against the beloved round hills.
The two sisters did not talk much to each other. Agatha, who was fair
and small and determined, had rebelled against the home atmosphere,
against the doctrine of "the other cheek". She was out in the world now,
in a fair way to be independent. And she insisted on worldly values,
on appearance, on manners, on position, which Miriam would fain have
Both girls liked to be upstairs, out of the way, when Paul came. They
preferred to come running down, open the stair-foot door, and see him
watching, expectant of them. Miriam stood painfully pulling over her
head a rosary he had given her. It caught in the fine mesh of her hair.
But at last she had it on, and the red-brown wooden beads looked well
against her cool brown neck. She was a well-developed girl, and very
handsome. But in the little looking-glass nailed against the whitewashed
wall she could only see a fragment of herself at a time. Agatha had
bought a little mirror of her own, which she propped up to suit herself.
Miriam was near the window. Suddenly she heard the well-known click of
the chain, and she saw Paul fling open the gate, push his bicycle into
the yard. She saw him look at the house, and she shrank away. He walked
in a nonchalant fashion, and his bicycle went with him as if it were a
"Paul's come!" she exclaimed.
"Aren't you glad?" said Agatha cuttingly.
Miriam stood still in amazement and bewilderment.
"Well, aren't you?" she asked.
"Yes, but I'm not going to let him see it, and think I wanted him."
Miriam was startled. She heard him putting his bicycle in the stable
underneath, and talking to Jimmy, who had been a pit-horse, and who was
"Well, Jimmy my lad, how are ter? Nobbut sick an' sadly, like? Why,
then, it's a shame, my owd lad."
She heard the rope run through the hole as the horse lifted its head
from the lad's caress. How she loved to listen when he thought only
the horse could hear. But there was a serpent in her Eden. She searched
earnestly in herself to see if she wanted Paul Morel. She felt there
would be some disgrace in it. Full of twisted feeling, she was afraid
she did want him. She stood self-convicted. Then came an agony of new
shame. She shrank within herself in a coil of torture. Did she want Paul
Morel, and did he know she wanted him? What a subtle infamy upon her.
She felt as if her whole soul coiled into knots of shame.
Agatha was dressed first, and ran downstairs. Miriam heard her greet
the lad gaily, knew exactly how brilliant her grey eyes became with that
tone. She herself would have felt it bold to have greeted him in such
wise. Yet there she stood under the self-accusation of wanting him,
tied to that stake of torture. In bitter perplexity she kneeled down and
"O Lord, let me not love Paul Morel. Keep me from loving him, if I ought
not to love him."
Something anomalous in the prayer arrested her. She lifted her head and
pondered. How could it be wrong to love him? Love was God's gift. And
yet it caused her shame. That was because of him, Paul Morel. But, then,
it was not his affair, it was her own, between herself and God. She was
to be a sacrifice. But it was God's sacrifice, not Paul Morel's or her
own. After a few minutes she hid her face in the pillow again, and said:
"But, Lord, if it is Thy will that I should love him, make me love
him - as Christ would, who died for the souls of men. Make me love him
splendidly, because he is Thy son."
She remained kneeling for some time, quite still, and deeply moved, her
black hair against the red squares and the lavender-sprigged squares of
the patchwork quilt. Prayer was almost essential to her. Then she fell
into that rapture of self-sacrifice, identifying herself with a God who
was sacrificed, which gives to so many human souls their deepest bliss.
When she went downstairs Paul was lying back in an armchair, holding
forth with much vehemence to Agatha, who was scorning a little painting
he had brought to show her. Miriam glanced at the two, and avoided their
levity. She went into the parlour to be alone.
It was tea-time before she was able to speak to Paul, and then her
manner was so distant he thought he had offended her.
Miriam discontinued her practice of going each Thursday evening to the
library in Bestwood. After calling for Paul regularly during the whole
spring, a number of trifling incidents and tiny insults from his family
awakened her to their attitude towards her, and she decided to go no
more. So she announced to Paul one evening she would not call at his
house again for him on Thursday nights.
"Why?" he asked, very short.
"Nothing. Only I'd rather not."
"But," she faltered, "if you'd care to meet me, we could still go
"Meet you where?"
"Somewhere - where you like."
"I shan't meet you anywhere. I don't see why you shouldn't keep calling
for me. But if you won't, I don't want to meet you."
