The young man sat making rings of smoke.
"Well, it's everyone to his taste," he laughed.
Then followed a little discussion of the merits of pyjamas.
"My mother loves me in them," he said. "She says I'm a pierrot."
"I can imagine they'd suit you," said Mrs. Radford.
After a while he glanced at the little clock that was ticking on the
mantelpiece. It was half-past twelve.
"It is funny," he said, "but it takes hours to settle down to sleep
after the theatre."
"It's about time you did," said Mrs. Radford, clearing the table.
"Are YOU tired?" he asked of Clara.
"Not the least bit," she answered, avoiding his eyes.
"Shall we have a game at cribbage?" he said.
"I've forgotten it."
"Well, I'll teach you again. May we play crib, Mrs. Radford?" he asked.
"You'll please yourselves," she said; "but it's pretty late."
"A game or so will make us sleepy," he answered.
Clara brought the cards, and sat spinning her wedding-ring whilst he
shuffled them. Mrs. Radford was washing up in the scullery. As it grew
later Paul felt the situation getting more and more tense.
"Fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six, and two's eight - !"
The clock struck one. Still the game continued. Mrs. Radford had done
all the little jobs preparatory to going to bed, had locked the door
and filled the kettle. Still Paul went on dealing and counting. He was
obsessed by Clara's arms and throat. He believed he could see where the
division was just beginning for her breasts. He could not leave her. She
watched his hands, and felt her joints melt as they moved quickly. She
was so near; it was almost as if he touched her, and yet not quite. His
mettle was roused. He hated Mrs. Radford. She sat on, nearly dropping
asleep, but determined and obstinate in her chair. Paul glanced at her,
then at Clara. She met his eyes, that were angry, mocking, and hard as
steel. Her own answered him in shame. He knew SHE, at any rate, was of
his mind. He played on.
At last Mrs. Radford roused herself stiffly, and said:
"Isn't it nigh on time you two was thinking o' bed?"
Paul played on without answering. He hated her sufficiently to murder
"Half a minute," he said.
The elder woman rose and sailed stubbornly into the scullery, returning
with his candle, which she put on the mantelpiece. Then she sat down
again. The hatred of her went so hot down his veins, he dropped his
"We'll stop, then," he said, but his voice was still a challenge.
Clara saw his mouth shut hard. Again he glanced at her. It seemed like
an agreement. She bent over the cards, coughing, to clear her throat.
"Well, I'm glad you've finished," said Mrs. Radford. "Here, take your
things" - she thrust the warm suit in his hand - "and this is your candle.
Your room's over this; there's only two, so you can't go far wrong.
Well, good-night. I hope you'll rest well."
"I'm sure I shall; I always do," he said.
"Yes; and so you ought at your age," she replied.
He bade good-night to Clara, and went. The twisting stairs of white,
scrubbed wood creaked and clanged at every step. He went doggedly. The
two doors faced each other. He went in his room, pushed the door to,
without fastening the latch.
It was a small room with a large bed. Some of Clara's hair-pins were
on the dressing-table - her hair-brush. Her clothes and some skirts hung
under a cloth in a corner. There was actually a pair of stockings over
a chair. He explored the room. Two books of his own were there on the
shelf. He undressed, folded his suit, and sat on the bed, listening.
Then he blew out the candle, lay down, and in two minutes was almost
asleep. Then click! - he was wide awake and writhing in torment. It
was as if, when he had nearly got to sleep, something had bitten him
suddenly and sent him mad. He sat up and looked at the room in the
darkness, his feet doubled under him, perfectly motionless, listening.
He heard a cat somewhere away outside; then the heavy, poised tread of
the mother; then Clara's distinct voice:
"Will you unfasten my dress?"
There was silence for some time. At last the mother said:
"Now then! aren't you coming up?"
"No, not yet," replied the daughter calmly.
"Oh, very well then! If it's not late enough, stop a bit longer. Only
you needn't come waking me up when I've got to sleep."
"I shan't be long," said Clara.
Immediately afterwards Paul heard the mother slowly mounting the stairs.
The candlelight flashed through the cracks in his door. Her dress
brushed the door, and his heart jumped. Then it was dark, and he
heard the clatter of her latch. She was very leisurely indeed in her
preparations for sleep. After a long time it was quite still. He sat
strung up on the bed, shivering slightly. His door was an inch open.
