and very tense. Her bush might be gone. She might not be able to find
it; and she wanted it so much. Almost passionately she wanted to be
with him when he stood before the flowers. They were going to have a
communion together - something that thrilled her, something holy. He was
walking beside her in silence. They were very near to each other. She
trembled, and he listened, vaguely anxious.
Coming to the edge of the wood, they saw the sky in front, like
mother-of-pearl, and the earth growing dark. Somewhere on the outermost
branches of the pine-wood the honeysuckle was streaming scent.
"Where?" he asked.
"Down the middle path," she murmured, quivering.
When they turned the corner of the path she stood still. In the wide
walk between the pines, gazing rather frightened, she could distinguish
nothing for some moments; the greying light robbed things of their
colour. Then she saw her bush.
"Ah!" she cried, hastening forward.
It was very still. The tree was tall and straggling. It had thrown its
briers over a hawthorn-bush, and its long streamers trailed thick, right
down to the grass, splashing the darkness everywhere with great spilt
stars, pure white. In bosses of ivory and in large splashed stars the
roses gleamed on the darkness of foliage and stems and grass. Paul and
Miriam stood close together, silent, and watched. Point after point the
steady roses shone out to them, seeming to kindle something in their
souls. The dusk came like smoke around, and still did not put out the
Paul looked into Miriam's eyes. She was pale and expectant with wonder,
her lips were parted, and her dark eyes lay open to him. His look seemed
to travel down into her. Her soul quivered. It was the communion she
wanted. He turned aside, as if pained. He turned to the bush.
"They seem as if they walk like butterflies, and shake themselves," he
She looked at her roses. They were white, some incurved and holy, others
expanded in an ecstasy. The tree was dark as a shadow. She lifted her
hand impulsively to the flowers; she went forward and touched them in
"Let us go," he said.
There was a cool scent of ivory roses - a white, virgin scent. Something
made him feel anxious and imprisoned. The two walked in silence.
"Till Sunday," he said quietly, and left her; and she walked home
slowly, feeling her soul satisfied with the holiness of the night. He
stumbled down the path. And as soon as he was out of the wood, in the
free open meadow, where he could breathe, he started to run as fast as
he could. It was like a delicious delirium in his veins.
Always when he went with Miriam, and it grew rather late, he knew his
mother was fretting and getting angry about him - why, he could not
understand. As he went into the house, flinging down his cap, his mother
looked up at the clock. She had been sitting thinking, because a chill
to her eyes prevented her reading. She could feel Paul being drawn away
by this girl. And she did not care for Miriam. "She is one of those who
will want to suck a man's soul out till he has none of his own left,"
she said to herself; "and he is just such a gaby as to let himself be
absorbed. She will never let him become a man; she never will." So,
while he was away with Miriam, Mrs. Morel grew more and more worked up.
She glanced at the clock and said, coldly and rather tired:
"You have been far enough to-night."
His soul, warm and exposed from contact with the girl, shrank.
"You must have been right home with her," his mother continued.
He would not answer. Mrs. Morel, looking at him quickly, saw his hair
was damp on his forehead with haste, saw him frowning in his heavy
"She must be wonderfully fascinating, that you can't get away from her,
but must go trailing eight miles at this time of night."
He was hurt between the past glamour with Miriam and the knowledge
that his mother fretted. He had meant not to say anything, to refuse to
answer. But he could not harden his heart to ignore his mother.
"I DO like to talk to her," he answered irritably.
"Is there nobody else to talk to?"
"You wouldn't say anything if I went with Edgar."
"You know I should. You know, whoever you went with, I should say it
was too far for you to go trailing, late at night, when you've been
to Nottingham. Besides" - her voice suddenly flashed into anger and
contempt - "it is disgusting - bits of lads and girls courting."
"It is NOT courting," he cried.
"I don't know what else you call it."
"It's not! Do you think we SPOON and do? We only talk."
"Till goodness knows what time and distance," was the sarcastic
Paul snapped at the laces of his boots angrily.
"What are you so mad about?" he asked. "Because you don't like her."
"I don't say I don't like her. But I don't hold with children keeping
company, and never did."
"But you don't mind our Annie going out with Jim Inger."
"They've more sense than you two."
"Our Annie's not one of the deep sort."
