the last bees crawl into the hive. Hearing her coming, he turned to her
with an easy motion, saying:
"It's the end of the run with these chaps."
Clara stood near him. Over the low red wall in front was the country and
the far-off hills, all golden dim.
At that moment Miriam was entering through the garden-door. She saw
Clara go up to him, saw him turn, and saw them come to rest together.
Something in their perfect isolation together made her know that it was
accomplished between them, that they were, as she put it, married. She
walked very slowly down the cinder-track of the long garden.
Clara had pulled a button from a hollyhock spire, and was breaking it
to get the seeds. Above her bowed head the pink flowers stared, as if
defending her. The last bees were falling down to the hive.
"Count your money," laughed Paul, as she broke the flat seeds one by one
from the roll of coin. She looked at him.
"I'm well off," she said, smiling.
"How much? Pf!" He snapped his fingers. "Can I turn them into gold?"
"I'm afraid not," she laughed.
They looked into each other's eyes, laughing. At that moment they became
aware of Miriam. There was a click, and everything had altered.
"Hello, Miriam!" he exclaimed. "You said you'd come!"
"Yes. Had you forgotten?"
She shook hands with Clara, saying:
"It seems strange to see you here."
"Yes," replied the other; "it seems strange to be here."
There was a hesitation.
"This is pretty, isn't it?" said Miriam.
"I like it very much," replied Clara.
Then Miriam realised that Clara was accepted as she had never been.
"Have you come down alone?" asked Paul.
"Yes; I went to Agatha's to tea. We are going to chapel. I only called
in for a moment to see Clara."
"You should have come in here to tea," he said.
Miriam laughed shortly, and Clara turned impatiently aside.
"Do you like the chrysanthemums?" he asked.
"Yes; they are very fine," replied Miriam.
"Which sort do you like best?" he asked.
"I don't know. The bronze, I think."
"I don't think you've seen all the sorts. Come and look. Come and see
which are YOUR favourites, Clara."
He led the two women back to his own garden, where the towsled bushes of
flowers of all colours stood raggedly along the path down to the field.
The situation did not embarrass him, to his knowledge.
"Look, Miriam; these are the white ones that came from your garden. They
aren't so fine here, are they?"
"No," said Miriam.
"But they're hardier. You're so sheltered; things grow big and tender,
and then die. These little yellow ones I like. Will you have some?"
While they were out there the bells began to ring in the church,
sounding loud across the town and the field. Miriam looked at the tower,
proud among the clustering roofs, and remembered the sketches he had
brought her. It had been different then, but he had not left her even
yet. She asked him for a book to read. He ran indoors.
"What! is that Miriam?" asked his mother coldly.
"Yes; she said she'd call and see Clara."
"You told her, then?" came the sarcastic answer.
"Yes; why shouldn't I?"
"There's certainly no reason why you shouldn't," said Mrs. Morel, and
she returned to her book. He winced from his mother's irony, frowned
irritably, thinking: "Why can't I do as I like?"
"You've not seen Mrs. Morel before?" Miriam was saying to Clara.
"No; but she's so nice!"
"Yes," said Miriam, dropping her head; "in some ways she's very fine."
"I should think so."
"Had Paul told you much about her?"
"He had talked a good deal."
There was silence until he returned with the book.
"When will you want it back?" Miriam asked.
"When you like," he answered.
Clara turned to go indoors, whilst he accompanied Miriam to the gate.
"When will you come up to Willey Farm?" the latter asked.
"I couldn't say," replied Clara.
"Mother asked me to say she'd be pleased to see you any time, if you
cared to come."
"Thank you; I should like to, but I can't say when."
"Oh, very well!" exclaimed Miriam rather bitterly, turning away.
She went down the path with her mouth to the flowers he had given her.
"You're sure you won't come in?" he said.
"We are going to chapel."
"Ah, I shall see you, then!" Miriam was very bitter.
They parted. He felt guilty towards her. She was bitter, and she scorned
him. He still belonged to herself, she believed; yet he could have
Clara, take her home, sit with her next his mother in chapel, give her
the same hymn-book he had given herself years before. She heard him
running quickly indoors.
But he did not go straight in. Halting on the plot of grass, he heard
his mother's voice, then Clara's answer:
"What I hate is the bloodhound quality in Miriam."
