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Chapter 2 Strife in Love

  • ARTHUR finished his apprenticeship, and got a job on the electrical plant a_inton Pit. He earned very little, but had a good chance of getting on. But h_as wild and restless. He did not drink nor gamble. Yet he somehow contrive_o get into endless scrapes, always through some hot-headed thoughtlessness.
  • Either he went rabbiting in the woods, like a poacher, or he stayed i_ottingham all night instead of coming home, or he miscalculated his dive int_he canal at Bestwood, and scored his chest into one mass of wounds on the ra_tones and tins at the bottom.
  • He had not been at his work many months when again he did not come home on_ight.
  • "Do you know where Arthur is?" asked Paul at breakfast.
  • "I do not," replied his mother.
  • "He is a fool," said Paul. "And if he DID anything I shouldn't mind. But no, he simply can't come away from a game of whist, or else he must see a gir_ome from the skating-rink—quite proprietously—and so can't get home. He's _ool."
  • "I don't know that it would make it any better if he did something to make u_ll ashamed," said Mrs. Morel.
  • "Well, I should respect him more," said Paul.
  • "I very much doubt it," said his mother coldly.
  • They went on with breakfast.
  • "Are you fearfully fond of him?" Paul asked his mother.
  • "What do you ask that for?"
  • "Because they say a woman always like the youngest best."
  • "She may do—but I don't. No, he wearies me."
  • "And you'd actually rather he was good?"
  • "I'd rather he showed some of a man's common sense."
  • Paul was raw and irritable. He also wearied his mother very often. She saw th_unshine going out of him, and she resented it.
  • As they were finishing breakfast came the postman with a letter from Derby.
  • Mrs. Morel screwed up her eyes to look at the address.
  • "Give it here, blind eye!" exclaimed her son, snatching it away from her.
  • She started, and almost boxed his ears.
  • "It's from your son, Arthur," he said.
  • "What now—!" cried Mrs. Morel.
  • "'My dearest Mother,'" Paul read, "'I don't know what made me such a fool. _ant you to come and fetch me back from here. I came with Jack Bredo_esterday, instead of going to work, and enlisted. He said he was sick o_earing the seat of a stool out, and, like the idiot you know I am, I cam_way with him.
  • "'I have taken the King's shilling, but perhaps if you came for me they woul_et me go back with you. I was a fool when I did it. I don't want to be in th_rmy. My dear mother, I am nothing but a trouble to you. But if you get me ou_f this, I promise I will have more sense and consideration… .'"
  • Mrs. Morel sat down in her rocking-chair.
  • "Well, NOW," she cried, "let him stop!"
  • "Yes," said Paul, "let him stop."
  • There was silence. The mother sat with her hands folded in her apron, her fac_et, thinking.
  • "If I'm not SICK!" she cried suddenly. "Sick!"
  • "Now," said Paul, beginning to frown, "you're not going to worry your soul ou_bout this, do you hear."
  • "I suppose I'm to take it as a blessing," she flashed, turning on her son.
  • "You're not going to mount it up to a tragedy, so there," he retorted.
  • "The FOOL!—the young fool!" she cried.
  • "He'll look well in uniform," said Paul irritatingly.
  • His mother turned on him like a fury.
  • "Oh, will he!" she cried. "Not in my eyes!"
  • "He should get in a cavalry regiment; he'll have the time of his life, an_ill look an awful swell."
  • "Swell!—SWELL!—a mighty swell idea indeed!—a common soldier!"
  • "Well," said Paul, "what am I but a common clerk?"
  • "A good deal, my boy!" cried his mother, stung.
  • "What?"
  • "At any rate, a MAN, and not a thing in a red coat."
  • "I shouldn't mind being in a red coat—or dark blue, that would suit m_etter—if they didn't boss me about too much."
  • But his mother had ceased to listen.
  • "Just as he was getting on, or might have been getting on, at his job—a youn_uisance—here he goes and ruins himself for life. What good will he be, do yo_hink, after THIS?"
  • "It may lick him into shape beautifully," said Paul.
  • "Lick him into shape!—lick what marrow there WAS out of his bones. _OLDIER!—a common SOLDIER!—nothing but a body that makes movements when i_ears a shout! It's a fine thing!"
  • "I can't understand why it upsets you," said Paul.
  • "No, perhaps you can't. But I understand"; and she sat back in her chair, he_hin in one hand, holding her elbow with the other, brimmed up with wrath an_hagrin.
  • "And shall you go to Derby?" asked Paul.
  • "Yes."
  • "It's no good."
  • "I'll see for myself."
  • "And why on earth don't you let him stop. It's just what he wants."
  • "Of course," cried the mother, "YOU know what he wants!"
  • She got ready and went by the first train to Derby, where she saw her son an_he sergeant. It was, however, no good.
  • When Morel was having his dinner in the evening, she said suddenly:
  • "I've had to go to Derby to-day."
  • The miner turned up his eyes, showing the whites in his black face.
  • "Has ter, lass. What took thee there?"
  • "That Arthur!"
  • "Oh—an' what's agate now?"
  • "He's only enlisted."
  • Morel put down his knife and leaned back in his chair.
  • "Nay," he said, "that he niver 'as!"
  • "And is going down to Aldershot tomorrow."
  • "Well!" exclaimed the miner. "That's a winder." He considered it a moment, said "H'm!" and proceeded with his dinner. Suddenly his face contracted wit_rath. "I hope he may never set foot i' my house again," he said.
  • "The idea!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Saying such a thing!"
  • "I do," repeated Morel. "A fool as runs away for a soldier, let 'im look after
  • 'issen; I s'll do no more for 'im."
  • "A fat sight you have done as it is," she said.
  • And Morel was almost ashamed to go to his public-house that evening.
  • "Well, did you go?" said Paul to his mother when he came home.
  • "I did."
  • "And could you see him?"
  • "Yes."
  • "And what did he say?"
  • "He blubbered when I came away."
  • "H'm!"
  • "And so did I, so you needn't 'h'm'!"
  • Mrs. Morel fretted after her son. She knew he would not like the army. He di_ot. The discipline was intolerable to him.
  • "But the doctor," she said with some pride to Paul, "said he was perfectl_roportioned—almost exactly; all his measurements were correct. He IS good- looking, you know."
  • "He's awfully nice-looking. But he doesn't fetch the girls like William, doe_e?"
  • "No; it's a different character. He's a good deal like his father, irresponsible."
  • To console his mother, Paul did not go much to Willey Farm at this time. An_n the autumn exhibition of students' work in the Castle he had two studies, _andscape in water-colour and a still life in oil, both of which had first- prize awards. He was highly excited.
  • "What do you think I've got for my pictures, mother?" he asked, coming hom_ne evening. She saw by his eyes he was glad. Her face flushed.
  • "Now, how should I know, my boy!"
  • "A first prize for those glass jars—"
  • "H'm!"
  • "And a first prize for that sketch up at Willey Farm."
  • "Both first?"
  • "Yes."
  • "H'm!"
  • There was a rosy, bright look about her, though she said nothing.
  • "It's nice," he said, "isn't it?"
  • "It is."
  • "Why don't you praise me up to the skies?"
  • She laughed.
  • "I should have the trouble of dragging you down again," she said.
  • But she was full of joy, nevertheless. William had brought her his sportin_rophies. She kept them still, and she did not forgive his death. Arthur wa_andsome—at least, a good specimen—and warm and generous, and probably woul_o well in the end. But Paul was going to distinguish himself. She had a grea_elief in him, the more because he was unaware of his own powers. There was s_uch to come out of him. Life for her was rich with promise. She was to se_erself fulfilled. Not for nothing had been her struggle.
  • Several times during the exhibition Mrs. Morel went to the Castle unknown t_aul. She wandered down the long room looking at the other exhibits. Yes, the_ere good. But they had not in them a certain something which she demanded fo_er satisfaction. Some made her jealous, they were so good. She looked at the_ long time trying to find fault with them. Then suddenly she had a shock tha_ade her heart beat. There hung Paul's picture! She knew it as if it wer_rinted on her heart.
  • "Name—Paul Morel—First Prize."
  • It looked so strange, there in public, on the walls of the Castle gallery, where in her lifetime she had seen so many pictures. And she glanced round t_ee if anyone had noticed her again in front of the same sketch.
  • But she felt a proud woman. When she met well-dressed ladies going home to th_ark, she thought to herself:
  • "Yes, you look very well—but I wonder if YOUR son has two first prizes in th_astle."
  • And she walked on, as proud a little woman as any in Nottingham. And Paul fel_e had done something for her, if only a trifle. All his work was hers.
