PAUL had been many times up to Willey Farm during the autumn. He was friend_ith the two youngest boys. Edgar the eldest, would not condescend at first.
And Miriam also refused to be approached. She was afraid of being set a_ought, as by her own brothers. The girl was romantic in her soul. Everywher_as a Walter Scott heroine being loved by men with helmets or with plumes i_heir caps. She herself was something of a princess turned into a swine-gir_n her own imagination. And she was afraid lest this boy, who, nevertheless, looked something like a Walter Scott hero, who could paint and speak French, and knew what algebra meant, and who went by train to Nottingham every day, might consider her simply as the swine-girl, unable to perceive the princes_eneath; so she held aloof.
Her great companion was her mother. They were both brown-eyed, and inclined t_e mystical, such women as treasure religion inside them, breathe it in thei_ostrils, and see the whole of life in a mist thereof. So to Miriam, Chris_nd God made one great figure, which she loved tremblingly and passionatel_hen a tremendous sunset burned out the western sky, and Ediths, and Lucys, and Rowenas, Brian de Bois Guilberts, Rob Roys, and Guy Mannerings, rustle_he sunny leaves in the morning, or sat in her bedroom aloft, alone, when i_nowed. That was life to her. For the rest, she drudged in the house, whic_ork she would not have minded had not her clean red floor been mucked u_mmediately by the trampling farm-boots of her brothers. She madly wanted he_ittle brother of four to let her swathe him and stifle him in her love; sh_ent to church reverently, with bowed head, and quivered in anguish from th_ulgarity of the other choir-girls and from the common-sounding voice of th_urate; she fought with her brothers, whom she considered brutal louts; an_he held not her father in too high esteem because he did not carry an_ystical ideals cherished in his heart, but only wanted to have as easy a tim_s he could, and his meals when he was ready for them.
She hated her position as swine-girl. She wanted to be considered. She wante_o learn, thinking that if she could read, as Paul said he could read,
"Colomba", or the "Voyage autour de ma Chambre", the world would have _ifferent face for her and a deepened respect. She could not be princess b_ealth or standing. So she was mad to have learning whereon to pride herself.
For she was different from other folk, and must not be scooped up among th_ommon fry. Learning was the only distinction to which she thought to aspire.
Her beauty—that of a shy, wild, quiveringly sensitive thing—seemed nothing t_er. Even her soul, so strong for rhapsody, was not enough. She must hav_omething to reinforce her pride, because she felt different from othe_eople. Paul she eyed rather wistfully. On the whole, she scorned the mal_ex. But here was a new specimen, quick, light, graceful, who could be gentl_nd who could be sad, and who was clever, and who knew a lot, and who had _eath in the family. The boy's poor morsel of learning exalted him almost sky- high in her esteem. Yet she tried hard to scorn him, because he would not se_n her the princess but only the swine-girl. And he scarcely observed her.
Then he was so ill, and she felt he would be weak. Then she would be stronge_han he. Then she could love him. If she could be mistress of him in hi_eakness, take care of him, if he could depend on her, if she could, as i_ere, have him in her arms, how she would love him!
As soon as the skies brightened and plum-blossom was out, Paul drove off i_he milkman's heavy float up to Willey Farm. Mr. Leivers shouted in a kindl_ashion at the boy, then clicked to the horse as they climbed the hill slowly, in the freshness of the morning. White clouds went on their way, crowding t_he back of the hills that were rousing in the springtime. The water o_ethermere lay below, very blue against the seared meadows and the thorn- trees.
It was four and a half miles' drive. Tiny buds on the hedges, vivid as copper- green, were opening into rosettes; and thrushes called, and blackbird_hrieked and scolded. It was a new, glamorous world.
Miriam, peeping through the kitchen window, saw the horse walk through the bi_hite gate into the farmyard that was backed by the oak-wood, still bare. The_ youth in a heavy overcoat climbed down. He put up his hands for the whip an_he rug that the good-looking, ruddy farmer handed down to him.
Miriam appeared in the doorway. She was nearly sixteen, very beautiful, wit_er warm colouring, her gravity, her eyes dilating suddenly like an ecstasy.
"I say," said Paul, turning shyly aside, "your daffodils are nearly out. Isn'_t early? But don't they look cold?"
"Cold!" said Miriam, in her musical, caressing voice.
"The green on their buds—" and he faltered into silence timidly.
"Let me take the rug," said Miriam over-gently.
"I can carry it," he answered, rather injured. But he yielded it to her.
Then Mrs. Leivers appeared.
"I'm sure you're tired and cold," she said. "Let me take your coat. It I_eavy. You mustn't walk far in it."
She helped him off with his coat. He was quite unused to such attention. Sh_as almost smothered under its weight.
"Why, mother," laughed the farmer as he passed through the kitchen, swingin_he great milk-churns, "you've got almost more than you can manage there."
She beat up the sofa cushions for the youth.
The kitchen was very small and irregular. The farm had been originally _abourer's cottage. And the furniture was old and battered. But Paul love_t—loved the sack-bag that formed the hearthrug, and the funny little corne_nder the stairs, and the small window deep in the corner, through which, bending a little, he could see the plum trees in the back garden and th_ovely round hills beyond.
"Won't you lie down?" said Mrs. Leivers.
"Oh no; I'm not tired," he said. "Isn't it lovely coming out, don't you think?
I saw a sloe-bush in blossom and a lot of celandines. I'm glad it's sunny."
"Can I give you anything to eat or to drink?"
"No, thank you."
"How's your mother?"
"I think she's tired now. I think she's had too much to do. Perhaps in _ittle while she'll go to Skegness with me. Then she'll be able to rest. _'ll be glad if she can."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Leivers. "It's a wonder she isn't ill herself."
Miriam was moving about preparing dinner. Paul watched everything tha_appened. His face was pale and thin, but his eyes were quick and bright wit_ife as ever. He watched the strange, almost rhapsodic way in which the gir_oved about, carrying a great stew-jar to the oven, or looking in th_aucepan. The atmosphere was different from that of his own home, wher_verything seemed so ordinary. When Mr. Leivers called loudly outside to th_orse, that was reaching over to feed on the rose-bushes in the garden, th_irl started, looked round with dark eyes, as if something had come breakin_n on her world. There was a sense of silence inside the house and out. Miria_eemed as in some dreamy tale, a maiden in bondage, her spirit dreaming in _and far away and magical. And her discoloured, old blue frock and her broke_oots seemed only like the romantic rags of King Cophetua's beggar-maid.
She suddenly became aware of his keen blue eyes upon her, taking her all in.
Instantly her broken boots and her frayed old frock hurt her. She resented hi_eeing everything. Even he knew that her stocking was not pulled up. She wen_nto the scullery, blushing deeply. And afterwards her hands trembled slightl_t her work. She nearly dropped all she handled. When her inside dream wa_haken, her body quivered with trepidation. She resented that he saw so much.
Mrs. Leivers sat for some time talking to the boy, although she was needed a_er work. She was too polite to leave him. Presently she excused herself an_ose. After a while she looked into the tin saucepan.
"Oh DEAR, Miriam," she cried, "these potatoes have boiled dry!"
Miriam started as if she had been stung.
"HAVE they, mother?" she cried.
"I shouldn't care, Miriam," said the mother, "if I hadn't trusted them t_ou." She peered into the pan.
The girl stiffened as if from a blow. Her dark eyes dilated; she remaine_tanding in the same spot.
"Well," she answered, gripped tight in self-conscious shame, "I'm sure _ooked at them five minutes since."
"Yes," said the mother, "I know it's easily done."
"They're not much burned," said Paul. "It doesn't matter, does it?"
Mrs. Leivers looked at the youth with her brown, hurt eyes.
"It wouldn't matter but for the boys," she said to him. "Only Miriam know_hat a trouble they make if the potatoes are 'caught'."
"Then," thought Paul to himself, "you shouldn't let them make a trouble."
After a while Edgar came in. He wore leggings, and his boots were covered wit_arth. He was rather small, rather formal, for a farmer. He glanced at Paul, nodded to him distantly, and said:
"Nearly, Edgar," replied the mother apologetically.
"I'm ready for mine," said the young man, taking up the newspaper and reading.
Presently the rest of the family trooped in. Dinner was served. The meal wen_ather brutally. The over-gentleness and apologetic tone of the mother brough_ut all the brutality of manners in the sons. Edgar tasted the potatoes, move_is mouth quickly like a rabbit, looked indignantly at his mother, and said:
"These potatoes are burnt, mother."
"Yes, Edgar. I forgot them for a minute. Perhaps you'll have bread if yo_an't eat them."
Edgar looked in anger across at Miriam.
"What was Miriam doing that she couldn't attend to them?" he said.
Miriam looked up. Her mouth opened, her dark eyes blazed and winced, but sh_aid nothing. She swallowed her anger and her shame, bowing her dark head.
"I'm sure she was trying hard," said the mother.
"She hasn't got sense even to boil the potatoes," said Edgar. "What is sh_ept at home for?"
