Part 4 out of 12
"Oh no, we had dinner in the train. Have you got my gloves, Chubby?"
William Morel, big and raw-boned, looked at her quickly.
"How should I?" he said.
"Then I've lost them. Don't be cross with me."
A frown went over his face, but he said nothing. She glanced
round the kitchen. It was small and curious to her, with its
glittering kissing-bunch, its evergreens behind the pictures,
its wooden chairs and little deal table. At that moment Morel
"Hello, my son! Tha's let on me!"
The two shook hands, and William presented the lady.
She gave the same smile that showed her teeth.
"How do you do, Mr. Morel?"
Morel bowed obsequiously.
"I'm very well, and I hope so are you. You must make yourself
"Oh, thank you," she replied, rather amused.
"You will like to go upstairs," said Mrs. Morel.
"If you don't mind; but not if it is any trouble to you."
"It is no trouble. Annie will take you. Walter, carry up
"And don't be an hour dressing yourself up," said William
to his betrothed.
Annie took a brass candlestick, and, too shy almost to speak,
preceded the young lady to the front bedroom, which Mr. and Mrs. Morel
had vacated for her. It, too, was small and cold by candlelight.
The colliers' wives only lit fires in bedrooms in case of extreme illness.
"Shall I unstrap the box?" asked Annie.
"Oh, thank you very much!"
Annie played the part of maid, then went downstairs for hot water.
"I think she's rather tired, mother," said William.
"It's a beastly journey, and we had such a rush."
"Is there anything I can give her?" asked Mrs. Morel.
"Oh no, she'll be all right."
But there was a chill in the atmosphere. After half an hour
Miss Western came down, having put on a purplish-coloured dress,
very fine for the collier's kitchen.
"I told you you'd no need to change," said William to her.
"Oh, Chubby!" Then she turned with that sweetish smile
to Mrs. Morel. "Don't you think he's always grumbling, Mrs. Morel?"
"Is he?" said Mrs. Morel. "That's not very nice of him."
"It isn't, really!"
"You are cold," said the mother. "Won't you come near the fire?"
Morel jumped out of his armchair.
"Come and sit you here!" he cried. "Come and sit you here!"
"No, dad, keep your own chair. Sit on the sofa, Gyp," said William.
"No, no!" cried Morel. "This cheer's warmest. Come and sit here,
"Thank you so much," said the girl, seating herself
in the collier's armchair, the place of honour. She shivered,
feeling the warmth of the kitchen penetrate her.
"Fetch me a hanky, Chubby dear!" she said, putting up her mouth
to him, and using the same intimate tone as if they were alone;
which made the rest of the family feel as if they ought not to
be present. The young lady evidently did not realise them as people:
they were creatures to her for the present. William winced.
In such a household, in Streatham, Miss Western would have been
a lady condescending to her inferiors. These people were to her,
certainly clownish--in short, the working classes. How was she
to adjust herself?
"I'll go," said Annie.
Miss Western took no notice, as if a servant had spoken.
But when the girl came downstairs again with the handkerchief,
she said: "Oh, thank you!" in a gracious way.
She sat and talked about the dinner on the train, which had been
so poor; about London, about dances. She was really very nervous,
and chattered from fear. Morel sat all the time smoking his thick
twist tobacco, watching her, and listening to her glib London speech,
as he puffed. Mrs. Morel, dressed up in her best black silk blouse,
answered quietly and rather briefly. The three children sat
round in silence and admiration. Miss Western was the princess.
Everything of the best was got out for her: the best cups,
the best spoons, the best table cloth, the best coffee-jug. The
children thought she must find it quite grand. She felt strange,
not able to realise the people, not knowing how to treat them.
William joked, and was slightly uncomfortable.
At about ten o'clock he said to her:
"Aren't you tired, Gyp?"
"Rather, Chubby," she answered, at once in the intimate tones
and putting her head slightly on one side.
"I'll light her the candle, mother," he said.
"Very well," replied the mother.
Miss Western stood up, held out her hand to Mrs. Morel.
"Good-night, Mrs. Morel," she said.
Paul sat at the boiler, letting the water run from the tap
into a stone beer-bottle. Annie swathed the bottle in an old flannel
pit-singlet, and kissed her mother good-night. She was to share
the room with the lady, because the house was full.
"You wait a minute," said Mrs. Morel to Annie. And Annie sat
nursing the hot-water bottle. Miss Western shook hands all round,
to everybody's discomfort, and took her departure, preceded by William.
In five minutes he was downstairs again. His heart was rather sore;
he did not know why. He talked very little till everybody had gone
to bed, but himself and his mother. Then he stood with his legs apart,
in his old attitude on the hearthrug, and said hesitatingly:
"Well, my son?"
She sat in the rocking-chair, feeling somehow hurt and humiliated,
for his sake.
"Do you like her?"
"Yes," came the slow answer.
"She's shy yet, mother. She's not used to it. It's different
from her aunt's house, you know."
"Of course it is, my boy; and she must find it difficult."
"She does." Then he frowned swiftly. "If only she wouldn't
put on her BLESSED airs!"
"It's only her first awkwardness, my boy. She'll be all right."
"That's it, mother," he replied gratefully. But his brow
was gloomy. "You know, she's not like you, mother. She's not serious,
and she can't think."
"She's young, my boy."
"Yes; and she's had no sort of show. Her mother died when she was
a child. Since then she's lived with her aunt, whom she can't bear.
And her father was a rake. She's had no love."
"No! Well, you must make up to her."
"And so--you have to forgive her a lot of things."
"WHAT do you have to forgive her, my boy?"
"I dunno. When she seems shallow, you have to remember she's
never had anybody to bring her deeper side out. And she's FEARFULLY
fond of me."
"Anybody can see that."
"But you know, mother--she's--she's different from us.
Those sort of people, like those she lives amongst, they don't seem
to have the same principles."
"You mustn't judge too hastily," said Mrs. Morel.
But he seemed uneasy within himself.
In the morning, however, he was up singing and larking round
"Hello!" he called, sitting on the stairs. "Are you getting up?"
"Yes," her voice called faintly.
"Merry Christmas!" he shouted to her.
Her laugh, pretty and tinkling, was heard in the bedroom.
She did not come down in half an hour.
"Was she REALLY getting up when she said she was?" he asked
"Yes, she was," replied Annie.
He waited a while, then went to the stairs again.
"Happy New Year," he called.
"Thank you, Chubby dear!" came the laughing voice, far away.
"Buck up!" he implored.
It was nearly an hour, and still he was waiting for her.
Morel, who always rose before six, looked at the clock.
"Well, it's a winder!" he exclaimed.
The family had breakfasted, all but William. He went
to the foot of the stairs.
"Shall I have to send you an Easter egg up there?" he called,
rather crossly. She only laughed. The family expected, after that
time of preparation, something like magic. At last she came,
looking very nice in a blouse and skirt.
"Have you REALLY been all this time getting ready?" he asked.
"Chubby dear! That question is not permitted, is it,
She played the grand lady at first. When she went with William
to chapel, he in his frock-coat and silk hat, she in her furs
and London-made costume, Paul and Arthur and Annie expected
everybody to bow to the ground in admiration.
And Morel, standing in his Sunday suit at the end of the road,
watching the gallant pair go, felt he was the father of princes
And yet she was not so grand. For a year now she had been
a sort of secretary or clerk in a London office. But while she
was with the Morels she queened it. She sat and let Annie or Paul
wait on her as if they were her servants. She treated Mrs. Morel
with a certain glibness and Morel with patronage. But after a day
or so she began to change her tune.
William always wanted Paul or Annie to go along with them
on their walks. It was so much more interesting. And Paul really
DID admire "Gipsy" wholeheartedly; in fact, his mother scarcely
forgave the boy for the adulation with which he treated the girl.
On the second day, when Lily said: "Oh, Annie, do you know
where I left my muff?" William replied:
"You know it is in your bedroom. Why do you ask Annie?"
And Lily went upstairs with a cross, shut mouth. But it
angered the young man that she made a servant of his sister.
On the third evening William and Lily were sitting together
in the parlour by the fire in the dark. At a quarter to eleven
Mrs. Morel was heard raking the fire. William came out to the kitchen,
followed by his beloved.
"Is it as late as that, mother?" he said. She had been
"It is not LATE, my boy, but it is as late as I usually sit up."
