. Then he began
to say, in a dull voice, as if repeating a letter from dictation: "Owing
to a leakage in the hold of this vessel, the sugar had set, and become
converted into rock. It needed hacking--"

He was quite unconscious. It had been his business to examine some such
cargo of sugar in the Port of London.

"How long has he been like this?" the mother asked the landlady.

"He got home at six o'clock on Monday morning, and he seemed to sleep
all day; then in the night we heard him talking, and this morning he
asked for you. So I wired, and we fetched the doctor."

"Will you have a fire made?"

Mrs. Morel tried to soothe her son, to keep him still.

The doctor came. It was pneumonia, and, he said, a peculiar erysipelas,
which had started under the chin where the collar chafed, and was
spreading over the face. He hoped it would not get to the brain.

Mrs. Morel settled down to nurse. She prayed for William, prayed that he
would recognise her. But the young man's face grew more discoloured.
In the night she struggled with him. He raved, and raved, and would not
come to consciousness. At two o'clock, in a dreadful paroxysm, he died.

Mrs. Morel sat perfectly still for an hour in the lodging bedroom; then
she roused the household.

At six o'clock, with the aid of the charwoman, she laid him out; then
she went round the dreary London village to the registrar and the
doctor.

At nine o'clock to the cottage on Scargill Street came another wire:

"William died last night. Let father come, bring money."

Annie, Paul, and Arthur were at home; Mr. Morel was gone to work. The
three children said not a word. Annie began to whimper with fear; Paul
set off for his father.

It was a beautiful day. At Brinsley pit the white steam melted slowly in
the sunshine of a soft blue sky; the wheels of the headstocks twinkled
high up; the screen, shuffling its coal into the trucks, made a busy
noise.

"I want my father; he's got to go to London," said the boy to the first
man he met on the bank.

"Tha wants Walter Morel? Go in theer an' tell Joe Ward."

Paul went into the little top office.

"I want my father; he's got to go to London."

"Thy feyther? Is he down? What's his name?"

"Mr. Morel."

"What, Walter? Is owt amiss?"

"He's got to go to London."

The man went to the telephone and rang up the bottom office.

"Walter Morel's wanted, number 42, Hard. Summat's amiss; there's his lad
here."

Then he turned round to Paul.

"He'll be up in a few minutes," he said.

Paul wandered out to the pit-top. He watched the chair come up, with its
wagon of coal. The great iron cage sank back on its rest, a full carfle
was hauled off, an empty tram run on to the chair, a bell ting'ed
somewhere, the chair heaved, then dropped like a stone.

Paul did not realise William was dead; it was impossible, with such
a bustle going on. The puller-off swung the small truck on to the
turn-table, another man ran with it along the bank down the curving
lines.

"And William is dead, and my mother's in London, and what will she be
doing?" the boy asked himself, as if it were a conundrum.

He watched chair after chair come up, and still no father. At last,
standing beside a wagon, a man's form! the chair sank on its rests,
Morel stepped off. He was slightly lame from an accident.

"Is it thee, Paul? Is 'e worse?"

"You've got to go to London."

The two walked off the pit-bank, where men were watching curiously. As
they came out and went along the railway, with the sunny autumn field on
one side and a wall of trucks on the other, Morel said in a frightened
voice:

"'E's niver gone, child?"

"Yes."

"When wor't?"

"Last night. We had a telegram from my mother."

Morel walked on a few strides, then leaned up against a truck-side,
his hand over his eyes. He was not crying. Paul stood looking round,
waiting. On the weighing machine a truck trundled slowly. Paul saw
everything, except his father leaning against the truck as if he were
tired.

Morel had only once before been to London. He set off, scared and
peaked, to help his wife. That was on Tuesday. The children were left
alone in the house. Paul went to work, Arthur went to school, and Annie
had in a friend to be with her.

On Saturday night, as Paul was turning the corner, coming home from
Keston, he saw his mother and father, who had come to Sethley Bridge
Station. They were walking in silence in the dark, tired, straggling
apart. The boy waited.

"Mother!" he said, in the darkness.

Mrs. Morel's small figure seemed not to observe. He spoke again.

"Paul!" she said, uninterestedly.

She let him kiss her, but she seemed unaware of him.

In the house she was the same--small, white, and mute. She noticed
nothing, she said nothing, only:

"The coffin will be here to-night, Walter. You'd better see about some
help." Then, turning to the children: "We're bringing him home."

Then she relapsed into the same mute looking into space, her hands
folded on her lap. Paul, looking at her, felt he could not breathe. The
house was dead silent.

"I went to work, mother," he said plaintively.

"Did you?" she answered, dully.

After half an hour Morel, troubled and bewildered, came in again.

"Wheer s'll we ha'e him when he DOEScome?" he asked his wife.

"In the front-room."

"Then I'd better shift th' table?"

"Yes."

"An' ha'e him across th' chairs?"

"You know there--Yes, I suppose so."

Morel and Paul went, with a candle, into the parlour. There was no gas
there. The father unscrewed the top of the big mahogany oval table, and
cleared the middle of the room; then he arranged six chairs opposite
each other, so that the coffin could stand on their beds.

"You niver seed such a length as he is!" said the miner, and watching
anxiously as he worked.

Paul went to the bay window and looked out. The ash-tree stood monstrous
and black in front of the wide darkness. It was a faintly luminous
night. Paul went back to his mother.

At ten o'clock Morel called:

"He's here!"

Everyone started. There was a noise of unbarring and unlocking the front
door, which opened straight from the night into the room.

"Bring another candle," called Morel.

Annie and Arthur went. Paul followed with his mother. He stood with his
arm round her waist in the inner doorway. Down the middle of the cleared
room waited six chairs, face to face. In the window, against the lace
curtains, Arthur held up one candle, and by the open door, against the
night, Annie stood leaning forward, her brass candlestick glittering.

There was the noise of wheels. Outside in the darkness of the street
below Paul could see horses and a black vehicle, one lamp, and a few
pale faces; then some men, miners, all in their shirt-sleeves, seemed to
struggle in the obscurity. Presently two men appeared, bowed beneath a
great weight. It was Morel and his neighbour.

"Steady!" called Morel, out of breath.

He and his fellow mounted the steep garden step, heaved into the
candlelight with their gleaming coffin-end. Limbs of other men were seen
struggling behind. Morel and Burns, in front, staggered; the great dark
weight swayed.

"Steady, steady!" cried Morel, as if in pain.

All the six bearers were up in the small garden, holding the great
coffin aloft. There were three more steps to the door. The yellow lamp
of the carriage shone alone down the black road.

"Now then!" said Morel.

The coffin swayed, the men began to mount the three steps with their
load. Annie's candle flickered, and she whimpered as the first men
appeared, and the limbs and bowed heads of six men struggled to climb
into the room, bearing the coffin that rode like sorrow on their living
flesh.

"Oh, my son--my son!" Mrs. Morel sang softly, and each time the coffin
swung to the unequal climbing of the men: "Oh, my son--my son--my son!"

"Mother!" Paul whimpered, his hand round her waist.

She did not hear.

"Oh, my son--my son!" she repeated.

Paul saw drops of sweat fall from his father's brow. Six men were in
the room--six coatless men, with yielding, struggling limbs, filling
the room and knocking against the furniture. The coffin veered, and was
gently lowered on to the chairs. The sweat fell from Morel's face on its
boards.

"My word, he's a weight!" said a man, and the five miners sighed, bowed,
and, trembling with the struggle, descended the steps again, closing the
door behind them.

The family was alone in the parlour with the great polished box.
William, when laid out, was six feet four inches long. Like a monument
lay the bright brown, ponderous coffin. Paul thought it would never be
got out of the room again. His mother was stroking the polished wood.

They buried him on the Monday in the little cemetery on the hillside
that looks over the fields at the big church and the houses. It was
sunny, and the white chrysanthemums frilled themselves in the warmth.

Mrs. Morel could not be persuaded, after this, to talk and take her old
bright interest in life. She remained shut off. All the way home in the
train she had said to herself : "If only it could have been me!"

When Paul came home at night he found his mother sitting, her day's work
done, with hands folded in her lap upon her coarse apron. She always
used to have changed her dress and put on a black apron, before. Now
Annie set his supper, and his mother sat looking blankly in front of
her, her mouth shut tight. Then he beat his brains for news to tell her.

"Mother, Miss Jordan was down to-day, and she said my sketch of a
colliery at work was beautiful."

But Mrs. Morel took no notice. Night after night he forced himself to
tell her things, although she did not listen. It drove him almost insane
to have her thus. At last:

"What's a-matter, mother?" he asked.

She did not hear.

"What's a-matter?" he persisted. "Mother, what's a-matter?"

"You know what's the matter," she said irritably, turning away.

The lad--he was sixteen years old--went to bed drearily. He was cut off
and wretched through October, November and December. His mother tried,
but she could not rouse herself. She could only brood on her dead son;
he had been let to die so cruelly.

At last, on December 23, with his five shillings Christmas-box in his
pocket, Paul wandered blindly home. His mother looked at him, and her
heart stood still.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"I'm badly, mother!" he replied. "Mr. Jordan gave me five shillings for
a Christmas-box!"

He handed it to her with trembling hands. She put it on the table.

"You aren't glad!" he reproached her; but he trembled violently.

"Where hurts you?" she said, unbuttoning his overcoat.

It was the old question.

"I feel badly, mother."

She undressed him and put him to bed. He had pneumonia dangerously, the
doctor said.

"Might he never have had it if I'd kept him at home, not let him go to
Nottingham?" was one of the first things she asked.

"He might not have been so bad," said the doctor.

Mrs. Morel stood condemned on her own ground.

"I should have watched the living, not the dead," she told herself.

Paul was very ill. His mother lay in bed at nights with him; they could
not afford a nurse. He grew worse, and the crisis approached. One
night he tossed into consciousness in the ghastly, sickly feeling of
dissolution, when all the cells in the body seem in intense irritability
to be breaking down, and consciousness makes a last flare of struggle,
like madness.

"I s'll die, mother!" he cried, heaving for breath on the pillow.

She lifted him up, crying in a small voice:

"Oh, my son--my son!"

That brought him to. He realised her. His whole will rose up and
arrested him. He put his head on her breast, and took ease of her for
love.

"For some things," said his aunt, "it was a good thing Paul was ill that
Christmas. I believe it saved his mother."

Paul was in bed for seven weeks. He got up white and fragile. His father
had bought him a pot of scarlet and gold tulips. They used to flame in
the window in the March sunshine as he sat on the sofa chattering to his
mother. The two knitted together in perfect intimacy. Mrs. Morel's life
now rooted itself in Paul.

William had been a prophet. Mrs. Morel had a little present and a letter
from Lily at Christmas. Mrs. Morel's sister had a letter at the New
Year.

"I was at a ball last night. Some delightful people were there, and I
enjoyed myself thoroughly," said the letter. "I had every dance--did not
sit out one."

Mrs. Morel never heard any more of her.

Morel and his wife were gentle with each other for some time after the
death of their son. He would go into a kind of daze, staring wide-eyed
and blank across the room. Then he got up suddenly and hurried out to
the Three Spots, returning in his normal state. But never in his life
would he go for a walk up Shepstone, past the office where his son had
worked, and he always avoided the cemetery.



PART TWO

CHAPTER VII

LAD-AND-GIRL LOVE

PAUL had been many times up to Willey Farm during the autumn. He
was friends with the two youngest boys. Edgar the eldest, would not
condescend at first. And Miriam also refused to be approached. She was
afraid of being set at nought, as by her own brothers. The girl was
romantic in her soul. Everywhere was a Walter Scott heroine being
loved by men with helmets or with plumes in their caps. She herself was
something of a princess turned into a swine-girl in her own imagination.
And she was afraid lest this boy, who, nevertheless, looked something
like a Walter Scott hero, who could paint and speak French, and knew
what algebra meant, and who went by train to Nottingham every day, might
consider her simply as the swine-girl, unable to perceive the princess
beneath; so she held aloof.

Her great companion was her mother. They were both brown-eyed, and
inclined to be mystical, such women as treasure religion inside them,
breathe it in their nostrils, and see the whole of life in a mist
thereof. So to Miriam, Christ and God made one great figure, which she
loved tremblingly and passionately when a tremendous sunset burned
out the western sky, and Ediths, and Lucys, and Rowenas, Brian de Bois
Guilberts, Rob Roys, and Guy Mannerings, rustled the sunny leaves in the
morning, or sat in her bedroom aloft, alone, when it snowed. That was
life to her. For the rest, she drudged in the house, which work she
would not have minded had not her clean red floor been mucked up
immediately by the trampling farm-boots of her brothers. She madly
wanted her little brother of four to let her swathe him and stifle
him in her love; she went to church reverently, with bowed head, and
quivered in anguish from the vulgarity of the other choir-girls and from
the common-sounding voice of the curate; she fought with her brothers,
whom she considered brutal louts; and she held not her father in too
high esteem because he did not carry any mystical ideals cherished in
his heart, but only wanted to have as easy a time as he could, and his
meals when he was ready for them.

She hated her position as swine-girl. She wanted to be considered. She
wanted to learn, thinking that if she could read, as Paul said he could
read, "Colomba", or the "Voyage autour de ma Chambre", the world would
have a different face for her and a deepened respect. She could not be
princess by wealth or standing. So she was mad to have learning whereon
to pride herself. For she was different from other folk, and must not
be scooped up among the common fry. Learning was the only distinction to
which she thought to aspire.

Her beauty--that of a shy, wild, quiveringly sensitive thing--seemed
nothing to her. Even her soul, so strong for rhapsody, was not enough.
She must have something to reinforce her pride, because she felt
different from other people. Paul she eyed rather wistfully. On the
whole, she scorned the male sex. But here was a new specimen, quick,
light, graceful, who could be gentle and who could be sad, and who was
clever, and who knew a lot, and who had a death in the family. The boy's
poor morsel of learning exalted him almost sky-high in her esteem.
Yet she tried hard to scorn him, because he would not see in her the
princess but only the swine-girl. And he scarcely observed her.

Then he was so ill, and she felt he would be weak. Then she would be
stronger than he. Then she could love him. If she could be mistress of
him in his weakness, take care of him, if he could depend on her, if she
could, as it were, have him in her arms, how she would love him!

As soon as the skies brightened and plum-blossom was out, Paul drove off
in the milkman's heavy float up to Willey Farm. Mr. Leivers shouted in a
kindly fashion at the boy, then clicked to the horse as they climbed the
hill slowly, in the freshness of the morning. White clouds went on
their way, crowding to the back of the hills that were rousing in the
springtime. The water of Nethermere lay below, very blue against the
seared meadows and the thorn-trees.

It was four and a half miles' drive. Tiny buds on the hedges, vivid
as copper-green, were opening into rosettes; and thrushes called, and
blackbirds shrieked and scolded. It was a new, glamorous world.

Miriam, peeping through the kitchen window, saw the horse walk through
the big white gate into the farmyard that was backed by the oak-wood,
still bare. Then a youth in a heavy overcoat climbed down. He put up
his hands for the whip and the rug that the good-looking, ruddy farmer
handed down to him.

Miriam appeared in the doorway. She was nearly sixteen, very beautiful,
with her warm colouring, her gravity, her eyes dilating suddenly like an
ecstasy.

"I say," said Paul, turning shyly aside, "your daffodils are nearly out.
Isn't it early? But don't they look cold?"

"Cold!" said Miriam, in her musical, caressing voice.

"The green on their buds--" and he faltered into silence timidly.

"Let me take the rug," said Miriam over-gently.

"I can carry it," he answered, rather injured. But he yielded it to her.

Then Mrs. Leivers appeared.

"I'm sure you're tired and cold," she said. "Let me take your coat. It
IS heavy. You mustn't walk far in it."

She helped him off with his coat. He was quite unused to such attention.
She was almost smothered under its weight.

"Why, mother," laughed the farmer as he passed through the kitchen,
swinging the great milk-churns, "you've got almost more than you can
manage there."

She beat up the sofa cushions for the youth.

The kitchen was very small and irregular. The farm had been originally
a labourer's cottage. And the furniture was old and battered. But Paul
loved it--loved the sack-bag that formed the hearthrug, and the funny
little corner under the stairs, and the small window deep in the corner,
through which, bending a little, he could see the plum trees in the back
garden and the lovely round hills beyond.

"Won't you lie down?" said Mrs. Leivers.

"Oh no; I'm not tired," he said. "Isn't it lovely coming out, don't you
think? I saw a sloe-bush in blossom and a lot of celandines. I'm glad
it's sunny."

"Can I give you anything to eat or to drink?"

"No, thank you."

"How's your mother?"

"I think she's tired now. I think she's had too much to do. Perhaps in a
little while she'll go to Skegness with me. Then she'll be able to rest.
I s'll be glad if she can."

"Yes," replied Mrs. Leivers. "It's a wonder she isn't ill herself."

Miriam was moving about preparing dinner. Paul watched everything that
happened. His face was pale and thin, but his eyes were quick and bright
with life as ever. He watched the strange, almost rhapsodic way in which
the girl moved about, carrying a great stew-jar to the oven, or looking
in the saucepan. The atmosphere was different from that of his own home,
where everything seemed so ordinary. When Mr. Leivers called loudly
outside to the horse, that was reaching over to feed on the rose-bushes
in the garden, the girl started, looked round with dark eyes, as if
something had come breaking in on her world. There was a sense of
silence inside the house and out. Miriam seemed as in some dreamy tale,
a maiden in bondage, her spirit dreaming in a land far away and magical.
And her discoloured, old blue frock and her broken boots seemed only
like the romantic rags of King Cophetua's beggar-maid.

She suddenly became aware of his keen blue eyes upon her, taking her all
in. Instantly her broken boots and her frayed old frock hurt her. She
resented his seeing everything. Even he knew that her stocking was not
pulled up. She went into the scullery, blushing deeply. And afterwards
her hands trembled slightly at her work. She nearly dropped all she
handled. When her inside dream was shaken, her body quivered with
trepidation. She resented that he saw so much.

Mrs. Leivers sat for some time talking to the boy, although she was
needed at her work. She was too polite to leave him. Presently she
excused herself and rose. After a while she looked into the tin
saucepan.

"Oh DEAR, Miriam," she cried, "these potatoes have boiled dry!"

Miriam started as if she had been stung.

"HAVE they, mother?" she cried.

"I shouldn't care, Miriam," said the mother, "if I hadn't trusted them
to you." She peered into the pan.

The girl stiffened as if from a blow. Her dark eyes dilated; she
remained standing in the same spot.

"Well," she answered, gripped tight in self-conscious shame, "I'm sure I
looked at them five minutes since."

"Yes," said the mother, "I know it's easily done."

"They're not much burned," said Paul. "It doesn't matter, does it?"

Mrs. Leivers looked at the youth with her brown, hurt eyes.

"It wouldn't matter but for the boys," she said to him. "Only Miriam
knows what a trouble they make if the potatoes are 'caught'."

"Then," thought Paul to himself, "you shouldn't let them make a
trouble."

After a while Edgar came in. He wore leggings, and his boots were
covered with earth. He was rather small, rather formal, for a farmer. He
glanced at Paul, nodded to him distantly, and said:

"Dinner ready?"

"Nearly, Edgar," replied the mother apologetically.

"I'm ready for mine," said the young man, taking up the newspaper and
reading. Presently the rest of the family trooped in. Dinner was served.
The meal went rather brutally. The over-gentleness and apologetic tone
of the mother brought out all the brutality of manners in the sons.
Edgar tasted the potatoes, moved his mouth quickly like a rabbit, looked
indignantly at his mother, and said:

"These potatoes are burnt, mother."

"Yes, Edgar. I forgot them for a minute. Perhaps you'll have bread if
you can't eat them."

Edgar looked in anger across at Miriam.

"What was Miriam doing that she couldn't attend to them?" he said.

Miriam looked up. Her mouth opened, her dark eyes blazed and winced, but
she said nothing. She swallowed her anger and her shame, bowing her dark
head.

"I'm sure she was trying hard," said the mother.

"She hasn't got sense even to boil the potatoes," said Edgar. "What is
she kept at home for?"

"On'y for eating everything that's left in th' pantry," said Maurice.

"They don't forget that potato-pie against our Miriam," laughed the
father.

She was utterly humiliated. The mother sat in silence, suffering, like
some saint out of place at the brutal board.

It puzzled Paul. He wondered vaguely why all this intense feeling
went running because of a few burnt potatoes. The mother exalted
everything--even a bit of housework--to the plane of a religious trust.
The sons resented this; they felt themselves cut away underneath, and
they answered with brutality and also with a sneering superciliousness.

Paul was just opening out from childhood into manhood. This atmosphere,
where everything took a religious value, came with a subtle fascination
to him. There was something in the air. His own mother was logical. Here
there was something different, something he loved, something that at
times he hated.

Miriam quarrelled with her brothers fiercely. Later in the afternoon,
when they had gone away again, her mother said:

"You disappointed me at dinner-time, Miriam."

The girl dropped her head.

"They are such BRUTES!" she suddenly cried, looking up with flashing
eyes.

"But hadn't you promised not to answer them?" said the mother. "And I
believed in you. I CAN'T stand it when you wrangle."

"But they're so hateful!" cried Miriam, "and--and LOW."

"Yes, dear. But how often have I asked you not to answer Edgar back?
Can't you let him say what he likes?"

"But why should he say what he likes?"

"Aren't you strong enough to bear it, Miriam, if even for my sake? Are
you so weak that you must wrangle with them?"

Mrs. Leivers stuck unflinchingly to this doctrine of "the other cheek".
She could not instil it at all into the boys. With the girls she
succeeded better, and Miriam was the child of her heart. The boys
loathed the other cheek when it was presented to them. Miriam was often
sufficiently lofty to turn it. Then they spat on her and hated her. But
she walked in her proud humility, living within herself.

There was always this feeling of jangle and discord in the Leivers
family. Although the boys resented so bitterly this eternal appeal to
their deeper feelings of resignation and proud humility, yet it had
its effect on them. They could not establish between themselves and an
outsider just the ordinary human feeling and unexaggerated friendship;
they were always restless for the something deeper. Ordinary folk
seemed shallow to them, trivial and inconsiderable. And so they were
unaccustomed, painfully uncouth in the simplest social intercourse,
suffering, and yet insolent in their superiority. Then beneath was the
yearning for the soul-intimacy to which they could not attain because
they were too dumb, and every approach to close connection was blocked
by their clumsy contempt of other people. They wanted genuine intimacy,
but they could not get even normally near to anyone, because they
scorned to take the first steps, they scorned the triviality which forms
common human intercourse.

Paul fell under Mrs. Leivers's spell. Everything had a religious
and intensified meaning when he was with her. His soul, hurt, highly
developed, sought her as if for nourishment. Together they seemed to
sift the vital fact from an experience.

Miriam was her mother's daughter. In the sunshine of the afternoon
mother and daughter went down the fields with him. They looked for
nests. There was a jenny wren's in the hedge by the orchard.

"I DO want you to see this," said Mrs. Leivers.

He crouched down and carefully put his finger through the thorns into
the round door of the nest.

"It's almost as if you were feeling inside the live body of the bird,"
he said, "it's so warm. They say a bird makes its nest round like a cup
with pressing its breast on it. Then how did it make the ceiling round,
I wonder?"

The nest seemed to start into life for the two women. After that, Miriam
came to see it every day. It seemed so close to her. Again, going
down the hedgeside with the girl, he noticed the celandines, scalloped
splashes of gold, on the side of the ditch.

"I like them," he said, "when their petals go flat back with the
sunshine. They seemed to be pressing themselves at the sun."

And then the celandines ever after drew her with a little spell.
Anthropomorphic as she was, she stimulated him into appreciating things
thus, and then they lived for her. She seemed to need things kindling in
her imagination or in her soul before she felt she had them. And she
was cut off from ordinary life by her religious intensity which made
the world for her either a nunnery garden or a paradise, where sin and
knowledge were not, or else an ugly, cruel thing.

So it was in this atmosphere of subtle intimacy, this meeting in their
common feeling for something in Nature, that their love started.

Personally, he was a long time before he realized her. For ten months he
had to stay at home after his illness. For a while he went to Skegness
with his mother, and was perfectly happy. But even from the seaside he
wrote long letters to Mrs. Leivers about the shore and the sea. And he
brought back his beloved sketches of the flat Lincoln coast, anxious
for them to see. Almost they would interest the Leivers more than they
interested his mother. It was not his art Mrs. Morel cared about; it
was himself and his achievement. But Mrs. Leivers and her children were
almost his disciples. They kindled him and made him glow to his work,
whereas his mother's influence was to make him quietly determined,
patient, dogged, unwearied.

He soon was friends with the boys, whose rudeness was only superficial.
They had all, when they could trust themselves, a strange gentleness and
lovableness.

"Will you come with me on to the fallow?" asked Edgar, rather
hesitatingly.

Paul went joyfully, and spent the afternoon helping to hoe or to single
turnips with his friend. He used to lie with the three brothers in
the hay piled up in the barn and tell them about Nottingham and about
Jordan's. In return, they taught him to milk, and let him do little
jobs--chopping hay or pulping turnips--just as much as he liked. At
midsummer he worked all through hay-harvest with them, and then he loved
them. The family was so cut off from the world actually. They seemed,
somehow, like "_les derniers fils d'une race epuisee_". Though the lads
were strong and healthy, yet they had all that over-sensitiveness and
hanging-back which made them so lonely, yet also such close, delicate
friends once their intimacy was won. Paul loved them dearly, and they
him.

Miriam came later. But he had come into her life before she made any
mark on his. One dull afternoon, when the men were on the land and the
rest at school, only Miriam and her mother at home, the girl said to
him, after having hesitated for some time:

"Have you seen the swing?"

"No," he answered. "Where?"

"In the cowshed," she replied.

She always hesitated to offer or to show him anything. Men have such
different standards of worth from women, and her dear things--the
valuable things to her--her brothers had so often mocked or flouted.

"Come on, then," he replied, jumping up.

There were two cowsheds, one on either side of the barn. In the lower,
darker shed there was standing for four cows. Hens flew scolding over
the manger-wall as the youth and girl went forward for the great thick
rope which hung from the beam in the darkness overhead, and was pushed
back over a peg in the wall.

"It's something like a rope!" he exclaimed appreciatively; and he sat
down on it, anxious to try it. Then immediately he rose.

"Come on, then, and have first go," he said to the girl.

"See," she answered, going into the barn, "we put some bags on the
seat"; and she made the swing comfortable for him. That gave her
pleasure. He held the rope.

"Come on, then," he said to her.

"No, I won't go first," she answered.

She stood aside in her still, aloof fashion.

"Why?"

"You go," she pleaded.

Almost for the first time in her life she had the pleasure of giving up
to a man, of spoiling him. Paul looked at her.

"All right," he said, sitting down. "Mind out!"

He set off with a spring, and in a moment was flying through the air,
almost out of the door of the shed, the upper half of which was open,
showing outside the drizzling rain, the filthy yard, the cattle standing
disconsolate against the black cartshed, and at the back of all
the grey-green wall of the wood. She stood below in her crimson
tam-o'-shanter and watched. He looked down at her, and she saw his blue
eyes sparkling.

"It's a treat of a swing," he said.

"Yes."

He was swinging through the air, every bit of him swinging, like a bird
that swoops for joy of movement. And he looked down at her. Her crimson
cap hung over her dark curls, her beautiful warm face, so still in a
kind of brooding, was lifted towards him. It was dark and rather cold in
the shed. Suddenly a swallow came down from the high roof and darted out
of the door.

"I didn't know a bird was watching," he called.

He swung negligently. She could feel him falling and lifting through the
air, as if he were lying on some force.

"Now I'll die," he said, in a detached, dreamy voice, as though he were
the dying motion of the swing. She watched him, fascinated. Suddenly he
put on the brake and jumped out.

"I've had a long turn," he said. "But it's a treat of a swing--it's a
real treat of a swing!"

Miriam was amused that he took a swing so seriously and felt so warmly
over it.

"No; you go on," she said.

"Why, don't you want one?" he asked, astonished.

"Well, not much. I'll have just a little."

She sat down, whilst he kept the bags in place for her.

"It's so ripping!" he said, setting her in motion. "Keep your heels up,
or they'll bang the manger wall."

She felt the accuracy with which he caught her, exactly at the right
moment, and the exactly proportionate strength of his thrust, and she
was afraid. Down to her bowels went the hot wave of fear. She was in his
hands. Again, firm and inevitable came the thrust at the right moment.
She gripped the rope, almost swooning.

"Ha!" she laughed in fear. "No higher!"

"But you're not a BIT high," he remonstrated.

"But no higher."

He heard the fear in her voice, and desisted. Her heart melted in hot
pain when the moment came for him to thrust her forward again. But he
left her alone. She began to breathe.

"Won't you really go any farther?" he asked. "Should I keep you there?"

"No; let me go by myself," she answered.

He moved aside and watched her.

"Why, you're scarcely moving," he said.

She laughed slightly with shame, and in a moment got down.

"They say if you can swing you won't be sea-sick," he said, as he
mounted again. "I don't believe I should ever be sea-sick."

Away he went. There was something fascinating to her in him. For the
moment he was nothing but a piece of swinging stuff; not a particle of
him that did not swing. She could never lose herself so, nor could her
brothers. It roused a warmth in her. It was almost as if he were a flame
that had lit a warmth in her whilst he swung in the middle air.

And gradually the intimacy with the family concentrated for Paul on
three persons--the mother, Edgar, and Miriam. To the mother he went for
that sympathy and that appeal which seemed to draw him out. Edgar was
his very close friend. And to Miriam he more or less condescended,
because she seemed so humble.

But the girl gradually sought him out. If he brought up his sketch-book,
it was she who pondered longest over the last picture. Then she would
look up at him. Suddenly, her dark eyes alight like water that shakes
with a stream of gold in the dark, she would ask:

"Why do I like this so?"

Always something in his breast shrank from these close, intimate,
dazzled looks of hers.

"Why DO you?" he asked.

"I don't know. It seems so true."

"It's because--it's because there is scarcely any shadow in it; it's
more shimmery, as if I'd painted the shimmering protoplasm in the leaves
and everywhere, and not the stiffness of the shape. That seems dead
to me. Only this shimmeriness is the real living. The shape is a dead
crust. The shimmer is inside really."

And she, with her little finger in her mouth, would ponder these
sayings. They gave her a feeling of life again, and vivified things
which had meant nothing to her. She managed to find some meaning in his
struggling, abstract speeches. And they were the medium through which
she came distinctly at her beloved objects.

Another day she sat at sunset whilst he was painting some pine-trees
which caught the red glare from the west. He had been quiet.

"There you are!" he said suddenly. "I wanted that. Now, look at them and
tell me, are they pine trunks or are they red coals, standing-up pieces
of fire in that darkness? There's God's burning bush for you, that
burned not away."

Miriam looked, and was frightened. But the pine trunks were wonderful
to her, and distinct. He packed his box and rose. Suddenly he looked at
her.

"Why are you always sad?" he asked her.

"Sad!" she exclaimed, looking up at him with startled, wonderful brown
eyes.

"Yes," he replied. "You are always sad."

"I am not--oh, not a bit!" she cried.

"But even your joy is like a flame coming off of sadness," he persisted.
"You're never jolly, or even just all right."

"No," she pondered. "I wonder--why?"

"Because you're not; because you're different inside, like a pine-tree,
and then you flare up; but you're not just like an ordinary tree, with
fidgety leaves and jolly--"

He got tangled up in his own speech; but she brooded on it, and he had a
strange, roused sensation, as if his feelings were new. She got so near
him. It was a strange stimulant.

Then sometimes he hated her. Her youngest brother was only five. He was
a frail lad, with immense brown eyes in his quaint fragile face--one of
Reynolds's "Choir of Angels", with a touch of elf. Often Miriam kneeled
to the child and drew him to her.

"Eh, my Hubert!" she sang, in a voice heavy and surcharged with love.
"Eh, my Hubert!"

And, folding him in her arms, she swayed slightly from side to side with
love, her face half lifted, her eyes half closed, her voice drenched
with love.

"Don't!" said the child, uneasy--"don't, Miriam!"

"Yes; you love me, don't you?" she murmured deep in her throat, almost
as if she were in a trance, and swaying also as if she were swooned in
an ecstasy of love.

"Don't!" repeated the child, a frown on his clear brow.

"You love me, don't you?" she murmured.

"What do you make such a FUSS for?" cried Paul, all in suffering because
of her extreme emotion. "Why can't you be ordinary with him?"

She let the child go, and rose, and said nothing. Her intensity, which
would leave no emotion on a normal plane, irritated the youth into
a frenzy. And this fearful, naked contact of her on small occasions
shocked him. He was used to his mother's reserve. And on such occasions
he was thankful in his heart and soul that he had his mother, so sane
and wholesome.

All the life of Miriam's body was in her eyes, which were usually dark
as a dark church, but could flame with light like a conflagration. Her
face scarcely ever altered from its look of brooding. She might have
been one of the women who went with Mary when Jesus was dead. Her body
was not flexible and living. She walked with a swing, rather heavily,
her head bowed forward, pondering. She was not clumsy, and yet none of
her movements seemed quite THE movement. Often, when wiping the dishes,
she would stand in bewilderment and chagrin because she had pulled
in two halves a cup or a tumbler. It was as if, in her fear and
self-mistrust, she put too much strength into the effort. There was
no looseness or abandon about her. Everything was gripped stiff with
intensity, and her effort, overcharged, closed in on itself.

She rarely varied from her swinging, forward, intense walk. Occasionally
she ran with Paul down the fields. Then her eyes blazed naked in a kind
of ecstasy that frightened him. But she was physically afraid. If
she were getting over a stile, she gripped his hands in a little hard
anguish, and began to lose her presence of mind. And he could not
persuade her to jump from even a small height. Her eyes dilated, became
exposed and palpitating.

"No!" she cried, half laughing in terror--"no!"

"You shall!" he cried once, and, jerking her forward, he brought her
falling from the fence. But her wild "Ah!" of pain, as if she were
losing consciousness, cut him. She landed on her feet safely, and
afterwards had courage in this respect.

She was very much dissatisfied with her lot.

"Don't you like being at home?" Paul asked her, surprised.

"Who would?" she answered, low and intense. "What is it? I'm all day
cleaning what the boys make just as bad in five minutes. I don't WANT to
be at home."

"What do you want, then?"

"I want to do something. I want a chance like anybody else. Why should
I, because I'm a girl, be kept at home and not allowed to be anything?
What chance HAVE I?"

"Chance of what?"

"Of knowing anything--of learning, of doing anything. It's not fair,
because I'm a woman."

She seemed very bitter. Paul wondered. In his own home Annie was almost
glad to be a girl. She had not so much responsibility; things were
lighter for her. She never wanted to be other than a girl. But Miriam
almost fiercely wished she were a man. And yet she hated men at the same
time.

"But it's as well to be a woman as a man," he said, frowning.

"Ha! Is it? Men have everything."

"I should think women ought to be as glad to be women as men are to be
men," he answered.

"No!"--she shook her head--"no! Everything the men have."

"But what do you want?" he asked.

"I want to learn. Why SHOULD it be that I know nothing?"

"What! such as mathematics and French?"

"Why SHOULDN'T I know mathematics? Yes!" she cried, her eye expanding in
a kind of defiance.

"Well, you can learn as much as I know," he said. "I'll teach you, if
you like."

Her eyes dilated. She mistrusted him as teacher.

"Would you?" he asked.

Her head had dropped, and she was sucking her finger broodingly.

"Yes," she said hesitatingly.

He used to tell his mother all these things.

"I'm going to teach Miriam algebra," he said.

"Well," replied Mrs. Morel, "I hope she'll get fat on it."

When he went up to the farm on the Monday evening, it was drawing
twilight. Miriam was just sweeping up the kitchen, and was kneeling at
the hearth when he entered. Everyone was out but her. She looked round
at him, flushed, her dark eyes shining, her fine hair falling about her
face.

"Hello!" she said, soft and musical. "I knew it was you."

"How?"

"I knew your step. Nobody treads so quick and firm."

He sat down, sighing.

"Ready to do some algebra?" he asked, drawing a little book from his
pocket.

"But--"

He could feel her backing away.

"You said you wanted," he insisted.

"To-night, though?" she faltered.

"But I came on purpose. And if you want to learn it, you must begin."

She took up her ashes in the dustpan and looked at him, half
tremulously, laughing.

"Yes, but to-night! You see, I haven't thought of it."

"Well, my goodness! Take the ashes and come."

He went and sat on the stone bench in the back-yard, where the big
milk-cans were standing, tipped up, to air. The men were in the
cowsheds. He could hear the little sing-song of the milk spurting into
the pails. Presently she came, bringing some big greenish apples.

"You know you like them," she said.

He took a bite.

"Sit down," he said, with his mouth full.

She was short-sighted, and peered over his shoulder. It irritated him.
He gave her the book quickly.

"Here," he said. "It's only letters for figures. You put down 'a'
instead of '2' or '6'."

They worked, he talking, she with her head down on the book. He was
quick and hasty. She never answered. Occasionally, when he demanded
of her, "Do you see?" she looked up at him, her eyes wide with the
half-laugh that comes of fear. "Don't you?" he cried.

He had been too fast. But she said nothing. He questioned her more, then
got hot. It made his blood rouse to see her there, as it were, at his
mercy, her mouth open, her eyes dilated with laughter that was afraid,
apologetic, ashamed. Then Edgar came along with two buckets of milk.

"Hello!" he said. "What are you doing?"

"Algebra," replied Paul.

"Algebra!" repeated Edgar curiously. Then he passed on with a laugh.
Paul took a bite at his forgotten apple, looked at the miserable
cabbages in the garden, pecked into lace by the fowls, and he wanted to
pull them up. Then he glanced at Miriam. She was poring over the book,
seemed absorbed in it, yet trembling lest she could not get at it. It
made him cross. She was ruddy and beautiful. Yet her soul seemed to be
intensely supplicating. The algebra-book she closed, shrinking, knowing
he was angered; and at the same instant he grew gentle, seeing her hurt
because she did not understand.

But things came slowly to her. And when she held herself in a grip,
seemed so utterly humble before the lesson, it made his blood rouse.
He stormed at her, got ashamed, continued the lesson, and grew furious
again, abusing her. She listened in silence. Occasionally, very rarely,
she defended herself. Her liquid dark eyes blazed at him.

"You don't give me time to learn it," she said.

"All right," he answered, throwing the book on the table and lighting
a cigarette. Then, after a while, he went back to her repentant. So the
lessons went. He was always either in a rage or very gentle.

"What do you tremble your SOUL before it for?" he cried. "You don't
learn algebra with your blessed soul. Can't you look at it with your
clear simple wits?"

Often, when he went again into the kitchen, Mrs. Leivers would look at
him reproachfully, saying:

"Paul, don't be so hard on Miriam. She may not be quick, but I'm sure
she tries."

"I can't help it," he said rather pitiably. "I go off like it."

"You don't mind me, Miriam, do you?" he asked of the girl later.

"No," she reassured him in her beautiful deep tones--"no, I don't mind."

"Don't mind me; it's my fault."

But, in spite of himself, his blood began to boil with her. It was
strange that no one else made him in such fury. He flared against her.
Once he threw the pencil in her face. There was a silence. She turned
her face slightly aside.

"I didn't--" he began, but got no farther, feeling weak in all his
bones. She never reproached him or was angry with him. He was often
cruelly ashamed. But still again his anger burst like a bubble
surcharged; and still, when he saw her eager, silent, as it were, blind
face, he felt he wanted to throw the pencil in it; and still, when he
saw her hand trembling and her mouth parted with suffering, his heart
was scalded with pain for her. And because of the intensity to which she
roused him, he sought her.

Then he often avoided her and went with Edgar. Miriam and her brother
were naturally antagonistic. Edgar was a rationalist, who was curious,
and had a sort of scientific interest in life. It was a great bitterness
to Miriam to see herself deserted by Paul for Edgar, who seemed so much
lower. But the youth was very happy with her elder brother. The two men
spent afternoons together on the land or in the loft doing carpentry,
when it rained. And they talked together, or Paul taught Edgar the songs
he himself had learned from Annie at the piano. And often all the men,
Mr. Leivers as well, had bitter debates on the nationalizing of the land
and similar problems. Paul had already heard his mother's views, and as
these were as yet his own, he argued for her. Miriam attended and
took part, but was all the time waiting until it should be over and a
personal communication might begin.

"After all," she said within herself, "if the land were nationalized,
Edgar and Paul and I would be just the same." So she waited for the
youth to come back to her.

He was studying for his painting. He loved to sit at home, alone with
his mother, at night, working and working. She sewed or read. Then,
looking up from his task, he would rest his eyes for a moment on her
face, that was bright with living warmth, and he returned gladly to his
work.

"I can do my best things when you sit there in your rocking-chair,
mother," he said.

"I'm sure!" she exclaimed, sniffing with mock scepticism. But she felt
it was so, and her heart quivered with brightness. For many hours she
sat still, slightly conscious of him labouring away, whilst she worked
or read her book. And he, with all his soul's intensity directing his
pencil, could feel her warmth inside him like strength. They were both
very happy so, and both unconscious of it. These times, that meant so
much, and which were real living, they almost ignored.

He was conscious only when stimulated. A sketch finished, he always
wanted to take it to Miriam. Then he was stimulated into knowledge of
the work he had produced unconsciously. In contact with Miriam he
gained insight; his vision went deeper. From his mother he drew the
life-warmth, the strength to produce; Miriam urged this warmth into
intensity like a white light.

When he returned to the factory the conditions of work were better.
He had Wednesday afternoon off to go to the Art School--Miss Jordan's
provision--returning in the evening. Then the factory closed at six
instead of eight on Thursday and Friday evenings.

One evening in the summer Miriam and he went over the fields by Herod's
Farm on their way from the library home. So it was only three miles
to Willey Farm. There was a yellow glow over the mowing-grass, and the
sorrel-heads burned crimson. Gradually, as they walked along the high
land, the gold in the west sank down to red, the red to crimson, and
then the chill blue crept up against the glow.

They came out upon the high road to Alfreton, which ran white between
the darkening fields. There Paul hesitated. It was two miles home for
him, one mile forward for Miriam. They both looked up the road that ran
in shadow right under the glow of the north-west sky. On the crest of
the hill, Selby, with its stark houses and the up-pricked headstocks of
the pit, stood in black silhouette small against the sky.

He looked at his watch.

"Nine o'clock!" he said.

The pair stood, loth to part, hugging their books.

"The wood is so lovely now," she said. "I wanted you to see it."

He followed her slowly across the road to the white gate.

"They grumble so if I'm late," he said.

"But you're not doing anything wrong," she answered impatiently.

He followed her across the nibbled pasture in the dusk. There was a
coolness in the wood, a scent of leaves, of honeysuckle, and a twilight.
The two walked in silence. Night came wonderfully there, among the
throng of dark tree-trunks. He looked round, expectant.

She wanted to show him a certain wild-rose bush she had discovered. She
knew it was wonderful. And yet, till he had seen it, she felt it had
not come into her soul. Only he could make it her own, immortal. She was
dissatisfied.

Dew was already on the paths. In the old oak-wood a mist was rising, and
he hesitated, wondering whether one whiteness were a strand of fog or
only campion-flowers pallid in a cloud.

By the time they came to the pine-trees Miriam was getting very eager
and very tense. Her bush might be gone. She might not be able to find
it; and she wanted it so much. Almost passionately she wanted to be
with him when he stood before the flowers. They were going to have a
communion together--something that thrilled her, something holy. He was
walking beside her in silence. They were very near to each other. She
trembled, and he listened, vaguely anxious.

Coming to the edge of the wood, they saw the sky in front, like
mother-of-pearl, and the earth growing dark. Somewhere on the outermost
branches of the pine-wood the honeysuckle was streaming scent.

"Where?" he asked.

"Down the middle path," she murmured, quivering.

When they turned the corner of the path she stood still. In the wide
walk between the pines, gazing rather frightened, she could distinguish
nothing for some moments; the greying light robbed things of their
colour. Then she saw her bush.

"Ah!" she cried, hastening forward.

It was very still. The tree was tall and straggling. It had thrown its
briers over a hawthorn-bush, and its long streamers trailed thick, right
down to the grass, splashing the darkness everywhere with great spilt
stars, pure white. In bosses of ivory and in large splashed stars the
roses gleamed on the darkness of foliage and stems and grass. Paul and
Miriam stood close together, silent, and watched. Point after point the
steady roses shone out to them, seeming to kindle something in their
souls. The dusk came like smoke around, and still did not put out the
roses.

Paul looked into Miriam's eyes. She was pale and expectant with wonder,
her lips were parted, and her dark eyes lay open to him. His look seemed
to travel down into her. Her soul quivered. It was the communion she
wanted. He turned aside, as if pained. He turned to the bush.

"They seem as if they walk like butterflies, and shake themselves," he
said.

She looked at her roses. They were white, some incurved and holy, others
expanded in an ecstasy. The tree was dark as a shadow. She lifted her
hand impulsively to the flowers; she went forward and touched them in
worship.

"Let us go," he said.

There was a cool scent of ivory roses--a white, virgin scent. Something
made him feel anxious and imprisoned. The two walked in silence.

"Till Sunday," he said quietly, and left her; and she walked home
slowly, feeling her soul satisfied with the holiness of the night. He
stumbled down the path. And as soon as he was out of the wood, in the
free open meadow, where he could breathe, he started to run as fast as
he could. It was like a delicious delirium in his veins.

Always when he went with Miriam, and it grew rather late, he knew his
mother was fretting and getting angry about him--why, he could not
understand. As he went into the house, flinging down his cap, his mother
looked up at the clock. She had been sitting thinking, because a chill
to her eyes prevented her reading. She could feel Paul being drawn away
by this girl. And she did not care for Miriam. "She is one of those who
will want to suck a man's soul out till he has none of his own left,"
she said to herself; "and he is just such a gaby as to let himself be
absorbed. She will never let him become a man; she never will." So,
while he was away with Miriam, Mrs. Morel grew more and more worked up.

She glanced at the clock and said, coldly and rather tired:

"You have been far enough to-night."

His soul, warm and exposed from contact with the girl, shrank.

"You must have been right home with her," his mother continued.

He would not answer. Mrs. Morel, looking at him quickly, saw his hair
was damp on his forehead with haste, saw him frowning in his heavy
fashion, resentfully.

"She must be wonderfully fascinating, that you can't get away from her,
but must go trailing eight miles at this time of night."

He was hurt between the past glamour with Miriam and the knowledge
that his mother fretted. He had meant not to say anything, to refuse to
answer. But he could not harden his heart to ignore his mother.

"I DO like to talk to her," he answered irritably.

"Is there nobody else to talk to?"

"You wouldn't say anything if I went with Edgar."

"You know I should. You know, whoever you went with, I should say it
was too far for you to go trailing, late at night, when you've been
to Nottingham. Besides"--her voice suddenly flashed into anger and
contempt--"it is disgusting--bits of lads and girls courting."

"It is NOT courting," he cried.

"I don't know what else you call it."

"It's not! Do you think we SPOON and do? We only talk."

"Till goodness knows what time and distance," was the sarcastic
rejoinder.

Paul snapped at the laces of his boots angrily.

"What are you so mad about?" he asked. "Because you don't like her."

"I don't say I don't like her. But I don't hold with children keeping
company, and never did."

"But you don't mind our Annie going out with Jim Inger."

"They've more sense than you two."

"Why?"

"Our Annie's not one of the deep sort."

He failed to see the meaning of this remark. But his mother looked
tired. She was never so strong after William's death; and her eyes hurt
her.

"Well," he said, "it's so pretty in the country. Mr. Sleath asked about
you. He said he'd missed you. Are you a bit better?"

"I ought to have been in bed a long time ago," she replied.

"Why, mother, you know you wouldn't have gone before quarter-past ten."

"Oh, yes, I should!"

"Oh, little woman, you'd say anything now you're disagreeable with me,
wouldn't you?"

He kissed her forehead that he knew so well: the deep marks between the
brows, the rising of the fine hair, greying now, and the proud setting
of the temples. His hand lingered on her shoulder after his kiss. Then
he went slowly to bed. He had forgotten Miriam; he only saw how his
mother's hair was lifted back from her warm, broad brow. And somehow,
she was hurt.

Then the next time he saw Miriam he said to her:

"Don't let me be late to-night--not later than ten o'clock. My mother
gets so upset."

Miriam dropped her bead, brooding.

"Why does she get upset?" she asked.

"Because she says I oughtn't to be out late when I have to get up
early."

"Very well!" said Miriam, rather quietly, with just a touch of a sneer.

He resented that. And he was usually late again.

That there was any love growing between him and Miriam neither of
them would have acknowledged. He thought he was too sane for such
sentimentality, and she thought herself too lofty. They both were late
in coming to maturity, and psychical ripeness was much behind even the
physical. Miriam was exceedingly sensitive, as her mother had always
been. The slightest grossness made her recoil almost in anguish. Her
brothers were brutal, but never coarse in speech. The men did all
the discussing of farm matters outside. But, perhaps, because of the
continual business of birth and of begetting which goes on upon every
farm, Miriam was the more hypersensitive to the matter, and her blood
was chastened almost to disgust of the faintest suggestion of such
intercourse. Paul took his pitch from her, and their intimacy went on in
an utterly blanched and chaste fashion. It could never be mentioned that
the mare was in foal.

When he was nineteen, he was earning only twenty shillings a week, but
he was happy. His painting went well, and life went well enough. On the
Good Friday he organised a walk to the Hemlock Stone. There were three
lads of his own age, then Annie and Arthur, Miriam and Geoffrey. Arthur,
apprenticed as an electrician in Nottingham, was home for the holiday.
Morel, as usual, was up early, whistling and sawing in the yard. At
seven o'clock the family heard him buy threepennyworth of hot-cross
buns; he talked with gusto to the little girl who brought them, calling
her "my darling". He turned away several boys who came with more buns,
telling them they had been "kested" by a little lass. Then Mrs. Morel
got up, and the family straggled down. It was an immense luxury to
everybody, this lying in bed just beyond the ordinary time on a weekday.
And Paul and Arthur read before breakfast, and had the meal unwashed,
sitting in their shirt-sleeves. This was another holiday luxury. The
room was warm. Everything felt free of care and anxiety. There was a
sense of plenty in the house.

While the boys were reading, Mrs. Morel went into the garden. They were
now in another house, an old one, near the Scargill Street home, which
had been left soon after William had died. Directly came an excited cry
from the garden:

"Paul! Paul! come and look!"

It was his mother's voice. He threw down his book and went out. There
was a long garden that ran to a field. It was a grey, cold day, with a
sharp wind blowing out of Derbyshire. Two fields away Bestwood began,
with a jumble of roofs and red house-ends, out of which rose the church
tower and the spire of the Congregational Chapel. And beyond went woods
and hills, right away to the pale grey heights of the Pennine Chain.

Paul looked down the garden for his mother. Her head appeared among the
young currant-bushes.

"Come here!" she cried.

"What for?" he answered.

"Come and see."

She had been looking at the buds on the currant trees. Paul went up.

"To think," she said, "that here I might never have seen them!"

Her son went to her side. Under the fence, in a little bed, was a ravel
of poor grassy leaves, such as come from very immature bulbs, and three
scyllas in bloom. Mrs. Morel pointed to the deep blue flowers.


"Now, just see those!" she exclaimed. "I was looking at the currant
bushes, when, thinks I to myself, 'There's something very blue; is it
a bit of sugar-bag?' and there, behold you! Sugar-bag! Three glories of
the snow, and such beauties! But where on earth did they come from?"

"I don't know," said Paul.

"Well, that's a marvel, now! I THOUGHT I knew every weed and blade in
this garden. But HAVEN'T they done well? You see, that gooseberry-bush
just shelters them. Not nipped, not touched!"

He crouched down and turned up the bells of the little blue flowers.

"They're a glorious colour!" he said.

"Aren't they!" she cried. "I guess they come from Switzerland, where
they say they have such lovely things. Fancy them against the snow! But
where have they come from? They can't have BLOWN here, can they?"

Then he remembered having set here a lot of little trash of bulbs to
mature.

"And you never told me," she said.

"No! I thought I'd leave it till they might flower."

"And now, you see! I might have missed them. And I've never had a glory
of the snow in my garden in my life."

She was full of excitement and elation. The garden was an endless joy to
her. Paul was thankful for her sake at last to be in a house with a long
garden that went down to a field. Every morning after breakfast she went
out and was happy pottering about in it. And it was true, she knew every
weed and blade.

Everybody turned up for the walk. Food was packed, and they set off,
a merry, delighted party. They hung over the wall of the mill-race,
dropped paper in the water on one side of the tunnel and watched it
shoot out on the other. They stood on the foot-bridge over Boathouse
Station and looked at the metals gleaming coldly.

"You should see the Flying Scotsman come through at half-past six!" said
Leonard, whose father was a signalman. "Lad, but she doesn't half buzz!"
and the little party looked up the lines one way, to London, and the
other way, to Scotland, and they felt the touch of these two magical
places.

In Ilkeston the colliers were waiting in gangs for the public-houses to
open. It was a town of idleness and lounging. At Stanton Gate the iron
foundry blazed. Over everything there were great discussions. At Trowell
they crossed again from Derbyshire into Nottinghamshire. They came to
the Hemlock Stone at dinner-time. Its field was crowded with folk from
Nottingham and Ilkeston.

They had expected a venerable and dignified monument. They found
a little, gnarled, twisted stump of rock, something like a decayed
mushroom, standing out pathetically on the side of a field. Leonard and
Dick immediately proceeded to carve their initials, "L. W." and "R. P.",
in the old red sandstone; but Paul desisted, because he had read in the
newspaper satirical remarks about initial-carvers, who could find no
other road to immortality. Then all the lads climbed to the top of the
rock to look round.

Everywhere in the field below, factory girls and lads were eating
lunch or sporting about. Beyond was the garden of an old manor. It had
yew-hedges and thick clumps and borders of yellow crocuses round the
lawn.

"See," said Paul to Miriam, "what a quiet garden!"

She saw the dark yews and the golden crocuses, then she looked
gratefully. He had not seemed to belong to her among all these others;
he was different then--not her Paul, who understood the slightest quiver
of her innermost soul, but something else, speaking another language
than hers. How it hurt her, and deadened her very perceptions. Only when
he came right back to her, leaving his other, his lesser self, as she
thought, would she feel alive again. And now he asked her to look at
this garden, wanting the contact with her again. Impatient of the set
in the field, she turned to the quiet lawn, surrounded by sheaves of
shut-up crocuses. A feeling of stillness, almost of ecstasy, came over
her. It felt almost as if she were alone with him in this garden.

Then he left her again and joined the others. Soon they started home.
Miriam loitered behind, alone. She did not fit in with the others; she
could very rarely get into human relations with anyone: so her friend,
her companion, her lover, was Nature. She saw the sun declining wanly.
In the dusky, cold hedgerows were some red leaves. She lingered to
gather them, tenderly, passionately. The love in her finger-tips
caressed the leaves; the passion in her heart came to a glow upon the
leaves.

Suddenly she realised she was alone in a strange road, and she hurried
forward. Turning a corner in the lane, she came upon Paul, who stood
bent over something, his mind fixed on it, working away steadily,
patiently, a little hopelessly. She hesitated in her approach, to watch.

He remained concentrated in the middle of the road. Beyond, one rift of
rich gold in that colourless grey evening seemed to make him stand out
in dark relief. She saw him, slender and firm, as if the setting sun had
given him to her. A deep pain took hold of her, and she knew she
must love him. And she had discovered him, discovered in him a
rare potentiality, discovered his loneliness. Quivering as at some
"annunciation", she went slowly forward.

At last he looked up.

"Why," he exclaimed gratefully, "have you waited for me!"

She saw a deep shadow in his eyes.

"What is it?" she asked.

"The spring broken here;" and he showed her where his umbrella was
injured.

Instantly, with some shame, she knew he had not done the damage himself,
but that Geoffrey was responsible.

"It is only an old umbrella, isn't it?" she asked.

She wondered why he, who did not usually trouble over trifles, made such
a mountain of this molehill.

"But it was William's an' my mother can't help but know," he said
quietly, still patiently working at the umbrella.

The words went through Miriam like a blade. This, then, was the
confirmation of her vision of him! She looked at him. But there was
about him a certain reserve, and she dared not comfort him, not even
speak softly to him.

"Come on," he said. "I can't do it;" and they went in silence along the
road.

That same evening they were walking along under the trees by Nether
Green. He was talking to her fretfully, seemed to be struggling to
convince himself.

"You know," he said, with an effort, "if one person loves, the other
does."

"Ah!" she answered. "Like mother said to me when I was little, 'Love
begets love.'"

"Yes, something like that, I think it MUST be."

"I hope so, because, if it were not, love might be a very terrible
thing," she said.

"Yes, but it IS--at least with most people," he answered.

And Miriam, thinking he had assured himself, felt strong in herself. She
always regarded that sudden coming upon him in the lane as a revelation.
And this conversation remained graven in her mind as one of the letters
of the law.

Now she stood with him and for him. When, about this time, he outraged
the family feeling at Willey Farm by some overbearing insult, she stuck
to him, and believed he was right. And at this time she dreamed
dreams of him, vivid, unforgettable. These dreams came again later on,
developed to a more subtle psychological stage.

On the Easter Monday the same party took an excursion to Wingfield
Manor. It was great excitement to Miriam to catch a train at Sethley
Bridge, amid all the bustle of the Bank Holiday crowd. They left the
train at Alfreton. Paul was interested in the street and in the colliers
with their dogs. Here was a new race of miners. Miriam did not live till
they came to the church. They were all rather timid of entering, with
their bags of food, for fear of being turned out. Leonard, a comic, thin
fellow, went first; Paul, who would have died rather than be sent back,
went last. The place was decorated for Easter. In the font hundreds of
white narcissi seemed to be growing. The air was dim and coloured from
the windows and thrilled with a subtle scent of lilies and narcissi. In
that atmosphere Miriam's soul came into a glow. Paul was afraid of the
things he mustn't do; and he was sensitive to the feel of the place.
Miriam turned to him. He answered. They were together. He would not go
beyond the Communion-rail. She loved him for that. Her soul expanded
into prayer beside him. He felt the strange fascination of shadowy
religious places. All his latent mysticism quivered into life. She was
drawn to him. He was a prayer along with her.

Miriam very rarely talked to the other lads. They at once became awkward
in conversation with her. So usually she was silent.

It was past midday when they climbed the steep path to the manor.
All things shone softly in the sun, which was wonderfully warm and
enlivening. Celandines and violets were out. Everybody was tip-top full
with happiness. The glitter of the ivy, the soft, atmospheric grey
of the castle walls, the gentleness of everything near the ruin, was
perfect.

The manor is of hard, pale grey stone, and the other walls are blank and
calm. The young folk were in raptures. They went in trepidation, almost
afraid that the delight of exploring this ruin might be denied them. In
the first courtyard, within the high broken walls, were farm-carts, with
their shafts lying idle on the ground, the tyres of the wheels brilliant
with gold-red rust. It was very still.

All eagerly paid their sixpences, and went timidly through the fine
clean arch of the inner courtyard. They were shy. Here on the pavement,
where the hall had been, an old thorn tree was budding. All kinds of
strange openings and broken rooms were in the shadow around them.

After lunch they set off once more to explore the ruin. This time the
girls went with the boys, who could act as guides and expositors. There
was one tall tower in a corner, rather tottering, where they say Mary
Queen of Scots was imprisoned.

"Think of the Queen going up here!" said Miriam in a low voice, as she
climbed the hollow stairs.

"If she could get up," said Paul, "for she had rheumatism like anything.
I reckon they treated her rottenly."

"You don't think she deserved it?" asked Miriam.

"No, I don't. She was only lively."

They continued to mount the winding staircase. A high wind, blowing
through the loopholes, went rushing up the shaft, and filled the girl's
skirts like a balloon, so that she was ashamed, until he took the hem
of her dress and held it down for her. He did it perfectly simply, as he
would have picked up her glove. She remembered this always.

Round the broken top of the tower the ivy bushed out, old and handsome.
Also, there were a few chill gillivers, in pale cold bud. Miriam wanted
to lean over for some ivy, but he would not let her. Instead, she had to
wait behind him, and take from him each spray as he gathered it and held
it to her, each one separately, in the purest manner of chivalry. The
tower seemed to rock in the wind. They looked over miles and miles of
wooded country, and country with gleams of pasture.

The crypt underneath the manor was beautiful, and in perfect
preservation. Paul made a drawing: Miriam stayed with him. She was
thinking of Mary Queen of Scots looking with her strained, hopeless
eyes, that could not understand misery, over the hills whence no help
came, or sitting in this crypt, being told of a God as cold as the place
she sat in.

They set off again gaily, looking round on their beloved manor that
stood so clean and big on its hill.

"Supposing you could have THAT farm," said Paul to Miriam.

"Yes!"

"Wouldn't it be lovely to come and see you!"

They were now in the bare country of stone walls, which he loved, and
which, though only ten miles from home, seemed so foreign to Miriam. The
party was straggling. As they were crossing a large meadow that
sloped away from the sun, along a path embedded with innumerable tiny
glittering points, Paul, walking alongside, laced his fingers in the
strings of the bag Miriam was carrying, and instantly she felt Annie
behind, watchful and jealous. But the meadow was bathed in a glory of
sunshine, and the path was jewelled, and it was seldom that he gave her
any sign. She held her fingers very still among the strings of the bag,
his fingers touching; and the place was golden as a vision.

At last they came into the straggling grey village of Crich, that lies
high. Beyond the village was the famous Crich Stand that Paul could see
from the garden at home. The party pushed on. Great expanse of country
spread around and below. The lads were eager to get to the top of the
hill. It was capped by a round knoll, half of which was by now cut away,
and on the top of which stood an ancient monument, sturdy and squat, for
signalling in old days far down into the level lands of Nottinghamshire
and Leicestershire.

It was blowing so hard, high up there in the exposed place, that the
only way to be safe was to stand nailed by the wind to the wan of the
tower. At their feet fell the precipice where the limestone was quarried
away. Below was a jumble of hills and tiny villages--Mattock, Ambergate,
Stoney Middleton. The lads were eager to spy out the church of Bestwood,
far away among the rather crowded country on the left. They were
disgusted that it seemed to stand on a plain. They saw the hills of
Derbyshire fall into the monotony of the Midlands that swept away South.

Miriam was somewhat scared by the wind, but the lads enjoyed it. They
went on, miles and miles, to Whatstandwell. All the food was eaten,
everybody was hungry, and there was very little money to get home with.
But they managed to procure a loaf and a currant-loaf, which they hacked
to pieces with shut-knives, and ate sitting on the wall near the bridge,
watching the bright Derwent rushing by, and the brakes from Matlock
pulling up at the inn.

Paul was now pale with weariness. He had been responsible for the party
all day, and now he was done. Miriam understood, and kept close to him,
and he left himself in her hands.

They had an hour to wait at Ambergate Station. Trains came, crowded with
excursionists returning to Manchester, Birmingham, and London.

"We might be going there--folk easily might think we're going that far,"
said Paul.

They got back rather late. Miriam, walking home with Geoffrey, watched
the moon rise big and red and misty. She felt something was fulfilled in
her.

