Part 5 out of 12
intimate, dazzled looks of hers.
"Why DO you?" he asked.
"I don't know. It seems so true."
"It's because--it's because there is scarcely any shadow in it;
it's more shimmery, as if I'd painted the shimmering protoplasm
in the leaves and everywhere, and not the stiffness of the shape.
That seems dead to me. Only this shimmeriness is the real living.
The shape is a dead crust. The shimmer is inside really."
And she, with her little finger in her mouth, would ponder
these sayings. They gave her a feeling of life again, and vivified
things which had meant nothing to her. She managed to find some
meaning in his struggling, abstract speeches. And they were
the medium through which she came distinctly at her beloved objects.
Another day she sat at sunset whilst he was painting some
pine-trees which caught the red glare from the west. He had been quiet.
"There you are!" he said suddenly. "I wanted that. Now, look at
them and tell me, are they pine trunks or are they red coals,
standing-up pieces of fire in that darkness? There's God's burning
bush for you, that burned not away."
Miriam looked, and was frightened. But the pine trunks were
wonderful to her, and distinct. He packed his box and rose.
Suddenly he looked at her.
"Why are you always sad?" he asked her.
"Sad!" she exclaimed, looking up at him with startled,
wonderful brown eyes.
"Yes," he replied. "You are always sad."
"I am not--oh, not a bit!" she cried.
"But even your joy is like a flame coming off of sadness,"
he persisted. "You're never jolly, or even just all right."
"No," she pondered. "I wonder--why?"
"Because you're not; because you're different inside,
like a pine-tree, and then you flare up; but you're not just
like an ordinary tree, with fidgety leaves and jolly---"
He got tangled up in his own speech; but she brooded on it,
and he had a strange, roused sensation, as if his feelings were new.
She got so near him. It was a strange stimulant.
Then sometimes he hated her. Her youngest brother was only five.
He was a frail lad, with immense brown eyes in his quaint fragile
face--one of Reynolds's "Choir of Angels", with a touch of elf.
Often Miriam kneeled to the child and drew him to her.
"Eh, my Hubert!" she sang, in a voice heavy and surcharged
with love. "Eh, my Hubert!"
And, folding him in her arms, she swayed slightly from side
to side with love, her face half lifted, her eyes half closed,
her voice drenched with love.
"Don't!" said the child, uneasy--"don't, Miriam!"
"Yes; you love me, don't you?" she murmured deep in her throat,
almost as if she were in a trance, and swaying also as if she were
swooned in an ecstasy of love.
"Don't!" repeated the child, a frown on his clear brow.
"You love me, don't you?" she murmured.
"What do you make such a FUSS for?" cried Paul, all in suffering
because of her extreme emotion. "Why can't you be ordinary with him?"
She let the child go, and rose, and said nothing. Her intensity,
which would leave no emotion on a normal plane, irritated the youth
into a frenzy. And this fearful, naked contact of her on small
occasions shocked him. He was used to his mother's reserve.
And on such occasions he was thankful in his heart and soul that he
had his mother, so sane and wholesome.
All the life of Miriam's body was in her eyes, which were usually
dark as a dark church, but could flame with light like a conflagration.
Her face scarcely ever altered from its look of brooding.
She might have been one of the women who went with Mary when Jesus
was dead. Her body was not flexible and living. She walked
with a swing, rather heavily, her head bowed forward, pondering.
She was not clumsy, and yet none of her movements seemed quite
THE movement. Often, when wiping the dishes, she would stand
in bewilderment and chagrin because she had pulled in two halves
a cup or a tumbler. It was as if, in her fear and self-mistrust,
she put too much strength into the effort. There was no looseness
or abandon about her. Everything was gripped stiff with intensity,
and her effort, overcharged, closed in on itself.
She rarely varied from her swinging, forward, intense walk.
Occasionally she ran with Paul down the fields. Then her eyes
blazed naked in a kind of ecstasy that frightened him. But she was
physically afraid. If she were getting over a stile, she gripped his
hands in a little hard anguish, and began to lose her presence of mind.
And he could not persuade her to jump from even a small height.
Her eyes dilated, became exposed and palpitating.
"No!" she cried, half laughing in terror--"no!"
"You shall!" he cried once, and, jerking her forward, he brought
her falling from the fence. But her wild "Ah!" of pain, as if she
were losing consciousness, cut him. She landed on her feet safely,
and afterwards had courage in this respect.
She was very much dissatisfied with her lot.
"Don't you like being at home?" Paul asked her, surprised.
"Who would?" she answered, low and intense. "What is it?
I'm all day cleaning what the boys make just as bad in five minutes.
I don't WANT to be at home."
"What do you want, then?"
"I want to do something. I want a chance like anybody else.
Why should 1, because I'm a girl, be kept at home and not allowed
to be anything? What chance HAVE I?"
"Chance of what?"
"Of knowing anything--of learning, of doing anything.
It's not fair, because I'm a woman."
She seemed very bitter. Paul wondered. In his own home Annie
was almost glad to be a girl. She had not so much responsibility;
things were lighter for her. She never wanted to be other than a girl.
But Miriam almost fiercely wished she were a man. And yet she hated
men at the same time.
"But it's as well to be a woman as a man," he said, frowning.
"Ha! Is it? Men have everything."
"I should think women ought to be as glad to be women as men
are to be men," he answered.
"No!"--she shook her head--"no! Everything the men have."
"But what do you want?" he asked.
"I want to learn. Why SHOULD it be that I know nothing?"
"What! such as mathematics and French?"
"Why SHOULDN'T I know mathematics? Yes!" she cried, her eye
expanding in a kind of defiance.
"Well, you can learn as much as I know," he said. "I'll teach you,
if you like."
Her eyes dilated. She mistrusted him as teacher.
"Would you?" he asked.
Her head had dropped, and she was sucking her finger broodingly.
"Yes," she said hesitatingly.
He used to tell his mother all these things.
"I'm going to teach Miriam algebra," he said.
"Well," replied Mrs. Morel, "I hope she'll get fat on it."
When he went up to the farm on the Monday evening, it was
drawing twilight. Miriam was just sweeping up the kitchen, and was
kneeling at the hearth when he entered. Everyone was out but her.
She looked round at him, flushed, her dark eyes shining, her fine
hair falling about her face.
"Hello!" she said, soft and musical. "I knew it was you."
"I knew your step. Nobody treads so quick and firm."
He sat down, sighing.
"Ready to do some algebra?" he asked, drawing a little book
from his pocket.
He could feel her backing away.
"You said you wanted," he insisted.
"To-night, though?" she faltered.
"But I came on purpose. And if you want to learn it,
you must begin."
She took up her ashes in the dustpan and looked at him,
half tremulously, laughing.
"Yes, but to-night! You see, I haven't thought of it."
"Well, my goodness! Take the ashes and come."
He went and sat on the stone bench in the back-yard, where
the big milk-cans were standing, tipped up, to air. The men were
in the cowsheds. He could hear the little sing-song of the milk
spurting into the pails. Presently she came, bringing some big
"You know you like them," she said.
He took a bite.
"Sit down," he said, with his mouth full.
She was short-sighted, and peered over his shoulder.
It irritated him. He gave her the book quickly.
"Here," he said. "It's only letters for figures. You put
down 'a' instead of '2' or '6'."
They worked, he talking, she with her head down on the book.
He was quick and hasty. She never answered. Occasionally, when he
demanded of her, "Do you see?" she looked up at him, her eyes wide
with the half-laugh that comes of fear. "Don't you?" he cried.
He had been too fast. But she said nothing. He questioned
her more, then got hot. It made his blood rouse to see her there,
as it were, at his mercy, her mouth open, her eyes dilated with
laughter that was afraid, apologetic, ashamed. Then Edgar came
along with two buckets of milk.
"Hello!" he said. "What are you doing?"
"Algebra," replied Paul.
"Algebra!" repeated Edgar curiously. Then he passed on with
a laugh. Paul took a bite at his forgotten apple, looked at the
miserable cabbages in the garden, pecked into lace by the fowls,
and he wanted to pull them up. Then he glanced at Miriam.
She was poring over the book, seemed absorbed in it, yet trembling
lest she could not get at it. It made him cross. She was ruddy
and beautiful. Yet her soul seemed to be intensely supplicating.
The algebra-book she closed, shrinking, knowing he was angered;
and at the same instant he grew gentle, seeing her hurt because she did
But things came slowly to her. And when she held herself
in a grip, seemed so utterly humble before the lesson, it made his
blood rouse. He stormed at her, got ashamed, continued the lesson,
and grew furious again, abusing her. She listened in silence.
Occasionally, very rarely, she defended herself. Her liquid dark
eyes blazed at him.
