THE TEST ON MIRIAM
WITH the spring came again the old madness and battle.
Now he knew he would have to go to Miriam.
But what was his reluctance?
He told himself it was only a sort of overstrong virginity in her and him which neither could break through.
He might have married her;
but his circumstances at home made it difficult,
he did not want to marry.
Marriage was for life,
and because they had become close companions,
he and she,
he did not see that it should inevitably follow they should be man and wife.
He did not feel that he wanted marriage with Miriam.
He wished he did.
He would have given his head to have felt a joyous desire to marry her and to have her.
Then why couldn't he bring it off?
There was some obstacle;
and what was the obstacle?
It lay in the physical bondage.
He shrank from the physical contact.
With her he felt bound up inside himself.
He could not go out to her.
Something struggled in him,
but he could not get to her.
She loved him.
Clara said she even wanted him;
then why couldn't he go to her,
make love to her,
when she put her arm in his,
as they walked,
did he feel he would burst forth in brutality and recoil?
He owed himself to her;
he wanted to belong to her.
Perhaps the recoil and the shrinking from her was love in its first fierce modesty.
He had no aversion for her.
it was the opposite;
it was a strong desire battling with a still stronger shyness and virginity.
It seemed as if virginity were a positive force,
which fought and won in both of them.
And with her he felt it so hard to overcome;
yet he was nearest to her,
and with her alone could he deliberately break through.
And he owed himself to her.
if they could get things right,
they could marry;
but he would not marry unless he could feel strong in the joy of it --never.
He could not have faced his mother.
It seemed to him that to sacrifice himself in a marriage he did not want would be degrading,
and would undo all his life,
make it a nullity.
He would try what he COULD do.
And he had a great tenderness for Miriam.
she was sad,
dreaming her religion;
and he was nearly a religion to her.
He could not bear to fail her.
It would all come right if they tried.
He looked round.
A good many of the nicest men he knew were like himself,
bound in by their own virginity,
which they could not break out of.
They were so sensitive to their women that they would go without them for ever rather than do them a hurt,
Being the sons of mothers whose husbands had blundered rather brutally through their feminine sanctities,
they were themselves too diffident and shy.
They could easier deny themselves than incur any reproach from a woman;
for a woman was like their mother,
and they were full of the sense of their mother.
They preferred themselves to suffer the misery of celibacy,
rather than risk the other person.
He went back to her.
Something in her,
when he looked at her,
brought the tears almost to his eyes.
One day he stood behind her as she sang.
Annie was playing a song on the piano.
As Miriam sang her mouth seemed hopeless.
She sang like a nun singing to heaven.
It reminded him so much of the mouth and eyes of one who sings beside a Botticelli Madonna,
hot as steel,
came up the pain in him.
Why must he ask her for the other thing?
Why was there his blood battling with her?
If only he could have been always gentle,
tender with her,
breathing with her the atmosphere of reverie and religious dreams,
he would give his right hand.
It was not fair to hurt her.
There seemed an eternal maidenhood about her;
and when he thought of her mother,
he saw the great brown eyes of a maiden who was nearly scared and shocked out of her virgin maidenhood,
but not quite,
in spite of her seven children.
They had been born almost leaving her out of count,
not of her,
but upon her.
So she could never let them go,
because she never had possessed them.
Mrs. Morel saw him going again frequently to Miriam,
and was astonished.
He said nothing to his mother.
He did not explain nor excuse himself.
If he came home late,
and she reproached him,
he frowned and turned on her in an overbearing way:
"I shall come home when I like,"
"I am old enough."
"Must she keep you till this time?"
"It is I who stay,"
"And she lets you?
But very well,"
And she went to bed,
leaving the door unlocked for him;
but she lay listening until he came,
often long after.
It was a great bitterness to her that he had gone back to Miriam.
the uselessness of any further interference.
He went to Willey Farm as a man now,
not as a youth.
She had no right over him.
There was a coldness between him and her.
He hardly told her anything.
she waited on him,
cooked for him still,
and loved to slave for him;
but her face closed again like a mask.
There was nothing for her to do now but the housework;
for all the rest he had gone to Miriam.
She could not forgive him.
Miriam killed the joy and the warmth in him.
He had been such a jolly lad,
and full of the warmest affection;
now he grew colder,
more and more irritable and gloomy.
It reminded her of William;
but Paul was worse.
He did things with more intensity,
and more realisation of what he was about.
His mother knew how he was suffering for want of a woman,
and she saw him going to Miriam.
If he had made up his mind,
nothing on earth would alter him.
Mrs. Morel was tired.
She began to give up at last;
she had finished.
She was in the way.
He went on determinedly.
He realised more or less what his mother felt.
It only hardened his soul.
He made himself callous towards her;
but it was like being callous to his own health.
It undermined him quickly;
yet he persisted.
He lay back in the rocking-chair at Willey Farm one evening.
He had been talking to Miriam for some weeks,
but had not come to the point.
Now he said suddenly:
"I am twenty-four,
She had been brooding.
She looked up at him suddenly in surprise.
What makes you say it?"
There was something in the charged atmosphere that she dreaded.
"Sir Thomas More says one can marry at twenty-four."
She laughed quaintly,
"Does it need Sir Thomas More's sanction?"
but one ought to marry about then."
she answered broodingly;
and she waited.
"I can't marry you,"
he continued slowly,
because we've no money,
and they depend on me at home."
She sat half-guessing what was coming.
"But I want to marry now --"
"You want to marry?"
"A woman --you know what I mean."
She was silent.
"And you love me?"
She laughed bitterly.
"Why are you ashamed of it,"
"You wouldn't be ashamed before your God,
why are you before people?"
she answered deeply,
"I am not ashamed."
he replied bitterly;
"and it's my fault.
But you know I can't help being --as I am --don't you?"
"I know you can't help it,"
"I love you an awful lot --then there is something short."
looking at him.
It is I who ought to be ashamed --like a spiritual cripple.
And I am ashamed.
It is misery.
Why is it?"
"I don't know,"
"And I don't know,"
"Don't you think we have been too fierce in our what they call purity?
Don't you think that to be so much afraid and averse is a sort of dirtiness?"
She looked at him with startled dark eyes.
"You recoiled away from anything of the sort,
and I took the motion from you,
and recoiled also,
There was silence in the room for some time.
"it is so."
"There is between us,"
"all these years of intimacy.
I feel naked enough before you.
Do you understand?"
"I think so,"
"And you love me?"
"Don't be bitter,"
She looked at him and was sorry for him;
his eyes were dark with torture.
She was sorry for him;
it was worse for him to have this deflated love than for herself,
who could never be properly mated.
He was restless,
for ever urging forward and trying to find a way out.
He might do as he liked,
and have what he liked of her.
she said softly,
"I am not bitter."
She felt she could bear anything for him;
she would suffer for him.
She put her hand on his knee as he leaned forward in his chair.
He took it and kissed it;
but it hurt to do so.
He felt he was putting himself aside.
He sat there sacrificed to her purity,
which felt more like nullity.
How could he kiss her hand passionately,
when it would drive her away,
and leave nothing but pain?
Yet slowly he drew her to him and kissed her.
They knew each other too well to pretend anything.
As she kissed him,
she watched his eyes;
they were staring across the room,
with a peculiar dark blaze in them that fascinated her.
He was perfectly still.
She could feel his heart throbbing heavily in his breast.
"What are you thinking about?"
The blaze in his eyes shuddered,
"I was thinking,
all the while,
I love you.
I have been obstinate."
She sank her head on his breast.
and his voice seemed sure,
and his mouth was kissing her throat.
Then she raised her head and looked into his eyes with her full gaze of love.
The blaze struggled,
seemed to try to get away from her,
and then was quenched.
He turned his head quickly aside.
It was a moment of anguish.
He shut his eyes,
and kissed her,
and his arms folded her closer and closer.
When she walked home with him over the fields,
"I am glad I came back to you.
I feel so simple with you --as if there was nothing to hide.
We will be happy?"
and the tears came to her eyes.
"Some sort of perversity in our souls,"
"makes us not want,
get away from,
the very thing we want.
We have to fight against that."
and she felt stunned.
As she stood under the drooping-thorn tree,
in the darkness by the roadside,
he kissed her,
and his fingers wandered over her face.
In the darkness,
where he could not see her but only feel her,
his passion flooded him.
He clasped her very close.
"Sometime you will have me?"
hiding his face on her shoulder.
It was so difficult.
His hopes and his heart sunk.
A dreariness came over him.
His clasp of her slackened.
"I love to feel your arm THERE!"
pressing his arm against her back,
where it went round her waist.
"It rests me so."
He tightened the pressure of his arm upon the small of her back to rest her.
"We belong to each other,"
"Then why shouldn't we belong to each other altogether?"
"But --" she faltered.
"I know it's a lot to ask,"
"but there's not much risk for you really --not in the Gretchen way.
You can trust me there?"
I can trust you."
The answer came quick and strong.
"It's not that --it's not that at all --but --"
She hid her face in his neck with a little cry of misery.
"I don't know!"
She seemed slightly hysterical,
but with a sort of horror.
His heart died in him.
"You don't think it ugly?"
You have TAUGHT me it isn't."
"You are afraid?"
She calmed herself hastily.
I am only afraid,"
He kissed her tenderly.
"You should please yourself."
Suddenly she gripped his arms round her,
and clenched her body stiff.
"You SHALL have me,"
through her shut teeth.
His heart beat up again like fire.
He folded her close,
and his mouth was on her throat.
She could not bear it.
She drew away.
He disengaged her.
"Won't you be late?"
she asked gently.
scarcely hearing what she said.
wishing he would go.
At last he kissed her quickly and climbed the fence.
Looking round he saw the pale blotch of her face down in the darkness under the hanging tree.
There was no more of her but this pale blotch.
she called softly.
She had no body,
only a voice and a dim face.
He turned away and ran down the road,
his fists clenched;
and when he came to the wall over the lake he leaned there,
looking up the black water.
Miriam plunged home over the meadows.
She was not afraid of people,
what they might say;
but she dreaded the issue with him.
she would let him have her if he insisted;
when she thought of it afterwards,
her heart went down.
He would be disappointed,
he would find no satisfaction,
and then he would go away.
Yet he was so insistent;
and over this,
which did not seem so all-important to her,
was their love to break down.
he was only like other men,
seeking his satisfaction.
but there was something more in him,
She could trust to it,
in spite of all desires.
He said that possession was a great moment in life.
All strong emotions concentrated there.
Perhaps it was so.
There was something divine in it;
then she would submit,
to the sacrifice.
He should have her.
And at the thought her whole body clenched itself involuntarily,
as if against something;
but Life forced her through this gate of suffering,
and she would submit.
At any rate,
it would give him what he wanted,
which was her deepest wish.
She brooded and brooded and brooded herself towards accepting him.
He courted her now like a lover.
when he grew hot,
she put his face from her,
held it between her hands,
and looked in his eyes.
He could not meet her gaze.
Her dark eyes,
full of love,
earnest and searching,
made him turn away.
Not for an instant would she let him forget.
Back again he had to torture himself into a sense of his responsibility and hers.
Never any relaxing,
never any leaving himself to the great hunger and impersonality of passion;
he must be brought back to a deliberate,
As if from a swoon of passion she caged him back to the littleness,
the personal relationship.
He could not bear it.
"Leave me alone --leave me alone!"
he wanted to cry;
but she wanted him to look at her with eyes full of love.
full of the dark,
impersonal fire of desire,
did not belong to her.
There was a great crop of cherries at the farm.
The trees at the back of the house,
very large and tall,
hung thick with scarlet and crimson drops,
under the dark leaves.
Paul and Edgar were gathering the fruit one evening.
It had been a hot day,
and now the clouds were rolling in the sky,
dark and warm.
Paul combed high in the tree,
above the scarlet roofs of the buildings.
made the whole tree rock with a subtle,
thrilling motion that stirred the blood.
The young man,
perched insecurely in the slender branches,
rocked till he felt slightly drunk,
reached down the boughs,
where the scarlet beady cherries hung thick underneath,
and tore off handful after handful of the sleek,
Cherries touched his ears and his neck as he stretched forward,
their chill finger-tips sending a flash down his blood.
All shades of red,
from a golden vermilion to a rich crimson,
glowed and met his eyes under a darkness of leaves.
suddenly caught the broken clouds.
Immense piles of gold flared out in the south-east,
heaped in soft,
glowing yellow right up the sky.
till now dusk and grey,
reflected the gold glow,
Everywhere the trees,
and the grass,
and the far-off water,
seemed roused from the twilight and shining.
Miriam came out wondering.
Paul heard her mellow voice call,
"isn't it wonderful?"
He looked down.
There was a faint gold glimmer on her face,
that looked very soft,
turned up to him.
"How high you are!"
on the rhubarb leaves,
were four dead birds,
thieves that had been shot.
Paul saw some cherry stones hanging quite bleached,
picked clear of flesh.
He looked down again to Miriam.
"Clouds are on fire,"
She seemed so small,
He threw a handful of cherries at her.
She was startled and frightened.
He laughed with a low,
and pelted her.
She ran for shelter,
picking up some cherries.
Two fine red pairs she hung over her ears;
then she looked up again.