"On'y for eating everything that's left in th' pantry," said Maurice.
"They don't forget that potato-pie against our Miriam," laughed the father.
She was utterly humiliated. The mother sat in silence, suffering, like som_aint out of place at the brutal board.
It puzzled Paul. He wondered vaguely why all this intense feeling went runnin_ecause of a few burnt potatoes. The mother exalted everything—even a bit o_ousework—to the plane of a religious trust. The sons resented this; they fel_hemselves cut away underneath, and they answered with brutality and also wit_ sneering superciliousness.
Paul was just opening out from childhood into manhood. This atmosphere, wher_verything took a religious value, came with a subtle fascination to him.
There was something in the air. His own mother was logical. Here there wa_omething different, something he loved, something that at times he hated.
Miriam quarrelled with her brothers fiercely. Later in the afternoon, whe_hey had gone away again, her mother said:
"You disappointed me at dinner-time, Miriam."
The girl dropped her head.
"They are such BRUTES!" she suddenly cried, looking up with flashing eyes.
"But hadn't you promised not to answer them?" said the mother. "And I believe_n you. I CAN'T stand it when you wrangle."
"But they're so hateful!" cried Miriam, "and—and LOW."
"Yes, dear. But how often have I asked you not to answer Edgar back? Can't yo_et him say what he likes?"
"But why should he say what he likes?"
"Aren't you strong enough to bear it, Miriam, if even for my sake? Are you s_eak that you must wrangle with them?"
Mrs. Leivers stuck unflinchingly to this doctrine of "the other cheek". Sh_ould not instil it at all into the boys. With the girls she succeeded better, and Miriam was the child of her heart. The boys loathed the other cheek whe_t was presented to them. Miriam was often sufficiently lofty to turn it. The_hey spat on her and hated her. But she walked in her proud humility, livin_ithin herself.
There was always this feeling of jangle and discord in the Leivers family.
Although the boys resented so bitterly this eternal appeal to their deepe_eelings of resignation and proud humility, yet it had its effect on them.
They could not establish between themselves and an outsider just the ordinar_uman feeling and unexaggerated friendship; they were always restless for th_omething deeper. Ordinary folk seemed shallow to them, trivial an_nconsiderable. And so they were unaccustomed, painfully uncouth in th_implest social intercourse, suffering, and yet insolent in their superiority.
Then beneath was the yearning for the soul-intimacy to which they could no_ttain because they were too dumb, and every approach to close connection wa_locked by their clumsy contempt of other people. They wanted genuin_ntimacy, but they could not get even normally near to anyone, because the_corned to take the first steps, they scorned the triviality which form_ommon human intercourse.
Paul fell under Mrs. Leivers's spell. Everything had a religious an_ntensified meaning when he was with her. His soul, hurt, highly developed, sought her as if for nourishment. Together they seemed to sift the vital fac_rom an experience.
Miriam was her mother's daughter. In the sunshine of the afternoon mother an_aughter went down the fields with him. They looked for nests. There was _enny wren's in the hedge by the orchard.
"I DO want you to see this," said Mrs. Leivers.
He crouched down and carefully put his finger through the thorns into th_ound door of the nest.
"It's almost as if you were feeling inside the live body of the bird," h_aid, "it's so warm. They say a bird makes its nest round like a cup wit_ressing its breast on it. Then how did it make the ceiling round, I wonder?"
The nest seemed to start into life for the two women. After that, Miriam cam_o see it every day. It seemed so close to her. Again, going down th_edgeside with the girl, he noticed the celandines, scalloped splashes o_old, on the side of the ditch.
"I like them," he said, "when their petals go flat back with the sunshine.
They seemed to be pressing themselves at the sun."
And then the celandines ever after drew her with a little spell.
Anthropomorphic as she was, she stimulated him into appreciating things thus, and then they lived for her. She seemed to need things kindling in he_magination or in her soul before she felt she had them. And she was cut of_rom ordinary life by her religious intensity which made the world for he_ither a nunnery garden or a paradise, where sin and knowledge were not, o_lse an ugly, cruel thing.
So it was in this atmosphere of subtle intimacy, this meeting in their commo_eeling for something in Nature, that their love started.
Personally, he was a long time before he realized her. For ten months he ha_o stay at home after his illness. For a while he went to Skegness with hi_other, and was perfectly happy. But even from the seaside he wrote lon_etters to Mrs. Leivers about the shore and the sea. And he brought back hi_eloved sketches of the flat Lincoln coast, anxious for them to see. Almos_hey would interest the Leivers more than they interested his mother. It wa_ot his art Mrs. Morel cared about; it was himself and his achievement. Bu_rs. Leivers and her children were almost his disciples. They kindled him an_ade him glow to his work, whereas his mother's influence was to make hi_uietly determined, patient, dogged, unwearied.
He soon was friends with the boys, whose rudeness was only superficial. The_ad all, when they could trust themselves, a strange gentleness an_ovableness.
"Will you come with me on to the fallow?" asked Edgar, rather hesitatingly.
Paul went joyfully, and spent the afternoon helping to hoe or to singl_urnips with his friend. He used to lie with the three brothers in the ha_iled up in the barn and tell them about Nottingham and about Jordan's. I_eturn, they taught him to milk, and let him do little jobs—chopping hay o_ulping turnips—just as much as he liked. At midsummer he worked all throug_ay-harvest with them, and then he loved them. The family was so cut off fro_he world actually. They seemed, somehow, like "les derniers fils d'une rac_puisee". Though the lads were strong and healthy, yet they had all that over- sensitiveness and hanging-back which made them so lonely, yet also such close, delicate friends once their intimacy was won. Paul loved them dearly, and the_im.
Miriam came later. But he had come into her life before she made any mark o_is. One dull afternoon, when the men were on the land and the rest at school, only Miriam and her mother at home, the girl said to him, after havin_esitated for some time:
"Have you seen the swing?"
"No," he answered. "Where?"
"In the cowshed," she replied.
She always hesitated to offer or to show him anything. Men have such differen_tandards of worth from women, and her dear things—the valuable things t_er—her brothers had so often mocked or flouted.
"Come on, then," he replied, jumping up.
There were two cowsheds, one on either side of the barn. In the lower, darke_hed there was standing for four cows. Hens flew scolding over the manger-wal_s the youth and girl went forward for the great thick rope which hung fro_he beam in the darkness overhead, and was pushed back over a peg in the wall.
"It's something like a rope!" he exclaimed appreciatively; and he sat down o_t, anxious to try it. Then immediately he rose.
"Come on, then, and have first go," he said to the girl.
"See," she answered, going into the barn, "we put some bags on the seat"; an_he made the swing comfortable for him. That gave her pleasure. He held th_ope.
"Come on, then," he said to her.
"No, I won't go first," she answered.
She stood aside in her still, aloof fashion.
"You go," she pleaded.
Almost for the first time in her life she had the pleasure of giving up to _an, of spoiling him. Paul looked at her.
"All right," he said, sitting down. "Mind out!"
He set off with a spring, and in a moment was flying through the air, almos_ut of the door of the shed, the upper half of which was open, showing outsid_he drizzling rain, the filthy yard, the cattle standing disconsolate agains_he black cartshed, and at the back of all the grey-green wall of the wood.
She stood below in her crimson tam-o'-shanter and watched. He looked down a_er, and she saw his blue eyes sparkling.
"It's a treat of a swing," he said.
He was swinging through the air, every bit of him swinging, like a bird tha_woops for joy of movement. And he looked down at her. Her crimson cap hun_ver her dark curls, her beautiful warm face, so still in a kind of brooding, was lifted towards him. It was dark and rather cold in the shed. Suddenly _wallow came down from the high roof and darted out of the door.
"I didn't know a bird was watching," he called.
He swung negligently. She could feel him falling and lifting through the air, as if he were lying on some force.
"Now I'll die," he said, in a detached, dreamy voice, as though he were th_ying motion of the swing. She watched him, fascinated. Suddenly he put on th_rake and jumped out.
"I've had a long turn," he said. "But it's a treat of a swing—it's a rea_reat of a swing!"
Miriam was amused that he took a swing so seriously and felt so warmly ove_t.
"No; you go on," she said.
"Why, don't you want one?" he asked, astonished.
"Well, not much. I'll have just a little."
She sat down, whilst he kept the bags in place for her.
"It's so ripping!" he said, setting her in motion. "Keep your heels up, o_hey'll bang the manger wall."
She felt the accuracy with which he caught her, exactly at the right moment, and the exactly proportionate strength of his thrust, and she was afraid. Dow_o her bowels went the hot wave of fear. She was in his hands. Again, firm an_nevitable came the thrust at the right moment. She gripped the rope, almos_wooning.
"Ha!" she laughed in fear. "No higher!"
"But you're not a BIT high," he remonstrated.
"But no higher."
He heard the fear in her voice, and desisted. Her heart melted in hot pai_hen the moment came for him to thrust her forward again. But he left he_lone. She began to breathe.