"You don't give me time to learn it," she said.
"All right," he answered, throwing the book on the table and lighting
a cigarette. Then, after a while, he went back to her repentant.
So the lessons went. He was always either in a rage or very gentle.
"What do you tremble your SOUL before it for?" he cried.
"You don't learn algebra with your blessed soul. Can't you look
at it with your clear simple wits?"
Often, when he went again into the kitchen, Mrs. Leivers would
look at him reproachfully, saying:
"Paul, don't be so hard on Miriam. She may not be quick,
but I'm sure she tries."
"I can't help it," he said rather pitiably. "I go off like it."
"You don't mind me, Miriam, do you?" he asked of the girl later.
"No," she reassured him in her beautiful deep tones--"no, I
"Don't mind me; it's my fault."
But, in spite of himself, his blood began to boil with her.
It was strange that no one else made him in such fury.
He flared against her. Once he threw the pencil in her face.
There was a silence. She turned her face slightly aside.
"I didn't---" he began, but got no farther, feeling weak in
all his bones. She never reproached him or was angry with him.
He was often cruelly ashamed. But still again his anger burst
like a bubble surcharged; and still, when he saw her eager, silent,
as it were, blind face, he felt he wanted to throw the pencil
in it; and still, when he saw her hand trembling and her mouth
parted with suffering, his heart was scalded with pain for her.
And because of the intensity to which she roused him, he sought her.
Then he often avoided her and went with Edgar. Miriam and
her brother were naturally antagonistic. Edgar was a rationalist,
who was curious, and had a sort of scientific interest in life.
It was a great bitterness to Miriam to see herself deserted by Paul
for Edgar, who seemed so much lower. But the youth was very happy
with her elder brother. The two men spent afternoons together
on the land or in the loft doing carpentry, when it rained.
And they talked together, or Paul taught Edgar the songs he himself
had learned from Annie at the piano. And often all the men,
Mr. Leivers as well, had bitter debates on the nationalizing of the land
and similar problems. Paul had already heard his mother's views,
and as these were as yet his own, he argued for her. Miriam attended
and took part, but was all the time waiting until it should be over
and a personal communication might begin.
"After all," she said within herself, "if the land
were nationalized, Edgar and Paul and I would be just the same."
So she waited for the youth to come back to her.
He was studying for his painting. He loved to sit at home,
alone with his mother, at night, working and working. She sewed
or read. Then, looking up from his task, he would rest his eyes
for a moment on her face, that was bright with living warmth,
and he returned gladly to his work.
"I can do my best things when you sit there in your
rocking-chair, mother," he said.
"I'm sure!" she exclaimed, sniffing with mock scepticism.
But she felt it was so, and her heart quivered with brightness.
For many hours she sat still, slightly conscious of him labouring away,
whilst she worked or read her book. And he, with all his soul's
intensity directing his pencil, could feel her warmth inside him
like strength. They were both very happy so, and both unconscious
of it. These times, that meant so much, and which were real living,
they almost ignored.
He was conscious only when stimulated. A sketch finished,
he always wanted to take it to Miriam. Then he was stimulated
into knowledge of the work he had produced unconsciously.
In contact with Miriam he gained insight; his vision went deeper.
From his mother he drew the life-warmth, the strength to produce;
Miriam urged this warmth into intensity like a white light.
When he returned to the factory the conditions of work were better.
He had Wednesday afternoon off to go to the Art School--
Miss Jordan's provision--returning in the evening. Then the factory
closed at six instead of eight on Thursday and Friday evenings.
One evening in the summer Miriam and he went over the fields
by Herod's Farm on their way from the library home. So it was
only three miles to Willey Farm. There was a yellow glow over the
mowing-grass, and the sorrel-heads burned crimson. Gradually, as they
walked along the high land, the gold in the west sank down to red,
the red to crimson, and then the chill blue crept up against the glow.
They came out upon the high road to Alfreton, which ran
white between the darkening fields. There Paul hesitated.
It was two miles home for him, one mile forward for Miriam.
They both looked up the road that ran in shadow right under the
glow of the north-west sky. On the crest of the hill, Selby,
with its stark houses and the up-pricked headstocks of the pit,
stood in black silhouette small against the sky.
He looked at his watch.
"Nine o'clock!" he said.
The pair stood, loth to part, hugging their books.
"The wood is so lovely now," she said. "I wanted you to see it."
He followed her slowly across the road to the white gate.
"They grumble so if I'm late," he said.
"But you're not doing anything wrong," she answered impatiently.
He followed her across the nibbled pasture in the dusk.
There was a coolness in the wood, a scent of leaves, of honeysuckle,
and a twilight. The two walked in silence. Night came wonderfully there,
among the throng of dark tree-trunks. He looked round, expectant.
She wanted to show him a certain wild-rose bush she
had discovered. She knew it was wonderful. And yet,
till he had seen it, she felt it had not come into her soul.
Only he could make it her own, immortal. She was dissatisfied.
Dew was already on the paths. In the old oak-wood a mist
was rising, and he hesitated, wondering whether one whiteness
were a strand of fog or only campion-flowers pallid in a cloud.
By the time they came to the pine-trees Miriam was getting very
eager and very tense. Her bush might be gone. She might not be
able to find it; and she wanted it so much. Almost passionately
she wanted to be with him when be stood before the flowers.
They were going to have a communion together--something that
thrilled her, something holy. He was walking beside her in silence.
They were very near to each other. She trembled, and he listened,
Coming to the edge of the wood, they saw the sky in front,
like mother-of-pearl, and the earth growing dark. Somewhere on the
outermost branches of the pine-wood the honeysuckle was streaming scent.
"Where?" he asked.
"Down the middle path," she murmured, quivering.
When they turned the corner of the path she stood still.
In the wide walk between the pines, gazing rather frightened,
she could distinguish nothing for some moments; the greying light
robbed things of their colour. Then she saw her bush.
"Ah!" she cried, hastening forward.
It was very still. The tree was tall and straggling.
It had thrown its briers over a hawthorn-bush, and its long
streamers trailed thick, right down to the grass, splashing the
darkness everywhere with great spilt stars, pure white. In bosses
of ivory and in large splashed stars the roses gleamed on the
darkness of foliage and stems and grass. Paul and Miriam stood
close together, silent, and watched. Point after point the steady
roses shone out to them, seeming to kindle something in their souls.
The dusk came like smoke around, and still did not put out the roses.
Paul looked into Miriam's eyes. She was pale and expectant
with wonder, her lips were parted, and her dark eyes lay open to him.
His look seemed to travel down into her. Her soul quivered.
It was the communion she wanted. He turned aside, as if pained.
He turned to the bush.
"They seem as if they walk like butterflies, and shake themselves,"
She looked at her roses. They were white, some incurved and holy,
others expanded in an ecstasy. The tree was dark as a shadow.
She lifted her hand impulsively to the flowers; she went forward
and touched them in worship.
"Let us go," he said.
There was a cool scent of ivory roses--a white, virgin scent.
Something made him feel anxious and imprisoned. The two walked
"Till Sunday," he said quietly, and left her; and she walked
home slowly, feeling her soul satisfied with the holiness of the night.
He stumbled down the path. And as soon as he was out of the wood,
in the free open meadow, where he could breathe, he started to run
as fast as he could. It was like a delicious delirium in his veins.
Always when he went with Miriam, and it grew rather late, he knew
his mother was fretting and getting angry about him--why, he could
not understand. As he went into the house, flinging down his cap,
his mother looked up at the clock. She had been sitting thinking,
because a chill to her eyes prevented her reading. She could feel
Paul being drawn away by this girl. And she did not care for Miriam.
"She is one of those who will want to suck a man's soul out till
he has none of his own left," she said to herself; "and he is just
such a gaby as to let himself be absorbed. She will never let him
become a man; she never will." So, while he was away with Miriam,
Mrs. Morel grew more and more worked up.
She glanced at the clock and said, coldly and rather tired:
"You have been far enough to-night."
His soul, warm and exposed from contact with the girl, shrank.
"You must have been right home with her," his mother continued.
He would not answer. Mrs. Morel, looking at him quickly,
saw his hair was damp on his forehead with haste, saw him frowning
in his heavy fashion, resentfully.
"She must be wonderfully fascinating, that you can't get away
from her, but must go trailing eight miles at this time of night."
He was hurt between the past glamour with Miriam and the
knowledge that his mother fretted. He had meant not to say anything,
to refuse to answer. But he could not harden his heart to ignore
"I DO like to talk to her," he answered irritably.
"Is there nobody else to talk to?"
"You wouldn't say anything if I went with Edgar."