She had an elder sister, Agatha, who was a school-teacher. Between the
two girls was a feud. Miriam considered Agatha worldly. And she wanted
herself to be a school-teacher.

One Saturday afternoon Agatha and Miriam were upstairs dressing. Their
bedroom was over the stable. It was a low room, not very large, and
bare. Miriam had nailed on the wall a reproduction of Veronese's "St.
Catherine". She loved the woman who sat in the window, dreaming. Her
own windows were too small to sit in. But the front one was dripped over
with honeysuckle and virginia creeper, and looked upon the tree-tops of
the oak-wood across the yard, while the little back window, no bigger
than a handkerchief, was a loophole to the east, to the dawn beating up
against the beloved round hills.

The two sisters did not talk much to each other. Agatha, who was fair
and small and determined, had rebelled against the home atmosphere,
against the doctrine of "the other cheek". She was out in the world now,
in a fair way to be independent. And she insisted on worldly values,
on appearance, on manners, on position, which Miriam would fain have
ignored.

Both girls liked to be upstairs, out of the way, when Paul came. They
preferred to come running down, open the stair-foot door, and see him
watching, expectant of them. Miriam stood painfully pulling over her
head a rosary he had given her. It caught in the fine mesh of her hair.
But at last she had it on, and the red-brown wooden beads looked well
against her cool brown neck. She was a well-developed girl, and very
handsome. But in the little looking-glass nailed against the whitewashed
wall she could only see a fragment of herself at a time. Agatha had
bought a little mirror of her own, which she propped up to suit herself.
Miriam was near the window. Suddenly she heard the well-known click of
the chain, and she saw Paul fling open the gate, push his bicycle into
the yard. She saw him look at the house, and she shrank away. He walked
in a nonchalant fashion, and his bicycle went with him as if it were a
live thing.

"Paul's come!" she exclaimed.

"Aren't you glad?" said Agatha cuttingly.

Miriam stood still in amazement and bewilderment.

"Well, aren't you?" she asked.

"Yes, but I'm not going to let him see it, and think I wanted him."

Miriam was startled. She heard him putting his bicycle in the stable
underneath, and talking to Jimmy, who had been a pit-horse, and who was
seedy.

"Well, Jimmy my lad, how are ter? Nobbut sick an' sadly, like? Why,
then, it's a shame, my owd lad."

She heard the rope run through the hole as the horse lifted its head
from the lad's caress. How she loved to listen when he thought only
the horse could hear. But there was a serpent in her Eden. She searched
earnestly in herself to see if she wanted Paul Morel. She felt there
would be some disgrace in it. Full of twisted feeling, she was afraid
she did want him. She stood self-convicted. Then came an agony of new
shame. She shrank within herself in a coil of torture. Did she want Paul
Morel, and did he know she wanted him? What a subtle infamy upon her.
She felt as if her whole soul coiled into knots of shame.

Agatha was dressed first, and ran downstairs. Miriam heard her greet
the lad gaily, knew exactly how brilliant her grey eyes became with that
tone. She herself would have felt it bold to have greeted him in such
wise. Yet there she stood under the self-accusation of wanting him,
tied to that stake of torture. In bitter perplexity she kneeled down and
prayed:

"O Lord, let me not love Paul Morel. Keep me from loving him, if I ought
not to love him."

Something anomalous in the prayer arrested her. She lifted her head and
pondered. How could it be wrong to love him? Love was God's gift. And
yet it caused her shame. That was because of him, Paul Morel. But, then,
it was not his affair, it was her own, between herself and God. She was
to be a sacrifice. But it was God's sacrifice, not Paul Morel's or her
own. After a few minutes she hid her face in the pillow again, and said:

"But, Lord, if it is Thy will that I should love him, make me love
him--as Christ would, who died for the souls of men. Make me love him
splendidly, because he is Thy son."

She remained kneeling for some time, quite still, and deeply moved, her
black hair against the red squares and the lavender-sprigged squares of
the patchwork quilt. Prayer was almost essential to her. Then she fell
into that rapture of self-sacrifice, identifying herself with a God who
was sacrificed, which gives to so many human souls their deepest bliss.

When she went downstairs Paul was lying back in an armchair, holding
forth with much vehemence to Agatha, who was scorning a little painting
he had brought to show her. Miriam glanced at the two, and avoided their
levity. She went into the parlour to be alone.

It was tea-time before she was able to speak to Paul, and then her
manner was so distant he thought he had offended her.

Miriam discontinued her practice of going each Thursday evening to the
library in Bestwood. After calling for Paul regularly during the whole
spring, a number of trifling incidents and tiny insults from his family
awakened her to their attitude towards her, and she decided to go no
more. So she announced to Paul one evening she would not call at his
house again for him on Thursday nights.

"Why?" he asked, very short.

"Nothing. Only I'd rather not."

"Very well."

"But," she faltered, "if you'd care to meet me, we could still go
together."

"Meet you where?"

"Somewhere--where you like."

"I shan't meet you anywhere. I don't see why you shouldn't keep calling
for me. But if you won't, I don't want to meet you."

So the Thursday evenings which had been so precious to her, and to him,
were dropped. He worked instead. Mrs. Morel sniffed with satisfaction at
this arrangement.

He would not have it that they were lovers. The intimacy between them
had been kept so abstract, such a matter of the soul, all thought and
weary struggle into consciousness, that he saw it only as a platonic
friendship. He stoutly denied there was anything else between them.
Miriam was silent, or else she very quietly agreed. He was a fool who
did not know what was happening to himself. By tacit agreement they
ignored the remarks and insinuations of their acquaintances.

"We aren't lovers, we are friends," he said to her. "WE know it. Let
them talk. What does it matter what they say."

Sometimes, as they were walking together, she slipped her arm timidly
into his. But he always resented it, and she knew it. It caused a
violent conflict in him. With Miriam he was always on the high plane of
abstraction, when his natural fire of love was transmitted into the fine
stream of thought. She would have it so. If he were jolly and, as she
put it, flippant, she waited till he came back to her, till the change
had taken place in him again, and he was wrestling with his own soul,
frowning, passionate in his desire for understanding. And in this
passion for understanding her soul lay close to his; she had him all to
herself. But he must be made abstract first.

Then, if she put her arm in his, it caused him almost torture. His
consciousness seemed to split. The place where she was touching him ran
hot with friction. He was one internecine battle, and he became cruel to
her because of it.

One evening in midsummer Miriam called at the house, warm from climbing.
Paul was alone in the kitchen; his mother could be heard moving about
upstairs.

"Come and look at the sweet-peas," he said to the girl.

They went into the garden. The sky behind the townlet and the church was
orange-red; the flower-garden was flooded with a strange warm light that
lifted every leaf into significance. Paul passed along a fine row of
sweet-peas, gathering a blossom here and there, all cream and pale blue.
Miriam followed, breathing the fragrance. To her, flowers appealed with
such strength she felt she must make them part of herself. When she bent
and breathed a flower, it was as if she and the flower were loving each
other. Paul hated her for it. There seemed a sort of exposure about the
action, something too intimate.


When he had got a fair bunch, they returned to the house. He listened
for a moment to his mother's quiet movement upstairs, then he said:

"Come here, and let me pin them in for you." He arranged them two or
three at a time in the bosom of her dress, stepping back now and then to
see the effect. "You know," he said, taking the pin out of his mouth, "a
woman ought always to arrange her flowers before her glass."

Miriam laughed. She thought flowers ought to be pinned in one's dress
without any care. That Paul should take pains to fix her flowers for her
was his whim.

He was rather offended at her laughter.

"Some women do--those who look decent," he said.

Miriam laughed again, but mirthlessly, to hear him thus mix her up with
women in a general way. From most men she would have ignored it. But
from him it hurt her.

He had nearly finished arranging the flowers when he heard his mother's
footstep on the stairs. Hurriedly he pushed in the last pin and turned
away.

"Don't let mater know," he said.

Miriam picked up her books and stood in the doorway looking with chagrin
at the beautiful sunset. She would call for Paul no more, she said.

"Good-evening, Mrs. Morel," she said, in a deferential way. She sounded
as if she felt she had no right to be there.

"Oh, is it you, Miriam?" replied Mrs. Morel coolly.

But Paul insisted on everybody's accepting his friendship with the girl,
and Mrs. Morel was too wise to have any open rupture.

It was not till he was twenty years old that the family could ever
afford to go away for a holiday. Mrs. Morel had never been away for a
holiday, except to see her sister, since she had been married. Now at
last Paul had saved enough money, and they were all going. There was to
be a party: some of Annie's friends, one friend of Paul's, a young man
in the same office where William had previously been, and Miriam.

It was great excitement writing for rooms. Paul and his mother debated
it endlessly between them. They wanted a furnished cottage for two
weeks. She thought one week would be enough, but he insisted on two.

At last they got an answer from Mablethorpe, a cottage such as they
wished for thirty shillings a week. There was immense jubilation. Paul
was wild with joy for his mother's sake. She would have a real holiday
now. He and she sat at evening picturing what it would be like. Annie
came in, and Leonard, and Alice, and Kitty. There was wild rejoicing and
anticipation. Paul told Miriam. She seemed to brood with joy over it.
But the Morel's house rang with excitement.

They were to go on Saturday morning by the seven train. Paul suggested
that Miriam should sleep at his house, because it was so far for her
to walk. She came down for supper. Everybody was so excited that even
Miriam was accepted with warmth. But almost as soon as she entered the
feeling in the family became close and tight. He had discovered a poem
by Jean Ingelow which mentioned Mablethorpe, and so he must read it
to Miriam. He would never have got so far in the direction of
sentimentality as to read poetry to his own family. But now they
condescended to listen. Miriam sat on the sofa absorbed in him. She
always seemed absorbed in him, and by him, when he was present. Mrs.
Morel sat jealously in her own chair. She was going to hear also. And
even Annie and the father attended, Morel with his head cocked on one
side, like somebody listening to a sermon and feeling conscious of
the fact. Paul ducked his head over the book. He had got now all the
audience he cared for. And Mrs. Morel and Annie almost contested with
Miriam who should listen best and win his favour. He was in very high
feather.

"But," interrupted Mrs. Morel, "what IS the 'Bride of Enderby' that the
bells are supposed to ring?"

"It's an old tune they used to play on the bells for a warning against
water. I suppose the Bride of Enderby was drowned in a flood," he
replied. He had not the faintest knowledge what it really was, but he
would never have sunk so low as to confess that to his womenfolk. They
listened and believed him. He believed himself.

"And the people knew what that tune meant?" said his mother.

"Yes--just like the Scotch when they heard 'The Flowers o' the
Forest'--and when they used to ring the bells backward for alarm."

"How?" said Annie. "A bell sounds the same whether it's rung backwards
or forwards."

"But," he said, "if you start with the deep bell and ring up to the high
one--der--der--der--der--der--der--der--der!"

He ran up the scale. Everybody thought it clever. He thought so too.
Then, waiting a minute, he continued the poem.

"Hm!" said Mrs. Morel curiously, when he finished. "But I wish
everything that's written weren't so sad."

"I canna see what they want drownin' theirselves for," said Morel.

There was a pause. Annie got up to clear the table.

Miriam rose to help with the pots.

"Let ME help to wash up," she said.

"Certainly not," cried Annie. "You sit down again. There aren't many."

And Miriam, who could not be familiar and insist, sat down again to look
at the book with Paul.

He was master of the party; his father was no good. And great tortures
he suffered lest the tin box should be put out at Firsby instead of at
Mablethorpe. And he wasn't equal to getting a carriage. His bold little
mother did that.

"Here!" she cried to a man. "Here!"

Paul and Annie got behind the rest, convulsed with shamed laughter.

"How much will it be to drive to Brook Cottage?" said Mrs. Morel.

"Two shillings."

"Why, how far is it?"

"A good way."

"I don't believe it," she said.

But she scrambled in. There were eight crowded in one old seaside
carriage.

"You see," said Mrs. Morel, "it's only threepence each, and if it were a
tramcar--"

They drove along. Each cottage they came to, Mrs. Morel cried:

"Is it this? Now, this is it!"

Everybody sat breathless. They drove past. There was a universal sigh.

"I'm thankful it wasn't that brute," said Mrs. Morel. "I WAS
frightened." They drove on and on.

At last they descended at a house that stood alone over the dyke by the
highroad. There was wild excitement because they had to cross a little
bridge to get into the front garden. But they loved the house that lay
so solitary, with a sea-meadow on one side, and immense expanse of land
patched in white barley, yellow oats, red wheat, and green root-crops,
flat and stretching level to the sky.

Paul kept accounts. He and his mother ran the show. The total
expenses--lodging, food, everything--was sixteen shillings a week per
person. He and Leonard went bathing in the mornings. Morel was wandering
abroad quite early.

"You, Paul," his mother called from the bedroom, "eat a piece of
bread-and-butter."

"All right," he answered.

And when he got back he saw his mother presiding in state at the
breakfast-table. The woman of the house was young. Her husband was
blind, and she did laundry work. So Mrs. Morel always washed the pots in
the kitchen and made the beds.

"But you said you'd have a real holiday," said Paul, "and now you work."

"Work!" she exclaimed. "What are you talking about!"

He loved to go with her across the fields to the village and the sea.
She was afraid of the plank bridge, and he abused her for being a baby.
On the whole he stuck to her as if he were HER man.

Miriam did not get much of him, except, perhaps, when all the others
went to the "Coons". Coons were insufferably stupid to Miriam, so he
thought they were to himself also, and he preached priggishly to Annie
about the fatuity of listening to them. Yet he, too, knew all their
songs, and sang them along the roads roisterously. And if he found
himself listening, the stupidity pleased him very much. Yet to Annie he
said:

"Such rot! there isn't a grain of intelligence in it. Nobody with more
gumption than a grasshopper could go and sit and listen." And to Miriam
he said, with much scorn of Annie and the others: "I suppose they're at
the 'Coons'."

It was queer to see Miriam singing coon songs. She had a straight chin
that went in a perpendicular line from the lower lip to the turn. She
always reminded Paul of some sad Botticelli angel when she sang, even
when it was:

     "Come down lover's lane
     For a walk with me, talk with me."

Only when he sketched, or at evening when the others were at the
"Coons", she had him to herself. He talked to her endlessly about his
love of horizontals: how they, the great levels of sky and land in
Lincolnshire, meant to him the eternality of the will, just as the bowed
Norman arches of the church, repeating themselves, meant the dogged
leaping forward of the persistent human soul, on and on, nobody knows
where; in contradiction to the perpendicular lines and to the Gothic
arch, which, he said, leapt up at heaven and touched the ecstasy and
lost itself in the divine. Himself, he said, was Norman, Miriam was
Gothic. She bowed in consent even to that.

One evening he and she went up the great sweeping shore of sand towards
Theddlethorpe. The long breakers plunged and ran in a hiss of foam along
the coast. It was a warm evening. There was not a figure but themselves
on the far reaches of sand, no noise but the sound of the sea. Paul
loved to see it clanging at the land. He loved to feel himself between
the noise of it and the silence of the sandy shore. Miriam was with him.
Everything grew very intense. It was quite dark when they turned again.
The way home was through a gap in the sandhills, and then along a raised
grass road between two dykes. The country was black and still. From
behind the sandhills came the whisper of the sea. Paul and Miriam walked
in silence. Suddenly he started. The whole of his blood seemed to burst
into flame, and he could scarcely breathe. An enormous orange moon was
staring at them from the rim of the sandhills. He stood still, looking
at it.

"Ah!" cried Miriam, when she saw it.

He remained perfectly still, staring at the immense and ruddy moon, the
only thing in the far-reaching darkness of the level. His heart beat
heavily, the muscles of his arms contracted.

"What is it?" murmured Miriam, waiting for him.

He turned and looked at her. She stood beside him, for ever in shadow.
Her face, covered with the darkness of her hat, was watching him
unseen. But she was brooding. She was slightly afraid--deeply moved
and religious. That was her best state. He was impotent against it. His
blood was concentrated like a flame in his chest. But he could not get
across to her. There were flashes in his blood. But somehow she ignored
them. She was expecting some religious state in him. Still yearning, she
was half aware of his passion, and gazed at him, troubled.

"What is it?" she murmured again.

"It's the moon," he answered, frowning.

"Yes," she assented. "Isn't it wonderful?" She was curious about him.
The crisis was past.

He did not know himself what was the matter. He was naturally so young,
and their intimacy was so abstract, he did not know he wanted to crush
her on to his breast to ease the ache there. He was afraid of her.
The fact that he might want her as a man wants a woman had in him
been suppressed into a shame. When she shrank in her convulsed, coiled
torture from the thought of such a thing, he had winced to the depths of
his soul. And now this "purity" prevented even their first love-kiss.
It was as if she could scarcely stand the shock of physical love, even a
passionate kiss, and then he was too shrinking and sensitive to give it.

As they walked along the dark fen-meadow he watched the moon and did not
speak. She plodded beside him. He hated her, for she seemed in some way
to make him despise himself. Looking ahead--he saw the one light in the
darkness, the window of their lamp-lit cottage.

He loved to think of his mother, and the other jolly people.

"Well, everybody else has been in long ago!" said his mother as they
entered.

"What does that matter!" he cried irritably. "I can go a walk if I like,
can't I?"

"And I should have thought you could get in to supper with the rest,"
said Mrs. Morel.

"I shall please myself," he retorted. "It's not LATE. I shall do as I
like."

"Very well," said his mother cuttingly, "then DO as you like." And she
took no further notice of him that evening. Which he pretended neither
to notice nor to care about, but sat reading. Miriam read also,
obliterating herself. Mrs. Morel hated her for making her son like this.
She watched Paul growing irritable, priggish, and melancholic. For this
she put the blame on Miriam. Annie and all her friends joined against
the girl. Miriam had no friend of her own, only Paul. But she did not
suffer so much, because she despised the triviality of these other
people.

And Paul hated her because, somehow, she spoilt his ease and
naturalness. And he writhed himself with a feeling of humiliation.



CHAPTER VIII

STRIFE IN LOVE

ARTHUR finished his apprenticeship, and got a job on the electrical
plant at Minton Pit. He earned very little, but had a good chance of
getting on. But he was wild and restless. He did not drink nor gamble.
Yet he somehow contrived to get into endless scrapes, always through
some hot-headed thoughtlessness. Either he went rabbiting in the woods,
like a poacher, or he stayed in Nottingham all night instead of coming
home, or he miscalculated his dive into the canal at Bestwood, and
scored his chest into one mass of wounds on the raw stones and tins at
the bottom.

He had not been at his work many months when again he did not come home
one night.

"Do you know where Arthur is?" asked Paul at breakfast.

"I do not," replied his mother.

"He is a fool," said Paul. "And if he DID anything I shouldn't mind. But
no, he simply can't come away from a game of whist, or else he must see
a girl home from the skating-rink--quite proprietously--and so can't get
home. He's a fool."

"I don't know that it would make it any better if he did something to
make us all ashamed," said Mrs. Morel.

"Well, I should respect him more," said Paul.

"I very much doubt it," said his mother coldly.

They went on with breakfast.

"Are you fearfully fond of him?" Paul asked his mother.

"What do you ask that for?"

"Because they say a woman always like the youngest best."

"She may do--but I don't. No, he wearies me."

"And you'd actually rather he was good?"

"I'd rather he showed some of a man's common sense."

Paul was raw and irritable. He also wearied his mother very often. She
saw the sunshine going out of him, and she resented it.

As they were finishing breakfast came the postman with a letter from
Derby. Mrs. Morel screwed up her eyes to look at the address.

"Give it here, blind eye!" exclaimed her son, snatching it away from
her.

She started, and almost boxed his ears.

"It's from your son, Arthur," he said.

"What now--!" cried Mrs. Morel.

"'My dearest Mother,'" Paul read, "'I don't know what made me such a
fool. I want you to come and fetch me back from here. I came with Jack
Bredon yesterday, instead of going to work, and enlisted. He said he was
sick of wearing the seat of a stool out, and, like the idiot you know I
am, I came away with him.

"'I have taken the King's shilling, but perhaps if you came for me they
would let me go back with you. I was a fool when I did it. I don't want
to be in the army. My dear mother, I am nothing but a trouble to you.
But if you get me out of this, I promise I will have more sense and
consideration. . . .'"

Mrs. Morel sat down in her rocking-chair.

"Well, NOW," she cried, "let him stop!"

"Yes," said Paul, "let him stop."

There was silence. The mother sat with her hands folded in her apron,
her face set, thinking.

"If I'm not SICK!" she cried suddenly. "Sick!"

"Now," said Paul, beginning to frown, "you're not going to worry your
soul out about this, do you hear."

"I suppose I'm to take it as a blessing," she flashed, turning on her
son.

"You're not going to mount it up to a tragedy, so there," he retorted.

"The FOOL!--the young fool!" she cried.

"He'll look well in uniform," said Paul irritatingly.

His mother turned on him like a fury.

"Oh, will he!" she cried. "Not in my eyes!"

"He should get in a cavalry regiment; he'll have the time of his life,
and will look an awful swell."

"Swell!--SWELL!--a mighty swell idea indeed!--a common soldier!"

"Well," said Paul, "what am I but a common clerk?"

"A good deal, my boy!" cried his mother, stung.

"What?"

"At any rate, a MAN, and not a thing in a red coat."

"I shouldn't mind being in a red coat--or dark blue, that would suit me
better--if they didn't boss me about too much."

But his mother had ceased to listen.

"Just as he was getting on, or might have been getting on, at his job--a
young nuisance--here he goes and ruins himself for life. What good will
he be, do you think, after THIS?"

"It may lick him into shape beautifully," said Paul.

"Lick him into shape!--lick what marrow there WAS out of his bones. A
SOLDIER!--a common SOLDIER!--nothing but a body that makes movements
when it hears a shout! It's a fine thing!"

"I can't understand why it upsets you," said Paul.

"No, perhaps you can't. But I understand"; and she sat back in her
chair, her chin in one hand, holding her elbow with the other, brimmed
up with wrath and chagrin.

"And shall you go to Derby?" asked Paul.

"Yes."

"It's no good."

"I'll see for myself."

"And why on earth don't you let him stop. It's just what he wants."

"Of course," cried the mother, "YOU know what he wants!"

She got ready and went by the first train to Derby, where she saw her
son and the sergeant. It was, however, no good.

When Morel was having his dinner in the evening, she said suddenly:

"I've had to go to Derby to-day."

The miner turned up his eyes, showing the whites in his black face.

"Has ter, lass. What took thee there?"

"That Arthur!"

"Oh--an' what's agate now?"

"He's only enlisted."

Morel put down his knife and leaned back in his chair.

"Nay," he said, "that he niver 'as!"

"And is going down to Aldershot tomorrow."

"Well!" exclaimed the miner. "That's a winder." He considered it a
moment, said "H'm!" and proceeded with his dinner. Suddenly his face
contracted with wrath. "I hope he may never set foot i' my house again,"
he said.

"The idea!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Saying such a thing!"

"I do," repeated Morel. "A fool as runs away for a soldier, let 'im look
after 'issen; I s'll do no more for 'im."

"A fat sight you have done as it is," she said.

And Morel was almost ashamed to go to his public-house that evening.

"Well, did you go?" said Paul to his mother when he came home.

"I did."

"And could you see him?"

"Yes."

"And what did he say?"

"He blubbered when I came away."

"H'm!"

"And so did I, so you needn't 'h'm'!"

Mrs. Morel fretted after her son. She knew he would not like the army.
He did not. The discipline was intolerable to him.

"But the doctor," she said with some pride to Paul, "said he was
perfectly proportioned--almost exactly; all his measurements were
correct. He IS good-looking, you know."

"He's awfully nice-looking. But he doesn't fetch the girls like William,
does he?"

"No; it's a different character. He's a good deal like his father,
irresponsible."

To console his mother, Paul did not go much to Willey Farm at this time.
And in the autumn exhibition of students' work in the Castle he had two
studies, a landscape in water-colour and a still life in oil, both of
which had first-prize awards. He was highly excited.

"What do you think I've got for my pictures, mother?" he asked, coming
home one evening. She saw by his eyes he was glad. Her face flushed.

"Now, how should I know, my boy!"

"A first prize for those glass jars--"

"H'm!"

"And a first prize for that sketch up at Willey Farm."

"Both first?"

"Yes."

"H'm!"

There was a rosy, bright look about her, though she said nothing.

"It's nice," he said, "isn't it?"

"It is."

"Why don't you praise me up to the skies?"

She laughed.

"I should have the trouble of dragging you down again," she said.

But she was full of joy, nevertheless. William had brought her his
sporting trophies. She kept them still, and she did not forgive his
death. Arthur was handsome--at least, a good specimen--and warm and
generous, and probably would do well in the end. But Paul was going to
distinguish himself. She had a great belief in him, the more because
he was unaware of his own powers. There was so much to come out of him.
Life for her was rich with promise. She was to see herself fulfilled.
Not for nothing had been her struggle.

Several times during the exhibition Mrs. Morel went to the Castle
unknown to Paul. She wandered down the long room looking at the other
exhibits. Yes, they were good. But they had not in them a certain
something which she demanded for her satisfaction. Some made her
jealous, they were so good. She looked at them a long time trying to
find fault with them. Then suddenly she had a shock that made her heart
beat. There hung Paul's picture! She knew it as if it were printed on
her heart.

"Name--Paul Morel--First Prize."

It looked so strange, there in public, on the walls of the Castle
gallery, where in her lifetime she had seen so many pictures. And she
glanced round to see if anyone had noticed her again in front of the
same sketch.

But she felt a proud woman. When she met well-dressed ladies going home
to the Park, she thought to herself:

"Yes, you look very well--but I wonder if YOUR son has two first prizes
in the Castle."

And she walked on, as proud a little woman as any in Nottingham. And
Paul felt he had done something for her, if only a trifle. All his work
was hers.

One day, as he was going up Castle Gate, he met Miriam. He had seen her
on the Sunday, and had not expected to meet her in town. She was walking
with a rather striking woman, blonde, with a sullen expression, and a
defiant carriage. It was strange how Miriam, in her bowed, meditative
bearing, looked dwarfed beside this woman with the handsome shoulders.
Miriam watched Paul searchingly. His gaze was on the stranger, who
ignored him. The girl saw his masculine spirit rear its head.

"Hello!" he said, "you didn't tell me you were coming to town."

"No," replied Miriam, half apologetically. "I drove in to Cattle Market
with father."

He looked at her companion.

"I've told you about Mrs. Dawes," said Miriam huskily; she was nervous.
"Clara, do you know Paul?"

"I think I've seen him before," replied Mrs. Dawes indifferently, as
she shook hands with him. She had scornful grey eyes, a skin like white
honey, and a full mouth, with a slightly lifted upper lip that did not
know whether it was raised in scorn of all men or out of eagerness to be
kissed, but which believed the former. She carried her head back, as if
she had drawn away in contempt, perhaps from men also. She wore a large,
dowdy hat of black beaver, and a sort of slightly affected simple dress
that made her look rather sack-like. She was evidently poor, and had not
much taste. Miriam usually looked nice.

"Where have you seen me?" Paul asked of the woman.

She looked at him as if she would not trouble to answer. Then:

"Walking with Louie Travers," she said.

Louie was one of the "Spiral" girls.

"Why, do you know her?" he asked.

She did not answer. He turned to Miriam.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To the Castle."

"What train are you going home by?"

"I am driving with father. I wish you could come too. What time are you
free?"

"You know not till eight to-night, damn it!"

And directly the two women moved on.

Paul remembered that Clara Dawes was the daughter of an old friend of
Mrs. Leivers. Miriam had sought her out because she had once been Spiral
overseer at Jordan's, and because her husband, Baxter Dawes, was smith
for the factory, making the irons for cripple instruments, and so on.
Through her Miriam felt she got into direct contact with Jordan's, and
could estimate better Paul's position. But Mrs. Dawes was separated from
her husband, and had taken up Women's Rights. She was supposed to be
clever. It interested Paul.

Baxter Dawes he knew and disliked. The smith was a man of thirty-one or
thirty-two. He came occasionally through Paul's corner--a big, well-set
man, also striking to look at, and handsome. There was a peculiar
similarity between himself and his wife. He had the same white skin,
with a clear, golden tinge. His hair was of soft brown, his moustache
was golden. And he had a similar defiance in his bearing and manner. But
then came the difference. His eyes, dark brown and quick-shifting, were
dissolute. They protruded very slightly, and his eyelids hung over them
in a way that was half hate. His mouth, too, was sensual. His whole
manner was of cowed defiance, as if he were ready to knock anybody
down who disapproved of him--perhaps because he really disapproved of
himself.

From the first day he had hated Paul. Finding the lad's impersonal,
deliberate gaze of an artist on his face, he got into a fury.

"What are yer lookin' at?" he sneered, bullying.

The boy glanced away. But the smith used to stand behind the counter
and talk to Mr. Pappleworth. His speech was dirty, with a kind of
rottenness. Again he found the youth with his cool, critical gaze fixed
on his face. The smith started round as if he had been stung.

"What'r yer lookin' at, three hap'orth o' pap?" he snarled.

The boy shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"Why yer--!" shouted Dawes.

"Leave him alone," said Mr. Pappleworth, in that insinuating voice which
means, "He's only one of your good little sops who can't help it."

Since that time the boy used to look at the man every time he came
through with the same curious criticism, glancing away before he met the
smith's eye. It made Dawes furious. They hated each other in silence.

Clara Dawes had no children. When she had left her husband the home had
been broken up, and she had gone to live with her mother. Dawes lodged
with his sister. In the same house was a sister-in-law, and somehow Paul
knew that this girl, Louie Travers, was now Dawes's woman. She was a
handsome, insolent hussy, who mocked at the youth, and yet flushed if he
walked along to the station with her as she went home.

The next time he went to see Miriam it was Saturday evening. She had
a fire in the parlour, and was waiting for him. The others, except her
father and mother and the young children, had gone out, so the two had
the parlour together. It was a long, low, warm room. There were three of
Paul's small sketches on the wall, and his photo was on the mantelpiece.
On the table and on the high old rosewood piano were bowls of coloured
leaves. He sat in the armchair, she crouched on the hearthrug near his
feet. The glow was warm on her handsome, pensive face as she kneeled
there like a devotee.

"What did you think of Mrs. Dawes?" she asked quietly.

"She doesn't look very amiable," he replied.

"No, but don't you think she's a fine woman?" she said, in a deep tone,

"Yes--in stature. But without a grain of taste. I like her for some
things. IS she disagreeable?"

"I don't think so. I think she's dissatisfied."

"What with?"

"Well--how would you like to be tied for life to a man like that?"

"Why did she marry him, then, if she was to have revulsions so soon?"

"Ay, why did she!" repeated Miriam bitterly.

"And I should have thought she had enough fight in her to match him," he
said.

Miriam bowed her head.

"Ay?" she queried satirically. "What makes you think so?"

"Look at her mouth--made for passion--and the very setback of her
throat--" He threw his head back in Clara's defiant manner.

Miriam bowed a little lower.

"Yes," she said.

There was a silence for some moments, while he thought of Clara.

"And what were the things you liked about her?" she asked.

"I don't know--her skin and the texture of her--and her--I don't
know--there's a sort of fierceness somewhere in her. I appreciate her as
an artist, that's all."

"Yes."

He wondered why Miriam crouched there brooding in that strange way. It
irritated him.

"You don't really like her, do you?" he asked the girl.

She looked at him with her great, dazzled dark eyes.

"I do," she said.

"You don't--you can't--not really."

"Then what?" she asked slowly.

"Eh, I don't know--perhaps you like her because she's got a grudge
against men."

That was more probably one of his own reasons for liking Mrs. Dawes,
but this did not occur to him. They were silent. There had come into his
forehead a knitting of the brows which was becoming habitual with him,
particularly when he was with Miriam. She longed to smooth it away, and
she was afraid of it. It seemed the stamp of a man who was not her man
in Paul Morel.

There were some crimson berries among the leaves in the bowl. He reached
over and pulled out a bunch.

"If you put red berries in your hair," he said, "why would you look like
some witch or priestess, and never like a reveller?"

She laughed with a naked, painful sound.

"I don't know," she said.

His vigorous warm hands were playing excitedly with the berries.

"Why can't you laugh?" he said. "You never laugh laughter. You only
laugh when something is odd or incongruous, and then it almost seems to
hurt you."

She bowed her head as if he were scolding her.

"I wish you could laugh at me just for one minute--just for one minute.
I feel as if it would set something free."

"But"--and she looked up at him with eyes frightened and struggling--"I
do laugh at you--I DO."

"Never! There's always a kind of intensity. When you laugh I could
always cry; it seems as if it shows up your suffering. Oh, you make me
knit the brows of my very soul and cogitate."

Slowly she shook her head despairingly.

"I'm sure I don't want to," she said.

"I'm so damned spiritual with YOU always!" he cried.

She remained silent, thinking, "Then why don't you be otherwise." But he
saw her crouching, brooding figure, and it seemed to tear him in two.

"But, there, it's autumn," he said, "and everybody feels like a
disembodied spirit then."

There was still another silence. This peculiar sadness between them
thrilled her soul. He seemed so beautiful with his eyes gone dark, and
looking as if they were deep as the deepest well.

"You make me so spiritual!" he lamented. "And I don't want to be
spiritual."

She took her finger from her mouth with a little pop, and looked up at
him almost challenging. But still her soul was naked in her great dark
eyes, and there was the same yearning appeal upon her. If he could have
kissed her in abstract purity he would have done so. But he could not
kiss her thus--and she seemed to leave no other way. And she yearned to
him.

He gave a brief laugh.

"Well," he said, "get that French and we'll do some--some Verlaine."

"Yes," she said in a deep tone, almost of resignation. And she rose and
got the books. And her rather red, nervous hands looked so pitiful, he
was mad to comfort her and kiss her. But then be dared not--or could
not. There was something prevented him. His kisses were wrong for her.
They continued the reading till ten o'clock, when they went into the
kitchen, and Paul was natural and jolly again with the father and
mother. His eyes were dark and shining; there was a kind of fascination
about him.

When he went into the barn for his bicycle he found the front wheel
punctured.

"Fetch me a drop of water in a bowl," he said to her. "I shall be late,
and then I s'll catch it."

He lighted the hurricane lamp, took off his coat, turned up the bicycle,
and set speedily to work. Miriam came with the bowl of water and stood
close to him, watching. She loved to see his hands doing things. He
was slim and vigorous, with a kind of easiness even in his most hasty
movements. And busy at his work he seemed to forget her. She loved
him absorbedly. She wanted to run her hands down his sides. She always
wanted to embrace him, so long as he did not want her.

"There!" he said, rising suddenly. "Now, could you have done it
quicker?"

"No!" she laughed.

He straightened himself. His back was towards her. She put her two hands
on his sides, and ran them quickly down.

"You are so FINE!" she said.

He laughed, hating her voice, but his blood roused to a wave of flame
by her hands. She did not seem to realise HIM in all this. He might have
been an object. She never realised the male he was.

He lighted his bicycle-lamp, bounced the machine on the barn floor to
see that the tyres were sound, and buttoned his coat.

"That's all right!" he said.

She was trying the brakes, that she knew were broken.

"Did you have them mended?" she asked.

"No!"

"But why didn't you?"

"The back one goes on a bit."

"But it's not safe."

"I can use my toe."

"I wish you'd had them mended," she murmured.

"Don't worry--come to tea tomorrow, with Edgar."

"Shall we?"

"Do--about four. I'll come to meet you."

"Very well."

She was pleased. They went across the dark yard to the gate. Looking
across, he saw through the uncurtained window of the kitchen the heads
of Mr. and Mrs. Leivers in the warm glow. It looked very cosy. The road,
with pine trees, was quite black in front.

"Till tomorrow," he said, jumping on his bicycle.

"You'll take care, won't you?" she pleaded.

"Yes."

His voice already came out of the darkness. She stood a moment watching
the light from his lamp race into obscurity along the ground. She
turned very slowly indoors. Orion was wheeling up over the wood, his dog
twinkling after him, half smothered. For the rest the world was full of
darkness, and silent, save for the breathing of cattle in their stalls.
She prayed earnestly for his safety that night. When he left her, she
often lay in anxiety, wondering if he had got home safely.

He dropped down the hills on his bicycle. The roads were greasy, so he
had to let it go. He felt a pleasure as the machine plunged over the
second, steeper drop in the hill. "Here goes!" he said. It was risky,
because of the curve in the darkness at the bottom, and because of the
brewers' waggons with drunken waggoners asleep. His bicycle seemed
to fall beneath him, and he loved it. Recklessness is almost a man's
revenge on his woman. He feels he is not valued, so he will risk
destroying himself to deprive her altogether.

The stars on the lake seemed to leap like grasshoppers, silver upon the
blackness, as he spun past. Then there was the long climb home.

"See, mother!" he said, as he threw her the berries and leaves on to the
table.

"H'm!" she said, glancing at them, then away again. She sat reading,
alone, as she always did.

"Aren't they pretty?"

"Yes."

He knew she was cross with him. After a few minutes he said:

"Edgar and Miriam are coming to tea tomorrow."

She did not answer.

"You don't mind?"

Still she did not answer.

"Do you?" he asked.

"You know whether I mind or not."

"I don't see why you should. I have plenty of meals there."

"You do."

"Then why do you begrudge them tea?"

"I begrudge whom tea?"

"What are you so horrid for?"

"Oh, say no more! You've asked her to tea, it's quite sufficient. She'll
come."

He was very angry with his mother. He knew it was merely Miriam she
objected to. He flung off his boots and went to bed.

Paul went to meet his friends the next afternoon. He was glad to see
them coming. They arrived home at about four o'clock. Everywhere was
clean and still for Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Morel sat in her black dress
and black apron. She rose to meet the visitors. With Edgar she was
cordial, but with Miriam cold and rather grudging. Yet Paul thought the
girl looked so nice in her brown cashmere frock.

He helped his mother to get the tea ready. Miriam would have gladly
proffered, but was afraid. He was rather proud of his home. There was
about it now, he thought, a certain distinction. The chairs were only
wooden, and the sofa was old. But the hearthrug and cushions were
cosy; the pictures were prints in good taste; there was a simplicity in
everything, and plenty of books. He was never ashamed in the least of
his home, nor was Miriam of hers, because both were what they should be,
and warm. And then he was proud of the table; the china was pretty, the
cloth was fine. It did not matter that the spoons were not silver nor
the knives ivory-handled; everything looked nice. Mrs. Morel had managed
wonderfully while her children were growing up, so that nothing was out
of place.

Miriam talked books a little. That was her unfailing topic. But Mrs.
Morel was not cordial, and turned soon to Edgar.

At first Edgar and Miriam used to go into Mrs. Morel's pew. Morel never
went to chapel, preferring the public-house. Mrs. Morel, like a little
champion, sat at the head of her pew, Paul at the other end; and at
first Miriam sat next to him. Then the chapel was like home. It was a
pretty place, with dark pews and slim, elegant pillars, and flowers. And
the same people had sat in the same places ever since he was a boy. It
was wonderfully sweet and soothing to sit there for an hour and a half,
next to Miriam, and near to his mother, uniting his two loves under the
spell of the place of worship. Then he felt warm and happy and religious
at once. And after chapel he walked home with Miriam, whilst Mrs. Morel
spent the rest of the evening with her old friend, Mrs. Burns. He was
keenly alive on his walks on Sunday nights with Edgar and Miriam. He
never went past the pits at night, by the lighted lamp-house, the tall
black headstocks and lines of trucks, past the fans spinning slowly like
shadows, without the feeling of Miriam returning to him, keen and almost
unbearable.

She did not very long occupy the Morels' pew. Her father took one for
themselves once more. It was under the little gallery, opposite the
Morels'. When Paul and his mother came in the chapel the Leivers's pew
was always empty. He was anxious for fear she would not come: it was so
far, and there were so many rainy Sundays. Then, often very late indeed,
she came in, with her long stride, her head bowed, her face hidden under
her bat of dark green velvet. Her face, as she sat opposite, was always
in shadow. But it gave him a very keen feeling, as if all his soul
stirred within him, to see her there. It was not the same glow,
happiness, and pride, that he felt in having his mother in charge:
something more wonderful, less human, and tinged to intensity by a pain,
as if there were something he could not get to.

At this time he was beginning to question the orthodox creed. He was
twenty-one, and she was twenty. She was beginning to dread the spring:
he became so wild, and hurt her so much. All the way he went cruelly
smashing her beliefs. Edgar enjoyed it. He was by nature critical and
rather dispassionate. But Miriam suffered exquisite pain, as, with an
intellect like a knife, the man she loved examined her religion in which
she lived and moved and had her being. But he did not spare her. He was
cruel. And when they went alone he was even more fierce, as if he would
kill her soul. He bled her beliefs till she almost lost consciousness.

"She exults--she exults as she carries him off from me," Mrs. Morel
cried in her heart when Paul had gone. "She's not like an ordinary
woman, who can leave me my share in him. She wants to absorb him. She
wants to draw him out and absorb him till there is nothing left of him,
even for himself. He will never be a man on his own feet--she will suck
him up." So the mother sat, and battled and brooded bitterly.

And he, coming home from his walks with Miriam, was wild with torture.
He walked biting his lips and with clenched fists, going at a great
rate. Then, brought up against a stile, he stood for some minutes, and
did not move. There was a great hollow of darkness fronting him, and on
the black upslopes patches of tiny lights, and in the lowest trough of
the night, a flare of the pit. It was all weird and dreadful. Why was he
torn so, almost bewildered, and unable to move? Why did his mother sit
at home and suffer? He knew she suffered badly. But why should she? And
why did he hate Miriam, and feel so cruel towards her, at the thought
of his mother. If Miriam caused his mother suffering, then he hated
her--and he easily hated her. Why did she make him feel as if he were
uncertain of himself, insecure, an indefinite thing, as if he had not
sufficient sheathing to prevent the night and the space breaking into
him? How he hated her! And then, what a rush of tenderness and humility!

Suddenly he plunged on again, running home. His mother saw on him the
marks of some agony, and she said nothing. But he had to make her talk
to him. Then she was angry with him for going so far with Miriam.

"Why don't you like her, mother?" he cried in despair.

"I don't know, my boy," she replied piteously. "I'm sure I've tried to
like her. I've tried and tried, but I can't--I can't!"

And he felt dreary and hopeless between the two.

Spring was the worst time. He was changeable, and intense and cruel.
So he decided to stay away from her. Then came the hours when he knew
Miriam was expecting him. His mother watched him growing restless.
He could not go on with his work. He could do nothing. It was as if
something were drawing his soul out towards Willey Farm. Then he put on
his hat and went, saying nothing. And his mother knew he was gone. And
as soon as he was on the way he sighed with relief. And when he was with
her he was cruel again.

One day in March he lay on the bank of Nethermere, with Miriam sitting
beside him. It was a glistening, white-and-blue day. Big clouds, so
brilliant, went by overhead, while shadows stole along on the water. The
clear spaces in the sky were of clean, cold blue. Paul lay on his back
in the old grass, looking up. He could not bear to look at Miriam. She
seemed to want him, and he resisted. He resisted all the time. He wanted
now to give her passion and tenderness, and he could not. He felt that
she wanted the soul out of his body, and not him. All his strength and
energy she drew into herself through some channel which united them. She
did not want to meet him, so that there were two of them, man and woman
together. She wanted to draw all of him into her. It urged him to an
intensity like madness, which fascinated him, as drug-taking might.

He was discussing Michael Angelo. It felt to her as if she were
fingering the very quivering tissue, the very protoplasm of life, as
she heard him. It gave her deepest satisfaction. And in the end it
frightened her. There he lay in the white intensity of his search,
and his voice gradually filled her with fear, so level it was, almost
inhuman, as if in a trance.

"Don't talk any more," she pleaded softly, laying her hand on his
forehead.

He lay quite still, almost unable to move. His body was somewhere
discarded.

"Why not? Are you tired?"

"Yes, and it wears you out."

He laughed shortly, realising.

"Yet you always make me like it," he said.

"I don't wish to," she said, very low.

"Not when you've gone too far, and you feel you can't bear it. But your
unconscious self always asks it of me. And I suppose I want it."

He went on, in his dead fashion:

"If only you could want ME, and not want what I can reel off for you!"


"I!" she cried bitterly--"I! Why, when would you let me take you?"

"Then it's my fault," he said, and, gathering himself together, he got
up and began to talk trivialities. He felt insubstantial. In a vague way
he hated her for it. And he knew he was as much to blame himself. This,
however, did not prevent his hating her.

One evening about this time he had walked along the home road with her.
They stood by the pasture leading down to the wood, unable to part. As
the stars came out the clouds closed. They had glimpses of their own
constellation, Orion, towards the west. His jewels glimmered for a
moment, his dog ran low, struggling with difficulty through the spume of
cloud.

Orion was for them chief in significance among the constellations. They
had gazed at him in their strange, surcharged hours of feeling, until
they seemed themselves to live in every one of his stars. This evening
Paul had been moody and perverse. Orion had seemed just an ordinary
constellation to him. He had fought against his glamour and fascination.
Miriam was watching her lover's mood carefully. But he said nothing
that gave him away, till the moment came to part, when he stood frowning
gloomily at the gathered clouds, behind which the great constellation
must be striding still.

There was to be a little party at his house the next day, at which she
was to attend.

"I shan't come and meet you," he said.

"Oh, very well; it's not very nice out," she replied slowly.

"It's not that--only they don't like me to. They say I care more for
you than for them. And you understand, don't you? You know it's only
friendship."

Miriam was astonished and hurt for him. It had cost him an effort. She
left him, wanting to spare him any further humiliation. A fine rain blew
in her face as she walked along the road. She was hurt deep down; and
she despised him for being blown about by any wind of authority. And in
her heart of hearts, unconsciously, she felt that he was trying to get
away from her. This she would never have acknowledged. She pitied him.

At this time Paul became an important factor in Jordan's warehouse. Mr.
Pappleworth left to set up a business of his own, and Paul remained with
Mr. Jordan as Spiral overseer. His wages were to be raised to thirty
shillings at the year-end, if things went well.

Still on Friday night Miriam often came down for her French lesson. Paul
did not go so frequently to Willey Farm, and she grieved at the thought
of her education's coming to end; moreover, they both loved to
be together, in spite of discords. So they read Balzac, and did
compositions, and felt highly cultured.

Friday night was reckoning night for the miners. Morel
"reckoned"--shared up the money of the stall--either in the New Inn
at Bretty or in his own house, according as his fellow-butties wished.
Barker had turned a non-drinker, so now the men reckoned at Morel's
house.

Annie, who had been teaching away, was at home again. She was still a
tomboy; and she was engaged to be married. Paul was studying design.

Morel was always in good spirits on Friday evening, unless the week's
earnings were small. He bustled immediately after his dinner, prepared
to get washed. It was decorum for the women to absent themselves while
the men reckoned. Women were not supposed to spy into such a masculine
privacy as the butties' reckoning, nor were they to know the exact
amount of the week's earnings. So, whilst her father was spluttering
in the scullery, Annie went out to spend an hour with a neighbour. Mrs.
Morel attended to her baking.

"Shut that doo-er!" bawled Morel furiously.

Annie banged it behind her, and was gone.

"If tha oppens it again while I'm weshin' me, I'll ma'e thy jaw rattle,"
he threatened from the midst of his soap-suds. Paul and the mother
frowned to hear him.

Presently he came running out of the scullery, with the soapy water
dripping from him, dithering with cold.

"Oh, my sirs!" he said. "Wheer's my towel?"

It was hung on a chair to warm before the fire, otherwise he would
have bullied and blustered. He squatted on his heels before the hot
baking-fire to dry himself.

"F-ff-f!" he went, pretending to shudder with cold.

"Goodness, man, don't be such a kid!" said Mrs. Morel. "It's NOT cold."

"Thee strip thysen stark nak'd to wesh thy flesh i' that scullery," said
the miner, as he rubbed his hair; "nowt b'r a ice-'ouse!"

"And I shouldn't make that fuss," replied his wife.

"No, tha'd drop down stiff, as dead as a door-knob, wi' thy nesh sides."

"Why is a door-knob deader than anything else?" asked Paul, curious.

"Eh, I dunno; that's what they say," replied his father. "But there's
that much draught i' yon scullery, as it blows through your ribs like
through a five-barred gate."

"It would have some difficulty in blowing through yours," said Mrs.
Morel.

Morel looked down ruefully at his sides.

"Me!" he exclaimed. "I'm nowt b'r a skinned rabbit. My bones fair juts
out on me."

"I should like to know where," retorted his wife.

"Iv'ry-wheer! I'm nobbut a sack o' faggots."

Mrs. Morel laughed. He had still a wonderfully young body, muscular,
without any fat. His skin was smooth and clear. It might have been the
body of a man of twenty-eight, except that there were, perhaps, too many
blue scars, like tattoo-marks, where the coal-dust remained under the
skin, and that his chest was too hairy. But he put his hand on his side
ruefully. It was his fixed belief that, because he did not get fat,
he was as thin as a starved rat. Paul looked at his father's thick,
brownish hands all scarred, with broken nails, rubbing the fine
smoothness of his sides, and the incongruity struck him. It seemed
strange they were the same flesh.

"I suppose," he said to his father, "you had a good figure once."

"Eh!" exclaimed the miner, glancing round, startled and timid, like a
child.

"He had," exclaimed Mrs. Morel, "if he didn't hurtle himself up as if he
was trying to get in the smallest space he could."

"Me!" exclaimed Morel--"me a good figure! I wor niver much more n'r a
skeleton."

"Man!" cried his wife, "don't be such a pulamiter!"

"'Strewth!" he said. "Tha's niver knowed me but what I looked as if I
wor goin' off in a rapid decline."

She sat and laughed.

"You've had a constitution like iron," she said; "and never a man had a
better start, if it was body that counted. You should have seen him as
a young man," she cried suddenly to Paul, drawing herself up to imitate
her husband's once handsome bearing.

Morel watched her shyly. He saw again the passion she had had for him.
It blazed upon her for a moment. He was shy, rather scared, and humble.
Yet again he felt his old glow. And then immediately he felt the ruin he
had made during these years. He wanted to bustle about, to run away from
it.

"Gi'e my back a bit of a wesh," he asked her.

His wife brought a well-soaped flannel and clapped it on his shoulders.
He gave a jump.

"Eh, tha mucky little 'ussy!" he cried. "Cowd as death!"

"You ought to have been a salamander," she laughed, washing his back. It
was very rarely she would do anything so personal for him. The children
did those things.

"The next world won't be half hot enough for you," she added.

"No," he said; "tha'lt see as it's draughty for me."

But she had finished. She wiped him in a desultory fashion, and went
upstairs, returning immediately with his shifting-trousers. When he was
dried he struggled into his shirt. Then, ruddy and shiny, with hair on
end, and his flannelette shirt hanging over his pit-trousers, he stood
warming the garments he was going to put on. He turned them, he pulled
them inside out, he scorched them.

"Goodness, man!" cried Mrs. Morel, "get dressed!"

"Should thee like to clap thysen into britches as cowd as a tub o'
water?" he said.

At last he took off his pit-trousers and donned decent black. He did all
this on the hearthrug, as he would have done if Annie and her familiar
friends had been present.

Mrs. Morel turned the bread in the oven. Then from the red earthenware
panchion of dough that stood in a corner she took another handful of
paste, worked it to the proper shape, and dropped it into a tin. As she
was doing so Barker knocked and entered. He was a quiet, compact little
man, who looked as if he would go through a stone wall. His black hair
was cropped short, his head was bony. Like most miners, he was pale, but
healthy and taut.

"Evenin', missis," he nodded to Mrs. Morel, and he seated himself with a
sigh.

"Good-evening," she replied cordially.

"Tha's made thy heels crack," said Morel.

"I dunno as I have," said Barker.

He sat, as the men always did in Morel's kitchen, effacing himself
rather.

"How's missis?" she asked of him.

He had told her some time back:

"We're expectin' us third just now, you see."

"Well," he answered, rubbing his head, "she keeps pretty middlin', I
think."

"Let's see--when?" asked Mrs. Morel.

"Well, I shouldn't be surprised any time now."

"Ah! And she's kept fairly?"

"Yes, tidy."

"That's a blessing, for she's none too strong."

"No. An' I've done another silly trick."

"What's that?"

Mrs. Morel knew Barker wouldn't do anything very silly.

"I'm come be-out th' market-bag."

"You can have mine."

"Nay, you'll be wantin' that yourself."

"I shan't. I take a string bag always."

She saw the determined little collier buying in the week's groceries and
meat on the Friday nights, and she admired him. "Barker's little, but
he's ten times the man you are," she said to her husband.

Just then Wesson entered. He was thin, rather frail-looking, with a
boyish ingenuousness and a slightly foolish smile, despite his seven
children. But his wife was a passionate woman.

"I see you've kested me," he said, smiling rather vapidly.

"Yes," replied Barker.

The newcomer took off his cap and his big woollen muffler. His nose was
pointed and red.

"I'm afraid you're cold, Mr. Wesson," said Mrs. Morel.

"It's a bit nippy," he replied.

"Then come to the fire."

"Nay, I s'll do where I am."

Both colliers sat away back. They could not be induced to come on to the
hearth. The hearth is sacred to the family.

"Go thy ways i' th' armchair," cried Morel cheerily.

"Nay, thank yer; I'm very nicely here."

"Yes, come, of course," insisted Mrs. Morel.

He rose and went awkwardly. He sat in Morel's armchair awkwardly. It was
too great a familiarity. But the fire made him blissfully happy.

"And how's that chest of yours?" demanded Mrs. Morel.

He smiled again, with his blue eyes rather sunny.

"Oh, it's very middlin'," he said.

"Wi' a rattle in it like a kettle-drum," said Barker shortly.

"T-t-t-t!" went Mrs. Morel rapidly with her tongue. "Did you have that
flannel singlet made?"

"Not yet," he smiled.

"Then, why didn't you?" she cried.

"It'll come," he smiled.

"Ah, an' Doomsday!" exclaimed Barker.

Barker and Morel were both impatient of Wesson. But, then, they were
both as hard as nails, physically.

When Morel was nearly ready he pushed the bag of money to Paul.

"Count it, boy," he asked humbly.

Paul impatiently turned from his books and pencil, tipped the bag upside
down on the table. There was a five-pound bag of silver, sovereigns and
loose money. He counted quickly, referred to the checks--the written
papers giving amount of coal--put the money in order. Then Barker
glanced at the checks.

Mrs. Morel went upstairs, and the three men came to table. Morel, as
master of the house, sat in his armchair, with his back to the hot fire.
The two butties had cooler seats. None of them counted the money.

"What did we say Simpson's was?" asked Morel; and the butties cavilled
for a minute over the dayman's earnings. Then the amount was put aside.

"An' Bill Naylor's?"

This money also was taken from the pack.

Then, because Wesson lived in one of the company's houses, and his rent
had been deducted, Morel and Barker took four-and-six each. And because
Morel's coals had come, and the leading was stopped, Barker and Wesson
took four shillings each. Then it was plain sailing. Morel gave each of
them a sovereign till there were no more sovereigns; each half a crown
till there were no more half-crowns; each a shilling till there were no
more shillings. If there was anything at the end that wouldn't split,
Morel took it and stood drinks.

Then the three men rose and went. Morel scuttled out of the house before
his wife came down. She heard the door close, and descended. She looked
hastily at the bread in the oven. Then, glancing on the table, she saw
her money lying. Paul had been working all the time. But now he felt his
mother counting the week's money, and her wrath rising,

"T-t-t-t-t!" went her tongue.

He frowned. He could not work when she was cross. She counted again.

"A measly twenty-five shillings!" she exclaimed. "How much was the
cheque?"

"Ten pounds eleven," said Paul irritably. He dreaded what was coming.

"And he gives me a scrattlin' twenty-five, an' his club this week! But I
know him. He thinks because YOU'RE earning he needn't keep the house any
longer. No, all he has to do with his money is to guttle it. But I'll
show him!"

"Oh, mother, don't!" cried Paul.

"Don't what, I should like to know?" she exclaimed.

"Don't carry on again. I can't work."

She went very quiet.

"Yes, it's all very well," she said; "but how do you think I'm going to
manage?"

"Well, it won't make it any better to whittle about it."

"I should like to know what you'd do if you had it to put up with."

"It won't be long. You can have my money. Let him go to hell."

He went back to his work, and she tied her bonnet-strings grimly. When
she was fretted he could not bear it. But now he began to insist on her
recognizing him.

"The two loaves at the top," she said, "will be done in twenty minutes.
Don't forget them."

"All right," he answered; and she went to market.

He remained alone working. But his usual intense concentration became
unsettled. He listened for the yard-gate. At a quarter-past seven came a
low knock, and Miriam entered.

"All alone?" she said.

"Yes."

As if at home, she took off her tam-o'-shanter and her long coat,
hanging them up. It gave him a thrill. This might be their own house,
his and hers. Then she came back and peered over his work.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Still design, for decorating stuffs, and for embroidery."

She bent short-sightedly over the drawings.

It irritated him that she peered so into everything that was his,
searching him out. He went into the parlour and returned with a bundle
of brownish linen. Carefully unfolding it, he spread it on the floor. It
proved to be a curtain or portiere, beautifully stencilled with a design
on roses.

"Ah, how beautiful!" she cried.

The spread cloth, with its wonderful reddish roses and dark green stems,
all so simple, and somehow so wicked-looking, lay at her feet. She went
on her knees before it, her dark curls dropping. He saw her crouched
voluptuously before his work, and his heart beat quickly. Suddenly she
looked up at him.

"Why does it seem cruel?" she asked.

"What?"

"There seems a feeling of cruelty about it," she said.

"It's jolly good, whether or not," he replied, folding up his work with
a lover's hands.

She rose slowly, pondering.

"And what will you do with it?" she asked.

"Send it to Liberty's. I did it for my mother, but I think she'd rather
have the money."

"Yes," said Miriam. He had spoken with a touch of bitterness, and Miriam
sympathised. Money would have been nothing to HER.

He took the cloth back into the parlour. When he returned he threw to
Miriam a smaller piece. It was a cushion-cover with the same design.

"I did that for you," he said.

She fingered the work with trembling hands, and did not speak. He became
embarrassed.

"By Jove, the bread!" he cried.

He took the top loaves out, tapped them vigorously. They were done. He
put them on the hearth to cool. Then he went to the scullery, wetted his
hands, scooped the last white dough out of the punchion, and dropped it
in a baking-tin. Miriam was still bent over her painted cloth. He stood
rubbing the bits of dough from his hands.

"You do like it?" he asked.

She looked up at him, with her dark eyes one flame of love. He laughed
uncomfortably. Then he began to talk about the design. There was for him
the most intense pleasure in talking about his work to Miriam. All his
passion, all his wild blood, went into this intercourse with her,
when he talked and conceived his work. She brought forth to him his
imaginations. She did not understand, any more than a woman understands
when she conceives a child in her womb. But this was life for her and
for him.

While they were talking, a young woman of about twenty-two, small and
pale, hollow-eyed, yet with a relentless look about her, entered the
room. She was a friend at the Morel's.

"Take your things off," said Paul.

"No, I'm not stopping."

She sat down in the armchair opposite Paul and Miriam, who were on the
sofa. Miriam moved a little farther from him. The room was hot, with a
scent of new bread. Brown, crisp loaves stood on the hearth.

"I shouldn't have expected to see you here to-night, Miriam Leivers,"
said Beatrice wickedly.

"Why not?" murmured Miriam huskily.

"Why, let's look at your shoes."

Miriam remained uncomfortably still.

"If tha doesna tha durs'na," laughed Beatrice.

Miriam put her feet from under her dress. Her boots had that queer,
irresolute, rather pathetic look about them, which showed how
self-conscious and self-mistrustful she was. And they were covered with
mud.

"Glory! You're a positive muck-heap," exclaimed Beatrice. "Who cleans
your boots?"

"I clean them myself."

"Then you wanted a job," said Beatrice. "It would ha' taken a lot of men
to ha' brought me down here to-night. But love laughs at sludge, doesn't
it, 'Postle my duck?"

"Inter alia," he said.

"Oh, Lord! are you going to spout foreign languages? What does it mean,
Miriam?"

There was a fine sarcasm in the last question, but Miriam did not see
it.

"'Among other things,' I believe," she said humbly.

Beatrice put her tongue between her teeth and laughed wickedly.

"'Among other things,' 'Postle?" she repeated. "Do you mean love laughs
at mothers, and fathers, and sisters, and brothers, and men friends, and
lady friends, and even at the b'loved himself?"

She affected a great innocence.

"In fact, it's one big smile," he replied.

"Up its sleeve, 'Postle Morel--you believe me," she said; and she went
off into another burst of wicked, silent laughter.

Miriam sat silent, withdrawn into herself. Every one of Paul's
friends delighted in taking sides against her, and he left her in the
lurch--seemed almost to have a sort of revenge upon her then.

"Are you still at school?" asked Miriam of Beatrice.

"Yes."

"You've not had your notice, then?"

"I expect it at Easter."

"Isn't it an awful shame, to turn you off merely because you didn't pass
the exam?"

"I don't know," said Beatrice coldly.

"Agatha says you're as good as any teacher anywhere. It seems to me
ridiculous. I wonder why you didn't pass."

"Short of brains, eh, 'Postle?" said Beatrice briefly.

"Only brains to bite with," replied Paul, laughing.

"Nuisance!" she cried; and, springing from her seat, she rushed and
boxed his ears. She had beautiful small hands. He held her wrists while
she wrestled with him. At last she broke free, and seized two handfuls
of his thick, dark brown hair, which she shook.

"Beat!" he said, as he pulled his hair straight with his fingers. "I
hate you!"

She laughed with glee.

"Mind!" she said. "I want to sit next to you."

"I'd as lief be neighbours with a vixen," he said, nevertheless making
place for her between him and Miriam.

"Did it ruffle his pretty hair, then!" she cried; and, with her
hair-comb, she combed him straight. "And his nice little moustache!"
she exclaimed. She tilted his head back and combed his young moustache.
"It's a wicked moustache, 'Postle," she said. "It's a red for danger.
Have you got any of those cigarettes?"

He pulled his cigarette-case from his pocket. Beatrice looked inside it.

"And fancy me having Connie's last cig.," said Beatrice, putting the
thing between her teeth. He held a lit match to her, and she puffed
daintily.

"Thanks so much, darling," she said mockingly.

It gave her a wicked delight.

"Don't you think he does it nicely, Miriam?" she asked.

"Oh, very!" said Miriam.

He took a cigarette for himself.

"Light, old boy?" said Beatrice, tilting her cigarette at him.

He bent forward to her to light his cigarette at hers. She was winking
at him as he did so. Miriam saw his eyes trembling with mischief, and
his full, almost sensual, mouth quivering. He was not himself, and she
could not bear it. As he was now, she had no connection with him; she
might as well not have existed. She saw the cigarette dancing on his
full red lips. She hated his thick hair for being tumbled loose on his
forehead.

"Sweet boy!" said Beatrice, tipping up his chin and giving him a little
kiss on the cheek.

"I s'll kiss thee back, Beat," he said.

"Tha wunna!" she giggled, jumping up and going away. "Isn't he
shameless, Miriam?"

"Quite," said Miriam. "By the way, aren't you forgetting the bread?"

"By Jove!" he cried, flinging open the oven door.

Out puffed the bluish smoke and a smell of burned bread.

