DEFEAT OF MIRIAM
PAUL was dissatisfied with himself and with everything.
The deepest of his love belonged to his mother.
When he felt he had hurt her,
or wounded his love for her,
he could not bear it.
Now it was spring,
and there was battle between him and Miriam.
This year he had a good deal against her.
She was vaguely aware of it.
The old feeling that she was to be a sacrifice to this love,
which she had had when she prayed,
was mingled in all her emotions.
She did not at the bottom believe she ever would have him.
She did not believe in herself primarily: doubted whether she could ever be what he would demand of her.
Certainly she never saw herself living happily through a lifetime with him.
She saw tragedy,
and sacrifice ahead.
And in sacrifice she was proud,
in renunciation she was strong,
for she did not trust herself to support everyday life.
She was prepared for the big things and the deep things,
It was the sufficiency of the small day-life she could not trust.
The Easter holidays began happily.
Paul was his own frank self.
Yet she felt it would go wrong.
On the Sunday afternoon she stood at her bedroom window,
looking across at the oak-trees of the wood,
in whose branches a twilight was tangled,
below the bright sky of the afternoon.
Grey-green rosettes of honeysuckle leaves hung before the window,
It was spring,
which she loved and dreaded.
Hearing the clack of the gate she stood in suspense.
It was a bright grey day.
Paul came into the yard with his bicycle,
which glittered as he walked.
Usually he rang his bell and laughed towards the house.
To-day he walked with shut lips and cold,
that had something of a slouch and a sneer in it.
She knew him well by now,
and could tell from that keen-looking,
aloof young body of his what was happening inside him.
There was a cold correctness in the way he put his bicycle in its place,
that made her heart sink.
She came downstairs nervously.
She was wearing a new net blouse that she thought became her.
It had a high collar with a tiny ruff,
reminding her of Mary,
Queen of Scots,
and making her,
look wonderfully a woman,
At twenty she was full-breasted and luxuriously formed.
Her face was still like a soft rich mask,
But her eyes,
She was afraid of him.
He would notice her new blouse.
being in a hard,
was entertaining the family to a description of a service given in the Primitive Methodist Chapel,
conducted by one of the well-known preachers of the sect.
He sat at the head of the table,
his mobile face,
with the eyes that could be so beautiful,
shining with tenderness or dancing with laughter,
now taking on one expression and then another,
in imitation of various people he was mocking.
His mockery always hurt her;
it was too near the reality.
He was too clever and cruel.
She felt that when his eyes were like this,
hard with mocking hate,
he would spare neither himself nor anybody else.
But Mrs. Leivers was wiping her eyes with laughter,
and Mr. Leivers,
just awake from his Sunday nap,
was rubbing his head in amusement.
The three brothers sat with ruffled,
sleepy appearance in their shirt-sleeves,
giving a guffaw from time to time.
The whole family loved a "take-off" more than anything.
He took no notice of Miriam.
she saw him remark her new blouse,
saw that the artist approved,
but it won from him not a spark of warmth.
She was nervous,
could hardly reach the teacups from the shelves.
When the men went out to milk,
she ventured to address him personally.
"You were late,"
There was silence for a while.
"Was it rough riding?"
"I didn't notice it."
She continued quickly to lay the table.
When she had finished --
"Tea won't be for a few minutes.
Will you come and look at the daffodils?"
He rose without answering.
They went out into the back garden under the budding damson-trees.
The hills and the sky were clean and cold.
Everything looked washed,
Miriam glanced at Paul.
He was pale and impassive.
It seemed cruel to her that his eyes and brows,
which she loved,
could look so hurting.
"Has the wind made you tired?"
She detected an underneath feeling of weariness about him.
I think not,"
"It must be rough on the road --the wood moans so."
"You can see by the clouds it's a south-west wind;
that helps me here."
I don't cycle,
so I don't understand,"
"Is there need to cycle to know that!"
She thought his sarcasms were unnecessary.
They went forward in silence.
Round the wild,
tussocky lawn at the back of the house was a thorn hedge,
under which daffodils were craning forward from among their sheaves of grey-green blades.
The cheeks of the flowers were greenish with cold.
But still some had burst,
and their gold ruffled and glowed.
Miriam went on her knees before one cluster,
took a wild-looking daffodil between her hands,
turned up its face of gold to her,
and bowed down,
caressing it with her mouth and cheeks and brow.
He stood aside,
with his hands in his pockets,
One after another she turned up to him the faces of the yellow,
bursten flowers appealingly,
fondling them lavishly all the while.
"Aren't they magnificent?"
It's a bit thick --they're pretty!"
She bowed again to her flowers at his censure of her praise.
He watched her crouching,
sipping the flowers with fervid kisses.
"Why must you always be fondling things?"
he said irritably.
"But I love to touch them,"
"Can you never like things without clutching them as if you wanted to pull the heart out of them?
Why don't you have a bit more restraint,
She looked up at him full of pain,
then continued slowly to stroke her lips against a ruffled flower.
as she smelled it,
was so much kinder than he;
it almost made her cry.
"You wheedle the soul out of things,"
"I would never wheedle --at any rate,
I'd go straight."
He scarcely knew what he was saying.
These things came from him mechanically.
She looked at him.
His body seemed one weapon,
firm and hard against her.
"You're always begging things to love you,"
"as if you were a beggar for love.
Even the flowers,
you have to fawn on them --"
Miriam was swaying and stroking the flower with her mouth,
inhaling the scent which ever after made her shudder as it came to her nostrils.
"You don't want to love --your eternal and abnormal craving is to be loved.
You aren't positive,
as if you must fill yourself up with love,
because you've got a shortage somewhere."
She was stunned by his cruelty,
and did not hear.
He had not the faintest notion of what he was saying.
It was as if his fretted,
run hot by thwarted passion,
jetted off these sayings like sparks from electricity.
She did not grasp anything he said.
She only sat crouched beneath his cruelty and his hatred of her.
She never realised in a flash.
Over everything she brooded and brooded.
After tea he stayed with Edgar and the brothers,
taking no notice of Miriam.
extremely unhappy on this looked-for holiday,
waited for him.
And at last he yielded and came to her.
She was determined to track this mood of his to its origin.
She counted it not much more than a mood.
"Shall we go through the wood a little way?"
she asked him,
knowing he never refused a direct request.
They went down to the warren.
On the middle path they passed a trap,
a narrow horseshoe hedge of small fir-boughs,
baited with the guts of a rabbit.
Paul glanced at it frowning.
She caught his eye.
"Isn't it dreadful?"
"I don't know!
Is it worse than a weasel with its teeth in a rabbit's throat?
One weasel or many rabbits?
One or the other must go!"
He was taking the bitterness of life badly.
She was rather sorry for him.
"We will go back to the house,"
"I don't want to walk out."
They went past the lilac-tree,
whose bronze leaf-buds were coming unfastened.
Just a fragment remained of the haystack,
a monument squared and brown,
like a pillar of stone.
There was a little bed of hay from the last cutting.
"Let us sit here a minute,"
He sat down against his will,
resting his back against the hard wall of hay.
They faced the amphitheatre of round hills that glowed with sunset,
tiny white farms standing out,
the meadows golden,
the woods dark and yet luminous,
tree-tops folded over tree-tops,
distinct in the distance.
The evening had cleared,
and the east was tender with a magenta flush under which the land lay still and rich.
"Isn't it beautiful?"
But he only scowled.
He would rather have had it ugly just then.
At that moment a big bull-terrier came rushing up,
pranced his two paws on the youth's shoulders,
licking his face.
Paul drew back,
Bill was a great relief to him.
He pushed the dog aside,
but it came leaping back.
said the lad,
"or I'll dot thee one."
But the dog was not to be pushed away.
So Paul had a little battle with the creature,
pitching poor Bill away from him,
only floundered tumultuously back again,
wild with joy.
The two fought together,
the man laughing grudgingly,
the dog grinning all over.
Miriam watched them.
There was something pathetic about the man.
He wanted so badly to love,
to be tender.
The rough way he bowled the dog over was really loving.
Bill got up,
panting with happiness,
his brown eyes rolling in his white face,
and lumbered back again.
He adored Paul.
The lad frowned.
I've had enough o' thee,"
But the dog only stood with two heavy paws,
that quivered with love,
upon his thigh,
and flickered a red tongue at him.
He drew back.
he said --"no --I've had enough."
And in a minute the dog trotted off happily,
to vary the fun.
He remained staring miserably across at the hills,
whose still beauty he begrudged.
He wanted to go and cycle with Edgar.
Yet he had not the courage to leave Miriam.
"Why are you sad?"
she asked humbly.
"I'm not sad;
why should I be,"
"I'm only normal."
She wondered why he always claimed to be normal when he was disagreeable.
"But what is the matter?"
coaxing him soothingly.
He picked up a stick and began to stab the earth with it.
"You'd far better not talk,"
"But I wish to know --" she replied.
He laughed resentfully.
"You always do,"
"It's not fair to me,"
thrust at the ground with the pointed stick,
digging up little clods of earth as if he were in a fever of irritation.
She gently and firmly laid her band on his wrist.
"Put it away."
He flung the stick into the currant-bushes,
and leaned back.
Now he was bottled up.
"What is it?"
she pleaded softly.
He lay perfectly still,
only his eyes alive,
and they full of torment.
he said at length,
rather wearily --"you know --we'd better break off."
It was what she dreaded.
Swiftly everything seemed to darken before her eyes.
"What has happened?"
"Nothing has happened.
We only realise where we are.
It's no good --"
She waited in silence,
It was no good being impatient with him.
At any rate,
he would tell her now what ailed him.
"We agreed on friendship,"
he went on in a dull,
"How often HAVE we agreed for friendship!
And yet --it neither stops there,
nor gets anywhere else."
He was silent again.
What did he mean?
He was so wearying.
There was something he would not yield.
Yet she must be patient with him.
"I can only give friendship --it's all I'm capable of --it's a flaw in my make-up.
The thing overbalances to one side --I hate a toppling balance.
Let us have done."
There was warmth of fury in his last phrases.
He meant she loved him more than he her.
Perhaps he could not love her.
Perhaps she had not in herself that which he wanted.
It was the deepest motive of her soul,
It was so deep she dared neither realise nor acknowledge.
Perhaps she was deficient.
Like an infinitely subtle shame,
it kept her always back.
If it were so,
she would do without him.
She would never let herself want him.
She would merely see.
"But what has happened?"
"Nothing --it's all in myself --it only comes out just now.
We're always like this towards Easter-time."
He grovelled so helplessly,
she pitied him.
At least she never floundered in such a pitiable way.
it was he who was chiefly humiliated.
"What do you want?"
she asked him.
"Why --I mustn't come often --that's all.
Why should I monopolise you when I'm not --You see,
I'm deficient in something with regard to you --"
He was telling her he did not love her,
and so ought to leave her a chance with another man.
How foolish and blind and shamefully clumsy he was!
What were other men to her!
What were men to her at all!
she loved his soul.
Was HE deficient in something?
Perhaps he was.
"But I don't understand,"
she said huskily.
The night was turning jangled and hateful to him as the twilight faded.
And she bowed under her suffering.
"you never will!
You'll never believe that I can't --can't physically,
any more than I can fly up like a skylark --"
Now she dreaded.
He hated her bitterly at that moment because he made her suffer.
She knew he loved her.
He really belonged to her.
This about not loving her,
was a mere perversity on his part,
because he knew she loved him.
He was stupid like a child.
He belonged to her.
His soul wanted her.
She guessed somebody had been influencing him.
She felt upon him the hardness,
the foreignness of another influence.
"What have they been saying at home?"
"It's not that,"
And then she knew it was.
She despised them for their commonness,
They did not know what things were really worth.
He and she talked very little more that night.
After all he left her to cycle with Edgar.
He had come back to his mother.
Hers was the strongest tie in his life.
When he thought round,
Miriam shrank away.
There was a vague,
unreal feel about her.
And nobody else mattered.
There was one place in the world that stood solid and did not melt into unreality: the place where his mother was.
Everybody else could grow shadowy,
almost non-existent to him,
but she could not.
It was as if the pivot and pole of his life,
from which he could not escape,
was his mother.
And in the same way she waited for him.
In him was established her life now.
the life beyond offered very little to Mrs. Morel.
She saw that our chance for DOING is here,
and doing counted with her.
Paul was going to prove that she had been right;
he was going to make a man whom nothing should shift off his feet;
he was going to alter the face of the earth in some way which mattered.
Wherever he went she felt her soul went with him.
Whatever he did she felt her soul stood by him,
as it were,
to hand him his tools.
She could not bear it when he was with Miriam.
William was dead.
She would fight to keep Paul.
And he came back to her.
And in his soul was a feeling of the satisfaction of self-sacrifice because he was faithful to her.
She loved him first;
he loved her first.
And yet it was not enough.
His new young life,
so strong and imperious,
was urged towards something else.
It made him mad with restlessness.
She saw this,
and wished bitterly that Miriam had been a woman who could take this new life of his,
and leave her the roots.
He fought against his mother almost as he fought against Miriam.
It was a week before he went again to Willey Farm.
