weiße gardinen für wohnzimmer
chapter xiv part 2the release miriam shuddered.she drew him to her; she pressed him to her bosom; she kissed him and kissed him.he submitted, but it was torture. she could not kiss his agony. that remained alone and apart.she kissed his face, and roused his blood, while his soul was apart writhing with theagony of death. and she kissed him and fingered his body,till at last, feeling he would go mad, he got away from her.it was not what he wanted just then--not that.
and she thought she had soothed him anddone him good. december came, and some snow.he stayed at home all the while now. they could not afford a nurse. annie came to look after her mother; theparish nurse, whom they loved, came in morning and evening.paul shared the nursing with annie. often, in the evenings, when friends werein the kitchen with them, they all laughed together and shook with laughter.it was reaction. paul was so comical, annie was so quaint. the whole party laughed till they cried,trying to subdue the sound.
and mrs. morel, lying alone in the darknessheard them, and among her bitterness was a feeling of relief. then paul would go upstairs gingerly,guiltily, to see if she had heard. "shall i give you some milk?" he asked."a little," she replied plaintively. and he would put some water with it, sothat it should not nourish her. yet he loved her more than his own life.she had morphia every night, and her heart got fitful. annie slept beside her.paul would go in in the early morning, when his sister got up.his mother was wasted and almost ashen in
the morning with the morphia. darker and darker grew her eyes, all pupil,with the torture. in the mornings the weariness and ache weretoo much to bear. yet she could not--would not--weep, or evencomplain much. "you slept a bit later this morning, littleone," he would say to her. "did i?" she answered, with fretfulweariness. "yes; it's nearly eight o'clock."he stood looking out of the window. the whole country was bleak and pallidunder the snow. then he felt her pulse.there was a strong stroke and a weak one,
like a sound and its echo. that was supposed to betoken the end.she let him feel her wrist, knowing what he wanted.sometimes they looked in each other's eyes. then they almost seemed to make anagreement. it was almost as if he were agreeing to diealso. but she did not consent to die; she wouldnot. her body was wasted to a fragment of ash.her eyes were dark and full of torture. "can't you give her something to put an endto it?" he asked the doctor at last. but the doctor shook his head."she can't last many days now, mr. morel,"
he said. paul went indoors."i can't bear it much longer; we shall all go mad," said annie.the two sat down to breakfast. "go and sit with her while we havebreakfast, minnie," said annie. but the girl was frightened.paul went through the country, through the woods, over the snow. he saw the marks of rabbits and birds inthe white snow. he wandered miles and miles.a smoky red sunset came on slowly, painfully, lingering.
he thought she would die that day.there was a donkey that came up to him over the snow by the wood's edge, and put itshead against him, and walked with him alongside. he put his arms round the donkey's neck,and stroked his cheeks against his ears. his mother, silent, was still alive, withher hard mouth gripped grimly, her eyes of dark torture only living. it was nearing christmas; there was moresnow. annie and he felt as if they could go on nomore. still her dark eyes were alive.
morel, silent and frightened, obliteratedhimself. sometimes he would go into the sick-roomand look at her. then he backed out, bewildered. she kept her hold on life still.the miners had been out on strike, and returned a fortnight or so beforechristmas. minnie went upstairs with the feeding-cup. it was two days after the men had been in."have the men been saying their hands are sore, minnie?" she asked, in the faint,querulous voice that would not give in. minnie stood surprised.
"not as i know of, mrs. morel," sheanswered. "but i'll bet they are sore," said thedying woman, as she moved her head with a sigh of weariness. "but, at any rate, there'll be something tobuy in with this week." not a thing did she let slip. "your father's pit things will want wellairing, annie," she said, when the men were going back to work."don't you bother about that, my dear," said annie. one night annie and paul were alone.nurse was upstairs.
