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David Herbert Lawrence



SONS AND LOVERS

 

 

 

 

PART ONE

CHAPTER I

THE EARLY MARRIED LIFE OF THE MORELS

"THE BOTTOMS" succeeded to "HellRow".  Hell Row was a block of thatchedbulging cottages that stood by the brookside onGreenhill Lane. There lived the colliers who worked in thelittle gin-pits twofields away.  The brook ran under thealder treesscarcely soiledby these small mineswhose coal was drawn tothe surface bydonkeys that plodded wearily in a circle rounda gin.  And allover the countryside were these same pitssomeof which had beenworked in the time of Charles IIthe fewcolliers and the donkeysburrowing down like ants into the earthmakingqueer moundsand little black places among the corn-fieldsand the meadows. And the cottages of these coal-minersinblocks and pairs hereand theretogether with odd farms and homes ofthe stockingersstraying over the parishformed the village ofBestwood.

Thensome sixty years agoa sudden changetook place. The gin-pits were elbowed aside by the largemines ofthe financiers.  The coal and iron fieldof Nottinghamshire andDerbyshire was discovered.  CarstonWaiteand Co.  appeared. Amid tremendous excitementLord Palmerstonformally openedthe company's first mine at Spinney Parkonthe edge of Sherwood Forest.

About this time the notorious Hell Rowwhichthrough growingold had acquired an evil reputationwas burneddownand much dirtwas cleansed away.

CarstonWaite & Co. found they had struckon a good thingsodown the valleys of the brooks from Selbyand Nuttallnew mineswere sunkuntil soon there were six pitsworking.  From Nuttallhigh up on the sandstone among the woodstherailway ranpast theruined priory of the Carthusians and past RobinHood's Welldown toSpinney Parkthen on to Mintona large mineamong corn-fields;from Minton across the farmlands of thevalleyside toBunker's Hillbranching off thereand runningnorth to Beggarlee and Selbythat looks overat Crich and the hillsof Derbyshire:  six mines like black studson the countrysidelinked by a loop of fine chainthe railway.

To accommodate the regiments of minersCarstonWaite and Co.built the Squaresgreat quadrangles ofdwellings on the hillsideof Bestwoodand thenin the brook valleyonthe site of Hell Rowthey erected the Bottoms.

The Bottoms consisted of six blocks of miners'dwellingstwo rows of threelike the dots on a blank-sixdominoand twelvehouses in a block.  This double row ofdwellings sat at the footof the rather sharp slope from Bestwoodandlooked outfrom theattic windows at leaston the slow climb ofthe valley towards Selby.

The houses themselves were substantial and verydecent.One could walk all roundseeing little frontgardens with auriculasand saxifrage in the shadow of the bottomblocksweet-williams and pinksin the sunny top block; seeing neat frontwindowslittle porcheslittle privet hedgesand dormer windows forthe attics.  But thatwas outside; that was the view on to theuninhabited parlours of allthe colliers' wives.  The dwelling-roomthe kitchenwas at the backof the housefacing inward between the blockslooking at a scrubbyback gardenand then at the ash-pits. Andbetween the rowsbetween the long lines of ash-pitswent thealleywhere the childrenplayed and the women gossiped and the mensmoked.  Sothe actualconditions of living in the Bottomsthat wasso well built andthat looked so nicewere quite unsavourybecause people must livein the kitchenand the kitchens opened on tothat nasty alley of ash-pits.

Mrs. Morel was not anxious to move into theBottomswhich was already twelve years old and on thedownward pathwhen she descended to it from Bestwood. But it was the best shecould do.  Moreovershe had an end housein one of the top blocksand thus had only one neighbour; on the otherside an extra stripof garden.  Andhaving an end housesheenjoyed a kind of aristocracyamong the other women of the "between"housesbecause her rentwas five shillings and sixpence instead of fiveshillings a week.But this superiority in station was not muchconsolation to Mrs. Morel.

She was thirty-one years oldand had beenmarried eight years.A rather small womanof delicate mould butresolute bearingshe shrank a little from the first contact withthe Bottoms women.She came down in the Julyand in the Septemberexpected herthird baby.

Her husband was a miner.  They had onlybeen in their new homethree weeks when the wakesor fairbegan. Morelshe knewwas sureto make a holiday of it.  He went offearly on the Monday morningthe day of the fair.  The two childrenwere highly excited.Williama boy of sevenfled off immediatelyafter breakfastto prowl round the wakes groundleaving Anniewho was only fiveto whine all morning to go also.  Mrs.Morel did her work.She scarcely knew her neighbours yetand knewno one with whomto trust the little girl.  So she promisedto take her to the wakesafter dinner.

William appeared at half-past twelve.  Hewas a very active ladfair-hairedfreckledwith a touch of the Daneor Norwegianabout him.

"Can I have my dinnermother?" hecriedrushing in with hiscap on.  "'Cause it begins athalf-past onethe man says so."

"You can have your dinner as soon as it'sdone" replied the mother.

"Isn't it done?" he criedhis blueeyes staring at herin indignation.  "Then I'm goin'be-out it."

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

"They'll be beginnin'" the boy halfcriedhalf shouted.

"You won't die if they do" said themother.  "Besidesit'sonly half-past twelveso you've a full hour."

The lad began hastily to lay the tableanddirectly the threesat down.  They were eating batter-puddingand jamwhen the boyjumped off his chair and stood perfectlystiff.  Some distanceaway could be heard the first small braying ofa merry-go-roundand the tooting of a horn.  His facequivered as he looked at his mother.

"I told you!" he saidrunning to thedresser for his cap.

"Take your pudding in your hand--and it'sonly five past oneso you were wrong--you haven't got yourtwopence" cried the motherin a breath.

The boy came backbitterly disappointedforhis twopencethen went off without a word.

"I want to goI want to go" saidAnniebeginning to cry.

"Welland you shall gowhiningwizzening little stick!"said the mother.  And later in theafternoon she trudged up thehill under the tall hedge with her child. The hay was gatheredfrom the fieldsand cattle were turned on tothe eddish.It was warmpeaceful.

Mrs. Morel did not like the wakes.  Therewere two sets of horsesone going by steamone pulled round by a pony;three organswere grindingand there came odd cracks ofpistol-shotsfearfulscreeching of the cocoanut man's rattleshoutsof the Aunt Sally manscreeches from the peep-show lady.  Themother perceived her son gazingenraptured outside the Lion Wallace boothatthe pictures of thisfamous lion that had killed a negro and maimedfor life two white men.She left him aloneand went to get Annie aspin of toffee.Presently the lad stood in front of herwildlyexcited.

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

He pulled from his pocket two egg-cupswithpink moss-roseson them.

"I got these from that stall where y'aveter get them marblesin them holes.  An' I got these two in twogoes-'aepenny a go-they'vegot moss-roses onlook here.  I wantedthese."

She knew he wanted them for her.

"H'm!" she saidpleased.  "TheyARE pretty!"

"Shall you carry 'em'cause I'mfrightened o' breakin' 'em?"

He was tipful of excitement now she had comeled her aboutthe groundshowed her everything.  Thenat the peep-showsheexplained the picturesin a sort of storytowhich he listenedas if spellbound.  He would not leaveher.  All the time hestuck close to herbristling with a smallboy's pride of her.For no other woman looked such a lady as shedidin her little blackbonnet and her cloak.  She smiled when shesaw women she knew.When she was tired she said to her son:

"Wellare you coming nowor later?"

"Are you goin' a'ready?" he criedhis face full of reproach.

"Already?  It is past fourI know."

"What are you goin' a'ready for?" helamented.

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

And she went slowly away with her little girlwhilst her sonstood watching hercut to the heart to let hergoand yet unableto leave the wakes.  As she crossed theopen ground in front ofthe Moon and Stars she heard men shoutingandsmelled the beerand hurried a littlethinking her husband wasprobably in the bar.

At about half-past six her son came hometirednowrather paleand somewhat wretched.  He was miserablethough he did not know itbecause he had let her go alone.  Sinceshe had gonehe had notenjoyed his wakes.

"Has my dad been?" he asked.

"No" said the mother.

"He's helping to wait at the Moon andStars.  I seed him throughthat black tin stuff wi' holes inon thewindowwi' his sleevesrolled up."

"Ha!" exclaimed the mother shortly. "He's got no money.An' he'll be satisfied if he gets his 'lowancewhether theygive him more or not."

When the light was fadingand Mrs. Morel couldsee no more to sewshe rose and went to the door.  Everywherewas the sound of excitementthe restlessness of the holidaythat at lastinfected her.  She wentout into the side garden.  Women werecoming home from the wakesthe children hugging a white lamb with greenlegsor a wooden horse.Occasionally a man lurched pastalmost as fullas he could carry.Sometimes a good husband came along with hisfamilypeacefully.But usually the women and children were alone. The stay-at-home mothersstood gossiping at the corners of the alleyasthe twilight sankfolding their arms under their white aprons.

Mrs. Morel was alonebut she was used to it. Her son and herlittle girl slept upstairs; soit seemedherhome was there behind herfixed and stable.  But she felt wretchedwith the coming child.The world seemed a dreary placewhere nothingelse would happenfor her--at least until William grew up. But for herselfnothing but this dreary endurance--till thechildren grew up.And the children!  She could not afford tohave this third.She did not want it.  The father wasserving beer in a public houseswilling himself drunk.  She despised himand was tied to him.This coming child was too much for her. If it were not for Williamand Annieshe was sick of itthe strugglewithpoverty and ugliness and meanness.

She went into the front gardenfeeling tooheavy to takeherself outyet unable to stay indoors. The heat suffocated her.And looking aheadthe prospect of her lifemade her feel as if shewere buried alive.

The front garden was a small square with aprivet hedge.There she stoodtrying to soothe herself withthe scent of flowersand the fadingbeautiful evening. Opposite her small gate was thestile that led uphillunder the tall hedgebetween the burning glowof the cut pastures.  The sky overheadthrobbed and pulsed with light.The glow sank quickly off the field; the earthand the hedgessmoked dusk.  As it grew darka ruddyglare came out on the hilltopand out of the glare the diminished commotionof the fair.

Sometimesdown the trough of darkness formedby the pathunder the hedgesmen came lurching home. One young man lapsedinto a run down the steep bit that ended thehilland went with acrash into the stile.  Mrs. Morelshuddered.  He picked himself upswearing viciouslyrather patheticallyas ifhe thought the stilehad wanted to hurt him.

She went indoorswondering if things werenever going to alter.She was beginning by now to realise that theywould not.  She seemedso far away from her girlhoodshe wondered ifit were the sameperson walking heavily up the back garden atthe Bottoms as had runso lightly up the breakwater at Sheerness tenyears before.

"What have I to do with it?" she saidto herself.  "What haveI to do with all this?  Even the child Iam going to have! It doesn't seem as if I were taken intoaccount."

Sometimes life takes hold of onecarries thebody alongaccomplishes one's historyand yet is notrealbut leaves oneselfas it were slurred over.

"I wait" Mrs. Morel said toherself--"I waitand what I waitfor can never come."

Then she straightened the kitchenlit thelampmended the firelooked out the washing for the next dayandput it to soak.After which she sat down to her sewing. Through the long hours herneedle flashed regularly through the stuff. Occasionally she sighedmoving to relieve herself.  And all thetime she was thinkinghow to make the most of what she hadfor thechildren's sakes.

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

"Oh! Oh! waitin' for melass?  I'vebin 'elpin' Anthonyan'what's think he's gen me?  Nowt b'r alousy hae'f-crownan'that's ivry penny---"

"He thinks you've made the rest up inbeer" she said shortly.

"An' I 'aven't--that I 'aven't. Youb'lieve meI've 'advery little this dayI have an' all." His voice went tender."Herean' I browt thee a bit o'brandysnapan' a cocoanut for th'children."  He laid the gingerbreadand the cocoanuta hairy objecton the table.  "Naytha niver saidthankyer for nowt i' thy lifedid ter?"

As a compromiseshe picked up the cocoanut andshook itto see if it had any milk.

"It's a good 'unyou may back yer life o'that.  I got it fra'Bill Hodgkisson.  'Bill' I says'tha nonwants them three nutsdoes ter?  Arena ter for gi'ein' me onefor my bit of a lad an'wench?'  'I hamWaltermy lad' 'e says;'ta'e which on 'emter's a mind.'  An' so I took onean'thanked 'im.  I didn'tlike ter shake it afore 'is eyesbut 'e says'Tha'd better ma'esure it's a good unWalt.'  An' soyerseeI knowed it was.He's a nice chapis Bill Hodgkissone's anice chap!"

"A man will part with anything so long ashe's drunkand you're drunk along with him" saidMrs. Morel.

"Ehtha mucky little 'ussywho's drunkI sh'd like ter know?"said Morel.  He was extraordinarilypleased with himselfbecause of his day's helping to wait in theMoon and Stars.He chattered on.

Mrs. Morelvery tiredand sick of his babblewent to bedas quickly as possiblewhile he raked thefire.

Mrs. Morel came of a good old burgher familyfamous independentswho had fought with Colonel Hutchinsonand whoremained stoutCongregationalists.  Her grandfather hadgone bankrupt in the lace-marketat a time when so many lace-manufacturers wereruined in Nottingham.Her fatherGeorge Coppardwas an engineer--alargehandsomehaughty manproud of his fair skin and blueeyesbut more proudstill of his integrity.  Gertruderesembled her mother in her smallbuild.  But her temperproud andunyieldingshe had from the Coppards.

George Coppard was bitterly galled by his ownpoverty.He became foreman of the engineers in thedockyard at Sheerness.Mrs. Morel--Gertrude--was the second daughter. She favoured her motherloved her mother best of all; but she had theCoppards' cleardefiant blue eyes and their broad brow. She remembered to havehated her father's overbearing manner towardsher gentlehumorouskindly-souled mother.  She rememberedrunning over the breakwaterat Sheerness and finding the boat.  Sheremembered to have beenpetted and flattered by all the men when shehad gone to the dockyardfor she was a delicaterather proud child. She remembered the funnyold mistresswhose assistant she had becomewhom she had loved to helpin the private school.  And she still hadthe Bible that John Fieldhad given her.  She used to walk home fromchapel with John Fieldwhen she was nineteen.  He was the son ofa well-to-do tradesmanhad been to college in Londonand was todevote himself to business.

She could always recall in detail a SeptemberSunday afternoonwhen they had sat under the vine at the back ofher father's house.The sun came through the chinks of thevine-leaves and madebeautiful patternslike a lace scarffallingon her and on him.Some of the leaves were clean yellowlikeyellow flat flowers.

"Now sit still" he had cried. "Now your hairI don't knowwhat it IS like!  It's as bright as copperand goldas red asburnt copperand it has gold threads where thesun shines on it.Fancy their saying it's brown.  Yourmother calls it mouse-colour."

She had met his brilliant eyesbut her clearface scarcelyshowed 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 theministry" she half implored.

"I should.  I should love itif Ithought I could makea first-rate preacher."

"Then why don't you--why DON'T you?" Her voice rang with defiance."If I were a mannothing would stop me."

She held her head erect.  He was rathertimid before her.

"But my father's so stiff-necked. He meansto put me intothe businessand I know he'll do it."

"But if you're a MAN?" she had cried.
"Being a man isn't everything" herepliedfrowning withpuzzled helplessness.

Nowas she moved about her work at theBottomswith someexperience of what being a man meantshe knewthat it was NOT everything.

At twentyowing to her healthshe had leftSheerness.Her father had retired home to Nottingham. John Field's fatherhad been ruined; the son had gone as a teacherin Norwood.  She didnot hear of him untiltwo years latershemade determined inquiry.He had married his landladya woman of fortya widow with property.

And still Mrs. Morel preserved John Field'sBible.  She didnot now believe him to be--- Wellsheunderstood pretty well what hemight or might not have been.  So shepreserved his Bibleand kepthis memory intact in her heartfor her ownsake.  To her dying dayfor thirty-five yearsshe did not speak ofhim.

When she was twenty-three years oldshe metat a Christmaspartya young man from the Erewash Valley. Morel was thentwenty-seven years old.  He was wellset-uperectand very smart.He had wavy black hair that shone againand avigorous blackbeard that had never been shaved.  Hischeeks were ruddyand his redmoist mouth was noticeable becausehe laughed so oftenand so heartily.  He had that rare thinga richringing laugh.Gertrude Coppard had watched himfascinated. He was so full ofcolour and animationhis voice ran so easilyinto comic grotesquehe was so ready and so pleasant witheverybody.  Her own fatherhad a rich fund of humourbut it was satiric. This man'swas different:  softnon-intellectualwarma kind of gambolling.

She herself was opposite.  She had acuriousreceptive mindwhich found much pleasure and amusement inlistening to other folk.She was clever in leading folk to talk. She loved ideasand wasconsidered very intellectual.  What sheliked most of all was anargument on religion or philosophy or politicswith some educated man.This she did not often enjoy.  So shealways had people tell herabout themselvesfinding her pleasure so.

In her person she was rather small anddelicatewith alarge browand dropping bunches of brown silkcurls.  Her blue eyeswere very straighthonestand searching. She had the beautifulhands of the Coppards.  Her dress wasalways subdued.  She woredark blue silkwith a peculiar silver chain ofsilver scallops.Thisand a heavy brooch of twisted goldwasher only ornament.She was still perfectly intactdeeplyreligiousand fullof beautiful candour.

Walter Morel seemed melted away before her. She wasto the miner that thing of mystery andfascinationa lady.When she spoke to himit was with a southernpronunciation and apurity of English which thrilled him to hear. She watched him.He danced wellas if it were natural andjoyous in him to dance.His grandfather was a French refugee who hadmarried an Englishbarmaid--if it had been a marriage. Gertrude Coppard watched theyoung miner as he danceda certain subtleexultation like glamour inhis movementand his face the flower of hisbodyruddywith tumbledblack hairand laughing alike whatever partnerhe bowed above.She thought him rather wonderfulnever havingmet anyone like him.Her father was to her the type of all men. And George Coppardproud in his bearinghandsomeand ratherbitter; who preferredtheology in readingand who drew near insympathy only to one manthe Apostle Paul; who was harsh in governmentand in familiarity ironic;who ignored all sensuous pleasure:--he was verydifferent fromthe miner.  Gertrude herself was rathercontemptuous of dancing;she had not the slightest inclination towardsthat accomplishmentand had never learned even a Roger deCoverley.  She was puritanlike her fatherhigh-mindedand reallystern.  Therefore the duskygolden softness of this man's sensuous flame oflifethat flowed offhis flesh like the flame from a candlenotbaffled and gripped intoincandescence by thought and spirit as her lifewasseemed to hersomething wonderfulbeyond her.

He came and bowed above her.  A warmthradiated through heras if she had drunk wine.

"Now do come and have this one wi' me"he said caressively."It's easyyou know.  I'm pining tosee you dance."

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

"NoI won't dance" she saidsoftly.  Her words came cleanand ringing.

Not knowing what he was doing--he often did theright thingby instinct--he sat beside herincliningreverentially.

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

 

"NayI don't want to dance that--it's notone as I care about."

"Yet you invited me to it."

He laughed very heartily at this.

"I never thought o' that.  Tha'rt notlong in taking the curlout of me."

It was her turn to laugh quickly.

"You don't look as if you'd come muchuncurled" she said.

"I'm like a pig's tailI curl because Icanna help it"he laughedrather boisterously.

"And you are a miner!" she exclaimedin surprise.

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

She looked at him in wondering dismay.

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

"You soon get used to it.  You livelike th' micean' you popout at night to see what's going on."

"It makes me feel blind" shefrowned.

"Like a moudiwarp!" he laughed. "Yian' there's some chapsas does go round like moudiwarps." He thrust his face forwardin the blindsnout-like way of a moleseemingto sniff andpeer for direction.  "They dunthough!" he protested naively."Tha niver seed such a way they get in. But tha mun let me ta'ethee down some timean' tha can see forthysen."

She looked at himstartled.  This was anew tract of lifesuddenly opened before her.  She realisedthe life of the minershundreds of them toiling below earth and comingup at evening.He seemed to her noble.  He risked hislife dailyand with gaiety.She looked at himwith a touch of appeal inher pure humility.

"Shouldn't ter like it?" he askedtenderly.  "'Appen notit 'ud dirty thee."

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

The next Christmas they were marriedand forthree monthsshe was perfectly happy:  for six monthsshe was very happy.

He had signed the pledgeand wore the blueribbon of atee-totaller:  he was nothing if notshowy.  They livedshe thoughtin his own house.  It was smallbutconvenient enoughand quitenicely furnishedwith solidworthy stuff thatsuited her honest soul.The womenher neighbourswere rather foreignto herand Morel'smother and sisters were apt to sneer at herladylike ways.But she could perfectly well live by herselfso long as shehad her husband close.

Sometimeswhen she herself wearied oflove-talkshe triedto open her heart seriously to him.  Shesaw him listen deferentiallybut without understanding.  This killedher efforts at a finer intimacyand she had flashes of fear.  Sometimes hewas restless of an evening:it was not enough for him just to be near hershe realised.She was glad when he set himself to littlejobs.

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

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

"Does termy wench?  WellI madethatso I can make theeone! "

"What! whyit's a steel one!"

"An' what if it is!  Tha s'lt ha'eone very similarif notexactly same."

She did not mind the messnor the hammeringand noise.He was busy and happy.

But in the seventh monthwhen she was brushinghis Sunday coatshe felt papers in the breast pocketandseized with a sudden curiositytook them out to read.  He very rarelywore the frock-coat he wasmarried in:  and it had not occurred toher before to feel curiousconcerning the papers.  They were thebills of the household furniturestill unpaid.

"Look here" she said at nightafterhe was washed and hadhad his dinner.  "I found these inthe 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 hadbetter go into Nottinghamon Saturday and settle them.  I don't likesitting on another man'schairs and eating from an unpaid table."

He did not answer.

"I can have your bank-bookcan't I?"

"Tha can ha'e itfor what good it'll beto thee."

"I thought---" she began.  Hehad told her he had a good bit ofmoney left over.  But she realised it wasno 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.

"YesI did" tartly retorted theelder woman.

"And how much did he give you to pay forit?"

The elder woman was stung with fineindignation.

"Eighty poundif you're so keen onknowin'" she replied.

"Eighty pounds!  But there areforty-two pounds still owing!"

"I can't help that."

"But where has it all gone?"

"You'll find all the papersI thinkifyou look--beside tenpound as he owed mean' six pound as thewedding cost down here."

"Six pounds!" echoed Gertrude Morel. It seemed to hermonstrous thatafter her own father had paidso heavilyfor her weddingsix pounds more should havebeen squanderedin eating and drinking at Walter's parents'houseat his expense.

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

"His houses--which houses?"

Gertrude Morel went white to the lips.  Hehad told herthe house he lived inand the next onewashis own.

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

"They're my housesthose two" saidthe mother-in-law. "Andnot clear either.  It's as much as I cando to keep the mortgageinterest paid."

Gertrude sat white and silent.  She washer father now.

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

"Walter is paying me rent" repliedthe mother.

"And what rent?" asked Gertrude.

"Six and six a week" retorted themother.

It was more than the house was worth. Gertrude held herhead erectlooked straight before her.

"It is lucky to be you" said theelder womanbitingly"to have a husband as takes all the worryof the moneyand leavesyou a free hand."

The young wife was silent.

She said very little to her husbandbut hermanner hadchanged towards him.  Something in herproudhonourable soulhad crystallised out hard as rock.

When October came inshe thought only ofChristmas.  Two years agoat Christmasshe had met him.  LastChristmas she had married him.This Christmas she would bear him a child.

"You don't dance yourselfdo youmissis?" asked hernearest neighbourin Octoberwhen there wasgreat talkof opening a dancing-class over the Brick andTile Inn at Bestwood.

"No--I never had the least inclinationto" 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.

"Yeahe is though!  Whyhe ran thatdancing-class in the Miners'Arms club-room for over five year."

"Did he?"

"Yeshe did."  The other womanwas defiant.  "An' it wasthronged every Tuesdayand Thursdayan'Sat'day--an' there WAScarryin's-onaccordin' to all accounts."

This kind of thing was gall and bitterness toMrs. Moreland she had a fair share of it.  The womendid not spare herat first;for she was superiorthough she could not helpit.

He began to be rather late in coming home.

"They're working very late nowaren'tthey?" she said to herwasher-woman.

"No later than they allers doI don'tthink.  But they stop tohave their pint at Ellen'san' they gettalkin'an' there you are!Dinner stone cold--an' it serves 'em right."

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

The woman dropped the clotheslooked at Mrs.Morelthen wenton with her worksaying nothing.

Gertrude Morel was very ill when the boy wasborn.Morel was good to heras good as gold. But she felt very lonelymiles away from her own people.  She feltlonely with him nowand his presence only made it more intense.

The boy was small and frail at firstbut hecame on quickly.He was a beautiful childwith dark goldringletsand dark-blueeyes which changed gradually to a clear grey. His mother lovedhim passionately.  He came just when herown bitterness ofdisillusion was hardest to bear; when her faithin life was shakenand her soul felt dreary and lonely.  Shemade much of the childand the father was jealous.

At last Mrs. Morel despised her husband. She turned tothe child; she turned from the father.  Hehad begun to neglect her;the novelty of his own home was gone.  Hehad no gritshe saidbitterly to herself.  What he felt just atthe minutethat was all to him.He could not abide by anything.  There wasnothing at the backof all his show.

There began a battle between the husband andwife--a fearfulbloody battle that ended only with the death ofone.  She foughtto make him undertake his own responsibilitiesto make him fulfillhis obligations.  But he was too differentfrom her.  His naturewas purely sensuousand she strove to make himmoralreligious.She tried to force him to face things.  Hecould not endure it--itdrove him out of his mind.

While the baby was still tinythe father'stemper had becomeso irritable that it was not to be trusted. The child had only togive a little trouble when the man began tobully.  A little moreand the hard hands of the collier hit thebaby.  Then Mrs. Morelloathed her husbandloathed him for days; andhe went out and drank;and she cared very little what he did. Onlyon his returnshe scathed him with her satire.

The estrangement between them caused himknowingly or unknowinglygrossly to offend her where he would not havedone.

William was only one year oldand his motherwas proud of himhe was so pretty.  She was not well offnowbut her sisters keptthe boy in clothes.  Thenwith his littlewhite hat curled with anostrich featherand his white coathe was ajoy to herthe twiningwisps of hair clustering round his head. Mrs. Morel lay listeningone Sunday morningto the chatter of thefather and child downstairs.Then she dozed off.  When she camedownstairsa great fire glowedin the gratethe room was hotthe breakfastwas roughly laidand seated in his armchairagainst thechimney-piecesat Morelrather timid; and standing between his legsthe child--croppedlike a sheepwith such an odd roundpoll--looking wondering at her;and on a newspaper spread out upon thehearthruga myriad ofcrescent-shaped curlslike the petals of amarigold scattered in thereddening firelight.

Mrs. Morel stood still.  It was her firstbaby.  She wentvery whiteand was unable to speak.

"What dost think o' 'im?"  Morellaughed uneasily.

She gripped her two fistslifted themandcame forward.Morel shrank back.

"I could kill youI could!" shesaid.  She choked with rageher two fists uplifted.

"Yer non want ter make a wench on 'im"Morel saidin afrightened tonebending his head to shield hiseyes from hers.His attempt at laughter had vanished.

The mother looked down at the jaggedclose-clipped head ofher child.  She put her hands on his hairand stroked and fondledhis head.

"Oh--my boy!" she faltered.  Herlip trembledher face brokeandsnatching up the childshe buried herface in his shoulderand cried painfully.  She was one of thosewomen who cannot cry;whom it hurts as it hurts a man.  It waslike ripping somethingout of herher sobbing.

Morel sat with his elbows on his kneeshishands grippedtogether till the knuckles were white.  Hegazed in the firefeeling almost stunnedas if he could notbreathe.

Presently she came to an endsoothed the childand cleared awaythe breakfast-table. She left the newspaperlittered with curlsspread upon the hearthrug.  At last herhusband gathered it up and putit at the back of the fire.  She wentabout her work with closedmouth and very quiet.  Morel was subdued. He crept about wretchedlyand his meals were a misery that day.  Shespoke to him civillyand never alluded to what he had done. But he felt something finalhad happened.

Afterwards she said she had been sillythatthe boy's hairwould have had to be cutsooner or later. In the endshe evenbrought herself to say to her husband it wasjust as well he hadplayed barber when he did.  But she knewand Morel knewthat thatact had caused something momentous to takeplace in her soul.She remembered the scene all her lifeas onein which she hadsuffered the most intensely.

This act of masculine clumsiness was the spearthrough the side ofher love for Morel.  Beforewhile she hadstriven against him bitterlyshe had fretted after himas if he had goneastray from her.Now she ceased to fret for his love:  hewas an outsider to her.This made life much more bearable.

Neverthelessshe still continued to strivewith him.  She stillhad her high moral senseinherited fromgenerations of Puritans.It was now a religious instinctand she wasalmost a fanaticwith himbecause she loved himor had lovedhim.  If he sinnedshe tortured him.  If he drankand liedwas often a poltroonsometimes a knaveshe wielded the lashunmercifully.

The pity wasshe was too much his opposite. She could not becontent with the little he might be; she wouldhave him the much thathe ought to be.  Soin seeking to makehim nobler than he could beshe destroyed him.  She injured and hurtand scarred herselfbut she lost none of her worth.  She alsohad the children.

He drank rather heavilythough not more thanmany minersand always beerso that whilst his health wasaffectedit wasnever injured.  The week-end was his chiefcarouse.  He sat inthe Miners' Arms until turning-out time everyFridayevery Saturdayand every Sunday evening.  On Monday andTuesday he had to get upand reluctantly leave towards ten o'clock.Sometimes he stayed at homeon Wednesday and Thursday eveningsor was onlyout for an hour.He practically never had to miss work owing tohis drinking.

But although he was very steady at workhiswages fell off.He was blab-moutheda tongue-wagger. Authoritywas hateful to himtherefore he could only abuse the pit-managers.He would sayin the Palmerston:

"Th' gaffer come down to our stall thismorningan' 'e says'You knowWalterthis 'ere'll not do. What about these props?'An' I says to him'Whywhat art talkin'about?  What d'stmean about th' props?'  'It'll never dothis 'ere' 'e says.'You'll be havin' th' roof inone o' thesedays.'  An' I says'Tha'd better stan' on a bit o' clunchthenan' hold it up wi'thy 'ead.'  So 'e wor that mad'e cossedan' 'e sworean't'other chaps they did laugh."  Morelwas a good mimic.  He imitatedthe manager's fatsqueaky voicewith itsattempt at good English.

"'I shan't have itWalter.  Whoknows more about itme or you?'So I says'I've niver fun out how much tha'knowsAlfred.It'll 'appen carry thee ter bed an' back."'

So Morel would go on to the amusement of hisboon companions.And some of this would be true.  Thepit-manager was not aneducated man.  He had been a boy alongwith Morelso thatwhile the two disliked each otherthey more orless took eachother for granted.  But AlfredCharlesworth did not forgivethe butty these public-house sayings. Consequentlyalthough Morelwas a good minersometimes earning as much asfive pounds a weekwhen he marriedhe came gradually to haveworse and worse stallswhere the coal was thinand hard to getandunprofitable.

Alsoin summerthe pits are slack. Oftenon bright sunnymorningsthe men are seen trooping home againat tenelevenor twelveo'clock. No empty trucks stand at thepit-mouth. The women on thehillside look across as they shake thehearthrug against the fenceand count the wagons the engine is taking alongthe line up the valley.And the childrenas they come from school atdinner-timelookingdown the fields and seeing the wheels on theheadstocks standingsay:

"Minton's knocked off.  My dad'll beat home."

And there is a sort of shadow over allwomenand childrenand menbecause money will be short at the endof the week.

Morel was supposed to give his wife thirtyshillings a weekto provide everything--rentfoodclothesclubsinsurancedoctors.Occasionallyif he were flushhe gave herthirty-five. Butthese occasions by no means balanced those whenhe gave hertwenty-five. In winterwith a decent stallthe miner mightearn fifty or fifty-five shillings a week. Then he was happy.On Friday nightSaturdayand Sundayhe spentroyallygetting ridof his sovereign or thereabouts.  And outof so muchhe scarcelyspared the children an extra penny or boughtthem a pound of apples.It all went in drink.  In the bad timesmatters were more worryingbut he was not so often drunkso that Mrs.Morel used to say:

"I'm not sure I wouldn't rather be shortfor when he's flushthere isn't a minute of peace."

If he earned forty shillings he kept ten; fromthirty-five hekept five; from thirty-two he kept four; fromtwenty-eight he kept three;from twenty-four he kept two; from twenty hekept one-and-six;from eighteen he kept a shilling; from sixteenhe kept sixpence.He never saved a pennyand he gave his wife noopportunityof saving; insteadshe had occasionally to payhis debts;not public-house debtsfor those never werepassed on to the womenbut debts when he had bought a canaryor afancy walking-stick.

At the wakes time Morel was working badlyandMrs. Morel was trying to save against herconfinement.So it galled her bitterly to think he should beouttaking his pleasure and spending moneywhilstshe remainedat homeharassed.  There were two days'holiday.  On the Tuesdaymorning Morel rose early.  He was in goodspirits.  Quite earlybefore six o'clockshe heard him whistlingaway to himself downstairs.He had a pleasant way of whistlinglively andmusical.He nearly always whistled hymns.  He hadbeen a choir-boy witha beautiful voiceand had taken solos inSouthwell cathedral.His morning whistling alone betrayed it.

His wife lay listening to him tinkering away inthe gardenhis whistling ringing out as he sawed andhammered away.  It alwaysgave her a sense of warmth and peace to hearhim thus as she layin bedthe children not yet awakein thebright early morninghappy in his man's fashion.

At nine o'clockwhile the children with barelegs and feetwere sitting playing on the sofaand themother was washing uphe came in from his carpentryhis sleevesrolled uphis waistcoathanging open.  He was still a good-lookingmanwith blackwavy hairand a large black moustache. His face was perhaps toomuch inflamedand there was about him a lookalmost of peevishness.But now he was jolly.  He went straight tothe sink where his wifewas washing up.

"Whatare thee there!" he saidboisterously.  "Sluthe off an'let me wesh mysen."

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

"Ohmun I?  An' what if I shonna?"

This good-humoured threat amused Mrs. Morel.

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

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

With which he stood watching her a momentthenwent awayto wait for her.

When he chose he could still make himself againa real gallant.Usually he preferred to go out with a scarfround his neck.Nowhoweverhe made a toilet.  Thereseemed so much gusto in the wayhe puffed and swilled as he washed himselfsomuch alacrity withwhich he hurried to the mirror in the kitchenandbending becauseit was too low for himscrupulously parted hiswet black hairthat it irritated Mrs. Morel.  He put on aturn-down collara black bowand wore his Sunday tail-coat. Assuchhe lookedspruceand what his clothes would not dohisinstinct for makingthe most of his good looks would.

At half-past nine Jerry Purdy came to call forhis pal.Jerry was Morel's bosom friendand Mrs. Moreldisliked him.He was a tallthin manwith a rather foxyfacethe kindof face that seems to lack eyelashes.  Hewalked with a stiffbrittle dignityas if his head were on awooden spring.  His naturewas cold and shrewd.  Generous where heintended to be generoushe seemed to be very fond of Moreland more orless to take chargeof him.

Mrs. Morel hated him.  She had known hiswifewho had diedof consumptionand who hadat the endconceived such a violentdislike of her husbandthat if he came intoher room it causedher haemorrhage.  None of which Jerry hadseemed to mind.  And nowhis eldest daughtera girl of fifteenkept apoor house for himand looked after the two younger children.

"A meanwizzen-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 youcouldn't find anywhereaccordin' to my knowledge."

"Open-handed to you" retorted Mrs.Morel.  "But his fistis shut tight enough to his childrenpoorthings."

"Poor things!  And what for are theypoor thingsI shouldlike to know."

But Mrs. Morel would not be appeased on Jerry'sscore.

The subject of argument was seencraning histhin neckover the scullery curtain.  He caught Mrs.Morel's eye.

"Mornin'missis!  Mester in?"

"Yes--he is."

Jerry entered unaskedand stood by the kitchendoorway.He was not invited to sit downbut stoodtherecoolly assertingthe rights of men and husbands.

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

"Yes.

"Grand out this morning--grand for awalk."

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

"Yes.  We mean walkin' toNottingham" he replied.

"H'm!"

The two men greeted each otherboth glad: Jerryhoweverfull of assuranceMorel rather subduedafraidto seem too jubilant inpresence of his wife.  But he laced hisboots quicklywith spirit.They were going for a ten-mile walk across thefields to Nottingham.Climbing the hillside from the Bottomstheymounted gaily intothe morning.  At the Moon and Stars theyhad their first drinkthen on to the Old Spot.  Then a long fivemiles of drought to carrythem into Bulwell to a glorious pint ofbitter.  But they stayedin a field with some haymakers whose gallonbottle was fullso thatwhen they came in sight of the cityMorel wassleepy.  The townspread upwards before themsmoking vaguely inthe midday glarefridging the crest away to the south withspires and factory bulksand chimneys.  In the last field Morel laydown under an oak treeand slept soundly for over an hour.  Whenhe rose to go forward hefelt queer.

The two had dinner in the Meadowswith Jerry'ssisterthen repaired to the Punch Bowlwhere theymixed in the excitementof pigeon-racing. Morel never in his lifeplayed cardsconsidering themas having some occultmalevolent power--"thedevil's pictures"he called them!  But he was a master ofskittles and of dominoes.He took a challenge from a Newark manonskittles.  All the men inthe oldlong bar took sidesbetting eitherone way or the other.Morel took off his coat.  Jerry held thehat containing the money.The men at the tables watched.  Some stoodwith their mugs intheir hands.  Morel felt his big woodenball carefullythen launched it.He played havoc among the nine-pinsand wonhalf a crownwhich restored him to solvency.

By seven o'clock the two were in goodcondition.  They caughtthe 7.30 train home.

In the afternoon the Bottoms was intolerable. Every inhabitantremaining was out of doors.  The womenintwos and threesbareheaded and in white apronsgossiped in thealley between the blocks.Menhaving a rest between drinkssat on theirheels and talked.The place smelled stale; the slate roofsglistered in the arid heat.

Mrs. Morel took the little girl down to thebrook in the meadowswhich were not more than two hundred yardsaway.  The water ranquickly over stones and broken pots. Mother and child leaned onthe rail of the old sheep-bridgewatching. Up at the dipping-holeat the other end of the meadowMrs. Morelcould see the nakedforms of boys flashing round the deep yellowwateror an occasional bright figure dart glitteringover the blackishstagnant meadow.  She knew William was atthe dipping-holeand it was the dread of her life lest he shouldget drowned.Annie played under the tall old hedgepickingup alder conesthat she called currants.  The childrequired much attentionand the flies were teasing.

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

When Walter Morel and Jerry arrived at Bestwoodthey felta load off their minds; a railway journey nolonger impendedso they could put the finishing touches to aglorious day.They entered the Nelson with the satisfactionof returned travellers.

The next day was a work-dayand the thought ofit put a damperon the men's spirits.  Most of themmoreoverhad spent their money.Some were already rolling dismally hometosleep in preparationfor the morrow.  Mrs. Morellistening totheir mournful singingwent indoors.  Nine o'clock passedandtenand still "the pair"had not returned.  On a doorstep somewherea man was singing loudlyin a drawl:  "Leadkindly Light." Mrs. Morel was always indignantwith the drunken men that they must sing thathymn when theygot maudlin.

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

The kitchen was full of the scent of boiledherbs and hops.On the hob a large black saucepan steamedslowly.  Mrs. Morel tooka panchiona great bowl of thick red earthstreamed a heap of whitesugar into the bottomand thenstrainingherself to the weightwas pouring in the liquor.

Just then Morel came in.  He had been veryjolly in the Nelsonbut coming home had grown irritable.  Hehad not quite got over thefeeling of irritability and painafter havingslept on the groundwhen he was so hot; and a bad conscienceafflicted him as he nearedthe house.  He did not know he was angry. But when the garden gateresisted his attempts to open ithe kicked itand broke the latch.He entered just as Mrs. Morel was pouring theinfusion of herbs outof the saucepan.  Swaying slightlyhelurched against the table.The boiling liquor pitched.  Mrs. Morelstarted back.

"Good gracious" she cried"cominghome in his drunkenness!"

"Comin' home in his what?" hesnarledhis hat over his eye.

Suddenly her blood rose in a jet.

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

She had put down her saucepanand was stirringthe sugarinto the beer.  He dropped his two handsheavily on the tableand thrust his face forwards at her.

"'Say you're not drunk'" herepeated.  "Whynobodybut a nasty little bitch like you 'ud 'ave sucha thought."

He thrust his face forward at her.

"There's money to bezzle withif there'smoney for nothing else."

"I've not spent a two-shillin' bit thisday" he said.

"You don't get as drunk as a lord onnothing" she replied."And" she criedflashing intosudden fury"if you've been spongingon your beloved Jerrywhylet him look afterhis childrenfor they need it."

"It's a lieit's a lie.  Shut yourfacewoman."

They were now at battle-pitch. Each forgoteverything savethe hatred of the other and the battle betweenthem.  She was fieryand furious as he.  They went on till hecalled her a liar.

"No" she criedstarting upscarceable to breathe."Don't call me that--youthe mostdespicable liar that ever walkedin shoe-leather." She forced the lastwords out of suffocated lungs.

"You're a liar!" he yelledbangingthe table with his fist."You're a liaryou're a liar."

She stiffened herselfwith clenched fists.

"The house is filthy with you" shecried.

"Then get out on it--it's mine.  Getout on it!" he shouted."It's me as brings th' money whoamnotthee.  It's my housenot thine.Then ger out on't--ger out on't!"

"And I would" she criedsuddenlyshaken into tearsof impotence.  "Ahwouldn't Iwouldn't I have gone long agobut for those children.  Ayhaven't Irepented not going years agowhen I'd only the one"--suddenly dryinginto rage.  "Do you thinkit's for YOU I stop--do you think I'd stop oneminute for YOU?"

"Gothen" he shoutedbesidehimself.  "Go!"

"No!" She faced round.  "No"she cried loudly"you shan'thave it ALL your own way; you shan't do ALL youlike.  I've gotthose children to see to.  My word"she laughed"I should lookwell to leave them to you."

"Go" he cried thicklylifting hisfist.  He was afraidof her.  "Go!"

"I should be only too glad.  I shouldlaughlaughmy lordif I could get away from you" shereplied.

He came up to herhis red facewith itsbloodshot eyesthrust forwardand gripped her arms.  Shecried in fear of himstruggled to be free.  Coming slightly tohimselfpantinghe pushedher roughly to the outer doorand thrust herforthslotting thebolt behind her with a bang.  Then he wentback into the kitchendropped into his armchairhis headburstingfull of bloodsinking between his knees.  Thus he dippedgradually into a stuporfrom exhaustion and intoxication.

The moon was high and magnificent in the Augustnight.Mrs. Morelseared with passionshivered tofind herself out therein a great white lightthat fell cold on herand gave a shockto her inflamed soul.  She stood for a fewmoments helplesslystaring at the glistening great rhubarb leavesnear the door.Then she got the air into her breast.  Shewalked down the garden pathtrembling in every limbwhile the child boiledwithin her.For a while she could not control herconsciousness; mechanically shewent over the last scenethen over it againcertain phrasescertain moments coming each time like a brandred-hot down onher soul; and each time she enacted again thepast houreach timethe brand came down at the same pointstillthe mark was burnt inand the pain burnt outand at last she came toherself.She must have been half an hour in thisdelirious condition.Then the presence of the night came again toher.  She glanced roundin fear.  She had wandered to the sidegardenwhere she was walkingup and down the path beside the currant bushesunder the long wall.The garden was a narrow stripbounded from theroadthat cuttransversely between the blocksby a thickthorn hedge.

She hurried out of the side garden to thefrontwhere shecould stand as if in an immense gulf of whitelightthe moonstreaming high in face of herthe moonlightstanding up from thehills in frontand filling the valley wherethe Bottoms crouchedalmost blindingly.  Therepanting andhalf weeping in reactionfrom the stressshe murmured to herself overand over again:"The nuisance! the nuisance!"

She became aware of something about her. With an effort sheroused herself to see what it was thatpenetrated her consciousness.The tall white lilies were reeling in themoonlightand the air wascharged with their perfumeas with apresence.  Mrs. Morel gaspedslightly in fear.  She touched the bigpallid flowers on their petalsthen shivered.  They seemed to bestretching in the moonlight.She put her hand into one white bin:  thegold scarcely showedon her fingers by moonlight.  She bentdown to look at the binfulof yellow pollen; but it only appeared dusky. Then she drank a deepdraught of the scent.  It almost made herdizzy.

Mrs. Morel leaned on the garden gatelookingoutand shelost herself awhile.  She did not knowwhat she thought.Except for a slight feeling of sicknessandher consciousness inthe childherself melted out like scent intothe shinypale air.After a time the childtoomelted with her inthe mixing-potof moonlightand she rested with the hills andlilies and housesall swum together in a kind of swoon.

When she came to herself she was tired forsleep.  Languidly shelooked about her; the clumps of white phloxseemed like bushes spreadwith linen; a moth ricochetted over themandright across the garden.Following it with her eye roused her.  Afew whiffs of the rawstrong scent of phlox invigorated her. She passed along the pathhesitating at the white rose-bush. It smelledsweet and simple.She touched the white ruffles of the roses. Their fresh scentand coolsoft leaves reminded her of themorning-time and sunshine.She was very fond of them.  But she wastiredand wanted to sleep.In the mysterious out-of-doors she feltforlorn.

There was no noise anywhere.  Evidentlythe children had notbeen wakenedor had gone to sleep again. A trainthree miles awayroared across the valley.  The night wasvery largeand very strangestretching its hoary distances infinitely. And out of the silver-greyfog of darkness came sounds vague and hoarse: a corncrake notfar offsound of a train like a sighanddistant shouts of men.

Her quietened heart beginning to beat quicklyagainshe hurrieddown the side garden to the back of the house. Softly she liftedthe latch; the door was still boltedand hardagainst her.She rapped gentlywaitedthen rapped again. She must not rousethe childrennor the neighbours.  He mustbe asleepand he wouldnot wake easily.  Her heart began to burnto be indoors.  She clungto the door-handle. Now it was cold; she wouldtake a chilland in her present condition!

Putting her apron over her head and her armsshe hurried againto the side gardento the window of thekitchen.  Leaning on the sillshe could just seeunder the blindherhusband's arms spreadout on the tableand his black head on theboard.  He was sleepingwith his face lying on the table. Something in his attitude madeher feel tired of things.  The lamp wasburning smokily; she couldtell by the copper colour of the light. She tapped at the windowmore and more noisily.  Almost it seemedas if the glass would break.Still he did not wake up.

After vain effortsshe began to shiverpartlyfrom contact withthe stoneand from exhaustion.  Fearfulalways for the unborn childshe wondered what she could do for warmth. She went down to thecoal-housewhere there was an old hearthrugshe had carried out forthe rag-man the day before.  This shewrapped over her shoulders.It was warmif grimy.  Then she walked upand down the garden pathpeeping every now and then under the blindknockingand tellingherself that in the end the very strain of hisposition must wake him.

At lastafter about an hourshe rapped longand low atthe window.  Gradually the soundpenetrated to him.  Whenin despairshe had ceased to tapshe saw him stirthenlift his face blindly.The labouring of his heart hurt him intoconsciousness.  She rappedimperatively at the window.  He startedawake.  Instantly she saw hisfists set and his eyes glare.  He had nota grain of physical fear.If it had been twenty burglarshe would havegone blindly for them.He glared roundbewilderedbut prepared tofight.

"Open the doorWalter" she saidcoldly.

His hands relaxed.  It dawned on him whathe had done.His head droppedsullen and dogged.  Shesaw him hurry to the doorheard the bolt chock.  He tried thelatch.  It opened--and therestood the silver-grey nightfearful to himafter the tawny lightof the lamp.  He hurried back.
When Mrs. Morel enteredshe saw him almostrunning through the door to the stairs. He had rippedhis collar off his neck in his haste to be goneere shecame inand there it lay with burstenbutton-holes. It made her angry.

She warmed and soothed herself.  In herweariness forgettingeverythingshe moved about at the little tasksthat remained to be doneset his breakfastrinsed his pit-bottleputhis pit-clothes on thehearth to warmset his pit-boots beside themput him out a cleanscarf and snap-bag and two applesraked thefireand went to bed.He was already dead asleep.  His narrowblack eyebrows were drawnup in a sort of peevish misery into hisforehead while his cheeks'down-strokesand his sulky mouthseemed to besaying:  "I don'tcare who you are nor what you areI SHALL havemy own way."

Mrs. Morel knew him too well to look at him. As she unfastenedher brooch at the mirrorshe smiled faintly tosee her faceall smeared with the yellow dust of lilies. She brushed it offand at last lay down.  For some time hermind continued snappingand jetting sparksbut she was asleep beforeher husband awokefrom the first sleep of his drunkenness.

 

CHAPTER II

THE BIRTH OF PAULAND ANOTHER BATTLE

AFTER such a scene as the lastWalter Morelwas for some days abashedand ashamedbut he soon regained his oldbullying indifference.Yet there was a slight shrinkinga diminishingin his assurance.Physically evenhe shrankand his fine fullpresence waned.He never grew in the least stoutso thatashe sank from his erectassertive bearinghis physique seemed tocontract along with his prideand moral strength.

But now he realised how hard it was for hiswife to dragabout at her workandhis sympathy quickenedby penitencehastened forward with his help.  He camestraight home from the pitand stayed in at evening till Fridayand thenhe could not remainat home.  But he was back again by teno'clockalmost quite sober.

He always made his own breakfast.  Being aman who rose earlyand had plenty of time he did notas someminers dodrag his wifeout of bed at six o'clock. At fivesometimesearlierhe wokegot straight out of bedand went downstairs. When she could not sleephis wife lay waiting for this timeas for aperiod of peace.The only real rest seemed to be when he was outof the house.

He went downstairs in his shirt and thenstruggled into hispit-trouserswhich were left on the hearth towarm all night.There was always a firebecause Mrs. Morelraked.  And the firstsound in the house was the bangbang of thepoker against the rakeras Morel smashed the remainder of the coal tomake the kettlewhich was filled and left on the hobfinallyboil.  His cup and knifeand forkall he wanted except just the foodwas laid ready onthe table on a newspaper.  Then he got hisbreakfastmade the teapacked the bottom of the doors with rugs toshut out the draughtpiled a big fireand sat down to an hour ofjoy.  He toastedhis bacon on a fork and caught the drops of faton his bread;then he put the rasher on his thick slice ofbreadand cut off chunkswith a clasp-knifepoured his tea into hissaucerand was happy.With his family aboutmeals were never sopleasant.  He loatheda fork:  it is a modern introduction whichhas still scarcely reachedcommon people.  What Morel preferred was aclasp-knife. Thenin solitudehe ate and drankoften sittingin cold weatheron a little stool with his back to the warmchimney-piecehis foodon the fenderhis cup on the hearth.  Andthen he read the lastnight's newspaper--what of it hecould--spelling it over laboriously.He preferred to keep the blinds down and thecandle lit even when itwas daylight; it was the habit of the mine.

At a quarter to six he rosecut two thickslices of breadand butterand put them in the white calicosnap-bag. He filled histin bottle with tea.  Cold tea withoutmilk or sugar was the drinkhe preferred for the pit.  Then he pulledoff his shirtand puton his pit-singleta vest of thick flannel cutlow round the neckand with short sleeves like a chemise.

Then he went upstairs to his wife with a cup oftea because shewas illand because it occurred to him.

"I've brought thee a cup o' tealass"he said.

"Wellyou needn'tfor you know I don'tlike it" she replied.

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

She accepted the tea.  It pleased him tosee her take itand sip it.

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

"Yi--there's one big 'un" herepliedinjured.

"It's a wonder" she saidsippingagain.

She had a winsome face when her hair wasloose.  He loved herto grumble at him in this manner.  Helooked at her againand wentwithout any sort of leave-taking. He never tookmore than two slicesof bread and butter to eat in the pitso anapple or an orange wasa treat to him.  He always liked it whenshe put one out for him.He tied a scarf round his neckput on hisgreatheavy bootshis coatwith the big pocketthat carried his snap-bagand his bottle of teaand went forth into the fresh morning airclosingwithout lockingthe door behind him.  He loved the earlymorningand the walk acrossthe fields.  So he appeared at thepit-topoften with a stalkfrom the hedge between his teethwhich hechewed all day to keephis mouth moistdown the minefeeling quiteas happy as when hewas in the field.

Laterwhen the time for the baby grew nearerhe wouldbustle round in his slovenly fashionpokingout the ashesrubbing the fireplacesweeping the housebefore he went to work.Thenfeeling very self-righteoushe wentupstairs.

"Now I'm cleaned up for thee:  tha'sno 'casions ter stira peg all daybut sit and read thy books."

Which made her laughin spite of herindignation.

"And the dinner cooks itself?" sheanswered.

"EhI know nowt about th' dinner."

"You'd know if there weren't any."
"Ay'appen so" he answereddeparting.

When she got downstairsshe would find thehouse tidybut dirty.  She could not rest until shehad thoroughly cleaned;so she went down to the ash-pit with herdustpan.  Mrs. Kirkspying herwould contrive to have to go to herown coal-place atthat minute.  Thenacross the woodenfenceshe would call:

"So you keep wagging onthen?"

"Ay" answered Mrs. Moreldeprecatingly.  "There's nothingelse for it."

"Have you seen Hose?" called a verysmall woman from acrossthe road.  It was Mrs. Anthonyablack-hairedstrange little bodywho always wore a brown velvet dresstightfitting.

"I haven't" said Mrs. Morel.

"EhI wish he'd come.  I've got acopperful of clothesan'I'm sure I heered his bell."

"Hark!  He's at the end."

The two women looked down the alley.  Atthe end of the Bottomsa man stood in a sort of old-fashioned trapbending over bundlesof cream-coloured stuff; while a cluster ofwomen held up theirarms to himsome with bundles.  Mrs.Anthony herself had a heapof creamyundyed stockings hanging over herarm.

"I've done ten dozen this week" shesaid proudly to Mrs. Morel.

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

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

"I don't know how you do it" saidMrs. Morel.  "And how muchshall you get for those many?"

"Tuppence-ha'penny a dozen" repliedthe other.

"Well" said Mrs. Morel.  "I'dstarve before I'd sit downand seam twenty-four stockings for twopenceha'penny."

"OhI don't know" said Mrs.Anthony.  "You can rip alongwith 'em."

Hose was coming alongringing his bell. Women were waiting atthe yard-ends with their seamed stockingshanging over their arms.The mana common fellowmade jokes with themtried to swindle themand bullied them.  Mrs. Morel went up heryard disdainfully.

It was an understood thing that if one womanwantedher neighbourshe should put the poker in thefire and bang atthe back of the fireplacewhichas the fireswere back to backwould make a great noise in the adjoininghouse.  One morningMrs. Kirkmixing a puddingnearly started outof her skin as sheheard the thudthudin her grate.  Withher hands all flouryshe rushed to the fence.

"Did you knockMrs. Morel?"

"If you wouldn't mindMrs. Kirk."

Mrs. Kirk climbed on to her coppergot overthe wallon to Mrs. Morel's copperand ran in to herneighbour.

"Ehdearhow are you feeling?" shecried in concern.

"You might fetch Mrs. Bower" saidMrs. Morel.

Mrs. Kirk went into the yardlifted up herstrongshrill voiceand called:

"Ag-gie--Ag-gie!"

The sound was heard from one end of the Bottomsto the other.At last Aggie came running upand was sent forMrs. Bowerwhilst Mrs. Kirk left her pudding and stayedwith her neighbour.

Mrs. Morel went to bed.  Mrs. Kirk hadAnnie and Williamfor dinner.  Mrs. Bowerfat and waddlingbossed the house.

"Hash some cold meat up for the master'sdinnerand make himan 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 toappear at the bottomof the pitready to come up.  Some menwere there before four o'clockwhen the whistle blew loose-all; but Morelwhose stalla poor onewas at this time about a mile and a half awayfrom the bottomworked usually till the first mate stoppedthen he finished also.This dayhoweverthe miner was sick of thework.  At two o'clockhe looked at his watchby the light of thegreen candle--hewas in a safe working--and again at half-pasttwo.  He was hewingat a piece of rock that was in the way for thenext day's work.As he sat on his heelsor kneeledgiving hardblows with his pick"Uszza--uszza!" he went.

"Shall ter finishSorry?" criedBarkerhis fellow butty.

"Finish?  Niver while the worldstands!" growled Morel.

And he went on striking.  He was tired.

"It's a heart-breaking job" saidBarker.

But Morel was too exasperatedat the end ofhis tetherto answer.  Still he struck and hackedwith all his might.

"Tha might as well leave itWalter"said Barker."It'll do to-morrowwithout thee hackin'thy guts out."

"I'll lay no b--- finger on thisto-morrowIsr'el!" cried Morel.

"Ohwellif tha wunnasomebody else'llha'e to" said Israel.

Then Morel continued to strike.

"Hey-up there--LOOSE-A'!" cried themenleaving the next stall.

Morel continued to strike.

"Tha'll happen catch me up" saidBarkerdeparting.

When he had goneMorelleft alonefeltsavage.  He hadnot finished his job.  He had overworkedhimself into a frenzy.Risingwet with sweathe threw his tool downpulled on his coatblew out his candletook his lampand went. Down the main roadthe lights of the other men went swinging. There was a hollowsound of many voices.  It was a longheavy tramp underground.

He sat at the bottom of the pitwhere thegreat drops of waterfell plash.  Many colliers were waitingtheir turns to go uptalking noisily.  Morel gave his answersshort and disagreeable.

"It's rainin'Sorry" said oldGileswho had had the newsfrom the top.

Morel found one comfort.  He had his oldumbrellawhich he lovedin the lamp cabin.  At last he took hisstand on the chairand was at the top in a moment.  Then hehanded in his lamp and gothis umbrellawhich he had bought at an auctionfor one-and-six. Hestood on the edge of the pit-bank for a momentlooking out overthe fields; grey rain was falling.  Thetrucks stood full of wetbright coal.  Water ran down the sides ofthe waggonsover thewhite "C.W. and Co.". Collierswalking indifferent to the rainwere streaming down the line and up the fielda greydismal host.Morel put up his umbrellaand took pleasurefrom the peppering ofthe drops thereon.

All along the road to Bestwood the minerstrampedwet andgrey and dirtybut their red mouths talkingwith animation.Morel also walked with a gangbut he saidnothing.  He frownedpeevishly as he went.  Many men passedinto the Prince of Wales or intoEllen's. Morelfeeling sufficientlydisagreeable to resist temptationtrudged along under the dripping trees thatoverhung the park walland down the mud of Greenhill Lane.

Mrs. Morel lay in bedlistening to the rainand the feetof the colliers from Mintontheir voicesandthe bangbang ofthe gates as they went through the stile up thefield.

"There's some herb beer behind the pantrydoor" she said."Th' master'll want a drinkif he doesn'tstop."

But he was lateso she concluded he had calledfor a drinksince it was raining.  What did he careabout the child or her?

She was very ill when her children were born.

"What is it?" she askedfeeling sickto death.

"A boy."

And she took consolation in that.  Thethought of being themother of men was warming to her heart. She looked at the child.It had blue eyesand a lot of fair hairandwas bonny.Her love came up hotin spite of everything. She had it in bedwith her.

Morelthinking nothingdragged his way up thegarden pathwearily and angrily.  He closed hisumbrellaand stood it in thesink; then he sluthered his heavy boots intothe kitchen.Mrs. Bower appeared in the inner doorway.

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

The miner gruntedput his empty snap-bag andhis tin bottleon the dresserwent back into the scullery andhung up his coatthen came and dropped into his chair.

"Han yer got a drink?" he asked.

The woman went into the pantry.  There washeard the popof a cork.  She set the mugwith alittledisgusted rapon thetable before Morel.  He drankgaspedwiped his big moustache onthe end of his scarfdrankgaspedand layback in his chair.The woman would not speak to him again. She set his dinner before himand went upstairs.

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

"I've gave him his dinner" repliedMrs. Bower.

After he had sat with his arms on the table--heresentedthe fact that Mrs. Bower put no cloth on forhimand gave hima little plateinstead of a full-sizeddinner-plate--he beganto eat.  The fact that his wife was illthat he had another boywas nothing to him at that moment.  He wastoo tired; he wantedhis dinner; he wanted to sit with his armslying on the board;he did not like having Mrs. Bower about. The fire was too smallto please him.

After he had finished his mealhe sat fortwenty minutes;then he stoked up a big fire.  Theninhis stockinged feethe went reluctantly upstairs.  It was astruggle to face his wifeat this momentand he was tired.  Hisface was blackand smearedwith sweat.  His singlet had dried againsoaking the dirt in.He had a dirty woollen scarf round his throat. So he stood at the footof the bed.

"Wellhow are terthen?" he asked.

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

"H'm!"

He stood at a loss what to say next.  Hewas tiredand thisbother was rather a nuisance to himand hedidn't quite knowwhere he was.

"A ladtha says" he stammered.

She turned down the sheet and showed the child.

"Bless him!" he murmured.  Whichmade her laughbecause heblessed by rote--pretending paternal emotionwhich he did not feeljust then.

"Go now" she said.

"I willmy lass" he answeredturning away.

Dismissedhe wanted to kiss herbut he darednot.  She halfwanted him to kiss herbut could not bringherself to give any sign.She only breathed freely when he was gone outof the room againleaving behind him a faint smell of pit-dirt.

Mrs. Morel had a visit every day from theCongregational clergyman.Mr. Heaton was youngand very poor.  Hiswife had died at thebirth of his first babyso he remained alonein the manse.He was a Bachelor of Arts of Cambridgeveryshyand no preacher.Mrs. Morel was fond of himand he depended onher.  For hourshe talked to herwhen she was well.  Hebecame the god-parentof the child.

Occasionally the minister stayed to tea withMrs. Morel.  Then shelaid the cloth earlygot out her best cupswith a little green rimand hoped Morel would not come too soon;indeedif he stayed for a pintshe would not mind this day.  She hadalways two dinners to cookbecause she believed children should have theirchief meal at middaywhereas Morel needed his at five o'clock. SoMr. Heaton would holdthe babywhilst Mrs. Morel beat up abatter-pudding or peeledthe potatoesand hewatching her all thetimewould discusshis next sermon.  His ideas were quaintand fantastic.  She broughthim judiciously to earth.  It was adiscussion of the wedding at Cana.

"When He changed the water into wine atCana" he said"that is a symbol that the ordinary lifeeven the bloodof the married husband and wifewhich hadbefore been uninspiredlike waterbecame filled with the Spiritandwas as winebecausewhen love entersthe whole spiritualconstitution of a man changesis filled with the Holy Ghostand almost hisform is altered."

Mrs. Morel thought to herself:

"Yespoor fellowhis young wife is dead;that is why hemakes his love into the Holy Ghost."

They were halfway down their first cup of teawhen they heardthe sluther of pit-boots.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mrs.Morelin spite of herself.

The minister looked rather scared.  Morelentered.  He wasfeeling rather savage.  He nodded a "Howd'yer do" to the clergymanwho rose to shake hands with him.

"Nay" said Morelshowing his hand"look thee at it!Tha niver wants ter shake hands wi' a hand likethatdoes ter?There's too much pick-haft and shovel-dirt onit."

The minister flushed with confusionand satdown again.Mrs. Morel rosecarried out the steamingsaucepan.  Morel took offhis coatdragged his armchair to tableandsat down heavily.

"Are you tired?" asked the clergyman.

"Tired? I ham that" replied Morel. "YOU don't know what itis to be tiredas I'M tired."

"No" replied the clergyman.

"Whylook yer 'ere" said the minershowing the shouldersof his singlet.  "It's a bit dry nowbut it's wet as a cloutwith sweat even yet.  Feel it."

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

The clergyman put out his hand gingerly.

"Noperhaps he doesn't" said Morel;"but it'sall come out of mewhether or not.  An'iv'ry dayalike my singlet's wringin' wet.  'Aven'tyou gota drinkMissisfor a man when he comes homebarkled up from the pit?"

"You know you drank all the beer"said Mrs. Morelpouring outhis tea.

"An' was there no more to be got?" Turning to the clergyman--"Aman gets that caked up wi' th' dustyouknow--that clogged updown a coal-minehe NEEDS a drink when hecomes home."

"I am sure he does" said theclergyman.

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

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

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

He poured out a saucerful of teablew itandsucked it upthrough his great black moustachesighingafterwards.  Then hepoured out another saucerfuland stood his cupon the table.

"My cloth!" said Mrs. Morelputtingit on a plate.

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

"Pity!" exclaimed his wifesarcastically.

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

He leaned over to the ministerhis greatmoustache thrust forwardhis mouth very red in his black face.

"Mr. Heaton" he said"a man ashas been down the blackhole all daydingin' away at a coal-faceyia sight harderthan that wall---"

"Needn't make a moan of it" put inMrs. Morel.

She hated her husband becausewhenever he hadan audiencehe whined and played for sympathy. Williamsitting nursingthe babyhated himwith a boy's hatred forfalse sentimentand for the stupid treatment of his mother. Annie had never liked him;she merely avoided him.

When the minister had goneMrs. Morel lookedat her cloth.

"A fine mess!" she said.

"Dos't think I'm goin' to sit wi' my armsdanglin'cos tha'sgot a parson for tea wi' thee?" he bawled.

They were both angrybut she said nothing. The baby beganto cryand Mrs. Morelpicking up a saucepanfrom the hearthaccidentally knocked Annie on the headwhereupon the girl beganto whineand Morel to shout at her.  Inthe midst of this pandemoniumWilliam looked up at the big glazed text overthe mantelpieceand read distinctly:

"God Bless Our Home!"

Whereupon Mrs. Moreltrying to soothe thebabyjumped uprushed at himboxed his earssaying:

"What are YOU putting in for?"

And then she sat down and laughedtill tearsran overher cheekswhile William kicked the stool hehad been sitting onand Morel growled:

"I canna see what there is so much tolaugh at."

One eveningdirectly after the parson's visitfeeling unableto bear herself after another display from herhusbandshe tookAnnie and the baby and went out.  Morelhad kicked Williamand the mother would never forgive him.

She went over the sheep-bridge and across acorner of themeadow to the cricket-ground. The meadowsseemed one space of ripeevening lightwhispering with the distantmill-race. She saton a seat under the alders in thecricket-groundand frontedthe evening.  Before herlevel and solidspread the big green cricket-fieldlike thebed of a sea of light.Children played in the bluish shadow of thepavilion.  Many rookshigh upcame cawing home across thesoftly-woven sky.  They stoopedin a long curve down into the golden glowconcentratingcawingwheelinglike black flakes on a slow vortexover a tree clumpthat made a dark boss among the pasture.

A few gentlemen were practisingand Mrs. Morelcould hearthe chock of the balland the voices of mensuddenly roused;could see the white forms of men shiftingsilently over the greenupon which already the under shadows weresmouldering.  Away atthe grangeone side of the haystacks was litupthe other sidesblue-grey. A waggon of sheaves rocked smallacross the meltingyellow light.

The sun was going down.  Every openeveningthe hills ofDerbyshire were blazed over with red sunset. Mrs. Morel watched the sunsink from the glistening skyleaving a softflower-blue overheadwhile the western space went redas if all thefire had swum down thereleaving the bell cast flawless blue.  Themountain-ash berries acrossthe field stood fierily out from the darkleavesfor a moment.A few shocks of corn in a corner of the fallowstood up as if alive;she imagined them bowing; perhaps her son wouldbe a Joseph.In the easta mirrored sunset floated pinkopposite the west's scarlet.The big haystacks on the hillsidethat buttedinto the glarewent cold.

With Mrs. Morel it was one of those stillmoments when thesmall frets vanishand the beauty of thingsstands outand shehad the peace and the strength to see herself. Now and againa swallow cut close to her.  Now andagainAnnie came up with ahandful of alder-currants. The baby wasrestless on his mother's kneeclambering with his hands at the light.

Mrs. Morel looked down at him.  She haddreaded this babylike a catastrophebecause of her feeling forher husband.And now she felt strangely towards the infant. Her heart was heavybecause of the childalmost as if it wereunhealthyor malformed.Yet it seemed quite well.  But she noticedthe peculiar knittingof the baby's browsand the peculiar heavinessof its eyesas if it were trying to understand somethingthat was pain.  She feltwhen she looked at her child's darkbroodingpupilsas if a burden wereon her heart.

"He looks as if he was thinking aboutsomething--quite sorrowful"said Mrs. Kirk.

Suddenlylooking at himthe heavy feeling atthe mother's heartmelted into passionate grief.  She bowedover himand a few tearsshook swiftly out of her very heart.  Thebaby lifted his fingers.

"My lamb!" she cried softly.

And at that moment she feltin some far innerplace of her soulthat she and her husband were guilty.

The baby was looking up at her.  It hadblue eyes like her ownbut its look was heavysteadyas if it hadrealised somethingthat had stunned some point of its soul.

In her arms lay the delicate baby.  Itsdeep blue eyesalways looking up at her unblinkingseemed todraw her innermostthoughts out of her.  She no longer lovedher husband; she had notwanted this child to comeand there it lay inher arms and pulledat her heart.  She felt as if the navelstring that had connectedits frail little body with hers had not beenbroken.  A wave of hotlove went over her to the infant.  Sheheld it close to her faceand breast.  With all her forcewith allher soul she would make upto it for having brought it into the worldunloved.  She would loveit all the more now it was here; carry it inher love.  Its clearknowing eyes gave her pain and fear.  Didit know all about her?When it lay under her hearthad it beenlistening then?  Was therea reproach in the look?  She felt themarrow melt in her boneswith fear and pain.

Once more she was aware of the sun lying red onthe rimof the hill opposite.  She suddenly heldup the child in her hands.

"Look!" she said.  "Lookmy pretty!"

She thrust the infant forward to the crimsonthrobbing sunalmost with relief.  She saw him lift hislittle fist.  Then she puthim to her bosom againashamed almost of herimpulse to give himback again whence he came.

"If he lives" she thought toherself"what will becomeof him--what will he be?"

Her heart was anxious.

"I will call him Paul" she saidsuddenly; she knew not why.

After a while she went home.  A fineshadow was flung overthe deep green meadowdarkening all.

As she expectedshe found the house empty. But Morel washome by ten o'clockand that dayat leastended peacefully.

Walter Morel wasat this timeexceedinglyirritable.His work seemed to exhaust him.  When hecame home he did not speakcivilly to anybody.  If the fire wererather low he bullied about that;he grumbled about his dinner; if the childrenmade a chatter heshouted at them in a way that made theirmother's blood boiland made them hate him.

On the Fridayhe was not home by eleveno'clock. The babywas unwelland was restlesscrying if he wereput down.  Mrs. Moreltired to deathand still weakwas scarcelyunder control.

"I wish the nuisance would come" shesaid wearily to herself.

The child at last sank down to sleep in herarms.  She wastoo tired to carry him to the cradle.

"But I'll say nothingwhatever time hecomes" she said."It only works me up; I won't sayanything.  But I know if he doesanything it'll make my blood boil" sheadded to herself.

She sighedhearing him comingas if it weresomething shecould not bear.  Hetaking his revengewas nearly drunk.  She kepther head bent over the child as he enterednotwishing to see him.But it went through her like a flash of hotfire whenin passinghe lurched against the dressersetting thetins rattlingand clutchedat the white pot knobs for support.  Hehung up his hat and coatthen returnedstood glowering from a distanceat heras she satbowed over the child.

"Is there nothing to eat in the house?"he askedinsolentlyas if to a servant.  In certain stages ofhis intoxication heaffected the clippedmincing speech of thetowns.  Mrs. Morelhated him most in this condition.

"You know what there is in the house"she saidso coldlyit sounded impersonal.

He stood and glared at her without moving amuscle.

"I asked a civil questionand I expect acivil answer"he said affectedly.

"And you got it" she saidstillignoring him.

He glowered again.  Then he cameunsteadily forward.He leaned on the table with one handand withthe other jerkedat the table drawer to get a knife to cutbread.  The drawer stuck because hepulled sideways.  In a temper he draggeditso that it flewout bodilyand spoonsforksknivesahundred metallic thingssplashed with a clatter and a clang upon thebrick floor.The baby gave a little convulsed start.

"What are you doingclumsydrunkenfool?" the mother cried.

"Then tha should get the flamin' thingthysen.  Tha should get uplike other women have toan' wait on a man."

"Wait on you--wait on you?" shecried.  "YesI see myself."

"Yisan' I'll learn thee tha's got to. Wait on MEyes thash'lt wait on me---"

"Nevermilord.  I'd wait on a dog atthe door first."

"What--what?"

He was trying to fit in the drawer.  Ather last speechbe turned round.  His face was crimsonhis eyes bloodshot.He stared at her one silent second in threat.

"P-h!" she went quicklyin contempt.
He jerked at the drawer in his excitement. It fellcut sharplyon his shinand on the reflex he flung it ather.

One of the corners caught her brow as theshallow drawercrashed into the fireplace.  She swayedalmost fell stunned fromher chair.  To her very soul she was sick;she clasped the childtightly to her bosom.  A few momentselapsed; thenwith an effortshe brought herself to.  The baby wascrying plaintively.  Her leftbrow was bleeding rather profusely.  Asshe glanced down at the childher brain reelingsome drops of blood soakedinto its white shawl;but the baby was at least not hurt.  Shebalanced her head tokeep equilibriumso that the blood ran intoher eye.

Walter Morel remained as he had stoodleaningon the table withone handlooking blank.  When he wassufficiently sure of his balancehe went across to herswayedcaught hold ofthe back of herrocking-chairalmost tipping her out; thenleaning forward over herand swaying as he spokehe saidin a tone ofwondering concern:

"Did it catch thee?"

He swayed againas if he would pitch on to thechild.With the catastrophe he had lost all balance.

"Go away" she saidstruggling tokeep her presence of mind.

He hiccoughed.  "Let's--let's look atit" he saidhiccoughing again.

"Go away!" she cried.

"Lemme--lemme look at itlass."

She smelled him of drinkfelt the unequal pullof his swayinggrasp on the back of her rocking-chair.

"Go away" she saidand weakly shepushed him off.

He stooduncertain in balancegazing uponher.  Summoning allher strength she rosethe baby on one arm. By a cruel effort of willmoving as if in sleepshe went across to thescullerywhere shebathed her eye for a minute in cold water; butshe was too dizzy.Afraid lest she should swoonshe returned toher rocking-chairtrembling in every fibre.  By instinctshe kept the baby clasped.

Morelbotheredhad succeeded in pushing thedrawer backinto its cavityand was on his kneesgropingwith numb pawsfor the scattered spoons.

Her brow was still bleeding.  PresentlyMorel got up and camecraning his neck towards her.

"What has it done to theelass?" heaskedin a very wretchedhumble tone.

"You can see what it's done" sheanswered.

He stoodbending forwardsupported on hishandswhich graspedhis legs just above the knee.  He peeredto look at the wound.She drew away from the thrust of his face withits great moustacheaverting her own face as much as possible. As he looked at herwho was cold and impassive as stonewith mouthshut tighthe sickened with feebleness and hopelessness ofspirit.He was turning drearily awaywhen he saw adrop of blood fallfrom the averted wound into the baby's fragileglistening hair.Fascinatedhe watched the heavy dark drop hangin the glistening cloudand pull down the gossamer.  Another dropfell.  It would soakthrough to the baby's scalp.  He watchedfascinatedfeeling itsoak in; thenfinallyhis manhood broke.

"What of this child?" was all hiswife said to him.But her lowintense tones brought his headlower.  She softened:"Get me some wadding out of the middledrawer" she said.

He stumbled away very obedientlypresentlyreturning with apadwhich she singed before the firethen puton her foreheadas she sat with the baby on her lap.

"Now that clean pit-scarf."

Again he rummaged and fumbled in the drawerreturning presentlywith a rednarrow scarf.  She took itand with trembling fingersproceeded to bind it round her head.

"Let me tie it for thee" he saidhumbly.

"I can do it myself" she replied. When it was done shewent upstairstelling him to rake the fire andlock the door.

In the morning Mrs. Morel said:

"I knocked against the latch of thecoal-placewhen Iwas getting a raker in the darkbecause thecandle blew out."Her two small children looked up at her withwidedismayed eyes.They said nothingbut their parted lips seemedto express theunconscious tragedy they felt.

Walter Morel lay in bed next day until nearlydinner-time. Hedid not think of the previous evening's work. He scarcely thoughtof anythingbut he would not think of that. He lay and suffered likea sulking dog.  He had hurt himself most;and he was the more damagedbecause he would never say a word to herorexpress his sorrow.He tried to wriggle out of it.  "Itwas her own fault" he saidto himself.  Nothinghowevercouldprevent his inner consciousnessinflicting on him the punishment which ate intohis spirit like rustand which he could only alleviate by drinking.

He felt as if he had not the initiative to getupor to say a wordor to movebut could only lie like a log. Moreoverhe had himselfviolent pains in the head.  It wasSaturday.  Towards noon he rosecut himself food in the pantryate it with hishead droppedthen pulled on his bootsand went outtoreturn at three o'clockslightly tipsy and relieved; then once morestraight to bed.He rose again at six in the eveninghad teaand went straight out.

Sunday was the same:  bed till noonthePalmerston Arms till2.30dinnerand bed; scarcely a word spoken. When Mrs. Morelwent upstairstowards four o'clockto put onher Sunday dresshe was fast asleep.  She would have feltsorry for himif hehad once said"WifeI'm sorry." But no; he insisted to himselfit was her fault.  And so he brokehimself.  So she merely lefthim alone.  There was this deadlock ofpassion between themand she was stronger.

The family began tea.  Sunday was the onlyday when all satdown 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 thehouse.  The childrenbreathed the air that was poisonedand theyfelt dreary.  They wererather disconsolatedid not know what to dowhat to play at.

Immediately Morel woke he got straight out ofbed.  That wascharacteristic of him all his life.  Hewas all for activity.The prostrated inactivity of two mornings wasstifling him.

It was near six o'clock when he got down. This time he enteredwithout hesitationhis wincing sensitivenesshaving hardened again.He did not care any longer what the familythought or felt.

The tea-things were on the table.  Williamwas reading aloudfrom "The Child's Own"Annielistening and asking eternally "why?"Both children hushed into silence as they heardthe approachingthud of their father's stockinged feetandshrank as he entered.Yet he was usually indulgent to them.

Morel made the meal alonebrutally.  Heate and drankmore noisily than he had need.  No onespoke to him.  The familylife withdrewshrank awayand became hushedas he entered.But he cared no longer about his alienation.

Immediately he had finished tea he rose withalacrity to go out.It was this alacritythis haste to be gonewhich so sickenedMrs. Morel.  As she heard him sousingheartily in cold waterheard the eager scratch of the steel comb onthe side of the bowlas he wetted his hairshe closed her eyes indisgust.  As he bent overlacing his bootsthere was a certain vulgargusto in his movementthat divided him from the reservedwatchfulrest of the family.He always ran away from the battle withhimself.  Even in his ownheart's privacyhe excused himselfsaying"If she hadn't saidso-and-soit would never have happened. She asked for what she's got."The children waited in restraint during hispreparations.  When hehad gonethey sighed with relief.

He closed the door behind himand was glad. It was arainy evening.  The Palmerston would bethe cosier.  He hastenedforward in anticipation.  All the slateroofs of the Bottoms shoneblack with wet.  The roadsalways darkwith coal-dustwere fullof blackish mud.  He hastened along. The Palmerston windows were steamedover.  The passage was paddled with wetfeet.  But the air was warmif fouland full of the sound of voices andthe smell of beerand smoke.

"What shollt ha'eWalter?" cried avoiceas soon as Morelappeared in the doorway.

"OhJimmy ladwheriver has thee sprungfrae?"

The men made a seat for himand took him inwarmly.  He was glad.In a minute or two they had thawed allresponsibility out of himall shameall troubleand he was clear as abell for a jolly night.

On the Wednesday followingMorel waspenniless.  He dreadedhis wife.  Having hurt herhe hated her. He did not know what todo with himself that eveninghaving not eventwopence with whichto go to the Palmerstonand being alreadyrather deeply in debt.Sowhile his wife was down the garden with thechildhe huntedin the top drawer of the dresser where she kepther pursefound itand looked inside.  It contained ahalf-crowntwo halfpenniesand a sixpence.  So he took the sixpenceput the purse carefully backand went out.

The next daywhen she wanted to pay thegreengrocershe lookedin the purse for her sixpenceand her heartsank to her shoes.Then she sat down and thought:  "WASthere a sixpence?  I hadn'tspent ithad I?  And I hadn't left itanywhere else?"

She was much put about.  She hunted roundeverywhere for it.Andas she soughtthe conviction came intoher heart that herhusband had taken it.  What she had in herpurse was all the moneyshe possessed.  But that he should sneakit from her thus was unbearable.He had done so twice before.  The firsttime she had not accused himand at the week-end he had put the shillingagain into her purse.So that was how she had known he had taken it. The second time hehad not paid back.

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

"Did you take sixpence out of my purselast night?"

"Me!" he saidlooking up in anoffended way.  "NoI didna!I niver clapped eyes on your purse."

But she could detect the lie.
"Whyyou know you did" she saidquietly.

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

"So you filch sixpence out of my pursewhile I'm takingthe clothes in."

"I'll may yer pay for this" he saidpushing back hischair in desperation.  He bustled and gotwashedthen wentdeterminedly upstairs.  Presently he camedown dressedand with a big bundle in a blue-checkedenormous handkerchief.

"And now" he said"you'll seeme again when you do."

"It'll be before I want to" shereplied; and at that he marchedout of the house with his bundle.  She sattrembling slightlybut her heart brimming with contempt. What would she do if he wentto some other pitobtained workand got inwith another woman?But she knew him too well--he couldn't. She wasdead sure of him.Nevertheless her heart was gnawed inside her.

"Where's my dad?" said Williamcoming in from school.

"He says he's run away" replied themother.

"Where to?"

"EhI don't know.  He's taken abundle in the blue handkerchiefand says he's not coming back."

"What shall we do?" cried the boy.

"Ehnever troublehe won't go far."

"But if he doesn't come back" wailedAnnie.

And she and William retired to the sofa andwept.  Mrs. Morelsat and laughed.

"You pair of gabeys!" she exclaimed. "You'll see him beforethe 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 saidit would be a relief to see the last of him;another part frettedbecause of keeping the children; and insideheras yetshe couldnot quite let him go.  At the bottomsheknew very well he couldNOT go.

When she went down to the coal-place at the endof the gardenhowevershe felt something behind the door. So she looked.And there in the dark lay the big blue bundle. She sat on a pieceof coal and laughed.  Every time she sawitso fat and yetso ignominiousslunk into its corner in thedarkwith its endsflopping like dejected ears from the knotsshelaughed again.She was relieved.

Mrs. Morel sat waiting.  He had not anymoneyshe knewso if he stopped he was running up a bill. She was very tired of him--tired to death.  He had not even thecourage to carry his bundlebeyond the yard-end.

As she meditatedat about nine o'clockheopened the doorand came inslinkingand yet sulky.  Shesaid not a word.He took off his coatand slunk to hisarmchairwhere he beganto take off his boots.

"You'd better fetch your bundle before youtake your boots off"she said quietly.

"You may thank your stars I've come backto-night" he saidlooking up from under his dropped headsulkilytrying to be impressive.

"Whywhere should you have gone? You daren't even get yourparcel through the yard-end" she said.

He looked such a fool she was not even angrywith him.He continued to take his boots off and preparefor bed.

"I don't know what's in your bluehandkerchief" she said."But if you leave it the children shallfetch it in the morning."

Whereupon he got up and went out of the housereturning presentlyand crossing the kitchen with averted facehurrying upstairs.As Mrs. Morel saw him slink quickly through theinner doorwayholding his bundleshe laughed to herself: but her heart was bitterbecause she had loved him.

 

CHAPTER III

THE CASTING OFF OF MOREL--THE TAKING ON OFWILLIAM

DURING the next week Morel's temper was almostunbearable.Like all minershe was a great lover ofmedicineswhichstrangely enoughhe would often pay forhimself.

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

So Mrs. Morel bought him elixir of vitriolhisfavouritefirst medicine.  And he made himself a jugof wormwood tea.  He hadhanging in the attic great bunches of driedherbs:wormwoodruehorehoundelder flowersparsley-purtmarshmallowhyssopdandelionand centaury. Usually there was a jug ofone or other decoction standing on the hobfrom which he drank largely.

"Grand!" he saidsmacking his lipsafter wormwood.  "Grand!"And he exhorted the children to try.

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

This timehoweverneither pills nor vitriolnor all his herbswould shift the "nasty peens in his head".He was sickening for anattack of an inflammation of the brain. He had never been well sincehis sleeping on the ground when he went withJerry to Nottingham.Since then he had drunk and stormed.  Nowhe fell seriously illand Mrs. Morel had him to nurse.  He wasone of the worstpatients imaginable.  Butin spite ofalland putting aside thefact that he was breadwinnershe never quitewanted him to die.Still there was one part of her wanted him forherself.

The neighbours were very good to her: occasionally somehad the children in to mealsoccasionally somewould do thedownstairs work for herone would mind thebaby for a day.But it was a great dragnevertheless.  Itwas not every daythe neighbours helped.  Then she hadnursing of baby and husbandcleaning and cookingeverything to do. She was quite worn outbut she did what was wanted of her.

And the money was just sufficient.  Shehad seventeenshillings a week from clubsand every FridayBarker and the otherbutty put by a portion of the stall's profitsfor Morel's wife.And the neighbours made brothsand gave eggsand such invalids'trifles.  If they had not helped her sogenerously in those timesMrs. Morel would never have pulled throughwithout incurringdebts that would have dragged her down.

The weeks passed.  Morelalmost againsthopegrew better.He had a fine constitutionso thatonce onthe mendhe went straightforward to recovery.  Soon he waspottering about downstairs.During his illness his wife had spoilt him alittle.  Now he wantedher to continue.  He often put his band tohis headpulled downthe comers of his mouthand shammed pains hedid not feel.But there was no deceiving her.  At firstshe merely smiled to herself.Then she scolded him sharply.

"Goodnessmandon't be so lachrymose."

That wounded him slightlybut still hecontinued to feign sickness.

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

Then he was indignantand cursed under hisbreathlike a boy.He was forced to resume a normal toneand tocease to whine.

Neverthelessthere was a state of peace in thehouse for some time.Mrs. Morel was more tolerant of himand hedepending on her almostlike a childwas rather happy.  Neitherknew that she was more tolerantbecause she loved him less.  Up till thistimein spite of allhe had been her husband and her man.  Shehad felt thatmore or lesswhat he did to himself he did to her.  Herliving depended on him.There were manymany stages in the ebbing ofher love for himbut it was always ebbing.

Nowwith the birth of this third babyherself no longer settowards himhelplesslybut was like a tidethat scarcely rosestanding off from him.  After this shescarcely desired him.Andstanding more aloof from himnot feelinghim so much partof herselfbut merely part of hercircumstancesshe did not mindso much what he didcould leave him alone.

There was the haltthe wistfulness about theensuing yearwhich is like autumn in a man's life.  Hiswife was casting him offhalf regretfullybut relentlessly; casting himoff and turningnow for love and life to the children. Henceforward he was moreor less a husk.  And he himselfacquiescedas so many men doyielding their place to their children.

During his recuperationwhen it was reallyover between themboth made an effort to come back somewhat tothe old relationshipof the first months of their marriage.  Hesat at home andwhen the children were in bedand she wassewing--she did all hersewing by handmade all shirts and children'sclothing--he wouldread to her from the newspaperslowlypronouncing and deliveringthe words like a man pitching quoits. Often she hurried him ongiving him a phrase in anticipation.  Andthen he took her words humbly.

The silences between them were peculiar. There would bethe swiftslight "cluck" of herneedlethe sharp "pop" of hislips as he let out the smokethe warmththesizzle on the barsas he spat in the fire.  Then her thoughtsturned to William.Already he was getting a big boy.  Alreadyhe was top of the classand the master said he was the smartest lad inthe school.She saw him a manyoungfull of vigourmaking the world glowagain for her.

And Morel sitting therequite aloneandhaving nothingto think aboutwould be feeling vaguelyuncomfortable.  His soulwould reach out in its blind way to her andfind her gone.He felt a sort of emptinessalmost like avacuum in his soul.He was unsettled and restless.  Soon hecould not live inthat atmosphereand he affected his wife. Both felt an oppressionon their breathing when they were left togetherfor some time.Then he went to bed and she settled down toenjoy herself aloneworkingthinkingliving.

Meanwhile another infant was comingfruit ofthis little peaceand tenderness between the separating parents. Paul was seventeenmonths old when the new baby was born.  Hewas then a plumppale childquietwith heavy blue eyesandstill the peculiarslight knitting of the brows.  The lastchild was also a boyfair and bonny.  Mrs. Morel was sorry whenshe knew she was with childboth for economic reasons and because she didnot love her husband;but not for the sake of the infant.

They called the baby Arthur.  He was veryprettywith amop of gold curlsand he loved his father fromthe first.Mrs. Morel was glad this child loved thefather.  Hearing theminer's footstepsthe baby would put up hisarms and crow.And if Morel were in a good temperhe calledback immediatelyin his heartymellow voice:

"What thenmy beauty?  I sh'll cometo thee in a minute."

And as soon as he had taken off his pit-coatMrs. Morel wouldput an apron round the childand give him tohis father.

"What a sight the lad looks!" shewould exclaim sometimestaking back the babythat was smutted on theface from his father'skisses and play.  Then Morel laughedjoyfully.

"He's a little collierbless his bit o'mutton!" he exclaimed.

And these were the happy moments of her lifenowwhen thechildren included the father in her heart.

Meanwhile William grew bigger and stronger andmore activewhile Paulalways rather delicate and quietgot slimmerand trotted after his mother like her shadow. He was usually activeand interestedbut sometimes he would havefits of depression.Then the mother would find the boy of three orfour crying onthe sofa.

"What's the matter?" she askedandgot no answer.

"What's the matter?" she insistedgetting cross.

"I don't know" sobbed the child.

So she tried to reason him out of itor toamuse himbut without effect.  It made her feelbeside herself.  Then the fatheralways impatientwould jump from his chair andshout:

"If he doesn't stopI'll smack him tillhe does."

"You'll do nothing of the sort" saidthe mother coldly.And then she carried the child into the yardplumped him into hislittle chairand said:  "Now crythereMisery!"

And then a butterfly on the rhubarb-leavesperhaps caught his eyeor at last he cried himself to sleep. These fits were not oftenbut they caused a shadow in Mrs. Morel's heartand her treatmentof Paul was different from that of the otherchildren.

Suddenly one morning as she was looking downthe alleyof the Bottoms for the barm-manshe heard avoice calling her.It was the thin little Mrs. Anthony in brownvelvet.

"HereMrs. MorelI want to tell youabout your Willie."

"Ohdo you?" replied Mrs. Morel. "Whywhat's the matter?"

"A lad as gets 'old of another an' ripshis clothes off'n'is back" Mrs. Anthony said"wantsshowing something."

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

"'Appen 'e isbut that doesn't give him aright to get holdof the boy's collaran' fair rip it clean offhis back."

"Well" said Mrs. Morel"Idon't thrash my childrenand even if I didI should want to hear theirside of the tale."

"They'd happen be a bit better if they didget a good hiding"retorted Mrs. Anthony.  "When itcomes ter rippin' a lad's cleancollar 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 trembledas she held her mug of barm.

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

At dinner-timewhen William had finished hismeal and wantedto be off again--he was then eleven yearsold--his mother said to him:

"What did you tear Alfred Anthony's collarfor?"

"When did I tear his collar?"

"I don't know whenbut his mother saysyou did."

"Why--it was yesterday--an' it was torna'ready."

"But you tore it more."

"WellI'd got a cobbler as 'ad lickedseventeen--an'Alfy Ant'ny 'e says:

      'Adam an' Evean' pinch-me      Went down to ariver to bade.      Adam an' Eve gotdrownded      Who do yer thinkgot saved?'

An' so I says:  'OhPinch-YOU' an' so Ipinched 'iman''e was madan' so he snatched my cobbler an'run off with it.An' so I run after 'iman' when I was gettin'hold of 'im'e dodgedan' it ripped 'is collar.  ButI got my cobbler---"

He pulled from his pocket a black oldhorse-chestnut hanging ona string.  This old cobbler had"cobbled"--hit and smashed--seventeenother cobblers on similar strings.  So theboy was proud of his veteran.

"Well" said Mrs. Morel"youknow you've got no right to riphis collar."

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

"Next time" said his mother"YOUbe more careful.I shouldn't like it if you came home with yourcollar torn off."

"I don't careour mother; I never did ita-purpose."

The boy was rather miserable at beingreprimanded.

"No--wellyou be more careful."

William fled awayglad to be exonerated. And Mrs. Morelwho hated any bother with the neighboursthought she would explainto Mrs. Anthonyand the business would beover.

But that evening Morel came in from the pitlooking very sour.He stood in the kitchen and glared roundbutdid not speak forsome minutes.  Then:

"Wheer's that Willy?" he asked.

"What do you want HIM for?" askedMrs. Morelwho had guessed.

"I'll let 'im know when I get him"said Morelbanging hispit-bottle on to the dresser.

"I suppose Mrs. Anthony's got hold of youand been yarningto you about Alfy's collar" said Mrs.Morelrather sneering.