"Won't you go to bed, then?" he asked.
"And leave you two? No, my boy, I don't believe in it."
"Can't you trust us, mother?"
"Whether I can or not, I won't do it. You can stay till eleven
if you like, and I can read."
"Go to bed, Gyp," he said to his girl. "We won't keep
"Annie has left the candle burning, Lily," said Mrs. Morel;
"I think you will see."
"Yes, thank you. Good-night, Mrs. Morel."
William kissed his sweetheart at the foot of the stairs,
and she went. He returned to the kitchen.
"Can't you trust us, mother?" he repeated, rather offended.
"My boy, I tell you I don't BELIEVE in leaving two young
things like you alone downstairs when everyone else is in bed."
And he was forced to take this answer. He kissed his mother
At Easter he came over alone. And then he discussed his
sweetheart endlessly with his mother.
"You know, mother, when I'm away from her I don't care for her
a bit. I shouldn't care if I never saw her again. But, then,
when I'm with her in the evenings I am awfully fond of her."
"It's a queer sort of love to marry on," said Mrs. Morel,
"if she holds you no more than that!"
"It IS funny!" he exclaimed. It worried and perplexed him.
"But yet--there's so much between us now I couldn't give her up."
"You know best," said Mrs. Morel. "But if it is as you say, I
wouldn't call it LOVE--at any rate, it doesn't look much like it."
"Oh, I don't know, mother. She's an orphan, and---"
They never came to any sort of conclusion. He seemed puzzled
and rather fretted. She was rather reserved. All his strength
and money went in keeping this girl. He could scarcely afford
to take his mother to Nottingham when he came over.
Paul's wages had been raised at Christmas to ten shillings,
to his great joy. He was quite happy at Jordan's, but his health
suffered from the long hours and the confinement. His mother,
to whom he became more and more significant, thought how to help.
His half-day holiday was on Monday afternoon. On a Monday
morning in May, as the two sat alone at breakfast, she said:
"I think it will be a fine day."
He looked up in surprise. This meant something.
"You know Mr. Leivers has gone to live on a new farm.
Well, he asked me last week if I wouldn't go and see Mrs. Leivers,
and I promised to bring you on Monday if it's fine. Shall we go?"
"I say, little woman, how lovely!" he cried. "And we'll go
Paul hurried off to the station jubilant. Down Derby Road
was a cherry-tree that glistened. The old brick wall by the
Statutes ground burned scarlet, spring was a very flame of green.
And the steep swoop of highroad lay, in its cool morning dust,
splendid with patterns of sunshine and shadow, perfectly still.
The trees sloped their great green shoulders proudly; and inside
the warehouse all the morning, the boy had
a vision of spring outside.
When he came home at dinner-time his mother was rather excited.
"Are we going?" he asked.
"When I'm ready," she replied.
Presently he got up.
"Go and get dressed while I wash up," he said.
She did so. He washed the pots, straightened, and then took
her boots. They were quite clean. Mrs. Morel was one of those naturally
exquisite people who can walk in mud without dirtying their shoes.
But Paul had to clean them for her. They were kid boots at eight
shillings a pair. He, however, thought them the most dainty boots
in the world, and he cleaned them with as much reverence as if they
had been flowers.
Suddenly she appeared in the inner doorway rather shyly.
She had got a new cotton blouse on. Paul jumped up and went forward.
"Oh, my stars!" he exclaimed. "What a bobby-dazzler!"
She sniffed in a little haughty way, and put her head up.
"It's not a bobby-dazzler at all!" she replied. "It's very quiet."
She walked forward, whilst he hovered round her.
"Well," she asked, quite shy, but pretending to be high
and mighty, "do you like it?"
"Awfully! You ARE a fine little woman to go jaunting out with!"
He went and surveyed her from the back.
"Well," he said, "if I was walking down the street behind you,
I should say: 'Doesn't THAT little person fancy herself!"'
"Well, she doesn't," replied Mrs. Morel. "She's not sure it
"Oh no! she wants to be in dirty black, looking as if she was
wrapped in burnt paper. It DOES suit you, and I say you look nice."
She sniffed in her little way, pleased, but pretending
to know better.
"Well," she said, "it's cost me just three shillings.
You couldn't have got it ready-made for that price, could you?"
"I should think you couldn't," he replied.
"And, you know, it's good stuff."
"Awfully pretty," he said.
The blouse was white, with a little sprig of heliotrope and black.
"Too young for me, though, I'm afraid," she said.
"Too young for you!" he exclaimed in disgust. "Why don't you
buy some false white hair and stick it on your head."
"I s'll soon have no need," she replied. "I'm going white
"Well, you've no business to," he said. "What do I want
with a white-haired mother?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to put up with one, my lad," she said
They set off in great style, she carrying the umbrella William
had given her, because of the sun. Paul was considerably taller
than she, though he was not big. He fancied himself.
On the fallow land the young wheat shone silkily. Minton pit
waved its plumes of white steam, coughed, and rattled hoarsely.
"Now look at that!" said Mrs. Morel. Mother and son stood on
the road to watch. Along the ridge of the great pit-hill crawled
a little group in silhouette against the sky, a horse, a small truck,
and a man. They climbed the incline against the heavens.
At the end the man tipped the wagon. There was an undue rattle
as the waste fell down the sheer slope of the enormous bank.
"You sit a minute, mother," he said, and she took a seat on
a bank, whilst he sketched rapidly. She was silent whilst he worked,
looking round at the afternoon, the red cottages shining among
"The world is a wonderful place," she said, "and wonderfully
"And so's the pit," he said. "Look how it heaps together,
like something alive almost--a big creature that you don't know."
"Yes," she said. "Perhaps!"
"And all the trucks standing waiting, like a string of beasts
to be fed," he said.
"And very thankful I am they ARE standing," she said,
"for that means they'll turn middling time this week."
"But I like the feel of MEN on things, while they're alive.
There's a feel of men about trucks, because they've been handled
with men's hands, all of them."
"Yes," said Mrs. Morel.
They went along under the trees of the highroad. He was
constantly informing her, but she was interested. They passed
the end of Nethermere, that was tossing its sunshine like petals lightly
in its lap. Then they turned on a private road, and in some
trepidation approached a big farm. A dog barked furiously.
A woman came out to see.
"Is this the way to Willey Farm?" Mrs. Morel asked.
Paul hung behind in terror of being sent back. But the woman
was amiable, and directed them. The mother and son went through
the wheat and oats, over a little bridge into a wild meadow.
Peewits, with their white breasts glistening, wheeled and screamed
about them. The lake was still and blue. High overhead
a heron floated. Opposite, the wood heaped on the hill, green and still.
"It's a wild road, mother," said Paul. "Just like Canada."
"Isn't it beautiful!" said Mrs. Morel, looking round.
"See that heron--see--see her legs?"
He directed his mother, what she must see and what not.
And she was quite content.
"But now," she said, "which way? He told me through the wood."
The wood, fenced and dark, lay on their left.
"I can feel a bit of a path this road," said Paul. "You've got
town feet, somehow or other, you have."
They found a little gate, and soon were in a broad green
alley of the wood, with a new thicket of fir and pine on one hand,
an old oak glade dipping down on the other. And among the oaks
the bluebells stood in pools of azure, under the new green hazels,
upon a pale fawn floor of oak-leaves. He found flowers for her.
"Here's a bit of new-mown hay," he said; then, again, he brought
her forget-me-nots. And, again, his heart hurt with love, seeing her hand,
used with work, holding the little bunch of flowers he gave her.
She was perfectly happy.
But at the end of the riding was a fence to climb. Paul was
over in a second.
"Come," he said, "let me help you."
"No, go away. I will do it in my own way."
He stood below with his hands up ready to help her.
She climbed cautiously.
"What a way to climb!" he exclaimed scornfully, when she
was safely to earth again.
"Hateful stiles!" she cried.
"Duffer of a little woman," he replied, "who can't get over 'em."
In front, along the edge of the wood, was a cluster of low red
farm buildings. The two hastened forward. Flush with the wood
was the apple orchard, where blossom was falling on the grindstone.
The pond was deep under a hedge and overhanging oak trees.