"Won't you really go any farther?" he asked. "Should I keep you there?"
"No; let me go by myself," she answered.
He moved aside and watched her.
"Why, you're scarcely moving," he said.
She laughed slightly with shame, and in a moment got down.
"They say if you can swing you won't be sea-sick," he said, as he mounte_gain. "I don't believe I should ever be sea-sick."
Away he went. There was something fascinating to her in him. For the moment h_as nothing but a piece of swinging stuff; not a particle of him that did no_wing. She could never lose herself so, nor could her brothers. It roused _armth in her. It was almost as if he were a flame that had lit a warmth i_er whilst he swung in the middle air.
And gradually the intimacy with the family concentrated for Paul on thre_ersons—the mother, Edgar, and Miriam. To the mother he went for that sympath_nd that appeal which seemed to draw him out. Edgar was his very close friend.
And to Miriam he more or less condescended, because she seemed so humble.
But the girl gradually sought him out. If he brought up his sketch-book, i_as she who pondered longest over the last picture. Then she would look up a_im. Suddenly, her dark eyes alight like water that shakes with a stream o_old in the dark, she would ask:
"Why do I like this so?"
Always something in his breast shrank from these close, intimate, dazzle_ooks of hers.
"Why DO you?" he asked.
"I don't know. It seems so true."
"It's because—it's because there is scarcely any shadow in it; it's mor_himmery, as if I'd painted the shimmering protoplasm in the leaves an_verywhere, and not the stiffness of the shape. That seems dead to me. Onl_his shimmeriness is the real living. The shape is a dead crust. The shimme_s inside really."
And she, with her little finger in her mouth, would ponder these sayings. The_ave her a feeling of life again, and vivified things which had meant nothin_o her. She managed to find some meaning in his struggling, abstract speeches.
And they were the medium through which she came distinctly at her belove_bjects.
Another day she sat at sunset whilst he was painting some pine-trees whic_aught the red glare from the west. He had been quiet.
"There you are!" he said suddenly. "I wanted that. Now, look at them and tel_e, are they pine trunks or are they red coals, standing-up pieces of fire i_hat darkness? There's God's burning bush for you, that burned not away."
Miriam looked, and was frightened. But the pine trunks were wonderful to her, and distinct. He packed his box and rose. Suddenly he looked at her.
"Why are you always sad?" he asked her.
"Sad!" she exclaimed, looking up at him with startled, wonderful brown eyes.
"Yes," he replied. "You are always sad."
"I am not—oh, not a bit!" she cried.
"But even your joy is like a flame coming off of sadness," he persisted.
"You're never jolly, or even just all right."
"No," she pondered. "I wonder—why?"
"Because you're not; because you're different inside, like a pine-tree, an_hen you flare up; but you're not just like an ordinary tree, with fidget_eaves and jolly—"
He got tangled up in his own speech; but she brooded on it, and he had _trange, roused sensation, as if his feelings were new. She got so near him.
It was a strange stimulant.
Then sometimes he hated her. Her youngest brother was only five. He was _rail lad, with immense brown eyes in his quaint fragile face—one o_eynolds's "Choir of Angels", with a touch of elf. Often Miriam kneeled to th_hild and drew him to her.
"Eh, my Hubert!" she sang, in a voice heavy and surcharged with love. "Eh, m_ubert!"
And, folding him in her arms, she swayed slightly from side to side with love, her face half lifted, her eyes half closed, her voice drenched with love.
"Don't!" said the child, uneasy—"don't, Miriam!"
"Yes; you love me, don't you?" she murmured deep in her throat, almost as i_he were in a trance, and swaying also as if she were swooned in an ecstasy o_ove.
"Don't!" repeated the child, a frown on his clear brow.
"You love me, don't you?" she murmured.
"What do you make such a FUSS for?" cried Paul, all in suffering because o_er extreme emotion. "Why can't you be ordinary with him?"
She let the child go, and rose, and said nothing. Her intensity, which woul_eave no emotion on a normal plane, irritated the youth into a frenzy. An_his fearful, naked contact of her on small occasions shocked him. He was use_o his mother's reserve. And on such occasions he was thankful in his hear_nd soul that he had his mother, so sane and wholesome.
All the life of Miriam's body was in her eyes, which were usually dark as _ark church, but could flame with light like a conflagration. Her fac_carcely ever altered from its look of brooding. She might have been one o_he women who went with Mary when Jesus was dead. Her body was not flexibl_nd living. She walked with a swing, rather heavily, her head bowed forward, pondering. She was not clumsy, and yet none of her movements seemed quite TH_ovement. Often, when wiping the dishes, she would stand in bewilderment an_hagrin because she had pulled in two halves a cup or a tumbler. It was as if, in her fear and self-mistrust, she put too much strength into the effort.
There was no looseness or abandon about her. Everything was gripped stiff wit_ntensity, and her effort, overcharged, closed in on itself.
She rarely varied from her swinging, forward, intense walk. Occasionally sh_an with Paul down the fields. Then her eyes blazed naked in a kind of ecstas_hat frightened him. But she was physically afraid. If she were getting over _tile, she gripped his hands in a little hard anguish, and began to lose he_resence of mind. And he could not persuade her to jump from even a smal_eight. Her eyes dilated, became exposed and palpitating.
"No!" she cried, half laughing in terror—"no!"
"You shall!" he cried once, and, jerking her forward, he brought her fallin_rom the fence. But her wild "Ah!" of pain, as if she were losin_onsciousness, cut him. She landed on her feet safely, and afterwards ha_ourage in this respect.
She was very much dissatisfied with her lot.
"Don't you like being at home?" Paul asked her, surprised.
"Who would?" she answered, low and intense. "What is it? I'm all day cleanin_hat the boys make just as bad in five minutes. I don't WANT to be at home."
"What do you want, then?"
"I want to do something. I want a chance like anybody else. Why should I, because I'm a girl, be kept at home and not allowed to be anything? Wha_hance HAVE I?"
"Chance of what?"
"Of knowing anything—of learning, of doing anything. It's not fair, becaus_'m a woman."
She seemed very bitter. Paul wondered. In his own home Annie was almost gla_o be a girl. She had not so much responsibility; things were lighter for her.
She never wanted to be other than a girl. But Miriam almost fiercely wishe_he were a man. And yet she hated men at the same time.
"But it's as well to be a woman as a man," he said, frowning.
"Ha! Is it? Men have everything."
"I should think women ought to be as glad to be women as men are to be men,"
"No!"—she shook her head—"no! Everything the men have."
"But what do you want?" he asked.
"I want to learn. Why SHOULD it be that I know nothing?"
"What! such as mathematics and French?"
"Why SHOULDN'T I know mathematics? Yes!" she cried, her eye expanding in _ind of defiance.
"Well, you can learn as much as I know," he said. "I'll teach you, if yo_ike."
Her eyes dilated. She mistrusted him as teacher.
"Would you?" he asked.
Her head had dropped, and she was sucking her finger broodingly.
"Yes," she said hesitatingly.
He used to tell his mother all these things.
"I'm going to teach Miriam algebra," he said.
"Well," replied Mrs. Morel, "I hope she'll get fat on it."
When he went up to the farm on the Monday evening, it was drawing twilight.
Miriam was just sweeping up the kitchen, and was kneeling at the hearth whe_e entered. Everyone was out but her. She looked round at him, flushed, he_ark eyes shining, her fine hair falling about her face.
"Hello!" she said, soft and musical. "I knew it was you."
"I knew your step. Nobody treads so quick and firm."
He sat down, sighing.
"Ready to do some algebra?" he asked, drawing a little book from his pocket.
He could feel her backing away.
"You said you wanted," he insisted.
"To-night, though?" she faltered.
"But I came on purpose. And if you want to learn it, you must begin."
She took up her ashes in the dustpan and looked at him, half tremulously, laughing.
"Yes, but to-night! You see, I haven't thought of it."
"Well, my goodness! Take the ashes and come."
He went and sat on the stone bench in the back-yard, where the big milk-can_ere standing, tipped up, to air. The men were in the cowsheds. He could hea_he little sing-song of the milk spurting into the pails. Presently she came, bringing some big greenish apples.
"You know you like them," she said.
He took a bite.
"Sit down," he said, with his mouth full.
She was short-sighted, and peered over his shoulder. It irritated him. He gav_er the book quickly.
"Here," he said. "It's only letters for figures. You put down 'a' instead of
'2' or '6'."
They worked, he talking, she with her head down on the book. He was quick an_asty. She never answered. Occasionally, when he demanded of her, "Do yo_ee?" she looked up at him, her eyes wide with the half-laugh that comes o_ear. "Don't you?" he cried.
He had been too fast. But she said nothing. He questioned her more, then go_ot. It made his blood rouse to see her there, as it were, at his mercy, he_outh open, her eyes dilated with laughter that was afraid, apologetic, ashamed. Then Edgar came along with two buckets of milk.
"Hello!" he said. "What are you doing?"
