|Table of Contents|
and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence
was gradually making it possible to earn a livelihood by his art.
Liberty's had taken several of his painted designs on various stuffs,
and he could sell designs for embroideries, for altar-cloths, and similar
things, in one or two places. It
was not very much he made at present, but he might extend it.
He had also made friends with the designer for a pottery firm, and
was gaining some knowledge of his new acquaintance's art.
The applied arts interested him very much.
At the same time he laboured slowly at his pictures.
He loved to paint large figures,
full of light, but not merely made up of lights and cast shadows,
like the impressionists; rather definite figures that had a certain
luminous quality, like some of Michael Angelo's people.
And these he fitted into
a landscape, in what he thought true proportion.
He worked a great deal from memory, using everybody he knew. He believed firmly in his work, that it was good and
valuable. In spite of fits of
depression, shrinking, everything, he believed in his work.
was twenty-four when he said his first confident thing to his mother.
he said, "I s'll make a painter that they'll attend to."
sniffed in her quaint fashion. It
was like a half-pleased shrug of the shoulders.
well, my boy, we'll see," she said.
shall see, my pigeon! You see
if you're not swanky one of these days!"
quite content, my boy," she smiled.
you'll have to alter. Look at
you with Minnie!"
was the small servant, a girl of fourteen.
what about Minnie?" asked Mrs. Morel, with dignity.
heard her this morning: 'Eh,
Mrs. Morel! I was going to do
that,' when you went out in the rain for some coal," he said.
"That looks a lot like your being able to manage servants!"
it was only the child's niceness," said Mrs. Morel.
you apologising to her: 'You
can't do two things at once, can you?'"
WAS busy washing up," replied Mrs. Morel.
what did she say? 'It could
easy have waited a bit. Now
look how your feet paddle!'"
young baggage!" said Mrs. Morel, smiling.
looked at his mother, laughing. She
was quite warm and rosy again with love of him.
It seemed as if all the sunshine were on her for a moment.
He continued his work gladly. She
seemed so well when she was happy that he forgot her grey hair.
that year she went with him to the Isle of Wight for a holiday.
It was too exciting for them both, and too beautiful.
Mrs. Morel was full of joy and wonder.
But he would have her walk with him more than she was able.
She had a bad fainting bout. So
grey her face was, so blue her mouth! It
was agony to him. He felt as if
someone were pushing a knife in his chest.
Then she was better again, and he forgot.
But the anxiety remained inside him, like a wound that did not close.
leaving Miriam he went almost straight to Clara. On the Monday following the day of the rupture he went down
to the work-room. She looked up
at him and smiled. They had
grown very intimate unawares. She
saw a new brightness about him.
Queen of Sheba!" he said, laughing.
why?" she asked.
think it suits you. You've got
a new frock on."
what of it?"
you--awfully! I could design
you a dress."
would it be?"
stood in front of her, his eyes glittering as he expounded.
He kept her eyes fixed with his.
Then suddenly he took hold of her.
She half-started back. He
drew the stuff of her blouse tighter, smoothed it over her breast.
SO!" he explained.
they were both of them flaming with blushes, and immediately he ran away.
He had touched her. His
whole body was quivering with the sensation.
was already a sort of secret understanding between them.
The next evening he went to the cinematograph with her for a few
minutes before train-time. As
they sat, he saw her hand lying near him. For some moments he dared not touch it. The pictures danced and dithered. Then he took her hand in his.
It was large and firm; it filled his grasp. He held it fast. She
neither moved nor made any sign. When
they came out his train was due. He
she said. He darted away across
next day he came again, talking to her.
She was rather superior with him.
we go a walk on Monday?" he asked.
turned her face aside.
you tell Miriam?" she replied sarcastically.
have broken off with her," he said.
I had made up my mind. I
told her quite definitely I should consider myself free."
did not answer, and he returned to his work.
She was so quiet and so superb!
the Saturday evening he asked her to come and drink coffee with him in a
restaurant, meeting him after work was over.
She came, looking very reserved and very distant.
He had three-quarters of an hour to train-time.
will walk a little while," he said.
agreed, and they went past the Castle into the Park. He was afraid of her. She
walked moodily at his side, with a kind of resentful, reluctant, angry walk.
He was afraid to take her hand.
way shall we go?" he asked as they walked in darkness.
we'll go up the steps."
suddenly turned round. They had
passed the Park steps. She
stood still in resentment at his suddenly abandoning her.
He looked for her. She
stood aloof. He caught her
suddenly in his arms, held her strained for a moment, kissed her. Then he let her go.
along," he said, penitent.
followed him. He took her hand
and kissed her finger-tips. They
went in silence. When they came
to the light, he let go her hand. Neither
spoke till they reached the station. Then
they looked each other in the eyes.
he went for his train. His body
acted mechanically. People
talked to him. He heard faint
echoes answering them. He was
in a delirium. He felt that he
would go mad if Monday did not come at once.
On Monday he would see her again.
All himself was pitched there, ahead.
Sunday intervened. He
could not bear it. He could not
see her till Monday. And Sunday
intervened--hour after hour of tension. He
wanted to beat his head against the door of the carriage.
But he sat still. He
drank some whisky on the way home, but it only made it worse.
His mother must not be upset, that was all. He dissembled, and got quickly to bed. There he sat, dressed, with his chin on his knees, staring
out of the window at the far hill, with its few lights. He neither thought nor slept, but sat perfectly still,
staring. And when at last he
was so cold that he came to himself, he found his watch had stopped at
half-past two. It was after
three o'clock. He was
exhausted, but still there was the torment of knowing it was only Sunday
morning. He went to bed and
slept. Then he cycled all day
long, till he was fagged out. And he scarcely knew where he had been. But the day after was Monday.
He slept till four o'clock. Then
he lay and thought. He was
coming nearer to himself--he could see himself, real, somewhere in front.
She would go a walk with him in the afternoon.
Afternoon! It seemed
the hours crawled. His father
got up; he heard him pottering about. Then
the miner set off to the pit, his heavy boots scraping the yard.
Cocks were still crowing. A
cart went down the road. His
mother got up. She knocked the fire. Presently
she called him softly. He
answered as if he were asleep. This
shell of himself did well.
was walking to the station--another mile!
The train was near Nottingham. Would
it stop before the tunnels? But
it did not matter; it would get there before dinner-time.
He was at Jordan's. She
would come in half an hour. At
any rate, she would be near. He
had done the letters. She would
be there. Perhaps she had not
come. He ran downstairs. Ah! he saw her through the glass door. Her shoulders stooping a little to her work made him feel he
could not go forward; he could not stand.
He went in. He was pale,
nervous, awkward, and quite cold. Would
she misunderstand him? He could
not write his real self with this shell.
this afternoon," he struggled to say. "You will come?"
think so," she replied, murmuring.
stood before her, unable to say a word.
She hid her face from him. Again
came over him the feeling that he would lose consciousness.
He set his teeth and went upstairs.
He had done everything correctly yet, and he would do so.
All the morning things seemed a long way off, as they do to a man
under chloroform. He himself
seemed under a tight band of constraint.
Then there was his other self, in the distance, doing things,
entering stuff in a ledger, and he watched that far-off him carefully to see
he made no mistake.
the ache and strain of it could not go on much longer.
He worked incessantly. Still
it was only twelve o'clock. As
if he had nailed his clothing against the desk, he stood there and worked,
forcing every stroke out of himself. It
was a quarter to one; he could clear away.
Then he ran downstairs.
will meet me at the Fountain at two o'clock," he said.
can't be there till half-past."
saw his dark, mad eyes.
will try at a quarter past."
he had to be content. He went
and got some dinner. All the
time he was still under chloroform, and every minute was stretched out
indefinitely. He walked miles
of streets. Then he thought he
would be late at the meeting-place. He
was at the Fountain at five past two. The
torture of the next quarter of an hour was refined beyond expression.
It was the anguish of combining the living self with the shell.
Then he saw her. She
came! And he was there.
are late," he said.
five minutes," she answered.
never have done it to you," he laughed.
was in a dark blue costume. He
looked at her beautiful figure.
want some flowers," he said, going to the nearest florist's.
followed him in silence. He
bought her a bunch of scarlet, brick-red carnations.
She put them in her coat, flushing.
a fine colour!" he said.
rather have had something softer," she said.
you feel like a blot of vermilion walking down the street?" he said.
hung her head, afraid of the people they met.
