Part 10 out of 12
think of the supper I'd got her."
It was a little dish of chip potatoes and a piece of bacon.
The table was roughly laid for one.
"You can have some more bacon," continued Mrs. Radford.
"More chips you can't have."
"It's a shame to bother you," he said.
"Oh, 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.
"Well?" laughed Paul uncomfortably.
"Well, and what's an inch of bacon! Take your coat off."
The 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.
"My sirs!" exclaimed Mrs. Radford; "but you two's a pair
of bright beauties, I must say! What's all that get-up for?"
"I believe we don't know," he said, feeling a victim.
"There isn't room in THIS house for two such bobby-dazzlers, if
you fly your kites THAT high!" she rallied them. It was a nasty thrust.
He in his dinner jacket, and Clara in her green dress
and bare arms, were confused. They felt they must shelter
each other in that little kitchen.
"And look at THAT blossom! " continued Mrs. Radford,
pointing to Clara. "What does she reckon she did it for?"
Paul looked at Clara. She was rosy; her neck was warm
with blushes. There was a moment of silence.
"You like to see it, don't you?" he asked.
The mother had them in her power. All the time his heart
was beating hard, and he was tight with anxiety. But he would
"Me like to see it!" exclaimed the old woman. "What should I
like to see her make a fool of herself for?"
"I've seen people look bigger fools," he said. Clara was
under his protection now.
"Oh, ay! and when was that?" came the sarcastic rejoinder.
"When they made frights of themselves," he answered.
Mrs. Radford, large and threatening, stood suspended
on the hearthrug, holding her fork.
"They're fools either road," she answered at length,
turning to the Dutch oven.
"No," he said, fighting stoutly. "Folk ought to look as well
as they can."
"And do you call THAT looking nice!" cried the mother,
pointing a scornful fork at Clara. "That--that looks as if it
wasn't properly dressed!"
"I believe you're jealous that you can't swank as well,"
he said laughing.
"Me! I could have worn evening dress with anybody, if I'd
wanted to!" came the scornful answer.
"And why didn't you want to?" he asked pertinently. "Or DID
you wear it?"
There was a long pause. Mrs. Radford readjusted the bacon
in the Dutch oven. His heart beat fast, for fear he had offended her.
"Me!" 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!"
"Were you too good to go to a sixpenny hop?" he said.
Clara sat with bowed head. His eyes were dark and glittering.
Mrs. Radford took the Dutch oven from the fire, and stood near him,
putting bits of bacon on his plate.
"THERE'S a nice crozzly bit!" she said.
"Don't give me the best!" he said.
"SHE'S got what SHE wants," was the answer.
There was a sort of scornful forbearance in the woman's tone
that made Paul know she was mollified.
"But DO have some!" he said to Clara.
She looked up at him with her grey eyes, humiliated and lonely.
"No thanks!" she said.
"Why won't you?" he answered carelessly.
The blood was beating up like fire in his veins. Mrs. Radford
sat down again, large and impressive and aloof. He left Clara
altogether to attend to the mother.
"They say Sarah Bernhardt's fifty," he said.
"Fifty! She's turned sixty!" came the scornful answer.
"Well," he said, "you'd never think it! She made me want
to howl even now."
"I should like to see myself howling at THAT bad old baggage!"
said Mrs. Radford. "It's time she began to think herself a grandmother,
not a shrieking catamaran---"
"A catamaran is a boat the Malays use," he said.
"And it's a word as I use," she retorted.
"My mother does sometimes, and it's no good my telling her,"
"I s'd think she boxes your ears," said Mrs. Radford,
"She'd like to, and she says she will, so I give her a little
stool to stand on."
"That's the worst of my mother," said Clara. "She never wants
a stool for anything."
"But she often can't touch THAT lady with a long prop,"
retorted Mrs. Radford to Paul.
"I s'd think she doesn't want touching with a prop," he laughed.
"It might do the pair of you good to give you a crack
on the head with one," said the mother, laughing suddenly.
"Why are you so vindictive towards me?" he said. "I've not
stolen anything from you."
"No; I'll watch that," laughed the older woman.
Soon the supper was finished. Mrs. Radford sat guard in her
chair. Paul lit a cigarette. Clara went upstairs, returning with
a sleeping-suit, which she spread on the fender to air.
"Why, I'd forgot all about THEM!" said Mrs. Radford.
"Where have they sprung from?"
"Out of my drawer."
"H'm! You bought 'em for Baxter, an' he wouldn't wear 'em,
would he?"--laughing. "Said he reckoned to do wi'out trousers i'
bed." She turned confidentially to Paul, saying: "He couldn't
BEAR 'em, them pyjama things."
The young man sat making rings of smoke.
"Well, it's everyone to his taste," he laughed.
Then followed a little discussion of the merits of pyjamas.
"My mother loves me in them," he said. "She says I'm a pierrot."
"I can imagine they'd suit you," said Mrs. Radford.
After a while he glanced at the little clock that was ticking
on the mantelpiece. It was half-past twelve.
"It is funny," he said, "but it takes hours to settle down
to sleep after the theatre."
"It's about time you did," said Mrs. Radford, clearing the table.
"Are YOU tired?" he asked of Clara.
"Not the least bit," she answered, avoiding his eyes.
"Shall we have a game at cribbage?" he said.
"I've forgotten it."
"Well, I'll teach you again. May we play crib, Mrs. Radford?"
"You'll please yourselves," she said; "but it's pretty late."
"A game or so will make us sleepy," he answered.
Clara brought the cards, and sat spinning her wedding-ring whilst
he shuffled them. Mrs. Radford was washing up in the scullery.
As it grew later Paul felt the situation getting more and more tense.
"Fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six, and two's eight---!"
The clock struck one. Still the game continued. Mrs. Radford
had done all the little jobs preparatory to going to bed,
had locked the door and filled the kettle. Still Paul went on
dealing and counting. He was obsessed by Clara's arms and throat.
He believed he could see where the division was just beginning
for her breasts. He could not leave her. She watched his hands,
and felt her joints melt as they moved quickly. She was so near;
it was almost as if he touched her, and yet not quite. His mettle was
roused. He hated Mrs. Radford. She sat on, nearly dropping asleep,
but determined and obstinate in her chair. Paul glanced at her, then at
Clara. She met his eyes, that were angry, mocking, and hard as steel.
Her own answered him in shame. He knew SHE, at any rate, was
of his mind. He played on.
At last Mrs. Radford roused herself stiffly, and said:
"Isn't it nigh on time you two was thinking o' bed?"
Paul played on without answering. He hated her sufficiently
to murder her.
"Half a minute," he said.
The elder woman rose and sailed stubbornly into the scullery,
returning with his candle, which she put on the mantelpiece.
Then she sat down again. The hatred of her went so hot
down his veins, he dropped his cards.
"We'll stop, then," he said, but his voice was still a challenge.
Clara saw his mouth shut hard. Again he glanced at her.
It seemed like an agreement. She bent over the cards, coughing,
to clear her throat.
"Well, 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."
"I'm sure I shall; I always do," he said.
"Yes; and so you ought at your age," she replied.
He 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.
It was a small room with a large bed. Some of Clara's
hair-pins were on the dressing-table--her hair-brush. Her clothes
and some skirts hung under a cloth in a corner. There was actually
a pair of stockings over a chair. He explored the room.
Two books of his own were there on the shelf. 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:
"Will you unfasten my dress?"
There was silence for some time. At last the mother said:
"Now then! aren't you coming up?"