"she'll live over christmas," said annie.they were both full of horror. "she won't," he replied grimly. "i s'll give her morphia.""which?" said annie. "all that came from sheffield," said paul."ay--do!" said annie. the next day he was painting in thebedroom. she seemed to be asleep.he stepped softly backwards and forwards at his painting. suddenly her small voice wailed:"don't walk about, paul." he looked round.her eyes, like dark bubbles in her face,
were looking at him. "no, my dear," he said gently.another fibre seemed to snap in his heart. that evening he got all the morphia pillsthere were, and took them downstairs. carefully he crushed them to powder. "what are you doing?" said annie."i s'll put 'em in her night milk." then they both laughed together like twoconspiring children. on top of all their horror flicked thislittle sanity. nurse did not come that night to settlemrs. morel down. paul went up with the hot milk in afeeding-cup.
it was nine o'clock. she was reared up in bed, and he put thefeeding-cup between her lips that he would have died to save from any hurt. she took a sip, then put the spout of thecup away and looked at him with her dark, wondering eyes.he looked at her. "oh, it is bitter, paul!" she said, makinga little grimace. "it's a new sleeping draught the doctorgave me for you," he said. "he thought it would leave you in such astate in the morning." "and i hope it won't," she said, like achild.
she drank some more of the milk. "but it is horrid!" she said.he saw her frail fingers over the cup, her lips making a little move."i know--i tasted it," he said. "but i'll give you some clean milkafterwards." "i think so," she said, and she went onwith the draught. she was obedient to him like a child. he wondered if she knew.he saw her poor wasted throat moving as she drank with difficulty.then he ran downstairs for more milk. there were no grains in the bottom of thecup.
"has she had it?" whispered annie."yes--and she said it was bitter." "oh!" laughed annie, putting her under lipbetween her teeth. "and i told her it was a new draught.where's that milk?" they both went upstairs. "i wonder why nurse didn't come to settleme down?" complained the mother, like a child, wistfully."she said she was going to a concert, my love," replied annie. "did she?"they were silent a minute. mrs. morel gulped the little clean milk."annie, that draught was horrid!" she said
plaintively. "was it, my love?well, never mind." the mother sighed again with weariness.her pulse was very irregular. "let us settle you down," said annie. "perhaps nurse will be so late.""ay," said the mother--"try." they turned the clothes back.paul saw his mother like a girl curled up in her flannel nightdress. quickly they made one half of the bed,moved her, made the other, straightened her nightgown over her small feet, and coveredher up.
"there," said paul, stroking her softly. "there!--now you'll sleep.""yes," she said. "i didn't think you could do the bed sonicely," she added, almost gaily. then she curled up, with her cheek on herhand, her head snugged between her shoulders.paul put the long thin plait of grey hair over her shoulder and kissed her. "you'll sleep, my love," he said."yes," she answered trustfully. "good-night."they put out the light, and it was still. morel was in bed.
nurse did not come.annie and paul came to look at her at about eleven.she seemed to be sleeping as usual after her draught. her mouth had come a bit open."shall we sit up?" said paul. "i s'll lie with her as i always do," saidannie. "she might wake up." "all right.and call me if you see any difference." "yes." they lingered before the bedroom fire,feeling the night big and black and snowy
outside, their two selves alone in theworld. at last he went into the next room and wentto bed. he slept almost immediately, but keptwaking every now and again. then he went sound asleep. he started awake at annie's whispered,"paul, paul!" he saw his sister in her white nightdress,with her long plait of hair down her back, standing in the darkness. "yes?" he whispered, sitting up."come and look at her." he slipped out of bed.a bud of gas was burning in the sick
chamber. his mother lay with her cheek on her hand,curled up as she had gone to sleep. but her mouth had fallen open, and shebreathed with great, hoarse breaths, like snoring, and there were long intervalsbetween. "she's going!" he whispered. "yes," said annie."how long has she been like it?" "i only just woke up."annie huddled into the dressing-gown, paul wrapped himself in a brown blanket. it was three o'clock.he mended the fire.
then the two sat waiting.the great, snoring breath was taken--held awhile--then given back. there was a space--a long space.then they started. the great, snoring breath was taken again.he bent close down and looked at her. "isn't it awful!" whispered annie. he nodded.they sat down again helplessly. again came the great, snoring breath.again they hung suspended. again it was given back, long and harsh. the sound, so irregular, at such wideintervals, sounded through the house.
morel, in his room, slept on.paul and annie sat crouched, huddled, motionless. the great snoring sound began again--therewas a painful pause while the breath was held--back came the rasping breath.minute after minute passed. paul looked at her again, bending low overher. "she may last like this," he said.they were both silent. he looked out of the window, and couldfaintly discern the snow on the garden. "you go to my bed," he said to annie."i'll sit up." "no," she said, "i'll stop with you."