He looked sideways at her as they walked. There was a wonderful close down on her face near the ear
that he wanted to touch. And a
certain heaviness, the heaviness of a very full ear of corn that dips
slightly in the wind, that there was about her, made his brain spin. He seemed to be spinning down the street, everything going
they sat in the tramcar, she leaned her heavy shoulder against him, and he
took her hand. He felt himself
coming round from the anaesthetic, beginning to breathe.
Her ear, half-hidden among her blonde hair, was near to him.
The temptation to kiss it was almost too great.
But there were other people on top of the car.
It still remained to him to kiss it.
After all, he was not himself, he was some attribute of hers, like
the sunshine that fell on her.
looked quickly away. It had
been raining. The big bluff of
the Castle rock was streaked with rain, as it reared above the flat of the
town. They crossed the wide,
black space of the Midland Railway, and passed the cattle enclosure that
stood out white. Then they ran
down sordid Wilford Road.
rocked slightly to the tram's motion, and as she leaned against him, rocked
upon him. He was a vigorous,
slender man, with exhaustless energy. His
face was rough, with rough-hewn features, like the common people's; but his
eyes under the deep brows were so full of life that they fascinated her.
They seemed to dance, and yet they were still trembling on the finest
balance of laughter. His mouth the same was just going to spring into a laugh of
triumph, yet did not. There was
a sharp suspense about him. She
bit her lip moodily. His hand
was hard clenched over hers.
paid their two halfpennies at the turnstile and crossed the bridge.
The Trent was very full. It
swept silent and insidious under the bridge, travelling in a soft body.
There had been a great deal of rain.
On the river levels were flat gleams of flood water.
The sky was grey, with glisten of silver here and there.
In Wilford churchyard the dahlias were sodden with rain--wet
black-crimson balls. No one was
on the path that went along the green river meadow, along the elm-tree
was the faintest haze over the silvery-dark water and the green meadow-bank,
and the elm-trees that were spangled with gold. The river slid by in a body, utterly silent and swift,
intertwining among itself like some subtle, complex creature.
Clara walked moodily beside him.
she asked at length, in rather a jarring tone, "did you leave
I WANTED to leave her," he said.
I didn't want to go on with her. And
I didn't want to marry."
was silent for a moment. They
picked their way down the muddy path. Drops
of water fell from the elm-trees.
didn't want to marry Miriam, or you didn't want to marry at all?" she
had to manoeuvre to get to the stile, because of the pools of water.
what did she say?" Clara
She said I was a baby of four, and that I always HAD battled her
pondered over this for a time.
you have really been going with her for some time?" she asked.
now you don't want any more of her?"
I know it's no good."
you think you've treated her rather badly?" she asked.
I ought to have dropped it years back.
But it would have been no good going on. Two wrongs don't make a right."
old ARE you?" Clara asked.
I am thirty," she said.
know you are."
shall be thirty-one--or AM I thirty-one?"
neither know nor care. What
does it matter!"
were at the entrance to the Grove. The
wet, red track, already sticky with fallen leaves, went up the steep bank
between the grass. On either
side stood the elm-trees like pillars along a great aisle, arching over and
making high up a roof from which the dead leaves fell.
All was empty and silent and wet.
She stood on top of the stile, and he held both her hands.
Laughing, she looked down into his eyes.
Then she leaped. Her
breast came against his; he held her, and covered her face with kisses.
went on up the slippery, steep red path.
Presently she released his hand and put it round her waist.
press the vein in my arm, holding it so tightly," she said.
walked along. His finger-tips
felt the rocking of her breast. All
was silent and deserted. On the
left the red wet plough-land showed through the doorways between the
elm-boles and their branches. On
the right, looking down, they could see the tree-tops of elms growing far
beneath them, hear occasionally the gurgle of the river.
Sometimes there below they caught glimpses of the full, soft-sliding
Trent, and of water-meadows dotted with small cattle.
has scarcely altered since little Kirke White used to come," he said.
he was watching her throat below the ear, where the flush was fusing into
the honey-white, and her mouth that pouted disconsolate. She stirred against him as she walked, and his body was like
a taut string.
up the big colonnade of elms, where the Grove rose highest above the river,
their forward movement faltered to an end.
He led her across to the grass, under the trees at the edge of the
path. The cliff of red earth
sloped swiftly down, through trees and bushes, to the river that glimmered
and was dark between the foliage. The
far-below water-meadows were very green.
He and she stood leaning against one another, silent, afraid, their
bodies touching all along. There
came a quick gurgle from the river below.
he asked at length, "did you hate Baxter Dawes?"
turned to him with a splendid movement.
Her mouth was offered him, and her throat; her eyes were half-shut;
her breast was tilted as if it asked for him.
He flashed with a small laugh, shut his eyes, and met her in a long,
whole kiss. Her mouth fused
with his; their bodies were sealed and annealed.
It was some minutes before they withdrew. They were standing beside the public path.
you go down to the river?" he asked.
looked at him, leaving herself in his hands.
He went over the brim of the declivity and began to climb down.
is slippery," he said.
mind," she replied.
red clay went down almost sheer. He
slid, went from one tuft of grass to the next, hanging on to the bushes,
making for a little platform at the foot of a tree.
There he waited for her, laughing with excitement.
Her shoes were clogged with red earth.
It was hard for her. He
frowned. At last he caught her
hand, and she stood beside him. The
cliff rose above them and fell away below.
Her colour was up, her eyes flashed.
He looked at the big drop below them.
risky," he said; "or messy, at any rate. Shall we go back?"
"Not for my sake," she said quickly.
right. You see, I can't help
you; I should only hinder. Give
me that little parcel and your gloves.
Your poor shoes!"
stood perched on the face of the declivity, under the trees.
I'll go again," he said.
he went, slipping, staggering, sliding to the next tree, into which he fell
with a slam that nearly shook the breath out of him. She came after cautiously, hanging on to the twigs and
grasses. So they descended,
stage by stage, to the river's brink. There,
to his disgust, the flood had eaten away the path, and the red decline ran
straight into the water. He dug
in his heels and brought himself up violently.
The string of the parcel broke with a snap; the brown parcel bounded
down, leaped into the water, and sailed smoothly away.
He hung on to his tree.
I'll be damned!" he cried crossly.
Then he laughed. She was
coming perilously down.
he warned her. He stood with
his back to the tree, waiting.
"Come now," he called, opening his arms.
let herself run. He caught her,
and together they stood watching the dark water scoop at the raw edge of the
bank. The parcel had sailed out
doesn't matter," she said.
held her close and kissed her. There
was only room for their four feet.
a swindle!" he said. "But
there's a rut where a man has been, so if we go on I guess we shall find the
river slid and twined its great volume.
On the other bank cattle were feeding on the desolate flats.
The cliff rose high above Paul and Clara on their right hand.
They stood against the tree in the watery silence.
us try going forward," he said; and they struggled in the red clay
along the groove a man's nailed boots had made.
They were hot and flushed. Their
barkled shoes hung heavy on their steps.
At last they found the broken path.
It was littered with rubble from the water, but at any rate it was
easier. They cleaned their
boots with twigs. His heart was
beating thick and fast.
coming on to the little level, he saw two figures of men standing silent at
the water's edge. His heart
leaped. They were fishing. He turned and put his hand up warningly to Clara.
She hesitated, buttoned her coat.
The two went on together.
fishermen turned curiously to watch the two intruders on their privacy and
solitude. They had had a fire,
but it was nearly out. All kept
perfectly still. The men turned
again to their fishing, stood over the grey glinting river like statues.
Clara went with bowed head, flushing; he was laughing to himself.
Directly they passed out of sight behind the willows.
they ought to be drowned," said Paul softly.
did not answer. They toiled
forward along a tiny path on the river's lip.
Suddenly it vanished. The
bank was sheer red solid clay in front of them, sloping straight into the
river. He stood and cursed
beneath his breath, setting his teeth.
impossible!" said Clara.
stood erect, looking round. Just
ahead were two islets in the stream, covered with osiers. But they were unattainable.
The cliff came down like a sloping wall from far above their heads.
Behind, not far back, were the fishermen.
Across the river the distant cattle fed silently in the desolate
afternoon. He cursed again
deeply under his breath. He gazed up the great steep bank. Was there no hope but to scale back to the public path?
a minute," he said, and, digging his heels sideways into the steep bank
of red clay, he began nimbly to mount.
He looked across at every tree-foot. At last he found what he wanted.
Two beech-trees side by side on the hill held a little level on the
upper face between their roots. It
was littered with damp leaves, but it would do.
The fishermen were perhaps sufficiently out of sight.