"Haven't you got enough?"
It is like being on a ship up here."
"And how long will you stay?"
"While the sunset lasts."
She went to the fence and sat there,
watching the gold clouds fall to pieces,
and go in immense,
rose-coloured ruin towards the darkness.
Gold flamed to scarlet,
like pain in its intense brightness.
Then the scarlet sank to rose,
and rose to crimson,
and quickly the passion went out of the sky.
All the world was dark grey.
Paul scrambled quickly down with his basket,
tearing his shirt-sleeve as he did so.
"They are lovely,"
fingering the cherries.
"I've torn my sleeve,"
She took the three-cornered rip,
"I shall have to mend it."
It was near the shoulder.
She put her fingers through the tear.
There was a new,
strange note in his voice,
one that made her pant.
"Shall we stay out?"
"Won't it rain?"
let us walk a little way."
They went down the fields and into the thick plantation of trees and pines.
"Shall we go in among the trees?"
"Do you want to?"
It was very dark among the firs,
and the sharp spines pricked her face.
She was afraid.
Paul was silent and strange.
"I like the darkness,"
"I wish it were thicker --good,
He seemed to be almost unaware of her as a person: she was only to him then a woman.
She was afraid.
He stood against a pine-tree trunk and took her in his arms.
She relinquished herself to him,
but it was a sacrifice in which she felt something of horror.
oblivious man was a stranger to her.
Later it began to rain.
The pine-trees smelled very strong.
Paul lay with his head on the ground,
on the dead pine needles,
listening to the sharp hiss of the rain --a steady,
His heart was down,
Now he realised that she had not been with him all the time,
that her soul had stood apart,
in a sort of horror.
He was physically at rest,
but no more.
Very dreary at heart,
and very tender,
his fingers wandered over her face pitifully.
Now again she loved him deeply.
He was tender and beautiful.
"Yes --is it coming on you?"
She put her hands over him,
on his hair,
on his shoulders,
to feel if the raindrops fell on him.
She loved him dearly.
as he lay with his face on the dead pine-leaves,
felt extraordinarily quiet.
He did not mind if the raindrops came on him: he would have lain and got wet through: he felt as if nothing mattered,
as if his living were smeared away into the beyond,
near and quite lovable.
gentle reaching-out to death was new to him.
"We must go,"
but did not move.
To him now,
life seemed a shadow,
day a white shadow;
this seemed like BEING.
To be alive,
to be urgent and insistent --that was NOT-TO-BE.
The highest of all was to melt out into the darkness and sway there,
identified with the great Being.
"The rain is coming in on us,"
and assisted her.
"It is a pity,"
"To have to go.
I feel so still."
"Stiller than I have ever been in my life."
He was walking with his hand in hers.
She pressed his fingers,
feeling a slight fear.
Now he seemed beyond her;
she had a fear lest she should lose him.
"The fir-trees are like presences on the darkness: each one only a presence."
She was afraid,
and said nothing.
"A sort of hush: the whole night wondering and asleep: I suppose that's what we do in death --sleep in wonder."
She had been afraid before of the brute in him: now of the mystic.
She trod beside him in silence.
The rain fell with a heavy "Hush!"
on the trees.
At last they gained the cartshed.
"Let us stay here awhile,"
There was a sound of rain everywhere,
"I feel so strange and still,"
"along with everything."
she answered patiently.
He seemed again unaware of her,
though he held her hand close.
"To be rid of our individuality,
which is our will,
which is our effort --to live effortless,
a kind of curious sleep --that is very beautiful,
that is our after-life --our immortality."
"Yes --and very beautiful to have."
"You don't usually say that."
In a while they went indoors.
Everybody looked at them curiously.
He still kept the quiet,
heavy look in his eyes,
the stillness in his voice.
they all left him alone.
About this time Miriam's grandmother,
who lived in a tiny cottage in Woodlinton,
and the girl was sent to keep house.
It was a beautiful little place.
The cottage had a big garden in front,
with red brick walls,
against which the plum trees were nailed.
At the back another garden was separated from the fields by a tall old hedge.
It was very pretty.
Miriam had not much to do,
so she found time for her beloved reading,
and for writing little introspective pieces which interested her.
At the holiday-time her grandmother,
was driven to Derby to stay with her daughter for a day or two.
She was a crotchety old lady,
and might return the second day or the third;
so Miriam stayed alone in the cottage,
which also pleased her.
Paul used often to cycle over,
and they had as a rule peaceful and happy times.
He did not embarrass her much;
but then on the Monday of the holiday he was to spend a whole day with her.
It was perfect weather.
He left his mother,
telling her where he was going.
She would be alone all the day.
It cast a shadow over him;
but he had three days that were all his own,
when he was going to do as he liked.
It was sweet to rush through the morning lanes on his bicycle.
He got to the cottage at about eleven o'clock.
Miriam was busy preparing dinner.
She looked so perfectly in keeping with the little kitchen,
ruddy and busy.
He kissed her and sat down to watch.
The room was small and cosy.
The sofa was covered all over with a sort of linen in squares of red and pale blue,
There was a stuffed owl in a case over a corner cupboard.
The sunlight came through the leaves of the scented geraniums in the window.
She was cooking a chicken in his honour.
It was their cottage for the day,
and they were man and wife.
He beat the eggs for her and peeled the potatoes.
He thought she gave a feeling of home almost like his mother;
and no one could look more beautiful,
with her tumbled curls,
when she was flushed from the fire.
The dinner was a great success.
Like a young husband,
They talked all the time with unflagging zest.
Then he wiped the dishes she had washed,
and they went out down the fields.
There was a bright little brook that ran into a bog at the foot of a very steep bank.
Here they wandered,
picking still a few marsh-marigolds and many big blue forget-me-nots.
Then she sat on the bank with her hands full of flowers,
mostly golden water-blobs.
As she put her face down into the marigolds,
it was all overcast with a yellow shine.
"Your face is bright,"
"like a transfiguration."
She looked at him,
He laughed pleadingly to her,
laying his hands on hers.
Then he kissed her fingers,
then her face.
The world was all steeped in sunshine,
and quite still,
yet not asleep,
but quivering with a kind of expectancy.
"I have never seen anything more beautiful than this,"
He held her hand fast all the time.
"And the water singing to itself as it runs --do you love it?"
She looked at him full of love.
His eyes were very dark,
"Don't you think it's a great day?"
She murmured her assent.
She WAS happy,
and he saw it.
"And our day --just between us,"
They lingered a little while.
Then they stood up upon the sweet thyme,
and he looked down at her simply.
"Will you come?"
They went back to the house,
hand in hand,
The chickens came scampering down the path to her.
He locked the door,
and they had the little house to themselves.
He never forgot seeing her as she lay on the bed,
when he was unfastening his collar.
First he saw only her beauty,
and was blind with it.
She had the most beautiful body he had ever imagined.
He stood unable to move or speak,
looking at her,
his face half-smiling with wonder.
And then he wanted her,
but as he went forward to her,
her hands lifted in a little pleading movement,
and he looked at her face,
Her big brown eyes were watching him,
still and resigned and loving;
she lay as if she had given herself up to sacrifice: there was her body for him;
but the look at the back of her eyes,
like a creature awaiting immolation,
and all his blood fell back.
"You are sure you want me?"
as if a cold shadow had come over him.
She was very quiet,
She only realised that she was doing something for him.
He could hardly bear it.
She lay to be sacrificed for him because she loved him so much.
And he had to sacrifice her.
For a second,
he wished he were sexless or dead.
Then he shut his eyes again to her,
and his blood beat back again.
And afterwards he loved her --loved her to the last fibre of his being.
He loved her.
But he wanted,
There was something he could not bear for her sake.
He stayed with her till quite late at night.
As he rode home he felt that he was finally initiated.
He was a youth no longer.
But why had he the dull pain in his soul?
Why did the thought of death,
seem so sweet and consoling?
He spent the week with Miriam,
and wore her out with his passion before it was gone.
He had always,
to put her out of count,
and act from the brute strength of his own feelings.
And he could not do it often,
and there remained afterwards always the sense of failure and of death.
If he were really with her,
he had to put aside himself and his desire.
If he would have her,
he had to put her aside.
"When I come to you,"
he asked her,
his eyes dark with pain and shame,
"you don't really want me,
she replied quickly.
He looked at her.
She began to tremble.
taking his face and shutting it out against her shoulder --"you see --as we are --how can I get used to you?
It would come all right if we were married."
He lifted her head,
and looked at her.
it is always too much shock?"
"Yes --and --"
"You are always clenched against me."
She was trembling with agitation.
"I'm not used to the thought --"
"You are lately,"
"But all my life.
Mother said to me:
'There is one thing in marriage that is always dreadful,
but you have to bear it.'
And I believed it."
"And still believe it,"
she cried hastily.
as you do,
even in THAT way,
is the high-water mark of living."
"That doesn't alter the fact that you never want it."
taking his head in her arms and rocking in despair.
"Don't say so!
You don't understand."
She rocked with pain.
"Don't I want your children?"
"But not me."
"How can you say so?
But we must be married to have children --"
"Shall we be married,
I want you to have my children."
He kissed her hand reverently.
She pondered sadly,
"We are too young,"
she said at length.
"Twenty-four and twenty-three --"
as she rocked herself in distress.
"When you will,"
She bowed her head gravely.
The tone of hopelessness in which he said these things grieved her deeply.
It had always been a failure between them.
she acquiesced in what he felt.
And after a week of love he said to his mother suddenly one Sunday night,
just as they were going to bed:
"I shan't go so much to Miriam's,
She was surprised,
but she would not ask him anything.
"You please yourself,"
So he went to bed.
But there was a new quietness about him which she had wondered at.
She almost guessed.
She would leave him alone,
Precipitation might spoil things.
She watched him in his loneliness,
wondering where he would end.
He was sick,
and much too quiet for him.
There was a perpetual little knitting of his brows,
such as she had seen when he was a small baby,
and which had been gone for many years.
Now it was the same again.
And she could do nothing for him.
He had to go on alone,
make his own way.
He continued faithful to Miriam.
For one day he had loved her utterly.
But it never came again.
The sense of failure grew stronger.
At first it was only a sadness.
Then he began to feel he could not go on.
He wanted to run,
to go abroad,
Gradually he ceased to ask her to have him.
Instead of drawing them together,
it put them apart.
And then he realised,
that it was no good.
It was useless trying: it would never be a success between them.
For some months he had seen very little of Clara.
They had occasionally walked out for half an hour at dinner-time.
But he always reserved himself for Miriam.
his brow cleared,
and he was gay again.
She treated him indulgently,
as if he were a child.
He thought he did not mind.
But deep below the surface it piqued him.
Sometimes Miriam said:
"What about Clara?
I hear nothing of her lately."
"I walked with her about twenty minutes yesterday,"
"And what did she talk about?"
"I don't know.
I suppose I did all the jawing --I usually do.
I think I was telling her about the strike,
and how the women took it."
So he gave the account of himself.
without his knowing it,
the warmth he felt for Clara drew him away from Miriam,
for whom he felt responsible,
and to whom he felt he belonged.
He thought he was being quite faithful to her.
It was not easy to estimate exactly the strength and warmth of one's feelings for a woman till they have run away with one.
He began to give more time to his men friends.
There was Jessop,
at the art school;
who was chemistry demonstrator at the university;
who was a teacher;
besides Edgar and Miriam's younger brothers.
he sketched and studied with Jessop.
He called in the university for Swain,
and the two went "down town" together.
Having come home in the train with Newton,
he called and had a game of billiards with him in the Moon and Stars.
If he gave to Miriam the excuse of his men friends,
he felt quite justified.
His mother began to be relieved.
He always told her where he had been.
During the summer Clara wore sometimes a dress of soft cotton stuff with loose sleeves.
When she lifted her hands,
her sleeves fell back,
and her beautiful strong arms shone out.
"Half a minute,"
"Hold your arm still."
He made sketches of her hand and arm,
and the drawings contained some of the fascination the real thing had for him.
who always went scrupulously through his books and papers,
saw the drawings.
"I think Clara has such beautiful arms,"
When did you draw them?"
in the work-room.
I've got a corner where I can work.
Often I can do every single thing they need in the department,
Then I work for myself in the afternoon,
and just see to things at night."
turning the leaves of his sketch-book.
Frequently he hated Miriam.
He hated her as she bent forward and pored over his things.
He hated her way of patiently casting him up,
as if he were an endless psychological account.
When he was with her,
he hated her for having got him,
and yet not got him,
and he tortured her.
She took all and gave nothing,
she gave no living warmth.
She was never alive,
and giving off life.
Looking for her was like looking for something which did not exist.
She was only his conscience,
not his mate.
He hated her violently,
and was more cruel to her.
They dragged on till the next summer.
He saw more and more of Clara.
At last he spoke.
He had been sitting working at home one evening.
There was between him and his mother a peculiar condition of people frankly finding fault with each other.
Mrs. Morel was strong on her feet again.
He was not going to stick to Miriam.
then she would stand aloof till he said something.
It had been coming a long time,
this bursting of the storm in him,
when he would come back to her.
This evening there was between them a peculiar condition of suspense.
He worked feverishly and mechanically,
so that he could escape from himself.