Some cows stood in the shade. The farm and buildings, three sides
of a quadrangle, embraced the sunshine towards the wood. It was
Mother and son went into the small railed garden, where was
a scent of red gillivers. By the open door were some floury loaves,
put out to cool. A hen was just coming to peck them. Then, in the
doorway suddenly appeared a girl in a dirty apron. She was about
fourteen years old, had a rosy dark face, a bunch of short black curls,
very fine and free, and dark eyes; shy, questioning, a little
resentful of the strangers, she disappeared. In a minute another
figure appeared, a small, frail woman, rosy, with great dark brown eyes.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, smiling with a little glow, "you've come,
then. I AM glad to see you." Her voice was intimate and rather sad.
The two women shook hands.
"Now are you sure we're not a bother to you?" said Mrs. Morel.
"I know what a farming life is."
"Oh no! We're only too thankful to see a new face, it's so
lost up here."
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Morel.
They were taken through into the parlour--a long, low room,
with a great bunch of guelder-roses in the fireplace. There the
women talked, whilst Paul went out to survey the land. He was
in the garden smelling the gillivers and looking at the plants,
when the girl came out quickly to the heap of coal which stood
by the fence.
"I suppose these are cabbage-roses?" he said to her,
pointing to the bushes along the fence.
She looked at him with startled, big brown eyes.
"I suppose they are cabbage-roses when they come out?"
"I don't know," she faltered. "They're white with pink middles."
"Then they're maiden-blush."
Miriam flushed. She had a beautiful warm colouring.
"I don't know," she said.
"You don't have MUCH in your garden," he said.
"This is our first year here," she answered, in a distant,
rather superior way, drawing back and going indoors. He did not notice,
but went his round of exploration. Presently his mother came out,
and they went through the buildings. Paul was hugely delighted.
"And I suppose you have the fowls and calves and pigs
to look after?" said Mrs. Morel to Mrs. Leivers.
"No," replied the little woman. "I can't find time to look
after cattle, and I'm not used to it. It's as much as I can
do to keep going in the house."
"Well, I suppose it is," said Mrs. Morel.
Presently the girl came out.
"Tea is ready, mother," she said in a musical, quiet voice.
"Oh, thank you, Miriam, then we'll come," replied her mother,
almost ingratiatingly. "Would you CARE to have tea now, Mrs. Morel?"
"Of course," said Mrs. Morel. "Whenever it's ready."
Paul and his mother and Mrs. Leivers had tea together.
Then they went out into the wood that was flooded with bluebells,
while fumy forget-me-nots were in the paths. The mother and son were
in ecstasy together.
When they got back to the house, Mr. Leivers and Edgar,
the eldest son, were in the kitchen. Edgar was about eighteen.
Then Geoffrey and Maurice, big lads of twelve and thirteen, were in
from school. Mr. Leivers was a good-looking man in the prime of life,
with a golden-brown moustache, and blue eyes screwed up against
The boys were condescending, but Paul scarcely observed it.
They went round for eggs, scrambling into all sorts of places.
As they were feeding the fowls Miriam came out. The boys took no
notice of her. One hen, with her yellow chickens, was in a coop.
Maurice took his hand full of corn and let the hen peck from it.
"Durst you do it?" he asked of Paul.
"Let's see," said Paul.
He had a small hand, warm, and rather capable-looking.
Miriam watched. He held the corn to the hen. The bird eyed it with her
hard, bright eye, and suddenly made a peck into his hand. He started,
and laughed. "Rap, rap, rap!" went the bird's beak in his palm.
He laughed again, and the other boys joined.
"She knocks you, and nips you, but she never hurts," said Paul,
when the last corn had gone. " Now, Miriam," said Maurice, "you come
an 'ave a go."
"No," she cried, shrinking back.
"Ha! baby. The mardy-kid!" said her brothers.
"It doesn't hurt a bit," said Paul. "It only just nips
"No," she still cried, shaking her black curls and shrinking.
"She dursn't," said Geoffrey. "She niver durst do anything
except recite poitry."
"Dursn't jump off a gate, dursn't tweedle, dursn't go on a slide,
dursn't stop a girl hittin' her. She can do nowt but go about thinkin'
herself somebody. 'The Lady of the Lake.' Yah!" cried Maurice.
Miriam was crimson with shame and misery.
"I dare do more than you," she cried. "You're never anything
but cowards and bullies."
"Oh, cowards and bullies!" they repeated mincingly,
mocking her speech.
"Not such a clown shall anger me,
A boor is answered silently,"
he quoted against her, shouting with laughter.
She went indoors. Paul went with the boys into the orchard,
where they had rigged up a parallel bar. They did feats of strength.
He was more agile than strong, but it served. He fingered a piece
of apple-blossom that hung low on a swinging bough.
"I wouldn't get the apple-blossom," said Edgar, the eldest brother.
"There'll be no apples next year."
"I wasn't going to get it," replied Paul, going away.
The boys felt hostile to him; they were more interested in their
own pursuits. He wandered back to the house to look for his mother.
As he went round the back, he saw Miriam kneeling in front of the
hen-coop, some maize in her hand, biting her lip, and crouching
in an intense attitude. The hen was eyeing her wickedly.
Very gingerly she put forward her hand. The hen bobbed for her.
She drew back quickly with a cry, half of fear, half of chagrin.
"It won't hurt you," said Paul.
She flushed crimson and started up.
"I only wanted to try," she said in a low voice.
"See, it doesn't hurt," he said, and, putting only two corns
in his palm, he let the hen peck, peck, peck at his bare hand.
"It only makes you laugh," he said.
She put her hand forward and dragged it away, tried again,
and started back with a cry. He frowned.
"Why, I'd let her take corn from my face," said Paul,
"only she bumps a bit. She's ever so neat. If she wasn't, look
how much ground she'd peck up every day."
He waited grimly, and watched. At last Miriam let the bird
peck from her hand. She gave a little cry--fear, and pain because
of fear--rather pathetic. But she had done it, and she did it again.
"There, you see," said the boy. "It doesn't hurt, does it?"
She looked at him with dilated dark eyes.
"No," she laughed, trembling.
Then she rose and went indoors. She seemed to be in some way
resentful of the boy.
"He thinks I'm only a common girl," she thought, and she wanted
to prove she was a grand person like the "Lady of the Lake".
Paul found his mother ready to go home. She smiled on her son.
He took the great bunch of flowers. Mr. and Mrs. Leivers walked
down the fields with them. The hills were golden with evening;
deep in the woods showed the darkening purple of bluebells.
It was everywhere perfectly stiff, save for the rustling of leaves
"But it is a beautiful place," said Mrs. Morel.
"Yes," answered Mr. Leivers; "it's a nice little place, if only
it weren't for the rabbits. The pasture's bitten down to nothing.
I dunno if ever I s'll get the rent off it."
He clapped his hands, and the field broke into motion near
the woods, brown rabbits hopping everywhere.
"Would you believe it!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel.
She and Paul went on alone together.
"Wasn't it lovely, mother?" he said quietly.
A thin moon was coming out. His heart was full of happiness
till it hurt. His mother had to chatter, because she, too,
wanted to cry with happiness.
"Now WOULDN'T I help that man!" she said. "WOULDN'T I see
to the fowls and the young stock! And I'D learn to milk, and I'D
talk with him, and I'D plan with him. My word, if I were his wife,
the farm would be run, I know! But there, she hasn't the strength--she
simply hasn't the strength. She ought never to have been burdened
like it, you know. I'm sorry for her, and I'm sorry for him too.
My word, if I'D had him, I shouldn't have thought him a bad husband!
Not that she does either; and she's very lovable."
William came home again with his sweetheart at the Whitsuntide.
He had one week of his holidays then. It was beautiful weather.
As a rule, William and Lily and Paul went out in the morning together
for a walk. William did not talk to his beloved much, except to tell
her things from his boyhood. Paul talked endlessly to both of them.
They lay down, all three, in a meadow by Minton Church. On one side,
by the Castle Farm, was a beautiful quivering screen of poplars.
Hawthorn was dropping from the hedges; penny daisies and ragged
robin were in the field, like laughter. William, a big fellow
of twenty-three, thinner now and even a bit gaunt, lay back
in the sunshine and dreamed, while she fingered with his hair.
Paul went gathering the big daisies. She had taken off her hat;
her hair was black as a horse's mane. Paul came back and threaded
daisies in her jet-black hair--big spangles of white and yellow, and just
a pink touch of ragged robin.
