|Table of Contents|
and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence
Launches Into Life
was rather a heedless man, careless of danger.
So he had endless accidents. Now,
when Mrs. Morel heard the rattle of an empty coal-cart cease at her
entry-end, she ran into the parlour to look, expecting almost to see her
husband seated in the waggon, his face grey under his dirt, his body limp
and sick with some hurt or other. If
it were he, she would run out to help.
a year after William went to London, and just after Paul had left school,
before he got work, Mrs. Morel was upstairs and her son was painting in the
kitchen--he was very clever with his brush--when there came a knock at the
door. Crossly he put down his
brush to go. At the same moment
his mother opened a window upstairs and looked down.
pit-lad in his dirt stood on the threshold.
this Walter Morel's?" he asked.
said Mrs. Morel. "What is
she had guessed already.
mester's got hurt," he said.
dear me!" she exclaimed. "It's
a wonder if he hadn't, lad. And
what's he done this time?"
don't know for sure, but it's 'is leg somewhere. They ta'ein' 'im ter th' 'ospital."
gracious me!" she exclaimed. "Eh,
dear, what a one he is! There's
not five minutes of peace, I'll be hanged if there is!
His thumb's nearly better, and now--- Did you see him?"
seed him at th' bottom. An' I
seed 'em bring 'im up in a tub, an' 'e wor in a dead faint. But he shouted like anythink when Doctor Fraser examined him
i' th' lamp cabin--an' cossed an' swore, an' said as 'e wor goin' to be
ta'en whoam--'e worn't goin' ter th' 'ospital."
boy faltered to an end.
WOULD want to come home, so that I can have all the bother.
Thank you, my lad. Eh, dear, if I'm not sick--sick and surfeited, I am!"
came downstairs. Paul had
mechanically resumed his painting.
it must be pretty bad if they've taken him to the hospital," she went
on. "But what a CARELESS
creature he is! OTHER men don't
have all these accidents. Yes,
he WOULD want to put all the burden on me.
Eh, dear, just as we WERE getting easy a bit at last.
Put those things away, there's no time to be painting now.
What time is there a train? I
know I s'll have to go trailing to Keston.
I s'll have to leave that bedroom."
can finish it," said Paul.
needn't. I shall catch the seven o'clock back, I should think.
Oh, my blessed heart, the fuss and commotion he'll make!
And those granite setts at Tinder Hill--he might well call them
kidney pebbles--they'll jolt him almost to bits.
I wonder why they can't mend them, the state they're in, an' all the
men as go across in that ambulance. You'd
think they'd have a hospital here. The
men bought the ground, and, my sirs, there'd be accidents enough to keep it
going. But no, they must trail
them ten miles in a slow ambulance to Nottingham.
It's a crying shame! Oh,
and the fuss he'll make! I know
he will! I wonder who's with
him. Barker, I s'd think.
Poor beggar, he'll wish himself anywhere rather.
But he'll look after him, I know.
Now there's no telling how long he'll be stuck in that hospital--and
WON'T he hate it! But if it's
only his leg it's not so bad."
the time she was getting ready. Hurriedly
taking off her bodice, she crouched at the boiler while the water ran slowly
into her lading-can.
wish this boiler was at the bottom of the sea!" she exclaimed,
wriggling the handle impatiently. She
had very handsome, strong arms, rather surprising on a smallish woman.
cleared away, put on the kettle, and set the table.
isn't a train till four-twenty," he said.
"You've time enough."
no, I haven't!" she cried, blinking at him over the towel as she wiped
you have. You must drink a cup
of tea at any rate. Should I
come with you to Keston?"
with me? What for, I should
like to know? Now, what have I
to take him? Eh, dear!
His clean shirt--and it's a blessing it IS clean.
But it had better be aired. And
stockings--he won't want them--and a towel, I suppose; and handkerchiefs.
Now what else?"
comb, a knife and fork and spoon," said Paul. His father had been in the hospital before.
knows what sort of state his feet were in," continued Mrs. Morel, as
she combed her long brown hair, that was fine as silk, and was touched now
with grey. "He's very
particular to wash himself to the waist, but below he thinks doesn't matter.
But there, I suppose they see plenty like it."
had laid the table. He cut his
mother one or two pieces of very thin bread and butter.
you are," he said, putting her cup of tea in her place.
can't be bothered!" she exclaimed crossly.
you've got to, so there, now it's put out ready," he insisted.
she sat down and sipped her tea, and ate a little, in silence.
She was thinking.
a few minutes she was gone, to walk the two and a half miles to Keston
Station. All the things she was
taking him she had in her bulging string bag.
Paul watched her go up the road between the hedges--a little,
quick-stepping figure, and his heart ached for her, that she was thrust
forward again into pain and trouble. And
she, tripping so quickly in her anxiety, felt at the back of her her son's
heart waiting on her, felt him bearing what part of the burden he could,
even supporting her. And when
she was at the hospital, she thought: "It
WILL upset that lad when I tell him how bad it is.
I'd better be careful." And
when she was trudging home again, she felt he was coming to share her
it bad?" asked Paul, as soon as she entered the house.
bad enough," she replied.
sighed and sat down, undoing her bonnet-strings. Her son watched her face as
it was lifted, and her small, work-hardened hands fingering at the bow under
she answered, "it's not really dangerous, but the nurse says it's a
dreadful smash. You see, a
great piece of rock fell on his leg--here--and it's a compound fracture.
There are pieces of bone sticking through---"
horrid!" exclaimed the children.
she continued, "of course he says he's going to die--it wouldn't be him
if he didn't. 'I'm done for, my lass!' he said, looking at me.
'Don't be so silly,' I said to him.
'You're not going to die of a broken leg, however badly it's
smashed.' 'I s'll niver come
out of 'ere but in a wooden box,' he groaned.
'Well,' I said, 'if you want them to carry you into the garden in a
wooden box, when you're better, I've no doubt they will.'
'If we think it's good for him,' said the Sister.
She's an awfully nice Sister, but rather strict."
Morel took off her bonnet. The
children waited in silence.
course, he IS bad," she continued, "and he will be.
It's a great shock, and he's lost a lot of blood; and, of course, it
IS a very dangerous smash. It's not at all sure that it will mend so easily.
And then there's the fever and the mortification--if it took bad ways
he'd quickly be gone. But
there, he's a clean-blooded man, with wonderful healing flesh, and so I see
no reason why it SHOULD take bad ways.
Of course there's a wound---"
was pale now with emotion and anxiety.
The three children realised that it was very bad for their father,
and the house was silent, anxious.
he always gets better," said Paul after a while.
what I tell him," said the mother.
moved about in silence.
he really looked nearly done for," she said. "But the Sister says that is the pain."
took away her mother's coat and bonnet.
he looked at me when I came away! I
said: 'I s'll have to go now,
Walter, because of the train--and the children.'
And he looked at me. It
took up his brush again and went on painting.
Arthur went outside for some coal.
Annie sat looking dismal. And
Mrs. Morel, in her little rocking-chair that her husband had made for her
when the first baby was coming, remained motionless, brooding.
