Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
SONS AND LOVERS.
BY D. H. LAWRENCE.
THE EARLY MARRIED LIFE OF THE MORELS.
"THE BOTTOMS" succeeded to "Hell Row". Hell Row was a block of thatched,
bulging cottages that stood by the brookside on Greenhill Lane. There
lived the colliers who worked in the little gin-pits two fields away.
The brook ran under the alder trees, scarcely soiled by these small
mines, whose coal was drawn to the surface by donkeys that plodded
wearily in a circle round a gin. And all over the countryside were these
same pits, some of which had been worked in the time of Charles II, the
few colliers and the donkeys burrowing down like ants into the earth,
making queer mounds and little black places among the corn-fields and
the meadows. And the cottages of these coal-miners, in blocks and pairs
here and there, together with odd farms and homes of the stockingers,
straying over the parish, formed the village of Bestwood.
Then, some sixty years ago, a sudden change took place, gin-pits were
elbowed aside by the large mines of the financiers. The coal and iron
field of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire was discovered. Carston, Waite
and Co. appeared. Amid tremendous excitement, Lord Palmerston formally
opened the company's first mine at Spinney Park, on the edge of Sherwood
About this time the notorious Hell Row, which through growing old had
acquired an evil reputation, was burned down, and much dirt was cleansed
Carston, Waite & Co. found they had struck on a good thing, so, down the
valleys of the brooks from Selby and Nuttall, new mines were sunk, until
soon there were six pits working. From Nuttall, high up on the sandstone
among the woods, the railway ran, past the ruined priory of the
Carthusians and past Robin Hood's Well, down to Spinney Park, then on to
Minton, a large mine among corn-fields; from Minton across the farmlands
of the valleyside to Bunker's Hill, branching off there, and running
north to Beggarlee and Selby, that looks over at Crich and the hills of
Derbyshire: six mines like black studs on the countryside, linked by a
loop of fine chain, the railway.
To accommodate the regiments of miners, Carston, Waite and Co. built the
Squares, great quadrangles of dwellings on the hillside of Bestwood,
and then, in the brook valley, on the site of Hell Row, they erected the
The Bottoms consisted of six blocks of miners' dwellings, two rows
of three, like the dots on a blank-six domino, and twelve houses in a
block. This double row of dwellings sat at the foot of the rather sharp
slope from Bestwood, and looked out, from the attic windows at least, on
the slow climb of the valley towards Selby.
The houses themselves were substantial and very decent. One could walk
all round, seeing little front gardens with auriculas and saxifrage in
the shadow of the bottom block, sweet-williams and pinks in the sunny
top block; seeing neat front windows, little porches, little privet
hedges, and dormer windows for the attics. But that was outside; that
was the view on to the uninhabited parlours of all the colliers' wives.
The dwelling-room, the kitchen, was at the back of the house, facing
inward between the blocks, looking at a scrubby back garden, and then at
the ash-pits. And between the rows, between the long lines of ash-pits,
went the alley, where the children played and the women gossiped and the
men smoked. So, the actual conditions of living in the Bottoms, that
was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because
people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that
nasty alley of ash-pits.
Mrs. Morel was not anxious to move into the Bottoms, which was already
twelve years old and on the downward path, when she descended to it from
Bestwood. But it was the best she could do. Moreover, she had an end
house in one of the top blocks, and thus had only one neighbour; on
the other side an extra strip of garden. And, having an end house, she
enjoyed a kind of aristocracy among the other women of the "between"
houses, because her rent was five shillings and sixpence instead of
five shillings a week. But this superiority in station was not much
consolation to Mrs. Morel.
She was thirty-one years old, and had been married eight years. A rather
small woman, of delicate mould but resolute bearing, she shrank a little
from the first contact with the Bottoms women. She came down in the
July, and in the September expected her third baby.
Her husband was a miner. They had only been in their new home three
weeks when the wakes, or fair, began. Morel, she knew, was sure to make
a holiday of it. He went off early on the Monday morning, the day of
the fair. The two children were highly excited. William, a boy of seven,
fled off immediately after breakfast, to prowl round the wakes ground,
leaving Annie, who was only five, to whine all morning to go also. Mrs.
Morel did her work. She scarcely knew her neighbours yet, and knew no
one with whom to trust the little girl. So she promised to take her to
the wakes after dinner.
William appeared at half-past twelve. He was a very active lad,
fair-haired, freckled, with a touch of the Dane or Norwegian about him.
"Can I have my dinner, mother?" he cried, rushing in with his cap on.
"'Cause it begins at half-past one, the man says so."
"You can have your dinner as soon as it's done," replied the mother.
"Isn't it done?" he cried, his blue eyes staring at her in indignation.
"Then I'm goin' be-out it."
"You'll do nothing of the sort. It will be done in five minutes. It is
only half-past twelve."
"They'll be beginnin'," the boy half cried, half shouted.
"You won't die if they do," said the mother. "Besides, it's only
half-past twelve, so you've a full hour."
The lad began hastily to lay the table, and directly the three sat down.
They were eating batter-pudding and jam, when the boy jumped off his
chair and stood perfectly stiff. Some distance away could be heard the
first small braying of a merry-go-round, and the tooting of a horn. His
face quivered as he looked at his mother.
"I told you!" he said, running to the dresser for his cap.
"Take your pudding in your hand--and it's only five past one, so you
were wrong--you haven't got your twopence," cried the mother in a
The boy came back, bitterly disappointed, for his twopence, then went
off without a word.
"I want to go, I want to go," said Annie, beginning to cry.
"Well, and you shall go, whining, wizzening little stick!" said the
mother. And later in the afternoon she trudged up the hill under the
tall hedge with her child. The hay was gathered from the fields, and
cattle were turned on to the eddish. It was warm, peaceful.
Mrs. Morel did not like the wakes. There were two sets of horses, one
going by steam, one pulled round by a pony; three organs were grinding,
and there came odd cracks of pistol-shots, fearful screeching of the
cocoanut man's rattle, shouts of the Aunt Sally man, screeches from the
peep-show lady. The mother perceived her son gazing enraptured outside
the Lion Wallace booth, at the pictures of this famous lion that had
killed a negro and maimed for life two white men. She left him alone,
and went to get Annie a spin of toffee. Presently the lad stood in front
of her, wildly excited.
"You never said you was coming--isn't the' a lot of things?--that lion's
killed three men--I've spent my tuppence--an' look here."
He pulled from his pocket two egg-cups, with pink moss-roses on them.
"I got these from that stall where y'ave ter get them marbles in
them holes. An' I got these two in two goes-'aepenny a go-they've got
moss-roses on, look here. I wanted these."
She knew he wanted them for her.
"H'm!" she said, pleased. "They ARE pretty!"
"Shall you carry 'em, 'cause I'm frightened o' breakin' 'em?"
He was tipful of excitement now she had come, led her about the ground,
showed her everything. Then, at the peep-show, she explained the
pictures, in a sort of story, to which he listened as if spellbound. He
would not leave her. All the time he stuck close to her, bristling with
a small boy's pride of her. For no other woman looked such a lady as she
did, in her little black bonnet and her cloak. She smiled when she saw
women she knew. When she was tired she said to her son:
"Well, are you coming now, or later?"
"Are you goin' a'ready?" he cried, his face full of reproach.
"Already? It is past four, I know."
"What are you goin' a'ready for?" he lamented.
"You needn't come if you don't want," she said.
And she went slowly away with her little girl, whilst her son stood
watching her, cut to the heart to let her go, and yet unable to leave
the wakes. As she crossed the open ground in front of the Moon and Stars
she heard men shouting, and smelled the beer, and hurried a little,
thinking her husband was probably in the bar.
At about half-past six her son came home, tired now, rather pale, and
somewhat wretched. He was miserable, though he did not know it, because
he had let her go alone. Since she had gone, he had not enjoyed his
"Has my dad been?" he asked.
"No," said the mother.
"He's helping to wait at the Moon and Stars. I seed him through that
black tin stuff wi' holes in, on the window, wi' his sleeves rolled up."
"Ha!" exclaimed the mother shortly. "He's got no money. An' he'll be
satisfied if he gets his 'lowance, whether they give him more or not."
When the light was fading, and Mrs. Morel could see no more to sew, she
rose and went to the door. Everywhere was the sound of excitement, the
restlessness of the holiday, that at last infected her. She went
out into the side garden. Women were coming home from the wakes, the
children hugging a white lamb with green legs, or a wooden horse.
Occasionally a man lurched past, almost as full as he could carry.
Sometimes a good husband came along with his family, peacefully. But
usually the women and children were alone. The stay-at-home mothers
stood gossiping at the corners of the alley, as the twilight sank,
folding their arms under their white aprons.
Mrs. Morel was alone, but she was used to it. Her son and her little
girl slept upstairs; so, it seemed, her home was there behind her,
fixed and stable. But she felt wretched with the coming child. The world
seemed a dreary place, where nothing else would happen for her--at
least until William grew up. But for herself, nothing but this dreary
endurance--till the children grew up. And the children! She could not
afford to have this third. She did not want it. The father was serving
beer in a public house, swilling himself drunk. She despised him, and
was tied to him. This coming child was too much for her. If it were not
for William and Annie, she was sick of it, the struggle with poverty and
ugliness and meanness.
She went into the front garden, feeling too heavy to take herself out,
yet unable to stay indoors. The heat suffocated her. And looking ahead,
the prospect of her life made her feel as if she were buried alive.
The front garden was a small square with a privet hedge. There she
stood, trying to soothe herself with the scent of flowers and the
fading, beautiful evening. Opposite her small gate was the stile that
led uphill, under the tall hedge between the burning glow of the cut
pastures. The sky overhead throbbed and pulsed with light. The glow sank
quickly off the field; the earth and the hedges smoked dusk. As it grew
dark, a ruddy glare came out on the hilltop, and out of the glare the
diminished commotion of the fair.
Sometimes, down the trough of darkness formed by the path under the
hedges, men came lurching home. One young man lapsed into a run down
the steep bit that ended the hill, and went with a crash into the stile.
Mrs. Morel shuddered. He picked himself up, swearing viciously, rather
pathetically, as if he thought the stile had wanted to hurt him.
She went indoors, wondering if things were never going to alter. She was
beginning by now to realise that they would not. She seemed so far
away from her girlhood, she wondered if it were the same person walking
heavily up the back garden at the Bottoms as had run so lightly up the
breakwater at Sheerness ten years before.
"What have I to do with it?" she said to herself. "What have I to do
with all this? Even the child I am going to have! It doesn't seem as if
I were taken into account."
Sometimes life takes hold of one, carries the body along, accomplishes
one's history, and yet is not real, but leaves oneself as it were
"I wait," Mrs. Morel said to herself--"I wait, and what I wait for can
Then she straightened the kitchen, lit the lamp, mended the fire, looked
out the washing for the next day, and put it to soak. After which
she sat down to her sewing. Through the long hours her needle flashed
regularly through the stuff. Occasionally she sighed, moving to relieve
herself. And all the time she was thinking how to make the most of what
she had, for the children's sakes.
At half-past eleven her husband came. His cheeks were very red and
very shiny above his black moustache. His head nodded slightly. He was
pleased with himself.
"Oh! Oh! waitin' for me, lass? I've bin 'elpin' Anthony, an' what's
think he's gen me? Nowt b'r a lousy hae'f-crown, an' that's ivry
"He thinks you've made the rest up in beer," she said shortly.
"An' I 'aven't--that I 'aven't. You b'lieve me, I've 'ad very little
this day, I have an' all." His voice went tender. "Here, an' I browt
thee a bit o' brandysnap, an' a cocoanut for th' children." He laid the
gingerbread and the cocoanut, a hairy object, on the table. "Nay, tha
niver said thankyer for nowt i' thy life, did ter?"
As a compromise, she picked up the cocoanut and shook it, to see if it
had any milk.
"It's a good 'un, you may back yer life o' that. I got it fra' Bill
Hodgkisson. 'Bill,' I says, 'tha non wants them three nuts, does ter?
Arena ter for gi'ein' me one for my bit of a lad an' wench?' 'I ham,
Walter, my lad,' 'e says; 'ta'e which on 'em ter's a mind.' An' so I
took one, an' thanked 'im. I didn't like ter shake it afore 'is eyes,
but 'e says, 'Tha'd better ma'e sure it's a good un, Walt.' An' so, yer
see, I knowed it was. He's a nice chap, is Bill Hodgkisson, e's a nice
"A man will part with anything so long as he's drunk, and you're drunk
along with him," said Mrs. Morel.
"Eh, tha mucky little 'ussy, who's drunk, I sh'd like ter know?" said
Morel. He was extraordinarily pleased with himself, because of his day's
helping to wait in the Moon and Stars. He chattered on.
Mrs. Morel, very tired, and sick of his babble, went to bed as quickly
as possible, while he raked the fire.
Mrs. Morel came of a good old burgher family, famous independents
who had fought with Colonel Hutchinson, and who remained stout
Congregationalists. Her grandfather had gone bankrupt in the lace-market
at a time when so many lace-manufacturers were ruined in Nottingham. Her
father, George Coppard, was an engineer--a large, handsome, haughty
man, proud of his fair skin and blue eyes, but more proud still of his
integrity. Gertrude resembled her mother in her small build. But her
temper, proud and unyielding, she had from the Coppards.
George Coppard was bitterly galled by his own poverty. He became foreman
of the engineers in the dockyard at Sheerness. Mrs. Morel--Gertrude--was
the second daughter. She favoured her mother, loved her mother best of
all; but she had the Coppards' clear, defiant blue eyes and their broad
brow. She remembered to have hated her father's overbearing manner
towards her gentle, humorous, kindly-souled mother. She remembered
running over the breakwater at Sheerness and finding the boat. She
remembered to have been petted and flattered by all the men when she had
gone to the dockyard, for she was a delicate, rather proud child. She
remembered the funny old mistress, whose assistant she had become, whom
she had loved to help in the private school. And she still had the Bible
that John Field had given her. She used to walk home from chapel
with John Field when she was nineteen. He was the son of a well-to-do
tradesman, had been to college in London, and was to devote himself to
She could always recall in detail a September Sunday afternoon, when
they had sat under the vine at the back of her father's house. The sun
came through the chinks of the vine-leaves and made beautiful patterns,
like a lace scarf, falling on her and on him. Some of the leaves were
clean yellow, like yellow flat flowers.
"Now sit still," he had cried. "Now your hair, I don't know what it IS
like! It's as bright as copper and gold, as red as burnt copper, and
it has gold threads where the sun shines on it. Fancy their saying it's
brown. Your mother calls it mouse-colour."
She had met his brilliant eyes, but her clear face scarcely showed the
elation which rose within her.
"But you say you don't like business," she pursued.
"I don't. I hate it!" he cried hotly.
"And you would like to go into the ministry," she half implored.
"I should. I should love it, if I thought I could make a first-rate
"Then why don't you--why DON'T you?" Her voice rang with defiance. "If I
were a man, nothing would stop me."
She held her head erect. He was rather timid before her.
"But my father's so stiff-necked. He means to put me into the business,
and I know he'll do it."
"But if you're a MAN?" she had cried.
"Being a man isn't everything," he replied, frowning with puzzled
Now, as she moved about her work at the Bottoms, with some experience of
what being a man meant, she knew that it was NOT everything.
At twenty, owing to her health, she had left Sheerness. Her father had
retired home to Nottingham. John Field's father had been ruined; the
son had gone as a teacher in Norwood. She did not hear of him until, two
years later, she made determined inquiry. He had married his landlady, a
woman of forty, a widow with property.
And still Mrs. Morel preserved John Field's Bible. She did not now
believe him to be--Well, she understood pretty well what he might or
might not have been. So she preserved his Bible, and kept his memory
intact in her heart, for her own sake. To her dying day, for thirty-five
years, she did not speak of him.
When she was twenty-three years old, she met, at a Christmas party, a
young man from the Erewash Valley. Morel was then twenty-seven years
old. He was well set-up, erect, and very smart. He had wavy black hair
that shone again, and a vigorous black beard that had never been shaved.
His cheeks were ruddy, and his red, moist mouth was noticeable because
he laughed so often and so heartily. He had that rare thing, a rich,
ringing laugh. Gertrude Coppard had watched him, fascinated. He was
so full of colour and animation, his voice ran so easily into comic
grotesque, he was so ready and so pleasant with everybody. Her own
father had a rich fund of humour, but it was satiric. This man's was
different: soft, non-intellectual, warm, a kind of gambolling.
She herself was opposite. She had a curious, receptive mind which found
much pleasure and amusement in listening to other folk. She was clever
in leading folk to talk. She loved ideas, and was considered very
intellectual. What she liked most of all was an argument on religion or
philosophy or politics with some educated man. This she did not often
enjoy. So she always had people tell her about themselves, finding her
In her person she was rather small and delicate, with a large brow, and
dropping bunches of brown silk curls. Her blue eyes were very straight,
honest, and searching. She had the beautiful hands of the Coppards.
Her dress was always subdued. She wore dark blue silk, with a peculiar
silver chain of silver scallops. This, and a heavy brooch of twisted
gold, was her only ornament. She was still perfectly intact, deeply
religious, and full of beautiful candour.
Walter Morel seemed melted away before her. She was to the miner that
thing of mystery and fascination, a lady. When she spoke to him, it was
with a southern pronunciation and a purity of English which thrilled
him to hear. She watched him. He danced well, as if it were natural and
joyous in him to dance. His grandfather was a French refugee who had
married an English barmaid--if it had been a marriage. Gertrude Coppard
watched the young miner as he danced, a certain subtle exultation like
glamour in his movement, and his face the flower of his body, ruddy,
with tumbled black hair, and laughing alike whatever partner he bowed
above. She thought him rather wonderful, never having met anyone like
him. Her father was to her the type of all men. And George Coppard,
proud in his bearing, handsome, and rather bitter; who preferred
theology in reading, and who drew near in sympathy only to one man, the
Apostle Paul; who was harsh in government, and in familiarity ironic;
who ignored all sensuous pleasure:--he was very different from the
miner. Gertrude herself was rather contemptuous of dancing; she had not
the slightest inclination towards that accomplishment, and had never
learned even a Roger de Coverley. She was puritan, like her father,
high-minded, and really stern. Therefore the dusky, golden softness of
this man's sensuous flame of life, that flowed off his flesh like the
flame from a candle, not baffled and gripped into incandescence by
thought and spirit as her life was, seemed to her something wonderful,
He came and bowed above her. A warmth radiated through her as if she had
"Now do come and have this one wi' me," he said caressively. "It's easy,
you know. I'm pining to see you dance."
She had told him before she could not dance. She glanced at his humility
and smiled. Her smile was very beautiful. It moved the man so that he
"No, I won't dance," she said softly. Her words came clean and ringing.
Not knowing what he was doing--he often did the right thing by
instinct--he sat beside her, inclining reverentially.
"But you mustn't miss your dance," she reproved.
"Nay, I don't want to dance that--it's not one as I care about."
"Yet you invited me to it."
He laughed very heartily at this.
"I never thought o' that. Tha'rt not long in taking the curl out of me."
It was her turn to laugh quickly.
"You don't look as if you'd come much uncurled," she said.
"I'm like a pig's tail, I curl because I canna help it," he laughed,
"And you are a miner!" she exclaimed in surprise.
"Yes. I went down when I was ten."
She looked at him in wondering dismay.
"When you were ten! And wasn't it very hard?" she asked.
"You soon get used to it. You live like th' mice, an' you pop out at
night to see what's going on."
"It makes me feel blind," she frowned.
"Like a moudiwarp!" he laughed. "Yi, an' there's some chaps as does
go round like moudiwarps." He thrust his face forward in the blind,
snout-like way of a mole, seeming to sniff and peer for direction. "They
dun though!" he protested naively. "Tha niver seed such a way they get
in. But tha mun let me ta'e thee down some time, an' tha can see for
She looked at him, startled. This was a new tract of life suddenly
opened before her. She realised the life of the miners, hundreds of them
toiling below earth and coming up at evening. He seemed to her noble. He
risked his life daily, and with gaiety. She looked at him, with a touch
of appeal in her pure humility.
"Shouldn't ter like it?" he asked tenderly. "'Appen not, it 'ud dirty
She had never been "thee'd" and "thou'd" before.
The next Christmas they were married, and for three months she was
perfectly happy: for six months she was very happy.
He had signed the pledge, and wore the blue ribbon of a tee-totaller: he
was nothing if not showy. They lived, she thought, in his own house.
It was small, but convenient enough, and quite nicely furnished,
with solid, worthy stuff that suited her honest soul. The women, her
neighbours, were rather foreign to her, and Morel's mother and sisters
were apt to sneer at her ladylike ways. But she could perfectly well
live by herself, so long as she had her husband close.
Sometimes, when she herself wearied of love-talk, she tried to open her
heart seriously to him. She saw him listen deferentially, but without
understanding. This killed her efforts at a finer intimacy, and she had
flashes of fear. Sometimes he was restless of an evening: it was not
enough for him just to be near her, she realised. She was glad when he
set himself to little jobs.
He was a remarkably handy man--could make or mend anything. So she would
"I do like that coal-rake of your mother's--it is small and natty."
"Does ter, my wench? Well, I made that, so I can make thee one!"
"What! why, it's a steel one!"
"An' what if it is! Tha s'lt ha'e one very similar, if not exactly
She did not mind the mess, nor the hammering and noise. He was busy and
But in the seventh month, when she was brushing his Sunday coat, she
felt papers in the breast pocket, and, seized with a sudden curiosity,
took them out to read. He very rarely wore the frock-coat he was married
in: and it had not occurred to her before to feel curious concerning the
papers. They were the bills of the household furniture, still unpaid.
"Look here," she said at night, after he was washed and had had his
dinner. "I found these in the pocket of your wedding-coat. Haven't you
settled the bills yet?"
"No. I haven't had a chance."
"But you told me all was paid. I had better go into Nottingham on
Saturday and settle them. I don't like sitting on another man's chairs
and eating from an unpaid table."
He did not answer.
"I can have your bank-book, can't I?"
"Tha can ha'e it, for what good it'll be to thee."
"I thought--" she began. He had told her he had a good bit of money left
over. But she realised it was no use asking questions. She sat rigid
with bitterness and indignation.
The next day she went down to see his mother.
"Didn't you buy the furniture for Walter?" she asked.
"Yes, I did," tartly retorted the elder woman.
"And how much did he give you to pay for it?"
The elder woman was stung with fine indignation.
"Eighty pound, if you're so keen on knowin'," she replied.
"Eighty pounds! But there are forty-two pounds still owing!"
"I can't help that."
"But where has it all gone?"
"You'll find all the papers, I think, if you look--beside ten pound as
he owed me, an' six pound as the wedding cost down here."
"Six pounds!" echoed Gertrude Morel. It seemed to her monstrous that,
after her own father had paid so heavily for her wedding, six pounds
more should have been squandered in eating and drinking at Walter's
parents' house, at his expense.
"And how much has he sunk in his houses?" she asked.
"His houses--which houses?"
Gertrude Morel went white to the lips. He had told her the house he
lived in, and the next one, was his own.
"I thought the house we live in--" she began.
"They're my houses, those two," said the mother-in-law. "And not clear
either. It's as much as I can do to keep the mortgage interest paid."
Gertrude sat white and silent. She was her father now.
"Then we ought to be paying you rent," she said coldly.
"Walter is paying me rent," replied the mother.
"And what rent?" asked Gertrude.
"Six and six a week," retorted the mother.
It was more than the house was worth. Gertrude held her head erect,
looked straight before her.
"It is lucky to be you," said the elder woman, bitingly, "to have a
husband as takes all the worry of the money, and leaves you a free
The young wife was silent.
She said very little to her husband, but her manner had changed towards
him. Something in her proud, honourable soul had crystallised out hard
When October came in, she thought only of Christmas. Two years ago, at
Christmas, she had met him. Last Christmas she had married him. This
Christmas she would bear him a child.
"You don't dance yourself, do you, missis?" asked her nearest neighbour,
in October, when there was great talk of opening a dancing-class over
the Brick and Tile Inn at Bestwood.
"No--I never had the least inclination to," Mrs. Morel replied.
"Fancy! An' how funny as you should ha' married your Mester. You know
he's quite a famous one for dancing."
"I didn't know he was famous," laughed Mrs. Morel.
"Yea, he is though! Why, he ran that dancing-class in the Miners' Arms
club-room for over five year."
"Yes, he did." The other woman was defiant. "An' it was thronged
every Tuesday, and Thursday, an' Sat'day--an' there WAS carryin's-on,
accordin' to all accounts."
This kind of thing was gall and bitterness to Mrs. Morel, and she had
a fair share of it. The women did not spare her, at first; for she was
superior, though she could not help it.
He began to be rather late in coming home.
"They're working very late now, aren't they?" she said to her
"No later than they allers do, I don't think. But they stop to have
their pint at Ellen's, an' they get talkin', an' there you are! Dinner
stone cold--an' it serves 'em right."
"But Mr. Morel does not take any drink."
The woman dropped the clothes, looked at Mrs. Morel, then went on with
her work, saying nothing.
Gertrude Morel was very ill when the boy was born. Morel was good to
her, as good as gold. But she felt very lonely, miles away from her own
people. She felt lonely with him now, and his presence only made it more
The boy was small and frail at first, but he came on quickly. He was
a beautiful child, with dark gold ringlets, and dark-blue eyes which
changed gradually to a clear grey. His mother loved him passionately.
He came just when her own bitterness of disillusion was hardest to bear;
when her faith in life was shaken, and her soul felt dreary and lonely.
She made much of the child, and the father was jealous.
At last Mrs. Morel despised her husband. She turned to the child; she
turned from the father. He had begun to neglect her; the novelty of his
own home was gone. He had no grit, she said bitterly to herself. What
he felt just at the minute, that was all to him. He could not abide by
anything. There was nothing at the back of all his show.
There began a battle between the husband and wife--a fearful, bloody
battle that ended only with the death of one. She fought to make him
undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfill his obligations.
But he was too different from her. His nature was purely sensuous, and
she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face
things. He could not endure it--it drove him out of his mind.
While the baby was still tiny, the father's temper had become so
irritable that it was not to be trusted. The child had only to give a
little trouble when the man began to bully. A little more, and the hard
hands of the collier hit the baby. Then Mrs. Morel loathed her husband,
loathed him for days; and he went out and drank; and she cared very
little what he did. Only, on his return, she scathed him with her
The estrangement between them caused him, knowingly or unknowingly,
grossly to offend her where he would not have done.
William was only one year old, and his mother was proud of him, he was
so pretty. She was not well off now, but her sisters kept the boy in
clothes. Then, with his little white hat curled with an ostrich feather,
and his white coat, he was a joy to her, the twining wisps of hair
clustering round his head. Mrs. Morel lay listening, one Sunday morning,
to the chatter of the father and child downstairs. Then she dozed off.
When she came downstairs, a great fire glowed in the grate, the room was
hot, the breakfast was roughly laid, and seated in his armchair, against
the chimney-piece, sat Morel, rather timid; and standing between
his legs, the child--cropped like a sheep, with such an odd round
poll--looking wondering at her; and on a newspaper spread out upon
the hearthrug, a myriad of crescent-shaped curls, like the petals of a
marigold scattered in the reddening firelight.
Mrs. Morel stood still. It was her first baby. She went very white, and
was unable to speak.
"What dost think o' 'im?" Morel laughed uneasily.
She gripped her two fists, lifted them, and came forward. Morel shrank
"I could kill you, I could!" she said. She choked with rage, her two
"Yer non want ter make a wench on 'im," Morel said, in a frightened
tone, bending his head to shield his eyes from hers. His attempt at
laughter had vanished.
The mother looked down at the jagged, close-clipped head of her child.
She put her hands on his hair, and stroked and fondled his head.
"Oh--my boy!" she faltered. Her lip trembled, her face broke, and,
snatching up the child, she buried her face in his shoulder and cried
painfully. She was one of those women who cannot cry; whom it hurts as
it hurts a man. It was like ripping something out of her, her sobbing.
Morel sat with his elbows on his knees, his hands gripped together till
the knuckles were white. He gazed in the fire, feeling almost stunned,
as if he could not breathe.
Presently she came to an end, soothed the child and cleared away the
breakfast-table. She left the newspaper, littered with curls, spread
upon the hearthrug. At last her husband gathered it up and put it at
the back of the fire. She went about her work with closed mouth and very
quiet. Morel was subdued. He crept about wretchedly, and his meals were
a misery that day. She spoke to him civilly, and never alluded to what
he had done. But he felt something final had happened.
Afterwards she said she had been silly, that the boy's hair would have
had to be cut, sooner or later. In the end, she even brought herself to
say to her husband it was just as well he had played barber when he
did. But she knew, and Morel knew, that that act had caused something
momentous to take place in her soul. She remembered the scene all her
life, as one in which she had suffered the most intensely.
This act of masculine clumsiness was the spear through the side of her
love for Morel. Before, while she had striven against him bitterly, she
had fretted after him, as if he had gone astray from her. Now she ceased
to fret for his love: he was an outsider to her. This made life much
Nevertheless, she still continued to strive with him. She still had her
high moral sense, inherited from generations of Puritans. It was now a
religious instinct, and she was almost a fanatic with him, because
she loved him, or had loved him. If he sinned, she tortured him. If he
drank, and lied, was often a poltroon, sometimes a knave, she wielded
the lash unmercifully.
The pity was, she was too much his opposite. She could not be content
with the little he might be; she would have him the much that he ought
to be. So, in seeking to make him nobler than he could be, she destroyed
him. She injured and hurt and scarred herself, but she lost none of her
worth. She also had the children.
He drank rather heavily, though not more than many miners, and always
beer, so that whilst his health was affected, it was never injured.
The week-end was his chief carouse. He sat in the Miners' Arms until
turning-out time every Friday, every Saturday, and every Sunday evening.
On Monday and Tuesday he had to get up and reluctantly leave towards ten
o'clock. Sometimes he stayed at home on Wednesday and Thursday evenings,
or was only out for an hour. He practically never had to miss work owing
to his drinking.
But although he was very steady at work, his wages fell off. He was
blab-mouthed, a tongue-wagger. Authority was hateful to him, therefore
he could only abuse the pit-managers. He would say, in the Palmerston:
"Th' gaffer come down to our stall this morning, an' 'e says, 'You know,
Walter, this 'ere'll not do. What about these props?' An' I says to him,
'Why, what art talkin' about? What d'st mean about th' props?' 'It'll
never do, this 'ere,' 'e says. 'You'll be havin' th' roof in, one o'
these days.' An' I says, 'Tha'd better stan' on a bit o' clunch, then,
an' hold it up wi' thy 'ead.' So 'e wor that mad, 'e cossed an' 'e
swore, an' t'other chaps they did laugh." Morel was a good mimic. He
imitated the manager's fat, squeaky voice, with its attempt at good
"'I shan't have it, Walter. Who knows more about it, me or you?' So
I says, 'I've niver fun out how much tha' knows, Alfred. It'll 'appen
carry thee ter bed an' back."'
So Morel would go on to the amusement of his boon companions. And some
of this would be true. The pit-manager was not an educated man. He had
been a boy along with Morel, so that, while the two disliked each other,
they more or less took each other for granted. But Alfred Charlesworth
did not forgive the butty these public-house sayings. Consequently,
although Morel was a good miner, sometimes earning as much as five
pounds a week when he married, he came gradually to have worse and worse
stalls, where the coal was thin, and hard to get, and unprofitable.
Also, in summer, the pits are slack. Often, on bright sunny mornings,
the men are seen trooping home again at ten, eleven, or twelve o'clock.
No empty trucks stand at the pit-mouth. The women on the hillside look
across as they shake the hearthrug against the fence, and count the
wagons the engine is taking along the line up the valley. And the
children, as they come from school at dinner-time, looking down the
fields and seeing the wheels on the headstocks standing, say:
"Minton's knocked off. My dad'll be at home."
And there is a sort of shadow over all, women and children and men,
because money will be short at the end of the week.
Morel was supposed to give his wife thirty shillings a week, to
provide everything--rent, food, clothes, clubs, insurance, doctors.
Occasionally, if he were flush, he gave her thirty-five. But these
occasions by no means balanced those when he gave her twenty-five. In
winter, with a decent stall, the miner might earn fifty or fifty-five
shillings a week. Then he was happy. On Friday night, Saturday, and
Sunday, he spent royally, getting rid of his sovereign or thereabouts.