"i'd rather you didn't," he said.at last annie crept out of the room, and he was alone.he hugged himself in his brown blanket, crouched in front of his mother, watching. she looked dreadful, with the bottom jawfallen back. he watched.sometimes he thought the great breath would never begin again. he could not bear it--the waiting.then suddenly, startling him, came the great harsh sound.he mended the fire again, noiselessly. she must not be disturbed.
the minutes went by.the night was going, breath by breath. each time the sound came he felt it wringhim, till at last he could not feel so much. his father got up.paul heard the miner drawing his stockings on, yawning.then morel, in shirt and stockings, entered. "hush!" said paul.morel stood watching. then he looked at his son, helplessly, andin horror. "had i better stop a-whoam?" he whispered.
"no. go to work.she'll last through to-morrow." "i don't think so.""yes. go to work." the miner looked at her again, in fear, andwent obediently out of the room. paul saw the tape of his garters swingingagainst his legs. after another half-hour paul wentdownstairs and drank a cup of tea, then returned.morel, dressed for the pit, came upstairs again. "am i to go?" he said."yes."
and in a few minutes paul heard hisfather's heavy steps go thudding over the deadening snow. miners called in the streets as theytramped in gangs to work. the terrible, long-drawn breaths continued--heave--heave--heave; then a long pause-- then--ah-h-h-h-h! as it came back. far away over the snow sounded the hootersof the ironworks. one after another they crowed and boomed,some small and far away, some near, the blowers of the collieries and the otherworks. then there was silence.
he mended the fire.the great breaths broke the silence--she looked just the same.he put back the blind and peered out. still it was dark. perhaps there was a lighter tinge.perhaps the snow was bluer. he drew up the blind and got dressed.then, shuddering, he drank brandy from the bottle on the wash-stand. the snow was growing blue.he heard a cart clanking down the street. yes, it was seven o'clock, and it wascoming a little bit light. he heard some people calling.
the world was waking.a grey, deathly dawn crept over the snow. yes, he could see the houses.he put out the gas. it seemed very dark. the breathing came still, but he was almostused to it. he could see her.she was just the same. he wondered if he piled heavy clothes ontop of her it would stop. he looked at her.that was not her--not her a bit. if he piled the blanket and heavy coats onher-- suddenly the door opened, and annieentered.
she looked at him questioningly. "just the same," he said calmly.they whispered together a minute, then he went downstairs to get breakfast.it was twenty to eight. soon annie came down. "isn't it awful!doesn't she look awful!" she whispered, dazed with horror.he nodded. "if she looks like that!" said annie. "drink some tea," he said.they went upstairs again. soon the neighbours came with theirfrightened question:
"how is she?" it went on just the same.she lay with her cheek in her hand, her mouth fallen open, and the great, ghastlysnores came and went. at ten o'clock nurse came. she looked strange and woebegone."nurse," cried paul, "she'll last like this for days?""she can't, mr. morel," said nurse. "she can't." there was a silence."isn't it dreadful!" wailed the nurse. "who would have thought she could stand it?go down now, mr. morel, go down."
at last, at about eleven o'clock, he wentdownstairs and sat in the neighbour's house.annie was downstairs also. nurse and arthur were upstairs. paul sat with his head in his hand.suddenly annie came flying across the yard crying, half mad:"paul--paul--she's gone!" in a second he was back in his own houseand upstairs. she lay curled up and still, with her faceon her hand, and nurse was wiping her mouth. they all stood back.he kneeled down, and put his face to hers
and his arms round her:"my love--my love--oh, my love!" he whispered again and again. "my love--oh, my love!"then he heard the nurse behind him, crying, saying:"she's better, mr. morel, she's better." when he took his face up from his warm,dead mother he went straight downstairs and began blacking his boots.there was a good deal to do, letters to write, and so on. the doctor came and glanced at her, andsighed. "ay--poor thing!" he said, then turnedaway.
"well, call at the surgery about six forthe certificate." the father came home from work at aboutfour o'clock. he dragged silently into the house and satdown. minnie bustled to give him his dinner.tired, he laid his black arms on the table. there were swede turnips for his dinner,which he liked. paul wondered if he knew.it was some time, and nobody had spoken. at last the son said: "you noticed the blinds were down?"morel looked up. "no," he said."why--has she gone?"
