Part 11 out of 12
between them that neither dared mention. Clara came to see him.
Afterwards he said to his mother:
"She makes me tired, mother."
"Yes; I wish she wouldn't come," Mrs. Morel replied.
Another day Miriam came, but she seemed almost like a stranger
"You know, I don't care about them, mother," he said.
"I'm afraid you don't, my son," she replied sadly.
It was given out everywhere that it was a bicycle accident.
Soon he was able to go to work again, but now there was a constant
sickness and gnawing at his heart. He went to Clara, but there seemed,
as it were, nobody there. He could not work. He and his mother
seemed almost to avoid each other. There was some secret between
them which they could not bear. He was not aware of it. He only
knew that his life seemed unbalanced, as if it were going to smash
Clara did not know what was the matter with him.
She realised that he seemed unaware of her. Even when he came
to her he seemed unaware of her; always he was somewhere else.
She felt she was clutching for him, and he was somewhere else.
It tortured her, and so she tortured him. For a month at a time
she kept him at arm's length. He almost hated her, and was driven
to her in spite of himself. He went mostly into the company of men,
was always at the George or the White Horse. His mother was ill,
distant, quiet, shadowy. He was terrified of something; he dared
not look at her. Her eyes seemed to grow darker, her face more waxen;
still she dragged about at her work.
At Whitsuntide he said he would go to Blackpool for four
days with his friend Newton. The latter was a big, jolly fellow,
with a touch of the bounder about him. Paul said his mother must go
to Sheffield to stay a week with Annie, who lived there. Perhaps the
change would do her good. Mrs. Morel was attending a woman's doctor
in Nottingham. He said her heart and her digestion were wrong.
She consented to go to Sheffield, though she did not want to;
but now she would do everything her son wished of her. Paul said
he would come for her on the fifth day, and stay also in Sheffield
till the holiday was up. It was agreed.
The two young men set off gaily for Blackpool. Mrs. Morel was
quite lively as Paul kissed her and left her. Once at the station,
he forgot everything. Four days were clear--not an anxiety,
not a thought. The two young men simply enjoyed themselves.
Paul was like another man. None of himself remained--no Clara,
no Miriam, no mother that fretted him. He wrote to them all,
and long letters to his mother; but they were jolly letters that
made her laugh. He was having a good time, as young fellows will
in a place like Blackpool. And underneath it all was a shadow
Paul was very gay, excited at the thought of staying with his
mother in Sheffield. Newton was to spend the day with them.
Their train was late. Joking, laughing, with their pipes between
their teeth, the young men swung their bags on to the tram-car. Paul
had bought his mother a little collar of real lace that he wanted
to see her wear, so that he could tease her about it.
Annie lived in a nice house, and had a little maid. Paul ran
gaily up the steps. He expected his mother laughing in the hall,
but it was Annie who opened to him. She seemed distant to him.
He stood a second in dismay. Annie let him kiss her cheek.
"Is my mother ill?" he said.
"Yes; she's not very well. Don't upset her."
"Is she in bed?"
And then the queer feeling went over him, as if all the sunshine
had gone out of him, and it was all shadow. He dropped the bag
and ran upstairs. Hesitating, he opened the door. His mother
sat up in bed, wearing a dressing-gown of old-rose colour.
She looked at him almost as if she were ashamed of herself,
pleading to him, humble. He saw the ashy look about her.
"Mother!" he said.
"I thought you were never coming," she answered gaily.
But he only fell on his knees at the bedside, and buried
his face in the bedclothes, crying in agony, and saying:
She stroked his hair slowly with her thin hand.
"Don't cry," she said. "Don't cry--it's nothing."
But he felt as if his blood was melting into tears, and he
cried in terror and pain.
"Don't--don't cry," his mother faltered.
Slowly she stroked his hair. Shocked out of himself, he cried,
and the tears hurt in every fibre of his body. Suddenly he stopped,
but he dared not lift his face out of the bedclothes.
"You ARE late. Where have you been?" his mother asked.
"The train was late," he replied, muffled in the sheet.
"Yes; that miserable Central! Is Newton come?"
"I'm sure you must be hungry, and they've kept dinner waiting."
With a wrench he looked up at her.
"What is it, mother?" he asked brutally.
She averted her eyes as she answered:
"Only a bit of a tumour, my boy. You needn't trouble.
It's been there--the lump has--a long time."
Up came the tears again. His mind was clear and hard,
but his body was crying.
"Where?" he said.
She put her hand on her side.
"Here. But you know they can sweal a tumour away."
He stood feeling dazed and helpless, like a child. He thought
perhaps it was as she said. Yes; he reassured himself it was so.
But all the while his blood and his body knew definitely what it was.
He sat down on the bed, and took her hand. She had never had but the
one ring--her wedding-ring.
"When were you poorly?" he asked.
"It was yesterday it began," she answered submissively.
"Yes; but not more than I've often had at home. I believe
Dr. Ansell is an alarmist."
"You ought not to have travelled alone," he said, to himself
more than to her.
"As if that had anything to do with it!" she answered quickly.
They were silent for a while.
"Now go and have your dinner," she said. "You MUST be hungry."
"Have you had yours?"
"Yes; a beautiful sole I had. Annie IS good to me."
They talked a little while, then he went downstairs.
He was very white and strained. Newton sat in miserable sympathy.
After dinner he went into the scullery to help Annie to wash up.
The little maid had gone on an errand.
"Is it really a tumour?" he asked.
Annie began to cry again.
"The pain she had yesterday--I never saw anybody suffer like it!"
she cried. "Leonard ran like a madman for Dr. Ansell, and when she'd
got to bed she said to me: 'Annie, look at this lump on my side.
I wonder what it is?' And there I looked, and I thought I should
have dropped. Paul, as true as I'm here, it's a lump as big as my
double fist. I said: 'Good gracious, mother, whenever did that come?'
'Why, child,' she said, 'it's been there a long time.' I thought I
should have died, our Paul, I did. She's been having these pains
for months at home, and nobody looking after her."
The tears came to his eyes, then dried suddenly.
"But she's been attending the doctor in Nottingham--and she
never told me," he said.
"If I'd have been at home," said Annie, "I should have seen
He felt like a man walking in unrealities. In the afternoon
he went to see the doctor. The latter was a shrewd, lovable man.
"But what is it?" he said.
The doctor looked at the young man, then knitted his fingers.
"It may be a large tumour which has formed in the membrane,"
he said slowly, "and which we MAY be able to make go away."
"Can't you operate?" asked Paul.
"Not there," replied the doctor.
"Are you sure?"
Paul meditated a while.
"Are you sure it's a tumour?" he asked. "Why did Dr. Jameson
in Nottingham never find out anything about it? She's been going
to him for weeks, and he's treated her for heart and indigestion."
"Mrs. Morel never told Dr. Jameson about the lump," said the doctor.
"And do you KNOW it's a tumour?"
"No, I am not sure."
"What else MIGHT it be? You asked my sister if there was
cancer in the family. Might it be cancer?"
"I don't know."
"And what shall you do?"
"I should like an examination, with Dr. Jameson."
"Then have one."
"You must arrange about that. His fee wouldn't be less than
ten guineas to come here from Nottingham."
"When would you like him to come?"
"I will call in this evening, and we will talk it over."
Paul went away, biting his lip.
His mother could come downstairs for tea, the doctor said.
Her son went upstairs to help her. She wore the old-rose dressing-gown
that Leonard had given Annie, and, with a little colour in her face,
was quite young again.
"But you look quite pretty in that," he said.
"Yes; they make me so fine, I hardly know myself," she answered.