He threw down his rainproof and waved to her to come.
toiled to his side. Arriving
there, she looked at him heavily, dumbly, and laid her head on his shoulder.
He held her fast as he looked round.
They were safe enough from all but the small, lonely cows over the
river. He sunk his mouth on her
throat, where he felt her heavy pulse beat under his lips.
Everything was perfectly still.
There was nothing in the afternoon but themselves.
she arose, he, looking on the ground all the time, saw suddenly sprinkled on
the black wet beech-roots many scarlet carnation petals, like splashed drops
of blood; and red, small splashes fell from her bosom, streaming down her
dress to her feet.
flowers are smashed," he said.
looked at him heavily as she put back her hair. Suddenly he put his finger-tips on her cheek.
dost look so heavy?" he reproached her.
smiled sadly, as if she felt alone in herself.
He caressed her cheek with his fingers, and kissed her.
he said. "Never thee
gripped his fingers tight, and laughed shakily. Then she dropped her hand.
He put the hair back from her brows, stroking her temples, kissing
tha shouldna worrit!" he said softly, pleading.
I don't worry!" she laughed tenderly and resigned.
tha does! Dunna thee worrit,"
he implored, caressing.
she consoled him, kissing him.
had a stiff climb to get to the top again.
It took them a quarter of an hour.
When he got on to the level grass, he threw off his cap, wiped the
sweat from his forehead, and sighed.
we're back at the ordinary level," he said.
sat down, panting, on the tussocky grass.
Her cheeks were flushed pink. He
kissed her, and she gave way to joy.
now I'll clean thy boots and make thee fit
for respectable folk," he said.
kneeled at her feet, worked away with a stick and tufts of grass.
She put her fingers in his hair, drew his head to her, and kissed it.
am I supposed to be doing," he said, looking at her laughing;
"cleaning shoes or dibbling with love?
Answer me that!"
whichever I please," she replied.
your boot-boy for the time being, and nothing else!"
But they remained looking into each other's eyes and laughing.
Then they kissed with little nibbling kisses.
he went with his tongue, like his mother.
"I tell you, nothing gets done when there's a woman about."
he returned to his boot-cleaning, singing softly. She touched his thick hair, and he kissed her fingers.
He worked away at her shoes. At
last they were quite presentable.
you are, you see!" he said. "Aren't
I a great hand at restoring you to respectability?
Stand up! There, you
look as irreproachable as Britannia herself!"
cleaned his own boots a little, washed his hands in a puddle, and sang.
They went on into Clifton village.
He was madly in love with her; every movement she made, every crease
in her garments, sent a hot flash through him and seemed adorable.
old lady at whose house they had tea was roused into gaiety by them.
could wish you'd had something of a better day," she said, hovering
he laughed. "We've been
saying how nice it is."
old lady looked at him curiously. There
was a peculiar glow and charm about him.
His eyes were dark and laughing.
He rubbed his moustache with a glad movement.
you been saying SO!" she exclaimed, a light rousing in her old eyes.
I'm sure the day's good enough," said the old lady.
fussed about, and did not want to leave them.
don't know whether you'd like some radishes as well," she said to
Clara; "but I've got some in the garden--AND a cucumber."
flushed. She looked very
should like some radishes," she answered.
the old lady pottered off gleefully.
she knew!" said Clara quietly to him.
she doesn't know; and it shows we're nice in ourselves, at any rate.
You look quite enough to satisfy an archangel, and I'm sure I feel
harmless--so--if it makes you look nice, and makes folk happy when they have
us, and makes us happy--why, we're not cheating them out of much!"
went on with the meal. When
they were going away, the old lady came timidly with three tiny dahlias in
full blow, neat as bees, and speckled scarlet and white.
She stood before Clara, pleased with herself, saying:
don't know whether---" and holding the flowers forward in her old hand.
how pretty!" cried Clara, accepting the flowers.
she have them all?" asked Paul reproachfully of the old woman.
"Yes, she shall have them all," she replied, beaming with
joy. "You have got enough
for your share."
but I shall ask her to give me one!" he teased.
she does as she pleases," said the old lady, smiling.
And she bobbed a little curtsey of delight.
was rather quiet and uncomfortable. As
they walked along, he said:
don't feel criminal, do you?"
looked at him with startled grey eyes.
she said. "No."
you seem to feel you have done a wrong?"
she said. "I only think,
'If they knew!'"
they knew, they'd cease to understand.
As it is, they do understand, and they like it.
What do they matter? Here,
with only the trees and me, you don't feel not the least bit wrong, do
took her by the arm, held her facing him, holding her eyes with his.
Something fretted him.
sinners, are we?" he said, with an uneasy little frown.
kissed her, laughing.
like your little bit of guiltiness, I believe," he said.
"I believe Eve enjoyed it, when she went cowering out of
there was a certain glow and quietness about her that made him glad.
When he was alone in the railway-carriage, he found himself
tumultuously happy, and the people exceedingly nice, and the night lovely,
and everything good.
Morel was sitting reading when he got home.
Her health was not good now, and there had come that ivory pallor
into her face which he never noticed, and which afterwards he never forgot.
She did not mention her own ill-health to him.
After all, she thought, it was not much.
are late!" she said, looking at him.
eyes were shining; his face seemed to glow.
He smiled to her.
I've been down Clifton Grove with Clara."
mother looked at him again.
won't people talk?" she said.
They know she's a suffragette, and so on.
And what if they do talk!"
course, there may be nothing wrong in it," said his mother.
"But you know what folks are, and if once she gets talked
I can't help it. Their jaw
isn't so almighty important, after all."
think you ought to consider HER."
I DO! What can people
say?--that we take a walk together. I
believe you're jealous."
know I should be GLAD if she weren't a married woman."
my dear, she lives separate from her husband, and talks on platforms; so
she's already singled out from the sheep, and, as far as I can see, hasn't
much to lose. No; her life's
nothing to her, so what's the worth of nothing?
She goes with me--it becomes something.
Then she must pay--we both must pay!
Folk are so frightened of paying; they'd rather starve and die."
well, my son. We'll see how it
well, my mother. I'll abide by
she's--she's AWFULLY nice, mother; she is really! You don't know!"
not the same as marrying her."
was silence for a while. He
wanted to ask his mother something, but was afraid.
you like to know her?" He
said Mrs. Morel coolly. "I
should like to know what she's like."
she's nice, mother, she is! And
not a bit common!"
never suggested she was."
you seem to think she's--not as good as---
She's better than ninety-nine folk out of a hundred, I tell you!
She's BETTER, she is! She's
fair, she's honest, she's straight! There
isn't anything underhand or superior about her.
Don't be mean about her!"
am sure I am not mean about her. She
may be quite as you say, but---"
don't approve," he finished.
do you expect me to?" she answered coldly.
you'd anything about you, you'd be glad!
Do you WANT to see her?"
said I did."
I'll bring her--shall I bring her here?"
I WILL bring her here--one Sunday--to tea.
If you think a horrid thing about her, I shan't forgive you."
if it would make any difference!" she said. He knew he had won.
but it feels so fine, when she's there!
She's such a queen in her way."
he still walked a little way from chapel with Miriam and Edgar.
He did not go up to the farm. She,
however, was very much the same with him, and he did not feel embarrassed in
her presence. One evening she was alone when he accompanied her.
They began by talking books: it
was their unfailing topic. Mrs.
Morel had said that his and Miriam's affair was like a fire fed on books--if
there were no more volumes it would die out.
Miriam, for her part, boasted that she could read him like a book,
could place her finger any minute on the chapter and the line.
He, easily taken in, believed that Miriam knew more about him than
anyone else. So it pleased him
to talk to her about himself, like the simplest egoist.
Very soon the conversation drifted to his own doings. It flattered him immensely that he was of such supreme
what have you been doing lately?"
not much! I made a sketch of
Bestwood from the garden, that is nearly right at last.
It's the hundredth try."
they went on. Then she said:
not been out, then, lately?"
I went up Clifton Grove on Monday afternoon with Clara."
was not very nice weather," said Miriam, "was it?"
I wanted to go out, and it was all right.
The Trent IS full."
did you go to Barton?" she asked.
we had tea in Clifton."
you! That would be nice."
was! The jolliest old woman!
She gave us several pompom dahlias, as pretty as you like."
bowed her head and brooded. He
was quite unconscious of concealing anything from her.
made her give them you?" she asked.
she liked us--because we were jolly, I should think."
put her finger in her mouth.
you late home?" she asked.
last he resented her tone.
caught the seven-thirty."
walked on in silence, and he was angry.
how IS Clara?" asked Miriam.
all right, I think."
good!" she said, with a tinge of irony.