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

"It's a poor tale" said Mrs. Morel"that you're so readyto side with any snipey vixen who likes to cometelling talesagainst your own children."
"I'll learn 'im!" said Morel. "It none matters to me whoselad 'e is; 'e's none goin' rippin' an' tearin'about just as he'sa mind."

"'Ripping and tearing about!'"repeated Mrs. Morel."He was running after that Alfywho'dtaken his cobblerand heaccidentally got hold of his collarbecausethe other dodged--asan Anthony would."

"I know!" shouted Morelthreateningly.

"You wouldbefore you're told"replied his wife bitingly.

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

"That's more than doubtful" saidMrs. Morel"supposing someloud-mouthed creature had been getting you tothrash your own children."

"I know" repeated Morel.

And he said no morebut sat and nursed his badtemper.Suddenly William ran insaying:

"Can I have my teamother?"

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

"Hold your noiseman" said Mrs.Morel; "and don't lookso ridiculous."

"He'll look ridiculous before I've donewi' him!" shouted Morelrising from his chair and glaring at his son.

Williamwho was a tall lad for his yearsbutvery sensitivehad gone paleand was looking in a sort ofhorror at his father.

"Go out!"  Mrs. Morel commandedher son.

William had not the wit to move.  SuddenlyMorel clenchedhis fistand crouched.

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

"What!" cried Mrs. Morelpantingwith rage.  "You shallnot touch him for HER tellingyou shall not!"

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

Andglaring at the boyhe ran forward. Mrs. Morel sprangin between themwith her fist lifted.

"Don't you DARE!" she cried.

"What!" he shoutedbaffled for themoment.  "What!"

She spun round to her son.

"GO out of the house!" she commandedhim in fury.

The boyas if hypnotised by herturnedsuddenly and was gone.Morel rushed to the doorbut was too late. He returnedpale underhis pit-dirt with fury.  But now his wifewas fully roused.

"Only dare!" she said in a loudringing voice.  "Only daremilordto lay a finger on that child! You'll regret it for ever."

He was afraid of her.  In a towering ragehe sat down.

When the children were old enough to be leftMrs. Moreljoined the Women's Guild.  It was a littleclub of women attachedto the Co-operative Wholesale Societywhichmet on Monday nightin the long room over the grocery shop of theBestwood "Co-op". Thewomen were supposed to discuss the benefits tobe derived fromco-operationand other social questions. Sometimes Mrs. Morelread a paper.  It seemed queer to thechildren to see their motherwho was always busy about the housesittingwriting in herrapid fashionthinkingreferring to booksand writing again.They felt for her on such occasions the deepestrespect.

But they loved the Guild.  It was the onlything to which theydid not grudge their mother--and that partlybecause she enjoyed itpartly because of the treats they derived fromit.  The Guildwas called by some hostile husbandswho foundtheir wives gettingtoo independentthe "clat-fart"shop--that isthe gossip-shop. Itis truefrom off the basis of the Guildthewomen could look attheir homesat the conditions of their ownlivesand find fault.So the colliers found their women had a newstandard of their ownrather disconcerting.  And alsoMrs.Morel always had a lot of newson Monday nightsso that the children likedWilliam to be in whentheir mother came homebecause she told himthings.

Thenwhen the lad was thirteenshe got him ajob inthe "Co-op."  office.  Hewas a very clever boyfrankwith ratherrough features and real viking blue eyes.

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

"It doesn't matter what he's startingwith" said Mrs. Morel.

"It wouldna!  Put 'im i' th' pit wemean' 'ell earn a easyten shillin' a wik from th' start.  Butsix shillin' wearin' his truck-endout on a stool's better than ten shillin' i'th' pit wi'meI know."

"He is NOT going in the pit" saidMrs. Morel"and there'san end of it."

"It wor good enough for mebut it's nongood enough for 'im."

"If your mother put you in the pit attwelveit's no reasonwhy 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 tothe night schooland learned shorthandso that by the time hewas sixteen he wasthe best shorthand clerk and book-keeper on theplaceexcept one.Then he taught in the night schools.  Buthe was so fiery that onlyhis good-nature and his size protected him.

All the things that men do--the decentthings--William did.He could run like the wind.  When he wastwelve he won a firstprize in a race; an inkstand of glassshapedlike an anvil.It stood proudly on the dresserand gave Mrs.Morel a keen pleasure.The boy only ran for her.  He flew homewith his anvilbreathlesswith a "Lookmother!"  That wasthe first real tribute to herself.She took it like a queen.

"How pretty!" she exclaimed.

Then he began to get ambitious.  He gaveall his money tohis mother.  When he earned fourteenshillings a weekshe gave himback two for himselfandas he never drankhe felt himself rich.He went about with the bourgeois of Bestwood. The townlet containednothing higher than the clergyman.  Thencame the bank managerthen the doctorsthen the tradespeopleandafter that the hostsof colliers.  Willam began to consort withthe sons of the chemistthe schoolmasterand the tradesmen.  Heplayed billiards inthe Mechanics' Hall.  Also he danced--thisin spite of his mother.All the life that Bestwood offered he enjoyedfrom the sixpenny-hopsdown Church Streetto sports and billiards.

Paul was treated to dazzling descriptions ofall kinds offlower-like ladiesmost of whom lived like cutblooms in William'sheart for a brief fortnight.

Occasionally some flame would come in pursuitof her errantswain.  Mrs. Morel would find a strangegirl at the doorand immediately she sniffed the air.

"Is Mr. Morel in?" the damsel wouldask appealingly.

"My husband is at home" Mrs. Morelreplied.

"I--I mean YOUNG Mr. Morel" repeatedthe maiden painfully.

"Which one?  There are several."

Whereupon much blushing and stammering from thefair one.

"I--I met Mr. Morel--at Ripley" sheexplained.

"Oh--at a dance!"

"Yes."

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

Then he came home angry with his mother forhaving turned thegirl away so rudely.  He was a carelessyet eager-looking fellowwho walked with long stridessometimesfrowningoften with his cappushed jollily to the back of his head. Now he came in frowning.He threw his cap on to the sofaand took hisstrong jaw in his handand glared down at his mother.  She wassmallwith her hairtaken straight back from her forehead. She had a quiet airof authorityand yet of rare warmth. Knowing her son was angryshe trembled inwardly.

"Did a lady call for me yesterdaymother?" he asked.

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

"And why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I forgotsimply."

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 yourgirlsmy sonthat when they'rerunning after youthey're not to come and askyour mother for you.Tell them that--brazen baggages you meet atdancing-classes."

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

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

There ended the altercation.  Over thedancing there was a greatstrife between the mother and the son. The grievance reached itsheight when William said he was going toHucknall Torkard--considereda low town--to a fancy-dress ball.  He wasto be a Highlander.There was a dress he could hirewhich one ofhis friendshad hadand which fitted him perfectly. The Highland suit came home.Mrs. Morel received it coldly and would notunpack 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 saidenrapturedshowing her the suit.

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

On the evening of the dancewhen he had comehome to dressMrs. Morel put on her coat and bonnet.

"Aren't you going to stop and see memother?" he asked.

"No; I don't want to see you" shereplied.

She was rather paleand her face was closedand hard.She was afraid of her son's going the same wayas his father.He hesitated a momentand his heart stoodstill with anxiety.Then he caught sight of the Highland bonnetwith its ribbons.He picked it up gleefullyforgetting her. She went out.

When he was nineteen he suddenly left theCo-op. office and gota situation in Nottingham.  In his newplace he had thirty shillingsa week instead of eighteen.  This wasindeed a rise.  His mother andhis father were brimmed up with pride. Everybody praised William.It seemed he was going to get on rapidly. Mrs. Morel hopedwith his aidto help her younger sons. Annie was now studyingto be a teacher.  Paulalso very cleverwas getting on wellhaving lessons in French and German from hisgodfatherthe clergymanwho was still a friend to Mrs. Morel. Arthura spoilt and verygood-looking boywas at the Board schoolbutthere was talkof his trying to get a scholarship for the HighSchool in Nottingham.

William remained a year at his new post inNottingham.He was studying hardand growing serious. Something seemed to befretting him.  Still he went out to thedances and the river parties.He did not drink.  The children were allrabid teetotallers.He came home very late at nightand sat yetlonger studying.His mother implored him to take more caretodo one thingor another.

"Danceif you want to dancemy son; butdon't think you canwork in the officeand then amuse yourselfand THENstudy on top of all.  You can't; the humanframe won'tstand it.  Do one thing or theother--amuse yourself or learn Latin;but don't try to do both."

Then he got a place in Londonat a hundred andtwenty a year.This seemed a fabulous sum.  His motherdoubted almost whether torejoice or to grieve.

"They want me in Lime Street on Mondayweekmother" he criedhis eyes blazing as he read the letter. Mrs. Morel felt everythinggo silent inside her.  He read theletter:  "'And will you replyby Thursday whether you accept.  Yoursfaithfully---'  They want memotherat a hundred and twenty a yearanddon't even ask to see me.Didn't I tell you I could do it!  Think ofme in London!  And Ican give you twenty pounds a yearmater. We s'll all be rollingin money."

"We shallmy son" she answeredsadly.

It never occurred to him that she might be morehurt at his goingaway than glad of his success.  Indeedasthe days drew near forhis departureher heart began to close andgrow dreary with despair.She loved him so much!  More than thatshe hoped in him so much.Almost she lived by him.  She liked to dothings for him:  she likedto put a cup for his tea and to iron hiscollarsof which he wasso proud.  It was a joy to her to have himproud of his collars.There was no laundry.  So she used to rubaway at them with her littleconvex ironto polish themtill they shonefrom the sheer pressureof her arm.  Now she would not do it forhim.  Now he was going away.She felt almost as if he were going as well outof her heart.He did not seem to leave her inhabited withhimself.  That was the griefand the pain to her.  He took nearly allhimself away.

A few days before his departure--he was justtwenty--he burned hislove-letters. They had hung on a file at thetop of the kitchen cupboard.From some of them he had read extracts to hismother.  Some of themshe had taken the trouble to read herself. But most were too trivial.

Nowon the Saturday morning he said:

"Come onPostlelet's go through mylettersand you canhave the birds and flowers."

Mrs. Morel had done her Saturday's work on theFridaybecause he was having a last day's holiday. She was making hima rice cakewhich he lovedto take with him. He was scarcelyconscious that she was so miserable.

He took the first letter off the file.  Itwas mauve-tintedand had purple and green thistles. William sniffed the page.

"Nice scent!  Smell."

And he thrust the sheet under Paul's nose.

"Um!" said Paulbreathing in. "What d'you call it?  Smellmother."

His mother ducked her smallfine nose down tothe paper.

"I don't want to smell their rubbish"she saidsniffing.

"This girl's father" said William"is as rich as Croesus.He owns property without end.  She callsme Lafayettebecause Iknow French.  'You will seeI've forgivenyou'--I like HER forgiving me.'I told mother about you this morningand shewill have muchpleasure if you come to tea on Sundaybut shewill have to getfather's consent also.  I sincerely hopehe will agree.  I will letyou know how it transpires.  Ifhoweveryou---'"

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

"'Transpires'--oh yes!"

"'Transpires!'" repeated Mrs. Morelmockingly.  "I thoughtshe was so well educated!"

William felt slightly uncomfortableandabandoned this maidengiving Paul the corner with the thistles. He continued to readextracts from his letterssome of which amusedhis mothersome of which saddened her and made her anxiousfor him.

"My lad" she said"they'revery wise.  They know they'veonly got to flatter your vanityand you pressup to them likea dog that has its head scratched."

"Wellthey can't go on scratching forever" he replied."And when they've doneI trot away."

"But one day you'll find a string roundyour neck that youcan't pull off" she answered.

"Not me!  I'm equal to any of 'emmaterthey needn'tflatter themselves."

"You flatter YOURSELF" she saidquietly.

Soon there was a heap of twisted black pagesall that remainedof the file of scented lettersexcept thatPaul had thirty orforty pretty tickets from the corners of thenotepaper--swallowsand forget-me-nots and ivy sprays.  AndWilliam went to Londonto start a new life.

 

CHAPTER IV

THE YOUNG LIFE OF PAUL

PAUL would be built like his motherslightlyand rather small.His fair hair went reddishand then darkbrown; his eyes were grey.He was a palequiet childwith eyes thatseemed to listenand witha fulldropping underlip.

As a rule he seemed old for his years.  Hewas so consciousof what other people feltparticularly hismother.  When shefretted he understoodand could have nopeace.  His soul seemedalways attentive to her.

As he grew older he became stronger. William was too farremoved from him to accept him as a companion. So the smaller boybelonged at first almost entirely to Annie. She was a tomboy and a"flybie-skybie"as her mother calledher.  But she was intenselyfond of her second brother.  So Paul wastowed round at the heelsof Anniesharing her game.  She racedwildly at lerky with the otheryoung wild-cats of the Bottoms.  Andalways Paul flew beside herliving her share of the gamehaving as yet nopart of his own.He was quiet and not noticeable.  But hissister adored him.He always seemed to care for things if shewanted him to.

She had a big doll of which she was fearfullyproudthough notso fond.  So she laid the doll on thesofaand covered it withan antimacassarto sleep.  Then sheforgot it.  Meantime Paulmust practise jumping off the sofa arm. So he jumped crash intothe face of the hidden doll.  Annie rusheduputtered a loud wailand sat down to weep a dirge.  Paulremained quite still.

"You couldn't tell it was theremother;you couldn't tell itwas there" he repeated over and over. So long as Annie wept forthe doll he sat helpless with misery.  Hergrief wore itself out.She forgave her brother--he was so much upset. But a day or twoafterwards she was shocked.

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

She was horrifiedyet rather fascinated. She wanted to seewhat the boy would do.  He made an altarof brickspulled some ofthe shavings out of Arabella's bodyput thewaxen fragments intothe hollow facepoured on a little paraffinand set the whole thingalight.  He watched with wickedsatisfaction the drops of wax melt offthe broken forehead of Arabellaand drop likesweat into the flame.So long as the stupid big doll burned herejoiced in silence.At the end be poked among the embers with astickfished out the armsand legsall blackenedand smashed them understones.

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

Which disturbed Annie inwardlyalthough shecould say nothing.He seemed to hate the doll so intenselybecause he had broken it.

All the childrenbut particularly Paulwerepeculiarlyagainst their fatheralong with their mother. Morel continuedto bully and to drink.  He had periodsmonths at a timewhen hemade the whole life of the family a misery. Paul never forgotcoming home from the Band of Hope one Mondayevening and findinghis mother with her eye swollen anddiscolouredhis father standingon the hearthrugfeet astridehis head downand Williamjust home from workglaring at his father. There was a silenceas the young children enteredbut none of theelders looked round.

William was white to the lipsand his fistswere clenched.He waited until the children were silentwatching with children'srage and hate; then he said:

"You cowardyou daren't do it when I wasin."

But Morel's blood was up.  He swung roundon his son.William was biggerbut Morel was hard-muscledand mad with fury.

"Dossn't I?" he shouted. "Dossn't I?  Ha'e much more o'thy chelpmy young jockeyan' I'll rattle myfist about thee.Ayan' I sholl thatdost see?"

Morel crouched at the knees and showed his fistin an uglyalmost beast-like fashion.  William waswhite with rage.

"Will yer?" he saidquiet andintense.  "It 'ud be thelast timethough."

Morel danced a little nearercrouchingdrawing back his fistto strike.  William put his fists ready. A light came into hisblue eyesalmost like a laugh.  Hewatched his father.  Another wordand the men would have begun to fight. Paul hoped they would.The three children sat pale on the sofa.

"Stop itboth of you" cried Mrs.Morel in a hard voice."We've had enough for ONE night.  AndYOU"she saidturning on to her husband"lookat your children!"

Morel glanced at the sofa.

"Look at the childrenyou nasty littlebitch!" he sneered."Whywhat have I done to the childrenIshould like to know?But they're like yourself; you've put 'em up toyour own tricks andnasty ways--you've learned 'em in ityou'ave."

She refused to answer him.  No one spoke. After a while hethrew his boots under the table and went tobed.

"Why didn't you let me have a go at him?"said Williamwhen his father was upstairs.  "Icould easily have beaten him."

"A nice thing--your own father" shereplied.

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

"Wellhe is--and so---"

"But why don't you let me settle him? I could doeasily."

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

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

"Because I couldn't bear itso neverthink of it"she cried quickly.

And the children went to bedmiserably.

When William was growing upthe family movedfrom the Bottomsto a house on the brow of the hillcommandinga view of the valleywhich spread out like a convex cockle-shellora clamp-shellbefore it.In front of the house was a huge old ash-tree.The west windsweeping from Derbyshirecaught the houseswith full forceand the tree shrieked again.  Morel likedit.

"It's music" he said.  "Itsends me to sleep."

But Paul and Arthur and Annie hated it. To Paul it becamealmost a demoniacal noise.  The winter oftheir first yearin the new house their father was very bad. The children playedin the streeton the brim of the widedarkvalleyuntil eighto'clock. Then they went to bed.  Theirmother sat sewing below.Having such a great space in front of the housegave the childrena feeling of nightof vastnessand ofterror.  This terror camein from the shrieking of the tree and theanguish of the home discord.Often Paul would wake upafter he had beenasleep a long timeaware of thuds downstairs.  Instantly hewas wide awake.  Then heheard the booming shouts of his fathercomehome nearly drunkthen thesharp replies of his motherthen the bangbang of his father's fist onthe tableand the nasty snarling shout as theman's voice got higher.And then the whole was drowned in a piercingmedley of shrieksand cries from the greatwind-swept ash-tree.The childrenlay silent in suspensewaiting for a lull inthe wind to hearwhat their father was doing.  He might hittheir mother again.There was a feeling of horrora kind ofbristling in the darknessand a sense of blood.  They lay with theirhearts in the grip of anintense anguish.  The wind came throughthe tree fiercer and fiercer.All the chords of the great harp hummedwhistledand shrieked.And then came the horror of the sudden silencesilence everywhereoutside and downstairs.  What was it? Was it a silence of blood?What had he done?

The children lay and breathed the darkness. And thenat lastthey heard their father throw down his bootsand tramp upstairsin his stockinged feet.  Still theylistened.  Then at lastif the wind allowedthey heard the water ofthe tap drumming intothe kettlewhich their mother was filling formorningand theycould go to sleep in peace.

So they were happy in the morning--happyveryhappy playingdancing at night round the lonely lamp-post inthe midst ofthe darkness.  But they had one tightplace of anxiety in their heartsone darkness in their eyeswhich showed alltheir lives.

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

"Make him stop drinking" he prayedevery night.  "Lordlet myfather die" he prayed very often. "Let him not be killed at pit"he prayed whenafter teathe father did notcome home from work.

That was another time when the family sufferedintensely.The children came from school and had theirteas.  On the hobthe big black saucepan was simmeringthestew-jar was in the ovenready for Morel's dinner.  He was expectedat five o'clock. But formonths he would stop and drink every night onhis way from work.

In the winter nightswhen it was coldandgrew dark earlyMrs. Morel would put a brass candlestick on thetablelight atallow candle to save the gas.  Thechildren finished theirbread-and-butteror drippingand were readyto go out to play.But if Morel had not come they faltered. The sense of his sittingin all his pit-dirtdrinkingafter a longday's worknot cominghome and eating and washingbut sittinggetting drunkon an empty stomachmade Mrs. Morel unable to bear herself. From her the feeling wastransmitted to the other children.  Shenever suffered alone any more:the children suffered with her.

Paul went out to play with the rest.  Downin the great troughof twilighttiny clusters of lights burnedwhere the pits were.A few last colliers straggled up the dim fieldpath.  The lamplightercame 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 stillburned on the tablethe big fire glowed red. Mrs. Morel sat alone.On the hob the saucepan steamed; thedinner-plate lay waitingon the table.  All the room was full ofthe sense of waitingwaiting for the man who was sitting in hispit-dirtdinnerlesssome mile away from homeacross the darknessdrinking himself drunk.Paul stood in the doorway.

"Has my dad come?" he asked.

"You can see he hasn't" said Mrs.Morelcross with thefutility of the question.

Then the boy dawdled about near his mother. They sharedthe same anxiety.  Presently Mrs. Morelwent out and strainedthe potatoes.

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

Not many words were spoken.  Paul almosthated his motherfor suffering because his father did not comehome from work.

"What do you bother yourself for?" hesaid.  "If he wantsto stop and get drunkwhy 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 homefrom work is on aquick way to ruining himself and his home. The children were yet youngand depended on the breadwinner.  Williamgave her the sense of reliefproviding her at last with someone to turn toif Morel failed.  Butthe tense atmosphere of the room on thesewaiting evenings was the same.

The minutes ticked away.  At six o'clockstill the cloth layon the tablestill the dinner stood waitingstill the same senseof anxiety and expectation in the room. The boy could not stand itany longer.  He could not go out andplay.  So he ran in to Mrs. Ingernext door but onefor her to talk to him. She had no children.Her husband was good to her but was in a shopand came home late.Sowhen she saw the lad at the doorshecalled:

"Come inPaul."

The two sat talking for some timewhensuddenlythe boy rosesaying:

"WellI'll be going and seeing if mymother wants an errand doing."

He pretended to be perfectly cheerfuland didnot tell hisfriend what ailed him.  Then he ranindoors.

Morel at these times came in churlish andhateful.

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

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

And everybody in the house was stillbecausehe was dangerous.He ate his food in the most brutal mannerpossibleandwhen hehad donepushed all the pots in a heap awayfrom himto lay hisarms on the table.  Then he went to sleep.

Paul hated his father so.  The collier'ssmallmean headwith its black hair slightly soiled with greylay on the bare armsand the facedirty and inflamedwith a fleshynose and thinpaltry browswas turned sidewaysasleep withbeer and wearinessand nasty temper.  If anyone enteredsuddenlyor a noise were madethe man looked up and shouted:

"I'll lay my fist about thy y'eadI'mtellin' theeif thadoesna stop that clatter!  Dost hear?"

And the two last wordsshouted in a bullyingfashionusually at Anniemade the family writhe withhate of the man.

He was shut out from all family affairs. No one told him anything.The childrenalone with their mothertold herall about theday's happeningseverything.  Nothing hadreally taken place inthem until it was told to their mother. But as soon as the fathercame ineverything stopped.  He was likethe scotch in the smoothhappy machinery of the home.  And he wasalways aware of this fallof silence on his entrythe shutting off oflifethe unwelcome.But now it was gone too far to alter.

He would dearly have liked the children to talkto himbut they could not.  Sometimes Mrs. Morelwould say:

"You ought to tell your father."

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

"Now you'd better tell your father when becomes in"said Mrs. Morel.  "You know how becarries on and says he's nevertold anything."

"All right" said Paul.  But hewould almost rather haveforfeited the prize than have to tell hisfather.

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

"Have youmy boy?  What sort of acompetition?"

"Ohnothing--about famous women."

"And how much is the prizethenasyou've got?"

"It's a book."

"Ohindeed! "

"About birds."

"Hm--hm! "

And that was all.  Conversation wasimpossible between thefather 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 thelife of his own peoplewas when he workedand was happy at work. Sometimesin the eveninghe cobbled the boots or mended the kettle orhis pit-bottle. Thenhe always wanted several attendantsand thechildren enjoyed it.They united with him in the workin the actualdoing of somethingwhen he was his real self again.

He was a good workmandexterousand one whowhen he was in agood humouralways sang.  He had wholeperiodsmonthsalmost yearsof friction and nasty temper.  Thensometimes he was jolly again.It was nice to see him run with a piece ofred-hot iron intothe scullerycrying:

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

Then he hammered the softred-glowing stuff onhis iron gooseand made the shape he wanted.  Or he satabsorbed for a momentsoldering.  Then the children watched withjoy as the metal sanksuddenly moltenand was shoved about againstthe nose of thesoldering-ironwhile the room was full of ascent of burnt resinand hot tinand Morel was silent and intentfor a minute.  He alwayssang when he mended boots because of the jollysound of hammering.And he was rather happy when he sat puttinggreat patches on hismoleskin pit trouserswhich he would often doconsidering themtoo dirtyand the stuff too hardfor his wifeto mend.

But the best time for the young children waswhen he made fuses.Morel fetched a sheaf of long soundwheat-straws from the attic.These he cleaned with his handtill each onegleamed like astalk of goldafter which he cut the strawsinto lengths ofabout six inchesleavingif he coulda notchat the bottomof each piece.  He always had abeautifully sharp knife that couldcut a straw clean without hurting it. Then he set in the middleof the table a heap of gunpowdera little pileof black grainsupon the white-scrubbed board.  He madeand trimmed the strawswhile Paul and Annie rifled and plugged them. Paul loved to seethe black grains trickle down a crack in hispalm into the mouthof the strawpeppering jollily downwards tillthe straw was full.Then he bunged up the mouth with a bit ofsoap--which he got onhis thumb-nail from a pat in a saucer--and thestraw was finished.

"Lookdad!" he said.

"That's rightmy beauty" repliedMorelwho was peculiarlylavish of endearments to his second son. Paul popped the fuse intothe powder-tinready for the morningwhenMorel would take itto the pitand use it to fire a shot thatwould blast the coal down.

Meantime Arthurstill fond of his fatherwould leanon the arm of Morel's chair and say:

"Tell us about down pitdaddy."

This Morel loved to do.

"Wellthere'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 feelTaffy's cunning.

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

"'ElloTaff' you say'what art sneezin'for?  Bin ta'ein'some snuff?'

"An' 'e sneezes again.  Then heslives up an' shoves 'is 'eadon yerthat cadin'.

"'What's wantTaff?' yo' say."

"And what does he?"  Arthuralways asked.

"He wants a bit o' baccamy duckie."

This story of Taffy would go on interminablyand everybodyloved it.

Or sometimes it was a new tale.

"An' what dost thinkmy darlin'? When Iwent to put my coaton at snap-timewhat should go runnin' up myarm but a mouse.

"'Hey uptheer!'  I shouts.

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

"And did you kill it?"

"I didfor they're a nuisance.  Theplace is fair snied wi' 'em."

"An' what do they live on?"

"The corn as the 'osses drops--an' they'llget in your pocket an'eat your snapif you'll let 'em--no matterwhere yo' hing your coat--the slivin'nibblin' little nuisancesforthey are."

These happy evenings could not take placeunless Morelhad some job to do.  And then he alwayswent to bed very earlyoften before the children.  There wasnothing remaining for himto stay up forwhen he had finished tinkeringand had skimmedthe headlines of the newspaper.

And the children felt secure when their fatherwas in bed.They lay and talked softly a while.  Thenthey started as the lightswent suddenly sprawling over the ceiling fromthe lamps that swungin the hands of the colliers tramping byoutsidegoing to takethe nine o'clock shift.  They listened tothe voices of the menimagined them dipping down into the darkvalley.  Sometimes theywent to the window and watched the three orfour lamps growingtinier and tinierswaying down the fields inthe darkness.Then it was a joy to rush back to bed andcuddle closely inthe warmth.

Paul was rather a delicate boysubject tobronchitis.The others were all quite strong; so this wasanother reasonfor his mother's difference in feeling forhim.  One day he camehome at dinner-time feeling ill.  But itwas not a family to makeany fuss.

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

"Nothing" he replied.

But he ate no dinner.

"If you eat no dinneryou're not going toschool" she said.

"Why?" he asked.

"That's why."

So after dinner he lay down on the sofaon thewarm chintzcushions the children loved.  Then he fellinto a kind of doze.That afternoon Mrs. Morel was ironing. She listened to the smallrestless noise the boy made in his throat asshe worked.  Again rosein her heart the oldalmost weary feelingtowards him.  She hadnever expected him to live.  And yet hehad a great vitality in his young body.Perhaps it would have been a little relief toher if he had died.She always felt a mixture of anguish in herlove for him.

Hein his semi-conscious sleepwas vaguelyaware ofthe clatter of the iron on the iron-standofthe faint thudthud on the ironing-board. Once rousedheopened his eyes to seehis mother standing on the hearthrug with thehot iron nearher cheeklisteningas it wereto the heat. Her still facewith the mouth closed tight from suffering anddisillusion andself-denialand her nose the smallest bit onone sideand her blueeyes so youngquickand warmmade his heartcontract with love.When she was quietsoshe looked brave andrich with lifebut asif she had been done out of her rights. It hurt the boy keenlythis feeling about her that she had never hadher life's fulfilment:and his own incapability to make up to her hurthim with a sense ofimpotenceyet made him patiently doggedinside.  It was his childish aim.

She spat on the ironand a little ball of spitboundedraced off the darkglossy surface.  Thenkneelingshe rubbedthe iron on the sack lining of the hearthrugvigorously.  She waswarm in the ruddy firelight.  Paul lovedthe way she crouchedand put her head on one side.  Hermovements were light and quick.It was always a pleasure to watch her. Nothing she ever didno movement she ever madecould have beenfound fault with byher children.  The room was warm and fullof the scent of hot linen.Later on the clergyman came and talked softlywith her.

Paul was laid up with an attack of bronchitis. He did notmind much.  What happened happenedand itwas no good kickingagainst the pricks.  He loved theeveningsafter eight o'clockwhen the light was put outand he could watchthe fire-flames springover the darkness of the walls and ceiling;could watch huge shadowswaving and tossingtill the room seemed fullof men who battled silently.

On retiring to bedthe father would come intothe sickroom.He was always very gentle if anyone were ill. But he disturbed theatmosphere for the boy.

"Are ter asleepmy darlin'?" Morelasked softly.

"No; is my mother comin'?"

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

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

"Not longmy duckie."

The father waited undecidedly on the hearthrugfor a momentor two.  He felt his son did not wanthim.  Then he went to the topof the stairs and said to his wife:

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

"Until I've finishedgood gracious! Tell him to go to sleep."

"She says you're to go to sleep" thefather repeated gentlyto Paul.

"WellI want HER to come" insistedthe boy.

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

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

Then Morel came again and crouched before thebedroom fire.He loved a fire dearly.
"She says she won't be long" hesaid.

He loitered about indefinitely.  The boybegan to get feverishwith irritation.  His father's presenceseemed to aggravate allhis sick impatience.  At last Morelafterhaving stood lookingat his son awhilesaid softly:

"Good-nightmy darling."

"Good-night" Paul repliedturninground in relief to be alone.

Paul loved to sleep with his mother. Sleep is still most perfectin spite of hygienistswhen it is shared witha beloved.The warmththe security and peace of soultheutter comfort fromthe touch of the otherknits the sleepsothat it takes the bodyand soul completely in its healing.  Paullay against her and sleptand got better; whilst shealways a badsleeperfell later oninto a profound sleep that seemed to give herfaith.

In convalescence he would sit up in bedseethe fluffyhorses feeding at the troughs in the fieldscattering their hayon the trodden yellow snow; watch the minerstroop home--smallblack figures trailing slowly in gangs acrossthe white field.Then the night came up in dark blue vapour fromthe snow.

In convalescence everything was wonderful. The snowflakessuddenly arriving on the window-paneclungthere a moment like swallowsthen were goneand a drop of water wascrawling down the glass.The snowflakes whirled round the corner of thehouselike pigeons dashing by.  Away across thevalley the little blacktrain crawled doubtfully over the greatwhiteness.

While they were so poorthe children weredelighted if theycould do anything to help economically. Annie and Paul and Arthurwent out early in the morningin summerlooking for mushroomshunting through the wet grassfrom which thelarks were risingfor the white-skinnedwonderful naked bodiescrouched secretly inthe green.  And if they got half a poundthey felt exceedingly happy:there was the joy of finding somethingthe joyof accepting somethingstraight from the hand of Natureand the joyof contributing tothe family exchequer.

But the most important harvestafter gleaningfor frumentywas the blackberries.  Mrs. Morel must buyfruit for puddings onthe Saturdays; also she liked blackberries. So Paul and Arthur scouredthe coppices and woods and old quarriessolong as a blackberrywas to be foundevery week-end going on theirsearch.  In thatregion of mining villages blackberries became acomparative rarity.But Paul hunted far and wide.  He lovedbeing out in the countryamong the bushes.  But he also could notbear to go home to hismother empty.  Thathe feltwoulddisappoint herand he wouldhave died rather.

"Good gracious!" she would exclaim asthe lads came inlateand tired to deathand hungry"whereverhave you been?"

"Well" replied Paul"therewasn't anyso we went overMisk Hills.  And look hereour mother!"

She peeped into the basket.

"Nowthose are fine ones!" sheexclaimed.

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

She tried the basket.

"Yes" she answered doubtfully.

Then Paul fished out a little spray.  Healways brought herone spraythe best he could find.

"Pretty!" she saidin a curioustoneof a woman acceptinga love-token.

The boy walked all daywent miles and milesrather thanown himself beaten and come home to herempty-handed. She neverrealised thiswhilst he was young.  Shewas a woman who waitedfor her children to grow up.  And Williamoccupied her chiefly.

But when William went to Nottinghamand wasnot so much athomethe mother made a companion of Paul. The latter wasunconsciously jealous of his brotherandWilliam was jealous of him.At the same timethey were good friends.

Mrs. Morel's intimacy with her second son wasmore subtle and fineperhaps not so passionate as with her eldest. It was the rulethat Paul should fetch the money on Fridayafternoons.  The colliersof the five pits were paid on Fridaysbut notindividually.All the earnings of each stall were put down tothe chief buttyas contractorand he divided the wages againeither in thepublic-house or in his own home.  So thatthe children couldfetch the moneyschool closed early on Fridayafternoons.Each of the Morel children--WilliamthenAnniethen Paul--had fetchedthe money on Friday afternoonsuntil they wentthemselves to work.Paul used to set off at half-past threewith alittle calico bagin his pocket.  Down all the pathswomengirlschildrenand menwere seen trooping to the offices.

These offices were quite handsome:  a newred-brick buildingalmost like a mansionstanding in its owngrounds at the end ofGreenhill Lane.  The waiting-room was thehalla longbare roompaved with blue brickand having a seat allroundagainst the wall.Here sat the colliers in their pit-dirt. Theyhad come up early.The women and children usually loitered abouton the red gravel paths.Paul always examined the grass borderand thebig grass bankbecause in it grew tiny pansies and tinyforget-me-nots. Therewas a sound of many voices.  The women hadon their Sunday hats.The girls chattered loudly.  Little dogsran here and there.The green shrubs were silent all around.

Then from inside came the cry "SpinneyPark--Spinney Park."All the folk for Spinney Park trooped inside. When it was timefor Bretty to be paidPaul went in among thecrowd.  The pay-roomwas quite small.  A counter went acrossdividing it into half.Behind the counter stood two men--Mr.Braithwaite and his clerkMr. Winterbottom.  Mr. Braithwaite waslargesomewhat of the sternpatriarch in appearancehaving a rather thinwhite beard.He was usually muffled in an enormous silkneckerchiefand rightup to the hot summer a huge fire burned in theopen grate.No window was open.  Sometimes in winterthe air scorched the throatsof the peoplecoming in from the freshness. Mr. Winterbottomwas rather small and fatand very bald. He made remarks that werenot wittywhilst his chief launched forthpatriarchal admonitionsagainst the colliers.

The room was crowded with miners in theirpit-dirtmen who hadbeen home and changedand womenand one ortwo childrenand usuallya dog.  Paul was quite smallso it wasoften his fate to be jammedbehind the legs of the mennear the fire whichscorched him.He knew the order of the names--they wentaccording to stall number.

"Holliday" came the ringing voice ofMr. Braithwaite.Then Mrs. Holliday stepped silently forwardwas paiddrew aside.

"Bower--John Bower."

A boy stepped to the counter.  Mr.Braithwaitelarge and irascibleglowered at him over his spectacles.

"John Bower!" he repeated.

"It's me" said the boy.

"Whyyou used to 'ave a different nosethan that" said glossyMr. Winterbottompeering over the counter. The people titteredthinking of John Bower senior.

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

"He's badly" piped the boy.

"You should tell him to keep off thedrink" pronounced thegreat cashier.

"An' niver mind if he puts his footthrough yer" said a mockingvoice from behind.

All the men laughed.  The large andimportant cashier lookeddown at his next sheet.

"Fred Pilkington!" he calledquiteindifferent.

Mr. Braithwaite was an important shareholder inthe firm.

Paul knew his turn was next but oneand hisheart began to beat.He was pushed against the chimney-piece. Hiscalves were burning.But he did not hope to get through the wall ofmen.

"Walter Morel!" came the ringingvoice.

"Here!" piped Paulsmall andinadequate.

"Morel--Walter Morel!" the cashierrepeatedhis fingerand thumb on the invoiceready to pass on.

Paul was suffering convulsions ofself-consciousnessand couldnot or would not shout.  The backs of themen obliterated him.Then Mr. Winterbottom came to the rescue.

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

The fatredbald little man peered round withkeen eyes.He pointed at the fireplace.  The collierslooked roundmoved asideand disclosed the boy.

"Here he is!" said Mr. Winterbottom.

Paul went to the counter.

"Seventeen pounds eleven and fivepence. Why don't youshout up when you're called?" said Mr.Braithwaite.  He bangedon to the invoice a five-pound bag of silverthen in a delicateand pretty movementpicked up a littleten-pound column of goldand plumped it beside the silver.  Thegold slid in a bright streamover the paper.  The cashier finishedcounting off the money;the boy dragged the whole down the counter toMr. Winterbottomto whom the stoppages for rent and tools mustbe paid.  Here hesuffered again.

"Sixteen an' six" said Mr.Winterbottom.

The lad was too much upset to count.  Hepushed forward someloose silver and half a sovereign.

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

The boy looked at himbut said nothing. He had not thefaintest notion.

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

Paul bit his lipand pushed forward some moresilver.

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

"Nowt but algibbra an' French" saida collier.

"An' cheek an' impidence" saidanother.

Paul was keeping someone waiting.  Withtrembling fingers hegot his money into the bag and slid out. He suffered the torturesof the damned on these occasions.

His reliefwhen he got outsideand waswalking along theMansfield Roadwas infinite.  On the parkwall the mosses were green.There were some gold and some white fowlspecking under the appletrees of an orchard.  The colliers werewalking home in a stream.The boy went near the wallself-consciously.He knew many of the menbut could not recognise them in their dirt. And this was a newtorture to him.

When he got down to the New Innat Brettyhisfather was notyet come.  Mrs. Wharmbythe landladyknew him.  His grandmotherMorel's motherhad been Mrs. Wharmby's friend.
"Your father's not come yet" saidthe landladyin the peculiarhalf-scornfulhalf-patronising voice of awoman who talks chieflyto grown men.  "Sit you down."

Paul sat down on the edge of the bench in thebar.Some colliers were "reckoning"--sharingout their money--in a corner;others came in.  They all glanced at theboy without speaking.At last Morel came; briskand with somethingof an aireven inhis blackness.

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

Paul and all the children were bred up fierceanti-alcoholistsand he would have suffered more in drinking alemonade before allthe men than in having a tooth drawn.

The landlady looked at him de haut en basrather pityingand at the same timeresenting his clearfierce morality.Paul went homeglowering.  He entered thehouse silently.Friday was baking dayand there was usually ahot bun.  His motherput it before him.

Suddenly he turned on her in a furyhis eyesflashing:

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

"Whywhat's the matter?" his motherasked in surprise.His sudden rages rather amused her.

"I'm NOT going any more" hedeclared.

"Ohvery welltell your father so."

He chewed his bun as if he hated it.

"I'm not--I'm not going to fetch themoney."

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

This sixpence was Paul's only income.  Itmostly went in buyingbirthday presents; but it WAS an incomeand hetreasured it.But---

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

"Ohvery well" said his mother. "But you needn't bully MEabout it."

"They're hatefuland commonand hatefulthey areand 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.  Hisface was palehis eyesdark and furious.  His mother movedabout at her worktaking no notice of him.

"They always stan' in front of meso's Ican't get out"he said.

"Wellmy ladyou've only to ASK them"she replied.

"An' then Alfred Winterbottom says'Whatdo they teach youat the Board-school?'"

"They never taught HIM much" saidMrs. Morel"that is a fact--neither manners nor wit--and his cunning he wasborn with."

Soin her own wayshe soothed him.His ridiculous hypersensitiveness made herheart ache.  And sometimes the fury in hiseyesroused hermade her sleeping soul lift up itshead a momentsurprised.

"What was the cheque?" she asked.

"Seventeen pounds eleven and fivepenceand sixteenand six stoppages" replied the boy. "It's a good week;and only five shillings stoppages for myfather."

So she was able to calculate how much herhusband had earnedand could call him to account if he gave hershort money.Morel always kept to himself the secret of theweek's amount.

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

Mrs. Morel loved her marketing.  In thetiny market-place onthe top of the hillwhere four roadsfromNottingham and DerbyIlkeston and Mansfieldmeetmany stalls wereerected.  Brakes ranin from surrounding villages.  Themarket-place was full of womenthe streets packed with men.  It wasamazing to see so many meneverywhere in the streets.  Mrs. Morelusually quarrelled withher lace womansympathised with her fruitman--who was a gabeybut his wife was a bad 'un--laughed with thefish man--who wasa scamp but so droll--put the linoleum man inhis placewas coldwith the odd-wares manand only went to thecrockery man when shewas driven--or drawn by the cornflowers on alittle dish; then shewas coldly polite.

"I wondered how much that little dishwas" she said.

"Sevenpence to you."

"Thank you."

She put the dish down and walked away; but shecould not leavethe market-place without it.  Again shewent by where the potslay coldly on the floorand she glanced at thedish furtivelypretending not to.

She was a little womanin a bonnet and a blackcostume.Her bonnet was in its third year; it was agreat grievance to Annie.

"Mother!" the girl implored"don'twear 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 hadflowers; now wasreduced to black lace and a bit of jet.

"It looks rather come down" saidPaul.  "Couldn't you giveit a pick-me-up?"

"I'll jowl your head for impudence"said Mrs. Moreland shetied the strings of the black bonnet valiantlyunder her chin.

She glanced at the dish again.  Both sheand her enemythe pot manhad an uncomfortable feelingasif there were somethingbetween them.  Suddenly he shouted:

"Do you want it for fivepence?"

She started.  Her heart hardened; but thenshe stooped and tookup her dish.

"I'll have it" she said.

"Yer'll do me the favourlike?" hesaid.  "Yer'd better spitin itlike yer do when y'ave something giveyer."

Mrs. Morel paid him the fivepence in a coldmanner.

"I don't see you give it me" shesaid.  "You wouldn't let mehave it for fivepence if you didn't want to."

"In this flamin'scrattlin' place you maycount yerself luckyif you can give your things away" hegrowled.

"Yes; there are bad timesand good"said Mrs. Morel.

But she had forgiven the pot man.  Theywere friends.She dare now finger his pots.  So she washappy.

Paul was waiting for her.  He loved herhome-coming. Shewas always her best so--triumphanttiredladen with parcelsfeeling rich in spirit.  He heard herquicklight step in the entryand looked up from his drawing.

"Oh!" she sighedsmiling at him fromthe doorway.

"My wordyou ARE loaded!" heexclaimedputting down his brush.

"I am!" she gasped.  "Thatbrazen Annie said she'd meet me.SUCH a weight!"

She dropped her string bag and her packages onthe table.

"Is the bread done?" she askedgoingto the oven.

"The last one is soaking" hereplied.  "You needn't lookI've not forgotten it."

"Ohthat pot man!" she saidclosingthe oven door."You know what a wretch I've said he was? WellI don't think he'squite so bad."

"Don't you?"

The boy was attentive to her.  She tookoff her littleblack bonnet.

"No. I think he can't make anymoney--wellit's everybody'scry alike nowadays--and it makes himdisagreeable."

"It would ME" said Paul.

"Wellone can't wonder at it.  Andhe let me have--how muchdo you think he let me have THIS for?"

She took the dish out of its rag of newspaperand stoodlooking on it with joy.

"Show me!" said Paul.

The two stood together gloating over the dish.

"I LOVE cornflowers on things" saidPaul.

"Yesand I thought of the teapot youbought me---"

"One and three" said Paul.

"Fivepence!"

"It's not enoughmother."

"No. Do you knowI fairly sneaked offwith it.  But I'dbeen extravagantI couldn't afford any more. And he needn'thave let me have it if he hadn't wanted to."

"Nohe needn'tneed he" said Pauland the two comfortedeach other from the fear of having robbed thepot man.

"We c'n have stewed fruit in it"said Paul.

"Or custardor a jelly" said hismother.

"Or radishes and lettuce" said he.

"Don't forget that bread" she saidher voice bright with glee.

Paul looked in the oven; tapped the loaf on thebase.

"It's done" he saidgiving it toher.

She tapped it also.

"Yes" she repliedgoing to unpackher bag.  "Ohand I'ma wickedextravagant woman.  I know Is'll come to want."

He hopped to her side eagerlyto see herlatest extravagance.She unfolded another lump of newspaper anddisclosed some roots ofpansies and of crimson daisies.

"Four penn'orth!" she moaned.

"How CHEAP!" he cried.

"Yesbut I couldn't afford it THIS weekof all weeks."

"But lovely!" he cried.

"Aren't they!" she exclaimedgivingway to pure joy."Paullook at this yellow oneisn'tit--and a face just like anold man!"

"Just!" cried Paulstooping tosniff.  "And smells that nice!But he's a bit splashed."

He ran in the scullerycame back with theflanneland carefullywashed the pansy.

"NOW look at him now he's wet!" hesaid.

"Yes!" she exclaimedbrimful ofsatisfaction.

The children of Scargill Street felt quiteselect.  At theend where the Morels lived there were not manyyoung things.So the few were more united.  Boys andgirls played togetherthe girls joining in the fights and the roughgamesthe boys takingpart in the dancing games and rings andmake-belief of the girls.

Annie and Paul and Arthur loved the wintereveningswhen it was not wet.  They stayed indoorstill the collierswere all gone hometill it was thick darkandthe street wouldbe deserted.  Then they tied their scarvesround their necksfor they scorned overcoatsas all thecolliers' children didand went out.  The entry was very darkand at the end the wholegreat night opened outin a hollowwith alittle tangle of lightsbelow where Minton pit layand another faraway opposite for Selby.The farthest tiny lights seemed to stretch outthe darkness for ever.The children looked anxiously down the road atthe one lamp-postwhich stood at the end of the field path. If the littleluminous space were desertedthe two boys feltgenuine desolation.They stood with their hands in their pocketsunder the lampturning their backs on the nightquitemiserablewatching thedark houses.  Suddenly a pinafore under ashort coat was seenand 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 threenow.  They setup a game round the lamp-posttill the othersrushed upyelling.Then the play went fast and furious.

There was only this one lamp-post. Behind wasthe great scoopof darknessas if all the night were there. In frontanother widedark way opened over the hill brow. Occasionally somebody cameout of this way and went into the field downthe path.  In a dozenyards the night had swallowed them.  Thechildren played on.

They were brought exceedingly close togetherowing totheir isolation.  If a quarrel took placethe whole play was spoilt.Arthur was very touchyand BillyPillins--really Philips--was worse.Then Paul had to side with Arthurand onPaul's side went Alicewhile Billy Pillins always had Emmie Limb andEddie Dakin to backhim up.  Then the six would fighthatewith a fury of hatredand flee home in terror.  Paul neverforgotafter one of these fierceinternecine fightsseeing a big red moon liftitself upslowlybetween the waste road over the hilltopsteadilylike a great bird.And he thought of the Biblethat the moonshould be turned to blood.And the next day he made haste to be friendswith Billy Pillins.And then the wildintense games went on againunder the lamp-postsurrounded by so much darkness.  Mrs.Morelgoing into her parlourwould hear the children singing away:

      "Myshoes are made of Spanish leather       Mysocks are made of silk;       I weara ring on every finger       I washmyself in milk."

They sounded so perfectly absorbed in the gameas their voices cameout of the nightthat they had the feel ofwild creatures singing.It stirred the mother; and she understood whenthey came in at eighto'clockruddywith brilliant eyesand quickpassionate speech.

They all loved the Scargill Street house forits opennessfor the great scallop of the world it had inview.  On summer eveningsthe women would stand against the field fencegossipingfacingthe westwatching the sunsets flare quicklyouttill the Derbyshirehills ridged across the crimson far awaylikethe black crestof a newt.

In this summer season the pits never turnedfull timeparticularly the soft coal.  Mrs. Dakinwho lived next doorto Mrs. Morelgoing to the field fence toshake her hearthrugwould spy men coming slowly up the hill. She saw at once theywere colliers.  Then she waiteda tallthinshrew-faced womanstanding on the hill browalmost like a menaceto the poor collierswho were toiling up.  It was only eleveno'clock. From the far-offwooded hills the haze that hangs like fineblack crape at the backof a summer morning had not yet dissipated. The first man cameto the stile.  "Chock-chock!"went the gate under his thrust.

"Whathan' yer knocked off?" criedMrs. Dakin.

"We hanmissis."

"It's a pity as they letn yer goo"she said sarcastically.

"It is that" replied the man.

"Nayyou know you're flig to come upagain" she said.

And the man went on.  Mrs. Dakingoing upher yardspied Mrs. Morel taking the ashes to theash-pit.

"I reckon Minton's knocked offmissis"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 theirshoe-leather"said Mrs. Morel.  And both women wentindoors disgusted.

The collierstheir faces scarcely blackenedwere troopinghome again.  Morel hated to go back. He loved the sunny morning.But he had gone to pit to workand to be senthome again spoilthis temper.

"Good graciousat this time!"exclaimed his wifeas he entered.

"Can I help itwoman?" he shouted.

"And I've not done half enough dinner."

"Then I'll eat my bit o' snap as I tookwith me"he bawled pathetically.  He feltignominious and sore.

And the childrencoming home from schoolwould wonder to seetheir father eating with his dinner the twothick slices of ratherdry and dirty bread-and-butter that had been topit and back.

"What's my dad eating his snap for now?"asked Arthur.

"I should ha'e it holled at me if Ididna" snorted Morel.

"What a story!" exclaimed his wife.

"An' is it goin' to be wasted?" saidMorel.  "I'm not sucha extravagant mortal as you lotwith yourwaste.  If I dropa bit of bread at pitin all the dust an'dirtI 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 miceeither" said Morel."Dirty or not dirtyI'd eat it ratherthan it should be wasted."

"You might leave it for the mice and payfor it out of yournext pint" said Mrs. Morel.

"Ohmight I?" he exclaimed.

They were very poor that autumn.  Williamhad just gone awayto Londonand his mother missed his money. He sent ten shillings onceor twicebut he had many things to pay for atfirst.  His letterscame regularly once a week.  He wrote agood deal to his mothertelling her all his lifehow he made friendsand was exchanginglessons with a Frenchmanhow he enjoyedLondon.  His mother feltagain he was remaining to her just as when hewas at home.  She wroteto him every week her directrather wittyletters.  All day longas she cleaned the houseshe thought of him. He was in London:he would do well.  Almosthe was like herknight who wore HERfavour in the battle.

He was coming at Christmas for five days. There had neverbeen such preparations.  Paul and Arthurscoured the landfor holly and evergreens.  Annie made thepretty paper hoopsin the old-fashioned way.  And there wasunheard-of extravagancein the larder.  Mrs. Morel made a big andmagnificent cake.Thenfeeling queenlyshe showed Paul how toblanch almonds.He skinned the long nuts reverentlycountingthem allto see notone was lost.  It was said that eggswhisked better in a cold place.So the boy stood in the scullerywhere thetemperature was nearlyat freezing-pointand whisked and whiskedandflew in excitementto his mother as the white of egg grew stifferand more snowy.

"Just lookmother!  Isn't itlovely?"

And he balanced a bit on his nosethen blew itin the air.

"Nowdon't waste it" said themother.

Everybody was mad with excitement. William was coming onChristmas Eve.  Mrs. Morel surveyed herpantry.  There was a bigplum cakeand a rice cakejam tartslemontartsand mince-pies--two enormous dishes.  She was finishingcooking--Spanish tartsand cheese-cakes. Everywhere was decorated. The kissing bunchof berried holly hung with bright andglittering thingsspun slowlyover Mrs. Morel's head as she trimmed herlittle tarts in the kitchen.A great fire roared.  There was a scent ofcooked pastry.  He was dueat seven o'clockbut he would be late. The three children had goneto meet him.  She was alone.  But ata quarter to seven Morel camein again.  Neither wife nor husbandspoke.  He sat in his armchairquite awkward with excitementand she quietlywent on with her baking.Only by the careful way in which she did thingscould it be toldhow much moved she was.  The clock tickedon.

"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."

"Ehbless youit'll be hours late on theMidland"she said indifferently.  But she hopedbyexpecting him lateto bring him early.  Morel went down theentry to look for him.Then he came back.

"Goodnessman!" 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" sheanswered.

"There's not so much as I can see on"he answeredturning crossly in his chair.  She beganto clear her table.The kettle was singing.  They waited andwaited.

Meantime the three children were on theplatform at Sethley Bridgeon the Midland main linetwo miles from home. They waited one hour.A train came--he was not there.  Down theline the red and greenlights shone.  It was very dark and verycold.

"Ask him if the London train's come"said Paul to Anniewhen they saw a man in a tip cap.

"I'm not" said Annie.  "Yoube quiet--he might send us off."

But Paul was dying for the man to know theywere expectingsomeone by the London train:  it soundedso grand.  Yet he was muchtoo much scared of broaching any manlet aloneone in a peaked capto dare to ask.  The three children couldscarcely go into thewaiting-room for fear of being sent awayandfor fearsomething should happen whilst they were offthe platform. Still they waited in the dark and cold.

"It's an hour an' a half late" saidArthur pathetically.

"Well" said Annie"it'sChristmas Eve."

They all grew silent.  He wasn't coming. They lookeddown the darkness of the railway.  Therewas London!  It seemedthe utter-most of distance.  They thoughtanything might happenif one came from London.  They were alltoo troubled to talk.Coldand unhappyand silentthey huddledtogether on the platform.

At lastafter more than two hoursthey sawthe lights of anengine peering roundaway down the darkness. A porter ran out.The children drew back with beating hearts. A great trainbound for Manchesterdrew up.  Two doorsopenedand from oneof themWilliam.  They flew to him. He handed parcels to themcheerilyand immediately began to explain thatthis great train hadstopped for HIS sake at such a small station asSethley Bridge:it was not booked to stop.

Meanwhile the parents were getting anxious. The table was setthe chop was cookedeverything was ready. Mrs. Morel put onher black apron.  She was wearing her bestdress.  Then she satpretending to read.  The minutes were atorture to her.

"H'm!" said Morel.  "It'san hour an' a ha'ef."

"And those children waiting!" shesaid.

"Th' train canna ha' come in yet" hesaid.

"I tell youon Christmas Eve they'reHOURS wrong."

They were both a bit cross with each othersognawedwith anxiety.  The ash tree moaned outsidein a coldraw wind.And all that space of night from London home! Mrs. Morel suffered.The slight click of the works inside the clockirritated her.It was getting so late; it was gettingunbearable.

At last there was a sound of voicesand afootstep in the entry.

"Ha's here!" cried Moreljumping up.

Then he stood back.  The mother ran a fewsteps towardsthe door and waited.  There was a rush anda patter of feetthe door burst open.  William was there. He dropped his Gladstonebag and took his mother in his arms.

"Mater!" he said.

"My boy!" she cried.

And for two secondsno longershe clasped himand kissed him.Then she withdrew and saidtrying to be quitenormal:

"But how late you are!"

"Aren't I!" he criedturning to hisfather.  "Welldad!"

The two men shook hands.

"Wellmy lad!"

Morel's eyes were wet.

"We thought tha'd niver be commin'"he said.

"OhI'd come!" exclaimed William.

Then the son turned round to his mother.

"But you look well" she saidproudlylaughing.

"Well!" he exclaimed.  "Ishould think so--coming home!"

He was a fine fellowbigstraightandfearless-looking. Helooked round at the evergreens and the kissingbunchand the littletarts that lay in their tins on the hearth.

"By jove! motherit's not different!"he saidas if in relief.

Everybody was still for a second.  Then hesuddenly sprang forwardpicked a tart from the hearthand pushed itwhole into his mouth.

"Welldid iver you see such a parishoven!" the father exclaimed.

He had brought them endless presents. Every penny he had he hadspent on them.  There was a sense ofluxury overflowing in the house.For his mother there was an umbrella with goldon the pale handle.She kept it to her dying dayand would havelost anything ratherthan that.  Everybody had somethinggorgeousand besidesthere werepounds of unknown sweets:  Turkishdelightcrystallised pineappleand such-like things whichthe childrenthoughtonly the splendourof London could provide.  And Paul boastedof these sweets amonghis friends.

"Real pineapplecut off in slicesandthen turned intocrystal--fair grand!"

Everybody was mad with happiness in thefamily.  Home was homeand they loved it with a passion of lovewhatever the sufferinghad been.  There were partiesthere wererejoicings.  People camein to see Williamto see what differenceLondon had made to him.And they all found him "such a gentlemanand SUCH a fine fellowmy word"!

When he went away again the children retired tovarious placesto weep alone.  Morel went to bed inmiseryand Mrs. Morel felt asif she were numbed by some drugas if herfeelings were paralysed.She loved him passionately.

He was in the office of a lawyer connected witha largeshipping firmand at the midsummer his chiefoffered him a tripin the Mediterranean on one of the boatsforquite a small cost.Mrs. Morel wrote:  "Gogomy boy. You may never have a chance againand I should love to think of you cruisingthere in the Mediterraneanalmost better than to have you at home." But William came home forhis fortnight's holiday.  Not even theMediterraneanwhich pulledat all his young man's desire to traveland athis poor man's wonderat the glamorous southcould take him awaywhen he might come home.That compensated his mother for much.

 

CHAPTER V

PAUL LAUNCHES INTO LIFE

MOREL was rather a heedless mancareless ofdanger.  So he hadendless accidents.  Nowwhen Mrs. Morelheard the rattle of an emptycoal-cart cease at her entry-endshe ran intothe parlour to lookexpecting almost to see her husband seated inthe waggonhis facegrey under his dirthis body limp and sickwith some hurt or other.If it were heshe would run out to help.

About a year after William went to Londonandjust after Paulhad left schoolbefore he got workMrs. Morelwas upstairs and herson was painting in the kitchen--he was veryclever with his brush--whenthere came a knock at the door.  Crosslyhe put down his brush to go.At the same moment his mother opened a windowupstairs and looked down.

A pit-lad in his dirt stood on the threshold.

"Is this Walter Morel's?" he asked.

"Yes" said Mrs. Morel.  "Whatis it?"

But she had guessed already.

"Your mester's got hurt" he said.

"Ehdear me!" she exclaimed. "It's a wonder if he hadn'tlad.And what's he done this time?"

"I don't know for surebut it's 'is legsomewhere.  They ta'ein''im ter th' 'ospital."

"Good gracious me!" she exclaimed. "Ehdearwhat a one he is!There's not five minutes of peaceI'll behanged if there is!His thumb's nearly betterand now--- Did yousee him?"

"I seed him at th' bottom.  An' Iseed 'em bring 'im up ina tuban' 'e wor in a dead faint.  But heshouted like anythinkwhen Doctor Fraser examined him i' th' lampcabin--an' cossed an'sworean' said as 'e wor goin' to be ta'enwhoam--'e worn't goin'ter th' 'ospital."

The boy faltered to an end.

"He WOULD want to come homeso that I canhave all the bother.Thank youmy lad.  Ehdearif I'm notsick--sick and surfeitedI am!"

She came downstairs.  Paul hadmechanically resumed his painting.

"And it must be pretty bad if they'vetaken him to the hospital"she went on.  "But what a CARELESScreature he is!  OTHER men don'thave all these accidents.  Yeshe WOULDwant to put all the burdenon me.  Ehdearjust as we WERE gettingeasy a bit at last.Put those things awaythere's no time to bepainting now.  What timeis there a train?  I know I s'll have togo trailing to Keston.I s'll have to leave that bedroom."

"I can finish it" said Paul.

"You needn't. I shall catch the seveno'clock backI should think.  Ohmy blessed heartthefuss and commotionhe'll make!  And those granite setts atTinder Hill--he mightwell call them kidney pebbles--they'll jolt himalmost to bits.I wonder why they can't mend themthe statethey're inan'all the men as go across in that ambulance. You'd think they'dhave a hospital here.  The men bought thegroundandmy sirsthere'd be accidents enough to keep it going. But nothey musttrail them ten miles in a slow ambulance toNottingham.  It's acrying shame!  Ohand the fuss he'llmake!  I know he will!I wonder who's with him.  BarkerI s'dthink.  Poor beggarhe'll wish himself anywhere rather.  Buthe'll look after himI know.Now there's no telling how long he'll be stuckin that hospital--andWON'T he hate it!  But if it's only hisleg it's not so bad."

All the time she was getting ready. Hurriedly taking off herbodiceshe crouched at the boilerwhile the water ran slowly into her lading-can.

"I wish this boiler was at the bottom ofthe sea!" she exclaimedwriggling the handle impatiently.  She hadvery handsomestrong armsrather surprising on a smallish woman.

Paul cleared awayput on the kettleand setthe table.

"There isn't a train till four-twenty"he said."You've time enough."

"Oh noI haven't!" she criedblinking at him over the towelas she wiped her face.

"Yesyou have.  You must drink a cupof tea at any rate.Should I come with you to Keston?"

"Come with me?  What forI shouldlike to know?  Nowwhat haveI to take him?  Ehdear!  His cleanshirt--and it's a blessing itIS clean.  But it had better be aired. And stockings--he won't wantthem--and a towelI suppose; andhandkerchiefs.  Now what else?"

"A comba knife and fork and spoon"said Paul.  His fatherhad been in the hospital before.

"Goodness knows what sort of state hisfeet were in"continued Mrs. Morelas she combed her longbrown hairthat wasfine as silkand was touched now with grey. "He's very particularto wash himself to the waistbut below hethinks doesn't matter.But thereI suppose they see plenty like it."

Paul had laid the table.  He cut hismother one or two piecesof very thin bread and butter.

"Here you are" he saidputting hercup of tea in her place.

"I can't be bothered!" she exclaimedcrossly.

"Wellyou've got toso therenow it'sput out ready"he insisted.

So she sat down and sipped her teaand ate alittlein silence.She was thinking.

In a few minutes she was goneto walk the twoand a half milesto Keston Station.  All the things she wastaking him she had in herbulging string bag.  Paul watched her goup the road between thehedges--a littlequick-stepping figureandhis heart ached for herthat she was thrust forward again into pain andtrouble.  And shetripping so quickly in her anxietyfelt at theback of her herson's heart waiting on herfelt him bearingwhat part of the burdenhe couldeven supporting her.  And whenshe was at the hospitalshe thought:  "It WILL upset that ladwhen I tell him how bad it is.I'd better be careful."  And when shewas trudging home againshe felt he was coming to share her burden.

"Is it bad?" asked Paulas soon asshe entered the house.

"It's bad enough" she replied.

"What?"

She sighed and sat downundoing herbonnet-strings. Her sonwatched her face as it was liftedand hersmallwork-hardened handsfingering at the bow under her chin.

"Well" she answered"it's notreally dangerousbut the nursesays it's a dreadful smash.  You seeagreat piece of rock fellon his leg--here--and it's a compoundfracture.  There are piecesof bone sticking through---"

"Ugh--how horrid!" exclaimed thechildren.

"And" she continued"of coursehe says he's going to die--itwouldn't be him if he didn't. 'I'm done formylass!' he saidlooking at me.  'Don't be so silly' Isaid to him.  'You're not goingto die of a broken leghowever badly it'ssmashed.'  'I s'll nivercome out of 'ere but in a wooden box' hegroaned.  'Well' I said'if you want them to carry you into the gardenin a wooden boxwhen you're betterI've no doubt they will.' 'If we think it'sgood for him' said the Sister.  She's anawfully nice Sisterbut rather strict."

Mrs. Morel took off her bonnet.  Thechildren waited in silence.

"Of coursehe IS bad" shecontinued"and he will be.It's a great shockand he's lost a lot ofblood; andof courseit IS a very dangerous smash.  It's not atall sure that it will mendso easily.  And then there's the fever andthe mortification--if it tookbad ways he'd quickly be gone.  But therehe's a clean-blooded manwith wonderful healing fleshand so I see noreason why it SHOULDtake bad ways.  Of course there's awound---"

She was pale now with emotion and anxiety. The three childrenrealised that it was very bad for their fatherand the housewas silentanxious.

"But he always gets better" saidPaul after a while.

"That's what I tell him" said themother.

Everybody moved about in silence.

"And he really looked nearly done for"she said.  "But theSister 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'llhave to go nowWalterbecause of thetrain--and the children.'And he looked at me.  It seems hard."

Paul took up his brush again and went onpainting.  Arthur wentoutside for some coal.  Annie sat lookingdismal.  And Mrs. Morelin her little rocking-chair that her husbandhad made for herwhen the first baby was comingremainedmotionlessbrooding.She was grievedand bitterly sorry for the manwho was hurt so much.But stillin her heart of heartswhere thelove should have burnedthere was a blank.  Nowwhen all herwoman's pity was roused to itsfull extentwhen she would have slaved herselfto death to nursehim and to save himwhen she would have takenthe pain herselfif she couldsomewhere far away inside hershe felt indifferentto him and to his suffering.  It hurt hermost of allthis failureto love himeven when he roused her strongemotions.  She broodeda while.

"And there" she said suddenly"whenI'd got halfway to KestonI found I'd come out in my working boots--andLOOK at them."They were an old pair of Paul'sbrown andrubbed through atthe toes.  "I didn't know what to dowith myselffor shame"she added.

In the morningwhen Annie and Arthur were atschoolMrs. Moreltalked again to her sonwho was helping herwith her housework.

"I found Barker at the hospital.  Hedid look badpoor little fellow!  'Well' I said tohim'what sort of ajourney did you have with him?'  'Dunna axmemissis!' he said.'Ay' I said'I know what he'd be.'  'Butit WOR bad for himMrs. Morelit WOR that!' he said.  'Iknow' I said.  'At ivry joltI thought my 'eart would ha' flown clean out o'my mouth' he said.'An' the scream 'e gives sometimes! Missisnot for a fortune wouldI go through wi' it again.'  'I can quiteunderstand it' I said.'It's a nasty jobthough' he said'an' oneas'll be a longwhile afore it's right again.'  'I'mafraid it will' I said.I like Mr. Barker--I DO like him.  There'ssomething so manlyabout him."

Paul resumed his task silently.

"And of course" Mrs. Morelcontinued"for a man like your fatherthe hospital IS hard.  He CAN'T understandrules and regulations.And he won't let anybody else touch himnot ifhe can help it.When he smashed the muscles of his thighandit had to be dressedfour times a dayWOULD he let anybody but meor his mother do it?He wouldn't. Soof coursehe'll suffer inthere with the nurses.And I didn't like leaving him.  I'm surewhen I kissed him an' came awayit seemed a shame."

So she talked to her sonalmost as if she werethinkingaloud to himand he took it in as best hecouldby sharing hertrouble to lighten it.  And in the end sheshared almost everythingwith him without knowing.

Morel had a very bad time.  For a week hewas in acritical condition.  Then he began tomend.  And thenknowing hewas going to get betterthe whole familysighed with reliefand proceeded to live happily.

They were not badly off whilst Morel was in thehospital.There were fourteen shillings a week from thepitten shillingsfrom the sick cluband five shillings from theDisability Fund;and then every week the butties had somethingfor Mrs. Morel--fiveor seven shillings--so that she was quite wellto do.  And whilstMorel was progressing favourably in thehospitalthe family wasextraordinarily happy and peaceful.  OnSaturdays and WednesdaysMrs. Morel went to Nottingham to see herhusband.  Then she alwaysbrought back some little thing:  a smalltube of paints for Paulor some thick paper; a couple of postcards forAnniethat the wholefamily rejoiced over for days before the girlwas allowed to sendthem away; or a fret-saw for Arthuror a bitof pretty wood.She described her adventures into the big shopswith joy.Soon the folk in the picture-shop knew herandknew about Paul.The girl in the book-shop took a keen interestin her.  Mrs. Morelwas full of information when she got home fromNottingham.  The threesat round till bed-timelisteningputting inarguing.  Then Pauloften raked the fire.

"I'm the man in the house now" heused to say to his motherwith joy.  They learned how perfectlypeaceful the home could be.And they almost regretted--though none of themwould have owned tosuch callousness--that their father was sooncoming back.

Paul was now fourteenand was looking forwork.  He was arather small and rather finely-made boywithdark brown hair andlight blue eyes.  His face had alreadylost its youthful chubbinessand was becoming somewhat likeWilliam's--rough-featuredalmostrugged--and it was extraordinarily mobile. Usually he lookedas if he saw thingswas full of lifeandwarm; then his smilelike his mother'scame suddenly and was verylovable; and thenwhen there was any clog in his soul's quickrunninghis face wentstupid and ugly.  He was the sort of boythat becomes a clownand a lout as soon as he is not understoodorfeels himselfheld cheap; andagainis adorable at thefirst touch of warmth.

He suffered very much from the first contactwith anything.When he was seventhe starting school had beena nightmare and atorture to him.  But afterwards he likedit.  And now that he felthe had to go out into lifehe went throughagonies of shrinkingself-consciousness. He was quite a cleverpainter for a boy of his yearsand he knew some French and German andmathematics that Mr. Heatonhad taught him.  But nothing he had was ofany commercial value.He was not strong enough for heavy manual workhis mother said.He did not care for making things with hishandspreferred racing aboutor making excursions into the countryorreadingor painting.

"What do you want to be?" his motherasked.

"Anything."

"That is no answer" said Mrs. Morel.

But it was quite truthfully the only answer hecould give.His ambitionas far as this world's gear wentwas quietly to earnhis thirty or thirty-five shillings a weeksomewhere near homeand thenwhen his father diedhave a cottagewith his motherpaint and go out as he likedand live happyever after.  That was hisprogramme as far as doing things went. But he was proud within himselfmeasuring people against himselfand placingtheminexorably.  And hethought that PERHAPS he might also make apainterthe real thing.But that he left alone.

"Then" said his mother"youmust look in the paperfor the advertisements."

He looked at her.  It seemed to him abitter humiliationand an anguish to go through.  But he saidnothing.  When he got upin the morninghis whole being was knotted upover this one thought:

"I've got to go and look foradvertisements for a job."

It stood in front of the morningthat thoughtkilling alljoy and even lifefor him.  His heartfelt like a tight knot.

And thenat ten o'clockhe set off.  Hewas supposed to bea queerquiet child.  Going up the sunnystreet of the little townhe felt as if all the folk he met said tothemselves:  "He's goingto the Co-op. reading-room to look in thepapers for a place.He can't get a job.  I suppose he's livingon his mother."  Then hecrept up the stone stairs behind the draperyshop at the Co-op.and peeped in the reading-room. Usually one ortwo men were thereeither olduseless fellowsor colliers "onthe club". So he enteredfull of shrinking and suffering when theylooked upseated himself atthe tableand pretended to scan the news. He knew they would think:"What does a lad of thirteen want in areading-room with a newspaper?"and he suffered.

Then he looked wistfully out of the window. Already he wasa prisoner of industrialism.  Largesunflowers stared over theold red wall of the garden oppositelooking intheir jolly waydown on the women who were hurrying withsomething for dinner.The valley was full of cornbrightening in thesun.  Two collieriesamong the fieldswaved their small whiteplumes of steam.  Far offon the hills were the woods of Annesleydarkand fascinating.Already his heart went down.  He was beingtaken into bondage.His freedom in the beloved home valley wasgoing now.

The brewers' waggons came rolling up fromKeston with enormousbarrelsfour a sidelike beans in a burstbean-pod. The waggonerthroned aloftrolling massively in his seatwas not so muchbelow Paul's eye.  The man's hairon hissmallbullet headwas bleached almost white by the sunand onhis thick red armsrocking idly on his sack apronthe white hairsglistened.His red face shone and was almost asleep withsunshine.  The horseshandsome and brownwent on by themselveslooking by far the mastersof the show.

Paul wished he were stupid.  "Iwish" he thought to himself"I was fat like himand like a dog in thesun.  I wish I was a pigand a brewer's waggoner."

Thenthe room being at last emptyhe wouldhastily copyan advertisement on a scrap of paperthenanotherand slipout in immense relief.  His mother wouldscan over his copies.

"Yes" she said"you may try."

William had written out a letter ofapplicationcouched inadmirable business languagewhich Paul copiedwith variations.The boy's handwriting was execrableso thatWilliamwho did allthings wellgot into a fever of impatience.

The elder brother was becoming quite swanky. In London he foundthat he could associate with men far above hisBestwood friendsin station.  Some of the clerks in theoffice had studied for the lawand were more or less going through a kind ofapprenticeship.William always made friends among men whereverhe wenthe was so jolly.Therefore he was soon visiting and staying inhouses of men whoin Bestwoodwould have looked down on theunapproachable bank managerand would merely have called indifferently onthe Rector.  So he beganto fancy himself as a great gun.  He wasindeedrather surprisedat the ease with which he became a gentleman.

His mother was gladhe seemed so pleased. And his lodgingin Walthamstow was so dreary.  But nowthere seemed to come a kindof fever into the young man's letters.  Hewas unsettled by allthe changehe did not stand firm on his ownfeetbut seemed to spinrather giddily on the quick current of the newlife.  His mother wasanxious for him.  She could feel himlosing himself.  He had dancedand gone to the theatreboated on the riverbeen out with friends;and she knew he sat up afterwards in his coldbedroom grinding awayat Latinbecause he intended to get on in hisofficeand in thelaw as much as he could.  He never senthis mother any money now.It was all takenthe little he hadfor hisown life.  And shedid not want anyexcept sometimeswhen shewas in a tight cornerand when ten shillings would have saved hermuch worry.  She stilldreamed of Williamand of what he would dowith herself behind him.Never for a minute would she admit to herselfhow heavy and anxiousher heart was because of him.

Also he talked a good deal now of a girl he hadmet at a dancea handsome brunettequite youngand a ladyafter whom the menwere running thick and fast.

"I wonder if you would runmy boy"his mother wroteto him"unless you saw all the other menchasing her too.You feel safe enough and vain enough in acrowd.  But take careand see how you feel when you find yourselfaloneand in triumph."William resented these thingsand continuedthe chase.  He hadtaken the girl on the river.  "If yousaw hermotheryou wouldknow how I feel.  Tall and elegantwiththe clearest of cleartransparent olive complexionshair as black asjetand suchgrey eyes--brightmockinglike lights onwater at night.It is all very well to be a bit satirical tillyou see her.And she dresses as well as any woman inLondon.  I tell youyour son doesn't half put his head up when shegoes walking downPiccadilly with him."

Mrs. Morel wonderedin her heartif her sondid not gowalking down Piccadilly with an elegant figureand fine clothesrather than with a woman who was near to him. But she congratulatedhim in her doubtful fashion.  Andas shestood over the washing-tubthe mother brooded over her son.  She sawhim saddled with anelegant and expensive wifeearning littlemoneydragging alongand getting draggled in some smallugly housein a suburb."But there" she told herself"Iam very likely a silly--meetingtrouble halfway."  Neverthelesstheload of anxiety scarcely everleft her heartlest William should do thewrong thing by himself.

PresentlyPaul was bidden call upon ThomasJordanManufacturer of Surgical Appliancesat 21Spaniel RowNottingham.Mrs. Morel was all joy.

"Thereyou see!" she criedher eyesshining.  "You've onlywritten four lettersand the third isanswered.  You're luckymy boyas I always said you were."

Paul looked at the picture of a wooden legadorned with elasticstockings and other appliancesthat figured onMr. Jordan's notepaperand he felt alarmed.  He had not knownthat elastic stockings existed.And he seemed to feel the business worldwithits regulated systemof valuesand its impersonalityand hedreaded it.  It seemedmonstrous also that a business could be run onwooden legs.

Mother and son set off together one Tuesdaymorning.It was August and blazing hot.  Paulwalked with something screwed uptight inside him.  He would have sufferedmuch physical pain ratherthan this unreasonable suffering at beingexposed to strangersto be accepted or rejected.  Yet hechattered away with his mother.He would never have confessed to her how hesuffered over these thingsand she only partly guessed.  She was gaylike a sweetheart.She stood in front of the ticket-office atBestwoodand Paul watchedher take from her purse the money for thetickets.As he saw her hands in their old black kidgloves gettingthe silver out of the worn pursehis heartcontracted with painof love of her.

She was quite excitedand quite gay.  Hesuffered because sheWOULD talk aloud in presence of the othertravellers.

"Now look at that silly cow!" shesaid"careering roundas if it thought it was a circus."

"It's most likely a bottfly" he saidvery low.

"A what?" she asked brightly andunashamed.

They thought a while.  He was sensible allthe time of havingher opposite him.  Suddenly their eyesmetand she smiled tohim--a rareintimate smilebeautiful withbrightness and love.Then each looked out of the window.

The sixteen slow miles of railway journeypassed.  The motherand son walked down Station Streetfeeling theexcitement of lovershaving an adventure together.  InCarrington Street they stoppedto hang over the parapet and look at the bargeson the canal below.

"It's just like Venice" he saidseeing the sunshineon the water that lay between high factorywalls.

"Perhaps" she answeredsmiling.

They enjoyed the shops immensely.

"Now you see that blouse" she wouldsay"wouldn't that justsuit our Annie?  And forone-and-eleven-three. Isn't that cheap?"

"And made of needlework as well" hesaid.

"Yes."

They had plenty of timeso they did nothurry.  The townwas strange and delightful to them.  Butthe boy was tied up insidein a knot of apprehension.  He dreaded theinterview with Thomas Jordan.

It was nearly eleven o'clock by St. Peter'sChurch.They turned up a narrow street that led to theCastle.  It wasgloomy and old-fashionedhaving low dark shopsand dark green housedoors with brass knockersand yellow-ochreddoorsteps projectingon to the pavement; then another old shop whosesmall window lookedlike a cunninghalf-shut eye.  Mother andson went cautiouslylooking everywhere for "Thomas Jordan andSon". It was like huntingin some wild place.  They were on tiptoeof excitement.

Suddenly they spied a bigdark archwayinwhich were namesof various firmsThomas Jordan among them.

"Here it is!" said Mrs. Morel. "But now WHERE is it?"

They looked round.  On one side was aqueerdarkcardboard factoryon the other a Commercial Hotel.
"It's up the entry" said Paul.

And they ventured under the archwayas intothe jawsof the dragon.  They emerged into a wideyardlike a wellwith buildings all round.  It was litteredwith straw and boxesand cardboard.  The sunshine actuallycaught one crate whose strawwas streaming on to the yard like gold. But elsewhere the placewas like a pit.  There were several doorsand two flights of steps.Straight in fronton a dirty glass door at thetop of a staircaseloomed the ominous words "Thomas Jordanand Son--Surgical Appliances."Mrs. Morel went firsther son followed her. Charles I mounted hisscaffold with a lighter heart than had PaulMorel as he followed hismother up the dirty steps to the dirty door.

She pushed open the doorand stood in pleasedsurprise.  In frontof her was a big warehousewith creamy paperparcels everywhereand clerkswith their shirt-sleeves rolledbackwere going aboutin an at-home sort of way.  The light wassubduedthe glossy creamparcels seemed luminousthe counters were ofdark brown wood.All was quiet and very homely.  Mrs. Moreltook two steps forwardthen waited.  Paul stood behind her. She had on her Sundaybonnet and a black veil; he wore a boy's broadwhite collar and aNorfolk suit.

One of the clerks looked up.  He was thinand tallwith asmall face.  His way of looking wasalert.  Then he glanced roundto the other end of the roomwhere was a glassoffice.  And thenhe came forward.  He did not say anythingbut leaned in a gentleinquiring fashion towards Mrs. Morel.

"Can I see Mr. Jordan?" she asked.

"I'll fetch him" answered the youngman.

He went down to the glass office.  Ared-facedwhite-whiskeredold man looked up.  He reminded Paul of apomeranian dog.Then the same little man came up the room. He had short legswas rather stoutand wore an alpaca jacket. Sowith one ear upas it werehe came stoutly and inquiringlydown the room.

"Good-morning!" he saidhesitatingbefore Mrs. Morelin doubt as to whether she were a customer ornot.

"Good-morning. I came with my sonPaulMorel.  You asked himto call this morning."

"Come this way" said Mr. Jordanina rather snappy littlemanner intended to be businesslike.

They followed the manufacturer into a grubbylittle roomupholstered in black American leatherglossywith the rubbing ofmany customers.  On the table was a pileof trussesyellow wash-leatherhoops tangled together.  They looked newand living.  Paul sniffed theodour of new wash-leather. He wondered what thethings were.  By thistime he was so much stunned that he onlynoticed the outside things.

"Sit down!" said Mr. Jordanirritably pointing Mrs. Morelto a horse-hair chair.  She sat on theedge in an uncertain fashion.Then the little old man fidgeted and found apaper.

"Did you write this letter?" hesnappedthrusting what Paulrecognised as his own notepaper in front ofhim.

"Yes" he answered.

At that moment he was occupied in two ways: firstin feelingguilty for telling a liesince William hadcomposed the letter;secondin wondering why his letter seemed sostrange and differentin the fatred hand of the manfrom what ithad been when it layon the kitchen table.  It was like part ofhimselfgone astray.He resented the way the man held it.

"Where did you learn to write?" saidthe old man crossly.

Paul merely looked at him shamedlyand did notanswer.

"He IS a bad writer" put in Mrs.Morel apologetically.Then she pushed up her veil.  Paul hatedher for not being prouderwith this common little manand he loved herface clear of the veil.

"And you say you know French?"inquired the little manstill 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 andgot no farther.

"His godfather gave him lessons"said Mrs. Morelhalf pleadingand rather distant.

Mr. Jordan hesitated.  Thenin hisirritable manner--he alwaysseemed to keep his hands ready for action--hepulled another sheet ofpaper from his pocketunfolded it.  Thepaper made a crackling noise.He handed it to Paul.

"Read that" he said.

It was a note in Frenchin thinflimsyforeign handwritingthat the boy could not decipher.  Hestared blankly at the paper.

"'Monsieur'" he began; then helooked in great confusionat Mr. Jordan.  "It's the--it'sthe---"

He wanted to say "handwriting"buthis wits would no longer workeven sufficiently to supply him with the word. Feeling an utter fooland hating Mr. Jordanhe turned desperately tothe paper again.

"'Sir--Please send me'--er--er--I can'ttell the--er--'twopairs--gris fil bas--grey threadstockings'--er--er--'sans--without'--er--I can't tell thewords--er--'doigts--fingers'--er--I can't tell the---"

He wanted to say "handwriting"butthe word still refusedto come.  Seeing him stuckMr. Jordansnatched the paper from him.

"'Please send by return two pairs greythread stockingswithout TOES.'"

"Well" flashed Paul"'doigts'means 'fingers'--as well--asa rule---"

The little man looked at him.  He did notknow whether "doigts"meant "fingers"; he knew that for allHIS purposes it meant "toes".

"Fingers to stockings!" he snapped.

"Wellit DOES mean fingers" the boypersisted.

He hated the little manwho made such a clodof him.Mr. Jordan looked at the palestupiddefiantboythen at the motherwho sat quiet and with that peculiar shut-offlook of the poorwho have to depend on the favour of others.

"And when could he come?" he asked.

"Well" said Mrs. Morel"assoon as you wish.  He has finishedschool now."

"He would live in Bestwood?"

"Yes; but he could be in--at thestation--at quarter to eight."

"H'm!"

It ended by Paul's being engaged as juniorspiral clerk at eightshillings a week.  The boy did not openhis mouth to say anotherwordafter having insisted that "doigts"meant "fingers". Hefollowed his mother down the stairs.  Shelooked at him with herbright blue eyes full of love and joy.

"I think you'll like it" she said.

"'Doigts' does mean 'fingers'motherandit was the writing.I couldn't read the writing."

"Never mindmy boy.  I'm sure he'llbe all rightand youwon't see much of him.  Wasn't that firstyoung fellow nice?I'm sure you'll like them."

"But wasn't Mr. Jordan commonmother? Does he own it all?"

"I suppose he was a workman who has goton" she said."You mustn't mind people so much. They're not being disagreeableto YOU--it's their way.  You always thinkpeople are meaning thingsfor you.  But they don't."

It was very sunny.  Over the big desolatespace of the market-placethe blue sky shimmeredand the granite cobblesof the paving glistened.Shops down the Long Row were deep in obscurityand the shadow was fullof colour.  Just where the horse tramstrundled across the marketwas a row of fruit stallswith fruit blazingin the sun--applesand piles of reddish orangessmall green-gageplums and bananas.There was a warm scent of fruit as mother andson passed.Gradually his feeling of ignominy and of ragesank.

"Where should we go for dinner?"asked the mother.

It was felt to be a reckless extravagance. Paul had onlybeen in an eating-house once or twice in hislifeand then onlyto have a cup of tea and a bun.  Most ofthe people of Bestwoodconsidered that tea and bread-and-butterandperhaps potted beefwas all they could afford to eat inNottingham.  Real cooked dinnerwas considered great extravagance.  Paulfelt rather guilty.

They found a place that looked quite cheap. But when Mrs. Morelscanned the bill of fareher heart was heavythings were so dear.So she ordered kidney-pies and potatoes as thecheapest available dish.

"We oughtn't to have come heremother"said Paul.

"Never mind" she said.  "Wewon't come again."

She insisted on his having a small curranttartbecause heliked sweets.

"I don't want itmother" hepleaded.

"Yes" she insisted; "you'llhave it."

And she looked round for the waitress. But the waitresswas busyand Mrs. Morel did not like to botherher then.So the mother and son waited for the girl'spleasurewhilst sheflirted among the men.

"Brazen hussy!" said Mrs. Morel toPaul.  "Look nowshe's taking that man HIS puddingand he camelong after us."

"It doesn't mattermother" saidPaul.

Mrs. Morel was angry.  But she was toopoorand her orderswere too meagreso that she had not thecourage to insist on herrights just then.  They waited and waited.

"Should we gomother?" he said.

Then Mrs. Morel stood up.  The girl waspassing 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. Morelasked coldly for the bill.  Paul wanted tosink through the floor.He marvelled at his mother's hardness.  Heknew that only yearsof battling had taught her to insist even solittle on her rights.She shrank as much as he.

"It's the last time I go THERE foranything!" she declaredwhen they were outside the placethankful tobe clear.

"We'll go" she said"and lookat Keep's and Boot'sand oneor two placesshall we?"

They had discussions over the picturesandMrs. Morelwanted to buy him a little sable brush that behankered after.But this indulgence he refused.  He stoodin front of milliners'shops and drapers' shops almost boredbutcontent for her tobe interested.  They wandered on.

"Nowjust look at those black grapes!"she said.  "They makeyour mouth water.  I've wanted some ofthose for yearsbut I s'llhave to wait a bit before I get them."

Then she rejoiced in the floristsstanding inthe doorway sniffing.

"Oh! oh!  Isn't it simply lovely!"

Paul sawin the darkness of the shopanelegant young ladyin black peering over the counter curiously.

"They're looking at you" he saidtrying to draw his mother away.

"But what is it?" she exclaimedrefusing to be moved.

"Stocks!" he answeredsniffinghastily.  "Lookthere'sa tubful."

"So there is--red and white.  ButreallyI never knewstocks to smell like it!"  Andtohis great reliefshe movedout of the doorwaybut only to stand in frontof the window.

"Paul!" she cried to himwho wastrying to get out ofsight of the elegant young lady in black--theshop-girl. "Paul!Just look here!"

He came reluctantly back.

"Nowjust look at that fuchsia!" sheexclaimedpointing.

"H'm!" He made a curiousinterestedsound.  "You'd thinkevery second as the flowers was going to falloffthey hangso big an' heavy."

"And such an abundance!" she cried.

"And the way they drop downwards withtheir threads and knots!"

"Yes!" she exclaimed.  "Lovely!"

"I wonder who'll buy it!" he said.

"I wonder!" she answered.  "Notus."

"It would die in our parlour."

"Yesbeastly coldsunless hole; it killsevery bit of a plantyou put inand the kitchen chokes them todeath."

They bought a few thingsand set off towardsthe station.Looking up the canalthrough the dark pass ofthe buildingsthey saw the Castle on its bluff of browngreen-bushed rockin a positive miracle of delicate sunshine.

"Won't it be nice for me to come out atdinner-times?" said Paul."I can go all round here and seeeverything.  I s'll love it."

"You will" assented his mother.

He had spent a perfect afternoon with hismother.  They arrivedhome in the mellow eveninghappyand glowingand tired.

In the morning he filled in the form for hisseason-ticketand took it to the station.  When he gotbackhis mother was justbeginning to wash the floor.  He satcrouched 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" sheanswered.

"An' I s'll earn eight shillings a week"he said.

She did not answerbut went on with her work. At last she said:

"That William promised mewhen he went toLondonas he'd giveme a pound a month.  He has given me tenshillings--twice; and now Iknow he hasn't a farthing if I asked him. Not that I want it.Only just now you'd think he might be able tohelp with this ticketwhich 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 promisesbut it's preciouslittle fulfilmentyou get."

"He spends over fifty shillings a week onhimself" said Paul.
"And I keep this house on less thanthirty" she replied;"and am supposed to find money forextras.  But they don't careabout helping youonce they've gone. He'd rather spend it onthat dressed-up creature."

"She should have her own money if she's sogrand" said Paul.

"She shouldbut she hasn't. I asked him. And I know hedoesn't buy her a gold bangle for nothing. I wonder whoever boughtME a gold bangle."

William was succeeding with his "Gipsy"as he called her.He asked the girl--her name was Louisa LilyDenys Western--for aphotograph to send to his mother.  Thephoto came--a handsome brunettetaken in profilesmirking slightly--anditmight bequite nakedfor on the photograph not a scrap of clothingwas to be seenonly a naked bust.

"Yes" wrote Mrs. Morel to her son"the photograph ofLouie is very strikingand I can see she mustbe attractive.But do you thinkmy boyit was very goodtaste of a girl togive her young man that photo to send to hismother--the first?Certainly the shoulders are beautifulas yousay.  But I hardlyexpected to see so much of them at the firstview."

Morel found the photograph standing on thechiffonier inthe parlour.  He came out with it betweenhis thick thumb and finger.

"Who dost reckon this is?" he askedof his wife.

"It's the girl our William is going with"replied Mrs. Morel.

"H'm! 'Er's a bright sparkfrom th' lookon 'eran'one as wunna do him owermuch good neither. Who is she?"

"Her name is Louisa Lily Denys Western."

"An' come again to-morrer!" exclaimedthe miner.  "An' is 'eran actress?"

"She is not.  She's supposed to be alady."

"I'll bet!" he exclaimedstillstaring at the photo.  "A ladyis she?  An' how much does she reckon terkeep up this sort o'game on?"

"On nothing.  She lives with an oldauntwhom she hatesand takes what bit of money's given her."

"H'm!" said Morellaying down thephotograph.  "Then he'sa fool to ha' ta'en up wi' such a one as that."

"Dear Mater" William replied. "I'm sorry you didn't likethe photograph.  It never occurred to mewhen I sent itthat youmightn't think it decent.  HoweverI toldGyp that it didn't quitesuit your prim and proper notionsso she'sgoing to send you anotherthat I hope will please you better.  She'salways being photographed;in factthe photographers ask her if they maytake her for nothing."

Presently the new photograph camewith alittle silly notefrom the girl.  This time the young ladywas seen in a black satinevening bodicecut squarewith little puffsleevesand blacklace hanging down her beautiful arms.

"I wonder if she ever wears anythingexcept evening clothes"said Mrs. Morel sarcastically.  "I'msure I ought to be impressed."

"You are disagreeablemother" saidPaul.  "I think the firstone with bare shoulders is lovely."

"Do you?" answered his mother. "WellI don't."

On the Monday morning the boy got up at six tostart work.He had the season-ticketwhich had cost suchbitternessin hiswaistcoat pocket.  He loved it with itsbars of yellow across.His mother packed his dinner in a smallshut-up basketand he setoff at a quarter to seven to catch the 7.15train.  Mrs. Morel cameto the entry-end to see him off.

It was a perfect morning.  From the ashtree the slendergreen fruits that the children call "pigeons"were twinkling gailydown on a little breezeinto the front gardensof the houses.The valley was full of a lustrous dark hazethrough which the ripecorn shimmeredand in which the steam fromMinton pit melted swiftly.Puffs of wind came.  Paul looked over thehigh woods of Aldersleywhere the country gleamedand home had neverpulled at himso powerfully.

"Good-morningmother" he saidsmilingbut feeling very unhappy.

"Good-morning" she repliedcheerfully and tenderly.

She stood in her white apron on the open roadwatching himas he crossed the field.  He had a smallcompact body that lookedfull of life.  She feltas she saw himtrudging over the fieldthat where he determined to go he would get. She thought of William.He would have leaped the fence instead of goinground the stile.He was away in Londondoing well.  Paulwould be working in Nottingham.Now she had two sons in the world.  Shecould think of two placesgreat centres of industryand feel that shehad put a man into eachof themthat these men would work out what SHEwanted; they werederived from herthey were of herand theirworks also would be hers.All the morning long she thought of Paul.

At eight o'clock he climbed the dismal stairsof Jordan'sSurgical Appliance Factoryand stoodhelplessly against the firstgreat parcel-rackwaiting for somebody to pickhim up.  The placewas still not awake.  Over the counterswere great dust sheets.Two men only had arrivedand were heardtalking in a corneras they took off their coats and rolled uptheir shirt-sleeves. Itwas ten past eight.  Evidently there wasno rush of punctuality.Paul listened to the voices of the two clerks. Then he heardsomeone coughand saw in the office at the endof the room an olddecaying clerkin a round smoking-cap of blackvelvet embroideredwith red and greenopening letters.  Hewaited and waited.One of the junior clerks went to the old mangreeted himcheerily and loudly.  Evidently the old"chief" was deaf.Then the young fellow came striding importantlydown to his counter.He spied Paul.