"Now you look like a young witch-woman," the boy said to her.
"Doesn't she, William?"
Lily laughed. William opened his eyes and looked at her.
In his gaze was a certain baffled look of misery and fierce appreciation.
"Has he made a sight of me?" she asked, laughing down on
"That he has!" said William, smiling.
He looked at her. Her beauty seemed to hurt him. He glanced
at her flower-decked head and frowned.
"You look nice enough, if that's what you want to know,"
And she walked without her hat. In a little while William
recovered, and was rather tender to her. Coming to a bridge,
he carved her initials and his in a heart.
L. L. W.
She watched his strong, nervous hand, with its glistening
hairs and freckles, as he carved, and she seemed fascinated by it.
All the time there was a feeling of sadness and warmth,
and a certain tenderness in the house, whilst William and Lily
were at home. But often he got irritable. She had brought,
for an eight-days' stay, five dresses and six blouses.
"Oh, would you mind," she said to Annie, "washing me these
two blouses, and these things?"
And Annie stood washing when William and Lily went out the
next morning. Mrs. Morel was furious. And sometimes the young man,
catching a glimpse of his sweetheart's attitude towards his sister,
On Sunday morning she looked very beautiful in a dress
of foulard, silky and sweeping, and blue as a jay-bird's feather,
and in a large cream hat covered with many roses, mostly crimson.
Nobody could admire her enough. But in the evening, when she was
going out, she asked again:
"Chubby, have you got my gloves?"
"Which?" asked William.
"My new black SUEDE."
There was a hunt. She had lost them.
"Look here, mother," said William, "that's the fourth pair
she's lost since Christmas--at five shillings a pair!"
"You only gave me TWO of them," she remonstrated.
And in the evening, after supper, he stood on the hearthrug
whilst she sat on the sofa, and he seemed to hate her. In the
afternoon he had left her whilst he went to see some old friend.
She had sat looking at a book. After supper William wanted to write
"Here is your book, Lily," said Mrs. Morel. "Would you care
to go on with it for a few minutes?"
"No, thank you," said the girl. "I will sit still."
"But it is so dull."
William scribbled irritably at a great rate. As he sealed
the envelope he said:
"Read a book! Why, she's never read a book in her life."
"Oh, go along!" said Mrs. Morel, cross with the exaggeration,
"It's true, mother--she hasn't," he cried, jumping up and taking
his old position on the hearthrug. "She's never read a book in her life."
"'Er's like me," chimed in Morel. "'Er canna see what there
is i' books, ter sit borin' your nose in 'em for, nor more can I."
"But you shouldn't say these things," said Mrs. Morel to her son.
"But it's true, mother--she CAN'T read. What did you give her?"
"Well, I gave her a little thing of Annie Swan's. Nobody wants
to read dry stuff on Sunday afternoon."
"Well, I'll bet she didn't read ten lines of it."
"You are mistaken," said his mother.
All the time Lily sat miserably on the sofa. He turned
to her swiftly.
"DID you ready any?" he asked.
"Yes, I did," she replied.
"l don't know how many pages."
"Tell me ONE THING you read."
She could not.
She never got beyond the second page. He read a great deal,
and had a quick, active intelligence. She could understand nothing but
love-making and chatter. He was accustomed to having all his thoughts
sifted through his mother's mind; so, when he wanted companionship,
and was asked in reply to be the billing and twittering lover,
he hated his betrothed.
"You know, mother," he said, when he was alone with her at night,
"she's no idea of money, she's so wessel-brained. When she's paid,
she'll suddenly buy such rot as marrons glaces, and then I have
to buy her season ticket, and her extras, even her underclothing.
And she wants to get married, and I think myself we might as well get
married next year. But at this rate---"
"A fine mess of a marriage it would be," replied his mother.
"I should consider it again, my boy."
"Oh, well, I've gone too far to break off now," he said,
"and so I shall get married as soon as I can."
"Very well, my boy. If you will, you will, and there's no
stopping you; but I tell you, I can't sleep when I think about it."
"Oh, she'll be all right, mother. We shall manage."
"And she lets you buy her underclothing?" asked the mother.
"Well," he began apologetically, "she didn't ask me; but one
morning--and it WAS cold--I found her on the station shivering, not able
to keep still; so I asked her if she was well wrapped up. She said:
'I think so.' So I said: 'Have you got warm underthings on?'
And she said: 'No, they were cotton.' I asked her why on earth she
hadn't got something thicker on in weather like that, and she said
because she HAD nothing. And there she is--a bronchial subject!
I HAD to take her and get some warm things. Well, mother, I shouldn't
mind the money if we had any. And, you know, she OUGHT to keep enough
to pay for her season-ticket; but no, she comes to me about that,
and I have to find the money."
"It's a poor lookout," said Mrs. Morel bitterly.
He was pale, and his rugged face, that used to be so perfectly
careless and laughing, was stamped with conflict and despair.
"But I can't give her up now; it's gone too far," he said.
"And, besides, for SOME things I couldn't do without her."
"My boy, remember you're taking your life in your hands,"
said Mrs. Morel. "NOTHING is as bad as a marriage that's
a hopeless failure. Mine was bad enough, God knows, and ought
to teach you something; but it might have been worse by a long chalk."
He leaned with his back against the side of the chimney-piece,
his hands in his pockets. He was a big, raw-boned man, who looked
as if he would go to the world's end if he wanted to. But she saw
the despair on his face.
"I couldn't give her up now," he said.
"Well," she said, "remember there are worse wrongs than breaking
off an engagement."
"I can't give her up NOW," he said.
The clock ticked on; mother and son remained in silence,
a conflict between them; but he would say no more. At last she said:
"Well, go to bed, my son. You'll feel better in the morning,
and perhaps you'll know better."
He kissed her, and went. She raked the fire. Her heart
was heavy now as it had never been. Before, with her husband,
things had seemed to be breaking down in her, but they did not
destroy her power to live. Now her soul felt lamed in itself.
It was her hope that was struck.
And so often William manifested the same hatred towards
his betrothed. On the last evening at home he was railing against her.
"Well," he said, "if you don't believe me, what she's like,
would you believe she has been confirmed three times?"
"Nonsense!" laughed Mrs. Morel.
"Nonsense or not, she HAS! That's what confirmation means
for her--a bit of a theatrical show where she can cut a figure."
"I haven't, Mrs. Morel!" cried the girl--"I haven't! it
is not true!"
"What!" he cried, flashing round on her. "Once in Bromley,
once in Beckenham, and once somewhere else."
"Nowhere else!" she said, in tears--"nowhere else!"
"It WAS! And if it wasn't why were you confirmed TWICE?"
"Once I was only fourteen, Mrs. Morel," she pleaded,
tears in her eyes.
"Yes," said Mrs. Morel; "I can quite understand it, child. Take no
notice of him. You ought to be ashamed, William, saying such things."
"But it's true. She's religious--she had blue velvet
Prayer-Books--and she's not as much religion, or anything else,
in her than that table-leg. Gets confirmed three times for show,
to show herself off, and that's how she is in EVERYTHING--
The girl sat on the sofa, crying. She was not strong.
"As for LOVE!" he cried, "you might as well ask a fly to love you!
It'll love settling on you---"
"Now, say no more," commanded Mrs. Morel. "If you want
to say these things, you must find another place than this.
I am ashamed of you, William! Why don't you be more manly.
To do nothing but find fault with a girl, and then pretend you're
engaged to her! "
Mrs. Morel subsided in wrath and indignation.
William was silent, and later he repented, kissed and comforted
the girl. Yet it was true, what he had said. He hated her.
When they were going away, Mrs. Morel accompanied them as far
as Nottingham. It was a long way to Keston station.
"You know, mother," he said to her, "Gyp's shallow.
Nothing goes deep with her."
"William, I WISH you wouldn't say these things," said Mrs. Morel,
very uncomfortable for the girl who walked beside her.
"But it doesn't, mother. She's very much in love with me now,
but if I died she'd have forgotten me in three months."
Mrs. Morel was afraid. Her heart beat furiously, hearing the
quiet bitterness of her son's last speech.
"How do you know?" she replied. "You DON'T know, and therefore
you've no right to say such a thing."
"He's always saying these things!" cried the girl.
"In three months after I was buried you'd have somebody else,
and I should be forgotten," he said. "And that's your love!"