And out of so much, he scarcely spared the children an extra penny or
bought them a pound of apples. It all went in drink. In the bad times,
matters were more worrying, but he was not so often drunk, so that Mrs.
Morel used to say:
"I'm not sure I wouldn't rather be short, for when he's flush, there
isn't a minute of peace."
If he earned forty shillings he kept ten; from thirty-five he kept five;
from thirty-two he kept four; from twenty-eight he kept three; from
twenty-four he kept two; from twenty he kept one-and-six; from eighteen
he kept a shilling; from sixteen he kept sixpence. He never saved a
penny, and he gave his wife no opportunity of saving; instead, she had
occasionally to pay his debts; not public-house debts, for those never
were passed on to the women, but debts when he had bought a canary, or a
At the wakes time Morel was working badly, and Mrs. Morel was trying
to save against her confinement. So it galled her bitterly to think
he should be out taking his pleasure and spending money, whilst she
remained at home, harassed. There were two days' holiday. On the Tuesday
morning Morel rose early. He was in good spirits. Quite early, before
six o'clock, she heard him whistling away to himself downstairs. He
had a pleasant way of whistling, lively and musical. He nearly always
whistled hymns. He had been a choir-boy with a beautiful voice, and had
taken solos in Southwell cathedral. His morning whistling alone betrayed
His wife lay listening to him tinkering away in the garden, his
whistling ringing out as he sawed and hammered away. It always gave
her a sense of warmth and peace to hear him thus as she lay in bed, the
children not yet awake, in the bright early morning, happy in his man's
At nine o'clock, while the children with bare legs and feet were sitting
playing on the sofa, and the mother was washing up, he came in from his
carpentry, his sleeves rolled up, his waistcoat hanging open. He was
still a good-looking man, with black, wavy hair, and a large black
moustache. His face was perhaps too much inflamed, and there was about
him a look almost of peevishness. But now he was jolly. He went straight
to the sink where his wife was washing up.
"What, are thee there!" he said boisterously. "Sluthe off an' let me
"You may wait till I've finished," said his wife.
"Oh, mun I? An' what if I shonna?"
This good-humoured threat amused Mrs. Morel.
"Then you can go and wash yourself in the soft-water tub."
"Ha! I can' an' a', tha mucky little 'ussy."
With which he stood watching her a moment, then went away to wait for
When he chose he could still make himself again a real gallant. Usually
he preferred to go out with a scarf round his neck. Now, however, he
made a toilet. There seemed so much gusto in the way he puffed and
swilled as he washed himself, so much alacrity with which he hurried to
the mirror in the kitchen, and, bending because it was too low for him,
scrupulously parted his wet black hair, that it irritated Mrs. Morel. He
put on a turn-down collar, a black bow, and wore his Sunday tail-coat.
As such, he looked spruce, and what his clothes would not do, his
instinct for making the most of his good looks would.
At half-past nine Jerry Purdy came to call for his pal. Jerry was
Morel's bosom friend, and Mrs. Morel disliked him. He was a tall,
thin man, with a rather foxy face, the kind of face that seems to lack
eyelashes. He walked with a stiff, brittle dignity, as if his head were
on a wooden spring. His nature was cold and shrewd. Generous where he
intended to be generous, he seemed to be very fond of Morel, and more or
less to take charge of him.
Mrs. Morel hated him. She had known his wife, who had died of
consumption, and who had, at the end, conceived such a violent dislike
of her husband, that if he came into her room it caused her haemorrhage.
None of which Jerry had seemed to mind. And now his eldest daughter,
a girl of fifteen, kept a poor house for him, and looked after the two
"A mean, wizzen-hearted stick!" Mrs. Morel said of him.
"I've never known Jerry mean in MY life," protested Morel. "A
opener-handed and more freer chap you couldn't find anywhere, accordin'
to my knowledge."
"Open-handed to you," retorted Mrs. Morel. "But his fist is shut tight
enough to his children, poor things."
"Poor things! And what for are they poor things, I should like to know."
But Mrs. Morel would not be appeased on Jerry's score.
The subject of argument was seen, craning his thin neck over the
scullery curtain. He caught Mrs. Morel's eye.
"Mornin', missis! Mester in?"
Jerry entered unasked, and stood by the kitchen doorway. He was not
invited to sit down, but stood there, coolly asserting the rights of men
"A nice day," he said to Mrs. Morel.
"Grand out this morning--grand for a walk."
"Do you mean YOU'RE going for a walk?" she asked.
"Yes. We mean walkin' to Nottingham," he replied.
The two men greeted each other, both glad: Jerry, however, full of
assurance, Morel rather subdued, afraid to seem too jubilant in presence
of his wife. But he laced his boots quickly, with spirit. They were
going for a ten-mile walk across the fields to Nottingham. Climbing the
hillside from the Bottoms, they mounted gaily into the morning. At the
Moon and Stars they had their first drink, then on to the Old Spot. Then
a long five miles of drought to carry them into Bulwell to a glorious
pint of bitter. But they stayed in a field with some haymakers whose
gallon bottle was full, so that, when they came in sight of the city,
Morel was sleepy. The town spread upwards before them, smoking vaguely
in the midday glare, fridging the crest away to the south with spires
and factory bulks and chimneys. In the last field Morel lay down under
an oak tree and slept soundly for over an hour. When he rose to go
forward he felt queer.
The two had dinner in the Meadows, with Jerry's sister, then repaired
to the Punch Bowl, where they mixed in the excitement of pigeon-racing.
Morel never in his life played cards, considering them as having some
occult, malevolent power--"the devil's pictures," he called them! But
he was a master of skittles and of dominoes. He took a challenge from
a Newark man, on skittles. All the men in the old, long bar took sides,
betting either one way or the other. Morel took off his coat. Jerry held
the hat containing the money. The men at the tables watched. Some
stood with their mugs in their hands. Morel felt his big wooden ball
carefully, then launched it. He played havoc among the nine-pins, and
won half a crown, which restored him to solvency.
By seven o'clock the two were in good condition. They caught the 7.30
In the afternoon the Bottoms was intolerable. Every inhabitant remaining
was out of doors. The women, in twos and threes, bareheaded and in white
aprons, gossiped in the alley between the blocks. Men, having a rest
between drinks, sat on their heels and talked. The place smelled stale;
the slate roofs glistered in the arid heat.
Mrs. Morel took the little girl down to the brook in the meadows, which
were not more than two hundred yards away. The water ran quickly over
stones and broken pots. Mother and child leaned on the rail of the old
sheep-bridge, watching. Up at the dipping-hole, at the other end of the
meadow, Mrs. Morel could see the naked forms of boys flashing round the
deep yellow water, or an occasional bright figure dart glittering over
the blackish stagnant meadow. She knew William was at the dipping-hole,
and it was the dread of her life lest he should get drowned. Annie
played under the tall old hedge, picking up alder cones, that she called
currants. The child required much attention, and the flies were teasing.
The children were put to bed at seven o'clock. Then she worked awhile.
When Walter Morel and Jerry arrived at Bestwood they felt a load off
their minds; a railway journey no longer impended, so they could put the
finishing touches to a glorious day. They entered the Nelson with the
satisfaction of returned travellers.
The next day was a work-day, and the thought of it put a damper on the
men's spirits. Most of them, moreover, had spent their money. Some were
already rolling dismally home, to sleep in preparation for the morrow.
Mrs. Morel, listening to their mournful singing, went indoors. Nine
o'clock passed, and ten, and still "the pair" had not returned. On a
doorstep somewhere a man was singing loudly, in a drawl: "Lead, kindly
Light." Mrs. Morel was always indignant with the drunken men that they
must sing that hymn when they got maudlin.
"As if 'Genevieve' weren't good enough," she said.
The kitchen was full of the scent of boiled herbs and hops. On the hob a
large black saucepan steamed slowly. Mrs. Morel took a panchion, a great
bowl of thick red earth, streamed a heap of white sugar into the bottom,
and then, straining herself to the weight, was pouring in the liquor.
Just then Morel came in. He had been very jolly in the Nelson, but
coming home had grown irritable. He had not quite got over the feeling
of irritability and pain, after having slept on the ground when he was
so hot; and a bad conscience afflicted him as he neared the house.
He did not know he was angry. But when the garden gate resisted his
attempts to open it, he kicked it and broke the latch. He entered just
as Mrs. Morel was pouring the infusion of herbs out of the saucepan.
Swaying slightly, he lurched against the table. The boiling liquor
pitched. Mrs. Morel started back.
"Good gracious," she cried, "coming home in his drunkenness!"
"Comin' home in his what?" he snarled, his hat over his eye.
Suddenly her blood rose in a jet.
"Say you're NOT drunk!" she flashed.
She had put down her saucepan, and was stirring the sugar into the
beer. He dropped his two hands heavily on the table, and thrust his face
forwards at her.
"'Say you're not drunk,'" he repeated. "Why, nobody but a nasty little
bitch like you 'ud 'ave such a thought."
He thrust his face forward at her.
"There's money to bezzle with, if there's money for nothing else."
"I've not spent a two-shillin' bit this day," he said.
"You don't get as drunk as a lord on nothing," she replied. "And,"
she cried, flashing into sudden fury, "if you've been sponging on your
beloved Jerry, why, let him look after his children, for they need it."
"It's a lie, it's a lie. Shut your face, woman."
They were now at battle-pitch. Each forgot everything save the hatred of
the other and the battle between them. She was fiery and furious as he.
They went on till he called her a liar.
"No," she cried, starting up, scarce able to breathe. "Don't call me
that--you, the most despicable liar that ever walked in shoe-leather."
She forced the last words out of suffocated lungs.
"You're a liar!" he yelled, banging the table with his fist. "You're a
liar, you're a liar."
She stiffened herself, with clenched fists.
"The house is filthy with you," she cried.
"Then get out on it--it's mine. Get out on it!" he shouted. "It's me as
brings th' money whoam, not thee. It's my house, not thine. Then ger out
on't--ger out on't!"
"And I would," she cried, suddenly shaken into tears of impotence. "Ah,
wouldn't I, wouldn't I have gone long ago, but for those children. Ay,
haven't I repented not going years ago, when I'd only the one"--suddenly
drying into rage. "Do you think it's for YOU I stop--do you think I'd
stop one minute for YOU?"
"Go, then," he shouted, beside himself. "Go!"
"No!" She faced round. "No," she cried loudly, "you shan't have it ALL
your own way; you shan't do ALL you like. I've got those children to see
to. My word," she laughed, "I should look well to leave them to you."
"Go," he cried thickly, lifting his fist. He was afraid of her. "Go!"
"I should be only too glad. I should laugh, laugh, my lord, if I could
get away from you," she replied.
He came up to her, his red face, with its bloodshot eyes, thrust
forward, and gripped her arms. She cried in fear of him, struggled to be
free. Coming slightly to himself, panting, he pushed her roughly to the
outer door, and thrust her forth, slotting the bolt behind her with a
bang. Then he went back into the kitchen, dropped into his armchair, his
head, bursting full of blood, sinking between his knees. Thus he dipped
gradually into a stupor, from exhaustion and intoxication.
The moon was high and magnificent in the August night. Mrs. Morel,
seared with passion, shivered to find herself out there in a great white
light, that fell cold on her, and gave a shock to her inflamed soul.
She stood for a few moments helplessly staring at the glistening great
rhubarb leaves near the door. Then she got the air into her breast. She
walked down the garden path, trembling in every limb, while the child
boiled within her. For a while she could not control her consciousness;
mechanically she went over the last scene, then over it again, certain
phrases, certain moments coming each time like a brand red-hot down on
her soul; and each time she enacted again the past hour, each time the
brand came down at the same points, till the mark was burnt in, and the
pain burnt out, and at last she came to herself. She must have been half
an hour in this delirious condition. Then the presence of the night came
again to her. She glanced round in fear. She had wandered to the side
garden, where she was walking up and down the path beside the currant
bushes under the long wall. The garden was a narrow strip, bounded from
the road, that cut transversely between the blocks, by a thick thorn
She hurried out of the side garden to the front, where she could stand
as if in an immense gulf of white light, the moon streaming high in face
of her, the moonlight standing up from the hills in front, and filling
the valley where the Bottoms crouched, almost blindingly. There, panting
and half weeping in reaction from the stress, she murmured to herself
over and over again: "The nuisance! the nuisance!"
She became aware of something about her. With an effort she roused
herself to see what it was that penetrated her consciousness. The tall
white lilies were reeling in the moonlight, and the air was charged with
their perfume, as with a presence. Mrs. Morel gasped slightly in fear.
She touched the big, pallid flowers on their petals, then shivered.
They seemed to be stretching in the moonlight. She put her hand into
one white bin: the gold scarcely showed on her fingers by moonlight. She
bent down to look at the binful of yellow pollen; but it only appeared
dusky. Then she drank a deep draught of the scent. It almost made her
Mrs. Morel leaned on the garden gate, looking out, and she lost herself
awhile. She did not know what she thought. Except for a slight feeling
of sickness, and her consciousness in the child, herself melted out like
scent into the shiny, pale air. After a time the child, too, melted with
her in the mixing-pot of moonlight, and she rested with the hills and
lilies and houses, all swum together in a kind of swoon.
When she came to herself she was tired for sleep. Languidly she looked
about her; the clumps of white phlox seemed like bushes spread with
linen; a moth ricochetted over them, and right across the garden.
Following it with her eye roused her. A few whiffs of the raw, strong
scent of phlox invigorated her. She passed along the path, hesitating at
the white rose-bush. It smelled sweet and simple. She touched the white
ruffles of the roses. Their fresh scent and cool, soft leaves reminded
her of the morning-time and sunshine. She was very fond of them. But she
was tired, and wanted to sleep. In the mysterious out-of-doors she felt
There was no noise anywhere. Evidently the children had not been
wakened, or had gone to sleep again. A train, three miles away,
roared across the valley. The night was very large, and very strange,
stretching its hoary distances infinitely. And out of the silver-grey
fog of darkness came sounds vague and hoarse: a corncrake not far off,
sound of a train like a sigh, and distant shouts of men.
Her quietened heart beginning to beat quickly again, she hurried down
the side garden to the back of the house. Softly she lifted the latch;
the door was still bolted, and hard against her. She rapped gently,
waited, then rapped again. She must not rouse the children, nor the
neighbours. He must be asleep, and he would not wake easily. Her heart
began to burn to be indoors. She clung to the door-handle. Now it was
cold; she would take a chill, and in her present condition!
Putting her apron over her head and her arms, she hurried again to the
side garden, to the window of the kitchen. Leaning on the sill, she
could just see, under the blind, her husband's arms spread out on the
table, and his black head on the board. He was sleeping with his face
lying on the table. Something in his attitude made her feel tired of
things. The lamp was burning smokily; she could tell by the copper
colour of the light. She tapped at the window more and more noisily.
Almost it seemed as if the glass would break. Still he did not wake up.
After vain efforts, she began to shiver, partly from contact with the
stone, and from exhaustion. Fearful always for the unborn child, she
wondered what she could do for warmth. She went down to the coal-house,
where there was an old hearthrug she had carried out for the rag-man the
day before. This she wrapped over her shoulders. It was warm, if grimy.
Then she walked up and down the garden path, peeping every now and then
under the blind, knocking, and telling herself that in the end the very
strain of his position must wake him.
At last, after about an hour, she rapped long and low at the window.
Gradually the sound penetrated to him. When, in despair, she had ceased
to tap, she saw him stir, then lift his face blindly. The labouring of
his heart hurt him into consciousness. She rapped imperatively at the
window. He started awake. Instantly she saw his fists set and his
eyes glare. He had not a grain of physical fear. If it had been
twenty burglars, he would have gone blindly for them. He glared round,
bewildered, but prepared to fight.
"Open the door, Walter," she said coldly.
His hands relaxed. It dawned on him what he had done. His head dropped,
sullen and dogged. She saw him hurry to the door, heard the bolt chock.
He tried the latch. It opened--and there stood the silver-grey night,
fearful to him, after the tawny light of the lamp. He hurried back.
When Mrs. Morel entered, she saw him almost running through the door
to the stairs. He had ripped his collar off his neck in his haste to
be gone ere she came in, and there it lay with bursten button-holes. It
made her angry.
She warmed and soothed herself. In her weariness forgetting everything,
she moved about at the little tasks that remained to be done, set his
breakfast, rinsed his pit-bottle, put his pit-clothes on the hearth
to warm, set his pit-boots beside them, put him out a clean scarf and
snap-bag and two apples, raked the fire, and went to bed. He was already
dead asleep. His narrow black eyebrows were drawn up in a sort of
peevish misery into his forehead while his cheeks' down-strokes, and his
sulky mouth, seemed to be saying: "I don't care who you are nor what you
are, I SHALL have my own way."
Mrs. Morel knew him too well to look at him. As she unfastened her
brooch at the mirror, she smiled faintly to see her face all smeared
with the yellow dust of lilies. She brushed it off, and at last lay
down. For some time her mind continued snapping and jetting sparks,
but she was asleep before her husband awoke from the first sleep of his
THE BIRTH OF PAUL, AND ANOTHER BATTLE
AFTER such a scene as the last, Walter Morel was for some days abashed
and ashamed, but he soon regained his old bullying indifference. Yet
there was a slight shrinking, a diminishing in his assurance. Physically
even, he shrank, and his fine full presence waned. He never grew in the
least stout, so that, as he sank from his erect, assertive bearing, his
physique seemed to contract along with his pride and moral strength.
But now he realised how hard it was for his wife to drag about at her
work, and, his sympathy quickened by penitence, hastened forward with
his help. He came straight home from the pit, and stayed in at evening
till Friday, and then he could not remain at home. But he was back again
by ten o'clock, almost quite sober.
He always made his own breakfast. Being a man who rose early and had
plenty of time he did not, as some miners do, drag his wife out of bed
at six o'clock. At five, sometimes earlier, he woke, got straight out of
bed, and went downstairs. When she could not sleep, his wife lay waiting
for this time, as for a period of peace. The only real rest seemed to be
when he was out of the house.
He went downstairs in his shirt and then struggled into his
pit-trousers, which were left on the hearth to warm all night. There
was always a fire, because Mrs. Morel raked. And the first sound in
the house was the bang, bang of the poker against the raker, as Morel
smashed the remainder of the coal to make the kettle, which was filled
and left on the hob, finally boil. His cup and knife and fork, all he
wanted except just the food, was laid ready on the table on a newspaper.
Then he got his breakfast, made the tea, packed the bottom of the doors
with rugs to shut out the draught, piled a big fire, and sat down to an
hour of joy. He toasted his bacon on a fork and caught the drops of fat
on his bread; then he put the rasher on his thick slice of bread, and
cut off chunks with a clasp-knife, poured his tea into his saucer,
and was happy. With his family about, meals were never so pleasant. He
loathed a fork: it is a modern introduction which has still scarcely
reached common people. What Morel preferred was a clasp-knife. Then, in
solitude, he ate and drank, often sitting, in cold weather, on a little
stool with his back to the warm chimney-piece, his food on the fender,
his cup on the hearth. And then he read the last night's newspaper--what
of it he could--spelling it over laboriously. He preferred to keep the
blinds down and the candle lit even when it was daylight; it was the
habit of the mine.
At a quarter to six he rose, cut two thick slices of bread and butter,
and put them in the white calico snap-bag. He filled his tin bottle with
tea. Cold tea without milk or sugar was the drink he preferred for the
pit. Then he pulled off his shirt, and put on his pit-singlet, a vest
of thick flannel cut low round the neck, and with short sleeves like a
Then he went upstairs to his wife with a cup of tea because she was ill,
and because it occurred to him.
"I've brought thee a cup o' tea, lass," he said.
"Well, you needn't, for you know I don't like it," she replied.
"Drink it up; it'll pop thee off to sleep again."
She accepted the tea. It pleased him to see her take it and sip it.
"I'll back my life there's no sugar in," she said.
"Yi--there's one big 'un," he replied, injured.
"It's a wonder," she said, sipping again.
She had a winsome face when her hair was loose. He loved her to grumble
at him in this manner. He looked at her again, and went, without any
sort of leave-taking. He never took more than two slices of bread and
butter to eat in the pit, so an apple or an orange was a treat to him.
He always liked it when she put one out for him. He tied a scarf round
his neck, put on his great, heavy boots, his coat, with the big pocket,
that carried his snap-bag and his bottle of tea, and went forth into
the fresh morning air, closing, without locking, the door behind him. He
loved the early morning, and the walk across the fields. So he appeared
at the pit-top, often with a stalk from the hedge between his teeth,
which he chewed all day to keep his mouth moist, down the mine, feeling
quite as happy as when he was in the field.
Later, when the time for the baby grew nearer, he would bustle round
in his slovenly fashion, poking out the ashes, rubbing the fireplace,
sweeping the house before he went to work. Then, feeling very
self-righteous, he went upstairs.
"Now I'm cleaned up for thee: tha's no 'casions ter stir a peg all day,
but sit and read thy books."
Which made her laugh, in spite of her indignation.
"And the dinner cooks itself?" she answered.
"Eh, I know nowt about th' dinner."
"You'd know if there weren't any."
"Ay, 'appen so," he answered, departing.
When she got downstairs, she would find the house tidy, but dirty. She
could not rest until she had thoroughly cleaned; so she went down to the
ash-pit with her dustpan. Mrs. Kirk, spying her, would contrive to have
to go to her own coal-place at that minute. Then, across the wooden
fence, she would call:
"So you keep wagging on, then?"
"Ay," answered Mrs. Morel deprecatingly. "There's nothing else for it."
"Have you seen Hose?" called a very small woman from across the road. It
was Mrs. Anthony, a black-haired, strange little body, who always wore a
brown velvet dress, tight fitting.
"I haven't," said Mrs. Morel.
"Eh, I wish he'd come. I've got a copperful of clothes, an' I'm sure I
heered his bell."
"Hark! He's at the end."
The two women looked down the alley. At the end of the Bottoms a
man stood in a sort of old-fashioned trap, bending over bundles of
cream-coloured stuff; while a cluster of women held up their arms to
him, some with bundles. Mrs. Anthony herself had a heap of creamy,
undyed stockings hanging over her arm.
"I've done ten dozen this week," she said proudly to Mrs. Morel.
"T-t-t!" went the other. "I don't know how you can find time."
"Eh!" said Mrs. Anthony. "You can find time if you make time."
"I don't know how you do it," said Mrs. Morel. "And how much shall you
get for those many?"
"Tuppence-ha'penny a dozen," replied the other.
"Well," said Mrs. Morel. "I'd starve before I'd sit down and seam
twenty-four stockings for twopence ha'penny."
"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Anthony. "You can rip along with 'em."
Hose was coming along, ringing his bell. Women were waiting at the
yard-ends with their seamed stockings hanging over their arms. The
man, a common fellow, made jokes with them, tried to swindle them, and
bullied them. Mrs. Morel went up her yard disdainfully.
It was an understood thing that if one woman wanted her neighbour, she
should put the poker in the fire and bang at the back of the fireplace,
which, as the fires were back to back, would make a great noise in the
adjoining house. One morning Mrs. Kirk, mixing a pudding, nearly started
out of her skin as she heard the thud, thud, in her grate. With her
hands all floury, she rushed to the fence.
"Did you knock, Mrs. Morel?"
"If you wouldn't mind, Mrs. Kirk."
Mrs. Kirk climbed on to her copper, got over the wall on to Mrs. Morel's
copper, and ran in to her neighbour.
"Eh, dear, how are you feeling?" she cried in concern.
"You might fetch Mrs. Bower," said Mrs. Morel.
Mrs. Kirk went into the yard, lifted up her strong, shrill voice, and
The sound was heard from one end of the Bottoms to the other. At last
Aggie came running up, and was sent for Mrs. Bower, whilst Mrs. Kirk
left her pudding and stayed with her neighbour.
Mrs. Morel went to bed. Mrs. Kirk had Annie and William for dinner. Mrs.
Bower, fat and waddling, bossed the house.
"Hash some cold meat up for the master's dinner, and make him an
apple-charlotte pudding," said Mrs. Morel.
"He may go without pudding this day," said Mrs. Bower.
Morel was not as a rule one of the first to appear at the bottom of the
pit, ready to come up. Some men were there before four o'clock, when the
whistle blew loose-all; but Morel, whose stall, a poor one, was at this
time about a mile and a half away from the bottom, worked usually till
the first mate stopped, then he finished also. This day, however, the
miner was sick of the work. At two o'clock he looked at his watch, by
the light of the green candle--he was in a safe working--and again at
half-past two. He was hewing at a piece of rock that was in the way for
the next day's work. As he sat on his heels, or kneeled, giving hard
blows with his pick, "Uszza--uszza!" he went.
"Shall ter finish, Sorry?" cried Barker, his fellow butty.
"Finish? Niver while the world stands!" growled Morel.
And he went on striking. He was tired.
"It's a heart-breaking job," said Barker.
But Morel was too exasperated, at the end of his tether, to answer.
Still he struck and hacked with all his might.
"Tha might as well leave it, Walter," said Barker. "It'll do to-morrow,
without thee hackin' thy guts out."
"I'll lay no b---- finger on this to-morrow, Isr'el!" cried Morel.
"Oh, well, if tha wunna, somebody else'll ha'e to," said Israel.
Then Morel continued to strike.
"Hey-up there--LOOSE-A'!" cried the men, leaving the next stall.
Morel continued to strike.
"Tha'll happen catch me up," said Barker, departing.
When he had gone, Morel, left alone, felt savage. He had not finished
his job. He had overworked himself into a frenzy. Rising, wet with
sweat, he threw his tool down, pulled on his coat, blew out his candle,
took his lamp, and went. Down the main road the lights of the other men
went swinging. There was a hollow sound of many voices. It was a long,
heavy tramp underground.
He sat at the bottom of the pit, where the great drops of water fell
plash. Many colliers were waiting their turns to go up, talking noisily.
Morel gave his answers short and disagreeable.
"It's rainin', Sorry," said old Giles, who had had the news from the
Morel found one comfort. He had his old umbrella, which he loved, in the
lamp cabin. At last he took his stand on the chair, and was at the top
in a moment. Then he handed in his lamp and got his umbrella, which he
had bought at an auction for one-and-six. He stood on the edge of
the pit-bank for a moment, looking out over the fields; grey rain was
falling. The trucks stood full of wet, bright coal. Water ran down the
sides of the waggons, over the white "C.W. and Co.". Colliers, walking
indifferent to the rain, were streaming down the line and up the field,
a grey, dismal host. Morel put up his umbrella, and took pleasure from
the peppering of the drops thereon.
All along the road to Bestwood the miners tramped, wet and grey and
dirty, but their red mouths talking with animation. Morel also walked
with a gang, but he said nothing. He frowned peevishly as he went. Many
men passed into the Prince of Wales or into Ellen's. Morel, feeling
sufficiently disagreeable to resist temptation, trudged along under
the dripping trees that overhung the park wall, and down the mud of
Mrs. Morel lay in bed, listening to the rain, and the feet of the
colliers from Minton, their voices, and the bang, bang of the gates as
they went through the stile up the field.
"There's some herb beer behind the pantry door," she said. "Th'
master'll want a drink, if he doesn't stop."
But he was late, so she concluded he had called for a drink, since it
was raining. What did he care about the child or her?
She was very ill when her children were born.
"What is it?" she asked, feeling sick to death.
And she took consolation in that. The thought of being the mother of men
was warming to her heart. She looked at the child. It had blue eyes,
and a lot of fair hair, and was bonny. Her love came up hot, in spite of
everything. She had it in bed with her.
Morel, thinking nothing, dragged his way up the garden path, wearily
and angrily. He closed his umbrella, and stood it in the sink; then he
sluthered his heavy boots into the kitchen. Mrs. Bower appeared in the
"Well," she said, "she's about as bad as she can be. It's a boy childt."
The miner grunted, put his empty snap-bag and his tin bottle on the
dresser, went back into the scullery and hung up his coat, then came and
dropped into his chair.
"Han yer got a drink?" he asked.
The woman went into the pantry. There was heard the pop of a cork. She
set the mug, with a little, disgusted rap, on the table before Morel. He
drank, gasped, wiped his big moustache on the end of his scarf, drank,
gasped, and lay back in his chair. The woman would not speak to him
again. She set his dinner before him, and went upstairs.
"Was that the master?" asked Mrs. Morel.
"I've gave him his dinner," replied Mrs. Bower.
After he had sat with his arms on the table--he resented the fact that
Mrs. Bower put no cloth on for him, and gave him a little plate, instead
of a full-sized dinner-plate--he began to eat. The fact that his wife
was ill, that he had another boy, was nothing to him at that moment.
He was too tired; he wanted his dinner; he wanted to sit with his arms
lying on the board; he did not like having Mrs. Bower about. The fire
was too small to please him.
After he had finished his meal, he sat for twenty minutes; then he
stoked up a big fire. Then, in his stockinged feet, he went reluctantly
upstairs. It was a struggle to face his wife at this moment, and he was
tired. His face was black, and smeared with sweat. His singlet had
dried again, soaking the dirt in. He had a dirty woollen scarf round his
throat. So he stood at the foot of the bed.
"Well, how are ter, then?" he asked.
"I s'll be all right," she answered.
He stood at a loss what to say next. He was tired, and this bother was
rather a nuisance to him, and he didn't quite know where he was.
"A lad, tha says," he stammered.
She turned down the sheet and showed the child.
"Bless him!" he murmured. Which made her laugh, because he blessed by
rote--pretending paternal emotion, which he did not feel just then.
"Go now," she said.
"I will, my lass," he answered, turning away.
Dismissed, he wanted to kiss her, but he dared not. She half wanted
him to kiss her, but could not bring herself to give any sign. She only
breathed freely when he was gone out of the room again, leaving behind
him a faint smell of pit-dirt.
Mrs. Morel had a visit every day from the Congregational clergyman. Mr.
Heaton was young, and very poor. His wife had died at the birth of his
first baby, so he remained alone in the manse. He was a Bachelor of Arts
of Cambridge, very shy, and no preacher. Mrs. Morel was fond of him, and
he depended on her. For hours he talked to her, when she was well. He
became the god-parent of the child.
Occasionally the minister stayed to tea with Mrs. Morel. Then she laid
the cloth early, got out her best cups, with a little green rim, and
hoped Morel would not come too soon; indeed, if he stayed for a pint,
she would not mind this day. She had always two dinners to cook, because
she believed children should have their chief meal at midday, whereas
Morel needed his at five o'clock. So Mr. Heaton would hold the baby,
whilst Mrs. Morel beat up a batter-pudding or peeled the potatoes, and
he, watching her all the time, would discuss his next sermon. His ideas
were quaint and fantastic. She brought him judiciously to earth. It was
a discussion of the wedding at Cana.
"When He changed the water into wine at Cana," he said, "that is a
symbol that the ordinary life, even the blood, of the married husband
and wife, which had before been uninspired, like water, became filled
with the Spirit, and was as wine, because, when love enters, the whole
spiritual constitution of a man changes, is filled with the Holy Ghost,
and almost his form is altered."
Mrs. Morel thought to herself:
"Yes, poor fellow, his young wife is dead; that is why he makes his love
into the Holy Ghost."
They were halfway down their first cup of tea when they heard the
sluther of pit-boots.
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel, in spite of herself.
The minister looked rather scared. Morel entered. He was feeling rather
savage. He nodded a "How d'yer do" to the clergyman, who rose to shake
hands with him.
"Nay," said Morel, showing his hand, "look thee at it! Tha niver
wants ter shake hands wi' a hand like that, does ter? There's too much
pick-haft and shovel-dirt on it."
The minister flushed with confusion, and sat down again. Mrs. Morel
rose, carried out the steaming saucepan. Morel took off his coat,
dragged his armchair to table, and sat down heavily.
"Are you tired?" asked the clergyman.
"Tired? I ham that," replied Morel. "YOU don't know what it is to be
tired, as I'M tired."
"No," replied the clergyman.
"Why, look yer 'ere," said the miner, showing the shoulders of his
singlet. "It's a bit dry now, but it's wet as a clout with sweat even
yet. Feel it."
"Goodness!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Mr. Heaton doesn't want to feel your
The clergyman put out his hand gingerly.
"No, perhaps he doesn't," said Morel; "but it's all come out of me,
whether or not. An' iv'ry day alike my singlet's wringin' wet. 'Aven't
you got a drink, Missis, for a man when he comes home barkled up from
"You know you drank all the beer," said Mrs. Morel, pouring out his tea.