  • One day, as he was going up Castle Gate, he met Miriam. He had seen her on th_unday, and had not expected to meet her in town. She was walking with _ather striking woman, blonde, with a sullen expression, and a defian_arriage. It was strange how Miriam, in her bowed, meditative bearing, looke_warfed beside this woman with the handsome shoulders. Miriam watched Pau_earchingly. His gaze was on the stranger, who ignored him. The girl saw hi_asculine spirit rear its head.
  • "Hello!" he said, "you didn't tell me you were coming to town."
  • "No," replied Miriam, half apologetically. "I drove in to Cattle Market wit_ather."
  • He looked at her companion.
  • "I've told you about Mrs. Dawes," said Miriam huskily; she was nervous.
  • "Clara, do you know Paul?"
  • "I think I've seen him before," replied Mrs. Dawes indifferently, as she shoo_ands with him. She had scornful grey eyes, a skin like white honey, and _ull mouth, with a slightly lifted upper lip that did not know whether it wa_aised in scorn of all men or out of eagerness to be kissed, but whic_elieved the former. She carried her head back, as if she had drawn away i_ontempt, perhaps from men also. She wore a large, dowdy hat of black beaver, and a sort of slightly affected simple dress that made her look rather sack- like. She was evidently poor, and had not much taste. Miriam usually looke_ice.
  • "Where have you seen me?" Paul asked of the woman.
  • She looked at him as if she would not trouble to answer. Then:
  • "Walking with Louie Travers," she said.
  • Louie was one of the "Spiral" girls.
  • "Why, do you know her?" he asked.
  • She did not answer. He turned to Miriam.
  • "Where are you going?" he asked.
  • "To the Castle."
  • "What train are you going home by?"
  • "I am driving with father. I wish you could come too. What time are you free?"
  • "You know not till eight to-night, damn it!"
  • And directly the two women moved on.
  • Paul remembered that Clara Dawes was the daughter of an old friend of Mrs.
  • Leivers. Miriam had sought her out because she had once been Spiral oversee_t Jordan's, and because her husband, Baxter Dawes, was smith for the factory, making the irons for cripple instruments, and so on. Through her Miriam fel_he got into direct contact with Jordan's, and could estimate better Paul'_osition. But Mrs. Dawes was separated from her husband, and had taken u_omen's Rights. She was supposed to be clever. It interested Paul.
  • Baxter Dawes he knew and disliked. The smith was a man of thirty-one o_hirty-two. He came occasionally through Paul's corner—a big, well-set man, also striking to look at, and handsome. There was a peculiar similarit_etween himself and his wife. He had the same white skin, with a clear, golde_inge. His hair was of soft brown, his moustache was golden. And he had _imilar defiance in his bearing and manner. But then came the difference. Hi_yes, dark brown and quick-shifting, were dissolute. They protruded ver_lightly, and his eyelids hung over them in a way that was half hate. Hi_outh, too, was sensual. His whole manner was of cowed defiance, as if he wer_eady to knock anybody down who disapproved of him—perhaps because he reall_isapproved of himself.
  • From the first day he had hated Paul. Finding the lad's impersonal, deliberat_aze of an artist on his face, he got into a fury.
  • "What are yer lookin' at?" he sneered, bullying.
  • The boy glanced away. But the smith used to stand behind the counter and tal_o Mr. Pappleworth. His speech was dirty, with a kind of rottenness. Again h_ound the youth with his cool, critical gaze fixed on his face. The smit_tarted round as if he had been stung.
  • "What'r yer lookin' at, three hap'orth o' pap?" he snarled.
  • The boy shrugged his shoulders slightly.
  • "Why yer—!" shouted Dawes.
  • "Leave him alone," said Mr. Pappleworth, in that insinuating voice whic_eans, "He's only one of your good little sops who can't help it."
  • Since that time the boy used to look at the man every time he came throug_ith the same curious criticism, glancing away before he met the smith's eye.
  • It made Dawes furious. They hated each other in silence.
  • Clara Dawes had no children. When she had left her husband the home had bee_roken up, and she had gone to live with her mother. Dawes lodged with hi_ister. In the same house was a sister-in-law, and somehow Paul knew that thi_irl, Louie Travers, was now Dawes's woman. She was a handsome, insolen_ussy, who mocked at the youth, and yet flushed if he walked along to th_tation with her as she went home.
  • The next time he went to see Miriam it was Saturday evening. She had a fire i_he parlour, and was waiting for him. The others, except her father and mothe_nd the young children, had gone out, so the two had the parlour together. I_as a long, low, warm room. There were three of Paul's small sketches on th_all, and his photo was on the mantelpiece. On the table and on the high ol_osewood piano were bowls of coloured leaves. He sat in the armchair, sh_rouched on the hearthrug near his feet. The glow was warm on her handsome, pensive face as she kneeled there like a devotee.
  • "What did you think of Mrs. Dawes?" she asked quietly.
  • "She doesn't look very amiable," he replied.
  • "No, but don't you think she's a fine woman?" she said, in a deep tone,
  • "Yes—in stature. But without a grain of taste. I like her for some things. I_he disagreeable?"
  • "I don't think so. I think she's dissatisfied."
  • "What with?"
  • "Well—how would you like to be tied for life to a man like that?"
  • "Why did she marry him, then, if she was to have revulsions so soon?"
  • "Ay, why did she!" repeated Miriam bitterly.
  • "And I should have thought she had enough fight in her to match him," he said.
  • Miriam bowed her head.
  • "Ay?" she queried satirically. "What makes you think so?"
  • "Look at her mouth—made for passion—and the very setback of her throat—" H_hrew his head back in Clara's defiant manner.
  • Miriam bowed a little lower.
  • "Yes," she said.
  • There was a silence for some moments, while he thought of Clara.
  • "And what were the things you liked about her?" she asked.
  • "I don't know—her skin and the texture of her—and her—I don't know—there's _ort of fierceness somewhere in her. I appreciate her as an artist, that'_ll."
  • "Yes."
  • He wondered why Miriam crouched there brooding in that strange way. I_rritated him.
  • "You don't really like her, do you?" he asked the girl.
  • She looked at him with her great, dazzled dark eyes.
  • "I do," she said.
  • "You don't—you can't—not really."
  • "Then what?" she asked slowly.
  • "Eh, I don't know—perhaps you like her because she's got a grudge agains_en."
  • That was more probably one of his own reasons for liking Mrs. Dawes, but thi_id not occur to him. They were silent. There had come into his forehead _nitting of the brows which was becoming habitual with him, particularly whe_e was with Miriam. She longed to smooth it away, and she was afraid of it. I_eemed the stamp of a man who was not her man in Paul Morel.
  • There were some crimson berries among the leaves in the bowl. He reached ove_nd pulled out a bunch.
  • "If you put red berries in your hair," he said, "why would you look like som_itch or priestess, and never like a reveller?"
  • She laughed with a naked, painful sound.
  • "I don't know," she said.
  • His vigorous warm hands were playing excitedly with the berries.
  • "Why can't you laugh?" he said. "You never laugh laughter. You only laugh whe_omething is odd or incongruous, and then it almost seems to hurt you."
  • She bowed her head as if he were scolding her.
  • "I wish you could laugh at me just for one minute—just for one minute. I fee_s if it would set something free."
  • "But"—and she looked up at him with eyes frightened and struggling—"I do laug_t you—I DO."
  • "Never! There's always a kind of intensity. When you laugh I could always cry; it seems as if it shows up your suffering. Oh, you make me knit the brows o_y very soul and cogitate."
  • Slowly she shook her head despairingly.
  • "I'm sure I don't want to," she said.
  • "I'm so damned spiritual with YOU always!" he cried.
  • She remained silent, thinking, "Then why don't you be otherwise." But he sa_er crouching, brooding figure, and it seemed to tear him in two.
  • "But, there, it's autumn," he said, "and everybody feels like a disembodie_pirit then."
  • There was still another silence. This peculiar sadness between them thrille_er soul. He seemed so beautiful with his eyes gone dark, and looking as i_hey were deep as the deepest well.
  • "You make me so spiritual!" he lamented. "And I don't want to be spiritual."
  • She took her finger from her mouth with a little pop, and looked up at hi_lmost challenging. But still her soul was naked in her great dark eyes, an_here was the same yearning appeal upon her. If he could have kissed her i_bstract purity he would have done so. But he could not kiss her thus—and sh_eemed to leave no other way. And she yearned to him.
  • He gave a brief laugh.
  • "Well," he said, "get that French and we'll do some—some Verlaine."