Mrs. Morel saw them into the train in Nottingham, then she
"There's one comfort," she said to Paul--"he'll never have any
money to marry on, that I AM sure of. And so she'll save him that way."
So she took cheer. Matters were not yet very desperate.
She firmly believed William would never marry his Gipsy. She waited,
and she kept Paul near to her.
All summer long William's letters had a feverish tone; he seemed
unnatural and intense. Sometimes he was exaggeratedly jolly,
usually he was flat and bitter in his letter.
"Ah," his mother said, "I'm afraid he's ruining himself
against that creature, who isn't worthy of his love--no, no more
than a rag doll."
He wanted to come home. The midsummer holiday was gone;
it was a long while to Christmas. He wrote in wild excitement,
saying he could come for Saturday and Sunday at Goose Fair, the first
week in October.
"You are not well, my boy," said his mother, when she saw him.
She was almost in tears at having him to herself again.
"No, I've not been well," he said. "I've seemed to have
a dragging cold all the last month, but it's going, I think."
It was sunny October weather. He seemed wild with joy,
like a schoolboy escaped; then again he was silent and reserved.
He was more gaunt than ever, and there was a haggard look in his eyes.
"You are doing too much," said his mother to him.
He was doing extra work, trying to make some money to marry on,
he said. He only talked to his mother once on the Saturday night;
then he was sad and tender about his beloved.
"And yet, you know, mother, for all that, if I died she'd be
broken-hearted for two months, and then she'd start to forget me.
You'd see, she'd never come home here to look at my grave,
not even once."
"Why, William," said his mother, "you're not going to die,
so why talk about it?"
"But whether or not---" he replied.
"And she can't help it. She is like that, and if you choose
her--well, you can't grumble," said his mother.
On the Sunday morning, as he was putting his collar on:
"Look," he said to his mother, holding up his chin, "what a
rash my collar's made under my chin!"
Just at the junction of chin and throat was a big red inflammation.
"It ought not to do that," said his mother. "Here, put a bit
of this soothing ointment on. You should wear different collars."
He went away on Sunday midnight, seeming better and more solid
for his two days at home.
On Tuesday morning came a telegram from London that he was ill.
Mrs. Morel got off her knees from washing the floor, read the telegram,
called a neighbour, went to her landlady and borrowed a sovereign,
put on her things, and set off. She hurried to Keston, caught an
express for London in Nottingham. She had to wait in Nottingham
nearly an hour. A small figure in her black bonnet, she was
anxiously asking the porters if they knew how to get to Elmers End.
The journey was three hours. She sat in her corner in a kind of stupor,
never moving. At King's Cross still no one could tell her how
to get to Elmers End. Carrying her string bag, that contained
her nightdress, a comb and brush, she went from person to person.
At last they sent her underground to Cannon Street.
It was six o'clock when she arrived at William's lodging.
The blinds were not down.
"How is he?" she asked.
"No better," said the landlady.
She followed the woman upstairs. William lay on the bed,
with bloodshot eyes, his face rather discoloured. The clothes were
tossed about, there was no fire in the room, a glass of milk stood
on the stand at his bedside. No one had been with him.
"Why, my son!" said the mother bravely.
He did not answer. He looked at her, but did not see her.
Then he began to say, in a dull voice, as if repeating a letter
from dictation: "Owing to a leakage in the hold of this vessel,
the sugar had set, and become converted into rock. It needed hacking---"
He was quite unconscious. It had been his business to examine
some such cargo of sugar in the Port of London.
"How long has he been like this?" the mother asked the landlady.
"He got home at six o'clock on Monday morning, and he seemed
to sleep all day; then in the night we heard him talking, and this
morning he asked for you. So I wired, and we fetched the doctor."
"Will you have a fire made?"
Mrs. Morel tried to soothe her son, to keep him still.
The doctor came. It was pneumonia, and, he said, a peculiar
erysipelas, which had started under the chin where the collar chafed,
and was spreading over the face. He hoped it would not get to the brain.
Mrs. Morel settled down to nurse. She prayed for William,
prayed that he would recognise her. But the young man's face grew
more discoloured. In the night she struggled with him. He raved,
and raved, and would not come to consciousness. At two o'clock,
in a dreadful paroxysm, he died.
Mrs. Morel sat perfectly still for an hour in the lodging bedroom;
then she roused the household.
At six o'clock, with the aid of the charwoman, she laid him out;
then she went round the dreary London village to the registrar
and the doctor.
At nine o'clock to the cottage on Scargill Street came
"William died last night. Let father come, bring money."
Annie, Paul, and Arthur were at home; Mr. Morel was gone
to work. The three children said not a word. Annie began to whimper
with fear; Paul set off for his father.
It was a beautiful day. At Brinsley pit the white steam melted
slowly in the sunshine of a soft blue sky; the wheels of the headstocks
twinkled high up; the screen, shuffling its coal into the trucks,
made a busy noise.
"I want my father; he's got to go to London," said the boy
to the first man he met on the bank.
"Tha wants Walter Morel? Go in theer an' tell Joe Ward."
Paul went into the little top office.
"I want my father; he's got to go to London."
"Thy feyther? Is he down? What's his name?"
"What, Walter? Is owt amiss?"
"He's got to go to London."
The man went to the telephone and rang up the bottom office.
"Walter Morel's wanted, number 42, Hard. Summat's amiss;
there's his lad here."
Then he turned round to Paul.
"He'll be up in a few minutes," he said.
Paul wandered out to the pit-top. He watched the chair come up,
with its wagon of coal. The great iron cage sank back on its rest,
a full carfle was hauled off, an empty tram run on to the chair,
a bell ting'ed somewhere, the chair heaved, then dropped like
Paul did not realise William was dead; it was impossible,
with such a bustle going on. The puller-off swung the small truck
on to the turn-table, another man ran with it along the bank down
the curving lines.
"And William is dead, and my mother's in London, and what will
she be doing?" the boy asked himself, as if it were a conundrum.
He watched chair after chair come up, and still no father.
At last, standing beside a wagon, a man's form! the chair sank on
its rests, Morel stepped off. He was slightly lame from an accident.
"Is it thee, Paul? Is 'e worse?"
"You've got to go to London."
The two walked off the pit-bank, where men were watching curiously.
As they came out and went along the railway, with the
sunny autumn field on one side and a wall of trucks
on the other, Morel said in a frightened voice:
"'E's niver gone, child?"
"Last night. We had a telegram from my mother."
Morel walked on a few strides, then leaned up against
a truck-side, his hand over his eyes. He was not crying.
Paul stood looking round, waiting. On the weighing
machine a truck trundled slowly. Paul saw everything,
except his father leaning against the truck as if he were tired.
Morel had only once before been to London. He set off,
scared and peaked, to help his wife. That was on Tuesday.
The children were left alone in the house. Paul went to work,
Arthur went to school, and Annie had in a friend to be with her.
On Saturday night, as Paul was turning the corner, coming home
from Keston, he saw his mother and father, who had come to Sethley
Bridge Station. They were walking in silence in the dark, tired,
straggling apart. The boy waited.
"Mother!" he said, in the darkness.
Mrs. Morel's small figure seemed not to observe. He spoke again.
"Paul!" she said, uninterestedly.
She let him kiss her, but she seemed unaware of him.
In the house she was the same--small, white, and mute.
She noticed nothing, she said nothing, only:
"The coffin will be here to-night, Walter. You'd better see
about some help." Then, turning to the children: "We're bringing
Then she relapsed into the same mute looking into space,
her hands folded on her lap. Paul, looking at her, felt he could
not breathe. The house was dead silent.
"I went to work, mother," he said plaintively.
"Did you?" she answered, dully.
After half an hour Morel, troubled and bewildered, came in again.
"Wheer s'll we ha'e him when he DOEScome?" he asked his wife.
"In the front-room."
"Then I'd better shift th' table?"
"An' ha'e him across th' chairs?"
"You know there---Yes, I suppose so."
Morel and Paul went, with a candle, into the parlour.
There was no gas there. The father unscrewed the top of the big
mahogany oval table, and cleared the middle of the room; then he
arranged six chairs opposite each other, so that the coffin could
stand on their beds.
"You niver seed such a length as he is!" said the miner,
and watching anxiously as he worked.
Paul went to the bay window and looked out. The ash-tree
stood monstrous and black in front of the wide darkness.