"Oh, golly!" cried Beatrice, coming to his side. He crouched before the
oven, she peered over his shoulder. "This is what comes of the oblivion
of love, my boy."

Paul was ruefully removing the loaves. One was burnt black on the hot
side; another was hard as a brick.

"Poor mater!" said Paul.

"You want to grate it," said Beatrice. "Fetch me the nutmeg-grater."

She arranged the bread in the oven. He brought the grater, and she
grated the bread on to a newspaper on the table. He set the doors open
to blow away the smell of burned bread. Beatrice grated away, puffing
her cigarette, knocking the charcoal off the poor loaf.

"My word, Miriam! you're in for it this time," said Beatrice.

"I!" exclaimed Miriam in amazement.

"You'd better be gone when his mother comes in. I know why King Alfred
burned the cakes. Now I see it! 'Postle would fix up a tale about his
work making him forget, if he thought it would wash. If that old woman
had come in a bit sooner, she'd have boxed the brazen thing's ears who
made the oblivion, instead of poor Alfred's."

She giggled as she scraped the loaf. Even Miriam laughed in spite of
herself. Paul mended the fire ruefully.

The garden gate was heard to bang.

"Quick!" cried Beatrice, giving Paul the scraped loaf. "Wrap it up in a
damp towel."

Paul disappeared into the scullery. Beatrice hastily blew her scrapings
into the fire, and sat down innocently. Annie came bursting in. She was
an abrupt, quite smart young woman. She blinked in the strong light.

"Smell of burning!" she exclaimed.

"It's the cigarettes," replied Beatrice demurely.

"Where's Paul?"

Leonard had followed Annie. He had a long comic face and blue eyes, very
sad.

"I suppose he's left you to settle it between you," he said. He nodded
sympathetically to Miriam, and became gently sarcastic to Beatrice.

"No," said Beatrice, "he's gone off with number nine."

"I just met number five inquiring for him," said Leonard.

"Yes--we're going to share him up like Solomon's baby," said Beatrice.

Annie laughed.

"Oh, ay," said Leonard. "And which bit should you have?"

"I don't know," said Beatrice. "I'll let all the others pick first."

"An' you'd have the leavings, like?" said Leonard, twisting up a comic
face.

Annie was looking in the oven. Miriam sat ignored. Paul entered.

"This bread's a fine sight, our Paul," said Annie.

"Then you should stop an' look after it," said Paul.

"You mean YOU should do what you're reckoning to do," replied Annie.

"He should, shouldn't he!" cried Beatrice.

"I s'd think he'd got plenty on hand," said Leonard.

"You had a nasty walk, didn't you, Miriam?" said Annie.

"Yes--but I'd been in all week--"

"And you wanted a bit of a change, like," insinuated Leonard kindly.

"Well, you can't be stuck in the house for ever," Annie agreed. She was
quite amiable. Beatrice pulled on her coat, and went out with Leonard
and Annie. She would meet her own boy.

"Don't forget that bread, our Paul," cried Annie. "Good-night, Miriam. I
don't think it will rain."

When they had all gone, Paul fetched the swathed loaf, unwrapped it, and
surveyed it sadly.

"It's a mess!" he said.

"But," answered Miriam impatiently, "what is it, after all--twopence,
ha'penny."

"Yes, but--it's the mater's precious baking, and she'll take it to
heart. However, it's no good bothering."

He took the loaf back into the scullery. There was a little distance
between him and Miriam. He stood balanced opposite her for some moments
considering, thinking of his behaviour with Beatrice. He felt guilty
inside himself, and yet glad. For some inscrutable reason it served
Miriam right. He was not going to repent. She wondered what he was
thinking of as he stood suspended. His thick hair was tumbled over his
forehead. Why might she not push it back for him, and remove the marks
of Beatrice's comb? Why might she not press his body with her two hands.
It looked so firm, and every whit living. And he would let other girls,
why not her?

Suddenly he started into life. It made her quiver almost with terror as
he quickly pushed the hair off his forehead and came towards her.

"Half-past eight!" he said. "We'd better buck up. Where's your French?"

Miriam shyly and rather bitterly produced her exercise-book. Every week
she wrote for him a sort of diary of her inner life, in her own French.
He had found this was the only way to get her to do compositions. And
her diary was mostly a love-letter. He would read it now; she felt as
if her soul's history were going to be desecrated by him in his present
mood. He sat beside her. She watched his hand, firm and warm, rigorously
scoring her work. He was reading only the French, ignoring her soul that
was there. But gradually his hand forgot its work. He read in silence,
motionless. She quivered.

"'_Ce matin les oiseaux m'ont eveille,'" he read. "'Il faisait encore un
crepuscule. Mais la petite fenetre de ma chambre etait bleme, et puis,
jaune, et tous les oiseaux du bois eclaterent dans un chanson vif et
resonnant. Toute l'aube tressaillit. J'avais reve de vous. Est-ce
que vous voyez aussi l'aube? Les oiseaux m'eveillent presque tous les
matins, et toujours il y a quelque chose de terreur dans le cri des
grives. Il est si clair_--'"

Miriam sat tremulous, half ashamed. He remained quite still, trying to
understand. He only knew she loved him. He was afraid of her love for
him. It was too good for him, and he was inadequate. His own love was
at fault, not hers. Ashamed, he corrected her work, humbly writing above
her words.

"Look," he said quietly, "the past participle conjugated with _avoir_
agrees with the direct object when it precedes."

She bent forward, trying to see and to understand. Her free, fine curls
tickled his face. He started as if they had been red hot, shuddering. He
saw her peering forward at the page, her red lips parted piteously, the
black hair springing in fine strands across her tawny, ruddy cheek. She
was coloured like a pomegranate for richness. His breath came short as
he watched her. Suddenly she looked up at him. Her dark eyes were naked
with their love, afraid, and yearning. His eyes, too, were dark, and
they hurt her. They seemed to master her. She lost all her self-control,
was exposed in fear. And he knew, before he could kiss her, he must
drive something out of himself. And a touch of hate for her crept back
again into his heart. He returned to her exercise.

Suddenly he flung down the pencil, and was at the oven in a leap,
turning the bread. For Miriam he was too quick. She started violently,
and it hurt her with real pain. Even the way he crouched before the oven
hurt her. There seemed to be something cruel in it, something cruel in
the swift way he pitched the bread out of the tins, caught it up again.
If only he had been gentle in his movements she would have felt so rich
and warm. As it was, she was hurt.

He returned and finished the exercise.

"You've done well this week," he said.

She saw he was flattered by her diary. It did not repay her entirely.

"You really do blossom out sometimes," he said. "You ought to write
poetry."

She lifted her head with joy, then she shook it mistrustfully.

"I don't trust myself," she said.

"You should try!"

Again she shook her head.

"Shall we read, or is it too late?" he asked.

"It is late--but we can read just a little," she pleaded.

She was really getting now the food for her life during the next week.
He made her copy Baudelaire's "Le Balcon". Then he read it for her. His
voice was soft and caressing, but growing almost brutal. He had a way of
lifting his lips and showing his teeth, passionately and bitterly, when
he was much moved. This he did now. It made Miriam feel as if he were
trampling on her. She dared not look at him, but sat with her head
bowed. She could not understand why he got into such a tumult and fury.
It made her wretched. She did not like Baudelaire, on the whole--nor
Verlaine.

     "Behold her singing in the field
     Yon solitary highland lass."

That nourished her heart. So did "Fair Ines". And--

     "It was a beauteous evening, calm and pure,
     And breathing holy quiet like a nun."

These were like herself. And there was he, saying in his throat
bitterly:

"_Tu te rappelleras la beaute des caresses_."

The poem was finished; he took the bread out of the oven, arranging the
burnt loaves at the bottom of the panchion, the good ones at the top.
The desiccated loaf remained swathed up in the scullery.

"Mater needn't know till morning," he said. "It won't upset her so much
then as at night."

Miriam looked in the bookcase, saw what postcards and letters he had
received, saw what books were there. She took one that had interested
him. Then he turned down the gas and they set off. He did not trouble to
lock the door.

He was not home again until a quarter to eleven. His mother was seated
in the rocking-chair. Annie, with a rope of hair hanging down her back,
remained sitting on a low stool before the fire, her elbows on her
knees, gloomily. On the table stood the offending loaf unswathed. Paul
entered rather breathless. No one spoke. His mother was reading the
little local newspaper. He took off his coat, and went to sit down on
the sofa. His mother moved curtly aside to let him pass. No one spoke.
He was very uncomfortable. For some minutes he sat pretending to read a
piece of paper he found on the table. Then--

"I forgot that bread, mother," he said.

There was no answer from either woman.

"Well," he said, "it's only twopence ha'penny. I can pay you for that."

Being angry, he put three pennies on the table and slid them towards his
mother. She turned away her head. Her mouth was shut tightly.

"Yes," said Annie, "you don't know how badly my mother is!"

The girl sat staring glumly into the fire.

"Why is she badly?" asked Paul, in his overbearing way.

"Well!" said Annie. "She could scarcely get home."

He looked closely at his mother. She looked ill.

"WHY could you scarcely get home?" he asked her, still sharply. She
would not answer.

"I found her as white as a sheet sitting here," said Annie, with a
suggestion of tears in her voice.

"Well, WHY?" insisted Paul. His brows were knitting, his eyes dilating
passionately.

"It was enough to upset anybody," said Mrs. Morel, "hugging those
parcels--meat, and green-groceries, and a pair of curtains--"

"Well, why DID you hug them; you needn't have done."

"Then who would?"

"Let Annie fetch the meat."

"Yes, and I WOULD fetch the meat, but how was I to know. You were off
with Miriam, instead of being in when my mother came."

"And what was the matter with you?" asked Paul of his mother.

"I suppose it's my heart," she replied. Certainly she looked bluish
round the mouth.

"And have you felt it before?"

"Yes--often enough."

"Then why haven't you told me?--and why haven't you seen a doctor?"

Mrs. Morel shifted in her chair, angry with him for his hectoring.

"You'd never notice anything," said Annie. "You're too eager to be off
with Miriam."

"Oh, am I--and any worse than you with Leonard?"

"I was in at a quarter to ten."

There was silence in the room for a time.

"I should have thought," said Mrs. Morel bitterly, "that she wouldn't
have occupied you so entirely as to burn a whole ovenful of bread."

"Beatrice was here as well as she."

"Very likely. But we know why the bread is spoilt."

"Why?" he flashed.

"Because you were engrossed with Miriam," replied Mrs. Morel hotly.

"Oh, very well--then it was NOT!" he replied angrily.

He was distressed and wretched. Seizing a paper, he began to read.
Annie, her blouse unfastened, her long ropes of hair twisted into a
plait, went up to bed, bidding him a very curt good-night.

Paul sat pretending to read. He knew his mother wanted to upbraid him.
He also wanted to know what had made her ill, for he was troubled. So,
instead of running away to bed, as he would have liked to do, he sat and
waited. There was a tense silence. The clock ticked loudly.

"You'd better go to bed before your father comes in," said the mother
harshly. "And if you're going to have anything to eat, you'd better get
it."

"I don't want anything."

It was his mother's custom to bring him some trifle for supper on Friday
night, the night of luxury for the colliers. He was too angry to go and
find it in the pantry this night. This insulted her.

"If I WANTED you to go to Selby on Friday night, I can imagine the
scene," said Mrs. Morel. "But you're never too tired to go if SHE will
come for you. Nay, you neither want to eat nor drink then."

"I can't let her go alone."

"Can't you? And why does she come?"

"Not because I ask her."

"She doesn't come without you want her--"

"Well, what if I DO want her--" he replied.

"Why, nothing, if it was sensible or reasonable. But to go trapseing up
there miles and miles in the mud, coming home at midnight, and got to go
to Nottingham in the morning--"

"If I hadn't, you'd be just the same."

"Yes, I should, because there's no sense in it. Is she so fascinating
that you must follow her all that way?" Mrs. Morel was bitterly
sarcastic. She sat still, with averted face, stroking with a rhythmic,
jerked movement, the black sateen of her apron. It was a movement that
hurt Paul to see.

"I do like her," he said, "but--"

"LIKE her!" said Mrs. Morel, in the same biting tones. "It seems to me
you like nothing and nobody else. There's neither Annie, nor me, nor
anyone now for you."

"What nonsense, mother--you know I don't love her--I--I tell you I DON'T
love her--she doesn't even walk with my arm, because I don't want her
to."

"Then why do you fly to her so often?"

"I DO like to talk to her--I never said I didn't. But I DON'T love her."

"Is there nobody else to talk to?"

"Not about the things we talk of. There's a lot of things that you're
not interested in, that--"

"What things?"

Mrs. Morel was so intense that Paul began to pant.

"Why--painting--and books. YOU don't care about Herbert Spencer."

"No," was the sad reply. "And YOU won't at my age."

"Well, but I do now--and Miriam does--"

"And how do you know," Mrs. Morel flashed defiantly, "that I shouldn't.
Do you ever try me!"

"But you don't, mother, you know you don't care whether a picture's
decorative or not; you don't care what MANNER it is in."

"How do you know I don't care? Do you ever try me? Do you ever talk to
me about these things, to try?"

"But it's not that that matters to you, mother, you know t's not."

"What is it, then--what is it, then, that matters to me?" she flashed.
He knitted his brows with pain.

"You're old, mother, and we're young."

He only meant that the interests of HER age were not the interests of
his. But he realised the moment he had spoken that he had said the wrong
thing.

"Yes, I know it well--I am old. And therefore I may stand aside; I have
nothing more to do with you. You only want me to wait on you--the rest
is for Miriam."

He could not bear it. Instinctively he realised that he was life to her.
And, after all, she was the chief thing to him, the only supreme thing.

"You know it isn't, mother, you know it isn't!"

She was moved to pity by his cry.

"It looks a great deal like it," she said, half putting aside her
despair.

"No, mother--I really DON'T love her. I talk to her, but I want to come
home to you."

He had taken off his collar and tie, and rose, bare-throated, to go
to bed. As he stooped to kiss his mother, she threw her arms round his
neck, hid her face on his shoulder, and cried, in a whimpering voice, so
unlike her own that he writhed in agony:

"I can't bear it. I could let another woman--but not her. She'd leave me
no room, not a bit of room--"

And immediately he hated Miriam bitterly.

"And I've never--you know, Paul--I've never had a husband--not really--"

He stroked his mother's hair, and his mouth was on her throat.

"And she exults so in taking you from me--she's not like ordinary
girls."

"Well, I don't love her, mother," he murmured, bowing his head and
hiding his eyes on her shoulder in misery. His mother kissed him a long,
fervent kiss.

"My boy!" she said, in a voice trembling with passionate love.

Without knowing, he gently stroked her face.

"There," said his mother, "now go to bed. You'll be so tired in the
morning." As she was speaking she heard her husband coming. "There's
your father--now go." Suddenly she looked at him almost as if in fear.
"Perhaps I'm selfish. If you want her, take her, my boy."

His mother looked so strange, Paul kissed her, trembling.

"Ha--mother!" he said softly.

Morel came in, walking unevenly. His hat was over one corner of his eye.
He balanced in the doorway.

"At your mischief again?" he said venomously.

Mrs. Morel's emotion turned into sudden hate of the drunkard who had
come in thus upon her.

"At any rate, it is sober," she said.

"H'm--h'm! h'm--h'm!" he sneered. He went into the passage, hung up his
hat and coat. Then they heard him go down three steps to the pantry. He
returned with a piece of pork-pie in his fist. It was what Mrs. Morel
had bought for her son.

"Nor was that bought for you. If you can give me no more than
twenty-five shillings, I'm sure I'm not going to buy you pork-pie to
stuff, after you've swilled a bellyful of beer."

"Wha-at--wha-at!" snarled Morel, toppling in his balance. "Wha-at--not
for me?" He looked at the piece of meat and crust, and suddenly, in a
vicious spurt of temper, flung it into the fire.

Paul started to his feet.

"Waste your own stuff!" he cried.

"What--what!" suddenly shouted Morel, jumping up and clenching his fist.
"I'll show yer, yer young jockey!"

"All right!" said Paul viciously, putting his head on one side. "Show
me!"

He would at that moment dearly have loved to have a smack at something.
Morel was half crouching, fists up, ready to spring. The young man
stood, smiling with his lips.

"Ussha!" hissed the father, swiping round with a great stroke just past
his son's face. He dared not, even though so close, really touch the
young man, but swerved an inch away.

"Right!" said Paul, his eyes upon the side of his father's mouth, where
in another instant his fist would have hit. He ached for that stroke.
But he heard a faint moan from behind. His mother was deadly pale and
dark at the mouth. Morel was dancing up to deliver another blow.

"Father!" said Paul, so that the word rang.

Morel started, and stood at attention.

"Mother!" moaned the boy. "Mother!"

She began to struggle with herself. Her open eyes watched him, although
she could not move. Gradually she was coming to herself. He laid her
down on the sofa, and ran upstairs for a little whisky, which at last
she could sip. The tears were hopping down his face. As he kneeled in
front of her he did not cry, but the tears ran down his face quickly.
Morel, on the opposite side of the room, sat with his elbows on his
knees glaring across.

"What's a-matter with 'er?" he asked.

"Faint!" replied Paul.

"H'm!"

The elderly man began to unlace his boots. He stumbled off to bed. His
last fight was fought in that home.

Paul kneeled there, stroking his mother's hand.

"Don't be poorly, mother--don't be poorly!" he said time after time.

"It's nothing, my boy," she murmured.

At last he rose, fetched in a large piece of coal, and raked the fire.
Then he cleared the room, put everything straight, laid the things for
breakfast, and brought his mother's candle.

"Can you go to bed, mother?"

"Yes, I'll come."

"Sleep with Annie, mother, not with him."

"No. I'll sleep in my own bed."

"Don't sleep with him, mother."

"I'll sleep in my own bed."

She rose, and he turned out the gas, then followed her closely upstairs,
carrying her candle. On the landing he kissed her close.

"Good-night, mother."

"Good-night!" she said.

He pressed his face upon the pillow in a fury of misery. And yet,
somewhere in his soul, he was at peace because he still loved his mother
best. It was the bitter peace of resignation.

The efforts of his father to conciliate him next day were a great
humiliation to him.

Everybody tried to forget the scene.



CHAPTER IX

DEFEAT OF MIRIAM

PAUL was dissatisfied with himself and with everything. The deepest
of his love belonged to his mother. When he felt he had hurt her, or
wounded his love for her, he could not bear it. Now it was spring, and
there was battle between him and Miriam. This year he had a good deal
against her. She was vaguely aware of it. The old feeling that she was
to be a sacrifice to this love, which she had had when she prayed, was
mingled in all her emotions. She did not at the bottom believe she
ever would have him. She did not believe in herself primarily: doubted
whether she could ever be what he would demand of her. Certainly she
never saw herself living happily through a lifetime with him. She saw
tragedy, sorrow, and sacrifice ahead. And in sacrifice she was proud,
in renunciation she was strong, for she did not trust herself to support
everyday life. She was prepared for the big things and the deep things,
like tragedy. It was the sufficiency of the small day-life she could not
trust.

The Easter holidays began happily. Paul was his own frank self. Yet she
felt it would go wrong. On the Sunday afternoon she stood at her bedroom
window, looking across at the oak-trees of the wood, in whose branches a
twilight was tangled, below the bright sky of the afternoon. Grey-green
rosettes of honeysuckle leaves hung before the window, some already, she
fancied, showing bud. It was spring, which she loved and dreaded.

Hearing the clack of the gate she stood in suspense. It was a bright
grey day. Paul came into the yard with his bicycle, which glittered
as he walked. Usually he rang his bell and laughed towards the house.
To-day he walked with shut lips and cold, cruel bearing, that had
something of a slouch and a sneer in it. She knew him well by now, and
could tell from that keen-looking, aloof young body of his what was
happening inside him. There was a cold correctness in the way he put his
bicycle in its place, that made her heart sink.

She came downstairs nervously. She was wearing a new net blouse that she
thought became her. It had a high collar with a tiny ruff, reminding her
of Mary, Queen of Scots, and making her, she thought, look wonderfully
a woman, and dignified. At twenty she was full-breasted and luxuriously
formed. Her face was still like a soft rich mask, unchangeable. But
her eyes, once lifted, were wonderful. She was afraid of him. He would
notice her new blouse.

He, being in a hard, ironical mood, was entertaining the family to
a description of a service given in the Primitive Methodist Chapel,
conducted by one of the well-known preachers of the sect. He sat at
the head of the table, his mobile face, with the eyes that could be so
beautiful, shining with tenderness or dancing with laughter, now taking
on one expression and then another, in imitation of various people he
was mocking. His mockery always hurt her; it was too near the reality.
He was too clever and cruel. She felt that when his eyes were like this,
hard with mocking hate, he would spare neither himself nor anybody else.
But Mrs. Leivers was wiping her eyes with laughter, and Mr. Leivers,
just awake from his Sunday nap, was rubbing his head in amusement.
The three brothers sat with ruffled, sleepy appearance in their
shirt-sleeves, giving a guffaw from time to time. The whole family loved
a "take-off" more than anything.

He took no notice of Miriam. Later, she saw him remark her new blouse,
saw that the artist approved, but it won from him not a spark of warmth.
She was nervous, could hardly reach the teacups from the shelves.

When the men went out to milk, she ventured to address him personally.

"You were late," she said.

"Was I?" he answered.

There was silence for a while.

"Was it rough riding?" she asked.

"I didn't notice it." She continued quickly to lay the table. When she
had finished--

"Tea won't be for a few minutes. Will you come and look at the
daffodils?" she said.

He rose without answering. They went out into the back garden under
the budding damson-trees. The hills and the sky were clean and cold.
Everything looked washed, rather hard. Miriam glanced at Paul. He was
pale and impassive. It seemed cruel to her that his eyes and brows,
which she loved, could look so hurting.

"Has the wind made you tired?" she asked. She detected an underneath
feeling of weariness about him.

"No, I think not," he answered.

"It must be rough on the road--the wood moans so."

"You can see by the clouds it's a south-west wind; that helps me here."

"You see, I don't cycle, so I don't understand," she murmured.

"Is there need to cycle to know that!" he said.

She thought his sarcasms were unnecessary. They went forward in silence.
Round the wild, tussocky lawn at the back of the house was a thorn
hedge, under which daffodils were craning forward from among their
sheaves of grey-green blades. The cheeks of the flowers were greenish
with cold. But still some had burst, and their gold ruffled and glowed.
Miriam went on her knees before one cluster, took a wild-looking
daffodil between her hands, turned up its face of gold to her, and bowed
down, caressing it with her mouth and cheeks and brow. He stood aside,
with his hands in his pockets, watching her. One after another she
turned up to him the faces of the yellow, bursten flowers appealingly,
fondling them lavishly all the while.

"Aren't they magnificent?" she murmured.

"Magnificent! It's a bit thick--they're pretty!"

She bowed again to her flowers at his censure of her praise. He watched
her crouching, sipping the flowers with fervid kisses.

"Why must you always be fondling things?" he said irritably.

"But I love to touch them," she replied, hurt.

"Can you never like things without clutching them as if you wanted to
pull the heart out of them? Why don't you have a bit more restraint, or
reserve, or something?"

She looked up at him full of pain, then continued slowly to stroke her
lips against a ruffled flower. Their scent, as she smelled it, was so
much kinder than he; it almost made her cry.

"You wheedle the soul out of things," he said. "I would never
wheedle--at any rate, I'd go straight."

He scarcely knew what he was saying. These things came from him
mechanically. She looked at him. His body seemed one weapon, firm and
hard against her.

"You're always begging things to love you," he said, "as if you were a
beggar for love. Even the flowers, you have to fawn on them--"

Rhythmically, Miriam was swaying and stroking the flower with her mouth,
inhaling the scent which ever after made her shudder as it came to her
nostrils.

"You don't want to love--your eternal and abnormal craving is to be
loved. You aren't positive, you're negative. You absorb, absorb, as
if you must fill yourself up with love, because you've got a shortage
somewhere."

She was stunned by his cruelty, and did not hear. He had not the
faintest notion of what he was saying. It was as if his fretted,
tortured soul, run hot by thwarted passion, jetted off these sayings
like sparks from electricity. She did not grasp anything he said. She
only sat crouched beneath his cruelty and his hatred of her. She never
realised in a flash. Over everything she brooded and brooded.

After tea he stayed with Edgar and the brothers, taking no notice of
Miriam. She, extremely unhappy on this looked-for holiday, waited for
him. And at last he yielded and came to her. She was determined to track
this mood of his to its origin. She counted it not much more than a
mood.

"Shall we go through the wood a little way?" she asked him, knowing he
never refused a direct request.

They went down to the warren. On the middle path they passed a trap, a
narrow horseshoe hedge of small fir-boughs, baited with the guts of a
rabbit. Paul glanced at it frowning. She caught his eye.

"Isn't it dreadful?" she asked.

"I don't know! Is it worse than a weasel with its teeth in a rabbit's
throat? One weasel or many rabbits? One or the other must go!"

He was taking the bitterness of life badly. She was rather sorry for
him.

"We will go back to the house," he said. "I don't want to walk out."

They went past the lilac-tree, whose bronze leaf-buds were coming
unfastened. Just a fragment remained of the haystack, a monument squared
and brown, like a pillar of stone. There was a little bed of hay from
the last cutting.

"Let us sit here a minute," said Miriam.

He sat down against his will, resting his back against the hard wall of
hay. They faced the amphitheatre of round hills that glowed with sunset,
tiny white farms standing out, the meadows golden, the woods dark and
yet luminous, tree-tops folded over tree-tops, distinct in the distance.
The evening had cleared, and the east was tender with a magenta flush
under which the land lay still and rich.

"Isn't it beautiful?" she pleaded.

But he only scowled. He would rather have had it ugly just then.

At that moment a big bull-terrier came rushing up, open-mouthed, pranced
his two paws on the youth's shoulders, licking his face. Paul drew back,
laughing. Bill was a great relief to him. He pushed the dog aside, but
it came leaping back.

"Get out," said the lad, "or I'll dot thee one."

But the dog was not to be pushed away. So Paul had a little battle
with the creature, pitching poor Bill away from him, who, however,
only floundered tumultuously back again, wild with joy. The two fought
together, the man laughing grudgingly, the dog grinning all over. Miriam
watched them. There was something pathetic about the man. He wanted so
badly to love, to be tender. The rough way he bowled the dog over was
really loving. Bill got up, panting with happiness, his brown eyes
rolling in his white face, and lumbered back again. He adored Paul. The
lad frowned.

"Bill, I've had enough o' thee," he said.

But the dog only stood with two heavy paws, that quivered with love,
upon his thigh, and flickered a red tongue at him. He drew back.

"No," he said--"no--I've had enough."

And in a minute the dog trotted off happily, to vary the fun.

He remained staring miserably across at the hills, whose still beauty
he begrudged. He wanted to go and cycle with Edgar. Yet he had not the
courage to leave Miriam.

"Why are you sad?" she asked humbly.

"I'm not sad; why should I be," he answered. "I'm only normal."

She wondered why he always claimed to be normal when he was
disagreeable.

"But what is the matter?" she pleaded, coaxing him soothingly.

"Nothing!"

"Nay!" she murmured.

He picked up a stick and began to stab the earth with it.

"You'd far better not talk," he said.

"But I wish to know--" she replied.

He laughed resentfully.

"You always do," he said.

"It's not fair to me," she murmured.

He thrust, thrust, thrust at the ground with the pointed stick, digging
up little clods of earth as if he were in a fever of irritation. She
gently and firmly laid her band on his wrist.

"Don't!" she said. "Put it away."

He flung the stick into the currant-bushes, and leaned back. Now he was
bottled up.

"What is it?" she pleaded softly.

He lay perfectly still, only his eyes alive, and they full of torment.

"You know," he said at length, rather wearily--"you know--we'd better
break off."

It was what she dreaded. Swiftly everything seemed to darken before her
eyes.

"Why!" she murmured. "What has happened?"

"Nothing has happened. We only realise where we are. It's no good--"

She waited in silence, sadly, patiently. It was no good being impatient
with him. At any rate, he would tell her now what ailed him.

"We agreed on friendship," he went on in a dull, monotonous voice. "How
often HAVE we agreed for friendship! And yet--it neither stops there,
nor gets anywhere else."

He was silent again. She brooded. What did he mean? He was so wearying.
There was something he would not yield. Yet she must be patient with
him.

"I can only give friendship--it's all I'm capable of--it's a flaw in my
make-up. The thing overbalances to one side--I hate a toppling balance.
Let us have done."

There was warmth of fury in his last phrases. He meant she loved him
more than he her. Perhaps he could not love her. Perhaps she had not
in herself that which he wanted. It was the deepest motive of her
soul, this self-mistrust. It was so deep she dared neither realise nor
acknowledge. Perhaps she was deficient. Like an infinitely subtle shame,
it kept her always back. If it were so, she would do without him. She
would never let herself want him. She would merely see.

"But what has happened?" she said.

"Nothing--it's all in myself--it only comes out just now. We're always
like this towards Easter-time."

He grovelled so helplessly, she pitied him. At least she never
floundered in such a pitiable way. After all, it was he who was chiefly
humiliated.

"What do you want?" she asked him.

"Why--I mustn't come often--that's all. Why should I monopolise you when
I'm not--You see, I'm deficient in something with regard to you--"

He was telling her he did not love her, and so ought to leave her a
chance with another man. How foolish and blind and shamefully clumsy he
was! What were other men to her! What were men to her at all! But he,
ah! she loved his soul. Was HE deficient in something? Perhaps he was.

"But I don't understand," she said huskily. "Yesterday--"

The night was turning jangled and hateful to him as the twilight faded.
And she bowed under her suffering.

"I know," he cried, "you never will! You'll never believe that I
can't--can't physically, any more than I can fly up like a skylark--"

"What?" she murmured. Now she dreaded.

"Love you."

He hated her bitterly at that moment because he made her suffer. Love
her! She knew he loved her. He really belonged to her. This about not
loving her, physically, bodily, was a mere perversity on his part,
because he knew she loved him. He was stupid like a child. He belonged
to her. His soul wanted her. She guessed somebody had been influencing
him. She felt upon him the hardness, the foreignness of another
influence.

"What have they been saying at home?" she asked.

"It's not that," he answered.

And then she knew it was. She despised them for their commonness, his
people. They did not know what things were really worth.

He and she talked very little more that night. After all he left her to
cycle with Edgar.

He had come back to his mother. Hers was the strongest tie in his life.
When he thought round, Miriam shrank away. There was a vague, unreal
feel about her. And nobody else mattered. There was one place in the
world that stood solid and did not melt into unreality: the place where
his mother was. Everybody else could grow shadowy, almost non-existent
to him, but she could not. It was as if the pivot and pole of his life,
from which he could not escape, was his mother.

And in the same way she waited for him. In him was established her life
now. After all, the life beyond offered very little to Mrs. Morel. She
saw that our chance for DOING is here, and doing counted with her. Paul
was going to prove that she had been right; he was going to make a man
whom nothing should shift off his feet; he was going to alter the face
of the earth in some way which mattered. Wherever he went she felt her
soul went with him. Whatever he did she felt her soul stood by him,
ready, as it were, to hand him his tools. She could not bear it when he
was with Miriam. William was dead. She would fight to keep Paul.

And he came back to her. And in his soul was a feeling of the
satisfaction of self-sacrifice because he was faithful to her. She loved
him first; he loved her first. And yet it was not enough. His new young
life, so strong and imperious, was urged towards something else. It made
him mad with restlessness. She saw this, and wished bitterly that Miriam
had been a woman who could take this new life of his, and leave her the
roots. He fought against his mother almost as he fought against Miriam.

It was a week before he went again to Willey Farm. Miriam had suffered
a great deal, and was afraid to see him again. Was she now to endure
the ignominy of his abandoning her? That would only be superficial
and temporary. He would come back. She held the keys to his soul. But
meanwhile, how he would torture her with his battle against her. She
shrank from it.

However, the Sunday after Easter he came to tea. Mrs. Leivers was glad
to see him. She gathered something was fretting him, that he found
things hard. He seemed to drift to her for comfort. And she was good
to him. She did him that great kindness of treating him almost with
reverence.

He met her with the young children in the front garden.

"I'm glad you've come," said the mother, looking at him with her great
appealing brown eyes. "It is such a sunny day. I was just going down the
fields for the first time this year."

He felt she would like him to come. That soothed him. They went, talking
simply, he gentle and humble. He could have wept with gratitude that she
was deferential to him. He was feeling humiliated.

At the bottom of the Mow Close they found a thrush's nest.

"Shall I show you the eggs?" he said.

"Do!" replied Mrs. Leivers. "They seem SUCH a sign of spring, and so
hopeful."

He put aside the thorns, and took out the eggs, holding them in the palm
of his hand.

"They are quite hot--I think we frightened her off them," he said.

"Ay, poor thing!" said Mrs. Leivers.

Miriam could not help touching the eggs, and his hand which, it seemed
to her, cradled them so well.

"Isn't it a strange warmth!" she murmured, to get near him.

"Blood heat," he answered.

She watched him putting them back, his body pressed against the hedge,
his arm reaching slowly through the thorns, his hand folded carefully
over the eggs. He was concentrated on the act. Seeing him so, she loved
him; he seemed so simple and sufficient to himself. And she could not
get to him.

After tea she stood hesitating at the bookshelf. He took "Tartarin de
Tarascon". Again they sat on the bank of hay at the foot of the stack.
He read a couple of pages, but without any heart for it. Again the dog
came racing up to repeat the fun of the other day. He shoved his muzzle
in the man's chest. Paul fingered his ear for a moment. Then he pushed
him away.

"Go away, Bill," he said. "I don't want you."

Bill slunk off, and Miriam wondered and dreaded what was coming. There
was a silence about the youth that made her still with apprehension. It
was not his furies, but his quiet resolutions that she feared.

Turning his face a little to one side, so that she could not see him, he
began, speaking slowly and painfully:

"Do you think--if I didn't come up so much--you might get to like
somebody else--another man?"

So this was what he was still harping on.

"But I don't know any other men. Why do you ask?" she replied, in a low
tone that should have been a reproach to him.

"Why," he blurted, "because they say I've no right to come up like
this--without we mean to marry--"

Miriam was indignant at anybody's forcing the issues between them. She
had been furious with her own father for suggesting to Paul, laughingly,
that he knew why he came so much.

"Who says?" she asked, wondering if her people had anything to do with
it. They had not.

"Mother--and the others. They say at this rate everybody will consider
me engaged, and I ought to consider myself so, because it's not fair to
you. And I've tried to find out--and I don't think I love you as a man
ought to love his wife. What do you think about it?"

Miriam bowed her head moodily. She was angry at having this struggle.
People should leave him and her alone.

"I don't know," she murmured.

"Do you think we love each other enough to marry?" he asked definitely.
It made her tremble.

"No," she answered truthfully. "I don't think so--we're too young."

"I thought perhaps," he went on miserably, "that you, with your
intensity in things, might have given me more--than I could ever make up
to you. And even now--if you think it better--we'll be engaged."

Now Miriam wanted to cry. And she was angry, too. He was always such a
child for people to do as they liked with.

"No, I don't think so," she said firmly.

He pondered a minute.

"You see," he said, "with me--I don't think one person would ever
monopolize me--be everything to me--I think never."

This she did not consider.

"No," she murmured. Then, after a pause, she looked at him, and her dark
eyes flashed.

"This is your mother," she said. "I know she never liked me."

"No, no, it isn't," he said hastily. "It was for your sake she spoke
this time. She only said, if I was going on, I ought to consider myself
engaged." There was a silence. "And if I ask you to come down any time,
you won't stop away, will you?"

She did not answer. By this time she was very angry.

"Well, what shall we do?" she said shortly. "I suppose I'd better drop
French. I was just beginning to get on with it. But I suppose I can go
on alone."

"I don't see that we need," he said. "I can give you a French lesson,
surely."

"Well--and there are Sunday nights. I shan't stop coming to chapel,
because I enjoy it, and it's all the social life I get. But you've no
need to come home with me. I can go alone."

"All right," he answered, rather taken aback. "But if I ask Edgar, he'll
always come with us, and then they can say nothing."

There was silence. After all, then, she would not lose much. For all
their talk down at his home there would not be much difference. She
wished they would mind their own business.

"And you won't think about it, and let it trouble you, will you?" he
asked.

"Oh no," replied Miriam, without looking at him.

He was silent. She thought him unstable. He had no fixity of purpose, no
anchor of righteousness that held him.

"Because," he continued, "a man gets across his bicycle--and goes to
work--and does all sorts of things. But a woman broods."

"No, I shan't bother," said Miriam. And she meant it.

It had gone rather chilly. They went indoors.

"How white Paul looks!" Mrs. Leivers exclaimed. "Miriam, you shouldn't
have let him sit out of doors. Do you think you've taken cold, Paul?"

"Oh, no!" he laughed.

But he felt done up. It wore him out, the conflict in himself. Miriam
pitied him now. But quite early, before nine o'clock, he rose to go.

"You're not going home, are you?" asked Mrs. Leivers anxiously.

"Yes," he replied. "I said I'd be early." He was very awkward.

"But this IS early," said Mrs. Leivers.

Miriam sat in the rocking-chair, and did not speak. He hesitated,
expecting her to rise and go with him to the barn as usual for his
bicycle. She remained as she was. He was at a loss.

"Well--good-night, all!" he faltered.

She spoke her good-night along with all the others. But as he went past
the window he looked in. She saw him pale, his brows knit slightly in a
way that had become constant with him, his eyes dark with pain.

She rose and went to the doorway to wave good-bye to him as he passed
through the gate. He rode slowly under the pine-trees, feeling a cur and
a miserable wretch. His bicycle went tilting down the hills at random.
He thought it would be a relief to break one's neck.

Two days later he sent her up a book and a little note, urging her to
read and be busy.

At this time he gave all his friendship to Edgar. He loved the family
so much, he loved the farm so much; it was the dearest place on earth to
him. His home was not so lovable. It was his mother. But then he would
have been just as happy with his mother anywhere. Whereas Willey Farm he
loved passionately. He loved the little pokey kitchen, where men's boots
tramped, and the dog slept with one eye open for fear of being trodden
on; where the lamp hung over the table at night, and everything was
so silent. He loved Miriam's long, low parlour, with its atmosphere of
romance, its flowers, its books, its high rosewood piano. He loved the
gardens and the buildings that stood with their scarlet roofs on the
naked edges of the fields, crept towards the wood as if for cosiness,
the wild country scooping down a valley and up the uncultured hills of
the other side. Only to be there was an exhilaration and a joy to him.
He loved Mrs. Leivers, with her unworldliness and her quaint cynicism;
he loved Mr. Leivers, so warm and young and lovable; he loved Edgar, who
lit up when he came, and the boys and the children and Bill--even the
sow Circe and the Indian game-cock called Tippoo. All this besides
Miriam. He could not give it up.

So he went as often, but he was usually with Edgar. Only all the family,
including the father, joined in charades and games at evening. And
later, Miriam drew them together, and they read Macbeth out of penny
books, taking parts. It was great excitement. Miriam was glad, and Mrs.
Leivers was glad, and Mr. Leivers enjoyed it. Then they all learned
songs together from tonic sol-fa, singing in a circle round the fire.
But now Paul was very rarely alone with Miriam. She waited. When she
and Edgar and he walked home together from chapel or from the literary
society in Bestwood, she knew his talk, so passionate and so unorthodox
nowadays, was for her. She did envy Edgar, however, his cycling with
Paul, his Friday nights, his days working in the fields. For her Friday
nights and her French lessons were gone. She was nearly always alone,
walking, pondering in the wood, reading, studying, dreaming, waiting.
And he wrote to her frequently.

One Sunday evening they attained to their old rare harmony. Edgar had
stayed to Communion--he wondered what it was like--with Mrs. Morel. So
Paul came on alone with Miriam to his home. He was more or less under
her spell again. As usual, they were discussing the sermon. He was
setting now full sail towards Agnosticism, but such a religious
Agnosticism that Miriam did not suffer so badly. They were at the Renan
Vie de Jesus stage. Miriam was the threshing-floor on which he threshed
out all his beliefs. While he trampled his ideas upon her soul, the
truth came out for him. She alone was his threshing-floor. She alone
helped him towards realization. Almost impassive, she submitted to
his argument and expounding. And somehow, because of her, he gradually
realized where he was wrong. And what he realized, she realized. She
felt he could not do without her.

They came to the silent house. He took the key out of the scullery
window, and they entered. All the time he went on with his discussion.
He lit the gas, mended the fire, and brought her some cakes from the
pantry. She sat on the sofa, quietly, with a plate on her knee. She wore
a large white hat with some pinkish flowers. It was a cheap hat, but
he liked it. Her face beneath was still and pensive, golden-brown and
ruddy. Always her ears were hid in her short curls. She watched him.

She liked him on Sundays. Then he wore a dark suit that showed the lithe
movement of his body. There was a clean, clear-cut look about him.
He went on with his thinking to her. Suddenly he reached for a Bible.
Miriam liked the way he reached up--so sharp, straight to the mark. He
turned the pages quickly, and read her a chapter of St. John. As he sat
in the armchair reading, intent, his voice only thinking, she felt as if
he were using her unconsciously as a man uses his tools at some work he
is bent on. She loved it. And the wistfulness of his voice was like a
reaching to something, and it was as if she were what he reached with.
She sat back on the sofa away from him, and yet feeling herself the very
instrument his hand grasped. It gave her great pleasure.

Then he began to falter and to get self-conscious. And when he came to
the verse, "A woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow because
her hour is come", he missed it out. Miriam had felt him growing
uncomfortable. She shrank when the well-known words did not follow. He
went on reading, but she did not hear. A grief and shame made her bend
her head. Six months ago he would have read it simply. Now there was a
scotch in his running with her. Now she felt there was really something
hostile between them, something of which they were ashamed.

She ate her cake mechanically. He tried to go on with his argument, but
could not get back the right note. Soon Edgar came in. Mrs. Morel had
gone to her friends'. The three set off to Willey Farm.

Miriam brooded over his split with her. There was something else he
wanted. He could not be satisfied; he could give her no peace. There was
between them now always a ground for strife. She wanted to prove him.
She believed that his chief need in life was herself. If she could prove
it, both to herself and to him, the rest might go; she could simply
trust to the future.

So in May she asked him to come to Willey Farm and meet Mrs. Dawes.
There was something he hankered after. She saw him, whenever they spoke
of Clara Dawes, rouse and get slightly angry. He said he did not like
her. Yet he was keen to know about her. Well, he should put himself to
the test. She believed that there were in him desires for higher things,
and desires for lower, and that the desire for the higher would conquer.
At any rate, he should try. She forgot that her "higher" and "lower"
were arbitrary.

He was rather excited at the idea of meeting Clara at Willey Farm. Mrs.
Dawes came for the day. Her heavy, dun-coloured hair was coiled on
top of her head. She wore a white blouse and navy skirt, and somehow,
wherever she was, seemed to make things look paltry and insignificant.
When she was in the room, the kitchen seemed too small and mean
altogether. Miriam's beautiful twilighty parlour looked stiff and
stupid. All the Leivers were eclipsed like candles. They found
her rather hard to put up with. Yet she was perfectly amiable, but
indifferent, and rather hard.

Paul did not come till afternoon. He was early. As he swung off his
bicycle, Miriam saw him look round at the house eagerly. He would be
disappointed if the visitor had not come. Miriam went out to meet him,
bowing her head because of the sunshine. Nasturtiums were coming out
crimson under the cool green shadow of their leaves. The girl stood,
dark-haired, glad to see him.

"Hasn't Clara come?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Miriam in her musical tone. "She's reading."

He wheeled his bicycle into the barn. He had put on a handsome tie, of
which he was rather proud, and socks to match.

"She came this morning?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Miriam, as she walked at his side. "You said you'd bring
me that letter from the man at Liberty's. Have you remembered?"

"Oh, dash, no!" he said. "But nag at me till you get it."

"I don't like to nag at you."

"Do it whether or not. And is she any more agreeable?" he continued.

"You know I always think she is quite agreeable."

He was silent. Evidently his eagerness to be early to-day had been the
newcomer. Miriam already began to suffer. They went together towards the
house. He took the clips off his trousers, but was too lazy to brush the
dust from his shoes, in spite of the socks and tie.

Clara sat in the cool parlour reading. He saw the nape of her white
neck, and the fine hair lifted from it. She rose, looking at him
indifferently. To shake hands she lifted her arm straight, in a
manner that seemed at once to keep him at a distance, and yet to fling
something to him. He noticed how her breasts swelled inside her blouse,
and how her shoulder curved handsomely under the thin muslin at the top
of her arm.

"You have chosen a fine day," he said.

"It happens so," she said.

"Yes," he said; "I am glad."

She sat down, not thanking him for his politeness.

"What have you been doing all morning?" asked Paul of Miriam.

"Well, you see," said Miriam, coughing huskily, "Clara only came with
father--and so--she's not been here very long."

Clara sat leaning on the table, holding aloof. He noticed her hands were
large, but well kept. And the skin on them seemed almost coarse, opaque,
and white, with fine golden hairs. She did not mind if he observed her
hands. She intended to scorn him. Her heavy arm lay negligently on the
table. Her mouth was closed as if she were offended, and she kept her
face slightly averted.

"You were at Margaret Bonford's meeting the other evening," he said to
her.

Miriam did not know this courteous Paul. Clara glanced at him.

"Yes," she said.

"Why," asked Miriam, "how do you know?"

"I went in for a few minutes before the train came," he answered.

Clara turned away again rather disdainfully.

"I think she's a lovable little woman," said Paul.

"Margaret Bonford!" exclaimed Clara. "She's a great deal cleverer than
most men."

"Well, I didn't say she wasn't," he said, deprecating. "She's lovable
for all that."

"And, of course, that is all that matters," said Clara witheringly.

He rubbed his head, rather perplexed, rather annoyed.

"I suppose it matters more than her cleverness," he said; "which, after
all, would never get her to heaven."

"It's not heaven she wants to get--it's her fair share on earth,"
retorted Clara. She spoke as if he were responsible for some deprivation
which Miss Bonford suffered.

"Well," he said, "I thought she was warm, and awfully nice--only too
frail. I wished she was sitting comfortably in peace--"

"'Darning her husband's stockings,'" said Clara scathingly.

"I'm sure she wouldn't mind darning even my stockings," he said. "And
I'm sure she'd do them well. Just as I wouldn't mind blacking her boots
if she wanted me to."

But Clara refused to answer this sally of his. He talked to Miriam for a
little while. The other woman held aloof.

"Well," he said, "I think I'll go and see Edgar. Is he on the land?"

"I believe," said Miriam, "he's gone for a load of coal. He should be
back directly."

"Then," he said, "I'll go and meet him."

Miriam dared not propose anything for the three of them. He rose and
left them.

On the top road, where the gorse was out, he saw Edgar walking lazily
beside the mare, who nodded her white-starred forehead as she dragged
the clanking load of coal. The young farmer's face lighted up as he saw
his friend. Edgar was good-looking, with dark, warm eyes. His clothes
were old and rather disreputable, and he walked with considerable pride.

"Hello!" he said, seeing Paul bareheaded. "Where are you going?"

"Came to meet you. Can't stand 'Nevermore.'"

Edgar's teeth flashed in a laugh of amusement.

"Who is 'Nevermore'?" he asked.

"The lady--Mrs. Dawes--it ought to be Mrs. The Raven that quothed
'Nevermore.'"

Edgar laughed with glee.

"Don't you like her?" he asked.

"Not a fat lot," said Paul. "Why, do you?"

"No!" The answer came with a deep ring of conviction. "No!" Edgar pursed
up his lips. "I can't say she's much in my line." He mused a little.
Then: "But why do you call her 'Nevermore'?" he asked.

"Well," said Paul, "if she looks at a man she says haughtily
'Nevermore,' and if she looks at herself in the looking-glass she says
disdainfully 'Nevermore,' and if she thinks back she says it in disgust,
and if she looks forward she says it cynically."

Edgar considered this speech, failed to make much out of it, and said,
laughing:

"You think she's a man-hater?"

"SHE thinks she is," replied Paul.

"But you don't think so?"

"No," replied Paul.

"Wasn't she nice with you, then?"

"Could you imagine her NICE with anybody?" asked the young man.

Edgar laughed. Together they unloaded the coal in the yard. Paul was
rather self-conscious, because he knew Clara could see if she looked out
of the window. She didn't look.

On Saturday afternoons the horses were brushed down and groomed. Paul
and Edgar worked together, sneezing with the dust that came from the
pelts of Jimmy and Flower.

"Do you know a new song to teach me?" said Edgar.

He continued to work all the time. The back of his neck was sun-red
when he bent down, and his fingers that held the brush were thick. Paul
watched him sometimes.

"'Mary Morrison'?" suggested the younger.

Edgar agreed. He had a good tenor voice, and he loved to learn all the
songs his friend could teach him, so that he could sing whilst he was
carting. Paul had a very indifferent baritone voice, but a good ear.
However, he sang softly, for fear of Clara. Edgar repeated the line in a
clear tenor. At times they both broke off to sneeze, and first one, then
the other, abused his horse.

Miriam was impatient of men. It took so little to amuse them--even Paul.
She thought it anomalous in him that he could be so thoroughly absorbed
in a triviality.

It was tea-time when they had finished.

"What song was that?" asked Miriam.

Edgar told her. The conversation turned to singing.

"We have such jolly times," Miriam said to Clara.

Mrs. Dawes ate her meal in a slow, dignified way. Whenever the men were
present she grew distant.

"Do you like singing?" Miriam asked her.

"If it is good," she said.

Paul, of course, coloured.

"You mean if it is high-class and trained?" he said.

"I think a voice needs training before the singing is anything," she
said.

"You might as well insist on having people's voices trained before you
allowed them to talk," he replied. "Really, people sing for their own
pleasure, as a rule."

"And it may be for other people's discomfort."

"Then the other people should have flaps to their ears," he replied.

The boys laughed. There was a silence. He flushed deeply, and ate in
silence.

After tea, when all the men had gone but Paul, Mrs. Leivers said to
Clara:

"And you find life happier now?"

"Infinitely."

"And you are satisfied?"

"So long as I can be free and independent."

"And you don't MISS anything in your life?" asked Mrs. Leivers gently.

"I've put all that behind me."

Paul had been feeling uncomfortable during this discourse. He got up.

"You'll find you're always tumbling over the things you've put behind
you," he said. Then he took his departure to the cowsheds. He felt he
had been witty, and his manly pride was high. He whistled as he went
down the brick track.

Miriam came for him a little later to know if he would go with Clara and
her for a walk. They set off down to Strelley Mill Farm. As they were
going beside the brook, on the Willey Water side, looking through the
brake at the edge of the wood, where pink campions glowed under a few
sunbeams, they saw, beyond the tree-trunks and the thin hazel bushes,
a man leading a great bay horse through the gullies. The big red beast
seemed to dance romantically through that dimness of green hazel drift,
away there where the air was shadowy, as if it were in the past, among
the fading bluebells that might have bloomed for Deidre or Iseult.

The three stood charmed.

"What a treat to be a knight," he said, "and to have a pavilion here."

"And to have us shut up safely?" replied Clara.

"Yes," he answered, "singing with your maids at your broidery. I would
carry your banner of white and green and heliotrope. I would have
'W.S.P.U.' emblazoned on my shield, beneath a woman rampant."

"I have no doubt," said Clara, "that you would much rather fight for a
woman than let her fight for herself."

"I would. When she fights for herself she seems like a dog before a
looking-glass, gone into a mad fury with its own shadow."

"And YOU are the looking-glass?" she asked, with a curl of the lip.

"Or the shadow," he replied.

"I am afraid," she said, "that you are too clever."

"Well, I leave it to you to be GOOD," he retorted, laughing. "Be good,
sweet maid, and just let ME be clever."

But Clara wearied of his flippancy. Suddenly, looking at her, he saw
that the upward lifting of her face was misery and not scorn. His heart
grew tender for everybody. He turned and was gentle with Miriam, whom he
had neglected till then.

At the wood's edge they met Limb, a thin, swarthy man of forty, tenant
of Strelley Mill, which he ran as a cattle-raising farm. He held the
halter of the powerful stallion indifferently, as if he were tired. The
three stood to let him pass over the stepping-stones of the first brook.
Paul admired that so large an animal should walk on such springy toes,
with an endless excess of vigour. Limb pulled up before them.

"Tell your father, Miss Leivers," he said, in a peculiar piping voice,
"that his young beas'es 'as broke that bottom fence three days an'
runnin'."

"Which?" asked Miriam, tremulous.

The great horse breathed heavily, shifting round its red flanks, and
looking suspiciously with its wonderful big eyes upwards from under its
lowered head and falling mane.

"Come along a bit," replied Limb, "an' I'll show you."

The man and the stallion went forward. It danced sideways, shaking its
white fetlocks and looking frightened, as it felt itself in the brook.

"No hanky-pankyin'," said the man affectionately to the beast.

It went up the bank in little leaps, then splashed finely through the
second brook. Clara, walking with a kind of sulky abandon, watched it
half-fascinated, half-contemptuous. Limb stopped and pointed to the
fence under some willows.

"There, you see where they got through," he said. "My man's druv 'em
back three times."

"Yes," answered Miriam, colouring as if she were at fault.

"Are you comin' in?" asked the man.

"No, thanks; but we should like to go by the pond."

"Well, just as you've a mind," he said.

The horse gave little whinneys of pleasure at being so near home.

"He is glad to be back," said Clara, who was interested in the creature.

"Yes--'e's been a tidy step to-day."

They went through the gate, and saw approaching them from the
big farmhouse a smallish, dark, excitable-looking woman of about
thirty-five. Her hair was touched with grey, her dark eyes looked wild.
She walked with her hands behind her back. Her brother went forward. As
it saw her, the big bay stallion whinneyed again. She came up excitedly.

"Are you home again, my boy!" she said tenderly to the horse, not to
the man. The great beast shifted round to her, ducking his head. She
smuggled into his mouth the wrinkled yellow apple she had been hiding
behind her back, then she kissed him near the eyes. He gave a big sigh
of pleasure. She held his head in her arms against her breast.

"Isn't he splendid!" said Miriam to her.

Miss Limb looked up. Her dark eyes glanced straight at Paul.

"Oh, good-evening, Miss Leivers," she said. "It's ages since you've been
down."

Miriam introduced her friends.

"Your horse IS a fine fellow!" said Clara.

"Isn't he!" Again she kissed him. "As loving as any man!"

"More loving than most men, I should think," replied Clara.

"He's a nice boy!" cried the woman, again embracing the horse.

Clara, fascinated by the big beast, went up to stroke his neck.

"He's quite gentle," said Miss Limb. "Don't you think big fellows are?"

"He's a beauty!" replied Clara.

She wanted to look in his eyes. She wanted him to look at her.

"It's a pity he can't talk," she said.

"Oh, but he can--all but," replied the other woman.

Then her brother moved on with the horse.

"Are you coming in? DO come in, Mr.--I didn't catch it."

"Morel," said Miriam. "No, we won't come in, but we should like to go by
the mill-pond."

"Yes--yes, do. Do you fish, Mr. Morel?"

"No," said Paul.

"Because if you do you might come and fish any time," said Miss Limb.
"We scarcely see a soul from week's end to week's end. I should be
thankful."

"What fish are there in the pond?" he asked.

They went through the front garden, over the sluice, and up the steep
bank to the pond, which lay in shadow, with its two wooded islets. Paul
walked with Miss Limb.

"I shouldn't mind swimming here," he said.

"Do," she replied. "Come when you like. My brother will be awfully
pleased to talk with you. He is so quiet, because there is no one to
talk to. Do come and swim."

Clara came up.

"It's a fine depth," she said, "and so clear."

"Yes," said Miss Limb.

"Do you swim?" said Paul. "Miss Limb was just saying we could come when
we liked."

"Of course there's the farm-hands," said Miss Limb.

They talked a few moments, then went on up the wild hill, leaving the
lonely, haggard-eyed woman on the bank.

The hillside was all ripe with sunshine. It was wild and tussocky, given
over to rabbits. The three walked in silence. Then:

"She makes me feel uncomfortable," said Paul.

"You mean Miss Limb?" asked Miriam. "Yes."

"What's a matter with her? Is she going dotty with being too lonely?"

"Yes," said Miriam. "It's not the right sort of life for her. I think
it's cruel to bury her there. I really ought to go and see her more.
But--she upsets me."

"She makes me feel sorry for her--yes, and she bothers me," he said.

"I suppose," blurted Clara suddenly, "she wants a man."

The other two were silent for a few moments.

"But it's the loneliness sends her cracked," said Paul.

Clara did not answer, but strode on uphill. She was walking with her
hand hanging, her legs swinging as she kicked through the dead thistles
and the tussocky grass, her arms hanging loose. Rather than walking, her
handsome body seemed to be blundering up the hill. A hot wave went over
Paul. He was curious about her. Perhaps life had been cruel to her. He
forgot Miriam, who was walking beside him talking to him. She glanced at
him, finding he did not answer her. His eyes were fixed ahead on Clara.

"Do you still think she is disagreeable?" she asked.

He did not notice that the question was sudden. It ran with his
thoughts.

"Something's the matter with her," he said.

"Yes," answered Miriam.

They found at the top of the hill a hidden wild field, two sides of
which were backed by the wood, the other sides by high loose hedges of
hawthorn and elder bushes. Between these overgrown bushes were gaps
that the cattle might have walked through had there been any cattle now.
There the turf was smooth as velveteen, padded and holed by the rabbits.
The field itself was coarse, and crowded with tall, big cowslips that
had never been cut. Clusters of strong flowers rose everywhere above the
coarse tussocks of bent. It was like a roadstead crowded with tan, fairy
shipping.

"Ah!" cried Miriam, and she looked at Paul, her dark eyes dilating. He
smiled. Together they enjoyed the field of flowers. Clara, a little way
off, was looking at the cowslips disconsolately. Paul and Miriam stayed
close together, talking in subdued tones. He kneeled on one knee,
quickly gathering the best blossoms, moving from tuft to tuft
restlessly, talking softly all the time. Miriam plucked the flowers
lovingly, lingering over them. He always seemed to her too quick and
almost scientific. Yet his bunches had a natural beauty more than hers.
He loved them, but as if they were his and he had a right to them. She
had more reverence for them: they held something she had not.

The flowers were very fresh and sweet. He wanted to drink them. As
he gathered them, he ate the little yellow trumpets. Clara was still
wandering about disconsolately. Going towards her, he said:

"Why don't you get some?"

"I don't believe in it. They look better growing."

"But you'd like some?"

"They want to be left."

"I don't believe they do."

"I don't want the corpses of flowers about me," she said.

"That's a stiff, artificial notion," he said. "They don't die any
quicker in water than on their roots. And besides, they LOOK nice in
a bowl--they look jolly. And you only call a thing a corpse because it
looks corpse-like."

"Whether it is one or not?" she argued.

"It isn't one to me. A dead flower isn't a corpse of a flower."

Clara now ignored him.

"And even so--what right have you to pull them?" she asked.

"Because I like them, and want them--and there's plenty of them."

"And that is sufficient?"

"Yes. Why not? I'm sure they'd smell nice in your room in Nottingham."

"And I should have the pleasure of watching them die."

"But then--it does not matter if they do die."

Whereupon he left her, and went stooping over the clumps of tangled
flowers which thickly sprinkled the field like pale, luminous
foam-clots. Miriam had come close. Clara was kneeling, breathing some
scent from the cowslips.

"I think," said Miriam, "if you treat them with reverence you don't do
them any harm. It is the spirit you pluck them in that matters."

"Yes," he said. "But no, you get 'em because you want 'em, and that's
all." He held out his bunch.

Miriam was silent. He picked some more.

"Look at these!" he continued; "sturdy and lusty like little trees and
like boys with fat legs."

Clara's hat lay on the grass not far off. She was kneeling, bending
forward still to smell the flowers. Her neck gave him a sharp pang, such
a beautiful thing, yet not proud of itself just now. Her breasts swung
slightly in her blouse. The arching curve of her back was beautiful and
strong; she wore no stays. Suddenly, without knowing, he was scattering
a handful of cowslips over her hair and neck, saying:

     "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,
     If the Lord won't have you the devil must."

The chill flowers fell on her neck. She looked up at him, with almost
pitiful, scared grey eyes, wondering what he was doing. Flowers fell on
her face, and she shut her eyes.

Suddenly, standing there above her, he felt awkward.

"I thought you wanted a funeral," he said, ill at ease.

Clara laughed strangely, and rose, picking the cowslips from her hair.
She took up her hat and pinned it on. One flower had remained tangled in
her hair. He saw, but would not tell her. He gathered up the flowers he
had sprinkled over her.

At the edge of the wood the bluebells had flowed over into the field and
stood there like flood-water. But they were fading now. Clara strayed up
to them. He wandered after her. The bluebells pleased him.

"Look how they've come out of the wood!" he said.

Then she turned with a flash of warmth and of gratitude.

"Yes," she smiled.

His blood beat up.

"It makes me think of the wild men of the woods, how terrified they
would be when they got breast to breast with the open space."

"Do you think they were?" she asked.

"I wonder which was more frightened among old tribes--those bursting out
of their darkness of woods upon all the space of light, or those from
the open tiptoeing into the forests."

"I should think the second," she answered.

"Yes, you DO feel like one of the open space sort, trying to force
yourself into the dark, don't you?"

"How should I know?" she answered queerly.

The conversation ended there.

The evening was deepening over the earth. Already the valley was full of
shadow. One tiny square of light stood opposite at Crossleigh Bank Farm.
Brightness was swimming on the tops of the hills. Miriam came up slowly,
her face in her big, loose bunch of flowers, walking ankle-deep through
the scattered froth of the cowslips. Beyond her the trees were coming
into shape, all shadow.

"Shall we go?" she asked.

And the three turned away. They were all silent. Going down the path
they could see the light of home right across, and on the ridge of the
hill a thin dark outline with little lights, where the colliery village
touched the sky.

"It has been nice, hasn't it?" he asked.

Miriam murmured assent. Clara was silent.

"Don't you think so?" he persisted.

But she walked with her head up, and still did not answer. He could tell
by the way she moved, as if she didn't care, that she suffered.

At this time Paul took his mother to Lincoln. She was bright and
enthusiastic as ever, but as he sat opposite her in the railway
carriage, she seemed to look frail. He had a momentary sensation as if
she were slipping away from him. Then he wanted to get hold of her, to
fasten her, almost to chain her. He felt he must keep hold of her with
his hand.

They drew near to the city. Both were at the window looking for the
cathedral.

"There she is, mother!" he cried.

They saw the great cathedral lying couchant above the plain.

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "So she is!"

He looked at his mother. Her blue eyes were watching the cathedral
quietly. She seemed again to be beyond him. Something in the eternal
repose of the uplifted cathedral, blue and noble against the sky, was
reflected in her, something of the fatality. What was, WAS. With all his
young will he could not alter it. He saw her face, the skin still fresh
and pink and downy, but crow's-feet near her eyes, her eyelids steady,
sinking a little, her mouth always closed with disillusion; and there
was on her the same eternal look, as if she knew fate at last. He beat
against it with all the strength of his soul.

