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
"Ag-gie - Ag-gie!"
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