  • "Yes," she said in a deep tone, almost of resignation. And she rose and go_he books. And her rather red, nervous hands looked so pitiful, he was mad t_omfort her and kiss her. But then be dared not—or could not. There wa_omething prevented him. His kisses were wrong for her. They continued th_eading till ten o'clock, when they went into the kitchen, and Paul wa_atural and jolly again with the father and mother. His eyes were dark an_hining; there was a kind of fascination about him.
  • When he went into the barn for his bicycle he found the front wheel punctured.
  • "Fetch me a drop of water in a bowl," he said to her. "I shall be late, an_hen I s'll catch it."
  • He lighted the hurricane lamp, took off his coat, turned up the bicycle, an_et speedily to work. Miriam came with the bowl of water and stood close t_im, watching. She loved to see his hands doing things. He was slim an_igorous, with a kind of easiness even in his most hasty movements. And bus_t his work he seemed to forget her. She loved him absorbedly. She wanted t_un her hands down his sides. She always wanted to embrace him, so long as h_id not want her.
  • "There!" he said, rising suddenly. "Now, could you have done it quicker?"
  • "No!" she laughed.
  • He straightened himself. His back was towards her. She put her two hands o_is sides, and ran them quickly down.
  • "You are so FINE!" she said.
  • He laughed, hating her voice, but his blood roused to a wave of flame by he_ands. She did not seem to realise HIM in all this. He might have been a_bject. She never realised the male he was.
  • He lighted his bicycle-lamp, bounced the machine on the barn floor to see tha_he tyres were sound, and buttoned his coat.
  • "That's all right!" he said.
  • She was trying the brakes, that she knew were broken.
  • "Did you have them mended?" she asked.
  • "No!"
  • "But why didn't you?"
  • "The back one goes on a bit."
  • "But it's not safe."
  • "I can use my toe."
  • "I wish you'd had them mended," she murmured.
  • "Don't worry—come to tea tomorrow, with Edgar."
  • "Shall we?"
  • "Do—about four. I'll come to meet you."
  • "Very well."
  • She was pleased. They went across the dark yard to the gate. Looking across, he saw through the uncurtained window of the kitchen the heads of Mr. and Mrs.
  • Leivers in the warm glow. It looked very cosy. The road, with pine trees, wa_uite black in front.
  • "Till tomorrow," he said, jumping on his bicycle.
  • "You'll take care, won't you?" she pleaded.
  • "Yes."
  • His voice already came out of the darkness. She stood a moment watching th_ight from his lamp race into obscurity along the ground. She turned ver_lowly indoors. Orion was wheeling up over the wood, his dog twinkling afte_im, half smothered. For the rest the world was full of darkness, and silent, save for the breathing of cattle in their stalls. She prayed earnestly for hi_afety that night. When he left her, she often lay in anxiety, wondering if h_ad got home safely.
  • He dropped down the hills on his bicycle. The roads were greasy, so he had t_et it go. He felt a pleasure as the machine plunged over the second, steepe_rop in the hill. "Here goes!" he said. It was risky, because of the curve i_he darkness at the bottom, and because of the brewers' waggons with drunke_aggoners asleep. His bicycle seemed to fall beneath him, and he loved it.
  • Recklessness is almost a man's revenge on his woman. He feels he is no_alued, so he will risk destroying himself to deprive her altogether.
  • The stars on the lake seemed to leap like grasshoppers, silver upon th_lackness, as he spun past. Then there was the long climb home.
  • "See, mother!" he said, as he threw her the berries and leaves on to th_able.
  • "H'm!" she said, glancing at them, then away again. She sat reading, alone, a_he always did.
  • "Aren't they pretty?"
  • "Yes."
  • He knew she was cross with him. After a few minutes he said:
  • "Edgar and Miriam are coming to tea tomorrow."
  • She did not answer.
  • "You don't mind?"
  • Still she did not answer.
  • "Do you?" he asked.
  • "You know whether I mind or not."
  • "I don't see why you should. I have plenty of meals there."
  • "You do."
  • "Then why do you begrudge them tea?"
  • "I begrudge whom tea?"
  • "What are you so horrid for?"
  • "Oh, say no more! You've asked her to tea, it's quite sufficient. She'l_ome."
  • He was very angry with his mother. He knew it was merely Miriam she objecte_o. He flung off his boots and went to bed.
  • Paul went to meet his friends the next afternoon. He was glad to see the_oming. They arrived home at about four o'clock. Everywhere was clean an_till for Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Morel sat in her black dress and black apron.
  • She rose to meet the visitors. With Edgar she was cordial, but with Miria_old and rather grudging. Yet Paul thought the girl looked so nice in he_rown cashmere frock.
  • He helped his mother to get the tea ready. Miriam would have gladly proffered, but was afraid. He was rather proud of his home. There was about it now, h_hought, a certain distinction. The chairs were only wooden, and the sofa wa_ld. But the hearthrug and cushions were cosy; the pictures were prints i_ood taste; there was a simplicity in everything, and plenty of books. He wa_ever ashamed in the least of his home, nor was Miriam of hers, because bot_ere what they should be, and warm. And then he was proud of the table; th_hina was pretty, the cloth was fine. It did not matter that the spoons wer_ot silver nor the knives ivory-handled; everything looked nice. Mrs. More_ad managed wonderfully while her children were growing up, so that nothin_as out of place.
  • Miriam talked books a little. That was her unfailing topic. But Mrs. Morel wa_ot cordial, and turned soon to Edgar.
  • At first Edgar and Miriam used to go into Mrs. Morel's pew. Morel never wen_o chapel, preferring the public-house. Mrs. Morel, like a little champion, sat at the head of her pew, Paul at the other end; and at first Miriam sa_ext to him. Then the chapel was like home. It was a pretty place, with dar_ews and slim, elegant pillars, and flowers. And the same people had sat i_he same places ever since he was a boy. It was wonderfully sweet and soothin_o sit there for an hour and a half, next to Miriam, and near to his mother, uniting his two loves under the spell of the place of worship. Then he fel_arm and happy and religious at once. And after chapel he walked home wit_iriam, whilst Mrs. Morel spent the rest of the evening with her old friend, Mrs. Burns. He was keenly alive on his walks on Sunday nights with Edgar an_iriam. He never went past the pits at night, by the lighted lamp-house, th_all black headstocks and lines of trucks, past the fans spinning slowly lik_hadows, without the feeling of Miriam returning to him, keen and almos_nbearable.
  • She did not very long occupy the Morels' pew. Her father took one fo_hemselves once more. It was under the little gallery, opposite the Morels'.
  • When Paul and his mother came in the chapel the Leivers's pew was alway_mpty. He was anxious for fear she would not come: it was so far, and ther_ere so many rainy Sundays. Then, often very late indeed, she came in, wit_er long stride, her head bowed, her face hidden under her bat of dark gree_elvet. Her face, as she sat opposite, was always in shadow. But it gave him _ery keen feeling, as if all his soul stirred within him, to see her there. I_as not the same glow, happiness, and pride, that he felt in having his mothe_n charge: something more wonderful, less human, and tinged to intensity by _ain, as if there were something he could not get to.
  • At this time he was beginning to question the orthodox creed. He was twenty- one, and she was twenty. She was beginning to dread the spring: he became s_ild, and hurt her so much. All the way he went cruelly smashing her beliefs.
  • Edgar enjoyed it. He was by nature critical and rather dispassionate. Bu_iriam suffered exquisite pain, as, with an intellect like a knife, the ma_he loved examined her religion in which she lived and moved and had he_eing. But he did not spare her. He was cruel. And when they went alone he wa_ven more fierce, as if he would kill her soul. He bled her beliefs till sh_lmost lost consciousness.
  • "She exults—she exults as she carries him off from me," Mrs. Morel cried i_er heart when Paul had gone. "She's not like an ordinary woman, who can leav_e my share in him. She wants to absorb him. She wants to draw him out an_bsorb him till there is nothing left of him, even for himself. He will neve_e a man on his own feet—she will suck him up." So the mother sat, and battle_nd brooded bitterly.
  • And he, coming home from his walks with Miriam, was wild with torture. H_alked biting his lips and with clenched fists, going at a great rate. Then, brought up against a stile, he stood for some minutes, and did not move. Ther_as a great hollow of darkness fronting him, and on the black upslopes patche_f tiny lights, and in the lowest trough of the night, a flare of the pit. I_as all weird and dreadful. Why was he torn so, almost bewildered, and unabl_o move? Why did his mother sit at home and suffer? He knew she suffere_adly. But why should she? And why did he hate Miriam, and feel so crue_owards her, at the thought of his mother. If Miriam caused his mothe_uffering, then he hated her—and he easily hated her. Why did she make hi_eel as if he were uncertain of himself, insecure, an indefinite thing, as i_e had not sufficient sheathing to prevent the night and the space breakin_nto him? How he hated her! And then, what a rush of tenderness and humility!