"when wor that?""about twelve this morning." "h'm!"the miner sat still for a moment, then began his dinner. it was as if nothing had happened.he ate his turnips in silence. afterwards he washed and went upstairs todress. the door of her room was shut. "have you seen her?"annie asked of him when he came down. "no," he said.in a little while he went out. annie went away, and paul called on theundertaker, the clergyman, the doctor, the
registrar.it was a long business. he got back at nearly eight o'clock. the undertaker was coming soon to measurefor the coffin. the house was empty except for her.he took a candle and went upstairs. the room was cold, that had been warm forso long. flowers, bottles, plates, all sick-roomlitter was taken away; everything was harsh and austere. she lay raised on the bed, the sweep of thesheet from the raised feet was like a clean curve of snow, so silent.she lay like a maiden asleep.
with his candle in his hand, he bent overher. she lay like a girl asleep and dreaming ofher love. the mouth was a little open as if wonderingfrom the suffering, but her face was young, her brow clear and white as if life hadnever touched it. he looked again at the eyebrows, at thesmall, winsome nose a bit on one side. she was young again. only the hair as it arched so beautifullyfrom her temples was mixed with silver, and the two simple plaits that lay on hershoulders were filigree of silver and brown.
she would wake up.she would lift her eyelids. she was with him still.he bent and kissed her passionately. but there was coldness against his mouth. he bit his lips with horror.looking at her, he felt he could never, never let her go.no! he stroked the hair from her temples. that, too, was cold.he saw the mouth so dumb and wondering at the hurt.then he crouched on the floor, whispering to her:
"mother, mother!"he was still with her when the undertakers came, young men who had been to school withhim. they touched her reverently, and in aquiet, businesslike fashion. they did not look at her.he watched jealously. he and annie guarded her fiercely. they would not let anybody come to see her,and the neighbours were offended. after a while paul went out of the house,and played cards at a friend's. it was midnight when he got back. his father rose from the couch as heentered, saying in a plaintive way:
"i thought tha wor niver comin', lad.""i didn't think you'd sit up," said paul. his father looked so forlorn. morel had been a man without fear--simplynothing frightened him. paul realised with a start that he had beenafraid to go to bed, alone in the house with his dead. he was sorry."i forgot you'd be alone, father," he said. "dost want owt to eat?" asked morel."no." "sithee--i made thee a drop o' hot milk. get it down thee; it's cold enough forowt."
paul drank it.after a while morel went to bed. he hurried past the closed door, and lefthis own door open. soon the son came upstairs also.he went in to kiss her good-night, as usual. it was cold and dark.he wished they had kept her fire burning. still she dreamed her young dream.but she would be cold. "my dear!" he whispered. "my dear!"and he did not kiss her, for fear she should be cold and strange to him.it eased him she slept so beautifully.
he shut her door softly, not to wake her,and went to bed. in the morning morel summoned his courage,hearing annie downstairs and paul coughing in the room across the landing. he opened her door, and went into thedarkened room. he saw the white uplifted form in thetwilight, but her he dared not see. bewildered, too frightened to possess anyof his faculties, he got out of the room again and left her.he never looked at her again. he had not seen her for months, because hehad not dared to look. and she looked like his young wife again."have you seen her?"
annie asked of him sharply after breakfast. "yes," he said."and don't you think she looks nice?" "yes."he went out of the house soon after. and all the time he seemed to be creepingaside to avoid it. paul went about from place to place, doingthe business of the death. he met clara in nottingham, and they hadtea together in a cafe, when they were quite jolly again.she was infinitely relieved to find he did not take it tragically. later, when the relatives began to come forthe funeral, the affair became public, and
the children became social beings.they put themselves aside. they buried her in a furious storm of rainand wind. the wet clay glistened, all the whiteflowers were soaked. annie gripped his arm and leaned forward. down below she saw a dark corner ofwilliam's coffin. the oak box sank steadily.she was gone. the rain poured in the grave. the procession of black, with its umbrellasglistening, turned away. the cemetery was deserted under thedrenching cold rain.
paul went home and busied himself supplyingthe guests with drinks. his father sat in the kitchen with mrs.morel's relatives, "superior" people, and wept, and said what a good lass she'd been,and how he'd tried to do everything he could for her--everything. he had striven all his life to do what hecould for her, and he'd nothing to reproach himself with.she was gone, but he'd done his best for her. he wiped his eyes with his whitehandkerchief. he'd nothing to reproach himself for, herepeated.