"You know I should. You know, whoever you went with,
I should say it was too far for you to go trailing, late at night,
when you've been to Nottingham. Besides"--her voice suddenly flashed
into anger and contempt--"it is disgusting--bits
of lads and girls courting."
"It is NOT courting," he cried.
"I don't know what else you call it."
"It's not! Do you think we SPOON and do? We only talk."
"Till goodness knows what time and distance," was the
Paul snapped at the laces of his boots angrily.
"What are you so mad about?" he asked. "Because you don't
"I don't say I don't like her. But I don't hold with children
keeping company, and never did."
"But you don't mind our Annie going out with Jim Inger."
"They've more sense than you two."
"Our Annie's not one of the deep sort."
He failed to see the meaning of this remark. But his mother
looked tired. She was never so strong after William's death;
and her eyes hurt her.
"Well," he said, "it's so pretty in the country. Mr. Sleath
asked about you. He said he'd missed you. Are you a bit better?"
"I ought to have been in bed a long time ago," she replied.
"Why, mother, you know you wouldn't have gone before
"Oh, yes, I should!"
"Oh, little woman, you'd say anything now you're disagreeable
with me, wouldn't you?"
He kissed her forehead that he knew so well: the deep marks
between the brows, the rising of the fine hair, greying now, and the
proud setting of the temples. His hand lingered on her shoulder
after his kiss. Then he went slowly to bed. He had forgotten Miriam;
he only saw how his mother's hair was lifted back from her warm,
broad brow. And somehow, she was hurt.
Then the next time he saw Miriam he said to her:
"Don't let me be late to-night--not later than ten o'clock. My
mother gets so upset."
Miriam dropped her bead, brooding.
"Why does she get upset?" she asked.
"Because she says I oughtn't to be out late when I have to get
"Very well!" said Miriam, rather quietly, with just a touch
of a sneer.
He resented that. And he was usually late again.
That there was any love growing between him and Miriam neither
of them would have acknowledged. He thought he was too sane for
such sentimentality, and she thought herself too lofty. They both were
late in coming to maturity, and psychical ripeness was much behind
even the physical. Miriam was exceedingly sensitive, as her mother
had always been. The slightest grossness made her recoil almost
in anguish. Her brothers were brutal, but never coarse in speech.
The men did all the discussing of farm matters outside. But, perhaps,
because of the continual business of birth and of begetting which goes
on upon every farm, Miriam was the more hypersensitive to the matter,
and her blood was chastened almost to disgust of the faintest
suggestion of such intercourse. Paul took his pitch from her,
and their intimacy went on in an utterly blanched and chaste fashion.
It could never be mentioned that the mare was in foal.
When he was nineteen, he was earning only twenty shillings a week,
but he was happy. His painting went well, and life went well enough.
On the Good Friday he organised a walk to the Hemlock Stone.
There were three lads of his own age, then Annie and Arthur,
Miriam and Geoffrey. Arthur, apprenticed as an electrician
in Nottingham, was home for the holiday. Morel, as usual, was up early,
whistling and sawing in the yard. At seven o'clock the family heard
him buy threepennyworth of hot-cross buns; he talked with gusto
to the little girl who brought them, calling her "my darling". He
turned away several boys who came with more buns, telling them
they had been "kested" by a little lass. Then Mrs. Morel got up,
and the family straggled down. It was an immense luxury to everybody,
this lying in bed just beyond the ordinary time on a weekday.
And Paul and Arthur read before breakfast, and had the meal unwashed,
sitting in their shirt-sleeves. This was another holiday luxury.
The room was warm. Everything felt free of care and anxiety.
There was a sense of plenty in the house.
While the boys were reading, Mrs. Morel went into the garden.
They were now in another house, an old one, near the Scargill
Street home, which had been left soon after William had died.
Directly came an excited cry from the garden:
"Paul! Paul! come and look!"
It was his mother's voice. He threw down his book and went out.
There was a long garden that ran to a field. It was a grey, cold day,
with a sharp wind blowing out of Derbyshire. Two fields away
Bestwood began, with a jumble of roofs and red house-ends, out of which
rose the church tower and the spire of the Congregational Chapel.
And beyond went woods and hills, right away to the pale grey heights
of the Pennine Chain.
Paul looked down the garden for his mother. Her head appeared
among the young currant-bushes.
"Come here!" she cried.
"What for?" he answered.
"Come and see."
She had been looking at the buds on the currant trees.
Paul went up.
"To think," she said, "that here I might never have seen them!"
Her son went to her side. Under the fence, in a little bed,
was a ravel of poor grassy leaves, such as come from very immature bulbs,
and three scyllas in bloom. Mrs. Morel pointed to the deep blue flowers.
"Now, just see those!" she exclaimed. "I was looking at
the currant bushes, when, thinks I to myself, 'There's something
very blue; is it a bit of sugar-bag?' and there, behold you!
Sugar-bag! Three glories of the snow, and such beauties!
But where on earth did they come from?"
"I don't know," said Paul.
"Well, that's a marvel, now! I THOUGHT I knew every weed
and blade in this garden. But HAVEN'T they done well? You see,
that gooseberry-bush just shelters them. Not nipped, not touched!"
He crouched down and turned up the bells of the little
"They're a glorious colour!" he said.
"Aren't they!" she cried. "I guess they come from Switzerland,
where they say they have such lovely things. Fancy them against
the snow! But where have they come from? They can't have BLOWN here,
Then he remembered having set here a lot of little trash
of bulbs to mature.
"And you never told me," she said.
"No! I thought I'd leave it till they might flower."
"And now, you see! I might have missed them. And I've never
had a glory of the snow in my garden in my life."
She was full of excitement and elation. The garden was
an endless joy to her. Paul was thankful for her sake at last
to be in a house with a long garden that went down to a field.
Every morning after breakfast she went out and was happy pottering
about in it. And it was true, she knew every weed and blade.
Everybody turned up for the walk. Food was packed, and they
set off, a merry, delighted party. They hung over the wall of the
mill-race, dropped paper in the water on one side of the tunnel
and watched it shoot out on the other. They stood on the foot-bridge
over Boathouse Station and looked at the metals gleaming coldly.
"You should see the Flying Scotsman come through at half-past six!"
said Leonard, whose father was a signalman. "Lad, but she doesn't
half buzz!" and the little party looked up the lines one way,
to London, and the other way, to Scotland, and they felt the touch
of these two magical places.
In Ilkeston the colliers were waiting in gangs for the
public-houses to open. It was a town of idleness and lounging.
At Stanton Gate the iron foundry blazed. Over everything there were
great discussions. At Trowell they crossed again from Derbyshire
into Nottinghamshire. They came to the Hemlock Stone at dinner-time.
Its field was crowded with folk from Nottingham and Ilkeston.
They had expected a venerable and dignified monument.
They found a little, gnarled, twisted stump of rock, something like a
decayed mushroom, standing out pathetically on the side of a field.
Leonard and Dick immediately proceeded to carve their initials,
"L. W." and "R. P.", in the old red sandstone; but Paul desisted,
because he had read in the newspaper satirical remarks about
initial-carvers, who could find no other road to immortality.
Then all the lads climbed to the top of the rock to look round.
Everywhere in the field below, factory girls and lads were eating
lunch or sporting about. Beyond was the garden of an old manor.
It had yew-hedges and thick clumps and borders
of yellow crocuses round the lawn.
"See," said Paul to Miriam, "what a quiet garden!"
She saw the dark yews and the golden crocuses, then she
looked gratefully. He had not seemed to belong to her among all
these others; he was different then--not her Paul, who understood
the slightest quiver of her innermost soul, but something else,
speaking another language than hers. How it hurt her, and deadened
her very perceptions. Only when he came right back to her,
leaving his other, his lesser self, as she thought, would she
feel alive again. And now he asked her to look at this garden,
wanting the contact with her again. Impatient of the set in the field,
she turned to the quiet lawn, surrounded by sheaves of shut-up crocuses.
A feeling of stillness, almost of ecstasy, came over her.
It felt almost as if she were alone with him in this garden.
Then he left her again and joined the others. Soon they
started home. Miriam loitered behind, alone. She did not
fit in with the others; she could very rarely get into human
relations with anyone: so her friend, her companion, her lover,
was Nature. She saw the sun declining wanly. In the dusky,
cold hedgerows were some red leaves. She lingered to gather them,
tenderly, passionately. The love in her finger-tips caressed
the leaves; the passion in her heart came to a glow upon the leaves.
Suddenly she realised she was alone in a strange road,
and she hurried forward. Turning a corner in the lane, she came
upon Paul, who stood bent over something, his mind fixed on it,
working away steadily, patiently, a little hopelessly. She hesitated
in her approach, to watch.