She was grieved, and bitterly sorry for the man who was hurt so much.
But still, in her heart of hearts, where the love should have burned,
there was a blank. Now, when
all her woman's pity was roused to its full extent, when she would have
slaved herself to death to nurse him and to save him, when she would have
taken the pain herself, if she could, somewhere far away inside her, she
felt indifferent to him and to his suffering.
It hurt her most of all, this failure to love him, even when he
roused her strong emotions. She
brooded a while.
there," she said suddenly, "when I'd got halfway to Keston, I
found I'd come out in my working boots--and LOOK at them."
They were an old pair of Paul's, brown and rubbed through at the
toes. "I didn't know what
to do with myself, for shame," she added.
the morning, when Annie and Arthur were at school, Mrs. Morel talked again
to her son, who was helping her with her housework.
found Barker at the hospital. He
did look bad, poor little fellow! 'Well,'
I said to him, 'what sort of a journey did you have with him?'
'Dunna ax me, missis!' he said.
'Ay,' I said, 'I know what he'd be.'
'But it WOR bad for him, Mrs. Morel, it WOR that!' he said.
'I know,' I said. 'At
ivry jolt I thought my 'eart would ha' flown clean out o' my mouth,' he
said. 'An' the scream 'e gives
sometimes! Missis, not for a
fortune would I go through wi' it again.'
'I can quite understand it,' I said.
'It's a nasty job, though,' he said, 'an' one as'll be a long while
afore it's right again.' 'I'm afraid it will,' I said.
I like Mr. Barker--I DO like him.
There's something so manly about him."
resumed his task silently.
of course," Mrs. Morel continued, "for a man like your father, the
hospital IS hard. He CAN'T
understand rules and regulations. And
he won't let anybody else touch him, not if he can help it.
When he smashed the muscles of his thigh, and it had to be dressed
four times a day, WOULD he let anybody but me or his mother do it?
He wouldn't. So, of course, he'll suffer in there with the nurses.
And I didn't like leaving him. I'm
sure, when I kissed him an' came away, it seemed a shame."
she talked to her son, almost as if she were thinking aloud to him, and he
took it in as best he could, by sharing her trouble to lighten it.
And in the end she shared almost everything with him without knowing.
had a very bad time. For a week
he was in a critical condition. Then
he began to mend. And then,
knowing he was going to get better, the whole family sighed with relief, and
proceeded to live happily.
were not badly off whilst Morel was in the hospital. There were fourteen shillings a week from the pit, ten
shillings from the sick club, and five shillings from the Disability Fund;
and then every week the butties had something for Mrs. Morel--five or seven
shillings--so that she was quite well to do.
And whilst Morel was progressing favourably in the hospital, the
family was extraordinarily happy and peaceful.
On Saturdays and Wednesdays Mrs. Morel went to Nottingham to see her
husband. Then she always
brought back some little thing: a
small tube of paints for Paul, or some thick paper; a couple of postcards
for Annie, that the whole family rejoiced over for days before the girl was
allowed to send them away; or a fret-saw for Arthur, or a bit of pretty
wood. She described her
adventures into the big shops with joy.
Soon the folk in the picture-shop knew her, and knew about Paul.
The girl in the book-shop took a keen interest in her.
Mrs. Morel was full of information when she got home from Nottingham.
The three sat round till bed-time, listening, putting in, arguing.
Then Paul often raked the fire.
the man in the house now," he used to say to his mother with joy.
They learned how perfectly peaceful the home could be.
And they almost regretted--though none of them would have owned to
such callousness--that their father was soon coming back.
was now fourteen, and was looking for work.
He was a rather small and rather finely-made boy, with dark brown
hair and light blue eyes. His
face had already lost its youthful chubbiness, and was becoming somewhat
like William's--rough-featured, almost rugged--and it was extraordinarily
mobile. Usually he looked as if
he saw things, was full of life, and warm; then his smile, like his
mother's, came suddenly and was very lovable; and then, when there was any
clog in his soul's quick running, his face went stupid and ugly.
He was the sort of boy that becomes a clown and a lout as soon as he
is not understood, or feels himself held cheap; and, again, is adorable at
the first touch of warmth.
suffered very much from the first contact with anything.
When he was seven, the starting school had been a nightmare and a
torture to him. But afterwards
he liked it. And now that he
felt he had to go out into life, he went through agonies of shrinking
self-consciousness. He was quite a clever painter for a boy of his years,
and he knew some French and German and mathematics that Mr. Heaton had
taught him. But nothing he had
was of any commercial value. He
was not strong enough for heavy manual work, his mother said.
He did not care for making things with his hands, preferred racing
about, or making excursions into the country, or reading, or painting.
do you want to be?" his mother asked.
is no answer," said Mrs. Morel.
it was quite truthfully the only answer he could give.
His ambition, as far as this world's gear went, was quietly to earn
his thirty or thirty-five shillings a week somewhere near home, and then,
when his father died, have a cottage with his mother, paint and go out as he
liked, and live happy ever after. That
was his programme as far as doing things went.
But he was proud within himself, measuring people against himself,
and placing them, inexorably. And
he thought that PERHAPS he might also make a painter, the real thing.
But that he left alone.
said his mother, "you must look in the paper for the
looked at her. It seemed to him
a bitter humiliation and an anguish to go through. But he said nothing. When
he got up in the morning, his whole being was knotted up over this one
got to go and look for advertisements for a job."
stood in front of the morning, that thought, killing all joy and even life,
for him. His heart felt like a
then, at ten o'clock, he set off. He
was supposed to be a queer, quiet child.
Going up the sunny street of the little town, he felt as if all the
folk he met said to themselves: "He's
going to the Co-op. reading-room to look in the papers for a place.
He can't get a job. I
suppose he's living on his mother."
Then he crept up the stone stairs behind the drapery shop at the
Co-op., and peeped in the reading-room. Usually one or two men were there,
either old, useless fellows, or colliers "on the club". So he
entered, full of shrinking and suffering when they looked up, seated himself
at the table, and pretended to scan the news.
He knew they would think: "What
does a lad of thirteen want in a reading-room with a newspaper?" and he
he looked wistfully out of the window.
Already he was a prisoner of industrialism. Large sunflowers stared over the old red wall of the garden
opposite, looking in their jolly way down on the women who were hurrying
with something for dinner. The
valley was full of corn, brightening in the sun.
Two collieries, among the fields, waved their small white plumes of
steam. Far off on the hills
were the woods of Annesley, dark and fascinating.
Already his heart went down. He
was being taken into bondage. His
freedom in the beloved home valley was going now.
brewers' waggons came rolling up from Keston with enormous barrels, four a
side, like beans in a burst bean-pod. The waggoner, throned aloft, rolling
massively in his seat, was not so much below Paul's eye.
The man's hair, on his small, bullet head, was bleached almost white
by the sun, and on his thick red arms, rocking idly on his sack apron, the
white hairs glistened. His red
face shone and was almost asleep with sunshine.