He failed to see the meaning of this remark. But his mother looked
tired. She was never so strong after William's death; and her eyes hurt
"Well," he said, "it's so pretty in the country. Mr. Sleath asked about
you. He said he'd missed you. Are you a bit better?"
"I ought to have been in bed a long time ago," she replied.
"Why, mother, you know you wouldn't have gone before quarter-past ten."
"Oh, yes, I should!"
"Oh, little woman, you'd say anything now you're disagreeable with me,
He kissed her forehead that he knew so well: the deep marks between the
brows, the rising of the fine hair, greying now, and the proud setting
of the temples. His hand lingered on her shoulder after his kiss. Then
he went slowly to bed. He had forgotten Miriam; he only saw how his
mother's hair was lifted back from her warm, broad brow. And somehow,
she was hurt.
Then the next time he saw Miriam he said to her:
"Don't let me be late to-night - not later than ten o'clock. My mother
gets so upset."
Miriam dropped her bead, brooding.
"Why does she get upset?" she asked.
"Because she says I oughtn't to be out late when I have to get up
"Very well!" said Miriam, rather quietly, with just a touch of a sneer.
He resented that. And he was usually late again.
That there was any love growing between him and Miriam neither of
them would have acknowledged. He thought he was too sane for such
sentimentality, and she thought herself too lofty. They both were late
in coming to maturity, and psychical ripeness was much behind even the
physical. Miriam was exceedingly sensitive, as her mother had always
been. The slightest grossness made her recoil almost in anguish. Her
brothers were brutal, but never coarse in speech. The men did all
the discussing of farm matters outside. But, perhaps, because of the
continual business of birth and of begetting which goes on upon every
farm, Miriam was the more hypersensitive to the matter, and her blood
was chastened almost to disgust of the faintest suggestion of such
intercourse. Paul took his pitch from her, and their intimacy went on in
an utterly blanched and chaste fashion. It could never be mentioned that
the mare was in foal.
When he was nineteen, he was earning only twenty shillings a week, but
he was happy. His painting went well, and life went well enough. On the
Good Friday he organised a walk to the Hemlock Stone. There were three
lads of his own age, then Annie and Arthur, Miriam and Geoffrey. Arthur,
apprenticed as an electrician in Nottingham, was home for the holiday.
Morel, as usual, was up early, whistling and sawing in the yard. At
seven o'clock the family heard him buy threepennyworth of hot-cross
buns; he talked with gusto to the little girl who brought them, calling
her "my darling". He turned away several boys who came with more buns,
telling them they had been "kested" by a little lass. Then Mrs. Morel
got up, and the family straggled down. It was an immense luxury to
everybody, this lying in bed just beyond the ordinary time on a weekday.
And Paul and Arthur read before breakfast, and had the meal unwashed,
sitting in their shirt-sleeves. This was another holiday luxury. The
room was warm. Everything felt free of care and anxiety. There was a
sense of plenty in the house.
While the boys were reading, Mrs. Morel went into the garden. They were
now in another house, an old one, near the Scargill Street home, which
had been left soon after William had died. Directly came an excited cry
from the garden:
"Paul! Paul! come and look!"
It was his mother's voice. He threw down his book and went out. There
was a long garden that ran to a field. It was a grey, cold day, with a
sharp wind blowing out of Derbyshire. Two fields away Bestwood began,
with a jumble of roofs and red house-ends, out of which rose the church
tower and the spire of the Congregational Chapel. And beyond went woods
and hills, right away to the pale grey heights of the Pennine Chain.
Paul looked down the garden for his mother. Her head appeared among the
"Come here!" she cried.
"What for?" he answered.
"Come and see."
She had been looking at the buds on the currant trees. Paul went up.
"To think," she said, "that here I might never have seen them!"
Her son went to her side. Under the fence, in a little bed, was a ravel
of poor grassy leaves, such as come from very immature bulbs, and three
scyllas in bloom. Mrs. Morel pointed to the deep blue flowers.
"Now, just see those!" she exclaimed. "I was looking at the currant
bushes, when, thinks I to myself, 'There's something very blue; is it
a bit of sugar-bag?' and there, behold you! Sugar-bag! Three glories of
the snow, and such beauties! But where on earth did they come from?"