As Clara came upstairs, he would intercept her. He waited. All was dead
silence. The clock struck two. Then he heard a slight scrape of the
fender downstairs. Now he could not help himself. His shivering was
uncontrollable. He felt he must go or die.
He stepped off the bed, and stood a moment, shuddering. Then he went
straight to the door. He tried to step lightly. The first stair
cracked like a shot. He listened. The old woman stirred in her bed. The
staircase was dark. There was a slit of light under the stair-foot
door, which opened into the kitchen. He stood a moment. Then he went on,
mechanically. Every step creaked, and his back was creeping, lest the
old woman's door should open behind him up above. He fumbled with the
door at the bottom. The latch opened with a loud clack. He went through
into the kitchen, and shut the door noisily behind him. The old woman
daren't come now.
Then he stood, arrested. Clara was kneeling on a pile of white
underclothing on the hearthrug, her back towards him, warming herself.
She did not look round, but sat crouching on her heels, and her rounded
beautiful back was towards him, and her face was hidden. She was warming
her body at the fire for consolation. The glow was rosy on one side, the
shadow was dark and warm on the other. Her arms hung slack.
He shuddered violently, clenching his teeth and fists hard to keep
control. Then he went forward to her. He put one hand on her shoulder,
the fingers of the other hand under her chin to raise her face. A
convulsed shiver ran through her, once, twice, at his touch. She kept
her head bent.
"Sorry!" he murmured, realising that his hands were very cold.
Then she looked up at him, frightened, like a thing that is afraid of
"My hands are so cold," he murmured.
"I like it," she whispered, closing her eyes.
The breath of her words were on his mouth. Her arms clasped his knees.
The cord of his sleeping-suit dangled against her and made her shiver.
As the warmth went into him, his shuddering became less.
At length, unable to stand so any more, he raised her, and she buried
her head on his shoulder. His hands went over her slowly with an
infinite tenderness of caress. She clung close to him, trying to hide
herself against him. He clasped her very fast. Then at last she looked
at him, mute, imploring, looking to see if she must be ashamed.
His eyes were dark, very deep, and very quiet. It was as if her beauty
and his taking it hurt him, made him sorrowful. He looked at her with a
little pain, and was afraid. He was so humble before her. She kissed him
fervently on the eyes, first one, then the other, and she folded herself
to him. She gave herself. He held her fast. It was a moment intense
almost to agony.
She stood letting him adore her and tremble with joy of her. It healed
her hurt pride. It healed her; it made her glad. It made her feel erect
and proud again. Her pride had been wounded inside her. She had been
cheapened. Now she radiated with joy and pride again. It was her
restoration and her recognition.
Then he looked at her, his face radiant. They laughed to each other,
and he strained her to his chest. The seconds ticked off, the minutes
passed, and still the two stood clasped rigid together, mouth to mouth,
like a statue in one block.
But again his fingers went seeking over her, restless, wandering,
dissatisfied. The hot blood came up wave upon wave. She laid her head on
"Come you to my room," he murmured.
She looked at him and shook her head, her mouth pouting disconsolately,
her eyes heavy with passion. He watched her fixedly.
"Yes!" he said.
Again she shook her head.
"Why not?" he asked.
She looked at him still heavily, sorrowfully, and again she shook her
head. His eyes hardened, and he gave way.
When, later on, he was back in bed, he wondered why she had refused to
come to him openly, so that her mother would know. At any rate, then
things would have been definite. And she could have stayed with him the
night, without having to go, as she was, to her mother's bed. It was
strange, and he could not understand it. And then almost immediately he
He awoke in the morning with someone speaking to him. Opening his eyes,
he saw Mrs. Radford, big and stately, looking down on him. She held a
cup of tea in her hand.
"Do you think you're going to sleep till Doomsday?" she said.
He laughed at once.
"It ought only to be about five o'clock," he said.
"Well," she answered, "it's half-past seven, whether or not. Here, I've
brought you a cup of tea."
He rubbed his face, pushed the tumbled hair off his forehead, and roused
"What's it so late for!" he grumbled.
He resented being wakened. It amused her. She saw his neck in the
flannel sleeping-jacket, as white and round as a girl's. He rubbed his
"It's no good your scratching your head," she said. "It won't make it no
earlier. Here, an' how long d'you think I'm going to stand waiting wi'
this here cup?"
"Oh, dash the cup!" he said.
"You should go to bed earlier," said the woman.
He looked up at her, laughing with impudence.
"I went to bed before YOU did," he said.