The horses, handsome and brown, went on by themselves, looking by far
the masters of the show.
wished he were stupid. "I
wish," he thought to himself, "I was fat like him, and like a dog
in the sun. I wish I was a pig
and a brewer's waggoner."
the room being at last empty, he would hastily copy an advertisement on a
scrap of paper, then another, and slip out in immense relief.
His mother would scan over his copies.
she said, "you may try."
had written out a letter of application, couched in admirable business
language, which Paul copied, with variations.
The boy's handwriting was execrable, so that William, who did all
things well, got into a fever of impatience.
elder brother was becoming quite swanky.
In London he found that he could associate with men far above his
Bestwood friends in station. Some
of the clerks in the office had studied for the law, and were more or less
going through a kind of apprenticeship.
William always made friends among men wherever he went, he was so
jolly. Therefore he was soon
visiting and staying in houses of men who, in Bestwood, would have looked
down on the unapproachable bank manager, and would merely have called
indifferently on the Rector. So
he began to fancy himself as a great gun.
He was, indeed, rather surprised at the ease with which he became a
mother was glad, he seemed so pleased.
And his lodging in Walthamstow was so dreary. But now there seemed to come a kind of fever into the young
man's letters. He was unsettled
by all the change, he did not stand firm on his own feet, but seemed to spin
rather giddily on the quick current of the new life.
His mother was anxious for him.
She could feel him losing himself.
He had danced and gone to the theatre, boated on the river, been out
with friends; and she knew he sat up afterwards in his cold bedroom grinding
away at Latin, because he intended to get on in his office, and in the law
as much as he could. He never
sent his mother any money now. It
was all taken, the little he had, for his own life.
And she did not want any, except sometimes, when she was in a tight
corner, and when ten shillings would have saved her much worry.
She still dreamed of William, and of what he would do, with herself
behind him. Never for a minute
would she admit to herself how heavy and anxious her heart was because of
he talked a good deal now of a girl he had met at a dance, a handsome
brunette, quite young, and a lady, after whom the men were running thick and
wonder if you would run, my boy," his mother wrote to him, "unless
you saw all the other men chasing her too.
You feel safe enough and vain enough in a crowd.
But take care, and see how you feel when you find yourself alone, and
in triumph." William
resented these things, and continued the chase.
He had taken the girl on the river.
"If you saw her, mother, you would know how I feel.
Tall and elegant, with the clearest of clear, transparent olive
complexions, hair as black as jet, and such grey eyes--bright, mocking, like
lights on water at night. It is
all very well to be a bit satirical till you see her.
And she dresses as well as any woman in London.
I tell you, your son doesn't half put his head up when she goes
walking down Piccadilly with him."
Morel wondered, in her heart, if her son did not go walking down Piccadilly
with an elegant figure and fine clothes, rather than with a woman who was
near to him. But she
congratulated him in her doubtful fashion.
And, as she stood over the washing-tub, the mother brooded over her
son. She saw him saddled with
an elegant and expensive wife, earning little money, dragging along and
getting draggled in some small, ugly house in a suburb.
"But there," she told herself, "I am very likely a
silly--meeting trouble halfway." Nevertheless,
the load of anxiety scarcely ever left her heart, lest William should do the
wrong thing by himself.
Paul was bidden call upon Thomas Jordan, Manufacturer of Surgical
Appliances, at 21, Spaniel Row, Nottingham.
Mrs. Morel was all joy.
you see!" she cried, her eyes shining.
"You've only written four letters, and the third is answered.
You're lucky, my boy, as I always said you were."
looked at the picture of a wooden leg, adorned with elastic stockings and
other appliances, that figured on Mr. Jordan's notepaper, and he felt
alarmed. He had not known that
elastic stockings existed. And
he seemed to feel the business world, with its regulated system of values,
and its impersonality, and he dreaded it.
It seemed monstrous also that a business could be run on wooden legs.
and son set off together one Tuesday morning.
It was August and blazing hot. Paul
walked with something screwed up tight inside him.
He would have suffered much physical pain rather than this
unreasonable suffering at being exposed to strangers, to be accepted or
rejected. Yet he chattered away
with his mother. He would never
have confessed to her how he suffered over these things, and she only partly
guessed. She was gay, like a
sweetheart. She stood in front
of the ticket-office at Bestwood, and Paul watched her take from her purse
the money for the tickets. As he saw her hands in their old black kid gloves
getting the silver out of the worn purse, his heart contracted with pain of
love of her.
was quite excited, and quite gay. He
suffered because she WOULD talk aloud in presence of the other travellers.
look at that silly cow!" she said, "careering round as if it
thought it was a circus."
most likely a bottfly," he said very low.
what?" she asked brightly and unashamed.
thought a while. He was
sensible all the time of having her opposite him.
Suddenly their eyes met, and she smiled to him--a rare, intimate
smile, beautiful with brightness and love.
Then each looked out of the window.
sixteen slow miles of railway journey passed.
The mother and son walked down Station Street, feeling the excitement
of lovers having an adventure together.
In Carrington Street they stopped to hang over the parapet and look
at the barges on the canal below.
just like Venice," he said, seeing the sunshine on the water that lay
between high factory walls.
she answered, smiling.
enjoyed the shops immensely.
you see that blouse," she would say, "wouldn't that just suit our
Annie? And for
one-and-eleven-three. Isn't that cheap?"
made of needlework as well," he said.
had plenty of time, so they did not hurry.
The town was strange and delightful to them. But the boy was tied up inside in a knot of apprehension.
He dreaded the interview with Thomas Jordan.
was nearly eleven o'clock by St. Peter's Church. They turned up a narrow street that led to the Castle.
It was gloomy and old-fashioned, having low dark shops and dark green
house doors with brass knockers, and yellow-ochred doorsteps projecting on
to the pavement; then another old shop whose small window looked like a
cunning, half-shut eye. Mother
and son went cautiously, looking everywhere for "Thomas Jordan and
Son". It was like hunting in some wild place.
They were on tiptoe of excitement.
they spied a big, dark archway, in which were names of various firms, Thomas
Jordan among them.
it is!" said Mrs. Morel. "But
now WHERE is it?"
looked round. On one side was a
queer, dark, cardboard factory, on the other a Commercial Hotel.
up the entry," said Paul.
they ventured under the archway, as into the jaws of the dragon.
They emerged into a wide yard, like a well, with buildings all round.
It was littered with straw and boxes, and cardboard.
The sunshine actually caught one crate whose straw was streaming on
to the yard like gold. But
elsewhere the place was like a pit. There
were several doors, and two flights of steps.
Straight in front, on a dirty glass door at the top of a staircase,
loomed the ominous words "Thomas Jordan and Son--Surgical
Appliances." Mrs. Morel
went first, her son followed her. Charles
I mounted his scaffold with a lighter heart than had Paul Morel as he
followed his mother up the dirty steps to the dirty door.
pushed open the door, and stood in pleased surprise. In front of her was a big warehouse, with creamy paper
parcels everywhere, and clerks, with their shirt-sleeves rolled back, were
going about in an at-home sort of way.