"An' was there no more to be got?" Turning to the clergyman--"A man gets
that caked up wi' th' dust, you know,--that clogged up down a coal-mine,
he NEEDS a drink when he comes home."
"I am sure he does," said the clergyman.
"But it's ten to one if there's owt for him."
"There's water--and there's tea," said Mrs. Morel.
"Water! It's not water as'll clear his throat."
He poured out a saucerful of tea, blew it, and sucked it up through his
great black moustache, sighing afterwards. Then he poured out another
saucerful, and stood his cup on the table.
"My cloth!" said Mrs. Morel, putting it on a plate.
"A man as comes home as I do 's too tired to care about cloths," said
"Pity!" exclaimed his wife, sarcastically.
The room was full of the smell of meat and vegetables and pit-clothes.
He leaned over to the minister, his great moustache thrust forward, his
mouth very red in his black face.
"Mr. Heaton," he said, "a man as has been down the black hole all day,
dingin' away at a coal-face, yi, a sight harder than that wall--"
"Needn't make a moan of it," put in Mrs. Morel.
She hated her husband because, whenever he had an audience, he whined
and played for sympathy. William, sitting nursing the baby, hated him,
with a boy's hatred for false sentiment, and for the stupid treatment of
his mother. Annie had never liked him; she merely avoided him.
When the minister had gone, Mrs. Morel looked at her cloth.
"A fine mess!" she said.
"Dos't think I'm goin' to sit wi' my arms danglin', cos tha's got a
parson for tea wi' thee?" he bawled.
They were both angry, but she said nothing. The baby began to cry, and
Mrs. Morel, picking up a saucepan from the hearth, accidentally knocked
Annie on the head, whereupon the girl began to whine, and Morel to shout
at her. In the midst of this pandemonium, William looked up at the big
glazed text over the mantelpiece and read distinctly:
"God Bless Our Home!"
Whereupon Mrs. Morel, trying to soothe the baby, jumped up, rushed at
him, boxed his ears, saying:
"What are YOU putting in for?"
And then she sat down and laughed, till tears ran over her cheeks, while
William kicked the stool he had been sitting on, and Morel growled:
"I canna see what there is so much to laugh at."
One evening, directly after the parson's visit, feeling unable to bear
herself after another display from her husband, she took Annie and the
baby and went out. Morel had kicked William, and the mother would never
She went over the sheep-bridge and across a corner of the meadow to the
cricket-ground. The meadows seemed one space of ripe, evening light,
whispering with the distant mill-race. She sat on a seat under the
alders in the cricket-ground, and fronted the evening. Before her, level
and solid, spread the big green cricket-field, like the bed of a sea of
light. Children played in the bluish shadow of the pavilion. Many rooks,
high up, came cawing home across the softly-woven sky. They stooped in
a long curve down into the golden glow, concentrating, cawing, wheeling,
like black flakes on a slow vortex, over a tree clump that made a dark
boss among the pasture.
A few gentlemen were practising, and Mrs. Morel could hear the chock
of the ball, and the voices of men suddenly roused; could see the white
forms of men shifting silently over the green, upon which already the
under shadows were smouldering. Away at the grange, one side of the
haystacks was lit up, the other sides blue-grey. A waggon of sheaves
rocked small across the melting yellow light.
The sun was going down. Every open evening, the hills of Derbyshire were
blazed over with red sunset. Mrs. Morel watched the sun sink from the
glistening sky, leaving a soft flower-blue overhead, while the western
space went red, as if all the fire had swum down there, leaving the
bell cast flawless blue. The mountain-ash berries across the field stood
fierily out from the dark leaves, for a moment. A few shocks of corn in
a corner of the fallow stood up as if alive; she imagined them bowing;
perhaps her son would be a Joseph. In the east, a mirrored sunset
floated pink opposite the west's scarlet. The big haystacks on the
hillside, that butted into the glare, went cold.
With Mrs. Morel it was one of those still moments when the small frets
vanish, and the beauty of things stands out, and she had the peace and
the strength to see herself. Now and again, a swallow cut close to her.
Now and again, Annie came up with a handful of alder-currants. The baby
was restless on his mother's knee, clambering with his hands at the
Mrs. Morel looked down at him. She had dreaded this baby like a
catastrophe, because of her feeling for her husband. And now she felt
strangely towards the infant. Her heart was heavy because of the child,
almost as if it were unhealthy, or malformed. Yet it seemed quite well.
But she noticed the peculiar knitting of the baby's brows, and the
peculiar heaviness of its eyes, as if it were trying to understand
something that was pain. She felt, when she looked at her child's dark,
brooding pupils, as if a burden were on her heart.
"He looks as if he was thinking about something--quite sorrowful," said
Suddenly, looking at him, the heavy feeling at the mother's heart melted
into passionate grief. She bowed over him, and a few tears shook swiftly
out of her very heart. The baby lifted his fingers.
"My lamb!" she cried softly.
And at that moment she felt, in some far inner place of her soul, that
she and her husband were guilty.
The baby was looking up at her. It had blue eyes like her own, but its
look was heavy, steady, as if it had realised something that had stunned
some point of its soul.
In her arms lay the delicate baby. Its deep blue eyes, always looking up
at her unblinking, seemed to draw her innermost thoughts out of her. She
no longer loved her husband; she had not wanted this child to come, and
there it lay in her arms and pulled at her heart. She felt as if the
navel string that had connected its frail little body with hers had not
been broken. A wave of hot love went over her to the infant. She held it
close to her face and breast. With all her force, with all her soul she
would make up to it for having brought it into the world unloved. She
would love it all the more now it was here; carry it in her love. Its
clear, knowing eyes gave her pain and fear. Did it know all about her?
When it lay under her heart, had it been listening then? Was there a
reproach in the look? She felt the marrow melt in her bones, with fear
Once more she was aware of the sun lying red on the rim of the hill
opposite. She suddenly held up the child in her hands.
"Look!" she said. "Look, my pretty!"
She thrust the infant forward to the crimson, throbbing sun, almost with
relief. She saw him lift his little fist. Then she put him to her bosom
again, ashamed almost of her impulse to give him back again whence he
"If he lives," she thought to herself, "what will become of him--what
will he be?"
Her heart was anxious.
"I will call him Paul," she said suddenly; she knew not why.
After a while she went home. A fine shadow was flung over the deep green
meadow, darkening all.
As she expected, she found the house empty. But Morel was home by ten
o'clock, and that day, at least, ended peacefully.
Walter Morel was, at this time, exceedingly irritable. His work seemed
to exhaust him. When he came home he did not speak civilly to anybody.
If the fire were rather low he bullied about that; he grumbled about his
dinner; if the children made a chatter he shouted at them in a way that
made their mother's blood boil, and made them hate him.
On the Friday, he was not home by eleven o'clock. The baby was unwell,
and was restless, crying if he were put down. Mrs. Morel, tired to
death, and still weak, was scarcely under control.
"I wish the nuisance would come," she said wearily to herself.
The child at last sank down to sleep in her arms. She was too tired to
carry him to the cradle.
"But I'll say nothing, whatever time he comes," she said. "It only works
me up; I won't say anything. But I know if he does anything it'll make
my blood boil," she added to herself.
She sighed, hearing him coming, as if it were something she could not
bear. He, taking his revenge, was nearly drunk. She kept her head
bent over the child as he entered, not wishing to see him. But it
went through her like a flash of hot fire when, in passing, he lurched
against the dresser, setting the tins rattling, and clutched at the
white pot knobs for support. He hung up his hat and coat, then returned,
stood glowering from a distance at her, as she sat bowed over the child.
"Is there nothing to eat in the house?" he asked, insolently, as if to a
servant. In certain stages of his intoxication he affected the
clipped, mincing speech of the towns. Mrs. Morel hated him most in this
"You know what there is in the house," she said, so coldly, it sounded
He stood and glared at her without moving a muscle.
"I asked a civil question, and I expect a civil answer," he said
"And you got it," she said, still ignoring him.
He glowered again. Then he came unsteadily forward. He leaned on the
table with one hand, and with the other jerked at the table drawer to
get a knife to cut bread. The drawer stuck because he pulled sideways.
In a temper he dragged it, so that it flew out bodily, and spoons,
forks, knives, a hundred metallic things, splashed with a clatter and a
clang upon the brick floor. The baby gave a little convulsed start.
"What are you doing, clumsy, drunken fool?" the mother cried.
"Then tha should get the flamin' thing thysen. Tha should get up, like
other women have to, an' wait on a man."
"Wait on you--wait on you?" she cried. "Yes, I see myself."
"Yis, an' I'll learn thee tha's got to. Wait on ME, yes tha sh'lt wait
"Never, milord. I'd wait on a dog at the door first."
He was trying to fit in the drawer. At her last speech he turned round.
His face was crimson, his eyes bloodshot. He stared at her one silent
second in threat.
"P-h!" she went quickly, in contempt.
He jerked at the drawer in his excitement. It fell, cut sharply on his
shin, and on the reflex he flung it at her.
One of the corners caught her brow as the shallow drawer crashed into
the fireplace. She swayed, almost fell stunned from her chair. To her
very soul she was sick; she clasped the child tightly to her bosom. A
few moments elapsed; then, with an effort, she brought herself to.
The baby was crying plaintively. Her left brow was bleeding rather
profusely. As she glanced down at the child, her brain reeling, some
drops of blood soaked into its white shawl; but the baby was at least
not hurt. She balanced her head to keep equilibrium, so that the blood
ran into her eye.
Walter Morel remained as he had stood, leaning on the table with one
hand, looking blank. When he was sufficiently sure of his balance,
he went across to her, swayed, caught hold of the back of her
rocking-chair, almost tipping her out; then leaning forward over her,
and swaying as he spoke, he said, in a tone of wondering concern:
"Did it catch thee?"
He swayed again, as if he would pitch on to the child. With the
catastrophe he had lost all balance.
"Go away," she said, struggling to keep her presence of mind.
He hiccoughed. "Let's--let's look at it," he said, hiccoughing again.
"Go away!" she cried.
"Lemme--lemme look at it, lass."
She smelled him of drink, felt the unequal pull of his swaying grasp on
the back of her rocking-chair.
"Go away," she said, and weakly she pushed him off.
He stood, uncertain in balance, gazing upon her. Summoning all her
strength she rose, the baby on one arm. By a cruel effort of will,
moving as if in sleep, she went across to the scullery, where she bathed
her eye for a minute in cold water; but she was too dizzy. Afraid lest
she should swoon, she returned to her rocking-chair, trembling in every
fibre. By instinct, she kept the baby clasped.
Morel, bothered, had succeeded in pushing the drawer back into its
cavity, and was on his knees, groping, with numb paws, for the scattered
Her brow was still bleeding. Presently Morel got up and came craning his
neck towards her.
"What has it done to thee, lass?" he asked, in a very wretched, humble
"You can see what it's done," she answered.
He stood, bending forward, supported on his hands, which grasped his
legs just above the knee. He peered to look at the wound. She drew away
from the thrust of his face with its great moustache, averting her
own face as much as possible. As he looked at her, who was cold and
impassive as stone, with mouth shut tight, he sickened with feebleness
and hopelessness of spirit. He was turning drearily away, when he saw
a drop of blood fall from the averted wound into the baby's fragile,
glistening hair. Fascinated, he watched the heavy dark drop hang in
the glistening cloud, and pull down the gossamer. Another drop fell. It
would soak through to the baby's scalp. He watched, fascinated, feeling
it soak in; then, finally, his manhood broke.
"What of this child?" was all his wife said to him. But her low, intense
tones brought his head lower. She softened: "Get me some wadding out of
the middle drawer," she said.
He stumbled away very obediently, presently returning with a pad, which
she singed before the fire, then put on her forehead, as she sat with
the baby on her lap.
"Now that clean pit-scarf."
Again he rummaged and fumbled in the drawer, returning presently with a
red, narrow scarf. She took it, and with trembling fingers proceeded to
bind it round her head.
"Let me tie it for thee," he said humbly.
"I can do it myself," she replied. When it was done she went upstairs,
telling him to rake the fire and lock the door.
In the morning Mrs. Morel said:
"I knocked against the latch of the coal-place, when I was getting a
raker in the dark, because the candle blew out." Her two small children
looked up at her with wide, dismayed eyes. They said nothing, but their
parted lips seemed to express the unconscious tragedy they felt.
Walter Morel lay in bed next day until nearly dinner-time. He did not
think of the previous evening's work. He scarcely thought of anything,
but he would not think of that. He lay and suffered like a sulking dog.
He had hurt himself most; and he was the more damaged because he would
never say a word to her, or express his sorrow. He tried to wriggle out
of it. "It was her own fault," he said to himself. Nothing, however,
could prevent his inner consciousness inflicting on him the punishment
which ate into his spirit like rust, and which he could only alleviate
He felt as if he had not the initiative to get up, or to say a word, or
to move, but could only lie like a log. Moreover, he had himself violent
pains in the head. It was Saturday. Towards noon he rose, cut himself
food in the pantry, ate it with his head dropped, then pulled on his
boots, and went out, to return at three o'clock slightly tipsy and
relieved; then once more straight to bed. He rose again at six in the
evening, had tea and went straight out.
Sunday was the same: bed till noon, the Palmerston Arms till 2.30,
dinner, and bed; scarcely a word spoken. When Mrs. Morel went upstairs,
towards four o'clock, to put on her Sunday dress, he was fast asleep.
She would have felt sorry for him, if he had once said, "Wife, I'm
sorry." But no; he insisted to himself it was her fault. And so he
broke himself. So she merely left him alone. There was this deadlock of
passion between them, and she was stronger.
The family began tea. Sunday was the only day when all sat down to meals
"Isn't my father going to get up?" asked William.
"Let him lie," the mother replied.
There was a feeling of misery over all the house. The children breathed
the air that was poisoned, and they felt dreary. They were rather
disconsolate, did not know what to do, what to play at.
Immediately Morel woke he got straight out of bed. That was
characteristic of him all his life. He was all for activity. The
prostrated inactivity of two mornings was stifling him.
It was near six o'clock when he got down. This time he entered without
hesitation, his wincing sensitiveness having hardened again. He did not
care any longer what the family thought or felt.
The tea-things were on the table. William was reading aloud from "The
Child's Own", Annie listening and asking eternally "why?" Both children
hushed into silence as they heard the approaching thud of their father's
stockinged feet, and shrank as he entered. Yet he was usually indulgent
Morel made the meal alone, brutally. He ate and drank more noisily than
he had need. No one spoke to him. The family life withdrew, shrank
away, and became hushed as he entered. But he cared no longer about his
Immediately he had finished tea he rose with alacrity to go out. It was
this alacrity, this haste to be gone, which so sickened Mrs. Morel. As
she heard him sousing heartily in cold water, heard the eager scratch
of the steel comb on the side of the bowl, as he wetted his hair, she
closed her eyes in disgust. As he bent over, lacing his boots, there
was a certain vulgar gusto in his movement that divided him from the
reserved, watchful rest of the family. He always ran away from the
battle with himself. Even in his own heart's privacy, he excused
himself, saying, "If she hadn't said so-and-so, it would never have
happened. She asked for what she's got." The children waited in
restraint during his preparations. When he had gone, they sighed with
He closed the door behind him, and was glad. It was a rainy evening. The
Palmerston would be the cosier. He hastened forward in anticipation. All
the slate roofs of the Bottoms shone black with wet. The roads, always
dark with coal-dust, were full of blackish mud. He hastened along. The
Palmerston windows were steamed over. The passage was paddled with wet
feet. But the air was warm, if foul, and full of the sound of voices and
the smell of beer and smoke.
"What shollt ha'e, Walter?" cried a voice, as soon as Morel appeared in
"Oh, Jim, my lad, wheriver has thee sprung frae?"
The men made a seat for him, and took him in warmly. He was glad. In a
minute or two they had thawed all responsibility out of him, all shame,
all trouble, and he was clear as a bell for a jolly night.
On the Wednesday following, Morel was penniless. He dreaded his wife.
Having hurt her, he hated her. He did not know what to do with
himself that evening, having not even twopence with which to go to the
Palmerston, and being already rather deeply in debt. So, while his wife
was down the garden with the child, he hunted in the top drawer of
the dresser where she kept her purse, found it, and looked inside. It
contained a half-crown, two halfpennies, and a sixpence. So he took the
sixpence, put the purse carefully back, and went out.
The next day, when she wanted to pay the greengrocer, she looked in the
purse for her sixpence, and her heart sank to her shoes. Then she sat
down and thought: "WAS there a sixpence? I hadn't spent it, had I? And I
hadn't left it anywhere else?"
She was much put about. She hunted round everywhere for it. And, as she
sought, the conviction came into her heart that her husband had taken
it. What she had in her purse was all the money she possessed. But that
he should sneak it from her thus was unbearable. He had done so twice
before. The first time she had not accused him, and at the week-end he
had put the shilling again into her purse. So that was how she had known
he had taken it. The second time he had not paid back.
This time she felt it was too much. When he had had his dinner--he came
home early that day--she said to him coldly:
"Did you take sixpence out of my purse last night?"
"Me!" he said, looking up in an offended way. "No, I didna! I niver
clapped eyes on your purse."
But she could detect the lie.
"Why, you know you did," she said quietly.
"I tell you I didna," he shouted. "Yer at me again, are yer? I've had
about enough on't."
"So you filch sixpence out of my purse while I'm taking the clothes in."
"I'll may yer pay for this," he said, pushing back his chair in
desperation. He bustled and got washed, then went determinedly upstairs.
Presently he came down dressed, and with a big bundle in a blue-checked,
"And now," he said, "you'll see me again when you do."
"It'll be before I want to," she replied; and at that he marched out
of the house with his bundle. She sat trembling slightly, but her heart
brimming with contempt. What would she do if he went to some other
pit, obtained work, and got in with another woman? But she knew him too
well--he couldn't. She was dead sure of him. Nevertheless her heart was
gnawed inside her.
"Where's my dad?" said William, coming in from school.
"He says he's run away," replied the mother.
"Eh, I don't know. He's taken a bundle in the blue handkerchief, and
says he's not coming back."
"What shall we do?" cried the boy.
"Eh, never trouble, he won't go far."
"But if he doesn't come back," wailed Annie.
And she and William retired to the sofa and wept. Mrs. Morel sat and
"You pair of gabeys!" she exclaimed. "You'll see him before the night's
But the children were not to be consoled. Twilight came on. Mrs. Morel
grew anxious from very weariness. One part of her said it would be a
relief to see the last of him; another part fretted because of keeping
the children; and inside her, as yet, she could not quite let him go. At
the bottom, she knew very well he could NOT go.
When she went down to the coal-place at the end of the garden, however,
she felt something behind the door. So she looked. And there in the dark
lay the big blue bundle. She sat on a piece of coal and laughed. Every
time she saw it, so fat and yet so ignominious, slunk into its corner in
the dark, with its ends flopping like dejected ears from the knots, she
laughed again. She was relieved.
Mrs. Morel sat waiting. He had not any money, she knew, so if he stopped
he was running up a bill. She was very tired of him--tired to death. He
had not even the courage to carry his bundle beyond the yard-end.
As she meditated, at about nine o'clock, he opened the door and came in,
slinking, and yet sulky. She said not a word. He took off his coat, and
slunk to his armchair, where he began to take off his boots.
"You'd better fetch your bundle before you take your boots off," she
"You may thank your stars I've come back to-night," he said, looking up
from under his dropped head, sulkily, trying to be impressive.
"Why, where should you have gone? You daren't even get your parcel
through the yard-end," she said.
He looked such a fool she was not even angry with him. He continued to
take his boots off and prepare for bed.
"I don't know what's in your blue handkerchief," she said. "But if you
leave it the children shall fetch it in the morning."
Whereupon he got up and went out of the house, returning presently and
crossing the kitchen with averted face, hurrying upstairs. As Mrs. Morel
saw him slink quickly through the inner doorway, holding his bundle, she
laughed to herself: but her heart was bitter, because she had loved him.
THE CASTING OFF OF MOREL--THE TAKING ON OF WILLIAM
DURING the next week Morel's temper was almost unbearable. Like all
miners, he was a great lover of medicines, which, strangely enough, he
would often pay for himself.
"You mun get me a drop o' laxy vitral," he said. "It's a winder as we
canna ha'e a sup i' th' 'ouse."
So Mrs. Morel bought him elixir of vitriol, his favourite first
medicine. And he made himself a jug of wormwood tea. He had hanging in
the attic great bunches of dried herbs: wormwood, rue, horehound, elder
flowers, parsley-purt, marshmallow, hyssop, dandelion, and centaury.
Usually there was a jug of one or other decoction standing on the hob,
from which he drank largely.
"Grand!" he said, smacking his lips after wormwood. "Grand!" And he
exhorted the children to try.
"It's better than any of your tea or your cocoa stews," he vowed. But
they were not to be tempted.
This time, however, neither pills nor vitriol nor all his herbs would
shift the "nasty peens in his head". He was sickening for an attack of
an inflammation of the brain. He had never been well since his sleeping
on the ground when he went with Jerry to Nottingham. Since then he had
drunk and stormed. Now he fell seriously ill, and Mrs. Morel had him
to nurse. He was one of the worst patients imaginable. But, in spite of
all, and putting aside the fact that he was breadwinner, she never
quite wanted him to die. Still there was one part of her wanted him for
The neighbours were very good to her: occasionally some had the children
in to meals, occasionally some would do the downstairs work for her, one
would mind the baby for a day. But it was a great drag, nevertheless.
It was not every day the neighbours helped. Then she had nursing of baby
and husband, cleaning and cooking, everything to do. She was quite worn
out, but she did what was wanted of her.
And the money was just sufficient. She had seventeen shillings a week
from clubs, and every Friday Barker and the other butty put by a portion
of the stall's profits for Morel's wife. And the neighbours made broths,
and gave eggs, and such invalids' trifles. If they had not helped her so
generously in those times, Mrs. Morel would never have pulled through,
without incurring debts that would have dragged her down.
The weeks passed. Morel, almost against hope, grew better. He had a fine
constitution, so that, once on the mend, he went straight forward to
recovery. Soon he was pottering about downstairs. During his illness his
wife had spoilt him a little. Now he wanted her to continue. He often
put his band to his head, pulled down the comers of his mouth, and
shammed pains he did not feel. But there was no deceiving her. At first
she merely smiled to herself. Then she scolded him sharply.
"Goodness, man, don't be so lachrymose."
That wounded him slightly, but still he continued to feign sickness.
"I wouldn't be such a mardy baby," said the wife shortly.
Then he was indignant, and cursed under his breath, like a boy. He was
forced to resume a normal tone, and to cease to whine.
Nevertheless, there was a state of peace in the house for some time.
Mrs. Morel was more tolerant of him, and he, depending on her almost
like a child, was rather happy. Neither knew that she was more tolerant
because she loved him less. Up till this time, in spite of all, he had
been her husband and her man. She had felt that, more or less, what he
did to himself he did to her. Her living depended on him. There were
many, many stages in the ebbing of her love for him, but it was always
Now, with the birth of this third baby, her self no longer set towards
him, helplessly, but was like a tide that scarcely rose, standing off
from him. After this she scarcely desired him. And, standing more aloof
from him, not feeling him so much part of herself, but merely part of
her circumstances, she did not mind so much what he did, could leave him
There was the halt, the wistfulness about the ensuing year, which
is like autumn in a man's life. His wife was casting him off, half
regretfully, but relentlessly; casting him off and turning now for love
and life to the children. Henceforward he was more or less a husk. And
he himself acquiesced, as so many men do, yielding their place to their
During his recuperation, when it was really over between them, both made
an effort to come back somewhat to the old relationship of the first
months of their marriage. He sat at home and, when the children were in
bed, and she was sewing--she did all her sewing by hand, made all shirts
and children's clothing--he would read to her from the newspaper, slowly
pronouncing and delivering the words like a man pitching quoits. Often
she hurried him on, giving him a phrase in anticipation. And then he
took her words humbly.
The silences between them were peculiar. There would be the swift,
slight "cluck" of her needle, the sharp "pop" of his lips as he let out
the smoke, the warmth, the sizzle on the bars as he spat in the fire.
Then her thoughts turned to William. Already he was getting a big boy.
Already he was top of the class, and the master said he was the smartest
lad in the school. She saw him a man, young, full of vigour, making the
world glow again for her.
And Morel sitting there, quite alone, and having nothing to think about,
would be feeling vaguely uncomfortable. His soul would reach out in its
blind way to her and find her gone. He felt a sort of emptiness, almost
like a vacuum in his soul. He was unsettled and restless. Soon he could
not live in that atmosphere, and he affected his wife. Both felt an
oppression on their breathing when they were left together for some
time. Then he went to bed and she settled down to enjoy herself alone,
working, thinking, living.
Meanwhile another infant was coming, fruit of this little peace and
tenderness between the separating parents. Paul was seventeen months old
when the new baby was born. He was then a plump, pale child, quiet, with
heavy blue eyes, and still the peculiar slight knitting of the brows.
The last child was also a boy, fair and bonny. Mrs. Morel was sorry when
she knew she was with child, both for economic reasons and because she
did not love her husband; but not for the sake of the infant.
They called the baby Arthur. He was very pretty, with a mop of gold
curls, and he loved his father from the first. Mrs. Morel was glad this
child loved the father. Hearing the miner's footsteps, the baby would
put up his arms and crow. And if Morel were in a good temper, he called
back immediately, in his hearty, mellow voice:
"What then, my beauty? I sh'll come to thee in a minute."
And as soon as he had taken off his pit-coat, Mrs. Morel would put an
apron round the child, and give him to his father.
"What a sight the lad looks!" she would exclaim sometimes, taking back
the baby, that was smutted on the face from his father's kisses and
play. Then Morel laughed joyfully.
"He's a little collier, bless his bit o' mutton!" he exclaimed.
And these were the happy moments of her life now, when the children
included the father in her heart.
Meanwhile William grew bigger and stronger and more active, while Paul,
always rather delicate and quiet, got slimmer, and trotted after his
mother like her shadow. He was usually active and interested, but
sometimes he would have fits of depression. Then the mother would find
the boy of three or four crying on the sofa.
"What's the matter?" she asked, and got no answer.
"What's the matter?" she insisted, getting cross.
"I don't know," sobbed the child.
So she tried to reason him out of it, or to amuse him, but without
effect. It made her feel beside herself. Then the father, always
impatient, would jump from his chair and shout:
"If he doesn't stop, I'll smack him till he does."
"You'll do nothing of the sort," said the mother coldly. And then she
carried the child into the yard, plumped him into his little chair, and
said: "Now cry there, Misery!"
And then a butterfly on the rhubarb-leaves perhaps caught his eye, or
at last he cried himself to sleep. These fits were not often, but they
caused a shadow in Mrs. Morel's heart, and her treatment of Paul was
different from that of the other children.
Suddenly one morning as she was looking down the alley of the Bottoms
for the barm-man, she heard a voice calling her. It was the thin little
Mrs. Anthony in brown velvet.
"Here, Mrs. Morel, I want to tell you about your Willie."
"Oh, do you?" replied Mrs. Morel. "Why, what's the matter?"
"A lad as gets 'old of another an' rips his clothes off'n 'is back,"
Mrs. Anthony said, "wants showing something."
"Your Alfred's as old as my William," said Mrs. Morel.
"'Appen 'e is, but that doesn't give him a right to get hold of the
boy's collar, an' fair rip it clean off his back."
"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "I don't thrash my children, and even if I did,
I should want to hear their side of the tale."
"They'd happen be a bit better if they did get a good hiding," retorted
Mrs. Anthony. "When it comes ter rippin' a lad's clean collar off'n 'is
"I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose," said Mrs. Morel.
"Make me a liar!" shouted Mrs. Anthony.
Mrs. Morel moved away and closed her gate. Her hand trembled as she held
her mug of barm.
"But I s'll let your mester know," Mrs. Anthony cried after her.
At dinner-time, when William had finished his meal and wanted to be off
again--he was then eleven years old--his mother said to him:
"What did you tear Alfred Anthony's collar for?"
"When did I tear his collar?"
"I don't know when, but his mother says you did."
"Why--it was yesterday--an' it was torn a'ready."
"But you tore it more."
"Well, I'd got a cobbler as 'ad licked seventeen--an' Alfy Ant'ny 'e
'Adam an' Eve an' pinch-me,
Went down to a river to bade.
Adam an' Eve got drownded,
Who do yer think got saved?'
An' so I says: 'Oh, Pinch-YOU,' an' so I pinched 'im, an' 'e was mad,
an' so he snatched my cobbler an' run off with it. An' so I run after
'im, an' when I was gettin' hold of 'im, 'e dodged, an' it ripped 'is
collar. But I got my cobbler--"
He pulled from his pocket a black old horse-chestnut hanging on a
string. This old cobbler had "cobbled"--hit and smashed--seventeen other
cobblers on similar strings. So the boy was proud of his veteran.
"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "you know you've got no right to rip his
"Well, our mother!" he answered. "I never meant tr'a done it--an' it was
on'y an old indirrubber collar as was torn a'ready."
"Next time," said his mother, "YOU be more careful. I shouldn't like it
if you came home with your collar torn off."
"I don't care, our mother; I never did it a-purpose."
The boy was rather miserable at being reprimanded.
"No--well, you be more careful."
William fled away, glad to be exonerated. And Mrs. Morel, who hated any
bother with the neighbours, thought she would explain to Mrs. Anthony,
and the business would be over.
But that evening Morel came in from the pit looking very sour. He stood
in the kitchen and glared round, but did not speak for some minutes.
"Wheer's that Willy?" he asked.
"What do you want HIM for?" asked Mrs. Morel, who had guessed.
"I'll let 'im know when I get him," said Morel, banging his pit-bottle
on to the dresser.
"I suppose Mrs. Anthony's got hold of you and been yarning to you about
Alfy's collar," said Mrs. Morel, rather sneering.
"Niver mind who's got hold of me," said Morel. "When I get hold of 'IM
I'll make his bones rattle."
"It's a poor tale," said Mrs. Morel, "that you're so ready to side
with any snipey vixen who likes to come telling tales against your own
"I'll learn 'im!" said Morel. "It none matters to me whose lad 'e is;
'e's none goin' rippin' an' tearin' about just as he's a mind."
"'Ripping and tearing about!'" repeated Mrs. Morel. "He was running
after that Alfy, who'd taken his cobbler, and he accidentally got hold
of his collar, because the other dodged--as an Anthony would."
"I know!" shouted Morel threateningly.
"You would, before you're told," replied his wife bitingly.
"Niver you mind," stormed Morel. "I know my business."
"That's more than doubtful," said Mrs. Morel, "supposing some
loud-mouthed creature had been getting you to thrash your own children."
"I know," repeated Morel.
And he said no more, but sat and nursed his bad temper. Suddenly William
ran in, saying:
"Can I have my tea, mother?"
"Tha can ha'e more than that!" shouted Morel.
"Hold your noise, man," said Mrs. Morel; "and don't look so ridiculous."
"He'll look ridiculous before I've done wi' him!" shouted Morel, rising
from his chair and glaring at his son.
William, who was a tall lad for his years, but very sensitive, had gone
pale, and was looking in a sort of horror at his father.
"Go out!" Mrs. Morel commanded her son.
William had not the wit to move. Suddenly Morel clenched his fist, and
"I'll GI'E him 'go out'!" he shouted like an insane thing.
"What!" cried Mrs. Morel, panting with rage. "You shall not touch him
for HER telling, you shall not!"
"Shonna I?" shouted Morel. "Shonna I?"
And, glaring at the boy, he ran forward. Mrs. Morel sprang in between
them, with her fist lifted.
"Don't you DARE!" she cried.
"What!" he shouted, baffled for the moment. "What!"
She spun round to her son.
"GO out of the house!" she commanded him in fury.
The boy, as if hypnotised by her, turned suddenly and was gone. Morel
rushed to the door, but was too late. He returned, pale under his
pit-dirt with fury. But now his wife was fully roused.
"Only dare!" she said in a loud, ringing voice. "Only dare, milord, to
lay a finger on that child! You'll regret it for ever."
He was afraid of her. In a towering rage, he sat down.