It was a faintly luminous night. Paul went back to his mother.
At ten o'clock Morel called:
Everyone started. There was a noise of unbarring and unlocking
the front door, which opened straight from the night into the room.
"Bring another candle," called Morel.
Annie and Arthur went. Paul followed with his mother.
He stood with his arm round her waist in the inner doorway.
Down the middle of the cleared room waited six chairs, face to face.
In the window, against the lace curtains, Arthur held up one candle,
and by the open door, against the night, Annie stood leaning forward,
her brass candlestick glittering.
There was the noise of wheels. Outside in the darkness of the
street below Paul could see horses and a black vehicle, one lamp,
and a few pale faces; then some men, miners, all in their shirt-sleeves,
seemed to struggle in the obscurity. Presently two men appeared,
bowed beneath a great weight. It was Morel and his neighbour.
"Steady!" called Morel, out of breath.
He and his fellow mounted the steep garden step, heaved into
the candlelight with their gleaming coffin-end. Limbs of other men
were seen struggling behind. Morel and Burns, in front, staggered;
the great dark weight swayed.
"Steady, steady!" cried Morel, as if in pain.
All the six bearers were up in the small garden, holding the
great coffin aloft. There were three more steps to the door.
The yellow lamp of the carriage shone alone
down the black road.
"Now then!" said Morel.
The coffin swayed, the men began to mount the three steps
with their load. Annie's candle flickered, and she whimpered
as the first men appeared, and the limbs and bowed heads of six
men struggled to climb into the room, bearing the coffin that rode
like sorrow on their living flesh.
"Oh, my son--my son!" Mrs. Morel sang softly, and each time
the coffin swung to the unequal climbing of the men: "Oh, my son--my
"Mother!" Paul whimpered, his hand round her waist.
She did not hear.
"Oh, my son--my son!" she repeated.
Paul saw drops of sweat fall from his father's brow.
Six men were in the room--six coatless men, with yielding,
struggling limbs, filling the room and knocking against the furniture.
The coffin veered, and was gently lowered on to the chairs.
The sweat fell from Morel's face on its boards.
"My word, he's a weight!" said a man, and the five miners sighed,
bowed, and, trembling with the struggle, descended the steps again,
closing the door behind them.
The family was alone in the parlour with the great polished box.
William, when laid out, was six feet four inches long. Like a monument
lay the bright brown, ponderous coffin. Paul thought it would never
be got out of the room again. His mother was stroking the polished wood.
They buried him on the Monday in the little cemetery on the
hillside that looks over the fields at the big church and the houses.
It was sunny, and the white chrysanthemums frilled themselves
in the warmth.
Mrs. Morel could not be persuaded, after this, to talk and
take her old bright interest in life. She remained shut off.
All the way home in the train she had said to herself : "If only it
could have been me! "
When Paul came home at night he found his mother sitting,
her day's work done, with hands folded in her lap upon her
coarse apron. She always used to have changed her dress and put
on a black apron, before. Now Annie set his supper, and his mother
sat looking blankly in front of her, her mouth shut tight.
Then he beat his brains for news to tell her.
"Mother, Miss Jordan was down to-day, and she said my sketch
of a colliery at work was beautiful."
But Mrs. Morel took no notice. Night after night he forced
himself to tell her things, although she did not listen. It drove
him almost insane to have her thus. At last:
"What's a-matter, mother?" he asked.
She did not hear.
"What's a-matter?" he persisted. "Mother, what's a-matter?"
"You know what's the matter," she said irritably, turning away.
The lad--he was sixteen years old--went to bed drearily.
He was cut off and wretched through October, November and December.
His mother tried, but she could not rouse herself. She could only
brood on her dead son; he had been let to die so cruelly.
At last, on December 23, with his five shillings Christmas-box
in his pocket, Paul wandered blindly home. His mother looked at him,
and her heart stood still.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"I'm badly, mother!" he replied. "Mr. Jordan gave me five
shillings for a Christmas-box!"
He handed it to her with trembling hands. She put it on the table.
"You aren't glad!" he reproached her; but he trembled violently.
"Where hurts you?" she said, unbuttoning his overcoat.
It was the old question.
"I feel badly, mother."
She undressed him and put him to bed. He had pneumonia dangerously,
the doctor said.
"Might he never have had it if I'd kept him at home, not let
him go to Nottingham?" was one of the first things she asked.
"He might not have been so bad," said the doctor.
Mrs. Morel stood condemned on her own ground.
"I should have watched the living, not the dead," she told herself.
Paul was very ill. His mother lay in bed at nights with him;
they could not afford a nurse. He grew worse, and the crisis approached.
One night he tossed into consciousness in the ghastly, sickly feeling
of dissolution, when all the cells in the body seem in intense
irritability to be breaking down, and consciousness makes a last
flare of struggle, like madness.
"I s'll die, mother!" be cried, heaving for breath on the pillow.
She lifted him up, crying in a small voice:
"Oh, my son--my son!"
That brought him to. He realised her. His whole will rose
up and arrested him. He put his head on her breast, and took ease
of her for love.
"For some things," said his aunt, "it was a good thing Paul
was ill that Christmas. I believe it saved his mother."
Paul was in bed for seven weeks. He got up white and fragile.
His father had bought him a pot of scarlet and gold tulips.
They used to flame in the window in the March sunshine as he sat
on the sofa chattering to his mother. The two knitted together in
perfect intimacy. Mrs. Morel's life now rooted itself in Paul.
William had been a prophet. Mrs. Morel had a little present
and a letter from Lily at Christmas. Mrs. Morel's sister had
a letter at the New Year.
"I was at a ball last night. Some delightful people were there,
and I enjoyed myself thoroughly," said the letter. "I had every
dance--did not sit out one."
Mrs. Morel never heard any more of her.
Morel and his wife were gentle with each other for some time
after the death of their son. He would go into a kind of daze,
staring wide-eyed and blank across the room. Then he got up suddenly
and hurried out to the Three Spots, returning in his normal state.
But never in his life would he go for a walk up Shepstone,
past the office where his son had worked, and he always avoided
PAUL had been many times up to Willey Farm during the autumn.
He was friends with the two youngest boys. Edgar the eldest, would not
condescend at first. And Miriam also refused to be approached.
She was afraid of being set at nought, as by her own brothers.
The girl was romantic in her soul. Everywhere was a Walter Scott
heroine being loved by men with helmets or with plumes in their caps.
She herself was something of a princess turned into a swine-girl
in her own imagination. And she was afraid lest this boy,
who, nevertheless, looked something like a Walter Scott hero,
who could paint and speak French, and knew what algebra meant,
and who went by train to Nottingham every day, might consider her
simply as the swine-girl, unable to perceive the princess beneath;
so she held aloof.
Her great companion was her mother. They were both brown-eyed,
and inclined to be mystical, such women as treasure religion
inside them, breathe it in their nostrils, and see the whole of life
in a mist thereof. So to Miriam, Christ and God made one great figure,
which she loved tremblingly and passionately when a tremendous sunset
burned out the western sky, and Ediths, and Lucys, and Rowenas, Brian de
Bois Guilberts, Rob Roys, and Guy Mannerings, rustled the sunny leaves
in the morning, or sat in her bedroom aloft, alone, when it snowed.
That was life to her. For the rest, she drudged in the house,
which work she would not have minded had not her clean red floor been
mucked up immediately by the trampling farm-boots of her brothers.
She madly wanted her little brother of four to let her swathe
him and stifle him in her love; she went to church reverently,
with bowed head, and quivered in anguish from the vulgarity of the
other choir-girls and from the common-sounding voice of the curate;
she fought with her brothers, whom she considered brutal louts;
and she held not her father in too high esteem because he did not
carry any mystical ideals cherished in his heart, but only wanted
to have as easy a time as he could, and his meals when he was ready
She hated her position as swine-girl. She wanted to be considered.
She wanted to learn, thinking that if she could read, as Paul said
he could read, "Colomba", or the "Voyage autour de ma Chambre", the
world would have a different face for her and a deepened respect.
She could not be princess by wealth or standing. So she was mad
to have learning whereon to pride herself. For she was different
from other folk, and must not be scooped up among the common fry.
Learning was the only distinction to which she thought to aspire.