"Hello!" he said.  "You thenew lad?"

"Yes" said Paul.

"H'm! What's your name?"

"Paul Morel."

"Paul Morel?  All rightyou come onround here."

Paul followed him round the rectangle ofcounters.  The roomwas second storey.  It had a great hole inthe middle of the floorfenced as with a wall of countersand downthis wide shaftthe lifts wentand the light for the bottomstorey.  Also therewas a corresponding bigoblong hole in theceilingand onecould see aboveover the fence of the topfloorsome machinery;and right away overhead was the glass roofandall light for thethree storeys came downwardsgetting dimmerso that it was alwaysnight on the ground floor and rather gloomy onthe second floor.The factory was the top floorthe warehousethe secondthe storehousethe ground floor.  It was an insanitaryancient place.

Paul was led round to a very dark corner.

"This is the 'Spiral' corner" saidthe clerk.  "You're Spiralwith Pappleworth.  He's your bossbuthe's not come yet.  He doesn'tget here till half-past eight.  So you canfetch the lettersif you likefrom Mr. Melling down there."

The young man pointed to the old clerk in theoffice.

"All right" said Paul.

"Here's a peg to hang your cap on.  Hereare your entry ledgers.Mr. Pappleworth won't be long."

And the thin young man stalked away with longbusy stridesover the hollow wooden floor.

After a minute or two Paul went down and stoodin the doorof the glass office.  The old clerk in thesmoking-cap lookeddown over the rim of his spectacles.

"Good-morning" he saidkindly andimpressively.  "You wantthe letters for the Spiral departmentThomas?"

Paul resented being called "Thomas".But he took the lettersand returned to his dark placewhere thecounter made an anglewhere the great parcel-rack came to an endandwhere therewere three doors in the corner.  He sat ona high stool and readthe letters--those whose handwriting was nottoo difficult.They ran as follows:

"Will you please send me at once a pair oflady's silk spiralthigh-hosewithout feetsuch as I had fromyou last year;lengththigh to kneeetc."  Or"Major Chamberlain wishesto repeat his previous order for a silknon-elastic suspensory bandage."

Many of these letterssome of them in Frenchor Norwegianwere a great puzzle to the boy.  He sat onhis stool nervously awaitingthe arrival of his "boss". Hesuffered tortures of shyness whenat half-past eightthe factory girls forupstairs trooped past him.

Mr. Pappleworth arrivedchewing a chlorodynegumat abouttwenty to ninewhen all the other men were atwork.  He was a thinsallow man with a red nosequickstaccatoand smartly butstiffly dressed.  He was about thirty-sixyears old.  There wassomething rather "doggy"rathersmartrather 'cute and shrewdand something warmand something slightlycontemptible 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."

"Wellcome on thenlet's look slippy. Changed your coat?"

"No."

"You want to bring an old coat and leaveit here."  He pronouncedthe last words with the chlorodyne gum betweenhis side teeth.He vanished into the darkness behind the greatparcel-rackreappeared coatlessturning up a smart stripedshirt-cuff overa thin and hairy arm.  Then he slippedinto his coat.  Paul noticedhow thin he wasand that his trousers were infolds behind.He seized a stooldragged it beside the boy'sand sat down.

"Sit down" he said.

Paul took a seat.

Mr. Pappleworth was very close to him. The man seizedthe letterssnatched a long entry-book out ofa rack in frontof himflung it openseized a penand said:

"Now look here.  You want to copythese letters in here."He sniffed twicegave a quick chew at his gumstared fixedly ata letterthen went very still and absorbedand wrote the entry rapidlyin a beautiful flourishing hand.  Heglanced quickly at Paul.

"See that?"

"Yes."

"Think you can do it all right?"

"Yes."

"All right thenlet's see you."

He sprang off his stool.  Paul took apen.  Mr. Pappleworthdisappeared.  Paul rather liked copyingthe lettersbut he wrote slowlylaboriouslyand exceedingly badly.  Hewas doing the fourth letterand feeling quite busy and happywhen Mr.Pappleworth reappeared.

"Now thenhow'r' yer getting on? Done 'em?"

He leaned over the boy's shoulderchewingandsmellingof chlorodyne.

"Strike my bobladbut you're abeautiful writer!"he exclaimed satirically.  "Ne'ermindhow many h'yer done?Only three!  I'd 'a eaten 'em.  Getonmy ladan' put numberson 'em.  Herelook!  Get on!"

Paul ground away at the letterswhilst Mr.Pappleworth fussedover various jobs.  Suddenly the boystarted as a shrill whistlesounded near his ear.  Mr. Pappleworthcametook a plug out of a pipeand saidin an amazingly cross and bossyvoice:

"Yes?"

Paul heard a faint voicelike a woman'soutof the mouth ofthe tube.  He gazed in wonderneverhaving seen a speaking-tube before.

"Well" said Mr. Pappleworthdisagreeably into the tube"you'd better get some of your back workdonethen."

Again the woman's tiny voice was heardsounding pretty and cross.

"I've not time to stand here while youtalk" said Mr. Pappleworthand he pushed the plug into the tube.

"Comemy lad" he said imploringlyto Paul"there's Pollycrying out for them orders.  Can't youbuck up a bit?  Herecome out!"

He took the bookto Paul's immense chagrinand beganthe copying himself.  He worked quicklyand well.  This donehe seized some strips of long yellow paperabout three inches wideand made out the day's orders for thework-girls.

"You'd better watch me" he said toPaulworking all thewhile rapidly.  Paul watched the weirdlittle drawings of legsand thighsand ankleswith the strokes acrossand the numbersand the few brief directions which his chiefmade upon the yellow paper.Then Mr. Pappleworth finished and jumped up.

"Come on with me" he saidand theyellow papers flyingin his handshe dashed through a door and downsome stairsinto the basement where the gas was burning. They crossed the colddamp storeroomthen a longdreary room with along table on trestlesinto a smallercosy apartmentnot very highwhich had beenbuilt on to the main building.  In thisroom a small woman witha red serge blouseand her black hair done ontop of her headwas waiting like a proud little bantam.

"Here y'are!" said Pappleworth.

"I think it is 'here you are'!"exclaimed Polly.  "The girlshave been here nearly half an hour waiting. Just think of thetime wasted!"

"YOU think of getting your work done andnot talking so much"said Mr. Pappleworth.  "You could ha'been finishing off."

"You know quite well we finishedeverything off on Saturday!"cried Ponyflying at himher dark eyesflashing.

"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!" repeatedPolly.  "YesWE do a lotof ruiningwe do.  My worda lad wouldTAKE some ruining afterhe'd been with you."

"It's time for work nownot for talk"said Mr. Pappleworthseverely and coldly.

"It was time for work some time back"said Pollymarching awaywith her head in the air.  She was anerect little body of forty.

In that room were two round spiral machines onthe bench underthe window.  Through the inner doorway wasanother longer roomwith six more machines.  A little group ofgirlsnicely dressedin white apronsstood talking together.

"Have you nothing else to do but talk?"said Mr. Pappleworth.

"Only wait for you" said onehandsome girllaughing.

"Wellget onget on" he said. "Come onmy lad.You'll know your road down here again."

And Paul ran upstairs after his chief.  Hewas given somechecking and invoicing to do.  He stood atthe desklabouring in hisexecrable handwriting.  Presently Mr.Jordan came strutting down fromthe glass office and stood behind himto theboy's great discomfort.Suddenly a red and fat finger was thrust on theform he was filling in.

"MR. J. A. BatesEsquire!" exclaimedthe cross voice justbehind his ear.

Paul looked at "Mr. J. A. BatesEsquire"in his own vile writingand wondered what was the matter now.

"Didn't they teach you any better THANthat while they were at it?If you put 'Mr.' you don't put Esquire'-a mancan't be both at once."

The boy regretted his too-much generosity indisposingof honourshesitatedand with tremblingfingersscratched outthe "Mr." Then all at once Mr. Jordansnatched away the invoice.

"Make another!  Are you going to sendthat to a gentleman?"And he tore up the blue form irritably.

Paulhis ears red with shamebegan again.Still Mr. Jordan watched.

"I don't know what they DO teach inschools.  You'll haveto write better than that.  Lads learnnothing nowadaysbut howto recite poetry and play the fiddle. Have you seen his writing?"he asked of Mr. Pappleworth.

"Yes; primeisn't it?" replied Mr.Pappleworth indifferently.

Mr. Jordan gave a little gruntnot unamiable. Paul divinedthat his master's bark was worse than hisbite.  Indeedthe littlemanufactureralthough he spoke bad Englishwas quite gentlemanenough to leave his men alone and to take nonotice of trifles.But he knew he did not look like the boss andowner of the showso he had to play his role of proprietor atfirstto put thingson a right footing.

"Let's seeWHAT'S your name?" askedMr. Pappleworth of the boy.

"Paul Morel."

It is curious that children suffer so much athavingto pronounce their own names.

"Paul Morelis it?  All rightyouPaul-Morel through themthings thereand then---"

Mr. Pappleworth subsided on to a stoolandbegan writing.A girl came up from out of a door just behindput somenewly-pressed elastic web appliances on thecounterand returned.Mr. Pappleworth picked up the whitey-blueknee-bandexamined itand its yellow order-paper quicklyand put iton one side.Next was a flesh-pink "leg". He wentthrough the few thingswrote out a couple of ordersand called toPaul to accompany him.This time they went through the door whence thegirl had emerged.There Paul found himself at the top of a littlewooden flight of stepsand below him saw a room with windows round twosidesand at thefarther end half a dozen girls sitting bendingover the benches inthe light from the windowsewing.  Theywere singing together "TwoLittle Girls in Blue". Hearing the dooropenedthey all turned roundto see Mr. Pappleworth and Paul looking down onthem from the farend of the room.  They stopped singing.

"Can't you make a bit less row?" saidMr. Pappleworth."Folk'll think we keep cats."

A hunchback woman on a high stool turned herlongrather heavyface towards Mr. Pappleworthand saidin acontralto voice:

"They're all tom-cats then."

In vain Mr. Pappleworth tried to be impressivefor Paul's benefit.He descended the steps into the finishing-offroomand went to the hunchback Fanny.  She hadsucha short body on her high stool that her headwith itsgreat bands of bright brown hairseemed overlargeas did her paleheavy face.  She wore a dress ofgreen-black cashmereand her wristscoming out of the narrow cuffswere thin andflatas she putdown her work nervously.  He showed hersomething that was wrongwith a knee-cap.

"Well" she said"you needn'tcome blaming it on to me.It's not my fault."  Her colourmounted 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 faultbut you'dlike to make out as it was"the hunchback woman criedalmost in tears. Then she snatchedthe knee-cap from her "boss"saying:  "YesI'll do it for youbut you needn't be snappy."

"Here's your new lad" said Mr.Pappleworth.

Fanny turnedsmiling very gently on Paul.

"Oh!" she said.

"Yes; don't make a softy of him betweenyou."

"It's not us as 'ud make a softy of him"she said indignantly.

"Come on thenPaul" said Mr.Pappleworth.

"Au revoyPaul" said one of thegirls.

There was a titter of laughter.  Paul wentoutblushing deeplynot having spoken a word.

The day was very long.  All morning thework-people were comingto speak to Mr. Pappleworth.  Paul waswriting or learning to makeup parcelsready for the midday post.  Atone o'clockorratherat a quarter to oneMr. Pappleworthdisappeared to catch his train:he lived in the suburbs.  At one o'clockPaulfeeling very losttook his dinner-basket down into the stockroomin the basementthat had the long table on trestlesand atehis meal hurriedlyalone in that cellar of gloom and desolation. Then he went out of doors.The brightness and the freedom of the streetsmade him feel adventurousand happy.  But at two o'clock he was backin the corner of thebig room.  Soon the work-girls wenttrooping pastmaking remarks.It was the commoner girls who worked upstairsat the heavy tasksof truss-making and the finishing of artificiallimbs.  He waitedfor Mr. Pappleworthnot knowing what to dositting scribblingon the yellow order-paper.  Mr.Pappleworth came at twenty minutesto three.  Then he sat and gossiped withPaultreating the boyentirely as an equaleven in age.

In the afternoon there was never very much todounless itwere near the week-endand the accounts had tobe made up.At five o'clock all the men went down into thedungeon with thetable on trestlesand there they had teaeating bread-and-butteron the baredirty boardstalking with thesame kind of uglyhaste and slovenliness with which they atetheir meal.  And yetupstairs the atmosphere among them was alwaysjolly and clear.The cellar and the trestles affected them.

After teawhen all the gases were lightedWORK went more briskly.There was the big evening post to get off. The hose came up warmand newly pressed from the workrooms. Paul had made out the invoices.Now he had the packing up and addressing to dothen he hadto weigh his stock of parcels on the scales. Everywhere voiceswere calling weightsthere was the chink ofmetalthe rapidsnapping of stringthe hurrying to old Mr.Melling for stamps.And at last the postman came with his sacklaughing and jolly.Then everything slacked offand Paul took hisdinner-basketand ran to the station to catch theeight-twenty train.  The dayin the factory was just twelve hours long.

His mother sat waiting for him ratheranxiously.  He had towalk from Kestonso was not home until abouttwenty past nine.And he left the house before seven in themorning.  Mrs. Morelwas rather anxious about his health.  Butshe herself had had to put upwith so much that she expected her children totake the same odds.They must go through with what came.  AndPaul stayed at Jordan'salthough all the time he was there his healthsuffered from thedarkness and lack of air and the long hours.

He came in pale and tired.  His motherlooked at him.She saw he was rather pleasedand her anxietyall went.

"Welland how was it?" she asked.

"Ever so funnymother" he replied. "You don't have to worka bit hardand 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 allright.I'm Spiralmother; you must come and see. It's ever so nice."

Soon he liked Jordan's. Mr. Pappleworthwhohad a certain"saloon bar" flavour about himwasalways naturaland treatedhim as if he had been a comrade. Sometimes the "Spiral boss"was irritableand chewed more lozenges thanever.  Even thenhoweverhe was not offensivebut one of thosepeople who hurtthemselves by their own irritability more thanthey hurt other people.

"Haven't you done that YET?" he wouldcry.  "Go onbe a monthof Sundays."

Againand Paul could understand him leastthenhe was jocularand in high spirits.

"I'm going to bring my little Yorkshireterrier 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 ironand rusty silver?"

"THAT'S itmy lad.  She's a gem. She's had five pounds'worth of pups alreadyand she's worth overseven pounds herself;and she doesn't weigh twenty ounces."

The next day the bitch came.  She was ashiveringmiserable morsel.Paul did not care for her; she seemed so like awet rag that wouldnever dry.  Then a man called for herandbegan to make coarse jokes.But Mr. Pappleworth nodded his head in thedirection of the boyand the talk went on sotto voce.

Mr. Jordan only made one more excursion towatch Pauland then the only fault he found was seeing theboy lay his penon the counter.

"Put your pen in your earif you're goingto be a clerk.Pen in your ear!"  And one day hesaid to the lad:  "Why don't youhold your shoulders straighter?  Come downhere" when he took himinto the glass office and fitted him withspecial braces for keepingthe shoulders square.

But Paul liked the girls best.  The menseemed common andrather dull.  He liked them allbut theywere uninteresting.  Pollythe little brisk overseer downstairsfindingPaul eating in the cellarasked him if she could cook him anything on herlittle stove.Next day his mother gave him a dish that couldbe heated up.He took it into the pleasantclean room toPolly.  And very soon itgrew to be an established custom that he shouldhave dinner with her.When he came in at eight in the morning he tookhis basket to herand when he came down at one o'clock she hadhis dinner ready.

He was not very talland palewith thickchestnut hairirregular featuresand a widefull mouth. She was like a small bird.He often called her a "robinet".Though naturally rather quiethe would sit and chatter with her for hourstelling her about his home.The girls all liked to hear him talk. They often gathered in a littlecircle while he sat on a benchand held forthto themlaughing.Some of them regarded him as a curious littlecreatureso seriousyet so bright and jollyand always so delicatein his way with them.They all liked himand he adored them. Polly he felt he belonged to.Then Conniewith her mane of red hairherface of apple-blossomher murmuring voicesuch a lady in her shabbyblack frockappealed to his romantic side.

"When you sit winding" he said"itlooks as if you werespinning at a spinning-wheel--it looks ever sonice.  You remindme of Elaine in the 'Idylls of the King'. I'ddraw you if I could."

And she glanced at him blushing shyly. And later on he hada sketch he prized very much:  Conniesitting on the stool beforethe wheelher flowing mane of red hair on herrusty black frockher red mouth shut and seriousrunning thescarlet thread offthe hank on to the reel.

With Louiehandsome and brazenwho alwaysseemed to thrusther hip at himhe usually joked.

Emma was rather plainrather oldandcondescending.But to condescend to him made her happyand hedid not mind.

"How do you put needles in?" heasked.

"Go away and don't bother."

"But I ought to know how to put needlesin."

She ground at her machine all the whilesteadily.

"There are many things you ought to know"she replied.

"Tell methenhow to stick needles inthe machine."

"Ohthe boywhat a nuisance he is! WhyTHIS is how youdo it."

He watched her attentively.  Suddenly awhistle piped.Then Polly appearedand said in a clear voice:

"Mr. Pappleworth wants to know how muchlonger you're goingto be down here playing with the girlsPaul."

Paul flew upstairscalling "Good-bye!"and Emma drew herself up.

"It wasn't ME who wanted him to play withthe machine"she said.

As a rulewhen all the girls came back at twoo'clockheran upstairs to Fannythe hunchbackin thefinishing-off room.Mr. Pappleworth did not appear till twenty tothreeand he oftenfound his boy sitting beside Fannytalkingordrawingor singingwith the girls.

Oftenafter a minute's hesitationFanny wouldbegin to sing.She had a fine contralto voice.  Everybodyjoined in the chorusand it went well.  Paul was not at allembarrassedafter a whilesitting in the room with the half a dozenwork-girls.

At the end of the song Fanny would say:

"I know you've been laughing at me."

"Don't be so softFanny!" cried oneof the girls.

Once there was mention of Connie's red hair.

"Fanny's is betterto my fancy"said Emma.

"You needn't try to make a fool of me"said Fannyflushing deeply.

"Nobut she hasPaul; she's gotbeautiful hair."

"It's a treat of a colour" said he. "That coldish colourlike earthand yet shiny.  It's likebog-water."

"Goodness me!" exclaimed one girllaughing.

"How I do but get criticised" saidFanny.

"But you should see it downPaul"cried Emma earnestly."It's simply beautiful.  Put it downfor himFannyif he wantssomething to paint."

Fanny would notand yet she wanted to.

"Then I'll take it down myself" saidthe lad.

"Wellyou can if you like" saidFanny.

And he carefully took the pins out of the knotand the rushof hairof uniform dark brownslid over thehumped back.

"What a lovely lot!" he exclaimed.

The girls watched.  There was silence. The youth shookthe hair loose from the coil.

"It's splendid!" he saidsmellingits perfume.  "I'll betit's worth pounds."

"I'll leave it you when I diePaul"said Fannyhalf joking.

"You look just like anybody elsesittingdrying their hair"said one of the girls to the long-leggedhunchback.

Poor Fanny was morbidly sensitivealwaysimagining insults.Polly was curt and businesslike.  The twodepartments were for everat warand Paul was always finding Fanny intears.  Then he wasmade the recipient of all her woesand he hadto plead her casewith Polly.

So the time went along happily enough. The factory had ahomely feel.  No one was rushed ordriven.  Paul always enjoyedit when the work got fastertowards post-timeand all the menunited in labour.  He liked to watch hisfellow-clerks at work.The man was the work and the work was the manone thingfor thetime being.  It was different with thegirls.  The real womannever seemed to be there at the taskbut as ifleft outwaiting.

From the train going home at night he used towatch the lightsof the townsprinkled thick on the hillsfusing together in a blazein the valleys.  He felt rich in life andhappy.  Drawing farther offthere was a patch of lights at Bulwell likemyriad petals shakento the ground from the shed stars; and beyondwas the red glareof the furnacesplaying like hot breath on theclouds.

He had to walk two and more miles from Kestonhomeup two long hillsdown two short hills. He was often tiredand he counted the lamps climbing the hillabove himhow many moreto pass.  And from the hilltoponpitch-dark nightshe lookedround on the villages five or six miles awaythat shone like swarmsof glittering living thingsalmost a heavenagainst his feet.Marlpool and Heanor scattered the far-offdarkness with brilliance.And occasionally the black valley space betweenwas tracedviolated by a great train rushing south toLondon or north to Scotland.The trains roared by like projectiles level onthe darknessfuming and burningmaking the valley clangwith their passage.They were goneand the lights of the towns andvillages glitteredin silence.

And then he came to the corner at homewhichfaced theother side of the night.  The ash-treeseemed a friend now.His mother rose with gladness as he entered. He put his eightshillings proudly on the table.

"It'll helpmother?" he askedwistfully.

"There's precious little left" sheanswered"after yourticket and dinners and such are taken off."

Then he told her the budget of the day. His life-storylike an Arabian Nightswas told night afternight 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 aquickcarelessimpulsive boya good deal like his father.  He hatedstudymade a great moan if hehad to workand escaped as soon as possible tohis sport again.

In appearance he remained the flower of thefamilybeing well madegracefuland full of life. His dark brown hairand fresh colouringand his exquisite darkblue eyes shaded withlong lashestogether with his generous mannerand fiery tempermade him a favourite.  But as he grewolder his temper became uncertain.He flew into rages over nothingseemedunbearably raw and irritable.

His motherwhom he lovedwearied of himsometimes.He thought only of himself.  When hewanted amusementall thatstood in his way he hatedeven if it were she.When he was in trouble he moaned to herceaselessly.

"Goodnessboy!" she saidwhen hegroaned about a master whohe saidhated him"if you don't like italter itand if youcan't alter itput up with it."

And his fatherwhom he had loved and who hadworshipped himhe came to detest.  As he grew older Morelfell into a slow ruin.His bodywhich had been beautiful in movementand in beingshrankdid not seem to ripen with the yearsbut to get meanand rather despicable.  There came overhim a look of meannessand of paltriness.  And when themean-looking elderly man bullied orordered the boy aboutArthur was furious. MoreoverMorel's mannersgot worse and worsehis habits somewhatdisgusting.  When thechildren were growing up and in the crucialstage of adolescencethe father was like some ugly irritant to theirsouls.  His mannersin the house were the same as he used among thecolliers down pit.

"Dirty nuisance!"  Arthur wouldcryjumping up and goingstraight out of the house when his fatherdisgusted him.And Morel persisted the more because hischildren hated it.He seemed to take a kind of satisfaction indisgusting themand driving them nearly madwhile they were soirritably sensitiveat the age of fourteen or fifteen.  Sothat Arthurwho was growingup when his father was degenerate and elderlyhated him worstof all.

Thensometimesthe father would seem to feelthe contemptuoushatred of his children.

"There's not a man tries harder for hisfamily!" he would shout."He does his best for themand then getstreated like a dog.But I'm not going to stand itI tell you!"

But for the threat and the fact that he did nottry so hardas be imaginedthey would have felt sorry. As it wasthe battlenow went on nearly all between father andchildrenhe persistingin his dirty and disgusting waysjust toassert his independence.They loathed him.

Arthur was so inflamed and irritable at lastthat when hewon a scholarship for the Grammar School inNottinghamhis motherdecided to let him live in townwith one ofher sistersand onlycome home at week-ends.

Annie was still a junior teacher in theBoard-schoolearningabout four shillings a week.  But soon shewould have fifteen shillingssince she had passed her examinationand therewould be financialpeace in the house.

Mrs. Morel clung now to Paul.  He wasquiet and not brilliant.But still he stuck to his paintingand stillhe stuck to his mother.Everything he did was for her.  She waitedfor his coming homein the eveningand then she unburdened herselfof all shehad ponderedor of all that had occurred toher during the day.He sat and listened with his earnestness. The two shared lives.

William was engaged now to his brunetteandhad bought heran engagement ring that cost eight guineas. The children gaspedat such a fabulous price.

"Eight guineas!" said Morel. "More fool him!  If he'd gen mesome on'tit 'ud ha' looked better on 'im."

"Given YOU some of it!" cried Mrs.Morel.  "Why give YOUsome of it!"

She remembered HE had bought no engagement ringat alland she preferred Williamwho was not meanifhe were foolish.But now the young man talked only of the dancesto which he wentwith his betrothedand the differentresplendent clothes she wore;or he told his mother with glee how they wentto the theatre likegreat swells.

He wanted to bring the girl home.  Mrs.Morel said sheshould come at the Christmas.  This timeWilliam arrived witha ladybut with no presents.  Mrs. Morelhad prepared supper.Hearing footstepsshe rose and went to thedoor.  William entered.

"Hellomother!"  He kissed herhastilythen stood asideto present a tallhandsome girlwho waswearing a costume of fineblack-and-white checkand furs.

"Here's Gyp!"

Miss Western held out her hand and showed herteeth in a small smile.

"Ohhow do you doMrs. Morel!" sheexclaimed.

"I am afraid you will be hungry"said Mrs. Morel.

"Oh nowe had dinner in the train. Have you got my glovesChubby?"

William Morelbig and raw-bonedlooked at herquickly.

"How should I?" he said.

"Then I've lost them.  Don't be crosswith me."

A frown went over his facebut he saidnothing.  She glancedround the kitchen.  It was small andcurious to herwith itsglittering kissing-bunchits evergreens behindthe picturesits wooden chairs and little deal table. At that moment Morelcame in.

"Hellodad!"

"Hellomy son!  Tha's let on me!"

The two shook handsand William presented thelady.She gave the same smile that showed her teeth.

"How do you doMr. Morel?"

Morel bowed obsequiously.

"I'm very welland I hope so are you. You must make yourselfvery welcome."

"Ohthank you" she repliedratheramused.

"You will like to go upstairs" saidMrs. Morel.

"If you don't mind; but not if it is anytrouble to you."

"It is no trouble.  Annie will takeyou.  Waltercarry upthis box."

"And don't be an hour dressing yourselfup" said Williamto his betrothed.

Annie took a brass candlestickandtoo shyalmost to speakpreceded the young lady to the front bedroomwhich Mr. and Mrs. Morelhad vacated for her.  Ittoowas smalland cold by candlelight.The colliers' wives only lit fires in bedroomsin case of extreme illness.

"Shall I unstrap the box?" askedAnnie.

"Ohthank you very much!"

Annie played the part of maidthen wentdownstairs for hot water.

"I think she's rather tiredmother"said William."It's a beastly journeyand we had such arush."

"Is there anything I can give her?"asked Mrs. Morel.

"Oh noshe'll be all right."

But there was a chill in the atmosphere. After half an hourMiss Western came downhaving put on apurplish-coloured dressvery fine for the collier's kitchen.

"I told you you'd no need to change"said William to her.

"OhChubby!"  Then she turnedwith that sweetish smileto Mrs. Morel.  "Don't you think he'salways grumblingMrs. Morel?"

"Is he?" said Mrs. Morel. "That's not very nice of him."

"It isn'treally!"

"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!"

"Nodadkeep your own chair.  Siton the sofaGyp" said William.

"Nono!" cried Morel.  "Thischeer's warmest.  Come and sit hereMiss Wesson."

"Thank you so much" said the girlseating herselfin the collier's armchairthe place ofhonour.  She shiveredfeeling the warmth of the kitchen penetrateher.

"Fetch me a hankyChubby dear!" shesaidputting up her mouthto himand using the same intimate tone as ifthey were alone;which made the rest of the family feel as ifthey ought not tobe present.  The young lady evidently didnot realise them as people:they were creatures to her for the present. William winced.

In such a householdin StreathamMiss Westernwould have beena lady condescending to her inferiors. These people were to hercertainly clownish--in shortthe workingclasses.  How was sheto adjust herself?

"I'll go" said Annie.

Miss Western took no noticeas if a servanthad spoken.But when the girl came downstairs again withthe handkerchiefshe said:  "Ohthank you!" in agracious way.

She sat and talked about the dinner on thetrainwhich had beenso poor; about Londonabout dances.  Shewas really very nervousand chattered from fear.  Morel sat allthe time smoking his thicktwist tobaccowatching herand listening toher glib London speechas he puffed.  Mrs. Moreldressed up inher best black silk blouseanswered quietly and rather briefly.  Thethree children satround in silence and admiration.  MissWestern was the princess.Everything of the best was got out for her: the best cupsthe best spoonsthe best table cloththe bestcoffee-jug. Thechildren thought she must find it quite grand. She felt strangenot able to realise the peoplenot knowing howto treat them.William jokedand was slightly uncomfortable.

At about ten o'clock he said to her:

"Aren't you tiredGyp?"

"RatherChubby" she answeredatonce in the intimate tonesand putting her head slightly on one side.

"I'll light her the candlemother"he said.

"Very well" replied the mother.

Miss Western stood upheld out her hand toMrs. Morel.

"Good-nightMrs. Morel" she said.

Paul sat at the boilerletting the water runfrom the tapinto a stone beer-bottle. Annie swathed thebottle in an old flannelpit-singletand kissed her mother good-night.She was to sharethe room with the ladybecause the house wasfull.

"You wait a minute" said Mrs. Morelto Annie.  And Annie satnursing the hot-water bottle.  MissWestern shook hands all roundto everybody's discomfortand took herdeparturepreceded by William.In five minutes he was downstairs again. His heart was rather sore;he did not know why.  He talked verylittle till everybody had goneto bedbut himself and his mother.  Thenhe stood with his legs apartin his old attitude on the hearthrugand saidhesitatingly:

"Wellmother?"

"Wellmy son?"

She sat in the rocking-chairfeeling somehowhurt and humiliatedfor his sake.

"Do you like her?"

"Yes" came the slow answer.

"She's shy yetmother.  She's notused to it.  It's differentfrom her aunt's houseyou know."

"Of course it ismy boy; and she mustfind it difficult."

"She does."  Then he frownedswiftly.  "If only she wouldn'tput on her BLESSED airs!"

"It's only her first awkwardnessmy boy. She'll be all right."

"That's itmother" he repliedgratefully.  But his browwas gloomy.  "You knowshe's notlike youmother.  She's not seriousand she can't think."

"She's youngmy boy."

"Yes; and she's had no sort of show. Her mother died when she wasa child.  Since then she's lived with herauntwhom she can't bear.And her father was a rake.  She's had nolove."

"No! Wellyou must make up to her."

"And so--you have to forgive her a lot ofthings."

"WHAT do you have to forgive hermy boy?"

"I dunno.  When she seems shallowyou have to remember she'snever had anybody to bring her deeper sideout.  And she's FEARFULLYfond of me."

"Anybody can see that."

"But you knowmother--she's--she'sdifferent from us.Those sort of peoplelike those she livesamongstthey don't seemto have the same principles."

"You mustn't judge too hastily" saidMrs. Morel.

But he seemed uneasy within himself.

In the morninghoweverhe was up singing andlarking roundthe house.

"Hello!" he calledsitting on thestairs.  "Are you getting up?"

"Yes" her voice called faintly.

"Merry Christmas!" he shouted to her.

Her laughpretty and tinklingwas heard inthe bedroom.She did not come down in half an hour.

"Was she REALLY getting up when she saidshe was?" he askedof Annie.

"Yesshe was" replied Annie.

He waited a whilethen went to the stairsagain.

"Happy New Year" he called.

"Thank youChubby dear!" came thelaughing voicefar away.

"Buck up!" he implored.

It was nearly an hourand still he was waitingfor her.Morelwho always rose before sixlooked atthe clock.

"Wellit's a winder!" he exclaimed.

The family had breakfastedall but William. He wentto the foot of the stairs.

"Shall I have to send you an Easter egg upthere?" he calledrather crossly.  She only laughed.  Thefamily expectedafter thattime of preparationsomething like magic. At last she camelooking very nice in a blouse and skirt.

"Have you REALLY been all this timegetting ready?" he asked.

"Chubby dear!  That question is notpermittedis itMrs. Morel?"

She played the grand lady at first.  Whenshe went with Williamto chapelhe in his frock-coat and silk hatshe in her fursand London-made costumePaul and Arthur andAnnie expectedeverybody to bow to the ground in admiration.And Morelstanding in his Sunday suit at theend of the roadwatching the gallant pair gofelt he was thefather of princesand princesses.

And yet she was not so grand.  For a yearnow she had beena sort of secretary or clerk in a Londonoffice.  But while shewas with the Morels she queened it.  Shesat and let Annie or Paulwait on her as if they were her servants. She treated Mrs. Morelwith a certain glibness and Morel withpatronage.  But after a dayor so she began to change her tune.

William always wanted Paul or Annie to go alongwith themon their walks.  It was so much moreinteresting.  And Paul reallyDID admire "Gipsy" wholeheartedly; infacthis mother scarcelyforgave the boy for the adulation with which hetreated the girl.

On the second daywhen Lily said:  "OhAnniedo you knowwhere I left my muff?"  Williamreplied:

"You know it is in your bedroom.  Whydo you ask Annie?"

And Lily went upstairs with a crossshutmouth.  But itangered the young man that she made a servantof his sister.

On the third evening William and Lily weresitting togetherin the parlour by the fire in the dark. At a quarter to elevenMrs. Morel was heard raking the fire. William came out to the kitchenfollowed by his beloved.

"Is it as late as thatmother?" hesaid.  She had beensitting alone.

"It is not LATEmy boybut it is as lateas I usually sit up."

"Won't you go to bedthen?" heasked.

"And leave you two?  Nomy boyIdon't believe in it."

"Can't you trust usmother?"

"Whether I can or notI won't do it. You can stay till elevenif you likeand I can read."

"Go to bedGyp" he said to hisgirl.  "We won't keepmater waiting."

"Annie has left the candle burningLily"said Mrs. Morel;"I think you will see."

"Yesthank you.  Good-nightMrs.Morel."

William kissed his sweetheart at the foot ofthe stairsand she went.  He returned to the kitchen.

"Can't you trust usmother?" herepeatedrather offended.

"My boyI tell you I don't BELIEVE inleaving two youngthings like you alone downstairs when everyoneelse is in bed."

And he was forced to take this answer.  Hekissed his mothergood-night.

At Easter he came over alone.  And then hediscussed hissweetheart endlessly with his mother.

"You knowmotherwhen I'm away from herI don't care for hera bit.  I shouldn't care if I never sawher again.  Butthenwhen I'm with her in the evenings I am awfullyfond 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.  Itworried and perplexed him."But yet--there's so much between us now Icouldn't give her up."

"You know best" said Mrs. Morel. "But if it is as you sayIwouldn't call it LOVE--at any rateit doesn'tlook much like it."

"OhI don't knowmother.  She's anorphanand---"

They never came to any sort of conclusion. He seemed puzzledand rather fretted.  She was ratherreserved.  All his strengthand money went in keeping this girl.  Hecould scarcely affordto take his mother to Nottingham when he cameover.

Paul's wages had been raised at Christmas toten shillingsto his great joy.  He was quite happy atJordan'sbut his healthsuffered from the long hours and theconfinement.  His motherto whom he became more and more significantthought how to help.

His half-day holiday was on Monday afternoon. On a Mondaymorning in Mayas the two sat alone atbreakfastshe said:

"I think it will be a fine day."

He looked up in surprise.  This meantsomething.

"You know Mr. Leivers has gone to live ona new farm.Wellhe asked me last week if I wouldn't goand see Mrs. Leiversand I promised to bring you on Monday if it'sfine.  Shall we go?"

"I saylittle womanhow lovely!" hecried.  "And we'll gothis afternoon?"

Paul hurried off to the station jubilant. Down Derby Roadwas a cherry-tree that glistened.  The oldbrick wall by theStatutes ground burned scarletspring was avery flame of green.And the steep swoop of highroad layin itscool morning dustsplendid with patterns of sunshine and shadowperfectly still.The trees sloped their great green shouldersproudly; and insidethe warehouse all the morningthe boy hada vision of spring outside.

When he came home at dinner-time his mother wasrather 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 potsstraightenedand then tookher boots.  They were quite clean. Mrs. Morel was one of those naturallyexquisite people who can walk in mud withoutdirtying their shoes.But Paul had to clean them for her.  Theywere kid boots at eightshillings a pair.  Hehoweverthoughtthem the most dainty bootsin the worldand he cleaned them with as muchreverence as if theyhad been flowers.

Suddenly she appeared in the inner doorwayrather shyly.She had got a new cotton blouse on.  Pauljumped up and went forward.

"Ohmy stars!" he exclaimed. "What a bobby-dazzler!"

She sniffed in a little haughty wayand puther head up.

"It's not a bobby-dazzler at all!"she replied.  "It's very quiet."

She walked forwardwhilst he hovered roundher.

"Well" she askedquite shybutpretending to be highand mighty"do you like it?"

"Awfully! You ARE a fine little woman togo jaunting out with!"

He went and surveyed her from the back.

"Well" he said"if I waswalking down the street behind youI should say:  'Doesn't THAT little personfancy herself!"'

"Wellshe doesn't" replied Mrs.Morel.  "She's not sure itsuits her."

"Oh no! she wants to be in dirty blacklooking as if she waswrapped in burnt paper.  It DOES suit youand I say you look nice."

She sniffed in her little waypleasedbutpretendingto know better.

"Well" she said"it's cost mejust three shillings.You couldn't have got it ready-made for thatpricecould you?"

"I should think you couldn't" hereplied.

"Andyou knowit's good stuff."

"Awfully pretty" he said.

The blouse was whitewith a little sprig ofheliotrope and black.

"Too young for methoughI'm afraid"she said.

"Too young for you!" he exclaimed indisgust.  "Why don't youbuy some false white hair and stick it on yourhead."

"I s'll soon have no need" shereplied.  "I'm going whitefast enough."

"Wellyou've no business to" hesaid.  "What do I wantwith a white-haired mother?"

"I'm afraid you'll have to put up withonemy lad" she saidrather strangely.

They set off in great styleshe carrying theumbrella Williamhad given herbecause of the sun.  Paulwas considerably tallerthan shethough he was not big.  Hefancied himself.

On the fallow land the young wheat shonesilkily.  Minton pitwaved its plumes of white steamcoughedandrattled hoarsely.

"Now look at that!" said Mrs. Morel. Mother and son stood onthe road to watch.  Along the ridge of thegreat pit-hill crawleda little group in silhouette against the skyahorsea small truckand a man.  They climbed the inclineagainst the heavens.At the end the man tipped the wagon. There was an undue rattleas the waste fell down the sheer slope of theenormous bank.

"You sit a minutemother" he saidand she took a seat ona bankwhilst he sketched rapidly.  Shewas silent whilst he workedlooking round at the afternoonthe redcottages shining amongtheir greenness.

"The world is a wonderful place" shesaid"and wonderfullybeautiful."

"And so's the pit" he said. "Look how it heaps togetherlike something alive almost--a big creaturethat you don't know."

"Yes" she said.  "Perhaps!"

"And all the trucks standing waitinglikea string of beaststo be fed" he said.

"And very thankful I am they AREstanding" she said"for that means they'll turn middling timethis week."

"But I like the feel of MEN on thingswhile they're alive.There's a feel of men about trucksbecausethey've been handledwith men's handsall of them."

"Yes" said Mrs. Morel.

They went along under the trees of thehighroad.  He wasconstantly informing herbut she wasinterested.  They passedthe end of Nethermerethat was tossing itssunshine like petals lightlyin its lap.  Then they turned on a privateroadand in sometrepidation approached a big farm.  A dogbarked 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 womanwas amiableand directed them.  Themother and son went throughthe wheat and oatsover a little bridge into awild meadow.Peewitswith their white breasts glisteningwheeled and screamedabout them.  The lake was still and blue. High overheada heron floated.  Oppositethe woodheaped on the hillgreen and still.

"It's a wild roadmother" saidPaul.  "Just like Canada."

"Isn't it beautiful!" said Mrs.Morellooking round.

"See that heron--see--see her legs?"

He directed his motherwhat she must see andwhat not.And she was quite content.

"But now" she said"whichway?  He told me through the wood."

The woodfenced and darklay on their left.

"I can feel a bit of a path this road"said Paul.  "You've gottown feetsomehow or otheryou have."

They found a little gateand soon were in abroad greenalley of the woodwith a new thicket of firand pine on one handan old oak glade dipping down on the other. And among the oaksthe bluebells stood in pools of azureunderthe new green hazelsupon a pale fawn floor of oak-leaves. He foundflowers for her.

"Here's a bit of new-mown hay" hesaid; thenagainhe broughther forget-me-nots. Andagainhis heart hurtwith loveseeing her handused with workholding the little bunch offlowers he gave her.She was perfectly happy.

But at the end of the riding was a fence toclimb.  Paul wasover in a second.

"Come" he said"let me helpyou."

"Nogo away.  I will do it in my ownway."

He stood below with his hands up ready to helpher.She climbed cautiously.

"What a way to climb!" he exclaimedscornfullywhen shewas safely to earth again.

"Hateful stiles!" she cried.

"Duffer of a little woman" hereplied"who can't get over 'em."

In frontalong the edge of the woodwas acluster of low redfarm buildings.  The two hastenedforward.  Flush with the woodwas the apple orchardwhere blossom wasfalling on the grindstone.The pond was deep under a hedge and overhangingoak trees.Some cows stood in the shade.  The farmand buildingsthree sidesof a quadrangleembraced the sunshine towardsthe wood.  It wasvery still.

Mother and son went into the small railedgardenwhere wasa scent of red gillivers.  By the opendoor were some floury loavesput out to cool.  A hen was just coming topeck them.  Thenin thedoorway suddenly appeared a girl in a dirtyapron.  She was aboutfourteen years oldhad a rosy dark faceabunch of short black curlsvery fine and freeand dark eyes; shyquestioninga littleresentful of the strangersshe disappeared. In a minute anotherfigure appeareda smallfrail womanrosywith great dark brown eyes.

"Oh!" she exclaimedsmiling with alittle glow"you've comethen.  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 toyou?" said Mrs. Morel."I know what a farming life is."

"Oh no!  We're only too thankful tosee a new faceit's solost up here."

"I suppose so" said Mrs. Morel.

They were taken through into the parlour--alonglow roomwith a great bunch of guelder-roses in thefireplace.  There thewomen talkedwhilst Paul went out to surveythe land.  He wasin the garden smelling the gillivers andlooking at the plantswhen the girl came out quickly to the heap ofcoal which stoodby the fence.

"I suppose these are cabbage-roses?"he said to herpointing to the bushes along the fence.

She looked at him with startledbig browneyes.

"I suppose they are cabbage-roses whenthey 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 warmcolouring.

"I don't know" she said.

"You don't have MUCH in your garden"he said.

"This is our first year here" sheansweredin a distantrather superior waydrawing back and goingindoors.  He did not noticebut went his round of exploration. Presently his mother came outand they went through the buildings.  Paulwas hugely delighted.

"And I suppose you have the fowls andcalves and pigsto look after?" said Mrs. Morel to Mrs.Leivers.

"No" replied the little woman. "I can't find time to lookafter cattleand I'm not used to it. It's as much as I cando to keep going in the house."

"WellI suppose it is" said Mrs.Morel.

Presently the girl came out.

"Tea is readymother" she said in amusicalquiet voice.

"Ohthank youMiriamthen we'll come"replied her motheralmost ingratiatingly.  "Would youCARE to have tea nowMrs. Morel?"

"Of course" said Mrs. Morel. "Whenever it's ready."

Paul and his mother and Mrs. Leivers had teatogether.Then they went out into the wood that wasflooded with bluebellswhile fumy forget-me-nots were in the paths. The mother and son werein ecstasy together.

When they got back to the houseMr. Leiversand Edgarthe eldest sonwere in the kitchen. Edgar was about eighteen.Then Geoffrey and Mauricebig lads of twelveand thirteenwere infrom school.  Mr. Leivers was agood-looking man in the prime of lifewith a golden-brown moustacheand blue eyesscrewed up againstthe weather.

The boys were condescendingbut Paul scarcelyobserved it.They went round for eggsscrambling into allsorts of places.As they were feeding the fowls Miriam cameout.  The boys took nonotice of her.  One henwith her yellowchickenswas in a coop.Maurice took his hand full of corn and let thehen peck from it.

"Durst you do it?" he asked of Paul.

"Let's see" said Paul.

He had a small handwarmand rathercapable-looking.Miriam watched.  He held the corn to thehen.  The bird eyed it with herhardbright eyeand suddenly made a peck intohis hand.  He startedand laughed.  "Rapraprap!"went the bird's beak in his palm.He laughed againand the other boys joined.

"She knocks youand nips youbut shenever hurts" said Paulwhen the last corn had gone.  " NowMiriam" said Maurice"you comean 'ave a go."

"No" she criedshrinking back.

"Ha! baby.  The mardy-kid!" saidher brothers.

"It doesn't hurt a bit" said Paul. "It only just nipsrather nicely."

"No" she still criedshaking herblack curls and shrinking.

"She dursn't" said Geoffrey. "She niver durst do anythingexcept recite poitry."

"Dursn't jump off a gatedursn't tweedledursn't go on a slidedursn't stop a girl hittin' her.  She cando nowt but go about thinkin'herself somebody.  'The Lady of theLake.'  Yah!" cried Maurice.

Miriam was crimson with shame and misery.

"I dare do more than you" shecried.  "You're never anythingbut cowards and bullies."

"Ohcowards and bullies!" theyrepeated mincinglymocking her speech.

      "Notsuch a clown shall anger me      A boor isanswered silently"

he quoted against hershouting with laughter.

She went indoors.  Paul went with the boysinto the orchardwhere they had rigged up a parallel bar. They did feats of strength.He was more agile than strongbut it served. He fingered a pieceof apple-blossom that hung low on a swingingbough.

"I wouldn't get the apple-blossom"said Edgarthe eldest brother."There'll be no apples next year."

"I wasn't going to get it" repliedPaulgoing away.

The boys felt hostile to him; they were moreinterested in theirown pursuits.  He wandered back to thehouse to look for his mother.As he went round the backhe saw Miriamkneeling in front of thehen-coopsome maize in her handbiting herlipand crouchingin an intense attitude.  The hen waseyeing her wickedly.Very gingerly she put forward her hand. The hen bobbed for her.She drew back quickly with a cryhalf of fearhalf of chagrin.

"It won't hurt you" said Paul.

She flushed crimson and started up.

"I only wanted to try" she said in alow voice.

"Seeit doesn't hurt" he saidandputting only two cornsin his palmhe let the hen peckpeckpeck athis bare hand."It only makes you laugh" he said.

She put her hand forward and dragged it awaytried againand started back with a cry.  He frowned.

"WhyI'd let her take corn from my face"said Paul"only she bumps a bit.  She's ever soneat.  If she wasn'tlookhow much ground she'd peck up every day."

He waited grimlyand watched.  At lastMiriam let the birdpeck from her hand.  She gave a littlecry--fearand pain becauseof fear--rather pathetic.  But she haddone itand she did it again.

"Thereyou see" said the boy. "It doesn't hurtdoes it?"

She looked at him with dilated dark eyes.

"No" she laughedtrembling.

Then she rose and went indoors.  Sheseemed to be in some wayresentful of the boy.

"He thinks I'm only a common girl"she thoughtand she wantedto prove she was a grand person like the "Ladyof 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 walkeddown the fields with them.  The hills weregolden with evening;deep in the woods showed the darkening purpleof bluebells.It was everywhere perfectly stiffsave for therustling of leavesand birds.

"But it is a beautiful place" saidMrs. Morel.

"Yes" answered Mr. Leivers; "it'sa nice little placeif onlyit weren't for the rabbits.  The pasture'sbitten down to nothing.I dunno if ever I s'll get the rent off it."

He clapped his handsand the field broke intomotion nearthe woodsbrown rabbits hopping everywhere.

"Would you believe it!" exclaimedMrs. Morel.

She and Paul went on alone together.

"Wasn't it lovelymother?" he saidquietly.

A thin moon was coming out.  His heart wasfull of happinesstill it hurt.  His mother had to chatterbecause shetoowanted to cry with happiness.

"Now WOULDN'T I help that man!" shesaid.  "WOULDN'T I seeto the fowls and the young stock!  And I'Dlearn to milkand I'Dtalk with himand I'D plan with him.  Mywordif I were his wifethe farm would be runI know!  But thereshe hasn't the strength--shesimply hasn't the strength.  She oughtnever to have been burdenedlike ityou know.  I'm sorry for herandI'm sorry for him too.My wordif I'D had himI shouldn't havethought him a bad husband!Not that she does either; and she's verylovable."

William came home again with his sweetheart atthe Whitsuntide.He had one week of his holidays then.  Itwas beautiful weather.As a ruleWilliam and Lily and Paul went outin the morning togetherfor a walk.  William did not talk to hisbeloved muchexcept to tellher things from his boyhood.  Paul talkedendlessly to both of them.They lay downall threein a meadow by MintonChurch.  On one sideby the Castle Farmwas a beautiful quiveringscreen of poplars.Hawthorn was dropping from the hedges; pennydaisies and raggedrobin were in the fieldlike laughter. Williama big fellowof twenty-threethinner now and even a bitgauntlay backin the sunshine and dreamedwhile she fingeredwith his hair.Paul went gathering the big daisies.  Shehad taken off her hat;her hair was black as a horse's mane. Paul came back and threadeddaisies in her jet-black hair--big spangles ofwhite and yellowand justa pink touch of ragged robin.

"Now you look like a young witch-woman"the boy said to her."Doesn't sheWilliam?"

Lily laughed.  William opened his eyes andlooked at her.In his gaze was a certain baffled look ofmisery and fierce appreciation.

"Has he made a sight of me?" sheaskedlaughing down onher lover.

"That he has!" said Williamsmiling.

He looked at her.  Her beauty seemed tohurt him.  He glancedat her flower-decked head and frowned.

"You look nice enoughif that's what youwant to know"he said.

And she walked without her hat.  In alittle while Williamrecoveredand was rather tender to her. Coming to a bridgehe carved her initials and his in a heart.

      L. L. W.      W. M.

She watched his strongnervous handwith itsglisteninghairs and frecklesas he carvedand sheseemed fascinated by it.

All the time there was a feeling of sadness andwarmthand a certain tenderness in the housewhilstWilliam and Lilywere at home.  But often he gotirritable.  She had broughtfor an eight-days' stayfive dresses and sixblouses.

"Ohwould you mind" she said toAnnie"washing me thesetwo blousesand these things?"

And Annie stood washing when William and Lilywent out thenext morning.  Mrs. Morel was furious. And sometimes the young mancatching a glimpse of his sweetheart's attitudetowards his sisterhated her.

On Sunday morning she looked very beautiful ina dressof foulardsilky and sweepingand blue as ajay-bird's featherand in a large cream hat covered with manyrosesmostly crimson.Nobody could admire her enough.  But inthe eveningwhen she wasgoing outshe asked again:

"Chubbyhave you got my gloves?"

"Which?" asked William.

"My new black SUEDE."

"No."

There was a hunt.  She had lost them.

"Look heremother" said William"that's the fourth pairshe's lost since Christmas--at five shillings apair!"

"You only gave me TWO of them" sheremonstrated.

And in the eveningafter supperhe stood onthe hearthrugwhilst she sat on the sofaand he seemed tohate her.  In theafternoon he had left her whilst he went to seesome old friend.She had sat looking at a book.  Aftersupper William wanted to writea letter.

"Here is your bookLily" said Mrs.Morel.  "Would you careto go on with it for a few minutes?"

"Nothank you" said the girl. "I will sit still."

"But it is so dull."

William scribbled irritably at a great rate. As he sealedthe envelope he said:

"Read a book!  Whyshe's never reada book in her life."

"Ohgo along!" said Mrs. Morelcross with the exaggeration

"It's truemother--she hasn't" hecriedjumping up and takinghis old position on the hearthrug.  "She'snever read a book in her life."

"'Er's like me" chimed in Morel. "'Er canna see what thereis i' bookster sit borin' your nose in 'emfornor more can I."

"But you shouldn't say these things"said Mrs. Morel to her son.

"But it's truemother--she CAN'T read. What did you give her?"

"WellI gave her a little thing of AnnieSwan's. Nobody wantsto read dry stuff on Sunday afternoon."

"WellI'll bet she didn't read ten linesof it."

"You are mistaken" said his mother.

All the time Lily sat miserably on the sofa. He turnedto her swiftly.

"DID you ready any?" he asked.

"YesI did" she replied.

"How much?"

"l don't know how many pages."

"Tell me ONE THING you read."

She could not.

She never got beyond the second page.  Heread a great dealand had a quickactive intelligence.  Shecould understand nothing butlove-making and chatter.  He wasaccustomed to having all his thoughtssifted through his mother's mind; sowhen hewanted companionshipand was asked in reply to be the billing andtwittering loverhe hated his betrothed.

"You knowmother" he saidwhen hewas alone with her at night"she's no idea of moneyshe's sowessel-brained. When she's paidshe'll suddenly buy such rot as marrons glacesand then I haveto buy her season ticketand her extrasevenher underclothing.And she wants to get marriedand I thinkmyself we might as well getmarried next year.  But at this rate---"

"A fine mess of a marriage it would be"replied his mother."I should consider it againmy boy."

"OhwellI've gone too far to break offnow" he said"and so I shall get married as soon as Ican."

"Very wellmy boy.  If you willyouwilland there's nostopping you; but I tell youI can't sleepwhen I think about it."

"Ohshe'll be all rightmother.  Weshall manage."

"And she lets you buy her underclothing?"asked the mother.

"Well" he began apologetically"shedidn't ask me; but onemorning--and it WAS cold--I found her on thestation shiveringnot ableto keep still; so I asked her if she was wellwrapped up.  She said:'I think so.'  So I said:  'Have yougot warm underthings on?'And she said:  'Nothey were cotton.' I asked her why on earth shehadn't got something thicker on in weather likethatand she saidbecause she HAD nothing.  And there sheis--a bronchial subject!I HAD to take her and get some warm things. WellmotherI shouldn'tmind the money if we had any.  Andyouknowshe OUGHT to keep enoughto pay for her season-ticket; but noshe comesto me about thatand I have to find the money."

"It's a poor lookout" said Mrs.Morel bitterly.

He was paleand his rugged facethat used tobe so perfectlycareless and laughingwas stamped withconflict and despair.

"But I can't give her up now; it's gonetoo far" he said."Andbesidesfor SOME things I couldn'tdo without her."

"My boyremember you're taking your lifein your hands"said Mrs. Morel.  "NOTHING is as badas a marriage that'sa hopeless failure.  Mine was bad enoughGod knowsand oughtto teach you something; but it might have beenworse by a long chalk."

He leaned with his back against the side of thechimney-piecehis hands in his pockets.  He was a bigraw-boned manwho lookedas if he would go to the world's end if hewanted to.  But she sawthe despair on his face.

"I couldn't give her up now" hesaid.

"Well" she said"rememberthere are worse wrongs than breakingoff an engagement."

"I can't give her up NOW" he said.

The clock ticked on; mother and son remained insilencea conflict between them; but he would say nomore.  At last she said:

"Wellgo to bedmy son.  You'llfeel better in the morningand perhaps you'll know better."

He kissed herand went.  She raked thefire.  Her heartwas heavy now as it had never been. Beforewith her husbandthings had seemed to be breaking down in herbut they did notdestroy her power to live.  Now her soulfelt lamed in itself.It was her hope that was struck.

And so often William manifested the same hatredtowardshis betrothed.  On the last evening athome he was railing against her.

"Well" he said"if you don'tbelieve mewhat she's likewould you believe she has been confirmed threetimes?"

"Nonsense!" laughed Mrs. Morel.

"Nonsense or notshe HAS!  That'swhat confirmation meansfor her--a bit of a theatrical show where shecan cut a figure."

"I haven'tMrs. Morel!" cried thegirl--"I haven't! itis not true!"

"What!" he criedflashing round onher.  "Once in Bromleyonce in Beckenhamand once somewhere else."

"Nowhere else!" she saidintears--"nowhere else!"

"It WAS!  And if it wasn't why wereyou confirmed TWICE?"

"Once I was only fourteenMrs. Morel"she pleadedtears in her eyes.

"Yes" said Mrs. Morel; "I canquite understand itchild.  Take nonotice of him.  You ought to be ashamedWilliamsaying such things."

"But it's true.  She's religious--shehad blue velvetPrayer-Books--and she's not as much religionor anything elsein her than that table-leg. Gets confirmedthree times for showto show herself offand that's how she is inEVERYTHING--EVERYTHING!"

The girl sat on the sofacrying.  She wasnot strong.

"As for LOVE!" he cried"youmight as well ask a fly to love you!It'll love settling on you---"

"Nowsay no more" commanded Mrs.Morel.  "If you wantto say these thingsyou must find anotherplace than this.I am ashamed of youWilliam!  Why don'tyou be more manly.To do nothing but find fault with a girlandthen pretend you'reengaged to her! "

Mrs. Morel subsided in wrath and indignation.

William was silentand later he repentedkissed and comfortedthe girl.  Yet it was truewhat he hadsaid.  He hated her.

When they were going awayMrs. Morelaccompanied them as faras Nottingham.  It was a long way toKeston station.

"You knowmother" he said to her"Gyp's shallow.Nothing goes deep with her."

"WilliamI WISH you wouldn't say thesethings" said Mrs. Morelvery uncomfortable for the girl who walkedbeside her.

"But it doesn'tmother.  She's verymuch in love with me nowbut if I died she'd have forgotten me in threemonths."

Mrs. Morel was afraid.  Her heart beatfuriouslyhearing thequiet bitterness of her son's last speech.

"How do you know?" she replied. "You DON'T knowand thereforeyou'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'dhave somebody elseand I should be forgotten" he said. "And that's your love!"

Mrs. Morel saw them into the train inNottinghamthen shereturned home.

"There's one comfort" she said toPaul--"he'll never have anymoney to marry onthat I AM sure of.  Andso she'll save him that way."

So she took cheer.  Matters were not yetvery desperate.She firmly believed William would never marryhis Gipsy.  She waitedand she kept Paul near to her.

All summer long William's letters had afeverish tone; he seemedunnatural and intense.  Sometimes he wasexaggeratedly jollyusually he was flat and bitter in his letter.

"Ah" his mother said"I'mafraid he's ruining himselfagainst that creaturewho isn't worthy of hislove--nono morethan a rag doll."

He wanted to come home.  The midsummerholiday was gone;it was a long while to Christmas.  Hewrote in wild excitementsaying he could come for Saturday and Sunday atGoose Fairthe firstweek in October.

"You are not wellmy boy" said hismotherwhen she saw him.She was almost in tears at having him toherself again.

"NoI've not been well" he said. "I've seemed to havea dragging cold all the last monthbut it'sgoingI think."

It was sunny October weather.  He seemedwild with joylike a schoolboy escaped; then again he wassilent and reserved.He was more gaunt than everand there was ahaggard look in his eyes.

"You are doing too much" said hismother to him.

He was doing extra worktrying to make somemoney to marry onhe said.  He only talked to his motheronce on the Saturday night;then he was sad and tender about his beloved.

"And yetyou knowmotherfor all thatif I died she'd bebroken-hearted for two monthsand then she'dstart to forget me.You'd seeshe'd never come home here to lookat my gravenot even once."

"WhyWilliam" said his mother"you're not going to dieso why talk about it?"

"But whether or not---" he replied.

"And she can't help it.  She is likethatand if you chooseher--wellyou can't grumble" said hismother.

On the Sunday morningas he was putting hiscollar on:

"Look" he said to his motherholding up his chin"what arash my collar's made under my chin!"

Just at the junction of chin and throat was abig red inflammation.

"It ought not to do that" said hismother.  "Hereput a bitof this soothing ointment on.  You shouldwear different collars."

He went away on Sunday midnightseeming betterand more solidfor his two days at home.

On Tuesday morning came a telegram from Londonthat he was ill.Mrs. Morel got off her knees from washing thefloorread the telegramcalled a neighbourwent to her landlady andborrowed a sovereignput on her thingsand set off.  Shehurried to Kestoncaught anexpress for London in Nottingham.  She hadto wait in Nottinghamnearly an hour.  A small figure in herblack bonnetshe wasanxiously asking the porters if they knew howto get to Elmers End.The journey was three hours.  She sat inher corner in a kind of stupornever moving.  At King's Cross still noone could tell her howto get to Elmers End.  Carrying her stringbagthat containedher nightdressa comb and brushshe went fromperson to person.At last they sent her underground to CannonStreet.

It was six o'clock when she arrived atWilliam's lodging.The blinds were not down.

"How is he?" she asked.

"No better" said the landlady.

She followed the woman upstairs.  Williamlay on the bedwith bloodshot eyeshis face ratherdiscoloured.  The clothes weretossed aboutthere was no fire in the roomaglass of milk stoodon the stand at his bedside.  No one hadbeen with him.

"Whymy son!" said the motherbravely.

He did not answer.  He looked at herbutdid not see her.Then he began to sayin a dull voiceas ifrepeating a letterfrom dictation:  "Owing to a leakagein the hold of this vesselthe sugar had setand become converted intorock.  It needed hacking---"

He was quite unconscious.  It had been hisbusiness to examinesome such cargo of sugar in the Port of London.

"How long has he been like this?" themother asked the landlady.

"He got home at six o'clock on Mondaymorningand he seemedto sleep all day; then in the night we heardhim talkingand thismorning he asked for you.  So I wiredandwe fetched the doctor."

"Will you have a fire made?"

Mrs. Morel tried to soothe her sonto keep himstill.

The doctor came.  It was pneumoniaandhe saida peculiarerysipelaswhich had started under the chinwhere the collar chafedand was spreading over the face.  He hopedit would not get to the brain.

Mrs. Morel settled down to nurse.  Sheprayed for Williamprayed that he would recognise her.  Butthe young man's face grewmore discoloured.  In the night shestruggled with him.  He ravedand ravedand would not come toconsciousness.  At two o'clockin a dreadful paroxysmhe died.

Mrs. Morel sat perfectly still for an hour inthe lodging bedroom;then she roused the household.

At six o'clockwith the aid of the charwomanshe laid him out;then she went round the dreary London villageto the registrarand the doctor.

At nine o'clock to the cottage on ScargillStreet cameanother wire:

"William died last night.  Let fathercomebring money."

AnniePauland Arthur were at home; Mr. Morelwas goneto work.  The three children said not aword.  Annie began to whimperwith fear; Paul set off for his father.

It was a beautiful day.  At Brinsley pitthe white steam meltedslowly in the sunshine of a soft blue sky; thewheels of the headstockstwinkled high up; the screenshuffling itscoal into the trucksmade a busy noise.

"I want my father; he's got to go toLondon" said the boyto the first man he met on the bank.

"Tha wants Walter Morel?  Go in theeran' tell Joe Ward."

Paul went into the little top office.

"I want my father; he's got to go toLondon."

"Thy feyther?  Is he down? What's his name?"

"Mr. Morel."

"WhatWalter?  Is owt amiss?"

"He's got to go to London."

The man went to the telephone and rang up thebottom office.

"Walter Morel's wantednumber 42Hard. Summat's amiss;there's his lad here."

Then he turned round to Paul.

"He'll be up in a few minutes" hesaid.

Paul wandered out to the pit-top. He watchedthe chair come upwith its wagon of coal.  The great ironcage sank back on its resta full carfle was hauled offan empty tram runon to the chaira bell ting'ed somewherethe chair heavedthen dropped likea stone.

Paul did not realise William was dead; it wasimpossiblewith such a bustle going on.  Thepuller-off swung the small truckon to the turn-tableanother man ran with italong the bank downthe curving lines.

"And William is deadand my mother's inLondonand what willshe be doing?" the boy asked himselfasif it were a conundrum.

He watched chair after chair come upand stillno father.At laststanding beside a wagona man's form!the chair sank onits restsMorel stepped off.  He wasslightly lame from an accident.

"Is it theePaul?  Is 'e worse?"

"You've got to go to London."

The two walked off the pit-bankwhere men werewatching curiously.As they came out and went along the railwaywith thesunny autumn field on one side and a wall oftruckson the otherMorel said in a frightened voice:

"'E's niver gonechild?"

"Yes."

"When wor't?"

"Last night.  We had a telegram frommy mother."

Morel walked on a few stridesthen leaned upagainsta truck-sidehis hand over his eyes.  Hewas not crying.Paul stood looking roundwaiting.  On theweighingmachine a truck trundled slowly.  Paul saweverythingexcept his father leaning against the truck asif he were tired.

Morel had only once before been to London. He set offscared and peakedto help his wife.  Thatwas on Tuesday.The children were left alone in the house. Paul went to workArthur went to schooland Annie had in afriend to be with her.

On Saturday nightas Paul was turning thecornercoming homefrom Kestonhe saw his mother and fatherwhohad come to SethleyBridge Station.  They were walking insilence in the darktiredstraggling apart.  The boy waited.

"Mother!" he saidin the darkness.

Mrs. Morel's small figure seemed not toobserve.  He spoke again.

"Paul!" she saiduninterestedly.

She let him kiss herbut she seemed unaware ofhim.

In the house she was the same--smallwhiteand mute.She noticed nothingshe said nothingonly:

"The coffin will be here to-nightWalter.  You'd better seeabout some help."  Thenturning tothe children:  "We're bringinghim home."

Then she relapsed into the same mute lookinginto spaceher hands folded on her lap.  Paullooking at herfelt he couldnot breathe.  The house was dead silent.

"I went to workmother" he saidplaintively.

"Did you?" she answereddully.

After half an hour Moreltroubled andbewilderedcame 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---YesI suppose so."

Morel and Paul wentwith a candleinto theparlour.There was no gas there.  The fatherunscrewed the top of the bigmahogany oval tableand cleared the middle ofthe room; then hearranged six chairs opposite each othersothat the coffin couldstand on their beds.

"You niver seed such a length as he is!"said the minerand watching anxiously as he worked.

Paul went to the bay window and looked out. The ash-treestood monstrous and black in front of the widedarkness.It was a faintly luminous night.  Paulwent back to his mother.

At ten o'clock Morel called:

"He's here!"

Everyone started.  There was a noise ofunbarring and unlockingthe front doorwhich opened straight from thenight into the room.

"Bring another candle" called Morel.

Annie and Arthur went.  Paul followed withhis mother.He stood with his arm round her waist in theinner doorway.Down the middle of the cleared room waited sixchairsface to face.In the windowagainst the lace curtainsArthur held up one candleand by the open dooragainst the nightAnniestood leaning forwardher brass candlestick glittering.

There was the noise of wheels.  Outside inthe darkness of thestreet below Paul could see horses and a blackvehicleone lampand a few pale faces; then some menminersall in their shirt-sleevesseemed to struggle in the obscurity. Presently two men appearedbowed beneath a great weight.  It wasMorel and his neighbour.

"Steady!" called Morelout ofbreath.

He and his fellow mounted the steep gardenstepheaved intothe candlelight with their gleaming coffin-end.Limbs of other menwere seen struggling behind.  Morel andBurnsin frontstaggered;the great dark weight swayed.

"Steadysteady!" cried Morelas ifin pain.

All the six bearers were up in the smallgardenholding thegreat coffin aloft.  There were three moresteps to the door.The yellow lamp of the carriage shone alonedown the black road.

"Now then!" said Morel.

The coffin swayedthe men began to mount thethree stepswith their load.  Annie's candleflickeredand she whimperedas the first men appearedand the limbs andbowed heads of sixmen struggled to climb into the roombearingthe coffin that rodelike sorrow on their living flesh.

"Ohmy son--my son!"  Mrs.Morel sang softlyand each timethe coffin swung to the unequal climbing of themen:  "Ohmy son--myson--my son!"

"Mother!" Paul whimperedhis handround her waist.

She did not hear.

"Ohmy son--my son!" she repeated.

Paul saw drops of sweat fall from his father'sbrow.Six men were in the room--six coatless menwith yieldingstruggling limbsfilling the room and knockingagainst the furniture.The coffin veeredand was gently lowered on tothe chairs.The sweat fell from Morel's face on its boards.

"My wordhe's a weight!" said a manand the five miners sighedbowedandtrembling with the struggledescended the steps againclosing the door behind them.

The family was alone in the parlour with thegreat polished box.Williamwhen laid outwas six feet fourinches long.  Like a monumentlay the bright brownponderous coffin. Paul thought it would neverbe got out of the room again.  His motherwas stroking the polished wood.

They buried him on the Monday in the littlecemetery on thehillside that looks over the fields at the bigchurch and the houses.It was sunnyand the white chrysanthemumsfrilled themselvesin the warmth.

Mrs. Morel could not be persuadedafter thisto talk andtake her old bright interest in life.  Sheremained shut off.All the way home in the train she had said toherself : "If only itcould have been me! "

When Paul came home at night he found hismother sittingher day's work donewith hands folded in herlap upon hercoarse apron.  She always used to havechanged her dress and puton a black apronbefore.  Now Annie sethis supperand his mothersat looking blankly in front of herher mouthshut tight.Then he beat his brains for news to tell her.

"MotherMiss Jordan was down to-dayandshe said my sketchof a colliery at work was beautiful."

But Mrs. Morel took no notice.  Nightafter night he forcedhimself to tell her thingsalthough she didnot listen.  It drovehim almost insane to have her thus.  Atlast:

"What's a-mattermother?" he asked.

She did not hear.

"What's a-matter?" he persisted. "Motherwhat's a-matter?"

"You know what's the matter" shesaid irritablyturning away.

The lad--he was sixteen years old--went to beddrearily.He was cut off and wretched through OctoberNovember and December.His mother triedbut she could not rouseherself.  She could onlybrood on her dead son; he had been let to dieso cruelly.

At laston December 23with his fiveshillings Christmas-boxin his pocketPaul wandered blindly home. His mother looked at himand her heart stood still.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"I'm badlymother!" he replied. "Mr. Jordan gave me fiveshillings 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 saidunbuttoning his overcoat.

It was the old question.

"I feel badlymother."

She undressed him and put him to bed.  Hehad pneumonia dangerouslythe doctor said.

"Might he never have had it if I'd kepthim at homenot lethim go to Nottingham?" was one of thefirst things she asked.

"He might not have been so bad" saidthe doctor.

Mrs. Morel stood condemned on her own ground.

"I should have watched the livingnot thedead" she told herself.

Paul was very ill.  His mother lay in bedat nights with him;they could not afford a nurse.  He grewworseand the crisis approached.One night he tossed into consciousness in theghastlysickly feelingof dissolutionwhen all the cells in the bodyseem in intenseirritability to be breaking downandconsciousness makes a lastflare of strugglelike madness.

"I s'll diemother!" be criedheaving for breath on the pillow.

She lifted him upcrying in a small voice:

"Ohmy son--my son!"

That brought him to.  He realised her. His whole will roseup and arrested him.  He put his head onher breastand took easeof her for love.

"For some things" said his aunt"itwas a good thing Paulwas ill that Christmas.  I believe itsaved his mother."

Paul was in bed for seven weeks.  He gotup white and fragile.His father had bought him a pot of scarlet andgold tulips.They used to flame in the window in the Marchsunshine as he saton the sofa chattering to his mother.  Thetwo knitted together inperfect intimacy.  Mrs. Morel's life nowrooted itself in Paul.

William had been a prophet.  Mrs. Morelhad a little presentand a letter from Lily at Christmas.  Mrs.Morel's sister hada letter at the New Year.

"I was at a ball last night.  Somedelightful people were thereand I enjoyed myself thoroughly" said theletter.  "I had everydance--did not sit out one."

Mrs. Morel never heard any more of her.

Morel and his wife were gentle with each otherfor some timeafter the death of their son.  He would gointo a kind of dazestaring wide-eyed and blank across the room. Then he got up suddenlyand hurried out to the Three Spotsreturningin his normal state.But never in his life would he go for a walk upShepstonepast the office where his son had workedandhe always avoidedthe cemetery.

 

PART TWO

CHAPTER VII

LAD-AND-GIRL LOVE

PAUL had been many times up to Willey Farmduring the autumn.He was friends with the two youngest boys. Edgar the eldestwould notcondescend at first.  And Miriam alsorefused to be approached.She was afraid of being set at noughtas byher own brothers.The girl was romantic in her soul. Everywhere was a Walter Scottheroine being loved by men with helmets or withplumes in their caps.She herself was something of a princess turnedinto a swine-girlin her own imagination.  And she wasafraid lest this boywhoneverthelesslooked something like aWalter Scott herowho could paint and speak Frenchand knew whatalgebra meantand who went by train to Nottingham every daymight consider hersimply as the swine-girlunable to perceivethe princess beneath;so she held aloof.

Her great companion was her mother.  Theywere both brown-eyedand inclined to be mysticalsuch women astreasure religioninside thembreathe it in their nostrilsandsee the whole of lifein a mist thereof.  So to MiriamChristand God made one great figurewhich she loved tremblingly and passionatelywhen a tremendous sunsetburned out the western skyand EdithsandLucysand RowenasBrian deBois GuilbertsRob Roysand Guy Manneringsrustled the sunny leavesin the morningor sat in her bedroom aloftalonewhen it snowed.That was life to her.  For the restshedrudged in the housewhich work she would not have minded had nother clean red floor beenmucked up immediately by the tramplingfarm-boots of her brothers.She madly wanted her little brother of four tolet her swathehim and stifle him in her love; she went tochurch reverentlywith bowed headand quivered in anguish fromthe vulgarity of theother choir-girls and from the common-soundingvoice of the curate;she fought with her brotherswhom sheconsidered brutal louts;and she held not her father in too high esteembecause he did notcarry any mystical ideals cherished in hisheartbut only wantedto have as easy a time as he couldand hismeals when he was readyfor them.

She hated her position as swine-girl. Shewanted to be considered.She wanted to learnthinking that if she couldreadas Paul saidhe could read"Colomba"or the"Voyage autour de ma Chambre"theworld would have a different face for her and adeepened respect.She could not be princess by wealth orstanding.  So she was madto have learning whereon to pride herself. For she was differentfrom other folkand must not be scooped upamong the common fry.Learning was the only distinction to which shethought to aspire.

Her beauty--that of a shywildquiveringlysensitivething--seemed nothing to her.  Even hersoulso strong for rhapsodywas not enough.  She must have somethingto reinforce her pridebecause she felt different from other people. Paul she eyedrather wistfully.  On the wholeshescorned the male sex.But here was a new specimenquicklightgracefulwho couldbe gentle and who could be sadand who wascleverand who knewa lotand who had a death in the family. The boy's poormorsel of learning exalted him almost sky-highin her esteem.Yet she tried hard to scorn himbecause hewould not see in herthe princess but only the swine-girl. And hescarcely observed her.

Then he was so illand she felt he would beweak.  Then shewould be stronger than he.  Then she couldlove him.  If she couldbe mistress of him in his weaknesstake careof himif he coulddepend on herif she couldas it werehavehim in her armshow she would love him!

As soon as the skies brightened andplum-blossom was outPaul drove off in the milkman's heavy float upto Willey Farm.Mr. Leivers shouted in a kindly fashion at theboythen clickedto the horse as they climbed the hill slowlyin the freshnessof the morning.  White clouds went ontheir waycrowding to theback of the hills that were rousing in thespringtime.  The waterof Nethermere lay belowvery blue against theseared meadows andthe thorn-trees.

It was four and a half miles' drive.  Tinybuds on the hedgesvivid as copper-greenwere opening intorosettes; and thrushes calledand blackbirds shrieked and scolded.  Itwas a newglamorous world.

Miriampeeping through the kitchen windowsawthe horse walkthrough the big white gate into the farmyardthat was backed by theoak-woodstill bare.  Then a youth in aheavy overcoat climbed down.He put up his hands for the whip and the rugthat the good-lookingruddy farmer handed down to him.

Miriam appeared in the doorway.  She wasnearly sixteenvery beautifulwith her warm colouringhergravityher eyesdilating suddenly like an ecstasy.

"I say" said Paulturning shylyaside"your daffodilsare nearly out.  Isn't it early?  Butdon't they look cold?"

"Cold!" said Miriamin her musicalcaressing voice.

"The green on their buds---" and hefaltered into silence timidly.

"Let me take the rug" said Miriamover-gently.

"I can carry it" he answeredratherinjured.  But he yieldedit to her.

Then Mrs. Leivers appeared.

"I'm sure you're tired and cold" shesaid.  "Let me takeyour coat.  It IS heavy.  You mustn'twalk far in it."

She helped him off with his coat.  He wasquite unusedto such attention.  She was almostsmothered under its weight.

"Whymother" laughed the farmer ashe passed through the kitchenswinging the great milk-churns"you'vegot almost more than youcan manage there."

She beat up the sofa cushions for the youth.

The kitchen was very small and irregular. The farm had beenoriginally a labourer's cottage.  And thefurniture was old and battered.But Paul loved it--loved the sack-bag thatformed the hearthrugand the funny little corner under the stairsand the small windowdeep in the cornerthrough whichbending alittlebe could seethe plum trees in the back garden and thelovely round hills beyond.

"Won't you lie down?" said Mrs.Leivers.

"Oh no; I'm not tired" he said. "Isn't it lovely coming outdon't you think?  I saw a sloe-bush inblossom and a lot of celandines.I'm glad it's sunny."

"Can I give you anything to eat or todrink?"

"Nothank you."

"How's your mother?"

"I think she's tired now.  I thinkshe's had too much to do.Perhaps in a little while she'll go to Skegnesswith me.  Then she'llbe able to rest.  I s'll be glad if shecan."

"Yes" replied Mrs. Leivers. "It's a wonder she isn'till herself."

Miriam was moving about preparing dinner. Paul watchedeverything that happened.  His face waspale and thinbut his eyeswere quick and bright with life as ever. He watched the strangealmost rhapsodic way in which the girl movedaboutcarrying a greatstew-jar to the ovenor looking in thesaucepan.  The atmospherewas different from that of his own homewhereeverything seemedso ordinary.  When Mr. Leivers calledloudly outside to the horsethat was reaching over to feed on therose-bushes in the gardenthe girl startedlooked round with dark eyesas if something hadcome breaking in on her world.  There wasa sense of silence insidethe house and out.  Miriam seemed as insome dreamy talea maidenin bondageher spirit dreaming in a land faraway and magical.And her discolouredold blue frock and herbroken boots seemedonly like the romantic rags of King Cophetua'sbeggar-maid.

She suddenly became aware of his keen blue eyesupon hertaking her all in.  Instantly her brokenboots and her frayed oldfrock hurt her.  She resented his seeingeverything.  Even he knewthat her stocking was not pulled up.  Shewent into the sculleryblushing deeply.  And afterwards her handstrembled slightly ather work.  She nearly dropped all shehandled.  When her insidedream was shakenher body quivered withtrepidation.  She resentedthat he saw so much.

Mrs. Leivers sat for some time talking to theboyalthough shewas needed at her work.  She was toopolite to leave him.Presently she excused herself and rose. After a while she lookedinto the tin saucepan.

"Oh DEARMiriam" she cried"thesepotatoes have boiled dry!"

Miriam started as if she had been stung.

"HAVE theymother?" she cried.

"I shouldn't careMiriam" said themother"if I hadn'ttrusted them to you."  She peeredinto the pan.

The girl stiffened as if from a blow.  Herdark eyes dilated;she remained standing in the same spot.

"Well" she answeredgripped tightin self-conscious shame"I'm sure I looked at them five minutessince."

"Yes" said the mother"I knowit's easily done."

"They're not much burned" saidPaul.  "It doesn't matterdoes it?"

Mrs. Leivers looked at the youth with herbrownhurt eyes.

"It wouldn't matter but for the boys"she said to him."Only Miriam knows what a trouble theymake if the potatoes are'caught'."

"Then" thought Paul to himself"youshouldn't let them makea trouble."

After a while Edgar came in.  He woreleggingsand his bootswere covered with earth.  He was rathersmallrather formalfor a farmer.  He glanced at Paulnoddedto him distantlyand said:

"Dinner ready?"

"NearlyEdgar" replied the motherapologetically.

"I'm ready for mine" said the youngmantaking up the newspaperand reading.  Presently the rest of thefamily trooped in.Dinner was served.  The meal went ratherbrutally.  The over-gentlenessand apologetic tone of the mother brought outall the brutalityof manners in the sons.  Edgar tasted thepotatoesmoved his mouthquickly like a rabbitlooked indignantly athis motherand said:

"These potatoes are burntmother."

"YesEdgar.  I forgot them for aminute.  Perhaps you'llhave bread if you can't eat them."

Edgar looked in anger across at Miriam.

"What was Miriam doing that she couldn'tattend to them?"he said.

Miriam looked up.  Her mouth openedherdark eyes blazedand wincedbut she said nothing.  Sheswallowed her angerand her shamebowing her dark head.

"I'm sure she was trying hard" saidthe mother.

"She hasn't got sense even to boil thepotatoes" said Edgar."What is she kept at home for?"

"On'y for eating everything that's left inth' pantry" said Maurice.

"They don't forget that potato-pie againstour Miriam"laughed the father.

She was utterly humiliated.  The mothersat in silencesufferinglike some saint out of place at thebrutal board.

It puzzled Paul.  He wondered vaguely whyall this intense feelingwent running because of a few burnt potatoes. The mother exaltedeverything--even a bit of housework--to theplane of a religious trust.The sons resented this; they felt themselvescut away underneathandthey answered with brutality and also with asneering superciliousness.

Paul was just opening out from childhood intomanhood.This atmospherewhere everything took areligious valuecame witha subtle fascination to him.  There wassomething in the air.His own mother was logical.  Here therewas something differentsomething he lovedsomething that at times hehated.

Miriam quarrelled with her brothers fiercely. Later inthe afternoonwhen they had gone away againher mother said:

"You disappointed me at dinner-timeMiriam."

The girl dropped her head.

"They are such BRUTES!" she suddenlycriedlooking upwith flashing eyes.

"But hadn't you promised not to answerthem?" said the mother."And I believed in you.  I CAN'Tstand it when you wrangle."

"But they're so hateful!" criedMiriam"and--and LOW."

"Yesdear.  But how often have Iasked you not to answerEdgar back?  Can't you let him say what helikes?"

"But why should he say what he likes?"

"Aren't you strong enough to bear itMiriamif even for my sake?Are you so weak that you must wrangle withthem?"

Mrs. Leivers stuck unflinchingly to thisdoctrine of "the othercheek".  She could not instil it atall into the boys.  With thegirls she succeeded betterand Miriam was thechild of her heart.The boys loathed the other cheek when it waspresented to them.Miriam was often sufficiently lofty to turnit.  Then they spaton her and hated her.  But she walked inher proud humilityliving within herself.

There was always this feeling of jangle anddiscord in theLeivers family.  Although the boysresented so bitterly this eternalappeal to their deeper feelings of resignationand proud humilityyet it had its effect on them.  They couldnot establish between themselvesand an outsider just the ordinary human feelingand unexaggeratedfriendship; they were always restless for thesomething deeper.Ordinary folk seemed shallow to themtrivialand inconsiderable.And so they were unaccustomedpainfullyuncouth in the simplestsocial intercoursesufferingand yet insolentin their superiority.Then beneath was the yearning for thesoul-intimacy to which they couldnot attain because they were too dumbandevery approach to closeconnection was blocked by their clumsy contemptof other people.They wanted genuine intimacybut they couldnot get even normallynear to anyonebecause they scorned to takethe first stepsthey scorned the triviality which forms commonhuman intercourse.

Paul fell under Mrs. Leivers's spell. Everything hada religious and intensified meaning when he waswith her.His soulhurthighly developedsought her asif for nourishment.Together they seemed to sift the vital factfrom an experience.

Miriam was her mother's daughter.  In thesunshine of theafternoon mother and daughter went down thefields with him.They looked for nests.  There was a jennywren's in the hedgeby the orchard.

"I DO want you to see this" saidMrs. Leivers.

He crouched down and carefully put his fingerthrough thethorns into the round door of the nest.

"It's almost as if you were feeling insidethe live bodyof the bird" he said"it's sowarm.  They say a bird makesits nest round like a cup with pressing itsbreast on it.Then how did it make the ceiling roundIwonder?"

The nest seemed to start into life for the twowomen.After thatMiriam came to see it every day. It seemed so closeto her.  Againgoing down the hedgesidewith the girlhe noticedthe celandinesscalloped splashes of goldonthe side of the ditch.

"I like them" he said"whentheir petals go flat back withthe sunshine.  They seemed to be pressingthemselves at the sun."

And then the celandines ever after drew herwith a little spell.Anthropomorphic as she wasshe stimulated himinto appreciatingthings thusand then they lived for her. She seemed to need thingskindling in her imagination or in her soulbefore she felt shehad them.  And she was cut off fromordinary life by her religiousintensity which made the world for her either anunnery gardenor a paradisewhere sin and knowledge werenotor else an uglycruel thing.

So it was in this atmosphere of subtleintimacythis meetingin their common feeling for something inNaturethat their love started.

Personallyhe was a long time before herealized her.For ten months he had to stay at home after hisillness.  For awhile he went to Skegness with his motherandwas perfectly happy.But even from the seaside he wrote long lettersto Mrs. Leiversabout the shore and the sea.  And hebrought back his belovedsketches of the flat Lincoln coastanxious forthem to see.Almost they would interest the Leivers morethan they interestedhis mother.  It was not his art Mrs. Morelcared about; it was himselfand his achievement.  But Mrs. Leivers andher children were almosthis disciples.  They kindled him and madehim glow to his workwhereas his mother's influence was to make himquietly determinedpatientdoggedunwearied.

He soon was friends with the boyswhoserudeness wasonly superficial.  They had allwhen theycould trust themselvesa strange gentleness and lovableness.

"Will you come with me on to the fallow?"asked Edgarrather hesitatingly.

Paul went joyfullyand spent the afternoonhelping to hoe or tosingle turnips with his friend.  He usedto lie with the three brothersin the hay piled up in the barn and tell themabout Nottingham andabout Jordan's. In returnthey taught him tomilkand let him dolittle jobs--chopping hay or pulpingturnips--just as much as he liked.At midsummer he worked all through hay-harvestwith themand thenhe loved them.  The family was so cut offfrom the world actually.They seemedsomehowlike "les derniersfils d'une race epuisee".Though the lads were strong and healthyyetthey had all thatover-sensitiveness and hanging-back which madethem so lonelyyet also such closedelicate friends oncetheir intimacy was won.Paul loved them dearlyand they him.

Miriam came later.  But he had come intoher life before shemade any mark on his.  One dull afternoonwhen the men were onthe land and the rest at schoolonly Miriamand her motherat homethe girl said to himafter havinghesitated 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 himanything.Men have such different standards of worth fromwomenand her dearthings--the valuable things to her--herbrothers had so often mockedor flouted.

"Come onthen" he repliedjumpingup.

There were two cowshedsone on either side ofthe barn.In the lowerdarker shed there was standingfor four cows.Hens flew scolding over the manger-wall as theyouth and girl wentforward for the great thick rope which hungfrom the beam in thedarkness overheadand was pushed back over apeg in the wall.

"It's something like a rope!" heexclaimed appreciatively;and he sat down on itanxious to try it. Then immediately he rose.

"Come onthenand have first go"he said to the girl.

"See" she answeredgoing into thebarn"we put some bagson the seat"; and she made the swingcomfortable for him.That gave her pleasure.  He held the rope.

"Come onthen" he said to her.

"NoI won't go first" she answered.

She stood aside in her stillaloof fashion.

"Why?"

"You go" she pleaded.

Almost for the first time in her life she hadthe pleasureof giving up to a manof spoiling him. Paul looked at her.

"All right" he saidsitting down. "Mind out!"

He set off with a springand in a moment wasflying throughthe airalmost out of the door of the shedthe upper half of whichwas openshowing outside the drizzling rainthe filthy yardthe cattle standing disconsolate against theblack cartshedand atthe back of all the grey-green wall of thewood.  She stood belowin her crimson tam-o'-shanter and watched. He looked down at herand she saw his blue eyes sparkling.

"It's a treat of a swing" he said.

"Yes."

He was swinging through the airevery bit ofhim swinginglike a bird that swoops for joy of movement. And he looked downat her.  Her crimson cap hung over herdark curlsher beautifulwarm faceso still in a kind of broodingwaslifted towards him.It was dark and rather cold in the shed. Suddenly a swallow camedown from the high roof and darted out of thedoor.

"I didn't know a bird was watching"he called.

He swung negligently.  She could feel himfalling and liftingthrough the airas if he were lying on someforce.

"Now I'll die" he saidin adetacheddreamy voiceas thoughhe were the dying motion of the swing. She watched himfascinated.Suddenly he put on the brake and jumped out.

"I've had a long turn" he said. "But it's a treatof a swing--it's a real treat of a swing!"

Miriam was amused that he took a swing soseriously and feltso warmly over it.

"No; you go on" she said.

"Whydon't you want one?" he askedastonished.

"Wellnot much.  I'll have just alittle."

She sat downwhilst he kept the bags in placefor her.

"It's so ripping!" he saidsettingher in motion.  "Keep yourheels upor they'll bang the manger wall."

She felt the accuracy with which he caught herexactly at theright momentand the exactly proportionatestrength of his thrustand she was afraid.  Down to her bowelswent the hot wave of fear.She was in his hands.  Againfirm andinevitable came the thrust atthe right moment.  She gripped the ropealmost swooning.

"Ha!" she laughed in fear.  "Nohigher!"

"But you're not a BIT high" heremonstrated.

"But no higher."

He heard the fear in her voiceand desisted. Her heart meltedin hot pain when the moment came for him tothrust her forward again.But he left her alone.  She began tobreathe.

"Won't you really go any farther?" heasked.  "Should I keepyou there?"

"No; let me go by myself" sheanswered.

He moved aside and watched her.

"Whyyou're scarcely moving" hesaid.

She laughed slightly with shameand in amoment got down.

"They say if you can swing you won't besea-sick" he saidas he mounted again.  "I don'tbelieve I should ever be sea-sick."

Away he went.  There was somethingfascinating to her in him.For the moment he was nothing but a piece ofswinging stuff;not a particle of him that did not swing. She could never loseherself sonor could her brothers.  Itroused a warmth in her.It was almost as if he were a flame that hadlit a warmth in herwhilst he swung in the middle air.

And gradually the intimacy with the familyconcentratedfor Paul on three persons--the motherEdgarand Miriam.To the mother he went for that sympathy andthat appeal which seemedto draw him out.  Edgar was his very closefriend.  And to Miriamhe more or less condescendedbecause sheseemed so humble.

But the girl gradually sought him out.  Ifhe brought up hissketch-bookit was she who pondered longestover the last picture.Then she would look up at him.  Suddenlyher dark eyes alight likewater that shakes with a stream of gold in thedarkshe would ask:

"Why do I like this so?"

Always something in his breast shrank fromthese closeintimatedazzled looks of hers.

"Why DO you?" he asked.

"I don't know.  It seems so true."

"It's because--it's because there isscarcely any shadow in it;it's more shimmeryas if I'd painted theshimmering protoplasmin the leaves and everywhereand not thestiffness of the shape.That seems dead to me.  Only thisshimmeriness is the real living.The shape is a dead crust.  The shimmer isinside really."

And shewith her little finger in her mouthwould ponderthese sayings.  They gave her a feeling oflife againand vivifiedthings which had meant nothing to her. She managed to find somemeaning in his strugglingabstract speeches. And they werethe medium through which she came distinctly ather beloved objects.

Another day she sat at sunset whilst he waspainting somepine-trees which caught the red glare from thewest.  He had been quiet.

"There you are!" he said suddenly. "I wanted that.  Nowlook atthem and tell meare they pine trunks or arethey red coalsstanding-up pieces of fire in that darkness? There's God's burningbush for youthat burned not away."

Miriam lookedand was frightened.  Butthe pine trunks werewonderful to herand distinct.  He packedhis box and rose.Suddenly he looked at her.

"Why are you always sad?" he askedher.

"Sad!" she exclaimedlooking up athim with startledwonderful brown eyes.

"Yes" he replied.  "Youare always sad."

"I am not--ohnot a bit!" she cried.

"But even your joy is like a flame comingoff of sadness"he persisted.  "You're never jollyor even just all right."

"No" she pondered.  "Iwonder--why?"

"Because you're not; because you'redifferent insidelike a pine-treeand then you flare up; butyou're not justlike an ordinary treewith fidgety leaves andjolly---"

He got tangled up in his own speech; but shebrooded on itand he had a strangeroused sensationas ifhis feelings were new.She got so near him.  It was a strangestimulant.

Then sometimes he hated her.  Her youngestbrother was only five.He was a frail ladwith immense brown eyes inhis quaint fragileface--one of Reynolds's "Choir of Angels"with a touch of elf.Often Miriam kneeled to the child and drew himto her.

"Ehmy Hubert!" she sangin a voiceheavy and surchargedwith love.  "Ehmy Hubert!"

Andfolding him in her armsshe swayedslightly from sideto side with loveher face half liftedhereyes half closedher voice drenched with love.

"Don't!" said the childuneasy--"don'tMiriam!"

"Yes; you love medon't you?" shemurmured deep in her throatalmost as if she were in a tranceand swayingalso as if she wereswooned in an ecstasy of love.

"Don't!" repeated the childa frownon his clear brow.

"You love medon't you?" shemurmured.

"What do you make such a FUSS for?"cried Paulall in sufferingbecause of her extreme emotion.  "Whycan't you be ordinary with him?"

She let the child goand roseand saidnothing.  Her intensitywhich would leave no emotion on a normal planeirritated the youthinto a frenzy.  And this fearfulnakedcontact of her on smalloccasions shocked him.  He was used to hismother's reserve.And on such occasions he was thankful in hisheart and soul that hehad his motherso sane and wholesome.