When the children were old enough to be left, Mrs. Morel joined
the Women's Guild. It was a little club of women attached to the
Co-operative Wholesale Society, which met on Monday night in the long
room over the grocery shop of the Bestwood "Co-op". The women were
supposed to discuss the benefits to be derived from co-operation, and
other social questions. Sometimes Mrs. Morel read a paper. It seemed
queer to the children to see their mother, who was always busy about
the house, sitting writing in her rapid fashion, thinking, referring
to books, and writing again. They felt for her on such occasions the
But they loved the Guild. It was the only thing to which they did not
grudge their mother--and that partly because she enjoyed it, partly
because of the treats they derived from it. The Guild was called by some
hostile husbands, who found their wives getting too independent, the
"clat-fart" shop--that is, the gossip-shop. It is true, from off
the basis of the Guild, the women could look at their homes, at the
conditions of their own lives, and find fault. So the colliers found
their women had a new standard of their own, rather disconcerting. And
also, Mrs. Morel always had a lot of news on Monday nights, so that the
children liked William to be in when their mother came home, because she
told him things.
Then, when the lad was thirteen, she got him a job in the "Co-op."
office. He was a very clever boy, frank, with rather rough features and
real viking blue eyes.
"What dost want ter ma'e a stool-harsed Jack on 'im for?" said Morel.
"All he'll do is to wear his britches behind out an' earn nowt. What's
'e startin' wi'?"
"It doesn't matter what he's starting with," said Mrs. Morel.
"It wouldna! Put 'im i' th' pit we me, an' 'ell earn a easy ten shillin'
a wik from th' start. But six shillin' wearin' his truck-end out on a
stool's better than ten shillin' i' th' pit wi'me, I know."
"He is NOT going in the pit," said Mrs. Morel, "and there's an end of
"It wor good enough for me, but it's non good enough for 'im."
"If your mother put you in the pit at twelve, it's no reason why I
should do the same with my lad."
"Twelve! It wor a sight afore that!"
"Whenever it was," said Mrs. Morel.
She was very proud of her son. He went to the night school, and learned
shorthand, so that by the time he was sixteen he was the best shorthand
clerk and book-keeper on the place, except one. Then he taught in the
night schools. But he was so fiery that only his good-nature and his
size protected him.
All the things that men do--the decent things--William did. He could
run like the wind. When he was twelve he won a first prize in a race;
an inkstand of glass, shaped like an anvil. It stood proudly on the
dresser, and gave Mrs. Morel a keen pleasure. The boy only ran for her.
He flew home with his anvil, breathless, with a "Look, mother!" That was
the first real tribute to herself. She took it like a queen.
"How pretty!" she exclaimed.
Then he began to get ambitious. He gave all his money to his mother.
When he earned fourteen shillings a week, she gave him back two for
himself, and, as he never drank, he felt himself rich. He went about
with the bourgeois of Bestwood. The townlet contained nothing higher
than the clergyman. Then came the bank manager, then the doctors, then
the tradespeople, and after that the hosts of colliers. Willam began
to consort with the sons of the chemist, the schoolmaster, and
the tradesmen. He played billiards in the Mechanics' Hall. Also he
danced--this in spite of his mother. All the life that Bestwood offered
he enjoyed, from the sixpenny-hops down Church Street, to sports and
Paul was treated to dazzling descriptions of all kinds of flower-like
ladies, most of whom lived like cut blooms in William's heart for a
Occasionally some flame would come in pursuit of her errant swain. Mrs.
Morel would find a strange girl at the door, and immediately she sniffed
"Is Mr. Morel in?" the damsel would ask appealingly.
"My husband is at home," Mrs. Morel replied.
"I--I mean YOUNG Mr. Morel," repeated the maiden painfully.
"Which one? There are several."
Whereupon much blushing and stammering from the fair one.
"I--I met Mr. Morel--at Ripley," she explained.
"Oh--at a dance!"
"I don't approve of the girls my son meets at dances. And he is NOT at
Then he came home angry with his mother for having turned the girl away
so rudely. He was a careless, yet eager-looking fellow, who walked with
long strides, sometimes frowning, often with his cap pushed jollily to
the back of his head. Now he came in frowning. He threw his cap on to
the sofa, and took his strong jaw in his hand, and glared down at
his mother. She was small, with her hair taken straight back from her
forehead. She had a quiet air of authority, and yet of rare warmth.
Knowing her son was angry, she trembled inwardly.
"Did a lady call for me yesterday, mother?" he asked.
"I don't know about a lady. There was a girl came."
"And why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I forgot, simply."
He fumed a little.
"A good-looking girl--seemed a lady?"
"I didn't look at her."
"Big brown eyes?"
"I did NOT look. And tell your girls, my son, that when they're running
after you, they're not to come and ask your mother for you. Tell them
that--brazen baggages you meet at dancing-classes."
"I'm sure she was a nice girl."
"And I'm sure she wasn't."
There ended the altercation. Over the dancing there was a great strife
between the mother and the son. The grievance reached its height when
William said he was going to Hucknall Torkard--considered a low town--to
a fancy-dress ball. He was to be a Highlander. There was a dress he
could hire, which one of his friends had had, and which fitted him
perfectly. The Highland suit came home. Mrs. Morel received it coldly
and would not unpack it.
"My suit come?" cried William.
"There's a parcel in the front room."
He rushed in and cut the string.
"How do you fancy your son in this!" he said, enraptured, showing her
"You know I don't want to fancy you in it."
On the evening of the dance, when he had come home to dress, Mrs. Morel
put on her coat and bonnet.
"Aren't you going to stop and see me, mother?" he asked.
"No; I don't want to see you," she replied.
She was rather pale, and her face was closed and hard. She was afraid of
her son's going the same way as his father. He hesitated a moment, and
his heart stood still with anxiety. Then he caught sight of the Highland
bonnet with its ribbons. He picked it up gleefully, forgetting her. She
When he was nineteen he suddenly left the Co-op. office and got a
situation in Nottingham. In his new place he had thirty shillings a week
instead of eighteen. This was indeed a rise. His mother and his father
were brimmed up with pride. Everybody praised William. It seemed he was
going to get on rapidly. Mrs. Morel hoped, with his aid, to help her
younger sons. Annie was now studying to be a teacher. Paul, also very
clever, was getting on well, having lessons in French and German from
his godfather, the clergyman who was still a friend to Mrs. Morel.
Arthur, a spoilt and very good-looking boy, was at the Board school, but
there was talk of his trying to get a scholarship for the High School in
William remained a year at his new post in Nottingham. He was studying
hard, and growing serious. Something seemed to be fretting him. Still
he went out to the dances and the river parties. He did not drink. The
children were all rabid teetotallers. He came home very late at night,
and sat yet longer studying. His mother implored him to take more care,
to do one thing or another.
"Dance, if you want to dance, my son; but don't think you can work in
the office, and then amuse yourself, and THEN study on top of all. You
can't; the human frame won't stand it. Do one thing or the other--amuse
yourself or learn Latin; but don't try to do both."
Then he got a place in London, at a hundred and twenty a year. This
seemed a fabulous sum. His mother doubted almost whether to rejoice or
"They want me in Lime Street on Monday week, mother," he cried, his
eyes blazing as he read the letter. Mrs. Morel felt everything go silent
inside her. He read the letter: "'And will you reply by Thursday whether
you accept. Yours faithfully--' They want me, mother, at a hundred and
twenty a year, and don't even ask to see me. Didn't I tell you I could
do it! Think of me in London! And I can give you twenty pounds a year,
mater. We s'll all be rolling in money."
"We shall, my son," she answered sadly.
It never occurred to him that she might be more hurt at his going
away than glad of his success. Indeed, as the days drew near for his
departure, her heart began to close and grow dreary with despair. She
loved him so much! More than that, she hoped in him so much. Almost she
lived by him. She liked to do things for him: she liked to put a cup for
his tea and to iron his collars, of which he was so proud. It was a joy
to her to have him proud of his collars. There was no laundry. So she
used to rub away at them with her little convex iron, to polish them,
till they shone from the sheer pressure of her arm. Now she would not do
it for him. Now he was going away. She felt almost as if he were going
as well out of her heart. He did not seem to leave her inhabited with
himself. That was the grief and the pain to her. He took nearly all
A few days before his departure--he was just twenty--he burned his
love-letters. They had hung on a file at the top of the kitchen
cupboard. From some of them he had read extracts to his mother. Some
of them she had taken the trouble to read herself. But most were too
Now, on the Saturday morning he said:
"Come on, Postle, let's go through my letters, and you can have the
birds and flowers."
Mrs. Morel had done her Saturday's work on the Friday, because he was
having a last day's holiday. She was making him a rice cake, which
he loved, to take with him. He was scarcely conscious that she was so
He took the first letter off the file. It was mauve-tinted, and had
purple and green thistles. William sniffed the page.
"Nice scent! Smell."
And he thrust the sheet under Paul's nose.
"Um!" said Paul, breathing in. "What d'you call it? Smell, mother."
His mother ducked her small, fine nose down to the paper.
"I don't want to smell their rubbish," she said, sniffing.
"This girl's father," said William, "is as rich as Croesus. He owns
property without end. She calls me Lafayette, because I know French.
'You will see, I've forgiven you'--I like HER forgiving me. 'I told
mother about you this morning, and she will have much pleasure if you
come to tea on Sunday, but she will have to get father's consent also. I
sincerely hope he will agree. I will let you know how it transpires. If,
"'Let you know how it' what?" interrupted Mrs. Morel.
"'Transpires!'" repeated Mrs. Morel mockingly. "I thought she was so
William felt slightly uncomfortable, and abandoned this maiden, giving
Paul the corner with the thistles. He continued to read extracts from
his letters, some of which amused his mother, some of which saddened her
and made her anxious for him.
"My lad," she said, "they're very wise. They know they've only got to
flatter your vanity, and you press up to them like a dog that has its
"Well, they can't go on scratching for ever," he replied. "And when
they've done, I trot away."
"But one day you'll find a string round your neck that you can't pull
off," she answered.
"Not me! I'm equal to any of 'em, mater, they needn't flatter
"You flatter YOURSELF," she said quietly.
Soon there was a heap of twisted black pages, all that remained of the
file of scented letters, except that Paul had thirty or forty pretty
tickets from the corners of the notepaper--swallows and forget-me-nots
and ivy sprays. And William went to London, to start a new life.
THE YOUNG LIFE OF PAUL
PAUL would be built like his mother, slightly and rather small. His fair
hair went reddish, and then dark brown; his eyes were grey. He was a
pale, quiet child, with eyes that seemed to listen, and with a full,
As a rule he seemed old for his years. He was so conscious of what other
people felt, particularly his mother. When she fretted he understood,
and could have no peace. His soul seemed always attentive to her.
As he grew older he became stronger. William was too far removed from
him to accept him as a companion. So the smaller boy belonged at first
almost entirely to Annie. She was a tomboy and a "flybie-skybie", as her
mother called her. But she was intensely fond of her second brother. So
Paul was towed round at the heels of Annie, sharing her game. She raced
wildly at lerky with the other young wild-cats of the Bottoms. And
always Paul flew beside her, living her share of the game, having as
yet no part of his own. He was quiet and not noticeable. But his sister
adored him. He always seemed to care for things if she wanted him to.
She had a big doll of which she was fearfully proud, though not so fond.
So she laid the doll on the sofa, and covered it with an antimacassar,
to sleep. Then she forgot it. Meantime Paul must practise jumping off
the sofa arm. So he jumped crash into the face of the hidden doll.
Annie rushed up, uttered a loud wail, and sat down to weep a dirge. Paul
remained quite still.
"You couldn't tell it was there, mother; you couldn't tell it was
there," he repeated over and over. So long as Annie wept for the doll
he sat helpless with misery. Her grief wore itself out. She forgave
her brother--he was so much upset. But a day or two afterwards she was
"Let's make a sacrifice of Arabella," he said. "Let's burn her."
She was horrified, yet rather fascinated. She wanted to see what the boy
would do. He made an altar of bricks, pulled some of the shavings out of
Arabella's body, put the waxen fragments into the hollow face, poured
on a little paraffin, and set the whole thing alight. He watched with
wicked satisfaction the drops of wax melt off the broken forehead of
Arabella, and drop like sweat into the flame. So long as the stupid big
doll burned he rejoiced in silence. At the end be poked among the embers
with a stick, fished out the arms and legs, all blackened, and smashed
them under stones.
"That's the sacrifice of Missis Arabella," he said. "An' I'm glad
there's nothing left of her."
Which disturbed Annie inwardly, although she could say nothing. He
seemed to hate the doll so intensely, because he had broken it.
All the children, but particularly Paul, were peculiarly against their
father, along with their mother. Morel continued to bully and to drink.
He had periods, months at a time, when he made the whole life of the
family a misery. Paul never forgot coming home from the Band of Hope
one Monday evening and finding his mother with her eye swollen and
discoloured, his father standing on the hearthrug, feet astride, his
head down, and William, just home from work, glaring at his father.
There was a silence as the young children entered, but none of the
elders looked round.
William was white to the lips, and his fists were clenched. He waited
until the children were silent, watching with children's rage and hate;
then he said:
"You coward, you daren't do it when I was in."
But Morel's blood was up. He swung round on his son. William was bigger,
but Morel was hard-muscled, and mad with fury.
"Dossn't I?" he shouted. "Dossn't I? Ha'e much more o' thy chelp, my
young jockey, an' I'll rattle my fist about thee. Ay, an' I sholl that,
Morel crouched at the knees and showed his fist in an ugly, almost
beast-like fashion. William was white with rage.
"Will yer?" he said, quiet and intense. "It 'ud be the last time,
Morel danced a little nearer, crouching, drawing back his fist to
strike. William put his fists ready. A light came into his blue eyes,
almost like a laugh. He watched his father. Another word, and the men
would have begun to fight. Paul hoped they would. The three children sat
pale on the sofa.
"Stop it, both of you," cried Mrs. Morel in a hard voice. "We've had
enough for ONE night. And YOU," she said, turning on to her husband,
"look at your children!"
Morel glanced at the sofa.
"Look at the children, you nasty little bitch!" he sneered. "Why, what
have I done to the children, I should like to know? But they're like
yourself; you've put 'em up to your own tricks and nasty ways--you've
learned 'em in it, you 'ave."
She refused to answer him. No one spoke. After a while he threw his
boots under the table and went to bed.
"Why didn't you let me have a go at him?" said William, when his father
was upstairs. "I could easily have beaten him."
"A nice thing--your own father," she replied.
"'FATHER!'" repeated William. "Call HIM MY father!"
"Well, he is--and so--"
"But why don't you let me settle him? I could do, easily."
"The idea!" she cried. "It hasn't come to THAT yet."
"No," he said, "it's come to worse. Look at yourself. WHY didn't you let
me give it him?"
"Because I couldn't bear it, so never think of it," she cried quickly.
And the children went to bed, miserably.
When William was growing up, the family moved from the Bottoms to a
house on the brow of the hill, commanding a view of the valley, which
spread out like a convex cockle-shell, or a clamp-shell, before it. In
front of the house was a huge old ash-tree. The west wind, sweeping from
Derbyshire, caught the houses with full force, and the tree shrieked
again. Morel liked it.
"It's music," he said. "It sends me to sleep."
But Paul and Arthur and Annie hated it. To Paul it became almost a
demoniacal noise. The winter of their first year in the new house their
father was very bad. The children played in the street, on the brim of
the wide, dark valley, until eight o'clock. Then they went to bed. Their
mother sat sewing below. Having such a great space in front of the house
gave the children a feeling of night, of vastness, and of terror. This
terror came in from the shrieking of the tree and the anguish of the
home discord. Often Paul would wake up, after he had been asleep a long
time, aware of thuds downstairs. Instantly he was wide awake. Then he
heard the booming shouts of his father, come home nearly drunk, then the
sharp replies of his mother, then the bang, bang of his father's fist on
the table, and the nasty snarling shout as the man's voice got higher.
And then the whole was drowned in a piercing medley of shrieks and
cries from the great, wind-swept ash-tree. The children lay silent in
suspense, waiting for a lull in the wind to hear what their father was
doing. He might hit their mother again. There was a feeling of horror,
a kind of bristling in the darkness, and a sense of blood. They lay with
their hearts in the grip of an intense anguish. The wind came through
the tree fiercer and fiercer. All the chords of the great harp hummed,
whistled, and shrieked. And then came the horror of the sudden silence,
silence everywhere, outside and downstairs. What was it? Was it a
silence of blood? What had he done?
The children lay and breathed the darkness. And then, at last, they
heard their father throw down his boots and tramp upstairs in his
stockinged feet. Still they listened. Then at last, if the wind allowed,
they heard the water of the tap drumming into the kettle, which their
mother was filling for morning, and they could go to sleep in peace.
So they were happy in the morning--happy, very happy playing, dancing at
night round the lonely lamp-post in the midst of the darkness. But they
had one tight place of anxiety in their hearts, one darkness in their
eyes, which showed all their lives.
Paul hated his father. As a boy he had a fervent private religion.
"Make him stop drinking," he prayed every night. "Lord, let my father
die," he prayed very often. "Let him not be killed at pit," he prayed
when, after tea, the father did not come home from work.
That was another time when the family suffered intensely. The children
came from school and had their teas. On the hob the big black saucepan
was simmering, the stew-jar was in the oven, ready for Morel's dinner.
He was expected at five o'clock. But for months he would stop and drink
every night on his way from work.
In the winter nights, when it was cold, and grew dark early, Mrs. Morel
would put a brass candlestick on the table, light a tallow candle to
save the gas. The children finished their bread-and-butter, or dripping,
and were ready to go out to play. But if Morel had not come they
faltered. The sense of his sitting in all his pit-dirt, drinking, after
a long day's work, not coming home and eating and washing, but sitting,
getting drunk, on an empty stomach, made Mrs. Morel unable to bear
herself. From her the feeling was transmitted to the other children. She
never suffered alone any more: the children suffered with her.
Paul went out to play with the rest. Down in the great trough of
twilight, tiny clusters of lights burned where the pits were. A few last
colliers straggled up the dim field path. The lamplighter came along. No
more colliers came. Darkness shut down over the valley; work was done.
It was night.
Then Paul ran anxiously into the kitchen. The one candle still burned on
the table, the big fire glowed red. Mrs. Morel sat alone. On the hob
the saucepan steamed; the dinner-plate lay waiting on the table. All
the room was full of the sense of waiting, waiting for the man who was
sitting in his pit-dirt, dinnerless, some mile away from home, across
the darkness, drinking himself drunk. Paul stood in the doorway.
"Has my dad come?" he asked.
"You can see he hasn't," said Mrs. Morel, cross with the futility of the
Then the boy dawdled about near his mother. They shared the same
anxiety. Presently Mrs. Morel went out and strained the potatoes.
"They're ruined and black," she said; "but what do I care?"
Not many words were spoken. Paul almost hated his mother for suffering
because his father did not come home from work.
"What do you bother yourself for?" he said. "If he wants to stop and get
drunk, why don't you let him?"
"Let him!" flashed Mrs. Morel. "You may well say 'let him'."
She knew that the man who stops on the way home from work is on a quick
way to ruining himself and his home. The children were yet young, and
depended on the breadwinner. William gave her the sense of relief,
providing her at last with someone to turn to if Morel failed. But the
tense atmosphere of the room on these waiting evenings was the same.
The minutes ticked away. At six o'clock still the cloth lay on the
table, still the dinner stood waiting, still the same sense of anxiety
and expectation in the room. The boy could not stand it any longer. He
could not go out and play. So he ran in to Mrs. Inger, next door but
one, for her to talk to him. She had no children. Her husband was good
to her but was in a shop, and came home late. So, when she saw the lad
at the door, she called:
"Come in, Paul."
The two sat talking for some time, when suddenly the boy rose, saying:
"Well, I'll be going and seeing if my mother wants an errand doing."
He pretended to be perfectly cheerful, and did not tell his friend what
ailed him. Then he ran indoors.
Morel at these times came in churlish and hateful.
"This is a nice time to come home," said Mrs. Morel.
"Wha's it matter to yo' what time I come whoam?" he shouted.
And everybody in the house was still, because he was dangerous. He ate
his food in the most brutal manner possible, and, when he had done,
pushed all the pots in a heap away from him, to lay his arms on the
table. Then he went to sleep.
Paul hated his father so. The collier's small, mean head, with its black
hair slightly soiled with grey, lay on the bare arms, and the face,
dirty and inflamed, with a fleshy nose and thin, paltry brows, was
turned sideways, asleep with beer and weariness and nasty temper. If
anyone entered suddenly, or a noise were made, the man looked up and
"I'll lay my fist about thy y'ead, I'm tellin' thee, if tha doesna stop
that clatter! Dost hear?"
And the two last words, shouted in a bullying fashion, usually at Annie,
made the family writhe with hate of the man.
He was shut out from all family affairs. No one told him anything.
The children, alone with their mother, told her all about the day's
happenings, everything. Nothing had really taken place in them until it
was told to their mother. But as soon as the father came in, everything
stopped. He was like the scotch in the smooth, happy machinery of the
home. And he was always aware of this fall of silence on his entry,
the shutting off of life, the unwelcome. But now it was gone too far to
He would dearly have liked the children to talk to him, but they could
not. Sometimes Mrs. Morel would say:
"You ought to tell your father."
Paul won a prize in a competition in a child's paper. Everybody was
"Now you'd better tell your father when he comes in," said Mrs. Morel.
"You know how be carries on and says he's never told anything."
"All right," said Paul. But he would almost rather have forfeited the
prize than have to tell his father.
"I've won a prize in a competition, dad," he said. Morel turned round to
"Have you, my boy? What sort of a competition?"
"Oh, nothing--about famous women."
"And how much is the prize, then, as you've got?"
"It's a book."
And that was all. Conversation was impossible between the father and any
other member of the family. He was an outsider. He had denied the God in
The only times when he entered again into the life of his own people
was when he worked, and was happy at work. Sometimes, in the evening, he
cobbled the boots or mended the kettle or his pit-bottle. Then he always
wanted several attendants, and the children enjoyed it. They united with
him in the work, in the actual doing of something, when he was his real
He was a good workman, dexterous, and one who, when he was in a good
humour, always sang. He had whole periods, months, almost years, of
friction and nasty temper. Then sometimes he was jolly again. It was
nice to see him run with a piece of red-hot iron into the scullery,
"Out of my road--out of my road!"
Then he hammered the soft, red-glowing stuff on his iron goose, and made
the shape he wanted. Or he sat absorbed for a moment, soldering. Then
the children watched with joy as the metal sank suddenly molten, and was
shoved about against the nose of the soldering-iron, while the room was
full of a scent of burnt resin and hot tin, and Morel was silent and
intent for a minute. He always sang when he mended boots because of the
jolly sound of hammering. And he was rather happy when he sat putting
great patches on his moleskin pit trousers, which he would often do,
considering them too dirty, and the stuff too hard, for his wife to
But the best time for the young children was when he made fuses. Morel
fetched a sheaf of long sound wheat-straws from the attic. These he
cleaned with his hand, till each one gleamed like a stalk of gold, after
which he cut the straws into lengths of about six inches, leaving, if he
could, a notch at the bottom of each piece. He always had a beautifully
sharp knife that could cut a straw clean without hurting it. Then he set
in the middle of the table a heap of gunpowder, a little pile of black
grains upon the white-scrubbed board. He made and trimmed the straws
while Paul and Annie rifled and plugged them. Paul loved to see the
black grains trickle down a crack in his palm into the mouth of the
straw, peppering jollily downwards till the straw was full. Then he
bunged up the mouth with a bit of soap--which he got on his thumb-nail
from a pat in a saucer--and the straw was finished.
"Look, dad!" he said.
"That's right, my beauty," replied Morel, who was peculiarly lavish of
endearments to his second son. Paul popped the fuse into the powder-tin,
ready for the morning, when Morel would take it to the pit, and use it
to fire a shot that would blast the coal down.
Meantime Arthur, still fond of his father, would lean on the arm of
Morel's chair and say:
"Tell us about down pit, daddy."
This Morel loved to do.
"Well, there's one little 'oss--we call 'im Taffy," he would begin. "An'
he's a fawce 'un!"
Morel had a warm way of telling a story. He made one feel Taffy's
"He's a brown 'un," he would answer, "an' not very high. Well, he comes
i' th' stall wi' a rattle, an' then yo' 'ear 'im sneeze.
"'Ello, Taff,' you say, 'what art sneezin' for? Bin ta'ein' some snuff?'
"An' 'e sneezes again. Then he slives up an' shoves 'is 'ead on yer,
"'What's want, Taff?' yo' say."
"And what does he?" Arthur always asked.
"He wants a bit o' bacca, my duckie."
This story of Taffy would go on interminably, and everybody loved it.
Or sometimes it was a new tale.
"An' what dost think, my darlin'? When I went to put my coat on at
snap-time, what should go runnin' up my arm but a mouse.
"'Hey up, theer!' I shouts.
"An' I wor just in time ter get 'im by th' tail."
"And did you kill it?"
"I did, for they're a nuisance. The place is fair snied wi' 'em."
"An' what do they live on?"
"The corn as the 'osses drops--an' they'll get in your pocket an' eat
your snap, if you'll let 'em--no matter where yo' hing your coat--the
slivin', nibblin' little nuisances, for they are."
These happy evenings could not take place unless Morel had some job
to do. And then he always went to bed very early, often before the
children. There was nothing remaining for him to stay up for, when he
had finished tinkering, and had skimmed the headlines of the newspaper.
And the children felt secure when their father was in bed. They lay and
talked softly a while. Then they started as the lights went suddenly
sprawling over the ceiling from the lamps that swung in the hands of the
colliers tramping by outside, going to take the nine o'clock shift. They
listened to the voices of the men, imagined them dipping down into the
dark valley. Sometimes they went to the window and watched the three
or four lamps growing tinier and tinier, swaying down the fields in the
darkness. Then it was a joy to rush back to bed and cuddle closely in
Paul was rather a delicate boy, subject to bronchitis. The others were
all quite strong; so this was another reason for his mother's difference
in feeling for him. One day he came home at dinner-time feeling ill. But
it was not a family to make any fuss.
"What's the matter with YOU?" his mother asked sharply.
"Nothing," he replied.
But he ate no dinner.
"If you eat no dinner, you're not going to school," she said.
"Why?" he asked.
So after dinner he lay down on the sofa, on the warm chintz cushions the
children loved. Then he fell into a kind of doze. That afternoon Mrs.
Morel was ironing. She listened to the small, restless noise the boy
made in his throat as she worked. Again rose in her heart the old,
almost weary feeling towards him. She had never expected him to live.
And yet he had a great vitality in his young body. Perhaps it would have
been a little relief to her if he had died. She always felt a mixture of
anguish in her love for him.
He, in his semi-conscious sleep, was vaguely aware of the clatter of the
iron on the iron-stand, of the faint thud, thud on the ironing-board.
Once roused, he opened his eyes to see his mother standing on the
hearthrug with the hot iron near her cheek, listening, as it were, to
the heat. Her still face, with the mouth closed tight from suffering and
disillusion and self-denial, and her nose the smallest bit on one side,
and her blue eyes so young, quick, and warm, made his heart contract
with love. When she was quiet, so, she looked brave and rich with life,
but as if she had been done out of her rights. It hurt the boy keenly,
this feeling about her that she had never had her life's fulfilment:
and his own incapability to make up to her hurt him with a sense of
impotence, yet made him patiently dogged inside. It was his childish
She spat on the iron, and a little ball of spit bounded, raced off the
dark, glossy surface. Then, kneeling, she rubbed the iron on the sack
lining of the hearthrug vigorously. She was warm in the ruddy firelight.
Paul loved the way she crouched and put her head on one side. Her
movements were light and quick. It was always a pleasure to watch her.
Nothing she ever did, no movement she ever made, could have been found
fault with by her children. The room was warm and full of the scent of
hot linen. Later on the clergyman came and talked softly with her.
Paul was laid up with an attack of bronchitis. He did not mind much.
What happened happened, and it was no good kicking against the pricks.
He loved the evenings, after eight o'clock, when the light was put out,
and he could watch the fire-flames spring over the darkness of the walls
and ceiling; could watch huge shadows waving and tossing, till the room
seemed full of men who battled silently.
On retiring to bed, the father would come into the sickroom. He was
always very gentle if anyone were ill. But he disturbed the atmosphere
for the boy.
"Are ter asleep, my darlin'?" Morel asked softly.
"No; is my mother comin'?"
"She's just finishin' foldin' the clothes. Do you want anything?" Morel
rarely "thee'd" his son.
"I don't want nothing. But how long will she be?"
"Not long, my duckie."
The father waited undecidedly on the hearthrug for a moment or two. He
felt his son did not want him. Then he went to the top of the stairs and
said to his wife:
"This childt's axin' for thee; how long art goin' to be?"
"Until I've finished, good gracious! Tell him to go to sleep."
"She says you're to go to sleep," the father repeated gently to Paul.
"Well, I want HER to come," insisted the boy.
"He says he can't go off till you come," Morel called downstairs.
"Eh, dear! I shan't be long. And do stop shouting downstairs. There's
the other children--"
Then Morel came again and crouched before the bedroom fire. He loved a
"She says she won't be long," he said.
He loitered about indefinitely. The boy began to get feverish with
irritation. His father's presence seemed to aggravate all his sick
impatience. At last Morel, after having stood looking at his son awhile,
"Good-night, my darling."
"Good-night," Paul replied, turning round in relief to be alone.
Paul loved to sleep with his mother. Sleep is still most perfect, in
spite of hygienists, when it is shared with a beloved. The warmth, the
security and peace of soul, the utter comfort from the touch of the
other, knits the sleep, so that it takes the body and soul completely in
its healing. Paul lay against her and slept, and got better; whilst she,
always a bad sleeper, fell later on into a profound sleep that seemed to
give her faith.
In convalescence he would sit up in bed, see the fluffy horses feeding
at the troughs in the field, scattering their hay on the trodden yellow
snow; watch the miners troop home--small, black figures trailing slowly
in gangs across the white field. Then the night came up in dark blue
vapour from the snow.
In convalescence everything was wonderful. The snowflakes, suddenly
arriving on the window-pane, clung there a moment like swallows,
then were gone, and a drop of water was crawling down the glass. The
snowflakes whirled round the corner of the house, like pigeons dashing
by. Away across the valley the little black train crawled doubtfully
over the great whiteness.
While they were so poor, the children were delighted if they could do
anything to help economically. Annie and Paul and Arthur went out early
in the morning, in summer, looking for mushrooms, hunting through the
wet grass, from which the larks were rising, for the white-skinned,
wonderful naked bodies crouched secretly in the green. And if they got
half a pound they felt exceedingly happy: there was the joy of finding
something, the joy of accepting something straight from the hand of
Nature, and the joy of contributing to the family exchequer.
But the most important harvest, after gleaning for frumenty, was the
blackberries. Mrs. Morel must buy fruit for puddings on the Saturdays;
also she liked blackberries. So Paul and Arthur scoured the coppices and
woods and old quarries, so long as a blackberry was to be found, every
week-end going on their search. In that region of mining villages
blackberries became a comparative rarity. But Paul hunted far and wide.
He loved being out in the country, among the bushes. But he also could
not bear to go home to his mother empty. That, he felt, would disappoint
her, and he would have died rather.
"Good gracious!" she would exclaim as the lads came in, late, and tired
to death, and hungry, "wherever have you been?"
"Well," replied Paul, "there wasn't any, so we went over Misk Hills. And
look here, our mother!"
She peeped into the basket.
"Now, those are fine ones!" she exclaimed.
"And there's over two pounds--isn't there over two pounds"?
She tried the basket.
"Yes," she answered doubtfully.
Then Paul fished out a little spray. He always brought her one spray,
the best he could find.
"Pretty!" she said, in a curious tone, of a woman accepting a
The boy walked all day, went miles and miles, rather than own himself
beaten and come home to her empty-handed. She never realised this,
whilst he was young. She was a woman who waited for her children to grow
up. And William occupied her chiefly.
But when William went to Nottingham, and was not so much at home, the
mother made a companion of Paul. The latter was unconsciously jealous of
his brother, and William was jealous of him. At the same time, they were
Mrs. Morel's intimacy with her second son was more subtle and fine,
perhaps not so passionate as with her eldest. It was the rule that Paul
should fetch the money on Friday afternoons. The colliers of the five
pits were paid on Fridays, but not individually. All the earnings of
each stall were put down to the chief butty, as contractor, and he
divided the wages again, either in the public-house or in his own home.