The light was subdued, the glossy cream parcels seemed luminous, the
counters were of dark brown wood. All
was quiet and very homely. Mrs.
Morel took two steps forward, then waited.
Paul stood behind her. She
had on her Sunday bonnet and a black veil; he wore a boy's broad white
collar and a Norfolk suit.
of the clerks looked up. He was
thin and tall, with a small face. His
way of looking was alert. Then
he glanced round to the other end of the room, where was a glass office.
And then he came forward. He
did not say anything, but leaned in a gentle, inquiring fashion towards Mrs.
I see Mr. Jordan?" she asked.
fetch him," answered the young man.
went down to the glass office. A
red-faced, white-whiskered old man looked up.
He reminded Paul of a pomeranian dog.
Then the same little man came up the room. He had short legs, was rather stout, and wore an alpaca
jacket. So, with one ear up, as
it were, he came stoutly and inquiringly down the room.
he said, hesitating before Mrs. Morel, in doubt as to whether she were a
customer or not.
I came with my son, Paul Morel. You
asked him to call this morning."
this way," said Mr. Jordan, in a rather snappy little manner intended
to be businesslike.
followed the manufacturer into a grubby little room, upholstered in black
American leather, glossy with the rubbing of many customers. On the table was a pile of trusses, yellow wash-leather hoops
tangled together. They looked
new and living. Paul sniffed
the odour of new wash-leather. He wondered what the things were. By this time he was so much stunned that he only noticed the
down!" said Mr. Jordan, irritably pointing Mrs. Morel to a horse-hair
chair. She sat on the edge in
an uncertain fashion. Then the
little old man fidgeted and found a paper.
you write this letter?" he snapped, thrusting what Paul recognised as
his own notepaper in front of him.
that moment he was occupied in two ways:
first, in feeling guilty for telling a lie, since William had
composed the letter; second, in wondering why his letter seemed so strange
and different, in the fat, red hand of the man, from what it had been when
it lay on the kitchen table. It
was like part of himself, gone astray.
He resented the way the man held it.
did you learn to write?" said the old man crossly.
merely looked at him shamedly, and did not answer.
IS a bad writer," put in Mrs. Morel apologetically.
Then she pushed up her veil. Paul
hated her for not being prouder with this common little man, and he loved
her face clear of the veil.
you say you know French?" inquired the little man, still sharply.
school did you go to?"
did you learn it there?"
The boy went crimson and got no farther.
godfather gave him lessons," said Mrs. Morel, half pleading and rather
Jordan hesitated. Then, in his
irritable manner--he always seemed to keep his hands ready for action--he
pulled another sheet of paper from his pocket, unfolded it.
The paper made a crackling noise.
He handed it to Paul.
that," he said.
was a note in French, in thin, flimsy foreign handwriting that the boy could
not decipher. He stared blankly
at the paper.
he began; then he looked in great confusion at Mr. Jordan.
"It's the--it's the---"
wanted to say "handwriting", but his wits would no longer work
even sufficiently to supply him with the word.
Feeling an utter fool, and hating Mr. Jordan, he turned desperately
to the paper again.
send me'--er--er--I can't tell the--er--'two pairs--gris fil bas--grey
thread stockings'--er--er--'sans--without'-- er--I can't tell the words--er--'doigts--fingers'--er--I
can't tell the---"
wanted to say "handwriting", but the word still refused to come.
Seeing him stuck, Mr. Jordan snatched the paper from him.
send by return two pairs grey thread stockings without TOES.'"
flashed Paul, "'doigts' means 'fingers'--as well--as a rule---"
little man looked at him. He
did not know whether "doigts" meant "fingers"; he knew
that for all HIS purposes it meant "toes".
to stockings!" he snapped.
it DOES mean fingers," the boy persisted.
hated the little man, who made such a clod of him. Mr. Jordan looked at the pale, stupid, defiant boy, then at
the mother, who sat quiet and with that peculiar shut-off look of the poor
who have to depend on the favour of others.
when could he come?" he asked.
said Mrs. Morel, "as soon as you wish.
He has finished school now."
would live in Bestwood?"
but he could be in--at the station--at quarter to eight."
ended by Paul's being engaged as junior spiral clerk at eight shillings a
week. The boy did not open his
mouth to say another word, after having insisted that "doigts"
meant "fingers". He followed his mother down the stairs.
She looked at him with her bright blue eyes full of love and joy.
think you'll like it," she said.
does mean 'fingers', mother, and it was the writing. I couldn't read the writing."
mind, my boy. I'm sure he'll be
all right, and you won't see much of him.
Wasn't that first young fellow nice?
I'm sure you'll like them."
wasn't Mr. Jordan common, mother? Does
he own it all?"
suppose he was a workman who has got on," she said.
"You mustn't mind people so much.
They're not being disagreeable to YOU--it's their way.
You always think people are meaning things for you.
But they don't."
was very sunny. Over the big
desolate space of the market-place the blue sky shimmered, and the granite
cobbles of the paving glistened. Shops
down the Long Row were deep in obscurity, and the shadow was full of colour.
Just where the horse trams trundled across the market was a row of
fruit stalls, with fruit blazing in the sun--apples and piles of reddish
oranges, small green-gage plums and bananas.
There was a warm scent of fruit as mother and son passed.
Gradually his feeling of ignominy and of rage sank.
should we go for dinner?" asked the mother.
was felt to be a reckless extravagance.
Paul had only been in an eating-house once or twice in his life, and
then only to have a cup of tea and a bun.
Most of the people of Bestwood considered that tea and
bread-and-butter, and perhaps potted beef, was all they could afford to eat
in Nottingham. Real cooked
dinner was considered great extravagance.
Paul felt rather guilty.
found a place that looked quite cheap.
But when Mrs. Morel scanned the bill of fare, her heart was heavy,
things were so dear. So she
ordered kidney-pies and potatoes as the cheapest available dish.
oughtn't to have come here, mother," said Paul.
mind," she said. "We
won't come again."
insisted on his having a small currant tart, because he liked sweets.
don't want it, mother," he pleaded.
she insisted; "you'll have it."
she looked round for the waitress. But
the waitress was busy, and Mrs. Morel did not like to bother her then.
So the mother and son waited for the girl's pleasure, whilst she
flirted among the men.
hussy!" said Mrs. Morel to Paul. "Look
now, she's taking that man HIS pudding, and he came long after us."
doesn't matter, mother," said Paul.
Morel was angry. But she was
too poor, and her orders were too meagre, so that she had not the courage to
insist on her rights just then. They
waited and waited.
we go, mother?" he said.
Mrs. Morel stood up. The girl
was passing near.
you bring one currant tart?" said Mrs. Morel clearly.
girl looked round insolently.
have waited quite long enough," said Mrs. Morel.
a moment the girl came back with the tart.
Mrs. Morel asked coldly for the bill.
Paul wanted to sink through the floor.
He marvelled at his mother's hardness.