"No, not yet," replied the daughter calmly.
"Oh, very well then! If it's not late enough, stop a bit longer.
Only you needn't come waking me up when I've got to sleep."
"I shan't be long," said Clara.
Immediately afterwards Paul heard the mother slowly mounting
the stairs. The candlelight flashed through the cracks in his door.
Her dress brushed the door, and his heart jumped. Then it was dark,
and he heard the clatter of her latch. She was very leisurely indeed
in her preparations for sleep. After a long time it was quite still.
He sat strung up on the bed, 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
He 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
Then 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.
He shuddered violently, clenching his teeth and fists hard
to keep control. Then he went forward to her. He put one hand
on her shoulder, the fingers of the other hand under her chin to
raise her face. A convulsed shiver ran through her, once, twice,
at his touch. She kept her head bent.
"Sorry!" he murmured, realising that his hands were very cold.
Then she looked up at him, frightened, like a thing that is
afraid of death.
"My hands are so cold," he murmured.
"I like it," she whispered, closing her eyes.
The breath of her words were on his mouth. Her arms clasped
his knees. The cord of his sleeping-suit dangled against her and made
her shiver. As the warmth went into him, his shuddering became less.
At 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 ashamed.
His 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.
She stood letting him adore her and tremble with joy of her.
It healed her hurt pride. It healed her; it made her glad. It made
her feel erect and proud again. Her pride had been wounded inside her.
She had been cheapened. Now she radiated with joy and pride again.
It was her restoration and her recognition.
Then he looked at her, his face radiant. They laughed to
each other, and he strained her to his chest. The seconds ticked off,
the minutes passed, and still the two stood clasped rigid together,
mouth to mouth, like a statue in one block.
But again his fingers went seeking over her, restless,
wandering, dissatisfied. The hot blood came up wave upon wave.
She laid her head on his shoulder.
"Come you to my room," he murmured.
She looked at him and shook her head, her mouth pouting
disconsolately, her eyes heavy with passion. He watched her fixedly.
"Yes!" he said.
Again she shook her head.
"Why not?" he asked.
She looked at him still heavily, sorrowfully, and again she
shook her head. His eyes hardened, and he gave way.
When, 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.
He awoke in the morning with someone speaking to him.
Opening his eyes, he saw Mrs. Radford, big and stately, looking down
on him. She held a cup of tea in her hand.
"Do you think you're going to sleep till Doomsday?" she said.
He laughed at once.
"It ought only to be about five o'clock," he said.
"Well," she answered, "it's half-past seven, whether or not.
Here, I've brought you a cup of tea."
He rubbed his face, pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead,
and roused himself.
"What's it so late for!" he grumbled.
He resented being wakened. It amused her. She saw his neck
in the flannel sleeping-jacket, as white and round as a girl's. He
rubbed his hair crossly.
"It's no good your scratching your head," 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?"
"Oh, dash the cup!" he said.
"You should go to bed earlier," said the woman.
He looked up at her, laughing with impudence.
"I went to bed before YOU did," he said.
"Yes, my Guyney, you did!" she exclaimed.
"Fancy," he said, stirring his tea, "having tea brought to bed
to me! My mother'll think I'm ruined for life."
"Don't she never do it?" asked Mrs. Radford.
"She'd as leave think of flying."
"Ah, I always spoilt my lot! That's why they've turned out
such bad uns," said the elderly woman.
"You'd only Clara," he said. "And Mr. Radford's in heaven.
So I suppose there's only you left to be the bad un."
"I'm not bad; I'm only soft," she said, as she went out
of the bedroom. "I'm only a fool, I am!"
Clara was very quiet at breakfast, but she had a sort of air
of proprietorship over him that pleased him infinitely. Mrs. Radford
was evidently fond of him. He began to talk of his painting.
"What's the good," exclaimed the mother, "of your whittling
and worrying and twistin' and too-in' at that painting of yours?
What GOOD does it do you, I should like to know? You'd better
be enjoyin' yourself."
"Oh, but," exclaimed Paul, "I made over thirty guineas last year."
"Did you! Well, that's a consideration, but it's nothing
to the time you put in."
"And I've got four pounds owing. A man said he'd give me five
pounds if I'd paint him and his missis and the dog and the cottage.
And I went and put the fowls in instead of the dog, and he was waxy,
so I had to knock a quid off. I was sick of it, and I didn't like
the dog. I made a picture of it. What shall I do when he pays me
the four pounds?"
"Nay! you know your own uses for your money," said Mrs. Radford.
"But I'm going to bust this four pounds. Should we go
to the seaside for a day or two?"
"You and Clara and me."
"What, on your money!" she exclaimed, half-wrathful.
"YOU wouldn't be long in breaking your neck at a hurdle race!"
"So long as I get a good run for my money! Will you?"
"Nay; you may settle that atween you."
"And you're willing?" he asked, amazed and rejoicing.
"You'll do as you like," said Mrs. Radford, "whether I'm
willing or not."
SOON after Paul had been to the theatre with Clara, he was drinking
in the Punch Bowl with some friends of his when Dawes came in.
Clara's husband was growing stout; his eyelids were getting slack
over his brown eyes; he was losing his healthy firmness of flesh.
He was very evidently on the downward track. Having quarrelled
with his sister, he had gone into cheap lodgings. His mistress
had left him for a man who would marry her. He had been in prison
one night for fighting when he was drunk, and there was a shady
betting episode in which he was concerned.
Paul and he were confirmed enemies, and yet there was between
them that peculiar feeling of intimacy, as if they were secretly
near to each other, which sometimes exists between two people,
although they never speak to one another. Paul often thought of
Baxter Dawes, often wanted to get at him and be friends with him.
He knew that Dawes often thought about him, and that the man was
drawn to him by some bond or other. And yet the two never looked
at each other save in hostility.
Since he was a superior employee at Jordan's, it was the thing
for Paul to offer Dawes a drink.
"What'll you have?" he asked of him.
"Nowt wi' a bleeder like you!" replied the man.
Paul turned away with a slight disdainful movement of the shoulders,
"The aristocracy," he continued, "is really a military institution.
Take Germany, now. She's got thousands of aristocrats whose only
means of existence is the army. They're deadly poor, and life's
deadly slow. So they hope for a war. They look for war as a chance
of getting on. Till there's a war they are idle good-for-nothings.
When there's a war, they are leaders and commanders. There you are,
then--they WANT war!"
He was not a favourite debater in the public-house, being too
quick and overbearing. He irritated the older men by his assertive
manner, and his cocksureness. They listened in silence, and were
not sorry when he finished.
Dawes interrupted the young man's flow of eloquence by asking,
in a loud sneer:
"Did you learn all that at th' theatre th' other night?"
Paul looked at him; their eyes met. Then he knew Dawes had
seen him coming out of the theatre with Clara.
"Why, what about th' theatre?" asked one of Paul's associates,
glad to get a dig at the young fellow, and sniffing something tasty.
"Oh, him in a bob-tailed evening suit, on the lardy-da!"
sneered Dawes, jerking his head contemptuously at Paul.
"That's comin' it strong," said the mutual friend.
"Tart an' all?"
"Tart, begod!" said Dawes.
"Go on; let's have it!" cried the mutual friend.
"You've got it," said Dawes, "an' I reckon Morelly had it an' all."
"Well, I'll be jiggered!" said the mutual friend. "An' was it
a proper tart?"
"Tart, God blimey--yes!"
"How do you know?"
"Oh," said Dawes, "I reckon he spent th' night---"
There was a good deal of laughter at Paul's expense.
