chapter xiv part 1the release "by the way," said dr. ansell one eveningwhen morel was in sheffield, "we've got a man in the fever hospital here who comesfrom nottingham--dawes. he doesn't seem to have many belongings inthis world." "baxter dawes!"paul exclaimed. "that's the man--has been a fine fellow,physically, i should think. been in a bit of a mess lately.you know him?" "he used to work at the place where i am." "did he?do you know anything about him?
he's just sulking, or he'd be a lot betterthan he is by now." "i don't know anything of his homecircumstances, except that he's separated from his wife and has been a bit down, ibelieve. but tell him about me, will you? tell him i'll come and see him."the next time morel saw the doctor he said: "and what about dawes?" "i said to him," answered the other, "'doyou know a man from nottingham named morel?' and he looked at me as if he'd jumpat my throat. so i said: 'i see you know the name; it'spaul morel.'
then i told him about your saying you wouldgo and see him. 'what does he want?' he said, as if youwere a policeman." "and did he say he would see me?" askedpaul. "he wouldn't say anything--good, bad orindifferent," replied the doctor. "why not?""that's what i want to know. there he lies and sulks, day in, day out. can't get a word of information out ofhim." "do you think i might go?" asked paul."you might." there was a feeling of connection betweenthe rival men, more than ever since they
had fought.in a way morel felt guilty towards the other, and more or less responsible. and being in such a state of soul himself,he felt an almost painful nearness to dawes, who was suffering and despairing,too. besides, they had met in a naked extremityof hate, and it was a bond. at any rate, the elemental man in each hadmet. he went down to the isolation hospital,with dr. ansell's card. this sister, a healthy young irishwoman,led him down the ward. "a visitor to see you, jim crow," she said.
dawes turned over suddenly with a startledgrunt. "eh?""caw!" she mocked. "he can only say 'caw!' i have brought you a gentleman to see you.now say 'thank you,' and show some manners."dawes looked swiftly with his dark, startled eyes beyond the sister at paul. his look was full of fear, mistrust, hate,and misery. morel met the swift, dark eyes, andhesitated. the two men were afraid of the naked selvesthey had been.
"dr. ansell told me you were here," saidmorel, holding out his hand. dawes mechanically shook hands. "so i thought i'd come in," continued paul.there was no answer. dawes lay staring at the opposite wall."say 'caw!"' mocked the nurse. "say 'caw!' jim crow.""he is getting on all right?" said paul to her."oh yes! he lies and imagines he's going to die,"said the nurse, "and it frightens every word out of his mouth.""and you must have somebody to talk to,"
laughed morel. "that's it!" laughed the nurse."only two old men and a boy who always cries.it is hard lines! here am i dying to hear jim crow's voice,and nothing but an odd 'caw!' will he give!""so rough on you!" said morel. "isn't it?" said the nurse. "i suppose i am a godsend," he laughed."oh, dropped straight from heaven!" laughed the nurse.presently she left the two men alone. dawes was thinner, and handsome again, butlife seemed low in him.
as the doctor said, he was lying sulking,and would not move forward towards convalescence. he seemed to grudge every beat of hisheart. "have you had a bad time?" asked paul.suddenly again dawes looked at him. "what are you doing in sheffield?" heasked. "my mother was taken ill at my sister's inthurston street. what are you doing here?" there was no answer."how long have you been in?" morel asked."i couldn't say for sure," dawes answered
grudgingly. he lay staring across at the wall opposite,as if trying to believe morel was not there.paul felt his heart go hard and angry. "dr. ansell told me you were here," he saidcoldly. the other man did not answer."typhoid's pretty bad, i know," morel persisted. suddenly dawes said:"what did you come for?" "because dr. ansell said you didn't knowanybody here. do you?"
"i know nobody nowhere," said dawes."well," said paul, "it's because you don't choose to, then."there was another silence. "we s'll be taking my mother home as soonas we can," said paul. "what's a-matter with her?" asked dawes,with a sick man's interest in illness. "she's got a cancer." there was another silence."but we want to get her home," said paul. "we s'll have to get a motor-car."dawes lay thinking. "why don't you ask thomas jordan to lendyou his?" said dawes. "it's not big enough," morel answered.dawes blinked his dark eyes as he lay
thinking. "then ask jack pilkington; he'd lend ityou. you know him.""i think i s'll hire one," said paul. "you're a fool if you do," said dawes. the sick man was gaunt and handsome again.paul was sorry for him because his eyes looked so tired."did you get a job here?" he asked. "i was only here a day or two before i wastaken bad," dawes replied. "you want to get in a convalescent home,"said paul. the other's face clouded again.
"i'm goin' in no convalescent home," hesaid. "my father's been in the one at seathorpe,an' he liked it. dr. ansell would get you a recommend." dawes lay thinking.it was evident he dared not face the world again."the seaside would be all right just now," morel said. "sun on those sandhills, and the waves notfar out." the other did not answer."by gad!" paul concluded, too miserable to bothermuch; "it's all right when you know you're
going to walk again, and swim!"dawes glanced at him quickly. the man's dark eyes were afraid to meet anyother eyes in the world. but the real misery and helplessness inpaul's tone gave him a feeling of relief. "is she far gone?" he asked. "she's going like wax," paul answered; "butcheerful--lively!" he bit his lip.after a minute he rose. "well, i'll be going," he said. "i'll leave you this half-crown.""i don't want it," dawes muttered. morel did not answer, but left the coin onthe table.
"well," he said, "i'll try and run in wheni'm back in sheffield. happen you might like to see my brother-in-law? he works in pyecrofts." "i don't know him," said dawes."he's all right. should i tell him to come?he might bring you some papers to look at." the other man did not answer. paul went.the strong emotion that dawes aroused in him, repressed, made him shiver.he did not tell his mother, but next day he spoke to clara about this interview.
it was in the dinner-hour.the two did not often go out together now, but this day he asked her to go with him tothe castle grounds. there they sat while the scarlet geraniumsand the yellow calceolarias blazed in the sunlight.she was now always rather protective, and rather resentful towards him. "did you know baxter was in sheffieldhospital with typhoid?" he asked. she looked at him with startled grey eyes,and her face went pale. "no," she said, frightened. "he's getting better.i went to see him yesterday--the doctor
told me."clara seemed stricken by the news. "is he very bad?" she asked guiltily. "he has been.he's mending now." "what did he say to you?""oh, nothing! he seems to be sulking." there was a distance between the two ofthem. he gave her more information.she went about shut up and silent. the next time they took a walk together,she disengaged herself from his arm, and walked at a distance from him.he was wanting her comfort badly.
"won't you be nice with me?" he asked. she did not answer."what's the matter?" he said, putting his arm across her shoulder."don't!" she said, disengaging herself. he left her alone, and returned to his ownbrooding. "is it baxter that upsets you?" he asked atlength. "i have been vile to him!" she said. "i've said many a time you haven't treatedhim well," he replied. and there was a hostility between them.each pursued his own train of thought. "i've treated him--no, i've treated himbadly," she said.
"and now you treat me badly.it serves me right." "how do i treat you badly?" he said. "it serves me right," she repeated."i never considered him worth having, and now you don't consider me.but it serves me right. he loved me a thousand times better thanyou ever did." "he didn't!" protested paul."he did! at any rate, he did respect me, and that'swhat you don't do." "it looked as if he respected you!" hesaid. "he did!
and i made him horrid--i know i did!you've taught me that. and he loved me a thousand times betterthan ever you do." "all right," said paul. he only wanted to be left alone now.he had his own trouble, which was almost too much to bear.clara only tormented him and made him tired. he was not sorry when he left her.she went on the first opportunity to sheffield to see her husband.the meeting was not a success. but she left him roses and fruit and money.
she wanted to make restitution.it was not that she loved him. as she looked at him lying there her heartdid not warm with love. only she wanted to humble herself to him,to kneel before him. she wanted now to be self-sacrificial.after all, she had failed to make morel really love her. she was morally frightened.she wanted to do penance. so she kneeled to dawes, and it gave him asubtle pleasure. but the distance between them was stillvery great--too great. it frightened the man.it almost pleased the woman.
she liked to feel she was serving himacross an insuperable distance. she was proud now.morel went to see dawes once or twice. there was a sort of friendship between thetwo men, who were all the while deadly rivals.but they never mentioned the woman who was between them. mrs. morel got gradually worse.at first they used to carry her downstairs, sometimes even into the garden.she sat propped in her chair, smiling, and so pretty. the gold wedding-ring shone on her whitehand; her hair was carefully brushed.