"Yes," said his mother quickly, "yes; DOESN'T it make you hate her,
His heart went hot, and he was angry with them for talking about the
girl. What right had they to say that? Something in the speech itself
stung him into a flame of hate against Miriam. Then his own heart
rebelled furiously at Clara's taking the liberty of speaking so about
Miriam. After all, the girl was the better woman of the two, he thought,
if it came to goodness. He went indoors. His mother looked excited. She
was beating with her hand rhythmically on the sofa-arm, as women do who
are wearing out. He could never bear to see the movement. There was a
silence; then he began to talk.
In chapel Miriam saw him find the place in the hymn-book for Clara, in
exactly the same way as he used for herself. And during the sermon he
could see the girl across the chapel, her hat throwing a dark shadow
over her face. What did she think, seeing Clara with him? He did not
stop to consider. He felt himself cruel towards Miriam.
After chapel he went over Pentrich with Clara. It was a dark autumn
night. They had said good-bye to Miriam, and his heart had smitten him
as he left the girl alone. "But it serves her right," he said inside
himself, and it almost gave him pleasure to go off under her eyes with
this other handsome woman.
There was a scent of damp leaves in the darkness. Clara's hand lay warm
and inert in his own as they walked. He was full of conflict. The battle
that raged inside him made him feel desperate.
Up Pentrich Hill Clara leaned against him as he went. He slid his arm
round her waist. Feeling the strong motion of her body under his arm as
she walked, the tightness in his chest because of Miriam relaxed, and
the hot blood bathed him. He held her closer and closer.
Then: "You still keep on with Miriam," she said quietly.
"Only talk. There never WAS a great deal more than talk between us," he
"Your mother doesn't care for her," said Clara.
"No, or I might have married her. But it's all up really!"
Suddenly his voice went passionate with hate.
"If I was with her now, we should be jawing about the 'Christian
Mystery', or some such tack. Thank God, I'm not!"
They walked on in silence for some time.
"But you can't really give her up," said Clara.
"I don't give her up, because there's nothing to give," he said.
"There is for her."
"I don't know why she and I shouldn't be friends as long as we live," he
said. "But it'll only be friends."
Clara drew away from him, leaning away from contact with him.
"What are you drawing away for?" he asked.
She did not answer, but drew farther from him.
"Why do you want to walk alone?" he asked.
Still there was no answer. She walked resentfully, hanging her head.
"Because I said I would be friends with Miriam!" he exclaimed.
She would not answer him anything.
"I tell you it's only words that go between us," he persisted, trying to
take her again.
She resisted. Suddenly he strode across in front of her, barring her
"Damn it!" he said. "What do you want now?"
"You'd better run after Miriam," mocked Clara.
The blood flamed up in him. He stood showing his teeth. She drooped
sulkily. The lane was dark, quite lonely. He suddenly caught her in
his arms, stretched forward, and put his mouth on her face in a kiss of
rage. She turned frantically to avoid him. He held her fast. Hard and
relentless his mouth came for her. Her breasts hurt against the wall of
his chest. Helpless, she went loose in his arms, and he kissed her, and
He heard people coming down the hill.
"Stand up! stand up!" he said thickly, gripping her arm till it hurt. If
he had let go, she would have sunk to the ground.
She sighed and walked dizzily beside him. They went on in silence.
"We will go over the fields," he said; and then she woke up.
But she let herself be helped over the stile, and she walked in silence
with him over the first dark field. It was the way to Nottingham and to
the station, she knew. He seemed to be looking about. They came out on
a bare hilltop where stood the dark figure of the ruined windmill. There
he halted. They stood together high up in the darkness, looking at
the lights scattered on the night before them, handfuls of glittering
points, villages lying high and low on the dark, here and there.
"Like treading among the stars," he said, with a quaky laugh.
Then he took her in his arms, and held her fast. She moved aside her
mouth to ask, dogged and low:
"What time is it?"
"It doesn't matter," he pleaded thickly.
"Yes it does - yes! I must go!"
"It's early yet," he said.
"What time is it?" she insisted.
All round lay the black night, speckled and spangled with lights.
"I don't know."
She put her hand on his chest, feeling for his watch. He felt the joints
fuse into fire. She groped in his waistcoat pocket, while he stood
panting. In the darkness she could see the round, pale face of the
watch, but not the figures. She stooped over it. He was panting till he
could take her in his arms again.
"I can't see," she said.