Miriam had suffered a great deal,
and was afraid to see him again.
Was she now to endure the ignominy of his abandoning her?
That would only be superficial and temporary.
He would come back.
She held the keys to his soul.
how he would torture her with his battle against her.
She shrank from it.
the Sunday after Easter he came to tea.
Mrs. Leivers was glad to see him.
She gathered something was fretting him,
that he found things hard.
He seemed to drift to her for comfort.
And she was good to him.
She did him that great kindness of treating him almost with reverence.
He met her with the young children in the front garden.
"I'm glad you've come,"
said the mother,
looking at him with her great appealing brown eyes.
"It is such a sunny day.
I was just going down the fields for the first time this year."
He felt she would like him to come.
That soothed him.
he gentle and humble.
He could have wept with gratitude that she was deferential to him.
He was feeling humiliated.
At the bottom of the Mow Close they found a thrush's nest.
"Shall I show you the eggs?"
replied Mrs. Leivers.
"They seem SUCH a sign of spring,
and so hopeful."
He put aside the thorns,
and took out the eggs,
holding them in the palm of his hand.
"They are quite hot --I think we frightened her off them,"
said Mrs. Leivers.
Miriam could not help touching the eggs,
and his hand which,
it seemed to her,
cradled them so well.
"Isn't it a strange warmth!"
to get near him.
She watched him putting them back,
his body pressed against the hedge,
his arm reaching slowly through the thorns,
his hand folded carefully over the eggs.
He was concentrated on the act.
Seeing him so,
she loved him;
he seemed so simple and sufficient to himself.
And she could not get to him.
After tea she stood hesitating at the bookshelf.
He took "Tartarin de Tarascon".
Again they sat on the bank of hay at the foot of the stack.
He read a couple of pages,
but without any heart for it.
Again the dog came racing up to repeat the fun of the other day.
He shoved his muzzle in the man's chest.
Paul fingered his ear for a moment.
Then he pushed him away.
"I don't want you."
Bill slunk off,
and Miriam wondered and dreaded what was coming.
There was a silence about the youth that made her still with apprehension.
It was not his furies,
but his quiet resolutions that she feared.
Turning his face a little to one side,
so that she could not see him,
speaking slowly and painfully:
"Do you think --if I didn't come up so much --you might get to like somebody else --another man?"
So this was what he was still harping on.
"But I don't know any other men.
Why do you ask?"
in a low tone that should have been a reproach to him.
"because they say I've no right to come up like this --without we mean to marry --"
Miriam was indignant at anybody's forcing the issues between them.
She had been furious with her own father for suggesting to Paul,
that he knew why he came so much.
wondering if her people had anything to do with it.
They had not.
"Mother --and the others.
They say at this rate everybody will consider me engaged,
and I ought to consider myself so,
because it's not fair to you.
And I've tried to find out --and I don't think I love you as a man ought to love his wife.
What do you think about it?"
Miriam bowed her head moodily.
She was angry at having this struggle.
People should leave him and her alone.
"I don't know,"
"Do you think we love each other enough to marry?"
he asked definitely.
It made her tremble.
she answered truthfully.
"I don't think so --we're too young."
"I thought perhaps,"
he went on miserably,
with your intensity in things,
might have given me more --than I could ever make up to you.
And even now --if you think it better --we'll be engaged."
Now Miriam wanted to cry.
And she was angry,
He was always such a child for people to do as they liked with.
I don't think so,"
she said firmly.
He pondered a minute.
"with me --I don't think one person would ever monopolize me --be everything to me --I think never."
This she did not consider.
after a pause,
she looked at him,
and her dark eyes flashed.
"This is your mother,"
"I know she never liked me."
he said hastily.
"It was for your sake she spoke this time.
She only said,
if I was going on,
I ought to consider myself engaged."
There was a silence.
"And if I ask you to come down any time,
you won't stop away,
She did not answer.
By this time she was very angry.
what shall we do?"
she said shortly.
"I suppose I'd better drop French.
I was just beginning to get on with it.
But I suppose I can go on alone."
"I don't see that we need,"
"I can give you a French lesson,
"Well --and there are Sunday nights.
I shan't stop coming to chapel,
because I enjoy it,
and it's all the social life I get.
But you've no need to come home with me.
I can go alone."
rather taken aback.
"But if I ask Edgar,
he'll always come with us,
and then they can say nothing."
There was silence.
she would not lose much.
For all their talk down at his home there would not be much difference.
She wished they would mind their own business.
"And you won't think about it,
and let it trouble you,
without looking at him.
He was silent.
She thought him unstable.
He had no fixity of purpose,
no anchor of righteousness that held him.
"a man gets across his bicycle --and goes to work --and does all sorts of things.
But a woman broods."
I shan't bother,"
And she meant it.
It had gone rather chilly.
They went indoors.
"How white Paul looks!"
Mrs. Leivers exclaimed.
you shouldn't have let him sit out of doors.
Do you think you've taken cold,
But he felt done up.
It wore him out,
the conflict in himself.
Miriam pitied him now.
But quite early,
before nine o'clock,
he rose to go.
"You're not going home,
asked Mrs. Leivers anxiously.
"I said I'd be early."
He was very awkward.
"But this IS early,"
said Mrs. Leivers.
Miriam sat in the rocking-chair,
and did not speak.
expecting her to rise and go with him to the barn as usual for his bicycle.
She remained as she was.
He was at a loss.
She spoke her good-night along with all the others.
But as he went past the window he looked in.
She saw him pale,
his brows knit slightly in a way that had become constant with him,
his eyes dark with pain.
She rose and went to the doorway to wave good-bye to him as he passed through the gate.
He rode slowly under the pine-trees,
feeling a cur and a miserable wretch.
His bicycle went tilting down the hills at random.
He thought it would be a relief to break one's neck.
Two days later he sent her up a book and a little note,
urging her to read and be busy.
At this time he gave all his friendship to Edgar.
He loved the family so much,
he loved the farm so much;
it was the dearest place on earth to him.
His home was not so lovable.
It was his mother.
But then he would have been just as happy with his mother anywhere.
Whereas Willey Farm he loved passionately.
He loved the little pokey kitchen,
where men's boots tramped,
and the dog slept with one eye open for fear of being trodden on;
where the lamp hung over the table at night,
and everything was so silent.
He loved Miriam's long,
with its atmosphere of romance,
its high rosewood piano.
He loved the gardens and the buildings that stood with their scarlet roofs on the naked edges of the fields,
crept towards the wood as if for cosiness,
the wild country scooping down a valley and up the uncultured hills of the other side.
Only to be there was an exhilaration and a joy to him.
He loved Mrs. Leivers,
with her unworldliness and her quaint cynicism;
he loved Mr. Leivers,
so warm and young and lovable;
he loved Edgar,
who lit up when he came,
and the boys and the children and Bill --even the sow Circe and the Indian game-cock called Tippoo.
All this besides Miriam.
He could not give it up.
So he went as often,
but he was usually with Edgar.
Only all the family,
including the father,
joined in charades and games at evening.
Miriam drew them together,
and they read Macbeth out of penny books,
It was great excitement.
Miriam was glad,
and Mrs. Leivers was glad,
and Mr. Leivers enjoyed it.
Then they all learned songs together from tonic sol-fa,
singing in a circle round the fire.
But now Paul was very rarely alone with Miriam.
When she and Edgar and he walked home together from chapel or from the literary society in Bestwood,
she knew his talk,
so passionate and so unorthodox nowadays,
was for her.
She did envy Edgar,
his cycling with Paul,
his Friday nights,
his days working in the fields.
For her Friday nights and her French lessons were gone.
She was nearly always alone,
pondering in the wood,
And he wrote to her frequently.
One Sunday evening they attained to their old rare harmony.
Edgar had stayed to Communion --he wondered what it was like --with Mrs. Morel.
So Paul came on alone with Miriam to his home.
He was more or less under her spell again.
they were discussing the sermon.
He was setting now full sail towards Agnosticism,
but such a religious Agnosticism that Miriam did not suffer so badly.
They were at the Renan Vie de Jesus stage.
Miriam was the threshing-floor on which he threshed out all his beliefs.
While he trampled his ideas upon her soul,
the truth came out for him.
She alone was his threshing-floor.
She alone helped him towards realization.
she submitted to his argument and expounding.
because of her,
he gradually realized where he was wrong.
And what he realized,
She felt he could not do without her.
They came to the silent house.
He took the key out of the scullery window,
and they entered.
All the time he went on with his discussion.
He lit the gas,
mended the fire,
and brought her some cakes from the pantry.
She sat on the sofa,
with a plate on her knee.
She wore a large white hat with some pinkish flowers.
It was a cheap hat,
but he liked it.
Her face beneath was still and pensive,
golden-brown and ruddy.
Always her ears were hid in her short curls.
She watched him.
She liked him on Sundays.
Then he wore a dark suit that showed the lithe movement of his body.
There was a clean,
clear-cut look about him.
He went on with his thinking to her.
Suddenly he reached for a Bible.
Miriam liked the way he reached up --so sharp,
straight to the mark.
He turned the pages quickly,
and read her a chapter of St. John.
As he sat in the armchair reading,
his voice only thinking,
she felt as if he were using her unconsciously as a man uses his tools at some work he is bent on.
She loved it.
And the wistfulness of his voice was like a reaching to something,
and it was as if she were what he reached with.
She sat back on the sofa away from him,
and yet feeling herself the very instrument his hand grasped.
It gave her great pleasure.
Then he began to falter and to get self-conscious.
And when he came to the verse,
when she is in travail,
hath sorrow because her hour is come",
he missed it out.
Miriam had felt him growing uncomfortable.
She shrank when the well-known words did not follow.
He went on reading,
but she did not hear.
A grief and shame made her bend her head.
Six months ago he would have read it simply.
Now there was a scotch in his running with her.
Now she felt there was really something hostile between them,
something of which they were ashamed.
She ate her cake mechanically.
He tried to go on with his argument,
but could not get back the right note.
Soon Edgar came in.
Mrs. Morel had gone to her friends'.
The three set off to Willey Farm.
Miriam brooded over his split with her.
There was something else he wanted.
He could not be satisfied;
he could give her no peace.
There was between them now always a ground for strife.
She wanted to prove him.
She believed that his chief need in life was herself.
If she could prove it,
both to herself and to him,
the rest might go;
she could simply trust to the future.
So in May she asked him to come to Willey Farm and meet Mrs. Dawes.
There was something he hankered after.
She saw him,
whenever they spoke of Clara Dawes,
rouse and get slightly angry.
He said he did not like her.
Yet he was keen to know about her.
he should put himself to the test.
She believed that there were in him desires for higher things,
and desires for lower,
and that the desire for the higher would conquer.
At any rate,
he should try.
She forgot that her "higher" and "lower" were arbitrary.
He was rather excited at the idea of meeting Clara at Willey Farm.
Mrs. Dawes came for the day.
dun-coloured hair was coiled on top of her head.
She wore a white blouse and navy skirt,
wherever she was,
seemed to make things look paltry and insignificant.
When she was in the room,
the kitchen seemed too small and mean altogether.
Miriam's beautiful twilighty parlour looked stiff and stupid.
All the Leivers were eclipsed like candles.
They found her rather hard to put up with.
Yet she was perfectly amiable,
and rather hard.
Paul did not come till afternoon.
He was early.
As he swung off his bicycle,
Miriam saw him look round at the house eagerly.
He would be disappointed if the visitor had not come.
Miriam went out to meet him,
bowing her head because of the sunshine.
Nasturtiums were coming out crimson under the cool green shadow of their leaves.
The girl stood,
glad to see him.
"Hasn't Clara come?"
replied Miriam in her musical tone.
He wheeled his bicycle into the barn.
He had put on a handsome tie,
of which he was rather proud,
and socks to match.
"She came this morning?"
as she walked at his side.
"You said you'd bring me that letter from the man at Liberty's.
Have you remembered?"
"But nag at me till you get it."
"I don't like to nag at you."
"Do it whether or not.
And is she any more agreeable?"
"You know I always think she is quite agreeable."
He was silent.
Evidently his eagerness to be early to-day had been the newcomer.
Miriam already began to suffer.
They went together towards the house.
He took the clips off his trousers,
but was too lazy to brush the dust from his shoes,
in spite of the socks and tie.
Clara sat in the cool parlour reading.
He saw the nape of her white neck,
and the fine hair lifted from it.
looking at him indifferently.
To shake hands she lifted her arm straight,
in a manner that seemed at once to keep him at a distance,
and yet to fling something to him.
He noticed how her breasts swelled inside her blouse,
and how her shoulder curved handsomely under the thin muslin at the top of her arm.
"You have chosen a fine day,"
"It happens so,"
"I am glad."
She sat down,
not thanking him for his politeness.
"What have you been doing all morning?"
asked Paul of Miriam.
"Clara only came with father --and so --she's not been here very long."
Clara sat leaning on the table,
He noticed her hands were large,
but well kept.
And the skin on them seemed almost coarse,
with fine golden hairs.
She did not mind if he observed her hands.
She intended to scorn him.