Her beauty--that of a shy, wild, quiveringly sensitive
thing--seemed nothing to her. Even her soul, so strong for rhapsody,
was not enough. She must have something to reinforce her pride,
because she felt different from other people. Paul she eyed
rather wistfully. On the whole, she scorned the male sex.
But here was a new specimen, quick, light, graceful, who could
be gentle and who could be sad, and who was clever, and who knew
a lot, and who had a death in the family. The boy's poor
morsel of learning exalted him almost sky-high in her esteem.
Yet she tried hard to scorn him, because he would not see in her
the princess but only the swine-girl. And he scarcely observed her.
Then he was so ill, and she felt he would be weak. Then she
would be stronger than he. Then she could love him. If she could
be mistress of him in his weakness, take care of him, if he could
depend on her, if she could, as it were, have him in her arms,
how she would love him!
As soon as the skies brightened and plum-blossom was out,
Paul drove off in the milkman's heavy float up to Willey Farm.
Mr. Leivers shouted in a kindly fashion at the boy, then clicked
to the horse as they climbed the hill slowly, in the freshness
of the morning. White clouds went on their way, crowding to the
back of the hills that were rousing in the springtime. The water
of Nethermere lay below, very blue against the seared meadows and
It was four and a half miles' drive. Tiny buds on the hedges,
vivid as copper-green, were opening into rosettes; and thrushes called,
and blackbirds shrieked and scolded. It was a new, glamorous world.
Miriam, peeping through the kitchen window, saw the horse walk
through the big white gate into the farmyard that was backed by the
oak-wood, still bare. Then a youth in a heavy overcoat climbed down.
He put up his hands for the whip and the rug that the good-looking,
ruddy farmer handed down to him.
Miriam appeared in the doorway. She was nearly sixteen,
very beautiful, with her warm colouring, her gravity, her eyes
dilating suddenly like an ecstasy.
"I say," said Paul, turning shyly aside, "your daffodils
are nearly out. Isn't it early? But don't they look cold?"
"Cold!" said Miriam, in her musical, caressing voice.
"The green on their buds---" and he faltered into silence timidly.
"Let me take the rug," said Miriam over-gently.
"I can carry it," he answered, rather injured. But he yielded
it to her.
Then Mrs. Leivers appeared.
"I'm sure you're tired and cold," she said. "Let me take
your coat. It IS heavy. You mustn't walk far in it."
She helped him off with his coat. He was quite unused
to such attention. She was almost smothered under its weight.
"Why, mother," laughed the farmer as he passed through the kitchen,
swinging the great milk-churns, "you've got almost more than you
can manage there."
She beat up the sofa cushions for the youth.
The kitchen was very small and irregular. The farm had been
originally a labourer's cottage. And the furniture was old and battered.
But Paul loved it--loved the sack-bag that formed the hearthrug,
and the funny little corner under the stairs, and the small window
deep in the corner, through which, bending a little, be could see
the plum trees in the back garden and the lovely round hills beyond.
"Won't you lie down?" said Mrs. Leivers.
"Oh no; I'm not tired," he said. "Isn't it lovely coming out,
don't you think? I saw a sloe-bush in blossom and a lot of celandines.
I'm glad it's sunny."
"Can I give you anything to eat or to drink?"
"No, thank you."
"How's your mother?"
"I think she's tired now. I think she's had too much to do.
Perhaps in a little while she'll go to Skegness with me. Then she'll
be able to rest. I s'll be glad if she can."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Leivers. "It's a wonder she isn't
Miriam was moving about preparing dinner. Paul watched
everything that happened. His face was pale and thin, but his eyes
were quick and bright with life as ever. He watched the strange,
almost rhapsodic way in which the girl moved about, carrying a great
stew-jar to the oven, or looking in the saucepan. The atmosphere
was different from that of his own home, where everything seemed
so ordinary. When Mr. Leivers called loudly outside to the horse,
that was reaching over to feed on the rose-bushes in the garden,
the girl started, looked round with dark eyes, as if something had
come breaking in on her world. There was a sense of silence inside
the house and out. Miriam seemed as in some dreamy tale, a maiden
in bondage, her spirit dreaming in a land far away and magical.
And her discoloured, old blue frock and her broken boots seemed
only like the romantic rags of King Cophetua's beggar-maid.
She suddenly became aware of his keen blue eyes upon her,
taking her all in. Instantly her broken boots and her frayed old
frock hurt her. She resented his seeing everything. Even he knew
that her stocking was not pulled up. She went into the scullery,
blushing deeply. And afterwards her hands trembled slightly at
her work. She nearly dropped all she handled. When her inside
dream was shaken, her body quivered with trepidation. She resented
that he saw so much.
Mrs. Leivers sat for some time talking to the boy, although she
was needed at her work. She was too polite to leave him.
Presently she excused herself and rose. After a while she looked
into the tin saucepan.
"Oh DEAR, Miriam," she cried, "these potatoes have boiled dry!"
Miriam started as if she had been stung.
"HAVE they, mother?" she cried.
"I shouldn't care, Miriam," said the mother, "if I hadn't
trusted them to you." She peered into the pan.
The girl stiffened as if from a blow. Her dark eyes dilated;
she remained standing in the same spot.
"Well," she answered, gripped tight in self-conscious shame,
"I'm sure I looked at them five minutes since."
"Yes," said the mother, "I know it's easily done."
"They're not much burned," said Paul. "It doesn't matter,
Mrs. Leivers looked at the youth with her brown, hurt eyes.
"It wouldn't matter but for the boys," she said to him.
"Only Miriam knows what a trouble they make if the potatoes are
"Then," thought Paul to himself, "you shouldn't let them make
After a while Edgar came in. He wore leggings, and his boots
were covered with earth. He was rather small, rather formal,
for a farmer. He glanced at Paul, nodded to him distantly,
"Nearly, Edgar," replied the mother apologetically.
"I'm ready for mine," said the young man, taking up the newspaper
and reading. Presently the rest of the family trooped in.
Dinner was served. The meal went rather brutally. The over-gentleness
and apologetic tone of the mother brought out all the brutality
of manners in the sons. Edgar tasted the potatoes, moved his mouth
quickly like a rabbit, looked indignantly at his mother, and said:
"These potatoes are burnt, mother."
"Yes, Edgar. I forgot them for a minute. Perhaps you'll
have bread if you can't eat them."
Edgar looked in anger across at Miriam.
"What was Miriam doing that she couldn't attend to them?"
Miriam looked up. Her mouth opened, her dark eyes blazed
and winced, but she said nothing. She swallowed her anger
and her shame, bowing her dark head.
"I'm sure she was trying hard," said the mother.
"She hasn't got sense even to boil the potatoes," said Edgar.
"What is she kept at home for?"
"On'y for eating everything that's left in th' pantry," said Maurice.
"They don't forget that potato-pie against our Miriam,"
laughed the father.
She was utterly humiliated. The mother sat in silence,
suffering, like some saint out of place at the brutal board.
It puzzled Paul. He wondered vaguely why all this intense feeling
went running because of a few burnt potatoes. The mother exalted
everything--even a bit of housework--to the plane of a religious trust.
The sons resented this; they felt themselves cut away underneath, and
they answered with brutality and also with a sneering superciliousness.
Paul was just opening out from childhood into manhood.
This atmosphere, where everything took a religious value, came with
a subtle fascination to him. There was something in the air.
His own mother was logical. Here there was something different,
something he loved, something that at times he hated.
Miriam quarrelled with her brothers fiercely. Later in
the afternoon, when they had gone away again, her mother said:
"You disappointed me at dinner-time, Miriam."
The girl dropped her head.
"They are such BRUTES!" she suddenly cried, looking up
with flashing eyes.
"But hadn't you promised not to answer them?" said the mother.
"And I believed in you. I CAN'T stand it when you wrangle."
"But they're so hateful!" cried Miriam, "and--and LOW."
"Yes, dear. But how often have I asked you not to answer
Edgar back? Can't you let him say what he likes?"
"But why should he say what he likes?"
"Aren't you strong enough to bear it, Miriam, if even for my sake?
Are you so weak that you must wrangle with them?"
Mrs. Leivers stuck unflinchingly to this doctrine of "the other
cheek". She could not instil it at all into the boys. With the
girls she succeeded better, and Miriam was the child of her heart.
The boys loathed the other cheek when it was presented to them.