All the life of Miriam's body was in her eyeswhich were usuallydark as a dark churchbut could flame withlight like a conflagration.Her face scarcely ever altered from its look ofbrooding.She might have been one of the women who wentwith Mary when Jesuswas dead.  Her body was not flexible andliving.  She walkedwith a swingrather heavilyher head bowedforwardpondering.She was not clumsyand yet none of hermovements seemed quiteTHE movement.  Oftenwhen wiping thedishesshe would standin bewilderment and chagrin because she hadpulled in two halvesa cup or a tumbler.  It was as ifin herfear and self-mistrustshe put too much strength into the effort. There was no loosenessor abandon about her.  Everything wasgripped stiff with intensityand her effortoverchargedclosed in onitself.

She rarely varied from her swingingforwardintense walk.Occasionally she ran with Paul down thefields.  Then her eyesblazed naked in a kind of ecstasy thatfrightened him.  But she wasphysically afraid.  If she were gettingover a stileshe gripped hishands in a little hard anguishand began tolose her presence of mind.And he could not persuade her to jump from evena small height.Her eyes dilatedbecame exposed andpalpitating.

"No!" she criedhalf laughing interror--"no!"

"You shall!" he cried onceandjerking her forwardhe broughther falling from the fence.  But her wild"Ah!" of painas if shewere losing consciousnesscut him.  Shelanded on her feet safelyand afterwards had courage in this respect.

She was very much dissatisfied with her lot.

"Don't you like being at home?" Paul asked hersurprised.

"Who would?" she answeredlow andintense.  "What is it?I'm all day cleaning what the boys make just asbad in five minutes.I don't WANT to be at home."

"What do you wantthen?"

"I want to do something.  I want achance like anybody else.Why should 1because I'm a girlbe kept athome and not allowedto be anything?  What chance HAVE I?"

"Chance of what?"

"Of knowing anything--of learningofdoing anything.It's not fairbecause I'm a woman."

She seemed very bitter.  Paul wondered. In his own home Anniewas almost glad to be a girl.  She had notso much responsibility;things were lighter for her.  She neverwanted to be other than a girl.But Miriam almost fiercely wished she were aman.  And yet she hatedmen at the same time.

"But it's as well to be a woman as a man"he saidfrowning.

"Ha! Is it?  Men have everything."

"I should think women ought to be as gladto be women as menare 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 bethat I know nothing?"

"What! such as mathematics and French?"

"Why SHOULDN'T I know mathematics? Yes!" she criedher eyeexpanding in a kind of defiance.

"Wellyou can learn as much as I know"he said.  "I'll teach youif you like."

Her eyes dilated.  She mistrusted him asteacher.

"Would you?" he asked.

Her head had droppedand she was sucking herfinger 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"Ihope she'll get fat on it."

When he went up to the farm on the Mondayeveningit wasdrawing twilight.  Miriam was justsweeping up the kitchenand waskneeling at the hearth when he entered. Everyone was out but her.She looked round at himflushedher dark eyesshiningher finehair falling about her face.

"Hello!" she saidsoft and musical. "I knew it was you."

"How?"

"I knew your step.  Nobody treads soquick and firm."

He sat downsighing.

"Ready to do some algebra?" he askeddrawing a little bookfrom his pocket.

"But---"

He could feel her backing away.

"You said you wanted" he insisted.

"To-nightthough?" she faltered.

"But I came on purpose.  And if youwant to learn ityou must begin."

She took up her ashes in the dustpan and lookedat himhalf tremulouslylaughing.

"Yesbut to-night! You seeI haven'tthought of it."

"Wellmy goodness!  Take the ashesand come."

He went and sat on the stone bench in theback-yardwherethe big milk-cans were standingtipped uptoair.  The men werein the cowsheds.  He could hear the littlesing-song of the milkspurting into the pails.  Presently shecamebringing some biggreenish apples.

"You know you like them" she said.

He took a bite.

"Sit down" he saidwith his mouthfull.

She was short-sightedand peered over hisshoulder.It irritated him.  He gave her the bookquickly.

"Here" he said.  "It'sonly letters for figures.  You putdown 'a' instead of '2' or '6'."

They workedhe talkingshe with her head downon the book.He was quick and hasty.  She neveranswered.  Occasionallywhen hedemanded of her"Do you see?" shelooked up at himher eyes widewith the half-laugh that comes of fear. "Don't you?" he cried.

He had been too fast.  But she saidnothing.  He questionedher morethen got hot.  It made his bloodrouse to see her thereas it wereat his mercyher mouth openhereyes dilated withlaughter that was afraidapologeticashamed. Then Edgar camealong with two buckets of milk.

"Hello!" he said.  "Whatare you doing?"

"Algebra" replied Paul.

"Algebra!" repeated Edgar curiously. Then he passed on witha laugh.  Paul took a bite at hisforgotten applelooked at themiserable cabbages in the gardenpecked intolace by the fowlsand he wanted to pull them up.  Then heglanced at Miriam.She was poring over the bookseemed absorbedin ityet tremblinglest she could not get at it.  It made himcross.  She was ruddyand beautiful.  Yet her soul seemed to beintensely supplicating.The algebra-book she closedshrinkingknowinghe was angered;and at the same instant he grew gentleseeingher hurt because she didnot understand.

But things came slowly to her.  And whenshe held herselfin a gripseemed so utterly humble before thelessonit made hisblood rouse.  He stormed at hergotashamedcontinued the lessonand grew furious againabusing her.  Shelistened in silence.Occasionallyvery rarelyshe defendedherself.  Her liquid darkeyes blazed at him.

"You don't give me time to learn it"she said.

"All right" he answeredthrowingthe book on the table and lightinga cigarette.  Thenafter a whilehe wentback to her repentant.So the lessons went.  He was always eitherin a rage or very gentle.

"What do you tremble your SOUL before itfor?" he cried."You don't learn algebra with your blessedsoul.  Can't you lookat it with your clear simple wits?"

Oftenwhen he went again into the kitchenMrs. Leivers wouldlook at him reproachfullysaying:

"Pauldon't be so hard on Miriam. She may not be quickbut I'm sure she tries."

"I can't help it" he said ratherpitiably.  "I go off like it."

"You don't mind meMiriamdo you?"he asked of the girl later.

"No" she reassured him in herbeautiful deep tones--"noIdon't mind."

"Don't mind me; it's my fault."

Butin spite of himselfhis blood began toboil with her.It was strange that no one else made him insuch fury.He flared against her.  Once he threw thepencil in her face.There was a silence.  She turned her faceslightly aside.

"I didn't---" he beganbut got nofartherfeeling weak inall his bones.  She never reproached himor was angry with him.He was often cruelly ashamed.  But stillagain his anger burstlike a bubble surcharged; and stillwhen hesaw her eagersilentas it wereblind facehe felt he wanted tothrow the pencilin it; and stillwhen he saw her handtrembling and her mouthparted with sufferinghis heart was scaldedwith pain for her.And because of the intensity to which sheroused himhe sought her.

Then he often avoided her and went with Edgar. Miriam andher brother were naturally antagonistic. Edgar was a rationalistwho was curiousand had a sort of scientificinterest in life.It was a great bitterness to Miriam to seeherself deserted by Paulfor Edgarwho seemed so much lower.  Butthe youth was very happywith her elder brother.  The two men spentafternoons togetheron the land or in the loft doing carpentrywhen it rained.And they talked togetheror Paul taught Edgarthe songs he himselfhad learned from Annie at the piano.  Andoften all the menMr. Leivers as wellhad bitter debates on thenationalizing of the landand similar problems.  Paul had alreadyheard his mother's viewsand as these were as yet his ownhe argued forher.  Miriam attendedand took partbut was all the time waitinguntil it should be overand a personal communication might begin.

"After all" she said within herself"if the landwere nationalizedEdgar and Paul and I wouldbe just the same."So she waited for the youth to come back toher.

He was studying for his painting.  Heloved to sit at homealone with his motherat nightworking andworking.  She sewedor read.  Thenlooking up from his taskhe would rest his eyesfor a moment on her facethat was bright withliving warmthand he returned gladly to his work.

"I can do my best things when you sitthere in yourrocking-chairmother" he said.

"I'm sure!" she exclaimedsniffingwith mock scepticism.But she felt it was soand her heart quiveredwith brightness.For many hours she sat stillslightlyconscious of him labouring awaywhilst she worked or read her book.  Andhewith all his soul'sintensity directing his pencilcould feel herwarmth inside himlike strength.  They were both very happysoand both unconsciousof it.  These timesthat meant so muchand which were real livingthey almost ignored.

He was conscious only when stimulated.  Asketch finishedhe always wanted to take it to Miriam. Then he was stimulatedinto knowledge of the work he had producedunconsciously.In contact with Miriam he gained insight; hisvision went deeper.From his mother he drew the life-warmththestrength to produce;Miriam urged this warmth into intensity like awhite light.

When he returned to the factory the conditionsof work were better.He had Wednesday afternoon off to go to the ArtSchool--Miss Jordan's provision--returning in theevening.  Then the factoryclosed at six instead of eight on Thursday andFriday evenings.

One evening in the summer Miriam and he wentover the fieldsby Herod's Farm on their way from the libraryhome.  So it wasonly three miles to Willey Farm.  Therewas a yellow glow over themowing-grassand the sorrel-heads burnedcrimson.  Graduallyas theywalked along the high landthe gold in thewest sank down to redthe red to crimsonand then the chill bluecrept up against the glow.

They came out upon the high road to Alfretonwhich ranwhite between the darkening fields.  TherePaul hesitated.It was two miles home for himone mile forwardfor Miriam.They both looked up the road that ran in shadowright under theglow of the north-west sky.  On the crestof the hillSelbywith its stark houses and the up-prickedheadstocks of the pitstood in black silhouette small against thesky.

He looked at his watch.

"Nine o'clock!" he said.

The pair stoodloth to parthugging theirbooks.

"The wood is so lovely now" shesaid.  "I wanted you to see it."

He followed her slowly across the road to thewhite gate.

"They grumble so if I'm late" hesaid.

"But you're not doing anything wrong"she answered impatiently.

He followed her across the nibbled pasture inthe dusk.There was a coolness in the wooda scent ofleavesof honeysuckleand a twilight.  The two walked insilence.  Night came wonderfully thereamong the throng of dark tree-trunks. He lookedroundexpectant.

She wanted to show him a certain wild-rose bushshehad discovered.  She knew it waswonderful.  And yettill he had seen itshe felt it had not comeinto her soul.Only he could make it her ownimmortal. She was dissatisfied.

Dew was already on the paths.  In the oldoak-wood a mistwas risingand he hesitatedwondering whetherone whitenesswere a strand of fog or only campion-flowerspallid in a cloud.

By the time they came to the pine-trees Miriamwas getting veryeager and very tense.  Her bush might begone.  She might not beable to find it; and she wanted it so much. Almost passionatelyshe wanted to be with him when be stood beforethe flowers.They were going to have a communiontogether--something thatthrilled hersomething holy.  He waswalking beside her in silence.They were very near to each other.  Shetrembledand he listenedvaguely anxious.

Coming to the edge of the woodthey saw thesky in frontlike mother-of-pearland the earth growingdark.  Somewhere on theoutermost branches of the pine-wood thehoneysuckle was streaming scent.

"Where?" he asked.

"Down the middle path" she murmuredquivering.

When they turned the corner of the path shestood still.In the wide walk between the pinesgazingrather frightenedshe could distinguish nothing for some moments;the greying lightrobbed things of their colour.  Then shesaw her bush.

"Ah!" she criedhastening forward.

It was very still.  The tree was tall andstraggling.It had thrown its briers over a hawthorn-bushand its longstreamers trailed thickright down to thegrasssplashing thedarkness everywhere with great spilt starspure white.  In bossesof ivory and in large splashed stars the rosesgleamed on thedarkness of foliage and stems and grass. Paul and Miriam stoodclose togethersilentand watched. Point after point the steadyroses shone out to themseeming to kindlesomething in their souls.The dusk came like smoke aroundand still didnot put out the roses.

Paul looked into Miriam's eyes.  She waspale and expectantwith wonderher lips were partedand her darkeyes lay open to him.His look seemed to travel down into her. Her soul quivered.It was the communion she wanted.  Heturned asideas if pained.He turned to the bush.

"They seem as if they walk likebutterfliesand shake themselves"he said.

She looked at her roses.  They were whitesome incurved and holyothers expanded in an ecstasy.  The treewas dark as a shadow.She lifted her hand impulsively to the flowers;she went forwardand touched them in worship.

"Let us go" he said.

There was a cool scent of ivory roses--a whitevirgin scent.Something made him feel anxious andimprisoned.  The two walkedin silence.

"Till Sunday" he said quietlyandleft her; and she walkedhome slowlyfeeling her soul satisfied withthe holiness of the night.He stumbled down the path.  And as soon ashe was out of the woodin the free open meadowwhere he couldbreathehe started to runas fast as he could.  It was like adelicious delirium in his veins.

Always when he went with Miriamand it grewrather latehe knewhis mother was fretting and getting angry abouthim--whyhe couldnot understand.  As he went into thehouseflinging down his caphis mother looked up at the clock.  Shehad been sitting thinkingbecause a chill to her eyes prevented herreading.  She could feelPaul being drawn away by this girl.  Andshe did not care for Miriam."She is one of those who will want to sucka man's soul out tillhe has none of his own left" she said toherself; "and he is justsuch a gaby as to let himself be absorbed. She will never let himbecome a man; she never will."  Sowhile he was away with MiriamMrs. Morel grew more and more worked up.

She glanced at the clock and saidcoldly andrather tired:

"You have been far enough to-night."

His soulwarm and exposed from contact withthe girlshrank.

"You must have been right home with her"his mother continued.

He would not answer.  Mrs. Morellookingat him quicklysaw his hair was damp on his forehead withhastesaw him frowningin his heavy fashionresentfully.

"She must be wonderfully fascinatingthatyou can't get awayfrom herbut must go trailing eight miles atthis time of night."

He was hurt between the past glamour withMiriam and theknowledge that his mother fretted.  He hadmeant not to say anythingto refuse to answer.  But he could notharden his heart to ignorehis mother.

"I DO like to talk to her" heanswered irritably.

"Is there nobody else to talk to?"

"You wouldn't say anything if I went withEdgar."

"You know I should.  You knowwhoever you went withI should say it was too far for you to gotrailinglate at nightwhen you've been to Nottingham. Besides"--her voice suddenly flashedinto anger and contempt--"it isdisgusting--bitsof 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 anddo?  We only talk."

"Till goodness knows what time anddistance" was thesarcastic rejoinder.

Paul snapped at the laces of his boots angrily.

"What are you so mad about?" heasked.  "Because you don'tlike her."

"I don't say I don't like her.  But Idon't hold with childrenkeeping companyand never did."

"But you don't mind our Annie going outwith 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 motherlooked tired.  She was never so strongafter William's death;and her eyes hurt her.

"Well" he said"it's so prettyin the country.  Mr. Sleathasked about you.  He said he'd missedyou.  Are you a bit better?"

"I ought to have been in bed a long timeago" she replied.

"Whymotheryou know you wouldn't havegone beforequarter-past ten."

"OhyesI should!"

"Ohlittle womanyou'd say anything nowyou're disagreeablewith mewouldn't you?"

He kissed her forehead that he knew so well: the deep marksbetween the browsthe rising of the fine hairgreying nowand theproud setting of the temples.  His handlingered on her shoulderafter his kiss.  Then he went slowly tobed.  He had forgotten Miriam;he only saw how his mother's hair was liftedback from her warmbroad brow.  And somehowshe was hurt.

Then the next time he saw Miriam he said toher:

"Don't let me be late to-night--not laterthan ten o'clock.  Mymother gets so upset."

Miriam dropped her beadbrooding.

"Why does she get upset?" she asked.

"Because she says I oughtn't to be outlate when I have to getup early."

"Very well!" said Miriamratherquietlywith just a touchof a sneer.

He resented that.  And he was usually lateagain.

That there was any love growing between him andMiriam neitherof them would have acknowledged.  Hethought he was too sane forsuch sentimentalityand she thought herselftoo lofty.  They both werelate in coming to maturityand psychicalripeness was much behindeven the physical.  Miriam was exceedinglysensitiveas her motherhad always been.  The slightest grossnessmade her recoil almostin anguish.  Her brothers were brutalbutnever coarse in speech.The men did all the discussing of farm mattersoutside.  Butperhapsbecause of the continual business of birth andof begetting which goeson upon every farmMiriam was the morehypersensitive to the matterand her blood was chastened almost to disgustof the faintestsuggestion of such intercourse.  Paul tookhis pitch from herand their intimacy went on in an utterlyblanched and chaste fashion.It could never be mentioned that the mare wasin foal.

When he was nineteenhe was earning onlytwenty shillings a weekbut he was happy.  His painting went welland life went well enough.On the Good Friday he organised a walk to theHemlock Stone.There were three lads of his own agethenAnnie and ArthurMiriam and Geoffrey.  Arthurapprenticedas an electricianin Nottinghamwas home for the holiday. Morelas usualwas up earlywhistling and sawing in the yard.  Atseven o'clock the family heardhim buy threepennyworth of hot-cross buns; hetalked with gustoto the little girl who brought themcallingher "my darling".  Heturned away several boys who came with morebunstelling themthey had been "kested" by a littlelass.  Then Mrs. Morel got upand the family straggled down.  It was animmense luxury to everybodythis lying in bed just beyond the ordinary timeon a weekday.And Paul and Arthur read before breakfastandhad the meal unwashedsitting in their shirt-sleeves. This wasanother holiday luxury.The room was warm.  Everything felt freeof care and anxiety.There was a sense of plenty in the house.

While the boys were readingMrs. Morel wentinto the garden.They were now in another housean old onenear the ScargillStreet homewhich had been left soon afterWilliam had died.Directly came an excited cry from the garden:

"Paul!  Paul!  come and look!"

It was his mother's voice.  He threw downhis book and went out.There was a long garden that ran to a field. It was a greycold daywith a sharp wind blowing out of Derbyshire. Two fields awayBestwood beganwith a jumble of roofs and redhouse-endsout of whichrose the church tower and the spire of theCongregational Chapel.And beyond went woods and hillsright away tothe pale grey heightsof the Pennine Chain.

Paul looked down the garden for his mother. Her head appearedamong the young currant-bushes.

"Come here!" she cried.

"What for?" he answered.

"Come and see."

She had been looking at the buds on the curranttrees.Paul went up.

"To think" she said"that hereI might never have seen them!"

Her son went to her side.  Under thefencein a little bedwas a ravel of poor grassy leavessuch as comefrom very immature bulbsand three scyllas in bloom.  Mrs. Morelpointed to the deep blue flowers.

 

"Nowjust see those!" sheexclaimed.  "I was looking atthe currant busheswhenthinks I to myself'There's somethingvery blue; is it a bit of sugar-bag?' andtherebehold you!Sugar-bag! Three glories of the snowand suchbeauties!But where on earth did they come from?"

"I don't know" said Paul.

"Wellthat's a marvelnow!  ITHOUGHT I knew every weedand blade in this garden.  But HAVEN'Tthey done well?  You seethat gooseberry-bush just shelters them. Not nippednot touched!"

He crouched down and turned up the bells of thelittleblue flowers.

"They're a glorious colour!" he said.

"Aren't they!" she cried.  "Iguess they come from Switzerlandwhere they say they have such lovely things. Fancy them againstthe snow!  But where have they come from? They can't have BLOWN herecan they?"

Then he remembered having set here a lot oflittle trashof bulbs to mature.

"And you never told me" she said.

"No!  I thought I'd leave it tillthey might flower."

"And nowyou see!  I might havemissed them.  And I've neverhad a glory of the snow in my garden in mylife."

She was full of excitement and elation. The garden wasan endless joy to her.  Paul was thankfulfor her sake at lastto be in a house with a long garden that wentdown to a field.Every morning after breakfast she went out andwas happy potteringabout in it.  And it was trueshe knewevery weed and blade.

Everybody turned up for the walk.  Foodwas packedand theyset offa merrydelighted party.  Theyhung over the wall of themill-racedropped paper in the water on oneside of the tunneland watched it shoot out on the other. They stood on the foot-bridgeover Boathouse Station and looked at the metalsgleaming coldly.

"You should see the Flying Scotsman comethrough at half-past six!"said Leonardwhose father was a signalman. "Ladbut she doesn'thalf buzz!" and the little party looked upthe lines one wayto Londonand the other wayto Scotlandandthey felt the touchof these two magical places.

In Ilkeston the colliers were waiting in gangsfor thepublic-houses to open.  It was a town ofidleness and lounging.At Stanton Gate the iron foundry blazed. Over everything there weregreat discussions.  At Trowell theycrossed again from Derbyshireinto Nottinghamshire.  They came to theHemlock Stone at dinner-time.Its field was crowded with folk from Nottinghamand Ilkeston.

They had expected a venerable and dignifiedmonument.They found a littlegnarledtwisted stump ofrocksomething like adecayed mushroomstanding out pathetically onthe side of a field.Leonard and Dick immediately proceeded to carvetheir initials"L. W." and "R. P."in theold red sandstone; but Paul desistedbecause he had read in the newspaper satiricalremarks aboutinitial-carverswho could find no other roadto immortality.Then all the lads climbed to the top of therock to look round.

Everywhere in the field belowfactory girlsand lads were eatinglunch or sporting about.  Beyond was thegarden of an old manor.It had yew-hedges and thick clumps and bordersof yellow crocuses round the lawn.

"See" said Paul to Miriam"whata quiet garden!"

She saw the dark yews and the golden crocusesthen shelooked gratefully.  He had not seemed tobelong to her among allthese others; he was different then--not herPaulwho understoodthe slightest quiver of her innermost soulbutsomething elsespeaking another language than hers.  Howit hurt herand deadenedher very perceptions.  Only when he cameright back to herleaving his otherhis lesser selfas shethoughtwould shefeel alive again.  And now he asked her tolook at this gardenwanting the contact with her again. Impatient of the set in the fieldshe turned to the quiet lawnsurrounded bysheaves of shut-up crocuses.A feeling of stillnessalmost of ecstasycameover her.It felt almost as if she were alone with him inthis garden.

Then he left her again and joined the others. Soon theystarted home.  Miriam loitered behindalone.  She did notfit in with the others; she could very rarelyget into humanrelations with anyone:  so her friendhercompanionher loverwas Nature.  She saw the sun decliningwanly.  In the duskycold hedgerows were some red leaves.  Shelingered to gather themtenderlypassionately.  The love in herfinger-tips caressedthe leaves; the passion in her heart came to aglow upon the leaves.

Suddenly she realised she was alone in astrange roadand she hurried forward.  Turning a cornerin the laneshe cameupon Paulwho stood bent over somethinghismind fixed on itworking away steadilypatientlya littlehopelessly.  She hesitatedin her approachto watch.

He remained concentrated in the middle of theroad.  Beyondone rift of rich gold in that colourless greyevening seemed to makehim stand out in dark relief.  She sawhimslender and firmas if the setting sun had given him to her. A deep pain took holdof herand she knew she must love him. And she had discovered himdiscovered in him a rare potentialitydiscovered his loneliness.Quivering as at some "annunciation"she went slowly forward.

At last he looked up.

"Why" he exclaimed gratefully"haveyou waited for me!"

She saw a deep shadow in his eyes.

"What is it?" she asked.

"The spring broken here;" and heshowed her where his umbrellawas injured.

Instantlywith some shameshe knew he had notdonethe damage himselfbut that Geoffrey wasresponsible.

"It is only an old umbrellaisn't it?"she asked.

She wondered why hewho did not usuallytrouble over triflesmade such a mountain of this molehill.

"But it was William's an' my mother can'thelp but know"he said quietlystill patiently working at theumbrella.

The words went through Miriam like a blade. Thisthenwas theconfirmation of her vision of him!  Shelooked at him.  But therewas about him a certain reserveand she darednot comfort himnot even speak softly to him.

"Come on" he said.  "Ican't do it;" and they went in silencealong the road.

That same evening they were walking along underthe treesby Nether Green.  He was talking to herfretfullyseemed to bestruggling to convince himself.

"You know" he saidwith an effort"if one person lovesthe other does."

"Ah!" she answered.  "Likemother said to me when I was little'Love begets love.'"

"Yessomething like thatI think it MUSTbe."

"I hope sobecauseif it were notlovemight be a veryterrible thing" she said.

"Yesbut it IS--at least with mostpeople" he answered.

And Miriamthinking he had assured himselffelt strongin herself.  She always regarded thatsudden coming upon himin the lane as a revelation.  And thisconversation remainedgraven in her mind as one of the letters of thelaw.

Now she stood with him and for him.  Whenabout this timehe outraged the family feeling at Willey Farmby some overbearing insultshe stuck to himand believed he was right. And at this time shedreamed dreams of himvividunforgettable. These dreams cameagain later ondeveloped to a more subtlepsychological stage.

On the Easter Monday the same party took anexcursionto Wingfield Manor.  It was greatexcitement to Miriam to catch atrain at Sethley Bridgeamid all the bustle ofthe Bank Holiday crowd.They left the train at Alfreton.  Paul wasinterested in thestreet and in the colliers with their dogs. Here was a new raceof miners.  Miriam did not live till theycame to the church.They were all rather timid of enteringwiththeir bags of foodfor fear of being turned out.  Leonardacomicthin fellowwent first; Paulwho would have died ratherthan be sent backwent last.  The place was decorated forEaster.  In the font hundredsof white narcissi seemed to be growing. The air was dim and colouredfrom the windows and thrilled with a subtlescent of liliesand narcissi.  In that atmosphere Miriam'ssoul came into a glow.Paul was afraid of the things he mustn't do;and he was sensitiveto the feel of the place.  Miriam turnedto him.  He answered.They were together.  He would not gobeyond the Communion-rail. Sheloved him for that.  Her soul expandedinto prayer beside him.He felt the strange fascination of shadowyreligious 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 oncebecame awkward in conversation with her. So usually she was silent.

It was past midday when they climbed the steeppath to the manor.All things shone softly in the sunwhich waswonderfully warmand enlivening.  Celandines and violetswere out.  Everybody wastip-top full with happiness.  The glitterof the ivythe softatmospheric grey of the castle wallsthegentleness of everythingnear the ruinwas perfect.

The manor is of hardpale grey stoneand theother wallsare blank and calm.  The young folk werein raptures.  They wentin trepidationalmost afraid that the delightof exploring thisruin might be denied them.  In the firstcourtyardwithin the highbroken wallswere farm-cartswith theirshafts lying idle onthe groundthe tyres of the wheels brilliantwith gold-red rust.It was very still.

All eagerly paid their sixpencesand wenttimidly throughthe fine clean arch of the inner courtyard. They were shy.Here on the pavementwhere the hall had beenan old thorn treewas budding.  All kinds of strangeopenings and broken rooms werein the shadow around them.

After lunch they set off once more to explorethe ruin.This time the girls went with the boyswhocould act as guidesand expositors.  There was one tall towerin a cornerrather totteringwhere they say Mary Queen of Scots wasimprisoned.

"Think of the Queen going up here!"said Miriam in a low voiceas she climbed the hollow stairs.

"If she could get up" said Paul"for she had rheumatismlike anything.  I reckon they treated herrottenly."

"You don't think she deserved it?"asked Miriam.

"NoI don't. She was only lively."

They continued to mount the winding staircase. A high windblowing through the loopholeswent rushing upthe shaftand filled the girl's skirts like a balloonsothat she was ashameduntil he took the hem of her dress and held itdown for her.He did it perfectly simplyas he would havepicked up her glove.She remembered this always.

Round the broken top of the tower the ivybushed outold and handsome.  Alsothere were a fewchill gilliversin pale cold bud.  Miriam wanted to leanover for some ivybut he would not let her.  Insteadshehad to wait behind himand take from him each spray as he gathered itand held it to hereach one separatelyin the purest manner ofchivalry.  The towerseemed to rock in the wind.  They lookedover miles and milesof wooded countryand country with gleams ofpasture.

The crypt underneath the manor was beautifuland inperfect preservation.  Paul made adrawing:  Miriam stayed with him.She was thinking of Mary Queen of Scots lookingwith her strainedhopeless eyesthat could not understandmiseryover the hillswhence no help cameor sitting in this cryptbeing told of a Godas cold as the place she sat in.

They set off again gailylooking round ontheir beloved manorthat 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 seeyou!"

They were now in the bare country of stonewallswhich he lovedand whichthough only ten miles from homeseemed so foreignto Miriam.  The party was straggling. As they were crossing alarge meadow that sloped away from the sunalong a path embeddedwith innumerable tiny glittering pointsPaulwalkingalongsidelaced his fingers in the strings ofthe bag Miriamwas carryingand instantly she felt Anniebehindwatchful and jealous.But the meadow was bathed in a glory ofsunshineand the pathwas jewelledand it was seldom that he gaveher any sign.She held her fingers very still among thestrings of the baghis fingers touching; and the place was goldenas a vision.

At last they came into the straggling greyvillage of Crichthat lies high.  Beyond the village wasthe famous Crich Standthat Paul could see from the garden at home. The party pushed on.Great expanse of country spread around andbelow.  The lads wereeager to get to the top of the hill.  Itwas capped by a round knollhalf of which was by now cut awayand on thetop of which stoodan ancient monumentsturdy and squatforsignalling in old days fardown into the level lands of Nottinghamshireand Leicestershire.

It was blowing so hardhigh up there in theexposed placethat the only way to be safe was to standnailed by the windto the wan of the tower.  At their feetfell the precipicewhere the limestone was quarried away. Below was a jumble ofhills and tiny villages--MattockAmbergateStoney Middleton.The lads were eager to spy out the church ofBestwoodfar awayamong the rather crowded country on the left. They were disgustedthat it seemed to stand on a plain.  Theysaw the hills of Derbyshirefall into the monotony of the Midlands thatswept away South.

Miriam was somewhat scared by the windbut thelads enjoyed it.They went onmiles and milestoWhatstandwell.  All the foodwas eateneverybody was hungryand there wasvery little money to gethome with.  But they managed to procure aloaf and a currant-loafwhich they hacked to pieces with shut-knivesand ate sitting onthe wall near the bridgewatching the brightDerwent rushing byand the brakes from Matlock pulling up at theinn.

Paul was now pale with weariness.  He hadbeen responsiblefor the party all dayand now he was done. Miriam understoodand kept close to himand he left himself inher hands.

They had an hour to wait at Ambergate Station. Trains camecrowded with excursionists returning toManchesterBirminghamand London.

"We might be going there--folk easilymight think we're goingthat far" said Paul.

They got back rather late.  Miriamwalking home with Geoffreywatched the moon rise big and red and misty. She felt somethingwas fulfilled in her.

She had an elder sisterAgathawho was aschool-teacher.Between the two girls was a feud.  Miriamconsidered Agatha worldly.And she wanted herself to be a school-teacher.

One Saturday afternoon Agatha and Miriam wereupstairs dressing.Their bedroom was over the stable.  It wasa low roomnot very largeand bare.  Miriam had nailed on the wall areproduction of Veronese's"St. Catherine".  She loved thewoman who sat in the windowdreaming.Her own windows were too small to sit in. But the front one wasdripped over with honeysuckle and virginiacreeperand lookedupon the tree-tops of the oak-wood across theyardwhile thelittle back windowno bigger than ahandkerchiefwas a loopholeto the eastto the dawn beating up against thebeloved round hills.

The two sisters did not talk much to eachother.  Agathawho was fair and small and determinedhadrebelled againstthe home atmosphereagainst the doctrine of"the other cheek".She was out in the world nowin a fair way tobe independent.And she insisted on worldly valuesonappearanceon mannerson positionwhich Miriam would fain haveignored.

Both girls liked to be upstairsout of thewaywhen Paul came.They preferred to come running downopen thestair-foot doorand see him watchingexpectant of them. Miriam stood painfullypulling over her head a rosary he had givenher.  It caughtin the fine mesh of her hair.  But at lastshe had it onand thered-brown wooden beads looked well against hercool brown neck.She was a well-developed girland veryhandsome.  But in the littlelooking-glass nailed against the whitewashedwall she could only seea fragment of herself at a time.  Agathahad bought a little mirrorof her ownwhich she propped up to suitherself.  Miriam was nearthe window.  Suddenly she heard thewell-known click of the chainand she saw Paul fling open the gatepush hisbicycle into the yard.She saw him look at the houseand she shrankaway.  He walkedin a nonchalant fashionand his bicycle wentwith him as if itwere a live thing.

"Paul's come!" she exclaimed.

"Aren't you glad?" said Agathacuttingly.

Miriam stood still in amazement andbewilderment.

"Wellaren't you?" she asked.

"Yesbut I'm not going to let him see itand think I wanted him."

Miriam was startled.  She heard himputting his bicycle in thestable underneathand talking to Jimmywhohad been a pit-horseand who was seedy.

"WellJimmy my ladhow are ter? Nobbut sick an'sadlylike?  Whythenit's a shamemyowd lad."

She heard the rope run through the hole as thehorse lifted itshead from the lad's caress.  How she lovedto listen when he thoughtonly the horse could hear.  But there wasa serpent in her Eden.She searched earnestly in herself to see if shewanted Paul Morel.She felt there would be some disgrace in it. Full of twisted feelingshe was afraid she did want him.  Shestood self-convicted.  Thencame an agony of new shame.  She shrankwithin herself in a coilof torture.  Did she want Paul Morelanddid he know she wanted him?What a subtle infamy upon her.  She feltas if her whole soul coiledinto knots of shame.

Agatha was dressed firstand ran downstairs. Miriam heardher greet the lad gailyknew exactly howbrilliant her greyeyes became with that tone.  She herselfwould have felt it boldto have greeted him in such wise.  Yetthere she stood under theself-accusation of wanting himtied to thatstake of torture.In bitter perplexity she kneeled down andprayed:

"O Lordlet me not love Paul Morel. Keep me from loving himif I ought not to love him."

Something anomalous in the prayer arrestedher.  She liftedher head and pondered.  How could it bewrong to love him?  Love wasGod's gift.  And yet it caused her shame. That was because of himPaul Morel.  Butthenit was not hisaffairit was her ownbetween herself and God.  She was to be asacrifice.  But it wasGod's sacrificenot Paul Morel's or her own. After a few minutesshe hid her face in the pillow againand said:

"ButLordif it is Thy will that Ishould love himmake me love him--as Christ wouldwho died forthe souls of men.Make me love him splendidlybecause he is Thyson."

She remained kneeling for some timequitestilland deeply movedher black hair against the red squares and thelavender-spriggedsquares of the patchwork quilt.  Prayerwas almost essential to her.Then she fell into that rapture ofself-sacrificeidentifying herself with a God who wassacrificedwhich givesto so many human souls their deepest bliss.

When she went downstairs Paul was lying back inan armchairholding forth with much vehemence to Agathawho was scorning a littlepainting he had brought to show her. Miriam glanced at the twoand avoided their levity.  She went intothe parlour to be alone.

It was tea-time before she was able to speak toPauland thenher manner was so distant he thought he hadoffended her.

Miriam discontinued her practice of going eachThursday eveningto the library in Bestwood.  After callingfor Paul regularlyduring the whole springa number of triflingincidents and tinyinsults from his family awakened her to theirattitude towards herand she decided to go no more.  So sheannounced to Paul one eveningshe would not call at his house again for himon Thursday nights.

"Why?" he askedvery short.

"Nothing.  Only I'd rather not."

"Very well."

"But" she faltered"if you'dcare to meet mewe could stillgo together."

"Meet you where?"

"Somewhere--where you like."

"I shan't meet you anywhere.  I don'tsee why you shouldn'tkeep calling for me.  But if you won'tIdon't want to meet you."

So the Thursday evenings which had been soprecious to herand to himwere dropped.  He workedinstead.  Mrs. Morel sniffedwith satisfaction at this arrangement.

He would not have it that they were lovers. The intimacybetween them had been kept so abstractsuch amatter of the soulall thought and weary struggle intoconsciousnessthat he saw it onlyas a platonic friendship.  He stoutlydenied there was anything elsebetween them.  Miriam was silentor elseshe very quietly agreed.He was a fool who did not know what washappening to himself.By tacit agreement they ignored the remarks andinsinuations oftheir acquaintances.

"We aren't loverswe are friends"he said to her.  "WE know it.Let them talk.  What does it matter whatthey say."

Sometimesas they were walking togethersheslipped her armtimidly into his.  But he always resenteditand she knew it.It caused a violent conflict in him.  WithMiriam he was alwayson the high plane of abstractionwhen hisnatural fire of love wastransmitted into the fine stream of thought. She would have it so.If he were jolly andas she put itflippantshe waited till he cameback to hertill the change had taken place inhim againand hewas wrestling with his own soulfrowningpassionate in his desirefor understanding.  And in this passionfor understanding her soullay close to his; she had him all to herself. But he must be madeabstract first.

Thenif she put her arm in hisit caused himalmost torture.His consciousness seemed to split.  Theplace where she was touchinghim ran hot with friction.  He was oneinternecine battleand hebecame cruel to her because of it.

One evening in midsummer Miriam called at thehousewarm from climbing.  Paul was alone in thekitchen; his mothercould be heard moving about upstairs.

"Come and look at the sweet-peas" hesaid to the girl.

They went into the garden.  The sky behindthe townlet and thechurch was orange-red; the flower-garden wasflooded with a strangewarm light that lifted every leaf intosignificance.  Paul passedalong a fine row of sweet-peasgathering ablossom here and thereall cream and pale blue.  Miriam followedbreathing the fragrance.To herflowers appealed with such strength shefelt she mustmake them part of herself.  When she bentand breathed a flowerit was as if she and the flower were lovingeach other.  Paul hatedher for it.  There seemed a sort ofexposure about the actionsomething too intimate.

 

When he had got a fair bunchthey returned tothe house.He listened for a moment to his mother's quietmovement upstairsthen he said:

"Come hereand let me pin them in foryou."  He arranged themtwo or three at a time in the bosom of herdressstepping backnow and then to see the effect.  "Youknow" he saidtaking the pinout of his mouth"a woman ought always toarrange her flowersbefore her glass."

Miriam laughed.  She thought flowers oughtto be pinnedin one's dress without any care.  ThatPaul should take painsto 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 againbut mirthlesslyto hearhim thus mixher up with women in a general way.  Frommost men she would haveignored it.  But from him it hurt her.

He had nearly finished arranging the flowerswhen he heardhis mother's footstep on the stairs. Hurriedly he pushedin the last pin and turned away.

"Don't let mater know" he said.

Miriam picked up her books and stood in thedoorway lookingwith chagrin at the beautiful sunset.  Shewould call for Paulno moreshe said.

"Good-eveningMrs. Morel" she saidin a deferential way.She sounded as if she felt she had no right tobe there.

"Ohis it youMiriam?" replied Mrs.Morel coolly.

But Paul insisted on everybody's accepting hisfriendshipwith the girland Mrs. Morel was too wise tohave any open rupture.

It was not till he was twenty years old thatthe family couldever afford to go away for a holiday. Mrs. Morel had never been awayfor a holidayexcept to see her sistersinceshe had been married.Now at last Paul had saved enough moneyandthey were all going.There was to be a party:  some of Annie'sfriendsone friend of Paul'sa young man in the same office where Williamhad previously beenand Miriam.

It was great excitement writing for rooms. Paul and hismother debated it endlessly between them. They wanted a furnishedcottage for two weeks.  She thought oneweek would be enoughbut he insisted on two.

At last they got an answer from Mablethorpeacottage such as theywished for thirty shillings a week.  Therewas immense jubilation.Paul was wild with joy for his mother's sake. She would havea real holiday now.  He and she sat atevening picturing what itwould be like.  Annie came inandLeonardand Aliceand Kitty.There was wild rejoicing and anticipation. Paul told Miriam.She seemed to brood with joy over it.  Butthe Morel's house rangwith excitement.

They were to go on Saturday morning by theseven train.Paul suggested that Miriam should sleep at hishousebecause itwas so far for her to walk.  She came downfor supper.Everybody was so excited that even Miriam wasaccepted with warmth.But almost as soon as she entered the feelingin the family became close and tight.He had discovered a poem by Jean Ingelow whichmentioned Mablethorpeand so he must read it to Miriam.  Hewould never have got so far inthe direction of sentimentality as to readpoetry to his own family.But now they condescended to listen. Miriam sat on the sofaabsorbed in him.  She always seemedabsorbed in himand by himwhen he was present.  Mrs. Morel satjealously in her own chair.She was going to hear also.  And evenAnnie and the father attendedMorel with his head cocked on one sidelikesomebody listeningto a sermon and feeling conscious of the fact. Paul ducked his headover the book.  He had got now all theaudience he cared for.And Mrs. Morel and Annie almost contested withMiriam who should listenbest and win his favour.  He was in veryhigh feather.

"But" interrupted Mrs. Morel"whatIS the 'Bride of Enderby'that the bells are supposed to ring?"

"It's an old tune they used to play on thebells for a warningagainst water.  I suppose the Bride ofEnderby was drowned in a flood"he replied.  He had not the faintestknowledge what it really wasbut he would never have sunk so low as toconfess that to his womenfolk.They listened and believed him.  Hebelieved himself.

"And the people knew what that tunemeant?" said his mother.

"Yes--just like the Scotch when they heard'The Flowers o'the Forest'--and when they used to ring thebells backward for alarm."

"How?" said Annie.  "A bellsounds the same whether it's rungbackwards or forwards."

"But" he said"if you startwith the deep bell and ring upto the highone--der--der--der--der--der--der--der--der!"

He ran up the scale.  Everybody thought itclever.  He thoughtso too.  Thenwaiting a minutehecontinued the poem.

"Hm!" said Mrs. Morel curiouslywhenhe finished.  "But Iwish 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 clearthe 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 Miriamwho could not be familiar andinsistsat downagain to look at the book with Paul.

He was master of the party; his father was nogood.  And greattortures he suffered lest the tin box should beput out at Firsbyinstead of at Mablethorpe.  And he wasn'tequal to getting a carriage.His bold little mother did that.

"Here!" she cried to a man. "Here!"

Paul and Annie got behind the restconvulsedwith shamed laughter.

"How much will it be to drive to BrookCottage?" said Mrs. Morel.

"Two shillings."

"Whyhow far is it?"

"A good way."

"I don't believe it" she said.

But she scrambled in.  There were eightcrowded in one oldseaside carriage.

"You see" said Mrs. Morel"it'sonly threepence eachand if it were a tramcar---"

They drove along.  Each cottage they cametoMrs. Morel cried:

"Is it this?  Nowthis is it!"

Everybody sat breathless.  They drovepast.  There wasa universal sigh.

"I'm thankful it wasn't that brute"said Mrs. Morel."I WAS frightened."  They droveon and on.

At last they descended at a house that stoodalone overthe dyke by the highroad.  There was wildexcitement because theyhad to cross a little bridge to get into thefront garden.But they loved the house that lay so solitarywith a sea-meadowon one sideand immense expanse of landpatched in white barleyyellow oatsred wheatand green root-cropsflat and stretchinglevel to the sky.

Paul kept accounts.  He and his mother ranthe show.The total expenses--lodgingfoodeverything--was sixteen shillingsa week per person.  He and Leonard wentbathing in the mornings.Morel was wandering abroad quite early.

"YouPaul" his mother called fromthe bedroom"eat a pieceof bread-and-butter."

"All right" he answered.

And when he got back he saw his motherpresiding in state atthe breakfast-table.  The woman of thehouse was young.  Her husbandwas blindand she did laundry work.  SoMrs. Morel always washedthe pots in the kitchen and made the beds.

"But you said you'd have a real holiday"said Paul"and nowyou work."

"Work!" she exclaimed.  "Whatare you talking about!"

He loved to go with her across the fields tothe villageand the sea.  She was afraid of the plankbridgeand he abused herfor being a baby.  On the whole he stuckto her as if he were HER man.

Miriam did not get much of himexceptperhapswhen all theothers went to the "Coons". Coons were insufferably stupid to Miriamso he thought they were to himself alsoand hepreached priggishlyto Annie about the fatuity of listening tothem.  Yet hetooknew all their songsand sang them along theroads roisterously.And if he found himself listeningthestupidity pleased him very much.Yet to Annie he said:

"Such rot! there isn't a grain ofintelligence in it.  Nobody withmore gumption than a grasshopper could go andsit and listen."And to Miriam he saidwith much scorn of Annieand the others:"I suppose they're at the 'Coons'."

It was queer to see Miriam singing coon songs. She had a straightchin that went in a perpendicular line from thelower lip to the turn.She always reminded Paul of some sad Botticelliangel when she sangeven when it was:

      "Comedown lover's lane      For a walkwith metalk with me."

Only when he sketchedor at evening when theothers were atthe "Coons"she had him to herself. He talked to her endlesslyabout his love of horizontals:  how theythe great levels of skyand land in Lincolnshiremeant to him theeternality of the willjust as the bowed Norman arches of the churchrepeating themselvesmeant the dogged leaping forward of thepersistent human soulon and onnobody knows where; in contradictionto the perpendicularlines and to the Gothic archwhichhe saidleapt up at heaven andtouched the ecstasy and lost itself in thedivine.  Himselfhe saidwas NormanMiriam was Gothic.  She bowedin consent even to that.

One evening he and she went up the greatsweeping shoreof sand towards Theddlethorpe.  The longbreakers plunged and ranin a hiss of foam along the coast.  It wasa warm evening.There was not a figure but themselves on thefar reaches of sandno noise but the sound of the sea.  Paulloved to see it clangingat the land.  He loved to feel himselfbetween the noise of itand the silence of the sandy shore. Miriam was with him.Everything grew very intense.  It wasquite dark when theyturned again.  The way home was through agap in the sandhillsand then along a raised grass road between twodykes.  The countrywas black and still.  From behind thesandhills came the whisperof the sea.  Paul and Miriam walked insilence.  Suddenly he started.The whole of his blood seemed to burst intoflameand he couldscarcely breathe.  An enormous orange moonwas staring at themfrom the rim of the sandhills.  He stoodstilllooking at it.

"Ah!" cried Miriamwhen she saw it.

He remained perfectly stillstaring at theimmense and ruddymoonthe only thing in the far-reachingdarkness of the level.His heart beat heavilythe muscles of his armscontracted.

"What is it?" murmured Miriamwaiting for him.

He turned and looked at her.  She stoodbeside himfor everin shadow.  Her facecovered with thedarkness of her hatwas watchinghim unseen.  But she was brooding. She was slightly afraid--deeplymoved and religious.  That was her beststate.  He was impotentagainst it.  His blood was concentratedlike a flame in his chest.But he could not get across to her.  Therewere flashes in his blood.But somehow she ignored them.  She wasexpecting some religiousstate in him.  Still yearningshe washalf aware of his passionand gazed at himtroubled.

"What is it?" she murmured again.

"It's the moon" he answeredfrowning.

"Yes" she assented.  "Isn'tit wonderful?"  She was curiousabout him.  The crisis was past.

He did not know himself what was the matter. He was naturallyso youngand their intimacy was so abstracthe did not know hewanted to crush her on to his breast to easethe ache there.He was afraid of her.  The fact that hemight want her as a man wantsa woman had in him been suppressed into ashame.  When she shrankin her convulsedcoiled torture from thethought of sucha thinghe had winced to the depths of hissoul.  And now this"purity" prevented even their firstlove-kiss.  It was as if she couldscarcely stand the shock of physical loveevena passionate kissand then he was too shrinking and sensitive togive it.

As they walked along the dark fen-meadow hewatched the moonand did not speak.  She plodded besidehim.  He hated herfor sheseemed in some way to make him despisehimself.  Looking ahead--he sawthe one light in the darknessthe window oftheir lamp-lit cottage.

He loved to think of his motherand the otherjolly people.

"Welleverybody else has been in longago!" said his motheras they entered.

"What does that matter!" he criedirritably.  "I can go a walkif I likecan't I?"

"And I should have thought you could getin to supper withthe rest" said Mrs. Morel.

"I shall please myself" heretorted.  "It's not LATE.I shall do as I like."

"Very well" said his mothercuttingly"then DO as you like."And she took no further notice of him thatevening.  Which hepretended neither to notice nor to care aboutbut sat reading.Miriam read alsoobliterating herself. Mrs. Morel hated herfor making her son like this.  She watchedPaul growing irritablepriggishand melancholic.  For this sheput the blame on Miriam.Annie and all her friends joined against thegirl.  Miriam had nofriend of her ownonly Paul.  But she didnot suffer so muchbecause she despised the triviality of theseother people.

And Paul hated her becausesomehowshe spoilthis easeand naturalness.  And he writhed himselfwith a feeling of humiliation.

 

CHAPTER VIII

STRIFE IN LOVE

ARTHUR finished his apprenticeshipand got ajob on the electricalplant at Minton Pit.  He earned verylittlebut had a good chanceof getting on.  But he was wild andrestless.  He did not drinknor gamble.  Yet he somehow contrived toget into endless scrapesalways through some hot-headedthoughtlessness.  Either he wentrabbiting in the woodslike a poacheror hestayed in Nottinghamall night instead of coming homeor hemiscalculated his diveinto the canal at Bestwoodand scored hischest into one massof wounds on the raw stones and tins at thebottom.

He had not been at his work many months whenagain he didnot come home one night.

"Do you know where Arthur is?" askedPaul at breakfast.

"I do not" replied his mother.

"He is a fool" said Paul.  "Andif he DID anything Ishouldn't mind.  But nohe simply can'tcome away from a gameof whistor else he must see a girl home fromthe skating-rink--quiteproprietously--and so can't get home. He's a fool."

"I don't know that it would make it anybetter if he didsomething to make us all ashamed" saidMrs. Morel.

"WellI should respect him more"said Paul.

"I very much doubt it" said hismother 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 theyoungest best."

"She may do--but I don't.  Nohewearies me."

"And you'd actually rather he was good?"

"I'd rather he showed some of a man'scommon sense."

Paul was raw and irritable.  He alsowearied his mother very often.She saw the sunshine going out of himand sheresented it.

As they were finishing breakfast came thepostman with a letterfrom Derby.  Mrs. Morel screwed up hereyes to look at the address.

"Give it hereblind eye!" exclaimedher sonsnatching itaway from her.

She startedand almost boxed his ears.

"It's from your sonArthur" hesaid.

"What now---!" cried Mrs. Morel.

"'My dearest Mother'" Paul read"'Idon't know what mademe such a fool.  I want you to come andfetch me back from here.I came with Jack Bredon yesterdayinstead ofgoing to workand enlisted.  He said he was sick ofwearing the seat of a stool outandlike the idiot you know I amI came awaywith him.

"'I have taken the King's shillingbutperhaps if youcame for me they would let me go back withyou.  I was a foolwhen I did it.  I don't want to be in thearmy.  My dear motherI am nothing but a trouble to you.  But ifyou get me out of thisI promise I will have more sense andconsideration. . . .'"

Mrs. Morel sat down in her rocking-chair.

"WellNOW" she cried"let himstop!"

"Yes" said Paul"let himstop."

There was silence.  The mother sat withher hands foldedin her apronher face setthinking.

"If I'm not SICK!" she criedsuddenly.  "Sick!"

"Now" said Paulbeginning to frown"you're not goingto worry your soul out about thisdo youhear."

"I suppose I'm to take it as a blessing"she flashedturning on her son.

"You're not going to mount it up to atragedyso there"he retorted.

"The FOOL!--the young fool!" shecried.

"He'll look well in uniform" saidPaul irritatingly.

His mother turned on him like a fury.

"Ohwill he!" she cried.  "Notin my eyes!"

"He should get in a cavalry regiment;he'll have the timeof his lifeand will look an awful swell."

"Swell!--SWELL!--a mighty swell ideaindeed!--a common soldier!"

"Well" said Paul"what am Ibut a common clerk?"

"A good dealmy boy!" cried hismotherstung.

"What?"

"At any ratea MANand not a thing in ared coat."

"I shouldn't mind being in a red coat--ordark bluethat wouldsuit me better--if they didn't boss me abouttoo much."

But his mother had ceased to listen.

"Just as he was getting onor might havebeen getting onat his job--a young nuisance--here he goes andruins himself for life.What good will he bedo you thinkafterTHIS?"

"It may lick him into shape beautifully"said Paul.

"Lick him into shape!--lick what marrowthere WAS out of his bones.A SOLDIER!--a common SOLDIER!--nothing but abody that makes movementswhen it hears a shout!  It's a finething!"

"I can't understand why it upsets you"said Paul.

"Noperhaps you can't. But I understand";and she sat backin her chairher chin in one handholding herelbow with the otherbrimmed up with wrath and chagrin.

"And shall you go to Derby?" askedPaul.

"Yes."

"It's no good."

"I'll see for myself."

"And why on earth don't you let him stop. It's just whathe wants."

"Of course" cried the mother"YOUknow what he wants!"

She got ready and went by the first train toDerbywhere shesaw her son and the sergeant.  It washoweverno good.

When Morel was having his dinner in theeveningshe said suddenly:

"I've had to go to Derby to-day."

The miner turned up his eyesshowing thewhites in his black face.

"Has terlass.  What took theethere?"

"That Arthur!"

"Oh--an' what's agate now?"

"He's only enlisted."

Morel put down his knife and leaned back in hischair.

"Nay" he said"that he niver'as!"

"And is going down to Aldershot tomorrow."

"Well!" exclaimed the miner. "That's a winder."  He consideredit a momentsaid "H'm!" andproceeded with his dinner.  Suddenly hisface contracted with wrath.  "I hopehe may never set foot i'my house again" he said.

"The idea!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Saying such a thing!"

"I do" repeated Morel.  "Afool as runs away for a soldierlet 'im look after 'issen; I s'll do no morefor 'im."

"A fat sight you have done as it is"she said.

And Morel was almost ashamed to go to hispublic-housethat evening.

"Welldid you go?" said Paul to hismother 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 Iso you needn't 'h'm'!"

Mrs. Morel fretted after her son.  Sheknew he would notlike the army.  He did not.  Thediscipline was intolerable to him.

"But the doctor" she said with somepride to Paul"said hewas perfectly proportioned--almost exactly; allhis measurementswere correct.  He IS good-lookingyouknow."

"He's awfully nice-looking. But he doesn'tfetch the girlslike Williamdoes he?"

"No; it's a different character. He's a good deal likehis fatherirresponsible."

To console his motherPaul did not go much toWilleyFarm at this time.  And in the autumnexhibition of students'work in the Castle he had two studiesalandscape in water-colourand a still life in oilboth of which hadfirst-prize awards.He was highly excited.

"What do you think I've got for mypicturesmother?" he askedcoming home one evening.  She saw by hiseyes he was glad.Her face flushed.

"Nowhow should I knowmy boy!"

"A first prize for those glass jars---"

"H'm!"

"And a first prize for that sketch up atWilley Farm."

"Both first?"

"Yes."

"H'm!"

There was a rosybright look about herthoughshe said nothing.

"It's nice" he said"isn'tit?"

"It is."

"Why don't you praise me up to the skies?"

She laughed.

"I should have the trouble of dragging youdown again"she said.

But she was full of joynevertheless. William had broughther his sporting trophies.  She kept themstilland she did notforgive his death.  Arthur washandsome--at leasta good specimen--and warmand generousand probably would do well in theend.  But Paulwas going to distinguish himself.  She hada great belief in himthe more because he was unaware of his ownpowers.  There wasso much to come out of him.  Life for herwas rich with promise.She was to see herself fulfilled.  Not fornothing had beenher struggle.

Several times during the exhibition Mrs. Morelwent to theCastle unknown to Paul.  She wandered downthe long room lookingat the other exhibits.  Yesthey weregood.  But they had not inthem a certain something which she demanded forher satisfaction.Some made her jealousthey were so good. She looked at thema long time trying to find fault with them. Then suddenly shehad 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 strangethere in publicon thewalls of theCastle gallerywhere in her lifetime she hadseen so many pictures.And she glanced round to see if anyone hadnoticed her again in frontof the same sketch.

But she felt a proud woman.  When she metwell-dressed ladiesgoing home to the Parkshe thought to herself:

"Yesyou look very well--but I wonder ifYOUR son has twofirst prizes in the Castle."

And she walked onas proud a little woman asany in Nottingham.And Paul felt he had done something for herifonly a trifle.All his work was hers.

One dayas he was going up Castle Gatehe metMiriam.  He hadseen her on the Sundayand had not expected tomeet her in town.She was walking with a rather striking womanblondewith a sullenexpressionand a defiant carriage.  Itwas strange how Miriamin her bowedmeditative bearinglookeddwarfed beside this womanwith the handsome shoulders.  Miriamwatched Paul searchingly.His gaze was on the strangerwho ignored him. The girl saw hismasculine spirit rear its head.

"Hello!" he said"you didn'ttell me you were coming to town."

"No" replied Miriamhalfapologetically.  "I drovein to Cattle Market with father."

He looked at her companion.

"I've told you about Mrs. Dawes"said Miriam huskily;she was nervous.  "Clarado you knowPaul?"

"I think I've seen him before"replied Mrs. Dawes indifferentlyas she shook hands with him.  She hadscornful grey eyesa skinlike white honeyand a full mouthwith aslightly lifted upperlip that did not know whether it was raised inscorn of all menor out of eagerness to be kissedbut whichbelieved the former.She carried her head backas if she had drawnaway in contemptperhaps from men also.  She wore a largedowdy hat of black beaverand a sort of slightly affected simple dressthat made her lookrather sack-like.  She was evidently poorand had not much taste.Miriam usually looked nice.

"Where have you seen me?"  Paulasked of the woman.

She looked at him as if she would not troubleto answer.  Then:

"Walking with Louie Travers" shesaid.

Louie was one of the "Spiral" girls.

"Whydo 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 wishyou could come too.What time are you free?"

"You know not till eight to-nightdamnit!"

And directly the two women moved on.

Paul remembered that Clara Dawes was thedaughter of an oldfriend of Mrs. Leivers.  Miriam had soughther out because shehad once been Spiral overseer at Jordan'sandbecause her husbandBaxter Daweswas smith for the factorymakingthe irons forcripple instrumentsand so on.  Throughher Miriam felt she gotinto direct contact with Jordan'sand couldestimate betterPaul's position.  But Mrs. Dawes wasseparated from her husbandand had taken up Women's Rights.  She wassupposed to be clever.It interested Paul.

Baxter Dawes he knew and disliked.  Thesmith was a manof thirty-one or thirty-two. He cameoccasionally through Paul'scorner--a bigwell-set manalso striking tolook atand handsome.There was a peculiar similarity between himselfand his wife.He had the same white skinwith a cleargolden tinge.  His hairwas of soft brownhis moustache was golden. And he had a similardefiance in his bearing and manner.  Butthen came the difference.His eyesdark brown and quick-shiftingweredissolute.They protruded very slightlyand his eyelidshung over them in away that was half hate.  His mouthtoowas sensual.  His wholemanner was of cowed defianceas if he wereready to knock anybodydown who disapproved of him--perhaps because hereally disapprovedof himself.

From the first day he had hated Paul. Finding the lad's impersonaldeliberate gaze of an artist on his facehegot into a fury.

"What are yer lookin' at?" hesneeredbullying.

The boy glanced away.  But the smith usedto stand behindthe counter and talk to Mr. Pappleworth. His speech was dirtywith a kind of rottenness.  Again he foundthe youth with his coolcritical gaze fixed on his face.  Thesmith started round as if hehad been stung.

"What'r yer lookin' atthree hap'orth o'pap?" he snarled.

The boy shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"Why yer---!" shouted Dawes.

"Leave him alone" said Mr.Pappleworthin that insinuatingvoice which means"He's only one of yourgood little sops who can'thelp it."

Since that time the boy used to look at the manevery timehe came through with the same curiouscriticismglancing awaybefore he met the smith's eye.  It madeDawes furious.  They hatedeach other in silence.

Clara Dawes had no children.  When she hadleft her husband thehome had been broken upand she had gone tolive with her mother.Dawes lodged with his sister.  In the samehouse was a sister-in-lawandsomehow Paul knew that this girlLouieTraverswas now Dawes's woman.She was a handsomeinsolent hussywho mockedat the youthand yetflushed if he walked along to the station withher as she went home.

The next time he went to see Miriam it wasSaturday evening.She had a fire in the parlourand was waitingfor him.  The othersexcept her father and mother and the youngchildrenhad gone outso the two had the parlour together.  Itwas a longlowwarm room.There were three of Paul's small sketches onthe walland his photo wason the mantelpiece.  On the table and onthe high oldrosewood piano were bowls of coloured leaves. He sat in the armchairshe crouched on the hearthrug near his feet. The glow was warmon her handsomepensive face as she kneeledthere like a devotee.

"What did you think of Mrs. Dawes?"she asked quietly.

"She doesn't look very amiable" hereplied.

"Nobut don't you think she's a finewoman?" she saidin a deep tone

"Yes--in stature.  But without agrain of taste.  I like herfor some things.  IS she disagreeable?"

"I don't think so.  I think she'sdissatisfied."

"What with?"

"Well--how would you like to be tied forlife to a man like that?"

"Why did she marry himthenif she wasto have revulsionsso soon?"

"Aywhy did she!" repeated Miriambitterly.

"And I should have thought she had enoughfight in herto match him" he said.

Miriam bowed her head.

"Ay?" she queried satirically. "What makes you think so?"

"Look at her mouth--made for passion--andthe very setbackof her throat---" He threw his head backin Clara's defiant manner.

Miriam bowed a little lower.

"Yes" she said.

There was a silence for some momentswhile hethought of Clara.

"And what were the things you liked abouther?" she asked.

"I don't know--her skin and the texture ofher--and her--I don'tknow--there's a sort of fierceness somewhere inher.  I appreciateher as an artistthat's all."

"Yes."

He wondered why Miriam crouched there broodingin that strange way.It irritated him.

"You don't really like herdo you?"he asked the girl.

She looked at him with her greatdazzled darkeyes.

"I do" she said.

"You don't--you can't--not really."

"Then what?" she asked slowly.

"EhI don't know--perhaps you like herbecause she's got a grudgeagainst men."

That was more probably one of his own reasonsfor likingMrs. Dawesbut this did not occur to him. They were silent.There had come into his forehead a knitting ofthe brows which wasbecoming habitual with himparticularly whenhe was with Miriam.She longed to smooth it awayand she wasafraid of it.  It seemedthe stamp of a man who was not her man in PaulMorel.

There were some crimson berries among theleaves in the bowl.He reached over and pulled out a bunch.

"If you put red berries in your hair"he said"why wouldyou look like some witch or priestessandnever like a reveller?"

She laughed with a nakedpainful sound.

"I don't know" she said.

His vigorous warm hands were playing excitedlywith the berries.

"Why can't you laugh?" he said. "You never laugh laughter.You only laugh when something is odd orincongruousand then italmost seems to hurt you."

She bowed her head as if he were scolding her.

"I wish you could laugh at me just for oneminute--justfor one minute.  I feel as if it would setsomething free."

"But"--and she looked up at him witheyes frightenedand struggling--"I do laugh at you--I DO."

"Never!  There's always a kind ofintensity.  When you laughI could always cry; it seems as if it shows upyour suffering.Ohyou make me knit the brows of my very souland 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 silentthinking"Then whydon't you be otherwise."But he saw her crouchingbrooding figureandit seemed to tearhim in two.

"Butthereit's autumn" he said"and everybody feelslike a disembodied spirit then."

There was still another silence.  Thispeculiar sadnessbetween them thrilled her soul.  He seemedso beautiful with hiseyes gone darkand looking as if they weredeep as the deepest well.

"You make me so spiritual!" helamented.  "And I don't wantto be spiritual."

She took her finger from her mouth with alittle popand lookedup at him almost challenging.  But stillher soul was naked in hergreat dark eyesand there was the sameyearning appeal upon her.If he could have kissed her in abstract purityhe would have done so.But he could not kiss her thus--and she seemedto leave no other way.And she yearned to him.

He gave a brief laugh.

"Well" he said"get thatFrench and we'll do some--some Verlaine."

"Yes" she said in a deep tonealmost of resignation.And she rose and got the books.  And herrather rednervous handslooked so pitifulhe was mad to comfort herand kiss her.  But thenbe dared not--or could not.  There wassomething prevented him.His kisses were wrong for her.  Theycontinued the reading till teno'clockwhen they went into the kitchenandPaul was natural and jollyagain with the father and mother.  Hiseyes were dark and shining;there was a kind of fascination about him.

When he went into the barn for his bicycle hefound the frontwheel punctured.

"Fetch me a drop of water in a bowl"he said to her."I shall be lateand then I s'll catchit."

He lighted the hurricane lamptook off hiscoatturned upthe bicycleand set speedily to work. Miriam came with the bowlof water and stood close to himwatching. She loved to seehis hands doing things.  He was slim andvigorouswith a kindof easiness even in his most hasty movements. And busy at his workhe seemed to forget her.  She loved himabsorbedly.  She wantedto run her hands down his sides.  Shealways wanted to embrace himso long as he did not want her.

"There!" he saidrising suddenly. "Nowcould you have doneit quicker?"

"No!" she laughed.

He straightened himself.  His back wastowards her.  She puther two hands on his sidesand ran themquickly down.

"You are so FINE!" she said.

He laughedhating her voicebut his bloodroused to a waveof flame by her hands.  She did not seemto realise HIM in all this.He might have been an object.  She neverrealised the male he was.

He lighted his bicycle-lampbounced themachine on the barnfloor to see that the tyres were soundandbuttoned his coat.

"That's all right!" he said.

She was trying the brakesthat she knew werebroken.

"Did you have them mended?" sheasked.

"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" shemurmured.

"Don't worry--come to tea tomorrowwithEdgar."

"Shall we?"

"Do--about four.  I'll come to meetyou."

"Very well."

She was pleased.  They went across thedark yard to the gate.Looking acrosshe saw through the uncurtainedwindow of thekitchen the heads of Mr. and Mrs. Leivers inthe warm glow.It looked very cosy.  The roadwith pinetreeswas quite blackin front.

"Till tomorrow" he saidjumping onhis bicycle.

"You'll take carewon't you?" shepleaded.

"Yes."

His voice already came out of the darkness. She stood a momentwatching the light from his lamp race intoobscurity along the ground.She turned very slowly indoors.  Orion waswheeling up over the woodhis dog twinkling after himhalf smothered. For the rest the worldwas full of darknessand silentsave for thebreathing of cattlein their stalls.  She prayed earnestly forhis safety that night.When he left hershe often lay in anxietywondering if he had gothome safely.

He dropped down the hills on his bicycle. The roads were greasyso he had to let it go.  He felt apleasure as the machine plungedover the secondsteeper drop in the hill. "Here goes!" he said.It was riskybecause of the curve in thedarkness at the bottomand because of the brewers' waggons withdrunken waggoners asleep.His bicycle seemed to fall beneath himand heloved it.Recklessness is almost a man's revenge on hiswoman.He feels he is not valuedso he will riskdestroying himself todeprive her altogether.

The stars on the lake seemed to leap likegrasshopperssilver upon the blacknessas he spun past. Then there was the longclimb home.

"Seemother!" he saidas he threwher the berries and leaveson to the table.

"H'm!" she saidglancing at themthen away again.She sat readingaloneas she always did.

"Aren't they pretty?"

"Yes."

He knew she was cross with him.  After afew minutes he said:

"Edgar and Miriam are coming to teatomorrow."

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 haveplenty of meals there."

"You do."

"Then why do you begrudge them tea?"

"I begrudge whom tea?"

"What are you so horrid for?"

"Ohsay no more!  You've asked herto teait's quite sufficient.She'll come."

He was very angry with his mother.  Heknew it was merelyMiriam she objected to.  He flung off hisboots and went to bed.

Paul went to meet his friends the nextafternoon.  He was gladto see them coming.  They arrived home atabout four o'clock.Everywhere was clean and still for Sundayafternoon.  Mrs. Morel satin her black dress and black apron.  Sherose to meet the visitors.With Edgar she was cordialbut with Miriamcold and rather grudging.Yet Paul thought the girl looked so nice in herbrown cashmere frock.

He helped his mother to get the tea ready. Miriam would havegladly profferedbut was afraid.  He wasrather proud of his home.There was about it nowhe thoughta certaindistinction.The chairs were only woodenand the sofa wasold.  But the hearthrugand cushions were cosy; the pictures wereprints in good taste;there was a simplicity in everythingandplenty of books.He was never ashamed in the least of his homenor was Miriamof hersbecause both were what they should beand warm.And then he was proud of the table; the chinawas prettythe cloth was fine.  It did not matterthat the spoons were notsilver nor the knives ivory-handled; everythinglooked nice.Mrs. Morel had managed wonderfully while herchildren were growing upso that nothing was out of place.

Miriam talked books a little.  That washer unfailing topic.But Mrs. Morel was not cordialand turned soonto Edgar.

At first Edgar and Miriam used to go into Mrs.Morel's pew.Morel never went to chapelpreferring thepublic-house.  Mrs. Morellike a little championsat at the head of herpewPaul at the other end;and at first Miriam sat next to him.  Thenthe chapel was like home.It was a pretty placewith dark pews and slimelegant pillarsand flowers.  And the same people had satin the same places eversince he was a boy.  It was wonderfullysweet and soothing to sitthere for an hour and a halfnext to Miriamand near to his motheruniting his two loves under the spell of theplace of worship.Then he felt warm and happy and religious atonce.  And afterchapel he walked home with Miriamwhilst Mrs.Morel spent the restof the evening with her old friendMrs.Burns.  He was keenlyalive on his walks on Sunday nights with Edgarand Miriam.He never went past the pits at nightby thelighted lamp-housethe tall black headstocks and lines of truckspast the fans spinningslowly like shadowswithout the feeling ofMiriam returning to himkeen and almost unbearable.

She did not very long occupy the Morels' pew. Her father tookone for themselves once more.  It wasunder the little galleryopposite the Morels'.  When Paul and hismother came in the chapelthe Leivers's pew was always empty.  Hewas anxious for fear she wouldnot come:  it was so farand there wereso many rainy Sundays.Thenoften very late indeedshe came inwithher long strideher head bowedher face hidden under her batof dark green velvet.Her faceas she sat oppositewas always inshadow.  But it gavehim a very keen feelingas if all his soulstirred within himto see her there.  It was not the sameglowhappinessand pridethat he felt in having his mother in charge: something morewonderfulless humanand tinged to intensityby a painas if there were something he could not get to.

At this time he was beginning to question theorthodox creed.He was twenty-oneand she was twenty. She was beginningto dread the spring:  he became so wildand hurt her so much.All the way he went cruelly smashing herbeliefs.  Edgar enjoyed it.He was by nature critical and ratherdispassionate.  But Miriamsuffered exquisite painaswith an intellectlike a knifethe manshe loved examined her religion in which shelived and moved and hadher being.  But he did not spare her. He was cruel.  And when theywent alone he was even more fierceas if hewould kill her soul.He bled her beliefs till she almost lostconsciousness.

"She exults--she exults as she carries himoff from me"Mrs. Morel cried in her heart when Paul hadgone.  "She's notlike an ordinary womanwho can leave me myshare in him.She wants to absorb him.  She wants todraw him out and absorbhim till there is nothing left of himeven forhimself.He will never be a man on his own feet--shewill suck him up."So the mother satand battled and broodedbitterly.

And hecoming home from his walks with Miriamwas wildwith torture.  He walked biting his lipsand with clenched fistsgoing at a great rate.  Thenbrought upagainst a stilehe stood forsome minutesand did not move.  There wasa great hollow of darknessfronting himand on the black upslopes patchesof tiny lightsand in the lowest trough of the nighta flareof the pit.It was all weird and dreadful.  Why was hetorn soalmost bewilderedand unable to move?  Why did his mothersit at home and suffer?He knew she suffered badly.  But whyshould she?  And why didhe hate Miriamand feel so cruel towards herat the thoughtof his mother.  If Miriam caused hismother sufferingthen hehated her--and he easily hated her.  Whydid she make him feelas if he were uncertain of himselfinsecurean indefinite thingas if he had not sufficient sheathing toprevent the night and thespace breaking into him?  How he hatedher!  And thenwhat a rushof tenderness and humility!

Suddenly he plunged on againrunning home. His mothersaw on him the marks of some agonyand shesaid nothing.But he had to make her talk to him.  Thenshe was angry with himfor going so far with Miriam.

"Why don't you like hermother?" hecried in despair.

"I don't knowmy boy" she repliedpiteously.  "I'm sure I'vetried to like her.  I've tried and triedbut I can't--I can't!"

And he felt dreary and hopeless between thetwo.

Spring was the worst time.  He waschangeableand intenseand cruel.  So he decided to stay awayfrom her.  Then came thehours when he knew Miriam was expecting him. His mother watchedhim growing restless.  He could not go onwith his work.  He coulddo nothing.  It was as if something weredrawing his soul out towardsWilley Farm.  Then he put on his hat andwentsaying nothing.And his mother knew he was gone.  And assoon as he was on the wayhe sighed with relief.  And when he waswith her he was cruel again.

One day in March he lay on the bank ofNethermerewith Miriamsitting beside him.  It was a glisteningwhite-and-blue day.Big cloudsso brilliantwent by overheadwhile shadows stolealong on the water.  The clear spaces inthe sky were of cleancold blue.  Paul lay on his back in theold grasslooking up.He could not bear to look at Miriam.  Sheseemed to want himand he resisted.  He resisted all thetime.  He wanted now to giveher passion and tendernessand he could not. He felt that she wantedthe soul out of his bodyand not him. All his strength and energyshe drew into herself through some channelwhich united them.She did not want to meet himso that therewere two of themman and woman together.  She wanted todraw all of him into her.It urged him to an intensity like madnesswhich fascinated himas drug-taking might.

He was discussing Michael Angelo.  It feltto her as if she werefingering the very quivering tissuethe veryprotoplasm of lifeas she heard him.  It gave her deepestsatisfaction.  And in the endit frightened her.  There he lay in thewhite intensity of his searchand his voice gradually filled her with fearso level it wasalmost inhumanas if in a trance.

"Don't talk any more" she pleadedsoftlylaying her handon his forehead.

He lay quite stillalmost unable to move. His body wassomewhere discarded.

"Why not?  Are you tired?"

"Yesand it wears you out."

He laughed shortlyrealising.

"Yet you always make me like it" hesaid.

"I don't wish to" she saidverylow.

"Not when you've gone too farand youfeel you can't bear it.But your unconscious self always asks it ofme.  And I suppose Iwant it."

He went onin his dead fashion:

"If only you could want MEand not wantwhat I can reel offfor you! "

 

"I!" she cried bitterly--"I! Whywhen would you let me take you?"

"Then it's my fault" he saidandgathering himself togetherhe got up and began to talk trivialities. He felt insubstantial.In a vague way he hated her for it.  Andhe knew he was as much toblame himself.  Thishoweverdid notprevent his hating her.

One evening about this time he had walked alongthe home roadwith her.  They stood by the pastureleading down to the woodunable to part.  As the stars came out theclouds closed.  They hadglimpses of their own constellationOriontowards the west.His jewels glimmered for a momenthis dog ranlowstruggling withdifficulty through the spume of cloud.

Orion was for them chief in significance amongthe constellations.They had gazed at him in their strangesurcharged hours of feelinguntil they seemed themselves to live in everyone of his stars.This evening Paul had been moody and perverse. Orion had seemed justan ordinary constellation to him.  He hadfought against his glamourand fascination.  Miriam was watching herlover's mood carefully.But he said nothing that gave him awaytillthe moment came to partwhen he stood frowning gloomily at the gatheredcloudsbehind whichthe great constellation must be striding still.

There was to be a little party at his house thenext dayat which she was to attend.

"I shan't come and meet you" hesaid.

"Ohvery well; it's not very nice out"she replied slowly.

"It's not that--only they don't like meto.  They say I caremore for you than for them.  And youunderstanddon't you?You know it's only friendship."

Miriam was astonished and hurt for him. It had cost him aneffort.  She left himwanting to sparehim any further humiliation.A fine rain blew in her face as she walkedalong the road.She was hurt deep down; and she despised himfor being blownabout by any wind of authority.  And inher heart of heartsunconsciouslyshe felt that he was trying toget away from her.This she would never have acknowledged. She pitied him.

At this time Paul became an important factor inJordan's warehouse.Mr. Pappleworth left to set up a business ofhis ownand Paulremained with Mr. Jordan as Spiral overseer. His wages wereto be raised to thirty shillings at theyear-endif things went well.

Still on Friday night Miriam often came downfor her French lesson.Paul did not go so frequently to Willey Farmand she grieved atthe thought of her education's coming to end;moreoverthey bothloved to be togetherin spite of discords. So they read Balzacand did compositionsand felt highly cultured.

Friday night was reckoning night for theminers.Morel "reckoned"--shared up the moneyof the stall--either in the New Innat Bretty or in his own houseaccording as hisfellow-butties wished.Barker had turned a non-drinkerso now the menreckoned at Morel's house.

Anniewho had been teaching awaywas at homeagain.She was still a tomboy; and she was engaged tobe married.Paul was studying design.

Morel was always in good spirits on Fridayeveningunless theweek's earnings were small.  He bustledimmediately after his dinnerprepared to get washed.  It was decorumfor the women to absentthemselves while the men reckoned.  Womenwere not supposed to spyinto such a masculine privacy as the butties'reckoningnor were theyto know the exact amount of the week'searnings.  Sowhilst herfather was spluttering in the sculleryAnniewent out to spendan hour with a neighbour.  Mrs. Morelattended to her baking.

"Shut that doo-er!" bawled Morelfuriously.

Annie banged it behind herand was gone.

"If tha oppens it again while I'm weshin'meI'll ma'e thyjaw rattle" he threatened from the midstof his soap-suds.  Pauland the mother frowned to hear him.

Presently he came running out of the scullerywith the soapywater dripping from himdithering with cold.

"Ohmy sirs!" he said. "Wheer's my towel?"

It was hung on a chair to warm before the fireotherwise hewould have bullied and blustered.  Hesquatted on his heels beforethe hot baking-fire to dry himself.

"F-ff-f!" he wentpretending toshudder with cold.

"Goodnessmandon't be such a kid!"said Mrs. Morel."It's NOT cold."

"Thee strip thysen stark nak'd to wesh thyflesh i' that scullery"said the mineras he rubbed his hair; "nowtb'r a ice-'ouse!"

"And I shouldn't make that fuss"replied his wife.

"Notha'd drop down stiffas dead as adoor-knobwi'thy nesh sides."

"Why is a door-knob deader than anythingelse?" asked Paulcurious.

"EhI dunno; that's what they say"replied his father."But there's that much draught i' yonsculleryas it blows throughyour ribs like through a five-barred gate."

"It would have some difficulty in blowingthrough yours"said Mrs. Morel.

Morel looked down ruefully at his sides.

"Me!" he exclaimed.  "I'mnowt 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 awonderfully young bodymuscularwithout any fat.  His skin wassmooth and clear.It might have been the body of a man oftwenty-eightexcept thatthere wereperhapstoo many blue scarsliketattoo-markswhere thecoal-dust remained under the skinand that hischest was too hairy.But he put his hand on his side ruefully. It was his fixed belief thatbecause be did not get fathe was as thin as astarved rat.Paul looked at his father's thickbrownishhands all scarredwith broken nailsrubbing the fine smoothnessof his sidesand theincongruity struck him.  It seemed strangethey were the same flesh.

"I suppose" he said to his father"you had a good figure once."

"Eh!" exclaimed the minerglancingroundstartled and timidlike a child.

"He had" exclaimed Mrs. Morel"ifhe didn't hurtle himselfup as if he was trying to get in the smallestspace he could."

"Me!" exclaimed Morel--"me agood figure!  I wor niver muchmore n'r a skeleton."

"Man!" cried his wife"don't besuch a pulamiter!"

"'Strewth!" he said.  "Tha'sniver knowed me but what I lookedas if I wor goin' off in a rapid decline."

She sat and laughed.

"You've had a constitution like iron"she said; "and nevera man had a better startif it was body thatcounted.  You shouldhave seen him as a young man" she criedsuddenly to Pauldrawing herself up to imitate her husband'sonce handsome bearing.

Morel watched her shyly.  He saw again thepassion shehad had for him.  It blazed upon her for amoment.  He was shyrather scaredand humble.  Yet again hefelt his old glow.And then immediately he felt the ruin he hadmade during these years.He wanted to bustle aboutto run away from it.

"Gi'e my back a bit of a wesh" heasked her.

His wife brought a well-soaped flannel andclapped iton his shoulders.  He gave a jump.

"Ehtha mucky little 'ussy!" hecried.  "Cowd as death!"

"You ought to have been a salamander"she laughedwashing his back.  It was very rarely shewould do anythingso personal for him.  The children didthose things.

"The next world won't be half hot enoughfor you" she added.

"No" he said; "tha'lt see asit's draughty for me."

But she had finished.  She wiped him in adesultory fashionand went upstairsreturning immediately withhis shifting-trousers.When he was dried he struggled into his shirt. Thenruddy and shinywith hair on endand his flannelette shirthanging over hispit-trousershe stood warming the garments hewas going to put on.He turned themhe pulled them inside outhescorched them.

"Goodnessman!" cried Mrs. Morel"get dressed!"

"Should thee like to clap thysen intobritches as cowdas a tub o' water?" he said.

At last he took off his pit-trousers and donneddecent black.He did all this on the hearthrugas he wouldhave done if Annieand her familiar friends had been present.

Mrs. Morel turned the bread in the oven. Then from the redearthenware panchion of dough that stood in acorner she tookanother handful of pasteworked it to theproper shapeand droppedit into a tin.  As she was doing so Barkerknocked and entered.He was a quietcompact little manwho lookedas if he would gothrough a stone wall.  His black hair wascropped shorthis headwas bony.  Like most minershe was palebut healthy and taut.

"Evenin'missis" he nodded to Mrs.Moreland he seatedhimself with a sigh.

"Good-evening" she repliedcordially.

"Tha's made thy heels crack" saidMorel.

"I dunno as I have" said Barker.

He satas the men always did in Morel'skitcheneffacing himself rather.

"How's missis?" she asked of him.

He had told her some time back:

"We're expectin' us third just nowyousee."

"Well" he answeredrubbing hishead"she keeps prettymiddlin'I think."

"Let's see--when?" asked Mrs. Morel.

"WellI shouldn't be surprised any timenow."

"Ah! And she's kept fairly?"

"Yestidy."

"That's a blessingfor she's none toostrong."

"No.  An' I've done another sillytrick."

"What's that?"

Mrs. Morel knew Barker wouldn't do anythingvery silly.

"I'm come be-out th' market-bag."

"You can have mine."

"Nayyou'll be wantin' that yourself."

"I shan't. I take a string bag always."

She saw the determined little collier buying inthe week'sgroceries and meat on the Friday nightsandshe admired him."Barker's littlebut he's ten times theman you are" she saidto her husband.

Just then Wesson entered.  He was thinrather frail-lookingwith a boyish ingenuousness and a slightlyfoolish smiledespite his seven children.  But his wifewas a passionate woman.

"I see you've kested me" he saidsmiling rather vapidly.

"Yes" replied Barker.

The newcomer took off his cap and his bigwoollen muffler.His nose was pointed and red.

"I'm afraid you're coldMr. Wesson"said Mrs. Morel.

"It's a bit nippy" he replied.

"Then come to the fire."

"NayI s'll do where I am."

Both colliers sat away back.  They couldnot be induced to comeon to the hearth.  The hearth is sacred tothe family.

"Go thy ways i' th' armchair" criedMorel cheerily.

"Naythank yer; I'm very nicely here."

"Yescomeof course" insisted Mrs.Morel.

He rose and went awkwardly.  He sat inMorel's armchair awkwardly.It was too great a familiarity.  But thefire made him blissfully happy.

"And how's that chest of yours?"demanded Mrs. Morel.

He smiled againwith his blue eyes rathersunny.
"Ohit's very middlin'" he said.

"Wi' a rattle in it like a kettle-drum"said Barker shortly.

"T-t-t-t!" went Mrs. Morel rapidlywith her tongue.  "Did youhave that flannel singlet made?"

"Not yet" he smiled.

"Thenwhy didn't you?" she cried.

"It'll come" he smiled.

"Ahan' Doomsday!" exclaimed Barker.

Barker and Morel were both impatient ofWesson.  Butthenthey were both as hard as nailsphysically.

When Morel was nearly ready he pushed the bagof money to Paul.

"Count itboy" he asked humbly.

Paul impatiently turned from his books andpenciltipped the bagupside down on the table.  There was afive-pound bag of silversovereigns and loose money.  He countedquicklyreferred to thechecks--the written papers giving amount ofcoal--put the money in order.Then Barker glanced at the checks.

Mrs. Morel went upstairsand the three mencame to table.Morelas master of the housesat in hisarmchairwith his backto the hot fire.  The two butties hadcooler seats.  None of themcounted the money.

"What did we say Simpson's was?"asked Morel; and the buttiescavilled for a minute over the dayman'searnings.  Then the amountwas put aside.

"An' Bill Naylor's?"

This money also was taken from the pack.

Thenbecause Wesson lived in one of thecompany's housesand his rent had been deductedMorel andBarker took four-and-six each.And because Morel's coals had comeand theleading was stoppedBarker and Wesson took four shillings each. Then it was plain sailing.Morel gave each of them a sovereign till therewere no more sovereigns;each half a crown till there were no morehalf-crowns; each a shillingtill there were no more shillings.  Ifthere was anything at the endthat wouldn't splitMorel took it and stooddrinks.

Then the three men rose and went.  Morelscuttled out of the housebefore his wife came down.  She heard thedoor closeand descended.She looked hastily at the bread in the oven. Thenglancing onthe tableshe saw her money lying.  Paulhad been working allthe time.  But now he felt his mothercounting the week's moneyand her wrath rising

"T-t-t-t-t!" went her tongue.

He frowned.  He could not work when shewas cross.She counted again.

"A measly twenty-five shillings!" sheexclaimed.  "How muchwas the cheque?"

"Ten pounds eleven" said Paulirritably.  He dreaded whatwas coming.

"And he gives me a scrattlin' twenty-fivean'his club this week!  But I know him. He thinks becauseYOU'RE earning he needn't keep the house anylonger.Noall he has to do with his money is toguttle it.  But I'll show him!"

"Ohmotherdon't!" cried Paul.

"Don't whatI should like to know?"she exclaimed.

"Don't carry on again.  I can'twork."

She went very quiet.

"Yesit's all very well" she said;"but how do you thinkI'm going to manage?"

"Wellit won't make it any better towhittle about it."

"I should like to know what you'd do ifyou had it to putup with."

"It won't be long.  You can have mymoney.  Let him go to hell."

He went back to his workand she tied herbonnet-strings grimly.When she was fretted he could not bear it. But now he beganto insist on her recognizing him.

"The two loaves at the top" shesaid"will be donein twenty minutes.  Don't forget them."

"All right" he answered; and shewent to market.

He remained alone working.  But his usualintense concentrationbecame unsettled.  He listened for theyard-gate.  At a quarter-pastseven came a low knockand Miriam entered.

"All alone?" she said.

"Yes."

As if at homeshe took off her tam-o'-shanterand her long coathanging them up.  It gave him a thrill. This might be their own househis and hers.  Then she came back andpeered over his work.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Still designfor decorating stuffsandfor embroidery."

She bent short-sightedly over the drawings.

It irritated him that she peered so intoeverything thatwas hissearching him out.  He went intothe parlour and returnedwith a bundle of brownish linen. Carefully unfolding ithe spread it on the floor.  It proved tobe a curtain or portierebeautifully stencilled with a design on roses.

"Ahhow beautiful!" she cried.

The spread clothwith its wonderful reddishroses and darkgreen stemsall so simpleand somehow sowicked-lookinglay ather feet.  She went on her knees beforeither dark curls dropping.He saw her crouched voluptuously before hisworkand his heartbeat quickly.  Suddenly she looked up athim.

"Why does it seem cruel?" she asked.

"What?"

"There seems a feeling of cruelty aboutit" she said.

"It's jolly goodwhether or not" herepliedfolding uphis work with a lover's hands.

She rose slowlypondering.

"And what will you do with it?" sheasked.

"Send it to Liberty's.  I did it formy motherbut I thinkshe'd rather have the money."

"Yes" said Miriam.  He hadspoken with a touch of bitternessand Miriam sympathised.  Money would havebeen nothing to HER.

He took the cloth back into the parlour. When he returnedhe threw to Miriam a smaller piece.  Itwas a cushion-coverwith the same design.

"I did that for you" he said.

She fingered the work with trembling handsanddid not speak.He became embarrassed.

"By Jovethe bread!" he cried.

He took the top loaves outtapped themvigorously.  They were done.He put them on the hearth to cool.  Thenhe went to the scullerywetted his handsscooped the last white doughout of the punchionand dropped it in a baking-tin.  Miriamwas still bent over herpainted cloth.  He stood rubbing the bitsof dough from his hands.

"You do like it?" he asked.

She looked up at himwith her dark eyes oneflame of love.He laughed uncomfortably.  Then he beganto talk about the design.There was for him the most intense pleasure intalking about hiswork to Miriam.  All his passionall hiswild bloodwent intothis intercourse with herwhen he talked andconceived his work.She brought forth to him his imaginations. She did not understandany more than a woman understands when sheconceives a child in her womb.But this was life for her and for him.

While they were talkinga young woman of abouttwenty-twosmall and palehollow-eyedyet with arelentless look about herentered the room.  She was a friend at theMorel's.

"Take your things off" said Paul.

"NoI'm not stopping."

She sat down in the armchair opposite Paul andMiriamwho were on the sofa.  Miriam moved alittle farther from him.The room was hotwith a scent of new bread. Browncrisp loavesstood on the hearth.

"I shouldn't have expected to see you hereto-nightMiriam Leivers" said Beatrice wickedly.

"Why not?" murmured Miriam huskily.

"Whylet's look at your shoes."

Miriam remained uncomfortably still.

"If tha doesna tha durs'na" laughedBeatrice.

Miriam put her feet from under her dress. Her bootshad that queerirresoluterather patheticlook about themwhich showed how self-conscious andself-mistrustful she was.And they were covered with mud.

"Glory!  You're a positivemuck-heap" exclaimed Beatrice."Who cleans your boots?"

"I clean them myself."

"Then you wanted a job" saidBeatrice.  "It would ha'taken a lot of men to ha' brought me down hereto-night.  But lovelaughs at sludgedoesn't it'Postle my duck?"

"Inter alia" he said.

"OhLord! are you going to spout foreignlanguages?What does it meanMiriam?"

There was a fine sarcasm in the last questionbut Miriam didnot see it.

"'Among other things' I believe"she said humbly.

Beatrice put her tongue between her teeth andlaughed wickedly.

"'Among other things' 'Postle?" sherepeated.  "Do you meanlove laughs at mothersand fathersandsistersand brothersand men friendsand lady friendsand even atthe b'loved himself?"

She affected a great innocence.

"In factit's one big smile" hereplied.

"Up its sleeve'Postle Morel--you believeme" she said;and she went off into another burst of wickedsilent laughter.

Miriam sat silentwithdrawn into herself. Every one of Paul'sfriends delighted in taking sides against herand he left herin the lurch--seemed almost to have a sort ofrevenge upon her then.

"Are you still at school?" askedMiriam of Beatrice.

"Yes."

"You've not had your noticethen?"

"I expect it at Easter."

"Isn't it an awful shameto turn you offmerely because youdidn't pass the exam.?"

"I don't know" said Beatrice coldly.

"Agatha says you're as good as any teacheranywhere.It seems to me ridiculous.  I wonder whyyou didn't pass."

"Short of brainseh'Postle?" saidBeatrice briefly.

"Only brains to bite with" repliedPaullaughing.

"Nuisance!" she cried; andspringingfrom her seatshe rushed and boxed his ears.  She hadbeautiful small hands.He held her wrists while she wrestled withhim.  At last shebroke freeand seized two handfuls of histhickdark brown hairwhich she shook.

"Beat!" he saidas he pulled hishair straight with his fingers."I hate you!"

She laughed with glee.

"Mind!" she said.  "I wantto sit next to you."

"I'd as lief be neighbours with a vixen"he saidnevertheless making place for her between himand Miriam.

"Did it ruffle his pretty hairthen!"she cried; andwith herhair-combshe combed him straight.  "Andhis nice little moustache!"she exclaimed.  She tilted his head backand 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 lookedinside it.

"And fancy me having Connie's last cig."said Beatriceputting the thing between her teeth.  Heheld a lit match to herand she puffed daintily.

"Thanks so muchdarling" she saidmockingly.

It gave her a wicked delight.

"Don't you think he does it nicelyMiriam?" she asked.

"Ohvery!" said Miriam.

He took a cigarette for himself.

"Lightold boy?" said Beatricetilting her cigarette at him.

He bent forward to her to light his cigaretteat hers.She was winking at him as he did so. Miriam saw his eyes tremblingwith mischiefand his fullalmost sensualmouth quivering.He was not himselfand she could not bear it. As he was nowshe had no connection with him; she might aswell not have existed.She saw the cigarette dancing on his full redlips.  She hated his thickhair for being tumbled loose on his forehead.

"Sweet boy!" said Beatricetippingup his chin and givinghim a little kiss on the cheek.

"I s'll kiss thee backBeat" hesaid.

"Tha wunna!" she giggledjumping upand going away."Isn't he shamelessMiriam?"

"Quite" said Miriam.  "Bythe wayaren't you forgettingthe bread?"

"By Jove!" he criedflinging openthe oven door.

Out puffed the bluish smoke and a smell ofburned bread.

"Ohgolly!" cried Beatricecomingto his side.  He crouchedbefore the ovenshe peered over his shoulder. "This is what comesof the oblivion of lovemy boy."