It grew late.
Through the open door,
came the scent of madonna lilies,
almost as if it were prowling abroad.
Suddenly he got up and went out of doors.
The beauty of the night made him want to shout.
was sinking behind the black sycamore at the end of the garden,
making the sky dull purple with its glow.
a dim white fence of lilies went across the garden,
and the air all round seemed to stir with scent,
as if it were alive.
He went across the bed of pinks,
whose keen perfume came sharply across the rocking,
heavy scent of the lilies,
and stood alongside the white barrier of flowers.
They flagged all loose,
as if they were panting.
The scent made him drunk.
He went down to the field to watch the moon sink under.
A corncrake in the hay-close called insistently.
The moon slid quite quickly downwards,
growing more flushed.
Behind him the great flowers leaned as if they were calling.
like a shock,
he caught another perfume,
something raw and coarse.
he found the purple iris,
touched their fleshy throats and their dark,
At any rate,
he had found something.
They stood stiff in the darkness.
Their scent was brutal.
The moon was melting down upon the crest of the hill.
It was gone;
all was dark.
The corncrake called still.
Breaking off a pink,
he suddenly went indoors.
said his mother.
"I'm sure it's time you went to bed."
He stood with the pink against his lips.
"I shall break off with Miriam,
he answered calmly.
She looked up at him over her spectacles.
He was staring back at her,
She met his eyes for a moment,
then took off her glasses.
He was white.
The male was up in him,
She did not want to see him too clearly.
"But I thought --" she began.
"I don't love her.
I don't want to marry her --so I shall have done."
exclaimed his mother,
"I thought lately you had made up your mind to have her,
and so I said nothing."
"I had --I wanted to --but now I don't want.
It's no good.
I shall break off on Sunday.
I ought to,
"You know best.
You know I said so long ago."
"I can't help that now.
I shall break off on Sunday."
said his mother,
"I think it will be best.
But lately I decided you had made up your mind to have her,
so I said nothing,
and should have said nothing.
But I say as I have always said,
I DON'T think she is suited to you."
"On Sunday I break off,"
smelling the pink.
He put the flower in his mouth.
he bared his teeth,
closed them on the blossom slowly,
and had a mouthful of petals.
These he spat into the fire,
kissed his mother,
and went to bed.
On Sunday he went up to the farm in the early afternoon.
He had written Miriam that they would walk over the fields to Hucknall.
His mother was very tender with him.
He said nothing.
But she saw the effort it was costing.
The peculiar set look on his face stilled her.
"You will be so much better when it is all over."
Paul glanced swiftly at his mother in surprise and resentment.
He did not want sympathy.
Miriam met him at the lane-end.
She was wearing a new dress of figured muslin that had short sleeves.
Those short sleeves,
and Miriam's brown-skinned arms beneath them --such pitiful,
resigned arms --gave him so much pain that they helped to make him cruel.
She had made herself look so beautiful and fresh for him.
She seemed to blossom for him alone.
Every time he looked at her --a mature young woman now,
and beautiful in her new dress --it hurt so much that his heart seemed almost to be bursting with the restraint he put on it.
But he had decided,
and it was irrevocable.
On the hills they sat down,
and he lay with his head in her lap,
whilst she fingered his hair.
She knew that "he was not there,"
as she put it.
when she had him with her,
she looked for him,
and could not find him.
But this afternoon she was not prepared.
It was nearly five o'clock when he told her.
They were sitting on the bank of a stream,
where the lip of turf hung over a hollow bank of yellow earth,
and he was hacking away with a stick,
as he did when he was perturbed and cruel.
"I have been thinking,"
"we ought to break off."
she cried in surprise.
"Because it's no good going on."
"Why is it no good?"
I don't want to marry.
I don't want ever to marry.
And if we're not going to marry,
it's no good going on."
"But why do you say this now?"
"Because I've made up my mind."
"And what about these last months,
and the things you told me then?"
"I can't help it!
I don't want to go on."
"You don't want any more of me?"
"I want us to break off --you be free of me,
I free of you."
"And what about these last months?"
"I don't know.
I've not told you anything but what I thought was true."
"Then why are you different now?"
"I'm not --I'm the same --only I know it's no good going on."
"You haven't told me why it's no good."
"Because I don't want to go on --and I don't want to marry."
"How many times have you offered to marry me,
and I wouldn't?"
but I want us to break off."
There was silence for a moment or two,
while he dug viciously at the earth.
She bent her head,
He was an unreasonable child.
He was like an infant which,
when it has drunk its fill,
throws away and smashes the cup.
She looked at him,
feeling she could get hold of him and WRING some consistency out of him.
But she was helpless.
Then she cried:
"I have said you were only fourteen --you are only FOUR!"
He still dug at the earth viciously.
"You are a child of four,"
she repeated in her anger.
He did not answer,
but said in his heart:
if I'm a child of four,
what do you want me for?
I don't want another mother."
But he said nothing to her,
and there was silence.
"And have you told your people?"
"I have told my mother."
There was another long interval of silence.
"Then what do you WANT?"
I want us to separate.
We have lived on each other all these years;
now let us stop.
I will go my own way without you,
and you will go your way without me.
You will have an independent life of your own then."
There was in it some truth that,
in spite of her bitterness,
she could not help registering.
She knew she felt in a sort of bondage to him,
which she hated because she could not control it.
She hated her love for him from the moment it grew too strong for her.
she had hated him because she loved him and he dominated her.
She had resisted his domination.
She had fought to keep herself free of him in the last issue.
And she was free of him,
even more than he of her.
"we shall always be more or less each other's work.
You have done a lot for me,
I for you.
Now let us start and live by ourselves."
"What do you want to do?"
"Nothing --only to be free,"
knew in her heart that Clara's influence was over him to liberate him.
But she said nothing.
"And what have I to tell my mother?"
"I told my mother,"
"that I was breaking off --clean and altogether."
"I shall not tell them at home,"
"You please yourself,"
He knew he had landed her in a nasty hole,
and was leaving her in the lurch.
It angered him.
"Tell them you wouldn't and won't marry me,
and have broken off,"
"It's true enough."
She bit her finger moodily.
She thought over their whole affair.
She had known it would come to this;
she had seen it all along.
It chimed with her bitter expectation.
"Always --it has always been so!"
"It has been one long battle between us --you fighting away from me."
It came from her unawares,
like a flash of lightning.
The man's heart stood still.
Was this how she saw it?
"But we've had SOME perfect hours,
SOME perfect times,
when we were together!"
It has always been you fighting me off."
"Not always --not at first!"
from the very beginning --always the same!"
She had finished,
but she had done enough.
He sat aghast.
He had wanted to say:
"It has been good,
but it is at an end."
And she --she whose love he had believed in when he had despised himself --denied that their love had ever been love.
"He had always fought away from her?"
Then it had been monstrous.
There had never been anything really between them;
all the time he had been imagining something where there was nothing.
And she had known.
She had known so much,
and had told him so little.
She had known all the time.
All the time this was at the bottom of her!
He sat silent in bitterness.
At last the whole affair appeared in a cynical aspect to him.
She had really played with him,
not he with her.
She had hidden all her condemnation from him,
had flattered him,
and despised him.
She despised him now.
He grew intellectual and cruel.
"You ought to marry a man who worships you,"
"then you could do as you liked with him.
Plenty of men will worship you,
if you get on the private side of their natures.
You ought to marry one such.
They would never fight you off."
"But don't advise me to marry someone else any more.
You've done it before."
"I will say no more."
He sat still,
feeling as if he had had a blow,
instead of giving one.
Their eight years of friendship and love,
THE eight years of his life,
"When did you think of this?"
"I thought definitely on Thursday night."
"I knew it was coming,"
That pleased him bitterly.
If she knew then it doesn't come as a surprise to her,"
"And have you said anything to Clara?"
but I shall tell her now."
There was a silence.
"Do you remember the things you said this time last year,
in my grandmother's house --nay last month even?"
And I meant them!
I can't help that it's failed."
"It has failed because you want something else."
"It would have failed whether or not.
YOU never believed in me."
She laughed strangely.
He sat in silence.
He was full of a feeling that she had deceived him.
She had despised him when he thought she worshipped him.
She had let him say wrong things,
and had not contradicted him.
She had let him fight alone.
But it stuck in his throat that she had despised him whilst he thought she worshipped him.
She should have told him when she found fault with him.
She had not played fair.
He hated her.
All these years she had treated him as if he were a hero,
and thought of him secretly as an infant,
a foolish child.
Then why had she left the foolish child to his folly?
His heart was hard against her.
She sat full of bitterness.
She had known --oh,
well she had known!
All the time he was away from her she had summed him up,
seen his littleness,
and his folly.
Even she had guarded her soul against him.
She was not overthrown,
not even much hurt.
She had known.
as he sat there,
had he still this strange dominance over her?
His very movements fascinated her as if she were hypnotised by him.
Yet he was despicable,
Why this bondage for her?
Why was it the movement of his arm stirred her as nothing else in the world could?
Why was she fastened to him?
if he looked at her and commanded her,
would she have to obey?
She would obey him in his trifling commands.
But once he was obeyed,
then she had him in her power,
to lead him where she would.
She was sure of herself.
this new influence!
he was not a man!
He was a baby that cries for the newest toy.
And all the attachment of his soul would not keep him.
he would have to go.
But he would come back when he had tired of his new sensation.
He hacked at the earth till she was fretted to death.
He sat flinging lumps of earth in the stream.
"We will go and have tea here?"
They chattered over irrelevant subjects during tea.
He held forth on the love of ornament --the cottage parlour moved him thereto --and its connection with aesthetics.
She was cold and quiet.
As they walked home,
"And we shall not see each other?"
"No --or rarely,"
"As you will,"
"We're not strangers --never should be,
I will write to you now and again.
You please yourself."
she answered cuttingly.
But he was at that stage at which nothing else hurts.
He had made a great cleavage in his life.
He had had a great shock when she had told him their love had been always a conflict.
Nothing more mattered.
If it never had been much,
there was no need to make a fuss that it was ended.
He left her at the lane-end.
As she went home,
in her new frock,
having her people to face at the other end,
he stood still with shame and pain in the highroad,
thinking of the suffering he caused her.
In the reaction towards restoring his self-esteem,
he went into the Willow Tree for a drink.
There were four girls who had been out for the day,
drinking a modest glass of port.
They had some chocolates on the table.
Paul sat near with his whisky.
He noticed the girls whispering and nudging.
a bonny dark hussy,
leaned to him and said:
"Have a chocolate?"
The others laughed loudly at her impudence.
"Give me a hard one --nut.
I don't like creams."
"Here you are,
said the girl;
"here's an almond for you."
She held the sweet between her fingers.
He opened his mouth.
She popped it in,
"You ARE nice!"
"we thought you looked overcast,
and they dared me offer you a chocolate."
"I don't mind if I have another --another sort,"
And presently they were all laughing together.
It was nine o'clock when he got home,
He entered the house in silence.
who had been waiting,
"I told her,"
replied the mother,
with great relief.
He hung up his cap wearily.
"I said we'd have done altogether,"
said the mother.
"It's hard for her now,
but best in the long run.
You weren't suited for her."
He laughed shakily as he sat down.
"I've had such a lark with some girls in a pub,"
His mother looked at him.
He had forgotten Miriam now.
He told her about the girls in the Willow Tree.
Mrs. Morel looked at him.
It seemed unreal,
At the back of it was too much horror and misery.
"Now have some supper,"
she said very gently.
Afterwards he said wistfully:
"She never thought she'd have me,
not from the first,
and so she's not disappointed."
said his mother,
"she doesn't give up hopes of you yet."
"You'll find it's better to have done,"
"I don't know,"
he said desperately.
leave her alone,"
replied his mother.
So he left her,
and she was alone.
Very few people cared for her,
and she for very few people.
She remained alone with herself,
HE was gradually making it possible to earn a livelihood by his art.
Liberty's had taken several of his painted designs on various stuffs,
and he could sell designs for embroideries,
and similar things,
in one or two places.
It was not very much he made at present,
but he might extend it.
He had also made friends with the designer for a pottery firm,
and was gaining some knowledge of his new acquaintance's art.
The applied arts interested him very much.
At the same time he laboured slowly at his pictures.
He loved to paint large figures,
full of light,
but not merely made up of lights and cast shadows,
like the impressionists;
rather definite figures that had a certain luminous quality,
like some of Michael Angelo's people.
And these he fitted into a landscape,
in what he thought true proportion.
He worked a great deal from memory,
using everybody he knew.
He believed firmly in his work,
that it was good and valuable.
In spite of fits of depression,
he believed in his work.
He was twenty-four when he said his first confident thing to his mother.
"I s'll make a painter that they'll attend to."
She sniffed in her quaint fashion.
It was like a half-pleased shrug of the shoulders.
"You shall see,
You see if you're not swanky one of these days!"
"I'm quite content,
"But you'll have to alter.
Look at you with Minnie!"
Minnie was the small servant,
a girl of fourteen.
"And what about Minnie?"
asked Mrs. Morel,
"I heard her this morning:
I was going to do that,'
when you went out in the rain for some coal,"
"That looks a lot like your being able to manage servants!"
it was only the child's niceness,"
said Mrs. Morel.