"But who WAS she? D'you know her?" asked the mutual friend.
"I should SHAY SHO," said Dawes.
This brought another burst of laughter.
"Then spit it out," said the mutual friend.
Dawes shook his head, and took a gulp of beer.
"It's a wonder he hasn't let on himself," he said.
"He'll be braggin' of it in a bit."
"Come on, Paul," said the friend; "it's no good. You might
just as well own up."
"Own up what? That I happened to take a friend to the theatre?"
"Oh well, if it was all right, tell us who she was, lad,"
said the friend.
"She WAS all right," said Dawes.
Paul was furious. Dawes wiped his golden moustache with
his fingers, sneering.
"Strike me---! One o' that sort?" said the mutual friend.
"Paul, boy, I'm surprised at you. And do you know her, Baxter?"
"Just a bit, like!"
He winked at the other men.
"Oh well," said Paul, "I'll be going!"
The mutual friend laid a detaining hand on his shoulder.
"Nay," he said, "you don't get off as easy as that, my lad.
We've got to have a full account of this business."
"Then get it from Dawes!" he said.
"You shouldn't funk your own deeds, man," remonstrated the friend.
Then Dawes made a remark which caused Paul to throw half
a glass of beer in his face.
"Oh, Mr. Morel!" cried the barmaid, and she rang the bell
for the "chucker-out".
Dawes spat and rushed for the young man. At that minute
a brawny fellow with his shirt-sleeves rolled up and his trousers
tight over his haunches intervened.
"Now, then!" he said, pushing his chest in front of Dawes.
"Come out!" cried Dawes.
Paul was leaning, white and quivering, against the brass rail
of the bar. He hated Dawes, wished something could exterminate
him at that minute; and at the same time, seeing the wet hair on
the man's forehead, he thought he looked pathetic. He did not move.
"Come out, you ---," said Dawes.
"That's enough, Dawes," cried the barmaid.
"Come on," said the "chucker-out", with kindly insistence,
"you'd better be getting on."
And, by making Dawes edge away from his own close proximity,
he worked him to the door.
"THAT'S the little sod as started it!" cried Dawes,
half-cowed, pointing to Paul Morel.
"Why, what a story, Mr. Dawes!" said the barmaid. "You know
it was you all the time."
Still the "chucker-out" kept thrusting his chest forward at him,
still he kept edging back, until he was in the doorway and on the
steps outside; then he turned round.
"All right," he said, nodding straight at his rival.
Paul had a curious sensation of pity, almost of affection,
mingled with violent hate, for the man. The coloured door swung to;
there was silence in the bar.
"Serve, him, jolly well right!" said the barmaid.
"But it's a nasty thing to get a glass of beer in your eyes,"
said the mutual friend.
"I tell you I was glad he did," said the barmaid. "Will you
have another, Mr. Morel?"
She held up Paul's glass questioningly. He nodded.
"He's a man as doesn't care for anything, is Baxter Dawes,"
"Pooh! is he?" said the barmaid. "He's a loud-mouthed one,
he is, and they're never much good. Give me a pleasant-spoken chap,
if you want a devil!"
"Well, Paul, my lad," said the friend, "you'll have to take
care of yourself now for a while."
"You won't have to give him a chance over you, that's all,"
said the barmaid.
"Can you box?" asked a friend.
"Not a bit," he answered, still very white.
"I might give you a turn or two," said the friend.
"Thanks, I haven't time."
And presently he took his departure.
"Go along with him, Mr. Jenkinson," whispered the barmaid,
tipping Mr. Jenkinson the wink.
The man nodded, took his hat, said: "Good-night all!"
very heartily, and followed Paul, calling:
"Half a minute, old man. You an' me's going the same road,
"Mr. Morel doesn't like it," said the barmaid. "You'll see,
we shan't have him in much more. I'm sorry; he's good company.
And Baxter Dawes wants locking up, that's what he wants."
Paul would have died rather than his mother should get
to know of this affair. He suffered tortures of humiliation
and self-consciousness. There was now a good deal of his life
of which necessarily he could not speak to his mother. He had
a life apart from her--his sexual life. The rest she still kept.
But he felt he had to conceal something from her, and it irked him.
There was a certain silence between them, and he felt he had,
in that silence, to defend himself against her; he felt condemned
by her. Then sometimes he hated her, and pulled at her bondage.
His life wanted to free itself of her. It was like a circle where life
turned back on itself, and got no farther. She bore him, loved him,
kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could not
be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman.
At this period, unknowingly, he resisted his mother's influence.
He did not tell her things; there was a distance between them.
Clara was happy, almost sure of him. She felt she had at last
got him for herself; and then again came the uncertainty. He told
her jestingly of the affair with her husband. Her colour came up,
her grey eyes flashed.
"That's him to a 'T'," she cried--"like a navvy! He's not fit
for mixing with decent folk."
"Yet you married him," he said.
It made her furious that he reminded her.
"I did!" she cried. "But how was I to know?"
"I think he might have been rather nice," he said.
"You think I made him what he is!" she exclaimed.
"Oh no! he made himself. But there's something about him---"
Clara looked at her lover closely. There was something in him
she hated, a sort of detached criticism of herself, a coldness
which made her woman's soul harden against him.
"And what are you going to do?" she asked.
"There's nothing to do, is there?" he replied.
"You can fight him if you have to, I suppose?" she said.
"No; I haven't the least sense of the 'fist'. It's funny.
With most men there's the instinct to clench the fist and hit.
It's not so with me. I should want a knife or a pistol or something
to fight with."
"Then you'd better carry something," she said.
"Nay," he laughed; "I'm not daggeroso."
"But he'll do something to you. You don't know him."
"All right," he said, "we'll see."
"And you'll let him?"
"Perhaps, if I can't help it."
"And if he kills you?" she said.
"I should be sorry, for his sake and mine."
Clara was silent for a moment.
"You DO make me angry!" she exclaimed.
"That's nothing afresh," he laughed.
"But why are you so silly? You don't know him."
"And don't want."
"Yes, but you're not going to let a man do as he likes with you?"
"What must I do?" he replied, laughing.
"I should carry a revolver," she said. "I'm sure he's dangerous."
"I might blow my fingers off," he said.
"No; but won't you?" she pleaded.
"And you'll leave him to---?"
"You are a fool!"
She set her teeth with anger.
"I could SHAKE you!" she cried, trembling with passion.
"Let a man like HIM do as he likes with you."
"You can go back to him if he triumphs," he said.
"Do you want me to hate you?" she asked.
"Well, I only tell you," he said.
"And YOU say you LOVE me!" she exclaimed, low and indignant.
"Ought I to slay him to please you?" he said. "But if I did,
see what a hold he'd have over me."
"Do you think I'm a fool!" she exclaimed.
"Not at all. But you don't understand me, my dear."
There was a pause between them.
"But you ought NOT to expose yourself," she pleaded.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"'The man in righteousness arrayed,
The pure and blameless liver,
Needs not the keen Toledo blade,
Nor venom-freighted quiver,'"
She looked at him searchingly.
"I wish I could understand you," she said.
"There's simply nothing to understand," he laughed.
She bowed her head, brooding.
He did not see Dawes for several days; then one morning as he
ran upstairs from the Spiral room he almost collided with the burly
"What the---!" cried the smith.
"Sorry!" said Paul, and passed on.
"SORRY!" sneered Dawes.
Paul whistled lightly, "Put Me among the Girls".
"I'll stop your whistle, my jockey!" he said.