  • Suddenly he plunged on again, running home. His mother saw on him the marks o_ome agony, and she said nothing. But he had to make her talk to him. Then sh_as angry with him for going so far with Miriam.
  • "Why don't you like her, mother?" he cried in despair.
  • "I don't know, my boy," she replied piteously. "I'm sure I've tried to lik_er. I've tried and tried, but I can't—I can't!"
  • And he felt dreary and hopeless between the two.
  • Spring was the worst time. He was changeable, and intense and cruel. So h_ecided to stay away from her. Then came the hours when he knew Miriam wa_xpecting him. His mother watched him growing restless. He could not go o_ith his work. He could do nothing. It was as if something were drawing hi_oul out towards Willey Farm. Then he put on his hat and went, saying nothing.
  • And his mother knew he was gone. And as soon as he was on the way he sighe_ith relief. And when he was with her he was cruel again.
  • One day in March he lay on the bank of Nethermere, with Miriam sitting besid_im. It was a glistening, white-and-blue day. Big clouds, so brilliant, wen_y overhead, while shadows stole along on the water. The clear spaces in th_ky were of clean, cold blue. Paul lay on his back in the old grass, lookin_p. He could not bear to look at Miriam. She seemed to want him, and h_esisted. He resisted all the time. He wanted now to give her passion an_enderness, and he could not. He felt that she wanted the soul out of hi_ody, and not him. All his strength and energy she drew into herself throug_ome channel which united them. She did not want to meet him, so that ther_ere two of them, man and woman together. She wanted to draw all of him int_er. It urged him to an intensity like madness, which fascinated him, as drug- taking might.
  • He was discussing Michael Angelo. It felt to her as if she were fingering th_ery quivering tissue, the very protoplasm of life, as she heard him. It gav_er deepest satisfaction. And in the end it frightened her. There he lay i_he white intensity of his search, and his voice gradually filled her wit_ear, so level it was, almost inhuman, as if in a trance.
  • "Don't talk any more," she pleaded softly, laying her hand on his forehead.
  • He lay quite still, almost unable to move. His body was somewhere discarded.
  • "Why not? Are you tired?"
  • "Yes, and it wears you out."
  • He laughed shortly, realising.
  • "Yet you always make me like it," he said.
  • "I don't wish to," she said, very low.
  • "Not when you've gone too far, and you feel you can't bear it. But you_nconscious self always asks it of me. And I suppose I want it."
  • He went on, in his dead fashion:
  • "If only you could want ME, and not want what I can reel off for you!"
  • "I!" she cried bitterly—"I! Why, when would you let me take you?"
  • "Then it's my fault," he said, and, gathering himself together, he got up an_egan to talk trivialities. He felt insubstantial. In a vague way he hated he_or it. And he knew he was as much to blame himself. This, however, did no_revent his hating her.
  • One evening about this time he had walked along the home road with her. The_tood by the pasture leading down to the wood, unable to part. As the star_ame out the clouds closed. They had glimpses of their own constellation, Orion, towards the west. His jewels glimmered for a moment, his dog ran low, struggling with difficulty through the spume of cloud.
  • Orion was for them chief in significance among the constellations. They ha_azed at him in their strange, surcharged hours of feeling, until they seeme_hemselves to live in every one of his stars. This evening Paul had been mood_nd perverse. Orion had seemed just an ordinary constellation to him. He ha_ought against his glamour and fascination. Miriam was watching her lover'_ood carefully. But he said nothing that gave him away, till the moment cam_o part, when he stood frowning gloomily at the gathered clouds, behind whic_he great constellation must be striding still.
  • There was to be a little party at his house the next day, at which she was t_ttend.
  • "I shan't come and meet you," he said.
  • "Oh, very well; it's not very nice out," she replied slowly.
  • "It's not that—only they don't like me to. They say I care more for you tha_or them. And you understand, don't you? You know it's only friendship."
  • Miriam was astonished and hurt for him. It had cost him an effort. She lef_im, wanting to spare him any further humiliation. A fine rain blew in he_ace as she walked along the road. She was hurt deep down; and she despise_im for being blown about by any wind of authority. And in her heart o_earts, unconsciously, she felt that he was trying to get away from her. Thi_he would never have acknowledged. She pitied him.
  • At this time Paul became an important factor in Jordan's warehouse. Mr.
  • Pappleworth left to set up a business of his own, and Paul remained with Mr.
  • Jordan as Spiral overseer. His wages were to be raised to thirty shillings a_he year-end, if things went well.
  • Still on Friday night Miriam often came down for her French lesson. Paul di_ot go so frequently to Willey Farm, and she grieved at the thought of he_ducation's coming to end; moreover, they both loved to be together, in spit_f discords. So they read Balzac, and did compositions, and felt highl_ultured.
  • Friday night was reckoning night for the miners. Morel "reckoned"—shared u_he money of the stall—either in the New Inn at Bretty or in his own house, according as his fellow-butties wished. Barker had turned a non-drinker, s_ow the men reckoned at Morel's house.
  • Annie, who had been teaching away, was at home again. She was still a tomboy; and she was engaged to be married. Paul was studying design.
  • Morel was always in good spirits on Friday evening, unless the week's earning_ere small. He bustled immediately after his dinner, prepared to get washed.
  • It was decorum for the women to absent themselves while the men reckoned.
  • Women were not supposed to spy into such a masculine privacy as the butties'
  • reckoning, nor were they to know the exact amount of the week's earnings. So, whilst her father was spluttering in the scullery, Annie went out to spend a_our with a neighbour. Mrs. Morel attended to her baking.
  • "Shut that doo-er!" bawled Morel furiously.
  • Annie banged it behind her, and was gone.
  • "If tha oppens it again while I'm weshin' me, I'll ma'e thy jaw rattle," h_hreatened from the midst of his soap-suds. Paul and the mother frowned t_ear him.
  • Presently he came running out of the scullery, with the soapy water drippin_rom him, dithering with cold.
  • "Oh, my sirs!" he said. "Wheer's my towel?"
  • It was hung on a chair to warm before the fire, otherwise he would hav_ullied and blustered. He squatted on his heels before the hot baking-fire t_ry himself.
  • "F-ff-f!" he went, pretending to shudder with cold.
  • "Goodness, man, don't be such a kid!" said Mrs. Morel. "It's NOT cold."
  • "Thee strip thysen stark nak'd to wesh thy flesh i' that scullery," said th_iner, as he rubbed his hair; "nowt b'r a ice-'ouse!"
  • "And I shouldn't make that fuss," replied his wife.
  • "No, tha'd drop down stiff, as dead as a door-knob, wi' thy nesh sides."
  • "Why is a door-knob deader than anything else?" asked Paul, curious.
  • "Eh, I dunno; that's what they say," replied his father. "But there's tha_uch draught i' yon scullery, as it blows through your ribs like through _ive-barred gate."
  • "It would have some difficulty in blowing through yours," said Mrs. Morel.
  • Morel looked down ruefully at his sides.
  • "Me!" he exclaimed. "I'm nowt b'r a skinned rabbit. My bones fair juts out o_e."
  • "I should like to know where," retorted his wife.
  • "Iv'ry-wheer! I'm nobbut a sack o' faggots."
  • Mrs. Morel laughed. He had still a wonderfully young body, muscular, withou_ny fat. His skin was smooth and clear. It might have been the body of a ma_f twenty-eight, except that there were, perhaps, too many blue scars, lik_attoo-marks, where the coal-dust remained under the skin, and that his ches_as too hairy. But he put his hand on his side ruefully. It was his fixe_elief that, because he did not get fat, he was as thin as a starved rat. Pau_ooked at his father's thick, brownish hands all scarred, with broken nails, rubbing the fine smoothness of his sides, and the incongruity struck him. I_eemed strange they were the same flesh.
  • "I suppose," he said to his father, "you had a good figure once."
  • "Eh!" exclaimed the miner, glancing round, startled and timid, like a child.
  • "He had," exclaimed Mrs. Morel, "if he didn't hurtle himself up as if he wa_rying to get in the smallest space he could."
  • "Me!" exclaimed Morel—"me a good figure! I wor niver much more n'r _keleton."
  • "Man!" cried his wife, "don't be such a pulamiter!"
  • "'Strewth!" he said. "Tha's niver knowed me but what I looked as if I wo_oin' off in a rapid decline."
  • She sat and laughed.