"And you apologising to her:
'You can't do two things at once,
"She WAS busy washing up,"
replied Mrs. Morel.
"And what did she say?
'It could easy have waited a bit.
Now look how your feet paddle!'"
"Yes --brazen young baggage!"
said Mrs. Morel,
He looked at his mother,
She was quite warm and rosy again with love of him.
It seemed as if all the sunshine were on her for a moment.
He continued his work gladly.
She seemed so well when she was happy that he forgot her grey hair.
And that year she went with him to the Isle of Wight for a holiday.
It was too exciting for them both,
and too beautiful.
Mrs. Morel was full of joy and wonder.
But he would have her walk with him more than she was able.
She had a bad fainting bout.
So grey her face was,
so blue her mouth!
It was agony to him.
He felt as if someone were pushing a knife in his chest.
Then she was better again,
and he forgot.
But the anxiety remained inside him,
like a wound that did not close.
After leaving Miriam he went almost straight to Clara.
On the Monday following the day of the rupture he went down to the work-room.
She looked up at him and smiled.
They had grown very intimate unawares.
She saw a new brightness about him.
Queen of Sheba!"
"I think it suits you.
You've got a new frock on."
"And what of it?"
"Suits you --awfully!
I could design you a dress."
"How would it be?"
He stood in front of her,
his eyes glittering as he expounded.
He kept her eyes fixed with his.
Then suddenly he took hold of her.
She half-started back.
He drew the stuff of her blouse tighter,
smoothed it over her breast.
But they were both of them flaming with blushes,
and immediately he ran away.
He had touched her.
His whole body was quivering with the sensation.
There was already a sort of secret understanding between them.
The next evening he went to the cinematograph with her for a few minutes before train-time.
As they sat,
he saw her hand lying near him.
For some moments he dared not touch it.
The pictures danced and dithered.
Then he took her hand in his.
It was large and firm;
it filled his grasp.
He held it fast.
She neither moved nor made any sign.
When they came out his train was due.
He darted away across the road.
The next day he came again,
talking to her.
She was rather superior with him.
"Shall we go a walk on Monday?"
She turned her face aside.
"Shall you tell Miriam?"
she replied sarcastically.
"I have broken off with her,"
I had made up my mind.
I told her quite definitely I should consider myself free."
Clara did not answer,
and he returned to his work.
She was so quiet and so superb!
On the Saturday evening he asked her to come and drink coffee with him in a restaurant,
meeting him after work was over.
looking very reserved and very distant.
He had three-quarters of an hour to train-time.
"We will walk a little while,"
and they went past the Castle into the Park.
He was afraid of her.
She walked moodily at his side,
with a kind of resentful,
He was afraid to take her hand.
"Which way shall we go?"
he asked as they walked in darkness.
"I don't mind."
"Then we'll go up the steps."
He suddenly turned round.
They had passed the Park steps.
She stood still in resentment at his suddenly abandoning her.
He looked for her.
She stood aloof.
He caught her suddenly in his arms,
held her strained for a moment,
Then he let her go.
She followed him.
He took her hand and kissed her finger-tips.
They went in silence.
When they came to the light,
he let go her hand.
Neither spoke till they reached the station.
Then they looked each other in the eyes.
And he went for his train.
His body acted mechanically.
People talked to him.
He heard faint echoes answering them.
He was in a delirium.
He felt that he would go mad if Monday did not come at once.
On Monday he would see her again.
All himself was pitched there,
He could not bear it.
He could not see her till Monday.
And Sunday intervened --hour after hour of tension.
He wanted to beat his head against the door of the carriage.
But he sat still.
He drank some whisky on the way home,
but it only made it worse.
His mother must not be upset,
that was all.
and got quickly to bed.
There he sat,
with his chin on his knees,
staring out of the window at the far hill,
with its few lights.
He neither thought nor slept,
but sat perfectly still,
And when at last he was so cold that he came to himself,
he found his watch had stopped at half-past two.
It was after three o'clock.
He was exhausted,
but still there was the torment of knowing it was only Sunday morning.
He went to bed and slept.
Then he cycled all day long,
till he was fagged out.
And he scarcely knew where he had been.
But the day after was Monday.
He slept till four o'clock.
Then he lay and thought.
He was coming nearer to himself --he could see himself,
somewhere in front.
She would go a walk with him in the afternoon.
It seemed years ahead.
Slowly the hours crawled.
His father got up;
he heard him pottering about.
Then the miner set off to the pit,
his heavy boots scraping the yard.
Cocks were still crowing.
A cart went down the road.
His mother got up.
She knocked the fire.
Presently she called him softly.
He answered as if he were asleep.
This shell of himself did well.
He was walking to the station --another mile!
The train was near Nottingham.
Would it stop before the tunnels?
But it did not matter;
it would get there before dinner-time.
He was at Jordan's.
She would come in half an hour.
At any rate,
she would be near.
He had done the letters.
She would be there.
Perhaps she had not come.
He ran downstairs.
he saw her through the glass door.
Her shoulders stooping a little to her work made him feel he could not go forward;
he could not stand.
He went in.
He was pale,
and quite cold.
Would she misunderstand him?
He could not write his real self with this shell.
"And this afternoon,"
he struggled to say.
"You will come?"
"I think so,"
He stood before her,
unable to say a word.
She hid her face from him.
Again came over him the feeling that he would lose consciousness.
He set his teeth and went upstairs.
He had done everything correctly yet,
and he would do so.
All the morning things seemed a long way off,
as they do to a man under chloroform.
He himself seemed under a tight band of constraint.
Then there was his other self,
in the distance,
entering stuff in a ledger,
and he watched that far-off him carefully to see he made no mistake.
But the ache and strain of it could not go on much longer.
He worked incessantly.
Still it was only twelve o'clock.
As if he had nailed his clothing against the desk,
he stood there and worked,
forcing every stroke out of himself.
It was a quarter to one;
he could clear away.
Then he ran downstairs.
"You will meet me at the Fountain at two o'clock,"
"I can't be there till half-past."
She saw his dark,
"I will try at a quarter past."
And he had to be content.
He went and got some dinner.
All the time he was still under chloroform,
and every minute was stretched out indefinitely.
He walked miles of streets.
Then he thought he would be late at the meeting-place.
He was at the Fountain at five past two.
The torture of the next quarter of an hour was refined beyond expression.
It was the anguish of combining the living self with the shell.
Then he saw her.
And he was there.
"You are late,"
"Only five minutes,"
"I'd never have done it to you,"
She was in a dark blue costume.
He looked at her beautiful figure.
"You want some flowers,"
going to the nearest florist's.
She followed him in silence.
He bought her a bunch of scarlet,
She put them in her coat,
"That's a fine colour!"
"I'd rather have had something softer,"
"Do you feel like a blot of vermilion walking down the street?"
She hung her head,
afraid of the people they met.
He looked sideways at her as they walked.
There was a wonderful close down on her face near the ear that he wanted to touch.
And a certain heaviness,
the heaviness of a very full ear of corn that dips slightly in the wind,
that there was about her,
made his brain spin.
He seemed to be spinning down the street,
everything going round.
As they sat in the tramcar,
she leaned her heavy shoulder against him,
and he took her hand.
He felt himself coming round from the anaesthetic,
beginning to breathe.
half-hidden among her blonde hair,
was near to him.
The temptation to kiss it was almost too great.
But there were other people on top of the car.
It still remained to him to kiss it.
he was not himself,
he was some attribute of hers,
like the sunshine that fell on her.
He looked quickly away.
It had been raining.
The big bluff of the Castle rock was streaked with rain,
as it reared above the flat of the town.
They crossed the wide,
black space of the Midland Railway,
and passed the cattle enclosure that stood out white.
Then they ran down sordid Wilford Road.
She rocked slightly to the tram's motion,
and as she leaned against him,
rocked upon him.
He was a vigorous,
with exhaustless energy.
His face was rough,
with rough-hewn features,
like the common people's;
but his eyes under the deep brows were so full of life that they fascinated her.
They seemed to dance,
and yet they were still trembling on the finest balance of laughter.
His mouth the same was just going to spring into a laugh of triumph,
yet did not.
There was a sharp suspense about him.
She bit her lip moodily.
His hand was hard clenched over hers.
They paid their two halfpennies at the turnstile and crossed the bridge.
The Trent was very full.
It swept silent and insidious under the bridge,
travelling in a soft body.
There had been a great deal of rain.
On the river levels were flat gleams of flood water.
The sky was grey,
with glisten of silver here and there.
In Wilford churchyard the dahlias were sodden with rain --wet black-crimson balls.
No one was on the path that went along the green river meadow,
along the elm-tree colonnade.
There was the faintest haze over the silvery-dark water and the green meadow-bank,
and the elm-trees that were spangled with gold.
The river slid by in a body,
utterly silent and swift,
intertwining among itself like some subtle,
Clara walked moodily beside him.
she asked at length,
in rather a jarring tone,
"did you leave Miriam?"
"Because I WANTED to leave her,"
"Because I didn't want to go on with her.
And I didn't want to marry."
She was silent for a moment.
They picked their way down the muddy path.
Drops of water fell from the elm-trees.
"You didn't want to marry Miriam,
or you didn't want to marry at all?"
he answered --"both!"
They had to manoeuvre to get to the stile,
because of the pools of water.
"And what did she say?"
She said I was a baby of four,
and that I always HAD battled her off."
Clara pondered over this for a time.
"But you have really been going with her for some time?"
"And now you don't want any more of her?"
"No. I know it's no good."
She pondered again.
"Don't you think you've treated her rather badly?"
I ought to have dropped it years back.
But it would have been no good going on.
Two wrongs don't make a right."
"How old ARE you?"
"And I am thirty,"
"I know you are."
"I shall be thirty-one --or AM I thirty-one?"
"I neither know nor care.
What does it matter!"
They were at the entrance to the Grove.
already sticky with fallen leaves,
went up the steep bank between the grass.
On either side stood the elm-trees like pillars along a great aisle,
arching over and making high up a roof from which the dead leaves fell.
All was empty and silent and wet.
She stood on top of the stile,
and he held both her hands.
she looked down into his eyes.
Then she leaped.
Her breast came against his;
he held her,
and covered her face with kisses.
They went on up the slippery,
steep red path.
Presently she released his hand and put it round her waist.
"You press the vein in my arm,
holding it so tightly,"
They walked along.
His finger-tips felt the rocking of her breast.
All was silent and deserted.
On the left the red wet plough-land showed through the doorways between the elm-boles and their branches.
On the right,
they could see the tree-tops of elms growing far beneath them,
hear occasionally the gurgle of the river.
Sometimes there below they caught glimpses of the full,
and of water-meadows dotted with small cattle.
"It has scarcely altered since little Kirke White used to come,"
But he was watching her throat below the ear,
where the flush was fusing into the honey-white,
and her mouth that pouted disconsolate.
She stirred against him as she walked,
and his body was like a taut string.
Halfway up the big colonnade of elms,
where the Grove rose highest above the river,
their forward movement faltered to an end.
He led her across to the grass,
under the trees at the edge of the path.
The cliff of red earth sloped swiftly down,
through trees and bushes,
to the river that glimmered and was dark between the foliage.
The far-below water-meadows were very green.
He and she stood leaning against one another,
their bodies touching all along.
There came a quick gurgle from the river below.
he asked at length,
"did you hate Baxter Dawes?"
She turned to him with a splendid movement.
Her mouth was offered him,
and her throat;
her eyes were half-shut;
her breast was tilted as if it asked for him.
He flashed with a small laugh,
shut his eyes,
and met her in a long,
Her mouth fused with his;
their bodies were sealed and annealed.
It was some minutes before they withdrew.
They were standing beside the public path.
"Will you go down to the river?"
She looked at him,
leaving herself in his hands.
He went over the brim of the declivity and began to climb down.
"It is slippery,"
The red clay went down almost sheer.
went from one tuft of grass to the next,
hanging on to the bushes,
making for a little platform at the foot of a tree.
There he waited for her,
laughing with excitement.
Her shoes were clogged with red earth.
It was hard for her.
At last he caught her hand,
and she stood beside him.
The cliff rose above them and fell away below.
Her colour was up,
her eyes flashed.
He looked at the big drop below them.
at any rate.
Shall we go back?"
"Not for my sake,"
she said quickly.
I can't help you;
I should only hinder.
Give me that little parcel and your gloves.
Your poor shoes!"
They stood perched on the face of the declivity,
under the trees.
I'll go again,"
Away he went,
sliding to the next tree,
into which he fell with a slam that nearly shook the breath out of him.
She came after cautiously,
hanging on to the twigs and grasses.
So they descended,
stage by stage,
to the river's brink.
to his disgust,
the flood had eaten away the path,
and the red decline ran straight into the water.
He dug in his heels and brought himself up violently.
The string of the parcel broke with a snap;
the brown parcel bounded down,
leaped into the water,
and sailed smoothly away.
He hung on to his tree.
I'll be damned!"
he cried crossly.
Then he laughed.
She was coming perilously down.
he warned her.
He stood with his back to the tree,
opening his arms.
She let herself run.
He caught her,
and together they stood watching the dark water scoop at the raw edge of the bank.