all his life he'd done his best for her. and that was how he tried to dismiss her.he never thought of her personally. everything deep in him he denied.paul hated his father for sitting sentimentalising over her. he knew he would do it in the public-houses. for the real tragedy went on in morel inspite of himself. sometimes, later, he came down from hisafternoon sleep, white and cowering. "i have been dreaming of thy mother," hesaid in a small voice. "have you, father?
when i dream of her it's always just as shewas when she was well. i dream of her often, but it seems quitenice and natural, as if nothing had altered." but morel crouched in front of the fire interror. the weeks passed half-real, not much pain,not much of anything, perhaps a little relief, mostly a nuit blanche. paul went restless from place to place.for some months, since his mother had been worse, he had not made love to clara.she was, as it were, dumb to him, rather distant.
dawes saw her very occasionally, but thetwo could not get an inch across the great distance between them.the three of them were drifting forward. dawes mended very slowly. he was in the convalescent home at skegnessat christmas, nearly well again. paul went to the seaside for a few days.his father was with annie in sheffield. dawes came to paul's lodgings. his time in the home was up.the two men, between whom was such a big reserve, seemed faithful to each other.dawes depended on morel now. he knew paul and clara had practicallyseparated.
two days after christmas paul was to goback to nottingham. the evening before he sat with dawessmoking before the fire. "you know clara's coming down for the dayto-morrow?" he said. the other man glanced at him. "yes, you told me," he replied.paul drank the remainder of his glass of whisky."i told the landlady your wife was coming," "did you?" said dawes, shrinking, butalmost leaving himself in the other's hands.he got up rather stiffly, and reached for morel's glass.
"let me fill you up," he said.paul jumped up. "you sit still," he said.but dawes, with rather shaky hand, continued to mix the drink. "say when," he said."thanks!" replied the other. "but you've no business to get up.""it does me good, lad," replied dawes. "i begin to think i'm right again, then." "you are about right, you know.""i am, certainly i am," said dawes, nodding to him."and len says he can get you on in sheffield."
dawes glanced at him again, with dark eyesthat agreed with everything the other would say, perhaps a trifle dominated by him."it's funny," said paul, "starting again. i feel in a lot bigger mess than you." "in what way, lad?""i don't know. i don't know. it's as if i was in a tangled sort of hole,rather dark and dreary, and no road anywhere.""i know--i understand it," dawes said, nodding. "but you'll find it'll come all right."he spoke caressingly.
"i suppose so," said paul.dawes knocked his pipe in a hopeless fashion. "you've not done for yourself like i have,"he said. morel saw the wrist and the white hand ofthe other man gripping the stem of the pipe and knocking out the ash, as if he hadgiven up. "how old are you?" paul asked."thirty-nine," replied dawes, glancing at him. those brown eyes, full of the consciousnessof failure, almost pleading for
reassurance, for someone to re-establishthe man in himself, to warm him, to set him up firm again, troubled paul. "you'll just be in your prime," said morel."you don't look as if much life had gone out of you."the brown eyes of the other flashed suddenly. "it hasn't," he said."the go is there." paul looked up and laughed."we've both got plenty of life in us yet to make things fly," he said. the eyes of the two men met.they exchanged one look.
having recognised the stress of passioneach in the other, they both drank their whisky. "yes, begod!" said dawes, breathless.there was a pause. "and i don't see," said paul, "why youshouldn't go on where you left off." "what--" said dawes, suggestively. "yes--fit your old home together again."dawes hid his face and shook his head. "couldn't be done," he said, and looked upwith an ironic smile. "why? because you don't want?""perhaps."
they smoked in silence.dawes showed his teeth as he bit his pipe stem. "you mean you don't want her?" asked paul.dawes stared up at the picture with a caustic expression on his face."i hardly know," he said. the smoke floated softly up. "i believe she wants you," said paul."do you?" replied the other, soft, satirical, abstract."yes. she never really hitched on to me--you werealways there in the background. that's why she wouldn't get a divorce."
dawes continued to stare in a satiricalfashion at the picture over the mantelpiece."that's how women are with me," said paul. "they want me like mad, but they don't wantto belong to me. and she belonged to you all the time.i knew." the triumphant male came up in dawes. he showed his teeth more distinctly."perhaps i was a fool," he said. "you were a big fool," said morel."but perhaps even then you were a bigger fool," said dawes. there was a touch of triumph and malice init.