Her heavy arm lay negligently on the table.
Her mouth was closed as if she were offended,
and she kept her face slightly averted.
"You were at Margaret Bonford's meeting the other evening,"
he said to her.
Miriam did not know this courteous Paul.
Clara glanced at him.
"how do you know?"
"I went in for a few minutes before the train came,"
Clara turned away again rather disdainfully.
"I think she's a lovable little woman,"
"She's a great deal cleverer than most men."
I didn't say she wasn't,"
"She's lovable for all that."
that is all that matters,"
said Clara witheringly.
He rubbed his head,
"I suppose it matters more than her cleverness,"
would never get her to heaven."
"It's not heaven she wants to get --it's her fair share on earth,"
She spoke as if he were responsible for some deprivation which Miss Bonford suffered.
"I thought she was warm,
and awfully nice --only too frail.
I wished she was sitting comfortably in peace --"
"'Darning her husband's stockings,'" said Clara scathingly.
"I'm sure she wouldn't mind darning even my stockings,"
"And I'm sure she'd do them well.
Just as I wouldn't mind blacking her boots if she wanted me to."
But Clara refused to answer this sally of his.
He talked to Miriam for a little while.
The other woman held aloof.
"I think I'll go and see Edgar.
Is he on the land?"
"he's gone for a load of coal.
He should be back directly."
"I'll go and meet him."
Miriam dared not propose anything for the three of them.
He rose and left them.
On the top road,
where the gorse was out,
he saw Edgar walking lazily beside the mare,
who nodded her white-starred forehead as she dragged the clanking load of coal.
The young farmer's face lighted up as he saw his friend.
Edgar was good-looking,
His clothes were old and rather disreputable,
and he walked with considerable pride.
seeing Paul bareheaded.
"Where are you going?"
"Came to meet you.
Edgar's teeth flashed in a laugh of amusement.
"The lady --Mrs. Dawes --it ought to be Mrs. The Raven that quothed
Edgar laughed with glee.
"Don't you like her?"
"Not a fat lot,"
The answer came with a deep ring of conviction.
Edgar pursed up his lips.
"I can't say she's much in my line."
He mused a little.
"But why do you call her
"if she looks at a man she says haughtily
and if she looks at herself in the looking-glass she says disdainfully
and if she thinks back she says it in disgust,
and if she looks forward she says it cynically."
Edgar considered this speech,
failed to make much out of it,
"You think she's a man-hater?"
"SHE thinks she is,"
"But you don't think so?"
"Wasn't she nice with you,
"Could you imagine her NICE with anybody?"
asked the young man.
Together they unloaded the coal in the yard.
Paul was rather self-conscious,
because he knew Clara could see if she looked out of the window.
She didn't look.
On Saturday afternoons the horses were brushed down and groomed.
Paul and Edgar worked together,
sneezing with the dust that came from the pelts of Jimmy and Flower.
"Do you know a new song to teach me?"
He continued to work all the time.
The back of his neck was sun-red when he bent down,
and his fingers that held the brush were thick.
Paul watched him sometimes.
suggested the younger.
He had a good tenor voice,
and he loved to learn all the songs his friend could teach him,
so that he could sing whilst he was carting.
Paul had a very indifferent baritone voice,
but a good ear.
he sang softly,
for fear of Clara.
Edgar repeated the line in a clear tenor.
At times they both broke off to sneeze,
and first one,
then the other,
abused his horse.
Miriam was impatient of men.
It took so little to amuse them --even Paul.
She thought it anomalous in him that he could be so thoroughly absorbed in a triviality.
It was tea-time when they had finished.
"What song was that?"
Edgar told her.
The conversation turned to singing.
"We have such jolly times,"
Miriam said to Clara.
Mrs. Dawes ate her meal in a slow,
Whenever the men were present she grew distant.
"Do you like singing?"
Miriam asked her.
"If it is good,"
"You mean if it is high-class and trained?"
"I think a voice needs training before the singing is anything,"
"You might as well insist on having people's voices trained before you allowed them to talk,"
people sing for their own pleasure,
as a rule."
"And it may be for other people's discomfort."
"Then the other people should have flaps to their ears,"
The boys laughed.
There was a silence.
He flushed deeply,
and ate in silence.
when all the men had gone but Paul,
Mrs. Leivers said to Clara:
"And you find life happier now?"
"And you are satisfied?"
"So long as I can be free and independent."
"And you don't MISS anything in your life?"
asked Mrs. Leivers gently.
"I've put all that behind me."
Paul had been feeling uncomfortable during this discourse.
He got up.
"You'll find you're always tumbling over the things you've put behind you,"
Then he took his departure to the cowsheds.
He felt he had been witty,
and his manly pride was high.
He whistled as he went down the brick track.
Miriam came for him a little later to know if he would go with Clara and her for a walk.
They set off down to Strelley Mill Farm.
As they were going beside the brook,
on the Willey Water side,
looking through the brake at the edge of the wood,
where pink campions glowed under a few sunbeams,
beyond the tree-trunks and the thin hazel bushes,
a man leading a great bay horse through the gullies.
The big red beast seemed to dance romantically through that dimness of green hazel drift,
away there where the air was shadowy,
as if it were in the past,
among the fading bluebells that might have bloomed for Deidre or Iseult.
The three stood charmed.
"What a treat to be a knight,"
"and to have a pavilion here."
"And to have us shut up safely?"
"singing with your maids at your broidery.
I would carry your banner of white and green and heliotrope.
I would have
emblazoned on my shield,
beneath a woman rampant."
"I have no doubt,"
"that you would much rather fight for a woman than let her fight for herself."
When she fights for herself she seems like a dog before a looking-glass,
gone into a mad fury with its own shadow."
"And YOU are the looking-glass?"
with a curl of the lip.
"Or the shadow,"
"I am afraid,"
"that you are too clever."
I leave it to you to be GOOD,"
and just let ME be clever."
But Clara wearied of his flippancy.
looking at her,
he saw that the upward lifting of her face was misery and not scorn.
His heart grew tender for everybody.
He turned and was gentle with Miriam,
whom he had neglected till then.
At the wood's edge they met Limb,
swarthy man of forty,
tenant of Strelley Mill,
which he ran as a cattle-raising farm.
He held the halter of the powerful stallion indifferently,
as if he were tired.
The three stood to let him pass over the stepping-stones of the first brook.
Paul admired that so large an animal should walk on such springy toes,
with an endless excess of vigour.
Limb pulled up before them.
"Tell your father,
in a peculiar piping voice,
"that his young beas'es
'as broke that bottom fence three days an' runnin'."
The great horse breathed heavily,
shifting round its red flanks,
and looking suspiciously with its wonderful big eyes upwards from under its lowered head and falling mane.
"Come along a bit,"
"an' I'll show you."
The man and the stallion went forward.
It danced sideways,
shaking its white fetlocks and looking frightened,
as it felt itself in the brook.
said the man affectionately to the beast.
It went up the bank in little leaps,
then splashed finely through the second brook.
walking with a kind of sulky abandon,
watched it half-fascinated,
Limb stopped and pointed to the fence under some willows.
you see where they got through,"
"My man's druv
'em back three times."
colouring as if she were at fault.
"Are you comin' in?"
asked the man.
but we should like to go by the pond."
just as you've a mind,"
The horse gave little whinneys of pleasure at being so near home.
"He is glad to be back,"
who was interested in the creature.
"Yes --'e's been a tidy step to-day."
They went through the gate,
and saw approaching them from the big farmhouse a smallish,
excitable-looking woman of about thirty-five.
Her hair was touched with grey,
her dark eyes looked wild.
She walked with her hands behind her back.
Her brother went forward.
As it saw her,
the big bay stallion whinneyed again.
She came up excitedly.
"Are you home again,
she said tenderly to the horse,
not to the man.
The great beast shifted round to her,
ducking his head.
She smuggled into his mouth the wrinkled yellow apple she had been hiding behind her back,
then she kissed him near the eyes.
He gave a big sigh of pleasure.
She held his head in her arms against her breast.
"Isn't he splendid!"
said Miriam to her.
Miss Limb looked up.
Her dark eyes glanced straight at Paul.
"It's ages since you've been down."
Miriam introduced her friends.
"Your horse IS a fine fellow!"
Again she kissed him.
"As loving as any man!"
"More loving than most men,
I should think,"
"He's a nice boy!"
cried the woman,
again embracing the horse.
fascinated by the big beast,
went up to stroke his neck.
"He's quite gentle,"
said Miss Limb.
"Don't you think big fellows are?"
"He's a beauty!"
She wanted to look in his eyes.
She wanted him to look at her.
"It's a pity he can't talk,"
but he can --all but,"
replied the other woman.
Then her brother moved on with the horse.
"Are you coming in?
DO come in,
Mr. --I didn't catch it."
we won't come in,
but we should like to go by the mill-pond."
Do you fish,
"Because if you do you might come and fish any time,"
said Miss Limb.
"We scarcely see a soul from week's end to week's end.
I should be thankful."
"What fish are there in the pond?"
They went through the front garden,
over the sluice,
and up the steep bank to the pond,
which lay in shadow,
with its two wooded islets.
Paul walked with Miss Limb.
"I shouldn't mind swimming here,"
"Come when you like.
My brother will be awfully pleased to talk with you.
He is so quiet,
because there is no one to talk to.
Do come and swim."
Clara came up.
"It's a fine depth,"
"and so clear."
said Miss Limb.
"Do you swim?"
"Miss Limb was just saying we could come when we liked."
"Of course there's the farm-hands,"
said Miss Limb.
They talked a few moments,
then went on up the wild hill,
leaving the lonely,
haggard-eyed woman on the bank.
The hillside was all ripe with sunshine.
It was wild and tussocky,
given over to rabbits.
The three walked in silence.
"She makes me feel uncomfortable,"
"You mean Miss Limb?"
"What's a matter with her?
Is she going dotty with being too lonely?"
"It's not the right sort of life for her.
I think it's cruel to bury her there.
I really ought to go and see her more.
But --she upsets me."
"She makes me feel sorry for her --yes,
and she bothers me,"
blurted Clara suddenly,
"she wants a man."
The other two were silent for a few moments.
"But it's the loneliness sends her cracked,"
Clara did not answer,
but strode on uphill.
She was walking with her hand hanging,
her legs swinging as she kicked through the dead thistles and the tussocky grass,
her arms hanging loose.
Rather than walking,
her handsome body seemed to be blundering up the hill.
A hot wave went over Paul.
He was curious about her.
Perhaps life had been cruel to her.
He forgot Miriam,
who was walking beside him talking to him.
She glanced at him,
finding he did not answer her.
His eyes were fixed ahead on Clara.
"Do you still think she is disagreeable?"
He did not notice that the question was sudden.
It ran with his thoughts.
"Something's the matter with her,"
They found at the top of the hill a hidden wild field,
two sides of which were backed by the wood,
the other sides by high loose hedges of hawthorn and elder bushes.
Between these overgrown bushes were gaps that the cattle might have walked through had there been any cattle now.
There the turf was smooth as velveteen,
padded and holed by the rabbits.
The field itself was coarse,
and crowded with tall,
big cowslips that had never been cut.
Clusters of strong flowers rose everywhere above the coarse tussocks of bent.
It was like a roadstead crowded with tan,
and she looked at Paul,
her dark eyes dilating.
Together they enjoyed the field of flowers.
a little way off,
was looking at the cowslips disconsolately.
Paul and Miriam stayed close together,
talking in subdued tones.
He kneeled on one knee,
quickly gathering the best blossoms,
moving from tuft to tuft restlessly,
talking softly all the time.
Miriam plucked the flowers lovingly,
lingering over them.
He always seemed to her too quick and almost scientific.
Yet his bunches had a natural beauty more than hers.
He loved them,
but as if they were his and he had a right to them.
She had more reverence for them: they held something she had not.
The flowers were very fresh and sweet.
He wanted to drink them.
As he gathered them,
he ate the little yellow trumpets.
Clara was still wandering about disconsolately.
Going towards her,
"Why don't you get some?"
"I don't believe in it.
They look better growing."
"But you'd like some?"
"They want to be left."
"I don't believe they do."
"I don't want the corpses of flowers about me,"
"That's a stiff,
"They don't die any quicker in water than on their roots.
they LOOK nice in a bowl --they look jolly.
And you only call a thing a corpse because it looks corpse-like."
"Whether it is one or not?"
"It isn't one to me.
A dead flower isn't a corpse of a flower."
Clara now ignored him.
"And even so --what right have you to pull them?"
"Because I like them,
and want them --and there's plenty of them."
"And that is sufficient?"
I'm sure they'd smell nice in your room in Nottingham."
"And I should have the pleasure of watching them die."
"But then --it does not matter if they do die."
Whereupon he left her,
and went stooping over the clumps of tangled flowers which thickly sprinkled the field like pale,
Miriam had come close.
Clara was kneeling,
breathing some scent from the cowslips.
"if you treat them with reverence you don't do them any harm.
It is the spirit you pluck them in that matters."
'em because you want
and that's all."
He held out his bunch.
Miriam was silent.
He picked some more.