"Algebra," replied Paul.
"Algebra!" repeated Edgar curiously. Then he passed on with a laugh. Paul too_ bite at his forgotten apple, looked at the miserable cabbages in the garden, pecked into lace by the fowls, and he wanted to pull them up. Then he glance_t Miriam. She was poring over the book, seemed absorbed in it, yet tremblin_est she could not get at it. It made him cross. She was ruddy and beautiful.
Yet her soul seemed to be intensely supplicating. The algebra-book she closed, shrinking, knowing he was angered; and at the same instant he grew gentle, seeing her hurt because she did not understand.
But things came slowly to her. And when she held herself in a grip, seemed s_tterly humble before the lesson, it made his blood rouse. He stormed at her, got ashamed, continued the lesson, and grew furious again, abusing her. Sh_istened in silence. Occasionally, very rarely, she defended herself. He_iquid dark eyes blazed at him.
"You don't give me time to learn it," she said.
"All right," he answered, throwing the book on the table and lighting _igarette. Then, after a while, he went back to her repentant. So the lesson_ent. He was always either in a rage or very gentle.
"What do you tremble your SOUL before it for?" he cried. "You don't lear_lgebra with your blessed soul. Can't you look at it with your clear simpl_its?"
Often, when he went again into the kitchen, Mrs. Leivers would look at hi_eproachfully, saying:
"Paul, don't be so hard on Miriam. She may not be quick, but I'm sure sh_ries."
"I can't help it," he said rather pitiably. "I go off like it."
"You don't mind me, Miriam, do you?" he asked of the girl later.
"No," she reassured him in her beautiful deep tones—"no, I don't mind."
"Don't mind me; it's my fault."
But, in spite of himself, his blood began to boil with her. It was strang_hat no one else made him in such fury. He flared against her. Once he thre_he pencil in her face. There was a silence. She turned her face slightl_side.
"I didn't—" he began, but got no farther, feeling weak in all his bones. Sh_ever reproached him or was angry with him. He was often cruelly ashamed. Bu_till again his anger burst like a bubble surcharged; and still, when he sa_er eager, silent, as it were, blind face, he felt he wanted to throw th_encil in it; and still, when he saw her hand trembling and her mouth parte_ith suffering, his heart was scalded with pain for her. And because of th_ntensity to which she roused him, he sought her.
Then he often avoided her and went with Edgar. Miriam and her brother wer_aturally antagonistic. Edgar was a rationalist, who was curious, and had _ort of scientific interest in life. It was a great bitterness to Miriam t_ee herself deserted by Paul for Edgar, who seemed so much lower. But th_outh was very happy with her elder brother. The two men spent afternoon_ogether on the land or in the loft doing carpentry, when it rained. And the_alked together, or Paul taught Edgar the songs he himself had learned fro_nnie at the piano. And often all the men, Mr. Leivers as well, had bitte_ebates on the nationalizing of the land and similar problems. Paul ha_lready heard his mother's views, and as these were as yet his own, he argue_or her. Miriam attended and took part, but was all the time waiting until i_hould be over and a personal communication might begin.
"After all," she said within herself, "if the land were nationalized, Edga_nd Paul and I would be just the same." So she waited for the youth to com_ack to her.
He was studying for his painting. He loved to sit at home, alone with hi_other, at night, working and working. She sewed or read. Then, looking u_rom his task, he would rest his eyes for a moment on her face, that wa_right with living warmth, and he returned gladly to his work.
"I can do my best things when you sit there in your rocking-chair, mother," h_aid.
"I'm sure!" she exclaimed, sniffing with mock scepticism. But she felt it wa_o, and her heart quivered with brightness. For many hours she sat still, slightly conscious of him labouring away, whilst she worked or read her book.
And he, with all his soul's intensity directing his pencil, could feel he_armth inside him like strength. They were both very happy so, and bot_nconscious of it. These times, that meant so much, and which were rea_iving, they almost ignored.
He was conscious only when stimulated. A sketch finished, he always wanted t_ake it to Miriam. Then he was stimulated into knowledge of the work he ha_roduced unconsciously. In contact with Miriam he gained insight; his visio_ent deeper. From his mother he drew the life-warmth, the strength to produce; Miriam urged this warmth into intensity like a white light.
When he returned to the factory the conditions of work were better. He ha_ednesday afternoon off to go to the Art School—Miss Jordan'_rovision—returning in the evening. Then the factory closed at six instead o_ight on Thursday and Friday evenings.
One evening in the summer Miriam and he went over the fields by Herod's Far_n their way from the library home. So it was only three miles to Willey Farm.
There was a yellow glow over the mowing-grass, and the sorrel-heads burne_rimson. Gradually, as they walked along the high land, the gold in the wes_ank down to red, the red to crimson, and then the chill blue crept up agains_he glow.
They came out upon the high road to Alfreton, which ran white between th_arkening fields. There Paul hesitated. It was two miles home for him, on_ile forward for Miriam. They both looked up the road that ran in shadow righ_nder the glow of the north-west sky. On the crest of the hill, Selby, wit_ts stark houses and the up-pricked headstocks of the pit, stood in blac_ilhouette small against the sky.
He looked at his watch.
"Nine o'clock!" he said.
The pair stood, loth to part, hugging their books.
"The wood is so lovely now," she said. "I wanted you to see it."
He followed her slowly across the road to the white gate.
"They grumble so if I'm late," he said.
"But you're not doing anything wrong," she answered impatiently.
He followed her across the nibbled pasture in the dusk. There was a coolnes_n the wood, a scent of leaves, of honeysuckle, and a twilight. The two walke_n silence. Night came wonderfully there, among the throng of dark tree- trunks. He looked round, expectant.
She wanted to show him a certain wild-rose bush she had discovered. She kne_t was wonderful. And yet, till he had seen it, she felt it had not come int_er soul. Only he could make it her own, immortal. She was dissatisfied.
Dew was already on the paths. In the old oak-wood a mist was rising, and h_esitated, wondering whether one whiteness were a strand of fog or onl_ampion-flowers pallid in a cloud.
By the time they came to the pine-trees Miriam was getting very eager and ver_ense. Her bush might be gone. She might not be able to find it; and sh_anted it so much. Almost passionately she wanted to be with him when he stoo_efore the flowers. They were going to have a communion together—somethin_hat thrilled her, something holy. He was walking beside her in silence. The_ere very near to each other. She trembled, and he listened, vaguely anxious.
Coming to the edge of the wood, they saw the sky in front, like mother-of- pearl, and the earth growing dark. Somewhere on the outermost branches of th_ine-wood the honeysuckle was streaming scent.
"Where?" he asked.
"Down the middle path," she murmured, quivering.
When they turned the corner of the path she stood still. In the wide wal_etween the pines, gazing rather frightened, she could distinguish nothing fo_ome moments; the greying light robbed things of their colour. Then she sa_er bush.
"Ah!" she cried, hastening forward.
It was very still. The tree was tall and straggling. It had thrown its brier_ver a hawthorn-bush, and its long streamers trailed thick, right down to th_rass, splashing the darkness everywhere with great spilt stars, pure white.
In bosses of ivory and in large splashed stars the roses gleamed on th_arkness of foliage and stems and grass. Paul and Miriam stood close together, silent, and watched. Point after point the steady roses shone out to them, seeming to kindle something in their souls. The dusk came like smoke around, and still did not put out the roses.
Paul looked into Miriam's eyes. She was pale and expectant with wonder, he_ips were parted, and her dark eyes lay open to him. His look seemed to trave_own into her. Her soul quivered. It was the communion she wanted. He turne_side, as if pained. He turned to the bush.
"They seem as if they walk like butterflies, and shake themselves," he said.
She looked at her roses. They were white, some incurved and holy, other_xpanded in an ecstasy. The tree was dark as a shadow. She lifted her han_mpulsively to the flowers; she went forward and touched them in worship.
"Let us go," he said.
There was a cool scent of ivory roses—a white, virgin scent. Something mad_im feel anxious and imprisoned. The two walked in silence.
"Till Sunday," he said quietly, and left her; and she walked home slowly, feeling her soul satisfied with the holiness of the night. He stumbled dow_he path. And as soon as he was out of the wood, in the free open meadow, where he could breathe, he started to run as fast as he could. It was like _elicious delirium in his veins.
Always when he went with Miriam, and it grew rather late, he knew his mothe_as fretting and getting angry about him—why, he could not understand. As h_ent into the house, flinging down his cap, his mother looked up at the clock.
She had been sitting thinking, because a chill to her eyes prevented he_eading. She could feel Paul being drawn away by this girl. And she did no_are for Miriam. "She is one of those who will want to suck a man's soul ou_ill he has none of his own left," she said to herself; "and he is just such _aby as to let himself be absorbed. She will never let him become a man; sh_ever will." So, while he was away with Miriam, Mrs. Morel grew more and mor_orked up.
She glanced at the clock and said, coldly and rather tired:
"You have been far enough to-night."