So the Thursday evenings which had been so precious to her, and to him,
were dropped. He worked instead. Mrs. Morel sniffed with satisfaction at
He would not have it that they were lovers. The intimacy between them
had been kept so abstract, such a matter of the soul, all thought and
weary struggle into consciousness, that he saw it only as a platonic
friendship. He stoutly denied there was anything else between them.
Miriam was silent, or else she very quietly agreed. He was a fool who
did not know what was happening to himself. By tacit agreement they
ignored the remarks and insinuations of their acquaintances.
"We aren't lovers, we are friends," he said to her. "WE know it. Let
them talk. What does it matter what they say."
Sometimes, as they were walking together, she slipped her arm timidly
into his. But he always resented it, and she knew it. It caused a
violent conflict in him. With Miriam he was always on the high plane of
abstraction, when his natural fire of love was transmitted into the fine
stream of thought. She would have it so. If he were jolly and, as she
put it, flippant, she waited till he came back to her, till the change
had taken place in him again, and he was wrestling with his own soul,
frowning, passionate in his desire for understanding. And in this
passion for understanding her soul lay close to his; she had him all to
herself. But he must be made abstract first.
Then, if she put her arm in his, it caused him almost torture. His
consciousness seemed to split. The place where she was touching him ran
hot with friction. He was one internecine battle, and he became cruel to
her because of it.
One evening in midsummer Miriam called at the house, warm from climbing.
Paul was alone in the kitchen; his mother could be heard moving about
"Come and look at the sweet-peas," he said to the girl.
They went into the garden. The sky behind the townlet and the church was
orange-red; the flower-garden was flooded with a strange warm light that
lifted every leaf into significance. Paul passed along a fine row of
sweet-peas, gathering a blossom here and there, all cream and pale blue.
Miriam followed, breathing the fragrance. To her, flowers appealed with
such strength she felt she must make them part of herself. When she bent
and breathed a flower, it was as if she and the flower were loving each
other. Paul hated her for it. There seemed a sort of exposure about the
action, something too intimate.
When he had got a fair bunch, they returned to the house. He listened
for a moment to his mother's quiet movement upstairs, then he said:
"Come here, and let me pin them in for you." He arranged them two or
three at a time in the bosom of her dress, stepping back now and then to
see the effect. "You know," he said, taking the pin out of his mouth, "a
woman ought always to arrange her flowers before her glass."
Miriam laughed. She thought flowers ought to be pinned in one's dress
without any care. That Paul should take pains to fix her flowers for her
was his whim.
He was rather offended at her laughter.
"Some women do - those who look decent," he said.
Miriam laughed again, but mirthlessly, to hear him thus mix her up with
women in a general way. From most men she would have ignored it. But
from him it hurt her.
He had nearly finished arranging the flowers when he heard his mother's
footstep on the stairs. Hurriedly he pushed in the last pin and turned
"Don't let mater know," he said.
Miriam picked up her books and stood in the doorway looking with chagrin
at the beautiful sunset. She would call for Paul no more, she said.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Morel," she said, in a deferential way. She sounded
as if she felt she had no right to be there.
"Oh, is it you, Miriam?" replied Mrs. Morel coolly.
But Paul insisted on everybody's accepting his friendship with the girl,
and Mrs. Morel was too wise to have any open rupture.
It was not till he was twenty years old that the family could ever
afford to go away for a holiday. Mrs. Morel had never been away for a
holiday, except to see her sister, since she had been married. Now at
last Paul had saved enough money, and they were all going. There was to
be a party: some of Annie's friends, one friend of Paul's, a young man
in the same office where William had previously been, and Miriam.
It was great excitement writing for rooms. Paul and his mother debated
it endlessly between them. They wanted a furnished cottage for two
weeks. She thought one week would be enough, but he insisted on two.
At last they got an answer from Mablethorpe, a cottage such as they
wished for thirty shillings a week. There was immense jubilation. Paul
was wild with joy for his mother's sake. She would have a real holiday
now. He and she sat at evening picturing what it would be like. Annie
came in, and Leonard, and Alice, and Kitty. There was wild rejoicing and
anticipation. Paul told Miriam. She seemed to brood with joy over it.
But the Morel's house rang with excitement.