The other took no notice.
"You're goin' to answer for that job of the other night."
Paul went to his desk in his corner, and turned over the leaves
of the ledger.
"Go and tell Fanny I want order 097, quick!" he said to his boy.
Dawes stood in the doorway, tall and threatening, looking at
the top of the young man's head.
"Six and five's eleven and seven's one-and-six," Paul added aloud.
"An' you hear, do you!" said Dawes.
"FIVE AND NINEPENCE!" He wrote a figure. "What's that?"
"I'm going to show you what it is," said the smith.
The other went on adding the figures aloud.
"Yer crawlin' little ---, yer daresn't face me proper!"
Paul quickly snatched the heavy ruler. Dawes started.
The young man ruled some lines in his ledger. The elder man
"But wait till I light on you, no matter where it is,
I'll settle your hash for a bit, yer little swine!"
"All right," said Paul.
At that the smith started heavily from the doorway. Just then
a whistle piped shrilly. Paul went to the speaking-tube.
"Yes!" he said, and he listened. "Er--yes!" He listened,
then he laughed. "I'll come down directly. I've got a visitor
Dawes knew from his tone that he had been speaking to Clara.
He stepped forward.
"Yer little devil!" he said. "I'll visitor you, inside of
two minutes! Think I'm goin' to have YOU whipperty-snappin' round?"
The other clerks in the warehouse looked up. Paul's office-boy
appeared, holding some white article.
"Fanny says you could have had it last night if you'd let
her know," he said.
"All right," answered Paul, looking at the stocking.
"Get it off." Dawes stood frustrated, helpless with rage.
Morel turned round.
"Excuse me a minute," he said to Dawes, and he would have
"By God, I'll stop your gallop!" shouted the smith, seizing him
by the arm. He turned quickly.
"Hey! Hey!" cried the office-boy, alarmed.
Thomas Jordan started out of his little glass office, and came
running down the room.
"What's a-matter, what's a-matter?" he said, in his old man's
"I'm just goin' ter settle this little ---, that's all,"
said Dawes desperately.
"What do you mean?" snapped Thomas Jordan.
"What I say," said Dawes, but he hung fire.
Morel was leaning against the counter, ashamed, half-grinning.
"What's it all about?" snapped Thomas Jordan.
"Couldn't say," said Paul, shaking his head and shrugging
"Couldn't yer, couldn't yer!" cried Dawes, thrusting forward
his handsome, furious face, and squaring his fist.
"Have you finished?" cried the old man, strutting. "Get off
about your business, and don't come here tipsy in the morning."
Dawes turned his big frame slowly upon him.
"Tipsy!" he said. "Who's tipsy? I'm no more tipsy than
"We've heard that song before," snapped the old man. "Now you
get off, and don't be long about it. Comin' HERE with your rowdying."
The smith looked down contemptuously on his employer.
His hands, large, and grimy, and yet well shaped for his labour,
worked restlessly. Paul remembered they were the hands of Clara's
husband, and a flash of hate went through him.
"Get out before you're turned out!" snapped Thomas Jordan.
"Why, who'll turn me out?" said Dawes, beginning to sneer.
Mr. Jordan started, marched up to the smith, waving him off,
thrusting his stout little figure at the man, saying:
"Get off my premises--get off!"
He seized and twitched Dawes's arm.
"Come off!" said the smith, and with a jerk of the elbow he
sent the little manufacturer staggering backwards.
Before anyone could help him, Thomas Jordan had collided
with the flimsy spring-door. It had given way, and let him crash
down the half-dozen steps into Fanny's room. There was a second
of amazement; then men and girls were running. Dawes stood a moment
looking bitterly on the scene, then he took his departure.
Thomas Jordan was shaken and braised, not otherwise hurt.
He was, however, beside himself with rage. He dismissed Dawes from
his employment, and summoned him for assault.
At the trial Paul Morel had to give evidence. Asked how
the trouble began, he said:
"Dawes took occasion to insult Mrs. Dawes and me because I
accompanied her to the theatre one evening; then I threw some beer
at him, and he wanted his revenge."
"Cherchez la femme!" smiled the magistrate.
The case was dismissed after the magistrate had told Dawes he
thought him a skunk.
"You gave the case away," snapped Mr. Jordan to Paul.
"I don't think I did," replied the latter. "Besides, you
didn't really want a conviction, did you?"
"What do you think I took the case up for?"
"Well," said Paul, "I'm sorry if I said the wrong thing."
Clara was also very angry.
"Why need MY name have been dragged in?" she said.
"Better speak it openly than leave it to be whispered."
"There was no need for anything at all," she declared.
"We are none the poorer," he said indifferently.
"YOU may not be," she said.
"And you?" he asked.
"I need never have been mentioned."
"I'm sorry," he said; but he did not sound sorry.
He told himself easily: "She will come round." And she did.
He told his mother about the fall of Mr. Jordan and the trial
of Dawes. Mrs. Morel watched him closely.
"And what do you think of it all?" she asked him.
"I think he's a fool," he said.
But he was very uncomfortable, nevertheless.
"Have you ever considered where it will end?" his mother said.
"No," he answered; "things work out of themselves."
"They do, in a way one doesn't like, as a rule," said his mother.
"And then one has to put up with them," he said.
"You'll find you're not as good at 'putting up' as you imagine,"
He went on working rapidly at his design.
"Do you ever ask HER opinion?" she said at length.
"Of you, and the whole thing."
"I don't care what her opinion of me is. She's fearfully
in love with me, but it's not very deep."
"But quite as deep as your feeling for her."
He looked up at his mother curiously.
"Yes," he said. "You know, mother, I think there must be
something the matter with me, that I CAN'T love. When she's there,
as a rule, I DO love her. Sometimes, when I see her just as THE WOMAN,
I love her, mother; but then, when she talks and criticises,
I often don't listen to her."
"Yet she's as much sense as Miriam."
"Perhaps; and I love her better than Miriam. But WHY don't
they hold me?"
The last question was almost a lamentation. His mother
turned away her face, sat looking across the room, very quiet,
grave, with something of renunciation.
"But you wouldn't want to marry Clara?" she said.
"No; at first perhaps I would. But why--why don't I want to marry
her or anybody? I feel sometimes as if I wronged my women, mother."
"How wronged them, my son?"
"I don't know."
He went on painting rather despairingly; he had touched
the quick of the trouble.
"And as for wanting to marry," said his mother, "there's plenty
of time yet."
"But no, mother. I even love Clara, and I did Miriam; but to GIVE
myself to them in marriage I couldn't. I couldn't belong to them.
They seem to want ME, and I can't ever give it them."
"You haven't met the right woman."
"And I never shall meet the right woman while you live,"
She was very quiet. Now she began to feel again tired,
as if she were done.
"We'll see, my son," she answered.
The feeling that things were going in a circle made him mad.
Clara was, indeed, passionately in love with him, and he with her,
as far as passion went. In the daytime he forgot her a good deal.
She was working in the same building, but he was not aware of it.
He was busy, and her existence was of no matter to him. But all the
time she was in her Spiral room she had a sense that he was upstairs,
a physical sense of his person in the same building. Every second
she expected him to come through the door, and when he came it
was a shock to her. But he was often short and offhand with her.
He gave her his directions in an official manner, keeping her at bay.
With what wits she had left she listened to him. She dared not
misunderstand or fail to remember, but it was a cruelty to her.
She wanted to touch his chest. She knew exactly how his breast was
shapen under the waistcoat, and she wanted to touch it. It maddened
her to hear his mechanical voice giving orders about the work.