and she watched the tangled sunflowersdying, the chrysanthemums coming out, and the dahlias. paul and she were afraid of each other.he knew, and she knew, that she was dying. but they kept up a pretence ofcheerfulness. every morning, when he got up, he went intoher room in his pyjamas. "did you sleep, my dear?" he asked."yes," she answered. "not very well?" "well, yes!"then he knew she had lain awake. he saw her hand under the bedclothes,pressing the place on her side where the
pain was. "has it been bad?" he asked."no. it hurt a bit, but nothing to mention."and she sniffed in her old scornful way. as she lay she looked like a girl. and all the while her blue eyes watchedhim. but there were the dark pain-circlesbeneath that made him ache again. "it's a sunny day," he said. "it's a beautiful day.""do you think you'll be carried down?" "i shall see."then he went away to get her breakfast.
all day long he was conscious of nothingbut her. it was a long ache that made him feverish. then, when he got home in the earlyevening, he glanced through the kitchen window.she was not there; she had not got up. he ran straight upstairs and kissed her. he was almost afraid to ask:"didn't you get up, pigeon?" "no," she said, "it was that morphia; itmade me tired." "i think he gives you too much," he said. "i think he does," she answered.he sat down by the bed, miserably.
she had a way of curling and lying on herside, like a child. the grey and brown hair was loose over herear. "doesn't it tickle you?" he said, gentlyputting it back. "it does," she replied. his face was near hers.her blue eyes smiled straight into his, like a girl's--warm, laughing with tenderlove. it made him pant with terror, agony, andlove. "you want your hair doing in a plait," hesaid. "lie still."
and going behind her, he carefully loosenedher hair, brushed it out. it was like fine long silk of brown andgrey. her head was snuggled between hershoulders. as he lightly brushed and plaited her hair,he bit his lip and felt dazed. it all seemed unreal, he could notunderstand it. at night he often worked in her room,looking up from time to time. and so often he found her blue eyes fixedon him. and when their eyes met, she smiled. he worked away again mechanically,producing good stuff without knowing what
he was doing. sometimes he came in, very pale and still,with watchful, sudden eyes, like a man who is drunk almost to death.they were both afraid of the veils that were ripping between them. then she pretended to be better, chatteredto him gaily, made a great fuss over some scraps of news. for they had both come to the conditionwhen they had to make much of the trifles, lest they should give in to the big thing,and their human independence would go smash.
they were afraid, so they made light ofthings and were gay. sometimes as she lay he knew she wasthinking of the past. her mouth gradually shut hard in a line. she was holding herself rigid, so that shemight die without ever uttering the great cry that was tearing from her. he never forgot that hard, utterly lonelyand stubborn clenching of her mouth, which persisted for weeks.sometimes, when it was lighter, she talked about her husband. now she hated him.she did not forgive him.
she could not bear him to be in the room. and a few things, the things that had beenmost bitter to her, came up again so strongly that they broke from her, and shetold her son. he felt as if his life were beingdestroyed, piece by piece, within him. often the tears came suddenly.he ran to the station, the tear-drops falling on the pavement. often he could not go on with his work.the pen stopped writing. he sat staring, quite unconscious.and when he came round again he felt sick, and trembled in his limbs.
he never questioned what it was.his mind did not try to analyse or understand.he merely submitted, and kept his eyes shut; let the thing go over him. his mother did the same.she thought of the pain, of the morphia, of the next day; hardly ever of the death.that was coming, she knew. she had to submit to it. but she would never entreat it or makefriends with it. blind, with her face shut hard and blind,she was pushed towards the door. the days passed, the weeks, the months.
sometimes, in the sunny afternoons, sheseemed almost happy. "i try to think of the nice times--when wewent to mablethorpe, and robin hood's bay, and shanklin," she said. "after all, not everybody has seen thosebeautiful places. and wasn't it beautiful!i try to think of that, not of the other things." then, again, for a whole evening she spokenot a word; neither did he. they were together, rigid, stubborn,silent. he went into his room at last to go to bed,and leaned against the doorway as if
paralysed, unable to go any farther.his consciousness went. a furious storm, he knew not what, seemedto ravage inside him. he stood leaning there, submitting, neverquestioning. in the morning they were both normal again,though her face was grey with the morphia, and her body felt like ash.but they were bright again, nevertheless. often, especially if annie or arthur wereat home, he neglected her. he did not see much of clara.usually he was with men. he was quick and active and lively; butwhen his friends saw him go white to the gills, his eyes dark and glittering, theyhad a certain mistrust of him.
sometimes he went to clara, but she wasalmost cold to him. "take me!" he said simply.occasionally she would. but she was afraid. when he had her then, there was somethingin it that made her shrink away from him-- something unnatural.she grew to dread him. he was so quiet, yet so strange. she was afraid of the man who was not therewith her, whom she could feel behind this make-belief lover; somebody sinister, thatfilled her with horror. she began to have a kind of horror of him.
it was almost as if he were a criminal.he wanted her--he had her--and it made her feel as if death itself had her in itsgrip. she lay in horror. there was no man there loving her.she almost hated him. then came little bouts of tenderness.but she dared not pity him. dawes had come to colonel seely's home nearnottingham. there paul visited him sometimes, claravery occasionally. between the two men the friendshipdeveloped peculiarly. dawes, who mended very slowly and seemedvery feeble, seemed to leave himself in the
hands of morel. in the beginning of november clara remindedpaul that it was her birthday. "i'd nearly forgotten," he said."i'd thought quite," she replied. "no. shall we go to the seaside for theweek-end?" they went.it was cold and rather dismal. she waited for him to be warm and tenderwith her, instead of which he seemed hardly aware of her. he sat in the railway-carriage, lookingout, and was startled when she spoke to him.he was not definitely thinking.
things seemed as if they did not exist. she went across to him."what is it dear?" she asked. "nothing!" he said."don't those windmill sails look monotonous?" he sat holding her hand.he could not talk nor think. it was a comfort, however, to sit holdingher hand. she was dissatisfied and miserable. he was not with her; she was nothing.and in the evening they sat among the sandhills, looking at the black, heavy sea."she will never give in," he said quietly.
clara's heart sank. "no," she replied."there are different ways of dying. my father's people are frightened, and haveto be hauled out of life into death like cattle into a slaughter-house, pulled bythe neck; but my mother's people are pushed from behind, inch by inch. they are stubborn people, and won't die.""yes," said clara. "and she won't die.she can't. mr. renshaw, the parson, was in the otherday. 'think!' he said to her; 'you will haveyour mother and father, and your sisters,
and your son, in the other land.' and she said: 'i have done without them fora long time, and can do without them now. it is the living i want, not the dead.'she wants to live even now." "oh, how horrible!" said clara, toofrightened to speak. "and she looks at me, and she wants to staywith me," he went on monotonously. "she's got such a will, it seems as if shewould never go--never!" "don't think of it!" cried clara."and she was religious--she is religious now--but it is no good. she simply won't give in.and do you know, i said to her on thursday:
'mother, if i had to die, i'd die.i'd will to die.' and she said to me, sharp: 'do you think ihaven't? do you think you can die when you like?'"his voice ceased. he did not cry, only went on speakingmonotonously. clara wanted to run.she looked round. there was the black, re-echoing shore, thedark sky down on her. she got up terrified.she wanted to be where there was light, where there were other people. she wanted to be away from him.he sat with his head dropped, not moving a
muscle."and i don't want her to eat," he said, "and she knows it. when i ask her: 'shall you have anything'she's almost afraid to say 'yes.' 'i'll have a cup of benger's,' she says.'it'll only keep your strength up,' i said to her. 'yes'--and she almost cried--'but there'ssuch a gnawing when i eat nothing, i can't bear it.'so i went and made her the food. it's the cancer that gnaws like that ather. i wish she'd die!""come!" said clara roughly.
"i'm going." he followed her down the darkness of thesands. he did not come to her.he seemed scarcely aware of her existence. and she was afraid of him, and dislikedhim. in the same acute daze they went back tonottingham. he was always busy, always doing something,always going from one to the other of his friends.on the monday he went to see baxter dawes. listless and pale, the man rose to greetthe other, clinging to his chair as he held out his hand."you shouldn't get up," said paul.
dawes sat down heavily, eyeing morel with asort of suspicion. "don't you waste your time on me," he said,"if you've owt better to do." "i wanted to come," said paul. "here!i brought you some sweets." the invalid put them aside."it's not been much of a week-end," said morel. "how's your mother?" asked the other."hardly any different." "i thought she was perhaps worse, being asyou didn't come on sunday." "i was at skegness," said paul.