The parcel had sailed out of sight.
"It doesn't matter,"
He held her close and kissed her.
There was only room for their four feet.
"It's a swindle!"
"But there's a rut where a man has been,
so if we go on I guess we shall find the path again."
The river slid and twined its great volume.
On the other bank cattle were feeding on the desolate flats.
The cliff rose high above Paul and Clara on their right hand.
They stood against the tree in the watery silence.
"Let us try going forward,"
and they struggled in the red clay along the groove a man's nailed boots had made.
They were hot and flushed.
Their barkled shoes hung heavy on their steps.
At last they found the broken path.
It was littered with rubble from the water,
but at any rate it was easier.
They cleaned their boots with twigs.
His heart was beating thick and fast.
coming on to the little level,
he saw two figures of men standing silent at the water's edge.
His heart leaped.
They were fishing.
He turned and put his hand up warningly to Clara.
buttoned her coat.
The two went on together.
The fishermen turned curiously to watch the two intruders on their privacy and solitude.
They had had a fire,
but it was nearly out.
All kept perfectly still.
The men turned again to their fishing,
stood over the grey glinting river like statues.
Clara went with bowed head,
he was laughing to himself.
Directly they passed out of sight behind the willows.
"Now they ought to be drowned,"
said Paul softly.
Clara did not answer.
They toiled forward along a tiny path on the river's lip.
Suddenly it vanished.
The bank was sheer red solid clay in front of them,
sloping straight into the river.
He stood and cursed beneath his breath,
setting his teeth.
He stood erect,
Just ahead were two islets in the stream,
covered with osiers.
But they were unattainable.
The cliff came down like a sloping wall from far above their heads.
not far back,
were the fishermen.
Across the river the distant cattle fed silently in the desolate afternoon.
He cursed again deeply under his breath.
He gazed up the great steep bank.
Was there no hope but to scale back to the public path?
"Stop a minute,"
digging his heels sideways into the steep bank of red clay,
he began nimbly to mount.
He looked across at every tree-foot.
At last he found what he wanted.
Two beech-trees side by side on the hill held a little level on the upper face between their roots.
It was littered with damp leaves,
but it would do.
The fishermen were perhaps sufficiently out of sight.
He threw down his rainproof and waved to her to come.
She toiled to his side.
she looked at him heavily,
and laid her head on his shoulder.
He held her fast as he looked round.
They were safe enough from all but the small,
lonely cows over the river.
He sunk his mouth on her throat,
where he felt her heavy pulse beat under his lips.
Everything was perfectly still.
There was nothing in the afternoon but themselves.
When she arose,
looking on the ground all the time,
saw suddenly sprinkled on the black wet beech-roots many scarlet carnation petals,
like splashed drops of blood;
small splashes fell from her bosom,
streaming down her dress to her feet.
"Your flowers are smashed,"
She looked at him heavily as she put back her hair.
Suddenly he put his finger-tips on her cheek.
"Why dost look so heavy?"
he reproached her.
She smiled sadly,
as if she felt alone in herself.
He caressed her cheek with his fingers,
and kissed her.
"Never thee bother!"
She gripped his fingers tight,
and laughed shakily.
Then she dropped her hand.
He put the hair back from her brows,
stroking her temples,
kissing them lightly.
"But tha shouldna worrit!"
he said softly,
I don't worry!"
she laughed tenderly and resigned.
Dunna thee worrit,"
she consoled him,
They had a stiff climb to get to the top again.
It took them a quarter of an hour.
When he got on to the level grass,
he threw off his cap,
wiped the sweat from his forehead,
"Now we're back at the ordinary level,"
She sat down,
on the tussocky grass.
Her cheeks were flushed pink.
He kissed her,
and she gave way to joy.
"And now I'll clean thy boots and make thee fit for respectable folk,"
He kneeled at her feet,
worked away with a stick and tufts of grass.
She put her fingers in his hair,
drew his head to her,
and kissed it.
"What am I supposed to be doing,"
looking at her laughing;
"cleaning shoes or dibbling with love?
Answer me that!"
"Just whichever I please,"
"I'm your boot-boy for the time being,
and nothing else!"
But they remained looking into each other's eyes and laughing.
Then they kissed with little nibbling kisses.
he went with his tongue,
like his mother.
"I tell you,
nothing gets done when there's a woman about."
And he returned to his boot-cleaning,
She touched his thick hair,
and he kissed her fingers.
He worked away at her shoes.
At last they were quite presentable.
"There you are,
"Aren't I a great hand at restoring you to respectability?
you look as irreproachable as Britannia herself!"
He cleaned his own boots a little,
washed his hands in a puddle,
They went on into Clifton village.
He was madly in love with her;
every movement she made,
every crease in her garments,
sent a hot flash through him and seemed adorable.
The old lady at whose house they had tea was roused into gaiety by them.
"I could wish you'd had something of a better day,"
"We've been saying how nice it is."
The old lady looked at him curiously.
There was a peculiar glow and charm about him.
His eyes were dark and laughing.
He rubbed his moustache with a glad movement.
"Have you been saying SO!"
a light rousing in her old eyes.
"Then I'm sure the day's good enough,"
said the old lady.
She fussed about,
and did not want to leave them.
"I don't know whether you'd like some radishes as well,"
she said to Clara;
"but I've got some in the garden --AND a cucumber."
She looked very handsome.
"I should like some radishes,"
And the old lady pottered off gleefully.
"If she knew!"
said Clara quietly to him.
she doesn't know;
and it shows we're nice in ourselves,
at any rate.
You look quite enough to satisfy an archangel,
and I'm sure I feel harmless --so --if it makes you look nice,
and makes folk happy when they have us,
and makes us happy --why,
we're not cheating them out of much!"
They went on with the meal.
When they were going away,
the old lady came timidly with three tiny dahlias in full blow,
neat as bees,
and speckled scarlet and white.
She stood before Clara,
pleased with herself,
"I don't know whether --" and holding the flowers forward in her old hand.
accepting the flowers.
"Shall she have them all?"
asked Paul reproachfully of the old woman.
she shall have them all,"
beaming with joy.
"You have got enough for your share."
but I shall ask her to give me one!"
"Then she does as she pleases,"
said the old lady,
And she bobbed a little curtsey of delight.
Clara was rather quiet and uncomfortable.
As they walked along,
"You don't feel criminal,
She looked at him with startled grey eyes.
"But you seem to feel you have done a wrong?"
"I only think,
'If they knew!'"
"If they knew,
they'd cease to understand.
As it is,
they do understand,
and they like it.
What do they matter?
with only the trees and me,
you don't feel not the least bit wrong,
He took her by the arm,
held her facing him,
holding her eyes with his.
Something fretted him.
with an uneasy little frown.
He kissed her,
"You like your little bit of guiltiness,
"I believe Eve enjoyed it,
when she went cowering out of Paradise."
But there was a certain glow and quietness about her that made him glad.
When he was alone in the railway-carriage,
he found himself tumultuously happy,
and the people exceedingly nice,
and the night lovely,
and everything good.
Mrs. Morel was sitting reading when he got home.
Her health was not good now,
and there had come that ivory pallor into her face which he never noticed,
and which afterwards he never forgot.
She did not mention her own ill-health to him.
it was not much.
"You are late!"
looking at him.
His eyes were shining;
his face seemed to glow.
He smiled to her.
I've been down Clifton Grove with Clara."
His mother looked at him again.
"But won't people talk?"
They know she's a suffragette,
and so on.
And what if they do talk!"
there may be nothing wrong in it,"
said his mother.
"But you know what folks are,
and if once she gets talked about --"
I can't help it.
Their jaw isn't so almighty important,
"I think you ought to consider HER."
"So I DO!
What can people say?
--that we take a walk together.
I believe you're jealous."
"You know I should be GLAD if she weren't a married woman."
she lives separate from her husband,
and talks on platforms;
so she's already singled out from the sheep,
as far as I can see,
hasn't much to lose.
her life's nothing to her,
so what's the worth of nothing?
She goes with me --it becomes something.
Then she must pay --we both must pay!
Folk are so frightened of paying;
they'd rather starve and die."
We'll see how it will end."
I'll abide by the end."
"And she's --she's AWFULLY nice,
she is really!
You don't know!"
"That's not the same as marrying her."
"It's perhaps better."
There was silence for a while.
He wanted to ask his mother something,
but was afraid.
"Should you like to know her?"
said Mrs. Morel coolly.
"I should like to know what she's like."
"But she's nice,
And not a bit common!"
"I never suggested she was."
"But you seem to think she's --not as good as --She's better than ninety-nine folk out of a hundred,
I tell you!
There isn't anything underhand or superior about her.
Don't be mean about her!"
Mrs. Morel flushed.
"I am sure I am not mean about her.
She may be quite as you say,
"You don't approve,"
"And do you expect me to?"
she answered coldly.
--if you'd anything about you,
you'd be glad!
Do you WANT to see her?"
"I said I did."
"Then I'll bring her --shall I bring her here?"
"You please yourself."
"Then I WILL bring her here --one Sunday --to tea.
If you think a horrid thing about her,
I shan't forgive you."
His mother laughed.
"As if it would make any difference!"
He knew he had won.
but it feels so fine,
when she's there!
She's such a queen in her way."
Occasionally he still walked a little way from chapel with Miriam and Edgar.
He did not go up to the farm.
was very much the same with him,
and he did not feel embarrassed in her presence.
One evening she was alone when he accompanied her.
They began by talking books: it was their unfailing topic.
Mrs. Morel had said that his and Miriam's affair was like a fire fed on books --if there were no more volumes it would die out.
for her part,
boasted that she could read him like a book,
could place her finger any minute on the chapter and the line.
easily taken in,
believed that Miriam knew more about him than anyone else.
So it pleased him to talk to her about himself,
like the simplest egoist.
Very soon the conversation drifted to his own doings.
It flattered him immensely that he was of such supreme interest.
"And what have you been doing lately?"
I made a sketch of Bestwood from the garden,
that is nearly right at last.
It's the hundredth try."
So they went on.
Then she said:
"You've not been out,
I went up Clifton Grove on Monday afternoon with Clara."
"It was not very nice weather,"
"But I wanted to go out,
and it was all right.
The Trent IS full."
"And did you go to Barton?"
we had tea in Clifton."
That would be nice."
The jolliest old woman!
She gave us several pompom dahlias,
as pretty as you like."
Miriam bowed her head and brooded.
He was quite unconscious of concealing anything from her.
"What made her give them you?"
"Because she liked us --because we were jolly,
I should think."
Miriam put her finger in her mouth.
"Were you late home?"
At last he resented her tone.
"I caught the seven-thirty."
They walked on in silence,
and he was angry.
"And how IS Clara?"
"Quite all right,
with a tinge of irony.
"By the way,
what of her husband?
One never hears anything of him."
"He's got some other woman,
and is also quite all right,"
so I think."
"I see --you don't know for certain.
Don't you think a position like that is hard on a woman?"
"It's so unjust!"
"The man does as he likes --"
"Then let the woman also,"
"How can she?
And if she does,
look at her position!"
"What of it?"
You don't understand what a woman forfeits --"
But if a woman's got nothing but her fair fame to feed on,
it's thin tack,
and a donkey would die of it!"
So she understood his moral attitude,
and she knew he would act accordingly.
She never asked him anything direct,
but she got to know enough.
when he saw Miriam,
the conversation turned to marriage,
then to Clara's marriage with Dawes.
"she never knew the fearful importance of marriage.
She thought it was all in the day's march --it would have to come --and Dawes --well,
a good many women would have given their souls to get him;
so why not him?
Then she developed into the femme incomprise,
and treated him badly,
I'll bet my boots."
"And she left him because he didn't understand her?"
"I suppose so.
I suppose she had to.
It isn't altogether a question of understanding;
it's a question of living.
she was only half-alive;
the rest was dormant,
And the dormant woman was the femme incomprise,
and she HAD to be awakened."
"And what about him."
"I don't know.
I rather think he loves her as much as he can,
but he's a fool."
"It was something like your mother and father,"
but my mother,
got real joy and satisfaction out of my father at first.
I believe she had a passion for him;
that's why she stayed with him.
they were bound to each other."
"That's what one MUST HAVE,
he continued --"the real,
real flame of feeling through another person --once,
if it only lasts three months.
my mother looks as if she'd HAD everything that was necessary for her living and developing.
There's not a tiny bit of feeling of sterility about her."
"And with my father,
I'm sure she had the real thing.
she has been there.
You can feel it about her,
and about him,
and about hundreds of people you meet every day;
once it has happened to you,
you can go on with anything and ripen."
"It's so hard to say,
but the something big and intense that changes you when you really come together with somebody else.
It almost seems to fertilise your soul and make it that you can go on and mature."
"And you think your mother had it with your father?"
and at the bottom she feels grateful to him for giving it her,
though they are miles apart."
"And you think Clara never had it?"
Miriam pondered this.
She saw what he was seeking --a sort of baptism of fire in passion,
it seemed to her.
She realised that he would never be satisfied till he had it.
Perhaps it was essential to him,
as to some men,
to sow wild oats;
when he was satisfied,
he would not rage with restlessness any more,
but could settle down and give her his life into her hands.
if he must go,
let him go and have his fill --something big and intense,
he called it.