"Then don't bother."
"Yes; I'm going!" she said, turning away.
"Wait! I'll look!" But he could not see. "I'll strike a match."
He secretly hoped it was too late to catch the train. She saw the
glowing lantern of his hands as he cradled the light: then his face lit
up, his eyes fixed on the watch. Instantly all was dark again. All was
black before her eyes; only a glowing match was red near her feet. Where
"What is it?" she asked, afraid.
"You can't do it," his voice answered out of the darkness.
There was a pause. She felt in his power. She had heard the ring in his
voice. It frightened her.
"What time is it?" she asked, quiet, definite, hopeless.
"Two minutes to nine," he replied, telling the truth with a struggle.
"And can I get from here to the station in fourteen minutes?"
"No. At any rate - "
She could distinguish his dark form again a yard or so away. She wanted
"But can't I do it?" she pleaded.
"If you hurry," he said brusquely. "But you could easily walk it, Clara;
it's only seven miles to the tram. I'll come with you."
"No; I want to catch the train."
"I do - I want to catch the train."
Suddenly his voice altered.
"Very well," he said, dry and hard. "Come along, then."
And he plunged ahead into the darkness. She ran after him, wanting to
cry. Now he was hard and cruel to her. She ran over the rough, dark
fields behind him, out of breath, ready to drop. But the double row of
lights at the station drew nearer. Suddenly:
"There she is!" he cried, breaking into a run.
There was a faint rattling noise. Away to the right the train, like
a luminous caterpillar, was threading across the night. The rattling
"She's over the viaduct. You'll just do it."
Clara ran, quite out of breath, and fell at last into the train. The
whistle blew. He was gone. Gone! - and she was in a carriage full of
people. She felt the cruelty of it.
He turned round and plunged home. Before he knew where he was he was
in the kitchen at home. He was very pale. His eyes were dark and
dangerous-looking, as if he were drunk. His mother looked at him.
"Well, I must say your boots are in a nice state!" she said.
He looked at his feet. Then he took off his overcoat. His mother
wondered if he were drunk.
"She caught the train then?" she said.
"I hope HER feet weren't so filthy. Where on earth you dragged her I
He was silent and motionless for some time.
"Did you like her?" he asked grudgingly at last.
"Yes, I liked her. But you'll tire of her, my son; you know you will."
He did not answer. She noticed how he laboured in his breathing.
"Have you been running?" she asked.
"We had to run for the train."
"You'll go and knock yourself up. You'd better drink hot milk."
It was as good a stimulant as he could have, but he refused and went to
bed. There he lay face down on the counterpane, and shed tears of rage
and pain. There was a physical pain that made him bite his lips till
they bled, and the chaos inside him left him unable to think, almost to
"This is how she serves me, is it?" he said in his heart, over and over,
pressing his face in the quilt. And he hated her. Again he went over the
scene, and again he hated her.
The next day there was a new aloofness about him. Clara was very gentle,
almost loving. But he treated her distantly, with a touch of contempt.
She sighed, continuing to be gentle. He came round.
One evening of that week Sarah Bernhardt was at the Theatre Royal in
Nottingham, giving "La Dame aux Camelias". Paul wanted to see this old
and famous actress, and he asked Clara to accompany him. He told his
mother to leave the key in the window for him.
"Shall I book seats?" he asked of Clara.
"Yes. And put on an evening suit, will you? I've never seen you in it."
"But, good Lord, Clara! Think of ME in evening suit at the theatre!" he
"Would you rather not?" she asked.
"I will if you WANT me to; but I s'll feel a fool."
She laughed at him.
"Then feel a fool for my sake, once, won't you?"
The request made his blood flush up.
"I suppose I s'll have to."
"What are you taking a suitcase for?" his mother asked.
He blushed furiously.
"Clara asked me," he said.
"And what seats are you going in?"
"Circle - three-and-six each!"
"Well, I'm sure!" exclaimed his mother sarcastically.
"It's only once in the bluest of blue moons," he said.
He dressed at Jordan's, put on an overcoat and a cap, and met Clara in a
cafe. She was with one of her suffragette friends. She wore an old long
coat, which did not suit her, and had a little wrap over her head, which
he hated. The three went to the theatre together.