But when she stood up to walk, the colour went. Paul helped her,
half-carrying her. At the top of the stairs she was gone. He lifted
her up and carried her quickly downstairs; laid her on the couch.
She was light and frail. Her face looked as if she were dead,
with blue lips shut tight. Her eyes opened--her blue, unfailing eyes--
and she looked at him pleadingly, almost wanting him to forgive her.
He held brandy to her lips, but her mouth would not open.
All the time she watched him lovingly. She was only sorry for him.
The tears ran down his face without ceasing, but not a muscle moved.
He was intent on getting a little brandy between her lips.
Soon she was able to swallow a teaspoonful. She lay back, so tired.
The tears continued to run down his face.
"But," she panted, "it'll go off. Don't cry!"
"I'm not doing," he said.
After a while she was better again. He was kneeling beside
the couch. They looked into each other's eyes.
"I don't want you to make a trouble of it," she said.
"No, mother. You'll have to be quite still, and then you'll
get better soon."
But he was white to the lips, and their eyes as they looked
at each other understood. Her eyes were so blue--such a wonderful
forget-me-not blue! He felt if only they had been of a different
colour he could have borne it better. His heart seemed to be
ripping slowly in his breast. He kneeled there, holding her hand,
and neither said anything. Then Annie came in.
"Are you all right?" she murmured timidly to her mother.
"Of course," said Mrs. Morel.
Paul sat down and told her about Blackpool. She was curious.
A day or two after, he went to see Dr. Jameson in Nottingham,
to arrange for a consultation. Paul had practically no money in
the world. But he could borrow.
His mother had been used to go to the public consultation on
Saturday morning, when she could see the doctor for only a nominal sum.
Her son went on the same day. The waiting-room was full of poor women,
who sat patiently on a bench around the wall. Paul thought of
his mother, in her little black costume, sitting waiting likewise.
The doctor was late. The women all looked rather frightened.
Paul asked the nurse in attendance if he could see the doctor
immediately he came. It was arranged so. The women sitting
patiently round the walls of the room eyed the young man curiously.
At last the doctor came. He was about forty,
good-looking, brown-skinned. His wife had died, and he,
who had loved her, had specialised on women's ailments.
Paul told his name and his mother's. The doctor did not remember.
"Number forty-six M.," said the nurse; and the doctor looked
up the case in his book.
"There is a big lump that may be a tumour," said Paul.
"But Dr. Ansell was going to write you a letter."
"Ah, yes!" replied the doctor, drawing the letter from
his pocket. He was very friendly, affable, busy, kind. He would
come to Sheffield the next day.
"What is your father?" he asked.
"He is a coal-miner," replied Paul.
"Not very well off, I suppose?"
"This--I see after this," said Paul.
"And you?" smiled the doctor.
"I am a clerk in Jordan's Appliance Factory."
The doctor smiled at him.
"Er--to go to Sheffield!" he said, putting the tips of his
fingers together, and smiling with his eyes. "Eight guineas?"
"Thank you!" said Paul, flushing and rising. "And you'll
"To-morrow--Sunday? Yes! Can you tell me about what time there
is a train in the afternoon?"
"There is a Central gets in at four-fifteen."
"And will there be any way of getting up to the house?
Shall I have to walk?" The doctor smiled.
"There is the tram," said Paul; "the Western Park tram."
The doctor made a note of it.
"Thank you!" he said, and shook hands.
Then Paul went on home to see his father, who was left in
the charge of Minnie. Walter Morel was getting very grey now.
Paul found him digging in the garden. He had written him a letter.
He shook hands with his father.
"Hello, son! Tha has landed, then?" said the father.
"Yes," replied the son. "But I'm going back to-night."
"Are ter, beguy!" exclaimed the collier. "An' has ter eaten owt?"
"That's just like thee," said Morel. "Come thy ways in."
The father was afraid of the mention of his wife. The two
went indoors. Paul ate in silence; his father, with earthy hands,
and sleeves rolled up, sat in the arm-chair opposite and looked
"Well, an' how is she?" asked the miner at length, in a little voice.
"She can sit up; she can be carried down for tea," said Paul.
"That's a blessin'!" exclaimed Morel. "I hope we s'll soon
be havin' her whoam, then. An' what's that Nottingham doctor say?"
"He's going to-morrow to have an examination of her."
"Is he beguy! That's a tidy penny, I'm thinkin'!"
"Eight guineas!" the miner spoke breathlessly. "Well, we mun
find it from somewhere."
"I can pay that," said Paul.
There was silence between them for some time.
"She says she hopes you're getting on all right with Minnie,"
"Yes, I'm all right, an' I wish as she was," answered Morel.
"But Minnie's a good little wench, bless 'er heart!" He sat
"I s'll have to be going at half-past three," said Paul.
"It's a trapse for thee, lad! Eight guineas! An' when dost
think she'll be able to get as far as this?"
"We must see what the doctors say to-morrow," Paul said.
Morel sighed deeply. The house seemed strangely empty,
and Paul thought his father looked lost, forlorn, and old.
"You'll have to go and see her next week, father," he said.
"I hope she'll be a-whoam by that time," said Morel.
"If she's not," said Paul, "then you must come."
"I dunno wheer I s'll find th' money," said Morel.
"And I'll write to you what the doctor says," said Paul.
"But tha writes i' such a fashion, I canna ma'e it out,"
"Well, I'll write plain."
It was no good asking Morel to answer, for he could scarcely
do more than write his own name.
The doctor came. Leonard felt it his duty to meet him with a cab.
The examination did not take long. Annie, Arthur, Paul, and Leonard
were waiting in the parlour anxiously. The doctors came down.
Paul glanced at them. He had never had any hope, except when he had
"It MAY be a tumour; we must wait and see," said Dr. Jameson.
"And if it is," said Annie, "can you sweal it away?"
"Probably," said the doctor.
Paul put eight sovereigns and half a sovereign on the table.
The doctor counted them, took a florin out of his purse, and put
"Thank you!" he said. "I'm sorry Mrs. Morel is so ill.
But we must see what we can do."
"There can't be an operation?" said Paul.
The doctor shook his head.
"No," he said; "and even if there could, her heart wouldn't
"Is her heart risky?" asked Paul.
"Yes; you must be careful with her."
"No--er--no, no! Just take care."
And the doctor was gone.
Then Paul carried his mother downstairs. She lay simply,
like a child. But when he was on the stairs, she put her arms round
his neck, clinging.
"I'm so frightened of these beastly stairs," she said.
And he was frightened, too. He would let Leonard do it
another time. He felt he could not carry her.
"He thinks it's only a tumour!" cried Annie to her mother.
"And he can sweal it away."
"I KNEW he could," protested Mrs. Morel scornfully.
She pretended not to notice that Paul had gone out of the room.
He sat in the kitchen, smoking. Then he tried to brush some grey ash
off his coat. He looked again. It was one of his mother's grey hairs.
It was so long! He held it up, and it drifted into the chimney.
He let go. The long grey hair floated and was gone in the blackness
of the chimney.
The next day he kissed her before going back to work.
It was very early in the morning, and they were alone.
"You won't fret, my boy!" she said.
"No; it would be silly. And take care of yourself."
"Yes," he answered. Then, after a while: "And I shall come
next Saturday, and shall bring my father?"
"I suppose he wants to come," she replied. "At any rate,
if he does you'll have to let him."
He kissed her again, and stroked the hair from her temples,
gently, tenderly, as if she were a lover.
"Shan't you be late?" she murmured.
"I'm going," he said, very low.
Still he sat a few minutes, stroking the brown and grey hair
from her temples.
"And you won't be any worse, mother?"
"No, my son."
"You promise me?"
"Yes; I won't be any worse."