He remained concentrated in the middle of the road. Beyond,
one rift of rich gold in that colourless grey evening seemed to make
him stand out in dark relief. She saw him, slender and firm,
as if the setting sun had given him to her. A deep pain took hold
of her, and she knew she must love him. And she had discovered him,
discovered in him a rare potentiality, discovered his loneliness.
Quivering as at some "annunciation", she went slowly forward.
At last he looked up.
"Why," he exclaimed gratefully, "have you waited for me!"
She saw a deep shadow in his eyes.
"What is it?" she asked.
"The spring broken here;" and he showed her where his umbrella
Instantly, with some shame, she knew he had not done
the damage himself, but that Geoffrey was responsible.
"It is only an old umbrella, isn't it?" she asked.
She wondered why he, who did not usually trouble over trifles,
made such a mountain of this molehill.
"But it was William's an' my mother can't help but know,"
he said quietly, still patiently working at the umbrella.
The words went through Miriam like a blade. This, then, was the
confirmation of her vision of him! She looked at him. But there
was about him a certain reserve, and she dared not comfort him,
not even speak softly to him.
"Come on," he said. "I can't do it;" and they went in silence
along the road.
That same evening they were walking along under the trees
by Nether Green. He was talking to her fretfully, seemed to be
struggling to convince himself.
"You know," he said, with an effort, "if one person loves,
the other does."
"Ah!" she answered. "Like mother said to me when I was little,
'Love begets love.'"
"Yes, something like that, I think it MUST be."
"I hope so, because, if it were not, love might be a very
terrible thing," she said.
"Yes, but it IS--at least with most people," he answered.
And Miriam, thinking he had assured himself, felt strong
in herself. She always regarded that sudden coming upon him
in the lane as a revelation. And this conversation remained
graven in her mind as one of the letters of the law.
Now she stood with him and for him. When, about this time,
he outraged the family feeling at Willey Farm by some overbearing insult,
she stuck to him, and believed he was right. And at this time she
dreamed dreams of him, vivid, unforgettable. These dreams came
again later on, developed to a more subtle psychological stage.
On the Easter Monday the same party took an excursion
to Wingfield Manor. It was great excitement to Miriam to catch a
train at Sethley Bridge, amid all the bustle of the Bank Holiday crowd.
They left the train at Alfreton. Paul was interested in the
street and in the colliers with their dogs. Here was a new race
of miners. Miriam did not live till they came to the church.
They were all rather timid of entering, with their bags of food,
for fear of being turned out. Leonard, a comic, thin fellow,
went first; Paul, who would have died rather than be sent back,
went last. The place was decorated for Easter. In the font hundreds
of white narcissi seemed to be growing. The air was dim and coloured
from the windows and thrilled with a subtle scent of lilies
and narcissi. In that atmosphere Miriam's soul came into a glow.
Paul was afraid of the things he mustn't do; and he was sensitive
to the feel of the place. Miriam turned to him. He answered.
They were together. He would not go beyond the Communion-rail. She
loved him for that. Her soul expanded into prayer beside him.
He felt the strange fascination of shadowy religious places.
All his latent mysticism quivered into life. She was drawn to him.
He was a prayer along with her.
Miriam very rarely talked to the other lads. They at once
became awkward in conversation with her. So usually she was silent.
It was past midday when they climbed the steep path to the manor.
All things shone softly in the sun, which was wonderfully warm
and enlivening. Celandines and violets were out. Everybody was
tip-top full with happiness. The glitter of the ivy, the soft,
atmospheric grey of the castle walls, the gentleness of everything
near the ruin, was perfect.
The manor is of hard, pale grey stone, and the other walls
are blank and calm. The young folk were in raptures. They went
in trepidation, almost afraid that the delight of exploring this
ruin might be denied them. In the first courtyard, within the high
broken walls, were farm-carts, with their shafts lying idle on
the ground, the tyres of the wheels brilliant with gold-red rust.
It was very still.
All eagerly paid their sixpences, and went timidly through
the fine clean arch of the inner courtyard. They were shy.
Here on the pavement, where the hall had been, an old thorn tree
was budding. All kinds of strange openings and broken rooms were
in the shadow around them.
After lunch they set off once more to explore the ruin.
This time the girls went with the boys, who could act as guides
and expositors. There was one tall tower in a corner, rather tottering,
where they say Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned.
"Think of the Queen going up here!" said Miriam in a low voice,
as she climbed the hollow stairs.
"If she could get up," said Paul, "for she had rheumatism
like anything. I reckon they treated her rottenly."
"You don't think she deserved it?" asked Miriam.
"No, I don't. She was only lively."
They continued to mount the winding staircase. A high wind,
blowing through the loopholes, went rushing up the shaft,
and filled the girl's skirts like a balloon, so that she was ashamed,
until he took the hem of her dress and held it down for her.
He did it perfectly simply, as he would have picked up her glove.
She remembered this always.
Round the broken top of the tower the ivy bushed out,
old and handsome. Also, there were a few chill gillivers,
in pale cold bud. Miriam wanted to lean over for some ivy,
but he would not let her. Instead, she had to wait behind him,
and take from him each spray as he gathered it and held it to her,
each one separately, in the purest manner of chivalry. The tower
seemed to rock in the wind. They looked over miles and miles
of wooded country, and country with gleams of pasture.
The crypt underneath the manor was beautiful, and in
perfect preservation. Paul made a drawing: Miriam stayed with him.
She was thinking of Mary Queen of Scots looking with her strained,
hopeless eyes, that could not understand misery, over the hills
whence no help came, or sitting in this crypt, being told of a God
as cold as the place she sat in.
They set off again gaily, looking round on their beloved manor
that stood so clean and big on its hill.
"Supposing you could have THAT farm," said Paul to Miriam.
"Wouldn't it be lovely to come and see you!"
They were now in the bare country of stone walls, which he loved,
and which, though only ten miles from home, seemed so foreign
to Miriam. The party was straggling. As they were crossing a
large meadow that sloped away from the sun, along a path embedded
with innumerable tiny glittering points, Paul, walking
alongside, laced his fingers in the strings of the bag Miriam
was carrying, and instantly she felt Annie behind, watchful and jealous.
But the meadow was bathed in a glory of sunshine, and the path
was jewelled, and it was seldom that he gave her any sign.
She held her fingers very still among the strings of the bag,
his fingers touching; and the place was golden as a vision.
At last they came into the straggling grey village of Crich,
that lies high. Beyond the village was the famous Crich Stand
that Paul could see from the garden at home. The party pushed on.
Great expanse of country spread around and below. The lads were
eager to get to the top of the hill. It was capped by a round knoll,
half of which was by now cut away, and on the top of which stood
an ancient monument, sturdy and squat, for signalling in old days far
down into the level lands of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.
It was blowing so hard, high up there in the exposed place,
that the only way to be safe was to stand nailed by the wind
to the wan of the tower. At their feet fell the precipice
where the limestone was quarried away. Below was a jumble of
hills and tiny villages--Mattock, Ambergate, Stoney Middleton.
The lads were eager to spy out the church of Bestwood, far away
among the rather crowded country on the left. They were disgusted
that it seemed to stand on a plain. They saw the hills of Derbyshire
fall into the monotony of the Midlands that swept away South.
Miriam was somewhat scared by the wind, but the lads enjoyed it.
They went on, miles and miles, to Whatstandwell. All the food
was eaten, everybody was hungry, and there was very little money to get
home with. But they managed to procure a loaf and a currant-loaf,
which they hacked to pieces with shut-knives, and ate sitting on
the wall near the bridge, watching the bright Derwent rushing by,
and the brakes from Matlock pulling up at the inn.
Paul was now pale with weariness. He had been responsible
for the party all day, and now he was done. Miriam understood,
and kept close to him, and he left himself in her hands.
They had an hour to wait at Ambergate Station. Trains came,
crowded with excursionists returning to Manchester, Birmingham,
"We might be going there--folk easily might think we're going
that far," said Paul.
They got back rather late. Miriam, walking home with Geoffrey,
watched the moon rise big and red and misty. She felt something
was fulfilled in her.
She had an elder sister, Agatha, who was a school-teacher.
Between the two girls was a feud. Miriam considered Agatha worldly.
And she wanted herself to be a school-teacher.
One Saturday afternoon Agatha and Miriam were upstairs dressing.
Their bedroom was over the stable. It was a low room, not very large,
and bare. Miriam had nailed on the wall a reproduction of Veronese's
"St. Catherine". She loved the woman who sat in the window, dreaming.
Her own windows were too small to sit in. But the front one was
dripped over with honeysuckle and virginia creeper, and looked
upon the tree-tops of the oak-wood across the yard, while the
little back window, no bigger than a handkerchief, was a loophole
to the east, to the dawn beating up against the beloved round hills.