She wanted to break through the sham of it, smash the trivial coating
of business which covered him with hardness, get at the man again;
but she was afraid, and before she could feel one touch of his warmth he
was gone, and she ached again.
He knew that she was dreary every evening she did not see him,
so he gave her a good deal of his time. The days were often
a misery to her, but the evenings and the nights were usually
a bliss to them both. Then they were silent. For hours they
sat together, or walked together in the dark, and talked only
a few, almost meaningless words. But he had her hand in his,
and her bosom left its warmth in his chest, making him feel whole.
One evening they were walking down by the canal,
and something was troubling him. She knew she had not got him.
All the time he whistled softly and persistently to himself.
She listened, feeling she could learn more from his whistling than
from his speech. It was a sad dissatisfied tune--a tune that made
her feel he would not stay with her. She walked on in silence.
When they came to the swing bridge he sat down on the great pole,
looking at the stars in the water. He was a long way from her.
She had been thinking.
"Will you always stay at Jordan's?" she asked.
"No," he answered without reflecting. "No; I s'll leave
Nottingham and go abroad--soon."
"Go abroad! What for?"
"I dunno! I feel restless."
"But what shall you do?"
"I shall have to get some steady designing work, and some sort
of sale for my pictures first," he said. "I am gradually making
my way. I know I am."
"And when do you think you'll go?"
"I don't know. I shall hardly go for long, while there's
"You couldn't leave her?"
"Not for long."
She looked at the stars in the black water. They lay very
white and staring. It was an agony to know he would leave her,
but it was almost an agony to have him near her.
"And if you made a nice lot of money, what would you do?"
"Go somewhere in a pretty house near London with my mother."
There was a long pause.
"I could still come and see you," he said. "I don't know.
Don't ask me what I should do; I don't know."
There was a silence. The stars shuddered and broke upon
the water. There came a breath of wind. He went suddenly to her,
and put his hand on her shoulder.
"Don't ask me anything about the future," he said miserably.
"I don't know anything. Be with me now, will you, no matter what
And she took him in her arms. After all, she was a married woman,
and she had no right even to what he gave her. He needed her badly.
She had him in her arms, and he was miserable. With her warmth she
folded him over, consoled him, loved him. She would let the moment
stand for itself.
After a moment he lifted his head as if he wanted to speak.
"Clara," he said, struggling.
She caught him passionately to her, pressed his head down on her
breast with her hand. She could not bear the suffering in his voice.
She was afraid in her soul. He might have anything of her--anything;
but she did not want to KNOW. She felt she could not bear it.
She wanted him to be soothed upon her--soothed. She stood clasping him
and caressing him, and he was something unknown to her--something
almost uncanny. She wanted to soothe him into forgetfulness.
And soon the struggle went down in his soul, and he forgot.
But then Clara was not there for him, only a woman, warm, something he
loved and almost worshipped, there in the dark. But it was not Clara,
and she submitted to him. The naked hunger and inevitability
of his loving her, something strong and blind and ruthless
in its primitiveness, made the hour almost terrible to her.
She knew how stark and alone he was, and she felt it was great
that he came to her; and she took him simply because his need was
bigger either than her or him, and her soul was still within her.
She did this for him in his need, even if he left her, for she
All the while the peewits were screaming in the field.
When he came to, he wondered what was near his eyes, curving and
strong with life in the dark, and what voice it was speaking.
Then he realised it was the grass, and the peewit was calling.
The warmth was Clara's breathing heaving. He lifted his head,
and looked into her eyes. They were dark and shining and strange,
life wild at the source staring into his life, stranger to him,
yet meeting him; and he put his face down on her throat, afraid.
What was she? A strong, strange, wild life, that breathed with his
in the darkness through this hour. It was all so much bigger than
themselves that he was hushed. They had met, and included in their
meeting the thrust of the manifold grass stems, the cry of the peewit,
the wheel of the stars.
When they stood up they saw other lovers stealing down the
opposite hedge. It seemed natural they were there; the night
And after such an evening they both were very still, having known
the immensity of passion. They felt small, half-afraid, childish
and wondering, like Adam and Eve when they lost their innocence
and realised the magnificence of the power which drove
them out of Paradise and across the great night and the great day
of humanity. It was for each of them an initiation and a satisfaction.
To know their own nothingness, to know the tremendous living flood
which carried them always, gave them rest within themselves.
If so great a magnificent power could overwhelm them, identify them
altogether with itself, so that they knew they were only grains in
the tremendous heave that lifted every grass blade its little height,
and every tree, and living thing, then why fret about themselves?
They could let themselves be carried by life, and they felt a sort
of peace each in the other. There was a verification which they had
had together. Nothing could nullify it, nothing could take it away;
it was almost their belief in life.
But Clara was not satisfied. Something great was there,
she knew; something great enveloped her. But it did not keep her.
In the morning it was not the same. They had KNOWN, but she
could not keep the moment. She wanted it again; she wanted
something permanent. She had not realised fully. She thought
it was he whom she wanted. He was not safe to her. This that
had been between them might never be again; he might leave her.
She had not got him; she was not satisfied. She had been there,
but she had not gripped the--the something--she knew not what--which she
was mad to have.
In the morning he had considerable peace, and was happy
in himself. It seemed almost as if he had known the baptism of
fire in passion, and it left him at rest. But it was not Clara.
It was something that happened because of her, but it was not her.
They were scarcely any nearer each other. It was as if they had been
blind agents of a great force.
When she saw him that day at the factory her heart melted like
a drop of fire. It was his body, his brows. The drop of fire grew
more intense in her breast; she must hold him. But he, very quiet,
very subdued this morning, went on giving his instruction. She followed
him into the dark, ugly basement, and lifted her arms to him.
He kissed her, and the intensity of passion began to burn him again.
Somebody was at the door. He ran upstairs; she returned to her room,
moving as if in a trance.
After that the fire slowly went down. He felt more and more that
his experience had been impersonal, and not Clara. He loved her.
There was a big tenderness, as after a strong emotion they
had known together; but it was not she who could keep his soul steady.
He had wanted her to be something she could not be.
And she was mad with desire of him. She could not see
him without touching him. In the factory, as he talked to her
about Spiral hose, she ran her hand secretly along his side.
She followed him out into the basement for a quick kiss; her eyes,
always mute and yearning, full of unrestrained passion, she kept
fixed on his. He was afraid of her, lest she should too flagrantly
give herself away before the other girls. She invariably waited
for him at dinnertime for him to embrace her before she went.
He felt as if she were helpless, almost a burden to him, and it
"But what do you always want to be kissing and embracing for?"
he said. "Surely there's a time for everything."
She looked up at him, and the hate came into her eyes.
"DO I always want to be kissing you?" she said.
"Always, even if I come to ask you about the work. I don't
want anything to do with love when I'm at work. Work's work---"
"And what is love?" she asked. "Has it to have special hours?"
"Yes; out of work hours."
"And you'll regulate it according to Mr. Jordan's closing time?"
"Yes; and according to the freedom from business of any sort."
"It is only to exist in spare time?"
"That's all, and not always then--not the kissing sort of love."
"And that's all you think of it?"
"It's quite enough."
"I'm glad you think so."
And she was cold to him for some time--she hated him; and while
she was cold and contemptuous, he was uneasy till she had forgiven
him again. But when they started afresh they were not any nearer.
He kept her because he never satisfied her.