He kissed her, held her in his arms for a moment, and was gone.
In the early sunny morning he ran to the station, crying all the way;
he did not know what for. And her blue eyes were wide and staring
as she thought of him.
In the afternoon he went a walk with Clara. They sat
in the little wood where bluebells were standing. He took her hand.
"You'll see," he said to Clara, "she'll never be better."
"Oh, you don't know!" replied the other.
"I do," he said.
She caught him impulsively to her breast.
"Try and forget it, dear," she said; "try and forget it."
"I will," he answered.
Her breast was there, warm for him; her hands were in his hair.
It was comforting, and he held his arms round her. But he did
not forget. He only talked to Clara of something else. And it
was always so. When she felt it coming, the agony, she cried
"Don't think of it, Paul! Don't think of it, my darling!"
And she pressed him to her breast, rocked him, soothed him
like a child. So he put the trouble aside for her sake, to take it
up again immediately he was alone. All the time, as he went about,
he cried mechanically. His mind and hands were busy. He cried,
he did not know why. It was his blood weeping. He was just as much
alone whether he was with Clara or with the men in the White Horse.
Just himself and this pressure inside him, that was all that existed.
He read sometimes. He had to keep his mind occupied. And Clara was a
way of occupying his mind.
On the Saturday Walter Morel went to Sheffield. He was
a forlorn figure, looking rather as if nobody owned him.
Paul ran upstairs.
"My father's come," he said, kissing his mother.
"Has he?" she answered wearily.
The old collier came rather frightened into the bedroom.
"How dun I find thee, lass?" he said, going forward and kissing
her in a hasty, timid fashion.
"Well, I'm middlin'," she replied.
"I see tha art," he said. He stood looking down on her.
Then he wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. Helpless, and as if
nobody owned him, he looked.
"Have you gone on all right?" asked the wife, rather wearily,
as if it were an effort to talk to him.
"Yis," he answered. "'Er's a bit behint-hand now and again, as
yer might expect."
"Does she have your dinner ready?" asked Mrs. Morel.
"Well, I've 'ad to shout at 'er once or twice," he said.
"And you MUST shout at her if she's not ready. She WILL leave
things to the last minute."
She gave him a few instructions. He sat looking at her as
if she were almost a stranger to him, before whom he was awkward
and humble, and also as if he had lost his presence of mind,
and wanted to run. This feeling that he wanted to run away,
that he was on thorns to be gone from so trying a situation, and yet
must linger because it looked better, made his presence so trying.
He put up his eyebrows for misery, and clenched his fists on his knees,
feeling so awkward in presence of big trouble.
Mrs. Morel did not change much. She stayed in Sheffield
for two months. If anything, at the end she was rather worse.
But she wanted to go home. Annie had her children. Mrs. Morel
wanted to go home. So they got a motor-car from Nottingham--for she
was too ill to go by train--and she was driven through the sunshine.
It was just August; everything was bright and warm. Under the blue
sky they could all see she was dying. Yet she was jollier than she
had been for weeks. They all laughed and talked.
"Annie," she exclaimed, "I saw a lizard dart on that rock!"
Her eyes were so quick; she was still so full of life.
Morel knew she was coming. He had the front door open.
Everybody was on tiptoe. Half the street turned out. They heard
the sound of the great motor-car. Mrs. Morel, smiling, drove home
down the street.
"And just look at them all come out to see me!" she said.
"But there, I suppose I should have done the same. How do you do,
Mrs. Mathews? How are you, Mrs. Harrison?"
They none of them could hear, but they saw her smile and nod.
And they all saw death on her face, they said. It was a great event
in the street.
Morel wanted to carry her indoors, but he was too old.
Arthur took her as if she were a child. They had set her a big,
deep chair by the hearth where her rocking-chair used to stand.
When she was unwrapped and seated, and had drunk a little brandy,
she looked round the room.
"Don't think I don't like your house, Annie," she said;
"but it's nice to be in my own home again."
And Morel answered huskily:
"It is, lass, it is."
And Minnie, the little quaint maid, said:
"An' we glad t' 'ave yer."
There was a lovely yellow ravel of sunflowers in the garden.
She looked out of the window.
"There are my sunflowers!" she said.
"By the way," said Dr. Ansell one evening when Morel was
in Sheffield, "we've got a man in the fever hospital here who comes
from Nottingham--Dawes. He doesn't seem to have many belongings
in this world."
"Baxter Dawes!" Paul exclaimed.
"That's the man--has been a fine fellow, physically, I should think.
Been in a bit of a mess lately. You know him?"
"He used to work at the place where I am."
"Did he? Do you know anything about him? He's just sulking,
or he'd be a lot better than he is by now."
"I don't know anything of his home circumstances, except that
he's separated from his wife and has been a bit down, I believe.
But tell him about me, will you? Tell him I'll come and see him."
The next time Morel saw the doctor he said:
"And what about Dawes?"
"I said to him," answered the other, "'Do you know a man from
Nottingham named Morel?' and he looked at me as if he'd jump at
my throat. So I said: 'I see you know the name; it's Paul Morel.'
Then I told him about your saying you would go and see him.
'What does he want?' he said, as if you were a policeman."
"And did he say he would see me?" asked Paul.
"He wouldn't say anything--good, bad or indifferent,"
replied the doctor.
"That's what I want to know. There he lies and sulks, day in,
day out. Can't get a word of information out of him."
"Do you think I might go?" asked Paul.
There was a feeling of connection between the rival men,
more than ever since they had fought. In a way Morel felt guilty
towards the other, and more or less responsible. And being in such
a state of soul himself, he felt an almost painful nearness to Dawes,
who was suffering and despairing, too. Besides, they had met
in a naked extremity of hate, and it was a bond. At any rate,
the elemental man in each had met.
He went down to the isolation hospital, with Dr. Ansell's card.
This sister, a healthy young Irishwoman, led him down the ward.
"A visitor to see you, Jim Crow," she said.
Dawes turned over suddenly with a startled grunt.
"Caw!" she mocked. "He can only say 'Caw!' I have brought you
a gentleman to see you. Now say 'Thank you,' and show some manners."
Dawes looked swiftly with his dark, startled eyes beyond the sister
at Paul. His look was full of fear, mistrust, hate, and misery.
Morel met the swift, dark eyes, and hesitated. The two men were
afraid of the naked selves they had been.
"Dr. Ansell told me you were here," said Morel, holding out
Dawes mechanically shook hands.
"So I thought I'd come in," continued Paul.
There was no answer. Dawes lay staring at the opposite wall.
"Say 'Caw!"' mocked the nurse. "Say 'Caw!' Jim Crow."
"He is getting on all right?" said Paul to her.
"Oh yes! He lies and imagines he's going to die," said the nurse,
"and it frightens every word out of his mouth."
"And you MUST have somebody to talk to," laughed Morel.
"That's it!" laughed the nurse. "Only two old men and a boy
who always cries. It is hard lines! Here am I dying to hear Jim
Crow's voice, and nothing but an odd 'Caw!' will he give!"
"So rough on you!" said Morel.
"Isn't it?" said the nurse.
"I suppose I am a godsend," he laughed.
"Oh, dropped straight from heaven!" laughed the nurse.
Presently she left the two men alone. Dawes was thinner,
and handsome again, but life seemed low in him. As the doctor said,
he was lying sulking, and would not move forward towards convalescence.
He seemed to grudge every beat of his heart.
"Have you had a bad time?" asked Paul.
Suddenly again Dawes looked at him.
"What are you doing in Sheffield?" he asked.
"My mother was taken ill at my sister's in Thurston Street.
What are you doing here?"
There was no answer.