"do you think so?" said paul.they were silent for some time. "at any rate, i'm clearing out to-morrow,"said morel. "i see," answered dawes.then they did not talk any more. the instinct to murder each other hadreturned. they almost avoided each other.they shared the same bedroom. when they retired dawes seemed abstract,thinking of something. he sat on the side of the bed in his shirt,looking at his legs. "aren't you getting cold?" asked morel. "i was lookin' at these legs," replied theother.
"what's up with 'em?they look all right," replied paul, from his bed. "they look all right.but there's some water in 'em yet." "and what about it?""come and look." paul reluctantly got out of bed and went tolook at the rather handsome legs of the other man that were covered withglistening, dark gold hair. "look here," said dawes, pointing to hisshin. "look at the water under here.""where?" said paul. the man pressed in his finger-tips.
they left little dents that filled upslowly. "it's nothing," said paul."you feel," said dawes. paul tried with his fingers. it made little dents."h'm!" he said. "rotten, isn't it?" said dawes."why? it's nothing much." "you're not much of a man with water inyour legs." "i can't see as it makes any difference,"said morel. "i've got a weak chest."
he returned to his own bed."i suppose the rest of me's all right," said dawes, and he put out the light.in the morning it was raining. morel packed his bag. the sea was grey and shaggy and dismal.he seemed to be cutting himself off from life more and more.it gave him a wicked pleasure to do it. the two men were at the station. clara stepped out of the train, and camealong the platform, very erect and coldly composed.she wore a long coat and a tweed hat. both men hated her for her composure.
paul shook hands with her at the barrier.dawes was leaning against the bookstall, watching.his black overcoat was buttoned up to the chin because of the rain. he was pale, with almost a touch ofnobility in his quietness. he came forward, limping slightly."you ought to look better than this," she said. "oh, i'm all right now."the three stood at a loss. she kept the two men hesitating near her."shall we go to the lodging straight off," said paul, "or somewhere else?"
"we may as well go home," said dawes.paul walked on the outside of the pavement, then dawes, then clara.they made polite conversation. the sitting-room faced the sea, whose tide,grey and shaggy, hissed not far off. morel swung up the big arm-chair."sit down, jack," he said. "i don't want that chair," said dawes. "sit down!"morel repeated. clara took off her things and laid them onthe couch. she had a slight air of resentment. lifting her hair with her fingers, she satdown, rather aloof and composed.
paul ran downstairs to speak to thelandlady. "i should think you're cold," said dawes tohis wife. "come nearer to the fire.""thank you, i'm quite warm," she answered. she looked out of the window at the rainand at the sea. "when are you going back?" she asked."well, the rooms are taken until to-morrow, so he wants me to stop. he's going back to-night.""and then you're thinking of going to sheffield?""yes." "are you fit to start work?"
"i'm going to start.""you've really got a place?" "yes--begin on monday.""you don't look fit." "why don't i?" she looked again out of the window insteadof answering. "and have you got lodgings in sheffield?""yes." again she looked away out of the window. the panes were blurred with streaming rain."and can you manage all right?" she asked. "i s'd think so.i s'll have to!" they were silent when morel returned.
"i shall go by the four-twenty," he said ashe entered. nobody answered."i wish you'd take your boots off," he said to clara. "there's a pair of slippers of mine.""thank you," she said. "they aren't wet."he put the slippers near her feet. she left them there. morel sat down.both the men seemed helpless, and each of them had a rather hunted look. but dawes now carried himself quietly,seemed to yield himself, while paul seemed
to screw himself up.clara thought she had never seen him look so small and mean. he was as if trying to get himself into thesmallest possible compass. and as he went about arranging, and as hesat talking, there seemed something false about him and out of tune. watching him unknown, she said to herselfthere was no stability about him. he was fine in his way, passionate, andable to give her drinks of pure life when he was in one mood. and now he looked paltry and insignificant.there was nothing stable about him.
her husband had more manly dignity.at any rate he did not waft about with any wind. there was something evanescent about morel,she thought, something shifting and false. he would never make sure ground for anywoman to stand on. she despised him rather for his shrinkingtogether, getting smaller. her husband at least was manly, and when hewas beaten gave in. but this other would never own to beingbeaten. he would shift round and round, prowl, getsmaller. she despised him.