"By the way, what of her husband?
One never hears anything of him."
got some other woman, and is also quite all right," he replied.
"At least, so I think."
see--you don't know for certain. Don't
you think a position like that is hard on a woman?"
so unjust!" said Miriam. "The
man does as he likes---"
let the woman also," he said.
can she? And if she does, look
at her position!"
it's impossible! You don't
understand what a woman forfeits---"
I don't. But if a woman's got
nothing but her fair fame to feed on, why, it's thin tack, and a donkey
would die of it!"
she understood his moral attitude, at least, and she knew he would act
never asked him anything direct, but she got to know enough.
day, when he saw Miriam, the conversation turned to marriage, then to
Clara's marriage with Dawes.
see," he said, "she never knew the fearful importance of marriage.
She thought it was all in the day's march--it would have to come--and
Dawes--well, a good many women would have given their souls to get him; so
why not him? Then she developed into the femme incomprise, and treated him
badly, I'll bet my boots."
she left him because he didn't understand her?"
suppose so. I suppose she had
to. It isn't altogether a
question of understanding; it's a question of living.
With him, she was only half-alive; the rest was dormant, deadened.
And the dormant woman was the femme incomprise, and she HAD to be
what about him."
don't know. I rather think he
loves her as much as he can, but he's a fool."
was something like your mother and father," said Miriam.
but my mother, I believe, got real joy and satisfaction out of my father at
first. I believe she had a
passion for him; that's why she stayed with him.
After all, they were bound to each other."
what one MUST HAVE, I think," he continued--"the real, real flame
of feeling through another person--once, only once, if it only lasts three
months. See, my mother looks as
if she'd HAD everything that was necessary for her living and developing.
There's not a tiny bit of feeling of sterility about her."
with my father, at first, I'm sure she had the real thing.
She knows; she has been there. You
can feet it about her, and about him, and about hundreds of people you meet
every day; and, once it has happened to you, you can go on with anything and
happened, exactly?" asked Miriam.
so hard to say, but the something big and intense that changes you when you
really come together with somebody else.
It almost seems to fertilise your soul and make it that you can go on
you think your mother had it with your father?"
and at the bottom she feels grateful to him for giving it her, even now,
though they are miles apart."
you think Clara never had it?"
pondered this. She saw what he
was seeking--a sort of baptism of fire in passion, it seemed to her.
She realised that he would never be satisfied till he had it.
Perhaps it was essential to him, as to some men, to sow wild oats;
and afterwards, when he was satisfied, he would not rage with restlessness
any more, but could settle down
and give her his life into her hands. Well,
then, if he must go, let him go
and have his fill--something big and intense, he called it.
At any rate, when he had got it, he would not want it--that he said
himself; he would want the other thing that she could give him.
He would want to be owned, so that he could work.
It seemed to her a bitter thing that he must go, but she could let
him go into an inn for a glass of whisky, so she could let him go to Clara,
so long as it was something that would satisfy a need in him, and leave him
free for herself to possess.
you told your mother about Clara?" she asked.
knew this would be a test of the seriousness of his feeling for the other
woman: she knew he was going to
Clara for something vital, not as a man goes for pleasure to a prostitute,
if he told his mother.
he said, "and she is coming to tea on Sunday."
I want mater to see her."
was a silence. Things had gone
quicker than she thought. She
felt a sudden bitterness that he could leave her so soon and so entirely.
And was Clara to be accepted by his people, who had been so hostile
may call in as I go to chapel," she said.
"It is a long time since I saw Clara."
well," he said, astonished, and unconsciously angry.
the Sunday afternoon he went to Keston to meet Clara at the station.
As he stood on the platform he was trying to examine in himself if he
had a premonition.
I FEEL as if she'd come?" he said to himself, and he tried to find out.
His heart felt queer and contracted.
That seemed like foreboding. Then
he HAD a foreboding she would not come!
Then she would not come, and instead of taking her over the fields
home, as he had imagined, he would have to go alone.
The train was late; the afternoon would be wasted, and the evening. He hated her for not coming.
Why had she promised, then, if she could not keep her promise?
Perhaps she had missed her train--he himself was always missing
trains--but that was no reason why she should miss this particular one.
He was angry with her; he was furious.
he saw the train crawling, sneaking round the corner. Here, then, was the train, but of course she had not come.
The green engine hissed along the platform, the row of brown
carriages drew up, several doors opened.
No; she had not come! No!
Yes; ah, there she was! She
had a big black hat on! He was
at her side in a moment.
thought you weren't coming," he said.
was laughing rather breathlessly as she put out her hand to him; their eyes
met. He took her quickly along
the platform, talking at a great rate to hide his feeling.
She looked beautiful. In
her hat were large silk roses, coloured like tarnished gold. Her costume of dark cloth fitted so beautifully over her
breast and shoulders. His pride
went up as he walked with her. He
felt the station people, who knew him, eyed her with awe and admiration.
was sure you weren't coming," he laughed shakily.
laughed in answer, almost with a little cry.
I wondered, when I was in the train, WHATEVER I should do if you weren't
there!" she said.
caught her hand impulsively, and they went along the narrow twitchel.
They took the road into Nuttall and over the Reckoning House Farm.
It was a blue, mild day. Everywhere
the brown leaves lay scattered; many scarlet hips stood upon the hedge
beside the wood. He gathered a
few for her to wear.
really," he said, as he fitted them into the breast of her coat,
"you ought to object to my getting them, because of the birds.
But they don't care much for rose-hips in this part, where they can
get plenty of stuff. You often
find the berries going rotten in the springtime."
he chattered, scarcely aware of what he said, only knowing he was putting
berries in the bosom of her coat, while she stood patiently for him.
And she watched his quick hands, so full of life, and it seemed to
her she had never SEEN anything before.
Till now, everything had been indistinct.
came near to the colliery. It
stood quite still and black among the corn-fields, its immense heap of slag
seen rising almost from the oats.
a pity there is a coal-pit here where it is so pretty!" said Clara.
you think so?" he answered. "You
see, I am so used to it I should miss it.
No; and I like the pits here and there.
I like the rows of trucks, and the headstocks, and the steam in the
daytime, and the lights at night. When
I was a boy, I always thought a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire
by night was a pit, with its steam, and its lights, and the burning
bank,--and I thought the Lord was always at the pit-top."
they drew near home she walked in silence, and seemed to hang back.
He pressed her fingers in his own.
She flushed, but gave no response.
you want to come home?" he asked.
I want to come," she replied.
did not occur to him that her position in his home would be rather a
peculiar and difficult one. To
him it seemed just as if one of his men friends were going to be introduced
to his mother, only nicer.
Morels lived in a house in an ugly street that ran down a steep hill.
The street itself was hideous. The
house was rather superior to most. It
was old, grimy, with a big bay window, and it was semi-detached; but it
looked gloomy. Then Paul opened the door to the garden, and all was
different. The sunny afternoon
was there, like another land. By
the path grew tansy and little trees. In
front of the window was a plot of sunny grass, with old lilacs round it.
And away went the garden, with heaps of dishevelled chrysanthemums in
the sunshine, down to the sycamore-tree, and the field, and beyond one
looked over a few red-roofed cottages to the hills with all the glow of the
Morel sat in her rocking-chair, wearing her black silk blouse.
Her grey-brown hair was taken smooth back from her brow and her high
temples; her face was rather pale. Clara,
suffering, followed Paul into the kitchen.
Mrs. Morel rose. Clara
thought her a lady, even rather stiff.
The young woman was very nervous.
She had almost a wistful look, almost resigned.
Morel held out her hand and smiled.
has told me a good deal about you," she said.
blood flamed in Clara's cheek.
hope you don't mind my coming," she faltered.
was pleased when he said he would bring you," replied Mrs. Morel.
watching, felt his heart contract with pain.
His mother looked so small, and sallow, and done-for beside the
such a pretty day, mother!" he said.
"And we saw a jay."
mother looked at him; he had turned to her.
She thought what a man he seemed, in his dark, well-made clothes.
He was pale and detached-looking; it would be hard for any woman to
keep him. Her heart glowed;
then she was sorry for Clara.
you'll leave your things in the parlour," said Mrs. Morel nicely to the
thank you," she replied.
on," said Paul, and he led the way into the little front room, with its
old piano, its mahogany furniture, its yellowing marble mantelpiece.
A fire was burning; the place was littered with books and
drawing-boards. "I leave
my things lying about," he said. "It's
so much easier."
loved his artist's paraphernalia, and the books, and the photos of people.