Paul was ruefully removing the loaves. One was burnt blackon the hot side; another was hard as a brick.
"Poor mater!" said Paul.

"You want to grate it" saidBeatrice.  "Fetch me the nutmeg-grater."

She arranged the bread in the oven.  Hebrought the graterand she grated the bread on to a newspaper onthe table.He set the doors open to blow away the smell ofburned bread.Beatrice grated awaypuffing her cigaretteknocking the charcoal offthe poor loaf.

"My wordMiriam! you're in for it thistime" said Beatrice.

"I!" exclaimed Miriam in amazement.

"You'd better be gone when his mothercomes in.  I know whyKing Alfred burned the cakes.  Now I seeit!  'Postle would fix upa tale about his work making him forgetif hethought it would wash.If that old woman had come in a bit soonershe'd have boxed thebrazen thing's ears who made the oblivioninstead of poor Alfred's."

She giggled as she scraped the loaf.  EvenMiriam laughedin spite of herself.  Paul mended the fireruefully.

The garden gate was heard to bang.

"Quick!" cried Beatricegiving Paulthe scraped loaf."Wrap it up in a damp towel."

Paul disappeared into the scullery. Beatrice hastilyblew her scrapings into the fireand sat downinnocently.Annie came bursting in.  She was anabruptquite smart young woman.She blinked in the strong light.

"Smell of burning!" she exclaimed.

"It's the cigarettes" repliedBeatrice demurely.

"Where's Paul?"

Leonard had followed Annie.  He had a longcomic faceand blue eyesvery sad.

"I suppose he's left you to settle itbetween you" he said.He nodded sympathetically to Miriamand becamegently sarcasticto Beatrice.

"No" said Beatrice"he's goneoff with number nine."

"I just met number five inquiring forhim" said Leonard.

"Yes--we're going to share him up likeSolomon's baby"said Beatrice.

Annie laughed.

"Ohay" said Leonard.  "Andwhich bit should you have?"

"I don't know" said Beatrice. "I'll let all the otherspick first."

"An' you'd have the leavingslike?"said Leonardtwisting upa comic face.

Annie was looking in the oven.  Miriam satignored.Paul entered.

"This bread's a fine sightour Paul"said Annie.

"Then you should stop an' look after it"said Paul.

"You mean YOU should do what you'rereckoning to do"replied Annie.

"He shouldshouldn't he!" criedBeatrice.

"I s'd think he'd got plenty on hand"said Leonard.

"You had a nasty walkdidn't youMiriam?" said Annie.

"Yes--but I'd been in all week---"

"And you wanted a bit of a changelike"insinuated Leonard kindly.

"Wellyou can't be stuck in the house forever" Annie agreed.She was quite amiable.  Beatrice pulled onher coatand went outwith Leonard and Annie.  She would meether own boy.

"Don't forget that breadour Paul"cried Annie."Good-nightMiriam.  I don't thinkit will rain."

When they had all gonePaul fetched theswathed loafunwrapped itand surveyed it sadly.

"It's a mess!" he said.

"But" answered Miriam impatiently"what is itafter all--twopenceha'penny."

"Yesbut--it's the mater's preciousbakingand she'll takeit to heart.  Howeverit's no goodbothering."

He took the loaf back into the scullery. There was a littledistance between him and Miriam.  He stoodbalanced opposite her forsome moments consideringthinking of hisbehaviour with Beatrice.He felt guilty inside himselfand yet glad. For some inscrutablereason it served Miriam right.  He was notgoing to repent.She wondered what he was thinking of as hestood suspended.His thick hair was tumbled over his forehead. Why might she notpush it back for himand remove the marks ofBeatrice's comb?Why might she not press his body with her twohands.  It lookedso firmand every whit living.  And hewould let other girlswhy not her?

Suddenly he started into life.  It madeher quiver almostwith terror as he quickly pushed the hair offhis forehead and cametowards her.

"Half-past eight!" he said. "We'd better buck up.Where's your French?"

Miriam shyly and rather bitterly produced herexercise-book.Every week she wrote for him a sort of diary ofher inner lifein her own French.  He had found this wasthe only way to get herto do compositions.  And her diary wasmostly a love-letter.  Hewould read it now; she felt as if her soul'shistory were goingto be desecrated by him in his present mood. He sat beside her.She watched his handfirm and warmrigorouslyscoring her work.He was reading only the Frenchignoring hersoul that was there.But gradually his hand forgot its work. He read in silencemotionless.She quivered.

"'Ce matin les oiseaux m'ont eveille'"he read.  "'Il faisaitencore un crepuscule.  Mais la petitefenetre de ma chambre etait blemeet puisjauneet tous les oiseaux du boiseclaterent dans un chansonvif et resonnant.  Toute l'aubetressaillit.  J'avais reve de vous.Est-ce que vous voyez aussi l'aube?  Lesoiseaux m'eveillent presquetous les matinset toujours il y a quelquechose de terreur dansle cri des grives.  Il est si clair---'"

Miriam sat tremuloushalf ashamed.  Heremained quite stilltrying to understand.  He only knew sheloved him.  He was afraidof her love for him.  It was too good forhimand he was inadequate.His own love was at faultnot hers. Ashamedhe corrected her workhumbly writing above her words.

"Look" he said quietly"thepast participle conjugatedwith avoir agrees with the direct object whenit precedes."

She bent forwardtrying to see and tounderstand.  Her freefine curls tickled his face.  He startedas if they had been red hotshuddering.  He saw her peering forward atthe pageher red lips partedpiteouslythe black hair springing in finestrands across her tawnyruddy cheek.  She was coloured like apomegranate for richness.His breath came short as he watched her. Suddenly she looked up at him.Her dark eyes were naked with their loveafraidand yearning.His eyestoowere darkand they hurt her. They seemed to master her.She lost all her self-controlwas exposed infear.  And he knewbefore he could kiss herhe must drivesomething out of himself.And a touch of hate for her crept back againinto his heart.He returned to her exercise.

Suddenly he flung down the penciland was atthe ovenin a leapturning the bread.  For Miriamhe was too quick.She started violentlyand it hurt her withreal pain.  Even the wayhe crouched before the oven hurt her. There seemed to be somethingcruel in itsomething cruel in the swift wayhe pitched the breadout of the tinscaught it up again.  Ifonly he had been gentlein his movements she would have felt so richand warm.  As it wasshe was hurt.

He returned and finished the exercise.

"You've done well this week" hesaid.

She saw he was flattered by her diary.  Itdid not repayher entirely.

"You really do blossom out sometimes"he said.  "You oughtto write poetry."

She lifted her head with joythen she shook itmistrustfully.

"I don't trust myself" she said.

"You should try!"

Again she shook her head.

"Shall we reador is it too late?"he asked.

"It is late--but we can read just alittle" she pleaded.

She was really getting now the food for herlife duringthe next week.  He made her copyBaudelaire's "Le Balcon".  Then heread it for her.  His voice was soft andcaressingbut growingalmost brutal.  He had a way of liftinghis lips and showinghis teethpassionately and bitterlywhen hewas much moved.This he did now.  It made Miriam feel asif he were trampling on her.She dared not look at himbut sat with herhead bowed.  She couldnot understand why he got into such a tumultand fury.  It made her wretched.She did not like Baudelaireon the whole--norVerlaine.       "Beholdher singing in the field      Yon solitaryhighland lass."

That nourished her heart.  So did "FairInes". And--

      "It wasa beauteous eveningcalm and pure      And breathingholy quiet like a nun."

These were like herself.  And there washesaying in histhroat bitterly:

      "Tu terappelleras la beaute des caresses."

The poem was finished; he took the bread out ofthe ovenarranging the burnt loaves at the bottom of thepanchionthe good ones at the top.  The desiccatedloaf remained swathedup in the scullery.

"Mater needn't know till morning" hesaid.  "It won't upsether so much then as at night."

Miriam looked in the bookcasesaw whatpostcards and lettershe had receivedsaw what books were there. She took one that hadinterested him.  Then he turned down thegas and they set off.He did not trouble to lock the door.

He was not home again until a quarter toeleven.  His motherwas seated in the rocking-chair.  Anniewith a rope of hair hangingdown her backremained sitting on a low stoolbefore the fireher elbows on her kneesgloomily.  On thetable stood the offendingloaf unswathed.  Paul entered ratherbreathless.  No one spoke.His mother was reading the little localnewspaper.  He took offhis coatand went to sit down on the sofa. His mother moved curtlyaside to let him pass.  No one spoke. He was very uncomfortable.For some minutes he sat pretending to read apiece of paper he found onthe table.  Then---

"I forgot that breadmother" hesaid.

There was no answer from either woman.

"Well" he said"it's onlytwopence ha'penny. I can pay youfor that."

Being angryhe put three pennies on the tableand slidthem towards his mother.  She turned awayher head.  Her mouthwas shut tightly.

"Yes" said Annie"you don'tknow how badly my mother is!"

The girl sat staring glumly into the fire.

"Why is she badly?" asked Paulinhis overbearing way.

"Well!" said Annie.  "Shecould scarcely get home."

He looked closely at his mother.  Shelooked ill.

"WHY could you scarcely get home?" heasked herstill sharply.She would not answer.

"I found her as white as a sheet sittinghere" said Anniewith a suggestion of tears in her voice.

"WellWHY?" insisted Paul.  Hisbrows were knittinghis eyesdilating passionately.

"It was enough to upset anybody"said Mrs. Morel"huggingthose parcels--meatand green-groceriesand apair of curtains---"

"Wellwhy DID you hug them; you needn'thave done."

"Then who would?"

"Let Annie fetch the meat."

"Yesand I WOULD fetch the meatbut howwas I to know.You were off with Miriaminstead of being inwhen my mother came."

"And what was the matter with you?"asked Paul of his mother.

"I suppose it's my heart" shereplied.  Certainly she lookedbluish round the mouth.

"And have you felt it before?"

"Yes--often enough."

"Then why haven't you told me?--and whyhaven't you seen a doctor?"

Mrs. Morel shifted in her chairangry with himfor his hectoring.

"You'd never notice anything" saidAnnie.  "You're too eagerto be off with Miriam."

"Oham I--and any worse than you withLeonard?"

"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 shewouldn't have occupied you so entirely as toburn a whole ovenfulof bread."

"Beatrice was here as well as she."

"Very likely.  But we know why thebread is spoilt."

"Why?" he flashed.

"Because you were engrossed with Miriam"replied Mrs. Morel hotly.

"Ohvery well--then it was NOT!" hereplied angrily.

He was distressed and wretched.  Seizing apaperhe beganto read.  Annieher blouse unfastenedher long ropes of hair twistedinto a plaitwent up to bedbidding him avery curt good-night.

Paul sat pretending to read.  He knew hismother wantedto upbraid him.  He also wanted to knowwhat had made her illfor he was troubled.  Soinstead ofrunning away to bedas he wouldhave liked to dohe sat and waited. There was a tense silence.The clock ticked loudly.

"You'd better go to bed before your fathercomes in" said themother harshly.  "And if you're goingto have anything to eatyou'd better get it."

"I don't want anything."

It was his mother's custom to bring him sometrifle forsupper on Friday nightthe night of luxury forthe colliers.He was too angry to go and find it in thepantry this night.This insulted her.

"If I WANTED you to go to Selby on FridaynightI can imaginethe scene" said Mrs. Morel.  "Butyou're never too tired to goif SHE will come for you.  Nayyouneither 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---"

"Wellwhat if I DO want her---" hereplied.

"Whynothingif it was sensible orreasonable.  But to gotrapseing up there miles and miles in the mudcoming home at midnightand got to go to Nottingham in the morning---"

"If I hadn'tyou'd be just the same."

"YesI shouldbecause there's no sensein it.Is she so fascinating that you must follow herall that way?"Mrs. Morel was bitterly sarcastic.  Shesat stillwith averted facestroking with a rhythmicjerked movementtheblack sateenof her apron.  It was a movement that hurtPaul to see.

"I do like her" he said"but---"

"LIKE her!" said Mrs. Morelin thesame biting tones.  "It seemsto me you like nothing and nobody else. There's neither Annienor menor anyone now for you."

"What nonsensemother--you know I don'tlove her--I--I tellyou I DON'T love her--she doesn't even walkwith my armbecause Idon't want her to."

"Then why do you fly to her so often?"

"I DO like to talk to her--I never said Ididn't.  But I DON'Tlove her."

"Is there nobody else to talk to?"

"Not about the things we talk of. There's a lot of thingsthat you're not interested inthat---"

"What things?"

Mrs. Morel was so intense that Paul began topant.

"Why--painting--and books.  YOU don'tcare about Herbert Spencer."

"No" was the sad reply.  "AndYOU won't at my age."

"Wellbut I do now--and Miriam does---"

"And how do you know" Mrs. Morelflashed defiantly"that Ishouldn't.  Do you ever try me!"

"But you don'tmotheryou know you don'tcare whethera picture's decorative or not; you don't carewhat MANNER it is in."

"How do you know I don't care?  Doyou ever try me?  Do youever talk to me about these thingsto try?"

"But it's not that that matters to youmotheryou knowt's not."

"What is itthen--what is itthenthatmatters to me?"she flashed.  He knitted his brows withpain.

"You're oldmotherand we're young."

He only meant that the interests of HER agewere not theinterests of his.  But he realised themoment he had spokenthat he had said the wrong thing.

"YesI know it well--I am old.  Andtherefore I may stand aside;I have nothing more to do with you.  Youonly want me to wait onyou--the rest is for Miriam."

He could not bear it.  Instinctively herealised that hewas life to her.  Andafter allshe wasthe chief thing to himthe only supreme thing.

"You know it isn'tmotheryou know itisn't!"

She was moved to pity by his cry.

"It looks a great deal like it" shesaidhalf putting asideher despair.

"Nomother--I really DON'T love her. I talk to herbut Iwant to come home to you."

He had taken off his collar and tieand rosebare-throatedto go to bed.  As he stooped to kiss hismothershe threw herarms round his neckhid her face on hisshoulderand criedin a whimpering voiceso unlike her own thathe writhed in agony:

"I can't bear it.  I could letanother woman--but not her.She'd leave me no roomnot a bit of room---"

And immediately he hated Miriam bitterly.

"And I've never--you knowPaul--I'venever had a husband--not really---"

He stroked his mother's hairand his mouth wason her throat.

"And she exults so in taking you fromme--she's not likeordinary girls."

"WellI don't love hermother" hemurmuredbowing his headand hiding his eyes on her shoulder in misery. His mother kissedhim a longfervent kiss.

"My boy!" she saidin a voicetrembling with passionate love.

Without knowinghe gently stroked her face.

"There" said his mother"nowgo to bed.  You'll be so tiredin the morning."  As she was speakingshe heard her husband coming."There's your father--now go." Suddenly she looked at him almostas if in fear.  "Perhaps I'mselfish.  If you want hertake hermy boy."

His mother looked so strangePaul kissed hertrembling.

"Ha--mother!" he said softly.

Morel came inwalking unevenly.  His hatwas over one cornerof his eye.  He balanced in the doorway.

"At your mischief again?" he saidvenomously.

Mrs. Morel's emotion turned into sudden hate ofthe drunkardwho had come in thus upon her.

"At any rateit is sober" she said.

"H'm--h'm! h'm--h'm!" he sneered. He went into the passagehung up his hat and coat.  Then they heardhim go down three stepsto the pantry.  He returned with a pieceof pork-pie in his fist.It was what Mrs. Morel had bought for her son.

"Nor was that bought for you.  If youcan give me no more thantwenty-five shillingsI'm sure I'm not goingto buy you pork-pieto stuffafter you've swilled a bellyful ofbeer."

"Wha-at--wha-at!" snarled Moreltoppling in his balance."Wha-at--not for me?"  He lookedat the piece of meat and crustand suddenlyin a vicious spurt of temperflung it into the fire.

Paul started to his feet.

"Waste your own stuff!" he cried.

"What--what!" suddenly shouted Moreljumping up and clenchinghis fist.  "I'll show yeryer youngjockey!"

"All right!" said Paul viciouslyputting his head on one side."Show me!"

He would at that moment dearly have loved tohave a smackat something.  Morel was half crouchingfists upready to spring.The young man stoodsmiling with his lips.

"Ussha!" hissed the fatherswipinground with a great strokejust past his son's face.  He dared noteven though so closereally touch the young manbut swerved an inchaway.

"Right!" said Paulhis eyes upon theside of his father'smouthwhere in another instant his fist wouldhave hit.He ached for that stroke.  But he heard afaint moan from behind.His mother was deadly pale and dark at themouth.  Morel wasdancing up to deliver another blow.

"Father!" said Paulso that the wordrang.

Morel startedand stood at attention.

"Mother!" moaned the boy. "Mother!"

She began to struggle with herself.  Heropen eyes watched himalthough she could not move.  Graduallyshe was coming to herself.He laid her down on the sofaand ran upstairsfor a little whiskywhich at last she could sip.  The tearswere hopping down his face.As he kneeled in front of her he did not crybut the tears randown his face quickly.  Morelon theopposite side of the roomsat with his elbows on his knees glaringacross.

"What's a-matter with 'er?" he asked.

"Faint!" replied Paul.

"H'm!"

The elderly man began to unlace his boots. He stumbled offto bed.  His last fight was fought in thathome.

Paul kneeled therestroking his mother's hand.

"Don't be poorlymother--don't bepoorly!" he said timeafter time.

"It's nothingmy boy" she murmured.

At last he rosefetched in a large piece ofcoaland rakedthe fire.  Then he cleared the roomputeverything straightlaid the things for breakfastand brought hismother's candle.

"Can you go to bedmother?"

"YesI'll come."

"Sleep with Anniemothernot with him."

"No. I'll sleep in my own bed."

"Don't sleep with himmother."

"I'll sleep in my own bed."

She roseand he turned out the gasthenfollowed her closelyupstairscarrying her candle.  On thelanding he kissed her close.

"Good-nightmother."

"Good-night!" she said.

He pressed his face upon the pillow in a furyof misery.And yetsomewhere in his soulhe was at peacebecause he stillloved his mother best.  It was the bitterpeace of resignation.

The efforts of his father to conciliate himnext day werea great humiliation to him.

Everybody tried to forget the scene.

 

CHAPTER IX

DEFEAT OF MIRIAM

PAUL was dissatisfied with himself and witheverything.The deepest of his love belonged to hismother.  When he felt hehad hurt heror wounded his love for herhecould not bear it.Now it was springand there was battle betweenhim and Miriam.This year he had a good deal against her. She was vaguely awareof it.  The old feeling that she was to bea sacrifice to this lovewhich she had had when she prayedwas mingledin all her emotions.She did not at the bottom believe she everwould have him.  She didnot believe in herself primarily:  doubtedwhether she could everbe what he would demand of her.  Certainlyshe never saw herselfliving happily through a lifetime with him. She saw tragedysorrowand sacrifice ahead.  And in sacrifice shewas proudin renunciation she was strongforshe did not trustherself to support everyday life.  She wasprepared for the bigthings and the deep thingslike tragedy. It was the sufficiencyof the small day-life she could not trust.

The Easter holidays began happily.  Paulwas his own frank self.Yet she felt it would go wrong.  On theSunday afternoon she stoodat her bedroom windowlooking across at theoak-trees of the woodin whose branches a twilight was tangledbelowthe bright skyof the afternoon.  Grey-green rosettes ofhoneysuckle leaveshung before the windowsome alreadyshefanciedshowing bud.It was springwhich she loved and dreaded.

Hearing the clack of the gate she stood insuspense.It was a bright grey day.  Paul came intothe yard with his bicyclewhich glittered as he walked.  Usually herang his bell and laughedtowards the house.  To-day he walked withshut lips and coldcruel bearingthat had something of a slouchand a sneer in it.She knew him well by nowand could tell fromthat keen-lookingaloof young body of his what was happeninginside him.  There wasa cold correctness in the way he put hisbicycle in its placethat made her heart sink.

She came downstairs nervously.  She waswearing a new net blousethat she thought became her.  It had ahigh collar with a tiny ruffreminding her of MaryQueen of Scotsandmaking hershe thoughtlook wonderfully a womanand dignified. At twenty she wasfull-breasted and luxuriously formed.  Herface was still like a softrich maskunchangeable.  But her eyesonce liftedwere wonderful.She was afraid of him.  He would noticeher new blouse.

Hebeing in a hardironical moodwasentertaining the familyto a description of a service given in thePrimitive Methodist Chapelconducted by one of the well-known preachers ofthe sect.He sat at the head of the tablehis mobilefacewith the eyesthat could be so beautifulshining withtenderness or dancingwith laughternow taking on one expression andthen anotherin imitation of various people he was mocking. His mockeryalways hurt her; it was too near the reality. He was too cleverand cruel.  She felt that when his eyeswere like thishard withmocking hatehe would spare neither himselfnor anybody else.But Mrs. Leivers was wiping her eyes withlaughterand Mr. Leiversjust awake from his Sunday napwas rubbing hishead in amusement.The three brothers sat with ruffledsleepyappearance in theirshirt-sleevesgiving a guffaw from time totime.  The wholefamily loved a "take-off" more thananything.

He took no notice of Miriam.  Latershesaw him remarkher new blousesaw that the artist approvedbut it won fromhim not a spark of warmth.  She wasnervouscould hardly reachthe teacups from the shelves.

When the men went out to milkshe ventured toaddresshim 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."  Shecontinued quickly to lay the table.When she had finished---

"Tea won't be for a few minutes. Will you come and lookat the daffodils?" she said.

He rose without answering.  They went outinto the back garden underthe budding damson-trees.  The hills andthe sky were clean and cold.Everything looked washedrather hard. Miriam glanced at Paul.He was pale and impassive.  It seemedcruel to her that his eyesand browswhich she lovedcould look sohurting.

"Has the wind made you tired?" sheasked.  She detectedan underneath feeling of weariness about him.

"NoI think not" he answered.

"It must be rough on the road--the woodmoans so."

"You can see by the clouds it's asouth-west wind; that helpsme here."

"You seeI don't cycleso I don'tunderstand" she murmured.

"Is there need to cycle to know that!"he said.

She thought his sarcasms were unnecessary. They went forwardin silence.  Round the wildtussocky lawnat the back of the housewas a thorn hedgeunder which daffodils werecraning forward fromamong their sheaves of grey-green blades. The cheeks of the flowerswere greenish with cold.  But still somehad burstand their goldruffled and glowed.  Miriam went on herknees before one clustertook a wild-looking daffodil between her handsturned up itsface of gold to herand bowed downcaressingit with her mouthand cheeks and brow.  He stood asidewithhis hands in his pocketswatching her.  One after another sheturned up to him the facesof the yellowbursten flowers appealinglyfondling them lavishlyall the while.

"Aren't they magnificent?" shemurmured.

"Magnificent!  It's a bitthick--they're pretty!"

She bowed again to her flowers at his censureof her praise.He watched her crouchingsipping the flowerswith fervid kisses.

"Why must you always be fondling things?"he said irritably.

"But I love to touch them" sherepliedhurt.

"Can you never like things withoutclutching them as if youwanted to pull the heart out of them?  Whydon't you have a bitmore restraintor reserveor something?"

She looked up at him full of painthencontinued slowlyto stroke her lips against a ruffled flower. Their scentas shesmelled itwas so much kinder than he; italmost made her cry.

"You wheedle the soul out of things"he said.  "I wouldnever wheedle--at any rateI'd go straight."

He scarcely knew what he was saying. These things came fromhim mechanically.  She looked at him. His body seemed one weaponfirm and hard against her.
"You're always begging things to loveyou" he said"as if youwere a beggar for love.  Even the flowersyou have to fawn on them---"

RhythmicallyMiriam was swaying and strokingthe flower withher mouthinhaling the scent which ever aftermade her shudderas it came to her nostrils.

"You don't want to love--your eternal andabnormal cravingis to be loved.  You aren't positiveyou're negative.You absorbabsorbas if you must fillyourself up with lovebecause you've got a shortage somewhere."

She was stunned by his crueltyand did nothear.  He had notthe faintest notion of what he was saying. It was as if his frettedtortured soulrun hot by thwarted passionjetted off these sayingslike sparks from electricity.  She did notgrasp anything he said.She only sat crouched beneath his cruelty andhis hatred of her.She never realised in a flash.  Overeverything she broodedand brooded.

After tea he stayed with Edgar and thebrotherstaking nonotice of Miriam.  Sheextremely unhappyon this looked-for holidaywaited for him.  And at last he yieldedand came to her.She was determined to track this mood of his toits origin.She counted it not much more than a mood.

"Shall we go through the wood a littleway?" she asked himknowing he never refused a direct request.

They went down to the warren.  On themiddle path theypassed a trapa narrow horseshoe hedge ofsmall fir-boughsbaited with the guts of a rabbit.  Paulglanced at it frowning.She caught his eye.

"Isn't it dreadful?" she asked.

"I don't know!  Is it worse than aweasel with its teeth in arabbit's throat?  One weasel or manyrabbits?  One or the other must go!"

He was taking the bitterness of life badly. She was rathersorry for him.

"We will go back to the house" hesaid.  "I don't wantto walk out."

They went past the lilac-treewhose bronzeleaf-buds werecoming unfastened.  Just a fragmentremained of the haystacka monument squared and brownlike a pillar ofstone.  There wasa little bed of hay from the last cutting.

"Let us sit here a minute" saidMiriam.

He sat down against his willresting his backagainst the hardwall of hay.  They faced the amphitheatreof round hills that glowedwith sunsettiny white farms standing outthemeadows goldenthe woods dark and yet luminoustree-topsfolded over tree-topsdistinct in the distance.  The evening hadclearedand the eastwas tender with a magenta flush under which theland lay stilland rich.

"Isn't it beautiful?" she pleaded.

But he only scowled.  He would rather havehad it ugly just then.

At that moment a big bull-terrier came rushingupopen-mouthedpranced his two paws on the youth's shoulderslicking his face.Paul drew backlaughing.  Bill was agreat relief to him.He pushed the dog asidebut it came leapingback.

"Get out" said the lad"orI'll dot thee one."

But the dog was not to be pushed away.  SoPaul had a littlebattle with the creaturepitching poor Billaway from himwhohoweveronly floundered tumultuously backagainwild with joy.The two fought togetherthe man laughinggrudginglythe doggrinning all over.  Miriam watched them. There was something patheticabout the man.  He wanted so badly toloveto be tender.The rough way he bowled the dog over was reallyloving.  Bill got uppanting with happinesshis brown eyes rollingin his white faceand lumbered back again.  He adored Paul. The lad frowned.

"BillI've had enough o' thee" hesaid.

But the dog only stood with two heavy pawsthat quiveredwith loveupon his thighand flickered a redtongue at him.He drew back.

"No" he said--"no--I've hadenough."

And in a minute the dog trotted off happilytovary the fun.

He remained staring miserably across at thehillswhose stillbeauty he begrudged.  He wanted to go andcycle 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" heanswered.  "I'm only normal."

She wondered why he always claimed to be normalwhen hewas disagreeable.

"But what is the matter?" shepleadedcoaxing him soothingly.

"Nothing!"

"Nay!" she murmured.

He picked up a stick and began to stab theearth 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 thrustthrustthrust at the ground withthe pointed stickdigging up little clods of earth as if he werein a fever of irritation.She gently and firmly laid her band on hiswrist.

"Don't!" she said.  "Put itaway."

He flung the stick into the currant-bushesandleaned back.Now he was bottled up.

"What is it?" she pleaded softly.

He lay perfectly stillonly his eyes aliveand they fullof torment.

"You know" he said at lengthratherwearily--"you know--we'dbetter break off."

It was what she dreaded.  Swiftlyeverything seemed to darkenbefore her eyes.

"Why!" she murmured.  "Whathas happened?"

"Nothing has happened.  We onlyrealise where we are.It's no good---"

She waited in silencesadlypatiently. It was no good beingimpatient with him.  At any ratehe wouldtell her now what ailed him.

"We agreed on friendship" he went onin a dullmonotonous voice."How often HAVE we agreed for friendship! And yet--it neitherstops therenor gets anywhere else."

He was silent again.  She brooded. What did he mean?He was so wearying.  There was somethinghe would not yield.Yet she must be patient with him.

"I can only give friendship--it's all I'mcapable of--it'sa flaw in my make-up.  The thingoverbalances to one side--I hatea toppling balance.  Let us have done."

There was warmth of fury in his last phrases. He meant sheloved him more than he her.  Perhaps hecould not love her.Perhaps she had not in herself that which hewanted.  It was thedeepest motive of her soulthis self-mistrust.It was so deep shedared neither realise nor acknowledge. Perhaps she was deficient.Like an infinitely subtle shameit kept heralways back.  If it were soshe would do without him.  She would neverlet herself want him.She would merely see.

"But what has happened?" she said.

"Nothing--it's all in myself--it onlycomes out just now.We're always like this towards Easter-time."

He grovelled so helplesslyshe pitied him. At least shenever floundered in such a pitiable way. After allit was hewho was chiefly humiliated.

"What do you want?" she asked him.

"Why--I mustn't come often--that's all. Why should I monopoliseyou when I'm not--- You seeI'm deficient insomething with regardto you---"

He was telling her he did not love herand soought to leave hera chance with another man.  How foolishand blind and shamefully clumsyhe was!  What were other men to her! What were men to her at all!But heah! she loved his soul.  Was HEdeficient in something?Perhaps he was.

"But I don't understand" she saidhuskily.  "Yesterday---"

The night was turning jangled and hateful tohim as thetwilight faded.  And she bowed under hersuffering.

"I know" he cried"you neverwill!  You'll never believe thatI can't--can't physicallyany more than I canfly up like a skylark---"

"What?" she murmured.  Now shedreaded.

"Love you."

He hated her bitterly at that moment because hemade her suffer.Love her!  She knew he loved her.  Hereally belonged to her.This about not loving herphysicallybodilywas a mere perversityon his partbecause he knew she loved him. He was stupid likea child.  He belonged to her.  Hissoul wanted her.  She guessedsomebody had been influencing him.  Shefelt upon him the hardnessthe 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 despisedthem for their commonnesshis people.  They did not know what thingswere really worth.

He and she talked very little more that night. After all heleft her to cycle with Edgar.

He had come back to his mother.  Hers wasthe strongesttie in his life.  When he thought roundMiriam shrank away.There was a vagueunreal feel about her. And nobody else mattered.There was one place in the world that stoodsolid and did not meltinto unreality:  the place where hismother was.  Everybody elsecould grow shadowyalmost non-existent to himbut she could not.It was as if the pivot and pole of his lifefrom which he couldnot escapewas his mother.

And in the same way she waited for him. In him was establishedher life now.  After allthe life beyondoffered very little toMrs. Morel.  She saw that our chance forDOING is hereand doingcounted with her.  Paul was going to provethat she had been right;he was going to make a man whom nothing shouldshift off his feet;he was going to alter the face of the earth insome way which mattered.Wherever he went she felt her soul went withhim.  Whatever he did shefelt her soul stood by himreadyas it wereto 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 soulwas a feeling of thesatisfaction of self-sacrifice because he wasfaithful to her.She loved him first; he loved her first. And yet it was not enough.His new young lifeso strong and imperiouswas urged towardssomething else.  It made him mad withrestlessness.  She saw thisand wished bitterly that Miriam had been awoman who could take thisnew life of hisand leave her the roots. He fought against his motheralmost as he fought against Miriam.
It was a week before he went again to WilleyFarm.Miriam had suffered a great dealand wasafraid to see him again.Was she now to endure the ignominy of hisabandoning her?That would only be superficial and temporary. He would come back.She held the keys to his soul.  Butmeanwhilehow he would tortureher with his battle against her.  Sheshrank from it.

Howeverthe Sunday after Easter he came totea.  Mrs. Leiverswas glad to see him.  She gatheredsomething was fretting himthat he found things hard.  He seemed todrift to her for comfort.And she was good to him.  She did him thatgreat kindness of treatinghim almost with reverence.

He met her with the young children in the frontgarden.

"I'm glad you've come" said themotherlooking at himwith her great appealing brown eyes.  "Itis such a sunny day.I was just going down the fields for the firsttime this year."

He felt she would like him to come.  Thatsoothed him.  They wenttalking simplyhe gentle and humble.  Hecould have wept with gratitudethat she was deferential to him.  He wasfeeling humiliated.

At the bottom of the Mow Close they found athrush's nest.

"Shall I show you the eggs?" he said.

"Do!" replied Mrs. Leivers. "They seem SUCH a sign of springand so hopeful."

He put aside the thornsand took out the eggsholding themin the palm of his hand.

"They are quite hot--I think we frightenedher off them"he said.

"Aypoor thing!" said Mrs. Leivers.

Miriam could not help touching the eggsandhis hand whichit seemed to hercradled them so well.

"Isn't it a strange warmth!" shemurmuredto get near him.

"Blood heat" he answered.

She watched him putting them backhis bodypressed againstthe hedgehis arm reaching slowly through thethornshis handfolded carefully over the eggs.  He wasconcentrated on the act.Seeing him soshe loved him; he seemed sosimple and sufficientto himself.  And she could not get to him.

After tea she stood hesitating at thebookshelf.  He took"Tartarin de Tarascon".  Againthey sat on the bank of hay at the footof the stack.  He read a couple of pagesbut without any heart for it.Again the dog came racing up to repeat the funof the other day.He shoved his muzzle in the man's chest. Paul fingered his earfor a moment.  Then he pushed him away.

"Go awayBill" he said.  "Idon't want you."

Bill slunk offand Miriam wondered and dreadedwhat was coming.  There was a silenceabout theyouth that made her still with apprehension.It was not his furiesbut his quietresolutions that she feared.

Turning his face a little to one sideso thatshe couldnot see himhe beganspeaking slowly andpainfully:

"Do you think--if I didn't come up somuch--you might getto like somebody else--another man?"

So this was what he was still harping on.

"But I don't know any other men.  Whydo you ask?" she repliedin a low tone that should have been a reproachto him.

"Why" he blurted"because theysay I've no right to come uplike this--without we mean to marry---"

Miriam was indignant at anybody's forcing theissues between them.She had been furious with her own father forsuggesting to Paullaughinglythat he knew why he came so much.

"Who says?" she askedwondering ifher people had anythingto do with it.  They had not.

"Mother--and the others.  They say atthis rate everybody willconsider me engagedand I ought to considermyself sobecause it'snot fair to you.  And I've tried to findout--and I don't think Ilove you as a man ought to love his wife. What do you think about it?"

Miriam bowed her head moodily.  She wasangry at havingthis struggle.  People should leave himand her alone.

"I don't know" she murmured.

"Do you think we love each other enough tomarry?"he asked definitely.  It made her tremble.

"No" she answered truthfully. "I don't think so--we'retoo young."

"I thought perhaps" he went onmiserably"that youwith yourintensity in thingsmight have given memore--than I could ever makeup to you.  And even now--if you think itbetter--we'll be engaged."

Now Miriam wanted to cry.  And she wasangrytoo.  He wasalways such a child for people to do as theyliked with.

"NoI don't think so" she saidfirmly.

He pondered a minute.

"You see" he said"with me--Idon't think one person wouldever monopolize me--be everything to me--Ithink never."

This she did not consider.

"No" she murmured.  Thenaftera pauseshe looked at himand her dark eyes flashed.

"This is your mother" she said. "I know she never liked me."

"Nonoit isn't" he said hastily. "It was for your sakeshe spoke this time.  She only saidif Iwas going onI oughtto consider myself engaged."  Therewas a silence.  "And if I askyou to come down any timeyou won't stop awaywill you?"

She did not answer.  By this time she wasvery angry.

"Wellwhat shall we do?" she saidshortly.  "I suppose I'dbetter drop French.  I was just beginningto get on with it.But I suppose I can go on alone."

"I don't see that we need" he said. "I can give youa French lessonsurely."

"Well--and there are Sunday nights. I shan't stop comingto chapelbecause I enjoy itand it's all thesocial life I get.But you've no need to come home with me. I can go alone."

"All right" he answeredrathertaken aback.  "But if I ask Edgarhe'll always come with usand then they cansay nothing."

There was silence.  After allthenshewould not lose much.For all their talk down at his home there wouldnot be much difference.She wished they would mind their own business.

"And you won't think about itand let ittrouble youwill you?"he asked.

"Oh no" replied Miriamwithoutlooking at him.

He was silent.  She thought him unstable. He had no fixityof purposeno anchor of righteousness thatheld him.

"Because" he continued"a mangets across his bicycle--andgoes to work--and does all sorts of things. But a woman broods."

"NoI shan't bother" said Miriam. And she meant it.

It had gone rather chilly.  They wentindoors.

"How white Paul looks!"  Mrs.Leivers exclaimed.  "Miriamyoushouldn't have let him sit out of doors. Do you think you'vetaken coldPaul?"

"Ohno!" he laughed.

But he felt done up.  It wore him outtheconflict in himself.Miriam pitied him now.  But quite earlybefore nine o'clockhe roseto go.

"You're not going homeare you?"asked Mrs. Leivers anxiously.

"Yes" he replied.  "I saidI'd be early."  He was very awkward.

"But this IS early" said Mrs.Leivers.

Miriam sat in the rocking-chairand did notspeak.He hesitatedexpecting her to rise and go withhim to the barnas usual for his bicycle.  She remained asshe was.  He was at a loss.

"Well--good-nightall!" he faltered.

She spoke her good-night along with all theothers.But as he went past the window he looked in. She saw him palehis brows knit slightly in a way that hadbecome constant with himhis eyes dark with pain.

She rose and went to the doorway to wavegood-bye to him as hepassed through the gate.  He rode slowlyunder the pine-treesfeeling a cur and a miserable wretch.  Hisbicycle went tilting downthe hills at random.  He thought it wouldbe a relief to break one's neck.

Two days later he sent her up a book and alittle noteurging her to read and be busy.

At this time he gave all his friendship toEdgar.He loved the family so muchhe loved the farmso much; it wasthe dearest place on earth to him.  Hishome was not so lovable.It was his mother.  But then he would havebeen just as happy withhis mother anywhere.  Whereas Willey Farmhe loved passionately.He loved the little pokey kitchenwhere men'sboots trampedand the dog slept with one eye open for fear ofbeing trodden on;where the lamp hung over the table at nightand everything was so silent.He loved Miriam's longlow parlourwith itsatmosphere of romanceits flowersits booksits high rosewoodpiano.  He loved the gardensand the buildings that stood with their scarletroofs on the nakededges of the fieldscrept towards the wood asif for cosinessthe wild country scooping down a valley and upthe uncultured hills ofthe other side.  Only to be there was anexhilaration and a joy to him.He loved Mrs. Leiverswith her unworldlinessand her quaint cynicism;he loved Mr. Leiversso warm and young andlovable; he loved Edgarwho lit up when he cameand the boys and thechildren andBill--even the sow Circe and the Indiangame-cock called Tippoo.All this besides Miriam.  He could notgive it up.

So he went as oftenbut he was usually withEdgar.  Only allthe familyincluding the fatherjoined incharades and gamesat evening.  And laterMiriam drew themtogetherand they readMacbeth out of penny bookstaking parts. It was great excitement.Miriam was gladand Mrs. Leivers was gladandMr. Leivers enjoyed it.Then they all learned songs together from tonicsol-fasingingin a circle round the fire.  But now Paulwas very rarely alonewith Miriam.  She waited.  When sheand Edgar and he walked hometogether from chapel or from the literarysociety in Bestwoodshe knew his talkso passionate and sounorthodox nowadayswas for her.  She did envy Edgarhoweverhis cycling with Paulhis Friday nightshis days working in thefields.  For her Fridaynights and her French lessons were gone. She was nearly always alonewalkingpondering in the woodreadingstudyingdreamingwaiting.And he wrote to her frequently.

One Sunday evening they attained to their oldrare harmony.Edgar had stayed to Communion--he wondered whatit was like--withMrs. Morel.  So Paul came on alone withMiriam to his home.  He wasmore or less under her spell again.  Asusualthey were discussingthe sermon.  He was setting now full sailtowards Agnosticismbut such a religious Agnosticism that Miriamdid not suffer so badly.They were at the Renan Vie de Jesus stage. Miriam was thethreshing-floor on which he threshed out allhis beliefs.  While hetrampled his ideas upon her soulthe truthcame out for him.  She alonewas his threshing-floor.  She alone helpedhim towards realization.Almost impassiveshe submitted to his argumentand expounding.And somehowbecause of herhe graduallyrealized where he was wrong.And what he realizedshe realized.  Shefelt he could not do without her.

They came to the silent house.  He tookthe key out ofthe scullery windowand they entered. All the time he wenton with his discussion.  He lit the gasmended the fireand brought her some cakes from the pantry. She sat on the sofaquietlywith a plate on her knee.  Shewore a large white hatwith some pinkish flowers.  It was a cheaphatbut he liked it.Her face beneath was still and pensivegolden-brown and ruddy.Always her ears were hid in her short curls. She watched him.

She liked him on Sundays.  Then he wore adark suit that showed thelithe movement of his body.  There was acleanclear-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 sharpstraight to the mark.He turned the pages quicklyand read her achapter of St. John.As he sat in the armchair readingintenthisvoice only thinkingshe felt as if he were using her unconsciouslyas a man uses histools at some work he is bent on.  Sheloved it.  And the wistfulnessof his voice was like a reaching to somethingand it was as if shewere what he reached with.  She sat backon the sofa away from himand yet feeling herself the very instrument hishand grasped.It gave her great pleasure.

Then he began to falter and to getself-conscious.  And when hecame to the verse"A womanwhen she isin travailhath sorrowbecause her hour is come"he missed itout.  Miriam had felt himgrowing uncomfortable.  She shrank whenthe well-known words didnot follow.  He went on readingbut shedid not hear.  A griefand shame made her bend her head.  Sixmonths ago he would haveread it simply.  Now there was a scotch inhis running with her.Now she felt there was really something hostilebetween themsomething of which they were ashamed.

She ate her cake mechanically.  He triedto go on with his argumentbut could not get back the right note. Soon Edgar came in.Mrs. Morel had gone to her friends'.  Thethree set off to Willey Farm.

Miriam brooded over his split with her. There was something elsehe wanted.  He could not be satisfied; hecould give her no peace.There was between them now always a ground forstrife.She wanted to prove him.  She believedthat his chief need in lifewas herself.  If she could prove itbothto herself and to himthe rest might go; she could simply trust tothe future.

So in May she asked him to come to Willey Farmand meetMrs. Dawes.  There was something hehankered after.  She saw himwhenever they spoke of Clara Dawesrouse andget slightly angry.He said he did not like her.  Yet he waskeen to know about her.Wellhe should put himself to the test. She believed that therewere in him desires for higher thingsanddesires for lowerand thatthe desire for the higher would conquer. At any ratehe should try.She forgot that her "higher" and"lower" were arbitrary.

He was rather excited at the idea of meetingClara at Willey Farm.Mrs. Dawes came for the day.  Her heavydun-coloured hair wascoiled on top of her head.  She wore awhite blouse and navy skirtand somehowwherever she wasseemed to makethings look paltryand insignificant.  When she was in theroomthe kitchen seemedtoo small and mean altogether.  Miriam'sbeautiful twilightyparlour looked stiff and stupid.  All theLeivers were eclipsedlike candles.  They found her rather hardto put up with.Yet she was perfectly amiablebut indifferentand rather hard.

Paul did not come till afternoon.  He wasearly.  As he swungoff his bicycleMiriam saw him look round atthe house eagerly.He would be disappointed if the visitor had notcome.  Miriam wentout to meet himbowing her head because of thesunshine.Nasturtiums were coming out crimson under thecool green shadowof their leaves.  The girl stooddark-hairedglad to see him.

"Hasn't Clara come?" he asked.

"Yes" replied Miriam in her musicaltone.  "She's reading."

He wheeled his bicycle into the barn.  Hehad puton a handsome tieof which he was ratherproudand socks to match.

"She came this morning?" he asked.

"Yes" replied Miriamas she walkedat his side.  "You said you'dbring me that letter from the man atLiberty's.  Have you remembered?"

"Ohdashno!" he said.  "Butnag at me till you get it."

"I don't like to nag at you."

"Do it whether or not.  And is sheany more agreeable?"he continued.

"You know I always think she is quiteagreeable."

He was silent.  Evidently his eagerness tobe early to-dayhad been the newcomer.  Miriam alreadybegan to suffer.  They wenttogether towards the house.  He took theclips off his trousersbut was too lazy to brush the dust from hisshoesin spite of thesocks and tie.

Clara sat in the cool parlour reading.  Hesaw the nape of herwhite neckand the fine hair lifted from it. She roselooking athim indifferently.  To shake hands shelifted her arm straightin a manner that seemed at once to keep him ata distanceand yet to fling something to him.  Henoticed how her breastsswelled inside her blouseand how her shouldercurved handsomelyunder the thin muslin at the top of her arm.

"You have chosen a fine day" hesaid.

"It happens so" she said.

"Yes" he said; "I am glad."

She sat downnot thanking him for hispoliteness.

"What have you been doing all morning?"asked Paul of Miriam.

"Wellyou see" said Miriamcoughing huskily"Clara onlycame with father--and so--she's not been herevery long."

Clara sat leaning on the tableholding aloof. He noticedher hands were largebut well kept.  Andthe skin on them seemedalmost coarseopaqueand whitewith finegolden hairs.  She didnot mind if he observed her hands.  Sheintended to scorn him.Her heavy arm lay negligently on the table. Her mouth was closedas if she were offendedand she kept her faceslightly averted.

"You were at Margaret Bonford's meetingthe 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 youknow?"

"I went in for a few minutes before thetrain 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 dealcleverer than most men."

"WellI didn't say she wasn't" hesaiddeprecating."She's lovable for all that."

"Andof coursethat is all thatmatters" said Clara witheringly.

He rubbed his headrather perplexedratherannoyed.

"I suppose it matters more than hercleverness" he said;"whichafter allwould never get her toheaven."

"It's not heaven she wants to get--it'sher fair share on earth"retorted Clara.  She spoke as if he wereresponsible for somedeprivation which Miss Bonford suffered.

"Well" he said"I thought shewas warmand awfully nice--onlytoo frail.  I wished she was sittingcomfortably in peace---"

"'Darning her husband's stockings'"said Clara scathingly.

"I'm sure she wouldn't mind darning evenmy stockings" he said."And I'm sure she'd do them well. Just as I wouldn't mind blackingher boots if she wanted me to."

But Clara refused to answer this sally of his. He talkedto Miriam for a little while.  The otherwoman held aloof.

"Well" he said"I think I'llgo and see Edgar.  Is heon the land?"

"I believe" said Miriam"he'sgone for a load of coal.He should be back directly."

"Then" he said"I'll go andmeet him."

Miriam dared not propose anything for the threeof them.He rose and left them.

On the top roadwhere the gorse was outhesaw Edgar walkinglazily beside the marewho nodded herwhite-starred foreheadas she dragged the clanking load of coal. The young farmer's facelighted up as he saw his friend.  Edgarwas good-lookingwith darkwarm eyes.  His clothes were old andrather disreputableand hewalked with considerable pride.

"Hello!" he saidseeing Paulbareheaded.  "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. "Whydo you?"

"No!" The answer came with a deepring of conviction.  "No!"Edgar pursed up his lips.  "I can'tsay she's much in my line."He mused a little.  Then:  "Butwhy do you call her 'Nevermore'?"he asked.

"Well" said Paul"if she looksat a man she says haughtily'Nevermore' and if she looks at herself in thelooking-glass shesays disdainfully 'Nevermore' and if shethinks back she says itin disgustand if she looks forward she saysit cynically."

Edgar considered this speechfailed to makemuch out of itand saidlaughing:

"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 youthen?"

"Could you imagine her NICE with anybody?"asked the young man.

Edgar laughed.  Together they unloaded thecoal in the yard.Paul was rather self-consciousbecause he knewClara could see if shelooked out of the window.  She didn'tlook.

On Saturday afternoons the horses were brusheddown and groomed.Paul and Edgar worked togethersneezing withthe dust that camefrom the pelts of Jimmy and Flower.

"Do you know a new song to teach me?"said Edgar.

He continued to work all the time.  Theback of his neckwas sun-red when he bent downand his fingersthat held the brushwere thick.  Paul watched him sometimes.

"'Mary Morrison'?" suggested theyounger.

Edgar agreed.  He had a good tenor voiceand he loved to learnall the songs his friend could teach himsothat he could singwhilst he was carting.  Paul had a veryindifferent baritone voicebut a good ear.  Howeverhe sang softlyfor fear of Clara.Edgar repeated the line in a clear tenor. At times they both brokeoff to sneezeand first onethen the otherabused his horse.

Miriam was impatient of men.  It took solittle to amusethem--even Paul.  She thought it anomalousin him that he couldbe 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 turnedto singing.

"We have such jolly times" Miriamsaid to Clara.

Mrs. Dawes ate her meal in a slowdignifiedway.Whenever the men were present she grew distant.

"Do you like singing?"  Miriamasked her.

"If it is good" she said.

Paulof coursecoloured.

"You mean if it is high-class andtrained?" he said.

"I think a voice needs training before thesinging is anything"she said.

"You might as well insist on havingpeople's voices trainedbefore you allowed them to talk" hereplied.  "Reallypeople singfor their own pleasureas a rule."

"And it may be for other people'sdiscomfort."

"Then the other people should have flapsto their ears"he replied.

The boys laughed.  There was a silence. He flushed deeplyand ate in silence.

After teawhen all the men had gone but PaulMrs. Leiverssaid to Clara:

"And you find life happier now?"

"Infinitely."

"And you are satisfied?"

"So long as I can be free andindependent."

"And you don't MISS anything in yourlife?"asked Mrs. Leivers gently.

"I've put all that behind me."

Paul had been feeling uncomfortable during thisdiscourse.He got up.

"You'll find you're always tumbling overthe things you've putbehind you" he said.  Then he tookhis departure to the cowsheds.He felt he had been wittyand his manly pridewas high.  He whistledas he went down the brick track.

Miriam came for him a little later to know ifhe would go withClara and her for a walk.  They set offdown to Strelley Mill Farm.As they were going beside the brookon theWilley Water sidelooking through the brake at the edge of thewoodwhere pink campionsglowed under a few sunbeamsthey sawbeyondthe tree-trunksand the thin hazel bushesa man leading agreat bay horse throughthe gullies.  The big red beast seemed todance romanticallythrough that dimness of green hazel driftawaytherewhere the air was shadowyas if it were in thepastamong the fading bluebells that might havebloomedfor Deidre or Iseult.

The three stood charmed.

"What a treat to be a knight" hesaid"and to havea pavilion here."

"And to have us shut up safely?"replied Clara.

"Yes" he answered"singingwith your maids at your broidery.I would carry your banner of white and greenand heliotrope.  I wouldhave 'W.S.P.U.' emblazoned on my shieldbeneath a woman rampant."

"I have no doubt" said Clara"thatyou would much ratherfight for a woman than let her fight forherself."

"I would.  When she fights forherself she seems like a dogbefore a looking-glassgone into a mad furywith its own shadow."

"And YOU are the looking-glass?" sheaskedwith a curlof the lip.

"Or the shadow" he replied.

"I am afraid" she said"thatyou are too clever."

"WellI leave it to you to be GOOD"he retortedlaughing."Be goodsweet maidand just let ME beclever."

But Clara wearied of his flippancy. Suddenlylooking at herhe saw that the upward lifting of her face wasmisery and not scorn.His heart grew tender for everybody.  Heturned and was gentlewith Miriamwhom he had neglected till then.

At the wood's edge they met Limba thinswarthy man of fortytenant of Strelley Millwhich he ran as acattle-raising farm.He held the halter of the powerful stallionindifferentlyas if hewere tired.  The three stood to let himpass over the stepping-stonesof the first brook.  Paul admired that solarge an animal shouldwalk on such springy toeswith an endlessexcess of vigour.Limb pulled up before them.

"Tell your fatherMiss Leivers" hesaidin a peculiarpiping voice"that his young beas'es 'asbroke that bottom fencethree days an' runnin'."

"Which?" asked Miriamtremulous.

The great horse breathed heavilyshiftinground its red flanksand looking suspiciously with its wonderful bigeyes upwards fromunder its lowered head and falling mane.

"Come along a bit" replied Limb"an' I'll show you."

The man and the stallion went forward.  Itdanced sidewaysshaking its white fetlocks and lookingfrightenedas it felt itselfin the brook.

"No hanky-pankyin'" said the manaffectionately to the beast.

It went up the bank in little leapsthensplashed finely throughthe second brook.  Clarawalking with akind of sulky abandonwatched it half-fascinatedhalf-contemptuous. Limb stoppedand pointed to the fence under some willows.

"Thereyou see where they got through"he said.  "My man'sdruv 'em back three times."

"Yes" answered Miriamcolouring asif she were at fault.

"Are you comin' in?" asked the man.

"Nothanks; but we should like to go bythe pond."

"Welljust as you've a mind" hesaid.

The horse gave little whinneys of pleasure atbeing so near home.

"He is glad to be back" said Clarawho was interestedin the creature.

"Yes--'e's been a tidy step to-day."

They went through the gateand saw approachingthem fromthe big farmhouse a smallishdarkexcitable-looking womanof about thirty-five. Her hair was touched withgreyher darkeyes looked wild.  She walked with herhands behind her back.Her brother went forward.  As it saw herthe big bay stallionwhinneyed again.  She came up excitedly.

"Are you home againmy boy!" shesaid tenderly to the horsenot to the man.  The great beast shiftedround to herducking his head.She smuggled into his mouth the wrinkled yellowapple she hadbeen hiding behind her backthen she kissedhim near the eyes.He gave a big sigh of pleasure.  She heldhis head in her armsagainst her breast.

"Isn't he splendid!" said Miriam toher.

Miss Limb looked up.  Her dark eyesglanced straight at Paul.

"Ohgood-eveningMiss Leivers" shesaid.  "It's agessince you've been down."

Miriam introduced her friends.

"Your horse IS a fine fellow!" saidClara.

"Isn't he!"  Again she kissedhim.  "As loving as any man!"

"More loving than most menI shouldthink" replied Clara.

"He's a nice boy!" cried the womanagain embracing the horse.

Clarafascinated by the big beastwent up tostroke his neck.

"He's quite gentle" said Miss Limb. "Don't you think bigfellows are?"

"He's a beauty!" replied Clara.

She wanted to look in his eyes.  Shewanted him to look at her.

"It's a pity he can't talk" shesaid.

"Ohbut he can--all but" repliedthe other woman.

Then her brother moved on with the horse.

"Are you coming in?  DO come inMr.--I didn't catch it."

"Morel" said Miriam.  "Nowe won't come inbut we shouldlike to go by the mill-pond."

"Yes--yesdo.  Do you fishMr.Morel?"

"No" said Paul.

"Because if you do you might come and fishany time"said Miss Limb.  "We scarcely see asoul from week's end to week's end.I should be thankful."

"What fish are there in the pond?" heasked.

They went through the front gardenover thesluiceand up the steep bank to the pondwhich lay inshadowwith itstwo wooded islets.  Paul walked with MissLimb.

"I shouldn't mind swimming here" hesaid.

"Do" she replied.  "Comewhen you like.  My brother will beawfully pleased to talk with you.  He isso quietbecause thereis no one to talk to.  Do come and swim."

Clara came up.

"It's a fine depth" she said"andso clear."

"Yes" said Miss Limb.

"Do you swim?" said Paul.  "MissLimb was just saying we couldcome when we liked."

"Of course there's the farm-hands"said Miss Limb.

They talked a few momentsthen went on up thewild hillleaving the lonelyhaggard-eyed woman on thebank.

The hillside was all ripe with sunshine. It was wild and tussockygiven over to rabbits.  The three walkedin silence.  Then:

"She makes me feel uncomfortable"said Paul.

"You mean Miss Limb?" asked Miriam. "Yes."

"What's a matter with her?  Is shegoing dotty with beingtoo lonely?"

"Yes" said Miriam.  "It'snot the right sort of life for her.I think it's cruel to bury her there.  Ireally ought to go and seeher more.  But--she upsets me."

"She makes me feel sorry for her--yesandshe 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 hercracked" said Paul.

Clara did not answerbut strode on uphill. She was walkingwith her hand hangingher legs swinging as shekicked throughthe dead thistles and the tussocky grassherarms hanging loose.Rather than walkingher handsome body seemedto be blundering upthe hill.  A hot wave went over Paul. He was curious about her.Perhaps life had been cruel to her.  Heforgot Miriamwho was walkingbeside him talking to him.  She glanced athimfinding he did notanswer her.  His eyes were fixed ahead onClara.

"Do you still think she is disagreeable?"she asked.

He did not notice that the question wassudden.  It ranwith his thoughts.

"Something's the matter with her" hesaid.

"Yes" answered Miriam.

They found at the top of the hill a hidden wildfieldtwo sides of which were backed by the woodtheother sides by highloose hedges of hawthorn and elder bushes. Between these overgrownbushes were gaps that the cattle might havewalked through hadthere been any cattle now.  There the turfwas smooth as velveteenpadded and holed by the rabbits.  Thefield itself was coarseand crowded with tallbig cowslips that hadnever been cut.Clusters of strong flowers rose everywhereabove the coarsetussocks of bent.  It was like a roadsteadcrowded with tanfairy shipping.

"Ah!" cried Miriamand she looked atPaulher dark eyes dilating.He smiled.  Together they enjoyed thefield of flowers.  Claraa little way offwas looking at the cowslipsdisconsolately.Paul and Miriam stayed close togethertalkingin subdued tones.He kneeled on one kneequickly gathering thebest blossomsmoving from tuft to tuft restlesslytalkingsoftly all the time.Miriam plucked the flowers lovinglylingeringover them.He always seemed to her too quick and almostscientific.Yet his bunches had a natural beauty more thanhers.He loved thembut as if they were his and hehad a rightto them.  She had more reverence for them:they held something she had not.

The flowers were very fresh and sweet.  Hewanted to drink them.As he gathered themhe ate the little yellowtrumpets.Clara was still wandering aboutdisconsolately.  Going towards herhe said:

"Why don't you get some?"

"I don't believe in it.  They lookbetter 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 aboutme" she said.

"That's a stiffartificial notion"he said.  "They don't dieany quicker in water than on their roots. And besidesthey LOOKnice in a bowl--they look jolly.  And youonly call a thing a corpsebecause it looks corpse-like."

"Whether it is one or not?" sheargued.

"It isn't one to me.  A dead flowerisn't a corpse of a flower."

Clara now ignored him.

"And even so--what right have you to pullthem?" she asked.

"Because I like themand want them--andthere's plenty of them."

"And that is sufficient?"

"Yes.  Why not?  I'm sure they'dsmell nice in your roomin Nottingham."

"And I should have the pleasure ofwatching them die."

"But then--it does not matter if they dodie."

Whereupon he left herand went stooping overthe clumpsof tangled flowers which thickly sprinkled thefield like paleluminous foam-clots.  Miriam had comeclose.  Clara was kneelingbreathing some scent from the cowslips.

"I think" said Miriam"if youtreat them with reverence youdon't do them any harm.  It is the spirityou pluck them in that matters."

"Yes" he said.  "But noyou get 'em because you want 'emand that's all."  He held out hisbunch.

Miriam was silent.  He picked some more.

"Look at these!" he continued;"sturdy and lusty like littletrees and like boys with fat legs."

Clara's hat lay on the grass not far off. She was kneelingbending forward still to smell the flowers. Her neck gave hima sharp pangsuch a beautiful thingyet notproud of itselfjust now.  Her breasts swung slightly inher blouse.  The archingcurve of her back was beautiful and strong; shewore no stays.Suddenlywithout knowinghe was scattering ahandful of cowslipsover her hair and necksaying:

      "Ashesto ashesand dust to dust      If the Lordwon't have you the devil must." The chill flowers fell on her neck.  Shelooked up at himwith almost pitifulscared grey eyeswondering what he was doing.Flowers fell on her faceand she shut hereyes.

Suddenlystanding there above herhe feltawkward.

"I thought you wanted a funeral" hesaidill at ease.

Clara laughed strangelyand rosepicking thecowslips fromher hair.  She took up her hat and pinnedit on.  One flower hadremained tangled in her hair.  He sawbutwould not tell her.He gathered up the flowers he had sprinkledover her.

At the edge of the wood the bluebells hadflowed over into thefield and stood there like flood-water. But they were fading now.Clara strayed up to them.  He wanderedafter her.  The bluebellspleased him.

"Look how they've come out of the wood!"he said.

Then she turned with a flash of warmth and ofgratitude.

"Yes" she smiled.

His blood beat up.

"It makes me think of the wild men of thewoodshow terrifiedthey would be when they got breast to breastwith the open space."

"Do you think they were?" she asked.

"I wonder which was more frightened amongold tribes--thosebursting out of their darkness of woods uponall the space of lightor those from the open tiptoeing into theforests."

"I should think the second" sheanswered.

"Yesyou DO feel like one of the openspace sorttrying toforce yourself into the darkdon't you?"

"How should I know?" she answeredqueerly.

The conversation ended there.

The evening was deepening over the earth. Already the valley wasfull of shadow.  One tiny square of lightstood opposite at CrossleighBank Farm.  Brightness was swimming on thetops of the hills.Miriam came up slowlyher face in her bigloose bunch of flowerswalking ankle-deep through the scattered frothof the cowslips.Beyond her the trees were coming into shapeall shadow.

"Shall we go?" she asked.

And the three turned away.  They were allsilent.Going down the path they could see the light ofhome right acrossand on the ridge of the hill a thin darkoutline with little lightswhere the colliery village touched the sky.

"It has been nicehasn't it?" heasked.

Miriam murmured assent.  Clara was silent.

"Don't you think so?" he persisted.

But she walked with her head upand still didnot answer.He could tell by the way she movedas if shedidn't carethat she suffered.

At this time Paul took his mother to Lincoln. She was brightand enthusiastic as everbut as he satopposite her in therailway carriageshe seemed to look frail. He had a momentarysensation as if she were slipping away fromhim.  Then hewanted to get hold of herto fasten heralmost to chain her.He felt he must keep hold of her with his hand.

They drew near to the city.  Both were atthe window lookingfor the cathedral.

"There she ismother!" he cried.

They saw the great cathedral lying couchantabove the plain.

"Ah!" she exclaimed.  "Soshe is!"

He looked at his mother.  Her blue eyeswere watching thecathedral quietly.  She seemed again to bebeyond him.  Something inthe eternal repose of the uplifted cathedralblue and nobleagainst the skywas reflected in hersomething of the fatality.What wasWAS.  With all his young will hecould not alter it.He saw her facethe skin still fresh and pinkand downybut crow's-feet near her eyesher eyelidssteadysinking a littleher mouth always closed with disillusion; andthere was on her the sameeternal lookas if she knew fate at last. He beat against itwith all the strength of his soul.

"Lookmotherhow big she is above thetown!  Thinkthere are streetsand streets below her!  She looks biggerthan the city altogether."

"So she does!" exclaimed his motherbreaking brightinto life again.  But he had seen hersittinglooking steadyout of the window at the cathedralher faceand eyes fixedreflecting the relentlessness of life. And the crow's-feet nearher eyesand her mouth shut so hardmade himfeel he would go mad.

They ate a meal that she considered wildlyextravagant.

"Don't imagine I like it" she saidas she ate her cutlet."I DON'T like itI really don't! Just THINK of your money wasted!"

"You never mind my money" he said. "You forget I'm a fellowtaking his girl for an outing."

And he bought her some blue violets.

"Stop it at oncesir!" shecommanded.  "How can I do it?"

"You've got nothing to do.  Standstill!"

And in the middle of High Street he stuck theflowers in her coat.

"An old thing like me!" she saidsniffing.

"You see" he said"I wantpeople to think we're awful swells.So look ikey."

"I'll jowl your head" she laughed.

"Strut!" he commanded.  "Bea fantail pigeon."

It took him an hour to get her through thestreet.  She stoodabove Glory Holeshe stood before Stone Bowshe stood everywhereand exclaimed.

A man came uptook off his hatand bowed toher.

"Can I show you the townmadam?"

"Nothank you" she answered. "I've got my son."

Then Paul was cross with her for not answeringwith more dignity.

"You go away with you!" sheexclaimed.  "Ha! that'sthe Jew's House.  Nowdo you rememberthat lecturePaul--?"

But she could scarcely climb the cathedralhill.He did not notice.  Then suddenly he foundher unable to speak.He took her into a little public-housewhereshe rested.

"It's nothing" she said.  "Myheart is only a bit old;one must expect it."

He did not answerbut looked at her. Again his heart wascrushed in a hot grip.  He wanted to cryhe wanted to smash thingsin fury.

They set off againpace by paceso slowly. And everystep seemed like a weight on his chest. He felt as if his heartwould burst.  At last they came to thetop.  She stood enchantedlooking at the castle gatelooking at thecathedral front.She had quite forgotten herself.

"Now THIS is better than I thought itcould be!" she cried.

But he hated it.  Everywhere he followedherbrooding.They sat together in the cathedral.  Theyattended a little servicein the choir.  She was timid.

"I suppose it is open to anybody?"she asked him.

"Yes" he replied.  "Do youthink they'd have the damned cheekto send us away."

"WellI'm sure" she exclaimed"they would if they heardyour language."

Her face seemed to shine again with joy andpeace duringthe service.  And all the time he waswanting to rage and smashthings and cry.

Afterwardswhen they were leaning over thewalllooking atthe town belowhe blurted suddenly:

"Why can't a man have a YOUNG mother? What is she old for?"

"Well" his mother laughed"shecan scarcely help it."

"And why wasn't I the oldest son? Look--they say the youngones have the advantage--but lookTHEY had theyoung mother.You should have had me for your eldest son."

"I didn't arrange it" sheremonstrated.  "Come to consideryou're as much to blame as me."

He turned on herwhitehis eyes furious.

"What are you old for!" he saidmadwith his impotence."WHY can't you walk?  WHY can't youcome with me to places?"

"At one time" she replied"Icould have run up that hilla good deal better than you."

"What's the good of that to ME?" hecriedhitting his fiston the wall.  Then he became plaintive. "It's too bad of youto be ill.  Littleit is--"

"Ill!" she cried.  "I'm abit oldand you'll have to put upwith itthat's all."

They were quiet.  But it was as much asthey could bear.  They gotjolly again over tea.  As they sat byBrayfordwatching the boatshe told her about Clara.  His mother askedhim innumerable questions.

"Then who does she live with?"

"With her motheron Bluebell Hill."

"And have they enough to keep them?"

"I don't think so.  I think they dolace work."

"And wherein lies her charmmy boy?"

"I don't know that she's charmingmother.  But she's nice.And she seems straightyou know--not a bitdeepnot a bit."

"But she's a good deal older than you."

"She's thirtyI'm going on twenty-three."

"You haven't told me what you like herfor."

"Because I don't know--a sort of defiantway she's got--a sortof angry way."

Mrs. Morel considered.  She would havebeen glad now for her sonto fall in love with some woman who would--shedid not know what.But he fretted sogot so furious suddenlyandagain was melancholic.She wished he knew some nice woman-- She didnot know what she wishedbut left it vague.  At any rateshe wasnot hostile to the ideaof Clara.

Annietoowas getting married.  Leonardhad gone away to workin Birmingham.  One week-end when he washome she had said to him:

"You don't look very wellmy lad."

"I dunno" he said.  "Ifeel anyhow or nohowma."

He called her "ma" already in hisboyish fashion.

"Are you sure they're good lodgings?"she asked.

"Yes--yes.  Only--it's a winder whenyou have to pour your owntea out--an' nobody to grouse if you team it inyour saucer and supit up.  It somehow takes a' the taste outof it."

Mrs. Morel laughed.

"And so it knocks you up?" she said.

"I dunno.  I want to get married"he blurtedtwisting hisfingers and looking down at his boots. There was a silence.

"But" she exclaimed"I thoughtyou said you'd wait another year."

"YesI did say so" he repliedstubbornly.

Again she considered.

"And you know" she said"Annie'sa bit of a spendthrift.She's saved no more than eleven pounds. And I knowladyou haven'thad much chance."

He coloured up to the ears.

"I've got thirty-three quid" hesaid.

"It doesn't go far" she answered.

He said nothingbut twisted his fingers.

"And you know" she said"I'venothing---"

"I didn't wantma!" he criedveryredsuffering and remonstrating.

"Nomy ladI know.  I was onlywishing I had.  And take awayfive pounds for the wedding and things--itleaves twenty-nine pounds.You won't do much on that."

He twisted stillimpotentstubbornnotlooking up.

"But do you really want to get married?"she asked.  "Do youfeel as if you ought?"

He gave her one straight look from his blueeyes.

"Yes" he said.

"Then" she replied"we mustall do the best we can for itlad."

The next time he looked up there were tears inhis eyes.

"I don't want Annie to feel handicapped"he saidstruggling.

"My lad" she said"you'resteady--you've got a decent place.If a man had NEEDED me I'd have married him onhis 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 thinkthey'll have.But I had expensive furniture.  It's noteverything."

So the wedding took place almost immediately. Arthur came homeand was splendid in uniform.  Annie lookednice in a dove-greydress that she could take for Sundays. Morel called her a foolfor getting marriedand was cool with hisson-in-law.  Mrs. Morelhad white tips in her bonnetand some white onher blouseand was teased by both her sons for fancyingherself so grand.Leonard was jolly and cordialand felt afearful fool.  Paul couldnot quite see what Annie wanted to get marriedfor.  He was fond of herand she of him.  Stillhe hoped ratherlugubriously that it wouldturn out all right.  Arthur wasastonishingly handsome in his scarletand yellowand he knew it wellbut wassecretly ashamed of the uniform.Annie cried her eyes up in the kitchenonleaving her mother.Mrs. Morel cried a littlethen patted her onthe back and said:

"But don't crychildhe'll be good toyou."

Morel stamped and said she was a fool to go andtie herself up.Leonard looked white and overwrought. Mrs. Morel said to him:

"I s'll trust her to youmy ladand holdyou responsiblefor her."

"You can" he saidnearly dead withthe ordeal.  And itwas all over.

When Morel and Arthur were in bedPaul sattalkingas heoften didwith his mother.

"You're not sorry she's marriedmotherare you?" he asked.

"I'm not sorry she's married--but--itseems strange that sheshould go from me.  It even seems to mehard that she can preferto go with her Leonard.  That's howmothers 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 bedifferent."

"But you can trust him to be good to her?"

"Yesyes.  They say he's not goodenough for her.  But I sayif a man is GENUINEas he isand a girl isfond of him--then--itshould be all right.  He's as good asshe."

"So you don't mind?"

"I would NEVER have let a daughter of minemarry a man I didn'tFEEL to be genuine through and through. And yetthere's a gapnow she's gone."

They were both miserableand wanted her backagain.It seemed to Paul his mother looked lonelyinher new black silkblouse with its bit of white trimming.

"At any ratemotherI s'll never marry"he said.

"Aythey all say thatmy lad. You've not met the one yet.Only wait a year or two."

"But I shan't marrymother.  I shalllive with youand we'llhave a servant."

"Aymy ladit's easy to talk. We'll see when the time comes."

"What time?  I'm nearlytwenty-three."

"Yesyou're not one that would marryyoung.  But inthree years' time---"

"I shall be with you just the same."

"We'll seemy boywe'll see."

"But you don't want me to marry?"

"I shouldn't like to think of you goingthrough your lifewithout 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:

      "'Ason's my son till he takes him a wife      But mydaughter's my daughter the whole of her life.'"

"And you think I'd let a wife take me fromyou?"

"Wellyou wouldn't ask her to marry yourmother as well as you"Mrs. Morel smiled.

"She could do what she liked; she wouldn'thave to interfere."

"She wouldn't--till she'd got you--andthen you'd see."

"I never will see.  I'll never marrywhile I've got you--I won't."

"But I shouldn't like to leave you withnobodymy boy"she cried.

"You're not going to leave me.  Whatare you?  Fifty-three!  I'llgive you till seventy-five. There you areI'mfat and forty-four.Then I'll marry a staid body.  See!"

His mother sat and laughed.

"Go to bed" she said--"go tobed."

"And we'll have a pretty houseyou andmeand a servantand it'll be just all right.  I s'llperhaps be rich with my painting."

"Will you go to bed!"

"And then you s'll have a pony-carriage. See yourself--a littleQueen Victoria trotting round."

"I tell you to go to bed" shelaughed.

He kissed her and went.  His plans for thefuture were alwaysthe same.

Mrs. Morel sat brooding--about her daughterabout Paulabout Arthur.  She fretted at losingAnnie.  The family was veryclosely bound.  And she felt she MUST livenowto be with herchildren.  Life was so rich for her. Paul wanted herand so did Arthur.Arthur never knew how deeply he loved her. He was a creatureof the moment.  Never yet had he beenforced to realise himself.The army had disciplined his bodybut not hissoul.  He was inperfect health and very handsome.  Hisdarkvigorous hair sat closeto his smallish head.  There was somethingchildish about his nosesomething almost girlish about his dark blueeyes.  But he had the funred mouth of a man under his brown moustacheand his jaw was strong.It was his father's mouth; it was the nose andeyes of her own mother'speople--good-lookingweak-principled folk. Mrs. Morel was anxiousabout him.  Once he had really run the righe was safe.  But how farwould he go?

The army had not really done him any good. He resentedbitterly the authority of the officers. He hated having to obeyas if he were an animal.  But he had toomuch sense to kick.So he turned his attention to getting the bestout of it.He could singhe was a boon-companion. Often he got into scrapesbut they were the manly scrapes that are easilycondoned.  So he madea good time out of itwhilst his self-respectwas in suppression.He trusted to his good looks and handsomefigurehis refinementhis decent education to get him most of what hewantedand hewas not disappointed.  Yet he wasrestless.  Something seemedto gnaw him inside.  He was never stillhe was never alone.With his mother he was rather humble. Paul he admired and lovedand despised slightly.  And Paul admiredand loved and despisedhim slightly.

Mrs. Morel had had a few pounds left to her byher fatherand she decided to buy her son out of thearmy.  He was wild with joy.Now he was like a lad taking a holiday.

He had always been fond of Beatrice Wyldandduring his furloughhe picked up with her again.  She wasstronger and better in health.The two often went long walks togetherArthurtaking her armin soldier's fashionrather stiffly.  Andshe came to play thepiano whilst he sang.  Then Arthur wouldunhook his tunic collar.He grew flushedhis eyes were brighthe sangin a manly tenor.Afterwards they sat together on the sofa. He seemed to flaunthis body:  she was aware of him so--thestrong chestthe sidesthe thighs in their close-fitting trousers.

He liked to lapse into the dialect when hetalked to her.She would sometimes smoke with him. Occasionally shewould only take a few whiffs at his cigarette.

"Nay" he said to her one eveningwhen she reachedfor his cigarette.  "Naythadoesna.  I'll gi'e thee a smokekiss if ter's a mind."

"I wanted a whiffno kiss at all"she answered.

"Wellan' tha s'lt ha'e a whiff" hesaid"along wi' t' kiss."

"I want a draw at thy fag" shecriedsnatching for thecigarette between his lips.

He was sitting with his shoulder touching her. She was smalland quick as lightning.  He just escaped.

"I'll gi'e thee a smoke kiss" hesaid.

"Tha'rt a knivey nuisanceArty Morel"she saidsitting back.

"Ha'e a smoke kiss?"

The soldier leaned forward to hersmiling. His face wasnear hers.

"Shonna!" she repliedturning awayher head.

He took a draw at his cigaretteand pursed uphis mouthand put his lips close to her.  Hisdark-brown cropped moustachestood out like a brush.  She looked at thepuckered crimson lipsthen suddenly snatched the cigarette from hisfingers and darted away.Heleaping after herseized the comb from herback hair.  She turnedthrew the cigarette at him.  He picked itupput it in his mouthand sat down.

"Nuisance!" she cried.  "Giveme my comb!"

She was afraid that her hairspecially donefor himwould come down.  She stood with her handsto her head.  He hidthe comb between his knees.

"I've non got it" he said.

The cigarette trembled between his lips withlaughter as he spoke.

"Liar!" she said.

"'S true as I'm here!" he laughedshowing his hands.

"You brazen imp!" she exclaimedrushing and scuffling forthe combwhich he had under his knees. As she wrestled with himpulling at his smoothtight-covered kneeshelaughed till helay back on the sofa shaking with laughter. The cigarette fellfrom his mouth almost singeing his throat. Under his delicate tanthe blood flushed upand he laughed till hisblue eyes were blindedhis throat swollen almost to choking. Then he sat up.  Beatrice wasputting in her comb.

"Tha tickled meBeat" he saidthickly.

Like a flash her small white hand went out andsmacked his face.He started upglaring at her.  Theystared at each other.Slowly the flush mounted her cheekshe droppedher eyesthen her head.He sat down sulkily.  She went into thescullery to adjust her hair.In private there she shed a few tearsshe didnot know what for.

When she returned she was pursed up close. But it was only a filmover her fire.  Hewith ruffled hairwassulking upon the sofa.She sat down oppositein the armchairandneither spoke.The clock ticked in the silence like blows.

"You are a little catBeat" he saidat lengthhalf apologetically.

"Wellyou shouldn't be brazen" shereplied.

There was again a long silence.  Hewhistled to himselflike a man much agitated but defiant. Suddenly she went acrossto him and kissed him.

"Did itpore fing!" she mocked.

He lifted his facesmiling curiously.

"Kiss?" he invited her.

"Daren't I?" she asked.

"Go on!" he challengedhis mouthlifted to her.

Deliberatelyand with a peculiar quiveringsmile thatseemed to overspread her whole bodyshe puther mouth on his.Immediately his arms folded round her.  Assoon as the long kiss wasfinished she drew back her head from himputher delicate fingerson his neckthrough the open collar. Then she closed her eyesgiving herself up again in a kiss.

She acted of her own free will.  What shewould do she didand made nobody responsible.

 

Paul felt life changing around him.  Theconditions of youthwere gone.  Now it was a home of grown-uppeople.  Annie wasa married womanArthur was following his ownpleasure in a wayunknown to his folk.  For so long they hadall lived at homeand gone out to pass their time.  But nowfor Annie and Arthurlife lay outside their mother's house. They came home for holidayand for rest.  So there was that strangehalf-empty feeling aboutthe houseas if the birds had flown. Paul became more and moreunsettled.  Annie and Arthur had gone. He was restless to follow.Yet home was for him beside his mother. And still there wassomething elsesomething outsidesomething hewanted.

He grew more and more restless.  Miriamdid not satisfy him.His old mad desire to be with her grew weaker. Sometimes he metClara in Nottinghamsometimes he went tomeetings with hersometimes he saw her at Willey Farm.  Buton these last occasionsthe situation became strained.  There wasa triangle of antagonismbetween Paul and Clara and Miriam.  WithClara he took on a smartworldlymocking tone very antagonistic toMiriam.  It did notmatter what went before.  She might beintimate and sad with him.Then as soon as Clara appearedit allvanishedand he played tothe newcomer.

Miriam had one beautiful evening with him inthe hay.He had been on the horse-rakeand havingfinishedcame to helpher to put the hay in cocks.  Then hetalked to her of his hopesand despairsand his whole soul seemed to liebare before her.She felt as if she watched the very quiveringstuff of life in him.The moon came out:  they walked hometogether:  he seemed to havecome to her because he needed her so badlyandshe listened to himgave him all her love and her faith.  Itseemed to her he broughther the best of himself to keepand that shewould guard it allher life.  Naythe sky did not cherishthe stars more surely andeternally than she would guard the good in thesoul of Paul Morel.She went on home alonefeeling exaltedgladin her faith.

And thenthe next dayClara came.  Theywere to have teain the hayfield.  Miriam watched theevening drawing to goldand shadow.  And all the time Paul wassporting with Clara.He made higher and higher heaps of hay thatthey were jumping over.Miriam did not care for the gameand stoodaside.  Edgar and Geoffreyand Maurice and Clara and Paul jumped. Paul wonbecause hewas light.  Clara's blood was roused. She could run like an Amazon.Paul loved the determined way she rushed at thehay-cock and leapedlanded on the other sideher breasts shakenher thick haircome undone.

"You touched!" he cried.  "Youtouched!"

"No!" she flashedturning to Edgar. "I didn't touchdid 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 toEdgar.

"Nay" Edgar laughed.  "Idaren't. You must do it yourself."

"And nothing can alter the fact that youtouched" laughed Paul.

She was furious with him.  Her littletriumph before theselads and men was gone.  She had forgottenherself in the game.Now he was to humble her.

"I think you are despicable!" shesaid.

And again he laughedin a way that torturedMiriam.

"And I KNEW you couldn't jump that heap"he teased.

She turned her back on him.  Yet everybodycould see thatthe only person she listened toor wasconscious ofwas heand he of her.  It pleased the men to seethis battle between them.But Miriam was tortured.

Paul could choose the lesser in place of thehighershe saw.He could be unfaithful to himselfunfaithfulto the realdeep Paul Morel.  There was a danger ofhis becoming frivolousof hisrunning after his satisfaction like any Arthuror like his father.It made Miriam bitter to think that he shouldthrow away his soulfor this flippant traffic of triviality withClara.  She walkedin bitterness and silencewhile the other tworallied each otherand Paul sported.

And afterwardshe would not own itbut he wasratherashamed of himselfand prostrated himselfbefore Miriam.Then again he rebelled.

"It's not religious to be religious"he said.  "I reckona crow is religious when it sails across thesky.  But it onlydoes it because it feels itself carried towhere it's goingnot because it thinks it is being eternal."

But Miriam knew that one should be religious ineverythinghave Godwhatever God might bepresent ineverything.

"I don't believe God knows such a lotabout Himself"he cried.  "God doesn't KNOW thingsHe IS things.And I'm sure He's not soulful."

And then it seemed to her that Paul was arguingGod on to hisown sidebecause he wanted his own way and hisown pleasure.There was a long battle between him and her. He was utterlyunfaithful to her even in her own presence;then he was ashamedthen repentant; then he hated herand went offagain.  Those werethe ever-recurring conditions.

She fretted him to the bottom of his soul. There sheremained--sadpensivea worshipper.  Andhe caused her sorrow.Half the time he grieved for herhalf the timehe hated her.She was his conscience; and he feltsomehowhe had got a consciencethat was too much for him.  He could notleave herbecause in oneway she did hold the best of him.  Hecould not stay with herbecause she did not take the rest of himwhichwas three-quarters.So he chafed himself into rawness over her.

When she was twenty-one he wrote her a letterwhich couldonly have been written to her.

 

"May I speak of our oldworn lovethislast time.  Ittoois changingis it not?  Sayhas not thebody of that love diedand left you its invulnerable soul?  YouseeI can give youa spirit loveI have given it you this longlong time; but notembodied passion.  Seeyou are a nun. I have given you what Iwould give a holy nun--as a mystic monk to amystic nun.  Surely youesteem it best.  Yet you regret--nohaveregretted--the other.In all our relations no body enters.  I donot talk to you throughthe senses--rather through the spirit. That is why we cannot lovein the common sense.  Ours is not aneveryday affection.  As yet weare mortaland to live side by side with oneanother would be dreadfulfor somehow with you I cannot long be trivialandyou knowto be always beyond this mortal state would beto lose it.If people marrythey must live together asaffectionate humanswho may be commonplace with each other withoutfeeling awkward--notas two souls.  So I feel it.

"Ought I to send this letter?--I doubtit.  But there--itis best to understand.  Au revoir."

 

Miriam read this letter twiceafter which shesealed it up.A year later she broke the seal to show hermother the letter.

"You are a nun--you are a nun." The words went into her heartagain and again.  Nothing he ever had saidhad gone into herso deeplyfixedlylike a mortal wound.

She answered him two days after the party.

"'Our intimacy would have beenall-beautiful but for onelittle mistake'" she quoted.  "Wasthe mistake mine?"

Almost immediately he replied to her fromNottinghamsending her at the same time a little "OmarKhayyam."

 

"I am glad you answered; you are so calmand natural you putme to shame.  What a ranter I am!  Weare often out of sympathy.But in fundamentals we may always be together Ithink.

"I must thank you for your sympathy withmy painting and drawing.Many a sketch is dedicated to you.  I dolook forward to your criticismswhichto my shame and gloryare always grandappreciations.It is a lovely jokethat.  Au revoir."

 

This was the end of the first phase of Paul'slove affair.He was now about twenty-three years oldandthough still virginthe sex instinct that Miriam had over-refinedfor so long nowgrew particularly strong.  Oftenas hetalked to Clara Dawescame that thickening and quickening of hisbloodthat peculiarconcentration in the breastas if somethingwere alive therea new self or a new centre of consciousnesswarning him thatsooner or later he would have to ask one womanor another.  But hebelonged to Miriam.  Of that she was sofixedly sure that he allowedher right.

 

CHAPTER X

CLARA

WHEN he was twenty-three years oldPaul sentin a landscape tothe winter exhibition at Nottingham Castle. Miss Jordan had takena good deal of interest in himand invited himto her housewhere he met other artists.  He wasbeginning to grow ambitious.

One morning the postman came just as he waswashing inthe scullery.  Suddenly he heard a wildnoise from his mother.Rushing into the kitchenhe found her standingon the hearthrugwildly waving a letter and crying "Hurrah!"as if she had gone mad.He was shocked and frightened.

"Whymother!" he exclaimed.

She flew to himflung her arms round him for amomentthen waved the lettercrying:

"Hurrahmy boy!  I knew we should doit!"

He was afraid of her--the smallsevere womanwith graying hairsuddenly bursting out in such frenzy.  Thepostman came running backafraid something had happened.  They sawhis tipped cap over theshort curtains.  Mrs. Morel rushed to thedoor.

"His picture's got first prizeFred"she cried"and is soldfor twenty guineas."

"My wordthat's something like!"said the young postmanwhom they had known all his life.

"And Major Moreton has bought it!"she cried.

"It looks like meanin' somethingthatdoesMrs. Morel"said the postmanhis blue eyes bright. He was glad to have broughtsuch a lucky letter.  Mrs. Morel wentindoors and sat downtrembling.Paul was afraid lest she might have misread theletterand might bedisappointed after all.  He scrutinised itoncetwice.  Yeshe becameconvinced it was true.  Then he sat downhis heart beating with joy.

"Mother!" he exclaimed.

"Didn't I SAY we should do it!" shesaidpretending shewas not crying.

He took the kettle off the fire and mashed thetea.

"You didn't thinkmother--" he begantentatively.

"Nomy son--not so much--but I expected agood deal."

"But not so much" he said.

"No--no--but I knew we should do it."

And then she recovered her composureapparently at least.He sat with his shirt turned backshowing hisyoung throat almostlike a girl'sand the towel in his handhishair sticking up wet.

"Twenty guineasmother!  That's justwhat you wanted to buyArthur out.  Now you needn't borrow any. It'll just do."

"IndeedI shan't take it all" shesaid.

"But why?"

"Because I shan't."

"Well--you have twelve poundsI'll havenine."

They cavilled about sharing the twentyguineas.  She wantedto take only the five pounds she needed. He would not hear of it.So they got over the stress of emotion byquarrelling.

Morel came home at night from the pitsaying:

"They tell me Paul's got first prize forhis pictureand soldit to Lord Henry Bentley for fifty pound."

"Ohwhat stories people do tell!"she cried.

"Ha!" he answered.  "I saidI 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 hebeguy!" he exclaimed.

He stared across the room fixedly.

"But as for fifty pounds--such nonsense!" She was silent awhile."Major Moreton bought it for twentyguineasthat's true."

"Twenty guineas!  Tha niver says!"exclaimed Morel.

"Yesand it was worth it."

"Ay!" he said.  "I don'tmisdoubt it.  But twenty guineasfor a bit of a paintin' as he knocked off in anhour or two!"

He was silent with conceit of his son. Mrs. Morel sniffedas if it were nothing.

"And when does he handle th' money?"asked the collier.

"That I couldn't tell you.  When thepicture is sent homeI suppose."

There was silence.  Morel stared at thesugar-basin insteadof eating his dinner.  His black armwiththe hand all gnarledwith work lay on the table.  His wifepretended not to see him rubthe back of his hand across his eyesnor thesmear in the coal-duston his black face.

"Yesan' that other lad 'ud 'a done asmuch if they hadnaha' killed 'im" he said quietly.

The thought of William went through Mrs. Morellike a cold blade.It left her feeling she was tiredand wantedrest.

Paul was invited to dinner at Mr. Jordan's. Afterwards he said:

"MotherI want an evening suit."

"YesI was afraid you would" shesaid.  She was glad.There was a moment or two of silence. "There's that one of William's"she continued"that I know cost fourpounds tenand which he'd only worn three times."

"Should you like me to wear itmother?"he asked.

"Yes.  I think it would fit you--atleast the coat.  The trouserswould want shortening."

He went upstairs and put on the coat and vest. Coming downhe looked strange in a flannel collar and aflannel shirt-frontwith an evening coat and vest.  It wasrather large.

"The tailor can make it right" shesaidsmoothing her handover his shoulder.  "It's beautifulstuff.  I never could findin my heart to let your father wear thetrousersand very gladI am now."

And as she smoothed her hand over the silkcollar she thoughtof her eldest son.  But this son wasliving 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 hisevening suit that hadbeen William's.  Each time his mother'sheart was firm with prideand joy.  He was started now.  Thestuds she and the children hadbought for William were in his shirt-front; hewore one of William'sdress shirts.  But he had an elegantfigure.  His face was roughbut warm-looking and rather pleasing.  Hedid not look particularlya gentlemanbut she thought he looked quite aman.

He told her everything that took placeeverything that was said.It was as if she had been there.  And hewas dying to introduce herto these new friends who had dinner atseven-thirty in the evening.

"Go along with you!" she said. "What do they want to knowme for?"

"They do!" he cried indignantly. "If they want to know me--andthey say they do--then they want to know youbecause you are quiteas clever as I am.  "

"Go along with youchild! " shelaughed.

But she began to spare her hands.  Theytoowere work-gnarled now.The skin was shiny with so much hot watertheknuckles rather swollen.But she began to be careful to keep them out ofsoda.  She regrettedwhat they had been--so small and exquisite. And when Annie insistedon her having more stylish blouses to suit herageshe submitted.She even went so far as to allow a black velvetbow to be placedon her hair.  Then she sniffed in hersarcastic mannerand wassure she looked a sight.  But she looked aladyPaul declaredas much as Mrs. Major Moretonand farfarnicer.  The familywas coming on.  Only Morel remainedunchangedor ratherlapsed slowly.

Paul and his mother now had long discussionsabout life.Religion was fading into the background. He had shovelled awayan the beliefs that would hamper himhadcleared the groundand come more or less to the bedrock of beliefthat one should feelinside oneself for right and wrongand shouldhave the patience togradually realise one's God.  Now lifeinterested him more.

"You know" he said to his mother"Idon't want to belongto the well-to-do middle class.  I like mycommon people best.I belong to the common people."

"But if anyone else said somy sonwouldn't you be in a tear.YOU know you consider yourself equal to anygentleman."

"In myself" he answered"notin my class or my educationor my manners.  But in myself I am."

"Very wellthen.  Then why talkabout the common people?"

"Because--the difference between peopleisn't in their classbut in themselves.  Only from the middleclasses one gets ideasand from the common people--life itselfwarmth.  You feel their hatesand loves."

"It's all very wellmy boy.  Butthenwhy don't you goand talk to your father's pals?"

"But they're rather different."

"Not at all.  They're the commonpeople.  After allwhom do youmix with now--among the common people? Those that exchange ideaslike the middle classes.  The rest don'tinterest you."

"But--there's the life---"

"I don't believe there's a jot more lifefrom Miriam than youcould get from any educated girl--say MissMoreton.  It is YOUwho are snobbish about class."

She frankly WANTED him to climb into the middleclassesa thing not very difficultshe knew.  Andshe wanted him in the endto marry a lady.

Now she began to combat him in his restlessfretting.He still kept up his connection with Miriamcould neither breakfree nor go the whole length of engagement. And this indecisionseemed to bleed him of his energy. Moreoverhis mother suspectedhim of an unrecognised leaning towards Claraandsince the latterwas a married womanshe wished he would fallin love with oneof the girls in a better station of life. But he was stupidand would refuse to love or even to admire agirl muchjust becauseshe was his social superior.

"My boy" said his mother to him"all your clevernessyour breaking away from old thingsand takinglife in your own handsdoesn'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 judgemy lad. But if you could meetsome GOOD woman who would MAKE you happy--andyou began to thinkof settling your life--when you have themeans--so that you couldwork without all this fretting--it would bemuch better for you."

He frowned.  His mother caught him on theraw of his woundof Miriam.  He pushed the tumbled hair offhis foreheadhis eyesfull of pain and fire.

"You mean easymother" he cried. "That's a woman's whole doctrinefor life--ease of soul and physical comfort. And I do despise it."

"Ohdo you!" replied his mother. "And do you call yoursa divine discontent?"

"Yes.  I don't care about itsdivinity.  But damn your happiness!So long as life's fullit doesn't matterwhether it's happy or not.I'm afraid your happiness would bore me."

"You never give it a chance" shesaid.  Then suddenly allher passion of grief over him broke out. "But it does matter!"she cried.  "And you OUGHT to behappyyou ought to try to be happyto live to be happy.  How could I bear tothink your life wouldn'tbe a happy one!"

"Your own's been bad enoughmaterbut ithasn't left youso much worse off than the folk who've beenhappier.  I reckonyou've done well.  And I am the same. Aren't I well enough off?"

"You're notmy son. Battle--battle--and suffer.  It's aboutall you doas far as I can see."

"But why notmy dear?  I tell youit's the best---"

"It isn't.  And one OUGHT to behappyone OUGHT."