"Look, mother, how big she is above the town! Think, there are streets
and streets below her! She looks bigger than the city altogether."

"So she does!" exclaimed his mother, breaking bright into life again.
But he had seen her sitting, looking steady out of the window at the
cathedral, her face and eyes fixed, reflecting the relentlessness of
life. And the crow's-feet near her eyes, and her mouth shut so hard,
made him feel he would go mad.

They ate a meal that she considered wildly extravagant.

"Don't imagine I like it," she said, as she ate her cutlet. "I DON'T
like it, I really don't! Just THINK of your money wasted!"

"You never mind my money," he said. "You forget I'm a fellow taking his
girl for an outing."

And he bought her some blue violets.

"Stop it at once, sir!" she commanded. "How can I do it?"

"You've got nothing to do. Stand still!"

And in the middle of High Street he stuck the flowers in her coat.

"An old thing like me!" she said, sniffing.

"You see," he said, "I want people to think we're awful swells. So look
ikey."

"I'll jowl your head," she laughed.

"Strut!" he commanded. "Be a fantail pigeon."

It took him an hour to get her through the street. She stood above Glory
Hole, she stood before Stone Bow, she stood everywhere, and exclaimed.

A man came up, took off his hat, and bowed to her.

"Can I show you the town, madam?"

"No, thank you," she answered. "I've got my son."

Then Paul was cross with her for not answering with more dignity.

"You go away with you!" she exclaimed. "Ha! that's the Jew's House. Now,
do you remember that lecture, Paul--?"

But she could scarcely climb the cathedral hill. He did not notice.
Then suddenly he found her unable to speak. He took her into a little
public-house, where she rested.

"It's nothing," she said. "My heart is only a bit old; one must expect
it."

He did not answer, but looked at her. Again his heart was crushed in a
hot grip. He wanted to cry, he wanted to smash things in fury.

They set off again, pace by pace, so slowly. And every step seemed like
a weight on his chest. He felt as if his heart would burst. At last
they came to the top. She stood enchanted, looking at the castle gate,
looking at the cathedral front. She had quite forgotten herself.

"Now THIS is better than I thought it could be!" she cried.

But he hated it. Everywhere he followed her, brooding. They sat together
in the cathedral. They attended a little service in the choir. She was
timid.

"I suppose it is open to anybody?" she asked him.

"Yes," he replied. "Do you think they'd have the damned cheek to send us
away."

"Well, I'm sure," she exclaimed, "they would if they heard your
language."

Her face seemed to shine again with joy and peace during the service.
And all the time he was wanting to rage and smash things and cry.

Afterwards, when they were leaning over the wall, looking at the town
below, he blurted suddenly:

"Why can't a man have a YOUNG mother? What is she old for?"

"Well," his mother laughed, "she can scarcely help it."

"And why wasn't I the oldest son? Look--they say the young ones have the
advantage--but look, THEY had the young mother. You should have had me
for your eldest son."

"I didn't arrange it," she remonstrated. "Come to consider, you're as
much to blame as me."

He turned on her, white, his eyes furious.

"What are you old for!" he said, mad with his impotence. "WHY can't you
walk? WHY can't you come with me to places?"

"At one time," she replied, "I could have run up that hill a good deal
better than you."

"What's the good of that to ME?" he cried, hitting his fist on the wall.
Then he became plaintive. "It's too bad of you to be ill. Little, it
is--"

"Ill!" she cried. "I'm a bit old, and you'll have to put up with it,
that's all."

They were quiet. But it was as much as they could bear. They got jolly
again over tea. As they sat by Brayford, watching the boats, he told her
about Clara. His mother asked him innumerable questions.

"Then who does she live with?"

"With her mother, on Bluebell Hill."

"And have they enough to keep them?"

"I don't think so. I think they do lace work."

"And wherein lies her charm, my boy?"

"I don't know that she's charming, mother. But she's nice. And she seems
straight, you know--not a bit deep, not a bit."

"But she's a good deal older than you."

"She's thirty, I'm going on twenty-three."

"You haven't told me what you like her for."

"Because I don't know--a sort of defiant way she's got--a sort of angry
way."

Mrs. Morel considered. She would have been glad now for her son to fall
in love with some woman who would--she did not know what. But he fretted
so, got so furious suddenly, and again was melancholic. She wished he
knew some nice woman--She did not know what she wished, but left it
vague. At any rate, she was not hostile to the idea of Clara.

Annie, too, was getting married. Leonard had gone away to work in
Birmingham. One week-end when he was home she had said to him:

"You don't look very well, my lad."

"I dunno," he said. "I feel anyhow or nohow, ma."

He called her "ma" already in his boyish fashion.

"Are you sure they're good lodgings?" she asked.

"Yes--yes. Only--it's a winder when you have to pour your own tea
out--an' nobody to grouse if you team it in your saucer and sup it up.
It somehow takes a' the taste out of it."

Mrs. Morel laughed.

"And so it knocks you up?" she said.

"I dunno. I want to get married," he blurted, twisting his fingers and
looking down at his boots. There was a silence.

"But," she exclaimed, "I thought you said you'd wait another year."

"Yes, I did say so," he replied stubbornly.

Again she considered.

"And you know," she said, "Annie's a bit of a spendthrift. She's saved
no more than eleven pounds. And I know, lad, you haven't had much
chance."

He coloured up to the ears.

"I've got thirty-three quid," he said.

"It doesn't go far," she answered.

He said nothing, but twisted his fingers.

"And you know," she said, "I've nothing--"

"I didn't want, ma!" he cried, very red, suffering and remonstrating.

"No, my lad, I know. I was only wishing I had. And take away five pounds
for the wedding and things--it leaves twenty-nine pounds. You won't do
much on that."

He twisted still, impotent, stubborn, not looking up.

"But do you really want to get married?" she asked. "Do you feel as if
you ought?"

He gave her one straight look from his blue eyes.

"Yes," he said.

"Then," she replied, "we must all do the best we can for it, lad."

The next time he looked up there were tears in his eyes.

"I don't want Annie to feel handicapped," he said, struggling.

"My lad," she said, "you're steady--you've got a decent place. If a man
had NEEDED me I'd have married him on his last week's wages. She may
find it a bit hard to start humbly. Young girls ARE like that. They look
forward to the fine home they think they'll have. But I had expensive
furniture. It's not everything."

So the wedding took place almost immediately. Arthur came home, and was
splendid in uniform. Annie looked nice in a dove-grey dress that she
could take for Sundays. Morel called her a fool for getting married, and
was cool with his son-in-law. Mrs. Morel had white tips in her bonnet,
and some white on her blouse, and was teased by both her sons for
fancying herself so grand. Leonard was jolly and cordial, and felt a
fearful fool. Paul could not quite see what Annie wanted to get
married for. He was fond of her, and she of him. Still, he hoped rather
lugubriously that it would turn out all right. Arthur was astonishingly
handsome in his scarlet and yellow, and he knew it well, but was
secretly ashamed of the uniform. Annie cried her eyes up in the kitchen,
on leaving her mother. Mrs. Morel cried a little, then patted her on the
back and said:

"But don't cry, child, he'll be good to you."

Morel stamped and said she was a fool to go and tie herself up. Leonard
looked white and overwrought. Mrs. Morel said to him:

"I s'll trust her to you, my lad, and hold you responsible for her."

"You can," he said, nearly dead with the ordeal. And it was all over.

When Morel and Arthur were in bed, Paul sat talking, as he often did,
with his mother.

"You're not sorry she's married, mother, are you?" he asked.

"I'm not sorry she's married--but--it seems strange that she should go
from me. It even seems to me hard that she can prefer to go with her
Leonard. That's how mothers are--I know it's silly."

"And shall you be miserable about her?"

"When I think of my own wedding day," his mother answered, "I can only
hope her life will be different."

"But you can trust him to be good to her?"

"Yes, yes. They say he's not good enough for her. But I say if a man
is GENUINE, as he is, and a girl is fond of him--then--it should be all
right. He's as good as she."

"So you don't mind?"

"I would NEVER have let a daughter of mine marry a man I didn't FEEL to
be genuine through and through. And yet, there's a gap now she's gone."

They were both miserable, and wanted her back again. It seemed to Paul
his mother looked lonely, in her new black silk blouse with its bit of
white trimming.

"At any rate, mother, I s'll never marry," he said.

"Ay, they all say that, my lad. You've not met the one yet. Only wait a
year or two."

"But I shan't marry, mother. I shall live with you, and we'll have a
servant."

"Ay, my lad, it's easy to talk. We'll see when the time comes."

"What time? I'm nearly twenty-three."

"Yes, you're not one that would marry young. But in three years' time--"

"I shall be with you just the same."

"We'll see, my boy, we'll see."

"But you don't want me to marry?"

"I shouldn't like to think of you going through your life without
anybody to care for you and do--no."

"And you think I ought to marry?"

"Sooner or later every man ought."

"But you'd rather it were later."

"It would be hard--and very hard. It's as they say:

     "'A son's my son till he takes him a wife,
     But my daughter's my daughter the whole of her life.'"

"And you think I'd let a wife take me from you?"

"Well, you wouldn't ask her to marry your mother as well as you," Mrs.
Morel smiled.

"She could do what she liked; she wouldn't have to interfere."

"She wouldn't--till she'd got you--and then you'd see."

"I never will see. I'll never marry while I've got you--I won't."

"But I shouldn't like to leave you with nobody, my boy," she cried.

"You're not going to leave me. What are you? Fifty-three! I'll give
you till seventy-five. There you are, I'm fat and forty-four. Then I'll
marry a staid body. See!"

His mother sat and laughed.

"Go to bed," she said--"go to bed."

"And we'll have a pretty house, you and me, and a servant, and it'll be
just all right. I s'll perhaps be rich with my painting."

"Will you go to bed!"

"And then you s'll have a pony-carriage. See yourself--a little Queen
Victoria trotting round."

"I tell you to go to bed," she laughed.

He kissed her and went. His plans for the future were always the same.

Mrs. Morel sat brooding--about her daughter, about Paul, about Arthur.
She fretted at losing Annie. The family was very closely bound. And she
felt she MUST live now, to be with her children. Life was so rich for
her. Paul wanted her, and so did Arthur. Arthur never knew how deeply he
loved her. He was a creature of the moment. Never yet had he been forced
to realise himself. The army had disciplined his body, but not his soul.
He was in perfect health and very handsome. His dark, vigorous hair sat
close to his smallish head. There was something childish about his nose,
something almost girlish about his dark blue eyes. But he had the fun
red mouth of a man under his brown moustache, and his jaw was strong.
It was his father's mouth; it was the nose and eyes of her own mother's
people--good-looking, weak-principled folk. Mrs. Morel was anxious about
him. Once he had really run the rig he was safe. But how far would he
go?

The army had not really done him any good. He resented bitterly the
authority of the officers. He hated having to obey as if he were an
animal. But he had too much sense to kick. So he turned his attention
to getting the best out of it. He could sing, he was a boon-companion.
Often he got into scrapes, but they were the manly scrapes that
are easily condoned. So he made a good time out of it, whilst his
self-respect was in suppression. He trusted to his good looks and
handsome figure, his refinement, his decent education to get him most
of what he wanted, and he was not disappointed. Yet he was restless.
Something seemed to gnaw him inside. He was never still, he was never
alone. With his mother he was rather humble. Paul he admired and loved
and despised slightly. And Paul admired and loved and despised him
slightly.

Mrs. Morel had had a few pounds left to her by her father, and she
decided to buy her son out of the army. He was wild with joy. Now he was
like a lad taking a holiday.

He had always been fond of Beatrice Wyld, and during his furlough he
picked up with her again. She was stronger and better in health. The
two often went long walks together, Arthur taking her arm in soldier's
fashion, rather stiffly. And she came to play the piano whilst he sang.
Then Arthur would unhook his tunic collar. He grew flushed, his eyes
were bright, he sang in a manly tenor. Afterwards they sat together on
the sofa. He seemed to flaunt his body: she was aware of him so--the
strong chest, the sides, the thighs in their close-fitting trousers.

He liked to lapse into the dialect when he talked to her. She would
sometimes smoke with him. Occasionally she would only take a few whiffs
at his cigarette.

"Nay," he said to her one evening, when she reached for his cigarette.
"Nay, tha doesna. I'll gi'e thee a smoke kiss if ter's a mind."

"I wanted a whiff, no kiss at all," she answered.

"Well, an' tha s'lt ha'e a whiff," he said, "along wi' t' kiss."

"I want a draw at thy fag," she cried, snatching for the cigarette
between his lips.

He was sitting with his shoulder touching her. She was small and quick
as lightning. He just escaped.

"I'll gi'e thee a smoke kiss," he said.

"Tha'rt a knivey nuisance, Arty Morel," she said, sitting back.

"Ha'e a smoke kiss?"

The soldier leaned forward to her, smiling. His face was near hers.

"Shonna!" she replied, turning away her head.

He took a draw at his cigarette, and pursed up his mouth, and put his
lips close to her. His dark-brown cropped moustache stood out like a
brush. She looked at the puckered crimson lips, then suddenly snatched
the cigarette from his fingers and darted away. He, leaping after her,
seized the comb from her back hair. She turned, threw the cigarette at
him. He picked it up, put it in his mouth, and sat down.

"Nuisance!" she cried. "Give me my comb!"

She was afraid that her hair, specially done for him, would come down.
She stood with her hands to her head. He hid the comb between his knees.

"I've non got it," he said.

The cigarette trembled between his lips with laughter as he spoke.

"Liar!" she said.

"'S true as I'm here!" he laughed, showing his hands.

"You brazen imp!" she exclaimed, rushing and scuffling for the comb,
which he had under his knees. As she wrestled with him, pulling at his
smooth, tight-covered knees, he laughed till he lay back on the sofa
shaking with laughter. The cigarette fell from his mouth almost singeing
his throat. Under his delicate tan the blood flushed up, and he laughed
till his blue eyes were blinded, his throat swollen almost to choking.
Then he sat up. Beatrice was putting in her comb.

"Tha tickled me, Beat," he said thickly.

Like a flash her small white hand went out and smacked his face. He
started up, glaring at her. They stared at each other. Slowly the flush
mounted her cheek, she dropped her eyes, then her head. He sat down
sulkily. She went into the scullery to adjust her hair. In private there
she shed a few tears, she did not know what for.

When she returned she was pursed up close. But it was only a film over
her fire. He, with ruffled hair, was sulking upon the sofa. She sat down
opposite, in the armchair, and neither spoke. The clock ticked in the
silence like blows.

"You are a little cat, Beat," he said at length, half apologetically.

"Well, you shouldn't be brazen," she replied.

There was again a long silence. He whistled to himself like a man much
agitated but defiant. Suddenly she went across to him and kissed him.

"Did it, pore fing!" she mocked.

He lifted his face, smiling curiously.

"Kiss?" he invited her.

"Daren't I?" she asked.

"Go on!" he challenged, his mouth lifted to her.

Deliberately, and with a peculiar quivering smile that seemed to
overspread her whole body, she put her mouth on his. Immediately his
arms folded round her. As soon as the long kiss was finished she drew
back her head from him, put her delicate fingers on his neck, through
the open collar. Then she closed her eyes, giving herself up again in a
kiss.

She acted of her own free will. What she would do she did, and made
nobody responsible.


Paul felt life changing around him. The conditions of youth were gone.
Now it was a home of grown-up people. Annie was a married woman, Arthur
was following his own pleasure in a way unknown to his folk. For so long
they had all lived at home, and gone out to pass their time. But now,
for Annie and Arthur, life lay outside their mother's house. They came
home for holiday and for rest. So there was that strange, half-empty
feeling about the house, as if the birds had flown. Paul became more and
more unsettled. Annie and Arthur had gone. He was restless to follow.
Yet home was for him beside his mother. And still there was something
else, something outside, something he wanted.

He grew more and more restless. Miriam did not satisfy him. His old mad
desire to be with her grew weaker. Sometimes he met Clara in Nottingham,
sometimes he went to meetings with her, sometimes he saw her at Willey
Farm. But on these last occasions the situation became strained. There
was a triangle of antagonism between Paul and Clara and Miriam. With
Clara he took on a smart, worldly, mocking tone very antagonistic to
Miriam. It did not matter what went before. She might be intimate and
sad with him. Then as soon as Clara appeared, it all vanished, and he
played to the newcomer.

Miriam had one beautiful evening with him in the hay. He had been on
the horse-rake, and having finished, came to help her to put the hay in
cocks. Then he talked to her of his hopes and despairs, and his whole
soul seemed to lie bare before her. She felt as if she watched the very
quivering stuff of life in him. The moon came out: they walked home
together: he seemed to have come to her because he needed her so badly,
and she listened to him, gave him all her love and her faith. It seemed
to her he brought her the best of himself to keep, and that she would
guard it all her life. Nay, the sky did not cherish the stars more
surely and eternally than she would guard the good in the soul of Paul
Morel. She went on home alone, feeling exalted, glad in her faith.

And then, the next day, Clara came. They were to have tea in the
hayfield. Miriam watched the evening drawing to gold and shadow. And all
the time Paul was sporting with Clara. He made higher and higher heaps
of hay that they were jumping over. Miriam did not care for the game,
and stood aside. Edgar and Geoffrey and Maurice and Clara and Paul
jumped. Paul won, because he was light. Clara's blood was roused. She
could run like an Amazon. Paul loved the determined way she rushed at
the hay-cock and leaped, landed on the other side, her breasts shaken,
her thick hair come undone.

"You touched!" he cried. "You touched!"

"No!" she flashed, turning to Edgar. "I didn't touch, did I? Wasn't I
clear?"

"I couldn't say," laughed Edgar.

None of them could say.

"But you touched," said Paul. "You're beaten."

"I did NOT touch!" she cried.

"As plain as anything," said Paul.

"Box his ears for me!" she cried to Edgar.

"Nay," Edgar laughed. "I daren't. You must do it yourself."

"And nothing can alter the fact that you touched," laughed Paul.

She was furious with him. Her little triumph before these lads and men
was gone. She had forgotten herself in the game. Now he was to humble
her.

"I think you are despicable!" she said.

And again he laughed, in a way that tortured Miriam.

"And I KNEW you couldn't jump that heap," he teased.

She turned her back on him. Yet everybody could see that the only person
she listened to, or was conscious of, was he, and he of her. It pleased
the men to see this battle between them. But Miriam was tortured.

Paul could choose the lesser in place of the higher, she saw. He could
be unfaithful to himself, unfaithful to the real, deep Paul Morel.
There was a danger of his becoming frivolous, of his running after his
satisfaction like any Arthur, or like his father. It made Miriam bitter
to think that he should throw away his soul for this flippant traffic of
triviality with Clara. She walked in bitterness and silence, while the
other two rallied each other, and Paul sported.

And afterwards, he would not own it, but he was rather ashamed of
himself, and prostrated himself before Miriam. Then again he rebelled.

"It's not religious to be religious," he said. "I reckon a crow is
religious when it sails across the sky. But it only does it because it
feels itself carried to where it's going, not because it thinks it is
being eternal."

But Miriam knew that one should be religious in everything, have God,
whatever God might be, present in everything.

"I don't believe God knows such a lot about Himself," he cried. "God
doesn't KNOW things, He IS things. And I'm sure He's not soulful."

And then it seemed to her that Paul was arguing God on to his own side,
because he wanted his own way and his own pleasure. There was a long
battle between him and her. He was utterly unfaithful to her even in her
own presence; then he was ashamed, then repentant; then he hated her,
and went off again. Those were the ever-recurring conditions.

She fretted him to the bottom of his soul. There she remained--sad,
pensive, a worshipper. And he caused her sorrow. Half the time he
grieved for her, half the time he hated her. She was his conscience; and
he felt, somehow, he had got a conscience that was too much for him. He
could not leave her, because in one way she did hold the best of him. He
could not stay with her because she did not take the rest of him, which
was three-quarters. So he chafed himself into rawness over her.

When she was twenty-one he wrote her a letter which could only have been
written to her.


"May I speak of our old, worn love, this last time. It, too, is
changing, is it not? Say, has not the body of that love died, and left
you its invulnerable soul? You see, I can give you a spirit love, I have
given it you this long, long time; but not embodied passion. See, you
are a nun. I have given you what I would give a holy nun--as a mystic
monk to a mystic nun. Surely you esteem it best. Yet you regret--no,
have regretted--the other. In all our relations no body enters. I do not
talk to you through the senses--rather through the spirit. That is why
we cannot love in the common sense. Ours is not an everyday affection.
As yet we are mortal, and to live side by side with one another would be
dreadful, for somehow with you I cannot long be trivial, and, you know,
to be always beyond this mortal state would be to lose it. If people
marry, they must live together as affectionate humans, who may be
commonplace with each other without feeling awkward--not as two souls.
So I feel it.

"Ought I to send this letter?--I doubt it. But there--it is best to
understand. Au revoir."


Miriam read this letter twice, after which she sealed it up. A year
later she broke the seal to show her mother the letter.

"You are a nun--you are a nun." The words went into her heart again and
again. Nothing he ever had said had gone into her so deeply, fixedly,
like a mortal wound.

She answered him two days after the party.

"'Our intimacy would have been all-beautiful but for one little
mistake,'" she quoted. "Was the mistake mine?"

Almost immediately he replied to her from Nottingham, sending her at the
same time a little "Omar Khayyam."


"I am glad you answered; you are so calm and natural you put me
to shame. What a ranter I am! We are often out of sympathy. But in
fundamentals we may always be together I think.

"I must thank you for your sympathy with my painting and drawing. Many a
sketch is dedicated to you. I do look forward to your criticisms, which,
to my shame and glory, are always grand appreciations. It is a lovely
joke, that. Au revoir."


This was the end of the first phase of Paul's love affair. He was now
about twenty-three years old, and, though still virgin, the sex instinct
that Miriam had over-refined for so long now grew particularly strong.
Often, as he talked to Clara Dawes, came that thickening and quickening
of his blood, that peculiar concentration in the breast, as if something
were alive there, a new self or a new centre of consciousness, warning
him that sooner or later he would have to ask one woman or another. But
he belonged to Miriam. Of that she was so fixedly sure that he allowed
her right.



CHAPTER X

CLARA

WHEN he was twenty-three years old, Paul sent in a landscape to the
winter exhibition at Nottingham Castle. Miss Jordan had taken a good
deal of interest in him, and invited him to her house, where he met
other artists. He was beginning to grow ambitious.

One morning the postman came just as he was washing in the scullery.
Suddenly he heard a wild noise from his mother. Rushing into the
kitchen, he found her standing on the hearthrug wildly waving a
letter and crying "Hurrah!" as if she had gone mad. He was shocked and
frightened.

"Why, mother!" he exclaimed.

She flew to him, flung her arms round him for a moment, then waved the
letter, crying:

"Hurrah, my boy! I knew we should do it!"

He was afraid of her--the small, severe woman with graying hair suddenly
bursting out in such frenzy. The postman came running back, afraid
something had happened. They saw his tipped cap over the short curtains.
Mrs. Morel rushed to the door.

"His picture's got first prize, Fred," she cried, "and is sold for
twenty guineas."

"My word, that's something like!" said the young postman, whom they had
known all his life.

"And Major Moreton has bought it!" she cried.

"It looks like meanin' something, that does, Mrs. Morel," said the
postman, his blue eyes bright. He was glad to have brought such a lucky
letter. Mrs. Morel went indoors and sat down, trembling. Paul was afraid
lest she might have misread the letter, and might be disappointed after
all. He scrutinised it once, twice. Yes, he became convinced it was
true. Then he sat down, his heart beating with joy.

"Mother!" he exclaimed.

"Didn't I SAY we should do it!" she said, pretending she was not crying.

He took the kettle off the fire and mashed the tea.

"You didn't think, mother--" he began tentatively.

"No, my son--not so much--but I expected a good deal."

"But not so much," he said.

"No--no--but I knew we should do it."

And then she recovered her composure, apparently at least. He sat with
his shirt turned back, showing his young throat almost like a girl's,
and the towel in his hand, his hair sticking up wet.

"Twenty guineas, mother! That's just what you wanted to buy Arthur out.
Now you needn't borrow any. It'll just do."

"Indeed, I shan't take it all," she said.

"But why?"

"Because I shan't."

"Well--you have twelve pounds, I'll have nine."

They cavilled about sharing the twenty guineas. She wanted to take only
the five pounds she needed. He would not hear of it. So they got over
the stress of emotion by quarrelling.

Morel came home at night from the pit, saying:

"They tell me Paul's got first prize for his picture, and sold it to
Lord Henry Bentley for fifty pound."

"Oh, what stories people do tell!" she cried.

"Ha!" he answered. "I said I wor sure it wor a lie. But they said tha'd
told Fred Hodgkisson."

"As if I would tell him such stuff!"

"Ha!" assented the miner.

But he was disappointed nevertheless.

"It's true he has got the first prize," said Mrs. Morel.

The miner sat heavily in his chair.

"Has he, beguy!" he exclaimed.

He stared across the room fixedly.

"But as for fifty pounds--such nonsense!" She was silent awhile. "Major
Moreton bought it for twenty guineas, that's true."

"Twenty guineas! Tha niver says!" exclaimed Morel.

"Yes, and it was worth it."

"Ay!" he said. "I don't misdoubt it. But twenty guineas for a bit of a
paintin' as he knocked off in an hour or two!"

He was silent with conceit of his son. Mrs. Morel sniffed, as if it were
nothing.

"And when does he handle th' money?" asked the collier.

"That I couldn't tell you. When the picture is sent home, I suppose."

There was silence. Morel stared at the sugar-basin instead of eating his
dinner. His black arm, with the hand all gnarled with work lay on the
table. His wife pretended not to see him rub the back of his hand across
his eyes, nor the smear in the coal-dust on his black face.

"Yes, an' that other lad 'ud 'a done as much if they hadna ha' killed
'im," he said quietly.

The thought of William went through Mrs. Morel like a cold blade. It
left her feeling she was tired, and wanted rest.

Paul was invited to dinner at Mr. Jordan's. Afterwards he said:

"Mother, I want an evening suit."

"Yes, I was afraid you would," she said. She was glad. There was
a moment or two of silence. "There's that one of William's," she
continued, "that I know cost four pounds ten and which he'd only worn
three times."

"Should you like me to wear it, mother?" he asked.

"Yes. I think it would fit you--at least the coat. The trousers would
want shortening."

He went upstairs and put on the coat and vest. Coming down, he looked
strange in a flannel collar and a flannel shirt-front, with an evening
coat and vest. It was rather large.

"The tailor can make it right," she said, smoothing her hand over his
shoulder. "It's beautiful stuff. I never could find in my heart to let
your father wear the trousers, and very glad I am now."

And as she smoothed her hand over the silk collar she thought of her
eldest son. But this son was living enough inside the clothes. She
passed her hand down his back to feel him. He was alive and hers. The
other was dead.

He went out to dinner several times in his evening suit that had been
William's. Each time his mother's heart was firm with pride and joy. He
was started now. The studs she and the children had bought for William
were in his shirt-front; he wore one of William's dress shirts. But he
had an elegant figure. His face was rough, but warm-looking and rather
pleasing. He did not look particularly a gentleman, but she thought he
looked quite a man.

He told her everything that took place, everything that was said. It was
as if she had been there. And he was dying to introduce her to these new
friends who had dinner at seven-thirty in the evening.

"Go along with you!" she said. "What do they want to know me for?"

"They do!" he cried indignantly. "If they want to know me--and they say
they do--then they want to know you, because you are quite as clever as
I am."

"Go along with you, child!" she laughed.

But she began to spare her hands. They, too, were work-gnarled now. The
skin was shiny with so much hot water, the knuckles rather swollen. But
she began to be careful to keep them out of soda. She regretted what
they had been--so small and exquisite. And when Annie insisted on her
having more stylish blouses to suit her age, she submitted. She even
went so far as to allow a black velvet bow to be placed on her hair.
Then she sniffed in her sarcastic manner, and was sure she looked a
sight. But she looked a lady, Paul declared, as much as Mrs. Major
Moreton, and far, far nicer. The family was coming on. Only Morel
remained unchanged, or rather, lapsed slowly.

Paul and his mother now had long discussions about life. Religion was
fading into the background. He had shovelled away an the beliefs that
would hamper him, had cleared the ground, and come more or less to the
bedrock of belief that one should feel inside oneself for right and
wrong, and should have the patience to gradually realise one's God. Now
life interested him more.

"You know," he said to his mother, "I don't want to belong to the
well-to-do middle class. I like my common people best. I belong to the
common people."

"But if anyone else said so, my son, wouldn't you be in a tear. YOU know
you consider yourself equal to any gentleman."

"In myself," he answered, "not in my class or my education or my
manners. But in myself I am."

"Very well, then. Then why talk about the common people?"

"Because--the difference between people isn't in their class, but in
themselves. Only from the middle classes one gets ideas, and from the
common people--life itself, warmth. You feel their hates and loves."

"It's all very well, my boy. But, then, why don't you go and talk to
your father's pals?"

"But they're rather different."

"Not at all. They're the common people. After all, whom do you mix with
now--among the common people? Those that exchange ideas, like the middle
classes. The rest don't interest you."

"But--there's the life--"

"I don't believe there's a jot more life from Miriam than you could get
from any educated girl--say Miss Moreton. It is YOU who are snobbish
about class."

She frankly WANTED him to climb into the middle classes, a thing not
very difficult, she knew. And she wanted him in the end to marry a lady.

Now she began to combat him in his restless fretting. He still kept up
his connection with Miriam, could neither break free nor go the whole
length of engagement. And this indecision seemed to bleed him of his
energy. Moreover, his mother suspected him of an unrecognised leaning
towards Clara, and, since the latter was a married woman, she wished he
would fall in love with one of the girls in a better station of life.
But he was stupid, and would refuse to love or even to admire a girl
much, just because she was his social superior.

"My boy," said his mother to him, "all your cleverness, your breaking
away from old things, and taking life in your own hands, doesn't seem to
bring you much happiness."

"What is happiness!" he cried. "It's nothing to me! How AM I to be
happy?"

The plump question disturbed her.

"That's for you to judge, my lad. But if you could meet some GOOD
woman who would MAKE you happy--and you began to think of settling your
life--when you have the means--so that you could work without all this
fretting--it would be much better for you."

He frowned. His mother caught him on the raw of his wound of Miriam.
He pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead, his eyes full of pain and
fire.

"You mean easy, mother," he cried. "That's a woman's whole doctrine for
life--ease of soul and physical comfort. And I do despise it."

"Oh, do you!" replied his mother. "And do you call yours a divine
discontent?"

"Yes. I don't care about its divinity. But damn your happiness! So long
as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not. I'm afraid
your happiness would bore me."

"You never give it a chance," she said. Then suddenly all her passion
of grief over him broke out. "But it does matter!" she cried. "And you
OUGHT to be happy, you ought to try to be happy, to live to be happy.
How could I bear to think your life wouldn't be a happy one!"

"Your own's been bad enough, mater, but it hasn't left you so much worse
off than the folk who've been happier. I reckon you've done well. And I
am the same. Aren't I well enough off?"

"You're not, my son. Battle--battle--and suffer. It's about all you do,
as far as I can see."

"But why not, my dear? I tell you it's the best--"

"It isn't. And one OUGHT to be happy, one OUGHT."

By this time Mrs. Morel was trembling violently. Struggles of this kind
often took place between her and her son, when she seemed to fight for
his very life against his own will to die. He took her in his arms. She
was ill and pitiful.

"Never mind, Little," he murmured. "So long as you don't feel life's
paltry and a miserable business, the rest doesn't matter, happiness or
unhappiness."

She pressed him to her.

"But I want you to be happy," she said pathetically.

"Eh, my dear--say rather you want me to live."

Mrs. Morel felt as if her heart would break for him. At this rate she
knew he would not live. He had that poignant carelessness about himself,
his own suffering, his own life, which is a form of slow suicide. It
almost broke her heart. With all the passion of her strong nature she
hated Miriam for having in this subtle way undermined his joy. It did
not matter to her that Miriam could not help it. Miriam did it, and she
hated her.

She wished so much he would fall in love with a girl equal to be his
mate--educated and strong. But he would not look at anybody above him
in station. He seemed to like Mrs. Dawes. At any rate that feeling was
wholesome. His mother prayed and prayed for him, that he might not be
wasted. That was all her prayer--not for his soul or his righteousness,
but that he might not be wasted. And while he slept, for hours and hours
she thought and prayed for him.

He drifted away from Miriam imperceptibly, without knowing he was going.
Arthur only left the army to be married. The baby was born six months
after his wedding. Mrs. Morel got him a job under the firm again, at
twenty-one shillings a week. She furnished for him, with the help of
Beatrice's mother, a little cottage of two rooms. He was caught now. It
did not matter how he kicked and struggled, he was fast. For a time he
chafed, was irritable with his young wife, who loved him; he went almost
distracted when the baby, which was delicate, cried or gave trouble. He
grumbled for hours to his mother. She only said: "Well, my lad, you did
it yourself, now you must make the best of it." And then the grit
came out in him. He buckled to work, undertook his responsibilities,
acknowledged that he belonged to his wife and child, and did make a good
best of it. He had never been very closely inbound into the family. Now
he was gone altogether.

The months went slowly along. Paul had more or less got into connection
with the Socialist, Suffragette, Unitarian people in Nottingham, owing
to his acquaintance with Clara. One day a friend of his and of Clara's,
in Bestwood, asked him to take a message to Mrs. Dawes. He went in the
evening across Sneinton Market to Bluebell Hill. He found the house in
a mean little street paved with granite cobbles and having causeways of
dark blue, grooved bricks. The front door went up a step from off this
rough pavement, where the feet of the passersby rasped and clattered.
The brown paint on the door was so old that the naked wood showed
between the rents. He stood on the street below and knocked. There came
a heavy footstep; a large, stout woman of about sixty towered above him.
He looked up at her from the pavement. She had a rather severe face.

She admitted him into the parlour, which opened on to the street. It was
a small, stuffy, defunct room, of mahogany, and deathly enlargements of
photographs of departed people done in carbon. Mrs. Radford left him.
She was stately, almost martial. In a moment Clara appeared. She flushed
deeply, and he was covered with confusion. It seemed as if she did not
like being discovered in her home circumstances.

"I thought it couldn't be your voice," she said.

But she might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. She invited him
out of the mausoleum of a parlour into the kitchen.

That was a little, darkish room too, but it was smothered in white lace.
The mother had seated herself again by the cupboard, and was drawing
thread from a vast web of lace. A clump of fluff and ravelled cotton was
at her right hand, a heap of three-quarter-inch lace lay on her
left, whilst in front of her was the mountain of lace web, piling the
hearthrug. Threads of curly cotton, pulled out from between the lengths
of lace, strewed over the fender and the fireplace. Paul dared not go
forward, for fear of treading on piles of white stuff.

On the table was a jenny for carding the lace. There was a pack of brown
cardboard squares, a pack of cards of lace, a little box of pins, and on
the sofa lay a heap of drawn lace.

The room was all lace, and it was so dark and warm that the white, snowy
stuff seemed the more distinct.

"If you're coming in you won't have to mind the work," said Mrs.
Radford. "I know we're about blocked up. But sit you down."

Clara, much embarrassed, gave him a chair against the wall opposite the
white heaps. Then she herself took her place on the sofa, shamedly.

"Will you drink a bottle of stout?" Mrs. Radford asked. "Clara, get him
a bottle of stout."

He protested, but Mrs. Radford insisted.

"You look as if you could do with it," she said. "Haven't you never any
more colour than that?"

"It's only a thick skin I've got that doesn't show the blood through,"
he answered.

Clara, ashamed and chagrined, brought him a bottle of stout and a glass.
He poured out some of the black stuff.

"Well," he said, lifting the glass, "here's health!"

"And thank you," said Mrs. Radford.

He took a drink of stout.

"And light yourself a cigarette, so long as you don't set the house on
fire," said Mrs. Radford.

"Thank you," he replied.

"Nay, you needn't thank me," she answered. "I s'll be glad to smell a
bit of smoke in th' 'ouse again. A house o' women is as dead as a house
wi' no fire, to my thinkin'. I'm not a spider as likes a corner to
myself. I like a man about, if he's only something to snap at."

Clara began to work. Her jenny spun with a subdued buzz; the white
lace hopped from between her fingers on to the card. It was filled; she
snipped off the length, and pinned the end down to the banded lace. Then
she put a new card in her jenny. Paul watched her. She sat square and
magnificent. Her throat and arms were bare. The blood still mantled
below her ears; she bent her head in shame of her humility. Her face was
set on her work. Her arms were creamy and full of life beside the white
lace; her large, well-kept hands worked with a balanced movement, as if
nothing would hurry them. He, not knowing, watched her all the time. He
saw the arch of her neck from the shoulder, as she bent her head; he saw
the coil of dun hair; he watched her moving, gleaming arms.

"I've heard a bit about you from Clara," continued the mother. "You're
in Jordan's, aren't you?" She drew her lace unceasing.

"Yes."

"Ay, well, and I can remember when Thomas Jordan used to ask ME for one
of my toffies."

"Did he?" laughed Paul. "And did he get it?"

"Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't--which was latterly. For he's the
sort that takes all and gives naught, he is--or used to be."

"I think he's very decent," said Paul.

"Yes; well, I'm glad to hear it."

Mrs. Radford looked across at him steadily. There was something
determined about her that he liked. Her face was falling loose, but her
eyes were calm, and there was something strong in her that made it
seem she was not old; merely her wrinkles and loose cheeks were an
anachronism. She had the strength and sang-froid of a woman in the prime
of life. She continued drawing the lace with slow, dignified movements.
The big web came up inevitably over her apron; the length of lace fell
away at her side. Her arms were finely shapen, but glossy and yellow
as old ivory. They had not the peculiar dull gleam that made Clara's so
fascinating to him.

"And you've been going with Miriam Leivers?" the mother asked him.

"Well--" he answered.

"Yes, she's a nice girl," she continued. "She's very nice, but she's a
bit too much above this world to suit my fancy."

"She is a bit like that," he agreed.

"She'll never be satisfied till she's got wings and can fly over
everybody's head, she won't," she said.

Clara broke in, and he told her his message. She spoke humbly to him. He
had surprised her in her drudgery. To have her humble made him feel as
if he were lifting his head in expectation.

"Do you like jennying?" he asked.

"What can a woman do!" she replied bitterly.

"Is it sweated?"

"More or less. Isn't ALL woman's work? That's another trick the men have
played, since we force ourselves into the labour market."

"Now then, you shut up about the men," said her mother. "If the women
wasn't fools, the men wouldn't be bad uns, that's what I say. No man was
ever that bad wi' me but what he got it back again. Not but what they're
a lousy lot, there's no denying it."

"But they're all right really, aren't they?" he asked.

"Well, they're a bit different from women," she answered.

"Would you care to be back at Jordan's?" he asked Clara.

"I don't think so," she replied.

"Yes, she would!" cried her mother; "thank her stars if she could get
back. Don't you listen to her. She's for ever on that 'igh horse of
hers, an' it's back's that thin an' starved it'll cut her in two one of
these days."

Clara suffered badly from her mother. Paul felt as if his eyes were
coming very wide open. Wasn't he to take Clara's fulminations so
seriously, after all? She spun steadily at her work. He experienced a
thrill of joy, thinking she might need his help. She seemed denied and
deprived of so much. And her arm moved mechanically, that should never
have been subdued to a mechanism, and her head was bowed to the lace,
that never should have been bowed. She seemed to be stranded there
among the refuse that life has thrown away, doing her jennying. It was
a bitter thing to her to be put aside by life, as if it had no use for
her. No wonder she protested.

She came with him to the door. He stood below in the mean street,
looking up at her. So fine she was in her stature and her bearing, she
reminded him of Juno dethroned. As she stood in the doorway, she winced
from the street, from her surroundings.

"And you will go with Mrs. Hodgkisson to Hucknall?"

He was talking quite meaninglessly, only watching her. Her grey eyes at
last met his. They looked dumb with humiliation, pleading with a kind of
captive misery. He was shaken and at a loss. He had thought her high and
mighty.

When he left her, he wanted to run. He went to the station in a sort of
dream, and was at home without realising he had moved out of her street.

He had an idea that Susan, the overseer of the Spiral girls, was about
to be married. He asked her the next day.

"I say, Susan, I heard a whisper of your getting married. What about
it?"

Susan flushed red.

"Who's been talking to you?" she replied.

"Nobody. I merely heard a whisper that you WERE thinking--"

"Well, I am, though you needn't tell anybody. What's more, I wish I
wasn't!"

"Nay, Susan, you won't make me believe that."

"Shan't I? You CAN believe it, though. I'd rather stop here a thousand
times."

Paul was perturbed.

"Why, Susan?"

The girl's colour was high, and her eyes flashed.

"That's why!"

"And must you?"

For answer, she looked at him. There was about him a candour and
gentleness which made the women trust him. He understood.

"Ah, I'm sorry," he said.

Tears came to her eyes.

"But you'll see it'll turn out all right. You'll make the best of it,"
he continued rather wistfully.

"There's nothing else for it."

"Yea, there's making the worst of it. Try and make it all right."

He soon made occasion to call again on Clara.

"Would you," he said, "care to come back to Jordan's?"

She put down her work, laid her beautiful arms on the table, and looked
at him for some moments without answering. Gradually the flush mounted
her cheek.

"Why?" she asked.

Paul felt rather awkward.

"Well, because Susan is thinking of leaving," he said.

Clara went on with her jennying. The white lace leaped in little jumps
and bounds on to the card. He waited for her. Without raising her head,
she said at last, in a peculiar low voice:

"Have you said anything about it?"

"Except to you, not a word."

There was again a long silence.

"I will apply when the advertisement is out," she said.

"You will apply before that. I will let you know exactly when."

She went on spinning her little machine, and did not contradict him.

Clara came to Jordan's. Some of the older hands, Fanny among them,
remembered her earlier rule, and cordially disliked the memory. Clara
had always been "ikey", reserved, and superior. She had never mixed with
the girls as one of themselves. If she had occasion to find fault, she
did it coolly and with perfect politeness, which the defaulter felt to
be a bigger insult than crassness. Towards Fanny, the poor, overstrung
hunchback, Clara was unfailingly compassionate and gentle, as a result
of which Fanny shed more bitter tears than ever the rough tongues of the
other overseers had caused her.

There was something in Clara that Paul disliked, and much that piqued
him. If she were about, he always watched her strong throat or her neck,
upon which the blonde hair grew low and fluffy. There was a fine down,
almost invisible, upon the skin of her face and arms, and when once he
had perceived it, he saw it always.

When he was at his work, painting in the afternoon, she would come and
stand near to him, perfectly motionless. Then he felt her, though she
neither spoke nor touched him. Although she stood a yard away he felt
as if he were in contact with her. Then he could paint no more. He flung
down the brushes, and turned to talk to her.

Sometimes she praised his work; sometimes she was critical and cold.

"You are affected in that piece," she would say; and, as there was an
element of truth in her condemnation, his blood boiled with anger.

Again: "What of this?" he would ask enthusiastically.

"H'm!" She made a small doubtful sound. "It doesn't interest me much."

"Because you don't understand it," he retorted.

"Then why ask me about it?"

"Because I thought you would understand."

She would shrug her shoulders in scorn of his work. She maddened him. He
was furious. Then he abused her, and went into passionate exposition of
his stuff. This amused and stimulated her. But she never owned that she
had been wrong.

During the ten years that she had belonged to the women's movement
she had acquired a fair amount of education, and, having had some of
Miriam's passion to be instructed, had taught herself French, and could
read in that language with a struggle. She considered herself as a woman
apart, and particularly apart, from her class. The girls in the Spiral
department were all of good homes. It was a small, special industry, and
had a certain distinction. There was an air of refinement in both rooms.
But Clara was aloof also from her fellow-workers.

None of these things, however, did she reveal to Paul. She was not the
one to give herself away. There was a sense of mystery about her. She
was so reserved, he felt she had much to reserve. Her history was open
on the surface, but its inner meaning was hidden from everybody. It was
exciting. And then sometimes he caught her looking at him from under
her brows with an almost furtive, sullen scrutiny, which made him move
quickly. Often she met his eyes. But then her own were, as it were,
covered over, revealing nothing. She gave him a little, lenient smile.
She was to him extraordinarily provocative, because of the knowledge she
seemed to possess, and gathered fruit of experience he could not attain.

One day he picked up a copy of _Lettres de mon Moulin_ from her
work-bench.

"You read French, do you?" he cried.

Clara glanced round negligently. She was making an elastic stocking
of heliotrope silk, turning the Spiral machine with slow, balanced
regularity, occasionally bending down to see her work or to adjust the
needles; then her magnificent neck, with its down and fine pencils of
hair, shone white against the lavender, lustrous silk. She turned a few
more rounds, and stopped.

"What did you say?" she asked, smiling sweetly.

Paul's eyes glittered at her insolent indifference to him.

"I did not know you read French," he said, very polite.

"Did you not?" she replied, with a faint, sarcastic smile.

"Rotten swank!" he said, but scarcely loud enough to be heard.

He shut his mouth angrily as he watched her. She seemed to scorn the
work she mechanically produced; yet the hose she made were as nearly
perfect as possible.

"You don't like Spiral work," he said.

"Oh, well, all work is work," she answered, as if she knew all about it.

He marvelled at her coldness. He had to do everything hotly. She must be
something special.

"What would you prefer to do?" he asked.

She laughed at him indulgently, as she said:

"There is so little likelihood of my ever being given a choice, that I
haven't wasted time considering."

"Pah!" he said, contemptuous on his side now. "You only say that because
you're too proud to own up what you want and can't get."

"You know me very well," she replied coldly.

"I know you think you're terrific great shakes, and that you live under
the eternal insult of working in a factory."

He was very angry and very rude. She merely turned away from him in
disdain. He walked whistling down the room, flirted and laughed with
Hilda.

Later on he said to himself:

"What was I so impudent to Clara for?" He was rather annoyed with
himself, at the same time glad. "Serve her right; she stinks with silent
pride," he said to himself angrily.

In the afternoon he came down. There was a certain weight on his
heart which he wanted to remove. He thought to do it by offering her
chocolates.

"Have one?" he said. "I bought a handful to sweeten me up."

To his great relief, she accepted. He sat on the work-bench beside her
machine, twisting a piece of silk round his finger. She loved him for
his quick, unexpected movements, like a young animal. His feet swung
as he pondered. The sweets lay strewn on the bench. She bent over her
machine, grinding rhythmically, then stooping to see the stocking
that hung beneath, pulled down by the weight. He watched the handsome
crouching of her back, and the apron-strings curling on the floor.

"There is always about you," he said, "a sort of waiting. Whatever I see
you doing, you're not really there: you are waiting--like Penelope when
she did her weaving." He could not help a spurt of wickedness. "I'll
call you Penelope," he said.

"Would it make any difference?" she said, carefully removing one of her
needles.

"That doesn't matter, so long as it pleases me. Here, I say, you seem to
forget I'm your boss. It just occurs to me."

"And what does that mean?" she asked coolly.

"It means I've got a right to boss you."

"Is there anything you want to complain about?"

"Oh, I say, you needn't be nasty," he said angrily.

"I don't know what you want," she said, continuing her task.

"I want you to treat me nicely and respectfully."

"Call you 'sir', perhaps?" she asked quietly.

"Yes, call me 'sir'. I should love it."

"Then I wish you would go upstairs, sir."

His mouth closed, and a frown came on his face. He jumped suddenly down.

"You're too blessed superior for anything," he said.

And he went away to the other girls. He felt he was being angrier than
he had any need to be. In fact, he doubted slightly that he was showing
off. But if he were, then he would. Clara heard him laughing, in a way
she hated, with the girls down the next room.

When at evening he went through the department after the girls had gone,
he saw his chocolates lying untouched in front of Clara's machine. He
left them. In the morning they were still there, and Clara was at work.
Later on Minnie, a little brunette they called Pussy, called to him:

"Hey, haven't you got a chocolate for anybody?"

"Sorry, Pussy," he replied. "I meant to have offered them; then I went
and forgot 'em."

"I think you did," she answered.

"I'll bring you some this afternoon. You don't want them after they've
been lying about, do you?"

"Oh, I'm not particular," smiled Pussy.

"Oh no," he said. "They'll be dusty."

He went up to Clara's bench.

"Sorry I left these things littering about," he said.

She flushed scarlet. He gathered them together in his fist.

"They'll be dirty now," he said. "You should have taken them. I wonder
why you didn't. I meant to have told you I wanted you to."

He flung them out of the window into the yard below. He just glanced at
her. She winced from his eyes.

In the afternoon he brought another packet.

"Will you take some?" he said, offering them first to Clara. "These are
fresh."

She accepted one, and put it on to the bench.

"Oh, take several--for luck," he said.

She took a couple more, and put them on the bench also. Then she turned
in confusion to her work. He went on up the room.

"Here you are, Pussy," he said. "Don't be greedy!"

"Are they all for her?" cried the others, rushing up.

"Of course they're not," he said.

The girls clamoured round. Pussy drew back from her mates.

"Come out!" she cried. "I can have first pick, can't I, Paul?"

"Be nice with 'em," he said, and went away.

"You ARE a dear," the girls cried.

"Tenpence," he answered.

He went past Clara without speaking. She felt the three chocolate creams
would burn her if she touched them. It needed all her courage to slip
them into the pocket of her apron.

The girls loved him and were afraid of him. He was so nice while he
was nice, but if he were offended, so distant, treating them as if they
scarcely existed, or not more than the bobbins of thread. And then, if
they were impudent, he said quietly: "Do you mind going on with your
work," and stood and watched.

When he celebrated his twenty-third birthday, the house was in trouble.
Arthur was just going to be married. His mother was not well. His
father, getting an old man, and lame from his accidents, was given
a paltry, poor job. Miriam was an eternal reproach. He felt he owed
himself to her, yet could not give himself. The house, moreover, needed
his support. He was pulled in all directions. He was not glad it was his
birthday. It made him bitter.

He got to work at eight o'clock. Most of the clerks had not turned up.
The girls were not due till 8.30. As he was changing his coat, he heard
a voice behind him say:

"Paul, Paul, I want you."

It was Fanny, the hunchback, standing at the top of her stairs, her face
radiant with a secret. Paul looked at her in astonishment.

"I want you," she said.

He stood, at a loss.

"Come on," she coaxed. "Come before you begin on the letters."

He went down the half-dozen steps into her dry, narrow, "finishing-off"
room. Fanny walked before him: her black bodice was short--the waist was
under her armpits--and her green-black cashmere skirt seemed very
long, as she strode with big strides before the young man, himself so
graceful. She went to her seat at the narrow end of the room, where the
window opened on to chimney-pots. Paul watched her thin hands and her
flat red wrists as she excitedly twitched her white apron, which was
spread on the bench in front of her. She hesitated.

"You didn't think we'd forgot you?" she asked, reproachful.

"Why?" he asked. He had forgotten his birthday himself.

"'Why,' he says! 'Why!' Why, look here!" She pointed to the calendar,
and he saw, surrounding the big black number "21", hundreds of little
crosses in black-lead.

"Oh, kisses for my birthday," he laughed. "How did you know?"

"Yes, you want to know, don't you?" Fanny mocked, hugely delighted.
"There's one from everybody--except Lady Clara--and two from some. But I
shan't tell you how many I put."

"Oh, I know, you're spooney," he said.

"There you ARE mistaken!" she cried, indignant. "I could never be so
soft." Her voice was strong and contralto.

"You always pretend to be such a hard-hearted hussy," he laughed. "And
you know you're as sentimental--"

"I'd rather be called sentimental than frozen meat," Fanny blurted. Paul
knew she referred to Clara, and he smiled.

"Do you say such nasty things about me?" he laughed.

"No, my duck," the hunchback woman answered, lavishly tender. She was
thirty-nine. "No, my duck, because you don't think yourself a fine
figure in marble and us nothing but dirt. I'm as good as you, aren't I,
Paul?" and the question delighted her.

"Why, we're not better than one another, are we?" he replied.

"But I'm as good as you, aren't I, Paul?" she persisted daringly.

"Of course you are. If it comes to goodness, you're better."

She was rather afraid of the situation. She might get hysterical.

"I thought I'd get here before the others--won't they say I'm deep! Now
shut your eyes--" she said.

"And open your mouth, and see what God sends you," he continued, suiting
action to words, and expecting a piece of chocolate. He heard the rustle
of the apron, and a faint clink of metal. "I'm going to look," he said.

He opened his eyes. Fanny, her long cheeks flushed, her blue eyes
shining, was gazing at him. There was a little bundle of paint-tubes on
the bench before him. He turned pale.

"No, Fanny," he said quickly.

"From us all," she answered hastily.

"No, but--"

"Are they the right sort?" she asked, rocking herself with delight.

"Jove! they're the best in the catalogue."

"But they're the right sorts?" she cried.

"They're off the little list I'd made to get when my ship came in." He
bit his lip.

Fanny was overcome with emotion. She must turn the conversation.

"They was all on thorns to do it; they all paid their shares, all except
the Queen of Sheba."

The Queen of Sheba was Clara.

"And wouldn't she join?" Paul asked.

"She didn't get the chance; we never told her; we wasn't going to have
HER bossing THIS show. We didn't WANT her to join."

Paul laughed at the woman. He was much moved. At last he must go. She
was very close to him. Suddenly she flung her arms round his neck and
kissed him vehemently.

"I can give you a kiss to-day," she said apologetically. "You've looked
so white, it's made my heart ache."

Paul kissed her, and left her. Her arms were so pitifully thin that his
heart ached also.

That day he met Clara as he ran downstairs to wash his hands at
dinner-time.

"You have stayed to dinner!" he exclaimed. It was unusual for her.

"Yes; and I seem to have dined on old surgical-appliance stock. I MUST
go out now, or I shall feel stale india-rubber right through."

She lingered. He instantly caught at her wish.

"You are going anywhere?" he asked.

They went together up to the Castle. Outdoors she dressed very plainly,
down to ugliness; indoors she always looked nice. She walked with
hesitating steps alongside Paul, bowing and turning away from him.
Dowdy in dress, and drooping, she showed to great disadvantage. He could
scarcely recognise her strong form, that seemed to slumber with power.
She appeared almost insignificant, drowning her stature in her stoop, as
she shrank from the public gaze.

The Castle grounds were very green and fresh. Climbing the precipitous
ascent, he laughed and chattered, but she was silent, seeming to brood
over something. There was scarcely time to go inside the squat, square
building that crowns the bluff of rock. They leaned upon the wall where
the cliff runs sheer down to the Park. Below them, in their holes in the
sandstone, pigeons preened themselves and cooed softly. Away down upon
the boulevard at the foot of the rock, tiny trees stood in their
own pools of shadow, and tiny people went scurrying about in almost
ludicrous importance.

"You feel as if you could scoop up the folk like tadpoles, and have a
handful of them," he said.

She laughed, answering:

"Yes; it is not necessary to get far off in order to see us
proportionately. The trees are much more significant."

"Bulk only," he said.

She laughed cynically.

Away beyond the boulevard the thin stripes of the metals showed upon the
railway-track, whose margin was crowded with little stacks of timber,
beside which smoking toy engines fussed. Then the silver string of the
canal lay at random among the black heaps. Beyond, the dwellings, very
dense on the river flat, looked like black, poisonous herbage, in thick
rows and crowded beds, stretching right away, broken now and then by
taller plants, right to where the river glistened in a hieroglyph across
the country. The steep scarp cliffs across the river looked puny. Great
stretches of country darkened with trees and faintly brightened with
corn-land, spread towards the haze, where the hills rose blue beyond
grey.

"It is comforting," said Mrs. Dawes, "to think the town goes no farther.
It is only a LITTLE sore upon the country yet."

"A little scab," Paul said.

She shivered. She loathed the town. Looking drearily across at the
country which was forbidden her, her impassive face, pale and hostile,
she reminded Paul of one of the bitter, remorseful angels.

"But the town's all right," he said; "it's only temporary. This is the
crude, clumsy make-shift we've practised on, till we find out what the
idea is. The town will come all right."

The pigeons in the pockets of rock, among the perched bushes, cooed
comfortably. To the left the large church of St. Mary rose into space,
to keep close company with the Castle, above the heaped rubble of the
town. Mrs. Dawes smiled brightly as she looked across the country.

"I feel better," she said.

"Thank you," he replied. "Great compliment!"

"Oh, my brother!" she laughed.

"H'm! that's snatching back with the left hand what you gave with the
right, and no mistake," he said.

She laughed in amusement at him.

"But what was the matter with you?" he asked. "I know you were brooding
something special. I can see the stamp of it on your face yet."

"I think I will not tell you," she said.

"All right, hug it," he answered.

She flushed and bit her lip.

"No," she said, "it was the girls."

"What about 'em?" Paul asked.

"They have been plotting something for a week now, and to-day they seem
particularly full of it. All alike; they insult me with their secrecy."

"Do they?" he asked in concern.

"I should not mind," she went on, in the metallic, angry tone, "if they
did not thrust it into my face--the fact that they have a secret."

"Just like women," said he.

"It is hateful, their mean gloating," she said intensely.

Paul was silent. He knew what the girls gloated over. He was sorry to be
the cause of this new dissension.

"They can have all the secrets in the world," she went on, brooding
bitterly; "but they might refrain from glorying in them, and making me
feel more out of it than ever. It is--it is almost unbearable."

Paul thought for a few minutes. He was much perturbed.

"I will tell you what it's all about," he said, pale and nervous. "It's
my birthday, and they've bought me a fine lot of paints, all the
girls. They're jealous of you"--he felt her stiffen coldly at the word
'jealous'--"merely because I sometimes bring you a book," he added
slowly. "But, you see, it's only a trifle. Don't bother about it, will
you--because"--he laughed quickly--"well, what would they say if they
saw us here now, in spite of their victory?"

She was angry with him for his clumsy reference to their present
intimacy. It was almost insolent of him. Yet he was so quiet, she
forgave him, although it cost her an effort.

Their two hands lay on the rough stone parapet of the Castle wall. He
had inherited from his mother a fineness of mould, so that his hands
were small and vigorous. Hers were large, to match her large limbs, but
white and powerful looking. As Paul looked at them he knew her. "She is
wanting somebody to take her hands--for all she is so contemptuous of
us," he said to himself. And she saw nothing but his two hands, so warm
and alive, which seemed to live for her. He was brooding now, staring
out over the country from under sullen brows. The little, interesting
diversity of shapes had vanished from the scene; all that remained was a
vast, dark matrix of sorrow and tragedy, the same in all the houses
and the river-flats and the people and the birds; they were only shapen
differently. And now that the forms seemed to have melted away, there
remained the mass from which all the landscape was composed, a dark mass
of struggle and pain. The factory, the girls, his mother, the
large, uplifted church, the thicket of the town, merged into one
atmosphere--dark, brooding, and sorrowful, every bit.

"Is that two o'clock striking?" Mrs. Dawes said in surprise.

Paul started, and everything sprang into form, regained its
individuality, its forgetfulness, and its cheerfulness.

They hurried back to work.

When he was in the rush of preparing for the night's post, examining the
work up from Fanny's room, which smelt of ironing, the evening postman
came in.

"'Mr. Paul Morel,'" he said, smiling, handing Paul a package. "A lady's
handwriting! Don't let the girls see it."

The postman, himself a favourite, was pleased to make fun of the girls'
affection for Paul.

It was a volume of verse with a brief note: "You will allow me to send
you this, and so spare me my isolation. I also sympathise and wish you
well.--C.D." Paul flushed hot.

"Good Lord! Mrs. Dawes. She can't afford it. Good Lord, who ever'd have
thought it!"

He was suddenly intensely moved. He was filled with the warmth of her.
In the glow he could almost feel her as if she were present--her arms,
her shoulders, her bosom, see them, feel them, almost contain them.

This move on the part of Clara brought them into closer intimacy. The
other girls noticed that when Paul met Mrs. Dawes his eyes lifted and
gave that peculiar bright greeting which they could interpret. Knowing
he was unaware, Clara made no sign, save that occasionally she turned
aside her face from him when he came upon her.

They walked out together very often at dinner-time; it was quite open,
quite frank. Everybody seemed to feel that he was quite unaware of the
state of his own feeling, and that nothing was wrong. He talked to her
now with some of the old fervour with which he had talked to Miriam, but
he cared less about the talk; he did not bother about his conclusions.

One day in October they went out to Lambley for tea. Suddenly they came
to a halt on top of the hill. He climbed and sat on a gate, she sat
on the stile. The afternoon was perfectly still, with a dim haze, and
yellow sheaves glowing through. They were quiet.

"How old were you when you married?" he asked quietly.

"Twenty-two."

Her voice was subdued, almost submissive. She would tell him now.

"It is eight years ago?"

"Yes."

"And when did you leave him?"

"Three years ago."

"Five years! Did you love him when you married him?"

She was silent for some time; then she said slowly:

"I thought I did--more or less. I didn't think much about it. And he
wanted me. I was very prudish then."

"And you sort of walked into it without thinking?"

"Yes. I seemed to have been asleep nearly all my life."

"_Somnambule_? But--when did you wake up?"

"I don't know that I ever did, or ever have--since I was a child."

"You went to sleep as you grew to be a woman? How queer! And he didn't
wake you?"

"No; he never got there," she replied, in a monotone.

The brown birds dashed over the hedges where the rose-hips stood naked
and scarlet.

"Got where?" he asked.

"At me. He never really mattered to me."

The afternoon was so gently warm and dim. Red roofs of the cottages
burned among the blue haze. He loved the day. He could feel, but he
could not understand, what Clara was saying.

"But why did you leave him? Was he horrid to you?"

She shuddered lightly.

"He--he sort of degraded me. He wanted to bully me because he hadn't
got me. And then I felt as if I wanted to run, as if I was fastened and
bound up. And he seemed dirty."

"I see."

He did not at all see.

"And was he always dirty?" he asked.

"A bit," she replied slowly. "And then he seemed as if he couldn't get
AT me, really. And then he got brutal--he WAS brutal!"

"And why did you leave him finally?"

"Because--because he was unfaithful to me--"

They were both silent for some time. Her hand lay on the gate-post as
she balanced. He put his own over it. His heart beat quickly.

"But did you--were you ever--did you ever give him a chance?"

"Chance? How?"

"To come near to you."

"I married him--and I was willing--"

They both strove to keep their voices steady.

"I believe he loves you," he said.

"It looks like it," she replied.

He wanted to take his hand away, and could not. She saved him by
removing her own. After a silence, he began again:

"Did you leave him out of count all along?"

"He left me," she said.

"And I suppose he couldn't MAKE himself mean everything to you?"

"He tried to bully me into it."

But the conversation had got them both out of their depth. Suddenly Paul
jumped down.

"Come on," he said. "Let's go and get some tea."

They found a cottage, where they sat in the cold parlour. She poured out
his tea. She was very quiet. He felt she had withdrawn again from him.
After tea, she stared broodingly into her tea-cup, twisting her wedding
ring all the time. In her abstraction she took the ring off her finger,
stood it up, and spun it upon the table. The gold became a diaphanous,
glittering globe. It fell, and the ring was quivering upon the table.
She spun it again and again. Paul watched, fascinated.

But she was a married woman, and he believed in simple friendship. And
he considered that he was perfectly honourable with regard to her.
It was only a friendship between man and woman, such as any civilised
persons might have.