Miriam was often sufficiently lofty to turn it. Then they spat
on her and hated her. But she walked in her proud humility,
living within herself.
There was always this feeling of jangle and discord in the
Leivers family. Although the boys resented so bitterly this eternal
appeal to their deeper feelings of resignation and proud humility,
yet it had its effect on them. They could not establish between themselves
and an outsider just the ordinary human feeling and unexaggerated
friendship; they were always restless for the something deeper.
Ordinary folk seemed shallow to them, trivial and inconsiderable.
And so they were unaccustomed, painfully uncouth in the simplest
social intercourse, suffering, and yet insolent in their superiority.
Then beneath was the yearning for the soul-intimacy to which they could
not attain because they were too dumb, and every approach to close
connection was blocked by their clumsy contempt of other people.
They wanted genuine intimacy, but they could not get even normally
near to anyone, because they scorned to take the first steps,
they scorned the triviality which forms common human intercourse.
Paul fell under Mrs. Leivers's spell. Everything had
a religious and intensified meaning when he was with her.
His soul, hurt, highly developed, sought her as if for nourishment.
Together they seemed to sift the vital fact from an experience.
Miriam was her mother's daughter. In the sunshine of the
afternoon mother and daughter went down the fields with him.
They looked for nests. There was a jenny wren's in the hedge
by the orchard.
"I DO want you to see this," said Mrs. Leivers.
He crouched down and carefully put his finger through the
thorns into the round door of the nest.
"It's almost as if you were feeling inside the live body
of the bird," he said, "it's so warm. They say a bird makes
its nest round like a cup with pressing its breast on it.
Then how did it make the ceiling round, I wonder?"
The nest seemed to start into life for the two women.
After that, Miriam came to see it every day. It seemed so close
to her. Again, going down the hedgeside with the girl, he noticed
the celandines, scalloped splashes of gold, on the side of the ditch.
"I like them," he said, "when their petals go flat back with
the sunshine. They seemed to be pressing themselves at the sun."
And then the celandines ever after drew her with a little spell.
Anthropomorphic as she was, she stimulated him into appreciating
things thus, and then they lived for her. She seemed to need things
kindling in her imagination or in her soul before she felt she
had them. And she was cut off from ordinary life by her religious
intensity which made the world for her either a nunnery garden
or a paradise, where sin and knowledge were not, or else an ugly,
So it was in this atmosphere of subtle intimacy, this meeting
in their common feeling for something in Nature, that their love started.
Personally, he was a long time before he realized her.
For ten months he had to stay at home after his illness. For a
while he went to Skegness with his mother, and was perfectly happy.
But even from the seaside he wrote long letters to Mrs. Leivers
about the shore and the sea. And he brought back his beloved
sketches of the flat Lincoln coast, anxious for them to see.
Almost they would interest the Leivers more than they interested
his mother. It was not his art Mrs. Morel cared about; it was himself
and his achievement. But Mrs. Leivers and her children were almost
his disciples. They kindled him and made him glow to his work,
whereas his mother's influence was to make him quietly determined,
patient, dogged, unwearied.
He soon was friends with the boys, whose rudeness was
only superficial. They had all, when they could trust themselves,
a strange gentleness and lovableness.
"Will you come with me on to the fallow?" asked Edgar,
Paul went joyfully, and spent the afternoon helping to hoe or to
single turnips with his friend. He used to lie with the three brothers
in the hay piled up in the barn and tell them about Nottingham and
about Jordan's. In return, they taught him to milk, and let him do
little jobs--chopping hay or pulping turnips--just as much as he liked.
At midsummer he worked all through hay-harvest with them, and then
he loved them. The family was so cut off from the world actually.
They seemed, somehow, like "les derniers fils d'une race epuisee".
Though the lads were strong and healthy, yet they had all that
over-sensitiveness and hanging-back which made them so lonely,
yet also such close, delicate friends once their intimacy was won.
Paul loved them dearly, and they him.
Miriam came later. But he had come into her life before she
made any mark on his. One dull afternoon, when the men were on
the land and the rest at school, only Miriam and her mother
at home, the girl said to him, after having hesitated for some time:
"Have you seen the swing?"
"No," he answered. "Where?"
"In the cowshed," she replied.
She always hesitated to offer or to show him anything.
Men have such different standards of worth from women, and her dear
things--the valuable things to her--her brothers had so often mocked
"Come on, then," he replied, jumping up.
There were two cowsheds, one on either side of the barn.
In the lower, darker shed there was standing for four cows.
Hens flew scolding over the manger-wall as the youth and girl went
forward for the great thick rope which hung from the beam in the
darkness overhead, and was pushed back over a peg in the wall.
"It's something like a rope!" he exclaimed appreciatively;
and he sat down on it, anxious to try it. Then immediately he rose.
"Come on, then, and have first go," he said to the girl.
"See," she answered, going into the barn, "we put some bags
on the seat"; and she made the swing comfortable for him.
That gave her pleasure. He held the rope.
"Come on, then," he said to her.
"No, I won't go first," she answered.
She stood aside in her still, aloof fashion.
"You go," she pleaded.
Almost for the first time in her life she had the pleasure
of giving up to a man, of spoiling him. Paul looked at her.
"All right," he said, sitting down. "Mind out!"
He set off with a spring, and in a moment was flying through
the air, almost out of the door of the shed, the upper half of which
was open, showing outside the drizzling rain, the filthy yard,
the cattle standing disconsolate against the black cartshed, and at
the back of all the grey-green wall of the wood. She stood below
in her crimson tam-o'-shanter and watched. He looked down at her,
and she saw his blue eyes sparkling.
"It's a treat of a swing," he said.
He was swinging through the air, every bit of him swinging,
like a bird that swoops for joy of movement. And he looked down
at her. Her crimson cap hung over her dark curls, her beautiful
warm face, so still in a kind of brooding, was lifted towards him.
It was dark and rather cold in the shed. Suddenly a swallow came
down from the high roof and darted out of the door.
"I didn't know a bird was watching," he called.
He swung negligently. She could feel him falling and lifting
through the air, as if he were lying on some force.
"Now I'll die," he said, in a detached, dreamy voice, as though
he were the dying motion of the swing. She watched him, fascinated.
Suddenly he put on the brake and jumped out.
"I've had a long turn," he said. "But it's a treat
of a swing--it's a real treat of a swing!"
Miriam was amused that he took a swing so seriously and felt
so warmly over it.
"No; you go on," she said.
"Why, don't you want one?" he asked, astonished.
"Well, not much. I'll have just a little."
She sat down, whilst he kept the bags in place for her.
"It's so ripping!" he said, setting her in motion. "Keep your
heels up, or they'll bang the manger wall."
She felt the accuracy with which he caught her, exactly at the
right moment, and the exactly proportionate strength of his thrust,
and she was afraid. Down to her bowels went the hot wave of fear.
She was in his hands. Again, firm and inevitable came the thrust at
the right moment. She gripped the rope, almost swooning.
"Ha!" she laughed in fear. "No higher!"
"But you're not a BIT high," he remonstrated.
"But no higher."
He heard the fear in her voice, and desisted. Her heart melted
in hot pain when the moment came for him to thrust her forward again.
But he left her alone. She began to breathe.
"Won't you really go any farther?" he asked. "Should I keep
"No; let me go by myself," she answered.
He moved aside and watched her.
"Why, you're scarcely moving," he said.
She laughed slightly with shame, and in a moment got down.
"They say if you can swing you won't be sea-sick," he said,
as he mounted again. "I don't believe I should ever be sea-sick."
Away he went. There was something fascinating to her in him.
For the moment he was nothing but a piece of swinging stuff;
not a particle of him that did not swing. She could never lose
herself so, nor could her brothers. It roused a warmth in her.
It was almost as if he were a flame that had lit a warmth in her
whilst he swung in the middle air.
And gradually the intimacy with the family concentrated
for Paul on three persons--the mother, Edgar, and Miriam.
To the mother he went for that sympathy and that appeal which seemed
to draw him out. Edgar was his very close friend. And to Miriam
he more or less condescended, because she seemed so humble.
But the girl gradually sought him out. If he brought up his
sketch-book, it was she who pondered longest over the last picture.
Then she would look up at him. Suddenly, her dark eyes alight like
water that shakes with a stream of gold in the dark, she would ask:
"Why do I like this so?"
Always something in his breast shrank from these close,