"Look at these!"
"sturdy and lusty like little trees and like boys with fat legs."
Clara's hat lay on the grass not far off.
She was kneeling,
bending forward still to smell the flowers.
Her neck gave him a sharp pang,
such a beautiful thing,
yet not proud of itself just now.
Her breasts swung slightly in her blouse.
The arching curve of her back was beautiful and strong;
she wore no stays.
he was scattering a handful of cowslips over her hair and neck,
"Ashes to ashes,
and dust to dust,
If the Lord won't have you the devil must."
The chill flowers fell on her neck.
She looked up at him,
with almost pitiful,
scared grey eyes,
wondering what he was doing.
Flowers fell on her face,
and she shut her eyes.
standing there above her,
he felt awkward.
"I thought you wanted a funeral,"
ill at ease.
Clara laughed strangely,
picking the cowslips from her hair.
She took up her hat and pinned it on.
One flower had remained tangled in her hair.
but would not tell her.
He gathered up the flowers he had sprinkled over her.
At the edge of the wood the bluebells had flowed over into the field and stood there like flood-water.
But they were fading now.
Clara strayed up to them.
He wandered after her.
The bluebells pleased him.
"Look how they've come out of the wood!"
Then she turned with a flash of warmth and of gratitude.
His blood beat up.
"It makes me think of the wild men of the woods,
how terrified they would be when they got breast to breast with the open space."
"Do you think they were?"
"I wonder which was more frightened among old tribes --those bursting out of their darkness of woods upon all the space of light,
or those from the open tiptoeing into the forests."
"I should think the second,"
you DO feel like one of the open space sort,
trying to force yourself into the dark,
"How should I know?"
she answered queerly.
The conversation ended there.
The evening was deepening over the earth.
Already the valley was full of shadow.
One tiny square of light stood opposite at Crossleigh Bank Farm.
Brightness was swimming on the tops of the hills.
Miriam came up slowly,
her face in her big,
loose bunch of flowers,
walking ankle-deep through the scattered froth of the cowslips.
Beyond her the trees were coming into shape,
"Shall we go?"
And the three turned away.
They were all silent.
Going down the path they could see the light of home right across,
and on the ridge of the hill a thin dark outline with little lights,
where the colliery village touched the sky.
"It has been nice,
Miriam murmured assent.
Clara was silent.
"Don't you think so?"
But she walked with her head up,
and still did not answer.
He could tell by the way she moved,
as if she didn't care,
that she suffered.
At this time Paul took his mother to Lincoln.
She was bright and enthusiastic as ever,
but as he sat opposite her in the railway carriage,
she seemed to look frail.
He had a momentary sensation as if she were slipping away from him.
Then he wanted to get hold of her,
to fasten her,
almost to chain her.
He felt he must keep hold of her with his hand.
They drew near to the city.
Both were at the window looking for the cathedral.
"There she is,
They saw the great cathedral lying couchant above the plain.
"So she is!"
He looked at his mother.
Her blue eyes were watching the cathedral quietly.
She seemed again to be beyond him.
Something in the eternal repose of the uplifted cathedral,
blue and noble against the sky,
was reflected in her,
something of the fatality.
With all his young will he could not alter it.
He saw her face,
the skin still fresh and pink and downy,
but crow's-feet near her eyes,
her eyelids steady,
sinking a little,
her mouth always closed with disillusion;
and there was on her the same eternal look,
as if she knew fate at last.
He beat against it with all the strength of his soul.
how big she is above the town!
there are streets and streets below her!
She looks bigger than the city altogether."
"So she does!"
exclaimed his mother,
breaking bright into life again.
But he had seen her sitting,
looking steady out of the window at the cathedral,
her face and eyes fixed,
reflecting the relentlessness of life.
And the crow's-feet near her eyes,
and her mouth shut so hard,
made him feel he would go mad.
They ate a meal that she considered wildly extravagant.
"Don't imagine I like it,"
as she ate her cutlet.
"I DON'T like it,
I really don't!
Just THINK of your money wasted!"
"You never mind my money,"
"You forget I'm a fellow taking his girl for an outing."
And he bought her some blue violets.
"Stop it at once,
"How can I do it?"
"You've got nothing to do.
And in the middle of High Street he stuck the flowers in her coat.
"An old thing like me!"
"I want people to think we're awful swells.
So look ikey."
"I'll jowl your head,"
"Be a fantail pigeon."
It took him an hour to get her through the street.
She stood above Glory Hole,
she stood before Stone Bow,
she stood everywhere,
A man came up,
took off his hat,
and bowed to her.
"Can I show you the town,
"I've got my son."
Then Paul was cross with her for not answering with more dignity.
"You go away with you!"
that's the Jew's House.
do you remember that lecture,
But she could scarcely climb the cathedral hill.
He did not notice.
Then suddenly he found her unable to speak.
He took her into a little public-house,
where she rested.
"My heart is only a bit old;
one must expect it."
He did not answer,
but looked at her.
Again his heart was crushed in a hot grip.
He wanted to cry,
he wanted to smash things in fury.
They set off again,
pace by pace,
And every step seemed like a weight on his chest.
He felt as if his heart would burst.
At last they came to the top.
She stood enchanted,
looking at the castle gate,
looking at the cathedral front.
She had quite forgotten herself.
"Now THIS is better than I thought it could be!"
But he hated it.
Everywhere he followed her,
They sat together in the cathedral.
They attended a little service in the choir.
She was timid.
"I suppose it is open to anybody?"
she asked him.
"Do you think they'd have the damned cheek to send us away."
"they would if they heard your language."
Her face seemed to shine again with joy and peace during the service.
And all the time he was wanting to rage and smash things and cry.
when they were leaning over the wall,
looking at the town below,
he blurted suddenly:
"Why can't a man have a YOUNG mother?
What is she old for?"
his mother laughed,
"she can scarcely help it."
"And why wasn't I the oldest son?
Look --they say the young ones have the advantage --but look,
THEY had the young mother.
You should have had me for your eldest son."
"I didn't arrange it,"
"Come to consider,
you're as much to blame as me."
He turned on her,
his eyes furious.
"What are you old for!"
mad with his impotence.
"WHY can't you walk?
WHY can't you come with me to places?"
"At one time,"
"I could have run up that hill a good deal better than you."
"What's the good of that to ME?"
hitting his fist on the wall.
Then he became plaintive.
"It's too bad of you to be ill.
it is --"
"I'm a bit old,
and you'll have to put up with it,
They were quiet.
But it was as much as they could bear.
They got jolly again over tea.
As they sat by Brayford,
watching the boats,
he told her about Clara.
His mother asked him innumerable questions.
"Then who does she live with?"
"With her mother,
on Bluebell Hill."
"And have they enough to keep them?"
"I don't think so.
I think they do lace work."
"And wherein lies her charm,
"I don't know that she's charming,
But she's nice.
And she seems straight,
you know --not a bit deep,
not a bit."
"But she's a good deal older than you."
I'm going on twenty-three."
"You haven't told me what you like her for."
"Because I don't know --a sort of defiant way she's got --a sort of angry way."
Mrs. Morel considered.
She would have been glad now for her son to fall in love with some woman who would --she did not know what.
But he fretted so,
got so furious suddenly,
and again was melancholic.
She wished he knew some nice woman --She did not know what she wished,
but left it vague.
At any rate,
she was not hostile to the idea of Clara.
was getting married.
Leonard had gone away to work in Birmingham.
One week-end when he was home she had said to him:
"You don't look very well,
"I feel anyhow or nohow,
He called her "ma" already in his boyish fashion.
"Are you sure they're good lodgings?"
Only --it's a winder when you have to pour your own tea out --an' nobody to grouse if you team it in your saucer and sup it up.
It somehow takes a' the taste out of it."
Mrs. Morel laughed.
"And so it knocks you up?"
I want to get married,"
twisting his fingers and looking down at his boots.
There was a silence.
"I thought you said you'd wait another year."
I did say so,"
he replied stubbornly.
Again she considered.
"And you know,"
"Annie's a bit of a spendthrift.
She's saved no more than eleven pounds.
And I know,
you haven't had much chance."
He coloured up to the ears.
"I've got thirty-three quid,"
"It doesn't go far,"
He said nothing,
but twisted his fingers.
"And you know,"
"I've nothing --"
"I didn't want,
suffering and remonstrating.
I was only wishing I had.
And take away five pounds for the wedding and things --it leaves twenty-nine pounds.
You won't do much on that."
He twisted still,
not looking up.
"But do you really want to get married?"
"Do you feel as if you ought?"
He gave her one straight look from his blue eyes.
"we must all do the best we can for it,
The next time he looked up there were tears in his eyes.
"I don't want Annie to feel handicapped,"
"you're steady --you've got a decent place.
If a man had NEEDED me I'd have married him on his last week's wages.
She may find it a bit hard to start humbly.
Young girls ARE like that.
They look forward to the fine home they think they'll have.
But I had expensive furniture.
It's not everything."
So the wedding took place almost immediately.
Arthur came home,
and was splendid in uniform.
Annie looked nice in a dove-grey dress that she could take for Sundays.
Morel called her a fool for getting married,
and was cool with his son-in-law.
Mrs. Morel had white tips in her bonnet,
and some white on her blouse,
and was teased by both her sons for fancying herself so grand.
Leonard was jolly and cordial,
and felt a fearful fool.
Paul could not quite see what Annie wanted to get married for.
He was fond of her,
and she of him.
he hoped rather lugubriously that it would turn out all right.
Arthur was astonishingly handsome in his scarlet and yellow,
and he knew it well,
but was secretly ashamed of the uniform.
Annie cried her eyes up in the kitchen,
on leaving her mother.
Mrs. Morel cried a little,
then patted her on the back and said:
"But don't cry,
he'll be good to you."
Morel stamped and said she was a fool to go and tie herself up.
Leonard looked white and overwrought.
Mrs. Morel said to him:
"I s'll trust her to you,
and hold you responsible for her."
nearly dead with the ordeal.
And it was all over.
When Morel and Arthur were in bed,
Paul sat talking,
as he often did,
with his mother.
"You're not sorry she's married,
"I'm not sorry she's married --but --it seems strange that she should go from me.
It even seems to me hard that she can prefer to go with her Leonard.
That's how mothers are --I know it's silly."
"And shall you be miserable about her?"
"When I think of my own wedding day,"
his mother answered,
"I can only hope her life will be different."
"But you can trust him to be good to her?"
They say he's not good enough for her.
But I say if a man is GENUINE,
as he is,
and a girl is fond of him --then --it should be all right.
He's as good as she."
"So you don't mind?"
"I would NEVER have let a daughter of mine marry a man I didn't FEEL to be genuine through and through.
there's a gap now she's gone."
They were both miserable,
and wanted her back again.
It seemed to Paul his mother looked lonely,
in her new black silk blouse with its bit of white trimming.
"At any rate,
I s'll never marry,"
they all say that,
You've not met the one yet.
Only wait a year or two."
"But I shan't marry,
I shall live with you,
and we'll have a servant."
it's easy to talk.
We'll see when the time comes."
I'm nearly twenty-three."
you're not one that would marry young.
But in three years' time --"
"I shall be with you just the same."
"But you don't want me to marry?"
"I shouldn't like to think of you going through your life without anybody to care for you and do --no."
"And you think I ought to marry?"
"Sooner or later every man ought."
"But you'd rather it were later."
"It would be hard --and very hard.
It's as they say:
"'A son's my son till he takes him a wife,
But my daughter's my daughter the whole of her life.'"
"And you think I'd let a wife take me from you?"
you wouldn't ask her to marry your mother as well as you,"
Mrs. Morel smiled.
"She could do what she liked;
she wouldn't have to interfere."
"She wouldn't --till she'd got you --and then you'd see."
"I never will see.
I'll never marry while I've got you --I won't."
"But I shouldn't like to leave you with nobody,
"You're not going to leave me.
What are you?
I'll give you till seventy-five.
There you are,
I'm fat and forty-four.
Then I'll marry a staid body.
His mother sat and laughed.
"Go to bed,"
she said --"go to bed."
"And we'll have a pretty house,
you and me,
and a servant,
and it'll be just all right.
I s'll perhaps be rich with my painting."
"Will you go to bed!"
"And then you s'll have a pony-carriage.
See yourself --a little Queen Victoria trotting round."
"I tell you to go to bed,"
He kissed her and went.
His plans for the future were always the same.
Mrs. Morel sat brooding --about her daughter,
She fretted at losing Annie.
The family was very closely bound.
And she felt she MUST live now,
to be with her children.
Life was so rich for her.
Paul wanted her,
and so did Arthur.
Arthur never knew how deeply he loved her.
He was a creature of the moment.
Never yet had he been forced to realise himself.
The army had disciplined his body,
but not his soul.
He was in perfect health and very handsome.
vigorous hair sat close to his smallish head.
There was something childish about his nose,
something almost girlish about his dark blue eyes.
But he had the fun red mouth of a man under his brown moustache,
and his jaw was strong.
It was his father's mouth;
it was the nose and eyes of her own mother's people --good-looking,
Mrs. Morel was anxious about him.
