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Chapter 1 The Early Married Life Of the Morels
"THE BOTTOMS" succeeded to "Hell Row". Hell Row was a block of thatched, bulging cottages that stood by the brookside on Greenhill Lane. There lived the colliers who worked in the little gin-pits two fields away. The brook ran under the alder trees, scarcely soiled by these small mines, whose coal was drawn to the surface by donkeys that plodded wearily in a circle round a gin. And all over the countryside were these same pits, some of which had been worked in the time of Charles II, the few colliers and the donkeys burrowing down like ants into the earth, making queer mounds and little black places among the corn-fields and the meadows. And the cottages of these coal-miners, in blocks and pairs here and there, together with odd farms and homes of the stockingers, straying over the parish, formed the village of Bestwood.

Then, some sixty years ago, a sudden change took place. The gin-pits were elbowed aside by the large mines of the financiers. The coal and iron field of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire was discovered. Carston, Waite and Co. appeared. Amid tremendous excitement, Lord Palmerston formally opened the company's first mine at Spinney Park, on the edge of Sherwood Forest.

About this time the notorious Hell Row, which through growing old had acquired an evil reputation, was burned down, and much dirt was cleansed away.

Carston, Waite & Co. found they had struck on a good thing, so, down the valleys of the brooks from Selby and Nuttall, new mines were sunk, until soon there were six pits working. From Nuttall, high up on the sandstone among the woods, the railway ran, past the ruined priory of the Carthusians and past Robin Hood's Well, down to Spinney Park, then on to Minton, a large mine among corn-fields; from Minton across the farmlands of the valleyside to Bunker's Hill, branching off there, and running north to Beggarlee and Selby, that looks over at Crich and the hills of Derbyshire: six mines like black studs on the countryside, linked by a loop of fine chain, the railway.

To accommodate the regiments of miners, Carston, Waite and Co. built the Squares, great quadrangles of dwellings on the hillside of Bestwood, and then, in the brook valley, on the site of Hell Row, they erected the Bottoms.

The Bottoms consisted of six blocks of miners' dwellings, two rows of three, like the dots on a blank-six domino, and twelve houses in a block. This double row of dwellings sat at the foot of the rather sharp slope from Bestwood, and looked out, from the attic windows at least, on the slow climb of the valley towards Selby.

The houses themselves were substantial and very decent. One could walk all round, seeing little front gardens with auriculas and saxifrage in the shadow of the bottom block, sweet-williams and pinks in the sunny top block; seeing neat front windows, little porches, little privet hedges, and dormer windows for the attics. But that was outside; that was the view on to the uninhabited parlours of all the colliers' wives. The dwelling-room, the kitchen, was at the back of the house, facing inward between the blocks, looking at a scrubby back garden, and then at the ash-pits. And between the rows, between the long lines of ash-pits, went the alley, where the children played and the women gossiped and the men smoked. So, the actual conditions of living in the Bottoms, that was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that nasty alley of ash-pits.

Mrs. Morel was not anxious to move into the Bottoms, which was already twelve years old and on the downward path, when she descended to it from Bestwood. But it was the best she could do. Moreover, she had an end house in one of the top blocks, and thus had only one neighbour; on the other side an extra strip of garden. And, having an end house, she enjoyed a kind of aristocracy among the other women of the "between" houses, because her rent was five shillings and sixpence instead of five shillings a week. But this superiority in station was not much consolation to Mrs. Morel.

She was thirty-one years old, and had been married eight years. A rather small woman, of delicate mould but resolute bearing, she shrank a little from the first contact with the Bottoms women. She came down in the July, and in the September expected her third baby.

Her husband was a miner. They had only been in their new home three weeks when the wakes, or fair, began. Morel, she knew, was sure to make a holiday of it. He went off early on the Monday morning, the day of the fair. The two children were highly excited. William, a boy of seven, fled off immediately after breakfast, to prowl round the wakes ground, leaving Annie, who was only five, to whine all morning to go also. Mrs. Morel did her work. She scarcely knew her neighbours yet, and knew no one with whom to trust the little girl. So she promised to take her to the wakes after dinner.

William appeared at half-past twelve. He was a very active lad, fair-haired, freckled, with a touch of the Dane or Norwegian about him.

"Can I have my dinner, mother?" he cried, rushing in with his cap on. "'Cause it begins at half-past one, the man says so."

"You can have your dinner as soon as it's done," replied the mother.

"Isn't it done?" he cried, his blue eyes staring at her in indignation. "Then I'm goin' be-out it."

"You'll do nothing of the sort. It will be done in five minutes. It is only half-past twelve."

"They'll be beginnin'," the boy half cried, half shouted.

"You won't die if they do," said the mother. "Besides, it's only half-past twelve, so you've a full hour."

The lad began hastily to lay the table, and directly the three sat down. They were eating batter-pudding and jam, when the boy jumped off his chair and stood perfectly stiff. Some distance away could be heard the first small braying of a merry-go-round, and the tooting of a horn. His face quivered as he looked at his mother.

"I told you!" he said, running to the dresser for his cap.

"Take your pudding in your hand--and it's only five past one, so you were wrong--you haven't got your twopence," cried the mother in a breath.

The boy came back, bitterly disappointed, for his twopence, then went off without a word.

"I want to go, I want to go," said Annie, beginning to cry.

"Well, and you shall go, whining, wizzening little stick!" said the mother. And later in the afternoon she trudged up the hill under the tall hedge with her child. The hay was gathered from the fields, and cattle were turned on to the eddish. It was warm, peaceful.

Mrs. Morel did not like the wakes. There were two sets of horses, one going by steam, one pulled round by a pony; three organs were grinding, and there came odd cracks of pistol-shots, fearful screeching of the cocoanut man's rattle, shouts of the Aunt Sally man, screeches from the peep-show lady. The mother perceived her son gazing enraptured outside the Lion Wallace booth, at the pictures of this famous lion that had killed a negro and maimed for life two white men. She left him alone, and went to get Annie a spin of toffee. Presently the lad stood in front of her, wildly excited.

"You never said you was coming--isn't the' a lot of things?that lion's killed three men-l've spent my tuppence-an' look here."

He pulled from his pocket two egg-cups, with pink moss-roses on them.

"I got these from that stall where y'ave ter get them marbles in them holes. An' I got these two in two goes-'aepenny a go-they've got moss-roses on, look here. I wanted these."

She knew he wanted them for her.

"H'm!" she said, pleased. "They ARE pretty!"

"Shall you carry 'em, 'cause I'm frightened o' breakin' 'em?"

He was tipful of excitement now she had come, led her about the ground, showed her everything. Then, at the peep-show, she explained the pictures, in a sort of story, to which he listened as if spellbound. He would not leave her. All the time he stuck close to her, bristling with a small boy's pride of her. For no other woman looked such a lady as she did, in her little black bonnet and her cloak. She smiled when she saw women she knew. When she was tired she said to her son:

"Well, are you coming now, or later?"