"i wanted a change."the other looked at him with dark eyes. he seemed to be waiting, not quite daringto ask, trusting to be told. "i went with clara," said paul. "i knew as much," said dawes quietly."it was an old promise," said paul. "you have it your own way," said dawes.this was the first time clara had been definitely mentioned between them. "nay," said morel slowly; "she's tired ofme." again dawes looked at him."since august she's been getting tired of me," morel repeated.
the two men were very quiet together.paul suggested a game of draughts. they played in silence."i s'll go abroad when my mother's dead," said paul. "abroad!" repeated dawes."yes; i don't care what i do." they continued the game.dawes was winning. "i s'll have to begin a new start of somesort," said paul; "and you as well, i suppose."he took one of dawes's pieces. "i dunno where," said the other. "things have to happen," morel said."it's no good doing anything--at least--no,
i don't know.give me some toffee." the two men ate sweets, and began anothergame of draughts. "what made that scar on your mouth?" askeddawes. paul put his hand hastily to his lips, andlooked over the garden. "i had a bicycle accident," he said.dawes's hand trembled as he moved the piece. "you shouldn't ha' laughed at me," he said,very low. "when?" "that night on woodborough road, when youand her passed me--you with your hand on
her shoulder.""i never laughed at you," said paul. dawes kept his fingers on the draught-piece. "i never knew you were there till the verysecond when you passed," said morel. "it was that as did me," dawes said, verylow. paul took another sweet."i never laughed," he said, "except as i'm always laughing." they finished the game.that night morel walked home from nottingham, in order to have something todo. the furnaces flared in a red blotch overbulwell; the black clouds were like a low
ceiling. as he went along the ten miles of highroad,he felt as if he were walking out of life, between the black levels of the sky and theearth. but at the end was only the sick-room. if he walked and walked for ever, there wasonly that place to come to. he was not tired when he got near home, orhe did not know it. across the field he could see the redfirelight leaping in her bedroom window. "when she's dead," he said to himself,"that fire will go out." he took off his boots quietly and creptupstairs.
his mothers door was wide open, because sheslept alone still. the red firelight dashed its glow on thelanding. soft as a shadow, he peeped in her doorway."paul!" she murmured. his heart seemed to break again. he went in and sat by the bed."how late you are!" she murmured. "not very," he said."why, what time is it?" the murmur came plaintive and helpless. "it's only just gone eleven."that was not true; it was nearly one o'clock."oh!" she said; "i thought it was later."
and he knew the unutterable misery of hernights that would not go. "can't you sleep, my pigeon?" he said."no, i can't," she wailed. "never mind, little!" he said crooning."never mind, my love. i'll stop with you half an hour, my pigeon;then perhaps it will be better." and he sat by the bedside, slowly,rhythmically stroking her brows with his finger-tips, stroking her eyes shut,soothing her, holding her fingers in his free hand. they could hear the sleepers' breathing inthe other rooms.
"now go to bed," she murmured, lying quitestill under his fingers and his love. "will you sleep?" he asked. "yes, i think so.""you feel better, my little, don't you?" "yes," she said, like a fretful, half-soothed child. still the days and the weeks went by. he hardly ever went to see clara now.but he wandered restlessly from one person to another for some help, and there wasnone anywhere. miriam had written to him tenderly. he went to see her.her heart was very sore when she saw him,
white, gaunt, with his eyes dark andbewildered. her pity came up, hurting her till shecould not bear it. "how is she?" she asked."the same--the same!" he said. "the doctor says she can't last, but i knowshe will. she'll be here at christmas." > chapter xiv part 2the release miriam shuddered.she drew him to her; she pressed him to her bosom; she kissed him and kissed him.he submitted, but it was torture.
she could not kiss his agony. that remained alone and apart.she kissed his face, and roused his blood, while his soul was apart writhing with theagony of death. and she kissed him and fingered his body,till at last, feeling he would go mad, he got away from her.it was not what he wanted just then--not that. and she thought she had soothed him anddone him good. december came, and some snow.he stayed at home all the while now. they could not afford a nurse.
annie came to look after her mother; theparish nurse, whom they loved, came in morning and evening.paul shared the nursing with annie. often, in the evenings, when friends werein the kitchen with them, they all laughed together and shook with laughter.it was reaction. paul was so comical, annie was so quaint. the whole party laughed till they cried,trying to subdue the sound. and mrs. morel, lying alone in the darknessheard them, and among her bitterness was a feeling of relief. then paul would go upstairs gingerly,guiltily, to see if she had heard.
"shall i give you some milk?" he asked."a little," she replied plaintively. and he would put some water with it, sothat it should not nourish her. yet he loved her more than his own life.she had morphia every night, and her heart got fitful. annie slept beside her.paul would go in in the early morning, when his sister got up.his mother was wasted and almost ashen in the morning with the morphia. darker and darker grew her eyes, all pupil,with the torture. in the mornings the weariness and ache weretoo much to bear.
yet she could not--would not--weep, or evencomplain much. "you slept a bit later this morning, littleone," he would say to her. "did i?" she answered, with fretfulweariness. "yes; it's nearly eight o'clock."he stood looking out of the window. the whole country was bleak and pallidunder the snow. then he felt her pulse.there was a strong stroke and a weak one, like a sound and its echo. that was supposed to betoken the end.she let him feel her wrist, knowing what he wanted.sometimes they looked in each other's eyes.
then they almost seemed to make anagreement. it was almost as if he were agreeing to diealso. but she did not consent to die; she wouldnot. her body was wasted to a fragment of ash.her eyes were dark and full of torture. "can't you give her something to put an endto it?" he asked the doctor at last. but the doctor shook his head."she can't last many days now, mr. morel," he said. paul went indoors."i can't bear it much longer; we shall all go mad," said annie.the two sat down to breakfast.
"go and sit with her while we havebreakfast, minnie," said annie. but the girl was frightened.paul went through the country, through the woods, over the snow. he saw the marks of rabbits and birds inthe white snow. he wandered miles and miles.a smoky red sunset came on slowly, painfully, lingering. he thought she would die that day.there was a donkey that came up to him over the snow by the wood's edge, and put itshead against him, and walked with him alongside.
he put his arms round the donkey's neck,and stroked his cheeks against his ears. his mother, silent, was still alive, withher hard mouth gripped grimly, her eyes of dark torture only living. it was nearing christmas; there was moresnow. annie and he felt as if they could go on nomore. still her dark eyes were alive. morel, silent and frightened, obliteratedhimself. sometimes he would go into the sick-roomand look at her. then he backed out, bewildered.
she kept her hold on life still.the miners had been out on strike, and returned a fortnight or so beforechristmas. minnie went upstairs with the feeding-cup. it was two days after the men had been in."have the men been saying their hands are sore, minnie?" she asked, in the faint,querulous voice that would not give in. minnie stood surprised. "not as i know of, mrs. morel," sheanswered. "but i'll bet they are sore," said thedying woman, as she moved her head with a sigh of weariness.
"but, at any rate, there'll be something tobuy in with this week." not a thing did she let slip. "your father's pit things will want wellairing, annie," she said, when the men were going back to work."don't you bother about that, my dear," said annie. one night annie and paul were alone.nurse was upstairs. "she'll live over christmas," said annie.they were both full of horror. "she won't," he replied grimly. "i s'll give her morphia.""which?" said annie.
"all that came from sheffield," said paul."ay--do!" said annie. the next day he was painting in thebedroom. she seemed to be asleep.he stepped softly backwards and forwards at his painting. suddenly her small voice wailed:"don't walk about, paul." he looked round.her eyes, like dark bubbles in her face, were looking at him. "no, my dear," he said gently.another fibre seemed to snap in his heart. that evening he got all the morphia pillsthere were, and took them downstairs.
carefully he crushed them to powder. "what are you doing?" said annie."i s'll put 'em in her night milk." then they both laughed together like twoconspiring children. on top of all their horror flicked thislittle sanity. nurse did not come that night to settlemrs. morel down. paul went up with the hot milk in afeeding-cup. it was nine o'clock. she was reared up in bed, and he put thefeeding-cup between her lips that he would have died to save from any hurt.
she took a sip, then put the spout of thecup away and looked at him with her dark, wondering eyes.he looked at her. "oh, it is bitter, paul!" she said, makinga little grimace. "it's a new sleeping draught the doctorgave me for you," he said. "he thought it would leave you in such astate in the morning." "and i hope it won't," she said, like achild. she drank some more of the milk. "but it is horrid!" she said.he saw her frail fingers over the cup, her lips making a little move."i know--i tasted it," he said.