He knew that only years of battling had taught her to insist even so
little on her rights. She
shrank as much as he.
the last time I go THERE for anything!" she declared, when they were
outside the place, thankful to be clear.
go," she said, "and look at Keep's and Boot's, and one or two
places, shall we?"
had discussions over the pictures, and Mrs. Morel wanted to buy him a little
sable brush that be hankered after. But
this indulgence he refused. He
stood in front of milliners' shops and drapers' shops almost bored, but
content for her to be interested. They
just look at those black grapes!" she said. "They make your mouth water. I've wanted some of those for years, but I s'll have to wait
a bit before I get them."
she rejoiced in the florists, standing in the doorway sniffing.
oh! Isn't it simply
saw, in the darkness of the shop, an elegant young lady in black peering
over the counter curiously.
looking at you," he said, trying to draw his mother away.
what is it?" she exclaimed, refusing to be moved.
he answered, sniffing hastily. "Look,
there's a tubful."
there is--red and white. But
really, I never knew stocks to smell like it!"
And, to his great relief, she moved out of the doorway, but only to
stand in front of the window.
she cried to him, who was trying to get out of sight of the elegant young
lady in black--the shop-girl. "Paul!
Just look here!"
came reluctantly back.
just look at that fuchsia!" she exclaimed, pointing.
He made a curious, interested sound. "You'd
think every second as the flowers was going to fall off, they hang so big
such an abundance!" she cried.
the way they drop downwards with their threads and knots!"
she exclaimed. "Lovely!"
wonder who'll buy it!" he said.
wonder!" she answered. "Not
would die in our parlour."
beastly cold, sunless hole; it kills every bit of a plant you put in, and
the kitchen chokes them to death."
bought a few things, and set off towards the station. Looking up the canal, through the dark pass of the buildings,
they saw the Castle on its bluff of brown, green-bushed rock, in a positive
miracle of delicate sunshine.
it be nice for me to come out at dinner-times?" said Paul.
"I can go all round here and see everything.
I s'll love it."
will," assented his mother.
had spent a perfect afternoon with his mother.
They arrived home in the mellow evening, happy, and glowing, and
the morning he filled in the form for his season-ticket and took it to the
station. When he got back, his
mother was just beginning to wash the floor.
He sat crouched up on the sofa.
says it'll be here on Saturday," he said.
how much will it be?"
one pound eleven," he said.
went on washing her floor in silence.
it a lot?" he asked.
no more than I thought," she answered.
I s'll earn eight shillings a week," he said.
did not answer, but went on with her work.
At last she said:
William promised me, when he went to London, as he'd give me a pound a
month. He has given me ten
shillings--twice; and now I know he hasn't a farthing if I asked him.
Not that I want it. Only
just now you'd think he might be able to help with this ticket, which I'd
earns a lot," said Paul.
earns a hundred and thirty pounds. But
they're all alike. They're
large in promises, but it's precious little fulfilment you get."
spends over fifty shillings a week on himself," said Paul.
I keep this house on less than thirty," she replied; "and am
supposed to find money for extras. But
they don't care about helping you, once they've gone. He'd rather spend it on that dressed-up creature."
should have her own money if she's so grand," said Paul.
should, but she hasn't. I asked him. And
I know he doesn't buy her a gold bangle for nothing.
I wonder whoever bought ME a gold bangle."
was succeeding with his "Gipsy", as he called her.
He asked the girl--her name was Louisa Lily Denys Western--for a
photograph to send to his mother. The
photo came--a handsome brunette, taken in profile, smirking slightly--and,
it might be, quite naked, for on the photograph not a scrap of clothing was
to be seen, only a naked bust.
wrote Mrs. Morel to her son, "the photograph of Louie is very striking,
and I can see she must be attractive. But
do you think, my boy, it was very good taste of a girl to give her young man
that photo to send to his mother--the first?
Certainly the shoulders are beautiful, as you say.
But I hardly expected to see so much of them at the first view."
found the photograph standing on the chiffonier in the parlour.
He came out with it between his thick thumb and finger.
dost reckon this is?" he asked of his wife.
the girl our William is going with," replied Mrs. Morel.
'Er's a bright spark, from th' look on 'er, an' one as wunna do him owermuch
good neither. Who is she?"
name is Louisa Lily Denys Western."
come again to-morrer!" exclaimed the miner. "An' is 'er an actress?"
is not. She's supposed to be a
bet!" he exclaimed, still staring at the photo. "A lady, is she? An'
how much does she reckon ter keep up this sort o' game on?"
nothing. She lives with an old
aunt, whom she hates, and takes what bit of money's given her."
said Morel, laying down the photograph.
"Then he's a fool to ha' ta'en up wi' such a one as that."
Mater," William replied. "I'm
sorry you didn't like the photograph. It
never occurred to me when I sent it, that you mightn't think it decent.
However, I told Gyp that it didn't quite suit your prim and proper
notions, so she's going to send you another, that I hope will please you
better. She's always being
photographed; in fact, the photographers ask her if they may take her for
the new photograph came, with a little silly note from the girl.
This time the young lady was seen in a black satin evening bodice,
cut square, with little puff sleeves, and black lace hanging down her
wonder if she ever wears anything except evening clothes," said Mrs.
Morel sarcastically. "I'm
sure I ought to be impressed."
are disagreeable, mother," said Paul.
"I think the first one with bare shoulders is lovely."
you?" answered his mother. "Well,
the Monday morning the boy got up at six to start work.
He had the season-ticket, which had cost such bitterness, in his
waistcoat pocket. He loved it
with its bars of yellow across. His mother packed his dinner in a small, shut-up basket, and
he set off at a quarter to seven to catch the 7.15 train.
Mrs. Morel came to the entry-end to see him off.
was a perfect morning. From the
ash tree the slender green fruits that the children call "pigeons"
were twinkling gaily down on a little breeze, into the front gardens of the
houses. The valley was full of
a lustrous dark haze, through which the ripe corn shimmered, and in which
the steam from Minton pit melted swiftly.
Puffs of wind came. Paul
looked over the high woods of Aldersley, where the country gleamed, and home
had never pulled at him so powerfully.
mother," he said, smiling, but feeling very unhappy.
she replied cheerfully and tenderly.
stood in her white apron on the open road, watching him as he crossed the
field. He had a small, compact
body that looked full of life. She
felt, as she saw him trudging over the field, that where he determined to go
he would get. She thought of
William. He would have leaped
the fence instead of going round the stile.
He was away in London, doing well.
Paul would be working in Nottingham.
Now she had two sons in the world.
She could think of two places, great centres of industry, and feel
that she had put a man into each of them, that these men would work out what
SHE wanted; they were derived from her, they were of her, and their works
also would be hers. All the
morning long she thought of Paul.
eight o'clock he climbed the dismal stairs of Jordan's Surgical Appliance
Factory, and stood helplessly against the first great parcel-rack, waiting
for somebody to pick him up. The
place was still not awake. Over
the counters were great dust sheets. Two
men only had arrived, and were heard talking in a corner, as they took off
their coats and rolled up their shirt-sleeves. It was ten past eight. Evidently there was no rush of punctuality.