"Are you goin' a'ready?" he cried, his face full of reproach.

"Already? It is past four, I know."

"What are you goin' a'ready for?" he lamented.

"You needn't come if you don't want," she said.

And she went slowly away with her little girl, whilst her son stood watching her, cut to the heart to let her go, and yet unable to leave the wakes. As she crossed the open ground in front of the Moon and Stars she heard men shouting, and smelled the beer, and hurried a little, thinking her husband was probably in the bar.

At about half-past six her son came home, tired now, rather pale, and somewhat wretched. He was miserable, though he did not know it, because he had let her go alone. Since she had gone, he had not enjoyed his wakes.

"Has my dad been?" he asked.

"No," said the mother.

"He's helping to wait at the Moon and Stars. I seed him through that black tin stuff wi' holes in, on the window, wi' his sleeves rolled up."

"Ha!" exclaimed the mother shortly. "He's got no money. An' he'll be satisfied if he gets his 'lowance, whether they give him more or not."

When the light was fading, and Mrs. Morel could see no more to sew, she rose and went to the door. Everywhere was the sound of excitement, the restlessness of the holiday, that at last infected her. She went out into the side garden. Women were coming home from the wakes, the children hugging a white lamb with green legs, or a wooden horse. Occasionally a man lurched past, almost as full as he could carry. Sometimes a good husband came along with his family, peacefully. But usually the women and children were alone. The stay-at-home mothers stood gossiping at the corners of the alley, as the twilight sank, folding their arms under their white aprons.

Mrs. Morel was alone, but she was used to it. Her son and her little girl slept upstairs; so, it seemed, her home was there behind her, fixed and stable. But she felt wretched with the coming child. The world seemed a dreary place, where nothing else would happen for her--at least until William grew up. But for herself, nothing but this dreary endurance--till the children grew up. And the children! She could not afford to have this third. She did not want it. The father was serving beer in a public house, swilling himself drunk. She despised him, and was tied to him. This coming child was too much for her. If it were not for William and Annie, she was sick of it, the struggle with poverty and ugliness and meanness.

She went into the front garden, feeling too heavy to take herself out, yet unable to stay indoors. The heat suffocated her. And looking ahead, the prospect of her life made her feel as if she were buried alive.

The front garden was a small square with a privet hedge. There she stood, trying to soothe herself with the scent of flowers and the fading, beautiful evening. Opposite her small gate was the stile that led uphill, under the tall hedge between the burning glow of the cut pastures. The sky overhead throbbed and pulsed with light. The glow sank quickly off the field; the earth and the hedges smoked dusk. As it grew dark, a ruddy glare came out on the hilltop, and out of the glare the diminished commotion of the fair.

Sometimes, down the trough of darkness formed by the path under the hedges, men came lurching home. One young man lapsed into a run down the steep bit that ended the hill, and went with a crash into the stile. Mrs. Morel shuddered. He picked himself up, swearing viciously, rather pathetically, as if he thought the stile had wanted to hurt him.

She went indoors, wondering if things were never going to alter. She was beginning by now to realise that they would not. She seemed so far away from her girlhood, she wondered if it were the same person walking heavily up the back garden at the Bottoms as had run so lightly up the breakwater at Sheerness ten years before.

"What have I to do with it?" she said to herself. "What have I to do with all this? Even the child I am going to have! It doesn't seem as if I were taken into account."

Sometimes life takes hold of one, carries the body along, accomplishes one's history, and yet is not real, but leaves oneself as it were slurred over.

"I wait," Mrs. Morel said to herself--"I wait, and what I wait for can never come."

Then she straightened the kitchen, lit the lamp, mended the fire, looked out the washing for the next day, and put it to soak. After which she sat down to her sewing. Through the long hours her needle flashed regularly through the stuff. Occasionally she sighed, moving to relieve herself. And all the time she was thinking how to make the most of what she had, for the children's sakes.

At half-past eleven her husband came. His cheeks were very red and very shiny above his black moustache. His head nodded slightly. He was pleased with himself.

"Oh! Oh! waitin' for me, lass? I've bin 'elpin' Anthony, an' what's think he's gen me? Nowt b'r a lousy hae'f-crown, an' that's ivry penny---"

"He thinks you've made the rest up in beer," she said shortly.

"An' I 'aven't--that I 'aven't. You b'lieve me, I've 'ad very little this day, I have an' all." His voice went tender. "Here, an' I browt thee a bit o' brandysnap, an' a cocoanut for th' children." He laid the gingerbread and the cocoanut, a hairy object, on the table. "Nay, tha niver said thankyer for nowt i' thy life, did ter?"

As a compromise, she picked up the cocoanut and shook it, to see if it had any milk.

"It's a good 'un, you may back yer life o' that. I got it fra' Bill Hodgkisson. 'Bill,' I says, 'tha non wants them three nuts, does ter? Arena ter for gi'ein' me one for my bit of a lad an' wench?' 'I ham, Walter, my lad,' 'e says; 'ta'e which on 'em ter's a mind.' An' so I took one, an' thanked 'im. I didn't like ter shake it afore 'is eyes, but 'e says, 'Tha'd better ma'e sure it's a good un, Walt.' An' so, yer see, I knowed it was. He's a nice chap, is Bill Hodgkisson, e's a nice chap!"

"A man will part with anything so long as he's drunk, and you're drunk along with him," said Mrs. Morel.

"Eh, tha mucky little 'ussy, who's drunk, I sh'd like ter know?" said Morel. He was extraordinarily pleased with himself, because of his day's helping to wait in the Moon and Stars. He chattered on.

Mrs. Morel, very tired, and sick of his babble, went to bed as quickly as possible, while he raked the fire.

Mrs. Morel came of a good old burgher family, famous independents who had fought with Colonel Hutchinson, and who remained stout Congregationalists. Her grandfather had gone bankrupt in the lace-market at a time when so many lace-manufacturers were ruined in Nottingham. Her father, George Coppard, was an engineer--a large, handsome, haughty man, proud of his fair skin and blue eyes, but more proud still of his integrity. Gertrude resembled her mother in her small build. But her temper, proud and unyielding, she had from the Coppards.

George Coppard was bitterly galled by his own poverty. He became foreman of the engineers in the dockyard at Sheerness. Mrs. Morel--Gertrude--was the second daughter. She favoured her mother, loved her mother best of all; but she had the Coppards' clear, defiant blue eyes and their broad brow. She remembered to have hated her father's overbearing manner towards her gentle, humorous, kindly-souled mother. She remembered running over the breakwater at Sheerness and finding the boat. She remembered to have been petted and flattered by all the men when she had gone to the dockyard, for she was a delicate, rather proud child. She remembered the funny old mistress, whose assistant she had become, whom she had loved to help in the private school. And she still had the Bible that John Field had given her. She used to walk home from chapel with John Field when she was nineteen. He was the son of a well-to-do tradesman, had been to college in London, and was to devote himself to business.