So that the children could fetch the money, school closed early on
Friday afternoons. Each of the Morel children--William, then Annie,
then Paul--had fetched the money on Friday afternoons, until they went
themselves to work. Paul used to set off at half-past three, with a
little calico bag in his pocket. Down all the paths, women, girls,
children, and men were seen trooping to the offices.
These offices were quite handsome: a new, red-brick building, almost
like a mansion, standing in its own grounds at the end of Greenhill
Lane. The waiting-room was the hall, a long, bare room paved with blue
brick, and having a seat all round, against the wall. Here sat the
colliers in their pit-dirt. They had come up early. The women and
children usually loitered about on the red gravel paths. Paul always
examined the grass border, and the big grass bank, because in it grew
tiny pansies and tiny forget-me-nots. There was a sound of many voices.
The women had on their Sunday hats. The girls chattered loudly. Little
dogs ran here and there. The green shrubs were silent all around.
Then from inside came the cry "Spinney Park--Spinney Park." All the folk
for Spinney Park trooped inside. When it was time for Bretty to be paid,
Paul went in among the crowd. The pay-room was quite small. A counter
went across, dividing it into half. Behind the counter stood two
men--Mr. Braithwaite and his clerk, Mr. Winterbottom. Mr. Braithwaite
was large, somewhat of the stern patriarch in appearance, having a
rather thin white beard. He was usually muffled in an enormous silk
neckerchief, and right up to the hot summer a huge fire burned in the
open grate. No window was open. Sometimes in winter the air scorched the
throats of the people, coming in from the freshness. Mr. Winterbottom
was rather small and fat, and very bald. He made remarks that were not
witty, whilst his chief launched forth patriarchal admonitions against
The room was crowded with miners in their pit-dirt, men who had been
home and changed, and women, and one or two children, and usually a dog.
Paul was quite small, so it was often his fate to be jammed behind the
legs of the men, near the fire which scorched him. He knew the order of
the names--they went according to stall number.
"Holliday," came the ringing voice of Mr. Braithwaite. Then Mrs.
Holliday stepped silently forward, was paid, drew aside.
A boy stepped to the counter. Mr. Braithwaite, large and irascible,
glowered at him over his spectacles.
"John Bower!" he repeated.
"It's me," said the boy.
"Why, you used to 'ave a different nose than that," said glossy Mr.
Winterbottom, peering over the counter. The people tittered, thinking of
John Bower senior.
"How is it your father's not come!" said Mr. Braithwaite, in a large and
"He's badly," piped the boy.
"You should tell him to keep off the drink," pronounced the great
"An' niver mind if he puts his foot through yer," said a mocking voice
All the men laughed. The large and important cashier looked down at his
"Fred Pilkington!" he called, quite indifferent.
Mr. Braithwaite was an important shareholder in the firm.
Paul knew his turn was next but one, and his heart began to beat. He was
pushed against the chimney-piece. His calves were burning. But he did
not hope to get through the wall of men.
"Walter Morel!" came the ringing voice.
"Here!" piped Paul, small and inadequate.
"Morel--Walter Morel!" the cashier repeated, his finger and thumb on the
invoice, ready to pass on.
Paul was suffering convulsions of self-consciousness, and could not
or would not shout. The backs of the men obliterated him. Then Mr.
Winterbottom came to the rescue.
"He's here. Where is he? Morel's lad?"
The fat, red, bald little man peered round with keen eyes. He pointed at
the fireplace. The colliers looked round, moved aside, and disclosed the
"Here he is!" said Mr. Winterbottom.
Paul went to the counter.
"Seventeen pounds eleven and fivepence. Why don't you shout up when
you're called?" said Mr. Braithwaite. He banged on to the invoice a
five-pound bag of silver, then in a delicate and pretty movement, picked
up a little ten-pound column of gold, and plumped it beside the silver.
The gold slid in a bright stream over the paper. The cashier finished
counting off the money; the boy dragged the whole down the counter to
Mr. Winterbottom, to whom the stoppages for rent and tools must be paid.
Here he suffered again.
"Sixteen an' six," said Mr. Winterbottom.
The lad was too much upset to count. He pushed forward some loose silver
and half a sovereign.
"How much do you think you've given me?" asked Mr. Winterbottom.
The boy looked at him, but said nothing. He had not the faintest notion.
"Haven't you got a tongue in your head?"
Paul bit his lip, and pushed forward some more silver.
"Don't they teach you to count at the Board-school?" he asked.
"Nowt but algibbra an' French," said a collier.
"An' cheek an' impidence," said another.
Paul was keeping someone waiting. With trembling fingers he got his
money into the bag and slid out. He suffered the tortures of the damned
on these occasions.
His relief, when he got outside, and was walking along the Mansfield
Road, was infinite. On the park wall the mosses were green. There were
some gold and some white fowls pecking under the apple trees of an
orchard. The colliers were walking home in a stream. The boy went near
the wall, self-consciously. He knew many of the men, but could not
recognise them in their dirt. And this was a new torture to him.
When he got down to the New Inn, at Bretty, his father was not yet come.
Mrs. Wharmby, the landlady, knew him. His grandmother, Morel's mother,
had been Mrs. Wharmby's friend.
"Your father's not come yet," said the landlady, in the peculiar
half-scornful, half-patronising voice of a woman who talks chiefly to
grown men. "Sit you down."
Paul sat down on the edge of the bench in the bar. Some colliers were
"reckoning"--sharing out their money--in a corner; others came in. They
all glanced at the boy without speaking. At last Morel came; brisk, and
with something of an air, even in his blackness.
"Hello!" he said rather tenderly to his son. "Have you bested me? Shall
you have a drink of something?"
Paul and all the children were bred up fierce anti-alcoholists, and he
would have suffered more in drinking a lemonade before all the men than
in having a tooth drawn.
The landlady looked at him "de haut en bas", rather pitying, and at
the same time, resenting his clear, fierce morality. Paul went home,
glowering. He entered the house silently. Friday was baking day, and
there was usually a hot bun. His mother put it before him.
Suddenly he turned on her in a fury, his eyes flashing:
"I'm NOT going to the office any more," he said.
"Why, what's the matter?" his mother asked in surprise. His sudden rages
rather amused her.
"I'm NOT going any more," he declared.
"Oh, very well, tell your father so."
He chewed his bun as if he hated it.
"I'm not--I'm not going to fetch the money."
"Then one of Carlin's children can go; they'd be glad enough of the
sixpence," said Mrs. Morel.
This sixpence was Paul's only income. It mostly went in buying birthday
presents; but it WAS an income, and he treasured it. But--
"They can have it, then!" he said. "I don't want it."
"Oh, very well," said his mother. "But you needn't bully ME about it."
"They're hateful, and common, and hateful, they are, and I'm not going
any more. Mr. Braithwaite drops his 'h's', an' Mr. Winterbottom says
"And is that why you won't go any more?" smiled Mrs. Morel.
The boy was silent for some time. His face was pale, his eyes dark and
furious. His mother moved about at her work, taking no notice of him.
"They always stan' in front of me, so's I can't get out," he said.
"Well, my lad, you've only to ASK them," she replied.
"An' then Alfred Winterbottom says, 'What do they teach you at the
"They never taught HIM much," said Mrs. Morel, "that is a fact--neither
manners nor wit--and his cunning he was born with."
So, in her own way, she soothed him. His ridiculous hypersensitiveness
made her heart ache. And sometimes the fury in his eyes roused her, made
her sleeping soul lift up its head a moment, surprised.
"What was the cheque?" she asked.
"Seventeen pounds eleven and fivepence, and sixteen and six stoppages,"
replied the boy. "It's a good week; and only five shillings stoppages
for my father."
So she was able to calculate how much her husband had earned, and could
call him to account if he gave her short money. Morel always kept to
himself the secret of the week's amount.
Friday was the baking night and market night. It was the rule that Paul
should stay at home and bake. He loved to stop in and draw or read; he
was very fond of drawing. Annie always "gallivanted" on Friday nights;
Arthur was enjoying himself as usual. So the boy remained alone.
Mrs. Morel loved her marketing. In the tiny market-place on the top
of the hill, where four roads, from Nottingham and Derby, Ilkeston
and Mansfield, meet, many stalls were erected. Brakes ran in from
surrounding villages. The market-place was full of women, the streets
packed with men. It was amazing to see so many men everywhere in the
streets. Mrs. Morel usually quarrelled with her lace woman, sympathised
with her fruit man--who was a gabey, but his wife was a bad 'un--laughed
with the fish man--who was a scamp but so droll--put the linoleum man
in his place, was cold with the odd-wares man, and only went to the
crockery man when she was driven--or drawn by the cornflowers on a
little dish; then she was coldly polite.
"I wondered how much that little dish was," she said.
"Sevenpence to you."
She put the dish down and walked away; but she could not leave the
market-place without it. Again she went by where the pots lay coldly on
the floor, and she glanced at the dish furtively, pretending not to.
She was a little woman, in a bonnet and a black costume. Her bonnet was
in its third year; it was a great grievance to Annie.
"Mother!" the girl implored, "don't wear that nubbly little bonnet."
"Then what else shall I wear," replied the mother tartly. "And I'm sure
it's right enough."
It had started with a tip; then had had flowers; now was reduced to
black lace and a bit of jet.
"It looks rather come down," said Paul. "Couldn't you give it a
"I'll jowl your head for impudence," said Mrs. Morel, and she tied the
strings of the black bonnet valiantly under her chin.
She glanced at the dish again. Both she and her enemy, the pot man,
had an uncomfortable feeling, as if there were something between them.
Suddenly he shouted:
"Do you want it for fivepence?"
She started. Her heart hardened; but then she stooped and took up her
"I'll have it," she said.
"Yer'll do me the favour, like?" he said. "Yer'd better spit in it, like
yer do when y'ave something give yer."
Mrs. Morel paid him the fivepence in a cold manner.
"I don't see you give it me," she said. "You wouldn't let me have it for
fivepence if you didn't want to."
"In this flamin', scrattlin' place you may count yerself lucky if you
can give your things away," he growled.
"Yes; there are bad times, and good," said Mrs. Morel.
But she had forgiven the pot man. They were friends. She dare now finger
his pots. So she was happy.
Paul was waiting for her. He loved her home-coming. She was always her
best so--triumphant, tired, laden with parcels, feeling rich in spirit.
He heard her quick, light step in the entry and looked up from his
"Oh!" she sighed, smiling at him from the doorway.
"My word, you ARE loaded!" he exclaimed, putting down his brush.
"I am!" she gasped. "That brazen Annie said she'd meet me. SUCH a
She dropped her string bag and her packages on the table.
"Is the bread done?" she asked, going to the oven.
"The last one is soaking," he replied. "You needn't look, I've not
"Oh, that pot man!" she said, closing the oven door. "You know what a
wretch I've said he was? Well, I don't think he's quite so bad."
The boy was attentive to her. She took off her little black bonnet.
"No. I think he can't make any money--well, it's everybody's cry alike
nowadays--and it makes him disagreeable."
"It would ME," said Paul.
"Well, one can't wonder at it. And he let me have--how much do you think
he let me have THIS for?"
She took the dish out of its rag of newspaper, and stood looking on it
"Show me!" said Paul.
The two stood together gloating over the dish.
"I LOVE cornflowers on things," said Paul.
"Yes, and I thought of the teapot you bought me--"
"One and three," said Paul.
"It's not enough, mother."
"No. Do you know, I fairly sneaked off with it. But I'd been
extravagant, I couldn't afford any more. And he needn't have let me have
it if he hadn't wanted to."
"No, he needn't, need he," said Paul, and the two comforted each other
from the fear of having robbed the pot man.
"We c'n have stewed fruit in it," said Paul.
"Or custard, or a jelly," said his mother.
"Or radishes and lettuce," said he.
"Don't forget that bread," she said, her voice bright with glee.
Paul looked in the oven; tapped the loaf on the base.
"It's done," he said, giving it to her.
She tapped it also.
"Yes," she replied, going to unpack her bag. "Oh, and I'm a wicked,
extravagant woman. I know I s'll come to want."
He hopped to her side eagerly, to see her latest extravagance. She
unfolded another lump of newspaper and disclosed some roots of pansies
and of crimson daisies.
"Four penn'orth!" she moaned.
"How CHEAP!" he cried.
"Yes, but I couldn't afford it THIS week of all weeks."
"But lovely!" he cried.
"Aren't they!" she exclaimed, giving way to pure joy. "Paul, look at
this yellow one, isn't it--and a face just like an old man!"
"Just!" cried Paul, stooping to sniff. "And smells that nice! But he's a
He ran in the scullery, came back with the flannel, and carefully washed
"NOW look at him now he's wet!" he said.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, brimful of satisfaction.
The children of Scargill Street felt quite select. At the end where
the Morels lived there were not many young things. So the few were more
united. Boys and girls played together, the girls joining in the fights
and the rough games, the boys taking part in the dancing games and rings
and make-belief of the girls.
Annie and Paul and Arthur loved the winter evenings, when it was not
wet. They stayed indoors till the colliers were all gone home, till it
was thick dark, and the street would be deserted. Then they tied their
scarves round their necks, for they scorned overcoats, as all the
colliers' children did, and went out. The entry was very dark, and at
the end the whole great night opened out, in a hollow, with a little
tangle of lights below where Minton pit lay, and another far away
opposite for Selby. The farthest tiny lights seemed to stretch out the
darkness for ever. The children looked anxiously down the road at the
one lamp-post, which stood at the end of the field path. If the little,
luminous space were deserted, the two boys felt genuine desolation. They
stood with their hands in their pockets under the lamp, turning their
backs on the night, quite miserable, watching the dark houses. Suddenly
a pinafore under a short coat was seen, and a long-legged girl came
"Where's Billy Pillins an' your Annie an' Eddie Dakin?"
"I don't know."
But it did not matter so much--there were three now. They set up a game
round the lamp-post, till the others rushed up, yelling. Then the play
went fast and furious.
There was only this one lamp-post. Behind was the great scoop of
darkness, as if all the night were there. In front, another wide, dark
way opened over the hill brow. Occasionally somebody came out of this
way and went into the field down the path. In a dozen yards the night
had swallowed them. The children played on.
They were brought exceedingly close together owing to their isolation.
If a quarrel took place, the whole play was spoilt. Arthur was very
touchy, and Billy Pillins--really Philips--was worse. Then Paul had to
side with Arthur, and on Paul's side went Alice, while Billy Pillins
always had Emmie Limb and Eddie Dakin to back him up. Then the six would
fight, hate with a fury of hatred, and flee home in terror. Paul never
forgot, after one of these fierce internecine fights, seeing a big red
moon lift itself up, slowly, between the waste road over the hilltop,
steadily, like a great bird. And he thought of the Bible, that the moon
should be turned to blood. And the next day he made haste to be friends
with Billy Pillins. And then the wild, intense games went on again under
the lamp-post, surrounded by so much darkness. Mrs. Morel, going into
her parlour, would hear the children singing away:
"My shoes are made of Spanish leather,
My socks are made of silk;
I wear a ring on every finger,
I wash myself in milk."
They sounded so perfectly absorbed in the game as their voices came
out of the night, that they had the feel of wild creatures singing.
It stirred the mother; and she understood when they came in at eight
o'clock, ruddy, with brilliant eyes, and quick, passionate speech.
They all loved the Scargill Street house for its openness, for the great
scallop of the world it had in view. On summer evenings the women would
stand against the field fence, gossiping, facing the west, watching the
sunsets flare quickly out, till the Derbyshire hills ridged across the
crimson far away, like the black crest of a newt.
In this summer season the pits never turned full time, particularly the
soft coal. Mrs. Dakin, who lived next door to Mrs. Morel, going to the
field fence to shake her hearthrug, would spy men coming slowly up the
hill. She saw at once they were colliers. Then she waited, a tall, thin,
shrew-faced woman, standing on the hill brow, almost like a menace to
the poor colliers who were toiling up. It was only eleven o'clock. From
the far-off wooded hills the haze that hangs like fine black crape at
the back of a summer morning had not yet dissipated. The first man came
to the stile. "Chock-chock!" went the gate under his thrust.
"What, han' yer knocked off?" cried Mrs. Dakin.
"We han, missis."
"It's a pity as they letn yer goo," she said sarcastically.
"It is that," replied the man.
"Nay, you know you're flig to come up again," she said.
And the man went on. Mrs. Dakin, going up her yard, spied Mrs. Morel
taking the ashes to the ash-pit.
"I reckon Minton's knocked off, missis," she cried.
"Isn't it sickenin!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel in wrath.
"Ha! But I'n just seed Jont Hutchby."
"They might as well have saved their shoe-leather," said Mrs. Morel. And
both women went indoors disgusted.
The colliers, their faces scarcely blackened, were trooping home again.
Morel hated to go back. He loved the sunny morning. But he had gone to
pit to work, and to be sent home again spoilt his temper.
"Good gracious, at this time!" exclaimed his wife, as he entered.
"Can I help it, woman?" he shouted.
"And I've not done half enough dinner."
"Then I'll eat my bit o' snap as I took with me," he bawled
pathetically. He felt ignominious and sore.
And the children, coming home from school, would wonder to see their
father eating with his dinner the two thick slices of rather dry and
dirty bread-and-butter that had been to pit and back.
"What's my dad eating his snap for now?" asked Arthur.
"I should ha'e it holled at me if I didna," snorted Morel.
"What a story!" exclaimed his wife.
"An' is it goin' to be wasted?" said Morel. "I'm not such a extravagant
mortal as you lot, with your waste. If I drop a bit of bread at pit, in
all the dust an' dirt, I pick it up an' eat it."
"The mice would eat it," said Paul. "It wouldn't be wasted."
"Good bread-an'-butter's not for mice, either," said Morel. "Dirty or
not dirty, I'd eat it rather than it should be wasted."
"You might leave it for the mice and pay for it out of your next pint,"
said Mrs. Morel.
"Oh, might I?" he exclaimed.
They were very poor that autumn. William had just gone away to London,
and his mother missed his money. He sent ten shillings once or twice,
but he had many things to pay for at first. His letters came regularly
once a week. He wrote a good deal to his mother, telling her all his
life, how he made friends, and was exchanging lessons with a Frenchman,
how he enjoyed London. His mother felt again he was remaining to her
just as when he was at home. She wrote to him every week her direct,
rather witty letters. All day long, as she cleaned the house, she
thought of him. He was in London: he would do well. Almost, he was like
her knight who wore HER favour in the battle.
He was coming at Christmas for five days. There had never been such
preparations. Paul and Arthur scoured the land for holly and evergreens.
Annie made the pretty paper hoops in the old-fashioned way. And there
was unheard-of extravagance in the larder. Mrs. Morel made a big and
magnificent cake. Then, feeling queenly, she showed Paul how to blanch
almonds. He skinned the long nuts reverently, counting them all, to see
not one was lost. It was said that eggs whisked better in a cold place.
So the boy stood in the scullery, where the temperature was nearly at
freezing-point, and whisked and whisked, and flew in excitement to his
mother as the white of egg grew stiffer and more snowy.
"Just look, mother! Isn't it lovely?"
And he balanced a bit on his nose, then blew it in the air.
"Now, don't waste it," said the mother.
Everybody was mad with excitement. William was coming on Christmas Eve.
Mrs. Morel surveyed her pantry. There was a big plum cake, and a rice
cake, jam tarts, lemon tarts, and mince-pies--two enormous dishes. She
was finishing cooking--Spanish tarts and cheese-cakes. Everywhere was
decorated. The kissing bunch of berried holly hung with bright and
glittering things, spun slowly over Mrs. Morel's head as she trimmed her
little tarts in the kitchen. A great fire roared. There was a scent of
cooked pastry. He was due at seven o'clock, but he would be late. The
three children had gone to meet him. She was alone. But at a quarter to
seven Morel came in again. Neither wife nor husband spoke. He sat in his
armchair, quite awkward with excitement, and she quietly went on with
her baking. Only by the careful way in which she did things could it be
told how much moved she was. The clock ticked on.
"What time dost say he's coming?" Morel asked for the fifth time.
"The train gets in at half-past six," she replied emphatically.
"Then he'll be here at ten past seven."
"Eh, bless you, it'll be hours late on the Midland," she said
indifferently. But she hoped, by expecting him late, to bring him early.
Morel went down the entry to look for him. Then he came back.
"Goodness, man!" she said. "You're like an ill-sitting hen."
"Hadna you better be gettin' him summat t' eat ready?" asked the father.
"There's plenty of time," she answered.
"There's not so much as I can see on," he answered, turning crossly in
his chair. She began to clear her table. The kettle was singing. They
waited and waited.
Meantime the three children were on the platform at Sethley Bridge,
on the Midland main line, two miles from home. They waited one hour.
A train came--he was not there. Down the line the red and green lights
shone. It was very dark and very cold.
"Ask him if the London train's come," said Paul to Annie, when they saw
a man in a tip cap.
"I'm not," said Annie. "You be quiet--he might send us off."
But Paul was dying for the man to know they were expecting someone by
the London train: it sounded so grand. Yet he was much too much scared
of broaching any man, let alone one in a peaked cap, to dare to ask. The
three children could scarcely go into the waiting-room for fear of being
sent away, and for fear something should happen whilst they were off the
platform. Still they waited in the dark and cold.
"It's an hour an' a half late," said Arthur pathetically.
"Well," said Annie, "it's Christmas Eve."
They all grew silent. He wasn't coming. They looked down the darkness
of the railway. There was London! It seemed the utter-most of distance.
They thought anything might happen if one came from London. They were
all too troubled to talk. Cold, and unhappy, and silent, they huddled
together on the platform.
At last, after more than two hours, they saw the lights of an engine
peering round, away down the darkness. A porter ran out. The children
drew back with beating hearts. A great train, bound for Manchester, drew
up. Two doors opened, and from one of them, William. They flew to him.
He handed parcels to them cheerily, and immediately began to explain
that this great train had stopped for HIS sake at such a small station
as Sethley Bridge: it was not booked to stop.
Meanwhile the parents were getting anxious. The table was set, the chop
was cooked, everything was ready. Mrs. Morel put on her black apron.
She was wearing her best dress. Then she sat, pretending to read. The
minutes were a torture to her.
"H'm!" said Morel. "It's an hour an' a ha'ef."
"And those children waiting!" she said.
"Th' train canna ha' come in yet," he said.
"I tell you, on Christmas Eve they're HOURS wrong."
They were both a bit cross with each other, so gnawed with anxiety. The
ash tree moaned outside in a cold, raw wind. And all that space of night
from London home! Mrs. Morel suffered. The slight click of the works
inside the clock irritated her. It was getting so late; it was getting
At last there was a sound of voices, and a footstep in the entry.
"Ha's here!" cried Morel, jumping up.
Then he stood back. The mother ran a few steps towards the door and
waited. There was a rush and a patter of feet, the door burst open.
William was there. He dropped his Gladstone bag and took his mother in
"Mater!" he said.
"My boy!" she cried.
And for two seconds, no longer, she clasped him and kissed him. Then she
withdrew and said, trying to be quite normal:
"But how late you are!"
"Aren't I!" he cried, turning to his father. "Well, dad!"
The two men shook hands.
"Well, my lad!"
Morel's eyes were wet.
"We thought tha'd niver be commin'," he said.
"Oh, I'd come!" exclaimed William.
Then the son turned round to his mother.
"But you look well," she said proudly, laughing.
"Well!" he exclaimed. "I should think so--coming home!"
He was a fine fellow, big, straight, and fearless-looking. He looked
round at the evergreens and the kissing bunch, and the little tarts that
lay in their tins on the hearth.
"By jove! mother, it's not different!" he said, as if in relief.
Everybody was still for a second. Then he suddenly sprang forward,
picked a tart from the hearth, and pushed it whole into his mouth.
"Well, did iver you see such a parish oven!" the father exclaimed.
He had brought them endless presents. Every penny he had he had spent
on them. There was a sense of luxury overflowing in the house. For his
mother there was an umbrella with gold on the pale handle. She kept
it to her dying day, and would have lost anything rather than that.
Everybody had something gorgeous, and besides, there were pounds of
unknown sweets: Turkish delight, crystallised pineapple, and such-like
things which, the children thought, only the splendour of London could
provide. And Paul boasted of these sweets among his friends.
"Real pineapple, cut off in slices, and then turned into crystal--fair
Everybody was mad with happiness in the family. Home was home, and they
loved it with a passion of love, whatever the suffering had been. There
were parties, there were rejoicings. People came in to see William, to
see what difference London had made to him. And they all found him "such
a gentleman, and SUCH a fine fellow, my word"!
When he went away again the children retired to various places to weep
alone. Morel went to bed in misery, and Mrs. Morel felt as if she were
numbed by some drug, as if her feelings were paralysed. She loved him
He was in the office of a lawyer connected with a large shipping firm,
and at the midsummer his chief offered him a trip in the Mediterranean
on one of the boats, for quite a small cost. Mrs. Morel wrote: "Go, go,
my boy. You may never have a chance again, and I should love to think of
you cruising there in the Mediterranean almost better than to have you
at home." But William came home for his fortnight's holiday. Not even
the Mediterranean, which pulled at all his young man's desire to travel,
and at his poor man's wonder at the glamorous south, could take him away
when he might come home. That compensated his mother for much.
PAUL LAUNCHES INTO LIFE
MOREL was rather a heedless man, careless of danger. So he had endless
accidents. Now, when Mrs. Morel heard the rattle of an empty coal-cart
cease at her entry-end, she ran into the parlour to look, expecting
almost to see her husband seated in the waggon, his face grey under his
dirt, his body limp and sick with some hurt or other. If it were he, she
would run out to help.
About a year after William went to London, and just after Paul had left
school, before he got work, Mrs. Morel was upstairs and her son was
painting in the kitchen--he was very clever with his brush--when there
came a knock at the door. Crossly he put down his brush to go. At the
same moment his mother opened a window upstairs and looked down.
A pit-lad in his dirt stood on the threshold.
"Is this Walter Morel's?" he asked.
"Yes," said Mrs. Morel. "What is it?"
But she had guessed already.
"Your mester's got hurt," he said.
"Eh, dear me!" she exclaimed. "It's a wonder if he hadn't, lad. And
what's he done this time?"
"I don't know for sure, but it's 'is leg somewhere. They ta'ein' 'im ter
"Good gracious me!" she exclaimed. "Eh, dear, what a one he is! There's
not five minutes of peace, I'll be hanged if there is! His thumb's
nearly better, and now--Did you see him?"
"I seed him at th' bottom. An' I seed 'em bring 'im up in a tub, an'
'e wor in a dead faint. But he shouted like anythink when Doctor Fraser
examined him i' th' lamp cabin--an' cossed an' swore, an' said as 'e wor
goin' to be ta'en whoam--'e worn't goin' ter th' 'ospital."
The boy faltered to an end.
"He WOULD want to come home, so that I can have all the bother. Thank
you, my lad. Eh, dear, if I'm not sick--sick and surfeited, I am!"
She came downstairs. Paul had mechanically resumed his painting.
"And it must be pretty bad if they've taken him to the hospital," she
went on. "But what a CARELESS creature he is! OTHER men don't have all
these accidents. Yes, he WOULD want to put all the burden on me. Eh,
dear, just as we WERE getting easy a bit at last. Put those things away,
there's no time to be painting now. What time is there a train? I know I
s'll have to go trailing to Keston. I s'll have to leave that bedroom."
"I can finish it," said Paul.
"You needn't. I shall catch the seven o'clock back, I should think. Oh,
my blessed heart, the fuss and commotion he'll make! And those granite
setts at Tinder Hill--he might well call them kidney pebbles--they'll
jolt him almost to bits. I wonder why they can't mend them, the state
they're in, an' all the men as go across in that ambulance. You'd think
they'd have a hospital here. The men bought the ground, and, my sirs,
there'd be accidents enough to keep it going. But no, they must trail
them ten miles in a slow ambulance to Nottingham. It's a crying shame!
Oh, and the fuss he'll make! I know he will! I wonder who's with him.
Barker, I s'd think. Poor beggar, he'll wish himself anywhere rather.
But he'll look after him, I know. Now there's no telling how long he'll
be stuck in that hospital--and WON'T he hate it! But if it's only his
leg it's not so bad."
All the time she was getting ready. Hurriedly taking off her bodice, she
crouched at the boiler while the water ran slowly into her lading-can.
"I wish this boiler was at the bottom of the sea!" she exclaimed,
wriggling the handle impatiently. She had very handsome, strong arms,
rather surprising on a smallish woman.
Paul cleared away, put on the kettle, and set the table.
"There isn't a train till four-twenty," he said. "You've time enough."
"Oh no, I haven't!" she cried, blinking at him over the towel as she
wiped her face.
"Yes, you have. You must drink a cup of tea at any rate. Should I come
with you to Keston?"
"Come with me? What for, I should like to know? Now, what have I to take
him? Eh, dear! His clean shirt--and it's a blessing it IS clean. But it
had better be aired. And stockings--he won't want them--and a towel, I
suppose; and handkerchiefs. Now what else?"
"A comb, a knife and fork and spoon," said Paul. His father had been in
the hospital before.
"Goodness knows what sort of state his feet were in," continued Mrs.
Morel, as she combed her long brown hair, that was fine as silk, and
was touched now with grey. "He's very particular to wash himself to the
waist, but below he thinks doesn't matter. But there, I suppose they see
plenty like it."
Paul had laid the table. He cut his mother one or two pieces of very
thin bread and butter.
"Here you are," he said, putting her cup of tea in her place.
"I can't be bothered!" she exclaimed crossly.
"Well, you've got to, so there, now it's put out ready," he insisted.
So she sat down and sipped her tea, and ate a little, in silence. She
In a few minutes she was gone, to walk the two and a half miles to
Keston Station. All the things she was taking him she had in her bulging
string bag. Paul watched her go up the road between the hedges--a
little, quick-stepping figure, and his heart ached for her, that she was
thrust forward again into pain and trouble. And she, tripping so quickly
in her anxiety, felt at the back of her her son's heart waiting on her,
felt him bearing what part of the burden he could, even supporting her.
And when she was at the hospital, she thought: "It WILL upset that lad
when I tell him how bad it is. I'd better be careful." And when she was
trudging home again, she felt he was coming to share her burden.
"Is it bad?" asked Paul, as soon as she entered the house.
"It's bad enough," she replied.
She sighed and sat down, undoing her bonnet-strings. Her son watched her
face as it was lifted, and her small, work-hardened hands fingering at
the bow under her chin.
"Well," she answered, "it's not really dangerous, but the nurse says
it's a dreadful smash. You see, a great piece of rock fell on his
leg--here--and it's a compound fracture. There are pieces of bone
"Ugh--how horrid!" exclaimed the children.
"And," she continued, "of course he says he's going to die--it wouldn't
be him if he didn't. 'I'm done for, my lass!' he said, looking at me.
'Don't be so silly,' I said to him. 'You're not going to die of a broken
leg, however badly it's smashed.' 'I s'll niver come out of 'ere but in
a wooden box,' he groaned. 'Well,' I said, 'if you want them to carry
you into the garden in a wooden box, when you're better, I've no doubt
they will.' 'If we think it's good for him,' said the Sister. She's an
awfully nice Sister, but rather strict."
Mrs. Morel took off her bonnet. The children waited in silence.
"Of course, he IS bad," she continued, "and he will be. It's a great
shock, and he's lost a lot of blood; and, of course, it IS a very
dangerous smash. It's not at all sure that it will mend so easily. And
then there's the fever and the mortification--if it took bad ways he'd
quickly be gone. But there, he's a clean-blooded man, with wonderful
healing flesh, and so I see no reason why it SHOULD take bad ways. Of
course there's a wound--"
She was pale now with emotion and anxiety. The three children realised
that it was very bad for their father, and the house was silent,
"But he always gets better," said Paul after a while.
"That's what I tell him," said the mother.
Everybody moved about in silence.
"And he really looked nearly done for," she said. "But the Sister says
that is the pain."
Annie took away her mother's coat and bonnet.