Clara took off her coat on the stairs, and he discovered she was in a
sort of semi-evening dress, that left her arms and neck and part of her
breast bare. Her hair was done fashionably. The dress, a simple thing
of green crape, suited her. She looked quite grand, he thought. He could
see her figure inside the frock, as if that were wrapped closely round
her. The firmness and the softness of her upright body could almost be
felt as he looked at her. He clenched his fists.
And he was to sit all the evening beside her beautiful naked arm,
watching the strong throat rise from the strong chest, watching the
breasts under the green stuff, the curve of her limbs in the tight
dress. Something in him hated her again for submitting him to this
torture of nearness. And he loved her as she balanced her head and
stared straight in front of her, pouting, wistful, immobile, as if she
yielded herself to her fate because it was too strong for her. She could
not help herself; she was in the grip of something bigger than herself.
A kind of eternal look about her, as if she were a wistful sphinx, made
it necessary for him to kiss her. He dropped his programme, and crouched
down on the floor to get it, so that he could kiss her hand and wrist.
Her beauty was a torture to him. She sat immobile. Only, when the lights
went down, she sank a little against him, and he caressed her hand and
arm with his fingers. He could smell her faint perfume. All the time
his blood kept sweeping up in great white-hot waves that killed his
The drama continued. He saw it all in the distance, going on somewhere;
he did not know where, but it seemed far away inside him. He was Clara's
white heavy arms, her throat, her moving bosom. That seemed to be
himself. Then away somewhere the play went on, and he was identified
with that also. There was no himself. The grey and black eyes of Clara,
her bosom coming down on him, her arm that he held gripped between his
hands, were all that existed. Then he felt himself small and helpless,
her towering in her force above him.
Only the intervals, when the lights came up, hurt him expressibly. He
wanted to run anywhere, so long as it would be dark again. In a maze,
he wandered out for a drink. Then the lights were out, and the strange,
insane reality of Clara and the drama took hold of him again.
The play went on. But he was obsessed by the desire to kiss the tiny
blue vein that nestled in the bend of her arm. He could feel it. His
whole face seemed suspended till he had put his lips there. It must be
done. And the other people! At last he bent quickly forward and touched
it with his lips. His moustache brushed the sensitive flesh. Clara
shivered, drew away her arm.
When all was over, the lights up, the people clapping, he came to
himself and looked at his watch. His train was gone.
"I s'll have to walk home!" he said.
Clara looked at him.
"It is too late?" she asked.
He nodded. Then he helped her on with her coat.
"I love you! You look beautiful in that dress," he murmured over her
shoulder, among the throng of bustling people.
She remained quiet. Together they went out of the theatre. He saw the
cabs waiting, the people passing. It seemed he met a pair of brown
eyes which hated him. But he did not know. He and Clara turned away,
mechanically taking the direction to the station.
The train had gone. He would have to walk the ten miles home.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "I shall enjoy it."
"Won't you," she said, flushing, "come home for the night? I can sleep
He looked at her. Their eyes met.
"What will your mother say?" he asked.
"She won't mind."
"SHALL I come?"
"If you will."
And they turned away. At the first stopping-place they took the car. The
wind blew fresh in their faces. The town was dark; the tram tipped in
its haste. He sat with her hand fast in his.
"Will your mother be gone to bed?" he asked.
"She may be. I hope not."
They hurried along the silent, dark little street, the only people out
of doors. Clara quickly entered the house. He hesitated.
He leaped up the step and was in the room. Her mother appeared in the
inner doorway, large and hostile.
"Who have you got there?" she asked.
"It's Mr. Morel; he has missed his train. I thought we might put him up
for the night, and save him a ten-mile walk."
"H'm," exclaimed Mrs. Radford. "That's your lookout! If you've invited
him, he's very welcome as far as I'm concerned. YOU keep the house!"
"If you don't like me, I'll go away again," he said.
"Nay, nay, you needn't! Come along in! I dunno what you'll think of the
supper I'd got her."
It was a little dish of chip potatoes and a piece of bacon. The table
was roughly laid for one.
"You can have some more bacon," continued Mrs. Radford. "More chips you
"It's a shame to bother you," he said.
"Oh, don't you be apologetic! It doesn't DO wi' me! You treated her to
the theatre, didn't you?" There was a sarcasm in the last question.
"Well?" laughed Paul uncomfortably.
"Well, and what's an inch of bacon! Take your coat off."
The big, straight-standing woman was trying to estimate the situation.