  • "You've had a constitution like iron," she said; "and never a man had a bette_tart, if it was body that counted. You should have seen him as a young man,"
  • she cried suddenly to Paul, drawing herself up to imitate her husband's onc_andsome bearing.
  • Morel watched her shyly. He saw again the passion she had had for him. I_lazed upon her for a moment. He was shy, rather scared, and humble. Yet agai_e felt his old glow. And then immediately he felt the ruin he had made durin_hese years. He wanted to bustle about, to run away from it.
  • "Gi'e my back a bit of a wesh," he asked her.
  • His wife brought a well-soaped flannel and clapped it on his shoulders. H_ave a jump.
  • "Eh, tha mucky little 'ussy!" he cried. "Cowd as death!"
  • "You ought to have been a salamander," she laughed, washing his back. It wa_ery rarely she would do anything so personal for him. The children did thos_hings.
  • "The next world won't be half hot enough for you," she added.
  • "No," he said; "tha'lt see as it's draughty for me."
  • But she had finished. She wiped him in a desultory fashion, and went upstairs, returning immediately with his shifting-trousers. When he was dried h_truggled into his shirt. Then, ruddy and shiny, with hair on end, and hi_lannelette shirt hanging over his pit-trousers, he stood warming the garment_e was going to put on. He turned them, he pulled them inside out, he scorche_hem.
  • "Goodness, man!" cried Mrs. Morel, "get dressed!"
  • "Should thee like to clap thysen into britches as cowd as a tub o' water?" h_aid.
  • At last he took off his pit-trousers and donned decent black. He did all thi_n the hearthrug, as he would have done if Annie and her familiar friends ha_een present.
  • Mrs. Morel turned the bread in the oven. Then from the red earthenwar_anchion of dough that stood in a corner she took another handful of paste, worked it to the proper shape, and dropped it into a tin. As she was doing s_arker knocked and entered. He was a quiet, compact little man, who looked a_f he would go through a stone wall. His black hair was cropped short, hi_ead was bony. Like most miners, he was pale, but healthy and taut.
  • "Evenin', missis," he nodded to Mrs. Morel, and he seated himself with a sigh.
  • "Good-evening," she replied cordially.
  • "Tha's made thy heels crack," said Morel.
  • "I dunno as I have," said Barker.
  • He sat, as the men always did in Morel's kitchen, effacing himself rather.
  • "How's missis?" she asked of him.
  • He had told her some time back:
  • "We're expectin' us third just now, you see."
  • "Well," he answered, rubbing his head, "she keeps pretty middlin', I think."
  • "Let's see—when?" asked Mrs. Morel.
  • "Well, I shouldn't be surprised any time now."
  • "Ah! And she's kept fairly?"
  • "Yes, tidy."
  • "That's a blessing, for she's none too strong."
  • "No. An' I've done another silly trick."
  • "What's that?"
  • Mrs. Morel knew Barker wouldn't do anything very silly.
  • "I'm come be-out th' market-bag."
  • "You can have mine."
  • "Nay, you'll be wantin' that yourself."
  • "I shan't. I take a string bag always."
  • She saw the determined little collier buying in the week's groceries and mea_n the Friday nights, and she admired him. "Barker's little, but he's te_imes the man you are," she said to her husband.
  • Just then Wesson entered. He was thin, rather frail-looking, with a boyis_ngenuousness and a slightly foolish smile, despite his seven children. Bu_is wife was a passionate woman.
  • "I see you've kested me," he said, smiling rather vapidly.
  • "Yes," replied Barker.
  • The newcomer took off his cap and his big woollen muffler. His nose wa_ointed and red.
  • "I'm afraid you're cold, Mr. Wesson," said Mrs. Morel.
  • "It's a bit nippy," he replied.
  • "Then come to the fire."
  • "Nay, I s'll do where I am."
  • Both colliers sat away back. They could not be induced to come on to th_earth. The hearth is sacred to the family.
  • "Go thy ways i' th' armchair," cried Morel cheerily.
  • "Nay, thank yer; I'm very nicely here."
  • "Yes, come, of course," insisted Mrs. Morel.
  • He rose and went awkwardly. He sat in Morel's armchair awkwardly. It was to_reat a familiarity. But the fire made him blissfully happy.
  • "And how's that chest of yours?" demanded Mrs. Morel.
  • He smiled again, with his blue eyes rather sunny.
  • "Oh, it's very middlin'," he said.
  • "Wi' a rattle in it like a kettle-drum," said Barker shortly.
  • "T-t-t-t!" went Mrs. Morel rapidly with her tongue. "Did you have that flanne_inglet made?"
  • "Not yet," he smiled.
  • "Then, why didn't you?" she cried.
  • "It'll come," he smiled.
  • "Ah, an' Doomsday!" exclaimed Barker.
  • Barker and Morel were both impatient of Wesson. But, then, they were both a_ard as nails, physically.
  • When Morel was nearly ready he pushed the bag of money to Paul.
  • "Count it, boy," he asked humbly.
  • Paul impatiently turned from his books and pencil, tipped the bag upside dow_n the table. There was a five-pound bag of silver, sovereigns and loos_oney. He counted quickly, referred to the checks—the written papers givin_mount of coal—put the money in order. Then Barker glanced at the checks.
  • Mrs. Morel went upstairs, and the three men came to table. Morel, as master o_he house, sat in his armchair, with his back to the hot fire. The two buttie_ad cooler seats. None of them counted the money.
  • "What did we say Simpson's was?" asked Morel; and the butties cavilled for _inute over the dayman's earnings. Then the amount was put aside.
  • "An' Bill Naylor's?"
  • This money also was taken from the pack.
  • Then, because Wesson lived in one of the company's houses, and his rent ha_een deducted, Morel and Barker took four-and-six each. And because Morel'_oals had come, and the leading was stopped, Barker and Wesson took fou_hillings each. Then it was plain sailing. Morel gave each of them a sovereig_ill there were no more sovereigns; each half a crown till there were no mor_alf-crowns; each a shilling till there were no more shillings. If there wa_nything at the end that wouldn't split, Morel took it and stood drinks.
  • Then the three men rose and went. Morel scuttled out of the house before hi_ife came down. She heard the door close, and descended. She looked hastily a_he bread in the oven. Then, glancing on the table, she saw her money lying.
  • Paul had been working all the time. But now he felt his mother counting th_eek's money, and her wrath rising,
  • "T-t-t-t-t!" went her tongue.
  • He frowned. He could not work when she was cross. She counted again.
  • "A measly twenty-five shillings!" she exclaimed. "How much was the cheque?"
  • "Ten pounds eleven," said Paul irritably. He dreaded what was coming.
  • "And he gives me a scrattlin' twenty-five, an' his club this week! But I kno_im. He thinks because YOU'RE earning he needn't keep the house any longer.
  • No, all he has to do with his money is to guttle it. But I'll show him!"
  • "Oh, mother, don't!" cried Paul.
  • "Don't what, I should like to know?" she exclaimed.
  • "Don't carry on again. I can't work."
  • She went very quiet.
  • "Yes, it's all very well," she said; "but how do you think I'm going t_anage?"
  • "Well, it won't make it any better to whittle about it."
  • "I should like to know what you'd do if you had it to put up with."
  • "It won't be long. You can have my money. Let him go to hell."
  • He went back to his work, and she tied her bonnet-strings grimly. When she wa_retted he could not bear it. But now he began to insist on her recognizin_im.
  • "The two loaves at the top," she said, "will be done in twenty minutes. Don'_orget them."
  • "All right," he answered; and she went to market.
  • He remained alone working. But his usual intense concentration becam_nsettled. He listened for the yard-gate. At a quarter-past seven came a lo_nock, and Miriam entered.
  • "All alone?" she said.
  • "Yes."
  • As if at home, she took off her tam-o'-shanter and her long coat, hanging the_p. It gave him a thrill. This might be their own house, his and hers. The_he came back and peered over his work.
  • "What is it?" she asked.
  • "Still design, for decorating stuffs, and for embroidery."
  • She bent short-sightedly over the drawings.
  • It irritated him that she peered so into everything that was his, searchin_im out. He went into the parlour and returned with a bundle of brownis_inen. Carefully unfolding it, he spread it on the floor. It proved to be _urtain or portiere, beautifully stencilled with a design on roses.
  • "Ah, how beautiful!" she cried.
  • The spread cloth, with its wonderful reddish roses and dark green stems, al_o simple, and somehow so wicked-looking, lay at her feet. She went on he_nees before it, her dark curls dropping. He saw her crouched voluptuousl_efore his work, and his heart beat quickly. Suddenly she looked up at him.
  • "Why does it seem cruel?" she asked.
  • "What?"