Once he had really run the rig he was safe.
But how far would he go?
The army had not really done him any good.
He resented bitterly the authority of the officers.
He hated having to obey as if he were an animal.
But he had too much sense to kick.
So he turned his attention to getting the best out of it.
He could sing,
he was a boon-companion.
Often he got into scrapes,
but they were the manly scrapes that are easily condoned.
So he made a good time out of it,
whilst his self-respect was in suppression.
He trusted to his good looks and handsome figure,
his decent education to get him most of what he wanted,
and he was not disappointed.
Yet he was restless.
Something seemed to gnaw him inside.
He was never still,
he was never alone.
With his mother he was rather humble.
Paul he admired and loved and despised slightly.
And Paul admired and loved and despised him slightly.
Mrs. Morel had had a few pounds left to her by her father,
and she decided to buy her son out of the army.
He was wild with joy.
Now he was like a lad taking a holiday.
He had always been fond of Beatrice Wyld,
and during his furlough he picked up with her again.
She was stronger and better in health.
The two often went long walks together,
Arthur taking her arm in soldier's fashion,
And she came to play the piano whilst he sang.
Then Arthur would unhook his tunic collar.
He grew flushed,
his eyes were bright,
he sang in a manly tenor.
Afterwards they sat together on the sofa.
He seemed to flaunt his body: she was aware of him so --the strong chest,
the thighs in their close-fitting trousers.
He liked to lapse into the dialect when he talked to her.
She would sometimes smoke with him.
Occasionally she would only take a few whiffs at his cigarette.
he said to her one evening,
when she reached for his cigarette.
I'll gi'e thee a smoke kiss if ter's a mind."
"I wanted a whiff,
no kiss at all,"
an' tha s'lt ha'e a whiff,"
"along wi' t' kiss."
"I want a draw at thy fag,"
snatching for the cigarette between his lips.
He was sitting with his shoulder touching her.
She was small and quick as lightning.
He just escaped.
"I'll gi'e thee a smoke kiss,"
"Tha'rt a knivey nuisance,
"Ha'e a smoke kiss?"
The soldier leaned forward to her,
His face was near hers.
turning away her head.
He took a draw at his cigarette,
and pursed up his mouth,
and put his lips close to her.
His dark-brown cropped moustache stood out like a brush.
She looked at the puckered crimson lips,
then suddenly snatched the cigarette from his fingers and darted away.
leaping after her,
seized the comb from her back hair.
threw the cigarette at him.
He picked it up,
put it in his mouth,
and sat down.
"Give me my comb!"
She was afraid that her hair,
specially done for him,
would come down.
She stood with her hands to her head.
He hid the comb between his knees.
"I've non got it,"
The cigarette trembled between his lips with laughter as he spoke.
"'S true as I'm here!"
showing his hands.
"You brazen imp!"
rushing and scuffling for the comb,
which he had under his knees.
As she wrestled with him,
pulling at his smooth,
he laughed till he lay back on the sofa shaking with laughter.
The cigarette fell from his mouth almost singeing his throat.
Under his delicate tan the blood flushed up,
and he laughed till his blue eyes were blinded,
his throat swollen almost to choking.
Then he sat up.
Beatrice was putting in her comb.
"Tha tickled me,
he said thickly.
Like a flash her small white hand went out and smacked his face.
He started up,
glaring at her.
They stared at each other.
Slowly the flush mounted her cheek,
she dropped her eyes,
then her head.
He sat down sulkily.
She went into the scullery to adjust her hair.
In private there she shed a few tears,
she did not know what for.
When she returned she was pursed up close.
But it was only a film over her fire.
with ruffled hair,
was sulking upon the sofa.
She sat down opposite,
in the armchair,
and neither spoke.
The clock ticked in the silence like blows.
"You are a little cat,
he said at length,
you shouldn't be brazen,"
There was again a long silence.
He whistled to himself like a man much agitated but defiant.
Suddenly she went across to him and kissed him.
He lifted his face,
he invited her.
his mouth lifted to her.
and with a peculiar quivering smile that seemed to overspread her whole body,
she put her mouth on his.
Immediately his arms folded round her.
As soon as the long kiss was finished she drew back her head from him,
put her delicate fingers on his neck,
through the open collar.
Then she closed her eyes,
giving herself up again in a kiss.
She acted of her own free will.
What she would do she did,
and made nobody responsible.
Paul felt life changing around him.
The conditions of youth were gone.
Now it was a home of grown-up people.
Annie was a married woman,
Arthur was following his own pleasure in a way unknown to his folk.
For so long they had all lived at home,
and gone out to pass their time.
for Annie and Arthur,
life lay outside their mother's house.
They came home for holiday and for rest.
So there was that strange,
half-empty feeling about the house,
as if the birds had flown.
Paul became more and more unsettled.
Annie and Arthur had gone.
He was restless to follow.
Yet home was for him beside his mother.
And still there was something else,
something he wanted.
He grew more and more restless.
Miriam did not satisfy him.
His old mad desire to be with her grew weaker.
Sometimes he met Clara in Nottingham,
sometimes he went to meetings with her,
sometimes he saw her at Willey Farm.
But on these last occasions the situation became strained.
There was a triangle of antagonism between Paul and Clara and Miriam.
With Clara he took on a smart,
mocking tone very antagonistic to Miriam.
It did not matter what went before.
She might be intimate and sad with him.
Then as soon as Clara appeared,
it all vanished,
and he played to the newcomer.
Miriam had one beautiful evening with him in the hay.
He had been on the horse-rake,
and having finished,
came to help her to put the hay in cocks.
Then he talked to her of his hopes and despairs,
and his whole soul seemed to lie bare before her.
She felt as if she watched the very quivering stuff of life in him.
The moon came out: they walked home together: he seemed to have come to her because he needed her so badly,
and she listened to him,
gave him all her love and her faith.
It seemed to her he brought her the best of himself to keep,
and that she would guard it all her life.
the sky did not cherish the stars more surely and eternally than she would guard the good in the soul of Paul Morel.
She went on home alone,
glad in her faith.
the next day,
They were to have tea in the hayfield.
Miriam watched the evening drawing to gold and shadow.
And all the time Paul was sporting with Clara.
He made higher and higher heaps of hay that they were jumping over.
Miriam did not care for the game,
and stood aside.
Edgar and Geoffrey and Maurice and Clara and Paul jumped.
because he was light.
Clara's blood was roused.
She could run like an Amazon.
Paul loved the determined way she rushed at the hay-cock and leaped,
landed on the other side,
her breasts shaken,
her thick hair come undone.
turning to Edgar.
"I didn't touch,
Wasn't I clear?"
"I couldn't say,"
None of them could say.
"But you touched,"
"I did NOT touch!"
"As plain as anything,"
"Box his ears for me!"
she cried to Edgar.
You must do it yourself."
"And nothing can alter the fact that you touched,"
She was furious with him.
Her little triumph before these lads and men was gone.
She had forgotten herself in the game.
Now he was to humble her.
"I think you are despicable!"
And again he laughed,
in a way that tortured Miriam.
"And I KNEW you couldn't jump that heap,"
She turned her back on him.
Yet everybody could see that the only person she listened to,
or was conscious of,
and he of her.
It pleased the men to see this battle between them.
But Miriam was tortured.
Paul could choose the lesser in place of the higher,
He could be unfaithful to himself,
unfaithful to the real,
deep Paul Morel.
There was a danger of his becoming frivolous,
of his running after his satisfaction like any Arthur,
or like his father.
It made Miriam bitter to think that he should throw away his soul for this flippant traffic of triviality with Clara.
She walked in bitterness and silence,
while the other two rallied each other,
and Paul sported.
he would not own it,
but he was rather ashamed of himself,
and prostrated himself before Miriam.
Then again he rebelled.
"It's not religious to be religious,"
"I reckon a crow is religious when it sails across the sky.
But it only does it because it feels itself carried to where it's going,
not because it thinks it is being eternal."
But Miriam knew that one should be religious in everything,
whatever God might be,
present in everything.
"I don't believe God knows such a lot about Himself,"
"God doesn't KNOW things,
He IS things.
And I'm sure He's not soulful."
And then it seemed to her that Paul was arguing God on to his own side,
because he wanted his own way and his own pleasure.
There was a long battle between him and her.
He was utterly unfaithful to her even in her own presence;
then he was ashamed,
then he hated her,
and went off again.
Those were the ever-recurring conditions.
She fretted him to the bottom of his soul.
There she remained --sad,
And he caused her sorrow.
Half the time he grieved for her,
half the time he hated her.
She was his conscience;
and he felt,
he had got a conscience that was too much for him.
He could not leave her,
because in one way she did hold the best of him.
He could not stay with her because she did not take the rest of him,
which was three-quarters.
So he chafed himself into rawness over her.
When she was twenty-one he wrote her a letter which could only have been written to her.
"May I speak of our old,
this last time.
is it not?
has not the body of that love died,
and left you its invulnerable soul?
I can give you a spirit love,
I have given it you this long,
but not embodied passion.
you are a nun.
I have given you what I would give a holy nun --as a mystic monk to a mystic nun.
Surely you esteem it best.
Yet you regret --no,
have regretted --the other.
In all our relations no body enters.
I do not talk to you through the senses --rather through the spirit.
That is why we cannot love in the common sense.
Ours is not an everyday affection.
As yet we are mortal,
and to live side by side with one another would be dreadful,
for somehow with you I cannot long be trivial,
to be always beyond this mortal state would be to lose it.
If people marry,
they must live together as affectionate humans,
who may be commonplace with each other without feeling awkward --not as two souls.
So I feel it.
"Ought I to send this letter?
--I doubt it.
But there --it is best to understand.
Miriam read this letter twice,
after which she sealed it up.
A year later she broke the seal to show her mother the letter.
"You are a nun --you are a nun."
The words went into her heart again and again.
Nothing he ever had said had gone into her so deeply,
like a mortal wound.
She answered him two days after the party.
"'Our intimacy would have been all-beautiful but for one little mistake,'" she quoted.
"Was the mistake mine?"
Almost immediately he replied to her from Nottingham,
sending her at the same time a little "Omar Khayyam."
"I am glad you answered;
you are so calm and natural you put me to shame.
What a ranter I am!
We are often out of sympathy.
But in fundamentals we may always be together I think.
"I must thank you for your sympathy with my painting and drawing.
Many a sketch is dedicated to you.
I do look forward to your criticisms,
to my shame and glory,
are always grand appreciations.
It is a lovely joke,
This was the end of the first phase of Paul's love affair.
He was now about twenty-three years old,
though still virgin,
the sex instinct that Miriam had over-refined for so long now grew particularly strong.
as he talked to Clara Dawes,
came that thickening and quickening of his blood,
that peculiar concentration in the breast,
as if something were alive there,
a new self or a new centre of consciousness,
warning him that sooner or later he would have to ask one woman or another.
But he belonged to Miriam.
Of that she was so fixedly sure that he allowed her right.
WHEN he was twenty-three years old,
Paul sent in a landscape to the winter exhibition at Nottingham Castle.
Miss Jordan had taken a good deal of interest in him,
and invited him to her house,
where he met other artists.
He was beginning to grow ambitious.
One morning the postman came just as he was washing in the scullery.
Suddenly he heard a wild noise from his mother.
Rushing into the kitchen,
he found her standing on the hearthrug wildly waving a letter and crying "Hurrah!"
as if she had gone mad.
He was shocked and frightened.
She flew to him,
flung her arms round him for a moment,
then waved the letter,
I knew we should do it!"
He was afraid of her --the small,
severe woman with graying hair suddenly bursting out in such frenzy.
The postman came running back,
afraid something had happened.
They saw his tipped cap over the short curtains.
Mrs. Morel rushed to the door.
"His picture's got first prize,
"and is sold for twenty guineas."
that's something like!"
said the young postman,
whom they had known all his life.
"And Major Moreton has bought it!"
"It looks like meanin' something,
said the postman,
his blue eyes bright.
He was glad to have brought such a lucky letter.
Mrs. Morel went indoors and sat down,
Paul was afraid lest she might have misread the letter,
and might be disappointed after all.
He scrutinised it once,
he became convinced it was true.
Then he sat down,
his heart beating with joy.
"Didn't I SAY we should do it!"
pretending she was not crying.
He took the kettle off the fire and mashed the tea.
"You didn't think,
mother --" he began tentatively.
my son --not so much --but I expected a good deal."
"But not so much,"
"No --no --but I knew we should do it."
And then she recovered her composure,
apparently at least.
He sat with his shirt turned back,
showing his young throat almost like a girl's,
and the towel in his hand,
his hair sticking up wet.
That's just what you wanted to buy Arthur out.
Now you needn't borrow any.
It'll just do."
I shan't take it all,"
"Because I shan't."
"Well --you have twelve pounds,
I'll have nine."
They cavilled about sharing the twenty guineas.
She wanted to take only the five pounds she needed.
He would not hear of it.
So they got over the stress of emotion by quarrelling.
Morel came home at night from the pit,
"They tell me Paul's got first prize for his picture,
and sold it to Lord Henry Bentley for fifty pound."
what stories people do tell!"