"And he looked at me when I came away! I said: 'I s'll have to go now,
Walter, because of the train--and the children.' And he looked at me. It
Paul took up his brush again and went on painting. Arthur went outside
for some coal. Annie sat looking dismal. And Mrs. Morel, in her little
rocking-chair that her husband had made for her when the first baby was
coming, remained motionless, brooding. She was grieved, and bitterly
sorry for the man who was hurt so much. But still, in her heart of
hearts, where the love should have burned, there was a blank. Now, when
all her woman's pity was roused to its full extent, when she would have
slaved herself to death to nurse him and to save him, when she would
have taken the pain herself, if she could, somewhere far away inside
her, she felt indifferent to him and to his suffering. It hurt her
most of all, this failure to love him, even when he roused her strong
emotions. She brooded a while.
"And there," she said suddenly, "when I'd got halfway to Keston, I found
I'd come out in my working boots--and LOOK at them." They were an old
pair of Paul's, brown and rubbed through at the toes. "I didn't know
what to do with myself, for shame," she added.
In the morning, when Annie and Arthur were at school, Mrs. Morel talked
again to her son, who was helping her with her housework.
"I found Barker at the hospital. He did look bad, poor little fellow!
'Well,' I said to him, 'what sort of a journey did you have with him?'
'Dunna ax me, missis!' he said. 'Ay,' I said, 'I know what he'd be.'
'But it WOR bad for him, Mrs. Morel, it WOR that!' he said. 'I know,' I
said. 'At ivry jolt I thought my 'eart would ha' flown clean out o' my
mouth,' he said. 'An' the scream 'e gives sometimes! Missis, not for a
fortune would I go through wi' it again.' 'I can quite understand it,'
I said. 'It's a nasty job, though,' he said, 'an' one as'll be a long
while afore it's right again.' 'I'm afraid it will,' I said. I like Mr.
Barker--I DO like him. There's something so manly about him."
Paul resumed his task silently.
"And of course," Mrs. Morel continued, "for a man like your father,
the hospital IS hard. He CAN'T understand rules and regulations. And he
won't let anybody else touch him, not if he can help it. When he smashed
the muscles of his thigh, and it had to be dressed four times a day,
WOULD he let anybody but me or his mother do it? He wouldn't. So, of
course, he'll suffer in there with the nurses. And I didn't like leaving
him. I'm sure, when I kissed him an' came away, it seemed a shame."
So she talked to her son, almost as if she were thinking aloud to him,
and he took it in as best he could, by sharing her trouble to lighten
it. And in the end she shared almost everything with him without
Morel had a very bad time. For a week he was in a critical condition.
Then he began to mend. And then, knowing he was going to get better, the
whole family sighed with relief, and proceeded to live happily.
They were not badly off whilst Morel was in the hospital. There were
fourteen shillings a week from the pit, ten shillings from the sick
club, and five shillings from the Disability Fund; and then every week
the butties had something for Mrs. Morel--five or seven shillings--so
that she was quite well to do. And whilst Morel was progressing
favourably in the hospital, the family was extraordinarily happy and
peaceful. On Saturdays and Wednesdays Mrs. Morel went to Nottingham to
see her husband. Then she always brought back some little thing: a small
tube of paints for Paul, or some thick paper; a couple of postcards for
Annie, that the whole family rejoiced over for days before the girl was
allowed to send them away; or a fret-saw for Arthur, or a bit of pretty
wood. She described her adventures into the big shops with joy. Soon the
folk in the picture-shop knew her, and knew about Paul. The girl in
the book-shop took a keen interest in her. Mrs. Morel was full of
information when she got home from Nottingham. The three sat round till
bed-time, listening, putting in, arguing. Then Paul often raked the
"I'm the man in the house now," he used to say to his mother with joy.
They learned how perfectly peaceful the home could be. And they
almost regretted--though none of them would have owned to such
callousness--that their father was soon coming back.
Paul was now fourteen, and was looking for work. He was a rather small
and rather finely-made boy, with dark brown hair and light blue eyes.
His face had already lost its youthful chubbiness, and was becoming
somewhat like William's--rough-featured, almost rugged--and it was
extraordinarily mobile. Usually he looked as if he saw things, was full
of life, and warm; then his smile, like his mother's, came suddenly and
was very lovable; and then, when there was any clog in his soul's quick
running, his face went stupid and ugly. He was the sort of boy that
becomes a clown and a lout as soon as he is not understood, or feels
himself held cheap; and, again, is adorable at the first touch of
He suffered very much from the first contact with anything. When he was
seven, the starting school had been a nightmare and a torture to him.
But afterwards he liked it. And now that he felt he had to go out into
life, he went through agonies of shrinking self-consciousness. He was
quite a clever painter for a boy of his years, and he knew some French
and German and mathematics that Mr. Heaton had taught him. But nothing
he had was of any commercial value. He was not strong enough for heavy
manual work, his mother said. He did not care for making things with his
hands, preferred racing about, or making excursions into the country, or
reading, or painting.
"What do you want to be?" his mother asked.
"That is no answer," said Mrs. Morel.
But it was quite truthfully the only answer he could give. His ambition,
as far as this world's gear went, was quietly to earn his thirty or
thirty-five shillings a week somewhere near home, and then, when his
father died, have a cottage with his mother, paint and go out as he
liked, and live happy ever after. That was his programme as far as doing
things went. But he was proud within himself, measuring people against
himself, and placing them, inexorably. And he thought that PERHAPS he
might also make a painter, the real thing. But that he left alone.
"Then," said his mother, "you must look in the paper for the
He looked at her. It seemed to him a bitter humiliation and an anguish
to go through. But he said nothing. When he got up in the morning, his
whole being was knotted up over this one thought:
"I've got to go and look for advertisements for a job."
It stood in front of the morning, that thought, killing all joy and even
life, for him. His heart felt like a tight knot.
And then, at ten o'clock, he set off. He was supposed to be a queer,
quiet child. Going up the sunny street of the little town, he felt as
if all the folk he met said to themselves: "He's going to the Co-op.
reading-room to look in the papers for a place. He can't get a job. I
suppose he's living on his mother." Then he crept up the stone stairs
behind the drapery shop at the Co-op., and peeped in the reading-room.
Usually one or two men were there, either old, useless fellows, or
colliers "on the club". So he entered, full of shrinking and suffering
when they looked up, seated himself at the table, and pretended to scan
the news. He knew they would think: "What does a lad of thirteen want in
a reading-room with a newspaper?" and he suffered.
Then he looked wistfully out of the window. Already he was a prisoner
of industrialism. Large sunflowers stared over the old red wall of the
garden opposite, looking in their jolly way down on the women who
were hurrying with something for dinner. The valley was full of corn,
brightening in the sun. Two collieries, among the fields, waved their
small white plumes of steam. Far off on the hills were the woods of
Annesley, dark and fascinating. Already his heart went down. He was
being taken into bondage. His freedom in the beloved home valley was
The brewers' waggons came rolling up from Keston with enormous barrels,
four a side, like beans in a burst bean-pod. The waggoner, throned
aloft, rolling massively in his seat, was not so much below Paul's eye.
The man's hair, on his small, bullet head, was bleached almost white by
the sun, and on his thick red arms, rocking idly on his sack apron, the
white hairs glistened. His red face shone and was almost asleep with
sunshine. The horses, handsome and brown, went on by themselves, looking
by far the masters of the show.
Paul wished he were stupid. "I wish," he thought to himself, "I was fat
like him, and like a dog in the sun. I wish I was a pig and a brewer's
Then, the room being at last empty, he would hastily copy an
advertisement on a scrap of paper, then another, and slip out in immense
relief. His mother would scan over his copies.
"Yes," she said, "you may try."
William had written out a letter of application, couched in admirable
business language, which Paul copied, with variations. The boy's
handwriting was execrable, so that William, who did all things well, got
into a fever of impatience.
The elder brother was becoming quite swanky. In London he found that he
could associate with men far above his Bestwood friends in station. Some
of the clerks in the office had studied for the law, and were more or
less going through a kind of apprenticeship. William always made friends
among men wherever he went, he was so jolly. Therefore he was soon
visiting and staying in houses of men who, in Bestwood, would have
looked down on the unapproachable bank manager, and would merely have
called indifferently on the Rector. So he began to fancy himself as a
great gun. He was, indeed, rather surprised at the ease with which he
became a gentleman.
His mother was glad, he seemed so pleased. And his lodging in
Walthamstow was so dreary. But now there seemed to come a kind of fever
into the young man's letters. He was unsettled by all the change, he did
not stand firm on his own feet, but seemed to spin rather giddily on the
quick current of the new life. His mother was anxious for him. She could
feel him losing himself. He had danced and gone to the theatre, boated
on the river, been out with friends; and she knew he sat up afterwards
in his cold bedroom grinding away at Latin, because he intended to get
on in his office, and in the law as much as he could. He never sent his
mother any money now. It was all taken, the little he had, for his own
life. And she did not want any, except sometimes, when she was in a
tight corner, and when ten shillings would have saved her much worry.
She still dreamed of William, and of what he would do, with herself
behind him. Never for a minute would she admit to herself how heavy and
anxious her heart was because of him.
Also he talked a good deal now of a girl he had met at a dance, a
handsome brunette, quite young, and a lady, after whom the men were
running thick and fast.
"I wonder if you would run, my boy," his mother wrote to him, "unless
you saw all the other men chasing her too. You feel safe enough and vain
enough in a crowd. But take care, and see how you feel when you find
yourself alone, and in triumph." William resented these things, and
continued the chase. He had taken the girl on the river. "If you saw
her, mother, you would know how I feel. Tall and elegant, with the
clearest of clear, transparent olive complexions, hair as black as jet,
and such grey eyes--bright, mocking, like lights on water at night. It
is all very well to be a bit satirical till you see her. And she dresses
as well as any woman in London. I tell you, your son doesn't half put
his head up when she goes walking down Piccadilly with him."
Mrs. Morel wondered, in her heart, if her son did not go walking down
Piccadilly with an elegant figure and fine clothes, rather than with
a woman who was near to him. But she congratulated him in her doubtful
fashion. And, as she stood over the washing-tub, the mother brooded over
her son. She saw him saddled with an elegant and expensive wife, earning
little money, dragging along and getting draggled in some small, ugly
house in a suburb. "But there," she told herself, "I am very likely
a silly--meeting trouble halfway." Nevertheless, the load of anxiety
scarcely ever left her heart, lest William should do the wrong thing by
Presently, Paul was bidden call upon Thomas Jordan, Manufacturer of
Surgical Appliances, at 21, Spaniel Row, Nottingham. Mrs. Morel was all
"There, you see!" she cried, her eyes shining. "You've only written four
letters, and the third is answered. You're lucky, my boy, as I always
said you were."
Paul looked at the picture of a wooden leg, adorned with elastic
stockings and other appliances, that figured on Mr. Jordan's notepaper,
and he felt alarmed. He had not known that elastic stockings existed.
And he seemed to feel the business world, with its regulated system of
values, and its impersonality, and he dreaded it. It seemed monstrous
also that a business could be run on wooden legs.
Mother and son set off together one Tuesday morning. It was August and
blazing hot. Paul walked with something screwed up tight inside him.
He would have suffered much physical pain rather than this unreasonable
suffering at being exposed to strangers, to be accepted or rejected. Yet
he chattered away with his mother. He would never have confessed to her
how he suffered over these things, and she only partly guessed. She
was gay, like a sweetheart. She stood in front of the ticket-office at
Bestwood, and Paul watched her take from her purse the money for the
tickets. As he saw her hands in their old black kid gloves getting the
silver out of the worn purse, his heart contracted with pain of love of
She was quite excited, and quite gay. He suffered because she WOULD talk
aloud in presence of the other travellers.
"Now look at that silly cow!" she said, "careering round as if it
thought it was a circus."
"It's most likely a bottfly," he said very low.
"A what?" she asked brightly and unashamed.
They thought a while. He was sensible all the time of having her
opposite him. Suddenly their eyes met, and she smiled to him--a rare,
intimate smile, beautiful with brightness and love. Then each looked out
of the window.
The sixteen slow miles of railway journey passed. The mother and son
walked down Station Street, feeling the excitement of lovers having an
adventure together. In Carrington Street they stopped to hang over the
parapet and look at the barges on the canal below.
"It's just like Venice," he said, seeing the sunshine on the water that
lay between high factory walls.
"Perhaps," she answered, smiling.
They enjoyed the shops immensely.
"Now you see that blouse," she would say, "wouldn't that just suit our
Annie? And for one-and-eleven-three. Isn't that cheap?"
"And made of needlework as well," he said.
They had plenty of time, so they did not hurry. The town was strange
and delightful to them. But the boy was tied up inside in a knot of
apprehension. He dreaded the interview with Thomas Jordan.
It was nearly eleven o'clock by St. Peter's Church. They turned up a
narrow street that led to the Castle. It was gloomy and old-fashioned,
having low dark shops and dark green house doors with brass knockers,
and yellow-ochred doorsteps projecting on to the pavement; then another
old shop whose small window looked like a cunning, half-shut eye. Mother
and son went cautiously, looking everywhere for "Thomas Jordan and
Son". It was like hunting in some wild place. They were on tiptoe of
Suddenly they spied a big, dark archway, in which were names of various
firms, Thomas Jordan among them.
"Here it is!" said Mrs. Morel. "But now WHERE is it?"
They looked round. On one side was a queer, dark, cardboard factory, on
the other a Commercial Hotel.
"It's up the entry," said Paul.
And they ventured under the archway, as into the jaws of the dragon.
They emerged into a wide yard, like a well, with buildings all round. It
was littered with straw and boxes, and cardboard. The sunshine actually
caught one crate whose straw was streaming on to the yard like gold. But
elsewhere the place was like a pit. There were several doors, and two
flights of steps. Straight in front, on a dirty glass door at the top of
a staircase, loomed the ominous words "Thomas Jordan and Son--Surgical
Appliances." Mrs. Morel went first, her son followed her. Charles I
mounted his scaffold with a lighter heart than had Paul Morel as he
followed his mother up the dirty steps to the dirty door.
She pushed open the door, and stood in pleased surprise. In front of her
was a big warehouse, with creamy paper parcels everywhere, and clerks,
with their shirt-sleeves rolled back, were going about in an at-home
sort of way. The light was subdued, the glossy cream parcels seemed
luminous, the counters were of dark brown wood. All was quiet and very
homely. Mrs. Morel took two steps forward, then waited. Paul stood
behind her. She had on her Sunday bonnet and a black veil; he wore a
boy's broad white collar and a Norfolk suit.
One of the clerks looked up. He was thin and tall, with a small face.
His way of looking was alert. Then he glanced round to the other end of
the room, where was a glass office. And then he came forward. He did
not say anything, but leaned in a gentle, inquiring fashion towards Mrs.
"Can I see Mr. Jordan?" she asked.
"I'll fetch him," answered the young man.
He went down to the glass office. A red-faced, white-whiskered old man
looked up. He reminded Paul of a pomeranian dog. Then the same little
man came up the room. He had short legs, was rather stout, and wore
an alpaca jacket. So, with one ear up, as it were, he came stoutly and
inquiringly down the room.
"Good-morning!" he said, hesitating before Mrs. Morel, in doubt as to
whether she were a customer or not.
"Good-morning. I came with my son, Paul Morel. You asked him to call
"Come this way," said Mr. Jordan, in a rather snappy little manner
intended to be businesslike.
They followed the manufacturer into a grubby little room, upholstered
in black American leather, glossy with the rubbing of many customers.
On the table was a pile of trusses, yellow wash-leather hoops tangled
together. They looked new and living. Paul sniffed the odour of new
wash-leather. He wondered what the things were. By this time he was so
much stunned that he only noticed the outside things.
"Sit down!" said Mr. Jordan, irritably pointing Mrs. Morel to a
horse-hair chair. She sat on the edge in an uncertain fashion. Then the
little old man fidgeted and found a paper.
"Did you write this letter?" he snapped, thrusting what Paul recognised
as his own notepaper in front of him.
"Yes," he answered.
At that moment he was occupied in two ways: first, in feeling guilty
for telling a lie, since William had composed the letter; second, in
wondering why his letter seemed so strange and different, in the fat,
red hand of the man, from what it had been when it lay on the kitchen
table. It was like part of himself, gone astray. He resented the way the
man held it.
"Where did you learn to write?" said the old man crossly.
Paul merely looked at him shamedly, and did not answer.
"He IS a bad writer," put in Mrs. Morel apologetically. Then she pushed
up her veil. Paul hated her for not being prouder with this common
little man, and he loved her face clear of the veil.
"And you say you know French?" inquired the little man, still sharply.
"Yes," said Paul.
"What school did you go to?"
"And did you learn it there?"
"No--I--" The boy went crimson and got no farther.
"His godfather gave him lessons," said Mrs. Morel, half pleading and
Mr. Jordan hesitated. Then, in his irritable manner--he always seemed to
keep his hands ready for action--he pulled another sheet of paper from
his pocket, unfolded it. The paper made a crackling noise. He handed it
"Read that," he said.
It was a note in French, in thin, flimsy foreign handwriting that the
boy could not decipher. He stared blankly at the paper.
"'Monsieur,'" he began; then he looked in great confusion at Mr. Jordan.
"It's the--it's the--"
He wanted to say "handwriting", but his wits would no longer work even
sufficiently to supply him with the word. Feeling an utter fool, and
hating Mr. Jordan, he turned desperately to the paper again.
"'Sir,--Please send me'--er--er--I can't tell the--er--'two pairs--gris
fil bas--grey thread stockings'--er--er--'sans--without'--er--I can't
tell the words--er--'doigts--fingers'--er--I can't tell the--"
He wanted to say "handwriting", but the word still refused to come.
Seeing him stuck, Mr. Jordan snatched the paper from him.
"'Please send by return two pairs grey thread stockings without TOES.'"
"Well," flashed Paul, "'doigts' means 'fingers'--as well--as a rule--"
The little man looked at him. He did not know whether "doigts" meant
"fingers"; he knew that for all HIS purposes it meant "toes".
"Fingers to stockings!" he snapped.
"Well, it DOES mean fingers," the boy persisted.
He hated the little man, who made such a clod of him. Mr. Jordan looked
at the pale, stupid, defiant boy, then at the mother, who sat quiet and
with that peculiar shut-off look of the poor who have to depend on the
favour of others.
"And when could he come?" he asked.
"Well," said Mrs. Morel, "as soon as you wish. He has finished school
"He would live in Bestwood?"
"Yes; but he could be in--at the station--at quarter to eight."
It ended by Paul's being engaged as junior spiral clerk at eight
shillings a week. The boy did not open his mouth to say another word,
after having insisted that "doigts" meant "fingers". He followed his
mother down the stairs. She looked at him with her bright blue eyes full
of love and joy.
"I think you'll like it," she said.
"'Doigts' does mean 'fingers', mother, and it was the writing. I
couldn't read the writing."
"Never mind, my boy. I'm sure he'll be all right, and you won't see much
of him. Wasn't that first young fellow nice? I'm sure you'll like them."
"But wasn't Mr. Jordan common, mother? Does he own it all?"
"I suppose he was a workman who has got on," she said. "You mustn't mind
people so much. They're not being disagreeable to YOU--it's their way.
You always think people are meaning things for you. But they don't."
It was very sunny. Over the big desolate space of the market-place the
blue sky shimmered, and the granite cobbles of the paving glistened.
Shops down the Long Row were deep in obscurity, and the shadow was full
of colour. Just where the horse trams trundled across the market was a
row of fruit stalls, with fruit blazing in the sun--apples and piles of
reddish oranges, small green-gage plums and bananas. There was a warm
scent of fruit as mother and son passed. Gradually his feeling of
ignominy and of rage sank.
"Where should we go for dinner?" asked the mother.
It was felt to be a reckless extravagance. Paul had only been in an
eating-house once or twice in his life, and then only to have a cup of
tea and a bun. Most of the people of Bestwood considered that tea and
bread-and-butter, and perhaps potted beef, was all they could afford to
eat in Nottingham. Real cooked dinner was considered great extravagance.
Paul felt rather guilty.
They found a place that looked quite cheap. But when Mrs. Morel scanned
the bill of fare, her heart was heavy, things were so dear. So she
ordered kidney-pies and potatoes as the cheapest available dish.
"We oughtn't to have come here, mother," said Paul.
"Never mind," she said. "We won't come again."
She insisted on his having a small currant tart, because he liked
"I don't want it, mother," he pleaded.
"Yes," she insisted; "you'll have it."
And she looked round for the waitress. But the waitress was busy, and
Mrs. Morel did not like to bother her then. So the mother and son waited
for the girl's pleasure, whilst she flirted among the men.
"Brazen hussy!" said Mrs. Morel to Paul. "Look now, she's taking that
man HIS pudding, and he came long after us."
"It doesn't matter, mother," said Paul.
Mrs. Morel was angry. But she was too poor, and her orders were too
meagre, so that she had not the courage to insist on her rights just
then. They waited and waited.
"Should we go, mother?" he said.
Then Mrs. Morel stood up. The girl was passing near.
"Will you bring one currant tart?" said Mrs. Morel clearly.
The girl looked round insolently.
"Directly," she said.
"We have waited quite long enough," said Mrs. Morel.
In a moment the girl came back with the tart. Mrs. Morel asked coldly
for the bill. Paul wanted to sink through the floor. He marvelled at his
mother's hardness. He knew that only years of battling had taught her to
insist even so little on her rights. She shrank as much as he.
"It's the last time I go THERE for anything!" she declared, when they
were outside the place, thankful to be clear.
"We'll go," she said, "and look at Keep's and Boot's, and one or two
places, shall we?"
They had discussions over the pictures, and Mrs. Morel wanted to buy
him a little sable brush that he hankered after. But this indulgence he
refused. He stood in front of milliners' shops and drapers' shops almost
bored, but content for her to be interested. They wandered on.
"Now, just look at those black grapes!" she said. "They make your mouth
water. I've wanted some of those for years, but I s'll have to wait a
bit before I get them."
Then she rejoiced in the florists, standing in the doorway sniffing.
"Oh! oh! Isn't it simply lovely!"
Paul saw, in the darkness of the shop, an elegant young lady in black
peering over the counter curiously.
"They're looking at you," he said, trying to draw his mother away.
"But what is it?" she exclaimed, refusing to be moved.
"Stocks!" he answered, sniffing hastily. "Look, there's a tubful."
"So there is--red and white. But really, I never knew stocks to smell
like it!" And, to his great relief, she moved out of the doorway, but
only to stand in front of the window.
"Paul!" she cried to him, who was trying to get out of sight of the
elegant young lady in black--the shop-girl. "Paul! Just look here!"
He came reluctantly back.
"Now, just look at that fuchsia!" she exclaimed, pointing.
"H'm!" He made a curious, interested sound. "You'd think every second as
the flowers was going to fall off, they hang so big an' heavy."
"And such an abundance!" she cried.
"And the way they drop downwards with their threads and knots!"
"Yes!" she exclaimed. "Lovely!"
"I wonder who'll buy it!" he said.
"I wonder!" she answered. "Not us."
"It would die in our parlour."
"Yes, beastly cold, sunless hole; it kills every bit of a plant you put
in, and the kitchen chokes them to death."
They bought a few things, and set off towards the station. Looking up
the canal, through the dark pass of the buildings, they saw the Castle
on its bluff of brown, green-bushed rock, in a positive miracle of
"Won't it be nice for me to come out at dinner-times?" said Paul. "I can
go all round here and see everything. I s'll love it."
"You will," assented his mother.
He had spent a perfect afternoon with his mother. They arrived home in
the mellow evening, happy, and glowing, and tired.
In the morning he filled in the form for his season-ticket and took it
to the station. When he got back, his mother was just beginning to wash
the floor. He sat crouched up on the sofa.
"He says it'll be here on Saturday," he said.
"And how much will it be?"
"About one pound eleven," he said.
She went on washing her floor in silence.
"Is it a lot?" he asked.
"It's no more than I thought," she answered.
"An' I s'll earn eight shillings a week," he said.
She did not answer, but went on with her work. At last she said:
"That William promised me, when he went to London, as he'd give me a
pound a month. He has given me ten shillings--twice; and now I know
he hasn't a farthing if I asked him. Not that I want it. Only just now
you'd think he might be able to help with this ticket, which I'd never
"He earns a lot," said Paul.
"He earns a hundred and thirty pounds. But they're all alike. They're
large in promises, but it's precious little fulfilment you get."
"He spends over fifty shillings a week on himself," said Paul.
"And I keep this house on less than thirty," she replied; "and am
supposed to find money for extras. But they don't care about helping
you, once they've gone. He'd rather spend it on that dressed-up
"She should have her own money if she's so grand," said Paul.
"She should, but she hasn't. I asked him. And I know he doesn't buy her
a gold bangle for nothing. I wonder whoever bought ME a gold bangle."
William was succeeding with his "Gipsy", as he called her. He asked the
girl--her name was Louisa Lily Denys Western--for a photograph to send
to his mother. The photo came--a handsome brunette, taken in profile,
smirking slightly--and, it might be, quite naked, for on the photograph
not a scrap of clothing was to be seen, only a naked bust.
"Yes," wrote Mrs. Morel to her son, "the photograph of Louie is very
striking, and I can see she must be attractive. But do you think, my
boy, it was very good taste of a girl to give her young man that photo
to send to his mother--the first? Certainly the shoulders are beautiful,
as you say. But I hardly expected to see so much of them at the first
Morel found the photograph standing on the chiffonier in the parlour. He
came out with it between his thick thumb and finger.
"Who dost reckon this is?" he asked of his wife.
"It's the girl our William is going with," replied Mrs. Morel.
"H'm! 'Er's a bright spark, from th' look on 'er, an' one as wunna do
him owermuch good neither. Who is she?"
"Her name is Louisa Lily Denys Western."
"An' come again to-morrer!" exclaimed the miner. "An' is 'er an
"She is not. She's supposed to be a lady."
"I'll bet!" he exclaimed, still staring at the photo. "A lady, is she?
An' how much does she reckon ter keep up this sort o' game on?"
"On nothing. She lives with an old aunt, whom she hates, and takes what
bit of money's given her."
"H'm!" said Morel, laying down the photograph. "Then he's a fool to ha'
ta'en up wi' such a one as that."
"Dear Mater," William replied. "I'm sorry you didn't like the
photograph. It never occurred to me when I sent it, that you mightn't
think it decent. However, I told Gyp that it didn't quite suit your prim
and proper notions, so she's going to send you another, that I hope
will please you better. She's always being photographed; in fact, the
photographers ask her if they may take her for nothing."
Presently the new photograph came, with a little silly note from the
girl. This time the young lady was seen in a black satin evening bodice,
cut square, with little puff sleeves, and black lace hanging down her
"I wonder if she ever wears anything except evening clothes," said Mrs.
Morel sarcastically. "I'm sure I ought to be impressed."
"You are disagreeable, mother," said Paul. "I think the first one with
bare shoulders is lovely."
"Do you?" answered his mother. "Well, I don't."
On the Monday morning the boy got up at six to start work. He had the
season-ticket, which had cost such bitterness, in his waistcoat pocket.
He loved it with its bars of yellow across. His mother packed his dinner
in a small, shut-up basket, and he set off at a quarter to seven to
catch the 7.15 train. Mrs. Morel came to the entry-end to see him off.
It was a perfect morning. From the ash tree the slender green fruits
that the children call "pigeons" were twinkling gaily down on a little
breeze, into the front gardens of the houses. The valley was full of a
lustrous dark haze, through which the ripe corn shimmered, and in which
the steam from Minton pit melted swiftly. Puffs of wind came. Paul
looked over the high woods of Aldersley, where the country gleamed, and
home had never pulled at him so powerfully.
"Good-morning, mother," he said, smiling, but feeling very unhappy.
"Good-morning," she replied cheerfully and tenderly.
She stood in her white apron on the open road, watching him as he
crossed the field. He had a small, compact body that looked full of
life. She felt, as she saw him trudging over the field, that where he
determined to go he would get. She thought of William. He would have
leaped the fence instead of going round the stile. He was away in
London, doing well. Paul would be working in Nottingham. Now she had
two sons in the world. She could think of two places, great centres of
industry, and feel that she had put a man into each of them, that these
men would work out what SHE wanted; they were derived from her, they
were of her, and their works also would be hers. All the morning long
she thought of Paul.
At eight o'clock he climbed the dismal stairs of Jordan's Surgical
Appliance Factory, and stood helplessly against the first great
parcel-rack, waiting for somebody to pick him up. The place was still
not awake. Over the counters were great dust sheets. Two men only had
arrived, and were heard talking in a corner, as they took off their
coats and rolled up their shirt-sleeves. It was ten past eight.
Evidently there was no rush of punctuality. Paul listened to the voices
of the two clerks. Then he heard someone cough, and saw in the office
at the end of the room an old, decaying clerk, in a round smoking-cap of
black velvet embroidered with red and green, opening letters. He waited
and waited. One of the junior clerks went to the old man, greeted him
cheerily and loudly. Evidently the old "chief" was deaf. Then the young
fellow came striding importantly down to his counter. He spied Paul.
"Hello!" he said. "You the new lad?"
"Yes," said Paul.
"H'm! What's your name?"
"Paul Morel? All right, you come on round here."
Paul followed him round the rectangle of counters. The room was second
storey. It had a great hole in the middle of the floor, fenced as with a
wall of counters, and down this wide shaft the lifts went, and the light
for the bottom storey. Also there was a corresponding big, oblong hole
in the ceiling, and one could see above, over the fence of the top
floor, some machinery; and right away overhead was the glass roof, and
all light for the three storeys came downwards, getting dimmer, so that
it was always night on the ground floor and rather gloomy on the second
floor. The factory was the top floor, the warehouse the second, the
storehouse the ground floor. It was an insanitary, ancient place.
Paul was led round to a very dark corner.
"This is the 'Spiral' corner," said the clerk. "You're Spiral, with
Pappleworth. He's your boss, but he's not come yet. He doesn't get here
till half-past eight. So you can fetch the letters, if you like, from
Mr. Melling down there."
The young man pointed to the old clerk in the office.
"All right," said Paul.
"Here's a peg to hang your cap on. Here are your entry ledgers. Mr.
Pappleworth won't be long."
And the thin young man stalked away with long, busy strides over the
hollow wooden floor.
After a minute or two Paul went down and stood in the door of the glass
office. The old clerk in the smoking-cap looked down over the rim of his
"Good-morning," he said, kindly and impressively. "You want the letters
for the Spiral department, Thomas?"
Paul resented being called "Thomas". But he took the letters and
returned to his dark place, where the counter made an angle, where the
great parcel-rack came to an end, and where there were three doors in
the corner. He sat on a high stool and read the letters--those whose
handwriting was not too difficult. They ran as follows:
"Will you please send me at once a pair of lady's silk spiral
thigh-hose, without feet, such as I had from you last year; length,
thigh to knee, etc." Or, "Major Chamberlain wishes to repeat his
previous order for a silk non-elastic suspensory bandage."
Many of these letters, some of them in French or Norwegian, were a great
puzzle to the boy. He sat on his stool nervously awaiting the arrival
of his "boss". He suffered tortures of shyness when, at half-past eight,
the factory girls for upstairs trooped past him.
Mr. Pappleworth arrived, chewing a chlorodyne gum, at about twenty to
nine, when all the other men were at work. He was a thin, sallow man
with a red nose, quick, staccato, and smartly but stiffly dressed. He
was about thirty-six years old. There was something rather "doggy",
rather smart, rather 'cute and shrewd, and something warm, and something
slightly contemptible about him.
"You my new lad?" he said.
Paul stood up and said he was.
"Fetched the letters?"
Mr. Pappleworth gave a chew to his gum.
"Well, come on then, let's look slippy. Changed your coat?"
"You want to bring an old coat and leave it here." He pronounced the
last words with the chlorodyne gum between his side teeth. He vanished
into the darkness behind the great parcel-rack, reappeared coatless,
turning up a smart striped shirt-cuff over a thin and hairy arm. Then
he slipped into his coat. Paul noticed how thin he was, and that his
trousers were in folds behind. He seized a stool, dragged it beside the
boy's, and sat down.
"Sit down," he said.
Paul took a seat.
Mr. Pappleworth was very close to him. The man seized the letters,
snatched a long entry-book out of a rack in front of him, flung it open,
seized a pen, and said:
"Now look here. You want to copy these letters in here." He sniffed
twice, gave a quick chew at his gum, stared fixedly at a letter,
then went very still and absorbed, and wrote the entry rapidly, in a
beautiful flourishing hand. He glanced quickly at Paul.
"Think you can do it all right?"
"All right then, let's see you."
He sprang off his stool. Paul took a pen. Mr. Pappleworth disappeared.