"but i'll give you some clean milkafterwards." "i think so," she said, and she went onwith the draught. she was obedient to him like a child. he wondered if she knew.he saw her poor wasted throat moving as she drank with difficulty.then he ran downstairs for more milk. there were no grains in the bottom of thecup. "has she had it?" whispered annie."yes--and she said it was bitter." "oh!" laughed annie, putting her under lipbetween her teeth. "and i told her it was a new draught.where's that milk?"
they both went upstairs. "i wonder why nurse didn't come to settleme down?" complained the mother, like a child, wistfully."she said she was going to a concert, my love," replied annie. "did she?"they were silent a minute. mrs. morel gulped the little clean milk."annie, that draught was horrid!" she said plaintively. "was it, my love?well, never mind." the mother sighed again with weariness.her pulse was very irregular.
"let us settle you down," said annie. "perhaps nurse will be so late.""ay," said the mother--"try." they turned the clothes back.paul saw his mother like a girl curled up in her flannel nightdress. quickly they made one half of the bed,moved her, made the other, straightened her nightgown over her small feet, and coveredher up. "there," said paul, stroking her softly. "there!--now you'll sleep.""yes," she said. "i didn't think you could do the bed sonicely," she added, almost gaily.
then she curled up, with her cheek on herhand, her head snugged between her shoulders.paul put the long thin plait of grey hair over her shoulder and kissed her. "you'll sleep, my love," he said."yes," she answered trustfully. "good-night."they put out the light, and it was still. morel was in bed. nurse did not come.annie and paul came to look at her at about eleven.she seemed to be sleeping as usual after her draught.
her mouth had come a bit open."shall we sit up?" said paul. "i s'll lie with her as i always do," saidannie. "she might wake up." "all right.and call me if you see any difference." "yes." they lingered before the bedroom fire,feeling the night big and black and snowy outside, their two selves alone in theworld. at last he went into the next room and wentto bed. he slept almost immediately, but keptwaking every now and again.
then he went sound asleep. he started awake at annie's whispered,"paul, paul!" he saw his sister in her white nightdress,with her long plait of hair down her back, standing in the darkness. "yes?" he whispered, sitting up."come and look at her." he slipped out of bed.a bud of gas was burning in the sick chamber. his mother lay with her cheek on her hand,curled up as she had gone to sleep. but her mouth had fallen open, and shebreathed with great, hoarse breaths, like
snoring, and there were long intervalsbetween. "she's going!" he whispered. "yes," said annie."how long has she been like it?" "i only just woke up."annie huddled into the dressing-gown, paul wrapped himself in a brown blanket. it was three o'clock.he mended the fire. then the two sat waiting.the great, snoring breath was taken--held awhile--then given back. there was a space--a long space.then they started.
the great, snoring breath was taken again.he bent close down and looked at her. "isn't it awful!" whispered annie. he nodded.they sat down again helplessly. again came the great, snoring breath.again they hung suspended. again it was given back, long and harsh. the sound, so irregular, at such wideintervals, sounded through the house. morel, in his room, slept on.paul and annie sat crouched, huddled, motionless. the great snoring sound began again--therewas a painful pause while the breath was
held--back came the rasping breath.minute after minute passed. paul looked at her again, bending low overher. "she may last like this," he said.they were both silent. he looked out of the window, and couldfaintly discern the snow on the garden. "you go to my bed," he said to annie."i'll sit up." "no," she said, "i'll stop with you." "i'd rather you didn't," he said.at last annie crept out of the room, and he was alone.he hugged himself in his brown blanket, crouched in front of his mother, watching.
she looked dreadful, with the bottom jawfallen back. he watched.sometimes he thought the great breath would never begin again. he could not bear it--the waiting.then suddenly, startling him, came the great harsh sound.he mended the fire again, noiselessly. she must not be disturbed. the minutes went by.the night was going, breath by breath. each time the sound came he felt it wringhim, till at last he could not feel so much.
his father got up.paul heard the miner drawing his stockings on, yawning.then morel, in shirt and stockings, entered. "hush!" said paul.morel stood watching. then he looked at his son, helplessly, andin horror. "had i better stop a-whoam?" he whispered. "no. go to work.she'll last through to-morrow." "i don't think so.""yes. go to work."
the miner looked at her again, in fear, andwent obediently out of the room. paul saw the tape of his garters swingingagainst his legs. after another half-hour paul wentdownstairs and drank a cup of tea, then returned.morel, dressed for the pit, came upstairs again. "am i to go?" he said."yes." and in a few minutes paul heard hisfather's heavy steps go thudding over the deadening snow. miners called in the streets as theytramped in gangs to work.
the terrible, long-drawn breaths continued--heave--heave--heave; then a long pause-- then--ah-h-h-h-h! as it came back. far away over the snow sounded the hootersof the ironworks. one after another they crowed and boomed,some small and far away, some near, the blowers of the collieries and the otherworks. then there was silence. he mended the fire.the great breaths broke the silence--she looked just the same.he put back the blind and peered out. still it was dark.
perhaps there was a lighter tinge.perhaps the snow was bluer. he drew up the blind and got dressed.then, shuddering, he drank brandy from the bottle on the wash-stand. the snow was growing blue.he heard a cart clanking down the street. yes, it was seven o'clock, and it wascoming a little bit light. he heard some people calling. the world was waking.a grey, deathly dawn crept over the snow. yes, he could see the houses.he put out the gas. it seemed very dark.
the breathing came still, but he was almostused to it. he could see her.she was just the same. he wondered if he piled heavy clothes ontop of her it would stop. he looked at her.that was not her--not her a bit. if he piled the blanket and heavy coats onher-- suddenly the door opened, and annieentered. she looked at him questioningly. "just the same," he said calmly.they whispered together a minute, then he went downstairs to get breakfast.it was twenty to eight.
soon annie came down. "isn't it awful!doesn't she look awful!" she whispered, dazed with horror.he nodded. "if she looks like that!" said annie. "drink some tea," he said.they went upstairs again. soon the neighbours came with theirfrightened question: "how is she?" it went on just the same.she lay with her cheek in her hand, her mouth fallen open, and the great, ghastlysnores came and went.
at ten o'clock nurse came. she looked strange and woebegone."nurse," cried paul, "she'll last like this for days?""she can't, mr. morel," said nurse. "she can't." there was a silence."isn't it dreadful!" wailed the nurse. "who would have thought she could stand it?go down now, mr. morel, go down." at last, at about eleven o'clock, he wentdownstairs and sat in the neighbour's house.annie was downstairs also. nurse and arthur were upstairs.
paul sat with his head in his hand.suddenly annie came flying across the yard crying, half mad:"paul--paul--she's gone!" in a second he was back in his own houseand upstairs. she lay curled up and still, with her faceon her hand, and nurse was wiping her mouth. they all stood back.he kneeled down, and put his face to hers and his arms round her:"my love--my love--oh, my love!" he whispered again and again. "my love--oh, my love!"then he heard the nurse behind him, crying,
saying:"she's better, mr. morel, she's better." when he took his face up from his warm,dead mother he went straight downstairs and began blacking his boots.there was a good deal to do, letters to write, and so on. the doctor came and glanced at her, andsighed. "ay--poor thing!" he said, then turnedaway. "well, call at the surgery about six forthe certificate." the father came home from work at aboutfour o'clock. he dragged silently into the house and satdown.
minnie bustled to give him his dinner.tired, he laid his black arms on the table. there were swede turnips for his dinner,which he liked. paul wondered if he knew.it was some time, and nobody had spoken. at last the son said: "you noticed the blinds were down?"morel looked up. "no," he said."why--has she gone?" "when wor that?""about twelve this morning." "h'm!"the miner sat still for a moment, then began his dinner.
it was as if nothing had happened.he ate his turnips in silence. afterwards he washed and went upstairs todress. the door of her room was shut. "have you seen her?"annie asked of him when he came down. "no," he said.in a little while he went out. annie went away, and paul called on theundertaker, the clergyman, the doctor, the registrar.it was a long business. he got back at nearly eight o'clock. the undertaker was coming soon to measurefor the coffin.
the house was empty except for her.he took a candle and went upstairs. the room was cold, that had been warm forso long. flowers, bottles, plates, all sick-roomlitter was taken away; everything was harsh and austere. she lay raised on the bed, the sweep of thesheet from the raised feet was like a clean curve of snow, so silent.she lay like a maiden asleep. with his candle in his hand, he bent overher. she lay like a girl asleep and dreaming ofher love. the mouth was a little open as if wonderingfrom the suffering, but her face was young,
her brow clear and white as if life hadnever touched it. he looked again at the eyebrows, at thesmall, winsome nose a bit on one side. she was young again. only the hair as it arched so beautifullyfrom her temples was mixed with silver, and the two simple plaits that lay on hershoulders were filigree of silver and brown. she would wake up.she would lift her eyelids. she was with him still.he bent and kissed her passionately. but there was coldness against his mouth.