"I said I wor sure it wor a lie.
But they said tha'd told Fred Hodgkisson."
"As if I would tell him such stuff!"
assented the miner.
But he was disappointed nevertheless.
"It's true he has got the first prize,"
said Mrs. Morel.
The miner sat heavily in his chair.
He stared across the room fixedly.
"But as for fifty pounds --such nonsense!"
She was silent awhile.
"Major Moreton bought it for twenty guineas,
Tha niver says!"
and it was worth it."
"I don't misdoubt it.
But twenty guineas for a bit of a paintin' as he knocked off in an hour or two!"
He was silent with conceit of his son.
Mrs. Morel sniffed,
as if it were nothing.
"And when does he handle th' money?"
asked the collier.
"That I couldn't tell you.
When the picture is sent home,
There was silence.
Morel stared at the sugar-basin instead of eating his dinner.
His black arm,
with the hand all gnarled with work lay on the table.
His wife pretended not to see him rub the back of his hand across his eyes,
nor the smear in the coal-dust on his black face.
an' that other lad
'a done as much if they hadna ha' killed
he said quietly.
The thought of William went through Mrs. Morel like a cold blade.
It left her feeling she was tired,
and wanted rest.
Paul was invited to dinner at Mr. Jordan's.
Afterwards he said:
I want an evening suit."
I was afraid you would,"
She was glad.
There was a moment or two of silence.
"There's that one of William's,"
"that I know cost four pounds ten and which he'd only worn three times."
"Should you like me to wear it,
I think it would fit you --at least the coat.
The trousers would want shortening."
He went upstairs and put on the coat and vest.
he looked strange in a flannel collar and a flannel shirt-front,
with an evening coat and vest.
It was rather large.
"The tailor can make it right,"
smoothing her hand over his shoulder.
"It's beautiful stuff.
I never could find in my heart to let your father wear the trousers,
and very glad I am now."
And as she smoothed her hand over the silk collar she thought of her eldest son.
But this son was living enough inside the clothes.
She passed her hand down his back to feel him.
He was alive and hers.
The other was dead.
He went out to dinner several times in his evening suit that had been William's.
Each time his mother's heart was firm with pride and joy.
He was started now.
The studs she and the children had bought for William were in his shirt-front;
he wore one of William's dress shirts.
But he had an elegant figure.
His face was rough,
but warm-looking and rather pleasing.
He did not look particularly a gentleman,
but she thought he looked quite a man.
He told her everything that took place,
everything that was said.
It was as if she had been there.
And he was dying to introduce her to these new friends who had dinner at seven-thirty in the evening.
"Go along with you!"
"What do they want to know me for?"
he cried indignantly.
"If they want to know me --and they say they do --then they want to know you,
because you are quite as clever as I am."
"Go along with you,
But she began to spare her hands.
were work-gnarled now.
The skin was shiny with so much hot water,
the knuckles rather swollen.
But she began to be careful to keep them out of soda.
She regretted what they had been --so small and exquisite.
And when Annie insisted on her having more stylish blouses to suit her age,
She even went so far as to allow a black velvet bow to be placed on her hair.
Then she sniffed in her sarcastic manner,
and was sure she looked a sight.
But she looked a lady,
as much as Mrs. Major Moreton,
The family was coming on.
Only Morel remained unchanged,
Paul and his mother now had long discussions about life.
Religion was fading into the background.
He had shovelled away all the beliefs that would hamper him,
had cleared the ground,
and come more or less to the bedrock of belief that one should feel inside oneself for right and wrong,
and should have the patience to gradually realise one's God.
Now life interested him more.
he said to his mother,
"I don't want to belong to the well-to-do middle class.
I like my common people best.
I belong to the common people."
"But if anyone else said so,
wouldn't you be in a tear.
YOU know you consider yourself equal to any gentleman."
"not in my class or my education or my manners.
But in myself I am."
Then why talk about the common people?"
"Because --the difference between people isn't in their class,
but in themselves.
Only from the middle classes one gets ideas,
and from the common people --life itself,
You feel their hates and loves."
"It's all very well,
why don't you go and talk to your father's pals?"
"But they're rather different."
"Not at all.
They're the common people.
whom do you mix with now --among the common people?
Those that exchange ideas,
like the middle classes.
The rest don't interest you."
"But --there's the life --"
"I don't believe there's a jot more life from Miriam than you could get from any educated girl --say Miss Moreton.
It is YOU who are snobbish about class."
She frankly WANTED him to climb into the middle classes,
a thing not very difficult,
And she wanted him in the end to marry a lady.
Now she began to combat him in his restless fretting.
He still kept up his connection with Miriam,
could neither break free nor go the whole length of engagement.
And this indecision seemed to bleed him of his energy.
his mother suspected him of an unrecognised leaning towards Clara,
since the latter was a married woman,
she wished he would fall in love with one of the girls in a better station of life.
But he was stupid,
and would refuse to love or even to admire a girl much,
just because she was his social superior.
said his mother to him,
"all your cleverness,
your breaking away from old things,
and taking life in your own hands,
doesn't seem to bring you much happiness."
"What is happiness!"
"It's nothing to me!
How AM I to be happy?"
The plump question disturbed her.
"That's for you to judge,
But if you could meet some GOOD woman who would MAKE you happy --and you began to think of settling your life --when you have the means --so that you could work without all this fretting --it would be much better for you."
His mother caught him on the raw of his wound of Miriam.
He pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead,
his eyes full of pain and fire.
"You mean easy,
"That's a woman's whole doctrine for life --ease of soul and physical comfort.
And I do despise it."
replied his mother.
"And do you call yours a divine discontent?"
I don't care about its divinity.
But damn your happiness!
So long as life's full,
it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not.
I'm afraid your happiness would bore me."
"You never give it a chance,"
Then suddenly all her passion of grief over him broke out.
"But it does matter!"
"And you OUGHT to be happy,
you ought to try to be happy,
to live to be happy.
How could I bear to think your life wouldn't be a happy one!"
"Your own's been bad enough,
but it hasn't left you so much worse off than the folk who've been happier.
I reckon you've done well.
And I am the same.
Aren't I well enough off?"
Battle --battle --and suffer.
It's about all you do,
as far as I can see."
"But why not,
I tell you it's the best --"
And one OUGHT to be happy,
By this time Mrs. Morel was trembling violently.
Struggles of this kind often took place between her and her son,
when she seemed to fight for his very life against his own will to die.
He took her in his arms.
She was ill and pitiful.
"So long as you don't feel life's paltry and a miserable business,
the rest doesn't matter,
happiness or unhappiness."
She pressed him to her.
"But I want you to be happy,"
she said pathetically.
my dear --say rather you want me to live."
Mrs. Morel felt as if her heart would break for him.
At this rate she knew he would not live.
He had that poignant carelessness about himself,
his own suffering,
his own life,
which is a form of slow suicide.
It almost broke her heart.
With all the passion of her strong nature she hated Miriam for having in this subtle way undermined his joy.
It did not matter to her that Miriam could not help it.
Miriam did it,
and she hated her.
She wished so much he would fall in love with a girl equal to be his mate --educated and strong.
But he would not look at anybody above him in station.
He seemed to like Mrs. Dawes.
At any rate that feeling was wholesome.
His mother prayed and prayed for him,
that he might not be wasted.
That was all her prayer --not for his soul or his righteousness,
but that he might not be wasted.
And while he slept,
for hours and hours she thought and prayed for him.
He drifted away from Miriam imperceptibly,
without knowing he was going.
Arthur only left the army to be married.
The baby was born six months after his wedding.
Mrs. Morel got him a job under the firm again,
at twenty-one shillings a week.
She furnished for him,
with the help of Beatrice's mother,
a little cottage of two rooms.
He was caught now.
It did not matter how he kicked and struggled,
he was fast.
For a time he chafed,
was irritable with his young wife,
who loved him;
he went almost distracted when the baby,
which was delicate,
cried or gave trouble.
He grumbled for hours to his mother.
She only said:
you did it yourself,
now you must make the best of it."
And then the grit came out in him.
He buckled to work,
undertook his responsibilities,
acknowledged that he belonged to his wife and child,
and did make a good best of it.
He had never been very closely inbound into the family.
Now he was gone altogether.
The months went slowly along.
Paul had more or less got into connection with the Socialist,
Unitarian people in Nottingham,
owing to his acquaintance with Clara.
One day a friend of his and of Clara's,
asked him to take a message to Mrs. Dawes.
He went in the evening across Sneinton Market to Bluebell Hill.
He found the house in a mean little street paved with granite cobbles and having causeways of dark blue,
The front door went up a step from off this rough pavement,
where the feet of the passersby rasped and clattered.
The brown paint on the door was so old that the naked wood showed between the rents.
He stood on the street below and knocked.
There came a heavy footstep;
stout woman of about sixty towered above him.
He looked up at her from the pavement.
She had a rather severe face.
She admitted him into the parlour,
which opened on to the street.
It was a small,
and deathly enlargements of photographs of departed people done in carbon.
Mrs. Radford left him.
She was stately,
In a moment Clara appeared.
She flushed deeply,
and he was covered with confusion.
It seemed as if she did not like being discovered in her home circumstances.
"I thought it couldn't be your voice,"
But she might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb.
She invited him out of the mausoleum of a parlour into the kitchen.
That was a little,
darkish room too,
but it was smothered in white lace.
The mother had seated herself again by the cupboard,
and was drawing thread from a vast web of lace.
A clump of fluff and ravelled cotton was at her right hand,
a heap of three-quarter-inch lace lay on her left,
whilst in front of her was the mountain of lace web,
piling the hearthrug.
Threads of curly cotton,
pulled out from between the lengths of lace,
strewed over the fender and the fireplace.
Paul dared not go forward,
for fear of treading on piles of white stuff.
On the table was a jenny for carding the lace.
There was a pack of brown cardboard squares,
a pack of cards of lace,
a little box of pins,
and on the sofa lay a heap of drawn lace.
The room was all lace,
and it was so dark and warm that the white,
snowy stuff seemed the more distinct.
"If you're coming in you won't have to mind the work,"
said Mrs. Radford.
"I know we're about blocked up.
But sit you down."
gave him a chair against the wall opposite the white heaps.
Then she herself took her place on the sofa,
"Will you drink a bottle of stout?"
Mrs. Radford asked.
get him a bottle of stout."
but Mrs. Radford insisted.
"You look as if you could do with it,"
"Haven't you never any more colour than that?"
"It's only a thick skin I've got that doesn't show the blood through,"
ashamed and chagrined,
brought him a bottle of stout and a glass.
He poured out some of the black stuff.
lifting the glass,
"And thank you,"
said Mrs. Radford.
He took a drink of stout.
"And light yourself a cigarette,
so long as you don't set the house on fire,"
said Mrs. Radford.
you needn't thank me,"
"I s'll be glad to smell a bit of smoke in th'
A house o' women is as dead as a house wi' no fire,
to my thinkin'.
I'm not a spider as likes a corner to myself.
I like a man about,
if he's only something to snap at."
Clara began to work.
Her jenny spun with a subdued buzz;
the white lace hopped from between her fingers on to the card.
It was filled;
she snipped off the length,
and pinned the end down to the banded lace.
Then she put a new card in her jenny.
Paul watched her.
She sat square and magnificent.
Her throat and arms were bare.
The blood still mantled below her ears;
she bent her head in shame of her humility.
Her face was set on her work.
Her arms were creamy and full of life beside the white lace;
well-kept hands worked with a balanced movement,
as if nothing would hurry them.
watched her all the time.
He saw the arch of her neck from the shoulder,
as she bent her head;
he saw the coil of dun hair;
he watched her moving,
"I've heard a bit about you from Clara,"
continued the mother.
"You're in Jordan's,
She drew her lace unceasing.
and I can remember when Thomas Jordan used to ask ME for one of my toffies."
"And did he get it?"
"Sometimes he did,
sometimes he didn't --which was latterly.
For he's the sort that takes all and gives naught,
he is --or used to be."
"I think he's very decent,"
I'm glad to hear it."
Mrs. Radford looked across at him steadily.
There was something determined about her that he liked.
Her face was falling loose,
but her eyes were calm,
and there was something strong in her that made it seem she was not old;
merely her wrinkles and loose cheeks were an anachronism.
She had the strength and sang-froid of a woman in the prime of life.
She continued drawing the lace with slow,
The big web came up inevitably over her apron;
the length of lace fell away at her side.
Her arms were finely shapen,
but glossy and yellow as old ivory.
They had not the peculiar dull gleam that made Clara's so fascinating to him.
"And you've been going with Miriam Leivers?"
the mother asked him.
"Well --" he answered.
she's a nice girl,"
"She's very nice,
but she's a bit too much above this world to suit my fancy."
"She is a bit like that,"
"She'll never be satisfied till she's got wings and can fly over everybody's head,
Clara broke in,
and he told her his message.
She spoke humbly to him.
He had surprised her in her drudgery.
To have her humble made him feel as if he were lifting his head in expectation.
"Do you like jennying?"
"What can a woman do!"
she replied bitterly.