At any rate,
when he had got it,
he would not want it --that he said himself;
he would want the other thing that she could give him.
He would want to be owned,
so that he could work.
It seemed to her a bitter thing that he must go,
but she could let him go into an inn for a glass of whisky,
so she could let him go to Clara,
so long as it was something that would satisfy a need in him,
and leave him free for herself to possess.
"Have you told your mother about Clara?"
She knew this would be a test of the seriousness of his feeling for the other woman: she knew he was going to Clara for something vital,
not as a man goes for pleasure to a prostitute,
if he told his mother.
"and she is coming to tea on Sunday."
"To your house?"
I want mater to see her."
There was a silence.
Things had gone quicker than she thought.
She felt a sudden bitterness that he could leave her so soon and so entirely.
And was Clara to be accepted by his people,
who had been so hostile to herself?
"I may call in as I go to chapel,"
"It is a long time since I saw Clara."
and unconsciously angry.
On the Sunday afternoon he went to Keston to meet Clara at the station.
As he stood on the platform he was trying to examine in himself if he had a premonition.
"Do I FEEL as if she'd come?"
he said to himself,
and he tried to find out.
His heart felt queer and contracted.
That seemed like foreboding.
Then he HAD a foreboding she would not come!
Then she would not come,
and instead of taking her over the fields home,
as he had imagined,
he would have to go alone.
The train was late;
the afternoon would be wasted,
and the evening.
He hated her for not coming.
Why had she promised,
if she could not keep her promise?
Perhaps she had missed her train --he himself was always missing trains --but that was no reason why she should miss this particular one.
He was angry with her;
he was furious.
Suddenly he saw the train crawling,
sneaking round the corner.
was the train,
but of course she had not come.
The green engine hissed along the platform,
the row of brown carriages drew up,
several doors opened.
she had not come!
there she was!
She had a big black hat on!
He was at her side in a moment.
"I thought you weren't coming,"
She was laughing rather breathlessly as she put out her hand to him;
their eyes met.
He took her quickly along the platform,
talking at a great rate to hide his feeling.
She looked beautiful.
In her hat were large silk roses,
coloured like tarnished gold.
Her costume of dark cloth fitted so beautifully over her breast and shoulders.
His pride went up as he walked with her.
He felt the station people,
who knew him,
eyed her with awe and admiration.
"I was sure you weren't coming,"
he laughed shakily.
She laughed in answer,
almost with a little cry.
"And I wondered,
when I was in the train,
WHATEVER I should do if you weren't there!"
He caught her hand impulsively,
and they went along the narrow twitchel.
They took the road into Nuttall and over the Reckoning House Farm.
It was a blue,
Everywhere the brown leaves lay scattered;
many scarlet hips stood upon the hedge beside the wood.
He gathered a few for her to wear.
as he fitted them into the breast of her coat,
"you ought to object to my getting them,
because of the birds.
But they don't care much for rose-hips in this part,
where they can get plenty of stuff.
You often find the berries going rotten in the springtime."
So he chattered,
scarcely aware of what he said,
only knowing he was putting berries in the bosom of her coat,
while she stood patiently for him.
And she watched his quick hands,
so full of life,
and it seemed to her she had never SEEN anything before.
everything had been indistinct.
They came near to the colliery.
It stood quite still and black among the corn-fields,
its immense heap of slag seen rising almost from the oats.
"What a pity there is a coal-pit here where it is so pretty!"
"Do you think so?"
I am so used to it I should miss it.
and I like the pits here and there.
I like the rows of trucks,
and the headstocks,
and the steam in the daytime,
and the lights at night.
When I was a boy,
I always thought a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night was a pit,
with its steam,
and its lights,
and the burning bank,
--and I thought the Lord was always at the pit-top."
As they drew near home she walked in silence,
and seemed to hang back.
He pressed her fingers in his own.
but gave no response.
"Don't you want to come home?"
I want to come,"
It did not occur to him that her position in his home would be rather a peculiar and difficult one.
To him it seemed just as if one of his men friends were going to be introduced to his mother,
The Morels lived in a house in an ugly street that ran down a steep hill.
The street itself was hideous.
The house was rather superior to most.
It was old,
with a big bay window,
and it was semi-detached;
but it looked gloomy.
Then Paul opened the door to the garden,
and all was different.
The sunny afternoon was there,
like another land.
By the path grew tansy and little trees.
In front of the window was a plot of sunny grass,
with old lilacs round it.
And away went the garden,
with heaps of dishevelled chrysanthemums in the sunshine,
down to the sycamore-tree,
and the field,
and beyond one looked over a few red-roofed cottages to the hills with all the glow of the autumn afternoon.
Mrs. Morel sat in her rocking-chair,
wearing her black silk blouse.
Her grey-brown hair was taken smooth back from her brow and her high temples;
her face was rather pale.
followed Paul into the kitchen.
Mrs. Morel rose.
Clara thought her a lady,
even rather stiff.
The young woman was very nervous.
She had almost a wistful look,
Mrs. Morel held out her hand and smiled.
"He has told me a good deal about you,"
The blood flamed in Clara's cheek.
"I hope you don't mind my coming,"
"I was pleased when he said he would bring you,"
replied Mrs. Morel.
felt his heart contract with pain.
His mother looked so small,
and done-for beside the luxuriant Clara.
"It's such a pretty day,
"And we saw a jay."
His mother looked at him;
he had turned to her.
She thought what a man he seemed,
in his dark,
He was pale and detached-looking;
it would be hard for any woman to keep him.
Her heart glowed;
then she was sorry for Clara.
"Perhaps you'll leave your things in the parlour,"
said Mrs. Morel nicely to the young woman.
and he led the way into the little front room,
with its old piano,
its mahogany furniture,
its yellowing marble mantelpiece.
A fire was burning;
the place was littered with books and drawing-boards.
"I leave my things lying about,"
"It's so much easier."
She loved his artist's paraphernalia,
and the books,
and the photos of people.
Soon he was telling her: this was William,
this was William's young lady in the evening dress,
this was Annie and her husband,
this was Arthur and his wife and the baby.
She felt as if she were being taken into the family.
He showed her photos,
and they talked a little while.
Then they returned to the kitchen.
Mrs. Morel put aside her book.
Clara wore a blouse of fine silk chiffon,
with narrow black-and-white stripes;
her hair was done simply,
coiled on top of her head.
She looked rather stately and reserved.
"You have gone to live down Sneinton Boulevard?"
said Mrs. Morel.
"When I was a girl --girl,
--when I was a young woman WE lived in Minerva Terrace."
"I have a friend in number 6."
And the conversation had started.
They talked Nottingham and Nottingham people;
it interested them both.
Clara was still rather nervous;
Mrs. Morel was still somewhat on her dignity.
She clipped her language very clear and precise.
But they were going to get on well together,
Mrs. Morel measured herself against the younger woman,
and found herself easily stronger.
Clara was deferential.
She knew Paul's surprising regard for his mother,
and she had dreaded the meeting,
expecting someone rather hard and cold.
She was surprised to find this little interested woman chatting with such readiness;
and then she felt,
as she felt with Paul,
that she would not care to stand in Mrs. Morel's way.
There was something so hard and certain in his mother,
as if she never had a misgiving in her life.
Presently Morel came down,
ruffled and yawning,
from his afternoon sleep.
He scratched his grizzled head,
he plodded in his stocking feet,
his waistcoat hung open over his shirt.
He seemed incongruous.
"This is Mrs. Dawes,
Then Morel pulled himself together.
Clara saw Paul's manner of bowing and shaking hands.
"I am very glad to see you --I am,
I assure you.
But don't disturb yourself.
no make yourself quite comfortable,
and be very welcome."
Clara was astonished at this flood of hospitality from the old collier.
He was so courteous,
She thought him most delightful.
"And may you have come far?"
"Only from Nottingham,"
Then you have had a beautiful day for your journey."
Then he strayed into the scullery to wash his hands and face,
and from force of habit came on to the hearth with the towel to dry himself.
At tea Clara felt the refinement and sang-froid of the household.
Mrs. Morel was perfectly at her ease.
The pouring out the tea and attending to the people went on unconsciously,
without interrupting her in her talk.
There was a lot of room at the oval table;
the china of dark blue willow-pattern looked pretty on the glossy cloth.
There was a little bowl of small,
Clara felt she completed the circle,
and it was a pleasure to her.
But she was rather afraid of the self-possession of the Morels,
father and all.
She took their tone;
there was a feeling of balance.
It was a cool,
where everyone was himself,
and in harmony.
Clara enjoyed it,
but there was a fear deep at the bottom of her.
Paul cleared the table whilst his mother and Clara talked.
Clara was conscious of his quick,
vigorous body as it came and went,
seeming blown quickly by a wind at its work.
It was almost like the hither and thither of a leaf that comes unexpected.
Most of herself went with him.
By the way she leaned forward,
as if listening,
Mrs. Morel could see she was possessed elsewhere as she talked,
and again the elder woman was sorry for her.
he strolled down the garden,
leaving the two women to talk.
It was a hazy,
mild and soft.
Clara glanced through the window after him as he loitered among the chrysanthemums.
She felt as if something almost tangible fastened her to him;
yet he seemed so easy in his graceful,
so detached as he tied up the too-heavy flower branches to their stakes,
that she wanted to shriek in her helplessness.
Mrs. Morel rose.
"You will let me help you wash up,"
there are so few,
it will only take a minute,"
said the other.
dried the tea-things,
and was glad to be on such good terms with his mother;
but it was torture not to be able to follow him down the garden.
At last she allowed herself to go;
she felt as if a rope were taken off her ankle.
The afternoon was golden over the hills of Derbyshire.
He stood across in the other garden,
beside a bush of pale Michaelmas daisies,
watching the last bees crawl into the hive.
Hearing her coming,
he turned to her with an easy motion,
"It's the end of the run with these chaps."
Clara stood near him.
Over the low red wall in front was the country and the far-off hills,
all golden dim.
At that moment Miriam was entering through the garden-door.
She saw Clara go up to him,
saw him turn,
and saw them come to rest together.
Something in their perfect isolation together made her know that it was accomplished between them,
that they were,
as she put it,
She walked very slowly down the cinder-track of the long garden.
Clara had pulled a button from a hollyhock spire,
and was breaking it to get the seeds.
Above her bowed head the pink flowers stared,
as if defending her.
The last bees were falling down to the hive.
"Count your money,"
as she broke the flat seeds one by one from the roll of coin.
She looked at him.
"I'm well off,"
He snapped his fingers.
"Can I turn them into gold?"
"I'm afraid not,"
They looked into each other's eyes,
At that moment they became aware of Miriam.
There was a click,
and everything had altered.
"You said you'd come!"
Had you forgotten?"
She shook hands with Clara,
"It seems strange to see you here."
replied the other;
"it seems strange to be here."
There was a hesitation.
"This is pretty,
"I like it very much,"
Then Miriam realised that Clara was accepted as she had never been.
"Have you come down alone?"
I went to Agatha's to tea.
We are going to chapel.
I only called in for a moment to see Clara."
"You should have come in here to tea,"
Miriam laughed shortly,
and Clara turned impatiently aside.
"Do you like the chrysanthemums?"
they are very fine,"
"Which sort do you like best?"
"I don't know.
"I don't think you've seen all the sorts.
Come and look.
Come and see which are YOUR favourites,
He led the two women back to his own garden,
where the towsled bushes of flowers of all colours stood raggedly along the path down to the field.
The situation did not embarrass him,
to his knowledge.
these are the white ones that came from your garden.
They aren't so fine here,
"But they're hardier.
You're so sheltered;
things grow big and tender,
and then die.
These little yellow ones I like.
Will you have some?"
While they were out there the bells began to ring in the church,
sounding loud across the town and the field.
Miriam looked at the tower,
proud among the clustering roofs,
and remembered the sketches he had brought her.
It had been different then,
but he had not left her even yet.
She asked him for a book to read.
He ran indoors.
is that Miriam?"
asked his mother coldly.
she said she'd call and see Clara."
"You told her,
came the sarcastic answer.
why shouldn't I?"
"There's certainly no reason why you shouldn't,"
said Mrs. Morel,
and she returned to her book.
He winced from his mother's irony,
"Why can't I do as I like?"
"You've not seen Mrs. Morel before?"
Miriam was saying to Clara.
but she's so nice!"
dropping her head;
"in some ways she's very fine."
"I should think so."
"Had Paul told you much about her?"
"He had talked a good deal."
There was silence until he returned with the book.
"When will you want it back?"
"When you like,"
Clara turned to go indoors,
whilst he accompanied Miriam to the gate.
"When will you come up to Willey Farm?"
the latter asked.
"I couldn't say,"
"Mother asked me to say she'd be pleased to see you any time,
if you cared to come."
I should like to,
but I can't say when."
exclaimed Miriam rather bitterly,
She went down the path with her mouth to the flowers he had given her.
"You're sure you won't come in?"
"We are going to chapel."
I shall see you,
Miriam was very bitter.
He felt guilty towards her.
She was bitter,
and she scorned him.
He still belonged to herself,
yet he could have Clara,
take her home,
sit with her next his mother in chapel,
give her the same hymn-book he had given herself years before.