he bit his lips with horror.looking at her, he felt he could never, never let her go.no! he stroked the hair from her temples. that, too, was cold.he saw the mouth so dumb and wondering at the hurt.then he crouched on the floor, whispering to her: "mother, mother!"he was still with her when the undertakers came, young men who had been to school withhim. they touched her reverently, and in aquiet, businesslike fashion.
they did not look at her.he watched jealously. he and annie guarded her fiercely. they would not let anybody come to see her,and the neighbours were offended. after a while paul went out of the house,and played cards at a friend's. it was midnight when he got back. his father rose from the couch as heentered, saying in a plaintive way: "i thought tha wor niver comin', lad.""i didn't think you'd sit up," said paul. his father looked so forlorn. morel had been a man without fear--simplynothing frightened him.
paul realised with a start that he had beenafraid to go to bed, alone in the house with his dead. he was sorry."i forgot you'd be alone, father," he said. "dost want owt to eat?" asked morel."no." "sithee--i made thee a drop o' hot milk. get it down thee; it's cold enough forowt." paul drank it.after a while morel went to bed. he hurried past the closed door, and lefthis own door open. soon the son came upstairs also.he went in to kiss her good-night, as
usual. it was cold and dark.he wished they had kept her fire burning. still she dreamed her young dream.but she would be cold. "my dear!" he whispered. "my dear!"and he did not kiss her, for fear she should be cold and strange to him.it eased him she slept so beautifully. he shut her door softly, not to wake her,and went to bed. in the morning morel summoned his courage,hearing annie downstairs and paul coughing in the room across the landing.
he opened her door, and went into thedarkened room. he saw the white uplifted form in thetwilight, but her he dared not see. bewildered, too frightened to possess anyof his faculties, he got out of the room again and left her.he never looked at her again. he had not seen her for months, because hehad not dared to look. and she looked like his young wife again."have you seen her?" annie asked of him sharply after breakfast. "yes," he said."and don't you think she looks nice?" "yes."he went out of the house soon after.
and all the time he seemed to be creepingaside to avoid it. paul went about from place to place, doingthe business of the death. he met clara in nottingham, and they hadtea together in a cafe, when they were quite jolly again.she was infinitely relieved to find he did not take it tragically. later, when the relatives began to come forthe funeral, the affair became public, and the children became social beings.they put themselves aside. they buried her in a furious storm of rainand wind. the wet clay glistened, all the whiteflowers were soaked.
annie gripped his arm and leaned forward. down below she saw a dark corner ofwilliam's coffin. the oak box sank steadily.she was gone. the rain poured in the grave. the procession of black, with its umbrellasglistening, turned away. the cemetery was deserted under thedrenching cold rain. paul went home and busied himself supplyingthe guests with drinks. his father sat in the kitchen with mrs.morel's relatives, "superior" people, and wept, and said what a good lass she'd been,and how he'd tried to do everything he
could for her--everything. he had striven all his life to do what hecould for her, and he'd nothing to reproach himself with.she was gone, but he'd done his best for her. he wiped his eyes with his whitehandkerchief. he'd nothing to reproach himself for, herepeated. all his life he'd done his best for her. and that was how he tried to dismiss her.he never thought of her personally. everything deep in him he denied.paul hated his father for sitting
sentimentalising over her. he knew he would do it in the public-houses. for the real tragedy went on in morel inspite of himself. sometimes, later, he came down from hisafternoon sleep, white and cowering. "i have been dreaming of thy mother," hesaid in a small voice. "have you, father? when i dream of her it's always just as shewas when she was well. i dream of her often, but it seems quitenice and natural, as if nothing had altered."
but morel crouched in front of the fire interror. the weeks passed half-real, not much pain,not much of anything, perhaps a little relief, mostly a nuit blanche. paul went restless from place to place.for some months, since his mother had been worse, he had not made love to clara.she was, as it were, dumb to him, rather distant. dawes saw her very occasionally, but thetwo could not get an inch across the great distance between them.the three of them were drifting forward. dawes mended very slowly.
he was in the convalescent home at skegnessat christmas, nearly well again. paul went to the seaside for a few days.his father was with annie in sheffield. dawes came to paul's lodgings. his time in the home was up.the two men, between whom was such a big reserve, seemed faithful to each other.dawes depended on morel now. he knew paul and clara had practicallyseparated. two days after christmas paul was to goback to nottingham. the evening before he sat with dawessmoking before the fire. "you know clara's coming down for the dayto-morrow?" he said.
the other man glanced at him. "yes, you told me," he replied.paul drank the remainder of his glass of whisky."i told the landlady your wife was coming," "did you?" said dawes, shrinking, butalmost leaving himself in the other's hands.he got up rather stiffly, and reached for morel's glass. "let me fill you up," he said.paul jumped up. "you sit still," he said.but dawes, with rather shaky hand, continued to mix the drink.
"say when," he said."thanks!" replied the other. "but you've no business to get up.""it does me good, lad," replied dawes. "i begin to think i'm right again, then." "you are about right, you know.""i am, certainly i am," said dawes, nodding to him."and len says he can get you on in sheffield." dawes glanced at him again, with dark eyesthat agreed with everything the other would say, perhaps a trifle dominated by him."it's funny," said paul, "starting again. i feel in a lot bigger mess than you."
"in what way, lad?""i don't know. i don't know. it's as if i was in a tangled sort of hole,rather dark and dreary, and no road anywhere.""i know--i understand it," dawes said, nodding. "but you'll find it'll come all right."he spoke caressingly. "i suppose so," said paul.dawes knocked his pipe in a hopeless fashion. "you've not done for yourself like i have,"he said.
morel saw the wrist and the white hand ofthe other man gripping the stem of the pipe and knocking out the ash, as if he hadgiven up. "how old are you?" paul asked."thirty-nine," replied dawes, glancing at him. those brown eyes, full of the consciousnessof failure, almost pleading for reassurance, for someone to re-establishthe man in himself, to warm him, to set him up firm again, troubled paul. "you'll just be in your prime," said morel."you don't look as if much life had gone
out of you."the brown eyes of the other flashed suddenly. "it hasn't," he said."the go is there." paul looked up and laughed."we've both got plenty of life in us yet to make things fly," he said. the eyes of the two men met.they exchanged one look. having recognised the stress of passioneach in the other, they both drank their whisky. "yes, begod!" said dawes, breathless.there was a pause.
"and i don't see," said paul, "why youshouldn't go on where you left off." "what--" said dawes, suggestively. "yes--fit your old home together again."dawes hid his face and shook his head. "couldn't be done," he said, and looked upwith an ironic smile. "why? because you don't want?""perhaps." they smoked in silence.dawes showed his teeth as he bit his pipe stem. "you mean you don't want her?" asked paul.dawes stared up at the picture with a
caustic expression on his face."i hardly know," he said. the smoke floated softly up. "i believe she wants you," said paul."do you?" replied the other, soft, satirical, abstract."yes. she never really hitched on to me--you werealways there in the background. that's why she wouldn't get a divorce." dawes continued to stare in a satiricalfashion at the picture over the mantelpiece."that's how women are with me," said paul. "they want me like mad, but they don't wantto belong to me.
and she belonged to you all the time.i knew." the triumphant male came up in dawes. he showed his teeth more distinctly."perhaps i was a fool," he said. "you were a big fool," said morel."but perhaps even then you were a bigger fool," said dawes. there was a touch of triumph and malice init. "do you think so?" said paul.they were silent for some time. "at any rate, i'm clearing out to-morrow,"said morel. "i see," answered dawes.then they did not talk any more.
the instinct to murder each other hadreturned. they almost avoided each other.they shared the same bedroom. when they retired dawes seemed abstract,thinking of something. he sat on the side of the bed in his shirt,looking at his legs. "aren't you getting cold?" asked morel. "i was lookin' at these legs," replied theother. "what's up with 'em?they look all right," replied paul, from his bed. "they look all right.but there's some water in 'em yet."