Paul rather liked copying the letters, but he wrote slowly, laboriously,
and exceedingly badly. He was doing the fourth letter, and feeling quite
busy and happy, when Mr. Pappleworth reappeared.
"Now then, how'r' yer getting on? Done 'em?"
He leaned over the boy's shoulder, chewing, and smelling of chlorodyne.
"Strike my bob, lad, but you're a beautiful writer!" he exclaimed
satirically. "Ne'er mind, how many h'yer done? Only three! I'd 'a eaten
'em. Get on, my lad, an' put numbers on 'em. Here, look! Get on!"
Paul ground away at the letters, whilst Mr. Pappleworth fussed over
various jobs. Suddenly the boy started as a shrill whistle sounded near
his ear. Mr. Pappleworth came, took a plug out of a pipe, and said, in
an amazingly cross and bossy voice:
Paul heard a faint voice, like a woman's, out of the mouth of the tube.
He gazed in wonder, never having seen a speaking-tube before.
"Well," said Mr. Pappleworth disagreeably into the tube, "you'd better
get some of your back work done, then."
Again the woman's tiny voice was heard, sounding pretty and cross.
"I've not time to stand here while you talk," said Mr. Pappleworth, and
he pushed the plug into the tube.
"Come, my lad," he said imploringly to Paul, "there's Polly crying out
for them orders. Can't you buck up a bit? Here, come out!"
He took the book, to Paul's immense chagrin, and began the copying
himself. He worked quickly and well. This done, he seized some strips
of long yellow paper, about three inches wide, and made out the day's
orders for the work-girls.
"You'd better watch me," he said to Paul, working all the while rapidly.
Paul watched the weird little drawings of legs, and thighs, and ankles,
with the strokes across and the numbers, and the few brief directions
which his chief made upon the yellow paper. Then Mr. Pappleworth
finished and jumped up.
"Come on with me," he said, and the yellow papers flying in his hands,
he dashed through a door and down some stairs, into the basement where
the gas was burning. They crossed the cold, damp storeroom, then a
long, dreary room with a long table on trestles, into a smaller, cosy
apartment, not very high, which had been built on to the main building.
In this room a small woman with a red serge blouse, and her black hair
done on top of her head, was waiting like a proud little bantam.
"Here y'are!" said Pappleworth.
"I think it is 'here you are'!" exclaimed Polly. "The girls have been
here nearly half an hour waiting. Just think of the time wasted!"
"YOU think of getting your work done and not talking so much," said Mr.
Pappleworth. "You could ha' been finishing off."
"You know quite well we finished everything off on Saturday!" cried
Pony, flying at him, her dark eyes flashing.
"Tu-tu-tu-tu-terterter!" he mocked. "Here's your new lad. Don't ruin him
as you did the last."
"As we did the last!" repeated Polly. "Yes, WE do a lot of ruining, we
do. My word, a lad would TAKE some ruining after he'd been with you."
"It's time for work now, not for talk," said Mr. Pappleworth severely
"It was time for work some time back," said Polly, marching away with
her head in the air. She was an erect little body of forty.
In that room were two round spiral machines on the bench under the
window. Through the inner doorway was another longer room, with six more
machines. A little group of girls, nicely dressed in white aprons, stood
"Have you nothing else to do but talk?" said Mr. Pappleworth.
"Only wait for you," said one handsome girl, laughing.
"Well, get on, get on," he said. "Come on, my lad. You'll know your road
down here again."
And Paul ran upstairs after his chief. He was given some checking
and invoicing to do. He stood at the desk, labouring in his execrable
handwriting. Presently Mr. Jordan came strutting down from the glass
office and stood behind him, to the boy's great discomfort. Suddenly a
red and fat finger was thrust on the form he was filling in.
"MR. J. A. Bates, Esquire!" exclaimed the cross voice just behind his
Paul looked at "Mr. J. A. Bates, Esquire" in his own vile writing, and
wondered what was the matter now.
"Didn't they teach you any better THAN that while they were at it? If
you put 'Mr.' you don't put Esquire'-a man can't be both at once."
The boy regretted his too-much generosity in disposing of honours,
hesitated, and with trembling fingers, scratched out the "Mr." Then all
at once Mr. Jordan snatched away the invoice.
"Make another! Are you going to send that to a gentleman?" And he tore
up the blue form irritably.
Paul, his ears red with shame, began again. Still Mr. Jordan watched.
"I don't know what they DO teach in schools. You'll have to write better
than that. Lads learn nothing nowadays, but how to recite poetry
and play the fiddle. Have you seen his writing?" he asked of Mr.
"Yes; prime, isn't it?" replied Mr. Pappleworth indifferently.
Mr. Jordan gave a little grunt, not unamiable. Paul divined that his
master's bark was worse than his bite. Indeed, the little manufacturer,
although he spoke bad English, was quite gentleman enough to leave his
men alone and to take no notice of trifles. But he knew he did not
look like the boss and owner of the show, so he had to play his role of
proprietor at first, to put things on a right footing.
"Let's see, WHAT'S your name?" asked Mr. Pappleworth of the boy.
It is curious that children suffer so much at having to pronounce their
"Paul Morel, is it? All right, you Paul-Morel through them things there,
Mr. Pappleworth subsided on to a stool, and began writing. A girl came
up from out of a door just behind, put some newly-pressed elastic web
appliances on the counter, and returned. Mr. Pappleworth picked up the
whitey-blue knee-band, examined it, and its yellow order-paper quickly,
and put it on one side. Next was a flesh-pink "leg". He went through
the few things, wrote out a couple of orders, and called to Paul to
accompany him. This time they went through the door whence the girl had
emerged. There Paul found himself at the top of a little wooden flight
of steps, and below him saw a room with windows round two sides, and at
the farther end half a dozen girls sitting bending over the benches
in the light from the window, sewing. They were singing together "Two
Little Girls in Blue". Hearing the door opened, they all turned round,
to see Mr. Pappleworth and Paul looking down on them from the far end of
the room. They stopped singing.
"Can't you make a bit less row?" said Mr. Pappleworth. "Folk'll think we
A hunchback woman on a high stool turned her long, rather heavy face
towards Mr. Pappleworth, and said, in a contralto voice:
"They're all tom-cats then."
In vain Mr. Pappleworth tried to be impressive for Paul's benefit.
He descended the steps into the finishing-off room, and went to the
hunchback Fanny. She had such a short body on her high stool that her
head, with its great bands of bright brown hair, seemed over large, as
did her pale, heavy face. She wore a dress of green-black cashmere, and
her wrists, coming out of the narrow cuffs, were thin and flat, as she
put down her work nervously. He showed her something that was wrong with
"Well," she said, "you needn't come blaming it on to me. It's not my
fault." Her colour mounted to her cheek.
"I never said it WAS your fault. Will you do as I tell you?" replied Mr.
"You don't say it's my fault, but you'd like to make out as it was," the
hunchback woman cried, almost in tears. Then she snatched the knee-cap
from her "boss", saying: "Yes, I'll do it for you, but you needn't be
"Here's your new lad," said Mr. Pappleworth.
Fanny turned, smiling very gently on Paul.
"Oh!" she said.
"Yes; don't make a softy of him between you."
"It's not us as 'ud make a softy of him," she said indignantly.
"Come on then, Paul," said Mr. Pappleworth.
"Au revoy, Paul," said one of the girls.
There was a titter of laughter. Paul went out, blushing deeply, not
having spoken a word.
The day was very long. All morning the work-people were coming to speak
to Mr. Pappleworth. Paul was writing or learning to make up parcels,
ready for the midday post. At one o'clock, or, rather, at a quarter to
one, Mr. Pappleworth disappeared to catch his train: he lived in the
suburbs. At one o'clock, Paul, feeling very lost, took his dinner-basket
down into the stockroom in the basement, that had the long table on
trestles, and ate his meal hurriedly, alone in that cellar of gloom and
desolation. Then he went out of doors. The brightness and the freedom of
the streets made him feel adventurous and happy. But at two o'clock
he was back in the corner of the big room. Soon the work-girls went
trooping past, making remarks. It was the commoner girls who worked
upstairs at the heavy tasks of truss-making and the finishing of
artificial limbs. He waited for Mr. Pappleworth, not knowing what to do,
sitting scribbling on the yellow order-paper. Mr. Pappleworth came at
twenty minutes to three. Then he sat and gossiped with Paul, treating
the boy entirely as an equal, even in age.
In the afternoon there was never very much to do, unless it were near
the week-end, and the accounts had to be made up. At five o'clock all
the men went down into the dungeon with the table on trestles, and there
they had tea, eating bread-and-butter on the bare, dirty boards, talking
with the same kind of ugly haste and slovenliness with which they ate
their meal. And yet upstairs the atmosphere among them was always jolly
and clear. The cellar and the trestles affected them.
After tea, when all the gases were lighted, WORK went more briskly.
There was the big evening post to get off. The hose came up warm and
newly pressed from the workrooms. Paul had made out the invoices. Now he
had the packing up and addressing to do, then he had to weigh his stock
of parcels on the scales. Everywhere voices were calling weights, there
was the chink of metal, the rapid snapping of string, the hurrying to
old Mr. Melling for stamps. And at last the postman came with his sack,
laughing and jolly. Then everything slacked off, and Paul took his
dinner-basket and ran to the station to catch the eight-twenty train.
The day in the factory was just twelve hours long.
His mother sat waiting for him rather anxiously. He had to walk from
Keston, so was not home until about twenty past nine. And he left the
house before seven in the morning. Mrs. Morel was rather anxious about
his health. But she herself had had to put up with so much that she
expected her children to take the same odds. They must go through with
what came. And Paul stayed at Jordan's, although all the time he was
there his health suffered from the darkness and lack of air and the long
He came in pale and tired. His mother looked at him. She saw he was
rather pleased, and her anxiety all went.
"Well, and how was it?" she asked.
"Ever so funny, mother," he replied. "You don't have to work a bit hard,
and they're nice with you."
"And did you get on all right?"
"Yes: they only say my writing's bad. But Mr. Pappleworth--he's my
man--said to Mr. Jordan I should be all right. I'm Spiral, mother; you
must come and see. It's ever so nice."
Soon he liked Jordan's. Mr. Pappleworth, who had a certain "saloon bar"
flavour about him, was always natural, and treated him as if he had been
a comrade. Sometimes the "Spiral boss" was irritable, and chewed more
lozenges than ever. Even then, however, he was not offensive, but one
of those people who hurt themselves by their own irritability more than
they hurt other people.
"Haven't you done that YET?" he would cry. "Go on, be a month of
Again, and Paul could understand him least then, he was jocular and in
"I'm going to bring my little Yorkshire terrier bitch tomorrow," he said
jubilantly to Paul.
"What's a Yorkshire terrier?"
"DON'T know what a Yorkshire terrier is? DON'T KNOW A YORKSHIRE--" Mr.
Pappleworth was aghast.
"Is it a little silky one--colours of iron and rusty silver?"
"THAT'S it, my lad. She's a gem. She's had five pounds' worth of pups
already, and she's worth over seven pounds herself; and she doesn't
weigh twenty ounces."
The next day the bitch came. She was a shivering, miserable morsel. Paul
did not care for her; she seemed so like a wet rag that would never
dry. Then a man called for her, and began to make coarse jokes. But Mr.
Pappleworth nodded his head in the direction of the boy, and the talk
went on "sotto voce".
Mr. Jordan only made one more excursion to watch Paul, and then the only
fault he found was seeing the boy lay his pen on the counter.
"Put your pen in your ear, if you're going to be a clerk. Pen in your
ear!" And one day he said to the lad: "Why don't you hold your shoulders
straighter? Come down here," when he took him into the glass office and
fitted him with special braces for keeping the shoulders square.
But Paul liked the girls best. The men seemed common and rather dull.
He liked them all, but they were uninteresting. Polly, the little brisk
overseer downstairs, finding Paul eating in the cellar, asked him if she
could cook him anything on her little stove. Next day his mother gave
him a dish that could be heated up. He took it into the pleasant, clean
room to Polly. And very soon it grew to be an established custom that he
should have dinner with her. When he came in at eight in the morning he
took his basket to her, and when he came down at one o'clock she had his
He was not very tall, and pale, with thick chestnut hair, irregular
features, and a wide, full mouth. She was like a small bird. He often
called her a "robinet". Though naturally rather quiet, he would sit and
chatter with her for hours telling her about his home. The girls all
liked to hear him talk. They often gathered in a little circle while he
sat on a bench, and held forth to them, laughing. Some of them regarded
him as a curious little creature, so serious, yet so bright and jolly,
and always so delicate in his way with them. They all liked him, and he
adored them. Polly he felt he belonged to. Then Connie, with her mane of
red hair, her face of apple-blossom, her murmuring voice, such a lady in
her shabby black frock, appealed to his romantic side.
"When you sit winding," he said, "it looks as if you were spinning at
a spinning-wheel--it looks ever so nice. You remind me of Elaine in the
'Idylls of the King'. I'd draw you if I could."
And she glanced at him blushing shyly. And later on he had a sketch
he prized very much: Connie sitting on the stool before the wheel, her
flowing mane of red hair on her rusty black frock, her red mouth shut
and serious, running the scarlet thread off the hank on to the reel.
With Louie, handsome and brazen, who always seemed to thrust her hip at
him, he usually joked.
Emma was rather plain, rather old, and condescending. But to condescend
to him made her happy, and he did not mind.
"How do you put needles in?" he asked.
"Go away and don't bother."
"But I ought to know how to put needles in."
She ground at her machine all the while steadily.
"There are many things you ought to know," she replied.
"Tell me, then, how to stick needles in the machine."
"Oh, the boy, what a nuisance he is! Why, THIS is how you do it."
He watched her attentively. Suddenly a whistle piped. Then Polly
appeared, and said in a clear voice:
"Mr. Pappleworth wants to know how much longer you're going to be down
here playing with the girls, Paul."
Paul flew upstairs, calling "Good-bye!" and Emma drew herself up.
"It wasn't ME who wanted him to play with the machine," she said.
As a rule, when all the girls came back at two o'clock, he ran upstairs
to Fanny, the hunchback, in the finishing-off room. Mr. Pappleworth
did not appear till twenty to three, and he often found his boy sitting
beside Fanny, talking, or drawing, or singing with the girls.
Often, after a minute's hesitation, Fanny would begin to sing. She had a
fine contralto voice. Everybody joined in the chorus, and it went well.
Paul was not at all embarrassed, after a while, sitting in the room with
the half a dozen work-girls.
At the end of the song Fanny would say:
"I know you've been laughing at me."
"Don't be so soft, Fanny!" cried one of the girls.
Once there was mention of Connie's red hair.
"Fanny's is better, to my fancy," said Emma.
"You needn't try to make a fool of me," said Fanny, flushing deeply.
"No, but she has, Paul; she's got beautiful hair."
"It's a treat of a colour," said he. "That coldish colour like earth,
and yet shiny. It's like bog-water."
"Goodness me!" exclaimed one girl, laughing.
"How I do but get criticised," said Fanny.
"But you should see it down, Paul," cried Emma earnestly. "It's simply
beautiful. Put it down for him, Fanny, if he wants something to paint."
Fanny would not, and yet she wanted to.
"Then I'll take it down myself," said the lad.
"Well, you can if you like," said Fanny.
And he carefully took the pins out of the knot, and the rush of hair, of
uniform dark brown, slid over the humped back.
"What a lovely lot!" he exclaimed.
The girls watched. There was silence. The youth shook the hair loose
from the coil.
"It's splendid!" he said, smelling its perfume. "I'll bet it's worth
"I'll leave it you when I die, Paul," said Fanny, half joking.
"You look just like anybody else, sitting drying their hair," said one
of the girls to the long-legged hunchback.
Poor Fanny was morbidly sensitive, always imagining insults. Polly was
curt and businesslike. The two departments were for ever at war, and
Paul was always finding Fanny in tears. Then he was made the recipient
of all her woes, and he had to plead her case with Polly.
So the time went along happily enough. The factory had a homely feel.
No one was rushed or driven. Paul always enjoyed it when the work got
faster, towards post-time, and all the men united in labour. He liked to
watch his fellow-clerks at work. The man was the work and the work was
the man, one thing, for the time being. It was different with the girls.
The real woman never seemed to be there at the task, but as if left out,
From the train going home at night he used to watch the lights of the
town, sprinkled thick on the hills, fusing together in a blaze in the
valleys. He felt rich in life and happy. Drawing farther off, there was
a patch of lights at Bulwell like myriad petals shaken to the ground
from the shed stars; and beyond was the red glare of the furnaces,
playing like hot breath on the clouds.
He had to walk two and more miles from Keston home, up two long hills,
down two short hills. He was often tired, and he counted the lamps
climbing the hill above him, how many more to pass. And from the
hilltop, on pitch-dark nights, he looked round on the villages five
or six miles away, that shone like swarms of glittering living things,
almost a heaven against his feet. Marlpool and Heanor scattered the
far-off darkness with brilliance. And occasionally the black valley
space between was traced, violated by a great train rushing south to
London or north to Scotland. The trains roared by like projectiles level
on the darkness, fuming and burning, making the valley clang with
their passage. They were gone, and the lights of the towns and villages
glittered in silence.
And then he came to the corner at home, which faced the other side
of the night. The ash-tree seemed a friend now. His mother rose with
gladness as he entered. He put his eight shillings proudly on the table.
"It'll help, mother?" he asked wistfully.
"There's precious little left," she answered, "after your ticket and
dinners and such are taken off."
Then he told her the budget of the day. His life-story, like an Arabian
Nights, was told night after night to his mother. It was almost as if it
were her own life.
DEATH IN THE FAMILY
ARTHUR MOREL was growing up. He was a quick, careless, impulsive boy, a
good deal like his father. He hated study, made a great moan if he had
to work, and escaped as soon as possible to his sport again.
In appearance he remained the flower of the family, being well made,
graceful, and full of life. His dark brown hair and fresh colouring, and
his exquisite dark blue eyes shaded with long lashes, together with his
generous manner and fiery temper, made him a favourite. But as he grew
older his temper became uncertain. He flew into rages over nothing,
seemed unbearably raw and irritable.
His mother, whom he loved, wearied of him sometimes. He thought only of
himself. When he wanted amusement, all that stood in his way he
hated, even if it were she. When he was in trouble he moaned to her
"Goodness, boy!" she said, when he groaned about a master who, he said,
hated him, "if you don't like it, alter it, and if you can't alter it,
put up with it."
And his father, whom he had loved and who had worshipped him, he came
to detest. As he grew older Morel fell into a slow ruin. His body, which
had been beautiful in movement and in being, shrank, did not seem to
ripen with the years, but to get mean and rather despicable. There came
over him a look of meanness and of paltriness. And when the mean-looking
elderly man bullied or ordered the boy about, Arthur was furious.
Moreover, Morel's manners got worse and worse, his habits somewhat
disgusting. When the children were growing up and in the crucial stage
of adolescence, the father was like some ugly irritant to their souls.
His manners in the house were the same as he used among the colliers
"Dirty nuisance!" Arthur would cry, jumping up and going straight out
of the house when his father disgusted him. And Morel persisted the more
because his children hated it. He seemed to take a kind of satisfaction
in disgusting them, and driving them nearly mad, while they were so
irritably sensitive at the age of fourteen or fifteen. So that Arthur,
who was growing up when his father was degenerate and elderly, hated him
worst of all.
Then, sometimes, the father would seem to feel the contemptuous hatred
of his children.
"There's not a man tries harder for his family!" he would shout. "He
does his best for them, and then gets treated like a dog. But I'm not
going to stand it, I tell you!"
But for the threat and the fact that he did not try so hard as he
imagined, they would have felt sorry. As it was, the battle now went on
nearly all between father and children, he persisting in his dirty and
disgusting ways, just to assert his independence. They loathed him.
Arthur was so inflamed and irritable at last, that when he won a
scholarship for the Grammar School in Nottingham, his mother decided
to let him live in town, with one of her sisters, and only come home at
Annie was still a junior teacher in the Board-school, earning about four
shillings a week. But soon she would have fifteen shillings, since she
had passed her examination, and there would be financial peace in the
Mrs. Morel clung now to Paul. He was quiet and not brilliant. But still
he stuck to his painting, and still he stuck to his mother. Everything
he did was for her. She waited for his coming home in the evening, and
then she unburdened herself of all she had pondered, or of all that
had occurred to her during the day. He sat and listened with his
earnestness. The two shared lives.
William was engaged now to his brunette, and had bought her an
engagement ring that cost eight guineas. The children gasped at such a
"Eight guineas!" said Morel. "More fool him! If he'd gen me some on't,
it 'ud ha' looked better on 'im."
"Given YOU some of it!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Why give YOU some of it!"
She remembered HE had bought no engagement ring at all, and she
preferred William, who was not mean, if he were foolish. But now the
young man talked only of the dances to which he went with his betrothed,
and the different resplendent clothes she wore; or he told his mother
with glee how they went to the theatre like great swells.
He wanted to bring the girl home. Mrs. Morel said she should come at the
Christmas. This time William arrived with a lady, but with no presents.
Mrs. Morel had prepared supper. Hearing footsteps, she rose and went to
the door. William entered.
"Hello, mother!" He kissed her hastily, then stood aside to present a
tall, handsome girl, who was wearing a costume of fine black-and-white
check, and furs.
Miss Western held out her hand and showed her teeth in a small smile.
"Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Morel!" she exclaimed.
"I am afraid you will be hungry," said Mrs. Morel.
"Oh no, we had dinner in the train. Have you got my gloves, Chubby?"
William Morel, big and raw-boned, looked at her quickly.
"How should I?" he said.
"Then I've lost them. Don't be cross with me."
A frown went over his face, but he said nothing. She glanced round
the kitchen. It was small and curious to her, with its glittering
kissing-bunch, its evergreens behind the pictures, its wooden chairs and
little deal table. At that moment Morel came in.
"Hello, my son! Tha's let on me!"
The two shook hands, and William presented the lady. She gave the same
smile that showed her teeth.
"How do you do, Mr. Morel?"
Morel bowed obsequiously.
"I'm very well, and I hope so are you. You must make yourself very
"Oh, thank you," she replied, rather amused.
"You will like to go upstairs," said Mrs. Morel.
"If you don't mind; but not if it is any trouble to you."
"It is no trouble. Annie will take you. Walter, carry up this box."
"And don't be an hour dressing yourself up," said William to his
Annie took a brass candlestick, and, too shy almost to speak, preceded
the young lady to the front bedroom, which Mr. and Mrs. Morel had
vacated for her. It, too, was small and cold by candlelight. The
colliers' wives only lit fires in bedrooms in case of extreme illness.
"Shall I unstrap the box?" asked Annie.
"Oh, thank you very much!"
Annie played the part of maid, then went downstairs for hot water.
"I think she's rather tired, mother," said William. "It's a beastly
journey, and we had such a rush."
"Is there anything I can give her?" asked Mrs. Morel.
"Oh no, she'll be all right."
But there was a chill in the atmosphere. After half an hour Miss Western
came down, having put on a purplish-coloured dress, very fine for the
"I told you you'd no need to change," said William to her.
"Oh, Chubby!" Then she turned with that sweetish smile to Mrs. Morel.
"Don't you think he's always grumbling, Mrs. Morel?"
"Is he?" said Mrs. Morel. "That's not very nice of him."
"It isn't, really!"
"You are cold," said the mother. "Won't you come near the fire?"
Morel jumped out of his armchair.
"Come and sit you here!" he cried. "Come and sit you here!"
"No, dad, keep your own chair. Sit on the sofa, Gyp," said William.
"No, no!" cried Morel. "This cheer's warmest. Come and sit here, Miss
"Thank you so much," said the girl, seating herself in the collier's
armchair, the place of honour. She shivered, feeling the warmth of the
kitchen penetrate her.
"Fetch me a hanky, Chubby dear!" she said, putting up her mouth to him,
and using the same intimate tone as if they were alone; which made the
rest of the family feel as if they ought not to be present. The young
lady evidently did not realise them as people: they were creatures to
her for the present. William winced.
In such a household, in Streatham, Miss Western would have been a lady
condescending to her inferiors. These people were to her, certainly
clownish--in short, the working classes. How was she to adjust herself?
"I'll go," said Annie.
Miss Western took no notice, as if a servant had spoken. But when the
girl came downstairs again with the handkerchief, she said: "Oh, thank
you!" in a gracious way.
She sat and talked about the dinner on the train, which had been so
poor; about London, about dances. She was really very nervous, and
chattered from fear. Morel sat all the time smoking his thick twist
tobacco, watching her, and listening to her glib London speech, as he
puffed. Mrs. Morel, dressed up in her best black silk blouse, answered
quietly and rather briefly. The three children sat round in silence and
admiration. Miss Western was the princess. Everything of the best was
got out for her: the best cups, the best spoons, the best table cloth,
the best coffee-jug. The children thought she must find it quite grand.
She felt strange, not able to realise the people, not knowing how to
treat them. William joked, and was slightly uncomfortable.
At about ten o'clock he said to her:
"Aren't you tired, Gyp?"
"Rather, Chubby," she answered, at once in the intimate tones and
putting her head slightly on one side.
"I'll light her the candle, mother," he said.
"Very well," replied the mother.
Miss Western stood up, held out her hand to Mrs. Morel.
"Good-night, Mrs. Morel," she said.
Paul sat at the boiler, letting the water run from the tap into a stone
beer-bottle. Annie swathed the bottle in an old flannel pit-singlet, and
kissed her mother good-night. She was to share the room with the lady,
because the house was full.
"You wait a minute," said Mrs. Morel to Annie. And Annie sat nursing
the hot-water bottle. Miss Western shook hands all round, to everybody's
discomfort, and took her departure, preceded by William. In five minutes
he was downstairs again. His heart was rather sore; he did not know why.
He talked very little till everybody had gone to bed, but himself and
his mother. Then he stood with his legs apart, in his old attitude on
the hearthrug, and said hesitatingly:
"Well, my son?"
She sat in the rocking-chair, feeling somehow hurt and humiliated, for
"Do you like her?"
"Yes," came the slow answer.
"She's shy yet, mother. She's not used to it. It's different from her
aunt's house, you know."
"Of course it is, my boy; and she must find it difficult."
"She does." Then he frowned swiftly. "If only she wouldn't put on her
"It's only her first awkwardness, my boy. She'll be all right."
"That's it, mother," he replied gratefully. But his brow was gloomy.
"You know, she's not like you, mother. She's not serious, and she can't
"She's young, my boy."
"Yes; and she's had no sort of show. Her mother died when she was a
child. Since then she's lived with her aunt, whom she can't bear. And
her father was a rake. She's had no love."
"No! Well, you must make up to her."
"And so--you have to forgive her a lot of things."
"WHAT do you have to forgive her, my boy?"
"I dunno. When she seems shallow, you have to remember she's never had
anybody to bring her deeper side out. And she's FEARFULLY fond of me."
"Anybody can see that."
"But you know, mother--she's--she's different from us. Those sort of
people, like those she lives amongst, they don't seem to have the same
"You mustn't judge too hastily," said Mrs. Morel.
But he seemed uneasy within himself.
In the morning, however, he was up singing and larking round the house.
"Hello!" he called, sitting on the stairs. "Are you getting up?"
"Yes," her voice called faintly.
"Merry Christmas!" he shouted to her.
Her laugh, pretty and tinkling, was heard in the bedroom. She did not
come down in half an hour.
"Was she REALLY getting up when she said she was?" he asked of Annie.
"Yes, she was," replied Annie.
He waited a while, then went to the stairs again.
"Happy New Year," he called.
"Thank you, Chubby dear!" came the laughing voice, far away.
"Buck up!" he implored.
It was nearly an hour, and still he was waiting for her. Morel, who
always rose before six, looked at the clock.
"Well, it's a winder!" he exclaimed.
The family had breakfasted, all but William. He went to the foot of the
"Shall I have to send you an Easter egg up there?" he called, rather
crossly. She only laughed. The family expected, after that time of
preparation, something like magic. At last she came, looking very nice
in a blouse and skirt.
"Have you REALLY been all this time getting ready?" he asked.
"Chubby dear! That question is not permitted, is it, Mrs. Morel?"
She played the grand lady at first. When she went with William
to chapel, he in his frock-coat and silk hat, she in her furs and
London-made costume, Paul and Arthur and Annie expected everybody to bow
to the ground in admiration. And Morel, standing in his Sunday suit
at the end of the road, watching the gallant pair go, felt he was the
father of princes and princesses.
And yet she was not so grand. For a year now she had been a sort of
secretary or clerk in a London office. But while she was with the Morels
she queened it. She sat and let Annie or Paul wait on her as if they
were her servants. She treated Mrs. Morel with a certain glibness and
Morel with patronage. But after a day or so she began to change her
William always wanted Paul or Annie to go along with them on their
walks. It was so much more interesting. And Paul really DID admire
"Gipsy" wholeheartedly; in fact, his mother scarcely forgave the boy for
the adulation with which he treated the girl.
On the second day, when Lily said: "Oh, Annie, do you know where I left
my muff?" William replied:
"You know it is in your bedroom. Why do you ask Annie?"
And Lily went upstairs with a cross, shut mouth. But it angered the
young man that she made a servant of his sister.
On the third evening William and Lily were sitting together in the
parlour by the fire in the dark. At a quarter to eleven Mrs. Morel was
heard raking the fire. William came out to the kitchen, followed by his
"Is it as late as that, mother?" he said. She had been sitting alone.
"It is not LATE, my boy, but it is as late as I usually sit up."
"Won't you go to bed, then?" he asked.
"And leave you two? No, my boy, I don't believe in it."
"Can't you trust us, mother?"
"Whether I can or not, I won't do it. You can stay till eleven if you
like, and I can read."
"Go to bed, Gyp," he said to his girl. "We won't keep mater waiting."
"Annie has left the candle burning, Lily," said Mrs. Morel; "I think you
"Yes, thank you. Good-night, Mrs. Morel."
William kissed his sweetheart at the foot of the stairs, and she went.
He returned to the kitchen.
"Can't you trust us, mother?" he repeated, rather offended.
"My boy, I tell you I don't BELIEVE in leaving two young things like you
alone downstairs when everyone else is in bed."
And he was forced to take this answer. He kissed his mother good-night.
At Easter he came over alone. And then he discussed his sweetheart
endlessly with his mother.
"You know, mother, when I'm away from her I don't care for her a bit. I
shouldn't care if I never saw her again. But, then, when I'm with her in
the evenings I am awfully fond of her."
"It's a queer sort of love to marry on," said Mrs. Morel, "if she holds
you no more than that!"
"It IS funny!" he exclaimed. It worried and perplexed him. "But
yet--there's so much between us now I couldn't give her up."
"You know best," said Mrs. Morel. "But if it is as you say, I wouldn't
call it LOVE--at any rate, it doesn't look much like it."
"Oh, I don't know, mother. She's an orphan, and--"
They never came to any sort of conclusion. He seemed puzzled and rather
fretted. She was rather reserved. All his strength and money went
in keeping this girl. He could scarcely afford to take his mother to
Nottingham when he came over.
Paul's wages had been raised at Christmas to ten shillings, to his great
joy. He was quite happy at Jordan's, but his health suffered from the
long hours and the confinement. His mother, to whom he became more and
more significant, thought how to help.
His half-day holiday was on Monday afternoon. On a Monday morning in
May, as the two sat alone at breakfast, she said:
"I think it will be a fine day."
He looked up in surprise. This meant something.
"You know Mr. Leivers has gone to live on a new farm. Well, he asked me
last week if I wouldn't go and see Mrs. Leivers, and I promised to bring
you on Monday if it's fine. Shall we go?"
"I say, little woman, how lovely!" he cried. "And we'll go this
Paul hurried off to the station jubilant. Down Derby Road was a
cherry-tree that glistened. The old brick wall by the Statutes ground
burned scarlet, spring was a very flame of green. And the steep swoop
of highroad lay, in its cool morning dust, splendid with patterns of
sunshine and shadow, perfectly still. The trees sloped their great green
shoulders proudly; and inside the warehouse all the morning, the boy had
a vision of spring outside.
When he came home at dinner-time his mother was rather excited.
"Are we going?" he asked.
"When I'm ready," she replied.
Presently he got up.
"Go and get dressed while I wash up," he said.
She did so. He washed the pots, straightened, and then took her boots.