"Yes, my Guyney, you did!" she exclaimed.
"Fancy," he said, stirring his tea, "having tea brought to bed to me! My
mother'll think I'm ruined for life."
"Don't she never do it?" asked Mrs. Radford.
"She'd as leave think of flying."
"Ah, I always spoilt my lot! That's why they've turned out such bad
uns," said the elderly woman.
"You'd only Clara," he said. "And Mr. Radford's in heaven. So I suppose
there's only you left to be the bad un."
"I'm not bad; I'm only soft," she said, as she went out of the bedroom.
"I'm only a fool, I am!"
Clara was very quiet at breakfast, but she had a sort of air of
proprietorship over him that pleased him infinitely. Mrs. Radford was
evidently fond of him. He began to talk of his painting.
"What's the good," exclaimed the mother, "of your whittling and worrying
and twistin' and too-in' at that painting of yours? What GOOD does it do
you, I should like to know? You'd better be enjoyin' yourself."
"Oh, but," exclaimed Paul, "I made over thirty guineas last year."
"Did you! Well, that's a consideration, but it's nothing to the time you
"And I've got four pounds owing. A man said he'd give me five pounds if
I'd paint him and his missis and the dog and the cottage. And I went and
put the fowls in instead of the dog, and he was waxy, so I had to
knock a quid off. I was sick of it, and I didn't like the dog. I made a
picture of it. What shall I do when he pays me the four pounds?"
"Nay! you know your own uses for your money," said Mrs. Radford.
"But I'm going to bust this four pounds. Should we go to the seaside for
a day or two?"
"You and Clara and me."
"What, on your money!" she exclaimed, half-wrathful.
"YOU wouldn't be long in breaking your neck at a hurdle race!" she said.
"So long as I get a good run for my money! Will you?"
"Nay; you may settle that atween you."
"And you're willing?" he asked, amazed and rejoicing.
"You'll do as you like," said Mrs. Radford, "whether I'm willing or
SOON after Paul had been to the theatre with Clara, he was drinking
in the Punch Bowl with some friends of his when Dawes came in. Clara's
husband was growing stout; his eyelids were getting slack over his brown
eyes; he was losing his healthy firmness of flesh. He was very evidently
on the downward track. Having quarrelled with his sister, he had gone
into cheap lodgings. His mistress had left him for a man who would marry
her. He had been in prison one night for fighting when he was drunk, and
there was a shady betting episode in which he was concerned.
Paul and he were confirmed enemies, and yet there was between them that
peculiar feeling of intimacy, as if they were secretly near to each
other, which sometimes exists between two people, although they never
speak to one another. Paul often thought of Baxter Dawes, often wanted
to get at him and be friends with him. He knew that Dawes often thought
about him, and that the man was drawn to him by some bond or other. And
yet the two never looked at each other save in hostility.
Since he was a superior employee at Jordan's, it was the thing for Paul
to offer Dawes a drink.
"What'll you have?" he asked of him.
"Nowt wi' a bleeder like you!" replied the man.
Paul turned away with a slight disdainful movement of the shoulders,
"The aristocracy," he continued, "is really a military institution. Take
Germany, now. She's got thousands of aristocrats whose only means of
existence is the army. They're deadly poor, and life's deadly slow. So
they hope for a war. They look for war as a chance of getting on. Till
there's a war they are idle good-for-nothings. When there's a war, they
are leaders and commanders. There you are, then - they WANT war!"
He was not a favourite debater in the public-house, being too quick and
overbearing. He irritated the older men by his assertive manner, and
his cocksureness. They listened in silence, and were not sorry when he
Dawes interrupted the young man's flow of eloquence by asking, in a loud
"Did you learn all that at th' theatre th' other night?"
Paul looked at him; their eyes met. Then he knew Dawes had seen him
coming out of the theatre with Clara.
"Why, what about th' theatre?" asked one of Paul's associates, glad to
get a dig at the young fellow, and sniffing something tasty.
"Oh, him in a bob-tailed evening suit, on the lardy-da!" sneered Dawes,
jerking his head contemptuously at Paul.
"That's comin' it strong," said the mutual friend. "Tart an' all?"
"Tart, begod!" said Dawes.
"Go on; let's have it!" cried the mutual friend.
"You've got it," said Dawes, "an' I reckon Morelly had it an' all."
"Well, I'll be jiggered!" said the mutual friend. "An' was it a proper
"Tart, God blimey - yes!"