"and what about it?""come and look." paul reluctantly got out of bed and went tolook at the rather handsome legs of the other man that were covered withglistening, dark gold hair. "look here," said dawes, pointing to hisshin. "look at the water under here.""where?" said paul. the man pressed in his finger-tips. they left little dents that filled upslowly. "it's nothing," said paul."you feel," said dawes. paul tried with his fingers.
it made little dents."h'm!" he said. "rotten, isn't it?" said dawes."why? it's nothing much." "you're not much of a man with water inyour legs." "i can't see as it makes any difference,"said morel. "i've got a weak chest." he returned to his own bed."i suppose the rest of me's all right," said dawes, and he put out the light.in the morning it was raining. morel packed his bag.
the sea was grey and shaggy and dismal.he seemed to be cutting himself off from life more and more.it gave him a wicked pleasure to do it. the two men were at the station. clara stepped out of the train, and camealong the platform, very erect and coldly composed.she wore a long coat and a tweed hat. both men hated her for her composure. paul shook hands with her at the barrier.dawes was leaning against the bookstall, watching.his black overcoat was buttoned up to the chin because of the rain.
he was pale, with almost a touch ofnobility in his quietness. he came forward, limping slightly."you ought to look better than this," she said. "oh, i'm all right now."the three stood at a loss. she kept the two men hesitating near her."shall we go to the lodging straight off," said paul, "or somewhere else?" "we may as well go home," said dawes.paul walked on the outside of the pavement, then dawes, then clara.they made polite conversation. the sitting-room faced the sea, whose tide,grey and shaggy, hissed not far off.
morel swung up the big arm-chair."sit down, jack," he said. "i don't want that chair," said dawes. "sit down!"morel repeated. clara took off her things and laid them onthe couch. she had a slight air of resentment. lifting her hair with her fingers, she satdown, rather aloof and composed. paul ran downstairs to speak to thelandlady. "i should think you're cold," said dawes tohis wife. "come nearer to the fire.""thank you, i'm quite warm," she answered.
she looked out of the window at the rainand at the sea. "when are you going back?" she asked."well, the rooms are taken until to-morrow, so he wants me to stop. he's going back to-night.""and then you're thinking of going to sheffield?""yes." "are you fit to start work?" "i'm going to start.""you've really got a place?" "yes--begin on monday.""you don't look fit." "why don't i?"
she looked again out of the window insteadof answering. "and have you got lodgings in sheffield?""yes." again she looked away out of the window. the panes were blurred with streaming rain."and can you manage all right?" she asked. "i s'd think so.i s'll have to!" they were silent when morel returned. "i shall go by the four-twenty," he said ashe entered. nobody answered."i wish you'd take your boots off," he said to clara.
"there's a pair of slippers of mine.""thank you," she said. "they aren't wet."he put the slippers near her feet. she left them there. morel sat down.both the men seemed helpless, and each of them had a rather hunted look. but dawes now carried himself quietly,seemed to yield himself, while paul seemed to screw himself up.clara thought she had never seen him look so small and mean. he was as if trying to get himself into thesmallest possible compass.
and as he went about arranging, and as hesat talking, there seemed something false about him and out of tune. watching him unknown, she said to herselfthere was no stability about him. he was fine in his way, passionate, andable to give her drinks of pure life when he was in one mood. and now he looked paltry and insignificant.there was nothing stable about him. her husband had more manly dignity.at any rate he did not waft about with any wind. there was something evanescent about morel,she thought, something shifting and false.
he would never make sure ground for anywoman to stand on. she despised him rather for his shrinkingtogether, getting smaller. her husband at least was manly, and when hewas beaten gave in. but this other would never own to beingbeaten. he would shift round and round, prowl, getsmaller. she despised him. and yet she watched him rather than dawes,and it seemed as if their three fates lay in his hands.she hated him for it. she seemed to understand better now aboutmen, and what they could or would do.
she was less afraid of them, more sure ofherself. that they were not the small egoists shehad imagined them made her more comfortable.she had learned a good deal--almost as much as she wanted to learn. her cup had been full.it was still as full as she could carry. on the whole, she would not be sorry whenhe was gone. they had dinner, and sat eating nuts anddrinking by the fire. not a serious word had been spoken. yet clara realised that morel waswithdrawing from the circle, leaving her
the option to stay with her husband.it angered her. he was a mean fellow, after all, to takewhat he wanted and then give her back. she did not remember that she herself hadhad what she wanted, and really, at the bottom of her heart, wished to be givenback. paul felt crumpled up and lonely. his mother had really supported his life.he had loved her; they two had, in fact, faced the world together. now she was gone, and for ever behind himwas the gap in life, the tear in the veil, through which his life seemed to driftslowly, as if he were drawn towards death.
he wanted someone of their own freeinitiative to help him. the lesser things he began to let go fromhim, for fear of this big thing, the lapse towards death, following in the wake of hisbeloved. clara could not stand for him to hold onto. she wanted him, but not to understand him.he felt she wanted the man on top, not the real him that was in trouble. that would be too much trouble to her; hedared not give it her. she could not cope with him.it made him ashamed. so, secretly ashamed because he was in sucha mess, because his own hold on life was so
unsure, because nobody held him, feelingunsubstantial, shadowy, as if he did not count for much in this concrete world, hedrew himself together smaller and smaller. he did not want to die; he would not givein. but he was not afraid of death. if nobody would help, he would go on alone.dawes had been driven to the extremity of life, until he was afraid.he could go to the brink of death, he could lie on the edge and look in. then, cowed, afraid, he had to crawl back,and like a beggar take what offered. there was a certain nobility in it.as clara saw, he owned himself beaten, and
he wanted to be taken back whether or not. that she could do for him.it was three o'clock. "i am going by the four-twenty," said paulagain to clara. "are you coming then or later?" "i don't know," she said."i'm meeting my father in nottingham at seven-fifteen," he said."then," she answered, "i'll come later." dawes jerked suddenly, as if he had beenheld on a strain. he looked out over the sea, but he sawnothing. "there are one or two books in the corner,"said morel.
"i've done with 'em."at about four o'clock he went. "i shall see you both later," he said, ashe shook hands. "i suppose so," said dawes."an' perhaps--one day--i s'll be able to pay you back the money as--" "i shall come for it, you'll see," laughedpaul. "i s'll be on the rocks before i'm verymuch older." "ay--well--" said dawes. "good-bye," he said to clara."good-bye," she said, giving him her hand. then she glanced at him for the last time,dumb and humble.
he was gone. dawes and his wife sat down again."it's a nasty day for travelling," said the man."yes," she answered. they talked in a desultory fashion until itgrew dark. the landlady brought in the tea.dawes drew up his chair to the table without being invited, like a husband. then he sat humbly waiting for his cup.she served him as she would, like a wife, not consulting his wish.after tea, as it drew near to six o'clock, he went to the window.
all was dark outside.the sea was roaring. "it's raining yet," he said."is it?" she answered. "you won't go to-night, shall you?" hesaid, hesitating. she did not answer.he waited. "i shouldn't go in this rain," he said. "do you want me to stay?" she asked.his hand as he held the dark curtain trembled."yes," he said. he remained with his back to her. she rose and went slowly to him.he let go the curtain, turned, hesitating,
towards her. she stood with her hands behind her back,looking up at him in a heavy, inscrutable fashion."do you want me, baxter?" she asked. his voice was hoarse as he answered: "do you want to come back to me?"she made a moaning noise, lifted her arms, and put them round his neck, drawing him toher. he hid his face on her shoulder, holdingher clasped. "take me back!" she whispered, ecstatic."take me back, take me back!" and she put her fingers through his fine,thin dark hair, as if she were only semi-
conscious.he tightened his grasp on her. "do you want me again?" he murmured,broken. chapter xvderelict clara went with her husband to sheffield,and paul scarcely saw her again. walter morel seemed to have let all thetrouble go over him, and there he was, crawling about on the mud of it, just thesame. there was scarcely any bond between fatherand son, save that each felt he must not let the other go in any actual want. as there was no one to keep on the home,and as they could neither of them bear the
emptiness of the house, paul took lodgingsin nottingham, and morel went to live with a friendly family in bestwood. everything seemed to have gone smash forthe young man. he could not paint. the picture he finished on the day of hismother's death--one that satisfied him--was the last thing he did.at work there was no clara. when he came home he could not take up hisbrushes again. there was nothing left. so he was always in the town at one placeor another, drinking, knocking about with
the men he knew.it really wearied him. he talked to barmaids, to almost any woman,but there was that dark, strained look in his eyes, as if he were hunting something.everything seemed so different, so unreal. there seemed no reason why people should goalong the street, and houses pile up in the daylight. there seemed no reason why these thingsshould occupy the space, instead of leaving it empty.his friends talked to him: he heard the sounds, and he answered. but why there should be the noise of speechhe could not understand.
he was most himself when he was alone, orworking hard and mechanically at the factory. in the latter case there was pureforgetfulness, when he lapsed from consciousness.but it had to come to an end. it hurt him so, that things had lost theirreality. the first snowdrops came.he saw the tiny drop-pearls among the grey. they would have given him the liveliestemotion at one time. now they were there, but they did not seemto mean anything. in a few moments they would cease to occupythat place, and just the space would be,
where they had been.tall, brilliant tram-cars ran along the street at night. it seemed almost a wonder they shouldtrouble to rustle backwards and forwards. "why trouble to go tilting down to trentbridges?" he asked of the big trams. it seemed they just as well might not be asbe. the realest thing was the thick darkness atnight. that seemed to him whole and comprehensibleand restful. he could leave himself to it.suddenly a piece of paper started near his feet and blew along down the pavement.