She could always recall in detail a September Sunday afternoon, when they had sat under the vine at the back of her father's house. The sun came through the chinks of the vine-leaves and made beautiful patterns, like a lace scarf, falling on her and on him. Some of the leaves were clean yellow, like yellow flat flowers.

"Now sit still," he had cried. "Now your hair, I don't know what it IS like! It's as bright as copper and gold, as red as burnt copper, and it has gold threads where the sun shines on it. Fancy their saying it's brown. Your mother calls it mouse-colour."

She had met his brilliant eyes, but her clear face scarcely showed the elation which rose within her.

"But you say you don't like business," she pursued.

"I don't. I hate it!" he cried hotly.

"And you would like to go into the ministry," she half implored.

"I should. I should love it, if I thought I could make a first-rate preacher."

"Then why don't you--why DON'T you?" Her voice rang with defiance. "If I were a man, nothing would stop me."

She held her head erect. He was rather timid before her.

"But my father's so stiff-necked. He means to put me into the business, and I know he'll do it."

"But if you're a MAN?" she had cried.

"Being a man isn't everything," he replied, frowning with puzzled helplessness.

Now, as she moved about her work at the Bottoms, with some experience of what being a man meant, she knew that it was NOT everything.

At twenty, owing to her health, she had left Sheerness. Her father had retired home to Nottingham. John Field's father had been ruined; the son had gone as a teacher in Norwood. She did not hear of him until, two years later, she made determined inquiry. He had married his landlady, a woman of forty, a widow with property.

And still Mrs. Morel preserved John Field's Bible. She did not now believe him to be--- Well, she understood pretty well what he might or might not have been. So she preserved his Bible, and kept his memory intact in her heart, for her own sake. To her dying day, for thirty-five years, she did not speak of him.

When she was twenty-three years old, she met, at a Christmas party, a young man from the Erewash Valley. Morel was then twenty-seven years old. He was well set-up, erect, and very smart. He had wavy black hair that shone again, and a vigorous black beard that had never been shaved. His cheeks were ruddy, and his red, moist mouth was noticeable because he laughed so often and so heartily. He had that rare thing, a rich, ringing laugh. Gertrude Coppard had watched him, fascinated. He was so full of colour and animation, his voice ran so easily into comic grotesque, he was so ready and so pleasant with everybody. Her own father had a rich fund of humour, but it was satiric. This man's was different: soft, non-intellectual, warm, a kind of gambolling.

She herself was opposite. She had a curious, receptive mind which found much pleasure and amusement in listening to other folk. She was clever in leading folk to talk. She loved ideas, and was considered very intellectual. What she liked most of all was an argument on religion or philosophy or politics with some educated man. This she did not often enjoy. So she always had people tell her about themselves, finding her pleasure so.

In her person she was rather small and delicate, with a large brow, and dropping bunches of brown silk curls. Her blue eyes were very straight, honest, and searching. She had the beautiful hands of the Coppards. Her dress was always subdued. She wore dark blue silk, with a peculiar silver chain of silver scallops. This, and a heavy brooch of twisted gold, was her only ornament. She was still perfectly intact, deeply religious, and full of beautiful candour.

Walter Morel seemed melted away before her. She was to the miner that thing of mystery and fascination, a lady. When she spoke to him, it was with a southern pronunciation and a purity of English which thrilled him to hear. She watched him. He danced well, as if it were natural and joyous in him to dance. His grandfather was a French refugee who had married an English barmaid--if it had been a marriage. Gertrude Coppard watched the young miner as he danced, a certain subtle exultation like glamour in his movement, and his face the flower of his body, ruddy, with tumbled black hair, and laughing alike whatever partner he bowed above. She thought him rather wonderful, never having met anyone like him. Her father was to her the type of all men. And George Coppard, proud in his bearing, handsome, and rather bitter; who preferred theology in reading, and who drew near in sympathy only to one man, the Apostle Paul; who was harsh in government, and in familiarity ironic; who ignored all sensuous pleasure:--he was very different from the miner. Gertrude herself was rather contemptuous of dancing; she had not the slightest inclination towards that accomplishment, and had never learned even a Roger de Coverley. She was puritan, like her father, high-minded, and really stern. Therefore the dusky, golden softness of this man's sensuous flame of life, that flowed off his flesh like the flame from a candle, not baffled and gripped into incandescence by thought and spirit as her life was, seemed to her something wonderful, beyond her.

He came and bowed above her. A warmth radiated through her as if she had drunk wine.

"Now do come and have this one wi' me," he said caressively. "It's easy, you know. I'm pining to see you dance."

She had told him before she could not dance. She glanced at his humility and smiled. Her smile was very beautiful. It moved the man so that he forgot everything.

"No, I won't dance," she said softly. Her words came clean and ringing.

Not knowing what he was doing--he often did the right thing by instinct--he sat beside her, inclining reverentially.

"But you mustn't miss your dance," she reproved.



"Nay, I don't want to dance that--it's not one as I care about."

"Yet you invited me to it."

He laughed very heartily at this.

"I never thought o' that. Tha'rt not long in taking the curl out of me."

It was her turn to laugh quickly.

"You don't look as if you'd come much uncurled," she said.

"I'm like a pig's tail, I curl because I canna help it," he laughed, rather boisterously.

"And you are a miner!" she exclaimed in surprise.

"Yes. I went down when I was ten."

She looked at him in wondering dismay.

"When you were ten! And wasn't it very hard?" she asked.

"You soon get used to it. You live like th' mice, an' you pop out at night to see what's going on."

"It makes me feel blind," she frowned.

"Like a moudiwarp!" he laughed. "Yi, an' there's some chaps as does go round like moudiwarps." He thrust his face forward in the blind, snout-like way of a mole, seeming to sniff and peer for direction. "They dun though!" he protested naively. "Tha niver seed such a way they get in. But tha mun let me ta'e thee down some time, an' tha can see for thysen."

She looked at him, startled. This was a new tract of life suddenly opened before her. She realised the life of the miners, hundreds of them toiling below earth and coming up at evening. He seemed to her noble. He risked his life daily, and with gaiety. She looked at him, with a touch of appeal in her pure humility.

"Shouldn't ter like it?" he asked tenderly. "'Appen not, it 'ud dirty thee."

She had never been "thee'd" and "thou'd" before.

The next Christmas they were married, and for three months she was perfectly happy: for six months she was very happy.

He had signed the pledge, and wore the blue ribbon of a tee-totaller: he was nothing if not showy. They lived, she thought, in his own house. It was small, but convenient enough, and quite nicely furnished, with solid, worthy stuff that suited her honest soul. The women, her neighbours, were rather foreign to her, and Morel's mother and sisters were apt to sneer at her ladylike ways. But she could perfectly well live by herself, so long as she had her husband close.