They were to go on Saturday morning by the seven train. Paul suggested
that Miriam should sleep at his house, because it was so far for her
to walk. She came down for supper. Everybody was so excited that even
Miriam was accepted with warmth. But almost as soon as she entered the
feeling in the family became close and tight. He had discovered a poem
by Jean Ingelow which mentioned Mablethorpe, and so he must read it
to Miriam. He would never have got so far in the direction of
sentimentality as to read poetry to his own family. But now they
condescended to listen. Miriam sat on the sofa absorbed in him. She
always seemed absorbed in him, and by him, when he was present. Mrs.
Morel sat jealously in her own chair. She was going to hear also. And
even Annie and the father attended, Morel with his head cocked on one
side, like somebody listening to a sermon and feeling conscious of
the fact. Paul ducked his head over the book. He had got now all the
audience he cared for. And Mrs. Morel and Annie almost contested with
Miriam who should listen best and win his favour. He was in very high
"But," interrupted Mrs. Morel, "what IS the 'Bride of Enderby' that the
bells are supposed to ring?"
"It's an old tune they used to play on the bells for a warning against
water. I suppose the Bride of Enderby was drowned in a flood," he
replied. He had not the faintest knowledge what it really was, but he
would never have sunk so low as to confess that to his womenfolk. They
listened and believed him. He believed himself.
"And the people knew what that tune meant?" said his mother.
"Yes - just like the Scotch when they heard 'The Flowers o' the
Forest' - and when they used to ring the bells backward for alarm."
"How?" said Annie. "A bell sounds the same whether it's rung backwards
"But," he said, "if you start with the deep bell and ring up to the high
one - der - der - der - der - der - der - der - der!"
He ran up the scale. Everybody thought it clever. He thought so too.
Then, waiting a minute, he continued the poem.
"Hm!" said Mrs. Morel curiously, when he finished. "But I wish
everything that's written weren't so sad."
"I canna see what they want drownin' theirselves for," said Morel.
There was a pause. Annie got up to clear the table.
Miriam rose to help with the pots.
"Let ME help to wash up," she said.
"Certainly not," cried Annie. "You sit down again. There aren't many."
And Miriam, who could not be familiar and insist, sat down again to look
at the book with Paul.
He was master of the party; his father was no good. And great tortures
he suffered lest the tin box should be put out at Firsby instead of at
Mablethorpe. And he wasn't equal to getting a carriage. His bold little
mother did that.
"Here!" she cried to a man. "Here!"
Paul and Annie got behind the rest, convulsed with shamed laughter.
"How much will it be to drive to Brook Cottage?" said Mrs. Morel.
"Why, how far is it?"
"A good way."
"I don't believe it," she said.
But she scrambled in. There were eight crowded in one old seaside
"You see," said Mrs. Morel, "it's only threepence each, and if it were a
tramcar - "
They drove along. Each cottage they came to, Mrs. Morel cried:
"Is it this? Now, this is it!"
Everybody sat breathless. They drove past. There was a universal sigh.
"I'm thankful it wasn't that brute," said Mrs. Morel. "I WAS
frightened." They drove on and on.
At last they descended at a house that stood alone over the dyke by the
highroad. There was wild excitement because they had to cross a little
bridge to get into the front garden. But they loved the house that lay
so solitary, with a sea-meadow on one side, and immense expanse of land
patched in white barley, yellow oats, red wheat, and green root-crops,
flat and stretching level to the sky.
Paul kept accounts. He and his mother ran the show. The total
expenses - lodging, food, everything - was sixteen shillings a week per
person. He and Leonard went bathing in the mornings. Morel was wandering
abroad quite early.
"You, Paul," his mother called from the bedroom, "eat a piece of
"All right," he answered.
And when he got back he saw his mother presiding in state at the
breakfast-table. The woman of the house was young. Her husband was
blind, and she did laundry work. So Mrs. Morel always washed the pots in
the kitchen and made the beds.
"But you said you'd have a real holiday," said Paul, "and now you work."
"Work!" she exclaimed. "What are you talking about!"
He loved to go with her across the fields to the village and the sea.
She was afraid of the plank bridge, and he abused her for being a baby.
On the whole he stuck to her as if he were HER man.