he stood still, rigid, with clenched fists,a flame of agony going over him. and he saw again the sick-room, his mother,her eyes. unconsciously he had been with her, in hercompany. the swift hop of the paper reminded him shewas gone. but he had been with her. he wanted everything to stand still, sothat he could be with her again. the days passed, the weeks.but everything seemed to have fused, gone into a conglomerated mass. he could not tell one day from another, oneweek from another, hardly one place from
another.nothing was distinct or distinguishable. often he lost himself for an hour at atime, could not remember what he had done. one evening he came home late to hislodging. the fire was burning low; everybody was inbed. he threw on some more coal, glanced at thetable, and decided he wanted no supper. then he sat down in the arm-chair. it was perfectly still.he did not know anything, yet he saw the dim smoke wavering up the chimney.presently two mice came out, cautiously, nibbling the fallen crumbs.
he watched them as it were from a long wayoff. the church clock struck two.far away he could hear the sharp clinking of the trucks on the railway. no, it was not they that were far away.they were there in their places. but where was he himself?the time passed. the two mice, careering wildly, scamperedcheekily over his slippers. he had not moved a muscle.he did not want to move. he was not thinking of anything. it was easier so.there was no wrench of knowing anything.
then, from time to time, some otherconsciousness, working mechanically, flashed into sharp phrases. "what am i doing?"and out of the semi-intoxicated trance came the answer:"destroying myself." then a dull, live feeling, gone in aninstant, told him that it was wrong. after a while, suddenly came the question:"why wrong?" again there was no answer, but a stroke ofhot stubbornness inside his chest resisted his own annihilation.there was a sound of a heavy cart clanking down the road.
suddenly the electric light went out; therewas a bruising thud in the penny-in-the- slot meter.he did not stir, but sat gazing in front of only the mice had scuttled, and the fireglowed red in the dark room. then, quite mechanically and moredistinctly, the conversation began again inside him. "she's dead.what was it all for--her struggle?" that was his despair wanting to go afterher. "you're alive." "she's not.""she is--in you."
suddenly he felt tired with the burden ofit. "you've got to keep alive for her sake,"said his will in him. something felt sulky, as if it would notrouse. "you've got to carry forward her living,and what she had done, go on with it." but he did not want to.he wanted to give up. "but you can go on with your painting,"said the will in him. "or else you can beget children.they both carry on her effort." "painting is not living." "then live.""marry whom?" came the sulky question.
"as best you can.""miriam?" but he did not trust that. he rose suddenly, went straight to bed.when he got inside his bedroom and closed the door, he stood with clenched fist."mater, my dear--" he began, with the whole force of his soul. then he stopped.he would not say it. he would not admit that he wanted to die,to have done. he would not own that life had beaten him,or that death had beaten him. going straight to bed, he slept at once,abandoning himself to the sleep.
so the weeks went on. always alone, his soul oscillated, first onthe side of death, then on the side of life, doggedly. the real agony was that he had nowhere togo, nothing to do, nothing to say, and was nothing himself. sometimes he ran down the streets as if hewere mad: sometimes he was mad; things weren't there, things were there.it made him pant. sometimes he stood before the bar of thepublic-house where he called for a drink. everything suddenly stood back away fromhim.
he saw the face of the barmaid, thegobbling drinkers, his own glass on the slopped, mahogany board, in the distance.there was something between him and them. he could not get into touch. he did not want them; he did not want hisdrink. turning abruptly, he went out.on the threshold he stood and looked at the lighted street. but he was not of it or in it.something separated him. everything went on there below those lamps,shut away from him. he could not get at them.
he felt he couldn't touch the lamp-posts,not if he reached. where could he go?there was nowhere to go, neither back into the inn, or forward anywhere. he felt stifled.there was nowhere for him. the stress grew inside him; he felt heshould smash. "i mustn't," he said; and, turning blindly,he went in and drank. sometimes the drink did him good; sometimesit made him worse. he ran down the road. for ever restless, he went here, there,everywhere.
he determined to work. but when he had made six strokes, heloathed the pencil violently, got up, and went away, hurried off to a club where hecould play cards or billiards, to a place where he could flirt with a barmaid who was no more to him than the brass pump-handleshe drew. he was very thin and lantern-jawed.he dared not meet his own eyes in the mirror; he never looked at himself. he wanted to get away from himself, butthere was nothing to get hold of. in despair he thought of miriam.perhaps--perhaps--?
then, happening to go into the unitarianchurch one sunday evening, when they stood up to sing the second hymn he saw herbefore him. the light glistened on her lower lip as shesang. she looked as if she had got something, atany rate: some hope in heaven, if not in earth. her comfort and her life seemed in theafter-world. a warm, strong feeling for her came up.she seemed to yearn, as she sang, for the mystery and comfort. he put his hope in her.he longed for the sermon to be over, to
speak to her.the throng carried her out just before him. he could nearly touch her. she did not know he was there.he saw the brown, humble nape of her neck under its black curls.he would leave himself to her. she was better and bigger than he. he would depend on her.she went wandering, in her blind way, through the little throngs of peopleoutside the church. she always looked so lost and out of placeamong people. he went forward and put his hand on herarm.
she started violently. her great brown eyes dilated in fear, thenwent questioning at the sight of him. he shrank slightly from her."i didn't know--" she faltered. "nor i," he said. he looked away.his sudden, flaring hope sank again. "what are you doing in town?" he asked."i'm staying at cousin anne's." "ha! for long?" "no; only till to-morrow.""must you go straight home?" she looked at him, then hid her face underher hat-brim.
"no," she said--"no; it's not necessary." he turned away, and she went with him.they threaded through the throng of church people.the organ was still sounding in st. mary's. dark figures came through the lighteddoors; people were coming down the steps. the large coloured windows glowed up in thenight. the church was like a great lanternsuspended. they went down hollow stone, and he tookthe car for the bridges. "you will just have supper with me," hesaid: "then i'll bring you back." "very well," she replied, low and husky.they scarcely spoke while they were on the
car. the trent ran dark and full under thebridge. away towards colwick all was black night. he lived down holme road, on the naked edgeof the town, facing across the river meadows towards sneinton hermitage and thesteep scrap of colwick wood. the floods were out. the silent water and the darkness spreadaway on their left. almost afraid, they hurried along by thehouses. supper was laid.
he swung the curtain over the window.there was a bowl of freesias and scarlet anemones on the table.she bent to them. still touching them with her finger-tips,she looked up at him, saying: "aren't they beautiful?""yes," he said. "what will you drink--coffee?" "i should like it," she said."then excuse me a moment." he went out to the kitchen.miriam took off her things and looked round. it was a bare, severe room.her photo, clara's, annie's, were on the
wall.she looked on the drawing-board to see what there were only a few meaningless lines.she looked to see what books he was reading.evidently just an ordinary novel. the letters in the rack she saw were fromannie, arthur, and from some man or other she did not know. everything he had touched, everything thatwas in the least personal to him, she examined with lingering absorption. he had been gone from her for so long, shewanted to rediscover him, his position, what he was now.but there was not much in the room to help
it only made her feel rather sad, it was sohard and comfortless. she was curiously examining a sketch-bookwhen he returned with the coffee. "there's nothing new in it," he said, "andnothing very interesting." he put down the tray, and went to look overher shoulder. she turned the pages slowly, intent onexamining everything. "h'm!" he said, as she paused at a sketch."i'd forgotten that. it's not bad, is it?" "no," she said."i don't quite understand it." he took the book from her and went throughit.
again he made a curious sound of surpriseand pleasure. "there's some not bad stuff in there," hesaid. "not at all bad," she answered gravely. he felt again her interest in his work.or was it for himself? why was she always most interested in himas he appeared in his work? they sat down to supper. "by the way," he said, "didn't i hearsomething about your earning your own living?""yes," she replied, bowing her dark head over her cup.
"and what of it?""i'm merely going to the farming college at broughton for three months, and i shallprobably be kept on as a teacher there." "i say--that sounds all right for you! you always wanted to be independent.""yes. "why didn't you tell me?""i only knew last week." "but i heard a month ago," he said. "yes; but nothing was settled then.""i should have thought," he said, "you'd have told me you were trying." she ate her food in the deliberate,constrained way, almost as if she recoiled
a little from doing anything so publicly,that he knew so well. "i suppose you're glad," he said. "very glad.""yes--it will be something." he was rather disappointed."i think it will be a great deal," she said, almost haughtily, resentfully. he laughed shortly."why do you think it won't?" she asked. "oh, i don't think it won't be a greatdeal. only you'll find earning your own livingisn't everything." "no," she said, swallowing with difficulty;"i don't suppose it is."