"I don't know," said Paul.
"Well, that's a marvel, now! I THOUGHT I knew every weed and blade in
this garden. But HAVEN'T they done well? You see, that gooseberry-bush
just shelters them. Not nipped, not touched!"
He crouched down and turned up the bells of the little blue flowers.
"They're a glorious colour!" he said.
"Aren't they!" she cried. "I guess they come from Switzerland, where
they say they have such lovely things. Fancy them against the snow! But
where have they come from? They can't have BLOWN here, can they?"
Then he remembered having set here a lot of little trash of bulbs to
"And you never told me," she said.
"No! I thought I'd leave it till they might flower."
"And now, you see! I might have missed them. And I've never had a glory
of the snow in my garden in my life."
She was full of excitement and elation. The garden was an endless joy to
her. Paul was thankful for her sake at last to be in a house with a long
garden that went down to a field. Every morning after breakfast she went
out and was happy pottering about in it. And it was true, she knew every
weed and blade.
Everybody turned up for the walk. Food was packed, and they set off,
a merry, delighted party. They hung over the wall of the mill-race,
dropped paper in the water on one side of the tunnel and watched it
shoot out on the other. They stood on the foot-bridge over Boathouse
Station and looked at the metals gleaming coldly.
"You should see the Flying Scotsman come through at half-past six!" said
Leonard, whose father was a signalman. "Lad, but she doesn't half buzz!"
and the little party looked up the lines one way, to London, and the
other way, to Scotland, and they felt the touch of these two magical
In Ilkeston the colliers were waiting in gangs for the public-houses to
open. It was a town of idleness and lounging. At Stanton Gate the iron
foundry blazed. Over everything there were great discussions. At Trowell
they crossed again from Derbyshire into Nottinghamshire. They came to
the Hemlock Stone at dinner-time. Its field was crowded with folk from
Nottingham and Ilkeston.
They had expected a venerable and dignified monument. They found
a little, gnarled, twisted stump of rock, something like a decayed
mushroom, standing out pathetically on the side of a field. Leonard and
Dick immediately proceeded to carve their initials, "L. W." and "R. P.",
in the old red sandstone; but Paul desisted, because he had read in the
newspaper satirical remarks about initial-carvers, who could find no
other road to immortality. Then all the lads climbed to the top of the
rock to look round.
Everywhere in the field below, factory girls and lads were eating
lunch or sporting about. Beyond was the garden of an old manor. It had
yew-hedges and thick clumps and borders of yellow crocuses round the
"See," said Paul to Miriam, "what a quiet garden!"
She saw the dark yews and the golden crocuses, then she looked
gratefully. He had not seemed to belong to her among all these others;
he was different then - not her Paul, who understood the slightest quiver
of her innermost soul, but something else, speaking another language
than hers. How it hurt her, and deadened her very perceptions. Only when
he came right back to her, leaving his other, his lesser self, as she
thought, would she feel alive again. And now he asked her to look at
this garden, wanting the contact with her again. Impatient of the set
in the field, she turned to the quiet lawn, surrounded by sheaves of
shut-up crocuses. A feeling of stillness, almost of ecstasy, came over
her. It felt almost as if she were alone with him in this garden.
Then he left her again and joined the others. Soon they started home.
Miriam loitered behind, alone. She did not fit in with the others; she
could very rarely get into human relations with anyone: so her friend,
her companion, her lover, was Nature. She saw the sun declining wanly.
In the dusky, cold hedgerows were some red leaves. She lingered to
gather them, tenderly, passionately. The love in her finger-tips
caressed the leaves; the passion in her heart came to a glow upon the
Suddenly she realised she was alone in a strange road, and she hurried
forward. Turning a corner in the lane, she came upon Paul, who stood
bent over something, his mind fixed on it, working away steadily,
patiently, a little hopelessly. She hesitated in her approach, to watch.
He remained concentrated in the middle of the road. Beyond, one rift of
rich gold in that colourless grey evening seemed to make him stand out
in dark relief. She saw him, slender and firm, as if the setting sun had
given him to her. A deep pain took hold of her, and she knew she
must love him. And she had discovered him, discovered in him a
rare potentiality, discovered his loneliness. Quivering as at some
"annunciation", she went slowly forward.
