|Table of Contents|
and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence
Test On Miriam
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,
and, moreover, 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.
But why? 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.
Why? She loved him. Clara said she even wanted him; then why couldn't he go to
her, make love to her, kiss her? Why,
when she put her arm in his, timidly, 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. No, 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. Then, 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.
he had a great tenderness for Miriam. Always,
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.
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, an injustice.
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.
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, so spiritual. Again,
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.
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:
shall come home when I like," he said; "I am old enough."
she keep you till this time?"
is I who stay," he answered.
she lets you? But very
well," she said.
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.
She recognised, however, 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. Discarded,
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.
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.
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:
am twenty-four, almost."
had been brooding. She looked
up at him suddenly in surprise.
What makes you say it?"
was something in the charged atmosphere that she dreaded.
Thomas More says one can marry at twenty-four."
laughed quaintly, saying:
it need Sir Thomas More's sanction?"
but one ought to marry about then."
she answered broodingly; and she waited.
can't marry you," he continued slowly, "not now, because we've no
money, and they depend on me at home."
sat half-guessing what was coming.
I want to marry now---"
want to marry?" she repeated.
woman--you know what I mean."
at last, I must," he said.
you love me?"
are you ashamed of it," he answered.
"You wouldn't be ashamed before your God, why are you before
she answered deeply, "I am not ashamed."
are," he replied bitterly; "and it's my fault.
But you know I can't help being--as I am--don't you?"
know you can't help it," she replied.
love you an awful lot--then there is something short."
she answered, looking at him.
in me! It is I who ought to be
ashamed--like a spiritual cripple. And
I am ashamed. It is misery.
Why is it?"
don't know," replied Miriam.
I don't know," he repeated. "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
looked at him with startled dark eyes.
recoiled away from anything of the sort, and I took the motion from you, and
recoiled also, perhaps worse."
was silence in the room for some time.
she said, "it is so."
is between us," he said, "all these years of intimacy.
I feel naked enough before you.
Do you understand?"
think so," she answered.
you love me?"
be bitter," he pleaded.
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."
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.
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.
are you thinking about?" she asked.
blaze in his eyes shuddered, became uncertain.
was thinking, all the while, I love you.
I have been obstinate."
sank her head on his breast.
all," he said, and his voice seemed sure, and his mouth was kissing her
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
me," she whispered.
shut his eyes, and kissed her, and his arms folded her closer and closer.
she walked home with him over the fields, he said:
am glad I came back to you. I
feel so simple with you--as if there was nothing to hide. We will be happy?"
she murmured, and the tears came to her eyes.
sort of perversity in our souls," he said, "makes us not want, get
away from, the very thing we want. We
have to fight against that."
she said, and she felt stunned.
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.
you will have me?" he murmured, hiding his face on her shoulder.
It was so difficult.
now," she said.
hopes and his heart sunk. A
dreariness came over him.
clasp of her slackened.
love to feel your arm THERE!" she said, pressing his arm against her
back, where it went round her waist. "It
rests me so."
tightened the pressure of his arm upon the small of her back to rest her.
belong to each other," he said.
why shouldn't we belong to each other altogether?"
"But---" she faltered.
know it's a lot to ask," he said; "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---"
hid her face in his neck with a little cry of misery.
don't know!" she cried.
seemed slightly hysterical, but with a sort of horror.
His heart died in him.
don't think it ugly?" he asked.
not now. You have TAUGHT me it
calmed herself hastily.
I am only afraid," she said.
kissed her tenderly.
mind," he said. "You
should please yourself."
she gripped his arms round her, and clenched her body stiff.
SHALL have me," she said, through her shut teeth.
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.
you be late?" she asked gently.
sighed, scarcely hearing what she said.
She waited, 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, almost stunned, looking up the black
plunged home over the meadows. She
was not afraid of people, what they might say; but she dreaded the issue
with him. Yes, she would let
him have her if he insisted; and then, 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.
After all, he was only like other men, seeking his satisfaction.
Oh, but there was something more in him, something deeper!
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, religiously, to the
sacrifice. He should have her. And
at the thought her whole body clenched itself involuntarily, hard, as if
against something; but Life forced her through this gate of suffering, too,
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
courted her now like a lover. Often,
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, reflective creature.
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. His
eyes, full of the dark, impersonal fire of desire, did not belong to her.