By this time Mrs. Morel was tremblingviolently.  Struggles ofthis kind often took place between her and hersonwhen sheseemed to fight for his very life against hisown will to die.He took her in his arms.  She was ill andpitiful.

"Never mindLittle" he murmured. "So long as you don't feellife's paltry and a miserable businesstherest doesn't matterhappiness or unhappiness."

She pressed him to her.

"But I want you to be happy" shesaid pathetically.

"Ehmy dear--say rather you want me tolive."

Mrs. Morel felt as if her heart would break forhim.At this rate she knew he would not live. He had that poignantcarelessness about himselfhis own sufferinghis own lifewhich is a form of slow suicide.  Italmost broke her heart.With all the passion of her strong nature shehated Miriam for havingin this subtle way undermined his joy.  Itdid not matter to herthat Miriam could not help it.  Miriam diditand she hated her.

She wished so much he would fall in love with agirl equalto be his mate--educated and strong.  Buthe would not look atanybody above him in station.  He seemedto like Mrs. Dawes.At any rate that feeling was wholesome. His mother prayed and prayedfor himthat he might not be wasted. That was all her prayer--notfor his soul or his righteousnessbut that hemight not be wasted.And while he sleptfor hours and hours shethought and prayedfor him.

He drifted away from Miriam imperceptiblywithout knowing hewas going.  Arthur only left the army tobe married.  The baby wasborn six months after his wedding.  Mrs.Morel got him a job underthe firm againat twenty-one shillings aweek.  She furnished for himwith the help of Beatrice's mothera littlecottage of two rooms.He was caught now.  It did not matter howhe kicked and struggledhe was fast.  For a time he chafedwasirritable with hisyoung wifewho loved him; he went almostdistracted when the babywhich was delicatecried or gave trouble. He grumbled for hoursto his mother.  She only said: "Wellmy ladyou did it yourselfnow you must make the best of it." And then the grit came out in him.He buckled to workundertook hisresponsibilitiesacknowledged thathe belonged to his wife and childand did makea good best of it.He had never been very closely inbound into thefamily.  Now he wasgone altogether.

The months went slowly along.  Paul hadmore or less got intoconnection with the SocialistSuffragetteUnitarian people inNottinghamowing to his acquaintance withClara.  One daya friend of his and of Clara'sin Bestwoodasked him to takea message to Mrs. Dawes.  He went in theevening across SneintonMarket to Bluebell Hill.  He found thehouse in a mean little streetpaved with granite cobbles and having causewaysof dark bluegrooved bricks.  The front door went up astep from off thisrough pavementwhere the feet of the passersbyrasped and clattered.The brown paint on the door was so old that thenaked wood showedbetween the rents.  He stood on the streetbelow and knocked.There came a heavy footstep; a largestoutwoman of about sixtytowered above him.  He looked up at herfrom the pavement.She had a rather severe face.

She admitted him into the parlourwhich openedon to the street.It was a smallstuffydefunct roomofmahoganyand deathlyenlargements of photographs of departed peopledone in carbon.Mrs. Radford left him.  She was statelyalmost martial.In a moment Clara appeared.  She flusheddeeplyand he was coveredwith confusion.  It seemed as if she didnot like being discoveredin her home circumstances.

"I thought it couldn't be your voice"she said.

But she might as well be hung for a sheep asfor a lamb.She invited him out of the mausoleum of aparlour into the kitchen.

That was a littledarkish room toobut it wassmotheredin white lace.  The mother had seatedherself again by the cupboardand was drawing thread from a vast web oflace.  A clump of fluff andravelled cotton was at her right handa heapof three-quarter-inch lacelay on her leftwhilst in front of her was themountain of lace webpiling the hearthrug.  Threads of curlycottonpulled out from betweenthe lengths of lacestrewed over the fenderand the fireplace.Paul dared not go forwardfor fear of treadingon piles of white stuff.

On the table was a jenny for carding the lace. There wasa pack of brown cardboard squaresa pack ofcards of lacea little box of pinsand on the sofa lay aheap of drawn lace.

The room was all laceand it was so dark andwarm that the whitesnowy stuff seemed the more distinct.

"If you're coming in you won't have tomind the work"said Mrs. Radford.  "I know we'reabout blocked up.  But sityou down."

Claramuch embarrassedgave him a chairagainst the wallopposite the white heaps.  Then sheherself took her placeon the sofashamedly.

"Will you drink a bottle of stout?" Mrs. Radford asked."Claraget him a bottle of stout."

He protestedbut Mrs. Radford insisted.

"You look as if you could do with it"she said.  "Haven't younever any more colour than that?"

"It's only a thick skin I've got thatdoesn't showthe blood through" he answered.

Claraashamed and chagrinedbrought him abottle of stoutand a glass.  He poured out some of theblack stuff.

"Well" he saidlifting the glass"here's health!"

"And thank you" said Mrs. Radford.

He took a drink of stout.

"And light yourself a cigaretteso longas you don't setthe house on fire" said Mrs. Radford.

"Thank you" he replied.

"Nayyou needn't thank me" sheanswered.  "I s'll beglad to smell a bit of smoke in th' 'ouseagain.  A house o'women is as dead as a house wi' no fireto mythinkin'.  I'mnot a spider as likes a corner to myself. I like a man aboutif he's only something to snap at."

Clara began to work.  Her jenny spun witha subdued buzz;the white lace hopped from between her fingerson to the card.It was filled; she snipped off the lengthandpinned the enddown to the banded lace.  Then she put anew card in her jenny.Paul watched her.  She sat square andmagnificent.  Her throat andarms were bare.  The blood still mantledbelow her ears; she benther head in shame of her humility.  Herface was set on her work.Her arms were creamy and full of life besidethe white lace;her largewell-kept hands worked with abalanced movementas if nothing would hurry them.  Henotknowingwatched her allthe time.  He saw the arch of her neckfrom the shoulderas shebent her head; he saw the coil of dun hair; hewatched her movinggleaming arms.

"I've heard a bit about you from Clara"continued the mother."You're in Jordan'saren't you?" She drew her lace unceasing.

"Yes."

"Aywelland I can remember when ThomasJordan used to askME for one of my toffies."

"Did he?" laughed Paul.  "Anddid he get it?"

"Sometimes he didsometimes hedidn't--which was latterly.For he's the sort that takes all and givesnaughthe is--or usedto be."

"I think he's very decent" saidPaul.

"Yes; wellI'm glad to hear it."

Mrs. Radford looked across at him steadily. There was somethingdetermined about her that he liked.  Herface was falling loosebut her eyes were calmand there was somethingstrong in her thatmade it seem she was not old; merely herwrinkles and loose cheekswere an anachronism.  She had the strengthand sang-froid of a womanin the prime of life.  She continueddrawing the lace with slowdignified movements.  The big web came upinevitably over her apron;the length of lace fell away at her side. Her arms were finely shapenbut glossy and yellow as old ivory.  Theyhad not the peculiar dullgleam that made Clara's so fascinating to him.

"And you've been going with MiriamLeivers?" the mother asked him.

"Well--" he answered.

"Yesshe's a nice girl" shecontinued.  "She's very nicebut she's a bit too much above this world tosuit my fancy."

"She is a bit like that" he agreed.

"She'll never be satisfied till she's gotwings and can flyover everybody's headshe won't" shesaid.

Clara broke inand he told her his message. She spoke humblyto him.  He had surprised her in herdrudgery.  To have her humblemade him feel as if he were lifting his head inexpectation.

"Do you like jennying?" he asked.

"What can a woman do!" she repliedbitterly.

"Is it sweated?"

"More or less.  Isn't ALL woman'swork?  That's another trickthe men have playedsince we force ourselvesinto the labour market."

"Now thenyou shut up about the men"said her mother.  "If thewomen wasn't foolsthe men wouldn't be badunsthat's what I say.No man was ever that bad wi' me but what he gotit back again.Not but what they're a lousy lotthere's nodenying it."

"But they're all right reallyaren'tthey?" he asked.

"Wellthey're a bit different fromwomen" she answered.

"Would you care to be back at Jordan's?"he asked Clara.

"I don't think so" she replied.

"Yesshe would!" cried her mother;"thank her stars if shecould get back.  Don't you listen to her. She's for ever on that'igh horse of hersan' it's back's that thinan' starved it'llcut her in two one of these days."

Clara suffered badly from her mother. Paul felt as if his eyeswere coming very wide open.  Wasn't he totake Clara's fulminationsso seriouslyafter all?  She spunsteadily at her work.  He experienceda thrill of joythinking she might need hishelp.  She seemeddenied and deprived of so much.  And herarm moved mechanicallythat should never have been subdued to amechanismand her headwas bowed to the lacethat never should havebeen bowed.  She seemedto be stranded there among the refuse that lifehas thrown awaydoing her jennying.  It was a bitter thingto her to be put asideby lifeas if it had no use for her.  Nowonder she protested.

She came with him to the door.  He stoodbelow in the mean streetlooking up at her.  So fine she was in herstature and her bearingshe reminded him of Juno dethroned.  Asshe stood in the doorwayshe winced from the streetfrom hersurroundings.

"And you will go with Mrs. Hodgkisson toHucknall?"

He was talking quite meaninglesslyonlywatching her.Her grey eyes at last met his.  Theylooked dumb with humiliationpleading with a kind of captive misery. He was shaken and at a loss.He had thought her high and mighty.

When he left herhe wanted to run.  Hewent to the stationin a sort of dreamand was at home withoutrealising he had movedout of her street.

He had an idea that Susanthe overseer of theSpiral girlswas about to be married.  He asked her thenext day.

"I saySusanI heard a whisper of yourgetting married.What about it?"

Susan flushed red.

"Who's been talking to you?" shereplied.

"Nobody.  I merely heard a whisperthat you WERE thinking---"

"WellI amthough you needn't tellanybody.  What's moreI wish I wasn't!"

"NaySusanyou won't make me believethat."

"Shan't I?  You CAN believe itthough.  I'd rather stophere a thousand times."

Paul was perturbed.

"WhySusan?"

The girl's colour was highand her eyesflashed.

"That's why!"

"And must you?"

For answershe looked at him.  There wasabout him a candourand gentleness which made the women trust him. He understood.

"AhI'm sorry" he said.

Tears came to her eyes.

"But you'll see it'll turn out all right. You'll make the bestof it" he continued rather wistfully.

"There's nothing else for it."

"Yeathere'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 tocome back to Jordan's?"

She put down her worklaid her beautiful armson the tableand looked at him for some moments withoutanswering.  Gradually theflush mounted her cheek.

"Why?" she asked.

Paul felt rather awkward.

"Wellbecause Susan is thinking ofleaving" he said.

Clara went on with her jennying.  Thewhite lace leapedin little jumps and bounds on to the card. He waited for her.Without raising her headshe said at lastina peculiar low voice:

"Have you said anything about it?"

"Except to younot a word."

There was again a long silence.

"I will apply when the advertisement isout" she said.

"You will apply before that.  I willlet you know exactly when."

She went on spinning her little machineanddid not contradict him.

Clara came to Jordan's.  Some of the olderhandsFanny among themremembered her earlier ruleand cordiallydisliked the memory.Clara had always been "ikey"reservedand superior.  She had nevermixed with the girls as one of themselves. If she had occasionto find faultshe did it coolly and withperfect politenesswhich the defaulter felt to be a bigger insultthan crassness.Towards Fannythe pooroverstrung hunchbackClara was unfailinglycompassionate and gentleas a result of whichFanny shedmore bitter tears than ever the rough tonguesof the other overseershad caused her.

There was something in Clara that Pauldislikedand muchthat piqued him.  If she were abouthealways watched her strongthroat or her neckupon which the blonde hairgrew low and fluffy.There was a fine downalmost invisibleuponthe skin of her faceand armsand when once he had perceived ithesaw it always.

When he was at his workpainting in theafternoonshe would come and stand near to himperfectlymotionless.Then he felt herthough she neither spoke nortouched him.Although she stood a yard away he felt as if hewere in contactwith her.  Then he could paint no more. He flung down the brushesand turned to talk to her.

Sometimes she praised his work; sometimes shewas criticaland cold.

"You are affected in that piece" shewould say; andas therewas an element of truth in her condemnationhis blood boiledwith anger.

Again:  "What of this?" he wouldask enthusiastically.

"H'm!" She made a small doubtfulsound.  "It doesn't interestme much."

"Because you don't understand it" heretorted.

"Then why ask me about it?"

"Because I thought you would understand."

She would shrug her shoulders in scorn of hiswork.She maddened him.  He was furious. Then he abused herand went intopassionate exposition of his stuff.  Thisamused and stimulated her.But she never owned that she had been wrong.

During the ten years that she had belonged tothe women's movementshe had acquired a fair amount of educationandhaving had someof Miriam's passion to be instructedhadtaught herself Frenchand could read in that language with astruggle.  She consideredherself as a woman apartand particularlyapartfrom her class.The girls in the Spiral department were all ofgood homes.It was a smallspecial industryand had acertain distinction.There was an air of refinement in both rooms. But Clara was aloofalso from her fellow-workers.

None of these thingshoweverdid she revealto Paul.She was not the one to give herself away. There was a sense ofmystery about her.  She was so reservedhe felt she had much to reserve.Her history was open on the surfacebut itsinner meaning was hiddenfrom everybody.  It was exciting. And then sometimes he caughther looking at him from under her brows with analmost furtivesullen scrutinywhich made him move quickly. Often she met his eyes.But then her own wereas it werecoveredoverrevealing nothing.She gave him a littlelenient smile.  Shewas to him extraordinarilyprovocativebecause of the knowledge sheseemed to possessand gathered fruit of experience he could notattain.

One day he picked up a copy of Lettres de monMoulin fromher work-bench.

"You read Frenchdo you?" he cried.

Clara glanced round negligently.  She wasmaking an elasticstocking of heliotrope silkturning the Spiralmachine with slowbalanced regularityoccasionally bending downto see her work or toadjust the needles; then her magnificent neckwith its down and finepencils of hairshone white against thelavenderlustrous silk.She turned a few more roundsand stopped.

"What did you say?" she askedsmiling sweetly.

Paul's eyes glittered at her insolentindifference to him.

"I did not know you read French" hesaidvery polite.

"Did you not?" she repliedwith afaintsarcastic smile.

"Rotten swank!" he saidbut scarcelyloud enough to be heard.

He shut his mouth angrily as he watched her. She seemedto scorn the work she mechanically produced;yet the hose shemade were as nearly perfect as possible.

"You don't like Spiral work" hesaid.

"Ohwellall work is work" sheansweredas if she knewall about it.

He marvelled at her coldness.  He had todo everything hotly.She must be something special.

"What would you prefer to do?" heasked.

She laughed at him indulgentlyas she said:

"There is so little likelihood of my everbeing given a choicethat I haven't wasted time considering."

"Pah!" he saidcontemptuous on hisside now.  "You only saythat because you're too proud to own up whatyou want and can't get."

"You know me very well" she repliedcoldly.

"I know you think you're terrific greatshakesand that youlive under the eternal insult of working in afactory."

He was very angry and very rude.  Shemerely turned away fromhim in disdain.  He walked whistling downthe roomflirted andlaughed with Hilda.

Later on he said to himself:

"What was I so impudent to Clara for?" He was rather annoyedwith himselfat the same time glad. "Serve her right; she stinkswith silent pride" he said to himselfangrily.

In the afternoon he came down.  There wasa certain weighton his heart which he wanted to remove. He thought to do itby offering her chocolates.

"Have one?" he said.  "Ibought a handful to sweeten me up."

To his great reliefshe accepted.  He saton the work-benchbeside her machinetwisting a piece of silkround his finger.She loved him for his quickunexpectedmovementslike a young animal.His feet swung as he pondered.  The sweetslay strewn on the bench.She bent over her machinegrindingrhythmicallythen stoopingto see the stocking that hung beneathpulleddown by the weight.He watched the handsome crouching of her backand the apron-stringscurling on the floor.

"There is always about you" he said"a sort of waiting.Whatever I see you doingyou're not reallythere:  you arewaiting--like Penelope when she did herweaving."  He could not helpa spurt of wickedness.  "I'll callyou Penelope" he said.

"Would it make any difference?" shesaidcarefully removingone of her needles.

"That doesn't matterso long as itpleases me.  HereI sayyou seem to forget I'm your boss.  It justoccurs to me."

"And what does that mean?" she askedcoolly.

"It means I've got a right to boss you."

"Is there anything you want to complainabout?"

"OhI sayyou needn't be nasty" hesaid angrily.

"I don't know what you want" shesaidcontinuing her task.

"I want you to treat me nicely andrespectfully."

"Call you 'sir'perhaps?" she askedquietly.

"Yescall me 'sir'.  I should loveit."

"Then I wish you would go upstairssir."

His mouth closedand a frown came on hisface.  He jumpedsuddenly down.

"You're too blessed superior foranything" he said.

And he went away to the other girls.  Hefelt he was beingangrier than he had any need to be.  Infacthe doubted slightlythat he was showing off.  But if he werethen he would.  Clara heardhim laughingin a way she hatedwith thegirls down the next room.

When at evening he went through the departmentafterthe girls had gonehe saw his chocolates lyinguntouchedin front of Clara's machine.  He leftthem.  In the morningthey were still thereand Clara was at work. Later on Minniea little brunette they called Pussycalled tohim:

"Heyhaven't you got a chocolate foranybody?"

"SorryPussy" he replied.  "Imeant 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 themafter they've been lying aboutdo you?"

"OhI'm not particular" smiledPussy.

"Oh no" he said.  "They'llbe dusty."

He went up to Clara's bench.

"Sorry I left these things litteringabout" he said.

She flushed scarlet.  He gathered themtogether in his fist.

"They'll be dirty now" he said. "You should have taken them.I wonder why you didn't.  I meant to havetold you I wanted you to."

He flung them out of the window into the yardbelow.He just glanced at her.  She winced fromhis eyes.

In the afternoon he brought another packet.

"Will you take some?" he saidoffering them first to Clara."These are fresh."

She accepted oneand put it on to the bench.

"Ohtake several--for luck" hesaid.

She took a couple moreand put them on thebench also.Then she turned in confusion to her work. He went on up the room.

"Here you arePussy" he said. "Don't be greedy!"

"Are they all for her?" cried theothersrushing up.

"Of course they're not" he said.

The girls clamoured round.  Pussy drewback from her mates.

"Come out!" she cried.  "Ican have first pickcan't IPaul?"

"Be nice with 'em" he saidand wentaway.

"You ARE a dear" the girls cried.

"Tenpence" he answered.

He went past Clara without speaking.  Shefelt the threechocolate creams would burn her if she touchedthem.  It neededall her courage to slip them into the pocket ofher apron.

The girls loved him and were afraid of him. He was so nicewhile he was nicebut if he were offendedsodistanttreating themas if they scarcely existedor not more thanthe bobbins of thread.And thenif they were impudenthe saidquietly:  "Do you mindgoing on with your work" and stood andwatched.

When he celebrated his twenty-third birthdaythe house wasin trouble.  Arthur was just going to bemarried.  His mother wasnot well.  His fathergetting an old manand lame from his accidentswas given a paltrypoor job.  Miriam wasan eternal reproach.He felt he owed himself to heryet could notgive himself.  The housemoreoverneeded his support.  He waspulled in all directions.He was not glad it was his birthday.  Itmade him bitter.

He got to work at eight o'clock.  Most ofthe clerks had notturned up.  The girls were not due till8.30.  As he was changinghis coathe heard a voice behind him say:

"PaulPaulI want you."

It was Fannythe hunchbackstanding at thetop of her stairsher face radiant with a secret.  Paullooked at her in astonishment.

"I want you" she said.

He stoodat a loss.

"Come on" she coaxed.  "Comebefore you begin on the letters."

He went down the half-dozen steps into her drynarrow"finishing-off" room.  Fannywalked before him:  her black bodice wasshort--the waist was under her armpits--and hergreen-black cashmere skirtseemed very longas she strode with bigstrides before the young manhimself so graceful.  She went to her seatat the narrow end of the roomwhere the window opened on to chimney-pots. Paul watched her thinhands and her flat red wrists as she excitedlytwitched her whiteapronwhich was spread on the bench in frontof her.  She hesitated.

"You didn't think we'd forgot you?"she askedreproachful.

"Why?" he asked.  He hadforgotten his birthday himself.

"'Why' he says!  'Why!'  Whylook here!"  She pointedto the calendarand he sawsurrounding thebig black number"21"hundreds of little crosses inblack-lead.

"Ohkisses for my birthday" helaughed.  "How did you know?"

"Yesyou want to knowdon't you?" Fanny mockedhugely delighted."There's one from everybody--except LadyClara--and two from some.But I shan't tell you how many I put."

"OhI knowyou're spooney" hesaid.

"There you ARE mistaken!" she criedindignant.  "I couldnever be so soft."  Her voice wasstrong and contralto.

"You always pretend to be such ahard-hearted hussy" he laughed."And you know you're as sentimental---"

"I'd rather be called sentimental thanfrozen meat"Fanny blurted.  Paul knew she referred toClaraand he smiled.

"Do you say such nasty things about me?"he laughed.

"Nomy duck" the hunchback womanansweredlavishly tender.She was thirty-nine.  "Nomy duckbecause you don't think yourselfa fine figure in marble and us nothing butdirt.  I'm as good as youaren't IPaul?" and the questiondelighted her.

"Whywe're not better than one anotherare we?" he replied.

"But I'm as good as youaren't IPaul?"she persisted daringly.

"Of course you are.  If it comes togoodnessyou're better."

She was rather afraid of the situation. She might get hysterical.

"I thought I'd get here before theothers--won't they say I'm deep!Now shut your eyes---" she said.

"And open your mouthand see what Godsends you" he continuedsuiting action to wordsand expecting a pieceof chocolate.He heard the rustle of the apronand a faintclink of metal."I'm going to look" he said.

He opened his eyes.  Fannyher longcheeks flushedher blue eyes shiningwas gazing at him. There was a littlebundle of paint-tubes on the bench before him. He turned pale.

"NoFanny" he said quickly.

"From us all" she answered hastily.
"Nobut---"

"Are they the right sort?" she askedrocking herself with delight.

"Jove! they're the best in the catalogue."

"But they're the right sorts?" shecried.

"They're off the little list I'd made toget when my shipcame in."  He bit his lip.

Fanny was overcome with emotion.  She mustturn the conversation.

"They was all on thorns to do it; they allpaid their sharesall except the Queen of Sheba."

The Queen of Sheba was Clara.

"And wouldn't she join?"  Paulasked.

"She didn't get the chance; we never toldher; we wasn't goingto have HER bossing THIS show.  We didn'tWANT her to join."

Paul laughed at the woman.  He was muchmoved.  At last hemust go.  She was very close to him. Suddenly she flung her armsround his neck and kissed him vehemently.

"I can give you a kiss to-day" shesaid apologetically."You've looked so whiteit's made myheart ache."

Paul kissed herand left her.  Her armswere so pitifullythin that his heart ached also.

That day he met Clara as he ran downstairs towash his handsat dinner-time.

"You have stayed to dinner!" heexclaimed.  It was unusualfor her.

"Yes; and I seem to have dined on oldsurgical-appliance stock.I MUST go out nowor I shall feel staleindia-rubber right through."

She lingered.  He instantly caught at herwish.

"You are going anywhere?" he asked.

They went together up to the Castle. Outdoors she dressedvery plainlydown to ugliness; indoors shealways looked nice.She walked with hesitating steps alongsidePaulbowing and turningaway from him.  Dowdy in dressanddroopingshe showed togreat disadvantage.  He could scarcelyrecognise her strong formthat seemed to slumber with power.  Sheappeared almost insignificantdrowning her stature in her stoopas sheshrank from the public gaze.

The Castle grounds were very green and fresh. Climbing theprecipitous ascenthe laughed and chatteredbut she was silentseeming to brood over something.  Therewas scarcely time to goinside the squatsquare building that crownsthe bluff of rock.They leaned upon the wall where the cliff runssheer down to the Park.Below themin their holes in the sandstonepigeons preenedthemselves and cooed softly.  Away downupon the boulevard atthe foot of the rocktiny trees stood in theirown pools of shadowand tiny people went scurrying about in almostludicrous importance.

"You feel as if you could scoop up thefolk like tadpolesand have a handful of them" he said.

She laughedanswering:

"Yes; it is not necessary to get far offin order to seeus proportionately.  The trees are muchmore significant."

"Bulk only" he said.

She laughed cynically.

Away beyond the boulevard the thin stripes ofthe metalsshowed upon the railway-trackwhose margin wascrowded with littlestacks of timberbeside which smoking toyengines fussed.Then the silver string of the canal lay atrandom among theblack heaps.  Beyondthe dwellingsverydense on the river flatlooked like blackpoisonous herbagein thickrows and crowded bedsstretching right awaybroken now and then bytaller plantsright to where the river glistened in ahieroglyph across the country.The steep scarp cliffs across the river lookedpuny.  Great stretchesof country darkened with trees and faintlybrightened with corn-landspread towards the hazewhere the hills roseblue beyond grey.

"It is comforting" said Mrs. Dawes"to think the town goesno farther.  It is only a LITTLE sore uponthe country yet."

"A little scab" Paul said.

She shivered.  She loathed the town. Looking drearily acrossat the country which was forbidden herherimpassive facepaleand hostileshe reminded Paul of one of thebitterremorseful angels.

"But the town's all right" he said;"it's only temporary.This is the crudeclumsy make-shift we'vepractised ontill we findout what the idea is.  The town will comeall right."

The pigeons in the pockets of rockamong theperched bushescooed comfortably.  To the left the largechurch of St. Mary roseinto spaceto keep close company with theCastleabove the heapedrubble of the town.  Mrs. Dawes smiledbrightly as she looked acrossthe country.

"I feel better" she said.

"Thank you" he replied.  "Greatcompliment!"

"Ohmy brother!" she laughed.

"H'm! that's snatching back with the lefthand what you gavewith the rightand no mistake" he said.

She laughed in amusement at him.

"But what was the matter with you?"he asked.  "I know youwere brooding something special.  I cansee the stamp of iton your face yet."

"I think I will not tell you" shesaid.

"All righthug it" he answered.

She flushed and bit her lip.

"No" she said"it was thegirls."

"What about 'em?"  Paul asked.

"They have been plotting something for aweek nowand to-daythey seem particularly full of it.  Allalike; they insult mewith their secrecy."

"Do they?" he asked in concern.

"I should not mind" she went oninthe metallicangry tone"if they did not thrust it into myface--the fact that they havea secret."

"Just like women" said he.

"It is hatefultheir mean gloating"she said intensely.

Paul was silent.  He knew what the girlsgloated over.He was sorry to be the cause of this newdissension.

"They can have all the secrets in theworld" she went onbrooding bitterly; "but they might refrainfrom glorying in themand making me feel more out of it than ever. It is--it isalmost unbearable."

Paul thought for a few minutes.  He wasmuch perturbed.

"I will tell you what it's all about"he saidpale and nervous."It's my birthdayand they've bought me afine lot of paintsall the girls.  They're jealous ofyou"--he felt her stiffen coldlyat the word 'jealous'--"merely because Isometimes bring you a book"he added slowly.  "Butyou seeit'sonly a trifle.  Don't botherabout itwill you--because"--he laughedquickly--"wellwhat would theysay if they saw us here nowin spite of theirvictory?"

She was angry with him for his clumsy referencetotheir present intimacy.  It was almostinsolent of him.Yet he was so quietshe forgave himalthoughit cost her an effort.

Their two hands lay on the rough stone parapetof the Castle wall.He had inherited from his mother a fineness ofmouldso thathis hands were small and vigorous.  Herswere largeto match herlarge limbsbut white and powerful looking. As Paul looked at themhe knew her.  "She is wantingsomebody to take her hands--for all sheis so contemptuous of us" he said tohimself.  And she saw nothing buthis two handsso warm and alivewhich seemedto live for her.  He wasbrooding nowstaring out over the country fromunder sullen brows.The littleinteresting diversity of shapes hadvanished from the scene;all that remained was a vastdark matrix ofsorrow and tragedythe same in all the houses and the river-flatsand the people andthe birds; they were only shapen differently. And now that the formsseemed to have melted awaythere remained themass from which allthe landscape was composeda dark mass ofstruggle and pain.The factorythe girlshis motherthe largeuplifted churchthe thicket of the townmerged into oneatmosphere--darkbroodingand sorrowfulevery bit.

"Is that two o'clock striking?" Mrs.Dawes said in surprise.

Paul startedand everything sprang into formregainedits individualityits forgetfulnessand itscheerfulness.

They hurried back to work.

When he was in the rush of preparing for thenight's postexamining the work up from Fanny's roomwhichsmelt of ironingthe evening postman came in.

"'Mr. Paul Morel'" he saidsmilinghanding Paul a package."A lady's handwriting!  Don't let thegirls see it."

The postmanhimself a favouritewas pleasedto make funof the girls' affection for Paul.

It was a volume of verse with a brief note: "You will allow meto send you thisand so spare me myisolation.  I also sympathiseand wish you well.--C.D."  Paulflushed hot.

"Good Lord!  Mrs. Dawes.  Shecan't afford it.  Good Lordwho ever'd have thought it!"

He was suddenly intensely moved.  He wasfilled with the warmthof her.  In the glow he could almost feelher as if she werepresent--her armsher shouldersher bosomsee themfeel themalmost contain them.

This move on the part of Clara brought theminto closer intimacy.The other girls noticed that when Paul met Mrs.Dawes his eyes liftedand gave that peculiar bright greeting whichthey could interpret.Knowing he was unawareClara made no signsave thatoccasionally she turned aside her face from himwhen he came upon her.

They walked out together very often atdinner-time; it wasquite openquite frank.  Everybody seemedto feel that he was quiteunaware of the state of his own feelingandthat nothing was wrong.He talked to her now with some of the oldfervour with which hehad talked to Miriambut he cared less aboutthe talk; he didnot bother about his conclusions.

One day in October they went out to Lambley fortea.Suddenly they came to a halt on top of thehill.  He climbed and saton a gateshe sat on the stile.  Theafternoon was perfectly stillwith a dim hazeand yellow sheaves glowingthrough.  They were quiet.

"How old were you when you married?"he asked quietly.

"Twenty-two."

Her voice was subduedalmost submissive. She would tellhim now.

"It is eight years ago?"

"Yes."

"And when did you leave him?"

"Three years ago."

"Five years!  Did you love him whenyou married him?"

She was silent for some time; then she saidslowly:

"I thought I did--more or less.  Ididn't think much about it.And he wanted me.  I was very prudishthen."

"And you sort of walked into it withoutthinking?"

"Yes.  I seemed to have been asleepnearly all my life."

"Somnambule?  But--when did you wakeup?"

"I don't know that I ever didor everhave--since I was a child."

"You went to sleep as you grew to be awoman?  How queer!And he didn't wake you?"

"No; he never got there" sherepliedin a monotone.

The brown birds dashed over the hedges wherethe rose-hipsstood naked and scarlet.

"Got where?" he asked.

"At me.  He never really mattered tome."

The afternoon was so gently warm and dim. Red roofsof the cottages burned among the blue haze. He loved the day.He could feelbut he could not understandwhat Clara was saying.

"But why did you leave him?  Was hehorrid to you?"

She shuddered lightly.

"He--he sort of degraded me.  Hewanted to bully me because hehadn't got me.  And then I felt as if Iwanted to runas if Iwas fastened and bound up.  And he seemeddirty."
"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 hecouldn't get AT mereally.  And then hegot brutal--he WAS brutal!"

"And why did you leave him finally?"

"Because--because he was unfaithful tome---"

They were both silent for some time.  Herhand lay on the gate-postas she balanced.  He put his own over it. His heart beat quickly.

"But did you--were you ever--did you evergive 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 awayand couldnot.  She savedhim by removing her own.  After a silencehe began again:

"Did you leave him out of count allalong?"

"He left me" she said.

"And I suppose he couldn't MAKE himselfmean everything to you?"

"He tried to bully me into it."

But the conversation had got them both out oftheir depth.Suddenly Paul jumped down.

"Come on" he said.  "Let'sgo and get some tea."

They found a cottagewhere they sat in thecold parlour.She poured out his tea.  She was veryquiet.  He felt she had withdrawnagain from him.  After teashe staredbroodingly into her tea-cuptwisting her wedding ring all the time. In her abstraction she tookthe ring off her fingerstood it upand spunit upon the table.The gold became a diaphanousglitteringglobe.  It felland thering was quivering upon the table.  Shespun it again and again.Paul watchedfascinated.

But she was a married womanand he believed insimple friendship.And he considered that he was perfectlyhonourable with regard to her.It was only a friendship between man and womansuch as any civilisedpersons might have.

He was like so many young men of his own age. Sex had becomeso complicated in him that he would have deniedthat he evercould want Clara or Miriam or any woman whom heknew.  Sex desirewas a sort of detached thingthat did notbelong to a woman.He loved Miriam with his soul.  He grewwarm at the thoughtof Clarahe battled with herhe knew thecurves of her breastand shoulders as if they had been mouldedinside him; and yet hedid not positively desire her.  He wouldhave denied it for ever.He believed himself really bound to Miriam. If ever he should marrysome time in the far futureit would be hisduty to marry Miriam.That he gave Clara to understandand she saidnothingbut left himto his courses.  He came to herMrs.Daweswhenever he could.Then he wrote frequently to Miriamand visitedthe girl occasionally.So he went on through the winter; but he seemednot so fretted.His mother was easier about him.  Shethought he was getting awayfrom Miriam.

Miriam knew now how strong was the attractionof Clara for him;but still she was certain that the best in himwould triumph.His feeling for Mrs. Dawes--whomoreoverwasa married woman--was shallow and temporalcompared with hislove for herself.He would come back to hershe was sure; withsome of his youngfreshness goneperhapsbut cured of hisdesire for the lesser thingswhich other women than herself could give him. She could bear allif he were inwardly true to her and must comeback.

He saw none of the anomaly of his position. Miriam was hisold friendloverand she belonged to Bestwoodand home and his youth.Clara was a newer friendand she belonged toNottinghamto lifeto the world.  It seemed to him quiteplain.

Mrs. Dawes and he had many periods of coolnesswhen they sawlittle of each other; but they always cametogether again.

"Were you horrid with Baxter Dawes?"he asked her.  It wasa thing that seemed to trouble him.

"In what way?"

"OhI don't know.  But weren't youhorrid with him?Didn't you do something that knocked him topieces?"

"Whatpray?"

"Making him feel as if he were nothing--Iknow" Paul declared.

"You are so clevermy friend" shesaid coolly.

The conversation broke off there.  But itmade her coolwith him for some time.

She very rarely saw Miriam now.  Thefriendship betweenthe two women was not broken offbutconsiderably weakened.

"Will you come in to the concert on Sundayafternoon?"Clara asked him just after Christmas.

"I promised to go up to Willey Farm"he replied.

"Ohvery well."

"You don't minddo you?" he asked.

"Why should I?" she answered.

Which almost annoyed him.

"You know" he said"Miriam andI have been a lot to eachother ever since I was sixteen--that's sevenyears now."

"It's a long time" Clara replied.

"Yes; but somehow she--it doesn't goright---"

"How?" asked Clara.

"She seems to draw me and draw meand shewouldn't leavea single hair of me free to fall out and blowaway--she'd keep it."

"But you like to be kept."

"No" he said"I don't.  Iwish it could be normalgive and take--like me and you.  I want a woman to keepmebut not in her pocket."

"But if you love herit couldn't benormallike me and you."

"Yes; I should love her better then. She sort of wants meso much that I can't give myself."

"Wants you how?"

"Wants the soul out of my body.  Ican't help shrinking backfrom her."

"And yet you love her!"

"NoI don't love her.  I never evenkiss her."

"Why not?"  Clara asked.

"I don't know."

"I suppose you're afraid" she said.

"I'm not.  Something in me shrinksfrom her like hell--she'sso goodwhen I'm not good."

"How do you know what she is?"

"I do!  I know she wants a sort ofsoul 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 firstthing about her."

"What's that?"

"That she doesn't want any of your soulcommunion.That's your own imagination.  She wantsyou."

He pondered over this.  Perhaps he waswrong.

"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 andbattle.  Now heknew he would have to go to Miriam.  Butwhat was his reluctance?He told himself it was only a sort ofoverstrong virginity in herand him which neither could break through. He might have married her;but his circumstances at home made itdifficultandmoreoverhe didnot want to marry.  Marriage was for lifeand because they had becomeclose companionshe and shehe did not seethat it should inevitablyfollow they should be man and wife.  Hedid not feel that he wantedmarriage with Miriam.  He wished he did. He would have given hishead to have felt a joyous desire to marry herand to have her.Then why couldn't he bring it off?  Therewas some obstacle;and what was the obstacle?  It lay in thephysical bondage.He shrank from the physical contact.  Butwhy?  With her he felt boundup inside himself.  He could not go out toher.  Something struggledin himbut he could not get to her. Why?  She loved him.Clara said she even wanted him; then whycouldn't he go to hermake love to herkiss her?  Whywhen sheput her arm in histimidlyas they walkeddid he feel he wouldburst forth in brutalityand recoil?  He owed himself to her; hewanted to belong to her.Perhaps the recoil and the shrinking from herwas love in its firstfierce modesty.  He had no aversion forher.  Noit was the opposite;it was a strong desire battling with a stillstronger shynessand virginity.  It seemed as if virginitywere a positive forcewhich fought and won in both of them.  Andwith her he felt itso hard to overcome; yet he was nearest to herand with her alonecould he deliberately break through.  Andhe owed himself to her.Thenif they could get things righttheycould marry; but hewould not marry unless he could feel strong inthe joy of it--never. He could not have faced his mother.  Itseemed to him thatto sacrifice himself in a marriage he did notwant would bedegradingand would undo all his lifemake ita nullity. He would try what he COULD do.

And he had a great tenderness for Miriam. Alwaysshe was saddreaming her religion; and he was nearly areligion to her.  He couldnot bear to fail her.  It would all comeright if they tried.

He looked round.  A good many of thenicest men he knew werelike himselfbound in by their own virginitywhich they could notbreak out of.  They were so sensitive totheir women that they wouldgo without them for ever rather than do them ahurtan injustice.Being the sons of mothers whose husbands hadblundered ratherbrutally through their feminine sanctitiesthey were themselvestoo diffident and shy.  They could easierdeny themselves than incurany reproach from a woman; for a woman was liketheir motherand theywere full of the sense of their mother. They preferred themselvesto suffer the misery of celibacyrather thanrisk the other person.

He went back to her.  Something in herwhen he looked at herbrought the tears almost to his eyes.  Oneday he stood behind heras she sang.  Annie was playing a song onthe piano.  As Miriam sangher mouth seemed hopeless.  She sang likea nun singing to heaven.It reminded him so much of the mouth and eyesof one who singsbeside a Botticelli Madonnaso spiritual. Againhot as steelcame up the pain in him.  Why must he askher for the other thing?Why was there his blood battling with her? If only he could have beenalways gentletender with herbreathing withher the atmosphereof reverie and religious dreamshe would givehis right hand.It was not fair to hurt her.  There seemedan eternal maidenhoodabout her; and when he thought of her motherhe saw the greatbrown eyes of a maiden who was nearly scaredand shocked out of hervirgin maidenhoodbut not quitein spite ofher seven children.They had been born almost leaving her out ofcountnot of herbut upon her.  So she could never let themgobecause she never hadpossessed them.

Mrs. Morel saw him going again frequently toMiriamand was astonished.  He said nothing tohis mother.  He did not explainnor excuse himself.  If he came home lateand she reproached himhe frowned and turned on her in an overbearingway:

"I shall come home when I like" hesaid; "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 bedleaving the door unlockedfor him;but she lay listening until he cameoften longafter.It was a great bitterness to her that he hadgone back to Miriam.She recognisedhoweverthe uselessness of anyfurther interference.He went to Willey Farm as a man nownot as ayouth.  She hadno right over him.  There was a coldnessbetween him and her.He hardly told her anything.  Discardedshe waited on himcooked forhim stilland loved to slave for him; but herface closed againlike a mask.  There was nothing for her todo 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 ajolly ladand full of the warmest affection;now he grew coldermore and more irritable and gloomy.  Itreminded her of William;but Paul was worse.  He did things withmore intensityand morerealisation of what he was about.  Hismother knew how he wassuffering for want of a womanand she saw himgoing to Miriam.If he had made up his mindnothing on earthwould alter him.Mrs. Morel was tired.  She began to giveup at last; she had finished.She was in the way.

He went on determinedly.  He realised moreor less what hismother felt.  It only hardened his soul. He made himself calloustowards her; but it was like being callous tohis own health.It undermined him quickly; yet he persisted.

He lay back in the rocking-chair at Willey Farmone evening.He had been talking to Miriam for some weeksbut had not come tothe point.  Now he said suddenly:

"I am twenty-fouralmost."

She had been brooding.  She looked up athim suddenly in surprise.

"Yes.  What makes you say it?"

There was something in the charged atmospherethat she dreaded.

"Sir Thomas More says one can marry attwenty-four."

She laughed quaintlysaying:

"Does it need Sir Thomas More's sanction?"

"No; but one ought to marry about then."

"Ay" she answered broodingly; andshe waited.

"I can't marry you" he continuedslowly"not nowbecause we'veno moneyand 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.

"Nowat lastI must" he said.

"Ay" she answered.

"And you love me?"

She laughed bitterly.

"Why are you ashamed of it" heanswered.  "You wouldn'tbe ashamed before your Godwhy are you beforepeople?"

"Nay" she answered deeply"Iam not ashamed."

"You are" he replied bitterly; "andit's my fault.  But youknow I can't help being--as I am--don't you?"

"I know you can't help it" shereplied.

"I love you an awful lot--then there issomething short."

"Where?" she answeredlooking athim.

"Ohin me!  It is I who ought to beashamed--likea 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 havebeen too fierce in our what they call purity? Don't you thinkthat to be so much afraid and averse is a sortof dirtiness?"

She looked at him with startled dark eyes.

"You recoiled away from anything of thesortand I tookthe motion from youand recoiled alsoperhapsworse."

There was silence in the room for some time.

"Yes" she said"it is so."

"There is between us" he said"allthese years of intimacy.I feel naked enough before you.  Do youunderstand?"

"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; hiseyes were darkwith torture.  She was sorry for him; itwas worse for him to have thisdeflated love than for herselfwho could neverbe properly mated.He was restlessfor ever urging forward andtrying to find a way out.He might do as he likedand have what he likedof her.

"Nay" she said softly"I amnot bitter."

She felt she could bear anything for him; shewould suffer for him.She put her hand on his knee as he leanedforward in his chair.He took it and kissed it; but it hurt to doso.  He felt he wasputting himself aside.  He sat theresacrificed to her puritywhich felt more like nullity.  How couldhe kiss her hand passionatelywhen it would drive her awayand leave nothingbut pain?  Yet slowlyhe drew her to him and kissed her.

They knew each other too well to pretendanything.As she kissed himshe watched his eyes; theywere staring acrossthe roomwith a peculiar dark blaze in themthat fascinated her.He was perfectly still.  She could feelhis heart throbbing heavilyin his breast.

"What are you thinking about?" sheasked.

The blaze in his eyes shudderedbecameuncertain.

"I was thinkingall the whileI loveyou.  I have been obstinate."

She sank her head on his breast.

"Yes" she answered.

"That's all" he saidand his voiceseemed sureand his mouthwas kissing her throat.

Then she raised her head and looked into hiseyes with herfull gaze of love.  The blaze struggledseemed to try to get awayfrom herand then was quenched.  Heturned his head quickly aside.It was a moment of anguish.

"Kiss me" she whispered.

He shut his eyesand kissed herand his armsfolded hercloser and closer.

When she walked home with him over the fieldshe said:

"I am glad I came back to you.  Ifeel so simple with you--asif there was nothing to hide.  We will behappy?"

"Yes" she murmuredand the tearscame to her eyes.

"Some sort of perversity in our souls"he said"makes usnot wantget away fromthe very thing wewant.  We have to fightagainst that."

"Yes" she saidand she feltstunned.

As she stood under the drooping-thorn treeinthe darkness bythe roadsidehe kissed herand his fingerswandered over her face.In the darknesswhere he could not see her butonly feel herhis passion flooded him.  He clasped hervery close.

"Sometime you will have me?" hemurmuredhiding his faceon her shoulder.  It was so difficult.

"Not now" she said.

His hopes and his heart sunk.  Adreariness came over him.

"No" he said.

His clasp of her slackened.

"I love to feel your arm THERE!" shesaidpressing his armagainst her backwhere it went round herwaist.  "It rests me so."

He tightened the pressure of his arm upon thesmall of herback to rest her.

"We belong to each other" he said.

"Yes."

"Then why shouldn't we belong to eachother altogether?"

"But---" she faltered.

"I know it's a lot to ask" he said;"but there's not much riskfor you really--not in the Gretchen way. You can trust me there?"

"OhI can trust you."  Theanswer came quick and strong."It's not that--it's not that atall--but---"

"What?"

She hid her face in his neck with a little cryof misery.

"I don't know!" she cried.

She seemed slightly hystericalbut with a sortof horror.His heart died in him.

"You don't think it ugly?" he asked.

"Nonot now.  You have TAUGHT me itisn't."

"You are afraid?"

She calmed herself hastily.

"YesI am only afraid" she said.

He kissed her tenderly.

"Never mind" he said.  "Youshould please yourself."

Suddenly she gripped his arms round herandclenched herbody stiff.

"You SHALL have me" she saidthrough her shut teeth.

His heart beat up again like fire.  Hefolded her closeand hismouth was on her throat.  She could notbear it.  She drew away.He disengaged her.

"Won't you be late?" she askedgently.

He sighedscarcely hearing what she said. She waitedwishing he would go.  At last he kissedher quickly and climbedthe fence.  Looking round he saw the paleblotch of her face downin the darkness under the hanging tree. There was no more of herbut this pale blotch.

"Good-bye!" she called softly. She had no bodyonly avoice and a dim face.  He turned away andran down the roadhis fists clenched; and when he came to thewall over the lakehe leaned therealmost stunnedlooking up theblack water.

Miriam plunged home over the meadows.  Shewas not afraidof peoplewhat they might say; but she dreadedthe issuewith him.  Yesshe would let him have herif he insisted;and thenwhen she thought of it afterwardsher heart went down.He would be disappointedhe would find nosatisfactionand then hewould go away.  Yet he was so insistent;and over thiswhich didnot seem so all-important to herwas theirlove to break down.After allhe was only like other menseekinghis satisfaction.Ohbut there was something more in himsomething deeper!  She couldtrust to itin spite of all desires.  Hesaid that possession wasa great moment in life.  All strongemotions concentrated there.Perhaps it was so.  There was somethingdivine in it; then shewould submitreligiouslyto the sacrifice. He should have her.And at the thought her whole body clencheditself involuntarilyhardas if against something; but Life forcedher through thisgate of sufferingtooand she would submit. At any rateit would give him what he wantedwhich was herdeepest wish.She brooded and brooded and brooded herselftowards accepting him.

He courted her now like a lover.  Oftenwhen he grew hotshe put his face from herheld it between herhandsand looked inhis eyes.  He could not meet her gaze. Her dark eyesfull of loveearnest and searchingmade him turn away. Not for an instantwould she let him forget.  Back again hehad to torture himselfinto a sense of his responsibility and hers. Never any relaxingnever any leaving himself to the great hungerand impersonalityof passion; he must be brought back to adeliberatereflective creature.As if from a swoon of passion she caged himback to the littlenessthe personal relationship.  He could notbear it.  "Leave mealone--leave me alone!" he wanted to cry;but she wanted him tolook at her with eyes full of love.  Hiseyesfull of the darkimpersonal fire of desiredid not belong toher.

There was a great crop of cherries at thefarm.  The trees atthe back of the housevery large and tallhung thick with scarletand crimson dropsunder the dark leaves. Paul and Edgar were gatheringthe fruit one evening.  It had been a hotdayand now the cloudswere rolling in the skydark and warm. Paul combed high in the treeabove the scarlet roofs of the buildings. The windmoaning steadilymade the whole tree rock with a subtlethrilling motion that stirredthe blood.  The young manperchedinsecurely in the slender branchesrocked till he felt slightly drunkreacheddown the boughswhere the scarlet beady cherries hung thickunderneathand toreoff handful after handful of the sleekcool-fleshed fruit.Cherries touched his ears and his neck as hestretched forwardtheir chill finger-tips sending a flash downhis blood.  All shadesof redfrom a golden vermilion to a richcrimsonglowed and methis eyes under a darkness of leaves.

The sungoing downsuddenly caught the brokenclouds.Immense piles of gold flared out in thesouth-eastheaped in softglowing yellow right up the sky.  Theworldtill now dusk and greyreflected the gold glowastonished. Everywhere the treesand the grassand the far-off waterseemedroused from the twilightand shining.

Miriam came out wondering.

"Oh!" Paul heard her mellow voicecall"isn't it wonderful?"

He looked down.  There was a faint goldglimmer on her facethat looked very softturned up to him.

"How high you are!" she said.

Beside heron the rhubarb leaveswere fourdead birdsthieves that had been shot.  Paul saw somecherry stones hangingquite bleachedlike skeletonspicked clear offlesh.  He lookeddown again to Miriam.

"Clouds are on fire" he said.

"Beautiful!" she cried.

She seemed so smallso softso tenderdownthere.  He threwa handful of cherries at her.  She wasstartled and frightened.He laughed with a lowchuckling soundandpelted her.  She ranfor shelterpicking up some cherries. Two fine red pairs she hungover her ears; then she looked up again.

"Haven't you got enough?" she asked.

"Nearly.  It is like being on a shipup here."

"And how long will you stay?"

"While the sunset lasts."

She went to the fence and sat therewatchingthe gold clouds fallto piecesand go in immenserose-colouredruin towards the darkness.Gold flamed to scarletlike pain in itsintense brightness.Then the scarlet sank to roseand rose tocrimsonand quicklythe passion went out of the sky.  All theworld was dark grey.Paul scrambled quickly down with his baskettearing his shirt-sleeveas he did so.

"They are lovely" said Miriamfingering the cherries.

"I've torn my sleeve" he answered.

She took the three-cornered ripsaying:

"I shall have to mend it."  Itwas near the shoulder.She put her fingers through the tear. "How warm!" she said.

He laughed.  There was a newstrange notein his voiceone that made her pant.

"Shall we stay out?" he said.

"Won't it rain?" she asked.

"Nolet us walk a little way."

They went down the fields and into the thickplantationof trees and pines.

"Shall we go in among the trees?" heasked.

"Do you want to?"

"Yes."

It was very dark among the firsand the sharpspines prickedher face.  She was afraid.  Paul wassilent and strange.

"I like the darkness" he said. "I wish it were thicker--goodthick darkness."

He seemed to be almost unaware of her as aperson:  she wasonly to him then a woman.  She was afraid.

He stood against a pine-tree trunk and took herin his arms.She relinquished herself to himbut it was asacrifice in which shefelt something of horror.  Thisthick-voicedoblivious man wasa stranger to her.

Later it began to rain.  The pine-treessmelled very strong.Paul lay with his head on the groundon thedead pine needleslistening to the sharp hiss of the rain--asteadykeen noise.His heart was downvery heavy.  Now herealised that she hadnot been with him all the timethat her soulhad stood apartin a sort of horror.  He was physically atrestbut no more.Very dreary at heartvery sadand verytenderhis fingers wanderedover her face pitifully.  Now again sheloved him deeply.  He was tenderand beautiful.

"The rain!" he said.

"Yes--is it coming on you?"

She put her hands over himon his hairon hisshouldersto feelif the raindrops fell on him.  She lovedhim dearly.  Heas he laywith his face on the dead pine-leavesfeltextraordinarily quiet.He did not mind if the raindrops came on him: he would have lainand got wet through:  he felt as ifnothing matteredas if hisliving were smeared away into the beyondnearand quite lovable.This strangegentle reaching-out to death wasnew to him.

"We must go" said Miriam.

"Yes" he answeredbut did not move.

To him nowlife seemed a shadowday a whiteshadow; nightand deathand stillnessand inactionthisseemed like BEING.To be aliveto be urgent and insistent--thatwas NOT-TO-BE.  Thehighest of all was to melt out into thedarkness and sway thereidentified with the great Being.

"The rain is coming in on us" saidMiriam.

He roseand 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 mylife."

He was walking with his hand in hers.  Shepressed his fingersfeeling a slight fear.  Now he seemedbeyond her; she had a fearlest she should lose him.

"The fir-trees are like presences on thedarkness:  each oneonly a presence."

She was afraidand said nothing.

"A sort of hush:  the whole nightwondering and asleep:I suppose that's what we do in death--sleep inwonder."

She had been afraid before of the brute inhim:  now of the mystic.She trod beside him in silence.  The rainfell with a heavy "Hush!"on the trees.  At last they gained thecartshed.

"Let us stay here awhile" he said.

There was a sound of rain everywheresmothering everything.

"I feel so strange and still" hesaid; "along with everything."

"Ay" she answered patiently.

He seemed again unaware of herthough he heldher hand close.

"To be rid of our individualitywhich isour willwhich isour effort--to live effortlessa kind ofcurious sleep--that isvery beautifulI think; that is ourafter-life--our immortality."

"Yes?"

"Yes--and very beautiful to have."
"You don't usually say that."

"No."

In a while they went indoors.  Everybodylooked at them curiously.He still kept the quietheavy look in hiseyesthe stillnessin his voice.  Instinctivelythey allleft him alone.

About this time Miriam's grandmotherwho livedin a tiny cottagein Woodlintonfell illand the girl was sentto keep house.It was a beautiful little place.  Thecottage had a big garden in frontwith red brick wallsagainst which the plumtrees were nailed.At the back another garden was separated fromthe fields by a tallold hedge.  It was very pretty. Miriam had not much to doso she found time for her beloved readingandfor writing littleintrospective pieces which interested her.

At the holiday-time her grandmotherbeingbetterwas drivento Derby to stay with her daughter for a day ortwo.  She was acrotchety old ladyand might return the secondday or the third;so Miriam stayed alone in the cottagewhichalso pleased her.

Paul used often to cycle overand they had asa rulepeaceful and happy times.  He did notembarrass her much; but thenon the Monday of the holiday he was to spend awhole day with her.

It was perfect weather.  He left hismothertelling her where hewas going.  She would be alone all theday.  It cast a shadow over him;but he had three days that were all his ownwhen he wasgoing to do as he liked.  It was sweet torushthrough the morning lanes on his bicycle.

He got to the cottage at about eleven o'clock. Miriam was busypreparing dinner.  She looked so perfectlyin keeping with thelittle kitchenruddy and busy.  He kissedher and sat down to watch.The room was small and cosy.  The sofa wascovered all over with asort of linen in squares of red and pale blueoldmuch washedbut pretty.  There was a stuffed owl in acase over a corner cupboard.The sunlight came through the leaves of thescented geraniumsin the window.  She was cooking a chickenin his honour.It was their cottage for the dayand they wereman and wife.He beat the eggs for her and peeled thepotatoes.  He thought shegave a feeling of home almost like his mother;and no one couldlook more beautifulwith her tumbled curlswhen she was flushedfrom the fire.

The dinner was a great success.  Like ayoung husbandhe carved.They talked all the time with unflagging zest. Then he wipedthe dishes she had washedand they went outdown the fields.There was a bright little brook that ran into abog at the footof a very steep bank.  Here they wanderedpicking still a fewmarsh-marigolds and many big blueforget-me-nots.  Then she sat onthe bank with her hands full of flowersmostlygolden water-blobs.As she put her face down into the marigoldsitwas all overcastwith a yellow shine.

"Your face is bright" he said"likea transfiguration."

She looked at himquestioning.  Helaughed pleadingly to herlaying his hands on hers.  Then he kissedher fingersthen her face.

The world was all steeped in sunshineandquite stillyet not asleepbut quivering with a kind ofexpectancy.

"I have never seen anything more beautifulthan this" he said.He held her hand fast all the time.

"And the water singing to itself as itruns--do you love it?"She looked at him full of love.  His eyeswere very darkvery bright.

"Don't you think it's a great day?"he asked.

She murmured her assent.  She WAS happyand he saw it.

"And our day--just between us" hesaid.

They lingered a little while.  Then theystood up uponthe sweet thymeand he looked down at hersimply.

"Will you come?" he asked.

They went back to the househand in handinsilence.The chickens came scampering down the path toher. He locked the doorand they had the littlehouse to themselves.

He never forgot seeing her as she lay on thebedwhen he wasunfastening his collar.  First he saw onlyher beautyand was blindwith it.  She had the most beautiful bodyhe had ever imagined.He stood unable to move or speaklooking atherhis face half-smilingwith wonder.  And then he wanted herbutas he went forward to herher hands lifted in a little pleading movementand he lookedat her faceand stopped.  Her big browneyes were watching himstill and resigned and loving; she lay as ifshe had given herself upto sacrifice:  there was her body for him;but the look at the backof her eyeslike a creature awaitingimmolationarrested himand all his blood fell back.

"You are sure you want me?" he askedas if a cold shadowhad come over him.

"Yesquite sure."

She was very quietvery calm.  She onlyrealised that shewas doing something for him.  He couldhardly bear it.  She layto be sacrificed for him because she loved himso much.  And he hadto sacrifice her.  For a secondhe wishedhe were sexless or dead.Then he shut his eyes again to herand hisblood beat back again.

And afterwards he loved her--loved her to thelast fibreof his being.  He loved her.  But hewantedsomehowto cry.There was something he could not bear for hersake.  He stayedwith her till quite late at night.  As herode home he felt thathe was finally initiated.  He was a youthno longer.  But whyhad he the dull pain in his soul?  Why didthe thought of deaththe after-lifeseem so sweet and consoling?

He spent the week with Miriamand wore her outwith his passionbefore it was gone.  He had alwaysalmostwilfullyto put her outof countand act from the brute strength ofhis own feelings.And he could not do it oftenand thereremained afterwards alwaysthe sense of failure and of death.  If hewere really with herhe had to put aside himself and his desire. If he would have herhe had to put her aside.

"When I come to you" he asked herhis eyes dark with painand shame"you don't really want medoyou?"

"Ahyes!" she replied quickly.

He looked at her.

"Nay" he said.

She began to tremble.

"You see" she saidtaking his faceand shutting it outagainst her shoulder--"you see--as weare--how can I get used to you?It would come all right if we were married."

He lifted her headand looked at her.

"You meannowit is always too muchshock?"

"Yes--and---"

"You are always clenched against me."

She was trembling with agitation.

"You see" she said"I'm notused to the thought---"

"You are lately" he said.

"But all my life.  Mother said tome:  'There is one thingin marriage that is always dreadfulbut youhave to bear it.'And I believed it."

"And still believe it" he said.

"No!" she cried hastily.  "Ibelieveas you dothat lovingeven in THAT wayis the high-water mark ofliving."

"That doesn't alter the fact that younever want it."

"No" she saidtaking his head inher arms and rocking in despair."Don't say so!  You don'tunderstand."  She rocked with pain."Don't I want your children?"

"But not me."

"How can you say so?  But we must bemarried to have children---"

"Shall we be marriedthen?  I wantyou to have my children."

He kissed her hand reverently.  Shepondered sadlywatching him.

"We are too young" she said atlength.

"Twenty-four and twenty-three---"

"Not yet" she pleadedas she rockedherself in distress.

"When you will" he said.

She bowed her head gravely.  The tone ofhopelessness inwhich he said these things grieved her deeply. It had always beena failure between them.  Tacitlysheacquiesced in what he felt.

And after a week of love he said to his mothersuddenly oneSunday nightjust as they were going to bed:

"I shan't go so much to Miriam'smother."

She was surprisedbut she would not ask himanything.

"You please yourself" she said.

So he went to bed.  But there was a newquietness abouthim which she had wondered at.  She almostguessed.  She wouldleave him alonehowever.  Precipitationmight spoil things.She watched him in his lonelinesswonderingwhere he would end.He was sickand much too quiet for him. There was a perpetual littleknitting of his browssuch as she had seenwhen he was a small babyand which had been gone for many years. Now it was the same again.And she could do nothing for him.  He hadto go on alonemake hisown way.

He continued faithful to Miriam.  For oneday he had loved herutterly.  But it never came again. The sense of failure grew stronger.At first it was only a sadness.  Then hebegan to feel he could notgo on.  He wanted to runto go abroadanything.  Gradually he ceasedto ask her to have him.  Instead ofdrawing them togetherit putthem apart.  And then he realisedconsciouslythat it was no good.It was useless trying:  it would never bea success between them.

For some months he had seen very little ofClara.  They hadoccasionally walked out for half an hour atdinner-time.  But he alwaysreserved himself for Miriam.  With Clarahoweverhis brow clearedand he was gay again.  She treated himindulgentlyas if he werea child.  He thought he did not mind. But deep below the surfaceit piqued him.

Sometimes Miriam said:

"What about Clara?  I hear nothing ofher lately."

"I walked with her about twenty minutesyesterday" he replied.

"And what did she talk about?"

"I don't know.  I suppose I did allthe jawing--I usually do.I think I was telling her about the strikeandhow the womentook it."

"Yes."

So he gave the account of himself.

But insidiouslywithout his knowing itthewarmth he feltfor Clara drew him away from Miriamfor whomhe felt responsibleand to whom he felt he belonged.  Hethought he was being quitefaithful to her.  It was not easy toestimate exactly the strengthand warmth of one's feelings for a woman tillthey have run awaywith one.

He began to give more time to his men friends. There was Jessopat the art school; Swainwho was chemistrydemonstratorat the university; Newtonwho was a teacher;besides Edgar andMiriam's younger brothers.  Pleading workhe sketched and studiedwith Jessop.  He called in the universityfor Swainand the two went"down town" together.  Havingcome home in the train with Newtonhe called and had a game of billiards with himin the Moonand Stars.  If he gave to Miriam theexcuse of his men friendshe felt quite justified.  His mother beganto be relieved.He always told her where he had been.

During the summer Clara wore sometimes a dressof soft cottonstuff with loose sleeves.  When she liftedher handsher sleevesfell backand her beautiful strong arms shoneout.

"Half a minute" he cried. "Hold your arm still."

He made sketches of her hand and armand thedrawingscontained some of the fascination the realthing had for him.Miriamwho always went scrupulously throughhis books and paperssaw the drawings.

"I think Clara has such beautiful arms"he said.

"Yes!  When did you draw them?"

"On Tuesdayin the work-room.  YouknowI've got a cornerwhere I can work.  Often I can do everysingle thing they needin the departmentbefore dinner.  Then Iwork for myselfin the afternoonand just see to things atnight."

"Yes" she saidturning the leavesof his sketch-book.

Frequently he hated Miriam.  He hated heras she bent forwardand pored over his things.  He hated herway of patiently castinghim upas if he were an endless psychologicalaccount.  When hewas with herhe hated her for having got himand yet not got himand he tortured her.  She took all andgave nothinghe said.  At leastshe gave no living warmth.  She was neveraliveand giving off life.Looking for her was like looking for somethingwhich did not exist.She was only his consciencenot his mate. He hated her violentlyand was more cruel to her.  They draggedon till the next summer.He saw more and more of Clara.

At last he spoke.  He had been sittingworking at homeone evening.  There was between him andhis mother a peculiar conditionof people frankly finding fault with eachother.  Mrs. Morel wasstrong on her feet again.  He was notgoing to stick to Miriam.Very well; then she would stand aloof till hesaid something.It had been coming a long timethis burstingof the storm in himwhen he would come back to her.  Thisevening there was between thema peculiar condition of suspense.  Heworked feverishly and mechanicallyso that he could escape from himself.  Itgrew late.  Through theopen doorstealthilycame the scent ofmadonna liliesalmost asif it were prowling abroad.  Suddenly hegot up and went out of doors.

The beauty of the night made him want toshout.  A half-moondusky goldwas sinking behind the blacksycamore at the end ofthe gardenmaking the sky dull purple with itsglow.  Nearera dimwhite fence of lilies went across the gardenand the air all roundseemed to stir with scentas if it werealive.  He went acrossthe bed of pinkswhose keen perfume camesharply across the rockingheavy scent of the liliesand stood alongsidethe white barrierof flowers.  They flagged all looseas ifthey were panting.The scent made him drunk.  He went down tothe field to watchthe moon sink under.

A corncrake in the hay-close calledinsistently.  The moonslid quite quickly downwardsgrowing moreflushed.  Behind himthe great flowers leaned as if they werecalling.  And thenlike a shockhe caught another perfumesomething raw and coarse.Hunting roundhe found the purple iristouched their fleshy throatsand their darkgrasping hands.  At anyratehe had found something.They stood stiff in the darkness.  Theirscent was brutal.The moon was melting down upon the crest of thehill.  It was gone;all was dark.  The corncrake called still.

Breaking off a pinkhe suddenly went indoors.

"Comemy boy" said his mother. "I'm sure it's time you wentto bed."

He stood with the pink against his lips.

"I shall break off with Miriammother"he answered calmly.

She looked up at him over her spectacles. He was staring backat herunswerving.  She met his eyes fora momentthen took offher glasses.  He was white.  The malewas up in himdominant.She did not want to see him too clearly.

"But I thought---" she began.

"Well" he answered"I don'tlove her.  I don't want to marryher--so I shall have done."

"But" exclaimed his motheramazed"I thought lately youhad made up your mind to have herand so Isaid nothing."

"I had--I wanted to--but now I don'twant.  It's no good.I shall break off on Sunday.  I ought tooughtn't I?"

"You know best.  You know I said solong ago."

"I can't help that now.  I shallbreak off on Sunday."

"Well" said his mother"Ithink it will be best.  But latelyI decided you had made up your mind to haveherso I said nothingand should have said nothing.  But I sayas I have always saidI DON'T think she is suited to you."

"On Sunday I break off" he saidsmelling the pink.He put the flower in his mouth. Unthinkinghe bared his teethclosed them on the blossom slowlyand had amouthful of petals.These he spat into the firekissed his motherand went to bed.

On Sunday he went up to the farm in the earlyafternoon.He had written Miriam that they would walk overthe fields to Hucknall.His mother was very tender with him.  Hesaid nothing.  But shesaw the effort it was costing.  Thepeculiar set look on his facestilled her.

"Never mindmy son" she said. "You will be so much betterwhen it is all over.  "

Paul glanced swiftly at his mother in surpriseand resentment.He did not want sympathy.

Miriam met him at the lane-end.  She waswearing a new dressof figured muslin that had short sleeves. Those short sleevesand Miriam's brown-skinned arms beneaththem--such pitifulresignedarms--gave him so much pain that they helped tomake him cruel.She had made herself look so beautiful andfresh for him.  She seemedto blossom for him alone.  Every time helooked at her--a mature youngwoman nowand beautiful in her new dress--ithurt so much that hisheart seemed almost to be bursting with therestraint he put on it.But he had decidedand it was irrevocable.

On the hills they sat downand he lay with hishead in her lapwhilst she fingered his hair.  She knewthat "he was not there"as she put it.  Oftenwhen she had himwith hershe looked for himand could not find him.  But thisafternoon she was not prepared.

It was nearly five o'clock when he told her. They were sittingon the bank of a streamwhere the lip of turfhung over a hollowbank of yellow earthand he was hacking awaywith a stickas hedid when he was perturbed and cruel.

"I have been thinking" he said"weought 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 marryit's no goodgoing on."

"But why do you say this now?"

"Because I've made up my mind."

"And what about these last monthsand thethings you toldme then?"

"I can't help it!  I don't want to goon."

"You don't want any more of me?"

"I want us to break off--you be free ofmeI free of you."

"And what about these last months?"

"I don't know.  I've not told youanything but what I thoughtwas true."

"Then why are you different now?"

"I'm not--I'm the same--only I know it'sno good going on."

"You haven't told me why it's no good."

"Because I don't want to go on--and Idon't want to marry."

"How many times have you offered to marrymeand I wouldn't?"

"I know; but I want us to break off."

There was silence for a moment or twowhile hedug viciously atthe earth.  She bent her headpondering. He was an unreasonable child.He was like an infant whichwhen it has drunkits fillthrows awayand smashes the cup.  She looked at himfeeling she could get holdof him and WRING some consistency out of him. But she was helpless.Then she cried:

"I have said you were only fourteen--youare only FOUR!"

He still dug at the earth viciously.  Heheard.

"You are a child of four" sherepeated in her anger.

He did not answerbut said in his heart: "All right;if I'm a child of fourwhat do you want mefor?  I don't wantanother mother."  But he said nothingto herand there was silence.

"And have you told your people?" sheasked.

"I have told my mother."

There was another long interval of silence.

"Then what do you WANT?" she asked.

"WhyI want us to separate.  We havelived on each other allthese years; now let us stop.  I will gomy own way without youand you will go your way without me.  Youwill have an independentlife of your own then."

There was in it some truth thatin spite ofher bitternessshe could not help registering.  She knewshe felt in a sort ofbondage to himwhich she hated because shecould not control it.She hated her love for him from the moment itgrew too strongfor her.  Anddeep downshe had hatedhim because she lovedhim and he dominated her.  She hadresisted his domination.She had fought to keep herself free of him inthe last issue.And she was free of himeven more than he ofher.

"And" he continued"we shallalways be more or lesseach other's work.  You have done a lotfor meI for you.Now let us start and live by ourselves."

"What do you want to do?" she asked.

"Nothing--only to be free" heanswered.

Shehoweverknew in her heart that Clara'sinfluence wasover him to liberate him.  But she saidnothing.

"And what have I to tell my mother?"she asked.

"I told my mother" he answered"that I was breaking off--cleanand altogether."

"I shall not tell them at home" shesaid.

Frowning"You please yourself" hesaid.

He knew he had landed her in a nasty holeandwas leavingher in the lurch.  It angered him.

"Tell them you wouldn't and won't marrymeand have broken off"he said.  "It's true enough."

She bit her finger moodily.  She thoughtover their whole affair.She had known it would come to this; she hadseen it all along.It chimed with her bitter expectation.

"Always--it has always been so!" shecried.  "It has beenone long battle between us--you fighting awayfrom me."

It came from her unawareslike a flash oflightning.The man's heart stood still.  Was this howshe saw it?

"But we've had SOME perfect hoursSOMEperfect timeswhen we were together!" he pleaded.

"Never!" she cried; "never! It has always been you fightingme off."

"Not always--not at first!" hepleaded.

"Alwaysfrom the very beginning--alwaysthe same!"

She had finishedbut she had done enough. He sat aghast.He had wanted to say:  "It has beengoodbut it is at an end."And she--she whose love he had believed in whenhe had despisedhimself--denied that their love had ever beenlove.  "He hadalways fought away from her?"  Thenit had been monstrous.There had never been anything really betweenthem; all the timehe had been imagining something where there wasnothing.  And shehad known.  She had known so muchand hadtold him so little.She had known all the time.  All the timethis was at the bottomof her!

He sat silent in bitterness.  At last thewhole affair appearedin a cynical aspect to him.  She hadreally played with himnot he with her.  She had hidden all hercondemnation from himhad flattered himand despised him.  Shedespised him now.He grew intellectual and cruel.

"You ought to marry a man who worshipsyou" he said; "then youcould do as you liked with him.  Plenty ofmen will worship youif you get on the private side of theirnatures.  You ought to marryone such.  They would never fight youoff."

"Thank you!" she said.  "Butdon't advise me to marry someoneelse any more.  You've done it before."

"Very well" he said; "I willsay no more."

He sat stillfeeling as if he had had a blowinstead ofgiving one.  Their eight years offriendship and loveTHE eightyears of his lifewere nullified.

"When did you think of this?" sheasked.

"I thought definitely on Thursday night."

"I knew it was coming" she said.

That pleased him bitterly.  "Ohverywell!  If she knew thenit doesn't come as a surprise to her" hethought.

"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 thistime last yearin my grandmother's house--nay last montheven?"

"Yes" he said; "I do!  AndI meant them!  I can't helpthat it's failed."

"It has failed because you want somethingelse."

"It would have failed whether or not. YOU never believedin me."

She laughed strangely.

He sat in silence.  He was full of afeeling that she haddeceived him.  She had despised him whenhe thought she worshipped him.She had let him say wrong thingsand had notcontradicted him.She had let him fight alone.  But it stuckin his throat that she haddespised him whilst he thought she worshippedhim.  She should havetold him when she found fault with him. She had not played fair.He hated her.  All these years she hadtreated him as if he werea heroand thought of him secretly as aninfanta foolish child.Then why had she left the foolish child to hisfolly?  His heart washard against her.

She sat full of bitterness.  She hadknown--ohwell shehad known!  All the time he was away fromher she had summedhim upseen his littlenesshis meannessandhis folly.Even she had guarded her soul against him. She was not overthrownnot prostratednot even much hurt.  Shehad known.  Only whyas he sat therehad he still this strangedominance over her?His very movements fascinated her as if shewere hypnotised by him.Yet he was despicablefalseinconsistentandmean.  Why this bondagefor her?  Why was it the movement of hisarm stirred her as nothingelse in the world could?  Why was shefastened to him?  Whyeven nowif he looked at her and commanded herwouldshe have to obey?She would obey him in his trifling commands. But once he was obeyedthen she had him in her powershe knewtolead him where she would.She was sure of herself.  Onlythis newinfluence!  Ahhe wasnot a man!  He was a baby that cries forthe newest toy.And all the attachment of his soul would notkeep him.  Very wellhe would have to go.  But he would comeback when he had tired of hisnew sensation.

He hacked at the earth till she was fretted todeath.  She rose.He sat flinging lumps of earth in the stream.

"We will go and have tea here?" heasked.

"Yes" she answered.

They chattered over irrelevant subjects duringtea.He held forth on the love of ornament--thecottage parlour moved himthereto--and its connection with aesthetics. She was cold and quiet.As they walked homeshe asked:

"And we shall not see each other?"

"No--or rarely" he answered.

"Nor write?" she askedalmostsarcastically.

"As you will" he answered. "We're not strangers--nevershould bewhatever happened.  I willwrite to you now and again.You please yourself."

"I see!" she answered cuttingly.

But he was at that stage at which nothing elsehurts.He had made a great cleavage in his life. He had had a great shockwhen she had told him their love had beenalways a conflict.Nothing more mattered.  If it never hadbeen muchthere was no needto make a fuss that it was ended.

He left her at the lane-end.  As she wenthomesolitaryin her new frockhaving her people to face atthe other endhe stood still with shame and pain in thehighroadthinking ofthe suffering he caused her.

In the reaction towards restoring hisself-esteemhe wentinto the Willow Tree for a drink.  Therewere four girls who hadbeen out for the daydrinking a modest glassof port.  They hadsome chocolates on the table.  Paul satnear with his whisky.He noticed the girls whispering and nudging. Presently onea bonny dark hussyleaned to him and said:

"Have a chocolate?"

The others laughed loudly at her impudence.

"All right" said Paul.  "Giveme a hard one--nut.  I don'tlike creams."

"Here you arethen" said the girl;"here's an almond for you."

She held the sweet between her fingers. He opened his mouth.She popped it inand blushed.

"You ARE nice!" he said.

"Well" she answered"wethought you looked overcastand they dared me offer you a chocolate."

"I don't mind if I have another--anothersort" he said.

And presently they were all laughing together.

It was nine o'clock when he got homefallingdark.  He enteredthe house in silence.  His motherwho hadbeen waitingrose anxiously.

"I told her" he said.

"I'm glad" replied the motherwithgreat relief.

He hung up his cap wearily.

"I said we'd have done altogether"he said.

"That's rightmy son" said themother.  "It's hard for her nowbut 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 apub" he said.

His mother looked at him.  He hadforgotten Miriam now.  He toldher about the girls in the Willow Tree. Mrs. Morel looked at him.It seemed unrealhis gaiety.  At the backof it was too much horrorand misery.

"Now have some supper" she said verygently.

Afterwards he said wistfully:

"She never thought she'd have memothernot from the firstand so she's not disappointed."

"I'm afraid" said his mother"shedoesn't give up hopesof 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.

"Wellleave her alone" replied hismother.  So he left herand she was alone.  Very few people caredfor herand she for veryfew people.  She remained alone withherselfwaiting.

 

CHAPTER XII

PASSION

HE was gradually making it possible to earn alivelihood byhis art.  Liberty's had taken several ofhis painted designson various stuffsand he could sell designsfor embroideriesfor altar-clothsand similar thingsin one ortwo places.It was not very much he made at presentbut hemight extend it.He had also made friends with the designer fora pottery firmand was gaining some knowledge of his newacquaintance's art. The applied arts interested him very much. At the same timehe laboured slowly at his pictures.  Heloved to paint large figuresfull of lightbut not merely made up of lightsand cast shadowslike the impressionists; rather definitefigures that had a certainluminous qualitylike some of Michael Angelo'speople.  And thesehe fitted into a landscapein what he thoughttrue proportion.He worked a great deal from memoryusingeverybody he knew.He believed firmly in his workthat it wasgood and valuable.In spite of fits of depressionshrinkingeverythinghe believedin his work.

He was twenty-four when he said his firstconfident thingto his mother.

"Mother" he said"I s'll makea painter that they'll attend to."

She sniffed in her quaint fashion.  It waslike a half-pleasedshrug of the shoulders.

"Very wellmy boywe'll see" shesaid.

"You shall seemy pigeon!  You seeif you're not swankyone of these days!"

"I'm quite contentmy boy" shesmiled.

"But you'll have to alter.  Look atyou with Minnie!"

Minnie was the small servanta girl offourteen.

"And what about Minnie?" asked Mrs.Morelwith dignity.

"I heard her this morning:  'EhMrs.Morel!  I was goingto do that' when you went out in the rain forsome coal" he said."That looks a lot like your being able tomanage servants!"

"Wellit was only the child's niceness"said Mrs. Morel.

"And you apologising to her:  'Youcan't do two things at oncecan you?'"

"She WAS busy washing up" repliedMrs. Morel.

"And what did she say?  'It couldeasy have waited a bit.Now look how your feet paddle!'"

"Yes--brazen young baggage!" saidMrs. Morelsmiling.

He looked at his motherlaughing.  Shewas quite warm androsy again with love of him.  It seemed asif all the sunshinewere on her for a moment.  He continuedhis work gladly.She seemed so well when she was happy that heforgot her grey hair.

And that year she went with him to the Isle ofWight fora holiday.  It was too exciting for thembothand too beautiful.Mrs. Morel was full of joy and wonder. But he would have herwalk with him more than she was able.  Shehad a bad fainting bout.So grey her face wasso blue her mouth! It was agony to him.He felt as if someone were pushing a knife inhis chest.  Then shewas better againand he forgot.  But theanxiety remained inside himlike a wound that did not close.

After leaving Miriam he went almost straight toClara.On the Monday following the day of the rupturehe went down tothe work-room.  She looked up at him andsmiled.  They had grownvery intimate unawares.  She saw a newbrightness about him.

"WellQueen of Sheba!" he saidlaughing.

"But why?" she asked.

"I think it suits you.  You've got anew frock on."

She flushedasking:

"And what of it?"

"Suits you--awfully!  I could designyou a dress."

"How would it be?"

He stood in front of herhis eyes glitteringas he expounded.He kept her eyes fixed with his.  Thensuddenly he took hold of her.She half-started back.  He drew the stuffof her blouse tightersmoothed it over her breast.

"More SO!" he explained.

But they were both of them flaming withblushesand immediatelyhe ran away.  He had touched her. His whole body was quiveringwith the sensation.

There was already a sort of secretunderstanding between them.The next evening he went to the cinematographwith her for a fewminutes before train-time.  As they sathe saw her hand lyingnear him.  For some moments he dared nottouch it.  The picturesdanced and dithered.  Then he took herhand in his.  It was largeand firm; it filled his grasp.  He held itfast.  She neithermoved nor made any sign.  When they cameout his train was due.He hesitated.

"Good-night" she said.  Hedarted away across the road.

The next day he came againtalking to her. She was rathersuperior with him.

"Shall we go a walk on Monday?" heasked.

She turned her face aside.

"Shall you tell Miriam?" she repliedsarcastically.

"I have broken off with her" hesaid.

"When?"

"Last Sunday."

"You quarrelled?"

"No!  I had made up my mind.  Itold her quite definitely Ishould consider myself free."

Clara did not answerand he returned to hiswork.  She wasso quiet and so superb!

On the Saturday evening he asked her to comeand drink coffeewith him in a restaurantmeeting him afterwork was over.  She camelooking very reserved and very distant. He had three-quartersof an hour to train-time.

"We will walk a little while" hesaid.

She agreedand they went past the Castle intothe Park.He was afraid of her.  She walked moodilyat his sidewith a kindof resentfulreluctantangry walk.  Hewas afraid to take her hand.

"Which way shall we go?" he asked asthey walked in darkness.

"I don't mind."

"Then we'll go up the steps."

He suddenly turned round.  They had passedthe Park steps.She stood still in resentment at his suddenlyabandoning her.He looked for her.  She stood aloof. He caught her suddenly inhis armsheld her strained for a momentkissed her.  Then he lether go.

"Come along" he saidpenitent.

She followed him.  He took her hand andkissed herfinger-tips.  They went in silence. When they came to the lighthe let go her hand.  Neither spoke tillthey reached the station.Then they looked each other in the eyes.

"Good-night" she said.

And he went for his train.  His body actedmechanically.People talked to him.  He heard faintechoes answering them.He was in a delirium.  He felt that hewould go mad if Monday didnot come at once.  On Monday he would seeher again.  All himselfwas pitched thereahead.  Sundayintervened.  He could not bear it.He could not see her till Monday.  AndSunday intervened--hourafter hour of tension.  He wanted to beathis head against thedoor of the carriage.  But he sat still. He drank some whiskyon the way homebut it only made it worse. His mother must notbe upsetthat was all.  He dissembledand got quickly to bed.There he satdressedwith his chin on hiskneesstaring out ofthe window at the far hillwith its fewlights.  He neither thought nor sleptbut sat perfectly stillstaring.  Andwhen at last he was so cold thathe came to himselfhe found his watch hadstopped at half-past two.It was after three o'clock.  He wasexhaustedbut still there wasthe torment of knowing it was only Sundaymorning.  He went to bedand slept.  Then he cycled all day longtill 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 layand thought.  He was comingnearer to himself--he could see himselfrealsomewhere in front.She would go a walk with him in the afternoon. Afternoon!  It seemedyears ahead.

Slowly the hours crawled.  His father gotup; he heard himpottering about.  Then the miner set offto the pithis heavyboots scraping the yard.  Cocks were stillcrowing.  A cartwent down the road.  His mother got up. She knocked the fire.Presently she called him softly.  Heanswered as if he were asleep.This shell of himself did well.

He was walking to the station--another mile! The trainwas near Nottingham.  Would it stop beforethe tunnels?But it did not matter; it would get therebefore dinner-time.  Hewas at Jordan's.  She would come in halfan hour.  At any rateshe would be near.  He had done theletters.  She would be there.Perhaps she had not come.  He randownstairs.  Ah! he saw herthrough the glass door.  Her shouldersstooping a little to herwork made him feel he could not go forward; hecould not stand.He went in.  He was palenervousawkwardand quite cold.Would she misunderstand him?  He could notwrite his real selfwith this shell.

"And this afternoon" he struggled tosay.  "You will come?"

"I think so" she repliedmurmuring.

He stood before herunable to say a word. She hid herface from him.  Again came over him thefeeling that he wouldlose consciousness.  He set his teeth andwent upstairs.  He haddone everything correctly yetand he would doso.  All the morningthings seemed a long way offas they do to aman under chloroform.He himself seemed under a tight band ofconstraint.  Then there was hisother selfin the distancedoing thingsentering stuff in a ledgerand he watched that far-off him carefully tosee he made no mistake.

But the ache and strain of it could not go onmuch longer.He worked incessantly.  Still it was onlytwelve o'clock.  As if hehad nailed his clothing against the deskhestood there and workedforcing every stroke out of himself.  Itwas a quarter to one;he could clear away.  Then he randownstairs.

"You will meet me at the Fountain at twoo'clock" he said.

"I can't be there till half-past."

"Yes!" he said.

She saw his darkmad eyes.

"I will try at a quarter past."

And he had to be content.  He went and gotsome dinner.All the time he was still under chloroformandevery minutewas stretched out indefinitely.  He walkedmiles of streets.Then he thought he would be late at themeeting-place.  He was atthe Fountain at five past two.  Thetorture of the next quarterof an hour was refined beyond expression. It was the anguishof 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" helaughed.

She was in a dark blue costume.  He lookedat her beautiful figure.

"You want some flowers" he saidgoing to the nearest florist's.

She followed him in silence.  He boughther a bunch of scarletbrick-red carnations.  She put them in hercoatflushing.

"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 vermilionwalking down the street?"he said.

She hung her headafraid of the people theymet.He looked sideways at her as they walked. There was a wonderfulclose down on her face near the ear that hewanted to touch.And a certain heavinessthe heaviness of avery full ear ofcorn that dips slightly in the windthat therewas about hermade his brain spin.  He seemed to bespinning down the streeteverything going round.

As they sat in the tramcarshe leaned herheavy shoulderagainst himand he took her hand.  Hefelt himself coming roundfrom the anaestheticbeginning to breathe. Her earhalf-hidden amongher blonde hairwas near to him.  Thetemptation to kiss it wasalmost too great.  But there were otherpeople on top of the car.It still remained to him to kiss it. After allhe was not himselfhe was some attribute of herslike thesunshine that fell on her.

He looked quickly away.  It had beenraining.  The big bluffof the Castle rock was streaked with rainasit reared abovethe flat of the town.  They crossed thewideblack space of theMidland Railwayand passed the cattleenclosure that stood out white.Then they ran down sordid Wilford Road.

She rocked slightly to the tram's motionandas she leanedagainst himrocked upon him.  He was avigorousslender manwith exhaustless energy.  His face wasroughwith rough-hewn featureslike the common people's; but his eyes underthe deep brows wereso full of life that they fascinated her. They seemed to danceand yet they were still trembling on the finestbalance of laughter.His mouth the same was just going to springinto a laugh of triumphyet did not.  There was a sharp suspenseabout him.  She bit herlip moodily.  His hand was hard clenchedover hers.

They paid their two halfpennies at theturnstile and crossedthe bridge.  The Trent was very full. It swept silent and insidiousunder the bridgetravelling in a soft body. There had been a greatdeal of rain.  On the river levels wereflat gleams of flood water.The sky was greywith glisten of silver hereand there.  In Wilfordchurchyard the dahlias were sodden withrain--wet black-crimson balls.No one was on the path that went along thegreen river meadowalong the elm-tree colonnade.

There was the faintest haze over thesilvery-dark waterand the green meadow-bankand the elm-treesthat were spangledwith gold.  The river slid by in a bodyutterly silent and swiftintertwining among itself like some subtlecomplex creature.Clara walked moodily beside him.

"Why" she asked at lengthin rathera jarring tone"did youleave Miriam?"

He frowned.

"Because I WANTED to leave her" hesaid.

"Why?"

"Because I didn't want to go on with her. And I didn't wantto marry."

She was silent for a moment.  They pickedtheir way down the muddy path.Drops of water fell from the elm-trees.

"You didn't want to marry Miriamor youdidn't want to marryat all?" she asked.

"Both" he answered--"both!"

They had to manoeuvre to get to the stilebecause of the poolsof water.

"And what did she say?"  Claraasked.

"Miriam?  She said I was a baby offourand that I alwaysHAD battled her off."

Clara pondered over this for a time.

"But you have really been going with herfor 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 ratherbadly?" she asked.
"Yes; I ought to have dropped it yearsback.  But it wouldhave been no good going on.  Two wrongsdon'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 Ithirty-one?"

"I neither know nor care.  What doesit matter!"

They were at the entrance to the Grove. The wetred trackalready sticky with fallen leaveswent up thesteep bank betweenthe grass.  On either side stood theelm-trees like pillars alonga great aislearching over and making high upa roof from which thedead leaves fell.  All was empty andsilent and wet.  She stood ontop of the stileand he held both her hands. Laughingshe lookeddown into his eyes.  Then she leaped. Her breast came against his;he held herand covered her face with kisses.

They went on up the slipperysteep red path. Presently shereleased his hand and put it round her waist.

"You press the vein in my armholding itso tightly"she said.

They walked along.  His finger-tips feltthe rocking of her breast.All was silent and deserted.  On the leftthe red wet plough-landshowed through the doorways between theelm-boles andtheir branches.  On the rightlookingdownthey could see the tree-topsof elms growing far beneath themhearoccasionally the gurgle ofthe river.  Sometimes there below theycaught glimpses of the fullsoft-sliding Trentand of water-meadows dottedwith small cattle.

"It has scarcely altered since littleKirke White used to come"he said.

But he was watching her throat below the earwhere the flush wasfusing into the honey-whiteand her mouth thatpouted disconsolate.She stirred against him as she walkedand hisbody was likea taut string.

Halfway up the big colonnade of elmswhere theGrove rosehighest above the rivertheir forward movementfaltered to an end.He led her across to the grassunder the treesat the edge of the path.The cliff of red earth sloped swiftly downthrough trees and bushesto the river that glimmered and was darkbetween the foliage.The far-below water-meadows were very green. He and she stood leaningagainst one anothersilentafraidtheirbodies touching all along.There came a quick gurgle from the river below.

"Why" he asked at length"didyou hate Baxter Dawes?"

She turned to him with a splendid movement. Her mouth wasoffered himand her throat; her eyes werehalf-shut; her breastwas tilted as if it asked for him.  Heflashed with a small laughshut his eyesand met her in a longwholekiss.  Her mouth fusedwith his; their bodies were sealed andannealed.  It was some minutesbefore they withdrew.  They were standingbeside the public path.

"Will you go down to the river?" heasked.

She looked at himleaving herself in hishands.  He wentover the brim of the declivity and began toclimb down.

"It is slippery" he said.

"Never mind" she replied.

The red clay went down almost sheer.  Heslidwent from onetuft of grass to the nexthanging on to thebushesmaking for alittle platform at the foot of a tree. There he waited for herlaughing with excitement.  Her shoes wereclogged with red earth.It was hard for her.  He frowned.  Atlast he caught her handand she stood beside him.  The cliff roseabove them and fell awaybelow.  Her colour was upher eyesflashed.  He looked at the bigdrop below them.

"It's risky" he said; "ormessyat any rate.  Shall wego back?"

"Not for my sake" she said quickly.

"All right.  You seeI can't helpyou; I should only hinder.Give me that little parcel and your gloves. Your poor shoes!"

They stood perched on the face of thedeclivityunder the trees.

"WellI'll go again" he said.

Away he wentslippingstaggeringsliding tothe next treeinto which he fell with a slam that nearlyshook the breath out of him.She came after cautiouslyhanging on to thetwigs and grasses.So they descendedstage by stageto theriver's brink.  Thereto his disgustthe flood had eaten away thepathand the reddecline ran straight into the water.  Hedug in his heels and broughthimself up violently.  The string of theparcel broke with a snap;the brown parcel bounded downleaped into thewaterand sailedsmoothly away.  He hung on to his tree.

"WellI'll be damned!" he criedcrossly.  Then he laughed.She was coming perilously down.

"Mind!" he warned her.  He stoodwith his back to the treewaiting.  "Come now" he calledopening his arms.

She let herself run.  He caught herandtogether they stoodwatching the dark water scoop at the raw edgeof the bank.The parcel had sailed out of sight.

"It doesn't matter" she said.

He held her close and kissed her.  Therewas only roomfor their four feet.

"It's a swindle!" he said.  "Butthere's a rut where a manhas beenso if we go on I guess we shall findthe path again."

The river slid and twined its great volume. On the other bankcattle were feeding on the desolate flats. The cliff rose highabove Paul and Clara on their right hand. They stood againstthe tree in the watery silence.

"Let us try going forward" he said;and they struggledin the red clay along the groove a man's nailedboots had made.They were hot and flushed.  Their barkledshoes hung heavy ontheir steps.  At last they found thebroken path.  It was litteredwith rubble from the waterbut at any rate itwas easier.They cleaned their boots with twigs.  Hisheart was beating thickand fast.

Suddenlycoming on to the little levelhe sawtwo figuresof men standing silent at the water's edge. His heart leaped.They were fishing.  He turned and put hishand up warningly to Clara.She hesitatedbuttoned her coat.  The twowent on together.

The fishermen turned curiously to watch the twointruderson their privacy and solitude.  They hadhad a firebut it wasnearly out.  All kept perfectly still. The men turned again totheir fishingstood over the grey glintingriver like statues.Clara went with bowed headflushing; he waslaughing to himself.Directly they passed out of sight behind thewillows.

"Now they ought to be drowned" saidPaul softly.

Clara did not answer.  They toiled forwardalong a tiny pathon the river's lip.  Suddenly itvanished.  The bank was sheer redsolid clay in front of themsloping straightinto the river.He stood and cursed beneath his breathsettinghis teeth.

"It's impossible!" said Clara.

He stood erectlooking round.  Just aheadwere two isletsin the streamcovered with osiers.  Butthey were unattainable.The cliff came down like a sloping wall fromfar above their heads.Behindnot far backwere the fishermen. Across the river thedistant cattle fed silently in the desolateafternoon.  He cursedagain deeply under his breath.  He gazedup the great steep bank.Was there no hope but to scale back to thepublic path?

"Stop a minute" he saidanddigging his heels sidewaysinto the steep bank of red clayhe begannimbly to mount.He looked across at every tree-foot. At last hefound what he wanted.Two beech-trees side by side on the hill held alittle level on theupper face between their roots.  It waslittered with damp leavesbut it would do.  The fishermen wereperhaps sufficiently out of sight.He threw down his rainproof and waved to her tocome.