Soon he was telling her: this
was William, this was William's young lady in the evening dress, this was
Annie and her husband, this was Arthur and his wife and the baby.
She felt as if she were being taken into the family.
He showed her photos, books, sketches, and they talked a little
while. Then they returned to
the kitchen. Mrs. Morel put
aside her book. Clara wore a
blouse of fine silk chiffon, with narrow black-and-white stripes; her hair
was done simply, coiled on top of her head.
She looked rather stately and reserved.
have gone to live down Sneinton Boulevard?" said Mrs. Morel.
"When I was a girl--girl, I say!--when I was a young woman WE
lived in Minerva Terrace."
did you!" said Clara. "I
have a friend in number 6."
the conversation had started. They
talked Nottingham and Nottingham people; it interested them both.
Clara was still rather nervous; Mrs. Morel was still somewhat on her
dignity. She clipped her
language very clear and precise. But
they were going to get on well together, Paul saw.
Morel measured herself against the younger woman, and found herself easily
stronger. Clara was
deferential. She knew Paul's
surprising regard for his mother, and she had dreaded the meeting, expecting
someone rather hard and cold. She
was surprised to find this little interested woman chatting with
such readiness; and then she felt, as she felt with Paul, that she
would not care to stand in Mrs. Morel's way.
There was something so hard and certain in his mother, as if she
never had a misgiving in her life.
Morel came down, ruffled and yawning, from his afternoon sleep.
He scratched his grizzled head, he plodded in his stocking feet, his
waistcoat hung open over his shirt. He
is Mrs. Dawes, father," said Paul.
Morel pulled himself together. Clara
saw Paul's manner of bowing and shaking hands.
indeed!" exclaimed Morel. "I
am very glad to see you--I am, I assure you.
But don't disturb yourself. No,
no make yourself quite comfortable, and be very welcome."
was astonished at this flood of hospitality from the old collier.
He was so courteous, so gallant!
She thought him most delightful.
may you have come far?" he asked.
from Nottingham," she said.
Nottingham! Then you have had a
beautiful day for your journey."
he strayed into the scullery to wash his hands and face, and from force of
habit came on to the hearth with the towel to dry himself.
tea Clara felt the refinement and sang-froid of the household.
Mrs. Morel was perfectly at her ease.
The pouring out the tea and attending to the people went on
unconsciously, without interrupting her in her talk.
There was a lot of room at the oval table; the china of dark blue
willow-pattern looked pretty on the glossy cloth.
There was a little bowl of small, yellow chrysanthemums.
Clara felt she completed the circle, and it was a pleasure to her. But she was rather afraid of the self-possession of the
Morels, father and all. She
took their tone; there was a feeling of balance.
It was a cool, clear atmosphere, where everyone was himself, and in
harmony. Clara enjoyed it, but
there was a fear deep at the bottom of her.
cleared the table whilst his mother and Clara talked. Clara was conscious of his quick, vigorous body as it came
and went, seeming blown quickly by a wind at its work. It was almost like the hither and thither of a leaf that
comes unexpected. Most of
herself went with him. By the
way she leaned forward, as if listening, Mrs. Morel could see she was
possessed elsewhere as she talked, and again the elder woman was sorry for
finished, he strolled down the garden, leaving the two women to talk.
It was a hazy, sunny afternoon, mild and soft.
Clara glanced through the window after him as he loitered among the
chrysanthemums. She felt as if something almost tangible fastened her to him;
yet he seemed so easy in his graceful, indolent movement, so detached as he
tied up the too-heavy flower branches to their stakes, that she wanted to
shriek in her helplessness.
will let me help you wash up," said Clara.
there are so few, it will only take a minute," said the other.
however, dried the tea-things, and was glad to be on such good terms with
his mother; but it was torture not to be able to follow him down the garden.
At last she allowed herself to go; she felt as if a rope were taken
off her ankle.
afternoon was golden over the hills of Derbyshire. He stood across in the other garden, beside a bush of pale
Michaelmas daisies, watching the last bees crawl into the hive.
Hearing her coming, he turned to her with an easy motion, saying:
the end of the run with these chaps."
stood near him. Over the low
red wall in front was the country and the far-off hills, all golden dim.
that moment Miriam was entering through the garden-door. She saw Clara go up
to him, saw him turn, and saw them come to rest together.
Something in their perfect isolation together made her know that it
was accomplished between them, that they were, as she put it, married.
She walked very slowly down the cinder-track of the long garden.
had pulled a button from a hollyhock spire, and was breaking it to get the
seeds. Above her bowed head the
pink flowers stared, as if defending her.
The last bees were falling down to the hive.
your money," laughed Paul, as she broke the flat seeds one by one from
the roll of coin. She looked at
well off," she said, smiling.
He snapped his fingers. "Can
I turn them into gold?"
afraid not," she laughed.
looked into each other's eyes, laughing.
At that moment they became aware of Miriam. There was a click, and everything had altered.
Miriam!" he exclaimed. "You
said you'd come!"
Had you forgotten?"
shook hands with Clara, saying:
seems strange to see you here."
replied the other; "it seems strange to be here."
was a hesitation.
is pretty, isn't it?" said Miriam.
like it very much," replied Clara.
Miriam realised that Clara was accepted as she had never been.
you come down alone?" asked Paul.
I went to Agatha's to tea. We
are going to chapel. I only
called in for a moment to see Clara."
should have come in here to tea," he said.
laughed shortly, and Clara turned impatiently aside.
you like the chrysanthemums?" he asked.
they are very fine," replied Miriam.
sort do you like best?" he asked.
don't know. The bronze, I
don't think you've seen all the sorts.
Come and look. Come and
see which are YOUR favourites, Clara."
led the two women back to his own garden, where the towsled bushes of
flowers of all colours stood raggedly along the path down to the field.
The situation did not embarrass him, to his knowledge.
Miriam; these are the white ones that came from your garden.
They aren't so fine here, are they?"
they're hardier. You're so
sheltered; things grow big and tender, and then die.
These little yellow ones I like.
Will you have some?"
they were out there the bells began to ring in the church, sounding loud
across the town and the field. Miriam
looked at the tower, proud among the clustering roofs, and remembered the
sketches he had brought her. It
had been different then, but he had not left her even yet.
She asked him for a book to read.
He ran indoors.
is that Miriam?" asked his mother coldly.
she said she'd call and see Clara."
told her, then?" came the sarcastic answer.
why shouldn't I?"
certainly no reason why you shouldn't," said Mrs. Morel, and she
returned to her book. He winced
from his mother's irony, frowned irritably, thinking:
"Why can't I do as I like?"
not seen Mrs. Morel before?" Miriam
was saying to Clara.
but she's so nice!"
said Miriam, dropping her head; "in some ways she's very fine."
should think so."
Paul told you much about her?"
had talked a good deal."
was silence until he returned with the book.
will you want it back?" Miriam
you like," he answered.
turned to go indoors, whilst he accompanied Miriam to the gate.
will you come up to Willey Farm?" the latter asked.
couldn't say," replied Clara.
asked me to say she'd be pleased to see you any time, if you cared to
you; I should like to, but I can't say when."
very well!" exclaimed Miriam rather bitterly, turning away.
went down the path with her mouth to the flowers he had given her.
sure you won't come in?" he said.
are going to chapel."
I shall see you, then!" Miriam
was very bitter.
parted. He felt guilty towards
her. She was bitter, and she
scorned him. He still belonged
to herself, she believed; yet
he could have Clara, take her home, sit with her next his mother in chapel,
give her the same hymn-book he had given herself years before.
She heard him running quickly indoors.
he did not go straight in. Halting
on the plot of grass, he heard his mother's voice, then Clara's answer:
I hate is the bloodhound quality in Miriam."
said his mother quickly, "yes; DOESN'T it make you hate her, now!"
heart went hot, and he was angry with them for talking about the girl.
What right had they to say that?
Something in the speech itself stung him into a flame of hate against
Miriam. Then his own heart
rebelled furiously at Clara's taking the liberty of speaking so about
Miriam. After all, the girl was
the better woman of the two, he thought, if it came to goodness.
He went indoors. His
mother looked excited. She was
beating with her hand rhythmically on the sofa-arm, as women do who are
wearing out. He could never bear to see the movement.
There was a silence; then he began to talk.
chapel Miriam saw him find the place in the hymn-book for Clara, in exactly
the same way as he used for herself. And
during the sermon he could see the girl across the chapel, her hat throwing
a dark shadow over her face. What
did she think, seeing Clara with him? He
did not stop to consider. He
felt himself cruel towards Miriam.
chapel he went over Pentrich with Clara.