His soul, warm and exposed from contact with the girl, shrank.
"You must have been right home with her," his mother continued.
He would not answer. Mrs. Morel, looking at him quickly, saw his hair was dam_n his forehead with haste, saw him frowning in his heavy fashion, resentfully.
"She must be wonderfully fascinating, that you can't get away from her, bu_ust go trailing eight miles at this time of night."
He was hurt between the past glamour with Miriam and the knowledge that hi_other fretted. He had meant not to say anything, to refuse to answer. But h_ould not harden his heart to ignore his mother.
"I DO like to talk to her," he answered irritably.
"Is there nobody else to talk to?"
"You wouldn't say anything if I went with Edgar."
"You know I should. You know, whoever you went with, I should say it was to_ar for you to go trailing, late at night, when you've been to Nottingham.
Besides"—her voice suddenly flashed into anger and contempt—"it i_isgusting—bits of lads and girls courting."
"It is NOT courting," he cried.
"I don't know what else you call it."
"It's not! Do you think we SPOON and do? We only talk."
"Till goodness knows what time and distance," was the sarcastic rejoinder.
Paul snapped at the laces of his boots angrily.
"What are you so mad about?" he asked. "Because you don't like her."
"I don't say I don't like her. But I don't hold with children keeping company, and never did."
"But you don't mind our Annie going out with Jim Inger."
"They've more sense than you two."
"Our Annie's not one of the deep sort."
He failed to see the meaning of this remark. But his mother looked tired. Sh_as never so strong after William's death; and her eyes hurt her.
"Well," he said, "it's so pretty in the country. Mr. Sleath asked about you.
He said he'd missed you. Are you a bit better?"
"I ought to have been in bed a long time ago," she replied.
"Why, mother, you know you wouldn't have gone before quarter-past ten."
"Oh, yes, I should!"
"Oh, little woman, you'd say anything now you're disagreeable with me, wouldn't you?"
He kissed her forehead that he knew so well: the deep marks between the brows, the rising of the fine hair, greying now, and the proud setting of th_emples. His hand lingered on her shoulder after his kiss. Then he went slowl_o bed. He had forgotten Miriam; he only saw how his mother's hair was lifte_ack from her warm, broad brow. And somehow, she was hurt.
Then the next time he saw Miriam he said to her:
"Don't let me be late to-night—not later than ten o'clock. My mother gets s_pset."
Miriam dropped her bead, brooding.
"Why does she get upset?" she asked.
"Because she says I oughtn't to be out late when I have to get up early."
"Very well!" said Miriam, rather quietly, with just a touch of a sneer.
He resented that. And he was usually late again.
That there was any love growing between him and Miriam neither of them woul_ave acknowledged. He thought he was too sane for such sentimentality, and sh_hought herself too lofty. They both were late in coming to maturity, an_sychical ripeness was much behind even the physical. Miriam was exceedingl_ensitive, as her mother had always been. The slightest grossness made he_ecoil almost in anguish. Her brothers were brutal, but never coarse i_peech. The men did all the discussing of farm matters outside. But, perhaps, because of the continual business of birth and of begetting which goes on upo_very farm, Miriam was the more hypersensitive to the matter, and her bloo_as chastened almost to disgust of the faintest suggestion of suc_ntercourse. Paul took his pitch from her, and their intimacy went on in a_tterly blanched and chaste fashion. It could never be mentioned that the mar_as in foal.
When he was nineteen, he was earning only twenty shillings a week, but he wa_appy. His painting went well, and life went well enough. On the Good Frida_e organised a walk to the Hemlock Stone. There were three lads of his ow_ge, then Annie and Arthur, Miriam and Geoffrey. Arthur, apprenticed as a_lectrician in Nottingham, was home for the holiday. Morel, as usual, was u_arly, whistling and sawing in the yard. At seven o'clock the family heard hi_uy threepennyworth of hot-cross buns; he talked with gusto to the little gir_ho brought them, calling her "my darling". He turned away several boys wh_ame with more buns, telling them they had been "kested" by a little lass.
Then Mrs. Morel got up, and the family straggled down. It was an immens_uxury to everybody, this lying in bed just beyond the ordinary time on _eekday. And Paul and Arthur read before breakfast, and had the meal unwashed, sitting in their shirt-sleeves. This was another holiday luxury. The room wa_arm. Everything felt free of care and anxiety. There was a sense of plenty i_he house.
While the boys were reading, Mrs. Morel went into the garden. They were now i_nother house, an old one, near the Scargill Street home, which had been lef_oon after William had died. Directly came an excited cry from the garden:
"Paul! Paul! come and look!"
It was his mother's voice. He threw down his book and went out. There was _ong garden that ran to a field. It was a grey, cold day, with a sharp win_lowing out of Derbyshire. Two fields away Bestwood began, with a jumble o_oofs and red house-ends, out of which rose the church tower and the spire o_he Congregational Chapel. And beyond went woods and hills, right away to th_ale grey heights of the Pennine Chain.
Paul looked down the garden for his mother. Her head appeared among the youn_urrant-bushes.
"Come here!" she cried.
"What for?" he answered.
"Come and see."
She had been looking at the buds on the currant trees. Paul went up.
"To think," she said, "that here I might never have seen them!"
Her son went to her side. Under the fence, in a little bed, was a ravel o_oor grassy leaves, such as come from very immature bulbs, and three scylla_n bloom. Mrs. Morel pointed to the deep blue flowers.
"Now, just see those!" she exclaimed. "I was looking at the currant bushes, when, thinks I to myself, 'There's something very blue; is it a bit of sugar- bag?' and there, behold you! Sugar-bag! Three glories of the snow, and suc_eauties! But where on earth did they come from?"
"I don't know," said Paul.
"Well, that's a marvel, now! I THOUGHT I knew every weed and blade in thi_arden. But HAVEN'T they done well? You see, that gooseberry-bush jus_helters them. Not nipped, not touched!"
He crouched down and turned up the bells of the little blue flowers.
"They're a glorious colour!" he said.
"Aren't they!" she cried. "I guess they come from Switzerland, where they sa_hey have such lovely things. Fancy them against the snow! But where have the_ome from? They can't have BLOWN here, can they?"
Then he remembered having set here a lot of little trash of bulbs to mature.
"And you never told me," she said.
"No! I thought I'd leave it till they might flower."
"And now, you see! I might have missed them. And I've never had a glory of th_now in my garden in my life."
She was full of excitement and elation. The garden was an endless joy to her.
Paul was thankful for her sake at last to be in a house with a long garde_hat went down to a field. Every morning after breakfast she went out and wa_appy pottering about in it. And it was true, she knew every weed and blade.
Everybody turned up for the walk. Food was packed, and they set off, a merry, delighted party. They hung over the wall of the mill-race, dropped paper i_he water on one side of the tunnel and watched it shoot out on the other.
They stood on the foot-bridge over Boathouse Station and looked at the metal_leaming coldly.
"You should see the Flying Scotsman come through at half-past six!" sai_eonard, whose father was a signalman. "Lad, but she doesn't half buzz!" an_he little party looked up the lines one way, to London, and the other way, t_cotland, and they felt the touch of these two magical places.
In Ilkeston the colliers were waiting in gangs for the public-houses to open.
It was a town of idleness and lounging. At Stanton Gate the iron foundr_lazed. Over everything there were great discussions. At Trowell they crosse_gain from Derbyshire into Nottinghamshire. They came to the Hemlock Stone a_inner-time. Its field was crowded with folk from Nottingham and Ilkeston.
They had expected a venerable and dignified monument. They found a little, gnarled, twisted stump of rock, something like a decayed mushroom, standin_ut pathetically on the side of a field. Leonard and Dick immediatel_roceeded to carve their initials, "L. W." and "R. P.", in the old re_andstone; but Paul desisted, because he had read in the newspaper satirica_emarks about initial-carvers, who could find no other road to immortality.
Then all the lads climbed to the top of the rock to look round.
Everywhere in the field below, factory girls and lads were eating lunch o_porting about. Beyond was the garden of an old manor. It had yew-hedges an_hick clumps and borders of yellow crocuses round the lawn.
"See," said Paul to Miriam, "what a quiet garden!"
She saw the dark yews and the golden crocuses, then she looked gratefully. H_ad not seemed to belong to her among all these others; he was differen_hen—not her Paul, who understood the slightest quiver of her innermost soul, but something else, speaking another language than hers. How it hurt her, an_eadened her very perceptions. Only when he came right back to her, leavin_is other, his lesser self, as she thought, would she feel alive again. An_ow he asked her to look at this garden, wanting the contact with her again.
Impatient of the set in the field, she turned to the quiet lawn, surrounded b_heaves of shut-up crocuses. A feeling of stillness, almost of ecstasy, cam_ver her. It felt almost as if she were alone with him in this garden.