Sometimes, when she herself wearied of love-talk, she tried to open her heart seriously to him. She saw him listen deferentially, but without understanding. This killed her efforts at a finer intimacy, and she had flashes of fear. Sometimes he was restless of an evening: it was not enough for him just to be near her, she realised. She was glad when he set himself to little jobs.

He was a remarkably handy man--could make or mend anything. So she would say:

"I do like that coal-rake of your mother's--it is small and natty."

"Does ter, my wench? Well, I made that, so I can make thee one! "

"What! why, it's a steel one!"

"An' what if it is! Tha s'lt ha'e one very similar, if not exactly same."

She did not mind the mess, nor the hammering and noise. He was busy and happy.

But in the seventh month, when she was brushing his Sunday coat, she felt papers in the breast pocket, and, seized with a sudden curiosity, took them out to read. He very rarely wore the frock-coat he was married in: and it had not occurred to her before to feel curious concerning the papers. They were the bills of the household furniture, still unpaid.

"Look here," she said at night, after he was washed and had had his dinner. "I found these in the pocket of your wedding-coat. Haven't you settled the bills yet?"

"No. I haven't had a chance."

"But you told me all was paid. I had better go into Nottingham on Saturday and settle them. I don't like sitting on another man's chairs and eating from an unpaid table."

He did not answer.

"I can have your bank-book, can't I?"

"Tha can ha'e it, for what good it'll be to thee."

"I thought---" she began. He had told her he had a good bit of money left over. But she realised it was no use asking questions. She sat rigid with bitterness and indignation.

The next day she went down to see his mother.

"Didn't you buy the furniture for Walter?" she asked.

"Yes, I did," tartly retorted the elder woman.

"And how much did he give you to pay for it?"

The elder woman was stung with fine indignation.

"Eighty pound, if you're so keen on knowin'," she replied.

"Eighty pounds! But there are forty-two pounds still owing!"

"I can't help that."

"But where has it all gone?"

"You'll find all the papers, I think, if you look--beside ten pound as he owed me, an' six pound as the wedding cost down here."

"Six pounds!" echoed Gertrude Morel. It seemed to her monstrous that, after her own father had paid so heavily for her wedding, six pounds more should have been squandered in eating and drinking at Walter's parents' house, at his expense.

"And how much has he sunk in his houses?" she asked.

"His houses--which houses?"

Gertrude Morel went white to the lips. He had told her the house he lived in, and the next one, was his own.

"I thought the house we live in---" she began.

"They're my houses, those two," said the mother-in-law. "And not clear either. It's as much as I can do to keep the mortgage interest paid."

Gertrude sat white and silent. She was her father now.

"Then we ought to be paying you rent," she said coldly.

"Walter is paying me rent," replied the mother.

"And what rent?" asked Gertrude.

"Six and six a week," retorted the mother.

It was more than the house was worth. Gertrude held her head erect, looked straight before her.

"It is lucky to be you," said the elder woman, bitingly, "to have a husband as takes all the worry of the money, and leaves you a free hand."

The young wife was silent.

She said very little to her husband, but her manner had changed towards him. Something in her proud, honourable soul had crystallised out hard as rock.

When October came in, she thought only of Christmas. Two years ago, at Christmas, she had met him. Last Christmas she had married him. This Christmas she would bear him a child.

"You don't dance yourself, do you, missis?" asked her nearest neighbour, in October, when there was great talk of opening a dancing-class over the Brick and Tile Inn at Bestwood.

"No--I never had the least inclination to," Mrs. Morel replied.

"Fancy! An' how funny as you should ha' married your Mester. You know he's quite a famous one for dancing."

"I didn't know he was famous," laughed Mrs. Morel.

"Yea, he is though! Why, he ran that dancing-class in the Miners' Arms club-room for over five year."

"Did he?"

"Yes, he did." The other woman was defiant. "An' it was thronged every Tuesday, and Thursday, an' Sat'day--an' there WAS carryin's-on, accordin' to all accounts."

This kind of thing was gall and bitterness to Mrs. Morel, and she had a fair share of it. The women did not spare her, at first; for she was superior, though she could not help it.

He began to be rather late in coming home.

"They're working very late now, aren't they?" she said to her washer-woman.

"No later than they allers do, I don't think. But they stop to have their pint at Ellen's, an' they get talkin', an' there you are! Dinner stone cold--an' it serves 'em right."

"But Mr. Morel does not take any drink."

The woman dropped the clothes, looked at Mrs. Morel, then went on with her work, saying nothing.

Gertrude Morel was very ill when the boy was born. Morel was good to her, as good as gold. But she felt very lonely, miles away from her own people. She felt lonely with him now, and his presence only made it more intense.

The boy was small and frail at first, but he came on quickly. He was a beautiful child, with dark gold ringlets, and dark-blue eyes which changed gradually to a clear grey. His mother loved him passionately. He came just when her own bitterness of disillusion was hardest to bear; when her faith in life was shaken, and her soul felt dreary and lonely. She made much of the child, and the father was jealous.

At last Mrs. Morel despised her husband. She turned to the child; she turned from the father. He had begun to neglect her; the novelty of his own home was gone. He had no grit, she said bitterly to herself. What he felt just at the minute, that was all to him. He could not abide by anything. There was nothing at the back of all his show.

There began a battle between the husband and wife--a fearful, bloody battle that ended only with the death of one. She fought to make him undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfill his obligations. But he was too different from her. His nature was purely sensuous, and she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face things. He could not endure it--it drove him out of his mind.

While the baby was still tiny, the father's temper had become so irritable that it was not to be trusted. The child had only to give a little trouble when the man began to bully. A little more, and the hard hands of the collier hit the baby. Then Mrs. Morel loathed her husband, loathed him for days; and he went out and drank; and she cared very little what he did. Only, on his return, she scathed him with her satire.

The estrangement between them caused him, knowingly or unknowingly, grossly to offend her where he would not have done.

William was only one year old, and his mother was proud of him, he was so pretty. She was not well off now, but her sisters kept the boy in clothes. Then, with his little white hat curled with an ostrich feather, and his white coat, he was a joy to her, the twining wisps of hair clustering round his head. Mrs. Morel lay listening, one Sunday morning, to the chatter of the father and child downstairs. Then she dozed off. When she came downstairs, a great fire glowed in the grate, the room was hot, the breakfast was roughly laid, and seated in his armchair, against the chimney-piece, sat Morel, rather timid; and standing between his legs, the child--cropped like a sheep, with such an odd round poll--looking wondering at her; and on a newspaper spread out upon the hearthrug, a myriad of crescent-shaped curls, like the petals of a marigold scattered in the reddening firelight.

Mrs. Morel stood still. It was her first baby. She went very white, and was unable to speak.

"What dost think o' 'im?" Morel laughed uneasily.