The two sisters did not talk much to each other. Agatha,
who was fair and small and determined, had rebelled against
the home atmosphere, against the doctrine of "the other cheek".
She was out in the world now, in a fair way to be independent.
And she insisted on worldly values, on appearance, on manners,
on position, which Miriam would fain have ignored.
Both girls liked to be upstairs, out of the way, when Paul came.
They preferred to come running down, open the stair-foot door,
and see him watching, expectant of them. Miriam stood painfully
pulling over her head a rosary he had given her. It caught
in the fine mesh of her hair. But at last she had it on, and the
red-brown wooden beads looked well against her cool brown neck.
She was a well-developed girl, and very handsome. But in the little
looking-glass nailed against the whitewashed wall she could only see
a fragment of herself at a time. Agatha had bought a little mirror
of her own, which she propped up to suit herself. Miriam was near
the window. Suddenly she heard the well-known click of the chain,
and she saw Paul fling open the gate, push his bicycle into the yard.
She saw him look at the house, and she shrank away. He walked
in a nonchalant fashion, and his bicycle went with him as if it
were a live thing.
"Paul's come!" she exclaimed.
"Aren't you glad?" said Agatha cuttingly.
Miriam stood still in amazement and bewilderment.
"Well, aren't you?" she asked.
"Yes, but I'm not going to let him see it, and think I wanted him."
Miriam was startled. She heard him putting his bicycle in the
stable underneath, and talking to Jimmy, who had been a pit-horse,
and who was seedy.
"Well, Jimmy my lad, how are ter? Nobbut sick an'
sadly, like? Why, then, it's a shame, my owd lad."
She heard the rope run through the hole as the horse lifted its
head from the lad's caress. How she loved to listen when he thought
only the horse could hear. But there was a serpent in her Eden.
She searched earnestly in herself to see if she wanted Paul Morel.
She felt there would be some disgrace in it. Full of twisted feeling,
she was afraid she did want him. She stood self-convicted. Then
came an agony of new shame. She shrank within herself in a coil
of torture. Did she want Paul Morel, and did he know she wanted him?
What a subtle infamy upon her. She felt as if her whole soul coiled
into knots of shame.
Agatha was dressed first, and ran downstairs. Miriam heard
her greet the lad gaily, knew exactly how brilliant her grey
eyes became with that tone. She herself would have felt it bold
to have greeted him in such wise. Yet there she stood under the
self-accusation of wanting him, tied to that stake of torture.
In bitter perplexity she kneeled down and prayed:
"O Lord, let me not love Paul Morel. Keep me from loving him,
if I ought not to love him."
Something anomalous in the prayer arrested her. She lifted
her head and pondered. How could it be wrong to love him? Love was
God's gift. And yet it caused her shame. That was because of him,
Paul Morel. But, then, it was not his affair, it was her own,
between herself and God. She was to be a sacrifice. But it was
God's sacrifice, not Paul Morel's or her own. After a few minutes
she hid her face in the pillow again, and said:
"But, Lord, if it is Thy will that I should love him,
make me love him--as Christ would, who died for the souls of men.
Make me love him splendidly, because he is Thy son."
She remained kneeling for some time, quite still, and deeply moved,
her black hair against the red squares and the lavender-sprigged
squares of the patchwork quilt. Prayer was almost essential to her.
Then she fell into that rapture of self-sacrifice,
identifying herself with a God who was sacrificed, which gives
to so many human souls their deepest bliss.
When she went downstairs Paul was lying back in an armchair,
holding forth with much vehemence to Agatha, who was scorning a little
painting he had brought to show her. Miriam glanced at the two,
and avoided their levity. She went into the parlour to be alone.
It was tea-time before she was able to speak to Paul, and then
her manner was so distant he thought he had offended her.
Miriam discontinued her practice of going each Thursday evening
to the library in Bestwood. After calling for Paul regularly
during the whole spring, a number of trifling incidents and tiny
insults from his family awakened her to their attitude towards her,
and she decided to go no more. So she announced to Paul one evening
she would not call at his house again for him on Thursday nights.
"Why?" he asked, very short.
"Nothing. Only I'd rather not."
"But," she faltered, "if you'd care to meet me, we could still
"Meet you where?"
"Somewhere--where you like."
"I shan't meet you anywhere. I don't see why you shouldn't
keep calling for me. But if you won't, I don't want to meet you."
So the Thursday evenings which had been so precious to her,
and to him, were dropped. He worked instead. Mrs. Morel sniffed
with satisfaction at this arrangement.
He would not have it that they were lovers. The intimacy
between them had been kept so abstract, such a matter of the soul,
all thought and weary struggle into consciousness, that he saw it only
as a platonic friendship. He stoutly denied there was anything else
between them. Miriam was silent, or else she very quietly agreed.
He was a fool who did not know what was happening to himself.
By tacit agreement they ignored the remarks and insinuations of
"We aren't lovers, we are friends," he said to her. "WE know it.
Let them talk. What does it matter what they say."
Sometimes, as they were walking together, she slipped her arm
timidly into his. But he always resented it, and she knew it.
It caused a violent conflict in him. With Miriam he was always
on the high plane of abstraction, when his natural fire of love was
transmitted into the fine stream of thought. She would have it so.
If he were jolly and, as she put it, flippant, she waited till he came
back to her, till the change had taken place in him again, and he
was wrestling with his own soul, frowning, passionate in his desire
for understanding. And in this passion for understanding her soul
lay close to his; she had him all to herself. But he must be made
Then, if she put her arm in his, it caused him almost torture.
His consciousness seemed to split. The place where she was touching
him ran hot with friction. He was one internecine battle, and he
became cruel to her because of it.
One evening in midsummer Miriam called at the house,
warm from climbing. Paul was alone in the kitchen; his mother
could be heard moving about upstairs.
"Come and look at the sweet-peas," he said to the girl.
They went into the garden. The sky behind the townlet and the
church was orange-red; the flower-garden was flooded with a strange
warm light that lifted every leaf into significance. Paul passed
along a fine row of sweet-peas, gathering a blossom here and there,
all cream and pale blue. Miriam followed, breathing the fragrance.
To her, flowers appealed with such strength she felt she must
make them part of herself. When she bent and breathed a flower,
it was as if she and the flower were loving each other. Paul hated
her for it. There seemed a sort of exposure about the action,
something too intimate.
When he had got a fair bunch, they returned to the house.
He listened for a moment to his mother's quiet movement upstairs,
then he said:
"Come here, and let me pin them in for you." He arranged them
two or three at a time in the bosom of her dress, stepping back
now and then to see the effect. "You know," he said, taking the pin
out of his mouth, "a woman ought always to arrange her flowers
before her glass."
Miriam laughed. She thought flowers ought to be pinned
in one's dress without any care. That Paul should take pains
to fix her flowers for her was his whim.
He was rather offended at her laughter.
"Some women do--those who look decent," he said.
Miriam laughed again, but mirthlessly, to hear him thus mix
her up with women in a general way. From most men she would have
ignored it. But from him it hurt her.
He had nearly finished arranging the flowers when he heard
his mother's footstep on the stairs. Hurriedly he pushed
in the last pin and turned away.
"Don't let mater know," he said.
Miriam picked up her books and stood in the doorway looking
with chagrin at the beautiful sunset. She would call for Paul
no more, she said.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Morel," she said, in a deferential way.
She sounded as if she felt she had no right to be there.
"Oh, is it you, Miriam?" replied Mrs. Morel coolly.
But Paul insisted on everybody's accepting his friendship
with the girl, and Mrs. Morel was too wise to have any open rupture.
It was not till he was twenty years old that the family could
ever afford to go away for a holiday. Mrs. Morel had never been away
for a holiday, except to see her sister, since she had been married.
Now at last Paul had saved enough money, and they were all going.
There was to be a party: some of Annie's friends, one friend of Paul's,
a young man in the same office where William had previously been,
It was great excitement writing for rooms. Paul and his
mother debated it endlessly between them. They wanted a furnished
cottage for two weeks. She thought one week would be enough,
but he insisted on two.
At last they got an answer from Mablethorpe, a cottage such as they
wished for thirty shillings a week. There was immense jubilation.
Paul was wild with joy for his mother's sake. She would have
a real holiday now. He and she sat at evening picturing what it
would be like. Annie came in, and Leonard, and Alice, and Kitty.
There was wild rejoicing and anticipation. Paul told Miriam.
She seemed to brood with joy over it. But the Morel's house rang
They were to go on Saturday morning by the seven train.
Paul suggested that Miriam should sleep at his house, because it
was so far for her to walk. She came down for supper.