and yet she watched him rather than dawes,and it seemed as if their three fates lay in his hands.she hated him for it. she seemed to understand better now aboutmen, and what they could or would do. she was less afraid of them, more sure ofherself. that they were not the small egoists shehad imagined them made her more comfortable.she had learned a good deal--almost as much as she wanted to learn. her cup had been full.it was still as full as she could carry. on the whole, she would not be sorry whenhe was gone.
they had dinner, and sat eating nuts anddrinking by the fire. not a serious word had been spoken. yet clara realised that morel waswithdrawing from the circle, leaving her the option to stay with her husband.it angered her. he was a mean fellow, after all, to takewhat he wanted and then give her back. she did not remember that she herself hadhad what she wanted, and really, at the bottom of her heart, wished to be givenback. paul felt crumpled up and lonely. his mother had really supported his life.he had loved her; they two had, in fact,
faced the world together. now she was gone, and for ever behind himwas the gap in life, the tear in the veil, through which his life seemed to driftslowly, as if he were drawn towards death. he wanted someone of their own freeinitiative to help him. the lesser things he began to let go fromhim, for fear of this big thing, the lapse towards death, following in the wake of hisbeloved. clara could not stand for him to hold onto. she wanted him, but not to understand him.he felt she wanted the man on top, not the real him that was in trouble.
that would be too much trouble to her; hedared not give it her. she could not cope with him.it made him ashamed. so, secretly ashamed because he was in sucha mess, because his own hold on life was so unsure, because nobody held him, feelingunsubstantial, shadowy, as if he did not count for much in this concrete world, hedrew himself together smaller and smaller. he did not want to die; he would not givein. but he was not afraid of death. if nobody would help, he would go on alone.dawes had been driven to the extremity of life, until he was afraid.he could go to the brink of death, he could
lie on the edge and look in. then, cowed, afraid, he had to crawl back,and like a beggar take what offered. there was a certain nobility in it.as clara saw, he owned himself beaten, and he wanted to be taken back whether or not. that she could do for him.it was three o'clock. "i am going by the four-twenty," said paulagain to clara. "are you coming then or later?" "i don't know," she said."i'm meeting my father in nottingham at seven-fifteen," he said."then," she answered, "i'll come later."
dawes jerked suddenly, as if he had beenheld on a strain. he looked out over the sea, but he sawnothing. "there are one or two books in the corner,"said morel. "i've done with 'em."at about four o'clock he went. "i shall see you both later," he said, ashe shook hands. "i suppose so," said dawes."an' perhaps--one day--i s'll be able to pay you back the money as--" "i shall come for it, you'll see," laughedpaul. "i s'll be on the rocks before i'm verymuch older."
"ay--well--" said dawes. "good-bye," he said to clara."good-bye," she said, giving him her hand. then she glanced at him for the last time,dumb and humble. he was gone. dawes and his wife sat down again."it's a nasty day for travelling," said the man."yes," she answered. they talked in a desultory fashion until itgrew dark. the landlady brought in the tea.dawes drew up his chair to the table without being invited, like a husband.
then he sat humbly waiting for his cup.she served him as she would, like a wife, not consulting his wish.after tea, as it drew near to six o'clock, he went to the window. all was dark outside.the sea was roaring. "it's raining yet," he said."is it?" she answered. "you won't go to-night, shall you?" hesaid, hesitating. she did not answer.he waited. "i shouldn't go in this rain," he said. "do you want me to stay?" she asked.his hand as he held the dark curtain
trembled."yes," he said. he remained with his back to her. she rose and went slowly to him.he let go the curtain, turned, hesitating, towards her. she stood with her hands behind her back,looking up at him in a heavy, inscrutable fashion."do you want me, baxter?" she asked. his voice was hoarse as he answered: "do you want to come back to me?"she made a moaning noise, lifted her arms, and put them round his neck, drawing him toher.
he hid his face on her shoulder, holdingher clasped. "take me back!" she whispered, ecstatic."take me back, take me back!" and she put her fingers through his fine,thin dark hair, as if she were only semi- conscious.he tightened his grasp on her. "do you want me again?" he murmured,broken.