He was like so many young men of his own age. Sex had become so
complicated in him that he would have denied that he ever could want
Clara or Miriam or any woman whom he knew. Sex desire was a sort of
detached thing, that did not belong to a woman. He loved Miriam with his
soul. He grew warm at the thought of Clara, he battled with her, he
knew the curves of her breast and shoulders as if they had been moulded
inside him; and yet he did not positively desire her. He would have
denied it for ever. He believed himself really bound to Miriam. If ever
he should marry, some time in the far future, it would be his duty to
marry Miriam. That he gave Clara to understand, and she said nothing,
but left him to his courses. He came to her, Mrs. Dawes, whenever
he could. Then he wrote frequently to Miriam, and visited the girl
occasionally. So he went on through the winter; but he seemed not so
fretted. His mother was easier about him. She thought he was getting
away from Miriam.

Miriam knew now how strong was the attraction of Clara for him; but
still she was certain that the best in him would triumph. His feeling
for Mrs. Dawes--who, moreover, was a married woman--was shallow and
temporal, compared with his love for herself. He would come back to her,
she was sure; with some of his young freshness gone, perhaps, but cured
of his desire for the lesser things which other women than herself could
give him. She could bear all if he were inwardly true to her and must
come back.

He saw none of the anomaly of his position. Miriam was his old friend,
lover, and she belonged to Bestwood and home and his youth. Clara was a
newer friend, and she belonged to Nottingham, to life, to the world. It
seemed to him quite plain.

Mrs. Dawes and he had many periods of coolness, when they saw little of
each other; but they always came together again.

"Were you horrid with Baxter Dawes?" he asked her. It was a thing that
seemed to trouble him.

"In what way?"

"Oh, I don't know. But weren't you horrid with him? Didn't you do
something that knocked him to pieces?"

"What, pray?"

"Making him feel as if he were nothing--I know," Paul declared.

"You are so clever, my friend," she said coolly.

The conversation broke off there. But it made her cool with him for some
time.

She very rarely saw Miriam now. The friendship between the two women was
not broken off, but considerably weakened.

"Will you come in to the concert on Sunday afternoon?" Clara asked him
just after Christmas.

"I promised to go up to Willey Farm," he replied.

"Oh, very well."

"You don't mind, do you?" he asked.

"Why should I?" she answered.

Which almost annoyed him.

"You know," he said, "Miriam and I have been a lot to each other ever
since I was sixteen--that's seven years now."

"It's a long time," Clara replied.

"Yes; but somehow she--it doesn't go right--"

"How?" asked Clara.

"She seems to draw me and draw me, and she wouldn't leave a single hair
of me free to fall out and blow away--she'd keep it."

"But you like to be kept."

"No," he said, "I don't. I wish it could be normal, give and take--like
me and you. I want a woman to keep me, but not in her pocket."

"But if you love her, it couldn't be normal, like me and you."

"Yes; I should love her better then. She sort of wants me so much that I
can't give myself."

"Wants you how?"

"Wants the soul out of my body. I can't help shrinking back from her."

"And yet you love her!"

"No, I don't love her. I never even kiss her."

"Why not?" Clara asked.

"I don't know."

"I suppose you're afraid," she said.

"I'm not. Something in me shrinks from her like hell--she's so good,
when I'm not good."

"How do you know what she is?"

"I do! I know she wants a sort of soul union."

"But how do you know what she wants?"

"I've been with her for seven years."

"And you haven't found out the very first thing about her."

"What's that?"

"That she doesn't want any of your soul communion. That's your own
imagination. She wants you."

He pondered over this. Perhaps he was wrong.

"But she seems--" he began.

"You've never tried," she answered.



CHAPTER XI

THE TEST ON MIRIAM

WITH the spring came again the old madness and battle. Now he knew he
would have to go to Miriam. But what was his reluctance? He told himself
it was only a sort of overstrong virginity in her and him which neither
could break through. He might have married her; but his circumstances
at home made it difficult, and, moreover, he did not want to marry.
Marriage was for life, and because they had become close companions, he
and she, he did not see that it should inevitably follow they should be
man and wife. He did not feel that he wanted marriage with Miriam. He
wished he did. He would have given his head to have felt a joyous desire
to marry her and to have her. Then why couldn't he bring it off? There
was some obstacle; and what was the obstacle? It lay in the physical
bondage. He shrank from the physical contact. But why? With her he felt
bound up inside himself. He could not go out to her. Something struggled
in him, but he could not get to her. Why? She loved him. Clara said she
even wanted him; then why couldn't he go to her, make love to her, kiss
her? Why, when she put her arm in his, timidly, as they walked, did he
feel he would burst forth in brutality and recoil? He owed himself to
her; he wanted to belong to her. Perhaps the recoil and the shrinking
from her was love in its first fierce modesty. He had no aversion for
her. No, it was the opposite; it was a strong desire battling with a
still stronger shyness and virginity. It seemed as if virginity were a
positive force, which fought and won in both of them. And with her he
felt it so hard to overcome; yet he was nearest to her, and with her
alone could he deliberately break through. And he owed himself to her.
Then, if they could get things right, they could marry; but he would not
marry unless he could feel strong in the joy of it--never. He could not
have faced his mother. It seemed to him that to sacrifice himself in
a marriage he did not want would be degrading, and would undo all his
life, make it a nullity. He would try what he COULD do.

And he had a great tenderness for Miriam. Always, she was sad, dreaming
her religion; and he was nearly a religion to her. He could not bear to
fail her. It would all come right if they tried.

He looked round. A good many of the nicest men he knew were like
himself, bound in by their own virginity, which they could not break
out of. They were so sensitive to their women that they would go without
them for ever rather than do them a hurt, an injustice. Being the sons
of mothers whose husbands had blundered rather brutally through their
feminine sanctities, they were themselves too diffident and shy. They
could easier deny themselves than incur any reproach from a woman; for
a woman was like their mother, and they were full of the sense of their
mother. They preferred themselves to suffer the misery of celibacy,
rather than risk the other person.

He went back to her. Something in her, when he looked at her, brought
the tears almost to his eyes. One day he stood behind her as she sang.
Annie was playing a song on the piano. As Miriam sang her mouth seemed
hopeless. She sang like a nun singing to heaven. It reminded him so much
of the mouth and eyes of one who sings beside a Botticelli Madonna, so
spiritual. Again, hot as steel, came up the pain in him. Why must he ask
her for the other thing? Why was there his blood battling with her? If
only he could have been always gentle, tender with her, breathing with
her the atmosphere of reverie and religious dreams, he would give
his right hand. It was not fair to hurt her. There seemed an eternal
maidenhood about her; and when he thought of her mother, he saw the
great brown eyes of a maiden who was nearly scared and shocked out of
her virgin maidenhood, but not quite, in spite of her seven children.
They had been born almost leaving her out of count, not of her, but upon
her. So she could never let them go, because she never had possessed
them.

Mrs. Morel saw him going again frequently to Miriam, and was astonished.
He said nothing to his mother. He did not explain nor excuse himself. If
he came home late, and she reproached him, he frowned and turned on her
in an overbearing way:

"I shall come home when I like," he said; "I am old enough."

"Must she keep you till this time?"

"It is I who stay," he answered.

"And she lets you? But very well," she said.

And she went to bed, leaving the door unlocked for him; but she lay
listening until he came, often long after. It was a great bitterness
to her that he had gone back to Miriam. She recognised, however, the
uselessness of any further interference. He went to Willey Farm as a
man now, not as a youth. She had no right over him. There was a coldness
between him and her. He hardly told her anything. Discarded, she waited
on him, cooked for him still, and loved to slave for him; but her face
closed again like a mask. There was nothing for her to do now but the
housework; for all the rest he had gone to Miriam. She could not forgive
him. Miriam killed the joy and the warmth in him. He had been such a
jolly lad, and full of the warmest affection; now he grew colder, more
and more irritable and gloomy. It reminded her of William; but Paul was
worse. He did things with more intensity, and more realisation of what
he was about. His mother knew how he was suffering for want of a woman,
and she saw him going to Miriam. If he had made up his mind, nothing
on earth would alter him. Mrs. Morel was tired. She began to give up at
last; she had finished. She was in the way.

He went on determinedly. He realised more or less what his mother felt.
It only hardened his soul. He made himself callous towards her; but it
was like being callous to his own health. It undermined him quickly; yet
he persisted.

He lay back in the rocking-chair at Willey Farm one evening. He had been
talking to Miriam for some weeks, but had not come to the point. Now he
said suddenly:

"I am twenty-four, almost."

She had been brooding. She looked up at him suddenly in surprise.

"Yes. What makes you say it?"

There was something in the charged atmosphere that she dreaded.

"Sir Thomas More says one can marry at twenty-four."

She laughed quaintly, saying:

"Does it need Sir Thomas More's sanction?"

"No; but one ought to marry about then."

"Ay," she answered broodingly; and she waited.

"I can't marry you," he continued slowly, "not now, because we've no
money, and they depend on me at home."

She sat half-guessing what was coming.

"But I want to marry now--"

"You want to marry?" she repeated.

"A woman--you know what I mean."

She was silent.

"Now, at last, I must," he said.

"Ay," she answered.

"And you love me?"

She laughed bitterly.

"Why are you ashamed of it," he answered. "You wouldn't be ashamed
before your God, why are you before people?"

"Nay," she answered deeply, "I am not ashamed."

"You are," he replied bitterly; "and it's my fault. But you know I can't
help being--as I am--don't you?"

"I know you can't help it," she replied.

"I love you an awful lot--then there is something short."

"Where?" she answered, looking at him.

"Oh, in me! It is I who ought to be ashamed--like a spiritual cripple.
And I am ashamed. It is misery. Why is it?"

"I don't know," replied Miriam.

"And I don't know," he repeated. "Don't you think we have been too
fierce in our what they call purity? Don't you think that to be so much
afraid and averse is a sort of dirtiness?"

She looked at him with startled dark eyes.

"You recoiled away from anything of the sort, and I took the motion from
you, and recoiled also, perhaps worse."

There was silence in the room for some time.

"Yes," she said, "it is so."

"There is between us," he said, "all these years of intimacy. I feel
naked enough before you. Do you understand?"

"I think so," she answered.

"And you love me?"

She laughed.

"Don't be bitter," he pleaded.

She looked at him and was sorry for him; his eyes were dark with
torture. She was sorry for him; it was worse for him to have this
deflated love than for herself, who could never be properly mated. He
was restless, for ever urging forward and trying to find a way out. He
might do as he liked, and have what he liked of her.

"Nay," she said softly, "I am not bitter."

She felt she could bear anything for him; she would suffer for him. She
put her hand on his knee as he leaned forward in his chair. He took
it and kissed it; but it hurt to do so. He felt he was putting himself
aside. He sat there sacrificed to her purity, which felt more like
nullity. How could he kiss her hand passionately, when it would drive
her away, and leave nothing but pain? Yet slowly he drew her to him and
kissed her.

They knew each other too well to pretend anything. As she kissed him,
she watched his eyes; they were staring across the room, with a peculiar
dark blaze in them that fascinated her. He was perfectly still. She
could feel his heart throbbing heavily in his breast.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

The blaze in his eyes shuddered, became uncertain.

"I was thinking, all the while, I love you. I have been obstinate."

She sank her head on his breast.

"Yes," she answered.

"That's all," he said, and his voice seemed sure, and his mouth was
kissing her throat.

Then she raised her head and looked into his eyes with her full gaze of
love. The blaze struggled, seemed to try to get away from her, and
then was quenched. He turned his head quickly aside. It was a moment of
anguish.

"Kiss me," she whispered.

He shut his eyes, and kissed her, and his arms folded her closer and
closer.

When she walked home with him over the fields, he said:

"I am glad I came back to you. I feel so simple with you--as if there
was nothing to hide. We will be happy?"

"Yes," she murmured, and the tears came to her eyes.

"Some sort of perversity in our souls," he said, "makes us not want, get
away from, the very thing we want. We have to fight against that."

"Yes," she said, and she felt stunned.

As she stood under the drooping-thorn tree, in the darkness by the
roadside, he kissed her, and his fingers wandered over her face. In
the darkness, where he could not see her but only feel her, his passion
flooded him. He clasped her very close.

"Sometime you will have me?" he murmured, hiding his face on her
shoulder. It was so difficult.

"Not now," she said.

His hopes and his heart sunk. A dreariness came over him.

"No," he said.

His clasp of her slackened.

"I love to feel your arm THERE!" she said, pressing his arm against her
back, where it went round her waist. "It rests me so."

He tightened the pressure of his arm upon the small of her back to rest
her.

"We belong to each other," he said.

"Yes."

"Then why shouldn't we belong to each other altogether?"

"But--" she faltered.

"I know it's a lot to ask," he said; "but there's not much risk for you
really--not in the Gretchen way. You can trust me there?"

"Oh, I can trust you." The answer came quick and strong. "It's not
that--it's not that at all--but--"

"What?"

She hid her face in his neck with a little cry of misery.

"I don't know!" she cried.

She seemed slightly hysterical, but with a sort of horror. His heart
died in him.

"You don't think it ugly?" he asked.

"No, not now. You have TAUGHT me it isn't."

"You are afraid?"

She calmed herself hastily.

"Yes, I am only afraid," she said.

He kissed her tenderly.

"Never mind," he said. "You should please yourself."

Suddenly she gripped his arms round her, and clenched her body stiff.

"You SHALL have me," she said, through her shut teeth.

His heart beat up again like fire. He folded her close, and his mouth
was on her throat. She could not bear it. She drew away. He disengaged
her.

"Won't you be late?" she asked gently.

He sighed, scarcely hearing what she said. She waited, wishing he would
go. At last he kissed her quickly and climbed the fence. Looking round
he saw the pale blotch of her face down in the darkness under the
hanging tree. There was no more of her but this pale blotch.

"Good-bye!" she called softly. She had no body, only a voice and a dim
face. He turned away and ran down the road, his fists clenched; and
when he came to the wall over the lake he leaned there, almost stunned,
looking up the black water.

Miriam plunged home over the meadows. She was not afraid of people, what
they might say; but she dreaded the issue with him. Yes, she would
let him have her if he insisted; and then, when she thought of it
afterwards, her heart went down. He would be disappointed, he would find
no satisfaction, and then he would go away. Yet he was so insistent; and
over this, which did not seem so all-important to her, was their love
to break down. After all, he was only like other men, seeking his
satisfaction. Oh, but there was something more in him, something deeper!
She could trust to it, in spite of all desires. He said that possession
was a great moment in life. All strong emotions concentrated there.
Perhaps it was so. There was something divine in it; then she would
submit, religiously, to the sacrifice. He should have her. And at
the thought her whole body clenched itself involuntarily, hard, as if
against something; but Life forced her through this gate of suffering,
too, and she would submit. At any rate, it would give him what he
wanted, which was her deepest wish. She brooded and brooded and brooded
herself towards accepting him.

He courted her now like a lover. Often, when he grew hot, she put his
face from her, held it between her hands, and looked in his eyes.
He could not meet her gaze. Her dark eyes, full of love, earnest and
searching, made him turn away. Not for an instant would she let him
forget. Back again he had to torture himself into a sense of his
responsibility and hers. Never any relaxing, never any leaving himself
to the great hunger and impersonality of passion; he must be brought
back to a deliberate, reflective creature. As if from a swoon of passion
she caged him back to the littleness, the personal relationship. He
could not bear it. "Leave me alone--leave me alone!" he wanted to cry;
but she wanted him to look at her with eyes full of love. His eyes, full
of the dark, impersonal fire of desire, did not belong to her.

There was a great crop of cherries at the farm. The trees at the back
of the house, very large and tall, hung thick with scarlet and crimson
drops, under the dark leaves. Paul and Edgar were gathering the fruit
one evening. It had been a hot day, and now the clouds were rolling in
the sky, dark and warm. Paul combed high in the tree, above the scarlet
roofs of the buildings. The wind, moaning steadily, made the whole tree
rock with a subtle, thrilling motion that stirred the blood. The young
man, perched insecurely in the slender branches, rocked till he felt
slightly drunk, reached down the boughs, where the scarlet beady
cherries hung thick underneath, and tore off handful after handful of
the sleek, cool-fleshed fruit. Cherries touched his ears and his neck as
he stretched forward, their chill finger-tips sending a flash down his
blood. All shades of red, from a golden vermilion to a rich crimson,
glowed and met his eyes under a darkness of leaves.

The sun, going down, suddenly caught the broken clouds. Immense piles of
gold flared out in the south-east, heaped in soft, glowing yellow right
up the sky. The world, till now dusk and grey, reflected the gold glow,
astonished. Everywhere the trees, and the grass, and the far-off water,
seemed roused from the twilight and shining.

Miriam came out wondering.

"Oh!" Paul heard her mellow voice call, "isn't it wonderful?"

He looked down. There was a faint gold glimmer on her face, that looked
very soft, turned up to him.

"How high you are!" she said.

Beside her, on the rhubarb leaves, were four dead birds, thieves that
had been shot. Paul saw some cherry stones hanging quite bleached, like
skeletons, picked clear of flesh. He looked down again to Miriam.

"Clouds are on fire," he said.

"Beautiful!" she cried.

She seemed so small, so soft, so tender, down there. He threw a handful
of cherries at her. She was startled and frightened. He laughed with a
low, chuckling sound, and pelted her. She ran for shelter, picking
up some cherries. Two fine red pairs she hung over her ears; then she
looked up again.

"Haven't you got enough?" she asked.

"Nearly. It is like being on a ship up here."

"And how long will you stay?"

"While the sunset lasts."

She went to the fence and sat there, watching the gold clouds fall to
pieces, and go in immense, rose-coloured ruin towards the darkness. Gold
flamed to scarlet, like pain in its intense brightness. Then the scarlet
sank to rose, and rose to crimson, and quickly the passion went out of
the sky. All the world was dark grey. Paul scrambled quickly down with
his basket, tearing his shirt-sleeve as he did so.

"They are lovely," said Miriam, fingering the cherries.

"I've torn my sleeve," he answered.

She took the three-cornered rip, saying:

"I shall have to mend it." It was near the shoulder. She put her fingers
through the tear. "How warm!" she said.

He laughed. There was a new, strange note in his voice, one that made
her pant.

"Shall we stay out?" he said.

"Won't it rain?" she asked.

"No, let us walk a little way."

They went down the fields and into the thick plantation of trees and
pines.

"Shall we go in among the trees?" he asked.

"Do you want to?"

"Yes."

It was very dark among the firs, and the sharp spines pricked her face.
She was afraid. Paul was silent and strange.

"I like the darkness," he said. "I wish it were thicker--good, thick
darkness."

He seemed to be almost unaware of her as a person: she was only to him
then a woman. She was afraid.

He stood against a pine-tree trunk and took her in his arms. She
relinquished herself to him, but it was a sacrifice in which she felt
something of horror. This thick-voiced, oblivious man was a stranger to
her.

Later it began to rain. The pine-trees smelled very strong. Paul lay
with his head on the ground, on the dead pine needles, listening to the
sharp hiss of the rain--a steady, keen noise. His heart was down, very
heavy. Now he realised that she had not been with him all the time,
that her soul had stood apart, in a sort of horror. He was physically at
rest, but no more. Very dreary at heart, very sad, and very tender,
his fingers wandered over her face pitifully. Now again she loved him
deeply. He was tender and beautiful.

"The rain!" he said.

"Yes--is it coming on you?"

She put her hands over him, on his hair, on his shoulders, to feel if
the raindrops fell on him. She loved him dearly. He, as he lay with his
face on the dead pine-leaves, felt extraordinarily quiet. He did not
mind if the raindrops came on him: he would have lain and got wet
through: he felt as if nothing mattered, as if his living were smeared
away into the beyond, near and quite lovable. This strange, gentle
reaching-out to death was new to him.

"We must go," said Miriam.

"Yes," he answered, but did not move.

To him now, life seemed a shadow, day a white shadow; night, and death,
and stillness, and inaction, this seemed like BEING. To be alive, to be
urgent and insistent--that was NOT-TO-BE. The highest of all was to melt
out into the darkness and sway there, identified with the great Being.

"The rain is coming in on us," said Miriam.

He rose, and assisted her.

"It is a pity," he said.

"What?"

"To have to go. I feel so still."

"Still!" she repeated.

"Stiller than I have ever been in my life."

He was walking with his hand in hers. She pressed his fingers, feeling
a slight fear. Now he seemed beyond her; she had a fear lest she should
lose him.

"The fir-trees are like presences on the darkness: each one only a
presence."

She was afraid, and said nothing.

"A sort of hush: the whole night wondering and asleep: I suppose that's
what we do in death--sleep in wonder."

She had been afraid before of the brute in him: now of the mystic. She
trod beside him in silence. The rain fell with a heavy "Hush!" on the
trees. At last they gained the cartshed.

"Let us stay here awhile," he said.

There was a sound of rain everywhere, smothering everything.

"I feel so strange and still," he said; "along with everything."

"Ay," she answered patiently.

He seemed again unaware of her, though he held her hand close.

"To be rid of our individuality, which is our will, which is our
effort--to live effortless, a kind of curious sleep--that is very
beautiful, I think; that is our after-life--our immortality."

"Yes?"

"Yes--and very beautiful to have."

"You don't usually say that."

"No."

In a while they went indoors. Everybody looked at them curiously. He
still kept the quiet, heavy look in his eyes, the stillness in his
voice. Instinctively, they all left him alone.

About this time Miriam's grandmother, who lived in a tiny cottage in
Woodlinton, fell ill, and the girl was sent to keep house. It was a
beautiful little place. The cottage had a big garden in front, with
red brick walls, against which the plum trees were nailed. At the back
another garden was separated from the fields by a tall old hedge. It
was very pretty. Miriam had not much to do, so she found time for her
beloved reading, and for writing little introspective pieces which
interested her.

At the holiday-time her grandmother, being better, was driven to Derby
to stay with her daughter for a day or two. She was a crotchety old
lady, and might return the second day or the third; so Miriam stayed
alone in the cottage, which also pleased her.

Paul used often to cycle over, and they had as a rule peaceful and happy
times. He did not embarrass her much; but then on the Monday of the
holiday he was to spend a whole day with her.

It was perfect weather. He left his mother, telling her where he was
going. She would be alone all the day. It cast a shadow over him; but
he had three days that were all his own, when he was going to do as he
liked. It was sweet to rush through the morning lanes on his bicycle.

He got to the cottage at about eleven o'clock. Miriam was busy preparing
dinner. She looked so perfectly in keeping with the little kitchen,
ruddy and busy. He kissed her and sat down to watch. The room was small
and cosy. The sofa was covered all over with a sort of linen in squares
of red and pale blue, old, much washed, but pretty. There was a stuffed
owl in a case over a corner cupboard. The sunlight came through the
leaves of the scented geraniums in the window. She was cooking a chicken
in his honour. It was their cottage for the day, and they were man and
wife. He beat the eggs for her and peeled the potatoes. He thought she
gave a feeling of home almost like his mother; and no one could look
more beautiful, with her tumbled curls, when she was flushed from the
fire.

The dinner was a great success. Like a young husband, he carved. They
talked all the time with unflagging zest. Then he wiped the dishes she
had washed, and they went out down the fields. There was a bright little
brook that ran into a bog at the foot of a very steep bank. Here
they wandered, picking still a few marsh-marigolds and many big blue
forget-me-nots. Then she sat on the bank with her hands full of flowers,
mostly golden water-blobs. As she put her face down into the marigolds,
it was all overcast with a yellow shine.

"Your face is bright," he said, "like a transfiguration."

She looked at him, questioning. He laughed pleadingly to her, laying his
hands on hers. Then he kissed her fingers, then her face.

The world was all steeped in sunshine, and quite still, yet not asleep,
but quivering with a kind of expectancy.

"I have never seen anything more beautiful than this," he said. He held
her hand fast all the time.

"And the water singing to itself as it runs--do you love it?" She looked
at him full of love. His eyes were very dark, very bright.

"Don't you think it's a great day?" he asked.

She murmured her assent. She WAS happy, and he saw it.

"And our day--just between us," he said.

They lingered a little while. Then they stood up upon the sweet thyme,
and he looked down at her simply.

"Will you come?" he asked.

They went back to the house, hand in hand, in silence. The chickens came
scampering down the path to her. He locked the door, and they had the
little house to themselves.

He never forgot seeing her as she lay on the bed, when he was
unfastening his collar. First he saw only her beauty, and was blind
with it. She had the most beautiful body he had ever imagined. He stood
unable to move or speak, looking at her, his face half-smiling with
wonder. And then he wanted her, but as he went forward to her, her hands
lifted in a little pleading movement, and he looked at her face, and
stopped. Her big brown eyes were watching him, still and resigned and
loving; she lay as if she had given herself up to sacrifice: there was
her body for him; but the look at the back of her eyes, like a creature
awaiting immolation, arrested him, and all his blood fell back.

"You are sure you want me?" he asked, as if a cold shadow had come over
him.

"Yes, quite sure."

She was very quiet, very calm. She only realised that she was doing
something for him. He could hardly bear it. She lay to be sacrificed for
him because she loved him so much. And he had to sacrifice her. For a
second, he wished he were sexless or dead. Then he shut his eyes again
to her, and his blood beat back again.

And afterwards he loved her--loved her to the last fibre of his being.
He loved her. But he wanted, somehow, to cry. There was something he
could not bear for her sake. He stayed with her till quite late at
night. As he rode home he felt that he was finally initiated. He was a
youth no longer. But why had he the dull pain in his soul? Why did the
thought of death, the after-life, seem so sweet and consoling?

He spent the week with Miriam, and wore her out with his passion before
it was gone. He had always, almost wilfully, to put her out of count,
and act from the brute strength of his own feelings. And he could not do
it often, and there remained afterwards always the sense of failure and
of death. If he were really with her, he had to put aside himself and
his desire. If he would have her, he had to put her aside.

"When I come to you," he asked her, his eyes dark with pain and shame,
"you don't really want me, do you?"

"Ah, yes!" she replied quickly.

He looked at her.

"Nay," he said.

She began to tremble.

"You see," she said, taking his face and shutting it out against her
shoulder--"you see--as we are--how can I get used to you? It would come
all right if we were married."

He lifted her head, and looked at her.

"You mean, now, it is always too much shock?"

"Yes--and--"

"You are always clenched against me."

She was trembling with agitation.

"You see," she said, "I'm not used to the thought--"

"You are lately," he said.

"But all my life. Mother said to me: 'There is one thing in marriage
that is always dreadful, but you have to bear it.' And I believed it."

"And still believe it," he said.

"No!" she cried hastily. "I believe, as you do, that loving, even in
THAT way, is the high-water mark of living."

"That doesn't alter the fact that you never want it."

"No," she said, taking his head in her arms and rocking in despair.
"Don't say so! You don't understand." She rocked with pain. "Don't I
want your children?"

"But not me."

"How can you say so? But we must be married to have children--"

"Shall we be married, then? I want you to have my children."

He kissed her hand reverently. She pondered sadly, watching him.

"We are too young," she said at length.

"Twenty-four and twenty-three--"

"Not yet," she pleaded, as she rocked herself in distress.

"When you will," he said.

She bowed her head gravely. The tone of hopelessness in which he said
these things grieved her deeply. It had always been a failure between
them. Tacitly, she acquiesced in what he felt.

And after a week of love he said to his mother suddenly one Sunday
night, just as they were going to bed:

"I shan't go so much to Miriam's, mother."

She was surprised, but she would not ask him anything.

"You please yourself," she said.

So he went to bed. But there was a new quietness about him which she
had wondered at. She almost guessed. She would leave him alone, however.
Precipitation might spoil things. She watched him in his loneliness,
wondering where he would end. He was sick, and much too quiet for him.
There was a perpetual little knitting of his brows, such as she had seen
when he was a small baby, and which had been gone for many years. Now
it was the same again. And she could do nothing for him. He had to go on
alone, make his own way.

He continued faithful to Miriam. For one day he had loved her utterly.
But it never came again. The sense of failure grew stronger. At first it
was only a sadness. Then he began to feel he could not go on. He wanted
to run, to go abroad, anything. Gradually he ceased to ask her to have
him. Instead of drawing them together, it put them apart. And then he
realised, consciously, that it was no good. It was useless trying: it
would never be a success between them.

For some months he had seen very little of Clara. They had occasionally
walked out for half an hour at dinner-time. But he always reserved
himself for Miriam. With Clara, however, his brow cleared, and he
was gay again. She treated him indulgently, as if he were a child. He
thought he did not mind. But deep below the surface it piqued him.

Sometimes Miriam said:

"What about Clara? I hear nothing of her lately."

"I walked with her about twenty minutes yesterday," he replied.

"And what did she talk about?"

"I don't know. I suppose I did all the jawing--I usually do. I think I
was telling her about the strike, and how the women took it."

"Yes."

So he gave the account of himself.

But insidiously, without his knowing it, the warmth he felt for Clara
drew him away from Miriam, for whom he felt responsible, and to whom he
felt he belonged. He thought he was being quite faithful to her. It was
not easy to estimate exactly the strength and warmth of one's feelings
for a woman till they have run away with one.

He began to give more time to his men friends. There was Jessop, at the
art school; Swain, who was chemistry demonstrator at the university;
Newton, who was a teacher; besides Edgar and Miriam's younger brothers.
Pleading work, he sketched and studied with Jessop. He called in the
university for Swain, and the two went "down town" together. Having come
home in the train with Newton, he called and had a game of billiards
with him in the Moon and Stars. If he gave to Miriam the excuse of his
men friends, he felt quite justified. His mother began to be relieved.
He always told her where he had been.

During the summer Clara wore sometimes a dress of soft cotton stuff with
loose sleeves. When she lifted her hands, her sleeves fell back, and her
beautiful strong arms shone out.

"Half a minute," he cried. "Hold your arm still."

He made sketches of her hand and arm, and the drawings contained some
of the fascination the real thing had for him. Miriam, who always went
scrupulously through his books and papers, saw the drawings.

"I think Clara has such beautiful arms," he said.

"Yes! When did you draw them?"

"On Tuesday, in the work-room. You know, I've got a corner where I can
work. Often I can do every single thing they need in the department,
before dinner. Then I work for myself in the afternoon, and just see to
things at night."

"Yes," she said, turning the leaves of his sketch-book.

Frequently he hated Miriam. He hated her as she bent forward and pored
over his things. He hated her way of patiently casting him up, as if he
were an endless psychological account. When he was with her, he hated
her for having got him, and yet not got him, and he tortured her. She
took all and gave nothing, he said. At least, she gave no living warmth.
She was never alive, and giving off life. Looking for her was like
looking for something which did not exist. She was only his conscience,
not his mate. He hated her violently, and was more cruel to her. They
dragged on till the next summer. He saw more and more of Clara.

At last he spoke. He had been sitting working at home one evening. There
was between him and his mother a peculiar condition of people frankly
finding fault with each other. Mrs. Morel was strong on her feet again.
He was not going to stick to Miriam. Very well; then she would stand
aloof till he said something. It had been coming a long time, this
bursting of the storm in him, when he would come back to her. This
evening there was between them a peculiar condition of suspense.
He worked feverishly and mechanically, so that he could escape from
himself. It grew late. Through the open door, stealthily, came the scent
of madonna lilies, almost as if it were prowling abroad. Suddenly he got
up and went out of doors.

The beauty of the night made him want to shout. A half-moon, dusky gold,
was sinking behind the black sycamore at the end of the garden, making
the sky dull purple with its glow. Nearer, a dim white fence of lilies
went across the garden, and the air all round seemed to stir with scent,
as if it were alive. He went across the bed of pinks, whose keen perfume
came sharply across the rocking, heavy scent of the lilies, and stood
alongside the white barrier of flowers. They flagged all loose, as if
they were panting. The scent made him drunk. He went down to the field
to watch the moon sink under.

A corncrake in the hay-close called insistently. The moon slid quite
quickly downwards, growing more flushed. Behind him the great flowers
leaned as if they were calling. And then, like a shock, he caught
another perfume, something raw and coarse. Hunting round, he found
the purple iris, touched their fleshy throats and their dark, grasping
hands. At any rate, he had found something. They stood stiff in the
darkness. Their scent was brutal. The moon was melting down upon the
crest of the hill. It was gone; all was dark. The corncrake called
still.

Breaking off a pink, he suddenly went indoors.

"Come, my boy," said his mother. "I'm sure it's time you went to bed."

He stood with the pink against his lips.

"I shall break off with Miriam, mother," he answered calmly.

She looked up at him over her spectacles. He was staring back at her,
unswerving. She met his eyes for a moment, then took off her glasses. He
was white. The male was up in him, dominant. She did not want to see him
too clearly.

"But I thought--" she began.

"Well," he answered, "I don't love her. I don't want to marry her--so I
shall have done."

"But," exclaimed his mother, amazed, "I thought lately you had made up
your mind to have her, and so I said nothing."

"I had--I wanted to--but now I don't want. It's no good. I shall break
off on Sunday. I ought to, oughtn't I?"

"You know best. You know I said so long ago."

"I can't help that now. I shall break off on Sunday."

"Well," said his mother, "I think it will be best. But lately I decided
you had made up your mind to have her, so I said nothing, and should
have said nothing. But I say as I have always said, I DON'T think she is
suited to you."

"On Sunday I break off," he said, smelling the pink. He put the flower
in his mouth. Unthinking, he bared his teeth, closed them on the blossom
slowly, and had a mouthful of petals. These he spat into the fire,
kissed his mother, and went to bed.

On Sunday he went up to the farm in the early afternoon. He had written
Miriam that they would walk over the fields to Hucknall. His mother was
very tender with him. He said nothing. But she saw the effort it was
costing. The peculiar set look on his face stilled her.

"Never mind, my son," she said. "You will be so much better when it is
all over."

Paul glanced swiftly at his mother in surprise and resentment. He did
not want sympathy.

Miriam met him at the lane-end. She was wearing a new dress of figured
muslin that had short sleeves. Those short sleeves, and Miriam's
brown-skinned arms beneath them--such pitiful, resigned arms--gave him
so much pain that they helped to make him cruel. She had made herself
look so beautiful and fresh for him. She seemed to blossom for him
alone. Every time he looked at her--a mature young woman now, and
beautiful in her new dress--it hurt so much that his heart seemed almost
to be bursting with the restraint he put on it. But he had decided, and
it was irrevocable.

On the hills they sat down, and he lay with his head in her lap, whilst
she fingered his hair. She knew that "he was not there," as she put it.
Often, when she had him with her, she looked for him, and could not find
him. But this afternoon she was not prepared.

It was nearly five o'clock when he told her. They were sitting on the
bank of a stream, where the lip of turf hung over a hollow bank of
yellow earth, and he was hacking away with a stick, as he did when he
was perturbed and cruel.

"I have been thinking," he said, "we ought to break off."

"Why?" she cried in surprise.

"Because it's no good going on."

"Why is it no good?"

"It isn't. I don't want to marry. I don't want ever to marry. And if
we're not going to marry, it's no good going on."

"But why do you say this now?"

"Because I've made up my mind."

"And what about these last months, and the things you told me then?"

"I can't help it! I don't want to go on."

"You don't want any more of me?"

"I want us to break off--you be free of me, I free of you."

"And what about these last months?"

"I don't know. I've not told you anything but what I thought was true."

"Then why are you different now?"

"I'm not--I'm the same--only I know it's no good going on."

"You haven't told me why it's no good."

"Because I don't want to go on--and I don't want to marry."

"How many times have you offered to marry me, and I wouldn't?"

"I know; but I want us to break off."

There was silence for a moment or two, while he dug viciously at the
earth. She bent her head, pondering. He was an unreasonable child. He
was like an infant which, when it has drunk its fill, throws away and
smashes the cup. She looked at him, feeling she could get hold of him
and WRING some consistency out of him. But she was helpless. Then she
cried:

"I have said you were only fourteen--you are only FOUR!"

He still dug at the earth viciously. He heard.

"You are a child of four," she repeated in her anger.

He did not answer, but said in his heart: "All right; if I'm a child of
four, what do you want me for? I don't want another mother." But he said
nothing to her, and there was silence.

"And have you told your people?" she asked.

"I have told my mother."

There was another long interval of silence.

"Then what do you WANT?" she asked.

"Why, I want us to separate. We have lived on each other all these
years; now let us stop. I will go my own way without you, and you will
go your way without me. You will have an independent life of your own
then."

There was in it some truth that, in spite of her bitterness, she could
not help registering. She knew she felt in a sort of bondage to him,
which she hated because she could not control it. She hated her love for
him from the moment it grew too strong for her. And, deep down, she had
hated him because she loved him and he dominated her. She had resisted
his domination. She had fought to keep herself free of him in the last
issue. And she was free of him, even more than he of her.

"And," he continued, "we shall always be more or less each other's work.
You have done a lot for me, I for you. Now let us start and live by
ourselves."

"What do you want to do?" she asked.

"Nothing--only to be free," he answered.

She, however, knew in her heart that Clara's influence was over him to
liberate him. But she said nothing.

"And what have I to tell my mother?" she asked.

"I told my mother," he answered, "that I was breaking off--clean and
altogether."

"I shall not tell them at home," she said.

Frowning, "You please yourself," he said.

He knew he had landed her in a nasty hole, and was leaving her in the
lurch. It angered him.

"Tell them you wouldn't and won't marry me, and have broken off," he
said. "It's true enough."

She bit her finger moodily. She thought over their whole affair. She had
known it would come to this; she had seen it all along. It chimed with
her bitter expectation.

"Always--it has always been so!" she cried. "It has been one long battle
between us--you fighting away from me."

It came from her unawares, like a flash of lightning. The man's heart
stood still. Was this how she saw it?

"But we've had SOME perfect hours, SOME perfect times, when we were
together!" he pleaded.

"Never!" she cried; "never! It has always been you fighting me off."

"Not always--not at first!" he pleaded.

"Always, from the very beginning--always the same!"

She had finished, but she had done enough. He sat aghast. He had wanted
to say: "It has been good, but it is at an end." And she--she whose love
he had believed in when he had despised himself--denied that their love
had ever been love. "He had always fought away from her?" Then it had
been monstrous. There had never been anything really between them; all
the time he had been imagining something where there was nothing. And
she had known. She had known so much, and had told him so little. She
had known all the time. All the time this was at the bottom of her!

He sat silent in bitterness. At last the whole affair appeared in a
cynical aspect to him. She had really played with him, not he with her.
She had hidden all her condemnation from him, had flattered him, and
despised him. She despised him now. He grew intellectual and cruel.

"You ought to marry a man who worships you," he said; "then you could do
as you liked with him. Plenty of men will worship you, if you get on the
private side of their natures. You ought to marry one such. They would
never fight you off."

"Thank you!" she said. "But don't advise me to marry someone else any
more. You've done it before."

"Very well," he said; "I will say no more."

He sat still, feeling as if he had had a blow, instead of giving one.
Their eight years of friendship and love, THE eight years of his life,
were nullified.

"When did you think of this?" she asked.

"I thought definitely on Thursday night."

"I knew it was coming," she said.

That pleased him bitterly. "Oh, very well! If she knew then it doesn't
come as a surprise to her," he thought.

"And have you said anything to Clara?" she asked.

"No; but I shall tell her now."

There was a silence.

"Do you remember the things you said this time last year, in my
grandmother's house--nay last month even?"

"Yes," he said; "I do! And I meant them! I can't help that it's failed."

"It has failed because you want something else."

"It would have failed whether or not. YOU never believed in me."

She laughed strangely.

He sat in silence. He was full of a feeling that she had deceived him.
She had despised him when he thought she worshipped him. She had let him
say wrong things, and had not contradicted him. She had let him fight
alone. But it stuck in his throat that she had despised him whilst he
thought she worshipped him. She should have told him when she found
fault with him. She had not played fair. He hated her. All these years
she had treated him as if he were a hero, and thought of him secretly as
an infant, a foolish child. Then why had she left the foolish child to
his folly? His heart was hard against her.

She sat full of bitterness. She had known--oh, well she had known!
All the time he was away from her she had summed him up, seen his
littleness, his meanness, and his folly. Even she had guarded her soul
against him. She was not overthrown, not prostrated, not even much hurt.
She had known. Only why, as he sat there, had he still this strange
dominance over her? His very movements fascinated her as if she were
hypnotised by him. Yet he was despicable, false, inconsistent, and mean.
Why this bondage for her? Why was it the movement of his arm stirred her
as nothing else in the world could? Why was she fastened to him? Why,
even now, if he looked at her and commanded her, would she have to obey?
She would obey him in his trifling commands. But once he was obeyed,
then she had him in her power, she knew, to lead him where she would.
She was sure of herself. Only, this new influence! Ah, he was not a man!
He was a baby that cries for the newest toy. And all the attachment
of his soul would not keep him. Very well, he would have to go. But he
would come back when he had tired of his new sensation.

He hacked at the earth till she was fretted to death. She rose. He sat
flinging lumps of earth in the stream.

"We will go and have tea here?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered.

They chattered over irrelevant subjects during tea. He held forth on
the love of ornament--the cottage parlour moved him thereto--and its
connection with aesthetics. She was cold and quiet. As they walked home,
she asked:

"And we shall not see each other?"

"No--or rarely," he answered.

"Nor write?" she asked, almost sarcastically.

"As you will," he answered. "We're not strangers--never should be,
whatever happened. I will write to you now and again. You please
yourself."

"I see!" she answered cuttingly.

But he was at that stage at which nothing else hurts. He had made a
great cleavage in his life. He had had a great shock when she had told
him their love had been always a conflict. Nothing more mattered. If it
never had been much, there was no need to make a fuss that it was ended.

He left her at the lane-end. As she went home, solitary, in her new
frock, having her people to face at the other end, he stood still with
shame and pain in the highroad, thinking of the suffering he caused her.

In the reaction towards restoring his self-esteem, he went into the
Willow Tree for a drink. There were four girls who had been out for the
day, drinking a modest glass of port. They had some chocolates on the
table. Paul sat near with his whisky. He noticed the girls whispering
and nudging. Presently one, a bonny dark hussy, leaned to him and said:

"Have a chocolate?"

The others laughed loudly at her impudence.

"All right," said Paul. "Give me a hard one--nut. I don't like creams."

"Here you are, then," said the girl; "here's an almond for you."

She held the sweet between her fingers. He opened his mouth. She popped
it in, and blushed.

"You ARE nice!" he said.

"Well," she answered, "we thought you looked overcast, and they dared me
offer you a chocolate."

"I don't mind if I have another--another sort," he said.

And presently they were all laughing together.

It was nine o'clock when he got home, falling dark. He entered the house
in silence. His mother, who had been waiting, rose anxiously.

"I told her," he said.

"I'm glad," replied the mother, with great relief.

He hung up his cap wearily.

"I said we'd have done altogether," he said.

"That's right, my son," said the mother. "It's hard for her now, but
best in the long run. I know. You weren't suited for her."

He laughed shakily as he sat down.

"I've had such a lark with some girls in a pub," he said.

His mother looked at him. He had forgotten Miriam now. He told her
about the girls in the Willow Tree. Mrs. Morel looked at him. It seemed
unreal, his gaiety. At the back of it was too much horror and misery.

"Now have some supper," she said very gently.

Afterwards he said wistfully:

"She never thought she'd have me, mother, not from the first, and so
she's not disappointed."

"I'm afraid," said his mother, "she doesn't give up hopes of you yet."

"No," he said, "perhaps not."

"You'll find it's better to have done," she said.

"I don't know," he said desperately.

"Well, leave her alone," replied his mother. So he left her, and she was
alone. Very few people cared for her, and she for very few people. She
remained alone with herself, waiting.



CHAPTER XII

PASSION

HE was gradually making it possible to earn a livelihood by his art.
Liberty's had taken several of his painted designs on various stuffs,
and he could sell designs for embroideries, for altar-cloths, and
similar things, in one or two places. It was not very much he made
at present, but he might extend it. He had also made friends with the
designer for a pottery firm, and was gaining some knowledge of his new
acquaintance's art. The applied arts interested him very much. At the
same time he laboured slowly at his pictures. He loved to paint large
figures, full of light, but not merely made up of lights and cast
shadows, like the impressionists; rather definite figures that had a
certain luminous quality, like some of Michael Angelo's people. And
these he fitted into a landscape, in what he thought true proportion.
He worked a great deal from memory, using everybody he knew. He believed
firmly in his work, that it was good and valuable. In spite of fits of
depression, shrinking, everything, he believed in his work.

He was twenty-four when he said his first confident thing to his mother.

"Mother," he said, "I s'll make a painter that they'll attend to."

She sniffed in her quaint fashion. It was like a half-pleased shrug of
the shoulders.

"Very well, my boy, we'll see," she said.

"You shall see, my pigeon! You see if you're not swanky one of these
days!"

"I'm quite content, my boy," she smiled.

"But you'll have to alter. Look at you with Minnie!"

Minnie was the small servant, a girl of fourteen.

"And what about Minnie?" asked Mrs. Morel, with dignity.

"I heard her this morning: 'Eh, Mrs. Morel! I was going to do that,'
when you went out in the rain for some coal," he said. "That looks a lot
like your being able to manage servants!"

"Well, it was only the child's niceness," said Mrs. Morel.

"And you apologising to her: 'You can't do two things at once, can
you?'"

"She WAS busy washing up," replied Mrs. Morel.

"And what did she say? 'It could easy have waited a bit. Now look how
your feet paddle!'"

"Yes--brazen young baggage!" said Mrs. Morel, smiling.

He looked at his mother, laughing. She was quite warm and rosy again
with love of him. It seemed as if all the sunshine were on her for a
moment. He continued his work gladly. She seemed so well when she was
happy that he forgot her grey hair.

And that year she went with him to the Isle of Wight for a holiday. It
was too exciting for them both, and too beautiful. Mrs. Morel was full
of joy and wonder. But he would have her walk with him more than she
was able. She had a bad fainting bout. So grey her face was, so blue her
mouth! It was agony to him. He felt as if someone were pushing a knife
in his chest. Then she was better again, and he forgot. But the anxiety
remained inside him, like a wound that did not close.

After leaving Miriam he went almost straight to Clara. On the Monday
following the day of the rupture he went down to the work-room. She
looked up at him and smiled. They had grown very intimate unawares. She
saw a new brightness about him.

"Well, Queen of Sheba!" he said, laughing.

"But why?" she asked.

"I think it suits you. You've got a new frock on."

She flushed, asking:

"And what of it?"

"Suits you--awfully! I could design you a dress."

"How would it be?"

He stood in front of her, his eyes glittering as he expounded. He
kept her eyes fixed with his. Then suddenly he took hold of her. She
half-started back. He drew the stuff of her blouse tighter, smoothed it
over her breast.

"More SO!" he explained.

But they were both of them flaming with blushes, and immediately he
ran away. He had touched her. His whole body was quivering with the
sensation.

There was already a sort of secret understanding between them. The next
evening he went to the cinematograph with her for a few minutes before
train-time. As they sat, he saw her hand lying near him. For some
moments he dared not touch it. The pictures danced and dithered. Then
he took her hand in his. It was large and firm; it filled his grasp. He
held it fast. She neither moved nor made any sign. When they came out
his train was due. He hesitated.

"Good-night," she said. He darted away across the road.

The next day he came again, talking to her. She was rather superior with
him.

"Shall we go a walk on Monday?" he asked.

She turned her face aside.

"Shall you tell Miriam?" she replied sarcastically.

"I have broken off with her," he said.

"When?"

"Last Sunday."

"You quarrelled?"

"No! I had made up my mind. I told her quite definitely I should
consider myself free."

Clara did not answer, and he returned to his work. She was so quiet and
so superb!

On the Saturday evening he asked her to come and drink coffee with him
in a restaurant, meeting him after work was over. She came, looking
very reserved and very distant. He had three-quarters of an hour to
train-time.

"We will walk a little while," he said.

She agreed, and they went past the Castle into the Park. He was afraid
of her. She walked moodily at his side, with a kind of resentful,
reluctant, angry walk. He was afraid to take her hand.

"Which way shall we go?" he asked as they walked in darkness.

"I don't mind."

"Then we'll go up the steps."

He suddenly turned round. They had passed the Park steps. She stood
still in resentment at his suddenly abandoning her. He looked for her.
She stood aloof. He caught her suddenly in his arms, held her strained
for a moment, kissed her. Then he let her go.

"Come along," he said, penitent.

She followed him. He took her hand and kissed her finger-tips. They went
in silence. When they came to the light, he let go her hand. Neither
spoke till they reached the station. Then they looked each other in the
eyes.

"Good-night," she said.

And he went for his train. His body acted mechanically. People talked to
him. He heard faint echoes answering them. He was in a delirium. He felt
that he would go mad if Monday did not come at once. On Monday he would
see her again. All himself was pitched there, ahead. Sunday intervened.
He could not bear it. He could not see her till Monday. And Sunday
intervened--hour after hour of tension. He wanted to beat his head
against the door of the carriage. But he sat still. He drank some whisky
on the way home, but it only made it worse. His mother must not be
upset, that was all. He dissembled, and got quickly to bed. There he
sat, dressed, with his chin on his knees, staring out of the window at
the far hill, with its few lights. He neither thought nor slept, but sat
perfectly still, staring. And when at last he was so cold that he came
to himself, he found his watch had stopped at half-past two. It was
after three o'clock. He was exhausted, but still there was the torment
of knowing it was only Sunday morning. He went to bed and slept. Then he
cycled all day long, till he was fagged out. And he scarcely knew where
he had been. But the day after was Monday. He slept till four o'clock.
Then he lay and thought. He was coming nearer to himself--he could see
himself, real, somewhere in front. She would go a walk with him in the
afternoon. Afternoon! It seemed years ahead.

Slowly the hours crawled. His father got up; he heard him pottering
about. Then the miner set off to the pit, his heavy boots scraping the
yard. Cocks were still crowing. A cart went down the road. His mother
got up. She knocked the fire. Presently she called him softly. He
answered as if he were asleep. This shell of himself did well.

He was walking to the station--another mile! The train was near
Nottingham. Would it stop before the tunnels? But it did not matter; it
would get there before dinner-time. He was at Jordan's. She would
come in half an hour. At any rate, she would be near. He had done
the letters. She would be there. Perhaps she had not come. He ran
downstairs. Ah! he saw her through the glass door. Her shoulders
stooping a little to her work made him feel he could not go forward; he
could not stand. He went in. He was pale, nervous, awkward, and quite
cold. Would she misunderstand him? He could not write his real self with
this shell.

"And this afternoon," he struggled to say. "You will come?"

"I think so," she replied, murmuring.

He stood before her, unable to say a word. She hid her face from him.
Again came over him the feeling that he would lose consciousness. He set
his teeth and went upstairs. He had done everything correctly yet, and
he would do so. All the morning things seemed a long way off, as they
do to a man under chloroform. He himself seemed under a tight band
of constraint. Then there was his other self, in the distance, doing
things, entering stuff in a ledger, and he watched that far-off him
carefully to see he made no mistake.

But the ache and strain of it could not go on much longer. He worked
incessantly. Still it was only twelve o'clock. As if he had nailed his
clothing against the desk, he stood there and worked, forcing every
stroke out of himself. It was a quarter to one; he could clear away.
Then he ran downstairs.

"You will meet me at the Fountain at two o'clock," he said.

"I can't be there till half-past."

"Yes!" he said.

She saw his dark, mad eyes.

"I will try at a quarter past."

And he had to be content. He went and got some dinner. All the time
he was still under chloroform, and every minute was stretched out
indefinitely. He walked miles of streets. Then he thought he would be
late at the meeting-place. He was at the Fountain at five past two. The
torture of the next quarter of an hour was refined beyond expression. It
was the anguish of combining the living self with the shell. Then he saw
her. She came! And he was there.

"You are late," he said.

"Only five minutes," she answered.

"I'd never have done it to you," he laughed.

She was in a dark blue costume. He looked at her beautiful figure.

"You want some flowers," he said, going to the nearest florist's.

She followed him in silence. He bought her a bunch of scarlet, brick-red
carnations. She put them in her coat, flushing.

"That's a fine colour!" he said.

"I'd rather have had something softer," she said.

He laughed.

"Do you feel like a blot of vermilion walking down the street?" he said.

She hung her head, afraid of the people they met. He looked sideways at
her as they walked. There was a wonderful close down on her face near
the ear that he wanted to touch. And a certain heaviness, the heaviness
of a very full ear of corn that dips slightly in the wind, that there
was about her, made his brain spin. He seemed to be spinning down the
street, everything going round.

As they sat in the tramcar, she leaned her heavy shoulder against him,
and he took her hand. He felt himself coming round from the anaesthetic,
beginning to breathe. Her ear, half-hidden among her blonde hair, was
near to him. The temptation to kiss it was almost too great. But there
were other people on top of the car. It still remained to him to kiss
it. After all, he was not himself, he was some attribute of hers, like
the sunshine that fell on her.

He looked quickly away. It had been raining. The big bluff of the Castle
rock was streaked with rain, as it reared above the flat of the town.
They crossed the wide, black space of the Midland Railway, and passed
the cattle enclosure that stood out white. Then they ran down sordid
Wilford Road.

She rocked slightly to the tram's motion, and as she leaned against
him, rocked upon him. He was a vigorous, slender man, with exhaustless
energy. His face was rough, with rough-hewn features, like the common
people's; but his eyes under the deep brows were so full of life that
they fascinated her. They seemed to dance, and yet they were still
trembling on the finest balance of laughter. His mouth the same was just
going to spring into a laugh of triumph, yet did not. There was a sharp
suspense about him. She bit her lip moodily. His hand was hard clenched
over hers.

They paid their two halfpennies at the turnstile and crossed the bridge.
The Trent was very full. It swept silent and insidious under the bridge,
travelling in a soft body. There had been a great deal of rain. On the
river levels were flat gleams of flood water. The sky was grey, with
glisten of silver here and there. In Wilford churchyard the dahlias were
sodden with rain--wet black-crimson balls. No one was on the path that
went along the green river meadow, along the elm-tree colonnade.

There was the faintest haze over the silvery-dark water and the green
meadow-bank, and the elm-trees that were spangled with gold. The river
slid by in a body, utterly silent and swift, intertwining among itself
like some subtle, complex creature. Clara walked moodily beside him.

"Why," she asked at length, in rather a jarring tone, "did you leave
Miriam?"

He frowned.

"Because I WANTED to leave her," he said.

"Why?"

"Because I didn't want to go on with her. And I didn't want to marry."

She was silent for a moment. They picked their way down the muddy path.
Drops of water fell from the elm-trees.

"You didn't want to marry Miriam, or you didn't want to marry at all?"
she asked.

"Both," he answered--"both!"

They had to manoeuvre to get to the stile, because of the pools of
water.

"And what did she say?" Clara asked.

"Miriam? She said I was a baby of four, and that I always HAD battled
her off."

Clara pondered over this for a time.

"But you have really been going with her for some time?" she asked.

"Yes."

"And now you don't want any more of her?"

"No. I know it's no good."

She pondered again.

"Don't you think you've treated her rather badly?" she asked.

"Yes; I ought to have dropped it years back. But it would have been no
good going on. Two wrongs don't make a right."

"How old ARE you?" Clara asked.

"Twenty-five."

"And I am thirty," she said.

"I know you are."

"I shall be thirty-one--or AM I thirty-one?"

"I neither know nor care. What does it matter!"

They were at the entrance to the Grove. The wet, red track, already
sticky with fallen leaves, went up the steep bank between the grass.
On either side stood the elm-trees like pillars along a great aisle,
arching over and making high up a roof from which the dead leaves fell.
All was empty and silent and wet. She stood on top of the stile, and he
held both her hands. Laughing, she looked down into his eyes. Then she
leaped. Her breast came against his; he held her, and covered her face
with kisses.

They went on up the slippery, steep red path. Presently she released his
hand and put it round her waist.

"You press the vein in my arm, holding it so tightly," she said.

They walked along. His finger-tips felt the rocking of her breast. All
was silent and deserted. On the left the red wet plough-land showed
through the doorways between the elm-boles and their branches. On the
right, looking down, they could see the tree-tops of elms growing far
beneath them, hear occasionally the gurgle of the river. Sometimes
there below they caught glimpses of the full, soft-sliding Trent, and of
water-meadows dotted with small cattle.

"It has scarcely altered since little Kirke White used to come," he
said.

But he was watching her throat below the ear, where the flush was
fusing into the honey-white, and her mouth that pouted disconsolate. She
stirred against him as she walked, and his body was like a taut string.

Halfway up the big colonnade of elms, where the Grove rose highest above
the river, their forward movement faltered to an end. He led her across
to the grass, under the trees at the edge of the path. The cliff of red
earth sloped swiftly down, through trees and bushes, to the river that
glimmered and was dark between the foliage. The far-below water-meadows
were very green. He and she stood leaning against one another, silent,
afraid, their bodies touching all along. There came a quick gurgle from
the river below.

"Why," he asked at length, "did you hate Baxter Dawes?"

She turned to him with a splendid movement. Her mouth was offered him,
and her throat; her eyes were half-shut; her breast was tilted as if it
asked for him. He flashed with a small laugh, shut his eyes, and met
her in a long, whole kiss. Her mouth fused with his; their bodies were
sealed and annealed. It was some minutes before they withdrew. They were
standing beside the public path.

"Will you go down to the river?" he asked.

She looked at him, leaving herself in his hands. He went over the brim
of the declivity and began to climb down.

"It is slippery," he said.

"Never mind," she replied.

The red clay went down almost sheer. He slid, went from one tuft
of grass to the next, hanging on to the bushes, making for a little
platform at the foot of a tree. There he waited for her, laughing with
excitement. Her shoes were clogged with red earth. It was hard for her.
He frowned. At last he caught her hand, and she stood beside him. The
cliff rose above them and fell away below. Her colour was up, her eyes
flashed. He looked at the big drop below them.

"It's risky," he said; "or messy, at any rate. Shall we go back?"

"Not for my sake," she said quickly.

"All right. You see, I can't help you; I should only hinder. Give me
that little parcel and your gloves. Your poor shoes!"

They stood perched on the face of the declivity, under the trees.

"Well, I'll go again," he said.

Away he went, slipping, staggering, sliding to the next tree, into which
he fell with a slam that nearly shook the breath out of him. She
came after cautiously, hanging on to the twigs and grasses. So they
descended, stage by stage, to the river's brink. There, to his disgust,
the flood had eaten away the path, and the red decline ran straight into
the water. He dug in his heels and brought himself up violently. The
string of the parcel broke with a snap; the brown parcel bounded down,
leaped into the water, and sailed smoothly away. He hung on to his tree.

"Well, I'll be damned!" he cried crossly. Then he laughed. She was
coming perilously down.

"Mind!" he warned her. He stood with his back to the tree, waiting.
"Come now," he called, opening his arms.

She let herself run. He caught her, and together they stood watching the
dark water scoop at the raw edge of the bank. The parcel had sailed out
of sight.

"It doesn't matter," she said.

He held her close and kissed her. There was only room for their four
feet.

"It's a swindle!" he said. "But there's a rut where a man has been, so
if we go on I guess we shall find the path again."

The river slid and twined its great volume. On the other bank cattle
were feeding on the desolate flats. The cliff rose high above Paul and
Clara on their right hand. They stood against the tree in the watery
silence.

"Let us try going forward," he said; and they struggled in the red
clay along the groove a man's nailed boots had made. They were hot and
flushed. Their barkled shoes hung heavy on their steps. At last they
found the broken path. It was littered with rubble from the water, but
at any rate it was easier. They cleaned their boots with twigs. His
heart was beating thick and fast.

Suddenly, coming on to the little level, he saw two figures of men
standing silent at the water's edge. His heart leaped. They were
fishing. He turned and put his hand up warningly to Clara. She
hesitated, buttoned her coat. The two went on together.

The fishermen turned curiously to watch the two intruders on their
privacy and solitude. They had had a fire, but it was nearly out. All
kept perfectly still. The men turned again to their fishing, stood
over the grey glinting river like statues. Clara went with bowed head,
flushing; he was laughing to himself. Directly they passed out of sight
behind the willows.

"Now they ought to be drowned," said Paul softly.

Clara did not answer. They toiled forward along a tiny path on the
river's lip. Suddenly it vanished. The bank was sheer red solid clay
in front of them, sloping straight into the river. He stood and cursed
beneath his breath, setting his teeth.

"It's impossible!" said Clara.

He stood erect, looking round. Just ahead were two islets in the stream,
covered with osiers. But they were unattainable. The cliff came down
like a sloping wall from far above their heads. Behind, not far back,
were the fishermen. Across the river the distant cattle fed silently
in the desolate afternoon. He cursed again deeply under his breath. He
gazed up the great steep bank. Was there no hope but to scale back to
the public path?

"Stop a minute," he said, and, digging his heels sideways into the steep
bank of red clay, he began nimbly to mount. He looked across at every
tree-foot. At last he found what he wanted. Two beech-trees side by side
on the hill held a little level on the upper face between their roots.
It was littered with damp leaves, but it would do. The fishermen were
perhaps sufficiently out of sight. He threw down his rainproof and waved
to her to come.

She toiled to his side. Arriving there, she looked at him heavily,
dumbly, and laid her head on his shoulder. He held her fast as he looked
round. They were safe enough from all but the small, lonely cows over
the river. He sunk his mouth on her throat, where he felt her heavy
pulse beat under his lips. Everything was perfectly still. There was
nothing in the afternoon but themselves.

When she arose, he, looking on the ground all the time, saw suddenly
sprinkled on the black wet beech-roots many scarlet carnation petals,
like splashed drops of blood; and red, small splashes fell from her
bosom, streaming down her dress to her feet.

"Your flowers are smashed," he said.

She looked at him heavily as she put back her hair. Suddenly he put his
finger-tips on her cheek.

"Why dost look so heavy?" he reproached her.

She smiled sadly, as if she felt alone in herself. He caressed her cheek
with his fingers, and kissed her.

"Nay!" he said. "Never thee bother!"

She gripped his fingers tight, and laughed shakily. Then she dropped her
hand. He put the hair back from her brows, stroking her temples, kissing
them lightly.

"But tha shouldna worrit!" he said softly, pleading.

"No, I don't worry!" she laughed tenderly and resigned.

"Yea, tha does! Dunna thee worrit," he implored, caressing.

"No!" she consoled him, kissing him.

They had a stiff climb to get to the top again. It took them a quarter
of an hour. When he got on to the level grass, he threw off his cap,
wiped the sweat from his forehead, and sighed.

"Now we're back at the ordinary level," he said.

She sat down, panting, on the tussocky grass. Her cheeks were flushed
pink. He kissed her, and she gave way to joy.

"And now I'll clean thy boots and make thee fit for respectable folk,"
he said.

He kneeled at her feet, worked away with a stick and tufts of grass. She
put her fingers in his hair, drew his head to her, and kissed it.

"What am I supposed to be doing," he said, looking at her laughing;
"cleaning shoes or dibbling with love? Answer me that!"

"Just whichever I please," she replied.

"I'm your boot-boy for the time being, and nothing else!" But they
remained looking into each other's eyes and laughing. Then they kissed
with little nibbling kisses.

"T-t-t-t!" he went with his tongue, like his mother. "I tell you,
nothing gets done when there's a woman about."

And he returned to his boot-cleaning, singing softly. She touched his
thick hair, and he kissed her fingers. He worked away at her shoes. At
last they were quite presentable.