She gripped her two fists, lifted them, and came forward. Morel shrank back.

"I could kill you, I could!" she said. She choked with rage, her two fists uplifted.

"Yer non want ter make a wench on 'im," Morel said, in a frightened tone, bending his head to shield his eyes from hers. His attempt at laughter had vanished.

The mother looked down at the jagged, close-clipped head of her child. She put her hands on his hair, and stroked and fondled his head.

"Oh--my boy!" she faltered. Her lip trembled, her face broke, and, snatching up the child, she buried her face in his shoulder and cried painfully. She was one of those women who cannot cry; whom it hurts as it hurts a man. It was like ripping something out of her, her sobbing.

Morel sat with his elbows on his knees, his hands gripped together till the knuckles were white. He gazed in the fire, feeling almost stunned, as if he could not breathe.

Presently she came to an end, soothed the child and cleared away the breakfast-table. She left the newspaper, littered with curls, spread upon the hearthrug. At last her husband gathered it up and put it at the back of the fire. She went about her work with closed mouth and very quiet. Morel was subdued. He crept about wretchedly, and his meals were a misery that day. She spoke to him civilly, and never alluded to what he had done. But he felt something final had happened.

Afterwards she said she had been silly, that the boy's hair would have had to be cut, sooner or later. In the end, she even brought herself to say to her husband it was just as well he had played barber when he did. But she knew, and Morel knew, that that act had caused something momentous to take place in her soul. She remembered the scene all her life, as one in which she had suffered the most intensely.

This act of masculine clumsiness was the spear through the side of her love for Morel. Before, while she had striven against him bitterly, she had fretted after him, as if he had gone astray from her. Now she ceased to fret for his love: he was an outsider to her. This made life much more bearable.

Nevertheless, she still continued to strive with him. She still had her high moral sense, inherited from generations of Puritans. It was now a religious instinct, and she was almost a fanatic with him, because she loved him, or had loved him. If he sinned, she tortured him. If he drank, and lied, was often a poltroon, sometimes a knave, she wielded the lash unmercifully.

The pity was, she was too much his opposite. She could not be content with the little he might be; she would have him the much that he ought to be. So, in seeking to make him nobler than he could be, she destroyed him. She injured and hurt and scarred herself, but she lost none of her worth. She also had the children.

He drank rather heavily, though not more than many miners, and always beer, so that whilst his health was affected, it was never injured. The week-end was his chief carouse. He sat in the Miners' Arms until turning-out time every Friday, every Saturday, and every Sunday evening. On Monday and Tuesday he had to get up and reluctantly leave towards ten o'clock. Sometimes he stayed at home on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, or was only out for an hour. He practically never had to miss work owing to his drinking.

But although he was very steady at work, his wages fell off. He was blab-mouthed, a tongue-wagger. Authority was hateful to him, therefore he could only abuse the pit-managers. He would say, in the Palmerston:

"Th' gaffer come down to our stall this morning, an' 'e says, 'You know, Walter, this 'ere'll not do. What about these props?' An' I says to him, 'Why, what art talkin' about? What d'st mean about th' props?' 'It'll never do, this 'ere,' 'e says. 'You'll be havin' th' roof in, one o' these days.' An' I says, 'Tha'd better stan' on a bit o' clunch, then, an' hold it up wi' thy 'ead.' So 'e wor that mad, 'e cossed an' 'e swore, an' t'other chaps they did laugh." Morel was a good mimic. He imitated the manager's fat, squeaky voice, with its attempt at good English.

"'I shan't have it, Walter. Who knows more about it, me or you?' So I says, 'I've niver fun out how much tha' knows, Alfred. It'll 'appen carry thee ter bed an' back."'

So Morel would go on to the amusement of his boon companions. And some of this would be true. The pit-manager was not an educated man. He had been a boy along with Morel, so that, while the two disliked each other, they more or less took each other for granted. But Alfred Charlesworth did not forgive the butty these public-house sayings. Consequently, although Morel was a good miner, sometimes earning as much as five pounds a week when he married, he came gradually to have worse and worse stalls, where the coal was thin, and hard to get, and unprofitable.

Also, in summer, the pits are slack. Often, on bright sunny mornings, the men are seen trooping home again at ten, eleven, or twelve o'clock. No empty trucks stand at the pit-mouth. The women on the hillside look across as they shake the hearthrug against the fence, and count the wagons the engine is taking along the line up the valley. And the children, as they come from school at dinner-time, looking down the fields and seeing the wheels on the headstocks standing, say:

"Minton's knocked off. My dad'll be at home."

And there is a sort of shadow over all, women and children and men, because money will be short at the end of the week.

Morel was supposed to give his wife thirty shillings a week, to provide everything--rent, food, clothes, clubs, insurance, doctors. Occasionally, if he were flush, he gave her thirty-five. But these occasions by no means balanced those when he gave her twenty-five. In winter, with a decent stall, the miner might earn fifty or fifty-five shillings a week. Then he was happy. On Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, he spent royally, getting rid of his sovereign or thereabouts. And out of so much, he scarcely spared the children an extra penny or bought them a pound of apples. It all went in drink. In the bad times, matters were more worrying, but he was not so often drunk, so that Mrs. Morel used to say:

"I'm not sure I wouldn't rather be short, for when he's flush, there isn't a minute of peace."

If he earned forty shillings he kept ten; from thirty-five he kept five; from thirty-two he kept four; from twenty-eight he kept three; from twenty-four he kept two; from twenty he kept one-and-six; from eighteen he kept a shilling; from sixteen he kept sixpence. He never saved a penny, and he gave his wife no opportunity of saving; instead, she had occasionally to pay his debts; not public-house debts, for those never were passed on to the women, but debts when he had bought a canary, or a fancy walking-stick.

At the wakes time Morel was working badly, and Mrs. Morel was trying to save against her confinement. So it galled her bitterly to think he should be out taking his pleasure and spending money, whilst she remained at home, harassed. There were two days' holiday. On the Tuesday morning Morel rose early. He was in good spirits. Quite early, before six o'clock, she heard him whistling away to himself downstairs. He had a pleasant way of whistling, lively and musical. He nearly always whistled hymns. He had been a choir-boy with a beautiful voice, and had taken solos in Southwell cathedral. His morning whistling alone betrayed it.

His wife lay listening to him tinkering away in the garden, his whistling ringing out as he sawed and hammered away. It always gave her a sense of warmth and peace to hear him thus as she lay in bed, the children not yet awake, in the bright early morning, happy in his man's fashion.

At nine o'clock, while the children with bare legs and feet were sitting playing on the sofa, and the mother was washing up, he came in from his carpentry, his sleeves rolled up, his waistcoat hanging open. He was still a good-looking man, with black, wavy hair, and a large black moustache. His face was perhaps too much inflamed, and there was about him a look almost of peevishness. But now he was jolly. He went straight to the sink where his wife was washing up.