Paul listened to the voices of the two clerks.
Then he heard someone cough, and saw in the office at the end of the
room an old, decaying clerk, in a round smoking-cap of black velvet
embroidered with red and green, opening letters.
He waited and waited. One
of the junior clerks went to the old man, greeted him cheerily and loudly.
Evidently the old "chief" was deaf. Then the young fellow came striding importantly down to his
counter. He spied Paul.
he said. "You the new
What's your name?"
Morel? All right, you come on
followed him round the rectangle of counters.
The room was second storey. It
had a great hole in the middle of the floor, fenced as with a wall of
counters, and down this wide shaft the lifts went, and the light for the
bottom storey. Also there was a
corresponding big, oblong hole in the ceiling, and one could see above, over
the fence of the top floor, some machinery; and right away overhead was the
glass roof, and all light for the three storeys came downwards, getting
dimmer, so that it was always night on the ground floor and rather gloomy on
the second floor. The factory
was the top floor, the warehouse the second, the storehouse the ground
floor. It was an insanitary,
was led round to a very dark corner.
is the 'Spiral' corner," said the clerk.
"You're Spiral, with Pappleworth.
He's your boss, but he's not come yet.
He doesn't get here till half-past eight. So you can fetch the letters, if you like, from Mr. Melling
young man pointed to the old clerk in the office.
right," said Paul.
a peg to hang your cap on. Here
are your entry ledgers. Mr.
Pappleworth won't be long."
the thin young man stalked away with long, busy strides over the hollow
a minute or two Paul went down and stood in the door of the glass office.
The old clerk in the smoking-cap looked down over the rim of his
he said, kindly and impressively. "You
want the letters for the Spiral department, Thomas?"
resented being called "Thomas". But he took the letters and
returned to his dark place, where the counter made an angle, where the great
parcel-rack came to an end, and where there were three doors in the corner.
He sat on a high stool and read the letters--those whose handwriting
was not too difficult. They ran
you please send me at once a pair of lady's silk spiral thigh-hose, without
feet, such as I had from you last year; length, thigh to knee, etc."
Or, "Major Chamberlain wishes to repeat his previous order for a
silk non-elastic suspensory bandage."
of these letters, some of them in French or Norwegian, were a great puzzle
to the boy. He sat on his stool
nervously awaiting the arrival of his "boss". He suffered tortures
of shyness when, at half-past eight, the factory girls for upstairs trooped
Pappleworth arrived, chewing a chlorodyne gum, at about twenty to nine, when
all the other men were at work. He
was a thin, sallow man with a red nose, quick, staccato, and smartly but
stiffly dressed. He was about
thirty-six years old. There was
something rather "doggy", rather smart, rather 'cute and shrewd,
and something warm, and something slightly contemptible about him.
my new lad?" he said.
stood up and said he was.
Pappleworth gave a chew to his gum.
come on then, let's look slippy. Changed
want to bring an old coat and leave it here." He pronounced the last words with the chlorodyne gum between
his side teeth. He vanished
into the darkness behind the great parcel-rack, reappeared coatless, turning
up a smart striped shirt-cuff over a thin and hairy arm.
Then he slipped into his coat. Paul
noticed how thin he was, and that his trousers were in folds behind.
He seized a stool, dragged it beside the boy's, and sat down.
down," he said.
took a seat.
Pappleworth was very close to him. The
man seized the letters, snatched a long entry-book out of a rack in front of
him, flung it open, seized a pen, and said:
look here. You want to copy
these letters in here." He
sniffed twice, gave a quick chew at his gum, stared fixedly at a letter,
then went very still and absorbed, and wrote the entry rapidly, in a
beautiful flourishing hand. He
glanced quickly at Paul.
you can do it all right?"
right then, let's see you."
sprang off his stool. Paul took
a pen. Mr. Pappleworth
disappeared. Paul rather liked
copying the letters, but he wrote slowly, laboriously, and exceedingly
badly. He was doing the fourth letter, and feeling quite busy and
happy, when Mr. Pappleworth reappeared.
then, how'r' yer getting on? Done
leaned over the boy's shoulder, chewing, and smelling of chlorodyne.
my bob, lad, but you're a beautiful writer!" he exclaimed satirically.
"Ne'er mind, how many h'yer done?
Only three! I'd 'a eaten
'em. Get on, my lad, an' put numbers on 'em. Here, look! Get
ground away at the letters, whilst Mr. Pappleworth fussed over various jobs.
Suddenly the boy started as a shrill whistle sounded near his ear.
Mr. Pappleworth came, took a plug out of a pipe, and said, in an
amazingly cross and bossy voice:
heard a faint voice, like a woman's, out of the mouth of the tube.
He gazed in wonder, never having seen a speaking-tube before.
said Mr. Pappleworth disagreeably into the tube, "you'd better get some
of your back work done, then."
the woman's tiny voice was heard, sounding pretty and cross.
not time to stand here while you talk," said Mr. Pappleworth, and he
pushed the plug into the tube.
my lad," he said imploringly to Paul, "there's Polly crying out
for them orders. Can't you buck
up a bit? Here, come out!"
took the book, to Paul's immense chagrin, and began the copying himself.
He worked quickly and well. This
done, he seized some strips of long yellow paper, about three inches wide,
and made out the day's orders for the work-girls.
better watch me," he said to Paul, working all the while rapidly.
Paul watched the weird little drawings of legs, and thighs, and
ankles, with the strokes across and the numbers, and the few brief
directions which his chief made upon the yellow paper.
Then Mr. Pappleworth finished and jumped up.
on with me," he said, and the yellow papers flying in his hands, he
dashed through a door and down some stairs, into the basement where the gas
was burning. They crossed the
cold, damp storeroom, then a long, dreary room with a long table on
trestles, into a smaller, cosy apartment, not very high, which had been
built on to the main building. In
this room a small woman with a red serge blouse, and her black hair done on
top of her head, was waiting like a proud little bantam.
y'are!" said Pappleworth.
think it is 'here you are'!" exclaimed Polly. "The girls have been here nearly half an hour waiting.
Just think of the time wasted!"
think of getting your work done and not talking so much," said Mr.
Pappleworth. "You could
ha' been finishing off."
know quite well we finished everything off on Saturday!" cried Pony,
flying at him, her dark eyes flashing.
he mocked. "Here's your
new lad. Don't ruin him as you
did the last."
we did the last!" repeated Polly.
"Yes, WE do a lot of ruining, we do. My word, a lad would TAKE some ruining after he'd been with
time for work now, not for talk," said Mr. Pappleworth severely and
was time for work some time back," said Polly, marching away with her
head in the air. She was an
erect little body of forty.
that room were two round spiral machines on the bench under the window.
Through the inner doorway was another longer room, with six more
machines. A little group of
girls, nicely dressed in white aprons, stood talking together.
you nothing else to do but talk?" said Mr. Pappleworth.
wait for you," said one handsome girl, laughing.
get on, get on," he said. "Come
on, my lad. You'll know your
road down here again."