"How do you know?"
"Oh," said Dawes, "I reckon he spent th' night - "
There was a good deal of laughter at Paul's expense.
"But who WAS she? D'you know her?" asked the mutual friend.
"I should SHAY SHO," said Dawes.
This brought another burst of laughter.
"Then spit it out," said the mutual friend.
Dawes shook his head, and took a gulp of beer.
"It's a wonder he hasn't let on himself," he said. "He'll be braggin' of
it in a bit."
"Come on, Paul," said the friend; "it's no good. You might just as well
"Own up what? That I happened to take a friend to the theatre?"
"Oh well, if it was all right, tell us who she was, lad," said the
"She WAS all right," said Dawes.
Paul was furious. Dawes wiped his golden moustache with his fingers,
"Strike me - ! One o' that sort?" said the mutual friend. "Paul, boy, I'm
surprised at you. And do you know her, Baxter?"
"Just a bit, like!"
He winked at the other men.
"Oh well," said Paul, "I'll be going!"
The mutual friend laid a detaining hand on his shoulder.
"Nay," he said, "you don't get off as easy as that, my lad. We've got to
have a full account of this business."
"Then get it from Dawes!" he said.
"You shouldn't funk your own deeds, man," remonstrated the friend.
Then Dawes made a remark which caused Paul to throw half a glass of beer
in his face.
"Oh, Mr. Morel!" cried the barmaid, and she rang the bell for the
Dawes spat and rushed for the young man. At that minute a brawny
fellow with his shirt-sleeves rolled up and his trousers tight over his
"Now, then!" he said, pushing his chest in front of Dawes.
"Come out!" cried Dawes.
Paul was leaning, white and quivering, against the brass rail of the
bar. He hated Dawes, wished something could exterminate him at that
minute; and at the same time, seeing the wet hair on the man's forehead,
he thought he looked pathetic. He did not move.
"Come out, you - ," said Dawes.
"That's enough, Dawes," cried the barmaid.
"Come on," said the "chucker-out", with kindly insistence, "you'd better
be getting on."
And, by making Dawes edge away from his own close proximity, he worked
him to the door.
"THAT'S the little sod as started it!" cried Dawes, half-cowed, pointing
to Paul Morel.
"Why, what a story, Mr. Dawes!" said the barmaid. "You know it was you
all the time."
Still the "chucker-out" kept thrusting his chest forward at him, still
he kept edging back, until he was in the doorway and on the steps
outside; then he turned round.
"All right," he said, nodding straight at his rival.
Paul had a curious sensation of pity, almost of affection, mingled with
violent hate, for the man. The coloured door swung to; there was silence
in the bar.
"Serve, him, jolly well right!" said the barmaid.
"But it's a nasty thing to get a glass of beer in your eyes," said the
"I tell you I was glad he did," said the barmaid. "Will you have
another, Mr. Morel?"
She held up Paul's glass questioningly. He nodded.
"He's a man as doesn't care for anything, is Baxter Dawes," said one.
"Pooh! is he?" said the barmaid. "He's a loud-mouthed one, he is, and
they're never much good. Give me a pleasant-spoken chap, if you want a
"Well, Paul, my lad," said the friend, "you'll have to take care of
yourself now for a while."
"You won't have to give him a chance over you, that's all," said the
"Can you box?" asked a friend.
"Not a bit," he answered, still very white.
"I might give you a turn or two," said the friend.
"Thanks, I haven't time."
And presently he took his departure.
"Go along with him, Mr. Jenkinson," whispered the barmaid, tipping Mr.
Jenkinson the wink.
The man nodded, took his hat, said: "Good-night all!" very heartily, and
followed Paul, calling:
"Half a minute, old man. You an' me's going the same road, I believe."
"Mr. Morel doesn't like it," said the barmaid. "You'll see, we shan't
have him in much more. I'm sorry; he's good company. And Baxter Dawes
wants locking up, that's what he wants."
Paul would have died rather than his mother should get to know of this
affair. He suffered tortures of humiliation and self-consciousness.
There was now a good deal of his life of which necessarily he could not
speak to his mother. He had a life apart from her - his sexual life. The
rest she still kept. But he felt he had to conceal something from her,
and it irked him. There was a certain silence between them, and he
felt he had, in that silence, to defend himself against her; he felt
condemned by her. Then sometimes he hated her, and pulled at her
bondage. His life wanted to free itself of her. It was like a circle
where life turned back on itself, and got no farther. She bore him,
loved him, kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could
not be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman.