Everybody was so excited that even Miriam was accepted with warmth.
But almost as soon as she entered the feeling in the family became close and tight.
He had discovered a poem by Jean Ingelow which mentioned Mablethorpe,
and so he must read it to Miriam. He would never have got so far in
the direction of sentimentality as to read poetry to his own family.
But now they condescended to listen. Miriam sat on the sofa
absorbed in him. She always seemed absorbed in him, and by him,
when he was present. Mrs. Morel sat jealously in her own chair.
She was going to hear also. And even Annie and the father attended,
Morel with his head cocked on one side, like somebody listening
to a sermon and feeling conscious of the fact. Paul ducked his head
over the book. He had got now all the audience he cared for.
And Mrs. Morel and Annie almost contested with Miriam who should listen
best and win his favour. He was in very high feather.
"But," interrupted Mrs. Morel, "what IS the 'Bride of Enderby'
that the bells are supposed to ring?"
"It's an old tune they used to play on the bells for a warning
against water. I suppose the Bride of Enderby was drowned in a flood,"
he replied. He had not the faintest knowledge what it really was,
but he would never have sunk so low as to confess that to his womenfolk.
They listened and believed him. He believed himself.
"And the people knew what that tune meant?" said his mother.
"Yes--just like the Scotch when they heard 'The Flowers o'
the Forest'--and when they used to ring the bells backward for alarm."
"How?" said Annie. "A bell sounds the same whether it's rung
backwards or forwards."
"But," he said, "if you start with the deep bell and ring up
to the high one--der--der--der--der--der--der--der--der!"
He ran up the scale. Everybody thought it clever. He thought
so too. Then, waiting a minute, he continued the poem.
"Hm!" said Mrs. Morel curiously, when he finished. "But I
wish everything that's written weren't so sad."
"I canna see what they want drownin' theirselves for,"
There was a pause. Annie got up to clear the table.
Miriam rose to help with the pots.
"Let ME help to wash up," she said.
"Certainly not," cried Annie. "You sit down again.
There aren't many."
And Miriam, who could not be familiar and insist, sat down
again to look at the book with Paul.
He was master of the party; his father was no good. And great
tortures he suffered lest the tin box should be put out at Firsby
instead of at Mablethorpe. And he wasn't equal to getting a carriage.
His bold little mother did that.
"Here!" she cried to a man. "Here!"
Paul and Annie got behind the rest, convulsed with shamed laughter.
"How much will it be to drive to Brook Cottage?" said Mrs. Morel.
"Why, how far is it?"
"A good way."
"I don't believe it," she said.
But she scrambled in. There were eight crowded in one old
"You see," said Mrs. Morel, "it's only threepence each,
and if it were a tramcar---"
They drove along. Each cottage they came to, Mrs. Morel cried:
"Is it this? Now, this is it!"
Everybody sat breathless. They drove past. There was
a universal sigh.
"I'm thankful it wasn't that brute," said Mrs. Morel.
"I WAS frightened." They drove on and on.
At last they descended at a house that stood alone over
the dyke by the highroad. There was wild excitement because they
had to cross a little bridge to get into the front garden.
But they loved the house that lay so solitary, with a sea-meadow
on one side, and immense expanse of land patched in white barley,
yellow oats, red wheat, and green root-crops, flat and stretching
level to the sky.
Paul kept accounts. He and his mother ran the show.
The total expenses--lodging, food, everything--was sixteen shillings
a week per person. He and Leonard went bathing in the mornings.
Morel was wandering abroad quite early.
"You, Paul," his mother called from the bedroom, "eat a piece
"All right," he answered.
And when he got back he saw his mother presiding in state at
the breakfast-table. The woman of the house was young. Her husband
was blind, and she did laundry work. So Mrs. Morel always washed
the pots in the kitchen and made the beds.
"But you said you'd have a real holiday," said Paul, "and now
"Work!" she exclaimed. "What are you talking about!"
He loved to go with her across the fields to the village
and the sea. She was afraid of the plank bridge, and he abused her
for being a baby. On the whole he stuck to her as if he were HER man.
Miriam did not get much of him, except, perhaps, when all the
others went to the "Coons". Coons were insufferably stupid to Miriam,
so he thought they were to himself also, and he preached priggishly
to Annie about the fatuity of listening to them. Yet he, too,
knew all their songs, and sang them along the roads roisterously.
And if he found himself listening, the stupidity pleased him very much.
Yet to Annie he said:
"Such rot! there isn't a grain of intelligence in it. Nobody with
more gumption than a grasshopper could go and sit and listen."
And to Miriam he said, with much scorn of Annie and the others:
"I suppose they're at the 'Coons'."
It was queer to see Miriam singing coon songs. She had a straight
chin that went in a perpendicular line from the lower lip to the turn.
She always reminded Paul of some sad Botticelli angel when she sang,
even when it was:
"Come down lover's lane
For a walk with me, talk with me."
Only when he sketched, or at evening when the others were at
the "Coons", she had him to herself. He talked to her endlessly
about his love of horizontals: how they, the great levels of sky
and land in Lincolnshire, meant to him the eternality of the will,
just as the bowed Norman arches of the church, repeating themselves,
meant the dogged leaping forward of the persistent human soul,
on and on, nobody knows where; in contradiction to the perpendicular
lines and to the Gothic arch, which, he said, leapt up at heaven and
touched the ecstasy and lost itself in the divine. Himself, he said,
was Norman, Miriam was Gothic. She bowed in consent even to that.
One evening he and she went up the great sweeping shore
of sand towards Theddlethorpe. The long breakers plunged and ran
in a hiss of foam along the coast. It was a warm evening.
There was not a figure but themselves on the far reaches of sand,
no noise but the sound of the sea. Paul loved to see it clanging
at the land. He loved to feel himself between the noise of it
and the silence of the sandy shore. Miriam was with him.
Everything grew very intense. It was quite dark when they
turned again. The way home was through a gap in the sandhills,
and then along a raised grass road between two dykes. The country
was black and still. From behind the sandhills came the whisper
of the sea. Paul and Miriam walked in silence. Suddenly he started.
The whole of his blood seemed to burst into flame, and he could
scarcely breathe. An enormous orange moon was staring at them
from the rim of the sandhills. He stood still, looking at it.
"Ah!" cried Miriam, when she saw it.
He remained perfectly still, staring at the immense and ruddy
moon, the only thing in the far-reaching darkness of the level.
His heart beat heavily, the muscles of his arms contracted.
"What is it?" murmured Miriam, waiting for him.
He turned and looked at her. She stood beside him, for ever
in shadow. Her face, covered with the darkness of her hat, was watching
him unseen. But she was brooding. She was slightly afraid--deeply
moved and religious. That was her best state. He was impotent
against it. His blood was concentrated like a flame in his chest.
But he could not get across to her. There were flashes in his blood.
But somehow she ignored them. She was expecting some religious
state in him. Still yearning, she was half aware of his passion,
and gazed at him, troubled.
"What is it?" she murmured again.
"It's the moon," he answered, frowning.
"Yes," she assented. "Isn't it wonderful?" She was curious
about him. The crisis was past.
He did not know himself what was the matter. He was naturally
so young, and their intimacy was so abstract, he did not know he
wanted to crush her on to his breast to ease the ache there.
He was afraid of her. The fact that he might want her as a man wants
a woman had in him been suppressed into a shame. When she shrank
in her convulsed, coiled torture from the thought of such
a thing, he had winced to the depths of his soul. And now this
"purity" prevented even their first love-kiss. It was as if she could
scarcely stand the shock of physical love, even a passionate kiss,
and then he was too shrinking and sensitive to give it.
As they walked along the dark fen-meadow he watched the moon
and did not speak. She plodded beside him. He hated her, for she
seemed in some way to make him despise himself. Looking ahead--he saw
the one light in the darkness, the window of their lamp-lit cottage.
He loved to think of his mother, and the other jolly people.
"Well, everybody else has been in long ago!" said his mother
as they entered.
"What does that matter!" he cried irritably. "I can go a walk
if I like, can't I?"
"And I should have thought you could get in to supper with
the rest," said Mrs. Morel.
"I shall please myself," he retorted. "It's not LATE.
I shall do as I like."
"Very well," said his mother cuttingly, "then DO as you like."
And she took no further notice of him that evening. Which he
pretended neither to notice nor to care about, but sat reading.
Miriam read also, obliterating herself. Mrs. Morel hated her
for making her son like this. She watched Paul growing irritable,
priggish, and melancholic. For this she put the blame on Miriam.
Annie and all her friends joined against the girl. Miriam had no
friend of her own, only Paul. But she did not suffer so much,
because she despised the triviality of these other people.