She heard him running quickly indoors.
But he did not go straight in.
Halting on the plot of grass,
he heard his mother's voice,
then Clara's answer:
"What I hate is the bloodhound quality in Miriam."
said his mother quickly,
DOESN'T it make you hate her,
His heart went hot,
and he was angry with them for talking about the girl.
What right had they to say that?
Something in the speech itself stung him into a flame of hate against Miriam.
Then his own heart rebelled furiously at Clara's taking the liberty of speaking so about Miriam.
the girl was the better woman of the two,
if it came to goodness.
He went indoors.
His mother looked excited.
She was beating with her hand rhythmically on the sofa-arm,
as women do who are wearing out.
He could never bear to see the movement.
There was a silence;
then he began to talk.
In chapel Miriam saw him find the place in the hymn-book for Clara,
in exactly the same way as he used for herself.
And during the sermon he could see the girl across the chapel,
her hat throwing a dark shadow over her face.
What did she think,
seeing Clara with him?
He did not stop to consider.
He felt himself cruel towards Miriam.
After chapel he went over Pentrich with Clara.
It was a dark autumn night.
They had said good-bye to Miriam,
and his heart had smitten him as he left the girl alone.
"But it serves her right,"
he said inside himself,
and it almost gave him pleasure to go off under her eyes with this other handsome woman.
There was a scent of damp leaves in the darkness.
Clara's hand lay warm and inert in his own as they walked.
He was full of conflict.
The battle that raged inside him made him feel desperate.
Up Pentrich Hill Clara leaned against him as he went.
He slid his arm round her waist.
Feeling the strong motion of her body under his arm as she walked,
the tightness in his chest because of Miriam relaxed,
and the hot blood bathed him.
He held her closer and closer.
"You still keep on with Miriam,"
she said quietly.
There never WAS a great deal more than talk between us,"
he said bitterly.
"Your mother doesn't care for her,"
or I might have married her.
But it's all up really!"
Suddenly his voice went passionate with hate.
"If I was with her now,
we should be jawing about the
or some such tack.
They walked on in silence for some time.
"But you can't really give her up,"
"I don't give her up,
because there's nothing to give,"
"There is for her."
"I don't know why she and I shouldn't be friends as long as we live,"
"But it'll only be friends."
Clara drew away from him,
leaning away from contact with him.
"What are you drawing away for?"
She did not answer,
but drew farther from him.
"Why do you want to walk alone?"
Still there was no answer.
She walked resentfully,
hanging her head.
"Because I said I would be friends with Miriam!"
She would not answer him anything.
"I tell you it's only words that go between us,"
trying to take her again.
Suddenly he strode across in front of her,
barring her way.
"What do you want now?"
"You'd better run after Miriam,"
The blood flamed up in him.
He stood showing his teeth.
She drooped sulkily.
The lane was dark,
He suddenly caught her in his arms,
and put his mouth on her face in a kiss of rage.
She turned frantically to avoid him.
He held her fast.
Hard and relentless his mouth came for her.
Her breasts hurt against the wall of his chest.
she went loose in his arms,
and he kissed her,
and kissed her.
He heard people coming down the hill.
he said thickly,
gripping her arm till it hurt.
If he had let go,
she would have sunk to the ground.
She sighed and walked dizzily beside him.
They went on in silence.
"We will go over the fields,"
and then she woke up.
But she let herself be helped over the stile,
and she walked in silence with him over the first dark field.
It was the way to Nottingham and to the station,
He seemed to be looking about.
They came out on a bare hilltop where stood the dark figure of the ruined windmill.
There he halted.
They stood together high up in the darkness,
looking at the lights scattered on the night before them,
handfuls of glittering points,
villages lying high and low on the dark,
here and there.
"Like treading among the stars,"
with a quaky laugh.
Then he took her in his arms,
and held her fast.
She moved aside her mouth to ask,
dogged and low:
"What time is it?"
"It doesn't matter,"
he pleaded thickly.
"Yes it does --yes!
I must go!"
"It's early yet,"
"What time is it?"
All round lay the black night,
speckled and spangled with lights.
"I don't know."
She put her hand on his chest,
feeling for his watch.
He felt the joints fuse into fire.
She groped in his waistcoat pocket,
while he stood panting.
In the darkness she could see the round,
pale face of the watch,
but not the figures.
She stooped over it.
He was panting till he could take her in his arms again.
"I can't see,"
"Then don't bother."
But he could not see.
"I'll strike a match."
He secretly hoped it was too late to catch the train.
She saw the glowing lantern of his hands as he cradled the light: then his face lit up,
his eyes fixed on the watch.
Instantly all was dark again.
All was black before her eyes;
only a glowing match was red near her feet.
Where was he?
"What is it?"
"You can't do it,"
his voice answered out of the darkness.
There was a pause.
She felt in his power.
She had heard the ring in his voice.
It frightened her.
"What time is it?"
"Two minutes to nine,"
telling the truth with a struggle.
"And can I get from here to the station in fourteen minutes?"
"No. At any rate --"
She could distinguish his dark form again a yard or so away.
She wanted to escape.
"But can't I do it?"
"If you hurry,"
he said brusquely.
"But you could easily walk it,
it's only seven miles to the tram.
I'll come with you."
I want to catch the train."
"I do --I want to catch the train."
Suddenly his voice altered.
dry and hard.
And he plunged ahead into the darkness.
She ran after him,
wanting to cry.
Now he was hard and cruel to her.
She ran over the rough,
dark fields behind him,
out of breath,
ready to drop.
But the double row of lights at the station drew nearer.
"There she is!"
breaking into a run.
There was a faint rattling noise.
Away to the right the train,
like a luminous caterpillar,
was threading across the night.
The rattling ceased.
"She's over the viaduct.
You'll just do it."
quite out of breath,
and fell at last into the train.
The whistle blew.
He was gone.
--and she was in a carriage full of people.
She felt the cruelty of it.
He turned round and plunged home.
Before he knew where he was he was in the kitchen at home.
He was very pale.
His eyes were dark and dangerous-looking,
as if he were drunk.
His mother looked at him.
I must say your boots are in a nice state!"
He looked at his feet.
Then he took off his overcoat.
His mother wondered if he were drunk.
"She caught the train then?"
"I hope HER feet weren't so filthy.
Where on earth you dragged her I don't know!"
He was silent and motionless for some time.
"Did you like her?"
he asked grudgingly at last.
I liked her.
But you'll tire of her,
you know you will."
He did not answer.
She noticed how he laboured in his breathing.
"Have you been running?"
"We had to run for the train."
"You'll go and knock yourself up.
You'd better drink hot milk."
It was as good a stimulant as he could have,
but he refused and went to bed.
There he lay face down on the counterpane,
and shed tears of rage and pain.
There was a physical pain that made him bite his lips till they bled,
and the chaos inside him left him unable to think,
almost to feel.
"This is how she serves me,
he said in his heart,
over and over,
pressing his face in the quilt.
And he hated her.
Again he went over the scene,
and again he hated her.
The next day there was a new aloofness about him.
Clara was very gentle,
But he treated her distantly,
with a touch of contempt.
continuing to be gentle.
He came round.
One evening of that week Sarah Bernhardt was at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham,
giving "La Dame aux Camelias".
Paul wanted to see this old and famous actress,
and he asked Clara to accompany him.
He told his mother to leave the key in the window for him.
"Shall I book seats?"
he asked of Clara.
And put on an evening suit,
I've never seen you in it."
Think of ME in evening suit at the theatre!"
"Would you rather not?"
"I will if you WANT me to;
but I s'll feel a fool."
She laughed at him.
"Then feel a fool for my sake,
The request made his blood flush up.
"I suppose I s'll have to."
"What are you taking a suitcase for?"
his mother asked.
He blushed furiously.
"Clara asked me,"
"And what seats are you going in?"
"Circle --three-and-six each!"
exclaimed his mother sarcastically.
"It's only once in the bluest of blue moons,"
He dressed at Jordan's,
put on an overcoat and a cap,
and met Clara in a cafe.
She was with one of her suffragette friends.
She wore an old long coat,
which did not suit her,
and had a little wrap over her head,
which he hated.
The three went to the theatre together.
Clara took off her coat on the stairs,
and he discovered she was in a sort of semi-evening dress,
that left her arms and neck and part of her breast bare.
Her hair was done fashionably.
a simple thing of green crape,
She looked quite grand,
He could see her figure inside the frock,
as if that were wrapped closely round her.
The firmness and the softness of her upright body could almost be felt as he looked at her.
He clenched his fists.
And he was to sit all the evening beside her beautiful naked arm,
watching the strong throat rise from the strong chest,
watching the breasts under the green stuff,
the curve of her limbs in the tight dress.
Something in him hated her again for submitting him to this torture of nearness.
And he loved her as she balanced her head and stared straight in front of her,
as if she yielded herself to her fate because it was too strong for her.
She could not help herself;
she was in the grip of something bigger than herself.
A kind of eternal look about her,
as if she were a wistful sphinx,
made it necessary for him to kiss her.
He dropped his programme,
and crouched down on the floor to get it,
so that he could kiss her hand and wrist.
Her beauty was a torture to him.
She sat immobile.
when the lights went down,
she sank a little against him,
and he caressed her hand and arm with his fingers.
He could smell her faint perfume.
All the time his blood kept sweeping up in great white-hot waves that killed his consciousness momentarily.
The drama continued.
He saw it all in the distance,
going on somewhere;
he did not know where,
but it seemed far away inside him.
He was Clara's white heavy arms,
her moving bosom.
That seemed to be himself.
Then away somewhere the play went on,
and he was identified with that also.
There was no himself.
The grey and black eyes of Clara,
her bosom coming down on him,
her arm that he held gripped between his hands,
were all that existed.
Then he felt himself small and helpless,
her towering in her force above him.
Only the intervals,
when the lights came up,
hurt him expressibly.
He wanted to run anywhere,
so long as it would be dark again.
In a maze,
he wandered out for a drink.
Then the lights were out,
and the strange,
insane reality of Clara and the drama took hold of him again.
The play went on.
But he was obsessed by the desire to kiss the tiny blue vein that nestled in the bend of her arm.
He could feel it.
His whole face seemed suspended till he had put his lips there.
It must be done.
And the other people!
At last he bent quickly forward and touched it with his lips.
His moustache brushed the sensitive flesh.
drew away her arm.
When all was over,
the lights up,
the people clapping,
he came to himself and looked at his watch.
His train was gone.
"I s'll have to walk home!"
Clara looked at him.
"It is too late?"
Then he helped her on with her coat.
"I love you!
You look beautiful in that dress,"
he murmured over her shoulder,
among the throng of bustling people.
She remained quiet.
Together they went out of the theatre.
He saw the cabs waiting,
the people passing.
It seemed he met a pair of brown eyes which hated him.
But he did not know.
He and Clara turned away,
mechanically taking the direction to the station.
The train had gone.
He would have to walk the ten miles home.
"It doesn't matter,"
"I shall enjoy it."
"come home for the night?
I can sleep with mother."
He looked at her.
Their eyes met.
"What will your mother say?"
"She won't mind."
"SHALL I come?"
"If you will."
And they turned away.
At the first stopping-place they took the car.
The wind blew fresh in their faces.
The town was dark;
the tram tipped in its haste.
He sat with her hand fast in his.
"Will your mother be gone to bed?"
"She may be.
I hope not."
They hurried along the silent,
dark little street,
the only people out of doors.
Clara quickly entered the house.
He leaped up the step and was in the room.
Her mother appeared in the inner doorway,
large and hostile.
"Who have you got there?"
"It's Mr. Morel;
he has missed his train.
I thought we might put him up for the night,
and save him a ten-mile walk."
exclaimed Mrs. Radford.
"That's your lookout!
If you've invited him,
he's very welcome as far as I'm concerned.
YOU keep the house!"
"If you don't like me,
I'll go away again,"
Come along in!
I dunno what you'll think of the supper I'd got her."
It was a little dish of chip potatoes and a piece of bacon.
The table was roughly laid for one.
"You can have some more bacon,"
continued Mrs. Radford.
"More chips you can't have."
"It's a shame to bother you,"
don't you be apologetic!
It doesn't DO wi' me!
You treated her to the theatre,
There was a sarcasm in the last question.
laughed Paul uncomfortably.
and what's an inch of bacon!
Take your coat off."
straight-standing woman was trying to estimate the situation.
She moved about the cupboard.
Clara took his coat.
The room was very warm and cosy in the lamplight.
exclaimed Mrs. Radford;
"but you two's a pair of bright beauties,
I must say!
What's all that get-up for?"
"I believe we don't know,"
feeling a victim.
"There isn't room in THIS house for two such bobby-dazzlers,
if you fly your kites THAT high!"
she rallied them.
It was a nasty thrust.
He in his dinner jacket,
and Clara in her green dress and bare arms,
They felt they must shelter each other in that little kitchen.
"And look at THAT blossom!"
continued Mrs. Radford,
pointing to Clara.
"What does she reckon she did it for?"
Paul looked at Clara.
She was rosy;
her neck was warm with blushes.
There was a moment of silence.
"You like to see it,
The mother had them in her power.
All the time his heart was beating hard,
and he was tight with anxiety.