In the spring they went together to the seaside. They had rooms
at a little cottage near Theddlethorpe, and lived as man and wife.
Mrs. Radford sometimes went with them.
It was known in Nottingham that Paul Morel and Mrs. Dawes
were going together, but as nothing was very obvious, and Clara
always a solitary person, and he seemed so simple and innocent,
it did not make much difference.
He loved the Lincolnshire coast, and she loved the sea.
In the early morning they often went out together to bathe.
The grey of the dawn, the far, desolate reaches of the fenland
smitten with winter, the sea-meadows rank with herbage, were stark
enough to rejoice his soul. As they stepped on to the highroad from
their plank bridge, and looked round at the endless monotony of levels,
the land a little darker than the sky, the sea sounding small beyond
the sandhills, his heart filled strong with the sweeping relentlessness
of life. She loved him then. He was solitary and strong, and his eyes
had a beautiful light.
They shuddered with cold; then he raced her down the road to
the green turf bridge. She could run well. Her colour soon came,
her throat was bare, her eyes shone. He loved her for being so
luxuriously heavy, and yet so quick. Himself was light; she went
with a beautiful rush. They grew warm, and walked hand in hand.
A flush came into the sky, the wan moon, half-way down
the west, sank into insignificance. On the shadowy land things
began to take life, plants with great leaves became distinct.
They came through a pass in the big, cold sandhills on to the beach.
The long waste of foreshore lay moaning under the dawn and the sea;
the ocean was a flat dark strip with a white edge. Over the gloomy
sea the sky grew red. Quickly the fire spread among the clouds
and scattered them. Crimson burned to orange, orange to dull gold,
and in a golden glitter the sun came up, dribbling fierily over the
waves in little splashes, as if someone had gone along and the light
had spilled from her pail as she walked.
The breakers ran down the shore in long, hoarse strokes.
Tiny seagulls, like specks of spray, wheeled above the line of surf.
Their crying seemed larger than they. Far away the coast reached out,
and melted into the morning, the tussocky sandhills seemed to sink
to a level with the beach. Mablethorpe was tiny on their right.
They had alone the space of all this level shore, the sea, and the
upcoming sun, the faint noise of the waters, the sharp crying of
They had a warm hollow in the sandhills where the wind did
not come. He stood looking out to sea.
"It's very fine," he said.
"Now don't get sentimental," she said.
It irritated her to see him standing gazing at the sea, like a
solitary and poetic person. He laughed. She quickly undressed.
"There are some fine waves this morning," she said triumphantly.
She was a better swimmer than he; he stood idly watching her.
"Aren't you coming?" she said.
"In a minute," he answered.
She was white and velvet skinned, with heavy shoulders.
A little wind, coming from the sea, blew across her body and ruffled
The morning was of a lovely limpid gold colour. Veils of shadow
seemed to be drifting away on the north and the south. Clara stood
shrinking slightly from the touch of the wind, twisting her hair.
The sea-grass rose behind the white stripped woman. She glanced
at the sea, then looked at him. He was watching her with dark eyes
which she loved and could not understand. She hugged her breasts
between her arms, cringing, laughing:
"Oo, it will be so cold!" she said.
He bent forward and kissed her, held her suddenly close,
and kissed her again. She stood waiting. He looked into her eyes,
then away at the pale sands.
"Go, then!" he said quietly.
She flung her arms round his neck, drew him against her,
kissed him passionately, and went, saying:
"But you'll come in?"
"In a minute."
She went plodding heavily over the sand that was soft as velvet.
He, on the sandhills, watched the great pale coast envelop her.
She grew smaller, lost proportion, seemed only like a large white
bird toiling forward.
"Not much more than a big white pebble on the beach, not much
more than a clot of foam being blown and rolled over the sand,"
he said to himself.
She seemed to move very slowly across the vast sounding shore.
As he watched, he lost her. She was dazzled out of sight by
the sunshine. Again he saw her, the merest white speck moving
against the white, muttering sea-edge.
"Look how little she is!" he said to himself. "She's lost like
a grain of sand in the beach--just a concentrated speck blown along,
a tiny white foam-bubble, almost nothing among the morning.
Why does she absorb me?"
The morning was altogether uninterrupted: she was gone in
the water. Far and wide the beach, the sandhills with their blue marrain,
the shining water, glowed together in immense, unbroken solitude.
"What is she, after all?" he said to himself. "Here's the
seacoast morning, big and permanent and beautiful; there is she,
fretting, always unsatisfied, and temporary as a bubble of foam.
What does she mean to me, after all? She represents something,
like a bubble of foam represents the sea. But what is she?
It's not her I care for."
Then, startled by his own unconscious thoughts, that seemed
to speak so distinctly that all the morning could hear, he undressed
and ran quickly down the sands. She was watching for him. Her arm
flashed up to him, she heaved on a wave, subsided, her shoulders
in a pool of liquid silver. He jumped through the breakers,
and in a moment her hand was on his shoulder.
He was a poor swimmer, and could not stay long in the water.
She played round him in triumph, sporting with her superiority,
which he begrudged her. The sunshine stood deep and fine on the water.
They laughed in the sea for a minute or two, then raced each other back
to the sandhills.
When they were drying themselves, panting heavily,
he watched her laughing, breathless face, her bright shoulders,
her breasts that swayed and made him frightened as she rubbed them,
and he thought again:
"But she is magnificent, and even bigger than the morning
and the sea. Is she---? Is she---"
She, seeing his dark eyes fixed on her, broke off from her
drying with a laugh.
"What are you looking at?" she said.
"You," he answered, laughing.
Her eyes met his, and in a moment he was kissing
her white "goose-fleshed" shoulder, and thinking:
"What is she? What is she?"
She loved him in the morning. There was something detached,
hard, and elemental about his kisses then, as if he were only
conscious of his own will, not in the least of her and her wanting him.
Later in the day he went out sketching.
"You," he said to her, "go with your mother to Sutton.
I am so dull."
She stood and looked at him. He knew she wanted to come
with him, but he preferred to be alone. She made him feel imprisoned
when she was there, as if he could not get a free deep breath,
as if there were something on top of him. She felt his desire
to be free of her.
In the evening he came back to her. They walked down the shore
in the darkness, then sat for a while in the shelter of the sandhills.
"It seems," she said, as they stared over the darkness of the sea,
where no light was to be seen--"it seemed as if you only loved me
at night--as if you didn't love me in the daytime."
He ran the cold sand through his fingers, feeling guilty
under the accusation.
"The night is free to you," he replied. "In the daytime I
want to be by myself."
"But why?" she said. "Why, even now, when we are on this
"I don't know. Love-making stifles me in the daytime."
"But it needn't be always love-making," she said.
"It always is," he answered, "when you and I are together."
She sat feeling very bitter.
"Do you ever want to marry me?" he asked curiously.
"Do you me?" she replied.
"Yes, yes; I should like us to have children," he answered slowly.
She sat with her head bent, fingering the sand.
"But you don't really want a divorce from Baxter, do you?"
It was some minutes before she replied.
"No," she said, very deliberately; "I don't think I do."
"I don't know."
"Do you feel as if you belonged to him?"
"No; I don't think so."
"I think he belongs to me," she replied.
He was silent for some minutes, listening to the wind blowing
over the hoarse, dark sea.
"And you never really intended to belong to ME?" he said.
"Yes, I do belong to you," she answered.
"No," he said; "because you don't want to be divorced."
It was a knot they could not untie, so they left it, took what
they could get, and what they could not attain they ignored.