"What, are thee there!" he said boisterously. "Sluthe off an' let me wesh mysen."

"You may wait till I've finished," said his wife.

"Oh, mun I? An' what if I shonna?"

This good-humoured threat amused Mrs. Morel.

"Then you can go and wash yourself in the soft-water tub."

"Ha! I can' an' a', tha mucky little 'ussy."

With which he stood watching her a moment, then went away to wait for her.

When he chose he could still make himself again a real gallant. Usually he preferred to go out with a scarf round his neck. Now, however, he made a toilet. There seemed so much gusto in the way he puffed and swilled as he washed himself, so much alacrity with which he hurried to the mirror in the kitchen, and, bending because it was too low for him, scrupulously parted his wet black hair, that it irritated Mrs. Morel. He put on a turn-down collar, a black bow, and wore his Sunday tail-coat. As such, he looked spruce, and what his clothes would not do, his instinct for making the most of his good looks would.

At half-past nine Jerry Purdy came to call for his pal. Jerry was Morel's bosom friend, and Mrs. Morel disliked him. He was a tall, thin man, with a rather foxy face, the kind of face that seems to lack eyelashes. He walked with a stiff, brittle dignity, as if his head were on a wooden spring. His nature was cold and shrewd. Generous where he intended to be generous, he seemed to be very fond of Morel, and more or less to take charge of him.

Mrs. Morel hated him. She had known his wife, who had died of consumption, and who had, at the end, conceived such a violent dislike of her husband, that if he came into her room it caused her haemorrhage. None of which Jerry had seemed to mind. And now his eldest daughter, a girl of fifteen, kept a poor house for him, and looked after the two younger children.

"A mean, wizzen-hearted stick!" Mrs. Morel said of him.

"I've never known Jerry mean in MY life," protested Morel. "A opener-handed and more freer chap you couldn't find anywhere, accordin' to my knowledge."

"Open-handed to you," retorted Mrs. Morel. "But his fist is shut tight enough to his children, poor things."

"Poor things! And what for are they poor things, I should like to know."

But Mrs. Morel would not be appeased on Jerry's score.

The subject of argument was seen, craning his thin neck over the scullery curtain. He caught Mrs. Morel's eye.

"Mornin', missis! Mester in?"

"Yes--he is."

Jerry entered unasked, and stood by the kitchen doorway. He was not invited to sit down, but stood there, coolly asserting the rights of men and husbands.

"A nice day," he said to Mrs. Morel.

"Yes.

"Grand out this morning--grand for a walk."

"Do you mean YOU'RE going for a walk?" she asked.

"Yes. We mean walkin' to Nottingham," he replied.

"H'm!"

The two men greeted each other, both glad: Jerry, however, full of assurance, Morel rather subdued, afraid to seem too jubilant in presence of his wife. But he laced his boots quickly, with spirit. They were going for a ten-mile walk across the fields to Nottingham. Climbing the hillside from the Bottoms, they mounted gaily into the morning. At the Moon and Stars they had their first drink, then on to the Old Spot. Then a long five miles of drought to carry them into Bulwell to a glorious pint of bitter. But they stayed in a field with some haymakers whose gallon bottle was full, so that, when they came in sight of the city, Morel was sleepy. The town spread upwards before them, smoking vaguely in the midday glare, fridging the crest away to the south with spires and factory bulks and chimneys. In the last field Morel lay down under an oak tree and slept soundly for over an hour. When he rose to go forward he felt queer.

The two had dinner in the Meadows, with Jerry's sister, then repaired to the Punch Bowl, where they mixed in the excitement of pigeon-racing. Morel never in his life played cards, considering them as having some occult, malevolent power--"the devil's pictures," he called them! But he was a master of skittles and of dominoes. He took a challenge from a Newark man, on skittles. All the men in the old, long bar took sides, betting either one way or the other. Morel took off his coat. Jerry held the hat containing the money. The men at the tables watched. Some stood with their mugs in their hands. Morel felt his big wooden ball carefully, then launched it. He played havoc among the nine-pins, and won half a crown, which restored him to solvency.

By seven o'clock the two were in good condition. They caught the 7.30 train home.

In the afternoon the Bottoms was intolerable. Every inhabitant remaining was out of doors. The women, in twos and threes, bareheaded and in white aprons, gossiped in the alley between the blocks. Men, having a rest between drinks, sat on their heels and talked. The place smelled stale; the slate roofs glistered in the arid heat.

Mrs. Morel took the little girl down to the brook in the meadows, which were not more than two hundred yards away. The water ran quickly over stones and broken pots. Mother and child leaned on the rail of the old sheep-bridge, watching. Up at the dipping-hole, at the other end of the meadow, Mrs. Morel could see the naked forms of boys flashing round the deep yellow water, or an occasional bright figure dart glittering over the blackish stagnant meadow. She knew William was at the dipping-hole, and it was the dread of her life lest he should get drowned. Annie played under the tall old hedge, picking up alder cones, that she called currants. The child required much attention, and the flies were teasing.

The children were put to bed at seven o'clock. Then she worked awhile.

When Walter Morel and Jerry arrived at Bestwood they felt a load off their minds; a railway journey no longer impended, so they could put the finishing touches to a glorious day. They entered the Nelson with the satisfaction of returned travellers.

The next day was a work-day, and the thought of it put a damper on the men's spirits. Most of them, moreover, had spent their money. Some were already rolling dismally home, to sleep in preparation for the morrow. Mrs. Morel, listening to their mournful singing, went indoors. Nine o'clock passed, and ten, and still "the pair" had not returned. On a doorstep somewhere a man was singing loudly, in a drawl: "Lead, kindly Light." Mrs. Morel was always indignant with the drunken men that they must sing that hymn when they got maudlin.

"As if 'Genevieve' weren't good enough," she said.

The kitchen was full of the scent of boiled herbs and hops. On the hob a large black saucepan steamed slowly. Mrs. Morel took a panchion, a great bowl of thick red earth, streamed a heap of white sugar into the bottom, and then, straining herself to the weight, was pouring in the liquor.

Just then Morel came in. He had been very jolly in the Nelson, but coming home had grown irritable. He had not quite got over the feeling of irritability and pain, after having slept on the ground when he was so hot; and a bad conscience afflicted him as he neared the house. He did not know he was angry. But when the garden gate resisted his attempts to open it, he kicked it and broke the latch. He entered just as Mrs. Morel was pouring the infusion of herbs out of the saucepan. Swaying slightly, he lurched against the table. The boiling liquor pitched. Mrs. Morel started back.

"Good gracious," she cried, "coming home in his drunkenness!"

"Comin' home in his what?" he snarled, his hat over his eye.

Suddenly her blood rose in a jet.

"Say you're NOT drunk!" she flashed.