At this period, unknowingly, he resisted his mother's influence. He did
not tell her things; there was a distance between them.
Clara was happy, almost sure of him. She felt she had at last got him
for herself; and then again came the uncertainty. He told her jestingly
of the affair with her husband. Her colour came up, her grey eyes
"That's him to a 'T'," she cried - "like a navvy! He's not fit for mixing
with decent folk."
"Yet you married him," he said.
It made her furious that he reminded her.
"I did!" she cried. "But how was I to know?"
"I think he might have been rather nice," he said.
"You think I made him what he is!" she exclaimed.
"Oh no! he made himself. But there's something about him - "
Clara looked at her lover closely. There was something in him she hated,
a sort of detached criticism of herself, a coldness which made her
woman's soul harden against him.
"And what are you going to do?" she asked.
"There's nothing to do, is there?" he replied.
"You can fight him if you have to, I suppose?" she said.
"No; I haven't the least sense of the 'fist'. It's funny. With most men
there's the instinct to clench the fist and hit. It's not so with me. I
should want a knife or a pistol or something to fight with."
"Then you'd better carry something," she said.
"Nay," he laughed; "I'm not daggeroso."
"But he'll do something to you. You don't know him."
"All right," he said, "we'll see."
"And you'll let him?"
"Perhaps, if I can't help it."
"And if he kills you?" she said.
"I should be sorry, for his sake and mine."
Clara was silent for a moment.
"You DO make me angry!" she exclaimed.
"That's nothing afresh," he laughed.
"But why are you so silly? You don't know him."
"And don't want."
"Yes, but you're not going to let a man do as he likes with you?"
"What must I do?" he replied, laughing.
"I should carry a revolver," she said. "I'm sure he's dangerous."
"I might blow my fingers off," he said.
"No; but won't you?" she pleaded.
"And you'll leave him to - ?"
"You are a fool!"
She set her teeth with anger.
"I could SHAKE you!" she cried, trembling with passion.
"Let a man like HIM do as he likes with you."
"You can go back to him if he triumphs," he said.
"Do you want me to hate you?" she asked.
"Well, I only tell you," he said.
"And YOU say you LOVE me!" she exclaimed, low and indignant.
"Ought I to slay him to please you?" he said. "But if I did, see what a
hold he'd have over me."
"Do you think I'm a fool!" she exclaimed.
"Not at all. But you don't understand me, my dear."
There was a pause between them.
"But you ought NOT to expose yourself," she pleaded.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"'The man in righteousness arrayed,
The pure and blameless liver,
Needs not the keen Toledo blade,
Nor venom-freighted quiver,'"
She looked at him searchingly.
"I wish I could understand you," she said.
"There's simply nothing to understand," he laughed.
She bowed her head, brooding.
He did not see Dawes for several days; then one morning as he ran
upstairs from the Spiral room he almost collided with the burly
"What the - !" cried the smith.
"Sorry!" said Paul, and passed on.
"SORRY!" sneered Dawes.
Paul whistled lightly, "Put Me among the Girls".
"I'll stop your whistle, my jockey!" he said.
The other took no notice.
"You're goin' to answer for that job of the other night."
Paul went to his desk in his corner, and turned over the leaves of the
"Go and tell Fanny I want order 097, quick!" he said to his boy.
Dawes stood in the doorway, tall and threatening, looking at the top of
the young man's head.
"Six and five's eleven and seven's one-and-six," Paul added aloud.
"An' you hear, do you!" said Dawes.
"FIVE AND NINEPENCE!" He wrote a figure. "What's that?" he said.
"I'm going to show you what it is," said the smith.
The other went on adding the figures aloud.
"Yer crawlin' little - , yer daresn't face me proper!"
Paul quickly snatched the heavy ruler. Dawes started. The young man
ruled some lines in his ledger. The elder man was infuriated.
"But wait till I light on you, no matter where it is, I'll settle your
hash for a bit, yer little swine!"
"All right," said Paul.
At that the smith started heavily from the doorway. Just then a whistle
piped shrilly. Paul went to the speaking-tube.
"Yes!" he said, and he listened. "Er - yes!" He listened, then he
laughed. "I'll come down directly. I've got a visitor just now."
Dawes knew from his tone that he had been speaking to Clara. He stepped
"Yer little devil!" he said. "I'll visitor you, inside of two minutes!