And Paul hated her because, somehow, she spoilt his ease
and naturalness. And he writhed himself with a feeling of humiliation.
STRIFE IN LOVE
ARTHUR finished his apprenticeship, and got a job on the electrical
plant at Minton Pit. He earned very little, but had a good chance
of getting on. But he was wild and restless. He did not drink
nor gamble. Yet he somehow contrived to get into endless scrapes,
always through some hot-headed thoughtlessness. Either he went
rabbiting in the woods, like a poacher, or he stayed in Nottingham
all night instead of coming home, or he miscalculated his dive
into the canal at Bestwood, and scored his chest into one mass
of wounds on the raw stones and tins at the bottom.
He had not been at his work many months when again he did
not come home one night.
"Do you know where Arthur is?" asked Paul at breakfast.
"I do not," replied his mother.
"He is a fool," said Paul. "And if he DID anything I
shouldn't mind. But no, he simply can't come away from a game
of whist, or else he must see a girl home from the skating-rink--quite
proprietously--and so can't get home. He's a fool."
"I don't know that it would make it any better if he did
something to make us all ashamed," said Mrs. Morel.
"Well, I should respect him more," said Paul.
"I very much doubt it," said his mother coldly.
They went on with breakfast.
"Are you fearfully fond of him?" Paul asked his mother.
"What do you ask that for?"
"Because they say a woman always like the youngest best."
"She may do--but I don't. No, he wearies me."
"And you'd actually rather he was good?"
"I'd rather he showed some of a man's common sense."
Paul was raw and irritable. He also wearied his mother very often.
She saw the sunshine going out of him, and she resented it.
As they were finishing breakfast came the postman with a letter
from Derby. Mrs. Morel screwed up her eyes to look at the address.
"Give it here, blind eye!" exclaimed her son, snatching it
away from her.
She started, and almost boxed his ears.
"It's from your son, Arthur," he said.
"What now---!" cried Mrs. Morel.
"'My dearest Mother,'" Paul read, "'I don't know what made
me such a fool. I want you to come and fetch me back from here.
I came with Jack Bredon yesterday, instead of going to work,
and enlisted. He said he was sick of wearing the seat of a stool out,
and, like the idiot you know I am, I came away with him.
"'I have taken the King's shilling, but perhaps if you
came for me they would let me go back with you. I was a fool
when I did it. I don't want to be in the army. My dear mother,
I am nothing but a trouble to you. But if you get me out of this,
I promise I will have more sense and consideration. . . .'"
Mrs. Morel sat down in her rocking-chair.
"Well, NOW," she cried, "let him stop!"
"Yes," said Paul, "let him stop."
There was silence. The mother sat with her hands folded
in her apron, her face set, thinking.
"If I'm not SICK!" she cried suddenly. "Sick!"
"Now," said Paul, beginning to frown, "you're not going
to worry your soul out about this, do you hear."
"I suppose I'm to take it as a blessing," she flashed,
turning on her son.
"You're not going to mount it up to a tragedy, so there,"
"The FOOL!--the young fool!" she cried.
"He'll look well in uniform," said Paul irritatingly.
His mother turned on him like a fury.
"Oh, will he!" she cried. "Not in my eyes!"
"He should get in a cavalry regiment; he'll have the time
of his life, and will look an awful swell."
"Swell!--SWELL!--a mighty swell idea indeed!--a common soldier!"
"Well," said Paul, "what am I but a common clerk?"
"A good deal, my boy!" cried his mother, stung.
"At any rate, a MAN, and not a thing in a red coat."
"I shouldn't mind being in a red coat--or dark blue, that would
suit me better--if they didn't boss me about too much."
But his mother had ceased to listen.
"Just as he was getting on, or might have been getting on,
at his job--a young nuisance--here he goes and ruins himself for life.
What good will he be, do you think, after THIS?"
"It may lick him into shape beautifully," said Paul.
"Lick him into shape!--lick what marrow there WAS out of his bones.
A SOLDIER!--a common SOLDIER!--nothing but a body that makes movements
when it hears a shout! It's a fine thing!"
"I can't understand why it upsets you," said Paul.
"No, perhaps you can't. But I understand"; and she sat back
in her chair, her chin in one hand, holding her elbow with the other,
brimmed up with wrath and chagrin.
"And shall you go to Derby?" asked Paul.
"It's no good."
"I'll see for myself."
"And why on earth don't you let him stop. It's just what
"Of course," cried the mother, "YOU know what he wants!"
She got ready and went by the first train to Derby, where she
saw her son and the sergeant. It was, however, no good.
When Morel was having his dinner in the evening, she said suddenly:
"I've had to go to Derby to-day."
The miner turned up his eyes, showing the whites in his black face.
"Has ter, lass. What took thee there?"
"Oh--an' what's agate now?"
"He's only enlisted."
Morel put down his knife and leaned back in his chair.
"Nay," he said, "that he niver 'as!"
"And is going down to Aldershot tomorrow."
"Well!" exclaimed the miner. "That's a winder." He considered
it a moment, said "H'm!" and proceeded with his dinner. Suddenly his
face contracted with wrath. "I hope he may never set foot i'
my house again," he said.
"The idea!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Saying such a thing!"
"I do," repeated Morel. "A fool as runs away for a soldier,
let 'im look after 'issen; I s'll do no more for 'im."
"A fat sight you have done as it is," she said.
And Morel was almost ashamed to go to his public-house
"Well, did you go?" said Paul to his mother when he came home.
"And could you see him?"
"And what did he say?"
"He blubbered when I came away."
"And so did I, so you needn't 'h'm'!"
Mrs. Morel fretted after her son. She knew he would not
like the army. He did not. The discipline was intolerable to him.
"But the doctor," she said with some pride to Paul, "said he
was perfectly proportioned--almost exactly; all his measurements
were correct. He IS good-looking, you know."
"He's awfully nice-looking. But he doesn't fetch the girls
like William, does he?"
"No; it's a different character. He's a good deal like
his father, irresponsible."
To console his mother, Paul did not go much to Willey
Farm at this time. And in the autumn exhibition of students'
work in the Castle he had two studies, a landscape in water-colour
and a still life in oil, both of which had first-prize awards.
He was highly excited.
"What do you think I've got for my pictures, mother?" he asked,
coming home one evening. She saw by his eyes he was glad.
Her face flushed.
"Now, how should I know, my boy!"
"A first prize for those glass jars---"
"And a first prize for that sketch up at Willey Farm."
There was a rosy, bright look about her, though she said nothing.
"It's nice," he said, "isn't it?"
"Why don't you praise me up to the skies?"
"I should have the trouble of dragging you down again,"
But she was full of joy, nevertheless. William had brought
her his sporting trophies. She kept them still, and she did not
forgive his death. Arthur was handsome--at least, a good specimen--and warm
and generous, and probably would do well in the end. But Paul
was going to distinguish himself. She had a great belief in him,
the more because he was unaware of his own powers. There was
so much to come out of him. Life for her was rich with promise.
She was to see herself fulfilled. Not for nothing had been
Several times during the exhibition Mrs. Morel went to the
Castle unknown to Paul. She wandered down the long room looking
at the other exhibits. Yes, they were good. But they had not in
them a certain something which she demanded for her satisfaction.
Some made her jealous, they were so good. She looked at them
a long time trying to find fault with them. Then suddenly she
had a shock that made her heart beat. There hung Paul's picture!
She knew it as if it were printed on her heart.
"Name--Paul Morel--First Prize."
It looked so strange, there in public, on the walls of the
Castle gallery, where in her lifetime she had seen so many pictures.
And she glanced round to see if anyone had noticed her again in front
of the same sketch.
But she felt a proud woman. When she met well-dressed ladies
going home to the Park, she thought to herself:
"Yes, you look very well--but I wonder if YOUR son has two
first prizes in the Castle."
And she walked on, as proud a little woman as any in Nottingham.
And Paul felt he had done something for her, if only a trifle.
All his work was hers.
One day, as he was going up Castle Gate, he met Miriam. He had
seen her on the Sunday, and had not expected to meet her in town.
She was walking with a rather striking woman, blonde, with a sullen
expression, and a defiant carriage. It was strange how Miriam,
in her bowed, meditative bearing, looked dwarfed beside this woman
with the handsome shoulders. Miriam watched Paul searchingly.
His gaze was on the stranger, who ignored him. The girl saw his
masculine spirit rear its head.
"Hello!" he said, "you didn't tell me you were coming to town."
"No," replied Miriam, half apologetically. "I drove
in to Cattle Market with father."
He looked at her companion.
"I've told you about Mrs. Dawes," said Miriam huskily;
she was nervous. "Clara, do you know Paul?"