Miriam did not get much of him, except, perhaps, when all the others
went to the "Coons". Coons were insufferably stupid to Miriam, so he
thought they were to himself also, and he preached priggishly to Annie
about the fatuity of listening to them. Yet he, too, knew all their
songs, and sang them along the roads roisterously. And if he found
himself listening, the stupidity pleased him very much. Yet to Annie he
"Such rot! there isn't a grain of intelligence in it. Nobody with more
gumption than a grasshopper could go and sit and listen." And to Miriam
he said, with much scorn of Annie and the others: "I suppose they're at
It was queer to see Miriam singing coon songs. She had a straight chin
that went in a perpendicular line from the lower lip to the turn. She
always reminded Paul of some sad Botticelli angel when she sang, even
when it was:
"Come down lover's lane
For a walk with me, talk with me."
Only when he sketched, or at evening when the others were at the
"Coons", she had him to herself. He talked to her endlessly about his
love of horizontals: how they, the great levels of sky and land in
Lincolnshire, meant to him the eternality of the will, just as the bowed
Norman arches of the church, repeating themselves, meant the dogged
leaping forward of the persistent human soul, on and on, nobody knows
where; in contradiction to the perpendicular lines and to the Gothic
arch, which, he said, leapt up at heaven and touched the ecstasy and
lost itself in the divine. Himself, he said, was Norman, Miriam was
Gothic. She bowed in consent even to that.
One evening he and she went up the great sweeping shore of sand towards
Theddlethorpe. The long breakers plunged and ran in a hiss of foam along
the coast. It was a warm evening. There was not a figure but themselves
on the far reaches of sand, no noise but the sound of the sea. Paul
loved to see it clanging at the land. He loved to feel himself between
the noise of it and the silence of the sandy shore. Miriam was with him.
Everything grew very intense. It was quite dark when they turned again.
The way home was through a gap in the sandhills, and then along a raised
grass road between two dykes. The country was black and still. From
behind the sandhills came the whisper of the sea. Paul and Miriam walked
in silence. Suddenly he started. The whole of his blood seemed to burst
into flame, and he could scarcely breathe. An enormous orange moon was
staring at them from the rim of the sandhills. He stood still, looking
"Ah!" cried Miriam, when she saw it.
He remained perfectly still, staring at the immense and ruddy moon, the
only thing in the far-reaching darkness of the level. His heart beat
heavily, the muscles of his arms contracted.
"What is it?" murmured Miriam, waiting for him.
He turned and looked at her. She stood beside him, for ever in shadow.
Her face, covered with the darkness of her hat, was watching him
unseen. But she was brooding. She was slightly afraid - deeply moved
and religious. That was her best state. He was impotent against it. His
blood was concentrated like a flame in his chest. But he could not get
across to her. There were flashes in his blood. But somehow she ignored
them. She was expecting some religious state in him. Still yearning, she
was half aware of his passion, and gazed at him, troubled.
"What is it?" she murmured again.
"It's the moon," he answered, frowning.
"Yes," she assented. "Isn't it wonderful?" She was curious about him.
The crisis was past.
He did not know himself what was the matter. He was naturally so young,
and their intimacy was so abstract, he did not know he wanted to crush
her on to his breast to ease the ache there. He was afraid of her.
The fact that he might want her as a man wants a woman had in him
been suppressed into a shame. When she shrank in her convulsed, coiled
torture from the thought of such a thing, he had winced to the depths of
his soul. And now this "purity" prevented even their first love-kiss.
It was as if she could scarcely stand the shock of physical love, even a
passionate kiss, and then he was too shrinking and sensitive to give it.
As they walked along the dark fen-meadow he watched the moon and did not
speak. She plodded beside him. He hated her, for she seemed in some way
to make him despise himself. Looking ahead - he saw the one light in the
darkness, the window of their lamp-lit cottage.
He loved to think of his mother, and the other jolly people.
"Well, everybody else has been in long ago!" said his mother as they
"What does that matter!" he cried irritably. "I can go a walk if I like,
"And I should have thought you could get in to supper with the rest,"
said Mrs. Morel.
"I shall please myself," he retorted. "It's not LATE. I shall do as I
"Very well," said his mother cuttingly, "then DO as you like." And she
took no further notice of him that evening. Which he pretended neither
to notice nor to care about, but sat reading. Miriam read also,
obliterating herself. Mrs. Morel hated her for making her son like this.