"How long have you been in?" Morel asked.
"I couldn't say for sure," Dawes answered grudgingly.
He lay staring across at the wall opposite, as if trying to
believe Morel was not there. Paul felt his heart go hard and angry.
"Dr. Ansell told me you were here," he said coldly.
The other man did not answer.
"Typhoid's pretty bad, I know," Morel persisted.
Suddenly Dawes said:
"What did you come for?"
"Because Dr. Ansell said you didn't know anybody here.
"I know nobody nowhere," said Dawes.
"Well," said Paul, "it's because you don't choose to, then."
There was another silence.
"We s'll be taking my mother home as soon as we can,"
"What's a-matter with her?" asked Dawes, with a sick man's
interest in illness.
"She's got a cancer."
There was another silence.
"But we want to get her home," said Paul. "We s'll have to get
Dawes lay thinking.
"Why don't you ask Thomas Jordan to lend you his?" said Dawes.
"It's not big enough," Morel answered.
Dawes blinked his dark eyes as he lay thinking.
"Then ask Jack Pilkington; he'd lend it you. You know him."
"I think I s'll hire one," said Paul.
"You're a fool if you do," said Dawes.
The sick man was gaunt and handsome again. Paul was sorry
for him because his eyes looked so tired.
"Did you get a job here?" he asked.
"I was only here a day or two before I was taken bad,"
"You want to get in a convalescent home," said Paul.
The other's face clouded again.
"I'm goin' in no convalescent home," he said.
"My father's been in the one at Seathorpe, an' he liked it.
Dr. Ansell would get you a recommend."
Dawes lay thinking. It was evident he dared not face
the world again.
"The seaside would be all right just now," Morel said.
"Sun on those sandhills, and the waves not far out."
The other did not answer.
"By Gad!" Paul concluded, too miserable to bother much;
"it's all right when you know you're going to walk again, and swim!"
Dawes glanced at him quickly. The man's dark eyes were
afraid to meet any other eyes in the world. But the real misery
and helplessness in Paul's tone gave him a feeling of relief.
"Is she far gone?" he asked.
"She's going like wax," Paul answered; "but cheerful--lively!"
He bit his lip. After a minute he rose.
"Well, I'll be going," he said. "I'll leave you this half-crown."
"I don't want it," Dawes muttered.
Morel did not answer, but left the coin on the table.
"Well," he said, "I'll try and run in when I'm back in Sheffield.
Happen you might like to see my brother-in-law? He works in Pyecrofts."
"I don't know him," said Dawes.
"He's all right. Should I tell him to come? He might bring
you some papers to look at."
The other man did not answer. Paul went. The strong emotion
that Dawes aroused in him, repressed, made him shiver.
He did not tell his mother, but next day he spoke to Clara
about this interview. It was in the dinner-hour. The two did
not often go out together now, but this day he asked her to go
with him to the Castle grounds. There they sat while the scarlet
geraniums and the yellow calceolarias blazed in the sunlight.
She was now always rather protective, and rather resentful towards him.
"Did you know Baxter was in Sheffield Hospital with typhoid?"
She looked at him with startled grey eyes, and her face went pale.
"No," she said, frightened.
"He's getting better. I went to see him yesterday--the doctor
Clara seemed stricken by the news.
"Is he very bad?" she asked guiltily.
"He has been. He's mending now."
"What did he say to you?"
"Oh, nothing! He seems to be sulking."
There was a distance between the two of them. He gave her
She went about shut up and silent. The next time they took
a walk together, she disengaged herself from his arm, and walked
at a distance from him. He was wanting her comfort badly.
"Won't you be nice with me?" he asked.
She did not answer.
"What's the matter?" he said, putting his arm across her shoulder.
"Don't!" she said, disengaging herself.
He left her alone, and returned to his own brooding.
"Is it Baxter that upsets you?" he asked at length.
"I HAVE been VILE to him!" she said.
"I've said many a time you haven't treated him well,"
And there was a hostility between them. Each pursued his own
train of thought.
"I've treated him--no, I've treated him badly," she said.
"And now you treat ME badly. It serves me right."
"How do I treat you badly?" he said.
"It serves me right," she repeated. "I never considered him
worth having, and now you don't consider ME. But it serves me
right. He loved me a thousand times better than you ever did."
"He didn't!" protested Paul.
"He did! At any rate, he did respect me, and that's what you
"It looked as if he respected you!" he said.
"He did! And I MADE him horrid--I know I did! You've taught
me that. And he loved me a thousand times better than ever you do."
"All right," said Paul.
He only wanted to be left alone now. He had his own trouble,
which was almost too much to bear. Clara only tormented him and made
him tired. He was not sorry when he left her.
She went on the first opportunity to Sheffield to see
her husband. The meeting was not a success. But she left him
roses and fruit and money. She wanted to make restitution.
It was not that she loved him. As she looked at him lying there
her heart did not warm with love. Only she wanted to humble
herself to him, to kneel before him. She wanted now to be
self-sacrificial. After all, she had failed to make Morel really
love her. She was morally frightened. She wanted to do penance.
So she kneeled to Dawes, and it gave him a subtle pleasure.
But the distance between them was still very great--too great.
It frightened the man. It almost pleased the woman. She liked
to feel she was serving him across an insuperable distance.
She was proud now.
Morel went to see Dawes once or twice. There was a sort of
friendship between the two men, who were all the while deadly rivals.
But they never mentioned the woman who was between them.
Mrs. Morel got gradually worse. At first they used to carry
her downstairs, sometimes even into the garden. She sat propped
in her chair, smiling, and so pretty. The gold wedding-ring shone
on her white hand; her hair was carefully brushed. And she watched
the tangled sunflowers dying, the chrysanthemums coming out,
and the dahlias.
Paul and she were afraid of each other. He knew, and she knew,
that she was dying. But they kept up a pretence of cheerfulness.
Every morning, when he got up, he went into her room in his pyjamas.
"Did you sleep, my dear?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered.
"Not very well?"
"Well, yes! "
Then he knew she had lain awake. He saw her hand under
the bedclothes, pressing the place on her side where the pain was.
"Has it been bad?" he asked.
"No. It hurt a bit, but nothing to mention."
And she sniffed in her old scornful way. As she lay she
looked like a girl. And all the while her blue eyes watched him.
But there were the dark pain-circles beneath that made him ache again.
"It's a sunny day," he said.
"It's a beautiful day."
"Do you think you'll be carried down?"
"I shall see."
Then he went away to get her breakfast. All day long he
was conscious of nothing but her. It was a long ache that made
him feverish. Then, when he got home in the early evening, he glanced
through the kitchen window. She was not there; she had not got up.
He ran straight upstairs and kissed her. He was almost afraid
"Didn't you get up, pigeon?"
"No," she said. "it was that morphia; it made me tired."
"I think he gives you too much," he said.
"I think he does," she answered.
He sat down by the bed, miserably. She had a way of curling
and lying on her side, like a child. The grey and brown hair
was loose over her ear.
"Doesn't it tickle you?" he said, gently putting it back.
"It does," she replied.
His face was near hers. Her blue eyes smiled straight into his,
like a girl's--warm, laughing with tender love. It made him pant
with terror, agony, and love.
"You want your hair doing in a plait," he said. "Lie still."
And going behind her, he carefully loosened her hair,
brushed it out. It was like fine long silk of brown and grey.
Her head was snuggled between her shoulders. As he lightly
brushed and plaited her hair, he bit his lip and felt dazed.
It all seemed unreal, he could not understand it.
At night he often worked in her room, looking up from time
to time. And so often he found her blue eyes fixed on him.