But he would fight her.
"Me like to see it!"
exclaimed the old woman.
"What should I like to see her make a fool of herself for?"
"I've seen people look bigger fools,"
Clara was under his protection now.
and when was that?"
came the sarcastic rejoinder.
"When they made frights of themselves,"
large and threatening,
stood suspended on the hearthrug,
holding her fork.
"They're fools either road,"
she answered at length,
turning to the Dutch oven.
"Folk ought to look as well as they can."
"And do you call THAT looking nice!"
cried the mother,
pointing a scornful fork at Clara.
"That --that looks as if it wasn't properly dressed!"
"I believe you're jealous that you can't swank as well,"
he said laughing.
I could have worn evening dress with anybody,
if I'd wanted to!"
came the scornful answer.
"And why didn't you want to?"
he asked pertinently.
"Or DID you wear it?"
There was a long pause.
Mrs. Radford readjusted the bacon in the Dutch oven.
His heart beat fast,
for fear he had offended her.
she exclaimed at last.
And when I was in service,
I knew as soon as one of the maids came out in bare shoulders what sort SHE was,
going to her sixpenny hop!"
"Were you too good to go to a sixpenny hop?"
Clara sat with bowed head.
His eyes were dark and glittering.
Mrs. Radford took the Dutch oven from the fire,
and stood near him,
putting bits of bacon on his plate.
"THERE'S a nice crozzly bit!"
"Don't give me the best!"
"SHE'S got what SHE wants,"
was the answer.
There was a sort of scornful forbearance in the woman's tone that made Paul know she was mollified.
"But DO have some!"
he said to Clara.
She looked up at him with her grey eyes,
humiliated and lonely.
"Why won't you?"
he answered carelessly.
The blood was beating up like fire in his veins.
Mrs. Radford sat down again,
large and impressive and aloof.
He left Clara altogether to attend to the mother.
"They say Sarah Bernhardt's fifty,"
She's turned sixty!"
came the scornful answer.
"you'd never think it!
She made me want to howl even now."
"I should like to see myself howling at THAT bad old baggage!"
said Mrs. Radford.
"It's time she began to think herself a grandmother,
not a shrieking catamaran --"
"A catamaran is a boat the Malays use,"
"And it's a word as I use,"
"My mother does sometimes,
and it's no good my telling her,"
"I s'd think she boxes your ears,"
said Mrs. Radford,
"She'd like to,
and she says she will,
so I give her a little stool to stand on."
"That's the worst of my mother,"
"She never wants a stool for anything."
"But she often can't touch THAT lady with a long prop,"
retorted Mrs. Radford to Paul.
"I s'd think she doesn't want touching with a prop,"
"It might do the pair of you good to give you a crack on the head with one,"
said the mother,
"Why are you so vindictive towards me?"
"I've not stolen anything from you."
I'll watch that,"
laughed the older woman.
Soon the supper was finished.
Mrs. Radford sat guard in her chair.
Paul lit a cigarette.
Clara went upstairs,
returning with a sleeping-suit,
which she spread on the fender to air.
I'd forgot all about THEM!"
said Mrs. Radford.
"Where have they sprung from?"
"Out of my drawer."
'em for Baxter,
an' he wouldn't wear
"Said he reckoned to do wi'out trousers i' bed."
She turned confidentially to Paul,
"He couldn't BEAR
them pyjama things."
The young man sat making rings of smoke.
it's everyone to his taste,"
Then followed a little discussion of the merits of pyjamas.
"My mother loves me in them,"
"She says I'm a pierrot."
"I can imagine they'd suit you,"
said Mrs. Radford.
After a while he glanced at the little clock that was ticking on the mantelpiece.
It was half-past twelve.
"It is funny,"
"but it takes hours to settle down to sleep after the theatre."
"It's about time you did,"
said Mrs. Radford,
clearing the table.
"Are YOU tired?"
he asked of Clara.
"Not the least bit,"
avoiding his eyes.
"Shall we have a game at cribbage?"
"I've forgotten it."
I'll teach you again.
May we play crib,
"You'll please yourselves,"
"but it's pretty late."
"A game or so will make us sleepy,"
Clara brought the cards,
and sat spinning her wedding-ring whilst he shuffled them.
Mrs. Radford was washing up in the scullery.
As it grew later Paul felt the situation getting more and more tense.
and two's eight --!"
The clock struck one.
Still the game continued.
Mrs. Radford had done all the little jobs preparatory to going to bed,
had locked the door and filled the kettle.
Still Paul went on dealing and counting.
He was obsessed by Clara's arms and throat.
He believed he could see where the division was just beginning for her breasts.
He could not leave her.
She watched his hands,
and felt her joints melt as they moved quickly.
She was so near;
it was almost as if he touched her,
and yet not quite.
His mettle was roused.
He hated Mrs. Radford.
She sat on,
nearly dropping asleep,
but determined and obstinate in her chair.
Paul glanced at her,
then at Clara.
She met his eyes,
that were angry,
and hard as steel.
Her own answered him in shame.
He knew SHE,
at any rate,
was of his mind.
He played on.
At last Mrs. Radford roused herself stiffly,
"Isn't it nigh on time you two was thinking o' bed?"
Paul played on without answering.
He hated her sufficiently to murder her.
"Half a minute,"
The elder woman rose and sailed stubbornly into the scullery,
returning with his candle,
which she put on the mantelpiece.
Then she sat down again.
The hatred of her went so hot down his veins,
he dropped his cards.
but his voice was still a challenge.
Clara saw his mouth shut hard.
Again he glanced at her.
It seemed like an agreement.
She bent over the cards,
to clear her throat.
I'm glad you've finished,"
said Mrs. Radford.
take your things" --she thrust the warm suit in his hand --"and this is your candle.
Your room's over this;
there's only two,
so you can't go far wrong.
I hope you'll rest well."
"I'm sure I shall;
I always do,"
and so you ought at your age,"
He bade good-night to Clara,
The twisting stairs of white,
scrubbed wood creaked and clanged at every step.
He went doggedly.
The two doors faced each other.
He went in his room,
pushed the door to,
without fastening the latch.
It was a small room with a large bed.
Some of Clara's hair-pins were on the dressing-table --her hair-brush.
Her clothes and some skirts hung under a cloth in a corner.
There was actually a pair of stockings over a chair.
He explored the room.
Two books of his own were there on the shelf.
folded his suit,
and sat on the bed,
Then he blew out the candle,
and in two minutes was almost asleep.
--he was wide awake and writhing in torment.
It was as if,
when he had nearly got to sleep,
something had bitten him suddenly and sent him mad.
He sat up and looked at the room in the darkness,
his feet doubled under him,
He heard a cat somewhere away outside;
then the heavy,
poised tread of the mother;
then Clara's distinct voice:
"Will you unfasten my dress?"
There was silence for some time.
At last the mother said:
aren't you coming up?"
replied the daughter calmly.
very well then!
If it's not late enough,
stop a bit longer.
Only you needn't come waking me up when I've got to sleep."
"I shan't be long,"
Immediately afterwards Paul heard the mother slowly mounting the stairs.
The candlelight flashed through the cracks in his door.
Her dress brushed the door,
and his heart jumped.
Then it was dark,
and he heard the clatter of her latch.
She was very leisurely indeed in her preparations for sleep.
After a long time it was quite still.
He sat strung up on the bed,
His door was an inch open.
As Clara came upstairs,
he would intercept her.
All was dead silence.
The clock struck two.
Then he heard a slight scrape of the fender downstairs.
Now he could not help himself.
His shivering was uncontrollable.
He felt he must go or die.
He stepped off the bed,
and stood a moment,
Then he went straight to the door.
He tried to step lightly.
The first stair cracked like a shot.
The old woman stirred in her bed.
The staircase was dark.
There was a slit of light under the stair-foot door,
which opened into the kitchen.
He stood a moment.
Then he went on,
Every step creaked,
and his back was creeping,
lest the old woman's door should open behind him up above.
He fumbled with the door at the bottom.
The latch opened with a loud clack.
He went through into the kitchen,
and shut the door noisily behind him.
The old woman daren't come now.
Then he stood,
Clara was kneeling on a pile of white underclothing on the hearthrug,
her back towards him,
She did not look round,
but sat crouching on her heels,
and her rounded beautiful back was towards him,
and her face was hidden.
She was warming her body at the fire for consolation.
The glow was rosy on one side,
the shadow was dark and warm on the other.
Her arms hung slack.
He shuddered violently,
clenching his teeth and fists hard to keep control.
Then he went forward to her.
He put one hand on her shoulder,
the fingers of the other hand under her chin to raise her face.
A convulsed shiver ran through her,
at his touch.
She kept her head bent.
realising that his hands were very cold.
Then she looked up at him,
like a thing that is afraid of death.
"My hands are so cold,"
"I like it,"
closing her eyes.
The breath of her words were on his mouth.
Her arms clasped his knees.
The cord of his sleeping-suit dangled against her and made her shiver.
As the warmth went into him,
his shuddering became less.
unable to stand so any more,
he raised her,
and she buried her head on his shoulder.
His hands went over her slowly with an infinite tenderness of caress.
She clung close to him,
trying to hide herself against him.
He clasped her very fast.
Then at last she looked at him,
looking to see if she must be ashamed.
His eyes were dark,
and very quiet.
It was as if her beauty and his taking it hurt him,
made him sorrowful.
He looked at her with a little pain,
and was afraid.
He was so humble before her.
She kissed him fervently on the eyes,
then the other,
and she folded herself to him.
She gave herself.
He held her fast.
It was a moment intense almost to agony.
She stood letting him adore her and tremble with joy of her.
It healed her hurt pride.
It healed her;
it made her glad.
It made her feel erect and proud again.
Her pride had been wounded inside her.
She had been cheapened.
Now she radiated with joy and pride again.
It was her restoration and her recognition.
Then he looked at her,
his face radiant.
They laughed to each other,
and he strained her to his chest.
The seconds ticked off,
the minutes passed,
and still the two stood clasped rigid together,
mouth to mouth,
like a statue in one block.
But again his fingers went seeking over her,
The hot blood came up wave upon wave.
She laid her head on his shoulder.
"Come you to my room,"
She looked at him and shook her head,
her mouth pouting disconsolately,
her eyes heavy with passion.
He watched her fixedly.
Again she shook her head.
She looked at him still heavily,
and again she shook her head.
His eyes hardened,
and he gave way.
he was back in bed,
he wondered why she had refused to come to him openly,
so that her mother would know.
At any rate,
then things would have been definite.
And she could have stayed with him the night,
without having to go,
as she was,
to her mother's bed.
It was strange,
and he could not understand it.
And then almost immediately he fell asleep.
He awoke in the morning with someone speaking to him.
Opening his eyes,
he saw Mrs. Radford,
big and stately,
looking down on him.
She held a cup of tea in her hand.
"Do you think you're going to sleep till Doomsday?"
He laughed at once.
"It ought only to be about five o'clock,"
"it's half-past seven,
whether or not.
I've brought you a cup of tea."
He rubbed his face,
pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead,
and roused himself.
"What's it so late for!"
He resented being wakened.
It amused her.
She saw his neck in the flannel sleeping-jacket,
as white and round as a girl's.
He rubbed his hair crossly.
"It's no good your scratching your head,"
"It won't make it no earlier.
an' how long d'you think I'm going to stand waiting wi' this here cup?"
dash the cup!"
"You should go to bed earlier,"
said the woman.
He looked up at her,
laughing with impudence.
"I went to bed before YOU did,"
stirring his tea,
"having tea brought to bed to me!
My mother'll think I'm ruined for life."
"Don't she never do it?"
asked Mrs. Radford.
"She'd as leave think of flying."
I always spoilt my lot!
That's why they've turned out such bad uns,"
said the elderly woman.
"You'd only Clara,"
"And Mr. Radford's in heaven.
So I suppose there's only you left to be the bad un."
"I'm not bad;
I'm only soft,"
as she went out of the bedroom.
"I'm only a fool,
Clara was very quiet at breakfast,
but she had a sort of air of proprietorship over him that pleased him infinitely.
Mrs. Radford was evidently fond of him.
He began to talk of his painting.
"What's the good,"
exclaimed the mother,
"of your whittling and worrying and twistin' and too-in' at that painting of yours?
What GOOD does it do you,
I should like to know?
You'd better be enjoyin' yourself."
"I made over thirty guineas last year."
that's a consideration,
but it's nothing to the time you put in."
"And I've got four pounds owing.
A man said he'd give me five pounds if I'd paint him and his missis and the dog and the cottage.
And I went and put the fowls in instead of the dog,
and he was waxy,
so I had to knock a quid off.
I was sick of it,
and I didn't like the dog.
I made a picture of it.
What shall I do when he pays me the four pounds?"
you know your own uses for your money,"
said Mrs. Radford.
"But I'm going to bust this four pounds.
Should we go to the seaside for a day or two?"
"You and Clara and me."
on your money!"
"YOU wouldn't be long in breaking your neck at a hurdle race!"
"So long as I get a good run for my money!
you may settle that atween you."
"And you're willing?"
amazed and rejoicing.
"You'll do as you like,"
said Mrs. Radford,
"whether I'm willing or not."