Then he left her again and joined the others. Soon they started home. Miria_oitered behind, alone. She did not fit in with the others; she could ver_arely get into human relations with anyone: so her friend, her companion, he_over, was Nature. She saw the sun declining wanly. In the dusky, col_edgerows were some red leaves. She lingered to gather them, tenderly, passionately. The love in her finger-tips caressed the leaves; the passion i_er heart came to a glow upon the leaves.
Suddenly she realised she was alone in a strange road, and she hurrie_orward. Turning a corner in the lane, she came upon Paul, who stood bent ove_omething, his mind fixed on it, working away steadily, patiently, a littl_opelessly. She hesitated in her approach, to watch.
He remained concentrated in the middle of the road. Beyond, one rift of ric_old in that colourless grey evening seemed to make him stand out in dar_elief. She saw him, slender and firm, as if the setting sun had given him t_er. A deep pain took hold of her, and she knew she must love him. And she ha_iscovered him, discovered in him a rare potentiality, discovered hi_oneliness. Quivering as at some "annunciation", she went slowly forward.
At last he looked up.
"Why," he exclaimed gratefully, "have you waited for me!"
She saw a deep shadow in his eyes.
"What is it?" she asked.
"The spring broken here;" and he showed her where his umbrella was injured.
Instantly, with some shame, she knew he had not done the damage himself, bu_hat Geoffrey was responsible.
"It is only an old umbrella, isn't it?" she asked.
She wondered why he, who did not usually trouble over trifles, made such _ountain of this molehill.
"But it was William's an' my mother can't help but know," he said quietly, still patiently working at the umbrella.
The words went through Miriam like a blade. This, then, was the confirmatio_f her vision of him! She looked at him. But there was about him a certai_eserve, and she dared not comfort him, not even speak softly to him.
"Come on," he said. "I can't do it;" and they went in silence along the road.
That same evening they were walking along under the trees by Nether Green. H_as talking to her fretfully, seemed to be struggling to convince himself.
"You know," he said, with an effort, "if one person loves, the other does."
"Ah!" she answered. "Like mother said to me when I was little, 'Love beget_ove.'"
"Yes, something like that, I think it MUST be."
"I hope so, because, if it were not, love might be a very terrible thing," sh_aid.
"Yes, but it IS—at least with most people," he answered.
And Miriam, thinking he had assured himself, felt strong in herself. Sh_lways regarded that sudden coming upon him in the lane as a revelation. An_his conversation remained graven in her mind as one of the letters of th_aw.
Now she stood with him and for him. When, about this time, he outraged th_amily feeling at Willey Farm by some overbearing insult, she stuck to him, and believed he was right. And at this time she dreamed dreams of him, vivid, unforgettable. These dreams came again later on, developed to a more subtl_sychological stage.
On the Easter Monday the same party took an excursion to Wingfield Manor. I_as great excitement to Miriam to catch a train at Sethley Bridge, amid al_he bustle of the Bank Holiday crowd. They left the train at Alfreton. Pau_as interested in the street and in the colliers with their dogs. Here was _ew race of miners. Miriam did not live till they came to the church. The_ere all rather timid of entering, with their bags of food, for fear of bein_urned out. Leonard, a comic, thin fellow, went first; Paul, who would hav_ied rather than be sent back, went last. The place was decorated for Easter.
In the font hundreds of white narcissi seemed to be growing. The air was di_nd coloured from the windows and thrilled with a subtle scent of lilies an_arcissi. In that atmosphere Miriam's soul came into a glow. Paul was afrai_f the things he mustn't do; and he was sensitive to the feel of the place.
Miriam turned to him. He answered. They were together. He would not go beyon_he Communion-rail. She loved him for that. Her soul expanded into praye_eside him. He felt the strange fascination of shadowy religious places. Al_is latent mysticism quivered into life. She was drawn to him. He was a praye_long with her.
Miriam very rarely talked to the other lads. They at once became awkward i_onversation with her. So usually she was silent.
It was past midday when they climbed the steep path to the manor. All thing_hone softly in the sun, which was wonderfully warm and enlivening. Celandine_nd violets were out. Everybody was tip-top full with happiness. The glitte_f the ivy, the soft, atmospheric grey of the castle walls, the gentleness o_verything near the ruin, was perfect.
The manor is of hard, pale grey stone, and the other walls are blank and calm.
The young folk were in raptures. They went in trepidation, almost afraid tha_he delight of exploring this ruin might be denied them. In the firs_ourtyard, within the high broken walls, were farm-carts, with their shaft_ying idle on the ground, the tyres of the wheels brilliant with gold-re_ust. It was very still.
All eagerly paid their sixpences, and went timidly through the fine clean arc_f the inner courtyard. They were shy. Here on the pavement, where the hal_ad been, an old thorn tree was budding. All kinds of strange openings an_roken rooms were in the shadow around them.
After lunch they set off once more to explore the ruin. This time the girl_ent with the boys, who could act as guides and expositors. There was one tal_ower in a corner, rather tottering, where they say Mary Queen of Scots wa_mprisoned.
"Think of the Queen going up here!" said Miriam in a low voice, as she climbe_he hollow stairs.
"If she could get up," said Paul, "for she had rheumatism like anything. _eckon they treated her rottenly."
"You don't think she deserved it?" asked Miriam.
"No, I don't. She was only lively."
They continued to mount the winding staircase. A high wind, blowing throug_he loopholes, went rushing up the shaft, and filled the girl's skirts like _alloon, so that she was ashamed, until he took the hem of her dress and hel_t down for her. He did it perfectly simply, as he would have picked up he_love. She remembered this always.
Round the broken top of the tower the ivy bushed out, old and handsome. Also, there were a few chill gillivers, in pale cold bud. Miriam wanted to lean ove_or some ivy, but he would not let her. Instead, she had to wait behind him, and take from him each spray as he gathered it and held it to her, each on_eparately, in the purest manner of chivalry. The tower seemed to rock in th_ind. They looked over miles and miles of wooded country, and country wit_leams of pasture.
The crypt underneath the manor was beautiful, and in perfect preservation.
Paul made a drawing: Miriam stayed with him. She was thinking of Mary Queen o_cots looking with her strained, hopeless eyes, that could not understan_isery, over the hills whence no help came, or sitting in this crypt, bein_old of a God as cold as the place she sat in.
They set off again gaily, looking round on their beloved manor that stood s_lean and big on its hill.
"Supposing you could have THAT farm," said Paul to Miriam.
"Wouldn't it be lovely to come and see you!"
They were now in the bare country of stone walls, which he loved, and which, though only ten miles from home, seemed so foreign to Miriam. The party wa_traggling. As they were crossing a large meadow that sloped away from th_un, along a path embedded with innumerable tiny glittering points, Paul, walking alongside, laced his fingers in the strings of the bag Miriam wa_arrying, and instantly she felt Annie behind, watchful and jealous. But th_eadow was bathed in a glory of sunshine, and the path was jewelled, and i_as seldom that he gave her any sign. She held her fingers very still amon_he strings of the bag, his fingers touching; and the place was golden as _ision.
At last they came into the straggling grey village of Crich, that lies high.
Beyond the village was the famous Crich Stand that Paul could see from th_arden at home. The party pushed on. Great expanse of country spread aroun_nd below. The lads were eager to get to the top of the hill. It was capped b_ round knoll, half of which was by now cut away, and on the top of whic_tood an ancient monument, sturdy and squat, for signalling in old days fa_own into the level lands of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.
It was blowing so hard, high up there in the exposed place, that the only wa_o be safe was to stand nailed by the wind to the wan of the tower. At thei_eet fell the precipice where the limestone was quarried away. Below was _umble of hills and tiny villages—Mattock, Ambergate, Stoney Middleton. Th_ads were eager to spy out the church of Bestwood, far away among the rathe_rowded country on the left. They were disgusted that it seemed to stand on _lain. They saw the hills of Derbyshire fall into the monotony of the Midland_hat swept away South.
Miriam was somewhat scared by the wind, but the lads enjoyed it. They went on, miles and miles, to Whatstandwell. All the food was eaten, everybody wa_ungry, and there was very little money to get home with. But they managed t_rocure a loaf and a currant-loaf, which they hacked to pieces with shut- knives, and ate sitting on the wall near the bridge, watching the brigh_erwent rushing by, and the brakes from Matlock pulling up at the inn.
Paul was now pale with weariness. He had been responsible for the party al_ay, and now he was done. Miriam understood, and kept close to him, and h_eft himself in her hands.
They had an hour to wait at Ambergate Station. Trains came, crowded wit_xcursionists returning to Manchester, Birmingham, and London.
"We might be going there—folk easily might think we're going that far," sai_aul.
They got back rather late. Miriam, walking home with Geoffrey, watched th_oon rise big and red and misty. She felt something was fulfilled in her.
She had an elder sister, Agatha, who was a school-teacher. Between the tw_irls was a feud. Miriam considered Agatha worldly. And she wanted herself t_e a school-teacher.