It was a dark autumn night. They
had said good-bye to Miriam, and his heart had smitten him as he left the
girl alone. "But it serves
her right," he said inside himself, and it almost gave him pleasure to
go off under her eyes with this other handsome woman.
was a scent of damp leaves in the darkness.
Clara's hand lay warm and inert in his own as they walked.
He was full of conflict. The
battle that raged inside him made him feel desperate.
Pentrich Hill Clara leaned against him as he went. He slid his arm round her waist.
Feeling the strong motion of her body under his arm as she walked,
the tightness in his chest because of Miriam relaxed, and the hot blood
bathed him. He held her closer
"You still keep on with Miriam," she said quietly.
talk. There never WAS a great
deal more than talk between us," he said bitterly.
mother doesn't care for her," said Clara.
or I might have married her. But
it's all up really!"
his voice went passionate with hate.
I was with her now, we should be jawing about the 'Christian Mystery', or
some such tack. Thank God, I'm
walked on in silence for some time.
you can't really give her up," said Clara.
don't give her up, because there's nothing to give," he said.
is for her."
don't know why she and I shouldn't be friends as long as we live," he
said. "But it'll only be
drew away from him, leaning away from contact with him.
are you drawing away for?" he asked.
did not answer, but drew farther from him.
do you want to walk alone?" he asked.
there was no answer. She walked
resentfully, hanging her head.
I said I would be friends with Miriam!" he exclaimed.
would not answer him anything.
tell you it's only words that go between us," he persisted, trying to
take her again.
resisted. Suddenly he strode
across in front of her, barring her way.
it!" he said. "What
do you want now?"
better run after Miriam," mocked Clara.
blood flamed up in him. He
stood showing his teeth. She
drooped sulkily. The lane was
dark, quite lonely. He suddenly
caught her in his arms, stretched forward, and put his mouth on her face in
a kiss of rage. She turned
frantically to avoid him. He
held her fast. Hard and relentless his mouth came for her.
Her breasts hurt against the wall of his chest.
Helpless, she went loose in his arms, and he kissed her, and kissed
heard people coming down the hill.
up! stand up!" he said thickly, gripping her arm till it hurt.
If he had let go, she would have sunk to the ground.
sighed and walked dizzily beside him. They
went on in silence.
will go over the fields," he said; and then she woke up.
she let herself be helped over the stile, and she walked in silence with him
over the first dark field. It
was the way to Nottingham and to the station, she knew. He seemed to be looking about.
They came out on a bare hilltop where stood the dark figure of the
ruined windmill. There he
halted. They stood together
high up in the darkness, looking at the lights scattered on the night before
them, handfuls of glittering points, villages lying high and low on the
dark, here and there.
treading among the stars," he said, with a quaky laugh.
he took her in his arms, and held her fast.
She moved aside her mouth to ask, dogged and low:
time is it?"
doesn't matter," he pleaded thickly.
it does--yes! I must go!"
early yet," he said.
time is it?" she insisted.
round lay the black night, speckled and spangled with lights.
put her hand on his chest, feeling for his watch. He felt the joints fuse into fire. She groped in his waistcoat pocket, while he stood panting.
In the darkness she could see the round, pale face of the watch, but
not the figures. She stooped
over it. He was panting till he
could take her in his arms again.
can't see," she said.
I'm going!" she said, turning away.
I'll look!" But he could not see. "I'll
strike a match."
secretly hoped it was too late to catch the train. She saw the glowing lantern of his hands as he cradled the
light: then his face lit up,
his eyes fixed on the watch. Instantly
all was dark again. All was
black before her eyes; only a glowing match was red near her feet. Where was he?
is it?" she asked, afraid.
can't do it," his voice answered out of the darkness.
was a pause. She felt in his
power. She had heard the ring
in his voice. It frightened
time is it?" she asked, quiet, definite, hopeless.
minutes to nine," he replied, telling the truth with a struggle.
can I get from here to the station in fourteen minutes?"
At any rate---"
could distinguish his dark form again a yard or so away.
She wanted to escape.
can't I do it?" she pleaded.
you hurry," he said brusquely. "But
you could easily walk it, Clara; it's only seven miles to the tram.
I'll come with you."
I want to catch the train."
do--I want to catch the train."
his voice altered.
well," he said, dry and hard. "Come
he plunged ahead into the darkness. She
ran after him, wanting to cry. Now
he was hard and cruel to her. She
ran over the rough, dark fields behind him, out of breath, ready to drop.
But the double row of lights at the station drew nearer.
she is!" he cried, breaking into a run.
was a faint rattling noise. Away
to the right the train, like a luminous caterpillar, was threading across
the night. The rattling ceased.
over the viaduct. You'll just
ran, quite out of breath, and fell at last into the train.
The whistle blew. He was gone. Gone!--and
she was in a carriage full of people. She
felt the cruelty of it.
turned round and plunged home. Before
he knew where he was he was in the kitchen at home. He was very pale. His
eyes were dark and dangerous-looking, as if he were drunk.
His mother looked at him.
I must say your boots are in a nice state!" she said.
looked at his feet. Then he
took off his overcoat. His
mother wondered if he were drunk.
caught the train then?" she said.
hope HER feet weren't so filthy. Where
on earth you dragged her I don't know!"
was silent and motionless for some time.
you like her?" he asked grudgingly at last.
I liked her. But you'll tire of
her, my son; you know you will."
did not answer. She noticed how
he laboured in his breathing.
you been running?" she asked.
had to run for the train."
go and knock yourself up. You'd
better drink hot milk."
was as good a stimulant as he could have, but he refused and went to bed.
There he lay face down on the counterpane, and shed tears of rage and
pain. There was a physical pain
that made him bite his lips till they bled, and the chaos inside him left
him unable to think, almost to feel.
is how she serves me, is it?" he said in his heart, over and over,
pressing his face in the quilt. And
he hated her. Again he went
over the scene, and again he hated her.
next day there was a new aloofness about him.
Clara was very gentle, almost loving.
But he treated her distantly, with a touch of contempt.
She sighed, continuing to be gentle.
He came round.
evening of that week Sarah Bernhardt was at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham,
giving "La Dame aux Camelias".
Paul wanted to see this old and famous actress, and he asked Clara to
accompany him. He told his
mother to leave the key in the window for him.
I book seats?" he asked of Clara.
And put on an evening suit, will you?
I've never seen you in it."
good Lord, Clara! Think of ME
in evening suit at the theatre!" he remonstrated.
you rather not?" she asked.
will if you WANT me to; but I s'll feel a fool."
laughed at him.
feel a fool for my sake, once, won't you?"
request made his blood flush up.
suppose I s'll have to."
are you taking a suitcase for?" his mother asked.
asked me," he said.
what seats are you going in?"
I'm sure!" exclaimed his mother sarcastically.
only once in the bluest of blue moons," he said.
dressed at Jordan's, put on an overcoat and a cap, and met Clara in a cafe.
She was with one of her suffragette friends.
She wore an old long coat, which did not suit her, and had a little
wrap over her head, which he hated. The
three went to the theatre together.
took off her coat on the stairs, and he discovered she was in a sort of
semi-evening dress, that left her arms and neck and part of her breast bare.
Her hair was done fashionably. The
dress, a simple thing of green crape, suited her.
She looked quite grand, he thought.
He could see her figure inside the frock, as if that were wrapped
closely round her. The firmness and the softness of her upright body could
almost be felt as he looked at her. He
clenched his fists.
he was to sit all the evening beside her beautiful naked arm, watching the
strong throat rise from the strong chest, watching the breasts under the
green stuff, the curve of her limbs in the tight dress. Something in him hated her again for submitting him to this
torture of nearness. And he
loved her as she balanced her head and stared straight in front of her,
pouting, wistful, immobile, as if she yielded herself to her fate because it
was too strong for her. She
could not help herself; she was in the grip of something bigger than
herself. A kind of eternal look about her, as if she were a wistful
sphinx, made it necessary for him to kiss her.
He dropped his programme, and crouched down on the floor to get it,
so that he could kiss her hand and wrist.
Her beauty was a torture to him.
She sat immobile. Only,
when the lights went down, she sank a little against him, and he caressed
her hand and arm with his fingers. He
could smell her faint perfume. All
the time his blood kept sweeping up in great white-hot waves that killed his
drama continued. He saw it all
in the distance, going on somewhere; he did not know where, but it seemed
far away inside him. He was
Clara's white heavy arms, her throat, her moving bosom.