She toiled to his side.  Arriving thereshe looked at himheavilydumblyand laid her head on hisshoulder.  He held her fastas he looked round.  They were safe enoughfrom all but the smalllonely cows over the river.  He sunk hismouth on her throatwhere he felt her heavy pulse beat under hislips.  Everything wasperfectly still.  There was nothing in theafternoon but themselves.

When she arosehelooking on the ground allthe timesaw suddenly sprinkled on the black wetbeech-roots many scarletcarnation petalslike splashed drops of blood;and redsmallsplashes fell from her bosomstreaming downher dress to her feet.

"Your flowers are smashed" he said.

She looked at him heavily as she put back herhair.Suddenly he put his finger-tips on her cheek.

"Why dost look so heavy?" hereproached her.

She smiled sadlyas if she felt alone inherself.  He caressedher cheek with his fingersand kissed her.

"Nay!" he said.  "Neverthee bother!"

She gripped his fingers tightand laughedshakily.Then she dropped her hand.  He put thehair back from her browsstroking her templeskissing them lightly.

"But tha shouldna worrit!" he saidsoftlypleading.

"NoI don't worry!" she laughedtenderly and resigned.

"Yeatha does!  Dunna thee worrit"he imploredcaressing.

"No!" she consoled himkissing him.
They had a stiff climb to get to the topagain.  It took thema quarter of an hour.  When he got on tothe level grasshe threwoff his capwiped the sweat from his foreheadand sighed.

"Now we're back at the ordinary level"he said.

She sat downpantingon the tussocky grass. Her cheekswere flushed pink.  He kissed herand shegave way to joy.

"And now I'll clean thy boots and makethee fitfor respectable folk" he said.

He kneeled at her feetworked away with astick and tuftsof grass.  She put her fingers in hishairdrew his head to herand kissed it.

"What am I supposed to be doing" hesaidlooking at her laughing;"cleaning shoes or dibbling with love? Answer me that!"

"Just whichever I please" shereplied.

"I'm your boot-boy for the time beingandnothing else!"But they remained looking into each other'seyes and laughing.Then they kissed with little nibbling kisses.

"T-t-t-t!" he went with his tonguelike his mother."I tell younothing gets done whenthere's a woman about."

And he returned to his boot-cleaningsingingsoftly.She touched his thick hairand he kissed herfingers.  He workedaway at her shoes.  At last they werequite presentable.

"There you areyou see!" he said. "Aren't I a great hand atrestoring you to respectability?  Standup!Thereyou look as irreproachable as Britanniaherself!"

He cleaned his own boots a littlewashed hishands in a puddleand sang.  They went on into Cliftonvillage.  He was madly in lovewith her; every movement she madeevery creasein her garmentssent a hot flash through him and seemedadorable.

The old lady at whose house they had tea wasroused into gaietyby them.

"I could wish you'd had something of abetter day" she saidhovering round.

"Nay!" he laughed.  "We'vebeen saying how nice it is."

The old lady looked at him curiously. There was a peculiarglow and charm about him.  His eyes weredark and laughing.He rubbed his moustache with a glad movement.

"Have you been saying SO!" sheexclaimeda light rousingin her old eyes.

"Truly!" he laughed.

"Then I'm sure the day's good enough"said the old lady.

She fussed aboutand did not want to leavethem.

"I don't know whether you'd like someradishes as well"she said to Clara; "but I've got some inthe garden--AND a cucumber."

Clara flushed.  She looked very handsome.

"I should like some radishes" sheanswered.

And the old lady pottered off gleefully.

"If she knew!" said Clara quietly tohim.

"Wellshe doesn't know; and it showswe're nice in ourselvesat any rate.  You look quite enough tosatisfy an archangeland I'msure I feel harmless--so--if it makes you lookniceand makes folkhappy when they have usand makes ushappy--whywe're not cheatingthem out of much!"

They went on with the meal.  When theywere going awaythe old lady came timidly with three tinydahlias in full blowneat as beesand speckled scarlet and white. She stood before Clarapleased with herselfsaying:

"I don't know whether---" and holdingthe flowers forwardin her old hand.

"Ohhow pretty!" cried Claraaccepting the flowers.

"Shall she have them all?" asked Paulreproachfully of theold woman.

"Yesshe shall have them all" sherepliedbeaming with joy."You have got enough for your share."

"Ahbut I shall ask her to give me one!"he teased.

"Then she does as she pleases" saidthe old ladysmiling.And she bobbed a little curtsey of delight.

Clara was rather quiet and uncomfortable. As they walked alonghe said:

"You don't feel criminaldo you?"

She looked at him with startled grey eyes.

"Criminal!" she said.  "No."

"But you seem to feel you have done awrong?"

"No" she said.  "I onlythink'If they knew!'"

"If they knewthey'd cease tounderstand.  As it isthey dounderstandand they like it.  What dothey matter?  Herewith onlythe trees and meyou don't feel not the leastbit wrongdo you?"

He took her by the armheld her facing himholding her eyeswith his.  Something fretted him.

"Not sinnersare we?" he saidwithan uneasy little frown.

"No" she replied.

He kissed herlaughing.

"You like your little bit of guiltinessIbelieve" he said."I believe Eve enjoyed itwhen she wentcowering out of Paradise."

But there was a certain glow and quietnessabout her that madehim glad.  When he was alone in therailway-carriagehe foundhimself tumultuously happyand the peopleexceedingly niceand the night lovelyand everything good.

Mrs. Morel was sitting reading when he gothome.  Her healthwas not good nowand there had come that ivorypallor into her facewhich he never noticedand which afterwards henever forgot.She did not mention her own ill-health to him. After allshe thoughtit was not much.

"You are late!" she saidlooking athim.

His eyes were shining; his face seemed toglow.  He smiledto her.

"Yes; I've been down Clifton Grove withClara."

His mother looked at him again.

"But won't people talk?" she said.

"Why?  They know she's a suffragetteand so on.  And whatif they do talk!"

"Of coursethere may be nothing wrong init" said his mother."But you know what folks areand if onceshe gets talked about---"

"WellI can't help it.  Their jawisn't so almighty importantafter all."

"I think you ought to consider HER."

"So I DO!  What can people say?--thatwe take a walk together.I believe you're jealous."

"You know I should be GLAD if she weren'ta married woman."

"Wellmy dearshe lives separate fromher husbandand talkson platforms; so she's already singled out fromthe sheepandas faras I can seehasn't much to lose.  No;her life's nothing to herso what's the worth of nothing?  She goeswith me--it becomes something.Then she must pay--we both must pay!  Folkare so frightened of paying;they'd rather starve and die."

"Very wellmy son.  We'll see how itwill end."

"Very wellmy mother.  I'll abide bythe end."

"We'll see!"

"And she's--she's AWFULLY nicemother;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 wantedto ask his mother somethingbut was afraid.

"Should you like to know her?" He hesitated.

"Yes" said Mrs. Morel coolly. "I should like to knowwhat she's like."

"But she's nicemothershe is!  Andnot a bit common!"

"I never suggested she was."

"But you seem to think she's--not as goodas---  She's better thanninety-nine folk out of a hundredI tell you! She's BETTERshe is!She's fairshe's honestshe's straight! There isn't anythingunderhand or superior about her.  Don't bemean about her!"

Mrs. Morel flushed.

"I am sure I am not mean about her. She may be quiteas you saybut---"

"You don't approve" he finished.

"And do you expect me to?" sheanswered coldly.

"Yes!--yes!--if you'd anything about youyou'd be glad!Do you WANT to see her?"

"I said I did."

"Then I'll bring her--shall I bring herhere?"

"You please yourself."

"Then I WILL bring her here--oneSunday--to tea.  If you thinka horrid thing about herI shan't forgiveyou."

His mother laughed.

"As if it would make any difference!"she said.  He knew hehad won.

"Ohbut it feels so finewhen she'sthere!  She's sucha queen in her way."

Occasionally he still walked a little way fromchapel with Miriamand Edgar.  He did not go up to the farm. Shehoweverwas very muchthe same with himand he did not feelembarrassed in her presence.One evening she was alone when he accompaniedher.  They beganby talking books:  it was their unfailingtopic.  Mrs. Morel hadsaid that his and Miriam's affair was like afire fed on books--ifthere were no more volumes it would die out. Miriamfor her partboasted that she could read him like a bookcould place her fingerany minute on the chapter and the line. Heeasily taken inbelieved that Miriam knew more about him thananyone else.  So itpleased him to talk to her about himselflikethe simplest egoist.Very soon the conversation drifted to his owndoings.  It flatteredhim immensely that he was of such supremeinterest.

"And what have you been doing lately?"

"I--ohnot much!  I made a sketch ofBestwood from the gardenthat is nearly right at last.  It's thehundredth try."

So they went on.  Then she said:

"You've not been outthenlately?"

"Yes; I went up Clifton Grove on Mondayafternoon with Clara."

"It was not very nice weather" saidMiriam"was it?"

"But I wanted to go outand it was allright.  The TrentIS full."

"And did you go to Barton?" sheasked.

"No; we had tea in Clifton."

"DID you!  That would be nice."

"It was!  The jolliest old woman! She gave us severalpompom dahliasas pretty as you like."

Miriam bowed her head and brooded.  He wasquite unconsciousof concealing anything from her.

"What made her give them you?" sheasked.

He laughed.

"Because she liked us--because we werejollyI 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 silenceand he was angry.

"And how IS Clara?" asked Miriam.

"Quite all rightI think."

"That's good!" she saidwith a tingeof irony.  "By the waywhat of her husband?  One never hearsanything of him."

"He's got some other womanand is alsoquite all right"he replied.  "At leastso I think."

"I see--you don't know for certain. Don't you think a positionlike 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 doeslookat her position!"

"What of it?"

"Whyit's impossible!  You don'tunderstand what a woman forfeits---"

"NoI don't.  But if a woman's gotnothing but her fair fameto feed onwhyit's thin tackand a donkeywould die of it!"

So she understood his moral attitudeat leastand she knewhe would act accordingly.

She never asked him anything directbut shegot to know enough.

Another daywhen he saw Miriamtheconversation turnedto marriagethen to Clara's marriage withDawes.

"You see" he said"she neverknew the fearful importanceof marriage.  She thought it was all inthe day's march--it wouldhave to come--and Dawes--wella good manywomen would have giventheir souls to get him; so why not him? Then she developed intothe femme incompriseand treated him badlyI'll bet my boots."

"And she left him because he didn'tunderstand her?"

"I suppose so.  I suppose she hadto.  It isn't altogethera question of understanding; it's a question ofliving.  With himshe was only half-alive; the rest was dormantdeadened.  And thedormant woman was the femme incompriseand sheHAD to be awakened."

"And what about him."

"I don't know.  I rather think heloves her as much as he canbut he's a fool."

"It was something like your mother andfather" said Miriam.

"Yes; but my motherI believegot realjoy and satisfactionout of my father at first.  I believe shehad a passion for him;that's why she stayed with him.  Afterallthey were bound toeach other."

"Yes" said Miriam.

"That's what one MUST HAVEI think"he continued--"the realreal flame of feeling through anotherperson--onceonly onceif it only lasts three months.  Seemymother looks as if she'dHAD everything that was necessary for herliving and developing.There's not a tiny bit of feeling of sterilityabout her."

"No" said Miriam.

"And with my fatherat firstI'm sureshe had the real thing.She knows; she has been there.  You canfeet it about herand about himand about hundreds of people you meet everyday; andonce it hashappened to youyou can go on with anythingand ripen."

"What happenedexactly?" askedMiriam.

"It's so hard to saybut the somethingbig and intense thatchanges you when you really come together withsomebody else.It almost seems to fertilise your soul and makeit that you can goon and mature."

"And you think your mother had it withyour father?"

"Yes; and at the bottom she feels gratefulto him for givingit hereven nowthough they are miles apart."

"And you think Clara never had it?"

"I'm sure."

Miriam pondered this.  She saw what he wasseeking--a sortof baptism of fire in passionit seemed toher.  She realisedthat he would never be satisfied till he hadit.  Perhaps it wasessential to himas to some mento sow wildoats; and afterwardswhen he was satisfiedhe would not rage withrestlessness any morebut could settle down and give her his lifeinto her hands.  Wellthenif he must golet him go and have hisfill--something big and intensehe called it.  At any ratewhen he hadgot ithe would not wantit--that he said himself; he would want theother thing that shecould give him.  He would want to beownedso that he could work.It seemed to her a bitter thing that he mustgobut she could lethim go into an inn for a glass of whiskysoshe could let him goto Claraso long as it was something thatwould satisfy a need in himand leave him free for herself to possess.

"Have you told your mother about Clara?"she asked.

She knew this would be a test of theseriousness of hisfeeling for the other woman:  she knew hewas going to Clara forsomething vitalnot as a man goes for pleasureto a prostituteif he told his mother.

"Yes" he said"and she iscoming to tea on Sunday."

"To your house?"

"Yes; I want mater to see her."

"Ah!"

There was a silence.  Things had gonequicker than she thought.She felt a sudden bitterness that he couldleave her so soonand so entirely.  And was Clara to beaccepted by his peoplewho had been so hostile to herself?

"I may call in as I go to chapel"she said.  "It is a longtime since I saw Clara."

"Very well" he saidastonishedandunconsciously angry.

On the Sunday afternoon he went to Keston tomeet Clara atthe station.  As he stood on the platformhe was trying to examinein himself if he had a premonition.

"Do I FEEL as if she'd come?" he saidto himselfand he triedto find out.  His heart felt queer andcontracted.  That seemedlike foreboding.  Then he HAD a forebodingshe would not come!Then she would not comeand instead of takingher over thefields homeas he had imaginedhe would haveto go alone.The train was late; the afternoon would bewastedand the evening.He hated her for not coming.  Why had shepromisedthenif shecould not keep her promise?  Perhaps shehad missed her train--hehimself was always missing trains--but that wasno reason whyshe should miss this particular one.  Hewas angry with her;he was furious.

Suddenly he saw the train crawlingsneakinground the corner.Herethenwas the trainbut of course shehad not come.  The greenengine hissed along the platformthe row ofbrown carriages drew upseveral doors opened.  No; she had notcome!  No!  Yes; ahthereshe was!  She had a big black hat on! He was at her side in a moment.

"I thought you weren't coming" hesaid.

She was laughing rather breathlessly as she putout her handto him; their eyes met.  He took herquickly along the platformtalking at a great rate to hide his feeling. She looked beautiful.In her hat were large silk rosescoloured liketarnished gold.Her costume of dark cloth fitted so beautifullyover her breastand shoulders.  His pride went up as hewalked with her.He felt the station peoplewho knew himeyedher with aweand admiration.

"I was sure you weren't coming" helaughed shakily.

She laughed in answeralmost with a littlecry.

"And I wonderedwhen I was in the trainWHATEVER I shoulddo if you weren't there!" she said.

He caught her hand impulsivelyand they wentalongthe narrow twitchel.  They took the roadinto Nuttall andover the Reckoning House Farm.  It was abluemild day.Everywhere the brown leaves lay scattered; manyscarlet hipsstood upon the hedge beside the wood.  Hegathered a few for her to wear.

"Thoughreally" he saidas hefitted them into the breastof her coat"you ought to object to mygetting thembecause ofthe birds.  But they don't care much forrose-hips in this partwhere they can get plenty of stuff.  Youoften find the berriesgoing rotten in the springtime."

So he chatteredscarcely aware of what hesaidonly knowinghe was putting berries in the bosom of hercoatwhile she stoodpatiently for him.  And she watched hisquick handsso full of lifeand it seemed to her she had never SEENanything before.  Till noweverything had been indistinct.

They came near to the colliery.  It stoodquite still and blackamong the corn-fieldsits immense heap of slagseen rising almostfrom the oats.

"What a pity there is a coal-pit herewhere it is so pretty!"said Clara.

"Do you think so?" he answered. "You seeI am so used to itI should miss it.  No; and I like the pitshere and there.  I like therows of trucksand the headstocksand thesteam in the daytimeand the lights at night.  When I was aboyI always thoughta pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fireby night was a pitwith its steamand its lightsand the burningbank--and I thoughtthe Lord was always at the pit-top."

As they drew near home she walked in silenceand seemedto hang back.  He pressed her fingers inhis own.  She flushedbut gave no response.

"Don't you want to come home?" heasked.

"YesI want to come" she replied.

It did not occur to him that her position inhis home wouldbe rather a peculiar and difficult one. To him it seemed just as ifone of his men friends were going to beintroduced to his motheronly nicer.

The Morels lived in a house in an ugly streetthat ran downa steep hill.  The street itself washideous.  The house was rathersuperior to most.  It was oldgrimywitha big bay windowand itwas semi-detached; but it looked gloomy. Then Paul opened the doorto the gardenand all was different.  Thesunny afternoon was therelike another land.  By the path grew tansyand little trees.  In frontof the window was a plot of sunny grasswithold lilacs round it.And away went the gardenwith heaps ofdishevelled chrysanthemumsin the sunshinedown to the sycamore-treeandthe fieldand beyond one looked over a few red-roofedcottages to the hillswith all the glow of the autumn afternoon.

Mrs. Morel sat in her rocking-chairwearingher blacksilk blouse.  Her grey-brown hair wastaken smooth back from her browand her high temples; her face was ratherpale.  Clarasufferingfollowed Paul into the kitchen.  Mrs.Morel rose.  Clara thoughther a ladyeven rather stiff.  The youngwoman was very nervous.She had almost a wistful lookalmost 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 bringyou" replied Mrs. Morel.

Paulwatchingfelt his heart contract withpain.  His motherlooked so smalland sallowand done-forbeside the luxuriant Clara.

"It's such a pretty daymother!" hesaid.  "And we saw a jay."

His mother looked at him; he had turned toher.  She thoughtwhat a man he seemedin his darkwell-madeclothes.  He was paleand detached-looking; it would be hard for anywoman to keep him.Her heart glowed; then she was sorry for Clara.

"Perhaps you'll leave your things in theparlour"said Mrs. Morel nicely to the young woman.

"Ohthank you" she replied.

"Come on" said Pauland he led theway into the littlefront roomwith its old pianoits mahoganyfurnitureits yellowingmarble mantelpiece.  A fire was burning;the place was litteredwith books and drawing-boards.  "Ileave my things lying about"he said.  "It's so much easier."

She loved his artist's paraphernaliaand thebooksand thephotos of people.  Soon he was tellingher:  this was Williamthis was William's young lady in the eveningdressthis was Annieand her husbandthis was Arthur and his wifeand the baby.She felt as if she were being taken into thefamily.  He showedher photosbookssketchesand they talked alittle while.Then they returned to the kitchen.  Mrs.Morel put aside her book.Clara wore a blouse of fine silk chiffonwithnarrow black-and-whitestripes; her hair was done simplycoiled ontop of her head.She looked rather stately and reserved.

"You have gone to live down SneintonBoulevard?" said Mrs. Morel."When I was a girl--girlI say!--when Iwas a young woman WE livedin Minerva Terrace."

"Ohdid you!" said Clara.  "Ihave a friend in number 6."

And the conversation had started.  Theytalked Nottinghamand Nottingham people; it interested themboth.  Clara was stillrather nervous; Mrs. Morel was still somewhaton her dignity.She clipped her language very clear andprecise.  But they were goingto get on well togetherPaul saw.

Mrs. Morel measured herself against the youngerwomanand found herself easily stronger.  Clarawas deferential.She knew Paul's surprising regard for hismotherand she haddreaded the meetingexpecting someone ratherhard and cold.She was surprised to find this littleinterested woman chatting withsuch readiness; and then she feltas she feltwith Paulthat she would notcare to stand in Mrs. Morel's way.  Therewas something so hardand certain in his motheras if she never hada misgiving in her life.

Presently Morel came downruffled and yawningfrom hisafternoon sleep.  He scratched hisgrizzled headhe ploddedin his stocking feethis waistcoat hung openover his shirt.He seemed incongruous.

"This is Mrs. Dawesfather" saidPaul.

Then Morel pulled himself together.  Clarasaw Paul's mannerof bowing and shaking hands.

"Ohindeed!" exclaimed Morel. "I am very glad to see you--I amI assure you.  But don't disturbyourself.  Nono make yourselfquite comfortableand be very welcome."

Clara was astonished at this flood ofhospitality fromthe old collier.  He was so courteoussogallant!  She thoughthim most delightful.

"And may you have come far?" heasked.

"Only from Nottingham" she said.

"From Nottingham!  Then you have hada beautiful dayfor your journey."

Then he strayed into the scullery to wash hishands and faceand from force of habit came on to the hearthwith the towel todry himself.

At tea Clara felt the refinement and sang-froidof the household.Mrs. Morel was perfectly at her ease.  Thepouring out the tea andattending to the people went on unconsciouslywithout interruptingher in her talk.  There was a lot of roomat the oval table; the chinaof dark blue willow-pattern looked pretty onthe glossy cloth.There was a little bowl of smallyellowchrysanthemums.Clara felt she completed the circleand it wasa pleasure to her.But she was rather afraid of theself-possession of the Morelsfather and all.  She took their tone;there was a feeling of balance.It was a coolclear atmospherewhere everyonewas himselfand in harmony.  Clara enjoyed itbutthere was a fear deep at thebottom of her.

Paul cleared the table whilst his mother andClara talked.Clara was conscious of his quickvigorous bodyas it came and wentseeming blown quickly by a wind at its work. It was almost likethe hither and thither of a leaf that comesunexpected.  Most of herselfwent with him.  By the way she leanedforwardas if listeningMrs. Morel could see she was possessedelsewhere as she talkedand again the elder woman was sorry for her.

Having finishedhe strolled down the gardenleaving the twowomen to talk.  It was a hazysunnyafternoonmild and soft.Clara glanced through the window after him ashe loitered amongthe chrysanthemums.  She felt as ifsomething almost tangible fastenedher to him; yet he seemed so easy in hisgracefulindolent movementso detached as he tied up the too-heavy flowerbranches to their stakesthat she wanted to shriek in her helplessness.

Mrs. Morel rose.

"You will let me help you wash up"said Clara.

"Ehthere are so fewit will only take aminute" said the other.

Clarahoweverdried the tea-thingsand wasglad to be onsuch good terms with his mother; but it wastorture not to be ableto follow him down the garden.  At lastshe allowed herself to go;she felt as if a rope were taken off her ankle.

The afternoon was golden over the hills ofDerbyshire.  He stoodacross in the other gardenbeside a bush ofpale Michaelmas daisieswatching the last bees crawl into the hive. Hearing her cominghe turned to her with an easy motionsaying:

"It's the end of the run with thesechaps."

Clara stood near him.  Over the low redwall in front wasthe country and the far-off hillsall goldendim.

At that moment Miriam was entering through thegarden-door.She saw Clara go up to himsaw him turnandsaw them come torest together.  Something in their perfectisolation together madeher know that it was accomplished between themthat they wereas she put itmarried.  She walked veryslowly down the cinder-trackof the long garden.

Clara had pulled a button from a hollyhockspireand was breakingit to get the seeds.  Above her bowed headthe pink flowers staredas if defending her.  The last bees werefalling down to the hive.

"Count your money" laughed Paulasshe broke the flat seedsone by one from the roll of coin.  Shelooked at him.

"I'm well off" she saidsmiling.

"How much?  Pf!"  Hesnapped his fingers.  "Can I turn theminto gold?"

"I'm afraid not" she laughed.

They looked into each other's eyeslaughing. At that momentthey became aware of Miriam.  There was aclickand everythinghad altered.

"HelloMiriam!" he exclaimed. "You said you'd come!"

"Yes.  Had you forgotten?"

She shook hands with Clarasaying:

"It seems strange to see you here."

"Yes" replied the other; "itseems strange to be here."

There was a hesitation.

"This is prettyisn't it?" saidMiriam.

"I like it very much" replied Clara.

Then Miriam realised that Clara was accepted asshe had never been.

"Have you come down alone?" askedPaul.

"Yes; I went to Agatha's to tea.  Weare 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 shortlyand Clara turnedimpatiently aside.

"Do you like the chrysanthemums?" heasked.

"Yes; they are very fine" repliedMiriam.

"Which sort do you like best?" heasked.

"I don't know.  The bronzeI think."

"I don't think you've seen all the sorts. Come and look.Come and see which are YOUR favouritesClara."

He led the two women back to his own gardenwhere the towsledbushes of flowers of all colours stood raggedlyalong the path downto the field.  The situation did notembarrass himto his knowledge.

"LookMiriam; these are the white onesthat came from your garden.They aren't so fine hereare they?"

"No" said Miriam.

"But they're hardier.  You're sosheltered; things grow bigand tenderand then die.  These littleyellow ones I like.Will you have some?"

While they were out there the bells began toring in the churchsounding loud across the town and the field. Miriam looked at thetowerproud among the clustering roofsandremembered the sketcheshe had brought her.  It had been differentthenbut he had not lefther even yet.  She asked him for a book toread.  He ran indoors.

"What! is that Miriam?" asked hismother coldly.

"Yes; she said she'd call and see Clara."

"You told herthen?" came thesarcastic answer.

"Yes; why shouldn't I?"

"There's certainly no reason why youshouldn't" said Mrs. Moreland she returned to her book.  He wincedfrom his mother's ironyfrowned irritablythinking:  "Whycan'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 Miriamdropping herhead; "in some ways she'svery 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 thebook.

"When will you want it back?" Miriam asked.

"When you like" he answered.

Clara turned to go indoorswhilst heaccompanied Miriamto 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 pleasedto see you any timeif you cared to come."

"Thank you; I should like tobut I can'tsay when."

"Ohvery well!" exclaimed Miriamrather bitterlyturning away.

She went down the path with her mouth to theflowers he hadgiven her.

"You're sure you won't come in?" hesaid.

"Nothanks."

"We are going to chapel."

"AhI shall see youthen!" Miriam was very bitter.

"Yes."

They parted.  He felt guilty towards her. She was bitterand she scorned him.  He still belonged toherselfshe believed;yet he could have Claratake her homesitwith her next his motherin chapelgive her the same hymn-book he hadgiven herselfyears before.  She heard him runningquickly indoors.

But he did not go straight in.  Halting onthe plot of grasshe heard his mother's voicethen Clara'sanswer:

"What I hate is the bloodhound quality inMiriam."

"Yes" said his mother quickly"yes;DOESN'T it make youhate hernow!"

His heart went hotand he was angry with themfor talkingabout the girl.  What right had they tosay that?  Something inthe speech itself stung him into a flame ofhate against Miriam.Then his own heart rebelled furiously atClara's taking the libertyof speaking so about Miriam.  After allthe girl was the better womanof the twohe thoughtif it came togoodness.  He went indoors.His mother looked excited.  She wasbeating with her handrhythmically on the sofa-armas women do whoare 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 thehymn-bookfor Clarain exactly the same way as he usedfor herself.And during the sermon he could see the girlacross the chapelher hat throwing a dark shadow over her face. What did she thinkseeing Clara with him?  He did not stop toconsider.  He felt himselfcruel towards Miriam.

After chapel he went over Pentrich with Clara. It was a darkautumn night.  They had said good-bye toMiriamand his heart hadsmitten him as he left the girl alone. "But it serves her right"he said inside himselfand it almost gave himpleasure to go offunder her eyes with this other handsome woman.

There was a scent of damp leaves in thedarkness.  Clara's handlay warm and inert in his own as they walked. He was full of conflict.The battle that raged inside him made him feeldesperate.

Up Pentrich Hill Clara leaned against him as hewent.He slid his arm round her waist.  Feelingthe strong motionof her body under his arm as she walkedthetightness in hischest because of Miriam relaxedand the hotblood bathed him.He held her closer and closer.

Then:  "You still keep on withMiriam" she said quietly.

"Only talk.  There never WAS a greatdeal more than talkbetween us" he said bitterly.

"Your mother doesn't care for her"said Clara.

"Noor I might have married her. But it's all up really!"

Suddenly his voice went passionate with hate.

"If I was with her nowwe should bejawing about the 'ChristianMystery'or some such tack.  Thank GodI'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 upbecause there'snothing to give"he said.

"There is for her."

"I don't know why she and I shouldn't befriends as longas we live" he said.  "Butit'll only be friends."

Clara drew away from himleaning away fromcontact with him.

"What are you drawing away for?" heasked.

She did not answerbut drew farther from him.

"Why do you want to walk alone?" heasked.

Still there was no answer.  She walkedresentfullyhanging her head.

"Because I said I would be friends withMiriam!" he exclaimed.

She would not answer him anything.

"I tell you it's only words that gobetween us" he persistedtrying to take her again.

She resisted.  Suddenly he strode acrossin front of herbarring her way.

"Damn it!" he said.  "Whatdo you want now?"

"You'd better run after Miriam"mocked Clara.

The blood flamed up in him.  He stoodshowing his teeth.She drooped sulkily.  The lane was darkquite lonely.  He suddenlycaught her in his armsstretched forwardandput his mouth onher face in a kiss of rage.  She turnedfrantically to avoid him.He held her fast.  Hard and relentless hismouth came for her.Her breasts hurt against the wall of hischest.  Helplessshe wentloose in his armsand he kissed herandkissed her.

He heard people coming down the hill.

"Stand up! stand up!" he saidthicklygripping her arm tillit hurt.  If he had let goshe would havesunk to the ground.

She sighed and walked dizzily beside him. They went on in silence.

"We will go over the fields" hesaid; and then she woke up.

But she let herself be helped over the stileand shewalked in silence with him over the first darkfield.  It wasthe way to Nottingham and to the stationsheknew.  He seemedto be looking about.  They came out on abare hilltop where stoodthe dark figure of the ruined windmill. There he halted.They stood together high up in the darknesslooking at the lightsscattered on the night before themhandfuls ofglittering pointsvillages lying high and low on the darkhereand there.

"Like treading among the stars" hesaidwith a quaky laugh.

Then he took her in his armsand held herfast.  She movedaside her mouth to askdogged and low:

"What time is it?"

"It doesn't matter" he pleadedthickly.

"Yes it does--yes!  I must go!"

"It's early yet" he said.

"What time is it?" she insisted.

All round lay the black nightspeckled andspangled with lights.

"I don't know."

She put her hand on his chestfeeling for hiswatch.He felt the joints fuse into fire.  Shegroped in his waistcoat pocketwhile he stood panting.  In the darknessshe could see the roundpale face of the watchbut not the figures. She stooped over it.He was panting till he could take her in hisarms again.

"I can't see" she said.

"Then don't bother."

"Yes; I'm going!" she saidturningaway.

"Wait!  I'll look!"  But hecould not see.  "I'll strikea match."

He secretly hoped it was too late to catch thetrain.She saw the glowing lantern of his hands as hecradled the light:then his face lit uphis eyes fixed on thewatch.  Instantly all wasdark again.  All was black before hereyes; only a glowing match wasred near her feet.  Where was he?

"What is it?" she askedafraid.

"You can't do it" his voice answeredout of the darkness.

There was a pause.  She felt in hispower.  She had heardthe ring in his voice.  It frightened her.

"What time is it?" she askedquietdefinitehopeless.

"Two minutes to nine" he repliedtelling the truth witha struggle.

"And can I get from here to the station infourteen minutes?"

"No.  At any rate---"

She could distinguish his dark form again ayard or so away.She wanted to escape.

"But can't I do it?" she pleaded.

"If you hurry" he said brusquely. "But you could easilywalk itClara; it's only seven miles to thetram.  I'll comewith 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 saiddry and hard. "Come alongthen."

And he plunged ahead into the darkness. She ran after himwanting to cry.  Now he was hard and cruelto her.  She ran overthe roughdark fields behind himout ofbreathready to drop.But the double row of lights at the stationdrew nearer.  Suddenly:

"There she is!" he criedbreakinginto a run.

There was a faint rattling noise.  Away tothe right the trainlike a luminous caterpillarwas threadingacross the night.The rattling ceased.

"She's over the viaduct.  You'll justdo it."

Clara ranquite out of breathand fell atlast into the train.The whistle blew.  He was gone. Gone!--and she was in a carriagefull of people.  She felt the cruelty ofit.

He turned round and plunged home.  Beforehe knew wherehe was he was in the kitchen at home.  Hewas very pale.His eyes were dark and dangerous-lookingas ifhe were drunk.His mother looked at him.

"WellI must say your boots are in a nicestate!" she said.

He looked at his feet.  Then he took offhis overcoat.His mother wondered if he were drunk.

"She caught the train then?" shesaid.

"Yes."

"I hope HER feet weren't so filthy. Where on earth you draggedher I don't know!"

He was silent and motionless for some time.

"Did you like her?" he askedgrudgingly at last.

"YesI liked her.  But you'll tireof hermy son; you knowyou will."

He did not answer.  She noticed how helaboured 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 havebut he refusedand went to bed.  There he lay face downon the counterpaneand shed tears of rage and pain.  Therewas a physical painthat made him bite his lips till they bledandthe chaos insidehim left him unable to thinkalmost to feel.

"This is how she serves meis it?"he said in his heartover and overpressing his face in the quilt. And he hated her.Again he went over the sceneand again hehated her.

The next day there was a new aloofness abouthim.  Clara wasvery gentlealmost loving.  But hetreated her distantlywith a touch of contempt.  She sighedcontinuing to be gentle.He came round.

One evening of that week Sarah Bernhardt was atthe Theatre Royalin Nottinghamgiving "La Dame auxCamelias".  Paul wanted to seethis old and famous actressand he asked Clarato accompany him.He told his mother to leave the key in thewindow for him.

"Shall I book seats?" he asked ofClara.

"Yes.  And put on an evening suitwill you?  I've never seenyou in it."

"Butgood LordClara!  Think of MEin evening suitat the theatre!" he remonstrated.

"Would you rather not?" she asked.

"I will if you WANT me to; but I s'll feela fool."

She laughed at him.

"Then feel a fool for my sakeoncewon'tyou?"

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!"

"WellI'm sure!" exclaimed hismother sarcastically.

"It's only once in the bluest of bluemoons" he said.

He dressed at Jordan'sput on an overcoat anda capand metClara in a cafe.  She was with one of hersuffragette friends.She wore an old long coatwhich did not suitherand had a little wrapover her headwhich he hated.  The threewent to the theatre together.

Clara took off her coat on the stairsand hediscovered shewas in a sort of semi-evening dressthat lefther arms and neckand part of her breast bare.  Her hair wasdone fashionably.The dressa simple thing of green crapesuited her.  She lookedquite grandhe thought.  He could see herfigure inside the frockas if that were wrapped closely round her. The firmness and thesoftness of her upright body could almost befelt as he looked at her.He clenched his fists.

And he was to sit all the evening beside herbeautiful naked armwatching the strong throat rise from the strongchestwatching thebreasts under the green stuffthe curve of herlimbs in the tight dress.Something in him hated her again for submittinghim to this tortureof nearness.  And he loved her as shebalanced her head and staredstraight in front of herpoutingwistfulimmobileas if sheyielded herself to her fate because it was toostrong for her.She could not help herself; she was in the gripof somethingbigger than herself.  A kind of eternallook about heras if shewere a wistful sphinxmade it necessary forhim to kiss her.He dropped his programmeand crouched down onthe floor to get itso that he could kiss her hand and wrist. Her beauty was a tortureto him.  She sat immobile.  Onlywhen the lights went downshe sank a little against himand he caressedher hand and armwith his fingers.  He could smell herfaint perfume.  All the timehis blood kept sweeping up in great white-hotwaves that killed hisconsciousness momentarily.

The drama continued.  He saw it all in thedistancegoing onsomewhere; he did not know wherebut it seemedfar away inside him.He was Clara's white heavy armsher throather moving bosom.That seemed to be himself.  Then awaysomewhere the play went onand he was identified with that also. There was no himself.The grey and black eyes of Claraher bosomcomingdown on himher arm that he held grippedbetween his handswere all that existed.  Then he felthimself small and helplessher towering in her force above him.

Only the intervalswhen the lights came uphurt him expressibly.He wanted to run anywhereso long as it wouldbe dark again.In a mazehe wandered out for a drink. Then the lights were outand the strangeinsane reality of Clara andthe drama took hold ofhim again.

The play went on.  But he was obsessed bythe desire tokiss the tiny blue vein that nestled in thebend of her arm.He could feel it.  His whole face seemedsuspended till he hadput his lips there.  It must be done. And the other people!At last he bent quickly forward and touched itwith his lips.His moustache brushed the sensitive flesh. Clara shivereddrew awayher arm.

When all was overthe lights upthe peopleclappinghe 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 hercoat.

"I love you!  You look beautiful inthat dress" he murmuredover her shoulderamong the throng of bustlingpeople.

She remained quiet.  Together they wentout of the theatre.He saw the cabs waitingthe people passing. It seemed he meta pair of brown eyes which hated him.  Buthe did not know.He and Clara turned awaymechanically takingthe direction tothe station.

The train had gone.  He would have to walkthe ten miles home.

"It doesn't matter" he said. "I shall enjoy it."

"Won't you" she saidflushing"come home for the night?I can sleep with mother."

He looked at her.  Their eyes met.

"What will your mother say?" heasked.

"She won't mind."

"You're sure?"

"Quite! "

"SHALL I come?"

"If you will."

"Very well."

And they turned away.  At the firststopping-place they tookthe car.  The wind blew fresh in theirfaces.  The town was dark;the tram tipped in its haste.  He sat withher hand fast in his.

"Will your mother be gone to bed?" heasked.

"She may be.  I hope not."

They hurried along the silentdark littlestreetthe onlypeople out of doors.  Clara quicklyentered the house.  He hesitated.

He leaped up the step and was in the room. Her mother appearedin the inner doorwaylarge and hostile.

"Who have you got there?" she asked.

"It's Mr. Morel; he has missed his train. I thought we mightput him up for the nightand save him aten-mile walk."

"H'm" exclaimed Mrs. Radford. "That's your lookout!If you've invited himhe's very welcome as faras I'm concerned.YOU keep the house!"

"If you don't like meI'll go awayagain" he said.

"Naynayyou needn't!  Come alongin!  I dunno what you'llthink of the supper I'd got her."

It was a little dish of chip potatoes and apiece 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" hesaid.

"Ohdon't you be apologetic!  Itdoesn't DO wi' me!  You treated herto the theatredidn't you?"  Therewas a sarcasm in the last question.

"Well?" laughed Paul uncomfortably.

"Welland what's an inch of bacon! Take your coat off."

The bigstraight-standing woman was trying toestimatethe situation.  She moved about thecupboard.  Clara took his coat.The room was very warm and cosy in thelamplight.

"My sirs!" exclaimed Mrs. Radford;"but you two's a pairof bright beautiesI must say!  What'sall that get-up for?"

"I believe we don't know" he saidfeeling a victim.

"There isn't room in THIS house for twosuch bobby-dazzlersifyou fly your kites THAT high!" she ralliedthem.  It was a nasty thrust.

He in his dinner jacketand Clara in her greendressand bare armswere confused.  They feltthey must sheltereach other in that little kitchen.

"And look at THAT blossom! "continued Mrs. Radfordpointing to Clara.  "What does shereckon she did it for?"

Paul looked at Clara.  She was rosy; herneck was warmwith blushes.  There was a moment ofsilence.

"You like to see itdon't you?" heasked.

The mother had them in her power.  All thetime his heartwas beating hardand he was tight withanxiety.  But he wouldfight her.

"Me like to see it!" exclaimed theold woman.  "What should Ilike to see her make a fool of herself for?"

"I've seen people look bigger fools"he said.  Clara wasunder his protection now.

"Ohay! and when was that?" came thesarcastic rejoinder.

"When they made frights of themselves"he answered.

Mrs. Radfordlarge and threateningstoodsuspendedon the hearthrugholding her fork.

"They're fools either road" sheanswered at lengthturning to the Dutch oven.

"No" he saidfighting stoutly. "Folk ought to look as wellas they can."

"And do you call THAT looking nice!"cried the motherpointing a scornful fork at Clara. "That--that looks as if itwasn't properly dressed!"

"I believe you're jealous that you can'tswank as well"he said laughing.

"Me!  I could have worn evening dresswith anybodyif I'dwanted to!" came the scornful answer.

"And why didn't you want to?" heasked pertinently.  "Or DIDyou wear it?"

There was a long pause.  Mrs. Radfordreadjusted the baconin the Dutch oven.  His heart beat fastfor fear he had offended her.

"Me!" she exclaimed at last. "NoI didn't!  And when I wasin serviceI knew as soon as one of the maidscame out in bareshoulders what sort SHE wasgoing to hersixpenny hop!"

"Were you too good to go to a sixpennyhop?" he said.

Clara sat with bowed head.  His eyes weredark and glittering.Mrs. Radford took the Dutch oven from the fireand stood near himputting bits of bacon on his plate.

"THERE'S a nice crozzly bit!" shesaid.

"Don't give me the best!" he said.

"SHE'S got what SHE wants" was theanswer.

There was a sort of scornful forbearance in thewoman's tonethat made Paul know she was mollified.

"But DO have some!" he said to Clara.

She looked up at him with her grey eyeshumiliated and lonely.

"No thanks!" she said.

"Why won't you?" he answeredcarelessly.

The blood was beating up like fire in hisveins.  Mrs. Radfordsat down againlarge and impressive andaloof.  He left Claraaltogether 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 neverthink it!  She made me wantto howl even now."

"I should like to see myself howling atTHAT bad old baggage!"said Mrs. Radford.  "It's time shebegan to think herself a grandmothernot a shrieking catamaran---"

He laughed.

"A catamaran is a boat the Malays use"he said.

"And it's a word as I use" sheretorted.

"My mother does sometimesand it's nogood my telling her"he said.

"I s'd think she boxes your ears"said Mrs. Radfordgood-humouredly.

"She'd like toand she says she willsoI give her a littlestool to stand on."

"That's the worst of my mother" saidClara.  "She never wantsa stool for anything."

"But she often can't touch THAT lady witha long prop"retorted Mrs. Radford to Paul.

"I s'd think she doesn't want touchingwith a prop" he laughed."I shouldn't."

"It might do the pair of you good to giveyou a crackon the head with one" said the motherlaughing suddenly.

"Why are you so vindictive towards me?"he said.  "I've notstolen anything from you."

"No; I'll watch that" laughed theolder woman.

Soon the supper was finished.  Mrs.Radford sat guard in herchair.  Paul lit a cigarette.  Clarawent upstairsreturning witha sleeping-suitwhich she spread on the fenderto air.

"WhyI'd forgot all about THEM!"said Mrs. Radford."Where have they sprung from?"

"Out of my drawer."

"H'm!  You bought 'em for Baxteran'he wouldn't wear 'emwould he?"--laughing.  "Said hereckoned to do wi'out trousers i'bed."  She turned confidentially toPaulsaying:  "He couldn'tBEAR 'emthem pyjama things."

The young man sat making rings of smoke.

"Wellit's everyone to his taste"he laughed.

Then followed a little discussion of the meritsof pyjamas.

"My mother loves me in them" hesaid.  "She says I'm a pierrot."

"I can imagine they'd suit you" saidMrs. Radford.

After a while he glanced at the little clockthat was tickingon the mantelpiece.  It was half-pasttwelve.

"It is funny" he said"but ittakes hours to settle downto sleep after the theatre."

"It's about time you did" said Mrs.Radfordclearing the table.

"Are YOU tired?" he asked of Clara.

"Not the least bit" she answeredavoiding his eyes.

"Shall we have a game at cribbage?"he said.

"I've forgotten it."

"WellI'll teach you again.  May weplay cribMrs. 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 cardsand sat spinning herwedding-ring whilsthe shuffled them.  Mrs. Radford waswashing up in the scullery.As it grew later Paul felt the situationgetting more and more tense.

"Fifteen twofifteen fourfifteen sixand two's eight---!"

The clock struck one.  Still the gamecontinued.  Mrs. Radfordhad done all the little jobs preparatory togoing to bedhad locked the door and filled the kettle. Still Paul went ondealing and counting.  He was obsessed byClara's arms and throat.He believed he could see where the division wasjust beginningfor her breasts.  He could not leave her. She watched his handsand felt her joints melt as they movedquickly.  She was so near;it was almost as if he touched herand yet notquite.  His mettle wasroused.  He hated Mrs. Radford.  Shesat onnearly dropping asleepbut determined and obstinate in her chair. Paul glanced at herthen atClara.  She met his eyesthat were angrymockingand hard as steel. Her own answered him in shame.  He knewSHEat any ratewasof his mind.  He played on.

At last Mrs. Radford roused herself stifflyand said:

"Isn't it nigh on time you two wasthinking o' bed?"

Paul played on without answering.  Hehated her sufficientlyto murder her.

"Half a minute" he said.

The elder woman rose and sailed stubbornly intothe sculleryreturning with his candlewhich she put on themantelpiece.Then she sat down again.  The hatred ofher went so hotdown his veinshe dropped his cards.

"We'll stopthen" he saidbut hisvoice was still a challenge.

Clara saw his mouth shut hard.  Again heglanced at her.It seemed like an agreement.  She bentover the cardscoughingto clear her throat.

"WellI'm glad you've finished"said Mrs. Radford."Heretake your things"--she thrustthe warm suit in his hand--"andthis is your candle.  Your room's overthis; there's only twoso you can't go far wrong.  Wellgood-night.  I hope you'll rest well."

"I'm sure I shall; I always do" hesaid.

"Yes; and so you ought at your age"she replied.

He bade good-night to Claraand went. The twisting stairsof whitescrubbed wood creaked and clanged atevery step.He went doggedly.  The two doors facedeach other.  He went in his roompushed the door towithout fastening thelatch.

It was a small room with a large bed. Some of Clara'shair-pins were on the dressing-table--herhair-brush.  Her clothesand some skirts hung under a cloth in acorner.  There was actuallya pair of stockings over a chair.  Heexplored the room.Two books of his own were there on the shelf. He undressedfolded his suitand sat on the bedlistening.  Then he blewout the candlelay downand in two minuteswas almost asleep.Then click!--he was wide awake and writhing intorment.  It was as ifwhen he had nearly got to sleepsomething hadbitten him suddenlyand sent him mad.  He sat up and looked atthe room in the darknesshis feet doubled under himperfectlymotionlesslistening.  He hearda cat somewhere away outside; then the heavypoised treadof the mother; then Clara's distinct voice:

"Will you unfasten my dress?"

There was silence for some time.  At lastthe mother said:

"Now then! aren't you coming up?"

"Nonot yet" replied the daughtercalmly.

"Ohvery well then!  If it's notlate enoughstop a bit longer.Only you needn't come waking me up when I'vegot to sleep."

"I shan't be long" said Clara.

Immediately afterwards Paul heard the motherslowly mountingthe stairs.  The candlelight flashedthrough the cracks in his door.Her dress brushed the doorand his heartjumped.  Then it was darkand he heard the clatter of her latch. She was very leisurely indeedin her preparations for sleep.  After along time it was quite still.He sat strung up on the bedshiveringslightly.  His door wasan inch open.  As Clara came upstairshewould intercept her.He waited.  All was dead silence. The clock struck two.  Then heheard a slight scrape of the fenderdownstairs.  Now he could nothelp himself.  His shivering wasuncontrollable.  He felt he must goor die.

He stepped off the bedand stood a momentshuddering.Then he went straight to the door.  Hetried to step lightly.The first stair cracked like a shot.  Helistened.  The old womanstirred in her bed.  The staircase wasdark.  There was a slitof light under the stair-foot doorwhichopened into the kitchen.He stood a moment.  Then he went onmechanically.  Every step creakedand his back was creepinglest the old woman'sdoor should openbehind him up above.  He fumbled with thedoor at the bottom.The latch opened with a loud clack.  Hewent through into the kitchenand shut the door noisily behind him.  Theold woman daren'tcome now.

Then he stoodarrested.  Clara waskneeling on a pile of whiteunderclothing on the hearthrugher backtowards himwarming herself.She did not look roundbut sat crouching onher heelsand herrounded beautiful back was towards himand herface was hidden.She was warming her body at the fire forconsolation.  The glowwas rosy on one sidethe shadow was dark andwarm on the other.Her arms hung slack.

He shuddered violentlyclenching his teeth andfists hardto keep control.  Then he went forward toher.  He put one handon her shoulderthe fingers of the other handunder her chin toraise her face.  A convulsed shiver ranthrough heroncetwiceat his touch.  She kept her head bent.

"Sorry!" he murmuredrealising thathis hands were very cold.

Then she looked up at himfrightenedlike athing that isafraid of death.

"My hands are so cold" he murmured.

"I like it" she whisperedclosingher eyes.

The breath of her words were on his mouth. Her arms claspedhis knees.  The cord of his sleeping-suitdangled against her and madeher shiver.  As the warmth went into himhis shuddering became less.

At lengthunable to stand so any moreheraised herand sheburied her head on his shoulder.  Hishands went over her slowlywith an infinite tenderness of caress. She clung close to himtrying to hide herself against him.  Heclasped her very fast.Then at last she looked at himmuteimploringlooking to see if shemust be ashamed.

His eyes were darkvery deepand very quiet. It was as if herbeauty and his taking it hurt himmade himsorrowful.  He looked ather with a little painand was afraid. He was so humble before her.She kissed him fervently on the eyesfirstonethen the otherand she folded herself to him.  She gaveherself.  He held her fast.It was a moment intense almost to agony.

She stood letting him adore her and tremblewith joy of her.It healed her hurt pride.  It healed her;it made her glad.  It madeher feel erect and proud again.  Her pridehad been wounded inside her.She had been cheapened.  Now she radiatedwith joy and pride again.It was her restoration and her recognition.

Then he looked at herhis face radiant. They laughed toeach otherand he strained her to his chest. The seconds ticked offthe minutes passedand still the two stoodclasped rigid togethermouth to mouthlike a statue in one block.

But again his fingers went seeking over herrestlesswanderingdissatisfied.  The hot bloodcame 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 headher mouthpoutingdisconsolatelyher 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 heavilysorrowfullyand again sheshook her head.  His eyes hardenedand hegave way.

Whenlater onhe was back in bedhe wonderedwhy she hadrefused to come to him openlyso that hermother would know.At any ratethen things would have beendefinite.  And she couldhave stayed with him the nightwithout havingto goas she wasto her mother's bed.  It was strangeandhe could not understand it.And then almost immediately he fell asleep.

He awoke in the morning with someone speakingto him.Opening his eyeshe saw Mrs. Radfordbig andstatelylooking downon him.  She held a cup of tea in herhand.

"Do you think you're going to sleep tillDoomsday?" she said.

He laughed at once.

"It ought only to be about five o'clock"he said.

"Well" she answered"it'shalf-past sevenwhether or not.HereI've brought you a cup of tea."

He rubbed his facepushed the tumbled hair offhis foreheadand roused himself.

"What's it so late for!" he grumbled.

He resented being wakened.  It amusedher.  She saw his neckin the flannel sleeping-jacketas white andround as a girl's.  Herubbed his hair crossly.

"It's no good your scratching your head"she said."It won't make it no earlier.  Herean' how long d'you think I'mgoing to stand waiting wi' this here cup?"

"Ohdash the cup!" he said.

"You should go to bed earlier" saidthe woman.

He looked up at herlaughing with impudence.

"I went to bed before YOU did" hesaid.

"Yesmy Guyneyyou did!" sheexclaimed.

"Fancy" he saidstirring his tea"having tea brought to bedto me!  My mother'll think I'm ruined forlife."

"Don't she never do it?" asked Mrs.Radford.

"She'd as leave think of flying."

"AhI always spoilt my lot!  That'swhy they've turned outsuch 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 thebad un."

"I'm not bad; I'm only soft" shesaidas she went outof the bedroom.  "I'm only a foolIam!"

Clara was very quiet at breakfastbut she hada sort of airof proprietorship over him that pleased himinfinitely.  Mrs. Radfordwas evidently fond of him.  He began totalk of his painting.

"What's the good" exclaimed themother"of your whittlingand worrying and twistin' and too-in' at thatpainting of yours?What GOOD does it do youI should like toknow?  You'd betterbe enjoyin' yourself."

"Ohbut" exclaimed Paul"Imade over thirty guineas last year."

"Did you!  Wellthat's aconsiderationbut it's nothingto the time you put in."

"And I've got four pounds owing.  Aman said he'd give me fivepounds if I'd paint him and his missis and thedog and the cottage.And I went and put the fowls in instead of thedogand he was waxyso I had to knock a quid off.  I was sickof itand I didn't likethe dog.  I made a picture of it. What shall I do when he pays methe four pounds?"

"Nay! you know your own uses for yourmoney" said Mrs. Radford.

"But I'm going to bust this four pounds. Should we goto the seaside for a day or two?"

"Who?"

"You and Clara and me."

"Whaton your money!" she exclaimedhalf-wrathful.

"Why not?"

"YOU wouldn't be long in breaking yourneck at a hurdle race!"she said.

"So long as I get a good run for mymoney!  Will you?"

"Nay; you may settle that atween you."

"And you're willing?" he askedamazed and rejoicing.

"You'll do as you like" said Mrs.Radford"whether I'mwilling or not."

 

CHAPTER XIII

BAXTER DAWES

SOON after Paul had been to the theatre withClarahe was drinkingin the Punch Bowl with some friends of his whenDawes came in.Clara's husband was growing stout; his eyelidswere getting slackover his brown eyes; he was losing his healthyfirmness of flesh.He was very evidently on the downward track. Having quarrelledwith his sisterhe had gone into cheaplodgings.  His mistresshad left him for a man who would marry her. He had been in prisonone night for fighting when he was drunkandthere was a shadybetting episode in which he was concerned.

Paul and he were confirmed enemiesand yetthere was betweenthem that peculiar feeling of intimacyas ifthey were secretlynear to each otherwhich sometimes existsbetween two peoplealthough they never speak to one another. Paul often thought ofBaxter Dawesoften wanted to get at him and befriends with him.He knew that Dawes often thought about himandthat the man wasdrawn to him by some bond or other.  Andyet the two never lookedat each other save in hostility.

Since he was a superior employee at Jordan'sit was the thingfor 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 disdainfulmovement of the shouldersvery irritating.

"The aristocracy" he continued"isreally a military institution.Take Germanynow.  She's got thousands ofaristocrats whose onlymeans of existence is the army.  They'redeadly poorand life'sdeadly slow.  So they hope for a war. They look for war as a chanceof getting on.  Till there's a war theyare idle good-for-nothings.When there's a warthey are leaders andcommanders.  There you arethen--they WANT war!"

He was not a favourite debater in thepublic-housebeing tooquick and overbearing.  He irritated theolder men by his assertivemannerand his cocksureness.  Theylistened in silenceand werenot sorry when he finished.

Dawes interrupted the young man's flow ofeloquence by askingin a loud sneer:

"Did you learn all that at th' theatre th'other night?"

Paul looked at him; their eyes met.  Thenhe knew Dawes hadseen him coming out of the theatre with Clara.

"Whywhat about th' theatre?" askedone of Paul's associatesglad to get a dig at the young fellowandsniffing something tasty.

"Ohhim in a bob-tailed evening suitonthe lardy-da!"sneered Dawesjerking his head contemptuouslyat Paul.

"That's comin' it strong" said themutual friend."Tart an' all?"

"Tartbegod!" said Dawes.

"Go on; let's have it!" cried themutual friend.

"You've got it" said Dawes"an'I reckon Morelly had it an' all."

"WellI'll be jiggered!" said themutual friend.  "An' was ita proper tart?"

"TartGod blimey--yes!"

"How do you know?"

"Oh" said Dawes"I reckon hespent th' night---"

There was a good deal of laughter at Paul'sexpense.

"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 mutualfriend.

Dawes shook his headand 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 onPaul" said the friend;"it's no good.  You mightjust as well own up."

"Own up what?  That I happened totake a friend to the theatre?"

"Oh wellif it was all righttell us whoshe waslad"said the friend.

"She WAS all right" said Dawes.

Paul was furious.  Dawes wiped his goldenmoustache withhis fingerssneering.

"Strike me---!  One o' that sort?"said the mutual friend."PaulboyI'm surprised at you. And do you know herBaxter?"

"Just a bitlike!"

He winked at the other men.

"Oh well" said Paul"I'll begoing!"

The mutual friend laid a detaining hand on hisshoulder.

"Nay" he said"you don't getoff as easy as thatmy lad.We've got to have a full account of thisbusiness."

"Then get it from Dawes!" he said.

"You shouldn't funk your own deedsman"remonstrated the friend.

Then Dawes made a remark which caused Paul tothrow halfa glass of beer in his face.

"OhMr. Morel!" cried the barmaidand she rang the bellfor the "chucker-out".

Dawes spat and rushed for the young man. At that minutea brawny fellow with his shirt-sleeves rolledup and his trouserstight over his haunches intervened.

"Nowthen!" he saidpushing hischest in front of Dawes.

"Come out!" cried Dawes.

Paul was leaningwhite and quiveringagainstthe brass railof the bar.  He hated Daweswishedsomething could exterminatehim at that minute; and at the same timeseeing the wet hair onthe man's foreheadhe thought he lookedpathetic.  He did not move.

"Come outyou ---" said Dawes.

"That's enoughDawes" cried thebarmaid.

"Come on" said the "chucker-out"with kindly insistence"you'd better be getting on."

Andby making Dawes edge away from his ownclose proximityhe worked him to the door.

"THAT'S the little sod as started it!"cried Daweshalf-cowedpointing to Paul Morel.

"Whywhat a storyMr. Dawes!" saidthe barmaid.  "You knowit was you all the time."

Still the "chucker-out" keptthrusting his chest forward at himstill he kept edging backuntil he was in thedoorway and on thesteps outside; then he turned round.

"All right" he saidnoddingstraight at his rival.

Paul had a curious sensation of pityalmost ofaffectionmingled with violent hatefor the man. The coloured door swung to;there was silence in the bar.

"Servehimjolly well right!" saidthe barmaid.

"But it's a nasty thing to get a glass ofbeer in your eyes"said the mutual friend.

"I tell you I was glad he did" saidthe barmaid.  "Will youhave anotherMr. Morel?"

She held up Paul's glass questioningly. He nodded.

"He's a man as doesn't care for anythingis Baxter Dawes"said one.

"Pooh! is he?" said the barmaid. "He's a loud-mouthed onehe isand they're never much good.  Giveme a pleasant-spoken chapif you want a devil!"

"WellPaulmy lad" said thefriend"you'll have to takecare of yourself now for a while."

"You won't have to give him a chance overyouthat's all"said the barmaid.

"Can you box?" asked a friend.

"Not a bit" he answeredstill verywhite.

"I might give you a turn or two"said the friend.

"ThanksI haven't time."

And presently he took his departure.

"Go along with himMr. Jenkinson"whispered the barmaidtipping Mr. Jenkinson the wink.

The man noddedtook his hatsaid: "Good-night all!"very heartilyand followed Paulcalling:

"Half a minuteold man.  You an'me's going the same roadI believe."

"Mr. Morel doesn't like it" said thebarmaid.  "You'll seewe shan't have him in much more.  I'msorry; he's good company.And Baxter Dawes wants locking upthat's whathe wants."

Paul would have died rather than his mothershould getto know of this affair.  He sufferedtortures of humiliationand self-consciousness.  There was now agood deal of his lifeof which necessarily he could not speak to hismother.  He hada life apart from her--his sexual life. The rest she still kept.But he felt he had to conceal something fromherand it irked him.There was a certain silence between themandhe felt he hadin that silenceto defend himself against her;he felt condemnedby her.  Then sometimes he hated herandpulled at her bondage.His life wanted to free itself of her.  Itwas like a circle where lifeturned back on itselfand got no farther. She bore himloved himkept himand his love turned back into hersothat he could notbe free to go forward with his own lifereallylove another woman.At this periodunknowinglyhe resisted hismother's influence.He did not tell her things; there was adistance between them.

Clara was happyalmost sure of him.  Shefelt she had at lastgot him for herself; and then again came theuncertainty.  He toldher jestingly of the affair with her husband. Her colour came upher grey eyes flashed.

"That's him to a 'T'" shecried--"like a navvy!  He's not fitfor mixing with decent folk."

"Yet you married him" he said.

It made her furious that he reminded her.

"I did!" she cried.  "Buthow 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'ssomething about him---"

Clara looked at her lover closely.  Therewas something in himshe hateda sort of detached criticism ofherselfa coldnesswhich made her woman's soul harden against him.

"And what are you going to do?" sheasked.

"How?"

"About Baxter."

"There's nothing to dois there?" hereplied.

"You can fight him if you have toIsuppose?" she said.

"No; I haven't the least sense of the'fist'.  It's funny.With most men there's the instinct to clenchthe fist and hit.It's not so with me.  I should want aknife or a pistol or somethingto fight with."

"Then you'd better carry something"she said.

"Nay" he laughed; "I'm notdaggeroso."

"But he'll do something to you.  Youdon't know him."

"All right" he said"we'llsee."

"And you'll let him?"

"Perhapsif I can't help it."

"And if he kills you?" she said.

"I should be sorryfor his sake andmine."

Clara was silent for a moment.

"You DO make me angry!" sheexclaimed.

"That's nothing afresh" he laughed.

"But why are you so silly?  You don'tknow him."

"And don't want."

"Yesbut you're not going to let a man doas he likes with you?"

"What must I do?" he repliedlaughing.

"I should carry a revolver" shesaid.  "I'm sure he's dangerous."

"I might blow my fingers off" hesaid.

"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 criedtrembling with passion.

"Why?"

"Let a man like HIM do as he likes withyou."

"You can go back to him if he triumphs"he said.

"Do you want me to hate you?" sheasked.

"WellI only tell you" he said.

"And YOU say you LOVE me!" sheexclaimedlow and indignant.

"Ought I to slay him to please you?"he said.  "But if I didsee what a hold he'd have over me."

"Do you think I'm a fool!" sheexclaimed.

"Not at all.  But you don'tunderstand memy dear."

There was a pause between them.

"But you ought NOT to expose yourself"she pleaded.

He shrugged his shoulders.

       "'Theman in righteousness arrayed      The pure andblameless liver      Needs not thekeen Toledo blade      Norvenom-freighted quiver'"

 

he quoted.

She looked at him searchingly.

"I wish I could understand you" shesaid.

"There's simply nothing to understand"he laughed.

She bowed her headbrooding.

He did not see Dawes for several days; then onemorning as heran upstairs from the Spiral room he almostcollided with the burlymetal-worker.

"What the---!" cried the smith.

"Sorry!" said Pauland passed on.

"SORRY!" sneered Dawes.

Paul whistled lightly"Put Me among theGirls".

"I'll stop your whistlemy jockey!"he said.

The other took no notice.

"You're goin' to answer for that job ofthe other night."

Paul went to his desk in his cornerand turnedover the leavesof the ledger.

"Go and tell Fanny I want order 097quick!" he said to his boy.

Dawes stood in the doorwaytall andthreateninglooking atthe top of the young man's head.

"Six and five's eleven and seven'sone-and-six" Paul added aloud.

"An' you heardo you!" said Dawes.

"FIVE AND NINEPENCE!"  He wrotea 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'tface me proper!"

Paul quickly snatched the heavy ruler. Dawes started.The young man ruled some lines in his ledger. The elder manwas infuriated.

"But wait till I light on youno matterwhere it isI'll settle your hash for a bityer littleswine!"

"All right" said Paul.

At that the smith started heavily from thedoorway.  Just thena whistle piped shrilly.  Paul went to thespeaking-tube.

"Yes!" he saidand he listened. "Er--yes!"  He listenedthen he laughed.  "I'll come downdirectly.  I've got a visitorjust now."

Dawes knew from his tone that he had beenspeaking to Clara.He stepped forward.

"Yer little devil!" he said. "I'll visitor youinside oftwo minutes!  Think I'm goin' to have YOUwhipperty-snappin' round?"

The other clerks in the warehouse looked up. Paul's office-boyappearedholding some white article.

"Fanny says you could have had it lastnight if you'd lether know" he said.

"All right" answered Paullookingat the stocking."Get it off."  Dawes stoodfrustratedhelpless with rage.Morel turned round.

"Excuse me a minute" he said toDawesand he would haverun downstairs.

"By GodI'll stop your gallop!"shouted the smithseizing himby the arm.  He turned quickly.

"Hey!  Hey!" cried theoffice-boyalarmed.

Thomas Jordan started out of his little glassofficeand camerunning down the room.

"What's a-matterwhat's a-matter?"he saidin his old man'ssharp voice.

"I'm just goin' ter settle this little---that's all"said Dawes desperately.

"What do you mean?" snapped ThomasJordan.

"What I say" said Dawesbut he hungfire.

Morel was leaning against the counterashamedhalf-grinning.

"What's it all about?" snapped ThomasJordan.

"Couldn't say" said Paulshakinghis head and shrugginghis shoulders.

"Couldn't yercouldn't yer!" criedDawesthrusting forwardhis handsomefurious faceand squaring hisfist.

"Have you finished?" cried the oldmanstrutting.  "Get offabout your businessand don't come here tipsyin the morning."

Dawes turned his big frame slowly upon him.

"Tipsy!" he said.  "Who'stipsy?  I'm no more tipsy thanYOU are!"

"We've heard that song before"snapped the old man.  "Now youget offand don't be long about it. Comin' HERE with your rowdying."

The smith looked down contemptuously on hisemployer.His handslargeand grimyand yet wellshaped for his labourworked restlessly.  Paul remembered theywere the hands of Clara'shusbandand a flash of hate went through him.

"Get out before you're turned out!"snapped Thomas Jordan.

"Whywho'll turn me out?" saidDawesbeginning to sneer.

Mr. Jordan startedmarched up to the smithwaving him offthrusting his stout little figure at the mansaying:

"Get off my premises--get off!"

He seized and twitched Dawes's arm.

"Come off!" said the smithand witha jerk of the elbow hesent the little manufacturer staggeringbackwards.

Before anyone could help himThomas Jordan hadcollidedwith the flimsy spring-door.  It had givenwayand let him crashdown the half-dozen steps into Fanny's room. There was a secondof amazement; then men and girls were running. Dawes stood a momentlooking bitterly on the scenethen he took hisdeparture.

Thomas Jordan was shaken and braisednototherwise hurt.He washoweverbeside himself with rage. He dismissed Dawes fromhis employmentand summoned him for assault.

At the trial Paul Morel had to give evidence. Asked howthe trouble beganhe said:

"Dawes took occasion to insult Mrs. Dawesand me because Iaccompanied her to the theatre one evening;then I threw some beerat himand he wanted his revenge."

"Cherchez la femme!" smiled themagistrate.

The case was dismissed after the magistrate hadtold Dawes hethought him a skunk.

"You gave the case away" snapped Mr.Jordan to Paul.

"I don't think I did" replied thelatter.  "Besidesyoudidn't really want a convictiondid you?"

"What do you think I took the case upfor?"

"Well" said Paul"I'm sorry ifI 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 tobe whispered."

"There was no need for anything at all"she declared.

"We are none the poorer" he saidindifferently.

"YOU may not be" she said.

"And you?" he asked.

"I need never have been mentioned."

"I'm sorry" he said; but he did notsound sorry.

He told himself easily:  "She willcome round."  And she did.

He told his mother about the fall of Mr. Jordanand the trialof 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 uncomfortablenevertheless.

"Have you ever considered where it willend?" his mother said.

"No" he answered; "things workout of themselves."

"They doin a way one doesn't likeas arule" 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?" shesaid at length.

"What of?"

"Of youand the whole thing."

"I don't care what her opinion of me is. She's fearfullyin love with mebut it's not very deep."

"But quite as deep as your feeling forher."

He looked up at his mother curiously.

"Yes" he said.  "You knowmotherI think there must besomething the matter with methat I CAN'Tlove.  When she's thereas a ruleI DO love her.  SometimeswhenI see her just as THE WOMANI love hermother; but thenwhen she talksand criticisesI often don't listen to her."

"Yet she's as much sense as Miriam."

"Perhaps; and I love her better thanMiriam.  But WHY don'tthey hold me?"

The last question was almost a lamentation. His motherturned away her facesat looking across theroomvery quietgravewith something of renunciation.

"But you wouldn't want to marry Clara?"she said.

"No; at first perhaps I would.  Butwhy--why don't I want to marryher or anybody?  I feel sometimes as if Iwronged my womenmother."

"How wronged themmy son?"

"I don't know."

He went on painting rather despairingly; he hadtouchedthe quick of the trouble.

"And as for wanting to marry" saidhis mother"there's plentyof time yet."

"But nomother.  I even love Claraand I did Miriam; but to GIVEmyself to them in marriage I couldn't.  Icouldn't belong to them.They seem to want MEand I can't ever give itthem."

"You haven't met the right woman."

"And I never shall meet the right womanwhile you live"he said.

She was very quiet.  Now she began to feelagain tiredas if she were done.

"We'll seemy son" she answered.

The feeling that things were going in a circlemade him mad.

Clara wasindeedpassionately in love withhimand he with heras far as passion went.  In the daytime heforgot her a good deal.She was working in the same buildingbut hewas not aware of it.He was busyand her existence was of no matterto him.  But all thetime she was in her Spiral room she had a sensethat he was upstairsa physical sense of his person in the samebuilding.  Every secondshe expected him to come through the doorandwhen he came itwas a shock to her.  But he was oftenshort and offhand with her.He gave her his directions in an officialmannerkeeping her at bay.With what wits she had left she listened tohim.  She dared notmisunderstand or fail to rememberbut it was acruelty to her.She wanted to touch his chest.  She knewexactly how his breast wasshapen under the waistcoatand she wanted totouch it.  It maddenedher to hear his mechanical voice giving ordersabout the work.She wanted to break through the sham of itsmash the trivial coatingof business which covered him with hardnessget at the man again;but she was afraidand before she could feelone touch of his warmth hewas goneand she ached again.

He knew that she was dreary every evening shedid not see himso he gave her a good deal of his time. The days were oftena misery to herbut the evenings and thenights were usuallya bliss to them both.  Then they weresilent.  For hours theysat togetheror walked together in the darkand talked onlya fewalmost meaningless words.  But hehad her hand in hisand her bosom left its warmth in his chestmaking him feel whole.

One evening they were walking down by thecanaland something was troubling him.  She knewshe had not got him.All the time he whistled softly andpersistently to himself.She listenedfeeling she could learn more fromhis whistling thanfrom his speech.  It was a saddissatisfied tune--a tune that madeher feel he would not stay with her.  Shewalked on in silence.When they came to the swing bridge he sat downon the great polelooking at the stars in the water.  He wasa long way from her. She had been thinking.

"Will you always stay at Jordan's?"she asked.

"No" he answered withoutreflecting.  "No; I s'll leaveNottingham 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 designingworkand some sortof sale for my pictures first" he said. "I am gradually makingmy way.  I know I am."

"And when do you think you'll go?"

"I don't know.  I shall hardly go forlongwhile there'smy mother."

"You couldn't leave her?"

"Not for long."

She looked at the stars in the black water. They lay verywhite and staring.  It was an agony toknow he would leave herbut it was almost an agony to have him nearher.

"And if you made a nice lot of moneywhatwould you do?"she asked.

"Go somewhere in a pretty house nearLondon with my mother."

"I see."

There was a long pause.

"I could still come and see you" hesaid.  "I don't know.Don't ask me what I should do; I don't know."

There was a silence.  The stars shudderedand broke uponthe water.  There came a breath of wind. He went suddenly to herand put his hand on her shoulder.

"Don't ask me anything about the future"he said miserably."I don't know anything.  Be with menowwill youno matter whatit is?"

And she took him in her arms.  After allshe was a married womanand she had no right even to what he gave her. He needed her badly.She had him in her armsand he was miserable. With her warmth shefolded him overconsoled himloved him. She would let the momentstand for itself.

After a moment he lifted his head as if hewanted to speak.

"Clara" he saidstruggling.

She caught him passionately to herpressed hishead down on herbreast with her hand.  She could not bearthe suffering in his voice.She was afraid in her soul.  He might haveanything of her--anything;but she did not want to KNOW.  She feltshe could not bear it.She wanted him to be soothed uponher--soothed.  She stood clasping himand caressing himand he was something unknownto her--somethingalmost uncanny.  She wanted to soothe himinto forgetfulness.

And soon the struggle went down in his souland he forgot.But then Clara was not there for himonly awomanwarmsomething heloved and almost worshippedthere in thedark.  But it was not Claraand she submitted to him.  The nakedhunger and inevitabilityof his loving hersomething strong and blindand ruthlessin its primitivenessmade the hour almostterrible to her.She knew how stark and alone he wasand shefelt it was greatthat he came to her; and she took him simplybecause his need wasbigger either than her or himand her soul wasstill within her.She did this for him in his needeven if heleft herfor sheloved him.

All the while the peewits were screaming in thefield.When he came tohe wondered what was near hiseyescurving andstrong with life in the darkand what voice itwas speaking.Then he realised it was the grassand thepeewit was calling.The warmth was Clara's breathing heaving. He lifted his headand looked into her eyes.  They were darkand shining and strangelife wild at the source staring into his lifestranger to himyet meeting him; and he put his face down onher throatafraid.What was she?  A strongstrangewildlifethat breathed with hisin the darkness through this hour.  It wasall so much bigger thanthemselves that he was hushed.  They hadmetand included in theirmeeting the thrust of the manifold grass stemsthe cry of the peewitthe wheel of the stars.

When they stood up they saw other loversstealing down theopposite hedge.  It seemed natural theywere there; the nightcontained them.

And after such an evening they both were verystillhaving knownthe immensity of passion.  They feltsmallhalf-afraidchildishand wonderinglike Adam and Eve when they losttheir innocenceand realised the magnificence of the powerwhich drovethem out of Paradise and across the great nightand the great dayof humanity.  It was for each of them aninitiation and a satisfaction.To know their own nothingnessto know thetremendous living floodwhich carried them alwaysgave them restwithin themselves.If so great a magnificent power could overwhelmthemidentify themaltogether with itselfso that they knew theywere only grains inthe tremendous heave that lifted every grassblade its little heightand every treeand living thingthen why fretabout themselves?They could let themselves be carried by lifeand they felt a sortof peace each in the other.  There was averification which they hadhad together.  Nothing could nullify itnothing could take it away;it was almost their belief in life.

But Clara was not satisfied.  Somethinggreat was thereshe knew; something great enveloped her. But it did not keep her.In the morning it was not the same.  Theyhad KNOWNbut shecould not keep the moment.  She wanted itagain; she wantedsomething permanent.  She had not realisedfully.  She thoughtit was he whom she wanted.  He was notsafe to her.  This thathad been between them might never be again; hemight leave her.She had not got him; she was not satisfied. She had been therebut she had not gripped the--the something--sheknew not what--which shewas mad to have.

In the morning he had considerable peaceandwas happyin himself.  It seemed almost as if he hadknown the baptism offire in passionand it left him at rest. But it was not Clara.It was something that happened because of herbut it was not her.They were scarcely any nearer each other. It was as if they had beenblind agents of a great force.

When she saw him that day at the factory herheart melted likea drop of fire.  It was his bodyhisbrows.  The drop of fire grewmore intense in her breast; she must hold him. But hevery quietvery subdued this morningwent on giving hisinstruction.  She followedhim into the darkugly basementand liftedher arms to him.He kissed herand the intensity of passionbegan to burn him again.Somebody was at the door.  He ranupstairs; she returned to her roommoving as if in a trance.

After that the fire slowly went down.  Hefelt more and more thathis experience had been impersonaland notClara.  He loved her.There was a big tendernessas after a strongemotion theyhad known together; but it was not she whocould keep his soul steady. He had wanted her to be something she could notbe.

And she was mad with desire of him.  Shecould not seehim without touching him.  In the factoryas he talked to herabout Spiral hoseshe ran her hand secretlyalong his side.She followed him out into the basement for aquick kiss; her eyesalways mute and yearningfull of unrestrainedpassionshe keptfixed on his.  He was afraid of herlestshe should too flagrantlygive herself away before the other girls. She invariably waitedfor him at dinnertime for him to embrace herbefore she went.He felt as if she were helplessalmost aburden to himand itirritated him.

"But what do you always want to be kissingand embracing for?"he said.  "Surely there's a time foreverything."

She looked up at himand the hate came intoher eyes.

"DO I always want to be kissing you?"she said.

"Alwayseven if I come to ask you aboutthe work.  I don'twant anything to do with love when I'm atwork.  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 frombusiness of any sort."

"It is only to exist in spare time?"

"That's alland not always then--not thekissing 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--shehated him; and whileshe was cold and contemptuoushe was uneasytill she had forgivenhim again.  But when they started afreshthey were not any nearer.He kept her because he never satisfied her.

In the spring they went together to theseaside.  They had roomsat a little cottage near Theddlethorpeandlived as man and wife.Mrs. Radford sometimes went with them.

It was known in Nottingham that Paul Morel andMrs. Daweswere going togetherbut as nothing was veryobviousand Claraalways a solitary personand he seemed sosimple and innocentit did not make much difference.

He loved the Lincolnshire coastand she lovedthe sea.In the early morning they often went outtogether to bathe.The grey of the dawnthe fardesolate reachesof the fenlandsmitten with winterthe sea-meadows rank withherbagewere starkenough to rejoice his soul.  As theystepped on to the highroad fromtheir plank bridgeand looked round at theendless monotony of levelsthe land a little darker than the skythe seasounding small beyondthe sandhillshis heart filled strong with thesweeping relentlessnessof life.  She loved him then.  He wassolitary and strongand his eyeshad a beautiful light.

They shuddered with cold; then he raced herdown the road tothe green turf bridge.  She could runwell.  Her colour soon cameher throat was bareher eyes shone.  Heloved her for being soluxuriously heavyand yet so quick. Himself was light; she wentwith a beautiful rush.  They grew warmand walked hand in hand.

A flush came into the skythe wan moonhalf-way downthe westsank into insignificance.  Onthe shadowy land thingsbegan to take lifeplants with great leavesbecame distinct.They came through a pass in the bigcoldsandhills on to the beach.The long waste of foreshore lay moaning underthe dawn and the sea;the ocean was a flat dark strip with a whiteedge.  Over the gloomysea the sky grew red.  Quickly the firespread among the cloudsand scattered them.  Crimson burned toorangeorange to dull goldand in a golden glitter the sun came updribbling fierily over thewaves in little splashesas if someone hadgone along and the lighthad spilled from her pail as she walked.

The breakers ran down the shore in longhoarsestrokes.Tiny seagullslike specks of spraywheeledabove the line of surf.Their crying seemed larger than they.  Faraway the coast reached outand melted into the morningthe tussockysandhills seemed to sinkto a level with the beach.  Mablethorpewas tiny on their right.They had alone the space of all this levelshorethe seaand theupcoming sunthe faint noise of the watersthe sharp crying ofthe gulls.

They had a warm hollow in the sandhills wherethe wind didnot come.  He stood looking out to sea.

"It's very fine" he said.

"Now don't get sentimental" shesaid.

It irritated her to see him standing gazing atthe sealike asolitary 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 idlywatching her.

"Aren't you coming?" she said.

"In a minute" he answered.

She was white and velvet skinnedwith heavyshoulders.A little windcoming from the seablew acrossher body and ruffledher hair.

The morning was of a lovely limpid goldcolour.  Veils of shadowseemed to be drifting away on the north and thesouth.  Clara stoodshrinking slightly from the touch of the windtwisting her hair.The sea-grass rose behind the white strippedwoman.  She glancedat the seathen looked at him.  He waswatching her with dark eyeswhich she loved and could not understand. She hugged her breastsbetween her armscringinglaughing:

"Ooit will be so cold!" she said.

He bent forward and kissed herheld hersuddenly closeand kissed her again.  She stood waiting. He looked into her eyesthen away at the pale sands.

"Gothen!" he said quietly.

She flung her arms round his neckdrew himagainst herkissed him passionatelyand wentsaying:

"But you'll come in?"

"In a minute."

She went plodding heavily over the sand thatwas soft as velvet.Heon the sandhillswatched the great palecoast envelop her.She grew smallerlost proportionseemed onlylike a large whitebird toiling forward.

"Not much more than a big white pebble onthe beachnot muchmore than a clot of foam being blown and rolledover the sand"he said to himself.

She seemed to move very slowly across the vastsounding shore.As he watchedhe lost her.  She wasdazzled out of sight bythe sunshine.  Again he saw herthemerest white speck movingagainst the whitemuttering sea-edge.

"Look how little she is!" he said tohimself.  "She's lost likea grain of sand in the beach--just aconcentrated speck blown alonga tiny white foam-bubblealmost nothing amongthe morning.Why does she absorb me?"

The morning was altogether uninterrupted: she was gone inthe water.  Far and wide the beachthesandhills with their blue marrainthe shining waterglowed together in immenseunbroken solitude.

"What is sheafter all?" he said tohimself.  "Here's theseacoast morningbig and permanent andbeautiful; there is shefrettingalways unsatisfiedand temporary asa bubble of foam.What does she mean to meafter all?  Sherepresents somethinglike a bubble of foam represents the sea. But what is she?It's not her I care for."

Thenstartled by his own unconscious thoughtsthat seemedto speak so distinctly that all the morningcould hearhe undressedand ran quickly down the sands.  She waswatching for him.  Her armflashed up to himshe heaved on a wavesubsidedher shouldersin a pool of liquid silver.  He jumpedthrough the breakersand in a moment her hand was on his shoulder.

He was a poor swimmerand could not stay longin the water.She played round him in triumphsporting withher superioritywhich he begrudged her.  The sunshinestood deep and fine on the water.They laughed in the sea for a minute or twothen raced each other backto the sandhills.

When they were drying themselvespantingheavilyhe watched her laughingbreathless faceherbright shouldersher breasts that swayed and made him frightenedas she rubbed themand he thought again:

"But she is magnificentand even biggerthan the morningand the sea.  Is she---? Is she---"

Sheseeing his dark eyes fixed on herbrokeoff from herdrying with a laugh.

"What are you looking at?" she said.

"You" he answeredlaughing.

Her eyes met hisand in a moment he waskissingher white "goose-fleshed" shoulderand thinking:

"What is she?  What is she?"

She loved him in the morning.  There wassomething detachedhardand elemental about his kisses thenasif he were onlyconscious of his own willnot in the least ofher and her wanting him.

Later in the day he went out sketching.

"You" he said to her"go withyour mother to Sutton.I am so dull."

She stood and looked at him.  He knew shewanted to comewith himbut he preferred to be alone. She made him feel imprisonedwhen she was thereas if he could not get afree deep breathas if there were something on top of him. She felt his desireto be free of her.

In the evening he came back to her.  Theywalked down the shorein the darknessthen sat for a while in theshelter of the sandhills.

"It seems" she saidas they staredover the darkness of the seawhere no light was to be seen--"it seemedas if you only loved meat night--as if you didn't love me in thedaytime."

He ran the cold sand through his fingersfeeling guiltyunder the accusation.

"The night is free to you" hereplied.  "In the daytime Iwant to be by myself."

"But why?" she said.  "Whyeven nowwhen we are on thisshort holiday?"

"I don't know.  Love-making stiflesme in the daytime."

"But it needn't be always love-making"she said.

"It always is" he answered"whenyou and I are together."

She sat feeling very bitter.

"Do you ever want to marry me?" heasked curiously.

"Do you me?" she replied.

"Yesyes; I should like us to havechildren" he answered slowly.

She sat with her head bentfingering the sand.

"But you don't really want a divorce fromBaxterdo you?"he said.

It was some minutes before she replied.

"No" she saidvery deliberately; "Idon't think I do."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

"Do you feel as if you belonged to him?"

"No; I don't think so."

"Whatthen?"

"I think he belongs to me" shereplied.

He was silent for some minuteslistening tothe wind blowingover the hoarsedark sea.

"And you never really intended to belongto ME?" he said.

"YesI do belong to you" sheanswered.

"No" he said; "because youdon't want to be divorced."

It was a knot they could not untieso theyleft ittook whatthey could getand what they could not attainthey ignored.

"I consider you treated Baxter rottenly"he said another time.

He half-expected Clara to answer himas hismother would:"You consider your own affairsand don'tknow so much aboutother people's."  But she took himseriouslyalmost to his own surprise.

"Why?" she said.

"I suppose you thought he was a lily ofthe valleyand soyou put him in an appropriate potand tendedhim according.You made up your mind he was a lily of thevalley and it was nogood his being a cow-parsnip.  Youwouldn't have it."

"I certainly never imagined him a lily ofthe valley."

"You imagined him something he wasn't. That's just what a woman is.She thinks she knows what's good for a manandshe's going to seehe gets it; and no matter if he's starvinghemay sit and whistlefor what he needswhile she's got himand isgiving him what'sgood for him."

"And what are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm thinking what tune I shall whistle"he laughed.

And instead of boxing his earsshe consideredhim in earnest.

"You think I want to give you what's goodfor you?" she asked.

"I hope so; but love should give a senseof freedomnot of prison.  Miriam made me feel tiedup like a donkey to a stake.I must feed on her patchand nowhere else. It's sickening!"

"And would YOU let a WOMAN do as shelikes?"

"Yes; I'll see that she likes to love me. If she doesn't--wellI don't hold her."

"If you were as wonderful as you say---"replied Clara.

"I should be the marvel I am" helaughed.

There was a silence in which they hated eachotherthough they laughed.

"Love's a dog in a manger" he said.

"And which of us is the dog?" sheasked.

"Oh wellyouof course."

So there went on a battle between them. She knew she never fullyhad him.  Some partbig and vital in himshe had no hold over;nor did she ever try to get itor even torealise what it was.And he knew in some way that she held herselfstill as Mrs. Dawes.She did not love Dawesnever had loved him;but she believed heloved herat least depended on her.  Shefelt a certain suretyabout him that she never felt with Paul Morel. Her passionfor the young man had filled her soulgivenher a certainsatisfactioneased her of her self-mistrusther doubt.Whatever else she wasshe was inwardlyassured.  It was almostas if she had gained HERSELFand stood nowdistinct and complete.She had received her confirmation; but shenever believed that herlife belonged to Paul Morelnor his to her. They would separatein the endand the rest of her life would bean ache after him.But at any rateshe knew nowshe was sure ofherself.  And thesame could almost be said of him. Together they had receivedthe baptism of lifeeach through the other;but now their missionswere separate.  Where he wanted to go shecould not come with him.They would have to part sooner or later. Even if they marriedand were faithful to each otherstill he wouldhave to leave hergo on aloneand she would only have to attendto him when hecame home.  But it was not possible. Each wanted a mate to go sideby side with.

Clara had gone to live with her mother uponMapperley Plains.One eveningas Paul and she were walking alongWoodborough Roadthey met Dawes.  Morel knew somethingabout the bearing of theman approachingbut he was absorbed in histhinking at the momentso that only his artist's eye watched the formof the stranger.Then he suddenly turned to Clara with a laughand put his hand onher shouldersayinglaughing:

"But we walk side by sideand yet I'm inLondon arguingwith an imaginary Orpen; and where are you?"

At that instant Dawes passedalmost touchingMorel.The young man glancedsaw the dark brown eyesburningfull of hateand yet tired.

"Who was that?" he asked of Clara.

"It was Baxter" she replied.

Paul took his hand from her shoulder andglanced round;then he saw again distinctly the man's form asit approached him.Dawes still walked erectwith his fineshoulders flung backand hisface lifted; but there was a furtive look inhis eyes that gaveone the impression he was trying to getunnoticed past every personhe metglancing suspiciously to see what theythought of him.And his hands seemed to be wanting to hide. He wore old clothesthe trousers were torn at the kneeand thehandkerchief tied roundhis throat was dirty; but his cap was stilldefiantly over one eye.As she saw himClara felt guilty.  Therewas a tiredness and despairon his face that made her hate himbecause ithurt her.

"He looks shady" said Paul.

But the note of pity in his voice reproachedherand madeher feel hard.

"His true commonness comes out" sheanswered.

"Do you hate him?" he asked.

"You talk" she said"about thecruelty of women; I wish youknew the cruelty of men in their brute force. They simply don'tknow that the woman exists."
"Don't I?" he said.

"No" she answered.

"Don't I know you exist?"

"About ME you know nothing" she saidbitterly--"about ME!"

"No more than Baxter knew?" he asked.

"Perhaps not as much."

He felt puzzledand helplessand angry. There she walkedunknown to himthough they had been throughsuch experience together.

"But you know ME pretty well" hesaid.

She did not answer.

"Did you know Baxter as well as you knowme?" 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 getreally near to them" she said.

"And haven't I let you?"

"Yes" she answered slowly; "butyou've never come near to me.You can't come out of yourselfyou can't. Baxter could do that betterthan you."

He walked on pondering.  He was angry withher for preferingBaxter to him.

"You begin to value Baxter now you've notgot him" he said.

"No; I can only see where he was differentfrom you."

But he felt she had a grudge against him.

One eveningas they were coming home over thefieldsshe startled him by asking:

"Do you think it's worth it--the--the sexpart?"

"The act of lovingitself?"

"Yes; is it worth anything to you?"

"But how can you separate it?" hesaid.  "It's the culminationof everything.  All our intimacyculminates then."

"Not for me" she said.

He was silent.  A flash of hate for hercame up.  After allshe was dissatisfied with himeven therewhere he thought theyfulfilled each other.  But he believed hertoo implicitly.

"I feel" she continued slowly"asif I hadn't got youas if all of you weren't thereand as if itweren't ME you were taking---"

"Whothen?"

"Something just for yourself.  It hasbeen fineso that Idaren't think of it.  But is it ME youwantor is it IT?"

He again felt guilty.  Did he leave Claraout of countand take simply women?  But he thoughtthat was splitting a hair.

"When I had Baxteractually had himthenI DID feel as if Ihad all of him" she said.

"And it was better?" he asked.

"Yesyes; it was more whole.  Idon't say you haven't givenme more than he ever gave me."

"Or could give you."

"Yesperhaps; but you've never given meyourself."

He knitted his brows angrily.

"If I start to make love to you" hesaid"I just go likea leaf down the wind."

"And leave me out of count" shesaid.

"And then is it nothing to you?" heaskedalmost rigidwith chagrin.

"It's something; and sometimes you havecarried me away--rightaway--I know--and--I reverence you forit--but---"

"Don't 'but' me" he saidkissingher quicklyas a fire ranthrough him.

She submittedand was silent.

It was true as he said.  As a rulewhenhe started love-makingthe emotion was strong enough to carry with iteverything--reasonsoulblood--in a great sweeplike the Trent carriesbodily its back-swirlsand intertwiningsnoiselessly.  Graduallythe little criticismsthe little sensationswere lostthought alsowenteverything bornealong in one flood.  He becamenot a manwith a mindbut agreat instinct.  His hands were likecreaturesliving; his limbshis bodywere all life and consciousnesssubject to no will of hisbut living in themselves.  Just as he wasso it seemed the vigorouswintry stars were strong also with life. He and they struck withthe same pulse of fireand the same joy ofstrength which heldthe bracken-frond stiff near his eyes held hisown body firm.It was as if heand the starsand the darkherbageand Clarawere licked up in an immense tongue of flamewhich tore onwardsand upwards.  Everything rushed along inliving beside him;everything was stillperfect in itselfalongwith him.This wonderful stillness in each thing initselfwhile it was beingborne along in a very ecstasy of livingseemedthe highest pointof bliss.

And Clara knew this held him to herso shetrusted altogetherto the passion.  Ithoweverfailed hervery often.  They didnot often reach again the height of that oncewhen the peewitshad called.  Graduallysome mechanicaleffort spoilt their lovingorwhen they had splendid momentsthey hadthem separatelyand not so satisfactorily.  So often heseemed merely to be runningon alone; often they realised it had been afailurenot what theyhad wanted.  He left herknowing THATevening had only madea little split between them.  Their lovinggrew more mechanicalwithout the marvellous glamour.  Graduallythey began to introducenoveltiesto get back some of the feeling ofsatisfaction.They would be very nearalmost dangerouslynear to the riverso that the black water ran not far from hisfaceand it gavea little thrill; or they loved sometimes in alittle hollow belowthe fence of the path where people were passingoccasionallyon the edge of the townand they heardfootsteps comingalmost feltthe vibration of the treadand they heard whatthe passersbysaid--strange little things that were neverintended to be heard.And afterwards each of them was rather ashamedand these thingscaused a distance between the two of them. He began to despise hera littleas if she had merited it!

One night he left her to go to Daybrook Stationover the fields.It was very darkwith an attempt at snowalthough the springwas so far advanced.  Morel had not muchtime; he plunged forward.The town ceases almost abruptly on the edge ofa steep hollow; there thehouses with their yellow lights stand upagainst the darkness.  He wentover the stileand dropped quickly into thehollow of the fields.Under the orchard one warm window shone inSwineshead Farm.Paul glanced round.  Behindthe housesstood on the brim of the dipblack against the skylike wild beasts glaringcuriously withyellow eyes down into the darkness.  Itwas the town that seemedsavage and uncouthglaring on the clouds atthe back of him.Some creature stirred under the willows of thefarm pond.  It was toodark to distinguish anything.

He was close up to the next stile before he sawa dark shapeleaning against it.  The man moved aside.

"Good-evening!" he said.

"Good-evening!" Morel answerednotnoticing.

"Paul Morel?" said the man.
Then he knew it was Dawes.  The manstopped his way.

"I've got yerhave I?" he saidawkwardly.

"I shall miss my train" said Paul.

He could see nothing of Dawes's face.  Theman's teeth seemedto chatter as he talked.

"You're going to get it from me now"said Dawes.

Morel attempted to move forward; the other manstepped in frontof him.

"Are yer goin' to take that top-coat off"he said"or areyou goin' to lie down to it?"

Paul was afraid the man was mad.

"But" he said"I don't knowhow to fight."

"All rightthen" answered Dawesand before the younger manknew where he washe was staggering backwardsfrom a blow acrossthe face.