"There you are, you see!" he said. "Aren't I a great hand at restoring
you to respectability? Stand up! There, you look as irreproachable as
Britannia herself!"

He cleaned his own boots a little, washed his hands in a puddle, and
sang. They went on into Clifton village. He was madly in love with her;
every movement she made, every crease in her garments, sent a hot flash
through him and seemed adorable.

The old lady at whose house they had tea was roused into gaiety by them.

"I could wish you'd had something of a better day," she said, hovering
round.

"Nay!" he laughed. "We've been saying how nice it is."

The old lady looked at him curiously. There was a peculiar glow
and charm about him. His eyes were dark and laughing. He rubbed his
moustache with a glad movement.

"Have you been saying SO!" she exclaimed, a light rousing in her old
eyes.

"Truly!" he laughed.

"Then I'm sure the day's good enough," said the old lady.

She fussed about, and did not want to leave them.

"I don't know whether you'd like some radishes as well," she said to
Clara; "but I've got some in the garden--AND a cucumber."

Clara flushed. She looked very handsome.

"I should like some radishes," she answered.

And the old lady pottered off gleefully.

"If she knew!" said Clara quietly to him.

"Well, she doesn't know; and it shows we're nice in ourselves, at any
rate. You look quite enough to satisfy an archangel, and I'm sure I feel
harmless--so--if it makes you look nice, and makes folk happy when they
have us, and makes us happy--why, we're not cheating them out of much!"

They went on with the meal. When they were going away, the old lady came
timidly with three tiny dahlias in full blow, neat as bees, and speckled
scarlet and white. She stood before Clara, pleased with herself, saying:

"I don't know whether--" and holding the flowers forward in her old
hand.

"Oh, how pretty!" cried Clara, accepting the flowers.

"Shall she have them all?" asked Paul reproachfully of the old woman.

"Yes, she shall have them all," she replied, beaming with joy. "You have
got enough for your share."

"Ah, but I shall ask her to give me one!" he teased.

"Then she does as she pleases," said the old lady, smiling. And she
bobbed a little curtsey of delight.

Clara was rather quiet and uncomfortable. As they walked along, he said:

"You don't feel criminal, do you?"

She looked at him with startled grey eyes.

"Criminal!" she said. "No."

"But you seem to feel you have done a wrong?"

"No," she said. "I only think, 'If they knew!'"

"If they knew, they'd cease to understand. As it is, they do understand,
and they like it. What do they matter? Here, with only the trees and me,
you don't feel not the least bit wrong, do you?"

He took her by the arm, held her facing him, holding her eyes with his.
Something fretted him.

"Not sinners, are we?" he said, with an uneasy little frown.

"No," she replied.

He kissed her, laughing.

"You like your little bit of guiltiness, I believe," he said. "I believe
Eve enjoyed it, when she went cowering out of Paradise."

But there was a certain glow and quietness about her that made him glad.
When he was alone in the railway-carriage, he found himself tumultuously
happy, and the people exceedingly nice, and the night lovely, and
everything good.

Mrs. Morel was sitting reading when he got home. Her health was not good
now, and there had come that ivory pallor into her face which he never
noticed, and which afterwards he never forgot. She did not mention her
own ill-health to him. After all, she thought, it was not much.

"You are late!" she said, looking at him.

His eyes were shining; his face seemed to glow. He smiled to her.

"Yes; I've been down Clifton Grove with Clara."

His mother looked at him again.

"But won't people talk?" she said.

"Why? They know she's a suffragette, and so on. And what if they do
talk!"

"Of course, there may be nothing wrong in it," said his mother. "But you
know what folks are, and if once she gets talked about--"

"Well, I can't help it. Their jaw isn't so almighty important, after
all."

"I think you ought to consider HER."

"So I DO! What can people say?--that we take a walk together. I believe
you're jealous."

"You know I should be GLAD if she weren't a married woman."

"Well, my dear, she lives separate from her husband, and talks on
platforms; so she's already singled out from the sheep, and, as far as
I can see, hasn't much to lose. No; her life's nothing to her, so what's
the worth of nothing? She goes with me--it becomes something. Then she
must pay--we both must pay! Folk are so frightened of paying; they'd
rather starve and die."

"Very well, my son. We'll see how it will end."

"Very well, my mother. I'll abide by the end."

"We'll see!"

"And she's--she's AWFULLY nice, mother; she is really! You don't know!"

"That's not the same as marrying her."

"It's perhaps better."

There was silence for a while. He wanted to ask his mother something,
but was afraid.

"Should you like to know her?" He hesitated.

"Yes," said Mrs. Morel coolly. "I should like to know what she's like."

"But she's nice, mother, she is! And not a bit common!"

"I never suggested she was."

"But you seem to think she's--not as good as--She's better than
ninety-nine folk out of a hundred, I tell you! She's BETTER, she is!
She's fair, she's honest, she's straight! There isn't anything underhand
or superior about her. Don't be mean about her!"

Mrs. Morel flushed.

"I am sure I am not mean about her. She may be quite as you say, but--"

"You don't approve," he finished.

"And do you expect me to?" she answered coldly.

"Yes!--yes!--if you'd anything about you, you'd be glad! Do you WANT to
see her?"

"I said I did."

"Then I'll bring her--shall I bring her here?"

"You please yourself."

"Then I WILL bring her here--one Sunday--to tea. If you think a horrid
thing about her, I shan't forgive you."

His mother laughed.

"As if it would make any difference!" she said. He knew he had won.

"Oh, but it feels so fine, when she's there! She's such a queen in her
way."

Occasionally he still walked a little way from chapel with Miriam and
Edgar. He did not go up to the farm. She, however, was very much the
same with him, and he did not feel embarrassed in her presence. One
evening she was alone when he accompanied her. They began by talking
books: it was their unfailing topic. Mrs. Morel had said that his and
Miriam's affair was like a fire fed on books--if there were no more
volumes it would die out. Miriam, for her part, boasted that she could
read him like a book, could place her finger any minute on the chapter
and the line. He, easily taken in, believed that Miriam knew more about
him than anyone else. So it pleased him to talk to her about himself,
like the simplest egoist. Very soon the conversation drifted to his own
doings. It flattered him immensely that he was of such supreme interest.

"And what have you been doing lately?"

"I--oh, not much! I made a sketch of Bestwood from the garden, that is
nearly right at last. It's the hundredth try."

So they went on. Then she said:

"You've not been out, then, lately?"

"Yes; I went up Clifton Grove on Monday afternoon with Clara."

"It was not very nice weather," said Miriam, "was it?"

"But I wanted to go out, and it was all right. The Trent IS full."

"And did you go to Barton?" she asked.

"No; we had tea in Clifton."

"DID you! That would be nice."

"It was! The jolliest old woman! She gave us several pompom dahlias, as
pretty as you like."

Miriam bowed her head and brooded. He was quite unconscious of
concealing anything from her.

"What made her give them you?" she asked.

He laughed.

"Because she liked us--because we were jolly, I should think."

Miriam put her finger in her mouth.

"Were you late home?" she asked.

At last he resented her tone.

"I caught the seven-thirty."

"Ha!"

They walked on in silence, and he was angry.

"And how IS Clara?" asked Miriam.

"Quite all right, I think."

"That's good!" she said, with a tinge of irony. "By the way, what of her
husband? One never hears anything of him."

"He's got some other woman, and is also quite all right," he replied.
"At least, so I think."

"I see--you don't know for certain. Don't you think a position like that
is hard on a woman?"

"Rottenly hard!"

"It's so unjust!" said Miriam. "The man does as he likes--"

"Then let the woman also," he said.

"How can she? And if she does, look at her position!"

"What of it?"

"Why, it's impossible! You don't understand what a woman forfeits--"

"No, I don't. But if a woman's got nothing but her fair fame to feed on,
why, it's thin tack, and a donkey would die of it!"

So she understood his moral attitude, at least, and she knew he would
act accordingly.

She never asked him anything direct, but she got to know enough.

Another day, when he saw Miriam, the conversation turned to marriage,
then to Clara's marriage with Dawes.

"You see," he said, "she never knew the fearful importance of marriage.
She thought it was all in the day's march--it would have to come--and
Dawes--well, a good many women would have given their souls to get
him; so why not him? Then she developed into the femme incomprise, and
treated him badly, I'll bet my boots."

"And she left him because he didn't understand her?"

"I suppose so. I suppose she had to. It isn't altogether a question
of understanding; it's a question of living. With him, she was only
half-alive; the rest was dormant, deadened. And the dormant woman was
the femme incomprise, and she HAD to be awakened."

"And what about him."

"I don't know. I rather think he loves her as much as he can, but he's a
fool."

"It was something like your mother and father," said Miriam.

"Yes; but my mother, I believe, got real joy and satisfaction out of
my father at first. I believe she had a passion for him; that's why she
stayed with him. After all, they were bound to each other."

"Yes," said Miriam.

"That's what one MUST HAVE, I think," he continued--"the real, real
flame of feeling through another person--once, only once, if it only
lasts three months. See, my mother looks as if she'd HAD everything that
was necessary for her living and developing. There's not a tiny bit of
feeling of sterility about her."

"No," said Miriam.

"And with my father, at first, I'm sure she had the real thing. She
knows; she has been there. You can feet it about her, and about him, and
about hundreds of people you meet every day; and, once it has happened
to you, you can go on with anything and ripen."

"What happened, exactly?" asked Miriam.

"It's so hard to say, but the something big and intense that changes
you when you really come together with somebody else. It almost seems to
fertilise your soul and make it that you can go on and mature."

"And you think your mother had it with your father?"

"Yes; and at the bottom she feels grateful to him for giving it her,
even now, though they are miles apart."

"And you think Clara never had it?"

"I'm sure."

Miriam pondered this. She saw what he was seeking--a sort of baptism of
fire in passion, it seemed to her. She realised that he would never be
satisfied till he had it. Perhaps it was essential to him, as to some
men, to sow wild oats; and afterwards, when he was satisfied, he would
not rage with restlessness any more, but could settle down and give her
his life into her hands. Well, then, if he must go, let him go and have
his fill--something big and intense, he called it. At any rate, when he
had got it, he would not want it--that he said himself; he would want
the other thing that she could give him. He would want to be owned, so
that he could work. It seemed to her a bitter thing that he must go, but
she could let him go into an inn for a glass of whisky, so she could let
him go to Clara, so long as it was something that would satisfy a need
in him, and leave him free for herself to possess.

"Have you told your mother about Clara?" she asked.

She knew this would be a test of the seriousness of his feeling for the
other woman: she knew he was going to Clara for something vital, not as
a man goes for pleasure to a prostitute, if he told his mother.

"Yes," he said, "and she is coming to tea on Sunday."

"To your house?"

"Yes; I want mater to see her."

"Ah!"

There was a silence. Things had gone quicker than she thought. She felt
a sudden bitterness that he could leave her so soon and so entirely.
And was Clara to be accepted by his people, who had been so hostile to
herself?

"I may call in as I go to chapel," she said. "It is a long time since I
saw Clara."

"Very well," he said, astonished, and unconsciously angry.

On the Sunday afternoon he went to Keston to meet Clara at the station.
As he stood on the platform he was trying to examine in himself if he
had a premonition.

"Do I FEEL as if she'd come?" he said to himself, and he tried to find
out. His heart felt queer and contracted. That seemed like foreboding.
Then he HAD a foreboding she would not come! Then she would not come,
and instead of taking her over the fields home, as he had imagined,
he would have to go alone. The train was late; the afternoon would
be wasted, and the evening. He hated her for not coming. Why had she
promised, then, if she could not keep her promise? Perhaps she had
missed her train--he himself was always missing trains--but that was no
reason why she should miss this particular one. He was angry with her;
he was furious.

Suddenly he saw the train crawling, sneaking round the corner. Here,
then, was the train, but of course she had not come. The green engine
hissed along the platform, the row of brown carriages drew up, several
doors opened. No; she had not come! No! Yes; ah, there she was! She had
a big black hat on! He was at her side in a moment.

"I thought you weren't coming," he said.

She was laughing rather breathlessly as she put out her hand to him;
their eyes met. He took her quickly along the platform, talking at a
great rate to hide his feeling. She looked beautiful. In her hat were
large silk roses, coloured like tarnished gold. Her costume of dark
cloth fitted so beautifully over her breast and shoulders. His pride
went up as he walked with her. He felt the station people, who knew him,
eyed her with awe and admiration.

"I was sure you weren't coming," he laughed shakily.

She laughed in answer, almost with a little cry.

"And I wondered, when I was in the train, WHATEVER I should do if you
weren't there!" she said.

He caught her hand impulsively, and they went along the narrow twitchel.
They took the road into Nuttall and over the Reckoning House Farm. It
was a blue, mild day. Everywhere the brown leaves lay scattered; many
scarlet hips stood upon the hedge beside the wood. He gathered a few for
her to wear.

"Though, really," he said, as he fitted them into the breast of her
coat, "you ought to object to my getting them, because of the birds.
But they don't care much for rose-hips in this part, where they can
get plenty of stuff. You often find the berries going rotten in the
springtime."

So he chattered, scarcely aware of what he said, only knowing he was
putting berries in the bosom of her coat, while she stood patiently for
him. And she watched his quick hands, so full of life, and it seemed to
her she had never SEEN anything before. Till now, everything had been
indistinct.

They came near to the colliery. It stood quite still and black among the
corn-fields, its immense heap of slag seen rising almost from the oats.

"What a pity there is a coal-pit here where it is so pretty!" said
Clara.

"Do you think so?" he answered. "You see, I am so used to it I should
miss it. No; and I like the pits here and there. I like the rows of
trucks, and the headstocks, and the steam in the daytime, and the lights
at night. When I was a boy, I always thought a pillar of cloud by day
and a pillar of fire by night was a pit, with its steam, and its
lights, and the burning bank,--and I thought the Lord was always at the
pit-top."

As they drew near home she walked in silence, and seemed to hang back.
He pressed her fingers in his own. She flushed, but gave no response.

"Don't you want to come home?" he asked.

"Yes, I want to come," she replied.

It did not occur to him that her position in his home would be rather a
peculiar and difficult one. To him it seemed just as if one of his men
friends were going to be introduced to his mother, only nicer.

The Morels lived in a house in an ugly street that ran down a steep
hill. The street itself was hideous. The house was rather superior
to most. It was old, grimy, with a big bay window, and it was
semi-detached; but it looked gloomy. Then Paul opened the door to the
garden, and all was different. The sunny afternoon was there, like
another land. By the path grew tansy and little trees. In front of the
window was a plot of sunny grass, with old lilacs round it. And away
went the garden, with heaps of dishevelled chrysanthemums in the
sunshine, down to the sycamore-tree, and the field, and beyond one
looked over a few red-roofed cottages to the hills with all the glow of
the autumn afternoon.

Mrs. Morel sat in her rocking-chair, wearing her black silk blouse.
Her grey-brown hair was taken smooth back from her brow and her high
temples; her face was rather pale. Clara, suffering, followed Paul into
the kitchen. Mrs. Morel rose. Clara thought her a lady, even rather
stiff. The young woman was very nervous. She had almost a wistful look,
almost resigned.

"Mother--Clara," said Paul.

Mrs. Morel held out her hand and smiled.

"He has told me a good deal about you," she said.

The blood flamed in Clara's cheek.

"I hope you don't mind my coming," she faltered.

"I was pleased when he said he would bring you," replied Mrs. Morel.

Paul, watching, felt his heart contract with pain. His mother looked so
small, and sallow, and done-for beside the luxuriant Clara.

"It's such a pretty day, mother!" he said. "And we saw a jay."

His mother looked at him; he had turned to her. She thought what a
man he seemed, in his dark, well-made clothes. He was pale and
detached-looking; it would be hard for any woman to keep him. Her heart
glowed; then she was sorry for Clara.

"Perhaps you'll leave your things in the parlour," said Mrs. Morel
nicely to the young woman.

"Oh, thank you," she replied.

"Come on," said Paul, and he led the way into the little front room,
with its old piano, its mahogany furniture, its yellowing marble
mantelpiece. A fire was burning; the place was littered with books and
drawing-boards. "I leave my things lying about," he said. "It's so much
easier."

She loved his artist's paraphernalia, and the books, and the photos of
people. Soon he was telling her: this was William, this was William's
young lady in the evening dress, this was Annie and her husband, this
was Arthur and his wife and the baby. She felt as if she were being
taken into the family. He showed her photos, books, sketches, and they
talked a little while. Then they returned to the kitchen. Mrs. Morel put
aside her book. Clara wore a blouse of fine silk chiffon, with narrow
black-and-white stripes; her hair was done simply, coiled on top of her
head. She looked rather stately and reserved.

"You have gone to live down Sneinton Boulevard?" said Mrs. Morel. "When
I was a girl--girl, I say!--when I was a young woman WE lived in Minerva
Terrace."

"Oh, did you!" said Clara. "I have a friend in number 6."

And the conversation had started. They talked Nottingham and Nottingham
people; it interested them both. Clara was still rather nervous; Mrs.
Morel was still somewhat on her dignity. She clipped her language very
clear and precise. But they were going to get on well together, Paul
saw.

Mrs. Morel measured herself against the younger woman, and found herself
easily stronger. Clara was deferential. She knew Paul's surprising
regard for his mother, and she had dreaded the meeting, expecting
someone rather hard and cold. She was surprised to find this little
interested woman chatting with such readiness; and then she felt, as she
felt with Paul, that she would not care to stand in Mrs. Morel's way.
There was something so hard and certain in his mother, as if she never
had a misgiving in her life.

Presently Morel came down, ruffled and yawning, from his afternoon
sleep. He scratched his grizzled head, he plodded in his stocking feet,
his waistcoat hung open over his shirt. He seemed incongruous.

"This is Mrs. Dawes, father," said Paul.

Then Morel pulled himself together. Clara saw Paul's manner of bowing
and shaking hands.

"Oh, indeed!" exclaimed Morel. "I am very glad to see you--I am, I
assure you. But don't disturb yourself. No, no make yourself quite
comfortable, and be very welcome."

Clara was astonished at this flood of hospitality from the old collier.
He was so courteous, so gallant! She thought him most delightful.

"And may you have come far?" he asked.

"Only from Nottingham," she said.

"From Nottingham! Then you have had a beautiful day for your journey."

Then he strayed into the scullery to wash his hands and face, and from
force of habit came on to the hearth with the towel to dry himself.

At tea Clara felt the refinement and sang-froid of the household. Mrs.
Morel was perfectly at her ease. The pouring out the tea and attending
to the people went on unconsciously, without interrupting her in her
talk. There was a lot of room at the oval table; the china of dark blue
willow-pattern looked pretty on the glossy cloth. There was a little
bowl of small, yellow chrysanthemums. Clara felt she completed the
circle, and it was a pleasure to her. But she was rather afraid of the
self-possession of the Morels, father and all. She took their tone;
there was a feeling of balance. It was a cool, clear atmosphere, where
everyone was himself, and in harmony. Clara enjoyed it, but there was a
fear deep at the bottom of her.

Paul cleared the table whilst his mother and Clara talked. Clara was
conscious of his quick, vigorous body as it came and went, seeming blown
quickly by a wind at its work. It was almost like the hither and thither
of a leaf that comes unexpected. Most of herself went with him. By the
way she leaned forward, as if listening, Mrs. Morel could see she was
possessed elsewhere as she talked, and again the elder woman was sorry
for her.

Having finished, he strolled down the garden, leaving the two women
to talk. It was a hazy, sunny afternoon, mild and soft. Clara glanced
through the window after him as he loitered among the chrysanthemums.
She felt as if something almost tangible fastened her to him; yet he
seemed so easy in his graceful, indolent movement, so detached as he
tied up the too-heavy flower branches to their stakes, that she wanted
to shriek in her helplessness.

Mrs. Morel rose.

"You will let me help you wash up," said Clara.

"Eh, there are so few, it will only take a minute," said the other.

Clara, however, dried the tea-things, and was glad to be on such good
terms with his mother; but it was torture not to be able to follow him
down the garden. At last she allowed herself to go; she felt as if a
rope were taken off her ankle.

The afternoon was golden over the hills of Derbyshire. He stood across
in the other garden, beside a bush of pale Michaelmas daisies, watching
the last bees crawl into the hive. Hearing her coming, he turned to her
with an easy motion, saying:

"It's the end of the run with these chaps."

Clara stood near him. Over the low red wall in front was the country and
the far-off hills, all golden dim.

At that moment Miriam was entering through the garden-door. She saw
Clara go up to him, saw him turn, and saw them come to rest together.
Something in their perfect isolation together made her know that it was
accomplished between them, that they were, as she put it, married. She
walked very slowly down the cinder-track of the long garden.

Clara had pulled a button from a hollyhock spire, and was breaking it
to get the seeds. Above her bowed head the pink flowers stared, as if
defending her. The last bees were falling down to the hive.

"Count your money," laughed Paul, as she broke the flat seeds one by one
from the roll of coin. She looked at him.

"I'm well off," she said, smiling.

"How much? Pf!" He snapped his fingers. "Can I turn them into gold?"

"I'm afraid not," she laughed.

They looked into each other's eyes, laughing. At that moment they became
aware of Miriam. There was a click, and everything had altered.

"Hello, Miriam!" he exclaimed. "You said you'd come!"

"Yes. Had you forgotten?"

She shook hands with Clara, saying:

"It seems strange to see you here."

"Yes," replied the other; "it seems strange to be here."

There was a hesitation.

"This is pretty, isn't it?" said Miriam.

"I like it very much," replied Clara.

Then Miriam realised that Clara was accepted as she had never been.

"Have you come down alone?" asked Paul.

"Yes; I went to Agatha's to tea. We are going to chapel. I only called
in for a moment to see Clara."

"You should have come in here to tea," he said.

Miriam laughed shortly, and Clara turned impatiently aside.

"Do you like the chrysanthemums?" he asked.

"Yes; they are very fine," replied Miriam.

"Which sort do you like best?" he asked.

"I don't know. The bronze, I think."

"I don't think you've seen all the sorts. Come and look. Come and see
which are YOUR favourites, Clara."

He led the two women back to his own garden, where the towsled bushes of
flowers of all colours stood raggedly along the path down to the field.
The situation did not embarrass him, to his knowledge.

"Look, Miriam; these are the white ones that came from your garden. They
aren't so fine here, are they?"

"No," said Miriam.

"But they're hardier. You're so sheltered; things grow big and tender,
and then die. These little yellow ones I like. Will you have some?"

While they were out there the bells began to ring in the church,
sounding loud across the town and the field. Miriam looked at the tower,
proud among the clustering roofs, and remembered the sketches he had
brought her. It had been different then, but he had not left her even
yet. She asked him for a book to read. He ran indoors.

"What! is that Miriam?" asked his mother coldly.

"Yes; she said she'd call and see Clara."

"You told her, then?" came the sarcastic answer.

"Yes; why shouldn't I?"

"There's certainly no reason why you shouldn't," said Mrs. Morel, and
she returned to her book. He winced from his mother's irony, frowned
irritably, thinking: "Why can't I do as I like?"

"You've not seen Mrs. Morel before?" Miriam was saying to Clara.

"No; but she's so nice!"

"Yes," said Miriam, dropping her head; "in some ways she's very fine."

"I should think so."

"Had Paul told you much about her?"

"He had talked a good deal."

"Ha!"

There was silence until he returned with the book.

"When will you want it back?" Miriam asked.

"When you like," he answered.

Clara turned to go indoors, whilst he accompanied Miriam to the gate.

"When will you come up to Willey Farm?" the latter asked.

"I couldn't say," replied Clara.

"Mother asked me to say she'd be pleased to see you any time, if you
cared to come."

"Thank you; I should like to, but I can't say when."

"Oh, very well!" exclaimed Miriam rather bitterly, turning away.

She went down the path with her mouth to the flowers he had given her.

"You're sure you won't come in?" he said.

"No, thanks."

"We are going to chapel."

"Ah, I shall see you, then!" Miriam was very bitter.

"Yes."

They parted. He felt guilty towards her. She was bitter, and she scorned
him. He still belonged to herself, she believed; yet he could have
Clara, take her home, sit with her next his mother in chapel, give her
the same hymn-book he had given herself years before. She heard him
running quickly indoors.

But he did not go straight in. Halting on the plot of grass, he heard
his mother's voice, then Clara's answer:

"What I hate is the bloodhound quality in Miriam."

"Yes," said his mother quickly, "yes; DOESN'T it make you hate her,
now!"

His heart went hot, and he was angry with them for talking about the
girl. What right had they to say that? Something in the speech itself
stung him into a flame of hate against Miriam. Then his own heart
rebelled furiously at Clara's taking the liberty of speaking so about
Miriam. After all, the girl was the better woman of the two, he thought,
if it came to goodness. He went indoors. His mother looked excited. She
was beating with her hand rhythmically on the sofa-arm, as women do who
are wearing out. He could never bear to see the movement. There was a
silence; then he began to talk.

In chapel Miriam saw him find the place in the hymn-book for Clara, in
exactly the same way as he used for herself. And during the sermon he
could see the girl across the chapel, her hat throwing a dark shadow
over her face. What did she think, seeing Clara with him? He did not
stop to consider. He felt himself cruel towards Miriam.

After chapel he went over Pentrich with Clara. It was a dark autumn
night. They had said good-bye to Miriam, and his heart had smitten him
as he left the girl alone. "But it serves her right," he said inside
himself, and it almost gave him pleasure to go off under her eyes with
this other handsome woman.

There was a scent of damp leaves in the darkness. Clara's hand lay warm
and inert in his own as they walked. He was full of conflict. The battle
that raged inside him made him feel desperate.

Up Pentrich Hill Clara leaned against him as he went. He slid his arm
round her waist. Feeling the strong motion of her body under his arm as
she walked, the tightness in his chest because of Miriam relaxed, and
the hot blood bathed him. He held her closer and closer.

Then: "You still keep on with Miriam," she said quietly.

"Only talk. There never WAS a great deal more than talk between us," he
said bitterly.

"Your mother doesn't care for her," said Clara.

"No, or I might have married her. But it's all up really!"

Suddenly his voice went passionate with hate.

"If I was with her now, we should be jawing about the 'Christian
Mystery', or some such tack. Thank God, I'm not!"

They walked on in silence for some time.

"But you can't really give her up," said Clara.

"I don't give her up, because there's nothing to give," he said.

"There is for her."

"I don't know why she and I shouldn't be friends as long as we live," he
said. "But it'll only be friends."

Clara drew away from him, leaning away from contact with him.

"What are you drawing away for?" he asked.

She did not answer, but drew farther from him.

"Why do you want to walk alone?" he asked.

Still there was no answer. She walked resentfully, hanging her head.

"Because I said I would be friends with Miriam!" he exclaimed.

She would not answer him anything.

"I tell you it's only words that go between us," he persisted, trying to
take her again.

She resisted. Suddenly he strode across in front of her, barring her
way.

"Damn it!" he said. "What do you want now?"

"You'd better run after Miriam," mocked Clara.

The blood flamed up in him. He stood showing his teeth. She drooped
sulkily. The lane was dark, quite lonely. He suddenly caught her in
his arms, stretched forward, and put his mouth on her face in a kiss of
rage. She turned frantically to avoid him. He held her fast. Hard and
relentless his mouth came for her. Her breasts hurt against the wall of
his chest. Helpless, she went loose in his arms, and he kissed her, and
kissed her.

He heard people coming down the hill.

"Stand up! stand up!" he said thickly, gripping her arm till it hurt. If
he had let go, she would have sunk to the ground.

She sighed and walked dizzily beside him. They went on in silence.

"We will go over the fields," he said; and then she woke up.

But she let herself be helped over the stile, and she walked in silence
with him over the first dark field. It was the way to Nottingham and to
the station, she knew. He seemed to be looking about. They came out on
a bare hilltop where stood the dark figure of the ruined windmill. There
he halted. They stood together high up in the darkness, looking at
the lights scattered on the night before them, handfuls of glittering
points, villages lying high and low on the dark, here and there.

"Like treading among the stars," he said, with a quaky laugh.

Then he took her in his arms, and held her fast. She moved aside her
mouth to ask, dogged and low:

"What time is it?"

"It doesn't matter," he pleaded thickly.

"Yes it does--yes! I must go!"

"It's early yet," he said.

"What time is it?" she insisted.

All round lay the black night, speckled and spangled with lights.

"I don't know."

She put her hand on his chest, feeling for his watch. He felt the joints
fuse into fire. She groped in his waistcoat pocket, while he stood
panting. In the darkness she could see the round, pale face of the
watch, but not the figures. She stooped over it. He was panting till he
could take her in his arms again.

"I can't see," she said.

"Then don't bother."

"Yes; I'm going!" she said, turning away.

"Wait! I'll look!" But he could not see. "I'll strike a match."

He secretly hoped it was too late to catch the train. She saw the
glowing lantern of his hands as he cradled the light: then his face lit
up, his eyes fixed on the watch. Instantly all was dark again. All was
black before her eyes; only a glowing match was red near her feet. Where
was he?

"What is it?" she asked, afraid.

"You can't do it," his voice answered out of the darkness.

There was a pause. She felt in his power. She had heard the ring in his
voice. It frightened her.

"What time is it?" she asked, quiet, definite, hopeless.

"Two minutes to nine," he replied, telling the truth with a struggle.

"And can I get from here to the station in fourteen minutes?"

"No. At any rate--"

She could distinguish his dark form again a yard or so away. She wanted
to escape.

"But can't I do it?" she pleaded.

"If you hurry," he said brusquely. "But you could easily walk it, Clara;
it's only seven miles to the tram. I'll come with you."

"No; I want to catch the train."

"But why?"

"I do--I want to catch the train."

Suddenly his voice altered.

"Very well," he said, dry and hard. "Come along, then."

And he plunged ahead into the darkness. She ran after him, wanting to
cry. Now he was hard and cruel to her. She ran over the rough, dark
fields behind him, out of breath, ready to drop. But the double row of
lights at the station drew nearer. Suddenly:

"There she is!" he cried, breaking into a run.

There was a faint rattling noise. Away to the right the train, like
a luminous caterpillar, was threading across the night. The rattling
ceased.

"She's over the viaduct. You'll just do it."

Clara ran, quite out of breath, and fell at last into the train. The
whistle blew. He was gone. Gone!--and she was in a carriage full of
people. She felt the cruelty of it.

He turned round and plunged home. Before he knew where he was he was
in the kitchen at home. He was very pale. His eyes were dark and
dangerous-looking, as if he were drunk. His mother looked at him.

"Well, I must say your boots are in a nice state!" she said.

He looked at his feet. Then he took off his overcoat. His mother
wondered if he were drunk.

"She caught the train then?" she said.

"Yes."

"I hope HER feet weren't so filthy. Where on earth you dragged her I
don't know!"

He was silent and motionless for some time.

"Did you like her?" he asked grudgingly at last.

"Yes, I liked her. But you'll tire of her, my son; you know you will."

He did not answer. She noticed how he laboured in his breathing.

"Have you been running?" she asked.

"We had to run for the train."

"You'll go and knock yourself up. You'd better drink hot milk."

It was as good a stimulant as he could have, but he refused and went to
bed. There he lay face down on the counterpane, and shed tears of rage
and pain. There was a physical pain that made him bite his lips till
they bled, and the chaos inside him left him unable to think, almost to
feel.

"This is how she serves me, is it?" he said in his heart, over and over,
pressing his face in the quilt. And he hated her. Again he went over the
scene, and again he hated her.

The next day there was a new aloofness about him. Clara was very gentle,
almost loving. But he treated her distantly, with a touch of contempt.
She sighed, continuing to be gentle. He came round.

One evening of that week Sarah Bernhardt was at the Theatre Royal in
Nottingham, giving "La Dame aux Camelias". Paul wanted to see this old
and famous actress, and he asked Clara to accompany him. He told his
mother to leave the key in the window for him.

"Shall I book seats?" he asked of Clara.

"Yes. And put on an evening suit, will you? I've never seen you in it."

"But, good Lord, Clara! Think of ME in evening suit at the theatre!" he
remonstrated.

"Would you rather not?" she asked.

"I will if you WANT me to; but I s'll feel a fool."

She laughed at him.

"Then feel a fool for my sake, once, won't you?"

The request made his blood flush up.

"I suppose I s'll have to."

"What are you taking a suitcase for?" his mother asked.

He blushed furiously.

"Clara asked me," he said.

"And what seats are you going in?"

"Circle--three-and-six each!"

"Well, I'm sure!" exclaimed his mother sarcastically.

"It's only once in the bluest of blue moons," he said.

He dressed at Jordan's, put on an overcoat and a cap, and met Clara in a
cafe. She was with one of her suffragette friends. She wore an old long
coat, which did not suit her, and had a little wrap over her head, which
he hated. The three went to the theatre together.

Clara took off her coat on the stairs, and he discovered she was in a
sort of semi-evening dress, that left her arms and neck and part of her
breast bare. Her hair was done fashionably. The dress, a simple thing
of green crape, suited her. She looked quite grand, he thought. He could
see her figure inside the frock, as if that were wrapped closely round
her. The firmness and the softness of her upright body could almost be
felt as he looked at her. He clenched his fists.

And he was to sit all the evening beside her beautiful naked arm,
watching the strong throat rise from the strong chest, watching the
breasts under the green stuff, the curve of her limbs in the tight
dress. Something in him hated her again for submitting him to this
torture of nearness. And he loved her as she balanced her head and
stared straight in front of her, pouting, wistful, immobile, as if she
yielded herself to her fate because it was too strong for her. She could
not help herself; she was in the grip of something bigger than herself.
A kind of eternal look about her, as if she were a wistful sphinx, made
it necessary for him to kiss her. He dropped his programme, and crouched
down on the floor to get it, so that he could kiss her hand and wrist.
Her beauty was a torture to him. She sat immobile. Only, when the lights
went down, she sank a little against him, and he caressed her hand and
arm with his fingers. He could smell her faint perfume. All the time
his blood kept sweeping up in great white-hot waves that killed his
consciousness momentarily.

The drama continued. He saw it all in the distance, going on somewhere;
he did not know where, but it seemed far away inside him. He was Clara's
white heavy arms, her throat, her moving bosom. That seemed to be
himself. Then away somewhere the play went on, and he was identified
with that also. There was no himself. The grey and black eyes of Clara,
her bosom coming down on him, her arm that he held gripped between his
hands, were all that existed. Then he felt himself small and helpless,
her towering in her force above him.

Only the intervals, when the lights came up, hurt him expressibly. He
wanted to run anywhere, so long as it would be dark again. In a maze,
he wandered out for a drink. Then the lights were out, and the strange,
insane reality of Clara and the drama took hold of him again.

The play went on. But he was obsessed by the desire to kiss the tiny
blue vein that nestled in the bend of her arm. He could feel it. His
whole face seemed suspended till he had put his lips there. It must be
done. And the other people! At last he bent quickly forward and touched
it with his lips. His moustache brushed the sensitive flesh. Clara
shivered, drew away her arm.

When all was over, the lights up, the people clapping, he came to
himself and looked at his watch. His train was gone.

"I s'll have to walk home!" he said.

Clara looked at him.

"It is too late?" she asked.

He nodded. Then he helped her on with her coat.

"I love you! You look beautiful in that dress," he murmured over her
shoulder, among the throng of bustling people.

She remained quiet. Together they went out of the theatre. He saw the
cabs waiting, the people passing. It seemed he met a pair of brown
eyes which hated him. But he did not know. He and Clara turned away,
mechanically taking the direction to the station.

The train had gone. He would have to walk the ten miles home.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "I shall enjoy it."

"Won't you," she said, flushing, "come home for the night? I can sleep
with mother."

He looked at her. Their eyes met.

"What will your mother say?" he asked.

"She won't mind."

"You're sure?"

"Quite!"

"SHALL I come?"

"If you will."

"Very well."

And they turned away. At the first stopping-place they took the car. The
wind blew fresh in their faces. The town was dark; the tram tipped in
its haste. He sat with her hand fast in his.

"Will your mother be gone to bed?" he asked.

"She may be. I hope not."

They hurried along the silent, dark little street, the only people out
of doors. Clara quickly entered the house. He hesitated.

He leaped up the step and was in the room. Her mother appeared in the
inner doorway, large and hostile.

"Who have you got there?" she asked.

"It's Mr. Morel; he has missed his train. I thought we might put him up
for the night, and save him a ten-mile walk."

"H'm," exclaimed Mrs. Radford. "That's your lookout! If you've invited
him, he's very welcome as far as I'm concerned. YOU keep the house!"

"If you don't like me, I'll go away again," he said.

"Nay, nay, you needn't! Come along in! I dunno what you'll think of the
supper I'd got her."

It was a little dish of chip potatoes and a piece of bacon. The table
was roughly laid for one.

"You can have some more bacon," continued Mrs. Radford. "More chips you
can't have."

"It's a shame to bother you," he said.

"Oh, don't you be apologetic! It doesn't DO wi' me! You treated her to
the theatre, didn't you?" There was a sarcasm in the last question.

"Well?" laughed Paul uncomfortably.

"Well, and what's an inch of bacon! Take your coat off."

The big, straight-standing woman was trying to estimate the situation.
She moved about the cupboard. Clara took his coat. The room was very
warm and cosy in the lamplight.

"My sirs!" exclaimed Mrs. Radford; "but you two's a pair of bright
beauties, I must say! What's all that get-up for?"

"I believe we don't know," he said, feeling a victim.

"There isn't room in THIS house for two such bobby-dazzlers, if you fly
your kites THAT high!" she rallied them. It was a nasty thrust.

He in his dinner jacket, and Clara in her green dress and bare arms,
were confused. They felt they must shelter each other in that little
kitchen.

"And look at THAT blossom!" continued Mrs. Radford, pointing to Clara.
"What does she reckon she did it for?"

Paul looked at Clara. She was rosy; her neck was warm with blushes.
There was a moment of silence.

"You like to see it, don't you?" he asked.

The mother had them in her power. All the time his heart was beating
hard, and he was tight with anxiety. But he would fight her.

"Me like to see it!" exclaimed the old woman. "What should I like to see
her make a fool of herself for?"

"I've seen people look bigger fools," he said. Clara was under his
protection now.

"Oh, ay! and when was that?" came the sarcastic rejoinder.

"When they made frights of themselves," he answered.

Mrs. Radford, large and threatening, stood suspended on the hearthrug,
holding her fork.

"They're fools either road," she answered at length, turning to the
Dutch oven.

"No," he said, fighting stoutly. "Folk ought to look as well as they
can."

"And do you call THAT looking nice!" cried the mother, pointing a
scornful fork at Clara. "That--that looks as if it wasn't properly
dressed!"

"I believe you're jealous that you can't swank as well," he said
laughing.

"Me! I could have worn evening dress with anybody, if I'd wanted to!"
came the scornful answer.

"And why didn't you want to?" he asked pertinently. "Or DID you wear
it?"

There was a long pause. Mrs. Radford readjusted the bacon in the Dutch
oven. His heart beat fast, for fear he had offended her.

"Me!" she exclaimed at last. "No, I didn't! And when I was in service,
I knew as soon as one of the maids came out in bare shoulders what sort
SHE was, going to her sixpenny hop!"

"Were you too good to go to a sixpenny hop?" he said.

Clara sat with bowed head. His eyes were dark and glittering. Mrs.
Radford took the Dutch oven from the fire, and stood near him, putting
bits of bacon on his plate.

"THERE'S a nice crozzly bit!" she said.

"Don't give me the best!" he said.

"SHE'S got what SHE wants," was the answer.

There was a sort of scornful forbearance in the woman's tone that made
Paul know she was mollified.

"But DO have some!" he said to Clara.

She looked up at him with her grey eyes, humiliated and lonely.

"No thanks!" she said.

"Why won't you?" he answered carelessly.

The blood was beating up like fire in his veins. Mrs. Radford sat down
again, large and impressive and aloof. He left Clara altogether to
attend to the mother.

"They say Sarah Bernhardt's fifty," he said.

"Fifty! She's turned sixty!" came the scornful answer.

"Well," he said, "you'd never think it! She made me want to howl even
now."

"I should like to see myself howling at THAT bad old baggage!" said
Mrs. Radford. "It's time she began to think herself a grandmother, not a
shrieking catamaran--"

He laughed.

"A catamaran is a boat the Malays use," he said.

"And it's a word as I use," she retorted.

"My mother does sometimes, and it's no good my telling her," he said.

"I s'd think she boxes your ears," said Mrs. Radford, good-humouredly.

"She'd like to, and she says she will, so I give her a little stool to
stand on."

"That's the worst of my mother," said Clara. "She never wants a stool
for anything."

"But she often can't touch THAT lady with a long prop," retorted Mrs.
Radford to Paul.

"I s'd think she doesn't want touching with a prop," he laughed. "I
shouldn't."

"It might do the pair of you good to give you a crack on the head with
one," said the mother, laughing suddenly.

"Why are you so vindictive towards me?" he said. "I've not stolen
anything from you."

"No; I'll watch that," laughed the older woman.

Soon the supper was finished. Mrs. Radford sat guard in her chair. Paul
lit a cigarette. Clara went upstairs, returning with a sleeping-suit,
which she spread on the fender to air.

"Why, I'd forgot all about THEM!" said Mrs. Radford. "Where have they
sprung from?"

"Out of my drawer."

"H'm! You bought 'em for Baxter, an' he wouldn't wear 'em, would
he?"--laughing. "Said he reckoned to do wi'out trousers i' bed." She
turned confidentially to Paul, saying: "He couldn't BEAR 'em, them
pyjama things."

The young man sat making rings of smoke.

"Well, it's everyone to his taste," he laughed.

Then followed a little discussion of the merits of pyjamas.

"My mother loves me in them," he said. "She says I'm a pierrot."

"I can imagine they'd suit you," said Mrs. Radford.

After a while he glanced at the little clock that was ticking on the
mantelpiece. It was half-past twelve.

"It is funny," he said, "but it takes hours to settle down to sleep
after the theatre."

"It's about time you did," said Mrs. Radford, clearing the table.

"Are YOU tired?" he asked of Clara.

"Not the least bit," she answered, avoiding his eyes.

"Shall we have a game at cribbage?" he said.

"I've forgotten it."

"Well, I'll teach you again. May we play crib, Mrs. Radford?" he asked.

"You'll please yourselves," she said; "but it's pretty late."

"A game or so will make us sleepy," he answered.

Clara brought the cards, and sat spinning her wedding-ring whilst he
shuffled them. Mrs. Radford was washing up in the scullery. As it grew
later Paul felt the situation getting more and more tense.

"Fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six, and two's eight--!"

The clock struck one. Still the game continued. Mrs. Radford had done
all the little jobs preparatory to going to bed, had locked the door
and filled the kettle. Still Paul went on dealing and counting. He was
obsessed by Clara's arms and throat. He believed he could see where the
division was just beginning for her breasts. He could not leave her. She
watched his hands, and felt her joints melt as they moved quickly. She
was so near; it was almost as if he touched her, and yet not quite. His
mettle was roused. He hated Mrs. Radford. She sat on, nearly dropping
asleep, but determined and obstinate in her chair. Paul glanced at her,
then at Clara. She met his eyes, that were angry, mocking, and hard as
steel. Her own answered him in shame. He knew SHE, at any rate, was of
his mind. He played on.

At last Mrs. Radford roused herself stiffly, and said:

"Isn't it nigh on time you two was thinking o' bed?"

Paul played on without answering. He hated her sufficiently to murder
her.

"Half a minute," he said.

The elder woman rose and sailed stubbornly into the scullery, returning
with his candle, which she put on the mantelpiece. Then she sat down
again. The hatred of her went so hot down his veins, he dropped his
cards.

"We'll stop, then," he said, but his voice was still a challenge.

Clara saw his mouth shut hard. Again he glanced at her. It seemed like
an agreement. She bent over the cards, coughing, to clear her throat.

"Well, I'm glad you've finished," said Mrs. Radford. "Here, take your
things"--she thrust the warm suit in his hand--"and this is your candle.
Your room's over this; there's only two, so you can't go far wrong.
Well, good-night. I hope you'll rest well."

"I'm sure I shall; I always do," he said.

"Yes; and so you ought at your age," she replied.

He bade good-night to Clara, and went. The twisting stairs of white,
scrubbed wood creaked and clanged at every step. He went doggedly. The
two doors faced each other. He went in his room, pushed the door to,
without fastening the latch.

It was a small room with a large bed. Some of Clara's hair-pins were
on the dressing-table--her hair-brush. Her clothes and some skirts hung
under a cloth in a corner. There was actually a pair of stockings over
a chair. He explored the room. Two books of his own were there on the
shelf. He undressed, folded his suit, and sat on the bed, listening.
Then he blew out the candle, lay down, and in two minutes was almost
asleep. Then click!--he was wide awake and writhing in torment. It
was as if, when he had nearly got to sleep, something had bitten him
suddenly and sent him mad. He sat up and looked at the room in the
darkness, his feet doubled under him, perfectly motionless, listening.
He heard a cat somewhere away outside; then the heavy, poised tread of
the mother; then Clara's distinct voice:

"Will you unfasten my dress?"

There was silence for some time. At last the mother said:

"Now then! aren't you coming up?"

"No, not yet," replied the daughter calmly.

"Oh, very well then! If it's not late enough, stop a bit longer. Only
you needn't come waking me up when I've got to sleep."

"I shan't be long," said Clara.

Immediately afterwards Paul heard the mother slowly mounting the stairs.
The candlelight flashed through the cracks in his door. Her dress
brushed the door, and his heart jumped. Then it was dark, and he
heard the clatter of her latch. She was very leisurely indeed in her
preparations for sleep. After a long time it was quite still. He sat
strung up on the bed, shivering slightly. His door was an inch open.
As Clara came upstairs, he would intercept her. He waited. All was dead
silence. The clock struck two. Then he heard a slight scrape of the
fender downstairs. Now he could not help himself. His shivering was
uncontrollable. He felt he must go or die.

He stepped off the bed, and stood a moment, shuddering. Then he went
straight to the door. He tried to step lightly. The first stair
cracked like a shot. He listened. The old woman stirred in her bed. The
staircase was dark. There was a slit of light under the stair-foot
door, which opened into the kitchen. He stood a moment. Then he went on,
mechanically. Every step creaked, and his back was creeping, lest the
old woman's door should open behind him up above. He fumbled with the
door at the bottom. The latch opened with a loud clack. He went through
into the kitchen, and shut the door noisily behind him. The old woman
daren't come now.

Then he stood, arrested. Clara was kneeling on a pile of white
underclothing on the hearthrug, her back towards him, warming herself.
She did not look round, but sat crouching on her heels, and her rounded
beautiful back was towards him, and her face was hidden. She was warming
her body at the fire for consolation. The glow was rosy on one side, the
shadow was dark and warm on the other. Her arms hung slack.

He shuddered violently, clenching his teeth and fists hard to keep
control. Then he went forward to her. He put one hand on her shoulder,
the fingers of the other hand under her chin to raise her face. A
convulsed shiver ran through her, once, twice, at his touch. She kept
her head bent.

"Sorry!" he murmured, realising that his hands were very cold.

Then she looked up at him, frightened, like a thing that is afraid of
death.

"My hands are so cold," he murmured.

"I like it," she whispered, closing her eyes.

The breath of her words were on his mouth. Her arms clasped his knees.
The cord of his sleeping-suit dangled against her and made her shiver.
As the warmth went into him, his shuddering became less.

At length, unable to stand so any more, he raised her, and she buried
her head on his shoulder. His hands went over her slowly with an
infinite tenderness of caress. She clung close to him, trying to hide
herself against him. He clasped her very fast. Then at last she looked
at him, mute, imploring, looking to see if she must be ashamed.

His eyes were dark, very deep, and very quiet. It was as if her beauty
and his taking it hurt him, made him sorrowful. He looked at her with a
little pain, and was afraid. He was so humble before her. She kissed him
fervently on the eyes, first one, then the other, and she folded herself
to him. She gave herself. He held her fast. It was a moment intense
almost to agony.

She stood letting him adore her and tremble with joy of her. It healed
her hurt pride. It healed her; it made her glad. It made her feel erect
and proud again. Her pride had been wounded inside her. She had been
cheapened. Now she radiated with joy and pride again. It was her
restoration and her recognition.

Then he looked at her, his face radiant. They laughed to each other,
and he strained her to his chest. The seconds ticked off, the minutes
passed, and still the two stood clasped rigid together, mouth to mouth,
like a statue in one block.

But again his fingers went seeking over her, restless, wandering,
dissatisfied. The hot blood came up wave upon wave. She laid her head on
his shoulder.

"Come you to my room," he murmured.

She looked at him and shook her head, her mouth pouting disconsolately,
her eyes heavy with passion. He watched her fixedly.

"Yes!" he said.

Again she shook her head.

"Why not?" he asked.

She looked at him still heavily, sorrowfully, and again she shook her
head. His eyes hardened, and he gave way.

When, later on, he was back in bed, he wondered why she had refused to
come to him openly, so that her mother would know. At any rate, then
things would have been definite. And she could have stayed with him the
night, without having to go, as she was, to her mother's bed. It was
strange, and he could not understand it. And then almost immediately he
fell asleep.

He awoke in the morning with someone speaking to him. Opening his eyes,
he saw Mrs. Radford, big and stately, looking down on him. She held a
cup of tea in her hand.

"Do you think you're going to sleep till Doomsday?" she said.

He laughed at once.

"It ought only to be about five o'clock," he said.

"Well," she answered, "it's half-past seven, whether or not. Here, I've
brought you a cup of tea."

He rubbed his face, pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead, and roused
himself.

"What's it so late for!" he grumbled.

He resented being wakened. It amused her. She saw his neck in the
flannel sleeping-jacket, as white and round as a girl's. He rubbed his
hair crossly.

"It's no good your scratching your head," she said. "It won't make it no
earlier. Here, an' how long d'you think I'm going to stand waiting wi'
this here cup?"

"Oh, dash the cup!" he said.

"You should go to bed earlier," said the woman.

He looked up at her, laughing with impudence.

"I went to bed before YOU did," he said.

"Yes, my Guyney, you did!" she exclaimed.

"Fancy," he said, stirring his tea, "having tea brought to bed to me! My
mother'll think I'm ruined for life."

"Don't she never do it?" asked Mrs. Radford.

"She'd as leave think of flying."

"Ah, I always spoilt my lot! That's why they've turned out such bad
uns," said the elderly woman.

"You'd only Clara," he said. "And Mr. Radford's in heaven. So I suppose
there's only you left to be the bad un."

"I'm not bad; I'm only soft," she said, as she went out of the bedroom.
"I'm only a fool, I am!"

Clara was very quiet at breakfast, but she had a sort of air of
proprietorship over him that pleased him infinitely. Mrs. Radford was
evidently fond of him. He began to talk of his painting.

"What's the good," exclaimed the mother, "of your whittling and worrying
and twistin' and too-in' at that painting of yours? What GOOD does it do
you, I should like to know? You'd better be enjoyin' yourself."

"Oh, but," exclaimed Paul, "I made over thirty guineas last year."

"Did you! Well, that's a consideration, but it's nothing to the time you
put in."

"And I've got four pounds owing. A man said he'd give me five pounds if
I'd paint him and his missis and the dog and the cottage. And I went and
put the fowls in instead of the dog, and he was waxy, so I had to
knock a quid off. I was sick of it, and I didn't like the dog. I made a
picture of it. What shall I do when he pays me the four pounds?"

"Nay! you know your own uses for your money," said Mrs. Radford.

"But I'm going to bust this four pounds. Should we go to the seaside for
a day or two?"

"Who?"

"You and Clara and me."

"What, on your money!" she exclaimed, half-wrathful.

"Why not?"

"YOU wouldn't be long in breaking your neck at a hurdle race!" she said.

"So long as I get a good run for my money! Will you?"

"Nay; you may settle that atween you."

"And you're willing?" he asked, amazed and rejoicing.

"You'll do as you like," said Mrs. Radford, "whether I'm willing or
not."



CHAPTER XIII

BAXTER DAWES

SOON after Paul had been to the theatre with Clara, he was drinking
in the Punch Bowl with some friends of his when Dawes came in. Clara's
husband was growing stout; his eyelids were getting slack over his brown
eyes; he was losing his healthy firmness of flesh. He was very evidently
on the downward track. Having quarrelled with his sister, he had gone
into cheap lodgings. His mistress had left him for a man who would marry
her. He had been in prison one night for fighting when he was drunk, and
there was a shady betting episode in which he was concerned.

Paul and he were confirmed enemies, and yet there was between them that
peculiar feeling of intimacy, as if they were secretly near to each
other, which sometimes exists between two people, although they never
speak to one another. Paul often thought of Baxter Dawes, often wanted
to get at him and be friends with him. He knew that Dawes often thought
about him, and that the man was drawn to him by some bond or other. And
yet the two never looked at each other save in hostility.

Since he was a superior employee at Jordan's, it was the thing for Paul
to offer Dawes a drink.

"What'll you have?" he asked of him.

"Nowt wi' a bleeder like you!" replied the man.

Paul turned away with a slight disdainful movement of the shoulders,
very irritating.

"The aristocracy," he continued, "is really a military institution. Take
Germany, now. She's got thousands of aristocrats whose only means of
existence is the army. They're deadly poor, and life's deadly slow. So
they hope for a war. They look for war as a chance of getting on. Till
there's a war they are idle good-for-nothings. When there's a war, they
are leaders and commanders. There you are, then--they WANT war!"

He was not a favourite debater in the public-house, being too quick and
overbearing. He irritated the older men by his assertive manner, and
his cocksureness. They listened in silence, and were not sorry when he
finished.

Dawes interrupted the young man's flow of eloquence by asking, in a loud
sneer:

"Did you learn all that at th' theatre th' other night?"

Paul looked at him; their eyes met. Then he knew Dawes had seen him
coming out of the theatre with Clara.

"Why, what about th' theatre?" asked one of Paul's associates, glad to
get a dig at the young fellow, and sniffing something tasty.

"Oh, him in a bob-tailed evening suit, on the lardy-da!" sneered Dawes,
jerking his head contemptuously at Paul.

"That's comin' it strong," said the mutual friend. "Tart an' all?"

"Tart, begod!" said Dawes.

"Go on; let's have it!" cried the mutual friend.

"You've got it," said Dawes, "an' I reckon Morelly had it an' all."

"Well, I'll be jiggered!" said the mutual friend. "An' was it a proper
tart?"

"Tart, God blimey--yes!"

"How do you know?"

"Oh," said Dawes, "I reckon he spent th' night--"

There was a good deal of laughter at Paul's expense.

"But who WAS she? D'you know her?" asked the mutual friend.

"I should SHAY SHO," said Dawes.

This brought another burst of laughter.

"Then spit it out," said the mutual friend.

Dawes shook his head, and took a gulp of beer.

"It's a wonder he hasn't let on himself," he said. "He'll be braggin' of
it in a bit."

"Come on, Paul," said the friend; "it's no good. You might just as well
own up."

"Own up what? That I happened to take a friend to the theatre?"

"Oh well, if it was all right, tell us who she was, lad," said the
friend.

"She WAS all right," said Dawes.

Paul was furious. Dawes wiped his golden moustache with his fingers,
sneering.

"Strike me--! One o' that sort?" said the mutual friend. "Paul, boy, I'm
surprised at you. And do you know her, Baxter?"

"Just a bit, like!"

He winked at the other men.

"Oh well," said Paul, "I'll be going!"

The mutual friend laid a detaining hand on his shoulder.

"Nay," he said, "you don't get off as easy as that, my lad. We've got to
have a full account of this business."

"Then get it from Dawes!" he said.

"You shouldn't funk your own deeds, man," remonstrated the friend.

Then Dawes made a remark which caused Paul to throw half a glass of beer
in his face.

"Oh, Mr. Morel!" cried the barmaid, and she rang the bell for the
"chucker-out".

Dawes spat and rushed for the young man. At that minute a brawny
fellow with his shirt-sleeves rolled up and his trousers tight over his
haunches intervened.

"Now, then!" he said, pushing his chest in front of Dawes.

"Come out!" cried Dawes.

Paul was leaning, white and quivering, against the brass rail of the
bar. He hated Dawes, wished something could exterminate him at that
minute; and at the same time, seeing the wet hair on the man's forehead,
he thought he looked pathetic. He did not move.

"Come out, you--," said Dawes.

"That's enough, Dawes," cried the barmaid.

"Come on," said the "chucker-out", with kindly insistence, "you'd better
be getting on."

And, by making Dawes edge away from his own close proximity, he worked
him to the door.

"THAT'S the little sod as started it!" cried Dawes, half-cowed, pointing
to Paul Morel.

"Why, what a story, Mr. Dawes!" said the barmaid. "You know it was you
all the time."

Still the "chucker-out" kept thrusting his chest forward at him, still
he kept edging back, until he was in the doorway and on the steps
outside; then he turned round.

"All right," he said, nodding straight at his rival.

Paul had a curious sensation of pity, almost of affection, mingled with
violent hate, for the man. The coloured door swung to; there was silence
in the bar.

"Serve, him, jolly well right!" said the barmaid.

"But it's a nasty thing to get a glass of beer in your eyes," said the
mutual friend.

"I tell you I was glad he did," said the barmaid. "Will you have
another, Mr. Morel?"

She held up Paul's glass questioningly. He nodded.

"He's a man as doesn't care for anything, is Baxter Dawes," said one.

"Pooh! is he?" said the barmaid. "He's a loud-mouthed one, he is, and
they're never much good. Give me a pleasant-spoken chap, if you want a
devil!"

"Well, Paul, my lad," said the friend, "you'll have to take care of
yourself now for a while."

"You won't have to give him a chance over you, that's all," said the
barmaid.

"Can you box?" asked a friend.

"Not a bit," he answered, still very white.

"I might give you a turn or two," said the friend.

"Thanks, I haven't time."

And presently he took his departure.

"Go along with him, Mr. Jenkinson," whispered the barmaid, tipping Mr.
Jenkinson the wink.

The man nodded, took his hat, said: "Good-night all!" very heartily, and
followed Paul, calling:

"Half a minute, old man. You an' me's going the same road, I believe."

"Mr. Morel doesn't like it," said the barmaid. "You'll see, we shan't
have him in much more. I'm sorry; he's good company. And Baxter Dawes
wants locking up, that's what he wants."

Paul would have died rather than his mother should get to know of this
affair. He suffered tortures of humiliation and self-consciousness.
There was now a good deal of his life of which necessarily he could not
speak to his mother. He had a life apart from her--his sexual life. The
rest she still kept. But he felt he had to conceal something from her,
and it irked him. There was a certain silence between them, and he
felt he had, in that silence, to defend himself against her; he felt
condemned by her. Then sometimes he hated her, and pulled at her
bondage. His life wanted to free itself of her. It was like a circle
where life turned back on itself, and got no farther. She bore him,
loved him, kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could
not be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman.
At this period, unknowingly, he resisted his mother's influence. He did
not tell her things; there was a distance between them.

Clara was happy, almost sure of him. She felt she had at last got him
for herself; and then again came the uncertainty. He told her jestingly
of the affair with her husband. Her colour came up, her grey eyes
flashed.

"That's him to a 'T'," she cried--"like a navvy! He's not fit for mixing
with decent folk."

"Yet you married him," he said.

It made her furious that he reminded her.

"I did!" she cried. "But how was I to know?"

"I think he might have been rather nice," he said.

"You think I made him what he is!" she exclaimed.

"Oh no! he made himself. But there's something about him--"

Clara looked at her lover closely. There was something in him she hated,
a sort of detached criticism of herself, a coldness which made her
woman's soul harden against him.

"And what are you going to do?" she asked.

"How?"

"About Baxter."

"There's nothing to do, is there?" he replied.

"You can fight him if you have to, I suppose?" she said.

"No; I haven't the least sense of the 'fist'. It's funny. With most men
there's the instinct to clench the fist and hit. It's not so with me. I
should want a knife or a pistol or something to fight with."

"Then you'd better carry something," she said.

"Nay," he laughed; "I'm not daggeroso."

"But he'll do something to you. You don't know him."

"All right," he said, "we'll see."

"And you'll let him?"

"Perhaps, if I can't help it."

"And if he kills you?" she said.

"I should be sorry, for his sake and mine."

Clara was silent for a moment.

"You DO make me angry!" she exclaimed.

"That's nothing afresh," he laughed.

"But why are you so silly? You don't know him."

"And don't want."

"Yes, but you're not going to let a man do as he likes with you?"

"What must I do?" he replied, laughing.

"I should carry a revolver," she said. "I'm sure he's dangerous."

"I might blow my fingers off," he said.

"No; but won't you?" she pleaded.

"No."

"Not anything?"

"No."

"And you'll leave him to--?"

"Yes."

"You are a fool!"

"Fact!"

She set her teeth with anger.

"I could SHAKE you!" she cried, trembling with passion.

"Why?"

"Let a man like HIM do as he likes with you."

"You can go back to him if he triumphs," he said.

"Do you want me to hate you?" she asked.

"Well, I only tell you," he said.

"And YOU say you LOVE me!" she exclaimed, low and indignant.

"Ought I to slay him to please you?" he said. "But if I did, see what a
hold he'd have over me."

"Do you think I'm a fool!" she exclaimed.

"Not at all. But you don't understand me, my dear."

There was a pause between them.

"But you ought NOT to expose yourself," she pleaded.

He shrugged his shoulders.

     "'The man in righteousness arrayed,
     The pure and blameless liver,
     Needs not the keen Toledo blade,
     Nor venom-freighted quiver,'"

he quoted.

She looked at him searchingly.

"I wish I could understand you," she said.

"There's simply nothing to understand," he laughed.

She bowed her head, brooding.

He did not see Dawes for several days; then one morning as he ran
upstairs from the Spiral room he almost collided with the burly
metal-worker.

"What the--!" cried the smith.

"Sorry!" said Paul, and passed on.

"SORRY!" sneered Dawes.

Paul whistled lightly, "Put Me among the Girls".

"I'll stop your whistle, my jockey!" he said.

The other took no notice.

"You're goin' to answer for that job of the other night."

Paul went to his desk in his corner, and turned over the leaves of the
ledger.

"Go and tell Fanny I want order 097, quick!" he said to his boy.

Dawes stood in the doorway, tall and threatening, looking at the top of
the young man's head.

"Six and five's eleven and seven's one-and-six," Paul added aloud.

"An' you hear, do you!" said Dawes.

"FIVE AND NINEPENCE!" He wrote a figure. "What's that?" he said.

"I'm going to show you what it is," said the smith.

The other went on adding the figures aloud.

"Yer crawlin' little--, yer daresn't face me proper!"

Paul quickly snatched the heavy ruler. Dawes started. The young man
ruled some lines in his ledger. The elder man was infuriated.

"But wait till I light on you, no matter where it is, I'll settle your
hash for a bit, yer little swine!"

"All right," said Paul.

At that the smith started heavily from the doorway. Just then a whistle
piped shrilly. Paul went to the speaking-tube.

"Yes!" he said, and he listened. "Er--yes!" He listened, then he
laughed. "I'll come down directly. I've got a visitor just now."

Dawes knew from his tone that he had been speaking to Clara. He stepped
forward.

"Yer little devil!" he said. "I'll visitor you, inside of two minutes!
Think I'm goin' to have YOU whipperty-snappin' round?"