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.
The wind, moaning steadily, 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, cool-fleshed fruit. 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.
sun, going down, suddenly caught the broken clouds. Immense piles of gold flared out in the south-east, heaped in
soft, glowing yellow right up the sky.
The world, till now dusk and grey, reflected the gold glow,
astonished. Everywhere the
trees, and the grass, and the far-off water, seemed roused from the twilight
came out wondering.
Paul heard her mellow voice call, "isn't it wonderful?"
looked down. There was a faint
gold glimmer on her face, that looked very soft, turned up to him.
high you are!" she said.
her, on the rhubarb leaves, were four dead birds, thieves that had been
shot. Paul saw some cherry
stones hanging quite bleached, like skeletons, picked clear of flesh.
He looked down again to Miriam.
are on fire," he said.
seemed so small, so soft, so tender, down there. He threw a handful of cherries at her. She was startled and frightened.
He laughed with a low, chuckling sound, 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.
you got enough?" she asked.
It is like being on a ship up here."
how long will you stay?"
the sunset lasts."
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
are lovely," said Miriam, fingering the cherries.
torn my sleeve," he answered.
took the three-cornered rip, saying:
shall have to mend it." It
was near the shoulder. She put
her fingers through the tear. "How
warm!" she said.
laughed. There was a new,
strange note in his voice, one that made her pant.
we stay out?" he said.
it rain?" she asked.
let us walk a little way."
went down the fields and into the thick plantation of trees and pines.
we go in among the trees?" he asked.
you want to?"
was very dark among the firs, and the sharp spines pricked her face.
She was afraid. Paul was silent and strange.
like the darkness," he said. "I
wish it were thicker--good, thick darkness."
seemed to be almost unaware of her as a person: she was only to him then a woman. She was afraid.
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. This thick-voiced, oblivious man was a stranger to her.
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, keen noise.
His heart was down, very heavy.
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, very sad, and very tender, his fingers wandered
over her face pitifully. Now
again she loved him deeply. He
was tender and beautiful.
rain!" he said.
it coming on you?"
put her hands over him, on his hair, on his shoulders, to feel if the
raindrops fell on him. She
loved him dearly. He, 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.
This strange, gentle reaching-out to death was new to him.
must go," said Miriam.
he answered, but did not move.
him now, life seemed a shadow, day a white shadow; night, and death, and
stillness, and inaction, 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.
rain is coming in on us," said Miriam.
rose, and assisted her.
is a pity," he said.
have to go. I feel so
than I have ever been in my life."
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.
fir-trees are like presences on the darkness:
each one only a presence."
was afraid, and said nothing.
sort of hush: the whole night
wondering and asleep: I suppose
that's what we do in death--sleep in wonder."
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.
us stay here awhile," he said.
was a sound of rain everywhere, smothering everything.
feel so strange and still," he said; "along with everything."
she answered patiently.
seemed again unaware of her, though he held her hand close.
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, I think; that
is our after-life--our immortality."
very beautiful to have."
don't usually say that."
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.
Instinctively, they all left him alone.
this time Miriam's grandmother, who lived in a tiny cottage in Woodlinton,
fell ill, 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.
the holiday-time her grandmother, being better, 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.
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.
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.
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, old,
much washed, but pretty. 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.
dinner was a great success. Like
a young husband, he carved. 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
face is bright," he said, "like a transfiguration."
looked at him, questioning. He
laughed pleadingly to her, laying his hands on hers.
Then he kissed her fingers, then her face.
world was all steeped in sunshine, and quite still, yet not asleep, but
quivering with a kind of expectancy.
have never seen anything more beautiful than this," he said.
He held her hand fast all the time.
the water singing to itself as it runs--do you love it?"
She looked at him full of love.
His eyes were very dark, very bright.
you think it's a great day?" he asked.
murmured her assent. She WAS
happy, and he saw it.
our day--just between us," he said.
lingered a little while. Then
they stood up upon the sweet thyme, and he looked down at her simply.
you come?" he asked.
went back to the house, hand in hand, in silence. The chickens came scampering down the path to her.
He locked the door, and they had the little house to themselves.
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, and stopped.
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, arrested him, and all his blood fell
are sure you want me?" he asked, as if a cold shadow had come over him.
was very quiet, very calm. 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.
afterwards he loved her--loved her to the last fibre of his being.