And when their eyes met, she smiled. He worked away again mechanically,
producing good stuff without knowing what he was doing.
Sometimes he came in, very pale and still, with watchful,
sudden eyes, like a man who is drunk almost to death. They were
both afraid of the veils that were ripping between them.
Then she pretended to be better, chattered to him gaily,
made a great fuss over some scraps of news. For they had both come
to the condition when they had to make much of the trifles, lest they
should give in to the big thing, and their human independence would
go smash. They were afraid, so they made light of things and were gay.
Sometimes as she lay he knew she was thinking of the past.
Her mouth gradually shut hard in a line. She was holding herself rigid,
so that she might die without ever uttering the great cry that
was tearing from her. He never forgot that hard, utterly lonely
and stubborn clenching of her mouth, which persisted for weeks.
Sometimes, when it was lighter, she talked about her husband.
Now she hated him. She did not forgive him. She could not bear him
to be in the room. And a few things, the things that had been most
bitter to her, came up again so strongly that they broke from her,
and she told her son.
He felt as if his life were being destroyed, piece by piece,
within him. Often the tears came suddenly. He ran to the station,
the tear-drops falling on the pavement. Often he could not go
on with his work. The pen stopped writing. He sat staring,
quite unconscious. And when he came round again he felt sick,
and trembled in his limbs. He never questioned what it was.
His mind did not try to analyse or understand. He merely submitted,
and kept his eyes shut; let the thing go over him.
His mother did the same. She thought of the pain, of the
morphia, of the next day; hardly ever of the death. That was coming,
she knew. She had to submit to it. But she would never entreat it
or make friends with it. Blind, with her face shut hard and blind,
she was pushed towards the door. The days passed, the weeks,
Sometimes, in the sunny afternoons, she seemed almost happy.
"I try to think of the nice times--when we went to Mablethorpe,
and Robin Hood's Bay, and Shanklin," she said. "After all,
not everybody has seen those beautiful places. And wasn't it beautiful!
I try to think of that, not of the other things."
Then, again, for a whole evening she spoke not a word;
neither did he. They were together, rigid, stubborn, silent. He went
into his room at last to go to bed, and leaned against the doorway
as if paralysed, unable to go any farther. His consciousness went.
A furious storm, he knew not what, seemed to ravage inside him.
He stood leaning there, submitting, never questioning.
In the morning they were both normal again, though her face
was grey with the morphia, and her body felt like ash. But they were
bright again, nevertheless. Often, especially if Annie or Arthur
were at home, he neglected her. He did not see much of Clara.
Usually he was with men. He was quick and active and lively;
but when his friends saw him go white to the gills, his eyes dark
and glittering, they had a certain mistrust of him. Sometimes he
went to Clara, but she was almost cold to him.
"Take me!" he said simply.
Occasionally she would. But she was afraid. When he had
her then, there was something in it that made her shrink away from
him--something unnatural. She grew to dread him. He was so quiet,
yet so strange. She was afraid of the man who was not there with her,
whom she could feel behind this make-belief lover; somebody sinister,
that filled her with horror. She began to have a kind of horror
of him. It was almost as if he were a criminal. He wanted her--he
had her--and it made her feel as if death itself had her in its grip.
She lay in horror. There was no man there loving her. She almost
hated him. Then came little bouts of tenderness. But she dared not
Dawes had come to Colonel Seely's Home near Nottingham.
There Paul visited him sometimes, Clara very occasionally.
Between the two men the friendship developed peculiarly.
Dawes, who mended very slowly and seemed very feeble,
seemed to leave himself in the hands of Morel.
In the beginning of November Clara reminded Paul that it
was her birthday.
"I'd nearly forgotten," he said.
"I'd thought quite," she replied.
"No. Shall we go to the seaside for the week-end?"
They went. It was cold and rather dismal. She waited for him
to be warm and tender with her, instead of which he seemed hardly
aware of her. He sat in the railway-carriage, looking out, and was
startled when she spoke to him. He was not definitely thinking.
Things seemed as if they did not exist. She went across to him.
"What is it dear?" she asked.
"Nothing!" he said. "Don't those windmill sails look monotonous?"
He sat holding her hand. He could not talk nor think.
It was a comfort, however, to sit holding her hand. She was
dissatisfied and miserable. He was not with her; she was nothing.
And in the evening they sat among the sandhills, looking at
the black, heavy sea.
"She will never give in," he said quietly.
Clara's heart sank.
"No," she replied.
"There are different ways of dying. My father's people
are frightened, and have to be hauled out of life into death
like cattle into a slaughter-house, pulled by the neck;
but my mother's people are pushed from behind, inch by inch.
They are stubborn people, and won't die."
"Yes," said Clara.
"And she won't die. She can't. Mr. Renshaw, the parson, was in
the other day. 'Think!' he said to her; 'you will have your mother
and father, and your sisters, and your son, in the Other Land.'
And she said: 'I have done without them for a long time, and CAN
do without them now. It is the living I want, not the dead.'
She wants to live even now."
"Oh, how horrible!" said Clara, too frightened to speak.
"And she looks at me, and she wants to stay with me," he went
on monotonously. "She's got such a will, it seems as if she would
"Don't think of it!" cried Clara.
"And she was religious--she is religious now--but it is no good.
She simply won't give in. And do you know,
I said to her on Thursday: 'Mother, if I had to die, I'd die.
I'd WILL to die.' And she said to me, sharp: 'Do you think I
haven't? Do you think you can die when you like?'"
His voice ceased. He did not cry, only went on speaking
mo-notonously. Clara wanted to run. She looked round.
There was the black, re-echoing shore, the dark sky down on her.
She got up terrified. She wanted to be where there was light,
where there were other people. She wanted to be away from him.
He sat with his head dropped, not moving a muscle.
"And I don't want her to eat," he said, "and she knows it.
When I ask her: 'Shall you have anything' she's almost afraid to
say 'Yes.' 'I'll have a cup of Benger's,' she says. 'It'll only keep
your strength up,' I said to her. 'Yes'--and she almost cried--'but
there's such a gnawing when I eat nothing, I can't bear it.'
So I went and made her the food. It's the cancer that gnaws like
that at her. I wish she'd die!"
"Come!" said Clara roughly. "I'm going."
He followed her down the darkness of the sands. He did
not come to her. He seemed scarcely aware of her existence.
And she was afraid of him, and disliked him.
In the same acute daze they went back to Nottingham.
He was always busy, always doing something, always going from one
to the other of his friends.
On the Monday he went to see Baxter Dawes. Listless and pale,
the man rose to greet the other, clinging to his chair as he held
out his hand.
"You shouldn't get up," said Paul.
Dawes sat down heavily, eyeing Morel with a sort of suspicion.
"Don't you waste your time on me," he said, "if you've owt
better to do."
"I wanted to come," said Paul. "Here! I brought you some sweets."
The invalid put them aside.
"It's not been much of a week-end," said Morel.
"How's your mother?" asked the other.
"Hardly any different."
"I thought she was perhaps worse, being as you didn't come
"I was at Skegness," said Paul. "I wanted a change."
The other looked at him with dark eyes. He seemed to be
waiting, not quite daring to ask, trusting to be told.
"I went with Clara," said Paul.
"I knew as much," said Dawes quietly.
"It was an old promise," said Paul.
"You have it your own way," said Dawes.
This was the first time Clara had been definitely mentioned
"Nay," said Morel slowly; "she's tired of me."
Again Dawes looked at him.
"Since August she's been getting tired of me," Morel repeated.
The two men were very quiet together. Paul suggested a game
of draughts. They played in silence.
"I s'll go abroad when my mother's dead," said Paul.
"Abroad!" repeated Dawes.