Paul ran upstairs after his chief. He
was given some checking and invoicing to do.
He stood at the desk, labouring in his execrable handwriting.
Presently Mr. Jordan came strutting down from the glass office and
stood behind him, to the boy's great discomfort.
Suddenly a red and fat finger was thrust on the form he was filling
J. A. Bates, Esquire!" exclaimed the cross voice just behind his ear.
looked at "Mr. J. A. Bates, Esquire" in his own vile writing, and
wondered what was the matter now.
they teach you any better THAN that while they were at it?
If you put 'Mr.' you don't put Esquire'-a man can't be both at
boy regretted his too-much generosity in disposing of honours, hesitated,
and with trembling fingers, scratched out the "Mr." Then all at
once Mr. Jordan snatched away the invoice.
another! Are you going to send
that to a gentleman?" And
he tore up the blue form irritably.
his ears red with shame, began again. Still
Mr. Jordan watched.
don't know what they DO teach in schools.
You'll have to write better than that.
Lads learn nothing nowadays, but how to recite poetry and play the
fiddle. Have you seen his
writing?" he asked of Mr. Pappleworth.
prime, isn't it?" replied Mr. Pappleworth indifferently.
Jordan gave a little grunt, not unamiable.
Paul divined that his master's bark was worse than his bite.
Indeed, the little manufacturer, although he spoke bad English, was
quite gentleman enough to leave his men alone and to take no notice of
trifles. But he knew he did not
look like the boss and owner of the show, so he had to play his role of
proprietor at first, to put things on a right footing.
see, WHAT'S your name?" asked Mr. Pappleworth of the boy.
is curious that children suffer so much at having to pronounce their own
Morel, is it? All right, you
Paul-Morel through them things there, and then---"
Pappleworth subsided on to a stool, and began writing.
A girl came up from out of a door just behind, put some newly-pressed
elastic web appliances on the counter, and returned.
Mr. Pappleworth picked up the whitey-blue knee-band, examined it, and
its yellow order-paper quickly, and put it on one side.
Next was a flesh-pink "leg". He went through the few
things, wrote out a couple of orders, and called to Paul to accompany him.
This time they went through the door whence the girl had emerged. There Paul found himself at the top of a little wooden flight
of steps, and below him saw a room with windows round two sides, and at the
farther end half a dozen girls sitting bending over the benches in the light
from the window, sewing. They
were singing together "Two Little Girls in Blue". Hearing the door
opened, they all turned round, to see Mr. Pappleworth and Paul looking down
on them from the far end of the room. They
you make a bit less row?" said Mr. Pappleworth. "Folk'll think we keep cats."
hunchback woman on a high stool turned her long, rather heavy face towards
Mr. Pappleworth, and said, in a contralto voice:
all tom-cats then."
vain Mr. Pappleworth tried to be impressive for Paul's benefit. He descended
the steps into the finishing-off room, and went to the hunchback Fanny.
She had such a short body on her high stool that her head, with its
great bands of bright brown hair, seemed over large, as did her pale, heavy
face. She wore a dress of
green-black cashmere, and her wrists, coming out of the narrow cuffs, were
thin and flat, as she put down her work nervously.
He showed her something that was wrong with a knee-cap.
she said, "you needn't come blaming it on to me. It's not my fault."
Her colour mounted to her cheek.
never said it WAS your fault. Will
you do as I tell you?" replied Mr. Pappleworth shortly.
don't say it's my fault, but you'd like to make out as it was," the
hunchback woman cried, almost in tears.
Then she snatched the knee-cap from her "boss", saying:
"Yes, I'll do it for you, but you needn't be snappy."
your new lad," said Mr. Pappleworth.
turned, smiling very gently on Paul.
don't make a softy of him between you."
not us as 'ud make a softy of him," she said indignantly.
on then, Paul," said Mr. Pappleworth.
revoy, Paul," said one of the girls.
was a titter of laughter. Paul
went out, blushing deeply, not having spoken a word.
day was very long. All morning
the work-people were coming to speak to Mr. Pappleworth. Paul was writing or learning to make up parcels, ready for
the midday post. At one
o'clock, or, rather, at a quarter to one, Mr. Pappleworth disappeared to
catch his train: he lived in
the suburbs. At one o'clock,
Paul, feeling very lost, took his dinner-basket down into the stockroom in
the basement, that had the long table on trestles, and ate his meal
hurriedly, alone in that cellar of gloom and desolation.
Then he went out of doors. The
brightness and the freedom of the streets made him feel adventurous and
happy. But at two o'clock he
was back in the corner of the big room.
Soon the work-girls went trooping past, making remarks.
It was the commoner girls who worked upstairs at the heavy tasks of
truss-making and the finishing of artificial limbs.
He waited for Mr. Pappleworth, not knowing what to do, sitting
scribbling on the yellow order-paper. Mr.
Pappleworth came at twenty minutes to three.
Then he sat and gossiped with Paul, treating the boy entirely as an
equal, even in age.
the afternoon there was never very much to do, unless it were near the
week-end, and the accounts had to be made up.
At five o'clock all the men went down into the dungeon with the table
on trestles, and there they had tea, eating bread-and-butter on the bare,
dirty boards, talking with the same kind of ugly haste and slovenliness with
which they ate their meal. And
yet upstairs the atmosphere among them was always jolly and clear. The cellar and the trestles affected them.
tea, when all the gases were lighted, WORK went more briskly.
There was the big evening post to get off.
The hose came up warm and newly pressed from the workrooms.
Paul had made out the invoices.
Now he had the packing up and addressing to do, then he had to weigh
his stock of parcels on the scales. Everywhere
voices were calling weights, there was the chink of metal, the rapid
snapping of string, the hurrying to old Mr. Melling for stamps.
And at last the postman came with his sack, laughing and jolly.
Then everything slacked off, and Paul took his dinner-basket and ran
to the station to catch the eight-twenty train.
The day in the factory was just twelve hours long.
mother sat waiting for him rather anxiously.
He had to walk from Keston, so was not home until about twenty past
nine. And he left the house
before seven in the morning. Mrs.
Morel was rather anxious about his health.
But she herself had had to put up with so much that she expected her
children to take the same odds. They
must go through with what came. And
Paul stayed at Jordan's, although all the time he was there his health
suffered from the darkness and lack of air and the long hours.
came in pale and tired. His
mother looked at him. She saw
he was rather pleased, and her anxiety all went.
and how was it?" she asked.
so funny, mother," he replied. "You
don't have to work a bit hard, and they're nice with you."
did you get on all right?"
they only say my writing's bad. But
Mr. Pappleworth-- he's my man--said to Mr. Jordan I should be all right.
I'm Spiral, mother; you must come and see.
It's ever so nice."
he liked Jordan's. Mr. Pappleworth, who had a certain "saloon bar"
flavour about him, was always natural, and treated him as if he had been a
comrade. Sometimes the
"Spiral boss" was irritable, and chewed more lozenges than ever.
Even then, however, he was not offensive, but one of those people who
hurt themselves by their own irritability more than they hurt other people.
you done that YET?" he would cry.