"Is it sweated?"
"More or less.
Isn't ALL woman's work?
That's another trick the men have played,
since we force ourselves into the labour market."
you shut up about the men,"
said her mother.
"If the women wasn't fools,
the men wouldn't be bad uns,
that's what I say.
No man was ever that bad wi' me but what he got it back again.
Not but what they're a lousy lot,
there's no denying it."
"But they're all right really,
they're a bit different from women,"
"Would you care to be back at Jordan's?"
he asked Clara.
"I don't think so,"
cried her mother;
"thank her stars if she could get back.
Don't you listen to her.
She's for ever on that
'igh horse of hers,
an' it's back's that thin an' starved it'll cut her in two one of these days."
Clara suffered badly from her mother.
Paul felt as if his eyes were coming very wide open.
Wasn't he to take Clara's fulminations so seriously,
She spun steadily at her work.
He experienced a thrill of joy,
thinking she might need his help.
She seemed denied and deprived of so much.
And her arm moved mechanically,
that should never have been subdued to a mechanism,
and her head was bowed to the lace,
that never should have been bowed.
She seemed to be stranded there among the refuse that life has thrown away,
doing her jennying.
It was a bitter thing to her to be put aside by life,
as if it had no use for her.
No wonder she protested.
She came with him to the door.
He stood below in the mean street,
looking up at her.
So fine she was in her stature and her bearing,
she reminded him of Juno dethroned.
As she stood in the doorway,
she winced from the street,
from her surroundings.
"And you will go with Mrs. Hodgkisson to Hucknall?"
He was talking quite meaninglessly,
only watching her.
Her grey eyes at last met his.
They looked dumb with humiliation,
pleading with a kind of captive misery.
He was shaken and at a loss.
He had thought her high and mighty.
When he left her,
he wanted to run.
He went to the station in a sort of dream,
and was at home without realising he had moved out of her street.
He had an idea that Susan,
the overseer of the Spiral girls,
was about to be married.
He asked her the next day.
I heard a whisper of your getting married.
What about it?"
Susan flushed red.
"Who's been talking to you?"
I merely heard a whisper that you WERE thinking --"
though you needn't tell anybody.
I wish I wasn't!"
you won't make me believe that."
You CAN believe it,
I'd rather stop here a thousand times."
Paul was perturbed.
The girl's colour was high,
and her eyes flashed.
"And must you?"
she looked at him.
There was about him a candour and gentleness which made the women trust him.
Tears came to her eyes.
"But you'll see it'll turn out all right.
You'll make the best of it,"
he continued rather wistfully.
"There's nothing else for it."
there's making the worst of it.
Try and make it all right."
He soon made occasion to call again on Clara.
"care to come back to Jordan's?"
She put down her work,
laid her beautiful arms on the table,
and looked at him for some moments without answering.
Gradually the flush mounted her cheek.
Paul felt rather awkward.
because Susan is thinking of leaving,"
Clara went on with her jennying.
The white lace leaped in little jumps and bounds on to the card.
He waited for her.
Without raising her head,
she said at last,
in a peculiar low voice:
"Have you said anything about it?"
"Except to you,
not a word."
There was again a long silence.
"I will apply when the advertisement is out,"
"You will apply before that.
I will let you know exactly when."
She went on spinning her little machine,
and did not contradict him.
Clara came to Jordan's.
Some of the older hands,
Fanny among them,
remembered her earlier rule,
and cordially disliked the memory.
Clara had always been "ikey",
She had never mixed with the girls as one of themselves.
If she had occasion to find fault,
she did it coolly and with perfect politeness,
which the defaulter felt to be a bigger insult than crassness.
Clara was unfailingly compassionate and gentle,
as a result of which Fanny shed more bitter tears than ever the rough tongues of the other overseers had caused her.
There was something in Clara that Paul disliked,
and much that piqued him.
If she were about,
he always watched her strong throat or her neck,
upon which the blonde hair grew low and fluffy.
There was a fine down,
upon the skin of her face and arms,
and when once he had perceived it,
he saw it always.
When he was at his work,
painting in the afternoon,
she would come and stand near to him,
Then he felt her,
though she neither spoke nor touched him.
Although she stood a yard away he felt as if he were in contact with her.
Then he could paint no more.
He flung down the brushes,
and turned to talk to her.
Sometimes she praised his work;
sometimes she was critical and cold.
"You are affected in that piece,"
she would say;
as there was an element of truth in her condemnation,
his blood boiled with anger.
"What of this?"
he would ask enthusiastically.
She made a small doubtful sound.
"It doesn't interest me much."
"Because you don't understand it,"
"Then why ask me about it?"
"Because I thought you would understand."
She would shrug her shoulders in scorn of his work.
She maddened him.
He was furious.
Then he abused her,
and went into passionate exposition of his stuff.
This amused and stimulated her.
But she never owned that she had been wrong.
During the ten years that she had belonged to the women's movement she had acquired a fair amount of education,
having had some of Miriam's passion to be instructed,
had taught herself French,
and could read in that language with a struggle.
She considered herself as a woman apart,
and particularly apart,
from her class.
The girls in the Spiral department were all of good homes.
It was a small,
and had a certain distinction.
There was an air of refinement in both rooms.
But Clara was aloof also from her fellow-workers.
None of these things,
did she reveal to Paul.
She was not the one to give herself away.
There was a sense of mystery about her.
She was so reserved,
he felt she had much to reserve.
Her history was open on the surface,
but its inner meaning was hidden from everybody.
It was exciting.
And then sometimes he caught her looking at him from under her brows with an almost furtive,
which made him move quickly.
Often she met his eyes.
But then her own were,
as it were,
She gave him a little,
She was to him extraordinarily provocative,
because of the knowledge she seemed to possess,
and gathered fruit of experience he could not attain.
One day he picked up a copy of -Lettres de mon Moulin- from her work-bench.
"You read French,
Clara glanced round negligently.
She was making an elastic stocking of heliotrope silk,
turning the Spiral machine with slow,
occasionally bending down to see her work or to adjust the needles;
then her magnificent neck,
with its down and fine pencils of hair,
shone white against the lavender,
She turned a few more rounds,
"What did you say?"
Paul's eyes glittered at her insolent indifference to him.
"I did not know you read French,"
"Did you not?"
with a faint,
but scarcely loud enough to be heard.
He shut his mouth angrily as he watched her.
She seemed to scorn the work she mechanically produced;
yet the hose she made were as nearly perfect as possible.
"You don't like Spiral work,"
all work is work,"
as if she knew all about it.
He marvelled at her coldness.
He had to do everything hotly.
She must be something special.
"What would you prefer to do?"
She laughed at him indulgently,
as she said:
"There is so little likelihood of my ever being given a choice,
that I haven't wasted time considering."
contemptuous on his side now.
"You only say that because you're too proud to own up what you want and can't get."
"You know me very well,"
she replied coldly.
"I know you think you're terrific great shakes,
and that you live under the eternal insult of working in a factory."
He was very angry and very rude.
She merely turned away from him in disdain.
He walked whistling down the room,
flirted and laughed with Hilda.
Later on he said to himself:
"What was I so impudent to Clara for?"
He was rather annoyed with himself,
at the same time glad.
"Serve her right;
she stinks with silent pride,"
he said to himself angrily.
In the afternoon he came down.
There was a certain weight on his heart which he wanted to remove.
He thought to do it by offering her chocolates.
"I bought a handful to sweeten me up."
To his great relief,
He sat on the work-bench beside her machine,
twisting a piece of silk round his finger.
She loved him for his quick,
like a young animal.
His feet swung as he pondered.
The sweets lay strewn on the bench.
She bent over her machine,
then stooping to see the stocking that hung beneath,
pulled down by the weight.
He watched the handsome crouching of her back,
and the apron-strings curling on the floor.
"There is always about you,"
"a sort of waiting.
Whatever I see you doing,
you're not really there: you are waiting --like Penelope when she did her weaving."
He could not help a spurt of wickedness.
"I'll call you Penelope,"
"Would it make any difference?"
carefully removing one of her needles.
"That doesn't matter,
so long as it pleases me.
you seem to forget I'm your boss.
It just occurs to me."
"And what does that mean?"
she asked coolly.
"It means I've got a right to boss you."
"Is there anything you want to complain about?"
you needn't be nasty,"
he said angrily.
"I don't know what you want,"
continuing her task.
"I want you to treat me nicely and respectfully."
she asked quietly.
I should love it."
"Then I wish you would go upstairs,
His mouth closed,
and a frown came on his face.
He jumped suddenly down.
"You're too blessed superior for anything,"
And he went away to the other girls.
He felt he was being angrier than he had any need to be.
he doubted slightly that he was showing off.
But if he were,
then he would.
Clara heard him laughing,
in a way she hated,
with the girls down the next room.
When at evening he went through the department after the girls had gone,
he saw his chocolates lying untouched in front of Clara's machine.
He left them.
In the morning they were still there,
and Clara was at work.
Later on Minnie,
a little brunette they called Pussy,
called to him:
haven't you got a chocolate for anybody?"
"I meant to have offered them;
then I went and forgot
"I think you did,"
"I'll bring you some this afternoon.
You don't want them after they've been lying about,
I'm not particular,"
"They'll be dusty."
He went up to Clara's bench.
"Sorry I left these things littering about,"
She flushed scarlet.
He gathered them together in his fist.
"They'll be dirty now,"
"You should have taken them.
I wonder why you didn't.
I meant to have told you I wanted you to."
He flung them out of the window into the yard below.
He just glanced at her.
She winced from his eyes.
In the afternoon he brought another packet.
"Will you take some?"
offering them first to Clara.
"These are fresh."
She accepted one,
and put it on to the bench.
take several --for luck,"
She took a couple more,
and put them on the bench also.
Then she turned in confusion to her work.
He went on up the room.
"Here you are,
"Don't be greedy!"
"Are they all for her?"
cried the others,
"Of course they're not,"
The girls clamoured round.
Pussy drew back from her mates.
"I can have first pick,
"Be nice with
and went away.
"You ARE a dear,"
the girls cried.
He went past Clara without speaking.
She felt the three chocolate creams would burn her if she touched them.
It needed all her courage to slip them into the pocket of her apron.
The girls loved him and were afraid of him.
He was so nice while he was nice,
but if he were offended,
treating them as if they scarcely existed,
or not more than the bobbins of thread.
if they were impudent,
he said quietly:
"Do you mind going on with your work,"
and stood and watched.
When he celebrated his twenty-third birthday,
the house was in trouble.
Arthur was just going to be married.
His mother was not well.
getting an old man,
and lame from his accidents,
was given a paltry,
Miriam was an eternal reproach.
He felt he owed himself to her,
yet could not give himself.
needed his support.
He was pulled in all directions.
He was not glad it was his birthday.
It made him bitter.
He got to work at eight o'clock.
Most of the clerks had not turned up.
The girls were not due till 8.30.
As he was changing his coat,
he heard a voice behind him say:
I want you."
It was Fanny,
standing at the top of her stairs,
her face radiant with a secret.
Paul looked at her in astonishment.
"I want you,"
at a loss.
"Come before you begin on the letters."
He went down the half-dozen steps into her dry,
Fanny walked before him: her black bodice was short --the waist was under her armpits --and her green-black cashmere skirt seemed very long,
as she strode with big strides before the young man,
himself so graceful.
She went to her seat at the narrow end of the room,
where the window opened on to chimney-pots.
Paul watched her thin hands and her flat red wrists as she excitedly twitched her white apron,
which was spread on the bench in front of her.
"You didn't think we'd forgot you?"
He had forgotten his birthday himself.
She pointed to the calendar,
and he saw,
surrounding the big black number "21",
hundreds of little crosses in black-lead.
kisses for my birthday,"
"How did you know?"
you want to know,
"There's one from everybody --except Lady Clara --and two from some.
But I shan't tell you how many I put."
"There you ARE mistaken!"
"I could never be so soft."
Her voice was strong and contralto.
"You always pretend to be such a hard-hearted hussy,"
"And you know you're as sentimental --"
"I'd rather be called sentimental than frozen meat,"
Paul knew she referred to Clara,
and he smiled.
"Do you say such nasty things about me?"
the hunchback woman answered,
She was thirty-nine.
because you don't think yourself a fine figure in marble and us nothing but dirt.
I'm as good as you,
and the question delighted her.
we're not better than one another,
"But I'm as good as you,
she persisted daringly.
"Of course you are.
If it comes to goodness,
She was rather afraid of the situation.
She might get hysterical.
"I thought I'd get here before the others --won't they say I'm deep!
Now shut your eyes --" she said.
"And open your mouth,
and see what God sends you,"
suiting action to words,
and expecting a piece of chocolate.
He heard the rustle of the apron,
and a faint clink of metal.
"I'm going to look,"
He opened his eyes.
her long cheeks flushed,
her blue eyes shining,
was gazing at him.
There was a little bundle of paint-tubes on the bench before him.
He turned pale.
he said quickly.
"From us all,"
she answered hastily.
"Are they the right sort?"
rocking herself with delight.
they're the best in the catalogue."