The whole night went black.  He tore offhis overcoat and coatdodging a blowand flung the garments overDawes.  The latterswore savagely.  Morelin hisshirt-sleeveswas now alert andfurious.  He felt his whole body unsheathitself like a claw.He could not fightso he would use his wits. The other man becamemore distinct to him; he could see particularlythe shirt-breast.Dawes stumbled over Paul's coatsthen camerushing forward. The young man's mouth was bleeding.  Itwas the other man's mouthhe was dying to get atand the desire wasanguish in its strength.He stepped quickly through the stileand asDawes was coming throughafter himlike a flash he got a blow in overthe other's mouth.He shivered with pleasure.  Dawes advancedslowlyspitting.  Paulwas afraid; he moved round to get to the stileagain.  Suddenlyfromout of nowherecame a great blow against hisearthat sent himfalling helpless backwards.  He heardDawes's heavy pantinglike a wild beast'sthen came a kick on thekneegiving himsuch agony that he got up andquite blindleapt clean under hisenemy's guard.  He felt blows and kicksbut they did not hurt.He hung on to the bigger man like a wild cattill at last Dawes fellwith a crashlosing his presence of mind. Paul went down with him.Pure instinct brought his hands to the man'sneckand before Dawesin frenzy and agonycould wrench him freehehad got his fiststwisted in the scarf and his knuckles dug inthe throat of theother man.  He was a pure instinctwithout reason or feeling.His bodyhard and wonderful in itselfcleavedagainst thestruggling body of the other man; not a musclein him relaxed.He was quite unconsciousonly his body hadtaken upon itself to killthis other man.  For himselfhe hadneither feeling nor reason.He lay pressed hard against his adversaryhisbody adjusting itselfto its one pure purpose of choking the othermanresisting exactlyat the right momentwith exactly the rightamount of strengththe struggles of the othersilentintentunchanginggraduallypressing its knuckles deeperfeeling thestruggles of the otherbody become wilder and more frenzied. Tighter and tighter grewhis bodylike a screw that is graduallyincreasing in pressuretill something breaks.

Then suddenly he relaxedfull of wonder andmisgiving.Dawes had been yielding.  Morel felt hisbody flame with painas he realised what he was doing; he was allbewildered.Dawes's struggles suddenly renewed themselvesin a furious spasm.Paul's hands were wrenchedtorn out of thescarf in which theywere knottedand he was flung awayhelpless. He heard the horridsound of the other's gaspingbut he laystunned; thenstill dazedhe felt the blows of the other's feetand lostconsciousness.

Dawesgrunting with pain like a beastwaskicking the prostratebody of his rival.  Suddenly the whistleof the train shriekedtwo fields away.  He turned round andglared suspiciously.What was coming?  He saw the lights of thetrain draw across his vision.It seemed to him people were approaching. He made off across thefield into Nottinghamand dimly in hisconsciousness as he wenthe felt on his foot the place where his boothad knocked againstone of the lad's bones.  The knock seemedto re-echo inside him;he hurried to get away from it.

Morel gradually came to himself.  He knewwhere he was andwhat had happenedbut he did not want tomove.  He lay stillwith tiny bits of snow tickling his face. It was pleasantto lie quitequite still.  The timepassed.  It was the bitsof snow that kept rousing him when he did notwant to be roused.At last his will clicked into action.

"I mustn't lie here" he said; "it'ssilly."

But still he did not move.

"I said I was going to get up" herepeated.  "Why don't I?"

And still it was some time before he hadsufficiently pulledhimself together to stir; then gradually he gotup.  Pain made himsick and dazedbut his brain was clear. Reelinghe groped forhis coats and got them onbuttoning hisovercoat up to his ears.It was some time before he found his cap. He did not know whether hisface was still bleeding.  Walking blindlyevery step making him sickwith painhe went back to the pond and washedhis face and hands.The icy water hurtbut helped to bring himback to himself.He crawled back up the hill to the tram. He wanted to get to hismother--he must get to his mother--that was hisblind intention.He covered his face as much as he couldandstruggled sickly along.Continually the ground seemed to fall away fromhim as he walkedand he felt himself dropping with a sickeningfeeling into space; solike a nightmarehe got through with thejourney home.

Everybody was in bed.  He looked athimself.  His face wasdiscoloured and smeared with bloodalmost likea dead man's face.He washed itand went to bed.  The nightwent by in delirium.In the morning he found his mother looking athim.  Her blue eyes--theywere all he wanted to see.  She was there;he was in her hands.

"It's not muchmother" he said. "It was Baxter Dawes."

"Tell me where it hurts you" shesaid quietly.

"I don't know--my shoulder.  Say itwas a bicycle accidentmother."

He could not move his arm.  PresentlyMinniethe little servantcame upstairs with some tea.

"Your mother's nearly frightened me out ofmy wits--fainted away"she said.

He felt he could not bear it.  His mothernursed him; he toldher about it.

"And now I should have done with themall" she said quietly.

"I willmother."

She covered him up.

"And don't think about it" shesaid--"only try to go to sleep.The doctor won't be here till eleven."

He had a dislocated shoulderand the secondday acute bronchitisset in.  His mother was pale as death nowand very thin.  She wouldsit and look at himthen away into space. There was somethingbetween them that neither dared mention. Clara came to see him.Afterwards he said to his mother:

"She makes me tiredmother."

"Yes; I wish she wouldn't come" Mrs.Morel replied.

Another day Miriam camebut she seemed almostlike a strangerto him.

"You knowI don't care about themmother" he said.

"I'm afraid you don'tmy son" shereplied sadly.

It was given out everywhere that it was abicycle accident.Soon he was able to go to work againbut nowthere was a constantsickness and gnawing at his heart.  Hewent to Clarabut there seemedas it werenobody there.  He could notwork.  He and his motherseemed almost to avoid each other.  Therewas some secret betweenthem which they could not bear.  He wasnot aware of it.  He onlyknew that his life seemed unbalancedas if itwere going to smashinto pieces.

Clara did not know what was the matter withhim.She realised that he seemed unaware of her. Even when he cameto her he seemed unaware of her; always he wassomewhere else.She felt she was clutching for himand he wassomewhere else.It tortured herand so she tortured him. For a month at a timeshe kept him at arm's length.  He almosthated herand was drivento her in spite of himself.  He wentmostly into the company of menwas always at the George or the White Horse. His mother was illdistantquietshadowy.  He was terrifiedof something; he darednot look at her.  Her eyes seemed to growdarkerher face more waxen;still she dragged about at her work.

At Whitsuntide he said he would go to Blackpoolfor fourdays with his friend Newton.  The latterwas a bigjolly fellowwith a touch of the bounder about him. Paul said his mother must goto Sheffield to stay a week with Anniewholived there.  Perhaps thechange would do her good.  Mrs. Morel wasattending a woman's doctorin Nottingham.  He said her heart and herdigestion were wrong.She consented to go to Sheffieldthough shedid not want to;but now she would do everything her son wishedof her.  Paul saidhe would come for her on the fifth dayandstay also in Sheffieldtill the holiday was up.  It was agreed.

The two young men set off gaily for Blackpool. Mrs. Morel wasquite lively as Paul kissed her and left her. Once at the stationhe forgot everything.  Four days wereclear--not an anxietynot a thought.  The two young men simplyenjoyed themselves.Paul was like another man.  None ofhimself remained--no Clarano Miriamno mother that fretted him.  Hewrote to them alland long letters to his mother; but they werejolly letters thatmade her laugh.  He was having a goodtimeas young fellows willin a place like Blackpool.  And underneathit all was a shadowfor her.

Paul was very gayexcited at the thought ofstaying with hismother in Sheffield.  Newton was to spendthe day with them.Their train was late.  Jokinglaughingwith their pipes betweentheir teeththe young men swung their bags onto the tram-car.  Paulhad bought his mother a little collar of reallace that he wantedto see her wearso that he could tease herabout it.

Annie lived in a nice houseand had a littlemaid.  Paul rangaily up the steps.  He expected hismother laughing in the hallbut it was Annie who opened to him.  Sheseemed distant to him.He stood a second in dismay.  Annie lethim kiss her cheek.

"Is my mother ill?" he said.

"Yes; she's not very well.  Don'tupset her."

"Is she in bed?"

"Yes."

And then the queer feeling went over himas ifall the sunshinehad gone out of himand it was all shadow. He dropped the bagand ran upstairs.  Hesitatinghe openedthe door.  His mothersat up in bedwearing a dressing-gown ofold-rose colour.She looked at him almost as if she were ashamedof herselfpleading to himhumble.  He saw the ashylook about her.

"Mother!" he said.

"I thought you were never coming"she answered gaily.

But he only fell on his knees at the bedsideand buriedhis face in the bedclothescrying in agonyand saying:

"Mother--mother--mother!"

She stroked his hair slowly with her thin hand.

"Don't cry" she said.  "Don'tcry--it's nothing."

But he felt as if his blood was melting intotearsand hecried in terror and pain.

"Don't--don't cry" his motherfaltered.

Slowly she stroked his hair.  Shocked outof himselfhe criedand the tears hurt in every fibre of his body. Suddenly he stoppedbut he dared not lift his face out of thebedclothes.

"You ARE late.  Where have you been?"his mother asked.

"The train was late" he repliedmuffled in the sheet.

"Yes; that miserable Central!  IsNewton come?"

"Yes."

"I'm sure you must be hungryand they'vekept dinner waiting."

With a wrench he looked up at her.

"What is itmother?" he askedbrutally.

She averted her eyes as she answered:

"Only a bit of a tumourmy boy.  Youneedn't trouble.It's been there--the lump has--a long time."

Up came the tears again.  His mind wasclear and hardbut his body was crying.

"Where?" he said.

She put her hand on her side.

"Here.  But you know they can sweal atumour away."

He stood feeling dazed and helplesslike achild.  He thoughtperhaps it was as she said.  Yes; hereassured himself it was so.But all the while his blood and his body knewdefinitely what it was.He sat down on the bedand took her hand. She had never had but theone ring--her wedding-ring.

"When were you poorly?" he asked.

"It was yesterday it began" sheanswered submissively.

"Pains?"

"Yes; but not more than I've often had athome.  I believeDr. Ansell is an alarmist."

"You ought not to have travelled alone"he saidto himselfmore 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" shesaid.  "You MUST be hungry."

"Have you had yours?"

"Yes; a beautiful sole I had.  AnnieIS good to me."

They talked a little whilethen he wentdownstairs.He was very white and strained.  Newtonsat in miserable sympathy.

After dinner he went into the scullery to helpAnnie 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 sawanybody suffer like it!"she cried.  "Leonard ran like amadman for Dr. Anselland when she'dgot to bed she said to me:  'Annielookat this lump on my side.I wonder what it is?'  And there I lookedand I thought I shouldhave dropped.  Paulas true as I'm hereit's a lump as big as mydouble fist.  I said:  'Goodgraciousmotherwhenever did that come?''Whychild' she said'it's been there a longtime.'  I thought Ishould have diedour PaulI did.  She'sbeen having these painsfor months at homeand nobody looking afterher."

The tears came to his eyesthen driedsuddenly.

"But she's been attending the doctor inNottingham--and shenever told me" he said.

"If I'd have been at home" saidAnnie"I should have seenfor myself."

He felt like a man walking in unrealities. In the afternoonhe went to see the doctor.  The latter wasa shrewdlovable man.

"But what is it?" he said.

The doctor looked at the young manthenknitted his fingers.

"It may be a large tumour which has formedin the membrane"he said slowly"and which we MAY be ableto 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?" heasked.  "Why did Dr. Jamesonin Nottingham never find out anything aboutit?  She's been goingto him for weeksand he's treated her forheart and indigestion."

"Mrs. Morel never told Dr. Jameson aboutthe lump" said the doctor.

"And do you KNOW it's a tumour?"

"NoI am not sure."

"What else MIGHT it be?  You asked mysister if there wascancer in the family.  Might it becancer?"

"I don't know."

"And what shall you do?"

"I should like an examinationwith Dr.Jameson."

"Then have one."

"You must arrange about that.  Hisfee wouldn't be less thanten guineas to come here from Nottingham."

"When would you like him to come?"

"I will call in this eveningand we willtalk it over."

Paul went awaybiting his lip.

His mother could come downstairs for teathedoctor said.Her son went upstairs to help her.  Shewore the old-rose dressing-gownthat Leonard had given Annieandwith alittle colour in her facewas quite young again.

"But you look quite pretty in that"he said.

"Yes; they make me so fineI hardly knowmyself" she answered.

But when she stood up to walkthe colourwent.  Paul helped herhalf-carrying her.  At the top of thestairs she was gone.  He liftedher up and carried her quickly downstairs; laidher on the couch.She was light and frail.  Her face lookedas if she were deadwith blue lips shut tight.  Her eyesopened--her blueunfailing eyes--and she looked at him pleadinglyalmostwanting him to forgive her.He held brandy to her lipsbut her mouth wouldnot open.All the time she watched him lovingly.  Shewas only sorry for him.The tears ran down his face without ceasingbut not a muscle moved.He was intent on getting a little brandybetween her lips.Soon she was able to swallow a teaspoonful. She lay backso tired.The tears continued to run down his face.

"But" she panted"it'll gooff.  Don't cry!"

"I'm not doing" he said.

After a while she was better again.  Hewas kneeling besidethe couch.  They looked into each other'seyes.

"I don't want you to make a trouble ofit" she said.

"Nomother.  You'll have to be quitestilland then you'llget better soon."

But he was white to the lipsand their eyes asthey lookedat each other understood.  Her eyes wereso blue--such a wonderfulforget-me-not blue!  He felt if only theyhad been of a differentcolour he could have borne it better.  Hisheart seemed to beripping slowly in his breast.  He kneeledthereholding her handand neither said anything.  Then Anniecame in.

"Are you all right?" she murmuredtimidly to her mother.

"Of course" said Mrs. Morel.

Paul sat down and told her about Blackpool. She was curious.

A day or two afterhe went to see Dr. Jamesonin Nottinghamto arrange for a consultation.  Paul hadpractically no money inthe world.  But he could borrow.

His mother had been used to go to the publicconsultation onSaturday morningwhen she could see the doctorfor only a nominal sum.Her son went on the same day.  Thewaiting-room was full of poor womenwho sat patiently on a bench around the wall. Paul thought ofhis motherin her little black costumesitting waiting likewise.The doctor was late.  The women all lookedrather frightened.Paul asked the nurse in attendance if he couldsee the doctorimmediately he came.  It was arranged so. The women sittingpatiently round the walls of the room eyed theyoung man curiously.

At last the doctor came.  He was aboutfortygood-lookingbrown-skinned.  His wife haddiedand hewho had loved herhad specialised on women'sailments.Paul told his name and his mother's.  Thedoctor did not remember.

"Number forty-six M." said thenurse; and the doctor lookedup the case in his book.

"There is a big lump that may be atumour" said Paul."But Dr. Ansell was going to write you aletter."

"Ahyes!" replied the doctordrawing the letter fromhis pocket.  He was very friendlyaffablebusykind.  He wouldcome to Sheffield the next day.

"What is your father?" he asked.

"He is a coal-miner" replied Paul.

"Not very well offI suppose?"

"This--I see after this" said Paul.

"And you?" smiled the doctor.

"I am a clerk in Jordan's ApplianceFactory."

The doctor smiled at him.

"Er--to go to Sheffield!" he saidputting the tips of hisfingers togetherand smiling with his eyes. "Eight guineas?"

"Thank you!" said Paulflushing andrising.  "And you'llcome to-morrow?"

"To-morrow--Sunday?  Yes!  Canyou tell me about what time thereis a train in the afternoon?"

"There is a Central gets in atfour-fifteen."

"And will there be any way of getting upto the house?Shall I have to walk?"  The doctorsmiled.

"There is the tram" said Paul; "theWestern Park tram."

The doctor made a note of it.

"Thank you!" he saidand shookhands.

Then Paul went on home to see his fatherwhowas left inthe charge of Minnie.  Walter Morel wasgetting very grey now.Paul found him digging in the garden.  Hehad written him a letter.He shook hands with his father.

"Helloson!  Tha has landedthen?"said the father.

"Yes" replied the son.  "ButI'm going back to-night."

"Are terbeguy!" exclaimed thecollier.  "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 hiswife.  The twowent indoors.  Paul ate in silence; hisfatherwith earthy handsand sleeves rolled upsat in the arm-chairopposite and lookedat him.

"Wellan' how is she?" asked theminer at lengthin a little voice.

"She can sit up; she can be carried downfor tea" said Paul.

"That's a blessin'!" exclaimedMorel.  "I hope we s'll soonbe havin' her whoamthen.  An' what'sthat Nottingham doctor say?"

"He's going to-morrow to have anexamination of her."

"Is he beguy!  That's a tidy pennyI'm thinkin'!"

"Eight guineas."

"Eight guineas!" the miner spokebreathlessly.  "Wellwe munfind 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 allright with Minnie"Paul said.

"YesI'm all rightan' I wish as shewas" answered Morel."But Minnie's a good little wenchbless'er heart!"  He satlooking dismal.

"I s'll have to be going at half-pastthree" said Paul.

"It's a trapse for theelad!  Eightguineas!  An' when dostthink she'll be able to get as far as this?"

"We must see what the doctors sayto-morrow" Paul said.

Morel sighed deeply.  The house seemedstrangely emptyand Paul thought his father looked lostforlornand old.

"You'll have to go and see her next weekfather" he said.

"I hope she'll be a-whoam by that time"said Morel.

"If she's not" said Paul"thenyou must come."

"I dunno wheer I s'll find th' money"said Morel.

"And I'll write to you what the doctorsays" said Paul.

"But tha writes i' such a fashionI cannama'e it out"said Morel.

"WellI'll write plain."

It was no good asking Morel to answerfor hecould scarcelydo more than write his own name.

The doctor came.  Leonard felt it his dutyto meet him with a cab.The examination did not take long.  AnnieArthurPauland Leonardwere waiting in the parlour anxiously. The doctors came down.Paul glanced at them.  He had never hadany hopeexcept when he haddeceived himself.

"It MAY be a tumour; we must wait andsee" said Dr. Jameson.

"And if it is" said Annie"canyou sweal it away?"

"Probably" said the doctor.

Paul put eight sovereigns and half a sovereignon the table.The doctor counted themtook a florin out ofhis purseand putthat down.

"Thank you!" he said.  "I'msorry Mrs. Morel is so ill.But we must see what we can do."

"There can't be an operation?" saidPaul.

The doctor shook his head.

"No" he said; "and even ifthere couldher heart wouldn'tstand it."

"Is her heart risky?" asked Paul.

"Yes; you must be careful with her."

"Very risky?"

"No--er--nono!  Just take care."

And the doctor was gone.

Then Paul carried his mother downstairs. She lay simplylike a child.  But when he was on thestairsshe put her arms roundhis neckclinging.

"I'm so frightened of these beastlystairs" she said.

And he was frightenedtoo.  He would letLeonard do itanother time.  He felt he could not carryher.

"He thinks it's only a tumour!" criedAnnie 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 goneout of the room.He sat in the kitchensmoking.  Then hetried to brush some grey ashoff his coat.  He looked again.  Itwas one of his mother's grey hairs.It was so long!  He held it upand itdrifted into the chimney.He let go.  The long grey hair floated andwas gone in the blacknessof the chimney.

The next day he kissed her before going back towork.It was very early in the morningand they werealone.

"You won't fretmy boy!" she said.

"Nomother."

"No; it would be silly.  And takecare of yourself."

"Yes" he answered.  Thenaftera while:  "And I shall comenext Saturdayand shall bring my father?"

"I suppose he wants to come" shereplied.  "At any rateif he does you'll have to let him."

He kissed her againand stroked the hair fromher templesgentlytenderlyas if she were a lover.

"Shan't you be late?" she murmured.

"I'm going" he saidvery low.

Still he sat a few minutesstroking the brownand grey hairfrom her temples.

"And you won't be any worsemother?"

"Nomy son."

"You promise me?"

"Yes; I won't be any worse."

He kissed herheld her in his arms for amomentand was gone.In the early sunny morning he ran to thestationcrying all the way;he did not know what for.  And her blueeyes were wide and staringas she thought of him.

In the afternoon he went a walk with Clara. They satin the little wood where bluebells werestanding.  He took her hand.

"You'll see" he said to Clara"she'll never be better."

"Ohyou don't know!" replied theother.

"I do" he said.

She caught him impulsively to her breast.

"Try and forget itdear" she said;"try and forget it."

"I will" he answered.

Her breast was therewarm for him; her handswere in his hair.It was comfortingand he held his arms roundher.  But he didnot forget.  He only talked to Clara ofsomething else.  And itwas always so.  When she felt it comingthe agonyshe criedto him:

"Don't think of itPaul!  Don'tthink of itmy darling!"

And she pressed him to her breastrocked himsoothed himlike a child.  So he put the trouble asidefor her saketo take itup again immediately he was alone.  Allthe timeas he went abouthe cried mechanically.  His mind and handswere busy.  He criedhe did not know why.  It was his bloodweeping.  He was just as muchalone whether he was with Clara or with the menin the White Horse.Just himself and this pressure inside himthatwas all that existed.He read sometimes.  He had to keep hismind occupied.  And Clara was away of occupying his mind.

On the Saturday Walter Morel went toSheffield.  He wasa forlorn figurelooking rather as if nobodyowned him.Paul ran upstairs.

"My father's come" he saidkissinghis mother.

"Has he?" she answered wearily.

The old collier came rather frightened into thebedroom.

"How dun I find theelass?" he saidgoing forward and kissingher in a hastytimid fashion.

"WellI'm middlin'" she replied.

"I see tha art" he said.  Hestood looking down on her.Then he wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. Helplessand as ifnobody owned himhe looked.

"Have you gone on all right?" askedthe wiferather wearilyas if it were an effort to talk to him.

"Yis" he answered.  "'Er'sa bit behint-hand now and againasyer might expect."

"Does she have your dinner ready?"asked Mrs. Morel.

"WellI've 'ad to shout at 'er once ortwice" he said.

"And you MUST shout at her if she's notready.  She WILL leavethings to the last minute."

She gave him a few instructions.  He satlooking at her asif she were almost a stranger to himbeforewhom he was awkwardand humbleand also as if he had lost hispresence of mindand wanted to run.  This feeling that hewanted to run awaythat he was on thorns to be gone from so tryinga situationand yetmust linger because it looked bettermade hispresence so trying.He put up his eyebrows for miseryand clenchedhis fists on his kneesfeeling so awkward in presence of big trouble.

Mrs. Morel did not change much.  Shestayed in Sheffieldfor two months.  If anythingat the endshe was rather worse.But she wanted to go home.  Annie had herchildren.  Mrs. Morelwanted to go home.  So they got amotor-car from Nottingham--for shewas too ill to go by train--and she was driventhrough the sunshine.It was just August; everything was bright andwarm.  Under the bluesky they could all see she was dying.  Yetshe was jollier than shehad been for weeks.  They all laughed andtalked.

"Annie" she exclaimed"I saw alizard dart on that rock!"

Her eyes were so quick; she was still so fullof life.

Morel knew she was coming.  He had thefront door open.Everybody was on tiptoe.  Half the streetturned out.  They heardthe sound of the great motor-car.  Mrs.Morelsmilingdrove homedown the street.

"And just look at them all come out to seeme!" she said."But thereI suppose I should have donethe same.  How do you doMrs. Mathews?  How are youMrs.Harrison?"

They none of them could hearbut they saw hersmile and nod.And they all saw death on her facethey said. It was a great eventin the street.

Morel wanted to carry her indoorsbut he wastoo old.Arthur took her as if she were a child. They had set her a bigdeep chair by the hearth where herrocking-chair used to stand.When she was unwrapped and seatedand haddrunk a little brandyshe looked round the room.

"Don't think I don't like your houseAnnie" she said;"but it's nice to be in my own homeagain."

And Morel answered huskily:

"It islassit is."

And Minniethe little quaint maidsaid:

"An' we glad t' 'ave yer."

There was a lovely yellow ravel of sunflowersin the garden.She looked out of the window.

"There are my sunflowers!" she said.

 

CHAPTER XIV

THE RELEASE

"By the way" said Dr. Ansell oneevening when Morel wasin Sheffield"we've got a man in thefever hospital here who comesfrom Nottingham--Dawes.  He doesn't seemto have many belongingsin this world."

"Baxter Dawes!"  Paul exclaimed.

"That's the man--has been a fine fellowphysicallyI should think.Been in a bit of a mess lately.  You knowhim?"

"He used to work at the place where I am."

"Did he?  Do you know anything abouthim?  He's just sulkingor he'd be a lot better than he is by now."

"I don't know anything of his homecircumstancesexcept thathe's separated from his wife and has been a bitdownI believe.But tell him about mewill you?  Tell himI'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 fromNottingham named Morel?' and he looked at me asif he'd jump atmy throat.  So I said:  'I see youknow the name; it's Paul Morel.'Then I told him about your saying you would goand see him.'What does he want?' he saidas if you were apoliceman."

"And did he say he would see me?"asked Paul.

"He wouldn't say anything--goodbad orindifferent"replied the doctor.

"Why not?"

"That's what I want to know.  Therehe lies and sulksday inday out.  Can't get a word of informationout of him."

"Do you think I might go?" askedPaul.

"You might."

There was a feeling of connection between therival menmore than ever since they had fought.  Ina way Morel felt guiltytowards the otherand more or lessresponsible.  And being in sucha state of soul himselfhe felt an almostpainful nearness to Daweswho was suffering and despairingtoo. Besidesthey had metin a naked extremity of hateand it was abond.  At any ratethe elemental man in each had met.

He went down to the isolation hospitalwithDr. Ansell's card.This sistera healthy young Irishwomanledhim down the ward.

"A visitor to see youJim Crow" shesaid.

Dawes turned over suddenly with a startledgrunt.

"Eh?"

"Caw!" she mocked.  "He canonly say 'Caw!'  I have brought youa gentleman to see you.  Now say 'Thankyou' and show some manners."

Dawes looked swiftly with his darkstartledeyes beyond the sisterat Paul.  His look was full of fearmistrusthateand misery.Morel met the swiftdark eyesand hesitated. The two men wereafraid of the naked selves they had been.

"Dr. Ansell told me you were here"said Morelholding outhis hand.

Dawes mechanically shook hands.

"So I thought I'd come in" continuedPaul.

There was no answer.  Dawes lay staring atthe opposite wall.

"Say 'Caw!"' mocked the nurse. "Say 'Caw!'  Jim Crow."

"He is getting on all right?" saidPaul to her.

"Oh yes!  He lies and imagines he'sgoing to die" said the nurse"and it frightens every word out of hismouth."

"And you MUST have somebody to talk to"laughed Morel.

"That's it!" laughed the nurse. "Only two old men and a boywho always cries.  It is hard lines! Here am I dying to hear JimCrow's voiceand 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" helaughed.

"Ohdropped straight from heaven!"laughed the nurse.

Presently she left the two men alone. Dawes was thinnerand handsome againbut life seemed low inhim.  As the doctor saidhe was lying sulkingand would not moveforward towards convalescence.He seemed to grudge every beat of his heart.

"Have you had a bad time?" askedPaul.

Suddenly again Dawes looked at him.

"What are you doing in Sheffield?" heasked.

"My mother was taken ill at my sister's inThurston Street.What are you doing here?"

There was no answer.

"How long have you been in?" Morel asked.

"I couldn't say for sure" Dawesanswered grudgingly.

He lay staring across at the wall oppositeasif trying tobelieve Morel was not there.  Paul felthis heart go hard and angry.

"Dr. Ansell told me you were here"he said coldly.

The other man did not answer.

"Typhoid's pretty badI know" Morelpersisted.

Suddenly Dawes said:

"What did you come for?"

"Because Dr. Ansell said you didn't knowanybody here.Do you?"

"I know nobody nowhere" said Dawes.

"Well" said Paul"it's becauseyou don't choose tothen."

There was another silence.

"We s'll be taking my mother home as soonas we can"said Paul.

"What's a-matter with her?" askedDaweswith a sick man'sinterest in illness.

"She's got a cancer."

There was another silence.

"But we want to get her home" saidPaul.  "We s'll have to geta motor-car."

Dawes lay thinking.

"Why don't you ask Thomas Jordan to lendyou his?" said Dawes.

"It's not big enough" Morelanswered.

Dawes blinked his dark eyes as he lay thinking.

"Then ask Jack Pilkington; he'd lend ityou.  You know him."

"I think I s'll hire one" said Paul.

"You're a fool if you do" saidDawes.

The sick man was gaunt and handsome again. Paul was sorryfor 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 wastaken 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 Seathorpean' he liked it.Dr. Ansell would get you a recommend."

Dawes lay thinking.  It was evident hedared not facethe world again.

"The seaside would be all right just now"Morel said."Sun on those sandhillsand the waves notfar out."

The other did not answer.

"By Gad!"  Paul concludedtoomiserable to bother much;"it's all right when you know you're goingto walk againand swim!"

Dawes glanced at him quickly.  The man'sdark eyes wereafraid to meet any other eyes in the world. But the real miseryand helplessness in Paul's tone gave him afeeling of relief.

"Is she far gone?" he asked.

"She's going like wax" Paulanswered; "but cheerful--lively!"

He bit his lip.  After a minute he rose.

"WellI'll be going" he said. "I'll leave you this half-crown."

"I don't want it" Dawes muttered.

Morel did not answerbut left the coin on thetable.

"Well" he said"I'll try andrun in when I'm back in Sheffield.Happen you might like to see mybrother-in-law?  He works in Pyecrofts."

"I don't know him" said Dawes.

"He's all right.  Should I tell himto come?  He might bringyou some papers to look at."

The other man did not answer.  Paul went. The strong emotionthat Dawes aroused in himrepressedmade himshiver.

He did not tell his motherbut next day hespoke to Claraabout this interview.  It was in thedinner-hour.  The two didnot often go out together nowbut this day heasked her to gowith him to the Castle grounds.  Therethey sat while the scarletgeraniums and the yellow calceolarias blazed inthe sunlight.She was now always rather protectiveandrather resentful towards him.

"Did you know Baxter was in SheffieldHospital with typhoid?"he asked.

She looked at him with startled grey eyesandher face went pale.

"No" she saidfrightened.

"He's getting better.  I went to seehim yesterday--the doctortold 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?"

"Ohnothing!  He seems to besulking."

There was a distance between the two of them. He gave hermore information.

She went about shut up and silent.  Thenext time they tooka walk togethershe disengaged herself fromhis armand walkedat a distance from him.  He was wantingher comfort badly.

"Won't you be nice with me?" heasked.

She did not answer.

"What's the matter?" he saidputtinghis arm across her shoulder.

"Don't!" she saiddisengagingherself.

He left her aloneand returned to his ownbrooding.

"Is it Baxter that upsets you?" heasked at length.

"I HAVE been VILE to him!" she said.

"I've said many a time you haven't treatedhim well"he replied.

And there was a hostility between them. Each pursued his owntrain of thought.

"I've treated him--noI've treated himbadly" she said."And now you treat ME badly.  Itserves me right."

"How do I treat you badly?" he said.

"It serves me right" she repeated. "I never considered himworth havingand now you don't consider ME. But it serves meright.  He loved me a thousand timesbetter than you ever did."

"He didn't!" protested Paul.

"He did!  At any ratehe did respectmeand that's what youdon't do."

"It looked as if he respected you!"he said.

"He did!  And I MADE him horrid--Iknow I did!  You've taughtme that.  And he loved me a thousand timesbetter than ever you do."

"All right" said Paul.

He only wanted to be left alone now.  Hehad his own troublewhich was almost too much to bear.  Claraonly tormented him and madehim tired.  He was not sorry when he lefther.

She went on the first opportunity to Sheffieldto seeher husband.  The meeting was not asuccess.  But she left himroses and fruit and money.  She wanted tomake restitution.It was not that she loved him.  As shelooked at him lying thereher heart did not warm with love.  Onlyshe wanted to humbleherself to himto kneel before him.  Shewanted now to beself-sacrificial.  After allshe hadfailed to make Morel reallylove her.  She was morally frightened. She wanted to do penance.So she kneeled to Dawesand it gave him asubtle pleasure.But the distance between them was still verygreat--too great.It frightened the man.  It almost pleasedthe woman.  She likedto feel she was serving him across aninsuperable distance.She was proud now.

Morel went to see Dawes once or twice. There was a sort offriendship between the two menwho were allthe while deadly rivals.But they never mentioned the woman who wasbetween them.

Mrs. Morel got gradually worse.  At firstthey used to carryher downstairssometimes even into thegarden.  She sat proppedin her chairsmilingand so pretty.  Thegold wedding-ring shoneon her white hand; her hair was carefullybrushed.  And she watchedthe tangled sunflowers dyingthechrysanthemums coming outand the dahlias.

Paul and she were afraid of each other. He knewand she knewthat she was dying.  But they kept up apretence of cheerfulness.Every morningwhen he got uphe went into herroom in his pyjamas.

"Did you sleepmy dear?" he asked.

"Yes" she answered.

"Not very well?"

"Wellyes! "

Then he knew she had lain awake.  He sawher hand underthe bedclothespressing the place on her sidewhere the pain was.

"Has it been bad?" he asked.

"No.  It hurt a bitbut nothing tomention."

And she sniffed in her old scornful way. As she lay shelooked like a girl.  And all the while herblue eyes watched him.But there were the dark pain-circles beneaththat 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 hewas conscious of nothing but her.  It wasa long ache that madehim feverish.  Thenwhen he got home inthe early eveninghe glancedthrough the kitchen window.  She was notthere; she had not got up.

He ran straight upstairs and kissed her. He was almost afraidto ask:

"Didn't you get uppigeon?"

"No" she said.  "it wasthat morphia; it made me tired."

"I think he gives you too much" hesaid.

"I think he does" she answered.

He sat down by the bedmiserably.  Shehad a way of curlingand lying on her sidelike a child.  Thegrey and brown hairwas loose over her ear.

"Doesn't it tickle you?" he saidgently putting it back.

"It does" she replied.

His face was near hers.  Her blue eyessmiled straight into hislike a girl's--warmlaughing with tenderlove.  It made him pantwith terroragonyand love.

"You want your hair doing in a plait"he said.  "Lie still."

And going behind herhe carefully loosened herhairbrushed it out.  It was like fine longsilk of brown and grey.Her head was snuggled between her shoulders. As he lightlybrushed and plaited her hairhe bit his lipand felt dazed.It all seemed unrealhe could not understandit.

At night he often worked in her roomlookingup from timeto time.  And so often he found her blueeyes fixed on him.And when their eyes metshe smiled.  Heworked away again mechanicallyproducing good stuff without knowing what hewas doing.

Sometimes he came invery pale and stillwithwatchfulsudden eyeslike a man who is drunk almost todeath.  They wereboth afraid of the veils that were rippingbetween them.

Then she pretended to be betterchattered tohim gailymade a great fuss over some scraps of news. For they had both cometo the condition when they had to make much ofthe trifleslest theyshould give in to the big thingand theirhuman independence wouldgo smash.  They were afraidso they madelight of things and were gay.

Sometimes as she lay he knew she was thinkingof the past.Her mouth gradually shut hard in a line. She was holding herself rigidso that she might die without ever uttering thegreat cry thatwas tearing from her.  He never forgotthat hardutterly lonelyand stubborn clenching of her mouthwhichpersisted for weeks.Sometimeswhen it was lightershe talkedabout her husband.Now she hated him.  She did not forgivehim.  She could not bear himto be in the room.  And a few thingsthethings that had been mostbitter to hercame up again so strongly thatthey broke from herand she told her son.

He felt as if his life were being destroyedpiece by piecewithin him.  Often the tears camesuddenly.  He ran to the stationthe tear-drops falling on the pavement. Often he could not goon with his work.  The pen stoppedwriting.  He sat staringquite unconscious.  And when he came roundagain he felt sickand trembled in his limbs.  He neverquestioned what it was.His mind did not try to analyse or understand. He merely submittedand kept his eyes shut; let the thing go overhim.

His mother did the same.  She thought ofthe painof themorphiaof the next day; hardly ever of thedeath.  That was comingshe knew.  She had to submit to it. But she would never entreat itor make friends with it.  Blindwith herface shut hard and blindshe was pushed towards the door.  The dayspassedthe weeksthe months.

Sometimesin the sunny afternoonsshe seemedalmost happy.

"I try to think of the nice times--when wewent to Mablethorpeand Robin Hood's Bayand Shanklin" shesaid.  "After allnot everybody has seen those beautiful places. And wasn't it beautiful!I try to think of thatnot of the otherthings."

Thenagainfor a whole evening she spoke nota word;neither did he.  They were togetherrigidstubbornsilent.  He wentinto his room at last to go to bedand leanedagainst the doorwayas if paralysedunable to go any farther. His consciousness went.A furious stormhe knew not whatseemed toravage inside him.He stood leaning theresubmittingneverquestioning.

In the morning they were both normal againthough her facewas grey with the morphiaand her body feltlike ash.  But they werebright againnevertheless.  Oftenespecially if Annie or Arthurwere at homehe neglected her.  He didnot see much of Clara.Usually he was with men.  He was quick andactive and lively;but when his friends saw him go white to thegillshis eyes darkand glitteringthey had a certain mistrust ofhim.  Sometimes hewent to Clarabut she was almost cold to him.

"Take me!" he said simply.

Occasionally she would.  But she wasafraid.  When he hadher thenthere was something in it that madeher shrink away fromhim--something unnatural.  She grew todread him.  He was so quietyet so strange.  She was afraid of the manwho was not there with herwhom she could feel behind this make-belieflover; somebody sinisterthat filled her with horror.  She began tohave a kind of horrorof him.  It was almost as if he were acriminal.  He wanted her--hehad her--and it made her feel as if deathitself had her in its grip.She lay in horror.  There was no man thereloving her.  She almosthated him.  Then came little bouts oftenderness.  But she dared notpity him.

Dawes had come to Colonel Seely's Home nearNottingham.There Paul visited him sometimesClara veryoccasionally.Between the two men the friendship developedpeculiarly.Daweswho mended very slowly and seemed veryfeebleseemed to leave himself in the hands of Morel.

In the beginning of November Clara remindedPaul that itwas her birthday.

"I'd nearly forgotten" he said.

"I'd thought quite" she replied.

"No.  Shall we go to the seaside forthe week-end?"

They went.  It was cold and ratherdismal.  She waited for himto be warm and tender with herinstead ofwhich he seemed hardlyaware of her.  He sat in therailway-carriagelooking outand wasstartled when she spoke to him.  He wasnot 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'tthose windmill sails look monotonous?"

He sat holding her hand.  He could nottalk nor think.It was a comforthoweverto sit holding herhand.  She wasdissatisfied and miserable.  He was notwith her; she was nothing.

And in the evening they sat among thesandhillslooking atthe blackheavy sea.

"She will never give in" he saidquietly.

Clara's heart sank.

"No" she replied.

"There are different ways of dying. My father's peopleare frightenedand have to be hauled out oflife into deathlike cattle into a slaughter-housepulled bythe neck;but my mother's people are pushed from behindinch by inch.They are stubborn peopleand won't die."

"Yes" said Clara.

"And she won't die.  She can't. Mr. Renshawthe parsonwas inthe other day.  'Think!' he said to her;'you will have your motherand fatherand your sistersand your soninthe Other Land.'And she said:  'I have done without themfor a long timeand CANdo without them now.  It is the living Iwantnot the dead.'She wants to live even now."

"Ohhow horrible!" said Claratoofrightened to speak.

"And she looks at meand she wants tostay with me" he wenton monotonously.  "She's got such awillit seems as if she wouldnever go--never!"

"Don't think of it!" cried Clara.

"And she was religious--she is religiousnow--but it is no good.She simply won't give in.  And do youknowI said to her on Thursday:  'Motherif Ihad to dieI'd die.I'd WILL to die.'  And she said to mesharp:  'Do you think Ihaven't?  Do you think you can die whenyou like?'"

His voice ceased.  He did not cryonlywent on speakingmo-notonously. Clara wanted to run.  Shelooked round.There was the blackre-echoing shorethe darksky down on her.She got up terrified.  She wanted to bewhere there was lightwhere there were other people.  She wantedto be away from him.He sat with his head droppednot moving amuscle.

"And I don't want her to eat" hesaid"and she knows it.When I ask her:  'Shall you have anything'she's almost afraid tosay 'Yes.'  'I'll have a cup of Benger's'she says.  'It'll only keepyour strength up' I said to her. 'Yes'--and she almost cried--'butthere's such a gnawing when I eat nothingIcan't bear it.'So I went and made her the food.  It's thecancer that gnaws likethat at her.  I wish she'd die!"

"Come!" said Clara roughly. "I'm going."

He followed her down the darkness of thesands.  He didnot come to her.  He seemed scarcely awareof her existence.And she was afraid of himand disliked him.

In the same acute daze they went back toNottingham.He was always busyalways doing somethingalways going from oneto the other of his friends.

On the Monday he went to see Baxter Dawes. Listless and palethe man rose to greet the otherclinging tohis chair as he heldout his hand.

"You shouldn't get up" said Paul.

Dawes sat down heavilyeyeing Morel with asort of suspicion.

"Don't you waste your time on me" hesaid"if you've owtbetter 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 worsebeing asyou didn't comeon Sunday."

"I was at Skegness" said Paul. "I wanted a change."

The other looked at him with dark eyes. He seemed to bewaitingnot quite daring to asktrusting tobe 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" saidDawes.

This was the first time Clara had beendefinitely mentionedbetween them.

"Nay" said Morel slowly; "she'stired of me."

Again Dawes looked at him.

"Since August she's been getting tired ofme" Morel repeated.

The two men were very quiet together. Paul suggested a gameof 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 waswinning.

"I s'll have to begin a new start of somesort" said Paul;"and you as wellI suppose."

He took one of Dawes's pieces.

"I dunno where" said the other.

"Things have to happen" Morel said. "It's no good doinganything--at least--noI don't know. Give me some toffee."

The two men ate sweetsand began another gameof draughts.

"What made that scar on your mouth?"asked Dawes.

Paul put his hand hastily to his lipsandlooked 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" hesaidvery low.

"When?"

"That night on Woodborough Roadwhen youand her passedme--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 verysecond when you passed"said Morel.

"It was that as did me" Dawes saidvery low.

Paul took another sweet.

"I never laughed" he said"exceptas I'm always laughing."

They finished the game.

That night Morel walked home from Nottinghamin order to havesomething to do.  The furnaces flared in ared blotch over Bulwell;the black clouds were like a low ceiling. As he went along the tenmiles of highroadhe felt as if he werewalking out of lifebetween the black levels of the sky and theearth.  But at the endwas only the sick-room.  If he walked andwalked for everthere wasonly that place to come to.

He was not tired when he got near homeor Hedid not know it.Across the field he could see the red firelightleaping in herbedroom window.

"When she's dead" he said tohimself"that fire will go out."

He took off his boots quietly and creptupstairs.His mothers door was wide openbecause sheslept alone still.The red firelight dashed its glow on thelanding.  Soft as a shadowhe peeped in her doorway.

"Paul!" she murmured.

His heart seemed to break again.  He wentin and sat by the bed.

"How late you are!" she murmured.

"Not very" he said.

"Whywhat time is it?"  Themurmur 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 itwas later."

And he knew the unutterable misery of hernights that wouldnot go.

"Can't you sleepmy pigeon?" hesaid.

"NoI can't" she wailed.

"Never mindLittle!" He saidcrooning.  "Never mindmy love.I'll stop with you half an hourmy pigeon;then perhaps it willbe better."

And he sat by the bedsideslowlyrhythmicallystroking herbrows with his finger-tipsstroking her eyesshutsoothing herholding her fingers in his free hand. They could hear the sleepers'breathing in the other rooms.

"Now go to bed" she murmuredlyingquite still under hisfingers and his love.

"Will you sleep?" he asked.

"YesI think so."

"You feel bettermy Littledon't you?"

"Yes" she saidlike a fretfulhalf-soothed child.

Still the days and the weeks went by.  Hehardly ever went to seeClara now.  But he wandered restlesslyfrom one person to anotherfor some helpand there was none anywhere. Miriam had writtento him tenderly.  He went to see her. Her heart was very sorewhen she saw himwhitegauntwith his eyesdark and bewildered.Her pity came uphurting her till she couldnot bear it.

"How is she?" she asked.

"The same--the same!" he said. "The doctor says she can't lastbut I know she will.  She'll be here atChristmas."

Miriam shuddered.  She drew him to her;she pressed him to her bosom;she kissed him and kissed him.  Hesubmittedbut it was torture.She could not kiss his agony.  Thatremained alone and apart.She kissed his faceand roused his bloodwhile his soul was apartwrithing with the agony of death.  And shekissed him and fingeredhis bodytill at lastfeeling he would gomadhe got away from her.It was not what he wanted just then--not that. And she thought shehad soothed him and done him good.

December cameand some snow.  He stayedat home all the while now.They could not afford a nurse.  Annie cameto look after her mother;the parish nursewhom they lovedcame inmorning and evening.Paul shared the nursing with Annie. Oftenin the eveningswhen friends were in the kitchen with themthey all laughed togetherand shook with laughter.  It wasreaction.  Paul was so comicalAnnie was so quaint.  The whole partylaughed till they criedtrying to subdue the sound.  And Mrs.Morellying alone in thedarkness heard themand among her bitternesswas a feelingof relief.

Then Paul would go upstairs gingerlyguiltilyto see if shehad heard.

"Shall I give you some milk?" heasked.

"A little" she replied plaintively.

And he would put some water with itso that itshould notnourish her.  Yet he loved her more thanhis own life.

She had morphia every nightand her heart gotfitful.Annie slept beside her.  Paul would go inin the early morningwhen his sister got up.  His mother waswasted and almost ashenin the morning with the morphia.  Darkerand darker grew her eyesall pupilwith the torture.  In themornings the weariness and achewere too much to bear.  Yet she couldnot--would not--weepor evencomplain much.

"You slept a bit later this morninglittle one" he wouldsay to her.

"Did I?" she answeredwith fretfulweariness.

"Yes; it's nearly eight o'clock."

He stood looking out of the window.  Thewhole countrywas bleak and pallid under the snow.  Thenhe felt her pulse.There was a strong stroke and a weak onelikea sound and its echo.That was supposed to betoken the end.  Shelet him feel her wristknowing what he wanted.

Sometimes they looked in each other's eyes. Then they almostseemed to make an agreement.  It wasalmost as if he were agreeingto die also.  But she did not consent todie; she would not.Her body was wasted to a fragment of ash. Her eyes were dark andfull of torture.

"Can't you give her something to put anend to it?" he askedthe doctor at last.

But the doctor shook his head.

"She can't last many days nowMr. Morel"he said.

Paul went indoors.

"I can't bear it much longer; we shall allgo mad" said Annie.

The two sat down to breakfast.

"Go and sit with her while we havebreakfastMinnie" said Annie.But the girl was frightened.

Paul went through the countrythrough thewoodsover the snow.He saw the marks of rabbits and birds in thewhite snow.He wandered miles and miles.  A smoky redsunset came on slowlypainfullylingering.  He thought shewould die that day.  There wasa donkey that came up to him over the snow bythe wood's edgeand put its head against himand walked withhim alongside.He put his arms round the donkey's neckandstroked his cheeksagainst his ears.

His mothersilentwas still alivewith herhard mouthgripped grimlyher eyes of dark torture onlyliving.

It was nearing Christmas; there was more snow. Annie andhe felt as if they could go on no more. Still her dark eyeswere alive.  Morelsilent and frightenedobliterated himself.Sometimes he would go into the sick-room andlook at her.Then he backed outbewildered.

She kept her hold on life still.  Theminers had been outon strikeand returned a fortnight or sobefore Christmas.Minnie went upstairs with the feeding-cup. It was two days afterthe men had been in.

"Have the men been saying their hands aresoreMinnie?"she askedin the faintquerulous voice thatwould not give in.Minnie stood surprised.

"Not as I know ofMrs. Morel" sheanswered.

"But I'll bet they are sore" saidthe dying womanas shemoved her head with a sigh of weariness. "Butat any ratethere'll be something to buy in with thisweek."

Not a thing did she let slip.

"Your father's pit things will want wellairingAnnie" she saidwhen the men were going back to work.

"Don't you bother about thatmy dear"said Annie.

One night Annie and Paul were alone. Nurse was upstairs.

"She'll live over Christmas" saidAnnie.  They were both fullof horror.  "She won't" hereplied grimly.  "I s'll give her morphia."

"Which?" said Annie.

"All that came from Sheffield" saidPaul.

"Ay--do!" said Annie.

The next day he was painting in the bedroom. She seemedto be asleep.  He stepped softly backwardsand forwards at hispainting.  Suddenly her small voicewailed:

"Don't walk aboutPaul."

He looked round.  Her eyeslike darkbubbles in her facewere looking at him.

"Nomy dear" he said gently. Another fibre seemed to snapin his heart.

That evening he got all the morphia pills therewereand tookthem downstairs.  Carefully he crushedthem to powder.

"What are you doing?" said Annie.

"I s'll put 'em in her night milk."

Then they both laughed together like twoconspiring children.On top of all their horror flicked this littlesanity.

Nurse did not come that night to settle Mrs.Morel down.Paul went up with the hot milk in afeeding-cup.  It was nineo'clock.

She was reared up in bedand he put thefeeding-cup between herlips that he would have died to save from anyhurt.  She took a sipthen put the spout of the cup away and lookedat him with her darkwondering eyes.  He looked at her.

"Ohit IS bitterPaul!" she saidmaking a little grimace.

"It's a new sleeping draught the doctorgave me for you" he said."He thought it would leave you in such astate in the morning."

"And I hope it won't" she saidlikea child.

She drank some more of the milk.

"But it IS horrid!" she said.

He saw her frail fingers over the cupher lipsmakinga little move.

"I know--I tasted it" he said. "But I'll give you some cleanmilk afterwards."

"I think so" she saidand she wenton with the draught.She was obedient to him like a child.  Hewondered if she knew.He saw her poor wasted throat moving as shedrank with difficulty.Then he ran downstairs for more milk. There were no grains in the bottomof the cup.

"Has she had it?" whispered Annie.

"Yes--and she said it was bitter."

"Oh!" laughed Annieputting herunder 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 settleme down?"complained the motherlike a childwistfully.

"She said she was going to a concertmylove" replied Annie.

"Did she?"

They were silent a minute.  Mrs. Morelgulped the littleclean milk.

"Anniethat draught WAS horrid!" shesaid plaintively.

"Was itmy love?  Wellnever mind."

The mother sighed again with weariness. Her pulse wasvery irregular.

"Let US settle you down" saidAnnie.  "Perhaps nurse willbe so late."

"Ay" said the mother--"try."

They turned the clothes back.  Paul sawhis mother LIke a girlcurled up in her flannel nightdress. Quickly they made one halfof the bedmoved hermade the otherstraightened her nightgownover her small feetand covered her up.

"There" said Paulstroking hersoftly.  "There!--now you'll sleep."

"Yes" she said.  "I didn'tthink you could do the bed so nicely"she addedalmost gaily.  Then she curledupwith her cheekon her handher head snugged between hershoulders.  Paul putthe long thin plait of grey hair over hershoulder and kissed her.

"You'll sleepmy love" he said.

"Yes" she answered trustfully. "Good-night."

They put out the lightand it was still.

Morel was in bed.  Nurse did not come. Annie and Paul cameto look at her at about eleven.  Sheseemed to be sleeping as usualafter her draught.  Her mouth had come abit open.

"Shall we sit up?" said Paul.

"I s'll lie with her as I always do"said Annie.  "She mightwake up."

"All right.  And call me if you seeany difference."

"Yes."
They lingered before the bedroom firefeelingthe night bigand black and snowy outsidetheir two selvesalone in the world.At last he went into the next room and went tobed.

He slept almost immediatelybut kept wakingevery now and again.Then he went sound asleep.  He startedawake at Annie's whispered"PaulPaul!"  He saw his sisterin her white nightdresswith herlong plait of hair down her backstanding inthe darkness.

"Yes?" he whisperedsitting up.

"Come and look at her."

He slipped out of bed.  A bud of gas wasburning in thesick chamber.  His mother lay with hercheek on her handcurled upas she had gone to sleep.  But her mouthhad fallen openand shebreathed with greathoarse breathslikesnoringand there werelong 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-gownPaulwrapped himselfin a brown blanket.  It was threeo'clock.  He mended the fire.Then the two sat waiting.  The greatsnoring breath was taken--heldawhile--then given back.  There was aspace--a long space.Then they started.  The greatsnoringbreath was taken again.He bent close down and looked at her.

"Isn't it awful!" whispered Annie.

He nodded.  They sat down againhelplessly.  Again came the greatsnoring breath.  Again they hungsuspended.  Again it was given backlong and harsh.  The soundso irregularat such wide intervalssounded through the house.  Morelin hisroomslept on.Paul and Annie sat crouchedhuddledmotionless.  The great snoringsound began again--there was a painful pausewhile the breath washeld--back came the rasping breath. Minute after minute passed.Paul looked at her againbending low over her.

"She may last like this" he said.

They were both silent.  He looked out ofthe windowand couldfaintly discern the snow on the garden.

"You go to my bed" he said toAnnie.  "I'll sit up."

"No" she said"I'll stop withyou."

"I'd rather you didn't" he said.

At last Annie crept out of the roomand he wasalone.He hugged himself in his brown blanketcrouched in front ofhis motherwatching.  She lookeddreadfulwith the bottom jawfallen back.  He watched.  Sometimeshe thought the great breathwould never begin again.  He could notbear it--the waiting.Then suddenlystartling himcame the greatharsh sound.He mended the fire againnoiselessly. She must not be disturbed.The minutes went by.  The night was goingbreath by breath.Each time the sound came he felt it wring himtill at last he couldnot feel so much.

His father got up.  Paul heard the minerdrawing hisstockings onyawning.  Then Morelinshirt and stockingsentered.

"Hush!" said Paul.

Morel stood watching.  Then he looked athis sonhelplesslyand in horror.

"Had I better stop a-whoam?" hewhispered.

"No.  Go to work.  She'll lastthrough to-morrow."

"I don't think so."

"Yes.  Go to work."

The miner looked at her againin fearandwent obedientlyout of the room.  Paul saw the tape of hisgarters swinging againsthis legs.

After another half-hour Paul went downstairsand drank a cupof teathen returned.  Moreldressed forthe pitcame upstairs again.

"Am I to go?" he said.

"Yes."

And in a few minutes Paul heard his father'sheavy steps gothudding over the deadening snow.  Minerscalled in the streetsas they tramped in gangs to work.  Theterriblelong-drawn breathscontinued--heave--heave--heave; then a longpause--then--ah-h-h-h-h!as it came back.  Far away over the snowsounded the hootersof the ironworks.  One after another theycrowed and boomedsome small and far awaysome nearthe blowersof the collieriesand the other works.  Then there wassilence.  He mended the fire.The great breaths broke the silence--she lookedjust 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. Thenshudderinghe drankbrandy from the bottle on the wash-stand. Thesnow WAS growing blue.He heard a cart clanking down the street. Yesit was seven o'clockand it was coming a little bit light.  Heheard some people calling.The world was waking.  A greydeathlydawn crept over the snow.Yeshe could see the houses.  He put outthe gas.  It seemedvery dark.  The breathing came stillbuthe was almost used to it.He could see her.  She was just the same. He wondered if he piledheavy clothes on top of her it would stop. He looked at her.That was not her--not her a bit.  If hepiled the blanket and heavy coatson her---

Suddenly the door openedand Annie entered. She lookedat him questioningly.

"Just the same" he said calmly.

They whispered together a minutethen he wentdownstairsto get breakfast.  It was twenty toeight.  Soon Annie came down.

"Isn't it awful!  Doesn't she lookawful!" she whispereddazed with horror.

He nodded.

"If she looks like that!" said Annie.

"Drink some tea" he said.

They went upstairs again.  Soon theneighbours came with theirfrightened question:

"How is she?"

It went on just the same.  She lay withher cheek in her handher mouth fallen openand the greatghastlysnores came and went.

At ten o'clock nurse came.  She lookedstrange and woebegone.

"Nurse" cried Paul"she'lllast like this for days?"

"She can'tMr. Morel" said nurse. "She can't."

There was a silence.

"Isn't it dreadful!" wailed thenurse.  "Who would have thoughtshe could stand it?  Go down nowMr.Morelgo down."

At lastat about eleven o'clockhe wentdownstairsand sat in the neighbour's house.  Anniewas downstairs also.Nurse and Arthur were upstairs.  Paul satwith his head in his hand.Suddenly Annie came flying across the yardcryinghalf mad:

"Paul--Paul--she's gone!"

In a second he was back in his own house andupstairs.She lay curled up and stillwith her face onher handand nursewas wiping her mouth.  They all stoodback.  He kneeled downand put his face to hers and his arms roundher:

"My love--my love--ohmy love!" hewhispered again and again."My love--ohmy love!"

Then he heard the nurse behind himcryingsaying:

"She's betterMr. Morelshe's better."

When he took his face up from his warmdeadmother he wentstraight downstairs and began blacking hisboots.

There was a good deal to doletters to writeand so on.The doctor came and glanced at herand sighed.

"Ay--poor thing!" he saidthenturned away.  "Wellcallat the surgery about six for the certificate."

The father came home from work at about fouro'clock.  Hedragged silently into the house and sat down. Minnie bustled togive him his dinner.  Tiredhe laid hisblack arms on the table.There were swede turnips for his dinnerwhichhe liked.Paul wondered if he knew.  It was sometimeand nobody had spoken.At last the son said:

"You noticed the blinds were down?"

Morel looked up.

"No" he said.  "Why--hasshe gone?"

"Yes."

"When wor that?"

"About twelve this morning."

"H'm!"

The miner sat still for a momentthen beganhis dinner.It was as if nothing had happened.  He atehis turnips in silence.Afterwards he washed and went upstairs todress.  The door of her roomwas shut.

"Have you seen her?"  Annieasked of him when he came down.

"No" he said.

In a little while he went out.  Annie wentawayand Paulcalled on the undertakerthe clergymanthedoctorthe registrar.It was a long business.  He got back atnearly eight o'clock.  Theundertaker was coming soon to measure for thecoffin.  The housewas empty except for her.  He took acandle and went upstairs.

The room was coldthat had been warm for solong.  Flowersbottlesplatesall sick-room litter was takenaway; everything washarsh and austere.  She lay raised on thebedthe sweep of the sheetfrom the raised feet was like a clean curve ofsnowso silent.She lay like a maiden asleep.  With hiscandle in his handhe bentover her.  She lay like a girl asleep anddreaming of her love.The mouth was a little open as if wonderingfrom the sufferingbut her face was youngher brow clear andwhite as if life hadnever touched it.  He looked again at theeyebrowsat the smallwinsome nose a bit on one side.  She wasyoung again.  Only the hairas it arched so beautifully from her templeswas mixed with silverand the two simple plaits that lay on hershoulders were filigreeof silver and brown.  She would wake up. She would lift her eyelids.She was with him still.  He bent andkissed her passionately.But there was coldness against his mouth. He bit hislips with horror.  Looking at herhe felthe could nevernever lether go.  No!  He stroked the hairfrom her temples.  Thattoowas cold.  He saw the mouth so dumb andwondering at the hurt.Then he crouched on the floorwhispering toher:

"Mothermother!"

He was still with her when the undertakerscameyoung menwho had been to school with him.  Theytouched her reverentlyand in a quietbusinesslike fashion. They did not look at her.He watched jealously.  He and Annieguarded her fiercely.They would not let anybody come to see herandthe neighbourswere offended.

After a while Paul went out of the houseandplayed cardsat a friend's.  It was midnight when hegot back.  His father rosefrom the couch as he enteredsaying in aplaintive way:

"I thought tha wor niver comin'lad."

"I didn't think you'd sit up" saidPaul.

His father looked so forlorn.  Morel hadbeen a man withoutfear--simply nothing frightened him.  Paulrealised with a start thathe had been afraid to go to bedalone in thehouse with his dead.He was sorry.

"I forgot you'd be alonefather" hesaid.

"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.  Hehurried past the closed doorand left his own door open.  Soon the soncame upstairs also.He went in to kiss her good-nightas usual. It was cold and dark.He wished they had kept her fire burning. Still she dreamed heryoung dream.  But she would be cold.

"My dear!" he whispered.  "Mydear!"

And he did not kiss herfor fear she should becoldand strange to him.  It eased him sheslept so beautifully.He shut her door softlynot to wake herandwent to bed.

In the morning Morel summoned his couragehearing Anniedownstairs and Paul coughing in the room acrossthe landing.He opened her doorand went into the darkenedroom.  He saw thewhite uplifted form in the twilightbut her hedared not see.Bewilderedtoo frightened to possess any ofhis facultieshe gotout of the room again and left her.  Henever looked at her again.He had not seen her for monthsbecause he hadnot dared to look.And she looked like his young wife again.

"Have you seen her?"  Annieasked 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.  Andall the timeHe seemed to be creeping aside to avoid it.

Paul went about from place to placedoing thebusiness ofthe death.  He met Clara in Nottinghamand they had tea togetherin a cafewhen they were quite jolly again. She was infinitelyrelieved to find he did not take it tragically.

Laterwhen the relatives began to come for thefuneralthe affair became publicand the childrenbecame social beings.They put themselves aside.  They buriedher in a furious stormof rain and wind.  The wet clay glistenedall the white flowerswere soaked.  Annie gripped his arm andleaned forward.Down below she saw a dark corner of William'scoffin.  The oakbox sank steadily.  She was gone. The rain poured in the grave.The procession of blackwith its umbrellasglisteningturned away.The cemetery was deserted under the drenchingcold rain.

Paul went home and busied himself supplying theguests with drinks.His father sat in the kitchen with Mrs. Morel'srelatives"superior" peopleand weptand saidwhat a good lass she'd beenand how he'd tried to do everything he couldfor her--everything.He had striven all his life to do what he couldfor herand he'dnothing to reproach himself with.  She wasgonebut he'd donehis best for her.  He wiped his eyes withhis white handkerchief.He'd nothing to reproach himself forherepeated.  All his life he'ddone his best for her.

And that was how he tried to dismiss her. He neverthought of her personally.  Everythingdeep in him he denied.Paul hated his father for sittingsentimentalising over her.He knew he would do it in the public-houses. For the real tragedywent on in Morel in spite of himself. Sometimeslaterhe camedown from his afternoon sleepwhite andcowering.

"I HAVE been dreaming of thy mother"he said in a small voice.

"Have youfather?  When I dream ofher it's always just as shewas when she was well.  I dream of heroftenbut it seems quitenice and naturalas if nothing had altered."

But Morel crouched in front of the fire interror.

The weeks passed half-realnot much painnotmuch of anythingperhaps a little reliefmostly a nuitblanche.  Paul went restlessfrom place to place.  For some monthssince his mother had been worsehe had not made love to Clara.  She wasas it weredumb to himrather distant.  Dawes saw her veryoccasionallybut the twocould not get an inch across the great distancebetween them.The three of them were drifting forward.

Dawes mended very slowly.  He was in theconvalescent homeat Skegness at Christmasnearly well again. Paul went to theseaside for a few days.  His father waswith Annie in Sheffield.Dawes came to Paul's lodgings.  His timein the home was up.The two menbetween whom was such a bigreserveseemed faithfulto each other.  Dawes depended on Morelnow.  He knew Paul and Clarahad practically separated.

Two days after Christmas Paul was to go back toNottingham.The evening before he sat with Dawes smokingbefore the fire.

"You know Clara's coming down for the dayto-morrow?"he said.

The other man glanced at him.

"Yesyou told me" he replied.

Paul drank the remainder of his glass ofwhisky.

"I told the landlady your wife wascoming" he said.

"Did you?" said Dawesshrinkingbutalmost leaving himselfin the other's hands.  He got up ratherstifflyand reachedfor Morel's glass.

"Let me fill you up" he said.

Paul jumped up.

"You sit still" he said.

But Daweswith rather shaky handcontinued tomix the drink.

"Say when" he said.

"Thanks!" replied the other. "But you've no business to get up."

"It does me goodlad" repliedDawes.  "I begin to thinkI'm right againthen."

"You are about rightyou know."

"I amcertainly I am" said Dawesnodding to him.

"And Len says he can get you on inSheffield."

Dawes glanced at him againwith dark eyes thatagreed witheverything the other would sayperhaps atrifle dominated by him.

"It's funny" said Paul"startingagain.  I feel in a lotbigger mess than you."

"In what waylad?"

"I don't know.  I don't know. It's as if I was in a tangledsort of holerather dark and drearyand noroad anywhere."

"I know--I understand it" Dawessaidnodding.  "But you'llfind 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 Ihave" he said.

Morel saw the wrist and the white hand of theother mangripping the stem of the pipe and knocking outthe ashas if hehad given up.

"How old are you?"  Paul asked.

"Thirty-nine" replied Dawesglancing at him.

Those brown eyesfull of the consciousness offailurealmost pleading for reassurancefor someone tore-establish the manin himselfto warm himto set him up firmagaintroubled Paul.

"You'll just be in your prime" saidMorel.  "You don't lookas if much life had gone out of you."

The brown eyes of the other flashed suddenly.

"It hasn't" he said.  "Thego is there."

Paul looked up and laughed.

"We've both got plenty of life in us yetto make things fly"he said.

The eyes of the two men met.  Theyexchanged one look.Having recognised the stress of passion each inthe otherthey bothdrank their whisky.

"Yesbegod!" said Dawesbreathless.

There was a pause.

"And I don't see" said Paul"whyyou shouldn't go on whereyou left off."

"What---" said Dawessuggestively.

"Yes--fit your old home together again."

Dawes hid his face and shook his head.

"Couldn't be done" he saidandlooked up with an ironic smile.

"Why?  Because you don't want?"

"Perhaps."

They smoked in silence.  Dawes showed histeeth as he bithis pipe stem.

"You mean you don't want her?" askedPaul.

Dawes stared up at the picture with a causticexpressionon his face.

"I hardly know" he said.

The smoke floated softly up.

"I believe she wants you" said Paul.

"Do you?" replied the othersoftsatiricalabstract.

"Yes.  She never really hitched on tome--you were always therein the background.  That's why shewouldn't get a divorce."

Dawes continued to stare in a satirical fashionat the pictureover the mantelpiece.

"That's how women are with me" saidPaul.  "They want melike madbut they don't want to belong to me. And she BELONGEDto you all the time.  I knew."

The triumphant male came up in Dawes.  Heshowed his teethmore distinctly.

"Perhaps I was a fool" he said.

"You were a big fool" said Morel.

"But perhaps even THEN you were a biggerfool" 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 rateI'm clearing out to-morrow"said Morel.

"I see" answered Dawes.

Then they did not talk any more.  Theinstinct to murdereach other had returned.  They almostavoided each other.

They shared the same bedroom.  When theyretired Dawesseemed abstractthinking of something. He sat on the sideof the bed in his shirtlooking at his legs.

"Aren't you getting cold?" askedMorel.

"I was lookin' at these legs"replied the other.

"What's up with 'em?  They look allright" replied Paulfrom his bed.

"They look all right.  But there'ssome water in 'em yet."

"And what about it?"

"Come and look."

Paul reluctantly got out of bed and went tolook at the ratherhandsome legs of the other man that werecovered with glisteningdark gold hair.

"Look here" said Dawespointing tohis shin.  "Look atthe water under here."

"Where?" said Paul.

The man pressed in his finger-tips.  Theyleft little dentsthat filled up slowly.

"It's nothing" said Paul.

"You feel" said Dawes.

Paul tried with his fingers.  It madelittle dents.

"H'm!" he said.

"Rottenisn't it?" said Dawes.

"Why?  It's nothing much."

"You're not much of a man with water inyour 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 Dawesand heput out the light.

In the morning it was raining.  Morelpacked his bag.The sea was grey and shaggy and dismal. He seemed to be cuttinghimself off from life more and more.  Itgave him a wicked pleasureto do it.

The two men were at the station.  Clarastepped out of the trainand came along the platformvery erect andcoldly composed.She wore a long coat and a tweed hat. Both men hated herfor her composure.  Paul shook hands withher at the barrier.Dawes was leaning against the bookstallwatching.  His black overcoatwas buttoned up to the chin because of therain.  He was palewith almost a touch of nobility in hisquietness.  He came forwardlimping slightly.

"You ought to look better than this"she said.

"OhI'm all right now."

The three stood at a loss.  She kept thetwo men hesitatingnear 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 pavementthen Dawesthen Clara.They made polite conversation.  Thesitting-room faced the seawhose tidegrey and shaggyhissed not faroff.

Morel swung up the big arm-chair.

"Sit downJack" he said.

"I don't want that chair" saidDawes.

"Sit down!"  Morel repeated.

Clara took off her things and laid them on thecouch.  She hada slight air of resentment.  Lifting herhair with her fingersshe sat downrather aloof and composed. Paul ran downstairsto speak to the landlady.

"I should think you're cold" saidDawes to his wife."Come nearer to the fire."

"Thank youI'm quite warm" sheanswered.

She looked out of the window at the rain and atthe sea.

"When are you going back?" she asked.

"Wellthe rooms are taken untilto-morrowso he wants meto stop.  He's going back to-night."

"And then you're thinking of going toSheffield?"

"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 ofanswering.

"And have you got lodgings in Sheffield?"

"Yes."

Again she looked away out of the window. The panes wereblurred with streaming rain.

"And can you manage all right?" sheasked.

"I s'd think so.  I s'll have to!"

They were silent when Morel returned.

"I shall go by the four-twenty" hesaid 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.  "Theyaren't wet."

He put the slippers near her feet.  Sheleft them there.

Morel sat down.  Both the men seemedhelplessand each of themhad a rather hunted look.  But Dawes nowcarried himself quietlyseemed to yield himselfwhile Paul seemed toscrew himself up.Clara thought she had never seen him look sosmall and mean.He was as if trying to get himself into thesmallest possible compass.And as he went about arrangingand as he sattalkingthere seemedsomething false about him and out of tune. Watching him unknownshe said to herself there was no stabilityabout him.  He was finein his waypassionateand able to give herdrinks of pure lifewhen he was in one mood.  And now helooked paltry and insignificant.There was nothing stable about him.  Herhusband had more manly dignity.At any rate HE did not waft about with anywind.  There was somethingevanescent about Morelshe thoughtsomethingshifting and false.He would never make sure ground for any womanto stand on.She despised him rather for his shrinkingtogethergetting smaller.Her husband at least was manlyand when he wasbeaten gave in.But this other would never own to beingbeaten.  He would shift roundand roundprowlget smaller.  Shedespised him.  And yet she watchedhim rather than Dawesand it seemed as iftheir three fates lay inhis hands.  She hated him for it.

She seemed to understand better now about menand what they couldor would do.  She was less afraid of themmore sure of herself.That they were not the small egoists she hadimagined them madeher more comfortable.  She had learned agood deal--almost as muchas she wanted to learn.  Her cup had beenfull.  It was still as fullas she could carry.  On the wholeshewould not be sorry when hewas gone.

They had dinnerand sat eating nuts anddrinking by the fire.Not a serious word had been spoken.  YetClara realised that Morelwas withdrawing from the circleleaving herthe option to staywith her husband.  It angered her. He was a mean fellowafter allto take what he wanted and then give her back. She didnot remember that she herself had had what shewantedand reallyat the bottom of her heartwishedto be given back.

Paul felt crumpled up and lonely.  Hismother had reallysupported his life.  He had loved her;they two hadin factfaced the world together.  Now she wasgoneand for ever behindhim was the gap in lifethe tear in the veilthrough which hislife seemed to drift slowlyas if he weredrawn towards death.He wanted someone of their own free initiativeto help him.  The lesserthings he began to let go from himfor fear ofthis big thingthe lapse towards deathfollowing in the wakeof his beloved.Clara could not stand for him to hold on to. She wanted himbut not to understand him.  He felt shewanted the man on topnot the real him that was in trouble. That would be too much troubleto her; he dared not give it her.  Shecould not cope with him.It made him ashamed.  Sosecretly ashamedbecause he was in sucha messbecause his own hold on life was sounsurebecause nobodyheld himfeeling unsubstantialshadowyas ifhe did not countfor much in this concrete worldhe drewhimself together smallerand smaller.  He did not want to die; hewould not give in.But he was not afraid of death.  If nobodywould helphe would goon alone.

Dawes had been driven to the extremity of lifeuntil hewas afraid.  He could go to the brink ofdeathhe could lie onthe edge and look in.  Thencowedafraidhe had to crawl backand like a beggar take what offered. There was a certain nobilityin it.  As Clara sawhe owned himselfbeatenand he wantedto be taken back whether or not.  That shecould do for him.It was three o'clock.

"I am going by the four-twenty" saidPaul again to Clara."Are you coming then or later?"

"I don't know" she said.

"I'm meeting my father in Nottingham atseven-fifteen"he said.

"Then" she answered"I'll comelater."

Dawes jerked suddenlyas if he had been heldon a strain.He looked out over the seabut he saw nothing.

"There are one or two books in thecorner" said Morel."I've done with 'em."

At about four o'clock he went.

"I shall see you both later" hesaidas he shook hands.

"I suppose so" said Dawes. "An' perhaps--one day--I s'llbe able to pay you back the money as---"

"I shall come for ityou'll see"laughed Paul.  "I s'llbe on the rocks before I'm very much older."

"Ay--well---" said Dawes.

"Good-bye" he said to Clara.

"Good-bye" she saidgiving him herhand.  Then she glancedat him for the last timedumb and humble.

He was gone.  Dawes and his wife sat downagain.

"It's a nasty day for travelling"said the man.

"Yes" she answered.

They talked in a desultory fashion until itgrew dark.The landlady brought in the tea.  Dawesdrew up his chair to thetable without being invitedlike a husband. Then he sat humblywaiting for his cup.  She served him asshe wouldlike a wifenot consulting his wish.

After teaas it drew near to six o'clockhewent to the window.All was dark outside.  The sea wasroaring.

"It's raining yet" he said.

"Is it?" she answered.

"You won't go to-nightshall you?"he saidhesitating.

She did not answer.  He waited.

"I shouldn't go in this rain" hesaid.

"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.  Sherose and went slowlyto him.  He let go the curtainturnedhesitatingtowards her.She stood with her hands behind her backlooking up at him in a heavyinscrutable fashion.

"Do you want meBaxter?" she asked.

His voice was hoarse as he answered:

"Do you want to come back to me?"

She made a moaning noiselifted her armsandput them roundhis neckdrawing him to her.  He hid hisface on her shoulderholding her clasped.

"Take me back!" she whisperedecstatic.  "Take me backtake me back!"  And she put herfingers through his finethin dark hairas if she were only semi-conscious.  Hetightened his grasp on her.

"Do you want me again?" he murmuredbroken.

 

CHAPTER XV

DERELICT

CLARA went with her husband to SheffieldandPaul scarcely sawher again.  Walter Morel seemed to havelet all the trouble go over himand there he wascrawling about on the mud ofitjust the same.There was scarcely any bond between father andsonsave that eachfelt he must not let the other go in any actualwant.  As therewas no one to keep on the homeand as theycould neither of thembear the emptiness of the housePaul tooklodgings in Nottinghamand Morel went to live with a friendly familyin Bestwood.

Everything seemed to have gone smash for theyoung man.He could not paint.  The picture hefinished on the day of hismother's death--one that satisfied him--was thelast thing he did.At work there was no Clara.  When he camehome he could not take uphis brushes again.  There was nothingleft.

So he was always in the town at one place oranotherdrinkingknocking about with the men he knew. It really wearied him.He talked to barmaidsto almost any womanbutthere was that darkstrained look in his eyesas if he werehunting something.
Everything seemed so differentso unreal. There seemedno reason why people should go along thestreetand housespile up in the daylight.  There seemed noreason why thesethings should occupy the spaceinstead ofleaving it empty.His friends talked to him:  he heard thesoundsand he answered.But why there should be the noise of speech hecould not understand.

He was most himself when he was aloneorworking hard andmechanically at the factory.  In thelatter case there was pureforgetfulnesswhen he lapsed fromconsciousness.  But it had to cometo an end.  It hurt him sothat thingshad lost their reality.The first snowdrops came.  He saw the tinydrop-pearls among thegrey.  They would have given him theliveliest emotion at one time.Now they were therebut they did not seem tomean anything.  Ina few moments they would cease to occupy thatplaceand just thespace would bewhere they had been. Tallbrilliant tram-carsran along the street at night.  It seemedalmost a wonder theyshould trouble to rustle backwards andforwards.  "Why troubleto go tilting down to Trent Bridges?" heasked of the big trams.It seemed they just as well might NOT be as be.

The realest thing was the thick darkness atnight.  That seemedto him whole and comprehensible and restful. He could leave himselfto it.  Suddenly a piece of paper startednear his feet and blewalong down the pavement.  He stood stillrigidwith clenched fistsa flame of agony going over him.  And hesaw again the sick-roomhis motherher eyes.  Unconsciously hehad been with herin her company.  The swift hop of thepaper reminded him she was gone.But he had been with her.  He wantedeverything to stand stillso that he could be with her again.

The days passedthe weeks.  Buteverything seemed to have fusedgone into a conglomerated mass.  He couldnot tell one dayfrom anotherone week from anotherhardly oneplace from another.Nothing was distinct or distinguishable. Often he lost himselffor an hour at a timecould not remember whathe had done.

One evening he came home late to his lodging. The fire wasburning low; everybody was in bed.  Hethrew on some more coalglanced at the tableand decided he wanted nosupper.  Then hesat down in the arm-chair.  It wasperfectly still.  He did notknow anythingyet he saw the dim smokewavering up the chimney.Presently two mice came outcautiouslynibbling the fallen crumbs.He watched them as it were from a long wayoff.  The church clockstruck two.  Far away he could hear thesharp clinking of the truckson the railway.  Noit was not they thatwere far away.  They werethere in their places.  But where was hehimself?

The time passed.  The two micecareeringwildlyscampered cheekilyover his slippers.  He had not moved amuscle.  He did not wantto move.  He was not thinking ofanything.  It was easier so.There was no wrench of knowing anything. Thenfrom time to timesome other consciousnessworking mechanicallyflashed intosharp phrases.

"What am I doing?"

And out of the semi-intoxicated trance came theanswer:

"Destroying myself."

Then a dulllive feelinggone in an instanttold him that itwas wrong.  After a whilesuddenly camethe question:

"Why wrong?"

Again there was no answerbut a stroke of hotstubbornnessinside his chest resisted his own annihilation.

There was a sound of a heavy cart clanking downthe road.Suddenly the electric light went out; there wasa bruising thudin the penny-in-the-slot meter.  He didnot stirbut sat gazingin front of him.  Only the mice hadscuttledand the fire glowed redin the dark room.

Thenquite mechanically and more distinctlythe conversationbegan again inside him.

"She's dead.  What was it allfor--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 sulkyas if it would not rouse.

"You've got to carry forward her livingand what she had donego on with it."

But he did not want to.  He wanted to giveup.

"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 sulkyquestion.

"As best you can."

"Miriam?"

But he did not trust that.

He rose suddenlywent straight to bed. When he got insidehis bedroom and closed the doorhe stood withclenched fist.

"Matermy dear---" he beganwiththe whole force of his soul.Then he stopped.  He would not say it. He would not admit that hewanted to dieto have done.  He would notown that lifehad beaten himor that death had beaten him. Going straight to bedhe slept at onceabandoning himself to thesleep.

So the weeks went on.  Always alonehissoul oscillatedfirst on the side of deaththen on the side oflifedoggedly.The real agony was that he had nowhere to gonothing to donothing to sayand WAS nothing himself. Sometimes he ran downthe streets as if he were mad:  sometimeshe was mad; things weren'ttherethings were there.  It made himpant.  Sometimes he stoodbefore the bar of the public-house where hecalled for a drink.Everything suddenly stood back away from him. He saw the faceof the barmaidthe gobbling drinkershis ownglass on the sloppedmahogany boardin the distance.  Therewas something between himand them.  He could not get into touch. He did not want them;he did not want his drink.  Turningabruptlyhe went out.On the threshold he stood and looked at thelighted street.But he was not of it or in it.  Somethingseparated him.Everything went on there below those lampsshut away from him.He could not get at them.  He felt hecouldn't touch the lamp-postsnot if he reached.  Where could he go? There was nowhere to goneither back into the innor forwardanywhere.  He felt stifled.There was nowhere for him.  The stressgrew inside him; he felt heshould smash.

"I mustn't" he said; andturningblindlyhe went in and drank.Sometimes the drink did him good; sometimes itmade him worse.He ran down the road.  For ever restlesshe went herethereeverywhere.  He determined to work. But when he had made six strokeshe loathed the pencil violentlygot upandwent awayhurried offto a club where he could play cards orbilliardsto a place where hecould flirt with a barmaid who was no more tohim than the brasspump-handle she drew.

He was very thin and lantern-jawed.  Hedared not meet hisown eyes in the mirror; he never looked athimself.  He wantedto get away from himselfbut there was nothingto get hold of.In despair he thought of Miriam. Perhaps--perhaps---?

Thenhappening to go into the Unitarian Churchone Sunday eveningwhen they stood up to sing the second hymn hesaw her before him.The light glistened on her lower lip as shesang.  She lookedas if she had got somethingat any rate: some hope in heavenif not in earth.  Her comfort and her lifeseemed in the after-world.A warmstrong feeling for her came up.  Sheseemedto yearnas she sangfor the mystery andcomfort.He put his hope in her.  He longed for thesermon to be overto speak to her.

The throng carried her out just before him. He could nearlytouch her.  She did not know he wasthere.  He saw the brownhumble nape of her neck under its black curls. He would leavehimself to her.  She was better and biggerthan he.  He would dependon her.

She went wanderingin her blind waythroughthe little throngsof people outside the church.  She alwayslooked so lost and out ofplace among people.  He went forward andput his hand on her arm.She started violently.  Her great browneyes dilated in fearthen went questioning at the sight of him. He shrank slightlyfrom her.

"I didn't know---" she faltered.

"Nor I" he said.

He looked away.  His suddenflaring hopesank again.

"What are you doing in town?" heasked.

"I'm staying at Cousin Anne's."

"Ha!  For long?"

"No; only till to-morrow."

"Must you go straight home?"

She looked at himthen hid her face under herhat-brim.

"No" she said--"no; it's notnecessary."

He turned awayand she went with him. They threadedthrough the throng of church people.  Theorgan was still soundingin St. Mary's.  Dark figures came throughthe lighted doors;people were coming down the steps.  Thelarge coloured windows glowedup in the night.  The church was like agreat lantern suspended.They went down Hollow Stoneand he took thecar for the Bridges.

"You will just have supper with me"he said:  "then I'llbring you back."

"Very well" she repliedlow andhusky.

They scarcely spoke while they were on thecar.  The Trentran dark and full under the bridge.  Awaytowards Colwick all wasblack night.  He lived down Holme Roadonthe naked edge of the townfacing across the river meadows towardsSneinton Hermitage and thesteep scrap of Colwick Wood.  The floodswere out.  The silentwater and the darkness spread away on theirleft.  Almost afraidthey hurried along by the houses.

Supper was laid.  He swung the curtainover the window.There was a bowl of freesias and scarletanemones on the table.She bent to them.  Still touching themwith her finger-tipsshe lookedup at himsaying:

"Aren't they beautiful?"

"Yes" he said.  "What willyou 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 baresevere room.  Her photoClara'sAnnie'swere on the wall.She looked on the drawing-board to see what hewas doing.There were only a few meaningless lines. She looked to seewhat books he was reading.  Evidently justan ordinary novel.The letters in the rack she saw were fromAnnieArthurand fromsome man or other she did not know. Everything he had touchedeverything that was in the least personal tohimshe examinedwith lingering absorption.  He had beengone from her for so longshe wanted to rediscover himhis positionwhat he was now.But there was not much in the room to helpher.  It only made her feelrather sadit was so hard and comfortless.

She was curiously examining a sketch-book whenhe returnedwith the coffee.

"There's nothing new in it" he said"and nothingvery interesting."

He put down the trayand went to look over hershoulder.She turned the pages slowlyintent onexamining everything.

"H'm!" he saidas she paused at asketch.  "I'd forgotten that.It's not badis it?"

"No" she said.  "I don'tquite understand it."

He took the book from her and went through it. Again he madea curious sound of surprise and pleasure.

"There's some not bad stuff in there"he said.

"Not at all bad" she answeredgravely.

He felt again her interest in his work. Or was it for himself?Why was she always most interested in him as heappeared in his work?

They sat down to supper.

"By the way" he said"didn't Ihear something about yourearning your own living?"

"Yes" she repliedbowing her darkhead over her cup."And what of it?"

"I'm merely going to the farming collegeat Broughton forthree monthsand I shall probably be kept onas a teacher there."

"I say--that sounds all right for you! You always wantedto 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 youwere trying."

She ate her food in the deliberateconstrainedwayalmost as if she recoiled a little from doinganything so publiclythat 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 saidalmost haughtilyresentfully.

He laughed shortly.

"Why do you think it won't?" sheasked.

"OhI don't think it won't be a greatdeal.  Only you'll findearning your own living isn't everything."

"No" she saidswallowing withdifficulty; "I don't supposeit is."

"I suppose work CAN be nearly everythingto a man" he said"though it isn't to me.  But a womanonly works with a part ofherself.  The real and vital part iscovered up."

"But a man can give ALL himself to work?"she asked.

"Yespractically."

"And a woman only the unimportant part ofherself?"

"That's it."

She looked up at himand her eyes dilated withanger.

"Then" she said"if it's trueit's a great shame."

"It is.  But I don't knoweverything" he answered.

After supper they drew up to the fire.  Heswung her achair facing himand they sat down.  Shewas wearing a dressof dark claret colourthat suited her darkcomplexion and herlarge features.  Stillthe curls werefine and freebut her facewas much olderthe brown throat much thinner. She seemed oldto himolder than Clara.  Her bloom ofyouth had quickly gone.A sort of stiffnessalmost of woodennesshadcome upon her.She meditated a little whilethen looked athim.

"And how are things with you?" sheasked.

"About all right" he answered.

She looked at himwaiting.

"Nay" she saidvery low.

Her brownnervous hands were clasped over herknee.  They hadstill the lack of confidence or reposethealmost hysterical look.He winced as he saw them.  Then he laughedmirthlessly.  She puther fingers between her lips.  His slimblacktortured body layquite still in the chair.  She suddenlytook her finger from hermouth and looked at him.

"And you have broken off with Clara?"

"Yes."

His body lay like an abandoned thingstrewn inthe chair.

"You know" she said"I thinkwe ought to be married."

He opened his eyes for the first time sincemany monthsand attended to her with respect.

"Why?" he said.

"See" she said"how you wasteyourself!  You might be illyou might dieand I never know--be no morethen than if I had neverknown you."

"And if we married?" he asked.

"At any rateI could prevent you wastingyourself and beinga prey to other women--like--like Clara."

"A prey?" he repeatedsmiling.

She bowed her head in silence.  He layfeeling his despaircome up again.

"I'm not sure" he said slowly"thatmarriage would be much good."

"I only think of you" she replied.

"I know you do.  But--you love me somuchyou want to put mein your pocket.  And I should die theresmothered."

She bent her headput her fingers between herlipswhile the bitterness surged up in her heart.

"And what will you do otherwise?" sheasked.

"I don't know--go onI suppose. Perhaps I shall soon go abroad."

The despairing doggedness in his tone made hergo on herknees on the rug before the firevery near tohim.  There shecrouched as if she were crushed by somethingand could not raiseher head.  His hands lay quite inert onthe arms of his chair.She was aware of them.  She felt that nowhe lay at her mercy.If she could risetake himput her arms roundhimand say"You are mine" then he would leavehimself to her.  But dare she?She could easily sacrifice herself.  Butdare she assert herself?She was aware of his dark-clothedslenderbodythat seemedone stroke of lifesprawled in the chair closeto her.  But no;she dared not put her arms round ittake itupand say"It is minethis body.  Leave it to me." And she wanted to.  It called to all herwoman's instinct.  But she crouchedanddared not.  She was afraidhe would not let her.  She was afraid itwas too much.  It lay therehis bodyabandoned.  She knew she oughtto take it up and claim itand claim every right to it.  But--couldshe do it?  Her impotencebefore himbefore the strong demand of someunknown thing in himwas her extremity.  Her hands fluttered;she half-lifted her head.Her eyesshudderingappealinggonealmostdistractedpleaded tohim suddenly.  His heart caught withpity.  He took her handsdrew herto himand comforted her.

"Will you have meto marry me?" hesaid very low.

Ohwhy did not he take her?  Her verysoul belonged to him.Why would he not take what was his?  Shehad borne so longthe cruelty of belonging to him and not beingclaimed by him.Now he was straining her again.  It wastoo much for her.She drew back her headheld his face betweenher handsand lookedhim in the eyes.  Nohe was hard. He wanted something else.She pleaded to him with all her love not tomake it her choice.She could not cope with itwith himshe knewnot with what.  But itstrained her till she felt she would break.

"Do you want it?" she askedverygravely.

"Not much" he repliedwith pain.

She turned her face aside; thenraisingherself with dignityshe took his head to her bosomand rocked himsoftly.  She wasnot to have himthen!  So she couldcomfort him.  She put herfingers through his hair.  For hertheanguished sweetness ofself-sacrifice.  For himthe hate andmisery of another failure.He could not bear it--that breast which waswarm and which cradledhim without taking the burden of him.  Somuch he wanted to reston her that the feint of rest only torturedhim.  He drew away.

"And without marriage we can do nothing?"he asked.

His mouth was lifted from his teeth with pain. She put herlittle finger between her lips.

"No" she saidlow and like the tollof a bell.  "NoI think not."

It was the end then between them.  Shecould not take himand relieve him of the responsibility ofhimself.  She could onlysacrifice herself to him--sacrifice herselfevery daygladly.And that he did not want.  He wanted herto hold him and saywith joy and authority:  "Stop allthis restlessness and beatingagainst death.  You are mine for a mate." She had not the strength.Or was it a mate she wanted? or did she want aChrist in him?

He feltin leaving herhe was defrauding herof life.But he knew thatin stayingstilling theinnerdesperate manhe was denying his own life.  And he didnot hope to give life to herby denying his own.

She sat very quiet.  He lit a cigarette. The smokewent up from itwavering.  He wasthinking of his motherand had forgotten Miriam.  She suddenlylooked at him.Her bitterness came surging up.  Hersacrificethenwas useless.He lay there aloofcareless about her. Suddenly she sawagain his lack of religionhis restlessinstability.  He woulddestroy himself like a perverse child. Wellthenhe 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" heanswered.

She stood before the mirror pinning on herhat.  How bitterhow unutterably bitterit made her that herejected her sacrifice!Life ahead looked deadas if the glow weregone out.  She bowedher face over the flowers--the freesias sosweet and spring-likethe scarlet anemones flaunting over the table. It was like himto have those flowers.

He moved about the room with a certain surenessof touchswift and relentless and quiet.  She knewshe could not cope with him.He would escape like a weasel out of herhands.  Yet without him herlife would trail on lifeless.  Broodingshe touched the flowers.

"Have them!" he said; and he tookthem out of the jardripping as they wereand went quickly intothe kitchen.She waited for himtook the flowersand theywent out togetherhe talkingshe feeling dead.

She was going from him now.  In her miseryshe leaned against himas they sat on the car.  He wasunresponsive.  Where would he go?What would be the end of him?  She couldnot bear itthe vacantfeeling where he should be.  He was sofoolishso wastefulnever at peace with himself.  And nowwhere 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 hecarednothing elsenothing deeper.  Wellshe would wait andsee how it turnedout with him.  When he had had enough hewould give in and cometo her.

He shook hands and left her at the door of hercousin's house.When he turned away he felt the last hold forhim had gone.  The townas he sat upon the carstretched away over thebay of railwayalevel fume of lights.  Beyond the town thecountrylittle smoulderingspots for more towns--the sea--the night--onand on!  And he had noplace in it!  Whatever spot he stood onthere he stood alone.From his breastfrom his mouthsprang theendless spaceand itwas there behind himeverywhere.  Thepeople hurrying along thestreets offered no obstruction to the void inwhich he found himself.They were small shadows whose footsteps andvoices could be heardbut in each of them the same nightthe samesilence.  He got offthe car.  In the country all was deadstill.  Little stars shone high up;little stars spread far away in theflood-watersa firmament below.Everywhere the vastness and terror of theimmense night which isroused and stirred for a brief while by thedaybut which returnsand will remain at last eternalholdingeverything in its silenceand its living gloom.  There was no Timeonly Space.  Who could sayhis mother had lived and did not live? She had been in one placeand was in another; that was all.  And hissoul could not leave herwherever she was.  Now she was gone abroadinto the nightand hewas with her still.  They were together. But yet there was his bodyhis chestthat leaned against the stilehishands on the wooden bar.They seemed something.  Where was he?--onetiny upright speck of fleshless than an ear of wheat lost in the field. He could not bear it.On every side the immense dark silence seemedpressing himso tinya sparkinto extinctionand yetalmostnothinghe could notbe extinct.  Nightin which everythingwas lostwent reaching outbeyond stars and sun.  Stars and sunafew bright grainswent spinninground for terrorand holding each other inembracethere in adarkness that outpassed them alland left themtiny and daunted.So muchand himselfinfinitesimalat thecore a nothingnessand yet not nothing.

"Mother!" he whispered--"mother!"

She was the only thing that held him uphimselfamid all this.And she was goneintermingled herself. He wanted her to touch himhave him alongside with her.

But nohe would not give in.  Turningsharplyhe walkedtowards the city's gold phosphorescence. His fists were shuthis mouth set fast.  He would not takethat directionto thedarknessto follow her.  He walkedtowards the faintly hummingglowing townquickly.

 

 




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