The other clerks in the warehouse looked up. Paul's office-boy appeared,
holding some white article.

"Fanny says you could have had it last night if you'd let her know," he
said.

"All right," answered Paul, looking at the stocking. "Get it off." Dawes
stood frustrated, helpless with rage. Morel turned round.

"Excuse me a minute," he said to Dawes, and he would have run
downstairs.

"By God, I'll stop your gallop!" shouted the smith, seizing him by the
arm. He turned quickly.

"Hey! Hey!" cried the office-boy, alarmed.

Thomas Jordan started out of his little glass office, and came running
down the room.

"What's a-matter, what's a-matter?" he said, in his old man's sharp
voice.

"I'm just goin' ter settle this little--, that's all," said Dawes
desperately.

"What do you mean?" snapped Thomas Jordan.

"What I say," said Dawes, but he hung fire.

Morel was leaning against the counter, ashamed, half-grinning.

"What's it all about?" snapped Thomas Jordan.

"Couldn't say," said Paul, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders.

"Couldn't yer, couldn't yer!" cried Dawes, thrusting forward his
handsome, furious face, and squaring his fist.

"Have you finished?" cried the old man, strutting. "Get off about your
business, and don't come here tipsy in the morning."

Dawes turned his big frame slowly upon him.

"Tipsy!" he said. "Who's tipsy? I'm no more tipsy than YOU are!"

"We've heard that song before," snapped the old man. "Now you get off,
and don't be long about it. Comin' HERE with your rowdying."

The smith looked down contemptuously on his employer. His hands, large,
and grimy, and yet well shaped for his labour, worked restlessly. Paul
remembered they were the hands of Clara's husband, and a flash of hate
went through him.

"Get out before you're turned out!" snapped Thomas Jordan.

"Why, who'll turn me out?" said Dawes, beginning to sneer.

Mr. Jordan started, marched up to the smith, waving him off, thrusting
his stout little figure at the man, saying:

"Get off my premises--get off!"

He seized and twitched Dawes's arm.

"Come off!" said the smith, and with a jerk of the elbow he sent the
little manufacturer staggering backwards.

Before anyone could help him, Thomas Jordan had collided with the flimsy
spring-door. It had given way, and let him crash down the half-dozen
steps into Fanny's room. There was a second of amazement; then men and
girls were running. Dawes stood a moment looking bitterly on the scene,
then he took his departure.

Thomas Jordan was shaken and braised, not otherwise hurt. He was,
however, beside himself with rage. He dismissed Dawes from his
employment, and summoned him for assault.

At the trial Paul Morel had to give evidence. Asked how the trouble
began, he said:

"Dawes took occasion to insult Mrs. Dawes and me because I accompanied
her to the theatre one evening; then I threw some beer at him, and he
wanted his revenge."

"_Cherchez la femme!_" smiled the magistrate.

The case was dismissed after the magistrate had told Dawes he thought
him a skunk.

"You gave the case away," snapped Mr. Jordan to Paul.

"I don't think I did," replied the latter. "Besides, you didn't really
want a conviction, did you?"

"What do you think I took the case up for?"

"Well," said Paul, "I'm sorry if I said the wrong thing." Clara was also
very angry.

"Why need MY name have been dragged in?" she said.

"Better speak it openly than leave it to be whispered."

"There was no need for anything at all," she declared.

"We are none the poorer," he said indifferently.

"YOU may not be," she said.

"And you?" he asked.

"I need never have been mentioned."

"I'm sorry," he said; but he did not sound sorry.

He told himself easily: "She will come round." And she did.

He told his mother about the fall of Mr. Jordan and the trial of Dawes.
Mrs. Morel watched him closely.

"And what do you think of it all?" she asked him.

"I think he's a fool," he said.

But he was very uncomfortable, nevertheless.

"Have you ever considered where it will end?" his mother said.

"No," he answered; "things work out of themselves."

"They do, in a way one doesn't like, as a rule," said his mother.

"And then one has to put up with them," he said.

"You'll find you're not as good at 'putting up' as you imagine," she
said.

He went on working rapidly at his design.

"Do you ever ask HER opinion?" she said at length.

"What of?"

"Of you, and the whole thing."

"I don't care what her opinion of me is. She's fearfully in love with
me, but it's not very deep."

"But quite as deep as your feeling for her."

He looked up at his mother curiously.

"Yes," he said. "You know, mother, I think there must be something the
matter with me, that I CAN'T love. When she's there, as a rule, I DO
love her. Sometimes, when I see her just as THE WOMAN, I love her,
mother; but then, when she talks and criticises, I often don't listen to
her."

"Yet she's as much sense as Miriam."

"Perhaps; and I love her better than Miriam. But WHY don't they hold
me?"

The last question was almost a lamentation. His mother turned away her
face, sat looking across the room, very quiet, grave, with something of
renunciation.

"But you wouldn't want to marry Clara?" she said.

"No; at first perhaps I would. But why--why don't I want to marry her or
anybody? I feel sometimes as if I wronged my women, mother."

"How wronged them, my son?"

"I don't know."

He went on painting rather despairingly; he had touched the quick of the
trouble.

"And as for wanting to marry," said his mother, "there's plenty of time
yet."

"But no, mother. I even love Clara, and I did Miriam; but to GIVE myself
to them in marriage I couldn't. I couldn't belong to them. They seem to
want ME, and I can't ever give it them."

"You haven't met the right woman."

"And I never shall meet the right woman while you live," he said.

She was very quiet. Now she began to feel again tired, as if she were
done.

"We'll see, my son," she answered.

The feeling that things were going in a circle made him mad.

Clara was, indeed, passionately in love with him, and he with her, as
far as passion went. In the daytime he forgot her a good deal. She was
working in the same building, but he was not aware of it. He was busy,
and her existence was of no matter to him. But all the time she was in
her Spiral room she had a sense that he was upstairs, a physical sense
of his person in the same building. Every second she expected him to
come through the door, and when he came it was a shock to her. But he
was often short and offhand with her. He gave her his directions in an
official manner, keeping her at bay. With what wits she had left she
listened to him. She dared not misunderstand or fail to remember, but
it was a cruelty to her. She wanted to touch his chest. She knew exactly
how his breast was shapen under the waistcoat, and she wanted to touch
it. It maddened her to hear his mechanical voice giving orders about
the work. She wanted to break through the sham of it, smash the trivial
coating of business which covered him with hardness, get at the man
again; but she was afraid, and before she could feel one touch of his
warmth he was gone, and she ached again.

He knew that she was dreary every evening she did not see him, so he
gave her a good deal of his time. The days were often a misery to her,
but the evenings and the nights were usually a bliss to them both. Then
they were silent. For hours they sat together, or walked together in the
dark, and talked only a few, almost meaningless words. But he had her
hand in his, and her bosom left its warmth in his chest, making him feel
whole.

One evening they were walking down by the canal, and something was
troubling him. She knew she had not got him. All the time he whistled
softly and persistently to himself. She listened, feeling she could
learn more from his whistling than from his speech. It was a sad
dissatisfied tune--a tune that made her feel he would not stay with her.
She walked on in silence. When they came to the swing bridge he sat down
on the great pole, looking at the stars in the water. He was a long way
from her. She had been thinking.

"Will you always stay at Jordan's?" she asked.

"No," he answered without reflecting. "No; I s'll leave Nottingham and
go abroad--soon."

"Go abroad! What for?"

"I dunno! I feel restless."

"But what shall you do?"

"I shall have to get some steady designing work, and some sort of sale
for my pictures first," he said. "I am gradually making my way. I know I
am."

"And when do you think you'll go?"

"I don't know. I shall hardly go for long, while there's my mother."

"You couldn't leave her?"

"Not for long."

She looked at the stars in the black water. They lay very white and
staring. It was an agony to know he would leave her, but it was almost
an agony to have him near her.

"And if you made a nice lot of money, what would you do?" she asked.

"Go somewhere in a pretty house near London with my mother."

"I see."

There was a long pause.

"I could still come and see you," he said. "I don't know. Don't ask me
what I should do; I don't know."

There was a silence. The stars shuddered and broke upon the water. There
came a breath of wind. He went suddenly to her, and put his hand on her
shoulder.

"Don't ask me anything about the future," he said miserably. "I don't
know anything. Be with me now, will you, no matter what it is?"

And she took him in her arms. After all, she was a married woman, and
she had no right even to what he gave her. He needed her badly. She had
him in her arms, and he was miserable. With her warmth she folded
him over, consoled him, loved him. She would let the moment stand for
itself.

After a moment he lifted his head as if he wanted to speak.

"Clara," he said, struggling.

She caught him passionately to her, pressed his head down on her breast
with her hand. She could not bear the suffering in his voice. She was
afraid in her soul. He might have anything of her--anything; but she did
not want to KNOW. She felt she could not bear it. She wanted him to be
soothed upon her--soothed. She stood clasping him and caressing him, and
he was something unknown to her--something almost uncanny. She wanted to
soothe him into forgetfulness.

And soon the struggle went down in his soul, and he forgot. But then
Clara was not there for him, only a woman, warm, something he loved
and almost worshipped, there in the dark. But it was not Clara, and she
submitted to him. The naked hunger and inevitability of his loving her,
something strong and blind and ruthless in its primitiveness, made the
hour almost terrible to her. She knew how stark and alone he was, and
she felt it was great that he came to her; and she took him simply
because his need was bigger either than her or him, and her soul was
still within her. She did this for him in his need, even if he left her,
for she loved him.

All the while the peewits were screaming in the field. When he came to,
he wondered what was near his eyes, curving and strong with life in the
dark, and what voice it was speaking. Then he realised it was the grass,
and the peewit was calling. The warmth was Clara's breathing heaving.
He lifted his head, and looked into her eyes. They were dark and shining
and strange, life wild at the source staring into his life, stranger to
him, yet meeting him; and he put his face down on her throat, afraid.
What was she? A strong, strange, wild life, that breathed with his
in the darkness through this hour. It was all so much bigger than
themselves that he was hushed. They had met, and included in their
meeting the thrust of the manifold grass stems, the cry of the peewit,
the wheel of the stars.

When they stood up they saw other lovers stealing down the opposite
hedge. It seemed natural they were there; the night contained them.

And after such an evening they both were very still, having known
the immensity of passion. They felt small, half-afraid, childish and
wondering, like Adam and Eve when they lost their innocence and realised
the magnificence of the power which drove them out of Paradise and
across the great night and the great day of humanity. It was for each of
them an initiation and a satisfaction. To know their own nothingness,
to know the tremendous living flood which carried them always, gave them
rest within themselves. If so great a magnificent power could overwhelm
them, identify them altogether with itself, so that they knew they were
only grains in the tremendous heave that lifted every grass blade its
little height, and every tree, and living thing, then why fret about
themselves? They could let themselves be carried by life, and they felt
a sort of peace each in the other. There was a verification which they
had had together. Nothing could nullify it, nothing could take it away;
it was almost their belief in life.

But Clara was not satisfied. Something great was there, she knew;
something great enveloped her. But it did not keep her. In the morning
it was not the same. They had KNOWN, but she could not keep the moment.
She wanted it again; she wanted something permanent. She had not
realised fully. She thought it was he whom she wanted. He was not safe
to her. This that had been between them might never be again; he might
leave her. She had not got him; she was not satisfied. She had been
there, but she had not gripped the--the something--she knew not
what--which she was mad to have.

In the morning he had considerable peace, and was happy in himself. It
seemed almost as if he had known the baptism of fire in passion, and it
left him at rest. But it was not Clara. It was something that happened
because of her, but it was not her. They were scarcely any nearer each
other. It was as if they had been blind agents of a great force.

When she saw him that day at the factory her heart melted like a drop of
fire. It was his body, his brows. The drop of fire grew more intense
in her breast; she must hold him. But he, very quiet, very subdued this
morning, went on giving his instruction. She followed him into the
dark, ugly basement, and lifted her arms to him. He kissed her, and the
intensity of passion began to burn him again. Somebody was at the door.
He ran upstairs; she returned to her room, moving as if in a trance.

After that the fire slowly went down. He felt more and more that his
experience had been impersonal, and not Clara. He loved her. There was
a big tenderness, as after a strong emotion they had known together; but
it was not she who could keep his soul steady. He had wanted her to be
something she could not be.

And she was mad with desire of him. She could not see him without
touching him. In the factory, as he talked to her about Spiral hose,
she ran her hand secretly along his side. She followed him out into the
basement for a quick kiss; her eyes, always mute and yearning, full of
unrestrained passion, she kept fixed on his. He was afraid of her, lest
she should too flagrantly give herself away before the other girls. She
invariably waited for him at dinnertime for him to embrace her before
she went. He felt as if she were helpless, almost a burden to him, and
it irritated him.

"But what do you always want to be kissing and embracing for?" he said.
"Surely there's a time for everything."

She looked up at him, and the hate came into her eyes.

"DO I always want to be kissing you?" she said.

"Always, even if I come to ask you about the work. I don't want anything
to do with love when I'm at work. Work's work--"

"And what is love?" she asked. "Has it to have special hours?"

"Yes; out of work hours."

"And you'll regulate it according to Mr. Jordan's closing time?"

"Yes; and according to the freedom from business of any sort."

"It is only to exist in spare time?"

"That's all, and not always then--not the kissing sort of love."

"And that's all you think of it?"

"It's quite enough."

"I'm glad you think so."

And she was cold to him for some time--she hated him; and while she was
cold and contemptuous, he was uneasy till she had forgiven him again.
But when they started afresh they were not any nearer. He kept her
because he never satisfied her.

In the spring they went together to the seaside. They had rooms at
a little cottage near Theddlethorpe, and lived as man and wife. Mrs.
Radford sometimes went with them.

It was known in Nottingham that Paul Morel and Mrs. Dawes were going
together, but as nothing was very obvious, and Clara always a solitary
person, and he seemed so simple and innocent, it did not make much
difference.

He loved the Lincolnshire coast, and she loved the sea. In the early
morning they often went out together to bathe. The grey of the dawn,
the far, desolate reaches of the fenland smitten with winter, the
sea-meadows rank with herbage, were stark enough to rejoice his soul.
As they stepped on to the highroad from their plank bridge, and looked
round at the endless monotony of levels, the land a little darker than
the sky, the sea sounding small beyond the sandhills, his heart filled
strong with the sweeping relentlessness of life. She loved him then. He
was solitary and strong, and his eyes had a beautiful light.

They shuddered with cold; then he raced her down the road to the green
turf bridge. She could run well. Her colour soon came, her throat was
bare, her eyes shone. He loved her for being so luxuriously heavy, and
yet so quick. Himself was light; she went with a beautiful rush. They
grew warm, and walked hand in hand.

A flush came into the sky, the wan moon, half-way down the west, sank
into insignificance. On the shadowy land things began to take life,
plants with great leaves became distinct. They came through a pass in
the big, cold sandhills on to the beach. The long waste of foreshore lay
moaning under the dawn and the sea; the ocean was a flat dark strip with
a white edge. Over the gloomy sea the sky grew red. Quickly the fire
spread among the clouds and scattered them. Crimson burned to orange,
orange to dull gold, and in a golden glitter the sun came up, dribbling
fierily over the waves in little splashes, as if someone had gone along
and the light had spilled from her pail as she walked.

The breakers ran down the shore in long, hoarse strokes. Tiny seagulls,
like specks of spray, wheeled above the line of surf. Their crying
seemed larger than they. Far away the coast reached out, and melted into
the morning, the tussocky sandhills seemed to sink to a level with the
beach. Mablethorpe was tiny on their right. They had alone the space of
all this level shore, the sea, and the upcoming sun, the faint noise of
the waters, the sharp crying of the gulls.

They had a warm hollow in the sandhills where the wind did not come. He
stood looking out to sea.

"It's very fine," he said.

"Now don't get sentimental," she said.

It irritated her to see him standing gazing at the sea, like a solitary
and poetic person. He laughed. She quickly undressed.

"There are some fine waves this morning," she said triumphantly.

She was a better swimmer than he; he stood idly watching her.

"Aren't you coming?" she said.

"In a minute," he answered.

She was white and velvet skinned, with heavy shoulders. A little wind,
coming from the sea, blew across her body and ruffled her hair.

The morning was of a lovely limpid gold colour. Veils of shadow seemed
to be drifting away on the north and the south. Clara stood shrinking
slightly from the touch of the wind, twisting her hair. The sea-grass
rose behind the white stripped woman. She glanced at the sea, then
looked at him. He was watching her with dark eyes which she loved and
could not understand. She hugged her breasts between her arms, cringing,
laughing:

"Oo, it will be so cold!" she said.

He bent forward and kissed her, held her suddenly close, and kissed her
again. She stood waiting. He looked into her eyes, then away at the pale
sands.

"Go, then!" he said quietly.

She flung her arms round his neck, drew him against her, kissed him
passionately, and went, saying:

"But you'll come in?"

"In a minute."

She went plodding heavily over the sand that was soft as velvet. He,
on the sandhills, watched the great pale coast envelop her. She grew
smaller, lost proportion, seemed only like a large white bird toiling
forward.

"Not much more than a big white pebble on the beach, not much more
than a clot of foam being blown and rolled over the sand," he said to
himself.

She seemed to move very slowly across the vast sounding shore. As he
watched, he lost her. She was dazzled out of sight by the sunshine.
Again he saw her, the merest white speck moving against the white,
muttering sea-edge.

"Look how little she is!" he said to himself. "She's lost like a grain
of sand in the beach--just a concentrated speck blown along, a tiny
white foam-bubble, almost nothing among the morning. Why does she absorb
me?"

The morning was altogether uninterrupted: she was gone in the water. Far
and wide the beach, the sandhills with their blue marrain, the shining
water, glowed together in immense, unbroken solitude.

"What is she, after all?" he said to himself. "Here's the seacoast
morning, big and permanent and beautiful; there is she, fretting, always
unsatisfied, and temporary as a bubble of foam. What does she mean
to me, after all? She represents something, like a bubble of foam
represents the sea. But what is she? It's not her I care for."

Then, startled by his own unconscious thoughts, that seemed to speak so
distinctly that all the morning could hear, he undressed and ran quickly
down the sands. She was watching for him. Her arm flashed up to him, she
heaved on a wave, subsided, her shoulders in a pool of liquid silver.
He jumped through the breakers, and in a moment her hand was on his
shoulder.

He was a poor swimmer, and could not stay long in the water. She played
round him in triumph, sporting with her superiority, which he begrudged
her. The sunshine stood deep and fine on the water. They laughed in the
sea for a minute or two, then raced each other back to the sandhills.

When they were drying themselves, panting heavily, he watched her
laughing, breathless face, her bright shoulders, her breasts that swayed
and made him frightened as she rubbed them, and he thought again:

"But she is magnificent, and even bigger than the morning and the sea.
Is she--? Is she--"

She, seeing his dark eyes fixed on her, broke off from her drying with a
laugh.

"What are you looking at?" she said.

"You," he answered, laughing.

Her eyes met his, and in a moment he was kissing her white
"goose-fleshed" shoulder, and thinking:

"What is she? What is she?"

She loved him in the morning. There was something detached, hard, and
elemental about his kisses then, as if he were only conscious of his own
will, not in the least of her and her wanting him.

Later in the day he went out sketching.

"You," he said to her, "go with your mother to Sutton. I am so dull."

She stood and looked at him. He knew she wanted to come with him, but he
preferred to be alone. She made him feel imprisoned when she was there,
as if he could not get a free deep breath, as if there were something on
top of him. She felt his desire to be free of her.

In the evening he came back to her. They walked down the shore in the
darkness, then sat for a while in the shelter of the sandhills.

"It seems," she said, as they stared over the darkness of the sea, where
no light was to be seen--"it seemed as if you only loved me at night--as
if you didn't love me in the daytime."

He ran the cold sand through his fingers, feeling guilty under the
accusation.

"The night is free to you," he replied. "In the daytime I want to be by
myself."

"But why?" she said. "Why, even now, when we are on this short holiday?"

"I don't know. Love-making stifles me in the daytime."

"But it needn't be always love-making," she said.

"It always is," he answered, "when you and I are together."

She sat feeling very bitter.

"Do you ever want to marry me?" he asked curiously.

"Do you me?" she replied.

"Yes, yes; I should like us to have children," he answered slowly.

She sat with her head bent, fingering the sand.

"But you don't really want a divorce from Baxter, do you?" he said.

It was some minutes before she replied.

"No," she said, very deliberately; "I don't think I do."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

"Do you feel as if you belonged to him?"

"No; I don't think so."

"What, then?"

"I think he belongs to me," she replied.

He was silent for some minutes, listening to the wind blowing over the
hoarse, dark sea.

"And you never really intended to belong to ME?" he said.

"Yes, I do belong to you," she answered.

"No," he said; "because you don't want to be divorced."

It was a knot they could not untie, so they left it, took what they
could get, and what they could not attain they ignored.

"I consider you treated Baxter rottenly," he said another time.

He half-expected Clara to answer him, as his mother would: "You consider
your own affairs, and don't know so much about other people's." But she
took him seriously, almost to his own surprise.

"Why?" she said.

"I suppose you thought he was a lily of the valley, and so you put him
in an appropriate pot, and tended him according. You made up your mind
he was a lily of the valley and it was no good his being a cow-parsnip.
You wouldn't have it."

"I certainly never imagined him a lily of the valley."

"You imagined him something he wasn't. That's just what a woman is. She
thinks she knows what's good for a man, and she's going to see he gets
it; and no matter if he's starving, he may sit and whistle for what he
needs, while she's got him, and is giving him what's good for him."

"And what are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm thinking what tune I shall whistle," he laughed.

And instead of boxing his ears, she considered him in earnest.

"You think I want to give you what's good for you?" she asked.

"I hope so; but love should give a sense of freedom, not of prison.
Miriam made me feel tied up like a donkey to a stake. I must feed on her
patch, and nowhere else. It's sickening!"

"And would YOU let a WOMAN do as she likes?"

"Yes; I'll see that she likes to love me. If she doesn't--well, I don't
hold her."

"If you were as wonderful as you say--," replied Clara.

"I should be the marvel I am," he laughed.

There was a silence in which they hated each other, though they laughed.

"Love's a dog in a manger," he said.

"And which of us is the dog?" she asked.

"Oh well, you, of course."

So there went on a battle between them. She knew she never fully had
him. Some part, big and vital in him, she had no hold over; nor did she
ever try to get it, or even to realise what it was. And he knew in some
way that she held herself still as Mrs. Dawes. She did not love Dawes,
never had loved him; but she believed he loved her, at least depended on
her. She felt a certain surety about him that she never felt with Paul
Morel. Her passion for the young man had filled her soul, given her
a certain satisfaction, eased her of her self-mistrust, her doubt.
Whatever else she was, she was inwardly assured. It was almost as if
she had gained HERSELF, and stood now distinct and complete. She had
received her confirmation; but she never believed that her life belonged
to Paul Morel, nor his to her. They would separate in the end, and the
rest of her life would be an ache after him. But at any rate, she knew
now, she was sure of herself. And the same could almost be said of him.
Together they had received the baptism of life, each through the other;
but now their missions were separate. Where he wanted to go she could
not come with him. They would have to part sooner or later. Even if they
married, and were faithful to each other, still he would have to leave
her, go on alone, and she would only have to attend to him when he came
home. But it was not possible. Each wanted a mate to go side by side
with.

Clara had gone to live with her mother upon Mapperley Plains. One
evening, as Paul and she were walking along Woodborough Road, they met
Dawes. Morel knew something about the bearing of the man approaching,
but he was absorbed in his thinking at the moment, so that only his
artist's eye watched the form of the stranger. Then he suddenly turned
to Clara with a laugh, and put his hand on her shoulder, saying,
laughing:

"But we walk side by side, and yet I'm in London arguing with an
imaginary Orpen; and where are you?"

At that instant Dawes passed, almost touching Morel. The young man
glanced, saw the dark brown eyes burning, full of hate and yet tired.

"Who was that?" he asked of Clara.

"It was Baxter," she replied.

Paul took his hand from her shoulder and glanced round; then he saw
again distinctly the man's form as it approached him. Dawes still walked
erect, with his fine shoulders flung back, and his face lifted; but
there was a furtive look in his eyes that gave one the impression he was
trying to get unnoticed past every person he met, glancing suspiciously
to see what they thought of him. And his hands seemed to be wanting to
hide. He wore old clothes, the trousers were torn at the knee, and the
handkerchief tied round his throat was dirty; but his cap was still
defiantly over one eye. As she saw him, Clara felt guilty. There was
a tiredness and despair on his face that made her hate him, because it
hurt her.

"He looks shady," said Paul.

But the note of pity in his voice reproached her, and made her feel
hard.

"His true commonness comes out," she answered.

"Do you hate him?" he asked.

"You talk," she said, "about the cruelty of women; I wish you knew the
cruelty of men in their brute force. They simply don't know that the
woman exists."

"Don't I?" he said.

"No," she answered.

"Don't I know you exist?"

"About ME you know nothing," she said bitterly--"about ME!"

"No more than Baxter knew?" he asked.

"Perhaps not as much."

He felt puzzled, and helpless, and angry. There she walked unknown to
him, though they had been through such experience together.

"But you know ME pretty well," he said.

She did not answer.

"Did you know Baxter as well as you know me?" he asked.

"He wouldn't let me," she said.

"And I have let you know me?"

"It's what men WON'T let you do. They won't let you get really near to
them," she said.

"And haven't I let you?"

"Yes," she answered slowly; "but you've never come near to me. You can't
come out of yourself, you can't. Baxter could do that better than you."

He walked on pondering. He was angry with her for preferring Baxter to
him.

"You begin to value Baxter now you've not got him," he said.

"No; I can only see where he was different from you."

But he felt she had a grudge against him.

One evening, as they were coming home over the fields, she startled him
by asking:

"Do you think it's worth it--the--the sex part?"

"The act of loving, itself?"

"Yes; is it worth anything to you?"

"But how can you separate it?" he said. "It's the culmination of
everything. All our intimacy culminates then."

"Not for me," she said.

He was silent. A flash of hate for her came up. After all, she was
dissatisfied with him, even there, where he thought they fulfilled each
other. But he believed her too implicitly.

"I feel," she continued slowly, "as if I hadn't got you, as if all of
you weren't there, and as if it weren't ME you were taking--"

"Who, then?"

"Something just for yourself. It has been fine, so that I daren't think
of it. But is it ME you want, or is it IT?"

He again felt guilty. Did he leave Clara out of count, and take simply
women? But he thought that was splitting a hair.

"When I had Baxter, actually had him, then I DID feel as if I had all of
him," she said.

"And it was better?" he asked.

"Yes, yes; it was more whole. I don't say you haven't given me more than
he ever gave me."

"Or could give you."

"Yes, perhaps; but you've never given me yourself."

He knitted his brows angrily.

"If I start to make love to you," he said, "I just go like a leaf down
the wind."

"And leave me out of count," she said.

"And then is it nothing to you?" he asked, almost rigid with chagrin.

"It's something; and sometimes you have carried me away--right away--I
know--and--I reverence you for it--but--"

"Don't 'but' me," he said, kissing her quickly, as a fire ran through
him.

She submitted, and was silent.

It was true as he said. As a rule, when he started love-making, the
emotion was strong enough to carry with it everything--reason, soul,
blood--in a great sweep, like the Trent carries bodily its back-swirls
and intertwinings, noiselessly. Gradually the little criticisms, the
little sensations, were lost, thought also went, everything borne along
in one flood. He became, not a man with a mind, but a great instinct.
His hands were like creatures, living; his limbs, his body, were
all life and consciousness, subject to no will of his, but living in
themselves. Just as he was, so it seemed the vigorous, wintry stars were
strong also with life. He and they struck with the same pulse of fire,
and the same joy of strength which held the bracken-frond stiff near
his eyes held his own body firm. It was as if he, and the stars, and the
dark herbage, and Clara were licked up in an immense tongue of flame,
which tore onwards and upwards. Everything rushed along in living beside
him; everything was still, perfect in itself, along with him. This
wonderful stillness in each thing in itself, while it was being borne
along in a very ecstasy of living, seemed the highest point of bliss.

And Clara knew this held him to her, so she trusted altogether to the
passion. It, however, failed her very often. They did not often reach
again the height of that once when the peewits had called. Gradually,
some mechanical effort spoilt their loving, or, when they had splendid
moments, they had them separately, and not so satisfactorily. So often
he seemed merely to be running on alone; often they realised it had been
a failure, not what they had wanted. He left her, knowing THAT evening
had only made a little split between them. Their loving grew more
mechanical, without the marvellous glamour. Gradually they began to
introduce novelties, to get back some of the feeling of satisfaction.
They would be very near, almost dangerously near to the river, so that
the black water ran not far from his face, and it gave a little thrill;
or they loved sometimes in a little hollow below the fence of the path
where people were passing occasionally, on the edge of the town, and
they heard footsteps coming, almost felt the vibration of the tread,
and they heard what the passersby said--strange little things that
were never intended to be heard. And afterwards each of them was rather
ashamed, and these things caused a distance between the two of them. He
began to despise her a little, as if she had merited it!

One night he left her to go to Daybrook Station over the fields. It
was very dark, with an attempt at snow, although the spring was so far
advanced. Morel had not much time; he plunged forward. The town ceases
almost abruptly on the edge of a steep hollow; there the houses with
their yellow lights stand up against the darkness. He went over the
stile, and dropped quickly into the hollow of the fields. Under the
orchard one warm window shone in Swineshead Farm. Paul glanced round.
Behind, the houses stood on the brim of the dip, black against the
sky, like wild beasts glaring curiously with yellow eyes down into the
darkness. It was the town that seemed savage and uncouth, glaring on the
clouds at the back of him. Some creature stirred under the willows of
the farm pond. It was too dark to distinguish anything.

He was close up to the next stile before he saw a dark shape leaning
against it. The man moved aside.

"Good-evening!" he said.

"Good-evening!" Morel answered, not noticing.

"Paul Morel?" said the man.

Then he knew it was Dawes. The man stopped his way.

"I've got yer, have I?" he said awkwardly.

"I shall miss my train," said Paul.

He could see nothing of Dawes's face. The man's teeth seemed to chatter
as he talked.

"You're going to get it from me now," said Dawes.

Morel attempted to move forward; the other man stepped in front of him.

"Are yer goin' to take that top-coat off," he said, "or are you goin' to
lie down to it?"

Paul was afraid the man was mad.

"But," he said, "I don't know how to fight."

"All right, then," answered Dawes, and before the younger man knew where
he was, he was staggering backwards from a blow across the face.

The whole night went black. He tore off his overcoat and coat, dodging
a blow, and flung the garments over Dawes. The latter swore savagely.
Morel, in his shirt-sleeves, was now alert and furious. He felt his
whole body unsheath itself like a claw. He could not fight, so he would
use his wits. The other man became more distinct to him; he could see
particularly the shirt-breast. Dawes stumbled over Paul's coats, then
came rushing forward. The young man's mouth was bleeding. It was the
other man's mouth he was dying to get at, and the desire was anguish
in its strength. He stepped quickly through the stile, and as Dawes was
coming through after him, like a flash he got a blow in over the other's
mouth. He shivered with pleasure. Dawes advanced slowly, spitting. Paul
was afraid; he moved round to get to the stile again. Suddenly, from
out of nowhere, came a great blow against his ear, that sent him falling
helpless backwards. He heard Dawes's heavy panting, like a wild beast's,
then came a kick on the knee, giving him such agony that he got up and,
quite blind, leapt clean under his enemy's guard. He felt blows and
kicks, but they did not hurt. He hung on to the bigger man like a wild
cat, till at last Dawes fell with a crash, losing his presence of mind.
Paul went down with him. Pure instinct brought his hands to the man's
neck, and before Dawes, in frenzy and agony, could wrench him free,
he had got his fists twisted in the scarf and his knuckles dug in the
throat of the other man. He was a pure instinct, without reason or
feeling. His body, hard and wonderful in itself, cleaved against the
struggling body of the other man; not a muscle in him relaxed. He was
quite unconscious, only his body had taken upon itself to kill this
other man. For himself, he had neither feeling nor reason. He lay
pressed hard against his adversary, his body adjusting itself to its one
pure purpose of choking the other man, resisting exactly at the right
moment, with exactly the right amount of strength, the struggles of
the other, silent, intent, unchanging, gradually pressing its knuckles
deeper, feeling the struggles of the other body become wilder and
more frenzied. Tighter and tighter grew his body, like a screw that is
gradually increasing in pressure, till something breaks.

Then suddenly he relaxed, full of wonder and misgiving. Dawes had been
yielding. Morel felt his body flame with pain, as he realised what he
was doing; he was all bewildered. Dawes's struggles suddenly renewed
themselves in a furious spasm. Paul's hands were wrenched, torn out of
the scarf in which they were knotted, and he was flung away, helpless.
He heard the horrid sound of the other's gasping, but he lay stunned;
then, still dazed, he felt the blows of the other's feet, and lost
consciousness.

Dawes, grunting with pain like a beast, was kicking the prostrate body
of his rival. Suddenly the whistle of the train shrieked two fields
away. He turned round and glared suspiciously. What was coming? He saw
the lights of the train draw across his vision. It seemed to him people
were approaching. He made off across the field into Nottingham, and
dimly in his consciousness as he went, he felt on his foot the place
where his boot had knocked against one of the lad's bones. The knock
seemed to re-echo inside him; he hurried to get away from it.

Morel gradually came to himself. He knew where he was and what had
happened, but he did not want to move. He lay still, with tiny bits of
snow tickling his face. It was pleasant to lie quite, quite still. The
time passed. It was the bits of snow that kept rousing him when he did
not want to be roused. At last his will clicked into action.

"I mustn't lie here," he said; "it's silly."

But still he did not move.

"I said I was going to get up," he repeated. "Why don't I?"

And still it was some time before he had sufficiently pulled himself
together to stir; then gradually he got up. Pain made him sick and
dazed, but his brain was clear. Reeling, he groped for his coats and got
them on, buttoning his overcoat up to his ears. It was some time before
he found his cap. He did not know whether his face was still bleeding.
Walking blindly, every step making him sick with pain, he went back to
the pond and washed his face and hands. The icy water hurt, but helped
to bring him back to himself. He crawled back up the hill to the tram.
He wanted to get to his mother--he must get to his mother--that was his
blind intention. He covered his face as much as he could, and struggled
sickly along. Continually the ground seemed to fall away from him as
he walked, and he felt himself dropping with a sickening feeling into
space; so, like a nightmare, he got through with the journey home.

Everybody was in bed. He looked at himself. His face was discoloured
and smeared with blood, almost like a dead man's face. He washed it, and
went to bed. The night went by in delirium. In the morning he found his
mother looking at him. Her blue eyes--they were all he wanted to see.
She was there; he was in her hands.

"It's not much, mother," he said. "It was Baxter Dawes."

"Tell me where it hurts you," she said quietly.

"I don't know--my shoulder. Say it was a bicycle accident, mother."

He could not move his arm. Presently Minnie, the little servant, came
upstairs with some tea.

"Your mother's nearly frightened me out of my wits--fainted away," she
said.

He felt he could not bear it. His mother nursed him; he told her about
it.

"And now I should have done with them all," she said quietly.

"I will, mother."

She covered him up.

"And don't think about it," she said--"only try to go to sleep. The
doctor won't be here till eleven."

He had a dislocated shoulder, and the second day acute bronchitis set
in. His mother was pale as death now, and very thin. She would sit and
look at him, then away into space. There was something between them that
neither dared mention. Clara came to see him. Afterwards he said to his
mother:

"She makes me tired, mother."

"Yes; I wish she wouldn't come," Mrs. Morel replied.

Another day Miriam came, but she seemed almost like a stranger to him.

"You know, I don't care about them, mother," he said.

"I'm afraid you don't, my son," she replied sadly.

It was given out everywhere that it was a bicycle accident. Soon he
was able to go to work again, but now there was a constant sickness and
gnawing at his heart. He went to Clara, but there seemed, as it were,
nobody there. He could not work. He and his mother seemed almost to
avoid each other. There was some secret between them which they could
not bear. He was not aware of it. He only knew that his life seemed
unbalanced, as if it were going to smash into pieces.

Clara did not know what was the matter with him. She realised that he
seemed unaware of her. Even when he came to her he seemed unaware of
her; always he was somewhere else. She felt she was clutching for him,
and he was somewhere else. It tortured her, and so she tortured him. For
a month at a time she kept him at arm's length. He almost hated her, and
was driven to her in spite of himself. He went mostly into the company
of men, was always at the George or the White Horse. His mother was ill,
distant, quiet, shadowy. He was terrified of something; he dared not
look at her. Her eyes seemed to grow darker, her face more waxen; still
she dragged about at her work.

At Whitsuntide he said he would go to Blackpool for four days with his
friend Newton. The latter was a big, jolly fellow, with a touch of the
bounder about him. Paul said his mother must go to Sheffield to stay a
week with Annie, who lived there. Perhaps the change would do her good.
Mrs. Morel was attending a woman's doctor in Nottingham. He said her
heart and her digestion were wrong. She consented to go to Sheffield,
though she did not want to; but now she would do everything her son
wished of her. Paul said he would come for her on the fifth day, and
stay also in Sheffield till the holiday was up. It was agreed.

The two young men set off gaily for Blackpool. Mrs. Morel was quite
lively as Paul kissed her and left her. Once at the station, he forgot
everything. Four days were clear--not an anxiety, not a thought. The two
young men simply enjoyed themselves. Paul was like another man. None of
himself remained--no Clara, no Miriam, no mother that fretted him. He
wrote to them all, and long letters to his mother; but they were jolly
letters that made her laugh. He was having a good time, as young fellows
will in a place like Blackpool. And underneath it all was a shadow for
her.

Paul was very gay, excited at the thought of staying with his mother in
Sheffield. Newton was to spend the day with them. Their train was late.
Joking, laughing, with their pipes between their teeth, the young men
swung their bags on to the tram-car. Paul had bought his mother a little
collar of real lace that he wanted to see her wear, so that he could
tease her about it.

Annie lived in a nice house, and had a little maid. Paul ran gaily up
the steps. He expected his mother laughing in the hall, but it was
Annie who opened to him. She seemed distant to him. He stood a second in
dismay. Annie let him kiss her cheek.

"Is my mother ill?" he said.

"Yes; she's not very well. Don't upset her."

"Is she in bed?"

"Yes."

And then the queer feeling went over him, as if all the sunshine had
gone out of him, and it was all shadow. He dropped the bag and ran
upstairs. Hesitating, he opened the door. His mother sat up in bed,
wearing a dressing-gown of old-rose colour. She looked at him almost as
if she were ashamed of herself, pleading to him, humble. He saw the ashy
look about her.

"Mother!" he said.

"I thought you were never coming," she answered gaily.

But he only fell on his knees at the bedside, and buried his face in the
bedclothes, crying in agony, and saying:

"Mother--mother--mother!"

She stroked his hair slowly with her thin hand.

"Don't cry," she said. "Don't cry--it's nothing."

But he felt as if his blood was melting into tears, and he cried in
terror and pain.

"Don't--don't cry," his mother faltered.

Slowly she stroked his hair. Shocked out of himself, he cried, and the
tears hurt in every fibre of his body. Suddenly he stopped, but he dared
not lift his face out of the bedclothes.

"You ARE late. Where have you been?" his mother asked.

"The train was late," he replied, muffled in the sheet.

"Yes; that miserable Central! Is Newton come?"

"Yes."

"I'm sure you must be hungry, and they've kept dinner waiting."

With a wrench he looked up at her.

"What is it, mother?" he asked brutally.

She averted her eyes as she answered:

"Only a bit of a tumour, my boy. You needn't trouble. It's been
there--the lump has--a long time."

Up came the tears again. His mind was clear and hard, but his body was
crying.

"Where?" he said.

She put her hand on her side.

"Here. But you know they can sweal a tumour away."

He stood feeling dazed and helpless, like a child. He thought perhaps it
was as she said. Yes; he reassured himself it was so. But all the while
his blood and his body knew definitely what it was. He sat down on
the bed, and took her hand. She had never had but the one ring--her
wedding-ring.

"When were you poorly?" he asked.

"It was yesterday it began," she answered submissively.

"Pains?"

"Yes; but not more than I've often had at home. I believe Dr. Ansell is
an alarmist."

"You ought not to have travelled alone," he said, to himself more than
to her.

"As if that had anything to do with it!" she answered quickly.

They were silent for a while.

"Now go and have your dinner," she said. "You MUST be hungry."

"Have you had yours?"

"Yes; a beautiful sole I had. Annie IS good to me."

They talked a little while, then he went downstairs. He was very white
and strained. Newton sat in miserable sympathy.

After dinner he went into the scullery to help Annie to wash up. The
little maid had gone on an errand.

"Is it really a tumour?" he asked.

Annie began to cry again.

"The pain she had yesterday--I never saw anybody suffer like it!" she
cried. "Leonard ran like a madman for Dr. Ansell, and when she'd got to
bed she said to me: 'Annie, look at this lump on my side. I wonder what
it is?' And there I looked, and I thought I should have dropped. Paul,
as true as I'm here, it's a lump as big as my double fist. I said: 'Good
gracious, mother, whenever did that come?' 'Why, child,' she said, 'it's
been there a long time.' I thought I should have died, our Paul, I did.
She's been having these pains for months at home, and nobody looking
after her."

The tears came to his eyes, then dried suddenly.

"But she's been attending the doctor in Nottingham--and she never told
me," he said.

"If I'd have been at home," said Annie, "I should have seen for myself."

He felt like a man walking in unrealities. In the afternoon he went to
see the doctor. The latter was a shrewd, lovable man.

"But what is it?" he said.

The doctor looked at the young man, then knitted his fingers.

"It may be a large tumour which has formed in the membrane," he said
slowly, "and which we MAY be able to make go away."

"Can't you operate?" asked Paul.

"Not there," replied the doctor.

"Are you sure?"

"QUITE!"

Paul meditated a while.

"Are you sure it's a tumour?" he asked. "Why did Dr. Jameson in
Nottingham never find out anything about it? She's been going to him for
weeks, and he's treated her for heart and indigestion."

"Mrs. Morel never told Dr. Jameson about the lump," said the doctor.

"And do you KNOW it's a tumour?"

"No, I am not sure."

"What else MIGHT it be? You asked my sister if there was cancer in the
family. Might it be cancer?"

"I don't know."

"And what shall you do?"

"I should like an examination, with Dr. Jameson."

"Then have one."

"You must arrange about that. His fee wouldn't be less than ten guineas
to come here from Nottingham."

"When would you like him to come?"

"I will call in this evening, and we will talk it over."

Paul went away, biting his lip.

His mother could come downstairs for tea, the doctor said. Her son went
upstairs to help her. She wore the old-rose dressing-gown that Leonard
had given Annie, and, with a little colour in her face, was quite young
again.

"But you look quite pretty in that," he said.

"Yes; they make me so fine, I hardly know myself," she answered.

But when she stood up to walk, the colour went. Paul helped her,
half-carrying her. At the top of the stairs she was gone. He lifted her
up and carried her quickly downstairs; laid her on the couch. She was
light and frail. Her face looked as if she were dead, with blue lips
shut tight. Her eyes opened--her blue, unfailing eyes--and she looked at
him pleadingly, almost wanting him to forgive her. He held brandy to
her lips, but her mouth would not open. All the time she watched him
lovingly. She was only sorry for him. The tears ran down his face
without ceasing, but not a muscle moved. He was intent on getting
a little brandy between her lips. Soon she was able to swallow a
teaspoonful. She lay back, so tired. The tears continued to run down his
face.

"But," she panted, "it'll go off. Don't cry!"

"I'm not doing," he said.

After a while she was better again. He was kneeling beside the couch.
They looked into each other's eyes.

"I don't want you to make a trouble of it," she said.

"No, mother. You'll have to be quite still, and then you'll get better
soon."

But he was white to the lips, and their eyes as they looked at each
other understood. Her eyes were so blue--such a wonderful forget-me-not
blue! He felt if only they had been of a different colour he could have
borne it better. His heart seemed to be ripping slowly in his breast. He
kneeled there, holding her hand, and neither said anything. Then Annie
came in.

"Are you all right?" she murmured timidly to her mother.

"Of course," said Mrs. Morel.

Paul sat down and told her about Blackpool. She was curious.

A day or two after, he went to see Dr. Jameson in Nottingham, to arrange
for a consultation. Paul had practically no money in the world. But he
could borrow.

His mother had been used to go to the public consultation on Saturday
morning, when she could see the doctor for only a nominal sum. Her son
went on the same day. The waiting-room was full of poor women, who sat
patiently on a bench around the wall. Paul thought of his mother, in her
little black costume, sitting waiting likewise. The doctor was late. The
women all looked rather frightened. Paul asked the nurse in attendance
if he could see the doctor immediately he came. It was arranged so. The
women sitting patiently round the walls of the room eyed the young man
curiously.

At last the doctor came. He was about forty, good-looking,
brown-skinned. His wife had died, and he, who had loved her, had
specialised on women's ailments. Paul told his name and his mother's.
The doctor did not remember.

"Number forty-six M.," said the nurse; and the doctor looked up the case
in his book.

"There is a big lump that may be a tumour," said Paul. "But Dr. Ansell
was going to write you a letter."

"Ah, yes!" replied the doctor, drawing the letter from his pocket. He
was very friendly, affable, busy, kind. He would come to Sheffield the
next day.

"What is your father?" he asked.

"He is a coal-miner," replied Paul.

"Not very well off, I suppose?"

"This--I see after this," said Paul.

"And you?" smiled the doctor.

"I am a clerk in Jordan's Appliance Factory."

The doctor smiled at him.

"Er--to go to Sheffield!" he said, putting the tips of his fingers
together, and smiling with his eyes. "Eight guineas?"

"Thank you!" said Paul, flushing and rising. "And you'll come
to-morrow?"

"To-morrow--Sunday? Yes! Can you tell me about what time there is a
train in the afternoon?"

"There is a Central gets in at four-fifteen."

"And will there be any way of getting up to the house? Shall I have to
walk?" The doctor smiled.

"There is the tram," said Paul; "the Western Park tram."

The doctor made a note of it.

"Thank you!" he said, and shook hands.

Then Paul went on home to see his father, who was left in the charge of
Minnie. Walter Morel was getting very grey now. Paul found him digging
in the garden. He had written him a letter. He shook hands with his
father.

"Hello, son! Tha has landed, then?" said the father.

"Yes," replied the son. "But I'm going back to-night."

"Are ter, beguy!" exclaimed the collier. "An' has ter eaten owt?"

"No."

"That's just like thee," said Morel. "Come thy ways in."

The father was afraid of the mention of his wife. The two went indoors.
Paul ate in silence; his father, with earthy hands, and sleeves rolled
up, sat in the arm-chair opposite and looked at him.

"Well, an' how is she?" asked the miner at length, in a little voice.

"She can sit up; she can be carried down for tea," said Paul.

"That's a blessin'!" exclaimed Morel. "I hope we s'll soon be havin' her
whoam, then. An' what's that Nottingham doctor say?"

"He's going to-morrow to have an examination of her."

"Is he beguy! That's a tidy penny, I'm thinkin'!"

"Eight guineas."

"Eight guineas!" the miner spoke breathlessly. "Well, we mun find it
from somewhere."

"I can pay that," said Paul.

There was silence between them for some time.

"She says she hopes you're getting on all right with Minnie," Paul said.

"Yes, I'm all right, an' I wish as she was," answered Morel. "But
Minnie's a good little wench, bless 'er heart!" He sat looking dismal.

"I s'll have to be going at half-past three," said Paul.

"It's a trapse for thee, lad! Eight guineas! An' when dost think she'll
be able to get as far as this?"

"We must see what the doctors say to-morrow," Paul said.

Morel sighed deeply. The house seemed strangely empty, and Paul thought
his father looked lost, forlorn, and old.

"You'll have to go and see her next week, father," he said.

"I hope she'll be a-whoam by that time," said Morel.

"If she's not," said Paul, "then you must come."

"I dunno wheer I s'll find th' money," said Morel.

"And I'll write to you what the doctor says," said Paul.

"But tha writes i' such a fashion, I canna ma'e it out," said Morel.

"Well, I'll write plain."

It was no good asking Morel to answer, for he could scarcely do more
than write his own name.

The doctor came. Leonard felt it his duty to meet him with a cab. The
examination did not take long. Annie, Arthur, Paul, and Leonard were
waiting in the parlour anxiously. The doctors came down. Paul glanced at
them. He had never had any hope, except when he had deceived himself.

"It MAY be a tumour; we must wait and see," said Dr. Jameson.

"And if it is," said Annie, "can you sweal it away?"

"Probably," said the doctor.

Paul put eight sovereigns and half a sovereign on the table. The doctor
counted them, took a florin out of his purse, and put that down.

"Thank you!" he said. "I'm sorry Mrs. Morel is so ill. But we must see
what we can do."

"There can't be an operation?" said Paul.

The doctor shook his head.

"No," he said; "and even if there could, her heart wouldn't stand it."

"Is her heart risky?" asked Paul.

"Yes; you must be careful with her."

"Very risky?"

"No--er--no, no! Just take care."

And the doctor was gone.

Then Paul carried his mother downstairs. She lay simply, like a
child. But when he was on the stairs, she put her arms round his neck,
clinging.

"I'm so frightened of these beastly stairs," she said.

And he was frightened, too. He would let Leonard do it another time. He
felt he could not carry her.

"He thinks it's only a tumour!" cried Annie to her mother. "And he can
sweal it away."

"I KNEW he could," protested Mrs. Morel scornfully.

She pretended not to notice that Paul had gone out of the room. He sat
in the kitchen, smoking. Then he tried to brush some grey ash off his
coat. He looked again. It was one of his mother's grey hairs. It was
so long! He held it up, and it drifted into the chimney. He let go. The
long grey hair floated and was gone in the blackness of the chimney.

The next day he kissed her before going back to work. It was very early
in the morning, and they were alone.

"You won't fret, my boy!" she said.

"No, mother."

"No; it would be silly. And take care of yourself."

"Yes," he answered. Then, after a while: "And I shall come next
Saturday, and shall bring my father?"

"I suppose he wants to come," she replied. "At any rate, if he does
you'll have to let him."

He kissed her again, and stroked the hair from her temples, gently,
tenderly, as if she were a lover.

"Shan't you be late?" she murmured.

"I'm going," he said, very low.

Still he sat a few minutes, stroking the brown and grey hair from her
temples.

"And you won't be any worse, mother?"

"No, my son."

"You promise me?"

"Yes; I won't be any worse."

He kissed her, held her in his arms for a moment, and was gone. In the
early sunny morning he ran to the station, crying all the way; he
did not know what for. And her blue eyes were wide and staring as she
thought of him.

In the afternoon he went a walk with Clara. They sat in the little wood
where bluebells were standing. He took her hand.

"You'll see," he said to Clara, "she'll never be better."

"Oh, you don't know!" replied the other.

"I do," he said.

She caught him impulsively to her breast.

"Try and forget it, dear," she said; "try and forget it."

"I will," he answered.

Her breast was there, warm for him; her hands were in his hair. It was
comforting, and he held his arms round her. But he did not forget. He
only talked to Clara of something else. And it was always so. When she
felt it coming, the agony, she cried to him:

"Don't think of it, Paul! Don't think of it, my darling!"

And she pressed him to her breast, rocked him, soothed him like a
child. So he put the trouble aside for her sake, to take it up again
immediately he was alone. All the time, as he went about, he cried
mechanically. His mind and hands were busy. He cried, he did not know
why. It was his blood weeping. He was just as much alone whether he was
with Clara or with the men in the White Horse. Just himself and this
pressure inside him, that was all that existed. He read sometimes. He
had to keep his mind occupied. And Clara was a way of occupying his
mind.

On the Saturday Walter Morel went to Sheffield. He was a forlorn figure,
looking rather as if nobody owned him. Paul ran upstairs.

"My father's come," he said, kissing his mother.

"Has he?" she answered wearily.

The old collier came rather frightened into the bedroom.

"How dun I find thee, lass?" he said, going forward and kissing her in a
hasty, timid fashion.

"Well, I'm middlin'," she replied.

"I see tha art," he said. He stood looking down on her. Then he wiped
his eyes with his handkerchief. Helpless, and as if nobody owned him, he
looked.

"Have you gone on all right?" asked the wife, rather wearily, as if it
were an effort to talk to him.

"Yis," he answered. "'Er's a bit behint-hand now and again, as yer might
expect."

"Does she have your dinner ready?" asked Mrs. Morel.

"Well, I've 'ad to shout at 'er once or twice," he said.

"And you MUST shout at her if she's not ready. She WILL leave things to
the last minute."

She gave him a few instructions. He sat looking at her as if she were
almost a stranger to him, before whom he was awkward and humble, and
also as if he had lost his presence of mind, and wanted to run. This
feeling that he wanted to run away, that he was on thorns to be gone
from so trying a situation, and yet must linger because it looked
better, made his presence so trying. He put up his eyebrows for misery,
and clenched his fists on his knees, feeling so awkward in presence of
big trouble.

Mrs. Morel did not change much. She stayed in Sheffield for two months.
If anything, at the end she was rather worse. But she wanted to go home.
Annie had her children. Mrs. Morel wanted to go home. So they got a
motor-car from Nottingham--for she was too ill to go by train--and she
was driven through the sunshine. It was just August; everything was
bright and warm. Under the blue sky they could all see she was dying.
Yet she was jollier than she had been for weeks. They all laughed and
talked.

"Annie," she exclaimed, "I saw a lizard dart on that rock!"

Her eyes were so quick; she was still so full of life.

Morel knew she was coming. He had the front door open. Everybody was on
tiptoe. Half the street turned out. They heard the sound of the great
motor-car. Mrs. Morel, smiling, drove home down the street.

"And just look at them all come out to see me!" she said. "But there,
I suppose I should have done the same. How do you do, Mrs. Mathews? How
are you, Mrs. Harrison?"

They none of them could hear, but they saw her smile and nod. And
they all saw death on her face, they said. It was a great event in the
street.

Morel wanted to carry her indoors, but he was too old. Arthur took her
as if she were a child. They had set her a big, deep chair by the
hearth where her rocking-chair used to stand. When she was unwrapped and
seated, and had drunk a little brandy, she looked round the room.

"Don't think I don't like your house, Annie," she said; "but it's nice
to be in my own home again."

And Morel answered huskily:

"It is, lass, it is."

And Minnie, the little quaint maid, said:

"An' we glad t' 'ave yer."

There was a lovely yellow ravel of sunflowers in the garden. She looked
out of the window.

"There are my sunflowers!" she said.



CHAPTER XIV

THE RELEASE

"By the way," said Dr. Ansell one evening when Morel was in
Sheffield, "we've got a man in the fever hospital here who comes from
Nottingham--Dawes. He doesn't seem to have many belongings in this
world."

"Baxter Dawes!" Paul exclaimed.

"That's the man--has been a fine fellow, physically, I should think.
Been in a bit of a mess lately. You know him?"

"He used to work at the place where I am."

"Did he? Do you know anything about him? He's just sulking, or he'd be a
lot better than he is by now."

"I don't know anything of his home circumstances, except that he's
separated from his wife and has been a bit down, I believe. But tell him
about me, will you? Tell him I'll come and see him."

The next time Morel saw the doctor he said:

"And what about Dawes?"

"I said to him," answered the other, "'Do you know a man from Nottingham
named Morel?' and he looked at me as if he'd jump at my throat. So I
said: 'I see you know the name; it's Paul Morel.' Then I told him about
your saying you would go and see him. 'What does he want?' he said, as
if you were a policeman."

"And did he say he would see me?" asked Paul.

"He wouldn't say anything--good, bad or indifferent," replied the
doctor.

"Why not?"

"That's what I want to know. There he lies and sulks, day in, day out.
Can't get a word of information out of him."

"Do you think I might go?" asked Paul.

"You might."

There was a feeling of connection between the rival men, more than ever
since they had fought. In a way Morel felt guilty towards the other, and
more or less responsible. And being in such a state of soul himself,
he felt an almost painful nearness to Dawes, who was suffering and
despairing, too. Besides, they had met in a naked extremity of hate, and
it was a bond. At any rate, the elemental man in each had met.

He went down to the isolation hospital, with Dr. Ansell's card. This
sister, a healthy young Irishwoman, led him down the ward.

"A visitor to see you, Jim Crow," she said.

Dawes turned over suddenly with a startled grunt.

"Eh?"

"Caw!" she mocked. "He can only say 'Caw!' I have brought you a
gentleman to see you. Now say 'Thank you,' and show some manners."

Dawes looked swiftly with his dark, startled eyes beyond the sister at
Paul. His look was full of fear, mistrust, hate, and misery. Morel met
the swift, dark eyes, and hesitated. The two men were afraid of the
naked selves they had been.

"Dr. Ansell told me you were here," said Morel, holding out his hand.

Dawes mechanically shook hands.

"So I thought I'd come in," continued Paul.

There was no answer. Dawes lay staring at the opposite wall.

"Say 'Caw!"' mocked the nurse. "Say 'Caw!' Jim Crow."

"He is getting on all right?" said Paul to her.

"Oh yes! He lies and imagines he's going to die," said the nurse, "and
it frightens every word out of his mouth."

"And you MUST have somebody to talk to," laughed Morel.

"That's it!" laughed the nurse. "Only two old men and a boy who always
cries. It is hard lines! Here am I dying to hear Jim Crow's voice, and
nothing but an odd 'Caw!' will he give!"

"So rough on you!" said Morel.

"Isn't it?" said the nurse.

"I suppose I am a godsend," he laughed.

"Oh, dropped straight from heaven!" laughed the nurse.

Presently she left the two men alone. Dawes was thinner, and handsome
again, but life seemed low in him. As the doctor said, he was lying
sulking, and would not move forward towards convalescence. He seemed to
grudge every beat of his heart.

"Have you had a bad time?" asked Paul.

Suddenly again Dawes looked at him.

"What are you doing in Sheffield?" he asked.

"My mother was taken ill at my sister's in Thurston Street. What are you
doing here?"

There was no answer.

"How long have you been in?" Morel asked.

"I couldn't say for sure," Dawes answered grudgingly.

He lay staring across at the wall opposite, as if trying to believe
Morel was not there. Paul felt his heart go hard and angry.

"Dr. Ansell told me you were here," he said coldly.

The other man did not answer.

"Typhoid's pretty bad, I know," Morel persisted.

Suddenly Dawes said:

"What did you come for?"

"Because Dr. Ansell said you didn't know anybody here. Do you?"

"I know nobody nowhere," said Dawes.

"Well," said Paul, "it's because you don't choose to, then."

There was another silence.

"We s'll be taking my mother home as soon as we can," said Paul.

"What's a-matter with her?" asked Dawes, with a sick man's interest in
illness.

"She's got a cancer."

There was another silence.

"But we want to get her home," said Paul. "We s'll have to get a
motor-car."

Dawes lay thinking.

"Why don't you ask Thomas Jordan to lend you his?" said Dawes.

"It's not big enough," Morel answered.

Dawes blinked his dark eyes as he lay thinking.

"Then ask Jack Pilkington; he'd lend it you. You know him."

"I think I s'll hire one," said Paul.

"You're a fool if you do," said Dawes.

The sick man was gaunt and handsome again. Paul was sorry for him
because his eyes looked so tired.

"Did you get a job here?" he asked.

"I was only here a day or two before I was taken bad," Dawes replied.

"You want to get in a convalescent home," said Paul.

The other's face clouded again.

"I'm goin' in no convalescent home," he said.

"My father's been in the one at Seathorpe, an' he liked it. Dr. Ansell
would get you a recommend."

Dawes lay thinking. It was evident he dared not face the world again.

"The seaside would be all right just now," Morel said. "Sun on those
sandhills, and the waves not far out."

The other did not answer.

"By Gad!" Paul concluded, too miserable to bother much; "it's all right
when you know you're going to walk again, and swim!"

Dawes glanced at him quickly. The man's dark eyes were afraid to meet
any other eyes in the world. But the real misery and helplessness in
Paul's tone gave him a feeling of relief.

"Is she far gone?" he asked.

"She's going like wax," Paul answered; "but cheerful--lively!"

He bit his lip. After a minute he rose.

"Well, I'll be going," he said. "I'll leave you this half-crown."

"I don't want it," Dawes muttered.

Morel did not answer, but left the coin on the table.

"Well," he said, "I'll try and run in when I'm back in Sheffield. Happen
you might like to see my brother-in-law? He works in Pyecrofts."

"I don't know him," said Dawes.

"He's all right. Should I tell him to come? He might bring you some
papers to look at."

The other man did not answer. Paul went. The strong emotion that Dawes
aroused in him, repressed, made him shiver.

He did not tell his mother, but next day he spoke to Clara about this
interview. It was in the dinner-hour. The two did not often go out
together now, but this day he asked her to go with him to the Castle
grounds. There they sat while the scarlet geraniums and the yellow
calceolarias blazed in the sunlight. She was now always rather
protective, and rather resentful towards him.

"Did you know Baxter was in Sheffield Hospital with typhoid?" he asked.

She looked at him with startled grey eyes, and her face went pale.

"No," she said, frightened.

"He's getting better. I went to see him yesterday--the doctor told me."

Clara seemed stricken by the news.

"Is he very bad?" she asked guiltily.

"He has been. He's mending now."

"What did he say to you?"

"Oh, nothing! He seems to be sulking."

There was a distance between the two of them. He gave her more
information.

She went about shut up and silent. The next time they took a walk
together, she disengaged herself from his arm, and walked at a distance
from him. He was wanting her comfort badly.

"Won't you be nice with me?" he asked.

She did not answer.

"What's the matter?" he said, putting his arm across her shoulder.

"Don't!" she said, disengaging herself.

He left her alone, and returned to his own brooding.

"Is it Baxter that upsets you?" he asked at length.

"I HAVE been VILE to him!" she said.

"I've said many a time you haven't treated him well," he replied.

And there was a hostility between them. Each pursued his own train of
thought.

"I've treated him--no, I've treated him badly," she said. "And now you
treat ME badly. It serves me right."

"How do I treat you badly?" he said.

"It serves me right," she repeated. "I never considered him worth
having, and now you don't consider ME. But it serves me right. He loved
me a thousand times better than you ever did."

"He didn't!" protested Paul.

"He did! At any rate, he did respect me, and that's what you don't do."

"It looked as if he respected you!" he said.

"He did! And I MADE him horrid--I know I did! You've taught me that. And
he loved me a thousand times better than ever you do."

"All right," said Paul.

He only wanted to be left alone now. He had his own trouble, which was
almost too much to bear. Clara only tormented him and made him tired. He
was not sorry when he left her.

She went on the first opportunity to Sheffield to see her husband. The
meeting was not a success. But she left him roses and fruit and money.
She wanted to make restitution. It was not that she loved him. As she
looked at him lying there her heart did not warm with love. Only she
wanted to humble herself to him, to kneel before him. She wanted now to
be self-sacrificial. After all, she had failed to make Morel really
love her. She was morally frightened. She wanted to do penance. So she
kneeled to Dawes, and it gave him a subtle pleasure. But the distance
between them was still very great--too great. It frightened the man. It
almost pleased the woman. She liked to feel she was serving him across
an insuperable distance. She was proud now.