She had put down her saucepan, and was stirring the sugar into the beer. He dropped his two hands heavily on the table, and thrust his face forwards at her.

"'Say you're not drunk,'" he repeated. "Why, nobody but a nasty little bitch like you 'ud 'ave such a thought."

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 hedge.

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 dizzy.

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 forlorn.

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 drunkenness.

过去的“地狱街”被“河川区”取而代之,地狱街原是青山巷旁那条溪边的一片墙面凸凹不平的茅草屋,那里住的是在两个区以外小矿井里工作的矿工们。小溪从赤杨树下流过,还没有受到这些小矿井的污染。矿井的煤是使用毛驴吃力地拉着吊车拉上地面的。乡村里到处都是这种矿井,有些矿井在查理二世时期就开始采掘了。为数不多的几个矿工和毛驴像蚂蚁似的在地下打洞,在小麦地和草地上弄出奇形怪状的土堆,地面上涂成一块块的黑色。矿工们的茅屋成片成行到处都是,再加上分布在教区里的零星的庄园和织袜工人的住房,这就形成了贝斯伍德村。

大约六十年前,这里突然发生了变化。小矿井被金融家的大煤矿所排挤。后来,在诺丁汉郡和德贝郡都发现了煤矿和铁矿,便出现了卡斯特——魏特公司。帕尔莫斯勋爵在一片欢呼中,正式为本公司坐落在深坞森林公园旁边的第一家煤矿的开张剪了彩。

大概就在这个时候,臭名昭著的地狱街被烧了个精光,连大堆的垃圾也化为灰烬。

卡斯特——魏特公司吉星高照,从赛尔贝到纳塔尔河谷开采出一个又一个的新矿,不久这里就有六个新矿。一条铁路从纳塔尔开始,穿越森林中高高的砂岩,经过破落了的卡尔特会修道院、罗宾汉泉和斯宾尼公园,到达米恩顿矿,一个座落在小麦田里的大矿。铁路从米恩顿穿过谷地到达本克尔煤山,然后向北通往可以俯瞰克瑞斯和德贝郡群山的贝加利和赛尔贝。这六个矿就如六枚黑色的钉子镶嵌在田野上,由一条弯弯曲曲的细链子般的铁路串成一串。

为了安置大批矿工,卡斯特——魏特公司盖起了居民区,一个个大大的四合院在贝斯伍德山脚下出现。后来,又在河川的地狱街上,建起了河川区。

河川区包括六幢矿区住宅,分成两排,就像六点骨牌似的,每幢有十二间房子。这两排住宅坐落在贝斯伍德那陡峭的山坡脚下,从阁楼窗口望去,正对着通往赛贝尔的那座平缓的山坡。

这些房子构造坚固、相当大方。靠近谷底的一排房子的背面种着樱草和虎耳草,上面一排房子的阳面种着美洲石竹,窗前的小门厅、阁楼上的天窗收拾得干干净净,小水蜡篱笆修剪得整整齐齐。但是,这只是外表,是矿工的家眷们收拾干净不住人的客厅的景象,卧室和厨房都在房屋的后面,对着另一排房子的背面能看到的只是一片杂乱的后院和垃圾堆。在两排房屋中间,在两行垃圾堆中间,有一条小巷是孩子们玩耍,女人们聊天,男人们抽烟的场所。因此,在河川区,尽管那房子盖得不错,看起来也很漂亮,可实际生活条件却非常恶劣,因为人们生活不能没有厨房,但厨房面对的却是塞满垃圾的小巷。

莫瑞尔太太并不急着要搬到河川区,她从贝斯伍德搬到山下这间房子时,这间房已经盖了十二年了,而且开始逐渐败落。然而她不得不搬下来。她住在上面一排房子的最后一间,因此只有一家邻居,屋子的一边比邻居多了一个长条形花园。住在这头上的一间,她仿佛比那些住在“中间”房子里的女人多了一种贵族气派,因为她每星期得付五先令六便士房租,而其他却付五先令。不过,这种超人一等的优越感对莫瑞尔太太来说,安慰不大。

莫瑞尔太太三十一岁,结婚已经八年了。她身体玲珑气质柔弱,但举止果断。然而她和河川区的女人们第一次接触时,不由得有一点胆怯。她七月从山上搬下来,大约九月就怀了第三个孩子。

她的丈夫是个矿工。他们搬到新屋才三个星期就逢着每年一度的假日。她知道,莫瑞尔肯定会尽情欢度这个假日的。集市开始那天是个星期一,他一大早就出了门。两个孩子,威廉,这个七岁的男孩,吃完早饭就立即溜出家逛集市去了,撇下只有五岁的安妮哭闹了一早晨,她也想跟着去。莫瑞尔太太在干活,她还和邻居不太熟,不知道应该把小姑娘托付给谁,因此,只好答应安妮吃了午饭带她去集市。

威廉十二点半才回家,他是个非常好动的男孩,金色的头发,满脸雀斑,带几分丹麦人或挪威人的气质。

“妈妈,我可以吃饭了吗?”他戴着帽子冲进屋,喊道:“别人说,一点半集市就开始了。”

“饭一做好你就可以吃了。”妈妈笑着回答。

“饭还没好吗?”他嚷道,一双蓝眼睛气冲冲地瞪着她,“我就要错过时间了。”

“误不了。五分钟就好,现在才十二点半。”

“他们就要开始了。”这个孩子半哭半叫着。

“他们开场就要你的命啦,”母亲说,“再说,现在才十二点半,你还有整整一个小时。”

小男孩急急忙忙摆好桌子,三个人立即坐下。他们正吃着果酱布了,突然这孩子跳下椅子,愣愣地站在那儿,远处传来了旋转木马开动声和喇叭声,他横眉冷眼地瞪着母亲。

“我早就告诉你了。”说着他奔向碗柜,一把抓起帽子。

“拿着你的布丁——现在才一点过五分,你弄错了——你还没拿你的两便士钱呢。”母亲连声喊着。

男孩极为失望地转过身来,拿了两便士钱一声不吭地走了。

“我要去,我要去。”安妮边说边哭了起来。

“好,你去,你这个哭个不停的小傻瓜!”母亲说。下午,莫瑞尔太太带着女儿,沿着高高的树篱疲倦地爬上山坡。田里的干草都堆了起来,麦茬田里牧放着牛群,处处是温暖平静的气氛。

莫瑞尔太太不喜欢赶集市。那里有两套木马:一套靠蒸汽发动,一套由小马拉着转。三架手风琴在演奏,夹杂着枪弹零星的射击声,卖椰子的小贩刺耳地尖叫声,投掷木人游戏的摊主的高声吆喝,以及摆西洋镜小摊的女人的招呼声。莫瑞尔太太看到自己的儿子站在西洋镜摊外面出神地看着,那西洋镜里正演着有名的华莱士狮子的画面,这只狮子曾经咬死一个黑人和两个白人。她没管他,自己去给安妮买了一些奶油糖。没多久,小男孩异常兴奋地来到妈妈跟前。

“你从没说过你要来——这儿是不是有很多好东西?——那只狮子咬死了三个人——我已经花光了我的两便士——看!”