"I consider you treated Baxter rottenly," he said another time.
He half-expected Clara to answer him, as his mother would:
"You consider your own affairs, and don't know so much about
other people's." But she took him seriously, almost to his own surprise.
"Why?" she said.
"I suppose you thought he was a lily of the valley, and so
you put him in an appropriate pot, and tended him according.
You made up your mind he was a lily of the valley and it was no
good his being a cow-parsnip. You wouldn't have it."
"I certainly never imagined him a lily of the valley."
"You imagined him something he wasn't. That's just what a woman is.
She thinks she knows what's good for a man, and she's going to see
he gets it; and no matter if he's starving, he may sit and whistle
for what he needs, while she's got him, and is giving him what's
good for him."
"And what are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm thinking what tune I shall whistle," he laughed.
And instead of boxing his ears, she considered him in earnest.
"You think I want to give you what's good for you?" she asked.
"I hope so; but love should give a sense of freedom,
not of prison. Miriam made me feel tied up like a donkey to a stake.
I must feed on her patch, and nowhere else. It's sickening!"
"And would YOU let a WOMAN do as she likes?"
"Yes; I'll see that she likes to love me. If she doesn't--well,
I don't hold her."
"If you were as wonderful as you say---," replied Clara.
"I should be the marvel I am," he laughed.
There was a silence in which they hated each other,
though they laughed.
"Love's a dog in a manger," he said.
"And which of us is the dog?" she asked.
"Oh well, you, of course."
So there went on a battle between them. She knew she never fully
had him. Some part, big and vital in him, she had no hold over;
nor did she ever try to get it, or even to realise what it was.
And he knew in some way that she held herself still as Mrs. Dawes.
She did not love Dawes, never had loved him; but she believed he
loved her, at least depended on her. She felt a certain surety
about him that she never felt with Paul Morel. Her passion
for the young man had filled her soul, given her a certain
satisfaction, eased her of her self-mistrust, her doubt.
Whatever else she was, she was inwardly assured. It was almost
as if she had gained HERSELF, and stood now distinct and complete.
She had received her confirmation; but she never believed that her
life belonged to Paul Morel, nor his to her. They would separate
in the end, and the rest of her life would be an ache after him.
But at any rate, she knew now, she was sure of herself. And the
same could almost be said of him. Together they had received
the baptism of life, each through the other; but now their missions
were separate. Where he wanted to go she could not come with him.
They would have to part sooner or later. Even if they married,
and were faithful to each other, still he would have to leave her,
go on alone, and she would only have to attend to him when he
came home. But it was not possible. Each wanted a mate to go side
by side with.
Clara had gone to live with her mother upon Mapperley Plains.
One evening, as Paul and she were walking along Woodborough Road,
they met Dawes. Morel knew something about the bearing of the
man approaching, but he was absorbed in his thinking at the moment,
so that only his artist's eye watched the form of the stranger.
Then he suddenly turned to Clara with a laugh, and put his hand on
her shoulder, saying, laughing:
"But we walk side by side, and yet I'm in London arguing
with an imaginary Orpen; and where are you?"
At that instant Dawes passed, almost touching Morel.
The young man glanced, saw the dark brown eyes burning, full of hate
and yet tired.
"Who was that?" he asked of Clara.
"It was Baxter," she replied.
Paul took his hand from her shoulder and glanced round;
then he saw again distinctly the man's form as it approached him.
Dawes still walked erect, with his fine shoulders flung back, and his
face lifted; but there was a furtive look in his eyes that gave
one the impression he was trying to get unnoticed past every person
he met, glancing suspiciously to see what they thought of him.
And his hands seemed to be wanting to hide. He wore old clothes,
the trousers were torn at the knee, and the handkerchief tied round
his throat was dirty; but his cap was still defiantly over one eye.
As she saw him, Clara felt guilty. There was a tiredness and despair
on his face that made her hate him, because it hurt her.
"He looks shady," said Paul.
But the note of pity in his voice reproached her, and made
her feel hard.
"His true commonness comes out," she answered.
"Do you hate him?" he asked.
"You talk," she said, "about the cruelty of women; I wish you
knew the cruelty of men in their brute force. They simply don't
know that the woman exists."
"Don't I?" he said.
"No," she answered.
"Don't I know you exist?"
"About ME you know nothing," she said bitterly--"about ME!"
"No more than Baxter knew?" he asked.
"Perhaps not as much."
He felt puzzled, and helpless, and angry. There she walked
unknown to him, though they had been through such experience together.
"But you know ME pretty well," he said.
She did not answer.
"Did you know Baxter as well as you know me?" he asked.
"He wouldn't let me," she said.
"And I have let you know me?"
"It's what men WON'T let you do. They won't let you get
really near to them," she said.
"And haven't I let you?"
"Yes," she answered slowly; "but you've never come near to me.
You can't come out of yourself, you can't. Baxter could do that better
He walked on pondering. He was angry with her for prefering
Baxter to him.
"You begin to value Baxter now you've not got him," he said.
"No; I can only see where he was different from you."
But he felt she had a grudge against him.
One evening, as they were coming home over the fields,
she startled him by asking:
"Do you think it's worth it--the--the sex part?"
"The act of loving, itself?"
"Yes; is it worth anything to you?"
"But how can you separate it?" he said. "It's the culmination
of everything. All our intimacy culminates then."
"Not for me," she said.
He was silent. A flash of hate for her came up. After all,
she was dissatisfied with him, even there, where he thought they
fulfilled each other. But he believed her too implicitly.
"I feel," she continued slowly, "as if I hadn't got you,
as if all of you weren't there, and as if it weren't ME you were taking---"
"Something just for yourself. It has been fine, so that I
daren't think of it. But is it ME you want, or is it IT?"
He again felt guilty. Did he leave Clara out of count,
and take simply women? But he thought that was splitting a hair.
"When I had Baxter, actually had him, then I DID feel as if I
had all of him," she said.
"And it was better?" he asked.
"Yes, yes; it was more whole. I don't say you haven't given
me more than he ever gave me."
"Or could give you."
"Yes, perhaps; but you've never given me yourself."
He knitted his brows angrily.
"If I start to make love to you," he said, "I just go like
a leaf down the wind."
"And leave me out of count," she said.
"And then is it nothing to you?" he asked, almost rigid
"It's something; and sometimes you have carried me away--right
away--I know--and--I reverence you for it--but---"
"Don't 'but' me," he said, kissing her quickly, as a fire ran
She submitted, and was silent.
It was true as he said. As a rule, when he started love-making,
the emotion was strong enough to carry with it everything--reason, soul,
blood--in a great sweep, like the Trent carries bodily its back-swirls
and intertwinings, noiselessly. Gradually the little criticisms,
the little sensations, were lost, thought also went, everything borne
along in one flood. He became, not a man with a mind, but a
great instinct. His hands were like creatures, living; his limbs,
his body, were all life and consciousness, subject to no will of his,
but living in themselves. Just as he was, so it seemed the vigorous,
wintry stars were strong also with life. He and they struck with
the same pulse of fire, and the same joy of strength which held
the bracken-frond stiff near his eyes held his own body firm.
It was as if he, and the stars, and the dark herbage, and Clara
were licked up in an immense tongue of flame, which tore onwards
and upwards. Everything rushed along in living beside him;
everything was still, perfect in itself, along with him.