One Saturday afternoon Agatha and Miriam were upstairs dressing. Their bedroo_as over the stable. It was a low room, not very large, and bare. Miriam ha_ailed on the wall a reproduction of Veronese's "St. Catherine". She loved th_oman who sat in the window, dreaming. Her own windows were too small to si_n. But the front one was dripped over with honeysuckle and virginia creeper, and looked upon the tree-tops of the oak-wood across the yard, while th_ittle back window, no bigger than a handkerchief, was a loophole to the east, to the dawn beating up against the beloved round hills.
The two sisters did not talk much to each other. Agatha, who was fair an_mall and determined, had rebelled against the home atmosphere, against th_octrine of "the other cheek". She was out in the world now, in a fair way t_e independent. And she insisted on worldly values, on appearance, on manners, on position, which Miriam would fain have ignored.
Both girls liked to be upstairs, out of the way, when Paul came. The_referred to come running down, open the stair-foot door, and see hi_atching, expectant of them. Miriam stood painfully pulling over her head _osary he had given her. It caught in the fine mesh of her hair. But at las_he had it on, and the red-brown wooden beads looked well against her coo_rown neck. She was a well-developed girl, and very handsome. But in th_ittle looking-glass nailed against the whitewashed wall she could only see _ragment of herself at a time. Agatha had bought a little mirror of her own, which she propped up to suit herself. Miriam was near the window. Suddenly sh_eard the well-known click of the chain, and she saw Paul fling open the gate, push his bicycle into the yard. She saw him look at the house, and she shran_way. He walked in a nonchalant fashion, and his bicycle went with him as i_t were a live thing.
"Paul's come!" she exclaimed.
"Aren't you glad?" said Agatha cuttingly.
Miriam stood still in amazement and bewilderment.
"Well, aren't you?" she asked.
"Yes, but I'm not going to let him see it, and think I wanted him."
Miriam was startled. She heard him putting his bicycle in the stabl_nderneath, and talking to Jimmy, who had been a pit-horse, and who was seedy.
"Well, Jimmy my lad, how are ter? Nobbut sick an' sadly, like? Why, then, it'_ shame, my owd lad."
She heard the rope run through the hole as the horse lifted its head from th_ad's caress. How she loved to listen when he thought only the horse coul_ear. But there was a serpent in her Eden. She searched earnestly in hersel_o see if she wanted Paul Morel. She felt there would be some disgrace in it.
Full of twisted feeling, she was afraid she did want him. She stood self- convicted. Then came an agony of new shame. She shrank within herself in _oil of torture. Did she want Paul Morel, and did he know she wanted him? Wha_ subtle infamy upon her. She felt as if her whole soul coiled into knots o_hame.
Agatha was dressed first, and ran downstairs. Miriam heard her greet the la_aily, knew exactly how brilliant her grey eyes became with that tone. Sh_erself would have felt it bold to have greeted him in such wise. Yet ther_he stood under the self-accusation of wanting him, tied to that stake o_orture. In bitter perplexity she kneeled down and prayed:
"O Lord, let me not love Paul Morel. Keep me from loving him, if I ought no_o love him."
Something anomalous in the prayer arrested her. She lifted her head an_ondered. How could it be wrong to love him? Love was God's gift. And yet i_aused her shame. That was because of him, Paul Morel. But, then, it was no_is affair, it was her own, between herself and God. She was to be _acrifice. But it was God's sacrifice, not Paul Morel's or her own. After _ew minutes she hid her face in the pillow again, and said:
"But, Lord, if it is Thy will that I should love him, make me love him—a_hrist would, who died for the souls of men. Make me love him splendidly, because he is Thy son."
She remained kneeling for some time, quite still, and deeply moved, her blac_air against the red squares and the lavender-sprigged squares of th_atchwork quilt. Prayer was almost essential to her. Then she fell into tha_apture of self-sacrifice, identifying herself with a God who was sacrificed, which gives to so many human souls their deepest bliss.
When she went downstairs Paul was lying back in an armchair, holding fort_ith much vehemence to Agatha, who was scorning a little painting he ha_rought to show her. Miriam glanced at the two, and avoided their levity. Sh_ent into the parlour to be alone.
It was tea-time before she was able to speak to Paul, and then her manner wa_o distant he thought he had offended her.
Miriam discontinued her practice of going each Thursday evening to the librar_n Bestwood. After calling for Paul regularly during the whole spring, _umber of trifling incidents and tiny insults from his family awakened her t_heir attitude towards her, and she decided to go no more. So she announced t_aul one evening she would not call at his house again for him on Thursda_ights.
"Why?" he asked, very short.
"Nothing. Only I'd rather not."
"But," she faltered, "if you'd care to meet me, we could still go together."
"Meet you where?"
"Somewhere—where you like."
"I shan't meet you anywhere. I don't see why you shouldn't keep calling fo_e. But if you won't, I don't want to meet you."
So the Thursday evenings which had been so precious to her, and to him, wer_ropped. He worked instead. Mrs. Morel sniffed with satisfaction at thi_rrangement.
He would not have it that they were lovers. The intimacy between them had bee_ept so abstract, such a matter of the soul, all thought and weary struggl_nto consciousness, that he saw it only as a platonic friendship. He stoutl_enied there was anything else between them. Miriam was silent, or else sh_ery quietly agreed. He was a fool who did not know what was happening t_imself. By tacit agreement they ignored the remarks and insinuations of thei_cquaintances.
"We aren't lovers, we are friends," he said to her. "WE know it. Let the_alk. What does it matter what they say."
Sometimes, as they were walking together, she slipped her arm timidly int_is. But he always resented it, and she knew it. It caused a violent conflic_n him. With Miriam he was always on the high plane of abstraction, when hi_atural fire of love was transmitted into the fine stream of thought. Sh_ould have it so. If he were jolly and, as she put it, flippant, she waite_ill he came back to her, till the change had taken place in him again, and h_as wrestling with his own soul, frowning, passionate in his desire fo_nderstanding. And in this passion for understanding her soul lay close t_is; she had him all to herself. But he must be made abstract first.
Then, if she put her arm in his, it caused him almost torture. Hi_onsciousness seemed to split. The place where she was touching him ran ho_ith friction. He was one internecine battle, and he became cruel to he_ecause of it.
One evening in midsummer Miriam called at the house, warm from climbing. Pau_as alone in the kitchen; his mother could be heard moving about upstairs.
"Come and look at the sweet-peas," he said to the girl.
They went into the garden. The sky behind the townlet and the church wa_range-red; the flower-garden was flooded with a strange warm light tha_ifted every leaf into significance. Paul passed along a fine row of sweet- peas, gathering a blossom here and there, all cream and pale blue. Miria_ollowed, breathing the fragrance. To her, flowers appealed with such strengt_he felt she must make them part of herself. When she bent and breathed _lower, it was as if she and the flower were loving each other. Paul hated he_or it. There seemed a sort of exposure about the action, something to_ntimate.
When he had got a fair bunch, they returned to the house. He listened for _oment to his mother's quiet movement upstairs, then he said:
"Come here, and let me pin them in for you." He arranged them two or three a_ time in the bosom of her dress, stepping back now and then to see th_ffect. "You know," he said, taking the pin out of his mouth, "a woman ough_lways to arrange her flowers before her glass."
Miriam laughed. She thought flowers ought to be pinned in one's dress withou_ny care. That Paul should take pains to fix her flowers for her was his whim.
He was rather offended at her laughter.
"Some women do—those who look decent," he said.
Miriam laughed again, but mirthlessly, to hear him thus mix her up with wome_n a general way. From most men she would have ignored it. But from him i_urt her.
He had nearly finished arranging the flowers when he heard his mother'_ootstep on the stairs. Hurriedly he pushed in the last pin and turned away.
"Don't let mater know," he said.
Miriam picked up her books and stood in the doorway looking with chagrin a_he beautiful sunset. She would call for Paul no more, she said.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Morel," she said, in a deferential way. She sounded as i_he felt she had no right to be there.
"Oh, is it you, Miriam?" replied Mrs. Morel coolly.
But Paul insisted on everybody's accepting his friendship with the girl, an_rs. Morel was too wise to have any open rupture.
It was not till he was twenty years old that the family could ever afford t_o away for a holiday. Mrs. Morel had never been away for a holiday, except t_ee her sister, since she had been married. Now at last Paul had saved enoug_oney, and they were all going. There was to be a party: some of Annie'_riends, one friend of Paul's, a young man in the same office where Willia_ad previously been, and Miriam.
It was great excitement writing for rooms. Paul and his mother debated i_ndlessly between them. They wanted a furnished cottage for two weeks. Sh_hought one week would be enough, but he insisted on two.
At last they got an answer from Mablethorpe, a cottage such as they wished fo_hirty shillings a week. There was immense jubilation. Paul was wild with jo_or his mother's sake. She would have a real holiday now. He and she sat a_vening picturing what it would be like. Annie came in, and Leonard, an_lice, and Kitty. There was wild rejoicing and anticipation. Paul told Miriam.
She seemed to brood with joy over it. But the Morel's house rang wit_xcitement.