  • "There seems a feeling of cruelty about it," she said.
  • "It's jolly good, whether or not," he replied, folding up his work with _over's hands.
  • She rose slowly, pondering.
  • "And what will you do with it?" she asked.
  • "Send it to Liberty's. I did it for my mother, but I think she'd rather hav_he money."
  • "Yes," said Miriam. He had spoken with a touch of bitterness, and Miria_ympathised. Money would have been nothing to HER.
  • He took the cloth back into the parlour. When he returned he threw to Miriam _maller piece. It was a cushion-cover with the same design.
  • "I did that for you," he said.
  • She fingered the work with trembling hands, and did not speak. He becam_mbarrassed.
  • "By Jove, the bread!" he cried.
  • He took the top loaves out, tapped them vigorously. They were done. He pu_hem on the hearth to cool. Then he went to the scullery, wetted his hands, scooped the last white dough out of the punchion, and dropped it in a baking- tin. Miriam was still bent over her painted cloth. He stood rubbing the bit_f dough from his hands.
  • "You do like it?" he asked.
  • She looked up at him, with her dark eyes one flame of love. He laughe_ncomfortably. Then he began to talk about the design. There was for him th_ost intense pleasure in talking about his work to Miriam. All his passion, all his wild blood, went into this intercourse with her, when he talked an_onceived his work. She brought forth to him his imaginations. She did no_nderstand, any more than a woman understands when she conceives a child i_er womb. But this was life for her and for him.
  • While they were talking, a young woman of about twenty-two, small and pale, hollow-eyed, yet with a relentless look about her, entered the room. She was _riend at the Morel's.
  • "Take your things off," said Paul.
  • "No, I'm not stopping."
  • She sat down in the armchair opposite Paul and Miriam, who were on the sofa.
  • Miriam moved a little farther from him. The room was hot, with a scent of ne_read. Brown, crisp loaves stood on the hearth.
  • "I shouldn't have expected to see you here to-night, Miriam Leivers," sai_eatrice wickedly.
  • "Why not?" murmured Miriam huskily.
  • "Why, let's look at your shoes."
  • Miriam remained uncomfortably still.
  • "If tha doesna tha durs'na," laughed Beatrice.
  • Miriam put her feet from under her dress. Her boots had that queer, irresolute, rather pathetic look about them, which showed how self-consciou_nd self-mistrustful she was. And they were covered with mud.
  • "Glory! You're a positive muck-heap," exclaimed Beatrice. "Who cleans you_oots?"
  • "I clean them myself."
  • "Then you wanted a job," said Beatrice. "It would ha' taken a lot of men t_a' brought me down here to-night. But love laughs at sludge, doesn't it,
  • 'Postle my duck?"
  • "Inter alia," he said.
  • "Oh, Lord! are you going to spout foreign languages? What does it mean, Miriam?"
  • There was a fine sarcasm in the last question, but Miriam did not see it.
  • "'Among other things,' I believe," she said humbly.
  • Beatrice put her tongue between her teeth and laughed wickedly.
  • "'Among other things,' 'Postle?" she repeated. "Do you mean love laughs a_others, and fathers, and sisters, and brothers, and men friends, and lad_riends, and even at the b'loved himself?"
  • She affected a great innocence.
  • "In fact, it's one big smile," he replied.
  • "Up its sleeve, 'Postle Morel—you believe me," she said; and she went off int_nother burst of wicked, silent laughter.
  • Miriam sat silent, withdrawn into herself. Every one of Paul's friend_elighted in taking sides against her, and he left her in the lurch—seeme_lmost to have a sort of revenge upon her then.
  • "Are you still at school?" asked Miriam of Beatrice.
  • "Yes."
  • "You've not had your notice, then?"
  • "I expect it at Easter."
  • "Isn't it an awful shame, to turn you off merely because you didn't pass th_xam?"
  • "I don't know," said Beatrice coldly.
  • "Agatha says you're as good as any teacher anywhere. It seems to m_idiculous. I wonder why you didn't pass."
  • "Short of brains, eh, 'Postle?" said Beatrice briefly.
  • "Only brains to bite with," replied Paul, laughing.
  • "Nuisance!" she cried; and, springing from her seat, she rushed and boxed hi_ars. She had beautiful small hands. He held her wrists while she wrestle_ith him. At last she broke free, and seized two handfuls of his thick, dar_rown hair, which she shook.
  • "Beat!" he said, as he pulled his hair straight with his fingers. "I hat_ou!"
  • She laughed with glee.
  • "Mind!" she said. "I want to sit next to you."
  • "I'd as lief be neighbours with a vixen," he said, nevertheless making plac_or her between him and Miriam.
  • "Did it ruffle his pretty hair, then!" she cried; and, with her hair-comb, sh_ombed him straight. "And his nice little moustache!" she exclaimed. Sh_ilted his head back and combed his young moustache. "It's a wicked moustache,
  • 'Postle," she said. "It's a red for danger. Have you got any of thos_igarettes?"
  • He pulled his cigarette-case from his pocket. Beatrice looked inside it.
  • "And fancy me having Connie's last cig.," said Beatrice, putting the thin_etween her teeth. He held a lit match to her, and she puffed daintily.
  • "Thanks so much, darling," she said mockingly.
  • It gave her a wicked delight.
  • "Don't you think he does it nicely, Miriam?" she asked.
  • "Oh, very!" said Miriam.
  • He took a cigarette for himself.
  • "Light, old boy?" said Beatrice, tilting her cigarette at him.
  • He bent forward to her to light his cigarette at hers. She was winking at hi_s he did so. Miriam saw his eyes trembling with mischief, and his full, almost sensual, mouth quivering. He was not himself, and she could not bea_t. As he was now, she had no connection with him; she might as well not hav_xisted. She saw the cigarette dancing on his full red lips. She hated hi_hick hair for being tumbled loose on his forehead.
  • "Sweet boy!" said Beatrice, tipping up his chin and giving him a little kis_n the cheek.
  • "I s'll kiss thee back, Beat," he said.
  • "Tha wunna!" she giggled, jumping up and going away. "Isn't he shameless, Miriam?"
  • "Quite," said Miriam. "By the way, aren't you forgetting the bread?"
  • "By Jove!" he cried, flinging open the oven door.
  • Out puffed the bluish smoke and a smell of burned bread.
  • "Oh, golly!" cried Beatrice, coming to his side. He crouched before the oven, she peered over his shoulder. "This is what comes of the oblivion of love, m_oy."
  • Paul was ruefully removing the loaves. One was burnt black on the hot side; another was hard as a brick.
  • "Poor mater!" said Paul.
  • "You want to grate it," said Beatrice. "Fetch me the nutmeg-grater."
  • She arranged the bread in the oven. He brought the grater, and she grated th_read on to a newspaper on the table. He set the doors open to blow away th_mell of burned bread. Beatrice grated away, puffing her cigarette, knockin_he charcoal off the poor loaf.
  • "My word, Miriam! you're in for it this time," said Beatrice.
  • "I!" exclaimed Miriam in amazement.
  • "You'd better be gone when his mother comes in. I know why King Alfred burne_he cakes. Now I see it! 'Postle would fix up a tale about his work making hi_orget, if he thought it would wash. If that old woman had come in a bi_ooner, she'd have boxed the brazen thing's ears who made the oblivion, instead of poor Alfred's."
  • She giggled as she scraped the loaf. Even Miriam laughed in spite of herself.
  • Paul mended the fire ruefully.
  • The garden gate was heard to bang.
  • "Quick!" cried Beatrice, giving Paul the scraped loaf. "Wrap it up in a dam_owel."
  • Paul disappeared into the scullery. Beatrice hastily blew her scrapings int_he fire, and sat down innocently. Annie came bursting in. She was an abrupt, quite smart young woman. She blinked in the strong light.
  • "Smell of burning!" she exclaimed.
  • "It's the cigarettes," replied Beatrice demurely.
  • "Where's Paul?"
  • Leonard had followed Annie. He had a long comic face and blue eyes, very sad.
  • "I suppose he's left you to settle it between you," he said. He nodde_ympathetically to Miriam, and became gently sarcastic to Beatrice.
  • "No," said Beatrice, "he's gone off with number nine."
  • "I just met number five inquiring for him," said Leonard.
  • "Yes—we're going to share him up like Solomon's baby," said Beatrice.
  • Annie laughed.
  • "Oh, ay," said Leonard. "And which bit should you have?"
  • "I don't know," said Beatrice. "I'll let all the others pick first."
  • "An' you'd have the leavings, like?" said Leonard, twisting up a comic face.
  • Annie was looking in the oven. Miriam sat ignored. Paul entered.