This wonderful stillness in each thing in itself, while it was being
borne along in a very ecstasy of living, seemed the highest point
And Clara knew this held him to her, so she trusted altogether
to the passion. It, however, failed her very often. They did
not often reach again the height of that once when the peewits
had called. Gradually, some mechanical effort spoilt their loving,
or, when they had splendid moments, they had them separately,
and not so satisfactorily. So often he seemed merely to be running
on alone; often they realised it had been a failure, not what they
had wanted. He left her, knowing THAT evening had only made
a little split between them. Their loving grew more mechanical,
without the marvellous glamour. Gradually they began to introduce
novelties, to get back some of the feeling of satisfaction.
They would be very near, almost dangerously near to the river,
so that the black water ran not far from his face, and it gave
a little thrill; or they loved sometimes in a little hollow below
the fence of the path where people were passing occasionally,
on the edge of the town, and they heard footsteps coming, almost felt
the vibration of the tread, and they heard what the passersby
said--strange little things that were never intended to be heard.
And afterwards each of them was rather ashamed, and these things
caused a distance between the two of them. He began to despise her
a little, as if she had merited it!
One night he left her to go to Daybrook Station over the fields.
It was very dark, with an attempt at snow, although the spring
was so far advanced. Morel had not much time; he plunged forward.
The town ceases almost abruptly on the edge of a steep hollow; there the
houses with their yellow lights stand up against the darkness. He went
over the stile, and dropped quickly into the hollow of the fields.
Under the orchard one warm window shone in Swineshead Farm.
Paul glanced round. Behind, the houses stood on the brim of the dip,
black against the sky, like wild beasts glaring curiously with
yellow eyes down into the darkness. It was the town that seemed
savage and uncouth, glaring on the clouds at the back of him.
Some creature stirred under the willows of the farm pond. It was too
dark to distinguish anything.
He was close up to the next stile before he saw a dark shape
leaning against it. The man moved aside.
"Good-evening!" he said.
"Good-evening!" Morel answered, not noticing.
"Paul Morel?" said the man.
Then he knew it was Dawes. The man stopped his way.
"I've got yer, have I?" he said awkwardly.
"I shall miss my train," said Paul.
He could see nothing of Dawes's face. The man's teeth seemed
to chatter as he talked.
"You're going to get it from me now," said Dawes.
Morel attempted to move forward; the other man stepped in front
"Are yer goin' to take that top-coat off," he said, "or are
you goin' to lie down to it?"
Paul was afraid the man was mad.
"But," he said, "I don't know how to fight."
"All right, then," answered Dawes, and before the younger man
knew where he was, he was staggering backwards from a blow across
The whole night went black. He tore off his overcoat and coat,
dodging a blow, and flung the garments over Dawes. The latter
swore savagely. Morel, in his shirt-sleeves, was now alert and
furious. He felt his whole body unsheath itself like a claw.
He could not fight, so he would use his wits. The other man became
more distinct to him; he could see particularly the shirt-breast.
Dawes stumbled over Paul's coats, then came rushing forward.
The young man's mouth was bleeding. It was the other man's mouth
he was dying to get at, and the desire was anguish in its strength.
He stepped quickly through the stile, and as Dawes was coming through
after him, like a flash he got a blow in over the other's mouth.
He shivered with pleasure. Dawes advanced slowly, spitting. Paul
was afraid; he moved round to get to the stile again. Suddenly, from
out of nowhere, came a great blow against his ear, that sent him
falling helpless backwards. He heard Dawes's heavy panting,
like a wild beast's, then came a kick on the knee, giving him
such agony that he got up and, quite blind, leapt clean under his
enemy's guard. He felt blows and kicks, but they did not hurt.
He hung on to the bigger man like a wild cat, till at last Dawes fell
with a crash, losing his presence of mind. Paul went down with him.
Pure instinct brought his hands to the man's neck, and before Dawes,
in frenzy and agony, could wrench him free, he had got his fists
twisted in the scarf and his knuckles dug in the throat of the
other man. He was a pure instinct, without reason or feeling.
His body, hard and wonderful in itself, cleaved against the
struggling body of the other man; not a muscle in him relaxed.
He was quite unconscious, only his body had taken upon itself to kill
this other man. For himself, he had neither feeling nor reason.
He lay pressed hard against his adversary, his body adjusting itself
to its one pure purpose of choking the other man, resisting exactly
at the right moment, with exactly the right amount of strength,
the struggles of the other, silent, intent, unchanging, gradually
pressing its knuckles deeper, feeling the struggles of the other
body become wilder and more frenzied. Tighter and tighter grew
his body, like a screw that is gradually increasing in pressure,
till something breaks.
Then suddenly he relaxed, full of wonder and misgiving.
Dawes had been yielding. Morel felt his body flame with pain,
as he realised what he was doing; he was all bewildered.
Dawes's struggles suddenly renewed themselves in a furious spasm.
Paul's hands were wrenched, torn out of the scarf in which they
were knotted, and he was flung away, helpless. He heard the horrid
sound of the other's gasping, but he lay stunned; then, still dazed,
he felt the blows of the other's feet, and lost consciousness.
Dawes, grunting with pain like a beast, was kicking the prostrate
body of his rival. Suddenly the whistle of the train shrieked
two fields away. He turned round and glared suspiciously.
What was coming? He saw the lights of the train draw across his vision.
It seemed to him people were approaching. He made off across the
field into Nottingham, and dimly in his consciousness as he went,
he felt on his foot the place where his boot had knocked against
one of the lad's bones. The knock seemed to re-echo inside him;
he hurried to get away from it.
Morel gradually came to himself. He knew where he was and
what had happened, but he did not want to move. He lay still,
with tiny bits of snow tickling his face. It was pleasant
to lie quite, quite still. The time passed. It was the bits
of snow that kept rousing him when he did not want to be roused.
At last his will clicked into action.
"I mustn't lie here," he said; "it's silly."
But still he did not move.
"I said I was going to get up," he repeated. "Why don't I?"
And still it was some time before he had sufficiently pulled
himself together to stir; then gradually he got up. Pain made him
sick and dazed, but his brain was clear. Reeling, he groped for
his coats and got them on, buttoning his overcoat up to his ears.
It was some time before he found his cap. He did not know whether his
face was still bleeding. Walking blindly, every step making him sick
with pain, he went back to the pond and washed his face and hands.
The icy water hurt, but helped to bring him back to himself.
He crawled back up the hill to the tram. He wanted to get to his
mother--he must get to his mother--that was his blind intention.
He covered his face as much as he could, and struggled sickly along.
Continually the ground seemed to fall away from him as he walked,
and he felt himself dropping with a sickening feeling into space; so,
like a nightmare, he got through with the journey home.
Everybody was in bed. He looked at himself. His face was
discoloured and smeared with blood, almost like a dead man's face.
He washed it, and went to bed. The night went by in delirium.
In the morning he found his mother looking at him. Her blue eyes--they
were all he wanted to see. She was there; he was in her hands.
"It's not much, mother," he said. "It was Baxter Dawes."
"Tell me where it hurts you," she said quietly.
"I don't know--my shoulder. Say it was a bicycle accident, mother."
He could not move his arm. Presently Minnie, the little servant,
came upstairs with some tea.
"Your mother's nearly frightened me out of my wits--fainted away,"
He felt he could not bear it. His mother nursed him; he told
her about it.
"And now I should have done with them all," she said quietly.
"I will, mother."
She covered him up.
"And don't think about it," she said--"only try to go to sleep.
The doctor won't be here till eleven."
He had a dislocated shoulder, and the second day acute bronchitis
set in. His mother was pale as death now, and very thin. She would
sit and look at him, then away into space. There was something