"i suppose work can be nearly everything toa man," he said, "though it isn't to me. but a woman only works with a part ofherself. the real and vital part is covered up." "but a man can give all himself to work?"she asked. "yes, practically.""and a woman only the unimportant part of herself?" "that's it."she looked up at him, and her eyes dilated with anger."then," she said, "if it's true, it's a great shame."
"it is.but i don't know everything," he answered. after supper they drew up to the fire.he swung her a chair facing him, and they sat down. she was wearing a dress of dark claretcolour, that suited her dark complexion and her large features. still, the curls were fine and free, buther face was much older, the brown throat much thinner.she seemed old to him, older than clara. her bloom of youth had quickly gone. a sort of stiffness, almost of woodenness,had come upon her.
she meditated a little while, then lookedat him. "and how are things with you?" she asked. "about all right," he answered.she looked at him, waiting. "nay," she said, very low.her brown, nervous hands were clasped over her knee. they had still the lack of confidence orrepose, the almost hysterical look. he winced as he saw them.then he laughed mirthlessly. she put her fingers between her lips. his slim, black, tortured body lay quitestill in the chair.
she suddenly took her finger from her mouthand looked at him. "and you have broken off with clara?" "yes."his body lay like an abandoned thing, strewn in the chair."you know," she said, "i think we ought to be married." he opened his eyes for the first time sincemany months, and attended to her with respect."why?" he said. "see," she said, "how you waste yourself! you might be ill, you might die, and inever know--be no more then than if i had
never known you.""and if we married?" he asked. "at any rate, i could prevent you wastingyourself and being a prey to other women-- like--like clara.""a prey?" he repeated, smiling. she bowed her head in silence. he lay feeling his despair come up again."i'm not sure," he said slowly, "that marriage would be much good.""i only think of you," she replied. "i know you do. but--you love me so much, you want to putme in your pocket. and i should die there smothered."
she bent her head, put her fingers betweenher lips, while the bitterness surged up in her heart."and what will you do otherwise?" she asked. "i don't know--go on, i suppose.perhaps i shall soon go abroad." the despairing doggedness in his tone madeher go on her knees on the rug before the fire, very near to him. there she crouched as if she were crushedby something, and could not raise her head. his hands lay quite inert on the arms ofhis chair. she was aware of them.
she felt that now he lay at her mercy.if she could rise, take him, put her arms round him, and say, "you are mine," then hewould leave himself to her. but dare she? she could easily sacrifice herself.but dare she assert herself? she was aware of his dark-clothed, slenderbody, that seemed one stroke of life, sprawled in the chair close to her. but no; she dared not put her arms roundit, take it up, and say, "it is mine, this body.leave it to me." and she wanted to.
it called to all her woman's instinct.but she crouched, and dared not. she was afraid he would not let her.she was afraid it was too much. it lay there, his body, abandoned. she knew she ought to take it up and claimit, and claim every right to it. but--could she do it? her impotence before him, before the strongdemand of some unknown thing in him, was her extremity.her hands fluttered; she half-lifted her head. her eyes, shuddering, appealing, gone,almost distracted, pleaded to him suddenly.
his heart caught with pity.he took her hands, drew her to him, and comforted her. "will you have me, to marry me?" he saidvery low. oh, why did not he take her?her very soul belonged to him. why would he not take what was his? she had borne so long the cruelty ofbelonging to him and not being claimed by him.now he was straining her again. it was too much for her. she drew back her head, held his facebetween her hands, and looked him in the
eyes.no, he was hard. he wanted something else. she pleaded to him with all her love not tomake it her choice. she could not cope with it, with him, sheknew not with what. but it strained her till she felt she wouldbreak. "do you want it?" she asked, very gravely."not much," he replied, with pain. she turned her face aside; then, raisingherself with dignity, she took his head to her bosom, and rocked him softly.she was not to have him, then! so she could comfort him.
she put her fingers through his hair.for her, the anguished sweetness of self- sacrifice.for him, the hate and misery of another failure. he could not bear it--that breast which waswarm and which cradled him without taking the burden of him.so much he wanted to rest on her that the feint of rest only tortured him. he drew away."and without marriage we can do nothing?" he asked.his mouth was lifted from his teeth with pain.
she put her little finger between her lips."no," she said, low and like the toll of a bell."no, i think not." it was the end then between them. she could not take him and relieve him ofthe responsibility of himself. she could only sacrifice herself to him--sacrifice herself every day, gladly. and that he did not want. he wanted her to hold him and say, with joyand authority: "stop all this restlessness and beating against death.you are mine for a mate." she had not the strength.
or was it a mate she wanted? or did shewant a christ in him? he felt, in leaving her, he was defraudingher of life. but he knew that, in staying, stilling theinner, desperate man, he was denying his own life.and he did not hope to give life to her by denying his own. she sat very quiet.he lit a cigarette. the smoke went up from it, wavering.he was thinking of his mother, and had forgotten miriam. she suddenly looked at him.her bitterness came surging up.
her sacrifice, then, was useless.he lay there aloof, careless about her. suddenly she saw again his lack ofreligion, his restless instability. he would destroy himself like a perversechild. well, then, he would! "i think i must go," she said softly.by her tone he knew she was despising him. he rose quietly."i'll come along with you," he answered. she stood before the mirror pinning on herhat. how bitter, how unutterably bitter, it madeher that he rejected her sacrifice! life ahead looked dead, as if the glow weregone out.
she bowed her face over the flowers--thefreesias so sweet and spring-like, the scarlet anemones flaunting over the table. it was like him to have those flowers.he moved about the room with a certain sureness of touch, swift and relentless andquiet. she knew she could not cope with him. he would escape like a weasel out of herhands. yet without him her life would trail onlifeless. brooding, she touched the flowers. "have them!" he said; and he took them outof the jar, dripping as they were, and went
quickly into the kitchen. she waited for him, took the flowers, andthey went out together, he talking, she feeling dead.she was going from him now. in her misery she leaned against him asthey sat on the car. he was unresponsive.where would he go? what would be the end of him? she could not bear it, the vacant feelingwhere he should be. he was so foolish, so wasteful, never atpeace with himself. and now where would he go?
and what did he care that he wasted her?he had no religion; it was all for the moment's attraction that he cared, nothingelse, nothing deeper. well, she would wait and see how it turnedout with him. when he had had enough he would give in andcome to her. he shook hands and left her at the door ofher cousin's house. when he turned away he felt the last holdfor him had gone. the town, as he sat upon the car, stretchedaway over the bay of railway, a level fume of lights. beyond the town the country, littlesmouldering spots for more towns--the sea--
the night--on and on!and he had no place in it! whatever spot he stood on, there he stoodalone. from his breast, from his mouth, sprang theendless space, and it was there behind him, everywhere. the people hurrying along the streetsoffered no obstruction to the void in which he found himself. they were small shadows whose footsteps andvoices could be heard, but in each of them the same night, the same silence.he got off the car. in the country all was dead still.
little stars shone high up; little starsspread far away in the flood-waters, a firmament below. everywhere the vastness and terror of theimmense night which is roused and stirred for a brief while by the day, but whichreturns, and will remain at last eternal, holding everything in its silence and itsliving gloom. there was no time, only space.who could say his mother had lived and did not live? she had been in one place, and was inanother; that was all. and his soul could not leave her, wherevershe was.
now she was gone abroad into the night, andhe was with her still. they were together. but yet there was his body, his chest, thatleaned against the stile, his hands on the wooden bar.they seemed something. where was he?--one tiny upright speck offlesh, less than an ear of wheat lost in the field.he could not bear it. on every side the immense dark silenceseemed pressing him, so tiny a spark, into extinction, and yet, almost nothing, hecould not be extinct. night, in which everything was lost, wentreaching out, beyond stars and sun.
stars and sun, a few bright grains, wentspinning round for terror, and holding each other in embrace, there in a darkness thatoutpassed them all, and left them tiny and daunted. so much, and himself, infinitesimal, at thecore a nothingness, and yet not nothing. "mother!" he whispered--"mother!"she was the only thing that held him up, himself, amid all this. and she was gone, intermingled herself.he wanted her to touch him, have him alongside with her.but no, he would not give in. turning sharply, he walked towards thecity's gold phosphorescence.
his fists were shut, his mouth set fast.he would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. he walked towards the faintly humming,glowing town, quickly. the end