"Yes; I don't care what I do."
They continued the game. Dawes was winning.
"I s'll have to begin a new start of some sort," said Paul;
"and you as well, I suppose."
He took one of Dawes's pieces.
"I dunno where," said the other.
"Things have to happen," Morel said. "It's no good doing
anything--at least--no, I don't know. Give me some toffee."
The two men ate sweets, and began another game of draughts.
"What made that scar on your mouth?" asked Dawes.
Paul put his hand hastily to his lips, and looked over the garden.
"I had a bicycle accident," he said.
Dawes's hand trembled as he moved the piece.
"You shouldn't ha' laughed at me," he said, very low.
"That night on Woodborough Road, when you and her passed
me--you with your hand on her shoulder."
"I never laughed at you," said Paul.
Dawes kept his fingers on the draught-piece.
"I never knew you were there till the very second when you passed,"
"It was that as did me," Dawes said, very low.
Paul took another sweet.
"I never laughed," he said, "except as I'm always laughing."
They finished the game.
That night Morel walked home from Nottingham, in order to have
something to do. The furnaces flared in a red blotch over Bulwell;
the black clouds were like a low ceiling. As he went along the ten
miles of highroad, he felt as if he were walking out of life,
between the black levels of the sky and the earth. But at the end
was only the sick-room. If he walked and walked for ever, there was
only that place to come to.
He was not tired when he got near home, or He did not know it.
Across the field he could see the red firelight leaping in her
"When she's dead," he said to himself, "that fire will go out."
He took off his boots quietly and crept upstairs.
His mothers door was wide open, because she slept alone still.
The red firelight dashed its glow on the landing. Soft as a shadow,
he peeped in her doorway.
"Paul!" she murmured.
His heart seemed to break again. He went in and sat by the bed.
"How late you are!" she murmured.
"Not very," he said.
"Why, what time is it?" The murmur came plaintive and helpless.
"It's only just gone eleven."
That was not true; it was nearly one o'clock.
"Oh!" she said; "I thought it was later."
And he knew the unutterable misery of her nights that would
"Can't you sleep, my pigeon?" he said.
"No, I can't," she wailed.
"Never mind, Little!" He said crooning. "Never mind, my love.
I'll stop with you half an hour, my pigeon; then perhaps it will
And he sat by the bedside, slowly, rhythmically stroking her
brows with his finger-tips, stroking her eyes shut, soothing her,
holding her fingers in his free hand. They could hear the sleepers'
breathing in the other rooms.
"Now go to bed," she murmured, lying quite still under his
fingers and his love.
"Will you sleep?" he asked.
"Yes, I think so."
"You feel better, my Little, don't you?"
"Yes," she said, like a fretful, half-soothed child.
Still the days and the weeks went by. He hardly ever went to see
Clara now. But he wandered restlessly from one person to another
for some help, and there was none anywhere. Miriam had written
to him tenderly. He went to see her. Her heart was very sore
when she saw him, white, gaunt, with his eyes dark and bewildered.
Her pity came up, hurting her till she could not bear it.
"How is she?" she asked.
"The same--the same!" he said. "The doctor says she can't last,
but I know she will. She'll be here at Christmas."
Miriam shuddered. She drew him to her; she pressed him to her bosom;
she kissed him and kissed him. He submitted, but it was torture.
She could not kiss his agony. That remained alone and apart.
She kissed his face, and roused his blood, while his soul was apart
writhing with the agony of death. And she kissed him and fingered
his body, till at last, feeling he would go mad, he got away from her.
It was not what he wanted just then--not that. And she thought she
had soothed him and done him good.
December came, and some snow. He stayed at home all the while now.
They could not afford a nurse. Annie came to look after her mother;
the parish nurse, whom they loved, came in morning and evening.
Paul shared the nursing with Annie. Often, in the evenings,
when friends were in the kitchen with them, they all laughed together
and shook with laughter. It was reaction. Paul was so comical,
Annie was so quaint. The whole party laughed till they cried,
trying to subdue the sound. And Mrs. Morel, lying alone in the
darkness heard them, and among her bitterness was a feeling
Then Paul would go upstairs gingerly, guiltily, to see if she
"Shall I give you some milk?" he asked.
"A little," she replied plaintively.
And he would put some water with it, so that it should not
nourish her. Yet he loved her more than his own life.
She had morphia every night, and her heart got fitful.
Annie slept beside her. Paul would go in in the early morning,
when his sister got up. His mother was wasted and almost ashen
in the morning with the morphia. Darker and darker grew her eyes,
all pupil, with the torture. In the mornings the weariness and ache
were too much to bear. Yet she could not--would not--weep, or even
"You slept a bit later this morning, little one," he would
say to her.
"Did I?" she answered, with fretful weariness.
"Yes; it's nearly eight o'clock."
He stood looking out of the window. The whole country
was bleak and pallid under the snow. Then he felt her pulse.
There was a strong stroke and a weak one, like a sound and its echo.
That was supposed to betoken the end. She let him feel her wrist,
knowing what he wanted.
Sometimes they looked in each other's eyes. Then they almost
seemed to make an agreement. It was almost as if he were agreeing
to die also. But she did not consent to die; she would not.
Her body was wasted to a fragment of ash. Her eyes were dark and
full of torture.
"Can't you give her something to put an end to it?" he asked
the doctor at last.
But the doctor shook his head.
"She can't last many days now, Mr. Morel," he said.
Paul went indoors.
"I can't bear it much longer; we shall all go mad," said Annie.
The two sat down to breakfast.
"Go and sit with her while we have breakfast, Minnie," said Annie.
But the girl was frightened.
Paul went through the country, through the woods, over the snow.
He saw the marks of rabbits and birds in the white snow.
He wandered miles and miles. A smoky red sunset came on slowly,
painfully, lingering. He thought she would die that day. There was
a donkey that came up to him over the snow by the wood's edge,
and put its head against him, and walked with him alongside.
He put his arms round the donkey's neck, and stroked his cheeks
against his ears.
His mother, silent, was still alive, with her hard mouth
gripped grimly, her eyes of dark torture only living.
It was nearing Christmas; there was more snow. Annie and
he felt as if they could go on no more. Still her dark eyes
were alive. Morel, silent and frightened, obliterated himself.
Sometimes he would go into the sick-room and look at her.
Then he backed out, bewildered.
She kept her hold on life still. The miners had been out
on strike, and returned a fortnight or so before Christmas.
Minnie went upstairs with the feeding-cup. It was two days after
the men had been in.
"Have the men been saying their hands are sore, Minnie?"
she asked, in the faint, querulous voice that would not give in.
Minnie stood surprised.
"Not as I know of, Mrs. Morel," she answered.
"But I'll bet they are sore," said the dying woman, as she
moved her head with a sigh of weariness. "But, at any rate,
there'll be something to buy in with this week."
Not a thing did she let slip.
"Your father's pit things will want well airing, Annie," she said,
when the men were going back to work.
"Don't you bother about that, my dear," said Annie.
One night Annie and Paul were alone. Nurse was upstairs.
"She'll live over Christmas," said Annie. They were both full
of horror. "She won't," he replied grimly. "I s'll give her morphia."
"Which?" said Annie.
"All that came from Sheffield," said Paul.
"Ay--do!" said Annie.
The next day he was painting in the bedroom. She seemed
to be asleep. He stepped softly backwards and forwards at his
painting. Suddenly her small voice wailed:
"Don't walk about, Paul."
He looked round. Her eyes, like dark bubbles in her face,
were looking at him.
"No, my dear," he said gently. Another fibre seemed to snap
in his heart.
That evening he got all the morphia pills there were, and took
them downstairs. Carefully he crushed them to powder.