"But they're the right sorts?"
"They're off the little list I'd made to get when my ship came in."
He bit his lip.
Fanny was overcome with emotion.
She must turn the conversation.
"They was all on thorns to do it;
they all paid their shares,
all except the Queen of Sheba."
The Queen of Sheba was Clara.
"And wouldn't she join?"
"She didn't get the chance;
we never told her;
we wasn't going to have HER bossing THIS show.
We didn't WANT her to join."
Paul laughed at the woman.
He was much moved.
At last he must go.
She was very close to him.
Suddenly she flung her arms round his neck and kissed him vehemently.
"I can give you a kiss to-day,"
she said apologetically.
"You've looked so white,
it's made my heart ache."
Paul kissed her,
and left her.
Her arms were so pitifully thin that his heart ached also.
That day he met Clara as he ran downstairs to wash his hands at dinner-time.
"You have stayed to dinner!"
It was unusual for her.
and I seem to have dined on old surgical-appliance stock.
I MUST go out now,
or I shall feel stale india-rubber right through."
He instantly caught at her wish.
"You are going anywhere?"
They went together up to the Castle.
Outdoors she dressed very plainly,
down to ugliness;
indoors she always looked nice.
She walked with hesitating steps alongside Paul,
bowing and turning away from him.
Dowdy in dress,
she showed to great disadvantage.
He could scarcely recognise her strong form,
that seemed to slumber with power.
She appeared almost insignificant,
drowning her stature in her stoop,
as she shrank from the public gaze.
The Castle grounds were very green and fresh.
Climbing the precipitous ascent,
he laughed and chattered,
but she was silent,
seeming to brood over something.
There was scarcely time to go inside the squat,
square building that crowns the bluff of rock.
They leaned upon the wall where the cliff runs sheer down to the Park.
in their holes in the sandstone,
pigeons preened themselves and cooed softly.
Away down upon the boulevard at the foot of the rock,
tiny trees stood in their own pools of shadow,
and tiny people went scurrying about in almost ludicrous importance.
"You feel as if you could scoop up the folk like tadpoles,
and have a handful of them,"
it is not necessary to get far off in order to see us proportionately.
The trees are much more significant."
She laughed cynically.
Away beyond the boulevard the thin stripes of the metals showed upon the railway-track,
whose margin was crowded with little stacks of timber,
beside which smoking toy engines fussed.
Then the silver string of the canal lay at random among the black heaps.
very dense on the river flat,
looked like black,
in thick rows and crowded beds,
stretching right away,
broken now and then by taller plants,
right to where the river glistened in a hieroglyph across the country.
The steep scarp cliffs across the river looked puny.
Great stretches of country darkened with trees and faintly brightened with corn-land,
spread towards the haze,
where the hills rose blue beyond grey.
"It is comforting,"
said Mrs. Dawes,
"to think the town goes no farther.
It is only a LITTLE sore upon the country yet."
"A little scab,"
She loathed the town.
Looking drearily across at the country which was forbidden her,
her impassive face,
pale and hostile,
she reminded Paul of one of the bitter,
"But the town's all right,"
"it's only temporary.
This is the crude,
clumsy make-shift we've practised on,
till we find out what the idea is.
The town will come all right."
The pigeons in the pockets of rock,
among the perched bushes,
To the left the large church of St. Mary rose into space,
to keep close company with the Castle,
above the heaped rubble of the town.
Mrs. Dawes smiled brightly as she looked across the country.
"I feel better,"
that's snatching back with the left hand what you gave with the right,
and no mistake,"
She laughed in amusement at him.
"But what was the matter with you?"
"I know you were brooding something special.
I can see the stamp of it on your face yet."
"I think I will not tell you,"
She flushed and bit her lip.
"it was the girls."
"They have been plotting something for a week now,
and to-day they seem particularly full of it.
they insult me with their secrecy."
he asked in concern.
"I should not mind,"
she went on,
in the metallic,
"if they did not thrust it into my face --the fact that they have a secret."
"Just like women,"
"It is hateful,
their mean gloating,"
she said intensely.
Paul was silent.
He knew what the girls gloated over.
He was sorry to be the cause of this new dissension.
"They can have all the secrets in the world,"
she went on,
"but they might refrain from glorying in them,
and making me feel more out of it than ever.
It is --it is almost unbearable."
Paul thought for a few minutes.
He was much perturbed.
"I will tell you what it's all about,"
pale and nervous.
"It's my birthday,
and they've bought me a fine lot of paints,
all the girls.
They're jealous of you" --he felt her stiffen coldly at the word
'jealous' --"merely because I sometimes bring you a book,"
he added slowly.
it's only a trifle.
Don't bother about it,
will you --because" --he laughed quickly --"well,
what would they say if they saw us here now,
in spite of their victory?"
She was angry with him for his clumsy reference to their present intimacy.
It was almost insolent of him.
Yet he was so quiet,
she forgave him,
although it cost her an effort.
Their two hands lay on the rough stone parapet of the Castle wall.
He had inherited from his mother a fineness of mould,
so that his hands were small and vigorous.
Hers were large,
to match her large limbs,
but white and powerful looking.
As Paul looked at them he knew her.
"She is wanting somebody to take her hands --for all she is so contemptuous of us,"
he said to himself.
And she saw nothing but his two hands,
so warm and alive,
which seemed to live for her.
He was brooding now,
staring out over the country from under sullen brows.
interesting diversity of shapes had vanished from the scene;
all that remained was a vast,
dark matrix of sorrow and tragedy,
the same in all the houses and the river-flats and the people and the birds;
they were only shapen differently.
And now that the forms seemed to have melted away,
there remained the mass from which all the landscape was composed,
a dark mass of struggle and pain.
the thicket of the town,
merged into one atmosphere --dark,
"Is that two o'clock striking?"
Mrs. Dawes said in surprise.
and everything sprang into form,
regained its individuality,
and its cheerfulness.
They hurried back to work.
When he was in the rush of preparing for the night's post,
examining the work up from Fanny's room,
which smelt of ironing,
the evening postman came in.
"'Mr. Paul Morel,'" he said,
handing Paul a package.
"A lady's handwriting!
Don't let the girls see it."
himself a favourite,
was pleased to make fun of the girls' affection for Paul.
It was a volume of verse with a brief note:
"You will allow me to send you this,
and so spare me my isolation.
I also sympathise and wish you well.
Paul flushed hot.
She can't afford it.
who ever'd have thought it!"
He was suddenly intensely moved.
He was filled with the warmth of her.
In the glow he could almost feel her as if she were present --her arms,
almost contain them.
This move on the part of Clara brought them into closer intimacy.
The other girls noticed that when Paul met Mrs. Dawes his eyes lifted and gave that peculiar bright greeting which they could interpret.
Knowing he was unaware,
Clara made no sign,
save that occasionally she turned aside her face from him when he came upon her.
They walked out together very often at dinner-time;
it was quite open,
Everybody seemed to feel that he was quite unaware of the state of his own feeling,
and that nothing was wrong.
He talked to her now with some of the old fervour with which he had talked to Miriam,
but he cared less about the talk;
he did not bother about his conclusions.
One day in October they went out to Lambley for tea.
Suddenly they came to a halt on top of the hill.
He climbed and sat on a gate,
she sat on the stile.
The afternoon was perfectly still,
with a dim haze,
and yellow sheaves glowing through.
They were quiet.
"How old were you when you married?"
he asked quietly.
Her voice was subdued,
She would tell him now.
"It is eight years ago?"
"And when did you leave him?"
"Three years ago."
Did you love him when you married him?"
She was silent for some time;
then she said slowly:
"I thought I did --more or less.
I didn't think much about it.
And he wanted me.
I was very prudish then."
"And you sort of walked into it without thinking?"
I seemed to have been asleep nearly all my life."
But --when did you wake up?"
"I don't know that I ever did,
or ever have --since I was a child."
"You went to sleep as you grew to be a woman?
And he didn't wake you?"
he never got there,"
in a monotone.
The brown birds dashed over the hedges where the rose-hips stood naked and scarlet.
He never really mattered to me."
The afternoon was so gently warm and dim.
Red roofs of the cottages burned among the blue haze.
He loved the day.
He could feel,
but he could not understand,
what Clara was saying.
"But why did you leave him?
Was he horrid to you?"
She shuddered lightly.
"He --he sort of degraded me.
He wanted to bully me because he hadn't got me.
And then I felt as if I wanted to run,
as if I was fastened and bound up.
And he seemed dirty."
He did not at all see.
"And was he always dirty?"
she replied slowly.
"And then he seemed as if he couldn't get AT me,
And then he got brutal --he WAS brutal!"
"And why did you leave him finally?"
"Because --because he was unfaithful to me --"
They were both silent for some time.
Her hand lay on the gate-post as she balanced.
He put his own over it.
His heart beat quickly.
"But did you --were you ever --did you ever give him a chance?"
"To come near to you."
"I married him --and I was willing --"
They both strove to keep their voices steady.
"I believe he loves you,"
"It looks like it,"
He wanted to take his hand away,
and could not.
She saved him by removing her own.
After a silence,
he began again:
"Did you leave him out of count all along?"
"He left me,"
"And I suppose he couldn't MAKE himself mean everything to you?"
"He tried to bully me into it."
But the conversation had got them both out of their depth.
Suddenly Paul jumped down.
"Let's go and get some tea."
They found a cottage,
where they sat in the cold parlour.
She poured out his tea.
She was very quiet.
He felt she had withdrawn again from him.
she stared broodingly into her tea-cup,
twisting her wedding ring all the time.
In her abstraction she took the ring off her finger,
stood it up,
and spun it upon the table.
The gold became a diaphanous,
and the ring was quivering upon the table.
She spun it again and again.
But she was a married woman,
and he believed in simple friendship.
And he considered that he was perfectly honourable with regard to her.
It was only a friendship between man and woman,
such as any civilised persons might have.
He was like so many young men of his own age.
Sex had become so complicated in him that he would have denied that he ever could want Clara or Miriam or any woman whom he knew.
Sex desire was a sort of detached thing,
that did not belong to a woman.
He loved Miriam with his soul.
He grew warm at the thought of Clara,
he battled with her,
he knew the curves of her breast and shoulders as if they had been moulded inside him;
and yet he did not positively desire her.
He would have denied it for ever.
He believed himself really bound to Miriam.
If ever he should marry,
some time in the far future,
it would be his duty to marry Miriam.
That he gave Clara to understand,
and she said nothing,
but left him to his courses.
He came to her,
whenever he could.
Then he wrote frequently to Miriam,
and visited the girl occasionally.
So he went on through the winter;
but he seemed not so fretted.
His mother was easier about him.
She thought he was getting away from Miriam.
Miriam knew now how strong was the attraction of Clara for him;
but still she was certain that the best in him would triumph.
His feeling for Mrs. Dawes --who,
was a married woman --was shallow and temporal,
compared with his love for herself.
He would come back to her,
she was sure;
with some of his young freshness gone,
but cured of his desire for the lesser things which other women than herself could give him.
She could bear all if he were inwardly true to her and must come back.
He saw none of the anomaly of his position.
Miriam was his old friend,
and she belonged to Bestwood and home and his youth.
Clara was a newer friend,
and she belonged to Nottingham,
to the world.
It seemed to him quite plain.
Mrs. Dawes and he had many periods of coolness,
when they saw little of each other;
but they always came together again.
"Were you horrid with Baxter Dawes?"
he asked her.
It was a thing that seemed to trouble him.
"In what way?"
I don't know.
But weren't you horrid with him?
Didn't you do something that knocked him to pieces?"
"Making him feel as if he were nothing --I know,"
"You are so clever,
she said coolly.
The conversation broke off there.
But it made her cool with him for some time.
She very rarely saw Miriam now.
The friendship between the two women was not broken off,
but considerably weakened.
"Will you come in to the concert on Sunday afternoon?"
Clara asked him just after Christmas.
"I promised to go up to Willey Farm,"
"You don't mind,
"Why should I?"
Which almost annoyed him.
"Miriam and I have been a lot to each other ever since I was sixteen --that's seven years now."
"It's a long time,"
but somehow she --it doesn't go right --"
"She seems to draw me and draw me,
and she wouldn't leave a single hair of me free to fall out and blow away --she'd keep it."
"But you like to be kept."
I wish it could be normal,
give and take --like me and you.
I want a woman to keep me,
but not in her pocket."
"But if you love her,
it couldn't be normal,
like me and you."
I should love her better then.
She sort of wants me so much that I can't give myself."
"Wants you how?"
"Wants the soul out of my body.
I can't help shrinking back from her."
"And yet you love her!"
I don't love her.
I never even kiss her."
"I don't know."
"I suppose you're afraid,"
Something in me shrinks from her like hell --she's so good,
when I'm not good."
"How do you know what she is?"
I know she wants a sort of soul union."
"But how do you know what she wants?"
"I've been with her for seven years."
"And you haven't found out the very first thing about her."
"That she doesn't want any of your soul communion.
That's your own imagination.
She wants you."
He pondered over this.
Perhaps he was wrong.
"But she seems --" he began.
"You've never tried,"