  • "This bread's a fine sight, our Paul," said Annie.
  • "Then you should stop an' look after it," said Paul.
  • "You mean YOU should do what you're reckoning to do," replied Annie.
  • "He should, shouldn't he!" cried Beatrice.
  • "I s'd think he'd got plenty on hand," said Leonard.
  • "You had a nasty walk, didn't you, Miriam?" said Annie.
  • "Yes—but I'd been in all week—"
  • "And you wanted a bit of a change, like," insinuated Leonard kindly.
  • "Well, you can't be stuck in the house for ever," Annie agreed. She was quit_miable. Beatrice pulled on her coat, and went out with Leonard and Annie. Sh_ould meet her own boy.
  • "Don't forget that bread, our Paul," cried Annie. "Good-night, Miriam. I don'_hink it will rain."
  • When they had all gone, Paul fetched the swathed loaf, unwrapped it, an_urveyed it sadly.
  • "It's a mess!" he said.
  • "But," answered Miriam impatiently, "what is it, after all—twopence, ha'penny."
  • "Yes, but—it's the mater's precious baking, and she'll take it to heart.
  • However, it's no good bothering."
  • He took the loaf back into the scullery. There was a little distance betwee_im and Miriam. He stood balanced opposite her for some moments considering, thinking of his behaviour with Beatrice. He felt guilty inside himself, an_et glad. For some inscrutable reason it served Miriam right. He was not goin_o repent. She wondered what he was thinking of as he stood suspended. Hi_hick hair was tumbled over his forehead. Why might she not push it back fo_im, and remove the marks of Beatrice's comb? Why might she not press his bod_ith her two hands. It looked so firm, and every whit living. And he would le_ther girls, why not her?
  • Suddenly he started into life. It made her quiver almost with terror as h_uickly pushed the hair off his forehead and came towards her.
  • "Half-past eight!" he said. "We'd better buck up. Where's your French?"
  • Miriam shyly and rather bitterly produced her exercise-book. Every week sh_rote for him a sort of diary of her inner life, in her own French. He ha_ound this was the only way to get her to do compositions. And her diary wa_ostly a love-letter. He would read it now; she felt as if her soul's histor_ere going to be desecrated by him in his present mood. He sat beside her. Sh_atched his hand, firm and warm, rigorously scoring her work. He was readin_nly the French, ignoring her soul that was there. But gradually his han_orgot its work. He read in silence, motionless. She quivered.
  • "'Ce matin les oiseaux m'ont eveille,'" he read. "'Il faisait encore u_repuscule. Mais la petite fenetre de ma chambre etait bleme, et puis, jaune, et tous les oiseaux du bois eclaterent dans un chanson vif et resonnant. Tout_'aube tressaillit. J'avais reve de vous. Est-ce que vous voyez aussi l'aube?
  • Les oiseaux m'eveillent presque tous les matins, et toujours il y a quelqu_hose de terreur dans le cri des grives. Il est si clair—'"
  • Miriam sat tremulous, half ashamed. He remained quite still, trying t_nderstand. He only knew she loved him. He was afraid of her love for him. I_as too good for him, and he was inadequate. His own love was at fault, no_ers. Ashamed, he corrected her work, humbly writing above her words.
  • "Look," he said quietly, "the past participle conjugated with avoir agree_ith the direct object when it precedes."
  • She bent forward, trying to see and to understand. Her free, fine curl_ickled his face. He started as if they had been red hot, shuddering. He sa_er peering forward at the page, her red lips parted piteously, the black hai_pringing in fine strands across her tawny, ruddy cheek. She was coloured lik_ pomegranate for richness. His breath came short as he watched her. Suddenl_he looked up at him. Her dark eyes were naked with their love, afraid, an_earning. His eyes, too, were dark, and they hurt her. They seemed to maste_er. She lost all her self-control, was exposed in fear. And he knew, befor_e could kiss her, he must drive something out of himself. And a touch of hat_or her crept back again into his heart. He returned to her exercise.
  • Suddenly he flung down the pencil, and was at the oven in a leap, turning th_read. For Miriam he was too quick. She started violently, and it hurt he_ith real pain. Even the way he crouched before the oven hurt her. Ther_eemed to be something cruel in it, something cruel in the swift way h_itched the bread out of the tins, caught it up again. If only he had bee_entle in his movements she would have felt so rich and warm. As it was, sh_as hurt.
  • He returned and finished the exercise.
  • "You've done well this week," he said.
  • She saw he was flattered by her diary. It did not repay her entirely.
  • "You really do blossom out sometimes," he said. "You ought to write poetry."
  • She lifted her head with joy, then she shook it mistrustfully.
  • "I don't trust myself," she said.
  • "You should try!"
  • Again she shook her head.
  • "Shall we read, or is it too late?" he asked.
  • "It is late—but we can read just a little," she pleaded.
  • She was really getting now the food for her life during the next week. He mad_er copy Baudelaire's "Le Balcon". Then he read it for her. His voice was sof_nd caressing, but growing almost brutal. He had a way of lifting his lips an_howing his teeth, passionately and bitterly, when he was much moved. This h_id now. It made Miriam feel as if he were trampling on her. She dared no_ook at him, but sat with her head bowed. She could not understand why he go_nto such a tumult and fury. It made her wretched. She did not lik_audelaire, on the whole—nor Verlaine.
  • {verse
  • "Behold her singing in the field
  • Yon solitary highland lass."
  • {verse
  • That nourished her heart. So did "Fair Ines". And—
  • {verse
  • "It was a beauteous evening, calm and pure,
  • And breathing holy quiet like a nun."
  • {verse
  • These were like herself. And there was he, saying in his throat bitterly:
  • "Tu te rappelleras la beaute des caresses."
  • The poem was finished; he took the bread out of the oven, arranging the burn_oaves at the bottom of the panchion, the good ones at the top. The desiccate_oaf remained swathed up in the scullery.
  • "Mater needn't know till morning," he said. "It won't upset her so much the_s at night."
  • Miriam looked in the bookcase, saw what postcards and letters he had received, saw what books were there. She took one that had interested him. Then h_urned down the gas and they set off. He did not trouble to lock the door.
  • He was not home again until a quarter to eleven. His mother was seated in th_ocking-chair. Annie, with a rope of hair hanging down her back, remaine_itting on a low stool before the fire, her elbows on her knees, gloomily. O_he table stood the offending loaf unswathed. Paul entered rather breathless.
  • No one spoke. His mother was reading the little local newspaper. He took of_is coat, and went to sit down on the sofa. His mother moved curtly aside t_et him pass. No one spoke. He was very uncomfortable. For some minutes he sa_retending to read a piece of paper he found on the table. Then—
  • "I forgot that bread, mother," he said.
  • There was no answer from either woman.
  • "Well," he said, "it's only twopence ha'penny. I can pay you for that."
  • Being angry, he put three pennies on the table and slid them towards hi_other. She turned away her head. Her mouth was shut tightly.
  • "Yes," said Annie, "you don't know how badly my mother is!"
  • The girl sat staring glumly into the fire.
  • "Why is she badly?" asked Paul, in his overbearing way.
  • "Well!" said Annie. "She could scarcely get home."
  • He looked closely at his mother. She looked ill.
  • "WHY could you scarcely get home?" he asked her, still sharply. She would no_nswer.
  • "I found her as white as a sheet sitting here," said Annie, with a suggestio_f tears in her voice.
  • "Well, WHY?" insisted Paul. His brows were knitting, his eyes dilatin_assionately.
  • "It was enough to upset anybody," said Mrs. Morel, "hugging thos_arcels—meat, and green-groceries, and a pair of curtains—"
  • "Well, why DID you hug them; you needn't have done."
  • "Then who would?"
  • "Let Annie fetch the meat."
  • "Yes, and I WOULD fetch the meat, but how was I to know. You were off wit_iriam, instead of being in when my mother came."
  • "And what was the matter with you?" asked Paul of his mother.
  • "I suppose it's my heart," she replied. Certainly she looked bluish round th_outh.
  • "And have you felt it before?"
  • "Yes—often enough."
  • "Then why haven't you told me?—and why haven't you seen a doctor?"
  • Mrs. Morel shifted in her chair, angry with him for his hectoring.
  • "You'd never notice anything," said Annie. "You're too eager to be off wit_iriam."
  • "Oh, am I—and any worse than you with Leonard?"
  • "I was in at a quarter to ten."
  • There was silence in the room for a time.
  • "I should have thought," said Mrs. Morel bitterly, "that she wouldn't hav_ccupied you so entirely as to burn a whole ovenful of bread."
  • "Beatrice was here as well as she."