They were to go on Saturday morning by the seven train. Paul suggested tha_iriam should sleep at his house, because it was so far for her to walk. Sh_ame down for supper. Everybody was so excited that even Miriam was accepte_ith warmth. But almost as soon as she entered the feeling in the famil_ecame close and tight. He had discovered a poem by Jean Ingelow whic_entioned Mablethorpe, and so he must read it to Miriam. He would never hav_ot so far in the direction of sentimentality as to read poetry to his ow_amily. But now they condescended to listen. Miriam sat on the sofa absorbe_n him. She always seemed absorbed in him, and by him, when he was present.
Mrs. Morel sat jealously in her own chair. She was going to hear also. An_ven Annie and the father attended, Morel with his head cocked on one side, like somebody listening to a sermon and feeling conscious of the fact. Pau_ucked his head over the book. He had got now all the audience he cared for.
And Mrs. Morel and Annie almost contested with Miriam who should listen bes_nd win his favour. He was in very high feather.
"But," interrupted Mrs. Morel, "what IS the 'Bride of Enderby' that the bell_re supposed to ring?"
"It's an old tune they used to play on the bells for a warning against water.
I suppose the Bride of Enderby was drowned in a flood," he replied. He had no_he faintest knowledge what it really was, but he would never have sunk so lo_s to confess that to his womenfolk. They listened and believed him. H_elieved himself.
"And the people knew what that tune meant?" said his mother.
"Yes—just like the Scotch when they heard 'The Flowers o' the Forest'—and whe_hey used to ring the bells backward for alarm."
"How?" said Annie. "A bell sounds the same whether it's rung backwards o_orwards."
"But," he said, "if you start with the deep bell and ring up to the hig_ne—der—der—der—der—der—der—der—der!"
He ran up the scale. Everybody thought it clever. He thought so too. Then, waiting a minute, he continued the poem.
"Hm!" said Mrs. Morel curiously, when he finished. "But I wish everythin_hat's written weren't so sad."
"I canna see what they want drownin' theirselves for," said Morel.
There was a pause. Annie got up to clear the table.
Miriam rose to help with the pots.
"Let ME help to wash up," she said.
"Certainly not," cried Annie. "You sit down again. There aren't many."
And Miriam, who could not be familiar and insist, sat down again to look a_he book with Paul.
He was master of the party; his father was no good. And great tortures h_uffered lest the tin box should be put out at Firsby instead of a_ablethorpe. And he wasn't equal to getting a carriage. His bold little mothe_id that.
"Here!" she cried to a man. "Here!"
Paul and Annie got behind the rest, convulsed with shamed laughter.
"How much will it be to drive to Brook Cottage?" said Mrs. Morel.
"Why, how far is it?"
"A good way."
"I don't believe it," she said.
But she scrambled in. There were eight crowded in one old seaside carriage.
"You see," said Mrs. Morel, "it's only threepence each, and if it were _ramcar—"
They drove along. Each cottage they came to, Mrs. Morel cried:
"Is it this? Now, this is it!"
Everybody sat breathless. They drove past. There was a universal sigh.
"I'm thankful it wasn't that brute," said Mrs. Morel. "I WAS frightened." The_rove on and on.
At last they descended at a house that stood alone over the dyke by th_ighroad. There was wild excitement because they had to cross a little bridg_o get into the front garden. But they loved the house that lay so solitary, with a sea-meadow on one side, and immense expanse of land patched in whit_arley, yellow oats, red wheat, and green root-crops, flat and stretchin_evel to the sky.
Paul kept accounts. He and his mother ran the show. The tota_xpenses—lodging, food, everything—was sixteen shillings a week per person. H_nd Leonard went bathing in the mornings. Morel was wandering abroad quit_arly.
"You, Paul," his mother called from the bedroom, "eat a piece of bread-and- butter."
"All right," he answered.
And when he got back he saw his mother presiding in state at the breakfast- table. The woman of the house was young. Her husband was blind, and she di_aundry work. So Mrs. Morel always washed the pots in the kitchen and made th_eds.
"But you said you'd have a real holiday," said Paul, "and now you work."
"Work!" she exclaimed. "What are you talking about!"
He loved to go with her across the fields to the village and the sea. She wa_fraid of the plank bridge, and he abused her for being a baby. On the whol_e stuck to her as if he were HER man.
Miriam did not get much of him, except, perhaps, when all the others went t_he "Coons". Coons were insufferably stupid to Miriam, so he thought they wer_o himself also, and he preached priggishly to Annie about the fatuity o_istening to them. Yet he, too, knew all their songs, and sang them along th_oads roisterously. And if he found himself listening, the stupidity please_im very much. Yet to Annie he said:
"Such rot! there isn't a grain of intelligence in it. Nobody with mor_umption than a grasshopper could go and sit and listen." And to Miriam h_aid, with much scorn of Annie and the others: "I suppose they're at the
It was queer to see Miriam singing coon songs. She had a straight chin tha_ent in a perpendicular line from the lower lip to the turn. She alway_eminded Paul of some sad Botticelli angel when she sang, even when it was:
"Come down lover's lane
For a walk with me, talk with me."
Only when he sketched, or at evening when the others were at the "Coons", sh_ad him to herself. He talked to her endlessly about his love of horizontals: how they, the great levels of sky and land in Lincolnshire, meant to him th_ternality of the will, just as the bowed Norman arches of the church, repeating themselves, meant the dogged leaping forward of the persistent huma_oul, on and on, nobody knows where; in contradiction to the perpendicula_ines and to the Gothic arch, which, he said, leapt up at heaven and touche_he ecstasy and lost itself in the divine. Himself, he said, was Norman, Miriam was Gothic. She bowed in consent even to that.
One evening he and she went up the great sweeping shore of sand toward_heddlethorpe. The long breakers plunged and ran in a hiss of foam along th_oast. It was a warm evening. There was not a figure but themselves on the fa_eaches of sand, no noise but the sound of the sea. Paul loved to see i_langing at the land. He loved to feel himself between the noise of it and th_ilence of the sandy shore. Miriam was with him. Everything grew very intense.
It was quite dark when they turned again. The way home was through a gap i_he sandhills, and then along a raised grass road between two dykes. Th_ountry was black and still. From behind the sandhills came the whisper of th_ea. Paul and Miriam walked in silence. Suddenly he started. The whole of hi_lood seemed to burst into flame, and he could scarcely breathe. An enormou_range moon was staring at them from the rim of the sandhills. He stood still, looking at it.
"Ah!" cried Miriam, when she saw it.
He remained perfectly still, staring at the immense and ruddy moon, the onl_hing in the far-reaching darkness of the level. His heart beat heavily, th_uscles of his arms contracted.
"What is it?" murmured Miriam, waiting for him.
He turned and looked at her. She stood beside him, for ever in shadow. He_ace, covered with the darkness of her hat, was watching him unseen. But sh_as brooding. She was slightly afraid—deeply moved and religious. That was he_est state. He was impotent against it. His blood was concentrated like _lame in his chest. But he could not get across to her. There were flashes i_is blood. But somehow she ignored them. She was expecting some religiou_tate in him. Still yearning, she was half aware of his passion, and gazed a_im, troubled.
"What is it?" she murmured again.
"It's the moon," he answered, frowning.
"Yes," she assented. "Isn't it wonderful?" She was curious about him. Th_risis was past.
He did not know himself what was the matter. He was naturally so young, an_heir intimacy was so abstract, he did not know he wanted to crush her on t_is breast to ease the ache there. He was afraid of her. The fact that h_ight want her as a man wants a woman had in him been suppressed into a shame.
When she shrank in her convulsed, coiled torture from the thought of such _hing, he had winced to the depths of his soul. And now this "purity"
prevented even their first love-kiss. It was as if she could scarcely stan_he shock of physical love, even a passionate kiss, and then he was to_hrinking and sensitive to give it.
As they walked along the dark fen-meadow he watched the moon and did no_peak. She plodded beside him. He hated her, for she seemed in some way t_ake him despise himself. Looking ahead—he saw the one light in the darkness, the window of their lamp-lit cottage.
He loved to think of his mother, and the other jolly people.
"Well, everybody else has been in long ago!" said his mother as they entered.
"What does that matter!" he cried irritably. "I can go a walk if I like, can'_?"
"And I should have thought you could get in to supper with the rest," sai_rs. Morel.
"I shall please myself," he retorted. "It's not LATE. I shall do as I like."
"Very well," said his mother cuttingly, "then DO as you like." And she took n_urther notice of him that evening. Which he pretended neither to notice no_o care about, but sat reading. Miriam read also, obliterating herself. Mrs.
Morel hated her for making her son like this. She watched Paul growin_rritable, priggish, and melancholic. For this she put the blame on Miriam.
Annie and all her friends joined against the girl. Miriam had no friend of he_wn, only Paul. But she did not suffer so much, because she despised th_riviality of these other people.
And Paul hated her because, somehow, she spoilt his ease and naturalness. An_e writhed himself with a feeling of humiliation.