She watched Paul growing irritable, priggish, and melancholic. For this
she put the blame on Miriam. Annie and all her friends joined against
the girl. Miriam had no friend of her own, only Paul. But she did not
suffer so much, because she despised the triviality of these other
And Paul hated her because, somehow, she spoilt his ease and
naturalness. And he writhed himself with a feeling of humiliation.
STRIFE IN LOVE
ARTHUR finished his apprenticeship, and got a job on the electrical
plant at Minton Pit. He earned very little, but had a good chance of
getting on. But he was wild and restless. He did not drink nor gamble.
Yet he somehow contrived to get into endless scrapes, always through
some hot-headed thoughtlessness. Either he went rabbiting in the woods,
like a poacher, or he stayed in Nottingham all night instead of coming
home, or he miscalculated his dive into the canal at Bestwood, and
scored his chest into one mass of wounds on the raw stones and tins at
He had not been at his work many months when again he did not come home
"Do you know where Arthur is?" asked Paul at breakfast.
"I do not," replied his mother.
"He is a fool," said Paul. "And if he DID anything I shouldn't mind. But
no, he simply can't come away from a game of whist, or else he must see
a girl home from the skating-rink - quite proprietously - and so can't get
home. He's a fool."
"I don't know that it would make it any better if he did something to
make us all ashamed," said Mrs. Morel.
"Well, I should respect him more," said Paul.
"I very much doubt it," said his mother coldly.
They went on with breakfast.
"Are you fearfully fond of him?" Paul asked his mother.
"What do you ask that for?"
"Because they say a woman always like the youngest best."
"She may do - but I don't. No, he wearies me."
"And you'd actually rather he was good?"
"I'd rather he showed some of a man's common sense."
Paul was raw and irritable. He also wearied his mother very often. She
saw the sunshine going out of him, and she resented it.
As they were finishing breakfast came the postman with a letter from
Derby. Mrs. Morel screwed up her eyes to look at the address.
"Give it here, blind eye!" exclaimed her son, snatching it away from
She started, and almost boxed his ears.
"It's from your son, Arthur," he said.
"What now - !" cried Mrs. Morel.
"'My dearest Mother,'" Paul read, "'I don't know what made me such a
fool. I want you to come and fetch me back from here. I came with Jack
Bredon yesterday, instead of going to work, and enlisted. He said he was
sick of wearing the seat of a stool out, and, like the idiot you know I
am, I came away with him.
"'I have taken the King's shilling, but perhaps if you came for me they
would let me go back with you. I was a fool when I did it. I don't want
to be in the army. My dear mother, I am nothing but a trouble to you.
But if you get me out of this, I promise I will have more sense and
consideration. . . .'"
Mrs. Morel sat down in her rocking-chair.
"Well, NOW," she cried, "let him stop!"
"Yes," said Paul, "let him stop."
There was silence. The mother sat with her hands folded in her apron,
her face set, thinking.
"If I'm not SICK!" she cried suddenly. "Sick!"
"Now," said Paul, beginning to frown, "you're not going to worry your
soul out about this, do you hear."
"I suppose I'm to take it as a blessing," she flashed, turning on her
"You're not going to mount it up to a tragedy, so there," he retorted.
"The FOOL! - the young fool!" she cried.
"He'll look well in uniform," said Paul irritatingly.
His mother turned on him like a fury.
"Oh, will he!" she cried. "Not in my eyes!"
"He should get in a cavalry regiment; he'll have the time of his life,
and will look an awful swell."
"Swell! - SWELL! - a mighty swell idea indeed! - a common soldier!"
"Well," said Paul, "what am I but a common clerk?"
"A good deal, my boy!" cried his mother, stung.
"At any rate, a MAN, and not a thing in a red coat."
"I shouldn't mind being in a red coat - or dark blue, that would suit me
better - if they didn't boss me about too much."
But his mother had ceased to listen.
"Just as he was getting on, or might have been getting on, at his job - a
young nuisance - here he goes and ruins himself for life. What good will
he be, do you think, after THIS?"
"It may lick him into shape beautifully," said Paul.
"Lick him into shape! - lick what marrow there WAS out of his bones. A
SOLDIER! - a common SOLDIER! - nothing but a body that makes movements
when it hears a shout! It's a fine thing!"