He loved her. But he wanted, somehow, to cry. 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, the after-life, seem so sweet and consoling?
spent the week with Miriam, and wore her out with his passion before it was
gone. He had always, almost
wilfully, 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.
I come to you," he asked her, his eyes dark with pain and shame,
"you don't really want me, do you?"
yes!" she replied quickly.
looked at her.
began to tremble.
see," she said, 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."
lifted her head, and looked at her.
mean, now, it is always too much shock?"
are always clenched against me."
was trembling with agitation.
see," she said, "I'm not used to the thought---"
are lately," he said.
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
still believe it," he said.
she cried hastily. "I
believe, as you do, that loving, even in THAT way, is the high-water mark of
doesn't alter the fact that you never want it."
she said, 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?"
can you say so? But we must be
married to have children---"
we be married, then? I want you
to have my children."
kissed her hand reverently. She
pondered sadly, watching him.
are too young," she said at length.
yet," she pleaded, as she rocked herself in distress.
you will," he said.
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.
Tacitly, she acquiesced in what he felt.
after a week of love he said to his mother suddenly one Sunday night, just
as they were going to bed:
shan't go so much to Miriam's, mother."
was surprised, but she would not ask him anything.
please yourself," she said.
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, however. 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.
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, anything.
Gradually he ceased to ask her to have him.
Instead of drawing them together, it put them apart.
And then he realised, consciously, that it was no good.
It was useless trying: it
would never be a success between them.
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.
With Clara, however, 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.
about Clara? I hear nothing of
walked with her about twenty minutes yesterday," he replied.
what did she talk about?"
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."
he gave the account of himself.
insidiously, 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.
began to give more time to his men friends.
There was Jessop, at the art school; Swain, who was chemistry
demonstrator at the university; Newton, who was a teacher; besides Edgar and
Miriam's younger brothers. Pleading
work, 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.
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.
a minute," he cried. "Hold
your arm still."
made sketches of her hand and arm, and the drawings contained some of the
fascination the real thing had for him.
Miriam, who always went scrupulously through his books and papers,
saw the drawings.
think Clara has such beautiful arms," he said.
When did you draw them?"
Tuesday, in the work-room. You
know, I've got a corner where I can work.
Often I can do every single thing they need in the department, before
dinner. Then I work for myself
in the afternoon, and just see to things at night."
she said, turning the leaves of his sketch-book.
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, he said. At
least, 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.
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. Very
well; 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, stealthily, came the scent of madonna lilies,
almost as if it were prowling abroad. Suddenly
he got up and went out of doors.
beauty of the night made him want to shout.
A half-moon, dusky gold, was sinking behind the black sycamore at the
end of the garden, making the sky dull purple with its glow.
Nearer, 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.
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.
And then, like a shock, he caught another perfume, something raw and
coarse. Hunting round, he found
the purple iris, touched their fleshy throats and their dark, grasping
hands. 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.
off a pink, he suddenly went indoors.
my boy," said his mother. "I'm
sure it's time you went to bed."
stood with the pink against his lips.
shall break off with Miriam, mother," he answered calmly.
looked up at him over her spectacles. He
was staring back at her, unswerving. She
met his eyes for a moment, then took off her glasses.
He was white. The male was up in him, dominant. She did not want to see him too clearly.
I thought---" she began.
he answered, "I don't love her. I
don't want to marry her--so I shall have done."
exclaimed his mother, amazed, "I thought lately you had made up your
mind to have her, and so I said nothing."
had--I wanted to--but now I don't want.
It's no good. I shall
break off on Sunday. I ought
to, oughtn't I?"
know best. You know I said so
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
Sunday I break off," he said, smelling the pink. He put the flower in his mouth.
Unthinking, 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.
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.
mind, my son," she said. "You
will be so much better when it is all over. "
glanced swiftly at his mother in surprise and resentment.
He did not want sympathy.
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.
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.
Often, when she had him with her, she looked for him, and could not
find him. But this afternoon
she was not prepared.
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.
have been thinking," he said, "we ought to break off."
she cried in surprise.
it's no good going on."
is it no good?"
isn't. 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."
why do you say this now?"