"What are you doing?" said Annie.
"I s'll put 'em in her night milk."
Then they both laughed together like two conspiring children.
On top of all their horror flicked this little sanity.
Nurse did not come that night to settle Mrs. Morel down.
Paul went up with the hot milk in a feeding-cup. It was nine
She was reared up in bed, and he put the feeding-cup between her
lips that he would have died to save from any hurt. She took a sip,
then put the spout of the cup away and looked at him with her dark,
wondering eyes. He looked at her.
"Oh, it IS bitter, Paul!" she said, making a little grimace.
"It's a new sleeping draught the doctor gave me for you," he said.
"He thought it would leave you in such a state in the morning."
"And I hope it won't," she said, like a child.
She drank some more of the milk.
"But it IS horrid!" she said.
He saw her frail fingers over the cup, her lips making
a little move.
"I know--I tasted it," he said. "But I'll give you some clean
"I think so," she said, and she went on with the draught.
She was obedient to him like a child. He wondered if she knew.
He saw her poor wasted throat moving as she drank with difficulty.
Then he ran downstairs for more milk. There were no grains in the bottom
of the cup.
"Has she had it?" whispered Annie.
"Yes--and she said it was bitter."
"Oh!" laughed Annie, putting her under lip between her teeth.
"And I told her it was a new draught. Where's that milk?"
They both went upstairs.
"I wonder why nurse didn't come to settle me down?"
complained the mother, like a child, wistfully.
"She said she was going to a concert, my love," replied Annie.
They were silent a minute. Mrs. Morel gulped the little
"Annie, that draught WAS horrid!" she said plaintively.
"Was it, my love? Well, never mind."
The mother sighed again with weariness. Her pulse was
"Let US settle you down," said Annie. "Perhaps nurse will
be so late."
"Ay," said the mother--"try."
They turned the clothes back. Paul saw his mother LIke a girl
curled up in her flannel nightdress. Quickly they made one half
of the bed, moved her, made the other, straightened her nightgown
over her small feet, and covered her up.
"There," said Paul, stroking her softly. "There!--now you'll sleep."
"Yes," she said. "I didn't think you could do the bed so nicely,"
she added, almost gaily. Then she curled up, with her cheek
on her hand, her head snugged between her shoulders. Paul put
the long thin plait of grey hair over her shoulder and kissed her.
"You'll sleep, my love," he said.
"Yes," she answered trustfully. "Good-night."
They put out the light, and it was still.
Morel was in bed. Nurse did not come. Annie and Paul came
to look at her at about eleven. She seemed to be sleeping as usual
after her draught. Her mouth had come a bit open.
"Shall we sit up?" said Paul.
"I s'll lie with her as I always do," said Annie. "She might
"All right. And call me if you see any difference."
They lingered before the bedroom fire, feeling the night big
and black and snowy outside, their two selves alone in the world.
At last he went into the next room and went to bed.
He slept almost immediately, but kept waking every now and again.
Then he went sound asleep. He started awake at Annie's whispered,
"Paul, Paul!" He saw his sister in her white nightdress, with her
long plait of hair down her back, standing in the darkness.
"Yes?" he whispered, sitting up.
"Come and look at her."
He slipped out of bed. A bud of gas was burning in the
sick chamber. His mother lay with her cheek on her hand, curled up
as she had gone to sleep. But her mouth had fallen open, and she
breathed with great, hoarse breaths, like snoring, and there were
long intervals between.
"She's going!" he whispered.
"Yes," said Annie.
"How long has she been like it?"
"I only just woke up."
Annie huddled into the dressing-gown, Paul wrapped himself
in a brown blanket. It was three o'clock. He mended the fire.
Then the two sat waiting. The great, snoring breath was taken--held
awhile--then given back. There was a space--a long space.
Then they started. The great, snoring breath was taken again.
He bent close down and looked at her.
"Isn't it awful!" whispered Annie.
He nodded. They sat down again helplessly. Again came the great,
snoring breath. Again they hung suspended. Again it was given back,
long and harsh. The sound, so irregular, at such wide intervals,
sounded through the house. Morel, in his room, slept on.
Paul and Annie sat crouched, huddled, motionless. The great snoring
sound began again--there was a painful pause while the breath was
held--back came the rasping breath. Minute after minute passed.
Paul looked at her again, bending low over her.
"She may last like this," he said.
They were both silent. He looked out of the window, and could
faintly discern the snow on the garden.
"You go to my bed," he said to Annie. "I'll sit up."
"No," she said, "I'll stop with you."
"I'd rather you didn't," he said.
At last Annie crept out of the room, and he was alone.
He hugged himself in his brown blanket, crouched in front of
his mother, watching. She looked dreadful, with the bottom jaw
fallen back. He watched. Sometimes he thought the great breath
would never begin again. He could not bear it--the waiting.
Then suddenly, startling him, came the great harsh sound.
He mended the fire again, noiselessly. She must not be disturbed.
The minutes went by. The night was going, breath by breath.
Each time the sound came he felt it wring him, till at last he could
not feel so much.
His father got up. Paul heard the miner drawing his
stockings on, yawning. Then Morel, in shirt and stockings, entered.
"Hush!" said Paul.
Morel stood watching. Then he looked at his son, helplessly,
and in horror.
"Had I better stop a-whoam?" he whispered.
"No. Go to work. She'll last through to-morrow."
"I don't think so."
"Yes. Go to work."
The miner looked at her again, in fear, and went obediently
out of the room. Paul saw the tape of his garters swinging against
After another half-hour Paul went downstairs and drank a cup
of tea, then returned. Morel, dressed for the pit, came upstairs again.
"Am I to go?" he said.
And in a few minutes Paul heard his father's heavy steps go
thudding over the deadening snow. Miners called in the streets
as they tramped in gangs to work. The terrible, long-drawn breaths
continued--heave--heave--heave; then a long pause--then--ah-h-h-h-h!
as it came back. Far away over the snow sounded the hooters
of the ironworks. One after another they crowed and boomed,
some small and far away, some near, the blowers of the collieries
and the other works. Then there was silence. He mended the fire.
The great breaths broke the silence--she looked just the same.
He put back the blind and peered out. Still it was dark.
Perhaps there was a lighter tinge. Perhaps the snow was bluer.
He drew up the blind and got dressed. Then, shuddering, he drank
brandy from the bottle on the wash-stand. The snow WAS growing blue.
He heard a cart clanking down the street. Yes, it was seven o'clock,
and it was coming a little bit light. He heard some people calling.
The world was waking. A grey, deathly dawn crept over the snow.
Yes, he could see the houses. He put out the gas. It seemed
very dark. The breathing came still, but he was almost used to it.
He could see her. She was just the same. He wondered if he piled
heavy clothes on top of her it would stop. He looked at her.
That was not her--not her a bit. If he piled the blanket and heavy coats
Suddenly the door opened, and Annie entered. She looked
at him questioningly.
"Just the same," he said calmly.
They whispered together a minute, then he went downstairs
to get breakfast. It was twenty to eight. Soon Annie came down.
"Isn't it awful! Doesn't she look awful!" she whispered,
dazed with horror.
"If she looks like that!" said Annie.
"Drink some tea," he said.
They went upstairs again. Soon the neighbours came with their
"How is she?"
It went on just the same. She lay with her cheek in her hand,
her mouth fallen open, and the great, ghastly snores came and went.
At ten o'clock nurse came. She looked strange and woebegone.
"Nurse," cried Paul, "she'll last like this for days?"
"She can't, Mr. Morel," said nurse. "She can't."
There was a silence.