She moved about the cupboard. Clara took his coat. The room was very
warm and cosy in the lamplight.
"My sirs!" exclaimed Mrs. Radford; "but you two's a pair of bright
beauties, I must say! What's all that get-up for?"
"I believe we don't know," he said, feeling a victim.
"There isn't room in THIS house for two such bobby-dazzlers, if you fly
your kites THAT high!" she rallied them. It was a nasty thrust.
He in his dinner jacket, and Clara in her green dress and bare arms,
were confused. They felt they must shelter each other in that little
"And look at THAT blossom!" continued Mrs. Radford, pointing to Clara.
"What does she reckon she did it for?"
Paul looked at Clara. She was rosy; her neck was warm with blushes.
There was a moment of silence.
"You like to see it, don't you?" he asked.
The mother had them in her power. All the time his heart was beating
hard, and he was tight with anxiety. But he would fight her.
"Me like to see it!" exclaimed the old woman. "What should I like to see
her make a fool of herself for?"
"I've seen people look bigger fools," he said. Clara was under his
"Oh, ay! and when was that?" came the sarcastic rejoinder.
"When they made frights of themselves," he answered.
Mrs. Radford, large and threatening, stood suspended on the hearthrug,
holding her fork.
"They're fools either road," she answered at length, turning to the
"No," he said, fighting stoutly. "Folk ought to look as well as they
"And do you call THAT looking nice!" cried the mother, pointing a
scornful fork at Clara. "That - that looks as if it wasn't properly
"I believe you're jealous that you can't swank as well," he said
"Me! I could have worn evening dress with anybody, if I'd wanted to!"
came the scornful answer.
"And why didn't you want to?" he asked pertinently. "Or DID you wear
There was a long pause. Mrs. Radford readjusted the bacon in the Dutch
oven. His heart beat fast, for fear he had offended her.
"Me!" she exclaimed at last. "No, I didn't! And when I was in service,
I knew as soon as one of the maids came out in bare shoulders what sort
SHE was, going to her sixpenny hop!"
"Were you too good to go to a sixpenny hop?" he said.
Clara sat with bowed head. His eyes were dark and glittering. Mrs.
Radford took the Dutch oven from the fire, and stood near him, putting
bits of bacon on his plate.
"THERE'S a nice crozzly bit!" she said.
"Don't give me the best!" he said.
"SHE'S got what SHE wants," was the answer.
There was a sort of scornful forbearance in the woman's tone that made
Paul know she was mollified.
"But DO have some!" he said to Clara.
She looked up at him with her grey eyes, humiliated and lonely.
"No thanks!" she said.
"Why won't you?" he answered carelessly.
The blood was beating up like fire in his veins. Mrs. Radford sat down
again, large and impressive and aloof. He left Clara altogether to
attend to the mother.
"They say Sarah Bernhardt's fifty," he said.
"Fifty! She's turned sixty!" came the scornful answer.
"Well," he said, "you'd never think it! She made me want to howl even
"I should like to see myself howling at THAT bad old baggage!" said
Mrs. Radford. "It's time she began to think herself a grandmother, not a
shrieking catamaran - "
"A catamaran is a boat the Malays use," he said.
"And it's a word as I use," she retorted.
"My mother does sometimes, and it's no good my telling her," he said.
"I s'd think she boxes your ears," said Mrs. Radford, good-humouredly.
"She'd like to, and she says she will, so I give her a little stool to
"That's the worst of my mother," said Clara. "She never wants a stool
"But she often can't touch THAT lady with a long prop," retorted Mrs.
Radford to Paul.
"I s'd think she doesn't want touching with a prop," he laughed. "I
"It might do the pair of you good to give you a crack on the head with
one," said the mother, laughing suddenly.
"Why are you so vindictive towards me?" he said. "I've not stolen
anything from you."
"No; I'll watch that," laughed the older woman.
Soon the supper was finished. Mrs. Radford sat guard in her chair. Paul
lit a cigarette. Clara went upstairs, returning with a sleeping-suit,
which she spread on the fender to air.
"Why, I'd forgot all about THEM!" said Mrs. Radford. "Where have they
"Out of my drawer."
"H'm! You bought 'em for Baxter, an' he wouldn't wear 'em, would
he?" - laughing. "Said he reckoned to do wi'out trousers i' bed." She
turned confidentially to Paul, saying: "He couldn't BEAR 'em, them