That seemed to be himself. Then
away somewhere the play went on, and he was identified with that also.
There was no himself. The
grey and black eyes of Clara, her bosom coming down on him, her arm that he
held gripped between his hands, were all that existed.
Then he felt himself small and helpless, her towering in her force
the intervals, when the lights came up, hurt him expressibly.
He wanted to run anywhere, so long as it would be dark again.
In a maze, he wandered out for a drink.
Then the lights were out, and the strange, insane reality of Clara
and the drama took hold of him again.
play went on. But he was
obsessed by the desire to kiss the tiny blue vein that nestled in the bend
of her arm. He could feel it. His whole face seemed suspended till he had put his lips
there. It must be done.
And the other people! At
last he bent quickly forward and touched it with his lips.
His moustache brushed the sensitive flesh.
Clara shivered, drew away her arm.
all was over, the lights up, the people clapping, he came to himself and
looked at his watch. His train
s'll have to walk home!" he said.
looked at him.
is too late?" she asked.
nodded. Then he helped her on
with her coat.
love you! You look beautiful in
that dress," he murmured over her shoulder, among the throng of
bustling people. She remained
quiet. Together they went out
of the theatre. He saw the cabs
waiting, the people passing. It
seemed he met a pair of brown eyes which hated him.
But he did not know. He
and Clara turned away, mechanically taking the direction to the station.
train had gone. He would have
to walk the ten miles home.
doesn't matter," he said. "I
shall enjoy it."
you," she said, flushing, "come home for the night?
I can sleep with mother."
looked at her. Their eyes met.
will your mother say?" he asked.
they turned away. At the first
stopping-place they took the car. The
wind blew fresh in their faces. The
town was dark; the tram tipped in its haste.
He sat with her hand fast in his.
your mother be gone to bed?" he asked.
may be. I hope not."
hurried along the silent, dark little street, the only people out of doors.
Clara quickly entered the house.
leaped up the step and was in the room.
Her mother appeared in the inner doorway, large and hostile.
have you got there?" she asked.
Mr. Morel; he has missed his train. I
thought we might put him up for the night, and save him a ten-mile
exclaimed Mrs. Radford. "That's
your lookout! If you've invited
him, he's very welcome as far as I'm concerned.
YOU keep the house!"
you don't like me, I'll go away again," he said.
nay, you needn't! Come along
in! I dunno what you'll think
of the supper I'd got her."
was a little dish of chip potatoes and a piece of bacon.
The table was roughly laid for one.
can have some more bacon," continued Mrs. Radford.
"More chips you can't have."
a shame to bother you," he said.
don't you be apologetic! It
doesn't DO wi' me! You treated
her to the theatre, didn't you?" There
was a sarcasm in the last question.
laughed Paul uncomfortably.
and what's an inch of bacon! Take
your coat off."
big, straight-standing woman was trying to estimate the situation.
She moved about the cupboard. Clara
took his coat. The room was
very warm and cosy in the lamplight.
sirs!" exclaimed Mrs. Radford; "but you two's a pair of bright
beauties, I must say! What's
all that get-up for?"
believe we don't know," he said, feeling a victim.
isn't room in THIS house for two such bobby-dazzlers, if you fly your kites
THAT high!" she rallied them. It
was a nasty thrust.
in his dinner jacket, and Clara in her green dress and bare arms, were
confused. They felt they must
shelter each other in that little kitchen.
look at THAT blossom! " continued Mrs. Radford, pointing to Clara.
"What does she reckon she did it for?"
looked at Clara. She was rosy;
her neck was warm with blushes. There
was a moment of silence.
like to see it, don't you?" he asked.
mother had them in her power. All
the time his heart was beating hard, and he was tight with anxiety.
But he would fight her.
like to see it!" exclaimed the old woman.
"What should I like to see her make a fool of herself for?"
seen people look bigger fools," he said.
Clara was under his protection now.
ay! and when was that?" came the sarcastic rejoinder.
they made frights of themselves," he answered.
Radford, large and threatening, stood suspended on the hearthrug, holding
fools either road," she answered at length, turning to the Dutch oven.
he said, fighting stoutly. "Folk
ought to look as well as they can."
do you call THAT looking nice!" cried the mother, pointing a scornful
fork at Clara. "That--that
looks as if it wasn't properly dressed!"
believe you're jealous that you can't swank as well," he said laughing.
I could have worn evening dress with anybody, if I'd wanted to!"
came the scornful answer.
why didn't you want to?" he asked pertinently. "Or DID you wear it?"
was a long pause. Mrs. Radford
readjusted the bacon in the Dutch oven.
His heart beat fast, for fear he had offended her.
she exclaimed at last. "No,
I didn't! And when I was in
service, I knew as soon as one of the maids came out in bare shoulders what
sort SHE was, going to her sixpenny hop!"
you too good to go to a sixpenny hop?" he said.
sat with bowed head. His eyes
were dark and glittering. Mrs.
Radford took the Dutch oven from the fire, and stood near him, putting bits
of bacon on his plate.
a nice crozzly bit!" she said.
give me the best!" he said.
got what SHE wants," was the answer.
was a sort of scornful forbearance in the woman's tone that made Paul know
she was mollified.
DO have some!" he said to Clara.
looked up at him with her grey eyes, humiliated and lonely.
thanks!" she said.
won't you?" he answered carelessly.
blood was beating up like fire in his veins.
Mrs. Radford sat down again, large and impressive and aloof.
He left Clara altogether to attend to the mother.
say Sarah Bernhardt's fifty," he said.
She's turned sixty!" came the scornful answer.
he said, "you'd never think it! She
made me want to howl even now."
should like to see myself howling at THAT bad old baggage!" said Mrs.
Radford. "It's time she
began to think herself a grandmother, not a shrieking catamaran---"
catamaran is a boat the Malays use," he said.
it's a word as I use," she retorted.
mother does sometimes, and it's no good my telling her," he said.
s'd think she boxes your ears," said Mrs. Radford, good-humouredly.
like to, and she says she will, so I give her a little stool to stand
the worst of my mother," said Clara.
"She never wants a stool for anything."
she often can't touch THAT lady with a long prop," retorted Mrs.
Radford to Paul.
s'd think she doesn't want touching with a prop," he laughed.
might do the pair of you good to give you a crack on the head with
one," said the mother, laughing suddenly.
are you so vindictive towards me?" he said. "I've not stolen anything from you."
I'll watch that," laughed the older woman.
the supper was finished. Mrs.
Radford sat guard in her chair. Paul
lit a cigarette. Clara went
upstairs, returning with a
sleeping-suit, which she spread on the fender to air.
I'd forgot all about THEM!" said Mrs. Radford. "Where have they sprung from?"
of my drawer."
You bought 'em for Baxter, an' he wouldn't wear 'em, would
he reckoned to do wi'out trousers i' bed."
She turned confidentially to Paul, saying:
"He couldn't BEAR 'em, them pyjama things."
young man sat making rings of smoke.
it's everyone to his taste," he laughed.
followed a little discussion of the merits of pyjamas.
mother loves me in them," he said.
"She says I'm a pierrot."
can imagine they'd suit you," said Mrs. Radford.
a while he glanced at the little clock that was ticking on the mantelpiece.
It was half-past twelve.
is funny," he said, "but it takes hours to settle down to sleep
after the theatre."
about time you did," said Mrs. Radford, clearing the table.
YOU tired?" he asked of Clara.
the least bit," she answered, avoiding his eyes.
we have a game at cribbage?" he said.
I'll teach you again. May we
play crib, Mrs. Radford?" he asked.
please yourselves," she said; "but it's pretty late."
game or so will make us sleepy," he answered.
brought the cards, and sat spinning her wedding-ring whilst he shuffled
them. Mrs. Radford was washing
up in the scullery. As it grew
later Paul felt the situation getting more and more tense.
two, fifteen four, fifteen six, and two's eight---!"
clock struck one. Still the
game continued. Mrs. Radford
had done all the little jobs preparatory to going to bed, had locked the
door and filled the kettle. Still
Paul went on dealing and counting. He
was obsessed by Clara's arms and throat.
He believed he could see where the division was just beginning for
her breasts. He could not leave
her. She watched his hands, and
felt her joints melt as they moved quickly.
She was so near; it was almost as if he touched her, and yet not
quite. His mettle was roused. He hated
Mrs. Radford. She sat on,
nearly dropping asleep, but
determined and obstinate in her chair.