"Isn't it dreadful!" wailed the nurse. "Who would have thought
she could stand it? Go down now, Mr. Morel, go down."
At last, at about eleven o'clock, he went downstairs
and sat in the neighbour's house. Annie was downstairs also.
Nurse and Arthur were upstairs. Paul sat with his head in his hand.
Suddenly Annie came flying across the yard crying, half mad:
In a second he was back in his own house and upstairs.
She lay curled up and still, with her face on her hand, and nurse
was wiping her mouth. They all stood back. He kneeled down,
and put his face to hers and his arms round her:
"My love--my love--oh, my love!" he whispered again and again.
"My love--oh, my love!"
Then he heard the nurse behind him, crying, saying:
"She's better, Mr. Morel, she's better."
When he took his face up from his warm, dead mother he went
straight downstairs and began blacking his boots.
There was a good deal to do, letters to write, and so on.
The doctor came and glanced at her, and sighed.
"Ay--poor thing!" he said, then turned away. "Well, call
at the surgery about six for the certificate."
The father came home from work at about four o'clock. He
dragged silently into the house and sat down. Minnie bustled to
give him his dinner. Tired, he laid his black arms on the table.
There were swede turnips for his dinner, which he liked.
Paul wondered if he knew. It was some time, and nobody had spoken.
At last the son said:
"You noticed the blinds were down?"
Morel looked up.
"No," he said. "Why--has she gone?"
"When wor that?"
"About twelve this morning."
The miner sat still for a moment, then began his dinner.
It was as if nothing had happened. He ate his turnips in silence.
Afterwards he washed and went upstairs to dress. The door of her room
"Have you seen her?" Annie asked of him when he came down.
"No," he said.
In a little while he went out. Annie went away, and Paul
called on the undertaker, the clergyman, the doctor, the registrar.
It was a long business. He got back at nearly eight o'clock. The
undertaker was coming soon to measure for the coffin. The house
was empty except for her. He took a candle and went upstairs.
The room was cold, that had been warm for so long. Flowers,
bottles, plates, all sick-room litter was taken away; everything was
harsh and austere. She lay raised on the bed, the sweep of the sheet
from the raised feet was like a clean curve of snow, so silent.
She lay like a maiden asleep. With his candle in his hand, he bent
over her. She lay like a girl asleep and dreaming of her love.
The mouth was a little open as if wondering from the suffering,
but her face was young, her brow clear and white as if life had
never touched it. He looked again at the eyebrows, at the small,
winsome nose a bit on one side. She was young again. Only the hair
as it arched so beautifully from her temples was mixed with silver,
and the two simple plaits that lay on her shoulders were filigree
of silver and brown. She would wake up. She would lift her eyelids.
She was with him still. He bent and kissed her passionately.
But there was coldness against his mouth. He bit his
lips with horror. Looking at her, he felt he could never, never let
her go. No! He stroked the hair from her temples. That, too,
was cold. He saw the mouth so dumb and wondering at the hurt.
Then he crouched on the floor, whispering to her:
He was still with her when the undertakers came, young men
who had been to school with him. They touched her reverently,
and in a quiet, businesslike fashion. They did not look at her.
He watched jealously. He and Annie guarded her fiercely.
They would not let anybody come to see her, and the neighbours
After a while Paul went out of the house, and played cards
at a friend's. It was midnight when he got back. His father rose
from the couch as he entered, saying in a plaintive way:
"I thought tha wor niver comin', lad."
"I didn't think you'd sit up," said Paul.
His father looked so forlorn. Morel had been a man without
fear--simply nothing frightened him. Paul realised with a start that
he had been afraid to go to bed, alone in the house with his dead.
He was sorry.
"I forgot you'd be alone, father," he said.
"Dost want owt to eat?" asked Morel.
"Sithee--I made thee a drop o' hot milk. Get it down thee;
it's cold enough for owt."
Paul drank it.
After a while Morel went to bed. He hurried past the closed door,
and left his own door open. Soon the son came upstairs also.
He went in to kiss her good-night, as usual. It was cold and dark.
He wished they had kept her fire burning. Still she dreamed her
young dream. But she would be cold.
"My dear!" he whispered. "My dear!"
And he did not kiss her, for fear she should be cold
and strange to him. It eased him she slept so beautifully.
He shut her door softly, not to wake her, and went to bed.
In the morning Morel summoned his courage, hearing Annie
downstairs and Paul coughing in the room across the landing.
He opened her door, and went into the darkened room. He saw the
white uplifted form in the twilight, but her he dared not see.
Bewildered, too frightened to possess any of his faculties, he got
out of the room again and left her. He never looked at her again.
He had not seen her for months, because he had not dared to look.
And she looked like his young wife again.
"Have you seen her?" Annie asked of him sharply after breakfast.
"Yes," he said.
"And don't you think she looks nice?"
He went out of the house soon after. And all the time
He seemed to be creeping aside to avoid it.
Paul went about from place to place, doing the business of
the death. He met Clara in Nottingham, and they had tea together
in a cafe, when they were quite jolly again. She was infinitely
relieved to find he did not take it tragically.
Later, when the relatives began to come for the funeral,
the affair became public, and the children became social beings.
They put themselves aside. They buried her in a furious storm
of rain and wind. The wet clay glistened, all the white flowers
were soaked. Annie gripped his arm and leaned forward.
Down below she saw a dark corner of William's coffin. The oak
box sank steadily. She was gone. The rain poured in the grave.
The procession of black, with its umbrellas glistening, turned away.
The cemetery was deserted under the drenching cold rain.
Paul went home and busied himself supplying the guests with drinks.
His father sat in the kitchen with Mrs. Morel's relatives,
"superior" people, and wept, and said what a good lass she'd been,
and how he'd tried to do everything he could for her--everything.
He had striven all his life to do what he could for her, and he'd
nothing to reproach himself with. She was gone, but he'd done
his best for her. He wiped his eyes with his white handkerchief.
He'd nothing to reproach himself for, he repeated. All his life he'd
done his best for her.
And that was how he tried to dismiss her. He never
thought of her personally. Everything deep in him he denied.
Paul hated his father for sitting sentimentalising over her.
He knew he would do it in the public-houses. For the real tragedy
went on in Morel in spite of himself. Sometimes, later, he came
down from his afternoon sleep, white and cowering.
"I HAVE been dreaming of thy mother," he said in a small voice.
"Have you, father? When I dream of her it's always just as she
was when she was well. I dream of her often, but it seems quite
nice and natural, as if nothing had altered."
But Morel crouched in front of the fire in terror.
The weeks passed half-real, not much pain, not much of anything,
perhaps a little relief, mostly a nuit blanche. Paul went restless
from place to place. For some months, since his mother had been worse,
he had not made love to Clara. She was, as it were, dumb to him,
rather distant. Dawes saw her very occasionally, but the two
could not get an inch across the great distance between them.
The three of them were drifting forward.
Dawes mended very slowly. He was in the convalescent home
at Skegness at Christmas, nearly well again. Paul went to the
seaside for a few days. His father was with Annie in Sheffield.
Dawes came to Paul's lodgings. His time in the home was up.
The two men, between whom was such a big reserve, seemed faithful
to each other. Dawes depended on Morel now. He knew Paul and Clara
had practically separated.
Two days after Christmas Paul was to go back to Nottingham.
The evening before he sat with Dawes smoking before the fire.
"You know Clara's coming down for the day to-morrow?"
The other man glanced at him.
"Yes, you told me," he replied.
Paul drank the remainder of his glass of whisky.
"I told the landlady your wife was coming," he said.
"Did you?" said Dawes, shrinking, but almost leaving himself
in the other's hands. He got up rather stiffly, and reached