They were quite clean. Mrs. Morel was one of those naturally exquisite
people who can walk in mud without dirtying their shoes. But Paul had to
clean them for her. They were kid boots at eight shillings a pair. He,
however, thought them the most dainty boots in the world, and he cleaned
them with as much reverence as if they had been flowers.
Suddenly she appeared in the inner doorway rather shyly. She had got a
new cotton blouse on. Paul jumped up and went forward.
"Oh, my stars!" he exclaimed. "What a bobby-dazzler!"
She sniffed in a little haughty way, and put her head up.
"It's not a bobby-dazzler at all!" she replied. "It's very quiet."
She walked forward, whilst he hovered round her.
"Well," she asked, quite shy, but pretending to be high and mighty, "do
you like it?"
"Awfully! You ARE a fine little woman to go jaunting out with!"
He went and surveyed her from the back.
"Well," he said, "if I was walking down the street behind you, I should
say: 'Doesn't THAT little person fancy herself!"'
"Well, she doesn't," replied Mrs. Morel. "She's not sure it suits her."
"Oh no! she wants to be in dirty black, looking as if she was wrapped in
burnt paper. It DOES suit you, and I say you look nice."
She sniffed in her little way, pleased, but pretending to know better.
"Well," she said, "it's cost me just three shillings. You couldn't have
got it ready-made for that price, could you?"
"I should think you couldn't," he replied.
"And, you know, it's good stuff."
"Awfully pretty," he said.
The blouse was white, with a little sprig of heliotrope and black.
"Too young for me, though, I'm afraid," she said.
"Too young for you!" he exclaimed in disgust. "Why don't you buy some
false white hair and stick it on your head."
"I s'll soon have no need," she replied. "I'm going white fast enough."
"Well, you've no business to," he said. "What do I want with a
"I'm afraid you'll have to put up with one, my lad," she said rather
They set off in great style, she carrying the umbrella William had given
her, because of the sun. Paul was considerably taller than she, though
he was not big. He fancied himself.
On the fallow land the young wheat shone silkily. Minton pit waved its
plumes of white steam, coughed, and rattled hoarsely.
"Now look at that!" said Mrs. Morel. Mother and son stood on the road to
watch. Along the ridge of the great pit-hill crawled a little group
in silhouette against the sky, a horse, a small truck, and a man. They
climbed the incline against the heavens. At the end the man tipped the
wagon. There was an undue rattle as the waste fell down the sheer slope
of the enormous bank.
"You sit a minute, mother," he said, and she took a seat on a bank,
whilst he sketched rapidly. She was silent whilst he worked, looking
round at the afternoon, the red cottages shining among their greenness.
"The world is a wonderful place," she said, "and wonderfully beautiful."
"And so's the pit," he said. "Look how it heaps together, like something
alive almost--a big creature that you don't know."
"Yes," she said. "Perhaps!"
"And all the trucks standing waiting, like a string of beasts to be
fed," he said.
"And very thankful I am they ARE standing," she said, "for that means
they'll turn middling time this week."
"But I like the feel of MEN on things, while they're alive. There's a
feel of men about trucks, because they've been handled with men's hands,
all of them."
"Yes," said Mrs. Morel.
They went along under the trees of the highroad. He was constantly
informing her, but she was interested. They passed the end of
Nethermere, that was tossing its sunshine like petals lightly in
its lap. Then they turned on a private road, and in some trepidation
approached a big farm. A dog barked furiously. A woman came out to see.
"Is this the way to Willey Farm?" Mrs. Morel asked.
Paul hung behind in terror of being sent back. But the woman was
amiable, and directed them. The mother and son went through the wheat
and oats, over a little bridge into a wild meadow. Peewits, with their
white breasts glistening, wheeled and screamed about them. The lake was
still and blue. High overhead a heron floated. Opposite, the wood heaped
on the hill, green and still.
"It's a wild road, mother," said Paul. "Just like Canada."
"Isn't it beautiful!" said Mrs. Morel, looking round.
"See that heron--see--see her legs?"
He directed his mother, what she must see and what not. And she was
"But now," she said, "which way? He told me through the wood."
The wood, fenced and dark, lay on their left.
"I can feel a bit of a path this road," said Paul. "You've got town
feet, somehow or other, you have."
They found a little gate, and soon were in a broad green alley of the
wood, with a new thicket of fir and pine on one hand, an old oak glade
dipping down on the other. And among the oaks the bluebells stood in
pools of azure, under the new green hazels, upon a pale fawn floor of
oak-leaves. He found flowers for her.
"Here's a bit of new-mown hay," he said; then, again, he brought her
forget-me-nots. And, again, his heart hurt with love, seeing her hand,
used with work, holding the little bunch of flowers he gave her. She was
But at the end of the riding was a fence to climb. Paul was over in a
"Come," he said, "let me help you."
"No, go away. I will do it in my own way."
He stood below with his hands up ready to help her. She climbed
"What a way to climb!" he exclaimed scornfully, when she was safely to
"Hateful stiles!" she cried.
"Duffer of a little woman," he replied, "who can't get over 'em."
In front, along the edge of the wood, was a cluster of low red farm
buildings. The two hastened forward. Flush with the wood was the apple
orchard, where blossom was falling on the grindstone. The pond was deep
under a hedge and overhanging oak trees. Some cows stood in the shade.
The farm and buildings, three sides of a quadrangle, embraced the
sunshine towards the wood. It was very still.
Mother and son went into the small railed garden, where was a scent
of red gillivers. By the open door were some floury loaves, put out to
cool. A hen was just coming to peck them. Then, in the doorway suddenly
appeared a girl in a dirty apron. She was about fourteen years old, had
a rosy dark face, a bunch of short black curls, very fine and free, and
dark eyes; shy, questioning, a little resentful of the strangers, she
disappeared. In a minute another figure appeared, a small, frail woman,
rosy, with great dark brown eyes.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, smiling with a little glow, "you've come, then. I
AM glad to see you." Her voice was intimate and rather sad.
The two women shook hands.
"Now are you sure we're not a bother to you?" said Mrs. Morel. "I know
what a farming life is."
"Oh no! We're only too thankful to see a new face, it's so lost up
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Morel.
They were taken through into the parlour--a long, low room, with a great
bunch of guelder-roses in the fireplace. There the women talked, whilst
Paul went out to survey the land. He was in the garden smelling the
gillivers and looking at the plants, when the girl came out quickly to
the heap of coal which stood by the fence.
"I suppose these are cabbage-roses?" he said to her, pointing to the
bushes along the fence.
She looked at him with startled, big brown eyes.
"I suppose they are cabbage-roses when they come out?" he said.
"I don't know," she faltered. "They're white with pink middles."
"Then they're maiden-blush."
Miriam flushed. She had a beautiful warm colouring.
"I don't know," she said.
"You don't have MUCH in your garden," he said.
"This is our first year here," she answered, in a distant, rather
superior way, drawing back and going indoors. He did not notice, but
went his round of exploration. Presently his mother came out, and they
went through the buildings. Paul was hugely delighted.
"And I suppose you have the fowls and calves and pigs to look after?"
said Mrs. Morel to Mrs. Leivers.
"No," replied the little woman. "I can't find time to look after cattle,
and I'm not used to it. It's as much as I can do to keep going in the
"Well, I suppose it is," said Mrs. Morel.
Presently the girl came out.
"Tea is ready, mother," she said in a musical, quiet voice.
"Oh, thank you, Miriam, then we'll come," replied her mother, almost
ingratiatingly. "Would you CARE to have tea now, Mrs. Morel?"
"Of course," said Mrs. Morel. "Whenever it's ready."
Paul and his mother and Mrs. Leivers had tea together. Then they
went out into the wood that was flooded with bluebells, while fumy
forget-me-nots were in the paths. The mother and son were in ecstasy
When they got back to the house, Mr. Leivers and Edgar, the eldest
son, were in the kitchen. Edgar was about eighteen. Then Geoffrey and
Maurice, big lads of twelve and thirteen, were in from school. Mr.
Leivers was a good-looking man in the prime of life, with a golden-brown
moustache, and blue eyes screwed up against the weather.
The boys were condescending, but Paul scarcely observed it. They went
round for eggs, scrambling into all sorts of places. As they were
feeding the fowls Miriam came out. The boys took no notice of her. One
hen, with her yellow chickens, was in a coop. Maurice took his hand full
of corn and let the hen peck from it.
"Durst you do it?" he asked of Paul.
"Let's see," said Paul.
He had a small hand, warm, and rather capable-looking. Miriam watched.
He held the corn to the hen. The bird eyed it with her hard, bright eye,
and suddenly made a peck into his hand. He started, and laughed. "Rap,
rap, rap!" went the bird's beak in his palm. He laughed again, and the
other boys joined.
"She knocks you, and nips you, but she never hurts," said Paul, when the
last corn had gone. "Now, Miriam," said Maurice, "you come an 'ave a
"No," she cried, shrinking back.
"Ha! baby. The mardy-kid!" said her brothers.
"It doesn't hurt a bit," said Paul. "It only just nips rather nicely."
"No," she still cried, shaking her black curls and shrinking.
"She dursn't," said Geoffrey. "She niver durst do anything except recite
"Dursn't jump off a gate, dursn't tweedle, dursn't go on a slide,
dursn't stop a girl hittin' her. She can do nowt but go about thinkin'
herself somebody. 'The Lady of the Lake.' Yah!" cried Maurice.
Miriam was crimson with shame and misery.
"I dare do more than you," she cried. "You're never anything but cowards
"Oh, cowards and bullies!" they repeated mincingly, mocking her speech.
"Not such a clown shall anger me,
A boor is answered silently,"
he quoted against her, shouting with laughter.
She went indoors. Paul went with the boys into the orchard, where they
had rigged up a parallel bar. They did feats of strength. He was more
agile than strong, but it served. He fingered a piece of apple-blossom
that hung low on a swinging bough.
"I wouldn't get the apple-blossom," said Edgar, the eldest brother.
"There'll be no apples next year."
"I wasn't going to get it," replied Paul, going away.
The boys felt hostile to him; they were more interested in their own
pursuits. He wandered back to the house to look for his mother. As he
went round the back, he saw Miriam kneeling in front of the hen-coop,
some maize in her hand, biting her lip, and crouching in an intense
attitude. The hen was eyeing her wickedly. Very gingerly she put forward
her hand. The hen bobbed for her. She drew back quickly with a cry, half
of fear, half of chagrin.
"It won't hurt you," said Paul.
She flushed crimson and started up.
"I only wanted to try," she said in a low voice.
"See, it doesn't hurt," he said, and, putting only two corns in his
palm, he let the hen peck, peck, peck at his bare hand. "It only makes
you laugh," he said.
She put her hand forward and dragged it away, tried again, and started
back with a cry. He frowned.
"Why, I'd let her take corn from my face," said Paul, "only she bumps a
bit. She's ever so neat. If she wasn't, look how much ground she'd peck
up every day."
He waited grimly, and watched. At last Miriam let the bird peck from
her hand. She gave a little cry--fear, and pain because of fear--rather
pathetic. But she had done it, and she did it again.
"There, you see," said the boy. "It doesn't hurt, does it?"
She looked at him with dilated dark eyes.
"No," she laughed, trembling.
Then she rose and went indoors. She seemed to be in some way resentful
of the boy.
"He thinks I'm only a common girl," she thought, and she wanted to prove
she was a grand person like the "Lady of the Lake".
Paul found his mother ready to go home. She smiled on her son. He took
the great bunch of flowers. Mr. and Mrs. Leivers walked down the fields
with them. The hills were golden with evening; deep in the woods showed
the darkening purple of bluebells. It was everywhere perfectly stiff,
save for the rustling of leaves and birds.
"But it is a beautiful place," said Mrs. Morel.
"Yes," answered Mr. Leivers; "it's a nice little place, if only it
weren't for the rabbits. The pasture's bitten down to nothing. I dunno
if ever I s'll get the rent off it."
He clapped his hands, and the field broke into motion near the woods,
brown rabbits hopping everywhere.
"Would you believe it!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel.
She and Paul went on alone together.
"Wasn't it lovely, mother?" he said quietly.
A thin moon was coming out. His heart was full of happiness till it
hurt. His mother had to chatter, because she, too, wanted to cry with
"Now WOULDN'T I help that man!" she said. "WOULDN'T I see to the fowls
and the young stock! And I'D learn to milk, and I'D talk with him, and
I'D plan with him. My word, if I were his wife, the farm would be run,
I know! But there, she hasn't the strength--she simply hasn't the
strength. She ought never to have been burdened like it, you know. I'm
sorry for her, and I'm sorry for him too. My word, if I'D had him, I
shouldn't have thought him a bad husband! Not that she does either; and
she's very lovable."
William came home again with his sweetheart at the Whitsuntide. He had
one week of his holidays then. It was beautiful weather. As a rule,
William and Lily and Paul went out in the morning together for a walk.
William did not talk to his beloved much, except to tell her things from
his boyhood. Paul talked endlessly to both of them. They lay down, all
three, in a meadow by Minton Church. On one side, by the Castle Farm,
was a beautiful quivering screen of poplars. Hawthorn was dropping
from the hedges; penny daisies and ragged robin were in the field, like
laughter. William, a big fellow of twenty-three, thinner now and even a
bit gaunt, lay back in the sunshine and dreamed, while she fingered with
his hair. Paul went gathering the big daisies. She had taken off her
hat; her hair was black as a horse's mane. Paul came back and threaded
daisies in her jet-black hair--big spangles of white and yellow, and
just a pink touch of ragged robin.
"Now you look like a young witch-woman," the boy said to her. "Doesn't
Lily laughed. William opened his eyes and looked at her. In his gaze was
a certain baffled look of misery and fierce appreciation.
"Has he made a sight of me?" she asked, laughing down on her lover.
"That he has!" said William, smiling.
He looked at her. Her beauty seemed to hurt him. He glanced at her
flower-decked head and frowned.
"You look nice enough, if that's what you want to know," he said.
And she walked without her hat. In a little while William recovered, and
was rather tender to her. Coming to a bridge, he carved her initials and
his in a heart.
L. L. W.
She watched his strong, nervous hand, with its glistening hairs and
freckles, as he carved, and she seemed fascinated by it.
All the time there was a feeling of sadness and warmth, and a certain
tenderness in the house, whilst William and Lily were at home. But often
he got irritable. She had brought, for an eight-days' stay, five dresses
and six blouses.
"Oh, would you mind," she said to Annie, "washing me these two blouses,
and these things?"
And Annie stood washing when William and Lily went out the next morning.
Mrs. Morel was furious. And sometimes the young man, catching a glimpse
of his sweetheart's attitude towards his sister, hated her.
On Sunday morning she looked very beautiful in a dress of foulard, silky
and sweeping, and blue as a jay-bird's feather, and in a large cream hat
covered with many roses, mostly crimson. Nobody could admire her enough.
But in the evening, when she was going out, she asked again:
"Chubby, have you got my gloves?"
"Which?" asked William.
"My new black SUEDE."
There was a hunt. She had lost them.
"Look here, mother," said William, "that's the fourth pair she's lost
since Christmas--at five shillings a pair!"
"You only gave me TWO of them," she remonstrated.
And in the evening, after supper, he stood on the hearthrug whilst she
sat on the sofa, and he seemed to hate her. In the afternoon he had
left her whilst he went to see some old friend. She had sat looking at a
book. After supper William wanted to write a letter.
"Here is your book, Lily," said Mrs. Morel. "Would you care to go on
with it for a few minutes?"
"No, thank you," said the girl. "I will sit still."
"But it is so dull."
William scribbled irritably at a great rate. As he sealed the envelope
"Read a book! Why, she's never read a book in her life."
"Oh, go along!" said Mrs. Morel, cross with the exaggeration,
"It's true, mother--she hasn't," he cried, jumping up and taking his old
position on the hearthrug. "She's never read a book in her life."
"'Er's like me," chimed in Morel. "'Er canna see what there is i' books,
ter sit borin' your nose in 'em for, nor more can I."
"But you shouldn't say these things," said Mrs. Morel to her son.
"But it's true, mother--she CAN'T read. What did you give her?"
"Well, I gave her a little thing of Annie Swan's. Nobody wants to read
dry stuff on Sunday afternoon."
"Well, I'll bet she didn't read ten lines of it."
"You are mistaken," said his mother.
All the time Lily sat miserably on the sofa. He turned to her swiftly.
"DID you read any?" he asked.
"Yes, I did," she replied.
"I don't know how many pages."
"Tell me ONE THING you read."
She could not.
She never got beyond the second page. He read a great deal, and had a
quick, active intelligence. She could understand nothing but love-making
and chatter. He was accustomed to having all his thoughts sifted through
his mother's mind; so, when he wanted companionship, and was asked in
reply to be the billing and twittering lover, he hated his betrothed.
"You know, mother," he said, when he was alone with her at night, "she's
no idea of money, she's so wessel-brained. When she's paid, she'll
suddenly buy such rot as marrons glaces, and then I have to buy her
season ticket, and her extras, even her underclothing. And she wants to
get married, and I think myself we might as well get married next year.
But at this rate--"
"A fine mess of a marriage it would be," replied his mother. "I should
consider it again, my boy."
"Oh, well, I've gone too far to break off now," he said, "and so I shall
get married as soon as I can."
"Very well, my boy. If you will, you will, and there's no stopping you;
but I tell you, I can't sleep when I think about it."
"Oh, she'll be all right, mother. We shall manage."
"And she lets you buy her underclothing?" asked the mother.
"Well," he began apologetically, "she didn't ask me; but one
morning--and it WAS cold--I found her on the station shivering, not able
to keep still; so I asked her if she was well wrapped up. She said: 'I
think so.' So I said: 'Have you got warm underthings on?' And she
said: 'No, they were cotton.' I asked her why on earth she hadn't got
something thicker on in weather like that, and she said because she HAD
nothing. And there she is--a bronchial subject! I HAD to take her and
get some warm things. Well, mother, I shouldn't mind the money if we
had any. And, you know, she OUGHT to keep enough to pay for her
season-ticket; but no, she comes to me about that, and I have to find
"It's a poor lookout," said Mrs. Morel bitterly.
He was pale, and his rugged face, that used to be so perfectly careless
and laughing, was stamped with conflict and despair.
"But I can't give her up now; it's gone too far," he said. "And,
besides, for SOME things I couldn't do without her."
"My boy, remember you're taking your life in your hands," said Mrs.
Morel. "NOTHING is as bad as a marriage that's a hopeless failure. Mine
was bad enough, God knows, and ought to teach you something; but it
might have been worse by a long chalk."
He leaned with his back against the side of the chimney-piece, his hands
in his pockets. He was a big, raw-boned man, who looked as if he would
go to the world's end if he wanted to. But she saw the despair on his
"I couldn't give her up now," he said.
"Well," she said, "remember there are worse wrongs than breaking off an
"I can't give her up NOW," he said.
The clock ticked on; mother and son remained in silence, a conflict
between them; but he would say no more. At last she said:
"Well, go to bed, my son. You'll feel better in the morning, and perhaps
you'll know better."
He kissed her, and went. She raked the fire. Her heart was heavy now
as it had never been. Before, with her husband, things had seemed to be
breaking down in her, but they did not destroy her power to live. Now
her soul felt lamed in itself. It was her hope that was struck.
And so often William manifested the same hatred towards his betrothed.
On the last evening at home he was railing against her.
"Well," he said, "if you don't believe me, what she's like, would you
believe she has been confirmed three times?"
"Nonsense!" laughed Mrs. Morel.
"Nonsense or not, she HAS! That's what confirmation means for her--a bit
of a theatrical show where she can cut a figure."
"I haven't, Mrs. Morel!" cried the girl--"I haven't! it is not true!"
"What!" he cried, flashing round on her. "Once in Bromley, once in
Beckenham, and once somewhere else."
"Nowhere else!" she said, in tears--"nowhere else!"
"It WAS! And if it wasn't why were you confirmed TWICE?"
"Once I was only fourteen, Mrs. Morel," she pleaded, tears in her eyes.
"Yes," said Mrs. Morel; "I can quite understand it, child. Take no
notice of him. You ought to be ashamed, William, saying such things."
"But it's true. She's religious--she had blue velvet Prayer-Books--and
she's not as much religion, or anything else, in her than that
table-leg. Gets confirmed three times for show, to show herself off, and
that's how she is in EVERYTHING--EVERYTHING!"
The girl sat on the sofa, crying. She was not strong.
"As for LOVE!" he cried, "you might as well ask a fly to love you! It'll
love settling on you--"
"Now, say no more," commanded Mrs. Morel. "If you want to say these
things, you must find another place than this. I am ashamed of you,
William! Why don't you be more manly. To do nothing but find fault with
a girl, and then pretend you're engaged to her!"
Mrs. Morel subsided in wrath and indignation.
William was silent, and later he repented, kissed and comforted the
girl. Yet it was true, what he had said. He hated her.
When they were going away, Mrs. Morel accompanied them as far as
Nottingham. It was a long way to Keston station.
"You know, mother," he said to her, "Gyp's shallow. Nothing goes deep
"William, I WISH you wouldn't say these things," said Mrs. Morel, very
uncomfortable for the girl who walked beside her.
"But it doesn't, mother. She's very much in love with me now, but if I
died she'd have forgotten me in three months."
Mrs. Morel was afraid. Her heart beat furiously, hearing the quiet
bitterness of her son's last speech.
"How do you know?" she replied. "You DON'T know, and therefore you've no
right to say such a thing."
"He's always saying these things!" cried the girl.
"In three months after I was buried you'd have somebody else, and I
should be forgotten," he said. "And that's your love!"
Mrs. Morel saw them into the train in Nottingham, then she returned
"There's one comfort," she said to Paul--"he'll never have any money to
marry on, that I AM sure of. And so she'll save him that way."
So she took cheer. Matters were not yet very desperate. She firmly
believed William would never marry his Gipsy. She waited, and she kept
Paul near to her.
All summer long William's letters had a feverish tone; he seemed
unnatural and intense. Sometimes he was exaggeratedly jolly, usually he
was flat and bitter in his letter.
"Ah," his mother said, "I'm afraid he's ruining himself against that
creature, who isn't worthy of his love--no, no more than a rag doll."
He wanted to come home. The midsummer holiday was gone; it was a long
while to Christmas. He wrote in wild excitement, saying he could come
for Saturday and Sunday at Goose Fair, the first week in October.
"You are not well, my boy," said his mother, when she saw him. She was
almost in tears at having him to herself again.
"No, I've not been well," he said. "I've seemed to have a dragging cold
all the last month, but it's going, I think."
It was sunny October weather. He seemed wild with joy, like a schoolboy
escaped; then again he was silent and reserved. He was more gaunt than
ever, and there was a haggard look in his eyes.
"You are doing too much," said his mother to him.
He was doing extra work, trying to make some money to marry on, he said.
He only talked to his mother once on the Saturday night; then he was sad
and tender about his beloved.
"And yet, you know, mother, for all that, if I died she'd be
broken-hearted for two months, and then she'd start to forget me. You'd
see, she'd never come home here to look at my grave, not even once."
"Why, William," said his mother, "you're not going to die, so why talk
"But whether or not--" he replied.
"And she can't help it. She is like that, and if you choose her--well,
you can't grumble," said his mother.
On the Sunday morning, as he was putting his collar on:
"Look," he said to his mother, holding up his chin, "what a rash my
collar's made under my chin!"
Just at the junction of chin and throat was a big red inflammation.
"It ought not to do that," said his mother. "Here, put a bit of this
soothing ointment on. You should wear different collars."
He went away on Sunday midnight, seeming better and more solid for his
two days at home.
On Tuesday morning came a telegram from London that he was ill. Mrs.
Morel got off her knees from washing the floor, read the telegram,
called a neighbour, went to her landlady and borrowed a sovereign, put
on her things, and set off. She hurried to Keston, caught an express for
London in Nottingham. She had to wait in Nottingham nearly an hour. A
small figure in her black bonnet, she was anxiously asking the porters
if they knew how to get to Elmers End. The journey was three hours. She
sat in her corner in a kind of stupor, never moving. At King's Cross
still no one could tell her how to get to Elmers End. Carrying her
string bag, that contained her nightdress, a comb and brush, she went
from person to person. At last they sent her underground to Cannon
It was six o'clock when she arrived at William's lodging. The blinds
were not down.
"How is he?" she asked.
"No better," said the landlady.
She followed the woman upstairs. William lay on the bed, with bloodshot
eyes, his face rather discoloured. The clothes were tossed about, there
was no fire in the room, a glass of milk stood on the stand at his
bedside. No one had been with him.
"Why, my son!" said the mother bravely.
He did not answer. He looked at her, but did not see her. Then he began
to say, in a dull voice, as if repeating a letter from dictation: "Owing
to a leakage in the hold of this vessel, the sugar had set, and become
converted into rock. It needed hacking--"
He was quite unconscious. It had been his business to examine some such
cargo of sugar in the Port of London.
"How long has he been like this?" the mother asked the landlady.
"He got home at six o'clock on Monday morning, and he seemed to sleep
all day; then in the night we heard him talking, and this morning he
asked for you. So I wired, and we fetched the doctor."
"Will you have a fire made?"
Mrs. Morel tried to soothe her son, to keep him still.
The doctor came. It was pneumonia, and, he said, a peculiar erysipelas,
which had started under the chin where the collar chafed, and was
spreading over the face. He hoped it would not get to the brain.
Mrs. Morel settled down to nurse. She prayed for William, prayed that he
would recognise her. But the young man's face grew more discoloured.
In the night she struggled with him. He raved, and raved, and would not
come to consciousness. At two o'clock, in a dreadful paroxysm, he died.
Mrs. Morel sat perfectly still for an hour in the lodging bedroom; then
she roused the household.
At six o'clock, with the aid of the charwoman, she laid him out; then
she went round the dreary London village to the registrar and the
At nine o'clock to the cottage on Scargill Street came another wire:
"William died last night. Let father come, bring money."
Annie, Paul, and Arthur were at home; Mr. Morel was gone to work. The
three children said not a word. Annie began to whimper with fear; Paul
set off for his father.
It was a beautiful day. At Brinsley pit the white steam melted slowly in
the sunshine of a soft blue sky; the wheels of the headstocks twinkled
high up; the screen, shuffling its coal into the trucks, made a busy
"I want my father; he's got to go to London," said the boy to the first
man he met on the bank.
"Tha wants Walter Morel? Go in theer an' tell Joe Ward."
Paul went into the little top office.
"I want my father; he's got to go to London."
"Thy feyther? Is he down? What's his name?"
"What, Walter? Is owt amiss?"
"He's got to go to London."
The man went to the telephone and rang up the bottom office.
"Walter Morel's wanted, number 42, Hard. Summat's amiss; there's his lad
Then he turned round to Paul.
"He'll be up in a few minutes," he said.
Paul wandered out to the pit-top. He watched the chair come up, with its
wagon of coal. The great iron cage sank back on its rest, a full carfle
was hauled off, an empty tram run on to the chair, a bell ting'ed
somewhere, the chair heaved, then dropped like a stone.
Paul did not realise William was dead; it was impossible, with such
a bustle going on. The puller-off swung the small truck on to the
turn-table, another man ran with it along the bank down the curving
"And William is dead, and my mother's in London, and what will she be
doing?" the boy asked himself, as if it were a conundrum.
He watched chair after chair come up, and still no father. At last,
standing beside a wagon, a man's form! the chair sank on its rests,
Morel stepped off. He was slightly lame from an accident.
"Is it thee, Paul? Is 'e worse?"
"You've got to go to London."
The two walked off the pit-bank, where men were watching curiously. As
they came out and went along the railway, with the sunny autumn field on
one side and a wall of trucks on the other, Morel said in a frightened
"'E's niver gone, child?"
"Last night. We had a telegram from my mother."
Morel walked on a few strides, then leaned up against a truck-side,
his hand over his eyes. He was not crying. Paul stood looking round,
waiting. On the weighing machine a truck trundled slowly. Paul saw
everything, except his father leaning against the truck as if he were
Morel had only once before been to London. He set off, scared and
peaked, to help his wife. That was on Tuesday. The children were left
alone in the house. Paul went to work, Arthur went to school, and Annie
had in a friend to be with her.
On Saturday night, as Paul was turning the corner, coming home from
Keston, he saw his mother and father, who had come to Sethley Bridge
Station. They were walking in silence in the dark, tired, straggling
apart. The boy waited.
"Mother!" he said, in the darkness.
Mrs. Morel's small figure seemed not to observe. He spoke again.
"Paul!" she said, uninterestedly.
She let him kiss her, but she seemed unaware of him.
In the house she was the same--small, white, and mute. She noticed
nothing, she said nothing, only:
"The coffin will be here to-night, Walter. You'd better see about some
help." Then, turning to the children: "We're bringing him home."
Then she relapsed into the same mute looking into space, her hands
folded on her lap. Paul, looking at her, felt he could not breathe. The
house was dead silent.
"I went to work, mother," he said plaintively.
"Did you?" she answered, dully.
After half an hour Morel, troubled and bewildered, came in again.
"Wheer s'll we ha'e him when he DOES come?" he asked his wife.
"In the front-room."
"Then I'd better shift th' table?"
"An' ha'e him across th' chairs?"
"You know there--Yes, I suppose so."
Morel and Paul went, with a candle, into the parlour. There was no gas
there. The father unscrewed the top of the big mahogany oval table, and
cleared the middle of the room; then he arranged six chairs opposite
each other, so that the coffin could stand on their beds.
"You niver seed such a length as he is!" said the miner, and watching
anxiously as he worked.
Paul went to the bay window and looked out. The ash-tree stood monstrous
and black in front of the wide darkness. It was a faintly luminous
night. Paul went back to his mother.
At ten o'clock Morel called:
Everyone started. There was a noise of unbarring and unlocking the front
door, which opened straight from the night into the room.
"Bring another candle," called Morel.
Annie and Arthur went. Paul followed with his mother. He stood with his
arm round her waist in the inner doorway. Down the middle of the cleared
room waited six chairs, face to face. In the window, against the lace
curtains, Arthur held up one candle, and by the open door, against the
night, Annie stood leaning forward, her brass candlestick glittering.
There was the noise of wheels. Outside in the darkness of the street
below Paul could see horses and a black vehicle, one lamp, and a few
pale faces; then some men, miners, all in their shirt-sleeves, seemed to
struggle in the obscurity. Presently two men appeared, bowed beneath a
great weight. It was Morel and his neighbour.
"Steady!" called Morel, out of breath.
He and his fellow mounted the steep garden step, heaved into the
candlelight with their gleaming coffin-end. Limbs of other men were seen
struggling behind. Morel and Burns, in front, staggered; the great dark
"Steady, steady!" cried Morel, as if in pain.
All the six bearers were up in the small garden, holding the great
coffin aloft. There were three more steps to the door. The yellow lamp
of the carriage shone alone down the black road.
"Now then!" said Morel.
The coffin swayed, the men began to mount the three steps with their
load. Annie's candle flickered, and she whimpered as the first men
appeared, and the limbs and bowed heads of six men struggled to climb
into the room, bearing the coffin that rode like sorrow on their living
"Oh, my son--my son!" Mrs. Morel sang softly, and each time the coffin
swung to the unequal climbing of the men: "Oh, my son--my son--my son!"
"Mother!" Paul whimpered, his hand round her waist.
She did not hear.
"Oh, my son--my son!" she repeated.
Paul saw drops of sweat fall from his father's brow. Six men were in
the room--six coatless men, with yielding, struggling limbs, filling
the room and knocking against the furniture. The coffin veered, and was
gently lowered on to the chairs. The sweat fell from Morel's face on its
"My word, he's a weight!" said a man, and the five miners sighed, bowed,
and, trembling with the struggle, descended the steps again, closing the
door behind them.
The family was alone in the parlour with the great polished box.
William, when laid out, was six feet four inches long. Like a monument
lay the bright brown, ponderous coffin. Paul thought it would never be
got out of the room again. His mother was stroking the polished wood.
They buried him on the Monday in the little cemetery on the hillside
that looks over the fields at the big church and the houses. It was
sunny, and the white chrysanthemums frilled themselves in the warmth.
Mrs. Morel could not be persuaded, after this, to talk and take her old
bright interest in life. She remained shut off. All the way home in the
train she had said to herself: "If only it could have been me!"
When Paul came home at night he found his mother sitting, her day's work
done, with hands folded in her lap upon her coarse apron. She always
used to have changed her dress and put on a black apron, before. Now
Annie set his
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