At last he looked up.
"Why," he exclaimed gratefully, "have you waited for me!"
She saw a deep shadow in his eyes.
"What is it?" she asked.
"The spring broken here;" and he showed her where his umbrella was
Instantly, with some shame, she knew he had not done the damage himself,
but that Geoffrey was responsible.
"It is only an old umbrella, isn't it?" she asked.
She wondered why he, who did not usually trouble over trifles, made such
a mountain of this molehill.
"But it was William's an' my mother can't help but know," he said
quietly, still patiently working at the umbrella.
The words went through Miriam like a blade. This, then, was the
confirmation of her vision of him! She looked at him. But there was
about him a certain reserve, and she dared not comfort him, not even
speak softly to him.
"Come on," he said. "I can't do it;" and they went in silence along the
That same evening they were walking along under the trees by Nether
Green. He was talking to her fretfully, seemed to be struggling to
"You know," he said, with an effort, "if one person loves, the other
"Ah!" she answered. "Like mother said to me when I was little, 'Love
"Yes, something like that, I think it MUST be."
"I hope so, because, if it were not, love might be a very terrible
thing," she said.
"Yes, but it IS - at least with most people," he answered.
And Miriam, thinking he had assured himself, felt strong in herself. She
always regarded that sudden coming upon him in the lane as a revelation.
And this conversation remained graven in her mind as one of the letters
of the law.
Now she stood with him and for him. When, about this time, he outraged
the family feeling at Willey Farm by some overbearing insult, she stuck
to him, and believed he was right. And at this time she dreamed
dreams of him, vivid, unforgettable. These dreams came again later on,
developed to a more subtle psychological stage.
On the Easter Monday the same party took an excursion to Wingfield
Manor. It was great excitement to Miriam to catch a train at Sethley
Bridge, amid all the bustle of the Bank Holiday crowd. They left the
train at Alfreton. Paul was interested in the street and in the colliers
with their dogs. Here was a new race of miners. Miriam did not live till
they came to the church. They were all rather timid of entering, with
their bags of food, for fear of being turned out. Leonard, a comic, thin
fellow, went first; Paul, who would have died rather than be sent back,
went last. The place was decorated for Easter. In the font hundreds of
white narcissi seemed to be growing. The air was dim and coloured from
the windows and thrilled with a subtle scent of lilies and narcissi. In
that atmosphere Miriam's soul came into a glow. Paul was afraid of the
things he mustn't do; and he was sensitive to the feel of the place.
Miriam turned to him. He answered. They were together. He would not go
beyond the Communion-rail. She loved him for that. Her soul expanded
into prayer beside him. He felt the strange fascination of shadowy
religious places. All his latent mysticism quivered into life. She was
drawn to him. He was a prayer along with her.
Miriam very rarely talked to the other lads. They at once became awkward
in conversation with her. So usually she was silent.
It was past midday when they climbed the steep path to the manor.
All things shone softly in the sun, which was wonderfully warm and
enlivening. Celandines and violets were out. Everybody was tip-top full
with happiness. The glitter of the ivy, the soft, atmospheric grey
of the castle walls, the gentleness of everything near the ruin, was
The manor is of hard, pale grey stone, and the other walls are blank and
calm. The young folk were in raptures. They went in trepidation, almost
afraid that the delight of exploring this ruin might be denied them. In
the first courtyard, within the high broken walls, were farm-carts, with
their shafts lying idle on the ground, the tyres of the wheels brilliant
with gold-red rust. It was very still.
All eagerly paid their sixpences, and went timidly through the fine
clean arch of the inner courtyard. They were shy. Here on the pavement,
where the hall had been, an old thorn tree was budding. All kinds of
strange openings and broken rooms were in the shadow around them.
After lunch they set off once more to explore the ruin. This time the
girls went with the boys, who could act as guides and expositors. There
was one tall tower in a corner, rather tottering, where they say Mary
Queen of Scots was imprisoned.
"Think of the Queen going up here!" said Miriam in a low voice, as she
climbed the hollow stairs.
"If she could get up," said Paul, "for she had rheumatism like anything.
I reckon they treated her rottenly."
"You don't think she deserved it?" asked Miriam.
"No, I don't. She was only lively."