I've made up my mind."
what about these last months, and the things you told me then?"
can't help it! I don't want to
don't want any more of me?"
want us to break off--you be free of me, I free of you."
what about these last months?"
don't know. I've not told you
anything but what I thought was true."
why are you different now?"
not--I'm the same--only I know it's no good going on."
haven't told me why it's no good."
I don't want to go on--and I don't want to marry."
many times have you offered to marry me, and I wouldn't?"
know; but I want us to break off."
was silence for a moment or two, while he dug viciously at the earth.
She bent her head, pondering. 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
have said you were only fourteen--you are only FOUR!"
still dug at the earth viciously. He
are a child of four," she repeated in her anger.
did not answer, but said in his heart:
"All right; 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.
have you told your people?" she asked.
have told my mother."
was another long interval of silence.
what do you WANT?" she asked.
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."
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.
And, deep down, 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.
he continued, "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."
do you want to do?" she asked.
to be free," he answered.
however, knew in her heart that Clara's influence was over him to liberate
him. But she said nothing.
what have I to tell my mother?" she asked.
told my mother," he answered, "that I was breaking off--clean and
shall not tell them at home," she said.
"You please yourself," he said.
knew he had landed her in a nasty hole, and was leaving her in the lurch.
It angered him.
them you wouldn't and won't marry me, and have broken off," he said.
"It's true enough."
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.
has always been so!" she cried. "It
has been one long battle between us--you fighting away from me."
came from her unawares, like a flash of lightning. The man's heart stood still.
Was this how she saw it?
we've had SOME perfect hours, SOME perfect times, when we were
together!" he pleaded.
she cried; "never! It has
always been you fighting me off."
always--not at first!" he pleaded.
from the very beginning--always the same!"
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!
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
ought to marry a man who worships you," he said; "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."
you!" she said. "But
don't advise me to marry someone else any more.
You've done it before."
well," he said; "I will say no more."
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, were nullified.
did you think of this?" she asked.
thought definitely on Thursday night."
knew it was coming," she said.
pleased him bitterly. "Oh,
very well! If she knew then it
doesn't come as a surprise to her," he thought.
have you said anything to Clara?" she asked.
but I shall tell her now."
was a silence.
you remember the things you said this time last year, in my grandmother's
house--nay last month even?"
he said; "I do! And I
meant them! I can't help that
has failed because you want something else."
would have failed whether or not. YOU
never believed in me."
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.
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,
his meanness, and his folly. Even
she had guarded her soul against him. She
was not overthrown, not prostrated, not even much hurt. She had known. Only
why, 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, false, inconsistent, and mean.
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? Why, even now, 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, she
knew, to lead him where she would. She
was sure of herself. Only, this
new influence! Ah, 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.
Very well, he would have to go.
But he would come back when he had tired of his new sensation.
hacked at the earth till she was fretted to death. She rose. He sat
flinging lumps of earth in the stream.
will go and have tea here?" he asked.
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, she asked:
we shall not see each other?"
rarely," he answered.
write?" she asked, almost sarcastically.
you will," he answered. "We're
not strangers--never should be, whatever happened.
I will write to you now and again.
You please yourself."
see!" she answered cuttingly.
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.
left her at the lane-end. As
she went home, solitary, 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.
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.
Presently one, a bonny dark hussy, leaned to him and said:
others laughed loudly at her impudence.
right," said Paul. "Give
me a hard one--nut. I don't
you are, then," said the girl; "here's an almond for you."
held the sweet between her fingers. He
opened his mouth. She popped it
in, and blushed.
ARE nice!" he said.
she answered, "we thought you looked overcast, and they dared me offer
you a chocolate."
don't mind if I have another--another sort," he said.
presently they were all laughing together.
was nine o'clock when he got home, falling dark. He entered the house in silence.
His mother, who had been waiting, rose anxiously.
told her," he said.
glad," replied the mother, with great relief.
hung up his cap wearily.
said we'd have done altogether," he said.
right, my son," said the mother. "It's
hard for her now, but best in the long run.
I know. You weren't
suited for her."
laughed shakily as he sat down.
had such a lark with some girls in a pub," he said.
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, his gaiety. At
the back of it was too much horror and misery.
have some supper," she said very gently.
he said wistfully:
never thought she'd have me, mother, not from the first, and so she's not
afraid," said his mother, "she doesn't give up hopes of you
he said, "perhaps not."
find it's better to have done," she said.
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, waiting.
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