Paul glanced at her, then at Clara. She met his eyes, that were angry, mocking, and hard as
steel. Her own answered
him in shame. He knew SHE, at
any rate, was of his mind. He played on.
last Mrs. Radford roused herself stiffly, and said:
it nigh on time you two was thinking o' bed?"
played on without answering. He
hated her sufficiently to murder her.
a minute," he said.
elder woman rose and sailed stubbornly into the scullery, returning with his
candle, which she put on the mantelpiece.
Then she sat down again. The
hatred of her went so hot down
his veins, he dropped his cards.
stop, then," he said, but his voice was still a challenge.
saw his mouth shut hard. Again
he glanced at her. It seemed
like an agreement. She bent
over the cards, coughing, to clear her throat.
I'm glad you've finished," said Mrs. Radford. "Here, take your things"--she thrust the warm suit
in his hand--"and this is your candle.
Your room's over this; there's only two, so you can't go far wrong.
Well, good-night. I hope you'll rest well."
sure I shall; I always do," he said.
and so you ought at your age," she replied.
bade good-night to Clara, and went. The
twisting stairs of white, scrubbed wood creaked and clanged at every step.
He went doggedly. The two doors faced each other.
He went in his room, pushed the door to, without fastening the latch.
was a small room with a large bed. Some
of Clara's hair-pins were on the dressing-table--her hair-brush.
Her clothes and some skirts hung under a cloth in a corner.
There was actually a pair of stockings over a chair.
He explored the room. Two
books of his own were there on the shelf.
He undressed, folded his suit, and sat on the bed, listening. Then he blew out the candle, lay down, and in two minutes was
almost asleep. Then click!--he
was wide awake and writhing in torment.
It was as if, when he had nearly got to sleep, something had bitten
him suddenly and sent him mad. He
sat up and looked at the room in the darkness, his feet doubled under him,
perfectly motionless, listening. He
heard a cat somewhere away
outside; then the heavy, poised tread of
the mother; then Clara's distinct voice:
you unfasten my dress?"
was silence for some time. At
last the mother said:
then! aren't you coming up?"
not yet," replied the daughter calmly.
very well then! If it's not
late enough, stop a bit longer. Only
you needn't come waking me up when I've got to sleep."
shan't be long," said Clara.
afterwards Paul heard the mother slowly mounting the stairs.
The candlelight flashed through the cracks in his door.
Her dress brushed the door, and his heart jumped.
Then it was dark, and he heard the clatter of her latch.
She was very leisurely indeed in her preparations for sleep.
After a long time it was quite still.
He sat strung up on the bed, shivering slightly.
His door was an inch open. As
Clara came upstairs, he would intercept her.
He waited. All was dead
silence. The clock struck two.
Then he heard a slight scrape of the fender downstairs.
Now he could not help himself. His
shivering was uncontrollable. He
felt he must go or die.
stepped off the bed, and stood a moment, shuddering. Then he went straight to the door. He tried to step lightly.
The first stair cracked like a shot.
He listened. The old
woman stirred in her bed. The
staircase was dark. There was a
slit of light under the stair-foot door, which opened into the kitchen. He stood a moment. Then
he went on, mechanically. Every
step creaked, and his back was creeping, lest the old woman's door should
open behind him up above. He
fumbled with the door at the bottom. The
latch opened with a loud clack. He
went through into the kitchen, and shut the door noisily behind him.
The old woman daren't come now.
he stood, arrested. Clara was
kneeling on a pile of white underclothing on the hearthrug, her back towards
him, warming herself. She did
not look round, but sat crouching on her heels, and her rounded beautiful
back was towards him, and her face was hidden.
She was warming her body at the fire for consolation.
The glow was rosy on one side, the shadow was dark and warm on the
other. Her arms hung slack.
shuddered violently, clenching his teeth and fists hard to keep control.
Then he went forward to her. He
put one hand on her shoulder, the fingers of the other hand under her chin
to raise her face. A convulsed shiver ran through her, once, twice, at his
touch. She kept her head bent.
he murmured, realising that his hands were very cold.
she looked up at him, frightened, like a thing that is afraid of death.
hands are so cold," he murmured.
like it," she whispered, closing her eyes.
breath of her words were on his mouth.
Her arms clasped his knees. The
cord of his sleeping-suit dangled against her and made her shiver.
As the warmth went into him, his shuddering became less.
length, unable to stand so any more, he raised her, and she buried her head
on his shoulder. His hands went
over her slowly with an infinite tenderness of caress.
She clung close to him, trying to hide herself against him.
He clasped her very fast. Then
at last she looked at him, mute, imploring, looking to see if she must be
eyes were dark, very deep, and very quiet.
It was as if her beauty and his taking it hurt him, made him
sorrowful. He looked at her
with a little pain, and was afraid. He
was so humble before her. She
kissed him fervently on the eyes, first one, then the other, and she folded
herself to him. She gave
herself. He held her fast. It was a moment intense almost to agony.
stood letting him adore her and tremble with joy of her.
It healed her hurt pride. It
healed her; it made her glad. It
made her feel erect and proud again. Her
pride had been wounded inside her. She
had been cheapened. Now she
radiated with joy and pride again. It
was her restoration and her recognition.
he looked at her, his face radiant. They
laughed to each other, and he strained her to his chest.
The seconds ticked off, the minutes passed, and still the two stood
clasped rigid together, mouth to mouth, like a statue in one block.
again his fingers went seeking over her, restless, wandering, dissatisfied.
The hot blood came up wave upon wave.
She laid her head on his shoulder.
you to my room," he murmured.
looked at him and shook her head, her mouth pouting disconsolately, her eyes
heavy with passion. He watched
she shook her head.
not?" he asked.
looked at him still heavily, sorrowfully, and again she shook her head.
His eyes hardened, and he gave way.
later on, he was back in bed, he wondered why she had refused to come to him
openly, so that her mother would know.
At any rate, then things would have been definite.
And she could have stayed with him the night, without having to go,
as she was, to her mother's bed. It
was strange, and he could not understand it.
And then almost immediately he fell asleep.
awoke in the morning with someone speaking to him. Opening his eyes, he saw Mrs. Radford, big and stately,
looking down on him. She held a
cup of tea in her hand.
you think you're going to sleep till Doomsday?" she said.
laughed at once.
ought only to be about five o'clock," he said.
she answered, "it's half-past seven, whether or not.
Here, I've brought you a cup of tea."
rubbed his face, pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead, and roused
it so late for!" he grumbled.
resented being wakened. It
amused her. She saw his neck in
the flannel sleeping-jacket, as white and round as a girl's. He rubbed his hair crossly.
no good your scratching your head," she said. "It won't make it no earlier. Here, an' how long d'you think I'm going to stand waiting wi'
this here cup?"
dash the cup!" he said.
should go to bed earlier," said the woman.
looked up at her, laughing with impudence.
went to bed before YOU did," he said.
my Guyney, you did!" she exclaimed.
he said, stirring his tea, "having tea brought to bed to me!
My mother'll think I'm ruined for life."
she never do it?" asked Mrs. Radford.
as leave think of flying."
I always spoilt my lot! That's
why they've turned out such bad uns," said the elderly woman.
only Clara," he said. "And
Mr. Radford's in heaven. So I
suppose there's only you left to be the bad un."
not bad; I'm only soft," she said, as she went out of the bedroom.
"I'm only a fool, I am!"
was very quiet at breakfast, but she had a sort of air of proprietorship
over him that pleased him infinitely. Mrs.
Radford was evidently fond of him. He
began to talk of his painting.
the good," exclaimed the mother, "of your whittling and worrying
and twistin' and too-in' at that painting of yours? What GOOD does it do you, I should like to know?
You'd better be enjoyin' yourself."
but," exclaimed Paul, "I made over thirty guineas last year."
you! Well, that's a
consideration, but it's nothing to the time you put in."
I've got four pounds owing. A
man said he'd give me five pounds if I'd paint him and his missis and the
dog and the cottage. And I went
and put the fowls in instead of the dog, and he was waxy, so I had to knock
a quid off. I was sick of it,
and I didn't like the dog. I
made a picture of it. What
shall I do when he pays me the four pounds?"
you know your own uses for your money," said Mrs. Radford.
I'm going to bust this four pounds. Should
we go to the seaside for a day or two?"
and Clara and me."
on your money!" she exclaimed, half-wrathful.
wouldn't be long in breaking your neck at a hurdle race!" she said.
long as I get a good run for my money!
you may settle that atween you."
you're willing?" he asked, amazed and rejoicing.
do as you like," said Mrs. Radford, "whether I'm willing or
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