"Go on, be a month of Sundays."
and Paul could understand him least then, he was jocular and in high
going to bring my little Yorkshire terrier bitch tomorrow," he said
jubilantly to Paul.
a Yorkshire terrier?"
know what a Yorkshire terrier is? DON'T
KNOW A YORKSHIRE---" Mr. Pappleworth was aghast.
it a little silky one--colours of iron and rusty silver?"
it, my lad. She's a gem.
She's had five pounds' worth of pups already, and she's worth over
seven pounds herself; and she doesn't weigh twenty ounces."
next day the bitch came. She
was a shivering, miserable morsel. Paul
did not care for her; she seemed so like a wet rag that would never dry.
Then a man called for her, and began to make coarse jokes.
But Mr. Pappleworth nodded his head in the direction of the boy, and
the talk went on sotto voce.
Jordan only made one more excursion to watch Paul, and then the only fault
he found was seeing the boy lay his pen on the counter.
your pen in your ear, if you're going to be a clerk. Pen in your ear!" And
one day he said to the lad: "Why
don't you hold your shoulders straighter?
Come down here," when he took him into the glass office and
fitted him with special braces for keeping the shoulders square.
Paul liked the girls best. The
men seemed common and rather dull. He
liked them all, but they were uninteresting.
Polly, the little brisk overseer downstairs, finding Paul eating in
the cellar, asked him if she could cook him anything on her little stove.
Next day his mother gave him a dish that could be heated up.
He took it into the pleasant, clean room to Polly.
And very soon it grew to be an established custom that he should have
dinner with her. When he came
in at eight in the morning he took his basket to her, and when he came down
at one o'clock she had his dinner ready.
was not very tall, and pale, with thick chestnut hair, irregular features,
and a wide, full mouth. She was
like a small bird. He often
called her a "robinet". Though naturally rather quiet, he would
sit and chatter with her for hours telling her about his home.
The girls all liked to hear him talk.
They often gathered in a little circle while he sat on a bench, and
held forth to them, laughing. Some
of them regarded him as a curious little creature, so serious, yet so bright
and jolly, and always so delicate in his way with them.
They all liked him, and he adored them.
Polly he felt he belonged to. Then
Connie, with her mane of red hair, her face of apple-blossom, her murmuring
voice, such a lady in her shabby black frock, appealed to his romantic side.
you sit winding," he said, "it looks as if you were spinning at a
spinning-wheel--it looks ever so nice.
You remind me of Elaine in the 'Idylls of the King'. I'd draw you if
she glanced at him blushing shyly. And
later on he had a sketch he prized very much:
Connie sitting on the stool before the wheel, her flowing mane of red
hair on her rusty black frock, her red mouth shut and serious, running the
scarlet thread off the hank on to the reel.
Louie, handsome and brazen, who always seemed to thrust her hip at him, he
was rather plain, rather old, and condescending. But to condescend to him made her happy, and he did not mind.
do you put needles in?" he asked.
away and don't bother."
I ought to know how to put needles in."
ground at her machine all the while steadily.
are many things you ought to know," she replied.
me, then, how to stick needles in the machine."
the boy, what a nuisance he is! Why,
THIS is how you do it."
watched her attentively. Suddenly
a whistle piped. Then Polly
appeared, and said in a clear voice:
Pappleworth wants to know how much longer you're going to be down here
playing with the girls, Paul."
flew upstairs, calling "Good-bye!" and Emma drew herself up.
wasn't ME who wanted him to play with the machine," she said.
a rule, when all the girls came back at two o'clock, he ran upstairs to
Fanny, the hunchback, in the finishing-off room.
Mr. Pappleworth did not appear till twenty to three, and he often
found his boy sitting beside Fanny, talking, or drawing, or singing with the
after a minute's hesitation, Fanny would begin to sing.
She had a fine contralto voice.
Everybody joined in the chorus, and it went well.
Paul was not at all embarrassed, after a while, sitting in the room
with the half a dozen work-girls.
the end of the song Fanny would say:
know you've been laughing at me."
be so soft, Fanny!" cried one of the girls.
there was mention of Connie's red hair.
is better, to my fancy," said Emma.
needn't try to make a fool of me," said Fanny, flushing deeply.
but she has, Paul; she's got beautiful hair."
a treat of a colour," said he. "That
coldish colour like earth, and yet shiny.
It's like bog-water."
me!" exclaimed one girl, laughing.
I do but get criticised," said Fanny.
you should see it down, Paul," cried Emma earnestly.
"It's simply beautiful. Put
it down for him, Fanny, if he wants something to paint."
would not, and yet she wanted to.
I'll take it down myself," said the lad.
you can if you like," said Fanny.
he carefully took the pins out of the knot, and the rush of hair, of uniform
dark brown, slid over the humped back.
a lovely lot!" he exclaimed.
girls watched. There was
silence. The youth shook the
hair loose from the coil.
splendid!" he said, smelling its perfume.
"I'll bet it's worth pounds."
leave it you when I die, Paul," said Fanny, half joking.
look just like anybody else, sitting drying their hair," said one of
the girls to the long-legged hunchback.
Fanny was morbidly sensitive, always imagining insults.
Polly was curt and businesslike.
The two departments were for ever at war, and Paul was always finding
Fanny in tears. Then he was
made the recipient of all her woes, and he had to plead her case with Polly.
the time went along happily enough. The
factory had a homely feel. No
one was rushed or driven. Paul
always enjoyed it when the work got faster, towards post-time, and all the
men united in labour. He liked
to watch his fellow-clerks at work. The
man was the work and the work was the man, one thing, for the time being.
It was different with the girls.
The real woman never seemed to be there at the task, but as if left
the train going home at night he used to watch the lights of the town,
sprinkled thick on the hills, fusing together in a blaze in the valleys.
He felt rich in life and happy.
Drawing farther off, there was a patch of lights at Bulwell like
myriad petals shaken to the ground from the shed stars; and beyond was the
red glare of the furnaces, playing like hot breath on the clouds.
had to walk two and more miles from Keston home, up two long hills, down two
short hills. He was often
tired, and he counted the lamps climbing the hill above him, how many more
to pass. And from the hilltop,
on pitch-dark nights, he looked round on the villages five or six miles
away, that shone like swarms of glittering living things, almost a heaven
against his feet. Marlpool and
Heanor scattered the far-off darkness with brilliance.
And occasionally the black valley space between was traced, violated
by a great train rushing south to London or north to Scotland.
The trains roared by like projectiles level on the darkness, fuming
and burning, making the valley clang with their passage. They were gone, and the lights of the towns and villages
glittered in silence.
then he came to the corner at home, which faced the other side of the night.
The ash-tree seemed a friend now.
His mother rose with gladness as he entered.
He put his eight shillings proudly on the table.
help, mother?" he asked wistfully.
precious little left," she answered, "after your ticket and
dinners and such are taken off."
he told her the budget of the day. His
life-story, like an Arabian Nights, was told night after night to his
mother. It was almost as if it
were her own life.
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