"I think I've seen him before," replied Mrs. Dawes indifferently,
as she shook hands with him. She had scornful grey eyes, a skin
like white honey, and a full mouth, with a slightly lifted upper
lip that did not know whether it was raised in scorn of all men
or out of eagerness to be kissed, but which believed the former.
She carried her head back, as if she had drawn away in contempt,
perhaps from men also. She wore a large, dowdy hat of black beaver,
and a sort of slightly affected simple dress that made her look
rather sack-like. She was evidently poor, and had not much taste.
Miriam usually looked nice.
"Where have you seen me?" Paul asked of the woman.
She looked at him as if she would not trouble to answer. Then:
"Walking with Louie Travers," she said.
Louie was one of the "Spiral" girls.
"Why, do you know her?" he asked.
She did not answer. He turned to Miriam.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"To the Castle."
"What train are you going home by?"
"I am driving with father. I wish you could come too.
What time are you free?"
"You know not till eight to-night, damn it!"
And directly the two women moved on.
Paul remembered that Clara Dawes was the daughter of an old
friend of Mrs. Leivers. Miriam had sought her out because she
had once been Spiral overseer at Jordan's, and because her husband,
Baxter Dawes, was smith for the factory, making the irons for
cripple instruments, and so on. Through her Miriam felt she got
into direct contact with Jordan's, and could estimate better
Paul's position. But Mrs. Dawes was separated from her husband,
and had taken up Women's Rights. She was supposed to be clever.
It interested Paul.
Baxter Dawes he knew and disliked. The smith was a man
of thirty-one or thirty-two. He came occasionally through Paul's
corner--a big, well-set man, also striking to look at, and handsome.
There was a peculiar similarity between himself and his wife.
He had the same white skin, with a clear, golden tinge. His hair
was of soft brown, his moustache was golden. And he had a similar
defiance in his bearing and manner. But then came the difference.
His eyes, dark brown and quick-shifting, were dissolute.
They protruded very slightly, and his eyelids hung over them in a
way that was half hate. His mouth, too, was sensual. His whole
manner was of cowed defiance, as if he were ready to knock anybody
down who disapproved of him--perhaps because he really disapproved
From the first day he had hated Paul. Finding the lad's impersonal,
deliberate gaze of an artist on his face, he got into a fury.
"What are yer lookin' at?" he sneered, bullying.
The boy glanced away. But the smith used to stand behind
the counter and talk to Mr. Pappleworth. His speech was dirty,
with a kind of rottenness. Again he found the youth with his cool,
critical gaze fixed on his face. The smith started round as if he
had been stung.
"What'r yer lookin' at, three hap'orth o' pap?" he snarled.
The boy shrugged his shoulders slightly.
"Why yer---!" shouted Dawes.
"Leave him alone," said Mr. Pappleworth, in that insinuating
voice which means, "He's only one of your good little sops who can't
Since that time the boy used to look at the man every time
he came through with the same curious criticism, glancing away
before he met the smith's eye. It made Dawes furious. They hated
each other in silence.
Clara Dawes had no children. When she had left her husband the
home had been broken up, and she had gone to live with her mother.
Dawes lodged with his sister. In the same house was a sister-in-law, and
somehow Paul knew that this girl, Louie Travers, was now Dawes's woman.
She was a handsome, insolent hussy, who mocked at the youth, and yet
flushed if he walked along to the station with her as she went home.
The next time he went to see Miriam it was Saturday evening.
She had a fire in the parlour, and was waiting for him. The others,
except her father and mother and the young children, had gone out,
so the two had the parlour together. It was a long, low, warm room.
There were three of Paul's small sketches on the wall, and his photo was
on the mantelpiece. On the table and on the high old
rosewood piano were bowls of coloured leaves. He sat in the armchair,
she crouched on the hearthrug near his feet. The glow was warm
on her handsome, pensive face as she kneeled there like a devotee.
"What did you think of Mrs. Dawes?" she asked quietly.
"She doesn't look very amiable," he replied.
"No, but don't you think she's a fine woman?" she said,
in a deep tone,
"Yes--in stature. But without a grain of taste. I like her
for some things. IS she disagreeable?"
"I don't think so. I think she's dissatisfied."
"Well--how would you like to be tied for life to a man like that?"
"Why did she marry him, then, if she was to have revulsions
"Ay, why did she!" repeated Miriam bitterly.
"And I should have thought she had enough fight in her
to match him," he said.
Miriam bowed her head.
"Ay?" she queried satirically. "What makes you think so?"
"Look at her mouth--made for passion--and the very setback
of her throat---" He threw his head back in Clara's defiant manner.
Miriam bowed a little lower.
"Yes," she said.
There was a silence for some moments, while he thought of Clara.
"And what were the things you liked about her?" she asked.
"I don't know--her skin and the texture of her--and her--I don't
know--there's a sort of fierceness somewhere in her. I appreciate
her as an artist, that's all."
He wondered why Miriam crouched there brooding in that strange way.
It irritated him.
"You don't really like her, do you?" he asked the girl.
She looked at him with her great, dazzled dark eyes.
"I do," she said.
"You don't--you can't--not really."
"Then what?" she asked slowly.
"Eh, I don't know--perhaps you like her because she's got a grudge
That was more probably one of his own reasons for liking
Mrs. Dawes, but this did not occur to him. They were silent.
There had come into his forehead a knitting of the brows which was
becoming habitual with him, particularly when he was with Miriam.
She longed to smooth it away, and she was afraid of it. It seemed
the stamp of a man who was not her man in Paul Morel.
There were some crimson berries among the leaves in the bowl.
He reached over and pulled out a bunch.
"If you put red berries in your hair," he said, "why would
you look like some witch or priestess, and never like a reveller?"
She laughed with a naked, painful sound.
"I don't know," she said.
His vigorous warm hands were playing excitedly with the berries.
"Why can't you laugh?" he said. "You never laugh laughter.
You only laugh when something is odd or incongruous, and then it
almost seems to hurt you."
She bowed her head as if he were scolding her.
"I wish you could laugh at me just for one minute--just
for one minute. I feel as if it would set something free."
"But"--and she looked up at him with eyes frightened
and struggling--"I do laugh at you--I DO."
"Never! There's always a kind of intensity. When you laugh
I could always cry; it seems as if it shows up your suffering.
Oh, you make me knit the brows of my very soul and cogitate."
Slowly she shook her head despairingly.
"I'm sure I don't want to," she said.
"I'm so damned spiritual with YOU always!" he cried.
She remained silent, thinking, "Then why don't you be otherwise."
But he saw her crouching, brooding figure, and it seemed to tear
him in two.
"But, there, it's autumn," he said, "and everybody feels
like a disembodied spirit then."
There was still another silence. This peculiar sadness
between them thrilled her soul. He seemed so beautiful with his
eyes gone dark, and looking as if they were deep as the deepest well.
"You make me so spiritual!" he lamented. "And I don't want
to be spiritual."
She took her finger from her mouth with a little pop, and looked
up at him almost challenging. But still her soul was naked in her
great dark eyes, and there was the same yearning appeal upon her.
If he could have kissed her in abstract purity he would have done so.
But he could not kiss her thus--and she seemed to leave no other way.
And she yearned to him.
He gave a brief laugh.
"Well," he said, "get that French and we'll do some--some Verlaine."
"Yes," she said in a deep tone, almost of resignation.
And she rose and got the books. And her rather red, nervous hands
looked so pitiful, he was mad to comfort her and kiss her. But then
be dared not--or could not. There was something prevented him.
His kisses were wrong for her. They continued the reading till ten
o'clock, when they went into the kitchen, and Paul was natural and jolly
again with the father and mother. His eyes were dark and shining;
there was a kind of fascination about him.
When he went into the barn for his bicycle he found the front
"Fetch me a drop of water in a bowl," he said to her.
"I shall be late, and then I s'll catch it."
He lighted the hurricane lamp, took off his coat, turned up
the bicycle, and set speedily to work. Miriam came with the bowl
of water and stood close to him, watching. She loved to see
his hands doing things. He was slim and vigorous, with a kind
of easiness even in his most hasty movements. And busy at his work
he seemed to forget her. She loved him absorbedly. She wanted
to run her hands down his sides. She always wanted to embrace him,
so long as he did not want her.
"There!" he said, rising suddenly. "Now, could you have done
"No!" she laughed.
He straightened himself. His back was towards her. She put
her two hands on his sides, and ran them quickly down.
"You are so FINE!" she said.
He laughed, hating her voice, but his blood roused to a wave
of flame by her hands. She did not seem to realise HIM in all this.
He might have been an object. She never realised the male he was.
He lighted his bicycle-lamp, bounced the machine on the barn
floor to see that the tyres were sound, and buttoned his coat.