  • "Very likely. But we know why the bread is spoilt."
  • "Why?" he flashed.
  • "Because you were engrossed with Miriam," replied Mrs. Morel hotly.
  • "Oh, very well—then it was NOT!" he replied angrily.
  • He was distressed and wretched. Seizing a paper, he began to read. Annie, he_louse unfastened, her long ropes of hair twisted into a plait, went up t_ed, bidding him a very curt good-night.
  • Paul sat pretending to read. He knew his mother wanted to upbraid him. He als_anted to know what had made her ill, for he was troubled. So, instead o_unning away to bed, as he would have liked to do, he sat and waited. Ther_as a tense silence. The clock ticked loudly.
  • "You'd better go to bed before your father comes in," said the mother harshly.
  • "And if you're going to have anything to eat, you'd better get it."
  • "I don't want anything."
  • It was his mother's custom to bring him some trifle for supper on Frida_ight, the night of luxury for the colliers. He was too angry to go and fin_t in the pantry this night. This insulted her.
  • "If I WANTED you to go to Selby on Friday night, I can imagine the scene,"
  • said Mrs. Morel. "But you're never too tired to go if SHE will come for you.
  • Nay, you neither want to eat nor drink then."
  • "I can't let her go alone."
  • "Can't you? And why does she come?"
  • "Not because I ask her."
  • "She doesn't come without you want her—"
  • "Well, what if I DO want her—" he replied.
  • "Why, nothing, if it was sensible or reasonable. But to go trapseing up ther_iles and miles in the mud, coming home at midnight, and got to go t_ottingham in the morning—"
  • "If I hadn't, you'd be just the same."
  • "Yes, I should, because there's no sense in it. Is she so fascinating that yo_ust follow her all that way?" Mrs. Morel was bitterly sarcastic. She sa_till, with averted face, stroking with a rhythmic, jerked movement, the blac_ateen of her apron. It was a movement that hurt Paul to see.
  • "I do like her," he said, "but—"
  • "LIKE her!" said Mrs. Morel, in the same biting tones. "It seems to me yo_ike nothing and nobody else. There's neither Annie, nor me, nor anyone no_or you."
  • "What nonsense, mother—you know I don't love her—I—I tell you I DON'T lov_er—she doesn't even walk with my arm, because I don't want her to."
  • "Then why do you fly to her so often?"
  • "I DO like to talk to her—I never said I didn't. But I DON'T love her."
  • "Is there nobody else to talk to?"
  • "Not about the things we talk of. There's a lot of things that you're no_nterested in, that—"
  • "What things?"
  • Mrs. Morel was so intense that Paul began to pant.
  • "Why—painting—and books. YOU don't care about Herbert Spencer."
  • "No," was the sad reply. "And YOU won't at my age."
  • "Well, but I do now—and Miriam does—"
  • "And how do you know," Mrs. Morel flashed defiantly, "that I shouldn't. Do yo_ver try me!"
  • "But you don't, mother, you know you don't care whether a picture's decorativ_r not; you don't care what MANNER it is in."
  • "How do you know I don't care? Do you ever try me? Do you ever talk to m_bout these things, to try?"
  • "But it's not that that matters to you, mother, you know t's not."
  • "What is it, then—what is it, then, that matters to me?" she flashed. H_nitted his brows with pain.
  • "You're old, mother, and we're young."
  • He only meant that the interests of HER age were not the interests of his. Bu_e realised the moment he had spoken that he had said the wrong thing.
  • "Yes, I know it well—I am old. And therefore I may stand aside; I have nothin_ore to do with you. You only want me to wait on you—the rest is for Miriam."
  • He could not bear it. Instinctively he realised that he was life to her. And, after all, she was the chief thing to him, the only supreme thing.
  • "You know it isn't, mother, you know it isn't!"
  • She was moved to pity by his cry.
  • "It looks a great deal like it," she said, half putting aside her despair.
  • "No, mother—I really DON'T love her. I talk to her, but I want to come home t_ou."
  • He had taken off his collar and tie, and rose, bare-throated, to go to bed. A_e stooped to kiss his mother, she threw her arms round his neck, hid her fac_n his shoulder, and cried, in a whimpering voice, so unlike her own that h_rithed in agony:
  • "I can't bear it. I could let another woman—but not her. She'd leave me n_oom, not a bit of room—"
  • And immediately he hated Miriam bitterly.
  • "And I've never—you know, Paul—I've never had a husband—not really—"
  • He stroked his mother's hair, and his mouth was on her throat.
  • "And she exults so in taking you from me—she's not like ordinary girls."
  • "Well, I don't love her, mother," he murmured, bowing his head and hiding hi_yes on her shoulder in misery. His mother kissed him a long, fervent kiss.
  • "My boy!" she said, in a voice trembling with passionate love.
  • Without knowing, he gently stroked her face.
  • "There," said his mother, "now go to bed. You'll be so tired in the morning."
  • As she was speaking she heard her husband coming. "There's your father—no_o." Suddenly she looked at him almost as if in fear. "Perhaps I'm selfish. I_ou want her, take her, my boy."
  • His mother looked so strange, Paul kissed her, trembling.
  • "Ha—mother!" he said softly.
  • Morel came in, walking unevenly. His hat was over one corner of his eye. H_alanced in the doorway.
  • "At your mischief again?" he said venomously.
  • Mrs. Morel's emotion turned into sudden hate of the drunkard who had come i_hus upon her.
  • "At any rate, it is sober," she said.
  • "H'm—h'm! h'm—h'm!" he sneered. He went into the passage, hung up his hat an_oat. Then they heard him go down three steps to the pantry. He returned wit_ piece of pork-pie in his fist. It was what Mrs. Morel had bought for he_on.
  • "Nor was that bought for you. If you can give me no more than twenty-fiv_hillings, I'm sure I'm not going to buy you pork-pie to stuff, after you'v_willed a bellyful of beer."
  • "Wha-at—wha-at!" snarled Morel, toppling in his balance. "Wha-at—not for me?"
  • He looked at the piece of meat and crust, and suddenly, in a vicious spurt o_emper, flung it into the fire.
  • Paul started to his feet.
  • "Waste your own stuff!" he cried.
  • "What—what!" suddenly shouted Morel, jumping up and clenching his fist. "I'l_how yer, yer young jockey!"
  • "All right!" said Paul viciously, putting his head on one side. "Show me!"
  • He would at that moment dearly have loved to have a smack at something. More_as half crouching, fists up, ready to spring. The young man stood, smilin_ith his lips.
  • "Ussha!" hissed the father, swiping round with a great stroke just past hi_on's face. He dared not, even though so close, really touch the young man, but swerved an inch away.
  • "Right!" said Paul, his eyes upon the side of his father's mouth, where i_nother instant his fist would have hit. He ached for that stroke. But h_eard a faint moan from behind. His mother was deadly pale and dark at th_outh. Morel was dancing up to deliver another blow.
  • "Father!" said Paul, so that the word rang.
  • Morel started, and stood at attention.
  • "Mother!" moaned the boy. "Mother!"
  • She began to struggle with herself. Her open eyes watched him, although sh_ould not move. Gradually she was coming to herself. He laid her down on th_ofa, and ran upstairs for a little whisky, which at last she could sip. Th_ears were hopping down his face. As he kneeled in front of her he did no_ry, but the tears ran down his face quickly. Morel, on the opposite side o_he room, sat with his elbows on his knees glaring across.
  • "What's a-matter with 'er?" he asked.
  • "Faint!" replied Paul.
  • "H'm!"
  • The elderly man began to unlace his boots. He stumbled off to bed. His las_ight was fought in that home.
  • Paul kneeled there, stroking his mother's hand.
  • "Don't be poorly, mother—don't be poorly!" he said time after time.
  • "It's nothing, my boy," she murmured.
  • At last he rose, fetched in a large piece of coal, and raked the fire. Then h_leared the room, put everything straight, laid the things for breakfast, an_rought his mother's candle.
  • "Can you go to bed, mother?"
  • "Yes, I'll come."
  • "Sleep with Annie, mother, not with him."
  • "No. I'll sleep in my own bed."
  • "Don't sleep with him, mother."
  • "I'll sleep in my own bed."
  • She rose, and he turned out the gas, then followed her closely upstairs, carrying her candle. On the landing he kissed her close.
  • "Good-night, mother."
  • "Good-night!" she said.
  • He pressed his face upon the pillow in a fury of misery. And yet, somewhere i_is soul, he was at peace because he still loved his mother best. It was th_itter peace of resignation.
  • The efforts of his father to conciliate him next day were a great humiliatio_o him.
  • Everybody tried to forget the scene.