They continued to mount the winding staircase. A high wind, blowing
through the loopholes, went rushing up the shaft, and filled the girl's
skirts like a balloon, so that she was ashamed, until he took the hem
of her dress and held it down for her. He did it perfectly simply, as he
would have picked up her glove. She remembered this always.
Round the broken top of the tower the ivy bushed out, old and handsome.
Also, there were a few chill gillivers, in pale cold bud. Miriam wanted
to lean over for some ivy, but he would not let her. Instead, she had to
wait behind him, and take from him each spray as he gathered it and held
it to her, each one separately, in the purest manner of chivalry. The
tower seemed to rock in the wind. They looked over miles and miles of
wooded country, and country with gleams of pasture.
The crypt underneath the manor was beautiful, and in perfect
preservation. Paul made a drawing: Miriam stayed with him. She was
thinking of Mary Queen of Scots looking with her strained, hopeless
eyes, that could not understand misery, over the hills whence no help
came, or sitting in this crypt, being told of a God as cold as the place
she sat in.
They set off again gaily, looking round on their beloved manor that
stood so clean and big on its hill.
"Supposing you could have THAT farm," said Paul to Miriam.
"Wouldn't it be lovely to come and see you!"
They were now in the bare country of stone walls, which he loved, and
which, though only ten miles from home, seemed so foreign to Miriam. The
party was straggling. As they were crossing a large meadow that
sloped away from the sun, along a path embedded with innumerable tiny
glittering points, Paul, walking alongside, laced his fingers in the
strings of the bag Miriam was carrying, and instantly she felt Annie
behind, watchful and jealous. But the meadow was bathed in a glory of
sunshine, and the path was jewelled, and it was seldom that he gave her
any sign. She held her fingers very still among the strings of the bag,
his fingers touching; and the place was golden as a vision.
At last they came into the straggling grey village of Crich, that lies
high. Beyond the village was the famous Crich Stand that Paul could see
from the garden at home. The party pushed on. Great expanse of country
spread around and below. The lads were eager to get to the top of the
hill. It was capped by a round knoll, half of which was by now cut away,
and on the top of which stood an ancient monument, sturdy and squat, for
signalling in old days far down into the level lands of Nottinghamshire
It was blowing so hard, high up there in the exposed place, that the
only way to be safe was to stand nailed by the wind to the wan of the
tower. At their feet fell the precipice where the limestone was quarried
away. Below was a jumble of hills and tiny villages - Mattock, Ambergate,
Stoney Middleton. The lads were eager to spy out the church of Bestwood,
far away among the rather crowded country on the left. They were
disgusted that it seemed to stand on a plain. They saw the hills of
Derbyshire fall into the monotony of the Midlands that swept away South.
Miriam was somewhat scared by the wind, but the lads enjoyed it. They
went on, miles and miles, to Whatstandwell. All the food was eaten,
everybody was hungry, and there was very little money to get home with.
But they managed to procure a loaf and a currant-loaf, which they hacked
to pieces with shut-knives, and ate sitting on the wall near the bridge,
watching the bright Derwent rushing by, and the brakes from Matlock
pulling up at the inn.
Paul was now pale with weariness. He had been responsible for the party
all day, and now he was done. Miriam understood, and kept close to him,
and he left himself in her hands.
They had an hour to wait at Ambergate Station. Trains came, crowded with
excursionists returning to Manchester, Birmingham, and London.
"We might be going there - folk easily might think we're going that far,"
They got back rather late. Miriam, walking home with Geoffrey, watched
the moon rise big and red and misty. She felt something was fulfilled in
She had an elder sister, Agatha, who was a school-teacher. Between the
two girls was a feud. Miriam considered Agatha worldly. And she wanted
herself to be a school-teacher.
One Saturday afternoon Agatha and Miriam were upstairs dressing. Their
bedroom was over the stable. It was a low room, not very large, and
bare. Miriam had nailed on the wall a reproduction of Veronese's "St.
Catherine". She loved the woman who sat in the window, dreaming. Her
own windows were too small to sit in. But the front one was dripped over
with honeysuckle and virginia creeper, and looked upon the tree-tops of
the oak-wood across the yard, while the little back window, no bigger
than a handkerchief, was a loophole to the east, to the dawn beating up