Morel went to see Dawes once or twice. There was a sort of friendship
between the two men, who were all the while deadly rivals. But they
never mentioned the woman who was between them.

Mrs. Morel got gradually worse. At first they used to carry her
downstairs, sometimes even into the garden. She sat propped in her
chair, smiling, and so pretty. The gold wedding-ring shone on her
white hand; her hair was carefully brushed. And she watched the tangled
sunflowers dying, the chrysanthemums coming out, and the dahlias.

Paul and she were afraid of each other. He knew, and she knew, that she
was dying. But they kept up a pretence of cheerfulness. Every morning,
when he got up, he went into her room in his pyjamas.

"Did you sleep, my dear?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered.

"Not very well?"

"Well, yes!"

Then he knew she had lain awake. He saw her hand under the bedclothes,
pressing the place on her side where the pain was.

"Has it been bad?" he asked.

"No. It hurt a bit, but nothing to mention."

And she sniffed in her old scornful way. As she lay she looked like a
girl. And all the while her blue eyes watched him. But there were the
dark pain-circles beneath that made him ache again.

"It's a sunny day," he said.

"It's a beautiful day."

"Do you think you'll be carried down?"

"I shall see."

Then he went away to get her breakfast. All day long he was conscious of
nothing but her. It was a long ache that made him feverish. Then, when
he got home in the early evening, he glanced through the kitchen window.
She was not there; she had not got up.

He ran straight upstairs and kissed her. He was almost afraid to ask:

"Didn't you get up, pigeon?"

"No," she said, "it was that morphia; it made me tired."

"I think he gives you too much," he said.

"I think he does," she answered.

He sat down by the bed, miserably. She had a way of curling and lying on
her side, like a child. The grey and brown hair was loose over her ear.

"Doesn't it tickle you?" he said, gently putting it back.

"It does," she replied.

His face was near hers. Her blue eyes smiled straight into his, like a
girl's--warm, laughing with tender love. It made him pant with terror,
agony, and love.

"You want your hair doing in a plait," he said. "Lie still."

And going behind her, he carefully loosened her hair, brushed it out. It
was like fine long silk of brown and grey. Her head was snuggled between
her shoulders. As he lightly brushed and plaited her hair, he bit his
lip and felt dazed. It all seemed unreal, he could not understand it.

At night he often worked in her room, looking up from time to time. And
so often he found her blue eyes fixed on him. And when their eyes met,
she smiled. He worked away again mechanically, producing good stuff
without knowing what he was doing.

Sometimes he came in, very pale and still, with watchful, sudden eyes,
like a man who is drunk almost to death. They were both afraid of the
veils that were ripping between them.

Then she pretended to be better, chattered to him gaily, made a great
fuss over some scraps of news. For they had both come to the condition
when they had to make much of the trifles, lest they should give in to
the big thing, and their human independence would go smash. They were
afraid, so they made light of things and were gay.

Sometimes as she lay he knew she was thinking of the past. Her mouth
gradually shut hard in a line. She was holding herself rigid, so that
she might die without ever uttering the great cry that was tearing from
her. He never forgot that hard, utterly lonely and stubborn clenching
of her mouth, which persisted for weeks. Sometimes, when it was lighter,
she talked about her husband. Now she hated him. She did not forgive
him. She could not bear him to be in the room. And a few things, the
things that had been most bitter to her, came up again so strongly that
they broke from her, and she told her son.

He felt as if his life were being destroyed, piece by piece, within him.
Often the tears came suddenly. He ran to the station, the tear-drops
falling on the pavement. Often he could not go on with his work. The
pen stopped writing. He sat staring, quite unconscious. And when he came
round again he felt sick, and trembled in his limbs. He never questioned
what it was. His mind did not try to analyse or understand. He merely
submitted, and kept his eyes shut; let the thing go over him.

His mother did the same. She thought of the pain, of the morphia, of the
next day; hardly ever of the death. That was coming, she knew. She had
to submit to it. But she would never entreat it or make friends with
it. Blind, with her face shut hard and blind, she was pushed towards the
door. The days passed, the weeks, the months.

Sometimes, in the sunny afternoons, she seemed almost happy.

"I try to think of the nice times--when we went to Mablethorpe, and
Robin Hood's Bay, and Shanklin," she said. "After all, not everybody has
seen those beautiful places. And wasn't it beautiful! I try to think of
that, not of the other things."

Then, again, for a whole evening she spoke not a word; neither did he.
They were together, rigid, stubborn, silent. He went into his room
at last to go to bed, and leaned against the doorway as if paralysed,
unable to go any farther. His consciousness went. A furious storm, he
knew not what, seemed to ravage inside him. He stood leaning there,
submitting, never questioning.

In the morning they were both normal again, though her face was grey
with the morphia, and her body felt like ash. But they were bright
again, nevertheless. Often, especially if Annie or Arthur were at home,
he neglected her. He did not see much of Clara. Usually he was with
men. He was quick and active and lively; but when his friends saw him
go white to the gills, his eyes dark and glittering, they had a certain
mistrust of him. Sometimes he went to Clara, but she was almost cold to
him.

"Take me!" he said simply.

Occasionally she would. But she was afraid. When he had her then,
there was something in it that made her shrink away from him--something
unnatural. She grew to dread him. He was so quiet, yet so strange. She
was afraid of the man who was not there with her, whom she could feel
behind this make-belief lover; somebody sinister, that filled her with
horror. She began to have a kind of horror of him. It was almost as if
he were a criminal. He wanted her--he had her--and it made her feel as
if death itself had her in its grip. She lay in horror. There was no
man there loving her. She almost hated him. Then came little bouts of
tenderness. But she dared not pity him.

Dawes had come to Colonel Seely's Home near Nottingham. There Paul
visited him sometimes, Clara very occasionally. Between the two men
the friendship developed peculiarly. Dawes, who mended very slowly and
seemed very feeble, seemed to leave himself in the hands of Morel.

In the beginning of November Clara reminded Paul that it was her
birthday.

"I'd nearly forgotten," he said.

"I'd thought quite," she replied.

"No. Shall we go to the seaside for the week-end?"

They went. It was cold and rather dismal. She waited for him to be warm
and tender with her, instead of which he seemed hardly aware of her.
He sat in the railway-carriage, looking out, and was startled when she
spoke to him. He was not definitely thinking. Things seemed as if they
did not exist. She went across to him.

"What is it dear?" she asked.

"Nothing!" he said. "Don't those windmill sails look monotonous?"

He sat holding her hand. He could not talk nor think. It was a comfort,
however, to sit holding her hand. She was dissatisfied and miserable. He
was not with her; she was nothing.

And in the evening they sat among the sandhills, looking at the black,
heavy sea.

"She will never give in," he said quietly.

Clara's heart sank.

"No," she replied.

"There are different ways of dying. My father's people are frightened,
and have to be hauled out of life into death like cattle into a
slaughter-house, pulled by the neck; but my mother's people are pushed
from behind, inch by inch. They are stubborn people, and won't die."

"Yes," said Clara.

"And she won't die. She can't. Mr. Renshaw, the parson, was in the other
day. 'Think!' he said to her; 'you will have your mother and father, and
your sisters, and your son, in the Other Land.' And she said: 'I have
done without them for a long time, and CAN do without them now. It is
the living I want, not the dead.' She wants to live even now."

"Oh, how horrible!" said Clara, too frightened to speak.

"And she looks at me, and she wants to stay with me," he went on
monotonously. "She's got such a will, it seems as if she would never
go--never!"

"Don't think of it!" cried Clara.

"And she was religious--she is religious now--but it is no good. She
simply won't give in. And do you know, I said to her on Thursday:
'Mother, if I had to die, I'd die. I'd WILL to die.' And she said to
me, sharp: 'Do you think I haven't? Do you think you can die when you
like?'"

His voice ceased. He did not cry, only went on speaking monotonously.
Clara wanted to run. She looked round. There was the black, re-echoing
shore, the dark sky down on her. She got up terrified. She wanted to be
where there was light, where there were other people. She wanted to be
away from him. He sat with his head dropped, not moving a muscle.

"And I don't want her to eat," he said, "and she knows it. When I ask
her: 'Shall you have anything' she's almost afraid to say 'Yes.' 'I'll
have a cup of Benger's,' she says. 'It'll only keep your strength up,'
I said to her. 'Yes'--and she almost cried--'but there's such a gnawing
when I eat nothing, I can't bear it.' So I went and made her the food.
It's the cancer that gnaws like that at her. I wish she'd die!"

"Come!" said Clara roughly. "I'm going."

He followed her down the darkness of the sands. He did not come to her.
He seemed scarcely aware of her existence. And she was afraid of him,
and disliked him.

In the same acute daze they went back to Nottingham. He was always
busy, always doing something, always going from one to the other of his
friends.

On the Monday he went to see Baxter Dawes. Listless and pale, the man
rose to greet the other, clinging to his chair as he held out his hand.

"You shouldn't get up," said Paul.

Dawes sat down heavily, eyeing Morel with a sort of suspicion.

"Don't you waste your time on me," he said, "if you've owt better to
do."

"I wanted to come," said Paul. "Here! I brought you some sweets."

The invalid put them aside.

"It's not been much of a week-end," said Morel.

"How's your mother?" asked the other.

"Hardly any different."

"I thought she was perhaps worse, being as you didn't come on Sunday."

"I was at Skegness," said Paul. "I wanted a change."

The other looked at him with dark eyes. He seemed to be waiting, not
quite daring to ask, trusting to be told.

"I went with Clara," said Paul.

"I knew as much," said Dawes quietly.

"It was an old promise," said Paul.

"You have it your own way," said Dawes.

This was the first time Clara had been definitely mentioned between
them.

"Nay," said Morel slowly; "she's tired of me."

Again Dawes looked at him.

"Since August she's been getting tired of me," Morel repeated.

The two men were very quiet together. Paul suggested a game of draughts.
They played in silence.

"I s'll go abroad when my mother's dead," said Paul.

"Abroad!" repeated Dawes.

"Yes; I don't care what I do."

They continued the game. Dawes was winning.

"I s'll have to begin a new start of some sort," said Paul; "and you as
well, I suppose."

He took one of Dawes's pieces.

"I dunno where," said the other.

"Things have to happen," Morel said. "It's no good doing anything--at
least--no, I don't know. Give me some toffee."

The two men ate sweets, and began another game of draughts.

"What made that scar on your mouth?" asked Dawes.

Paul put his hand hastily to his lips, and looked over the garden.

"I had a bicycle accident," he said.

Dawes's hand trembled as he moved the piece.

"You shouldn't ha' laughed at me," he said, very low.

"When?"

"That night on Woodborough Road, when you and her passed me--you with
your hand on her shoulder."

"I never laughed at you," said Paul.

Dawes kept his fingers on the draught-piece.

"I never knew you were there till the very second when you passed," said
Morel.

"It was that as did me," Dawes said, very low.

Paul took another sweet.

"I never laughed," he said, "except as I'm always laughing."

They finished the game.

That night Morel walked home from Nottingham, in order to have something
to do. The furnaces flared in a red blotch over Bulwell; the black
clouds were like a low ceiling. As he went along the ten miles of
highroad, he felt as if he were walking out of life, between the black
levels of the sky and the earth. But at the end was only the sick-room.
If he walked and walked for ever, there was only that place to come to.

He was not tired when he got near home, or He did not know it. Across
the field he could see the red firelight leaping in her bedroom window.

"When she's dead," he said to himself, "that fire will go out."

He took off his boots quietly and crept upstairs. His mothers door was
wide open, because she slept alone still. The red firelight dashed its
glow on the landing. Soft as a shadow, he peeped in her doorway.

"Paul!" she murmured.

His heart seemed to break again. He went in and sat by the bed.

"How late you are!" she murmured.

"Not very," he said.

"Why, what time is it?" The murmur came plaintive and helpless.

"It's only just gone eleven."

That was not true; it was nearly one o'clock.

"Oh!" she said; "I thought it was later."

And he knew the unutterable misery of her nights that would not go.

"Can't you sleep, my pigeon?" he said.

"No, I can't," she wailed.

"Never mind, Little!" He said crooning. "Never mind, my love. I'll stop
with you half an hour, my pigeon; then perhaps it will be better."

And he sat by the bedside, slowly, rhythmically stroking her brows
with his finger-tips, stroking her eyes shut, soothing her, holding her
fingers in his free hand. They could hear the sleepers' breathing in the
other rooms.

"Now go to bed," she murmured, lying quite still under his fingers and
his love.

"Will you sleep?" he asked.

"Yes, I think so."

"You feel better, my Little, don't you?"

"Yes," she said, like a fretful, half-soothed child.

Still the days and the weeks went by. He hardly ever went to see Clara
now. But he wandered restlessly from one person to another for some
help, and there was none anywhere. Miriam had written to him tenderly.
He went to see her. Her heart was very sore when she saw him, white,
gaunt, with his eyes dark and bewildered. Her pity came up, hurting her
till she could not bear it.

"How is she?" she asked.

"The same--the same!" he said. "The doctor says she can't last, but I
know she will. She'll be here at Christmas."

Miriam shuddered. She drew him to her; she pressed him to her bosom; she
kissed him and kissed him. He submitted, but it was torture. She could
not kiss his agony. That remained alone and apart. She kissed his face,
and roused his blood, while his soul was apart writhing with the agony
of death. And she kissed him and fingered his body, till at last,
feeling he would go mad, he got away from her. It was not what he wanted
just then--not that. And she thought she had soothed him and done him
good.

December came, and some snow. He stayed at home all the while now.
They could not afford a nurse. Annie came to look after her mother; the
parish nurse, whom they loved, came in morning and evening. Paul shared
the nursing with Annie. Often, in the evenings, when friends were in the
kitchen with them, they all laughed together and shook with laughter. It
was reaction. Paul was so comical, Annie was so quaint. The whole party
laughed till they cried, trying to subdue the sound. And Mrs. Morel,
lying alone in the darkness heard them, and among her bitterness was a
feeling of relief.

Then Paul would go upstairs gingerly, guiltily, to see if she had heard.

"Shall I give you some milk?" he asked.

"A little," she replied plaintively.

And he would put some water with it, so that it should not nourish her.
Yet he loved her more than his own life.

She had morphia every night, and her heart got fitful. Annie slept
beside her. Paul would go in in the early morning, when his sister
got up. His mother was wasted and almost ashen in the morning with the
morphia. Darker and darker grew her eyes, all pupil, with the torture.
In the mornings the weariness and ache were too much to bear. Yet she
could not--would not--weep, or even complain much.

"You slept a bit later this morning, little one," he would say to her.

"Did I?" she answered, with fretful weariness.

"Yes; it's nearly eight o'clock."

He stood looking out of the window. The whole country was bleak and
pallid under the snow. Then he felt her pulse. There was a strong stroke
and a weak one, like a sound and its echo. That was supposed to betoken
the end. She let him feel her wrist, knowing what he wanted.

Sometimes they looked in each other's eyes. Then they almost seemed to
make an agreement. It was almost as if he were agreeing to die also.
But she did not consent to die; she would not. Her body was wasted to a
fragment of ash. Her eyes were dark and full of torture.

"Can't you give her something to put an end to it?" he asked the doctor
at last.

But the doctor shook his head.

"She can't last many days now, Mr. Morel," he said.

Paul went indoors.

"I can't bear it much longer; we shall all go mad," said Annie.

The two sat down to breakfast.

"Go and sit with her while we have breakfast, Minnie," said Annie. But
the girl was frightened.

Paul went through the country, through the woods, over the snow. He saw
the marks of rabbits and birds in the white snow. He wandered miles
and miles. A smoky red sunset came on slowly, painfully, lingering. He
thought she would die that day. There was a donkey that came up to him
over the snow by the wood's edge, and put its head against him, and
walked with him alongside. He put his arms round the donkey's neck, and
stroked his cheeks against his ears.

His mother, silent, was still alive, with her hard mouth gripped grimly,
her eyes of dark torture only living.

It was nearing Christmas; there was more snow. Annie and he felt as if
they could go on no more. Still her dark eyes were alive. Morel, silent
and frightened, obliterated himself. Sometimes he would go into the
sick-room and look at her. Then he backed out, bewildered.

She kept her hold on life still. The miners had been out on strike, and
returned a fortnight or so before Christmas. Minnie went upstairs with
the feeding-cup. It was two days after the men had been in.

"Have the men been saying their hands are sore, Minnie?" she asked,
in the faint, querulous voice that would not give in. Minnie stood
surprised.

"Not as I know of, Mrs. Morel," she answered.

"But I'll bet they are sore," said the dying woman, as she moved her
head with a sigh of weariness. "But, at any rate, there'll be something
to buy in with this week."

Not a thing did she let slip.

"Your father's pit things will want well airing, Annie," she said, when
the men were going back to work.

"Don't you bother about that, my dear," said Annie.

One night Annie and Paul were alone. Nurse was upstairs.

"She'll live over Christmas," said Annie. They were both full of horror.
"She won't," he replied grimly. "I s'll give her morphia."

"Which?" said Annie.

"All that came from Sheffield," said Paul.

"Ay--do!" said Annie.

The next day he was painting in the bedroom. She seemed to be asleep.
He stepped softly backwards and forwards at his painting. Suddenly her
small voice wailed:

"Don't walk about, Paul."

He looked round. Her eyes, like dark bubbles in her face, were looking
at him.

"No, my dear," he said gently. Another fibre seemed to snap in his
heart.

That evening he got all the morphia pills there were, and took them
downstairs. Carefully he crushed them to powder.

"What are you doing?" said Annie.

"I s'll put 'em in her night milk."

Then they both laughed together like two conspiring children. On top of
all their horror flicked this little sanity.

Nurse did not come that night to settle Mrs. Morel down. Paul went up
with the hot milk in a feeding-cup. It was nine o'clock.

She was reared up in bed, and he put the feeding-cup between her lips
that he would have died to save from any hurt. She took a sip, then put
the spout of the cup away and looked at him with her dark, wondering
eyes. He looked at her.

"Oh, it IS bitter, Paul!" she said, making a little grimace.

"It's a new sleeping draught the doctor gave me for you," he said. "He
thought it would leave you in such a state in the morning."

"And I hope it won't," she said, like a child.

She drank some more of the milk.

"But it IS horrid!" she said.

He saw her frail fingers over the cup, her lips making a little move.

"I know--I tasted it," he said. "But I'll give you some clean milk
afterwards."

"I think so," she said, and she went on with the draught. She was
obedient to him like a child. He wondered if she knew. He saw her
poor wasted throat moving as she drank with difficulty. Then he ran
downstairs for more milk. There were no grains in the bottom of the cup.

"Has she had it?" whispered Annie.

"Yes--and she said it was bitter."

"Oh!" laughed Annie, putting her under lip between her teeth.

"And I told her it was a new draught. Where's that milk?"

They both went upstairs.

"I wonder why nurse didn't come to settle me down?" complained the
mother, like a child, wistfully.

"She said she was going to a concert, my love," replied Annie.

"Did she?"

They were silent a minute. Mrs. Morel gulped the little clean milk.

"Annie, that draught WAS horrid!" she said plaintively.

"Was it, my love? Well, never mind."

The mother sighed again with weariness. Her pulse was very irregular.

"Let US settle you down," said Annie. "Perhaps nurse will be so late."

"Ay," said the mother--"try."

They turned the clothes back. Paul saw his mother LIke a girl curled up
in her flannel nightdress. Quickly they made one half of the bed, moved
her, made the other, straightened her nightgown over her small feet, and
covered her up.

"There," said Paul, stroking her softly. "There!--now you'll sleep."

"Yes," she said. "I didn't think you could do the bed so nicely," she
added, almost gaily. Then she curled up, with her cheek on her hand, her
head snugged between her shoulders. Paul put the long thin plait of grey
hair over her shoulder and kissed her.

"You'll sleep, my love," he said.

"Yes," she answered trustfully. "Good-night."

They put out the light, and it was still.

Morel was in bed. Nurse did not come. Annie and Paul came to look at her
at about eleven. She seemed to be sleeping as usual after her draught.
Her mouth had come a bit open.

"Shall we sit up?" said Paul.

"I s'll lie with her as I always do," said Annie. "She might wake up."

"All right. And call me if you see any difference."

"Yes."

They lingered before the bedroom fire, feeling the night big and black
and snowy outside, their two selves alone in the world. At last he went
into the next room and went to bed.

He slept almost immediately, but kept waking every now and again. Then
he went sound asleep. He started awake at Annie's whispered, "Paul,
Paul!" He saw his sister in her white nightdress, with her long plait of
hair down her back, standing in the darkness.

"Yes?" he whispered, sitting up.

"Come and look at her."

He slipped out of bed. A bud of gas was burning in the sick chamber.
His mother lay with her cheek on her hand, curled up as she had gone
to sleep. But her mouth had fallen open, and she breathed with great,
hoarse breaths, like snoring, and there were long intervals between.

"She's going!" he whispered.

"Yes," said Annie.

"How long has she been like it?"

"I only just woke up."

Annie huddled into the dressing-gown, Paul wrapped himself in a brown
blanket. It was three o'clock. He mended the fire. Then the two sat
waiting. The great, snoring breath was taken--held awhile--then given
back. There was a space--a long space. Then they started. The great,
snoring breath was taken again. He bent close down and looked at her.

"Isn't it awful!" whispered Annie.

He nodded. They sat down again helplessly. Again came the great, snoring
breath. Again they hung suspended. Again it was given back, long and
harsh. The sound, so irregular, at such wide intervals, sounded through
the house. Morel, in his room, slept on. Paul and Annie sat crouched,
huddled, motionless. The great snoring sound began again--there was a
painful pause while the breath was held--back came the rasping breath.
Minute after minute passed. Paul looked at her again, bending low over
her.

"She may last like this," he said.

They were both silent. He looked out of the window, and could faintly
discern the snow on the garden.

"You go to my bed," he said to Annie. "I'll sit up."

"No," she said, "I'll stop with you."

"I'd rather you didn't," he said.

At last Annie crept out of the room, and he was alone. He hugged himself
in his brown blanket, crouched in front of his mother, watching. She
looked dreadful, with the bottom jaw fallen back. He watched. Sometimes
he thought the great breath would never begin again. He could not bear
it--the waiting. Then suddenly, startling him, came the great harsh
sound. He mended the fire again, noiselessly. She must not be disturbed.
The minutes went by. The night was going, breath by breath. Each time
the sound came he felt it wring him, till at last he could not feel so
much.

His father got up. Paul heard the miner drawing his stockings on,
yawning. Then Morel, in shirt and stockings, entered.

"Hush!" said Paul.

Morel stood watching. Then he looked at his son, helplessly, and in
horror.

"Had I better stop a-whoam?" he whispered.

"No. Go to work. She'll last through to-morrow."

"I don't think so."

"Yes. Go to work."

The miner looked at her again, in fear, and went obediently out of the
room. Paul saw the tape of his garters swinging against his legs.

After another half-hour Paul went downstairs and drank a cup of tea,
then returned. Morel, dressed for the pit, came upstairs again.

"Am I to go?" he said.

"Yes."

And in a few minutes Paul heard his father's heavy steps go thudding
over the deadening snow. Miners called in the streets as they
tramped in gangs to work. The terrible, long-drawn breaths
continued--heave--heave--heave; then a long pause--then--ah-h-h-h-h!
as it came back. Far away over the snow sounded the hooters of the
ironworks. One after another they crowed and boomed, some small and far
away, some near, the blowers of the collieries and the other works.
Then there was silence. He mended the fire. The great breaths broke the
silence--she looked just the same. He put back the blind and peered out.
Still it was dark. Perhaps there was a lighter tinge. Perhaps the snow
was bluer. He drew up the blind and got dressed. Then, shuddering, he
drank brandy from the bottle on the wash-stand. The snow WAS growing
blue. He heard a cart clanking down the street. Yes, it was seven
o'clock, and it was coming a little bit light. He heard some people
calling. The world was waking. A grey, deathly dawn crept over the snow.
Yes, he could see the houses. He put out the gas. It seemed very dark.
The breathing came still, but he was almost used to it. He could see
her. She was just the same. He wondered if he piled heavy clothes on top
of her it would stop. He looked at her. That was not her--not her a bit.
If he piled the blanket and heavy coats on her--

Suddenly the door opened, and Annie entered. She looked at him
questioningly.

"Just the same," he said calmly.

They whispered together a minute, then he went downstairs to get
breakfast. It was twenty to eight. Soon Annie came down.

"Isn't it awful! Doesn't she look awful!" she whispered, dazed with
horror.

He nodded.

"If she looks like that!" said Annie.

"Drink some tea," he said.

They went upstairs again. Soon the neighbours came with their frightened
question:

"How is she?"

It went on just the same. She lay with her cheek in her hand, her mouth
fallen open, and the great, ghastly snores came and went.

At ten o'clock nurse came. She looked strange and woebegone.

"Nurse," cried Paul, "she'll last like this for days?"

"She can't, Mr. Morel," said nurse. "She can't."

There was a silence.

"Isn't it dreadful!" wailed the nurse. "Who would have thought she could
stand it? Go down now, Mr. Morel, go down."

At last, at about eleven o'clock, he went downstairs and sat in the
neighbour's house. Annie was downstairs also. Nurse and Arthur were
upstairs. Paul sat with his head in his hand. Suddenly Annie came flying
across the yard crying, half mad:

"Paul--Paul--she's gone!"

In a second he was back in his own house and upstairs. She lay curled
up and still, with her face on her hand, and nurse was wiping her mouth.
They all stood back. He kneeled down, and put his face to hers and his
arms round her:

"My love--my love--oh, my love!" he whispered again and again. "My
love--oh, my love!"

Then he heard the nurse behind him, crying, saying:

"She's better, Mr. Morel, she's better."

When he took his face up from his warm, dead mother he went straight
downstairs and began blacking his boots.

There was a good deal to do, letters to write, and so on. The doctor
came and glanced at her, and sighed.

"Ay--poor thing!" he said, then turned away. "Well, call at the surgery
about six for the certificate."

The father came home from work at about four o'clock. He dragged
silently into the house and sat down. Minnie bustled to give him his
dinner. Tired, he laid his black arms on the table. There were swede
turnips for his dinner, which he liked. Paul wondered if he knew. It was
some time, and nobody had spoken. At last the son said:

"You noticed the blinds were down?"

Morel looked up.

"No," he said. "Why--has she gone?"

"Yes."

"When wor that?"

"About twelve this morning."

"H'm!"

The miner sat still for a moment, then began his dinner. It was as
if nothing had happened. He ate his turnips in silence. Afterwards he
washed and went upstairs to dress. The door of her room was shut.

"Have you seen her?" Annie asked of him when he came down.

"No," he said.

In a little while he went out. Annie went away, and Paul called on the
undertaker, the clergyman, the doctor, the registrar. It was a long
business. He got back at nearly eight o'clock. The undertaker was coming
soon to measure for the coffin. The house was empty except for her. He
took a candle and went upstairs.

The room was cold, that had been warm for so long. Flowers, bottles,
plates, all sick-room litter was taken away; everything was harsh and
austere. She lay raised on the bed, the sweep of the sheet from the
raised feet was like a clean curve of snow, so silent. She lay like a
maiden asleep. With his candle in his hand, he bent over her. She lay
like a girl asleep and dreaming of her love. The mouth was a little open
as if wondering from the suffering, but her face was young, her brow
clear and white as if life had never touched it. He looked again at the
eyebrows, at the small, winsome nose a bit on one side. She was young
again. Only the hair as it arched so beautifully from her temples was
mixed with silver, and the two simple plaits that lay on her shoulders
were filigree of silver and brown. She would wake up. She would lift her
eyelids. She was with him still. He bent and kissed her passionately.
But there was coldness against his mouth. He bit his lips with horror.
Looking at her, he felt he could never, never let her go. No! He stroked
the hair from her temples. That, too, was cold. He saw the mouth so dumb
and wondering at the hurt. Then he crouched on the floor, whispering to
her:

"Mother, mother!"

He was still with her when the undertakers came, young men who had
been to school with him. They touched her reverently, and in a quiet,
businesslike fashion. They did not look at her. He watched jealously. He
and Annie guarded her fiercely. They would not let anybody come to see
her, and the neighbours were offended.

After a while Paul went out of the house, and played cards at a
friend's. It was midnight when he got back. His father rose from the
couch as he entered, saying in a plaintive way:

"I thought tha wor niver comin', lad."

"I didn't think you'd sit up," said Paul.

His father looked so forlorn. Morel had been a man without fear--simply
nothing frightened him. Paul realised with a start that he had been
afraid to go to bed, alone in the house with his dead. He was sorry.

"I forgot you'd be alone, father," he said.

"Dost want owt to eat?" asked Morel.

"No."

"Sithee--I made thee a drop o' hot milk. Get it down thee; it's cold
enough for owt."

Paul drank it.

After a while Morel went to bed. He hurried past the closed door, and
left his own door open. Soon the son came upstairs also. He went in to
kiss her good-night, as usual. It was cold and dark. He wished they had
kept her fire burning. Still she dreamed her young dream. But she would
be cold.

"My dear!" he whispered. "My dear!"

And he did not kiss her, for fear she should be cold and strange to him.
It eased him she slept so beautifully. He shut her door softly, not to
wake her, and went to bed.

In the morning Morel summoned his courage, hearing Annie downstairs and
Paul coughing in the room across the landing. He opened her door, and
went into the darkened room. He saw the white uplifted form in the
twilight, but her he dared not see. Bewildered, too frightened to
possess any of his faculties, he got out of the room again and left her.
He never looked at her again. He had not seen her for months, because he
had not dared to look. And she looked like his young wife again.

"Have you seen her?" Annie asked of him sharply after breakfast.

"Yes," he said.

"And don't you think she looks nice?"

"Yes."

He went out of the house soon after. And all the time He seemed to be
creeping aside to avoid it.

Paul went about from place to place, doing the business of the death. He
met Clara in Nottingham, and they had tea together in a cafe, when they
were quite jolly again. She was infinitely relieved to find he did not
take it tragically.

Later, when the relatives began to come for the funeral, the affair
became public, and the children became social beings. They put
themselves aside. They buried her in a furious storm of rain and wind.
The wet clay glistened, all the white flowers were soaked. Annie
gripped his arm and leaned forward. Down below she saw a dark corner
of William's coffin. The oak box sank steadily. She was gone. The
rain poured in the grave. The procession of black, with its umbrellas
glistening, turned away. The cemetery was deserted under the drenching
cold rain.

Paul went home and busied himself supplying the guests with drinks.
His father sat in the kitchen with Mrs. Morel's relatives, "superior"
people, and wept, and said what a good lass she'd been, and how he'd
tried to do everything he could for her--everything. He had striven
all his life to do what he could for her, and he'd nothing to reproach
himself with. She was gone, but he'd done his best for her. He wiped his
eyes with his white handkerchief. He'd nothing to reproach himself for,
he repeated. All his life he'd done his best for her.

And that was how he tried to dismiss her. He never thought of her
personally. Everything deep in him he denied. Paul hated his father
for sitting sentimentalising over her. He knew he would do it in
the public-houses. For the real tragedy went on in Morel in spite of
himself. Sometimes, later, he came down from his afternoon sleep, white
and cowering.

"I HAVE been dreaming of thy mother," he said in a small voice.

"Have you, father? When I dream of her it's always just as she was when
she was well. I dream of her often, but it seems quite nice and natural,
as if nothing had altered."

But Morel crouched in front of the fire in terror.

The weeks passed half-real, not much pain, not much of anything, perhaps
a little relief, mostly a _nuit blanche_. Paul went restless from place
to place. For some months, since his mother had been worse, he had not
made love to Clara. She was, as it were, dumb to him, rather distant.
Dawes saw her very occasionally, but the two could not get an inch
across the great distance between them. The three of them were drifting
forward.

Dawes mended very slowly. He was in the convalescent home at Skegness at
Christmas, nearly well again. Paul went to the seaside for a few days.
His father was with Annie in Sheffield. Dawes came to Paul's lodgings.
His time in the home was up. The two men, between whom was such a big
reserve, seemed faithful to each other. Dawes depended on Morel now. He
knew Paul and Clara had practically separated.

Two days after Christmas Paul was to go back to Nottingham. The evening
before he sat with Dawes smoking before the fire.

"You know Clara's coming down for the day to-morrow?" he said.

The other man glanced at him.

"Yes, you told me," he replied.

Paul drank the remainder of his glass of whisky.

"I told the landlady your wife was coming," he said.

"Did you?" said Dawes, shrinking, but almost leaving himself in the
other's hands. He got up rather stiffly, and reached for Morel's glass.

"Let me fill you up," he said.

Paul jumped up.

"You sit still," he said.

But Dawes, with rather shaky hand, continued to mix the drink.

"Say when," he said.

"Thanks!" replied the other. "But you've no business to get up."

"It does me good, lad," replied Dawes. "I begin to think I'm right
again, then."

"You are about right, you know."

"I am, certainly I am," said Dawes, nodding to him.

"And Len says he can get you on in Sheffield."

Dawes glanced at him again, with dark eyes that agreed with everything
the other would say, perhaps a trifle dominated by him.

"It's funny," said Paul, "starting again. I feel in a lot bigger mess
than you."

"In what way, lad?"

"I don't know. I don't know. It's as if I was in a tangled sort of hole,
rather dark and dreary, and no road anywhere."

"I know--I understand it," Dawes said, nodding. "But you'll find it'll
come all right."

He spoke caressingly.

"I suppose so," said Paul.

Dawes knocked his pipe in a hopeless fashion.

"You've not done for yourself like I have," he said.

Morel saw the wrist and the white hand of the other man gripping the
stem of the pipe and knocking out the ash, as if he had given up.

"How old are you?" Paul asked.

"Thirty-nine," replied Dawes, glancing at him.

Those brown eyes, full of the consciousness of failure, almost pleading
for reassurance, for someone to re-establish the man in himself, to warm
him, to set him up firm again, troubled Paul.

"You'll just be in your prime," said Morel. "You don't look as if much
life had gone out of you."

The brown eyes of the other flashed suddenly.

"It hasn't," he said. "The go is there."

Paul looked up and laughed.

"We've both got plenty of life in us yet to make things fly," he said.

The eyes of the two men met. They exchanged one look. Having recognised
the stress of passion each in the other, they both drank their whisky.

"Yes, begod!" said Dawes, breathless.

There was a pause.

"And I don't see," said Paul, "why you shouldn't go on where you left
off."

"What--" said Dawes, suggestively.

"Yes--fit your old home together again."

Dawes hid his face and shook his head.

"Couldn't be done," he said, and looked up with an ironic smile.

"Why? Because you don't want?"

"Perhaps."

They smoked in silence. Dawes showed his teeth as he bit his pipe stem.

"You mean you don't want her?" asked Paul.

Dawes stared up at the picture with a caustic expression on his face.

"I hardly know," he said.

The smoke floated softly up.

"I believe she wants you," said Paul.

"Do you?" replied the other, soft, satirical, abstract.

"Yes. She never really hitched on to me--you were always there in the
background. That's why she wouldn't get a divorce."

Dawes continued to stare in a satirical fashion at the picture over the
mantelpiece.

"That's how women are with me," said Paul. "They want me like mad, but
they don't want to belong to me. And she BELONGED to you all the time. I
knew."

The triumphant male came up in Dawes. He showed his teeth more
distinctly.

"Perhaps I was a fool," he said.

"You were a big fool," said Morel.

"But perhaps even THEN you were a bigger fool," said Dawes.

There was a touch of triumph and malice in it.

"Do you think so?" said Paul.

They were silent for some time.

"At any rate, I'm clearing out to-morrow," said Morel.

"I see," answered Dawes.

Then they did not talk any more. The instinct to murder each other had
returned. They almost avoided each other.

They shared the same bedroom. When they retired Dawes seemed abstract,
thinking of something. He sat on the side of the bed in his shirt,
looking at his legs.

"Aren't you getting cold?" asked Morel.

"I was lookin' at these legs," replied the other.

"What's up with 'em? They look all right," replied Paul, from his bed.

"They look all right. But there's some water in 'em yet."

"And what about it?"

"Come and look."

Paul reluctantly got out of bed and went to look at the rather handsome
legs of the other man that were covered with glistening, dark gold hair.

"Look here," said Dawes, pointing to his shin. "Look at the water under
here."

"Where?" said Paul.

The man pressed in his finger-tips. They left little dents that filled
up slowly.

"It's nothing," said Paul.

"You feel," said Dawes.

Paul tried with his fingers. It made little dents.

"H'm!" he said.

"Rotten, isn't it?" said Dawes.

"Why? It's nothing much."

"You're not much of a man with water in your legs."

"I can't see as it makes any difference," said Morel. "I've got a weak
chest."

He returned to his own bed.

"I suppose the rest of me's all right," said Dawes, and he put out the
light.

In the morning it was raining. Morel packed his bag. The sea was grey
and shaggy and dismal. He seemed to be cutting himself off from life
more and more. It gave him a wicked pleasure to do it.

The two men were at the station. Clara stepped out of the train, and
came along the platform, very erect and coldly composed. She wore a long
coat and a tweed hat. Both men hated her for her composure. Paul shook
hands with her at the barrier. Dawes was leaning against the bookstall,
watching. His black overcoat was buttoned up to the chin because of the
rain. He was pale, with almost a touch of nobility in his quietness. He
came forward, limping slightly.

"You ought to look better than this," she said.

"Oh, I'm all right now."

The three stood at a loss. She kept the two men hesitating near her.

"Shall we go to the lodging straight off," said Paul, "or somewhere
else?"

"We may as well go home," said Dawes.

Paul walked on the outside of the pavement, then Dawes, then Clara. They
made polite conversation. The sitting-room faced the sea, whose tide,
grey and shaggy, hissed not far off.

Morel swung up the big arm-chair.

"Sit down, Jack," he said.

"I don't want that chair," said Dawes.

"Sit down!" Morel repeated.

Clara took off her things and laid them on the couch. She had a slight
air of resentment. Lifting her hair with her fingers, she sat down,
rather aloof and composed. Paul ran downstairs to speak to the landlady.

"I should think you're cold," said Dawes to his wife. "Come nearer to
the fire."

"Thank you, I'm quite warm," she answered.

She looked out of the window at the rain and at the sea.

"When are you going back?" she asked.

"Well, the rooms are taken until to-morrow, so he wants me to stop. He's
going back to-night."

"And then you're thinking of going to Sheffield?"

"Yes."

"Are you fit to start work?"

"I'm going to start."

"You've really got a place?"

"Yes--begin on Monday."

"You don't look fit."

"Why don't I?"

She looked again out of the window instead of answering.

"And have you got lodgings in Sheffield?"

"Yes."

Again she looked away out of the window. The panes were blurred with
streaming rain.

"And can you manage all right?" she asked.

"I s'd think so. I s'll have to!"

They were silent when Morel returned.

"I shall go by the four-twenty," he said as he entered.

Nobody answered.

"I wish you'd take your boots off," he said to Clara.

"There's a pair of slippers of mine."

"Thank you," she said. "They aren't wet."

He put the slippers near her feet. She left them there.

Morel sat down. Both the men seemed helpless, and each of them had a
rather hunted look. But Dawes now carried himself quietly, seemed to
yield himself, while Paul seemed to screw himself up. Clara thought she
had never seen him look so small and mean. He was as if trying to
get himself into the smallest possible compass. And as he went about
arranging, and as he sat talking, there seemed something false about him
and out of tune. Watching him unknown, she said to herself there was
no stability about him. He was fine in his way, passionate, and able to
give her drinks of pure life when he was in one mood. And now he looked
paltry and insignificant. There was nothing stable about him. Her
husband had more manly dignity. At any rate HE did not waft about with
any wind. There was something evanescent about Morel, she thought,
something shifting and false. He would never make sure ground for any
woman to stand on. She despised him rather for his shrinking together,
getting smaller. Her husband at least was manly, and when he was beaten
gave in. But this other would never own to being beaten. He would shift
round and round, prowl, get smaller. She despised him. And yet she
watched him rather than Dawes, and it seemed as if their three fates lay
in his hands. She hated him for it.

She seemed to understand better now about men, and what they could or
would do. She was less afraid of them, more sure of herself. That
they were not the small egoists she had imagined them made her more
comfortable. She had learned a good deal--almost as much as she wanted
to learn. Her cup had been full. It was still as full as she could
carry. On the whole, she would not be sorry when he was gone.

They had dinner, and sat eating nuts and drinking by the fire. Not
a serious word had been spoken. Yet Clara realised that Morel was
withdrawing from the circle, leaving her the option to stay with her
husband. It angered her. He was a mean fellow, after all, to take what
he wanted and then give her back. She did not remember that she herself
had had what she wanted, and really, at the bottom of her heart, wished
to be given back.

Paul felt crumpled up and lonely. His mother had really supported his
life. He had loved her; they two had, in fact, faced the world together.
Now she was gone, and for ever behind him was the gap in life, the tear
in the veil, through which his life seemed to drift slowly, as if he
were drawn towards death. He wanted someone of their own free initiative
to help him. The lesser things he began to let go from him, for fear of
this big thing, the lapse towards death, following in the wake of his
beloved. Clara could not stand for him to hold on to. She wanted him,
but not to understand him. He felt she wanted the man on top, not the
real him that was in trouble. That would be too much trouble to her; he
dared not give it her. She could not cope with him. It made him ashamed.
So, secretly ashamed because he was in such a mess, because his own hold
on life was so unsure, because nobody held him, feeling unsubstantial,
shadowy, as if he did not count for much in this concrete world, he drew
himself together smaller and smaller. He did not want to die; he would
not give in. But he was not afraid of death. If nobody would help, he
would go on alone.

Dawes had been driven to the extremity of life, until he was afraid. He
could go to the brink of death, he could lie on the edge and look in.
Then, cowed, afraid, he had to crawl back, and like a beggar take what
offered. There was a certain nobility in it. As Clara saw, he owned
himself beaten, and he wanted to be taken back whether or not. That she
could do for him. It was three o'clock.

"I am going by the four-twenty," said Paul again to Clara. "Are you
coming then or later?"

"I don't know," she said.

"I'm meeting my father in Nottingham at seven-fifteen," he said.

"Then," she answered, "I'll come later."

Dawes jerked suddenly, as if he had been held on a strain. He looked out
over the sea, but he saw nothing.

"There are one or two books in the corner," said Morel. "I've done with
'em."

At about four o'clock he went.

"I shall see you both later," he said, as he shook hands.

"I suppose so," said Dawes. "An' perhaps--one day--I s'll be able to pay
you back the money as--"

"I shall come for it, you'll see," laughed Paul. "I s'll be on the rocks
before I'm very much older."

"Ay--well--" said Dawes.

"Good-bye," he said to Clara.

"Good-bye," she said, giving him her hand. Then she glanced at him for
the last time, dumb and humble.

He was gone. Dawes and his wife sat down again.

"It's a nasty day for travelling," said the man.

"Yes," she answered.

They talked in a desultory fashion until it grew dark. The landlady
brought in the tea. Dawes drew up his chair to the table without being
invited, like a husband. Then he sat humbly waiting for his cup. She
served him as she would, like a wife, not consulting his wish.

After tea, as it drew near to six o'clock, he went to the window. All
was dark outside. The sea was roaring.

"It's raining yet," he said.

"Is it?" she answered.

"You won't go to-night, shall you?" he said, hesitating.

She did not answer. He waited.

"I shouldn't go in this rain," he said.

"Do you WANT me to stay?" she asked.

His hand as he held the dark curtain trembled.

"Yes," he said.

He remained with his back to her. She rose and went slowly to him. He
let go the curtain, turned, hesitating, towards her. She stood with
her hands behind her back, looking up at him in a heavy, inscrutable
fashion.

"Do you want me, Baxter?" she asked.

His voice was hoarse as he answered:

"Do you want to come back to me?"

She made a moaning noise, lifted her arms, and put them round his
neck, drawing him to her. He hid his face on her shoulder, holding her
clasped.

"Take me back!" she whispered, ecstatic. "Take me back, take me back!"
And she put her fingers through his fine, thin dark hair, as if she were
only semi-conscious. He tightened his grasp on her.

"Do you want me again?" he murmured, broken.



CHAPTER XV

DERELICT

CLARA went with her husband to Sheffield, and Paul scarcely saw her
again. Walter Morel seemed to have let all the trouble go over him, and
there he was, crawling about on the mud of it, just the same. There was
scarcely any bond between father and son, save that each felt he must
not let the other go in any actual want. As there was no one to keep on
the home, and as they could neither of them bear the emptiness of the
house, Paul took lodgings in Nottingham, and Morel went to live with a
friendly family in Bestwood.

Everything seemed to have gone smash for the young man. He could not
paint. The picture he finished on the day of his mother's death--one
that satisfied him--was the last thing he did. At work there was no
Clara. When he came home he could not take up his brushes again. There
was nothing left.

So he was always in the town at one place or another, drinking,
knocking about with the men he knew. It really wearied him. He talked to
barmaids, to almost any woman, but there was that dark, strained look in
his eyes, as if he were hunting something.

Everything seemed so different, so unreal. There seemed no reason why
people should go along the street, and houses pile up in the daylight.
There seemed no reason why these things should occupy the space, instead
of leaving it empty. His friends talked to him: he heard the sounds, and
he answered. But why there should be the noise of speech he could not
understand.

He was most himself when he was alone, or working hard and mechanically
at the factory. In the latter case there was pure forgetfulness, when he
lapsed from consciousness. But it had to come to an end. It hurt him so,
that things had lost their reality. The first snowdrops came. He saw the
tiny drop-pearls among the grey. They would have given him the liveliest
emotion at one time. Now they were there, but they did not seem to mean
anything. In a few moments they would cease to occupy that place, and
just the space would be, where they had been. Tall, brilliant tram-cars
ran along the street at night. It seemed almost a wonder they should
trouble to rustle backwards and forwards. "Why trouble to go tilting
down to Trent Bridges?" he asked of the big trams. It seemed they just
as well might NOT be as be.

The realest thing was the thick darkness at night. That seemed to him
whole and comprehensible and restful. He could leave himself to it.
Suddenly a piece of paper started near his feet and blew along down the
pavement. He stood still, rigid, with clenched fists, a flame of agony
going over him. And he saw again the sick-room, his mother, her eyes.
Unconsciously he had been with her, in her company. The swift hop of
the paper reminded him she was gone. But he had been with her. He wanted
everything to stand still, so that he could be with her again.

The days passed, the weeks. But everything seemed to have fused, gone
into a conglomerated mass. He could not tell one day from another, one
week from another, hardly one place from another. Nothing was distinct
or distinguishable. Often he lost himself for an hour at a time, could
not remember what he had done.

One evening he came home late to his lodging. The fire was burning low;
everybody was in bed. He threw on some more coal, glanced at the table,
and decided he wanted no supper. Then he sat down in the arm-chair. It
was perfectly still. He did not know anything, yet he saw the dim
smoke wavering up the chimney. Presently two mice came out, cautiously,
nibbling the fallen crumbs. He watched them as it were from a long
way off. The church clock struck two. Far away he could hear the sharp
clinking of the trucks on the railway. No, it was not they that were far
away. They were there in their places. But where was he himself?

The time passed. The two mice, careering wildly, scampered cheekily over
his slippers. He had not moved a muscle. He did not want to move. He
was not thinking of anything. It was easier so. There was no wrench of
knowing anything. Then, from time to time, some other consciousness,
working mechanically, flashed into sharp phrases.

"What am I doing?"

And out of the semi-intoxicated trance came the answer:

"Destroying myself."

Then a dull, live feeling, gone in an instant, told him that it was
wrong. After a while, suddenly came the question:

"Why wrong?"

Again there was no answer, but a stroke of hot stubbornness inside his
chest resisted his own annihilation.

There was a sound of a heavy cart clanking down the road. Suddenly
the electric light went out; there was a bruising thud in the
penny-in-the-slot meter. He did not stir, but sat gazing in front of
him. Only the mice had scuttled, and the fire glowed red in the dark
room.

Then, quite mechanically and more distinctly, the conversation began
again inside him.

"She's dead. What was it all for--her struggle?"

That was his despair wanting to go after her.

"You're alive."

"She's not."

"She is--in you."

Suddenly he felt tired with the burden of it.

"You've got to keep alive for her sake," said his will in him.

Something felt sulky, as if it would not rouse.

"You've got to carry forward her living, and what she had done, go on
with it."

But he did not want to. He wanted to give up.

"But you can go on with your painting," said the will in him. "Or else
you can beget children. They both carry on her effort."

"Painting is not living."

"Then live."

"Marry whom?" came the sulky question.

"As best you can."

"Miriam?"

But he did not trust that.

He rose suddenly, went straight to bed. When he got inside his bedroom
and closed the door, he stood with clenched fist.

"Mater, my dear--" he began, with the whole force of his soul. Then he
stopped. He would not say it. He would not admit that he wanted to die,
to have done. He would not own that life had beaten him, or that death
had beaten him. Going straight to bed, he slept at once, abandoning
himself to the sleep.

So the weeks went on. Always alone, his soul oscillated, first on the
side of death, then on the side of life, doggedly. The real agony
was that he had nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing to say, and WAS
nothing himself. Sometimes he ran down the streets as if he were mad:
sometimes he was mad; things weren't there, things were there. It made
him pant. Sometimes he stood before the bar of the public-house where he
called for a drink. Everything suddenly stood back away from him. He
saw the face of the barmaid, the gobbling drinkers, his own glass on the
slopped, mahogany board, in the distance. There was something between
him and them. He could not get into touch. He did not want them; he did
not want his drink. Turning abruptly, he went out. On the threshold he
stood and looked at the lighted street. But he was not of it or in it.
Something separated him. Everything went on there below those lamps,
shut away from him. He could not get at them. He felt he couldn't touch
the lamp-posts, not if he reached. Where could he go? There was nowhere
to go, neither back into the inn, or forward anywhere. He felt stifled.
There was nowhere for him. The stress grew inside him; he felt he should
smash.

"I mustn't," he said; and, turning blindly, he went in and drank.
Sometimes the drink did him good; sometimes it made him worse. He ran
down the road. For ever restless, he went here, there, everywhere. He
determined to work. But when he had made six strokes, he loathed the
pencil violently, got up, and went away, hurried off to a club where he
could play cards or billiards, to a place where he could flirt with a
barmaid who was no more to him than the brass pump-handle she drew.

He was very thin and lantern-jawed. He dared not meet his own eyes
in the mirror; he never looked at himself. He wanted to get away from
himself, but there was nothing to get hold of. In despair he thought of
Miriam. Perhaps--perhaps--?

Then, happening to go into the Unitarian Church one Sunday evening, when
they stood up to sing the second hymn he saw her before him. The light
glistened on her lower lip as she sang. She looked as if she had got
something, at any rate: some hope in heaven, if not in earth. Her
comfort and her life seemed in the after-world. A warm, strong feeling
for her came up. She seemed to yearn, as she sang, for the mystery and
comfort. He put his hope in her. He longed for the sermon to be over, to
speak to her.

The throng carried her out just before him. He could nearly touch her.
She did not know he was there. He saw the brown, humble nape of her neck
under its black curls. He would leave himself to her. She was better and
bigger than he. He would depend on her.

She went wandering, in her blind way, through the little throngs of
people outside the church. She always looked so lost and out of place
among people. He went forward and put his hand on her arm. She started
violently. Her great brown eyes dilated in fear, then went questioning
at the sight of him. He shrank slightly from her.

"I didn't know--" she faltered.

"Nor I," he said.

He looked away. His sudden, flaring hope sank again.

"What are you doing in town?" he asked.

"I'm staying at Cousin Anne's."

"Ha! For long?"

"No; only till to-morrow."

"Must you go straight home?"

She looked at him, then hid her face under her hat-brim.

"No," she said--"no; it's not necessary."

He turned away, and she went with him. They threaded through the throng
of church people. The organ was still sounding in St. Mary's. Dark
figures came through the lighted doors; people were coming down the
steps. The large coloured windows glowed up in the night. The church was
like a great lantern suspended. They went down Hollow Stone, and he took
the car for the Bridges.

"You will just have supper with me," he said: "then I'll bring you
back."

"Very well," she replied, low and husky.

They scarcely spoke while they were on the car. The Trent ran dark and
full under the bridge. Away towards Colwick all was black night. He
lived down Holme Road, on the naked edge of the town, facing across the
river meadows towards Sneinton Hermitage and the steep scrap of Colwick
Wood. The floods were out. The silent water and the darkness spread away
on their left. Almost afraid, they hurried along by the houses.

Supper was laid. He swung the curtain over the window. There was a bowl
of freesias and scarlet anemones on the table. She bent to them. Still
touching them with her finger-tips, she looked up at him, saying:

"Aren't they beautiful?"

"Yes," he said. "What will you drink--coffee?"

"I should like it," she said.

"Then excuse me a moment."

He went out to the kitchen.

Miriam took off her things and looked round. It was a bare, severe
room. Her photo, Clara's, Annie's, were on the wall. She looked on
the drawing-board to see what he was doing. There were only a few
meaningless lines. She looked to see what books he was reading.
Evidently just an ordinary novel. The letters in the rack she saw
were from Annie, Arthur, and from some man or other she did not know.
Everything he had touched, everything that was in the least personal to
him, she examined with lingering absorption. He had been gone from her
for so long, she wanted to rediscover him, his position, what he was
now. But there was not much in the room to help her. It only made her
feel rather sad, it was so hard and comfortless.

She was curiously examining a sketch-book when he returned with the
coffee.

"There's nothing new in it," he said, "and nothing very interesting."

He put down the tray, and went to look over her shoulder. She turned the
pages slowly, intent on examining everything.

"H'm!" he said, as she paused at a sketch. "I'd forgotten that. It's not
bad, is it?"

"No," she said. "I don't quite understand it."

He took the book from her and went through it. Again he made a curious
sound of surprise and pleasure.

"There's some not bad stuff in there," he said.

"Not at all bad," she answered gravely.

He felt again her interest in his work. Or was it for himself? Why was
she always most interested in him as he appeared in his work?

They sat down to supper.

"By the way," he said, "didn't I hear something about your earning your
own living?"

"Yes," she replied, bowing her dark head over her cup. "And what of it?"

"I'm merely going to the farming college at Broughton for three months,
and I shall probably be kept on as a teacher there."

"I say--that sounds all right for you! You always wanted to be
independent."

"Yes.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I only knew last week."

"But I heard a month ago," he said.

"Yes; but nothing was settled then."

"I should have thought," he said, "you'd have told me you were trying."

She ate her food in the deliberate, constrained way, almost as if she
recoiled a little from doing anything so publicly, that he knew so well.

"I suppose you're glad," he said.

"Very glad."

"Yes--it will be something."

He was rather disappointed.

"I think it will be a great deal," she said, almost haughtily,
resentfully.

He laughed shortly.

"Why do you think it won't?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't think it won't be a great deal. Only you'll find earning
your own living isn't everything."

"No," she said, swallowing with difficulty; "I don't suppose it is."

"I suppose work CAN be nearly everything to a man," he said, "though it
isn't to me. But a woman only works with a part of herself. The real and
vital part is covered up."

"But a man can give ALL himself to work?" she asked.

"Yes, practically."

"And a woman only the unimportant part of herself?"

"That's it."

She looked up at him, and her eyes dilated with anger.

"Then," she said, "if it's true, it's a great shame."

"It is. But I don't know everything," he answered.

After supper they drew up to the fire. He swung her a chair facing him,
and they sat down. She was wearing a dress of dark claret colour, that
suited her dark complexion and her large features. Still, the curls
were fine and free, but her face was much older, the brown throat much
thinner. She seemed old to him, older than Clara. Her bloom of youth had
quickly gone. A sort of stiffness, almost of woodenness, had come upon
her. She meditated a little while, then looked at him.

"And how are things with you?" she asked.

"About all right," he answered.

She looked at him, waiting.

"Nay," she said, very low.

Her brown, nervous hands were clasped over her knee. They had still the
lack of confidence or repose, the almost hysterical look. He winced as
he saw them. Then he laughed mirthlessly. She put her fingers between
her lips. His slim, black, tortured body lay quite still in the chair.
She suddenly took her finger from her mouth and looked at him.

"And you have broken off with Clara?"

"Yes."

His body lay like an abandoned thing, strewn in the chair.

"You know," she said, "I think we ought to be married."

He opened his eyes for the first time since many months, and attended to
her with respect.

"Why?" he said.

"See," she said, "how you waste yourself! You might be ill, you might
die, and I never know--be no more then than if I had never known you."

"And if we married?" he asked.

"At any rate, I could prevent you wasting yourself and being a prey to
other women--like--like Clara."

"A prey?" he repeated, smiling.

She bowed her head in silence. He lay feeling his despair come up again.

"I'm not sure," he said slowly, "that marriage would be much good."

"I only think of you," she replied.

"I know you do. But--you love me so much, you want to put me in your
pocket. And I should die there smothered."

She bent her head, put her fingers between her lips, while the
bitterness surged up in her heart.

"And what will you do otherwise?" she asked.

"I don't know--go on, I suppose. Perhaps I shall soon go abroad."

The despairing doggedness in his tone made her go on her knees on the
rug before the fire, very near to him. There she crouched as if she were
crushed by something, and could not raise her head. His hands lay quite
inert on the arms of his chair. She was aware of them. She felt that
now he lay at her mercy. If she could rise, take him, put her arms round
him, and say, "You are mine," then he would leave himself to her.
But dare she? She could easily sacrifice herself. But dare she assert
herself? She was aware of his dark-clothed, slender body, that seemed
one stroke of life, sprawled in the chair close to her. But no; she
dared not put her arms round it, take it up, and say, "It is mine, this
body. Leave it to me." And she wanted to. It called to all her woman's
instinct. But she crouched, and dared not. She was afraid he would
not let her. She was afraid it was too much. It lay there, his body,
abandoned. She knew she ought to take it up and claim it, and claim
every right to it. But--could she do it? Her impotence before him,
before the strong demand of some unknown thing in him, was her
extremity. Her hands fluttered; she half-lifted her head. Her eyes,
shuddering, appealing, gone, almost distracted, pleaded to him suddenly.
His heart caught with pity. He took her hands, drew her to him, and
comforted her.

"Will you have me, to marry me?" he said very low.

Oh, why did not he take her? Her very soul belonged to him. Why would he
not take what was his? She had borne so long the cruelty of belonging to
him and not being claimed by him. Now he was straining her again. It
was too much for her. She drew back her head, held his face between her
hands, and looked him in the eyes. No, he was hard. He wanted something
else. She pleaded to him with all her love not to make it her choice.
She could not cope with it, with him, she knew not with what. But it
strained her till she felt she would break.

"Do you want it?" she asked, very gravely.

"Not much," he replied, with pain.

She turned her face aside; then, raising herself with dignity, she took
his head to her bosom, and rocked him softly. She was not to have him,
then! So she could comfort him. She put her fingers through his hair.
For her, the anguished sweetness of self-sacrifice. For him, the hate
and misery of another failure. He could not bear it--that breast which
was warm and which cradled him without taking the burden of him. So much
he wanted to rest on her that the feint of rest only tortured him. He
drew away.

"And without marriage we can do nothing?" he asked.

His mouth was lifted from his teeth with pain. She put her little finger
between her lips.

"No," she said, low and like the toll of a bell. "No, I think not."

It was the end then between them. She could not take him and relieve him
of the responsibility of himself. She could only sacrifice herself to
him--sacrifice herself every day, gladly. And that he did not want. He
wanted her to hold him and say, with joy and authority: "Stop all this
restlessness and beating against death. You are mine for a mate." She
had not the strength. Or was it a mate she wanted? or did she want a
Christ in him?

He felt, in leaving her, he was defrauding her of life. But he knew
that, in staying, stilling the inner, desperate man, he was denying his
own life. And he did not hope to give life to her by denying his own.

She sat very quiet. He lit a cigarette. The smoke went up from it,
wavering. He was thinking of his mother, and had forgotten Miriam. She
suddenly looked at him. Her bitterness came surging up. Her sacrifice,
then, was useless. He lay there aloof, careless about her. Suddenly
she saw again his lack of religion, his restless instability. He would
destroy himself like a perverse child. Well, then, he would!

"I think I must go," she said softly.

By her tone he knew she was despising him. He rose quietly.

"I'll come along with you," he answered.

She stood before the mirror pinning on her hat. How bitter, how
unutterably bitter, it made her that he rejected her sacrifice! Life
ahead looked dead, as if the glow were gone out. She bowed her face over
the flowers--the freesias so sweet and spring-like, the scarlet anemones
flaunting over the table. It was like him to have those flowers.

He moved about the room with a certain sureness of touch, swift and
relentless and quiet. She knew she could not cope with him. He would
escape like a weasel out of her hands. Yet without him her life would
trail on lifeless. Brooding, she touched the flowers.

"Have them!" he said; and he took them out of the jar, dripping as they
were, and went quickly into the kitchen. She waited for him, took the
flowers, and they went out together, he talking, she feeling dead.

She was going from him now. In her misery she leaned against him as they
sat on the car. He was unresponsive. Where would he go? What would
be the end of him? She could not bear it, the vacant feeling where he
should be. He was so foolish, so wasteful, never at peace with himself.
And now where would he go? And what did he care that he wasted her? He
had no religion; it was all for the moment's attraction that he cared,
nothing else, nothing deeper. Well, she would wait and see how it turned
out with him. When he had had enough he would give in and come to her.

He shook hands and left her at the door of her cousin's house. When he
turned away he felt the last hold for him had gone. The town, as he sat
upon the car, stretched away over the bay of railway, a level fume of
lights. Beyond the town the country, little smouldering spots for
more towns--the sea--the night--on and on! And he had no place in it!
Whatever spot he stood on, there he stood alone. From his breast,
from his mouth, sprang the endless space, and it was there behind him,
everywhere. The people hurrying along the streets offered no obstruction
to the void in which he found himself. They were small shadows whose
footsteps and voices could be heard, but in each of them the same night,
the same silence. He got off the car. In the country all was dead
still. Little stars shone high up; little stars spread far away in the
flood-waters, a firmament below. Everywhere the vastness and terror of
the immense night which is roused and stirred for a brief while by
the day, but which returns, and will remain at last eternal, holding
everything in its silence and its living gloom. There was no Time, only
Space. Who could say his mother had lived and did not live? She had been
in one place, and was in another; that was all. And his soul could not
leave her, wherever she was. Now she was gone abroad into the night, and
he was with her still. They were together. But yet there was his body,
his chest, that leaned against the stile, his hands on the wooden bar.
They seemed something. Where was he?--one tiny upright speck of flesh,
less than an ear of wheat lost in the field. He could not bear it.
On every side the immense dark silence seemed pressing him, so tiny
a spark, into extinction, and yet, almost nothing, he could not be
extinct. Night, in which everything was lost, went reaching out, beyond
stars and sun. Stars and sun, a few bright grains, went spinning round
for terror, and holding each other in embrace, there in a darkness
that outpassed them all, and left them tiny and daunted. So much, and
himself, infinitesimal, at the core a nothingness, and yet not nothing.

"Mother!" he whispered--"mother!"

She was the only thing that held him up, himself, amid all this. And
she was gone, intermingled herself. He wanted her to touch him, have him
alongside with her.

But no, he would not give in. Turning sharply, he walked towards the
city's gold phosphorescence. His fists were shut, his mouth set fast. He
would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. He walked
towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly.


THE END





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