他从口袋里掏出两只蛋形杯子,上面有粉红色蔷蔽图案。

“我是从那个摊子上赢来的,他们在那儿打弹子游戏。我打了两回就得到了这两个杯子——半便士玩一回。看,杯子上有蔷蔽花,我的这种。”

她知道他是为她选的。

“嘿!”她高兴地说,“真漂亮。”

母亲来逛集市,威廉喜出望外,他领着她四处游荡,东瞧西瞅。在看西洋景时,她把图片的内容像讲故事一样讲给他听,他听得都入了迷,缠着她不肯离去。他满怀着一个小男孩对母亲的自豪,一直意气昂扬地跟在她身边。她戴着小黑帽,披着斗篷,向她所认识的妇女微笑示意,没有人比她更像一位贵妇人了。她终于累了,对儿子说:

“好了,你是现在就回去呢,还是再呆会儿?”

“你这就要走啊?”他满脸不高兴地说道。

“这就走,现在都四点了。”

“你回去要干嘛呀?”他抱怨道。

“如果你不想回去,可以留下。”她说。

她带着她的小女儿慢慢地走了,儿子站在那里翘首看着她,既舍不得放母亲回去,又不愿离开集市。当她穿过星月酒馆门前的空地时听到男人们的叫喊声,闻到啤酒味儿,心想她丈夫可能在酒馆里,于是加快脚步走了。

六点半,威廉回来了,疲惫不堪,脸色苍白,多少还有几分沮丧情绪。他心里感到一丝莫名其妙的痛苦,因为他没陪母亲一起回家,她走了以后,他在集市上再没开心地玩过。

“我爸爸回家了吗?”他问。

“没有。”母亲回答。

“他在星月酒馆帮忙呢,我从窗子上那个黑铁皮洞里看到的,池的袖子卷得高高的。”

“嗯,”母亲简单的应了声,“他没钱,别人或多或少给他些钱,他就满足了。”

天开始暗下来,莫瑞尔太太没法做针线活了,她站起身走到门口,到处弥漫着欢快的节日气氛,这种气氛最终还是感染了她,她情不自禁地走到旁边的花园里。女人们从集市上回来了,孩子们有的抱着一只绿腿的白羊羔,有的抱着一只木马。偶尔,也有男人走过,手里拿满了东西。有时,也有好丈夫和全家人一起悠闲地走过,但通常是女人和孩子们走在一起。暮色更浓了,那些在家围着白围裙的主妇们,端着胳膊,站在小巷尽头聊天。

莫瑞尔太太形单影只,但她对此已经习惯了。她的儿子女儿都已在楼上睡了。表面看来她的家稳固可靠,可是,一想到将要出世的孩子,她便深感不快。这个世界似乎是一个枯燥的地方,至少在威廉长大以前,她不会有别的期望。但是,对她自己来说,只能枯燥的忍耐下去——一直忍到孩子们长大。可是这么多的孩子!她养不起第三个孩子。她不想要这个孩子。当父亲的在酒馆里眼务,自己醉醺醺的,她看不起他,可又跟他联系在一起。她接受不了这个即将来临的孩子,要不是为了威廉和安妮,她早就厌倦了这种贫穷、丑恶的庸俗的生活。

她走到宅前的花园里,觉得身子沉重得迈不开步,可在屋里又没法呆下去。天气闷得让人喘不过气来。想想未来,展望前程,她觉得自己像是给人活埋了。

宅前的花园是由水蜡树围起来的小块方地。她站在那儿,尽力想把自己溶入花香和即将逝去的美丽的暮色中。在园门对面,高高的树篱下面,是上山的台阶。两旁是割过草的草坡沉浸在霞光中。天色变化迅速,霞光转眼就在田野上消失,大地和树篱都沉浸在暮霭里。夜幕降临了,山顶亮起了一簇灯光,灯光处传来散集的喧嚷声。

树篱下那条黑暗的小路上,男人们跌跌撞撞地往家走。有一个小伙子从山头陡坡上冲下来,“嘭”跌倒在石阶上,莫瑞尔大大打了个寒噤。小伙子骂骂咧咧地爬起来,样子可怜兮兮的,好象石阶是故意伤害他。

莫瑞尔太太折身回屋,心里不知道这样的生活能否有变化。但她现在已经认识到这是不会改变的,她觉得她似乎离她的少女时代已经很远很远了,她简直不敢相信如今这个迈着沉重的步伐在河川区后园的女人,就是十年前在希尔尼斯大堤上脚步轻快的那位少女。

“这儿和我有什么关系呢?”她自言自语“这儿的一切都和我有何相干呢?甚至这个即将来世的孩子和我又有何瓜葛呢?反正,没人来体贴我。”

有时,生活支配一个人,支配一个人的身躯,完成一个人的历程,然而这不是真正的生活,生活是任人自生自灭。

“我等待”莫瑞尔太太喃喃自语——“我等啊等,可我等待的东西永远不会来。”

她收拾完去了厨房,点着了灯,添上火,找出第二天要洗的衣服先泡上,然后,她坐下来做针线活儿,一补就是好几个小时,她的针在布料上有规律地闪着银光。偶尔,她叹口气放松一下自己,心里一直盘算着,如何为孩子们节衣缩食。

丈夫回来时,已经十一点半了。他那络腮胡子上部红光满面,向她轻轻地点了点头,一副志得意满的神气。

“(呕欠),(呕欠),在等我,宝贝?我去帮安东尼干活了,你知道他给了我多少?一点也不多,只有半克朗钱……”

“他认为其余的都算作你的啤酒钱啦。”她简短地答道。

“我没有——我没有,你相信我吧,今天我只喝了一点点,就一点儿。”他的声音温和起来“看,我给你带了一点白兰地姜饼,还给孩子们带了一个椰子。”他把姜饼和一个毛茸茸的椰子放在桌子上,“嘿,这辈子你还从来没有说过一声‘谢谢’呢,是么?”

仿佛为了表示歉意的回报,她拿起椰子摇了摇,看看它是否有椰子汁。

“是好的,你放心好了,我是从比尔·霍金森那里要来的。我说‘比尔,你吃不了三个椰子吧?可以送一个给我的孩子吃?’‘行,沃尔特,’他说:‘你要哪个就拿哪个吧。’我就拿了一个,还说了声谢谢。我不想在他面前摇摇椰子看好不好,不过他说,‘沃尔特,你最好看看这一个是不是好的。’所以,你看,我知道这是一个好的。他是一个好人,比尔·霍金森真是一个好人。”

“一个人喝醉时,他什么都舍得给,你们俩都喝醉了。”莫瑞尔太太说。

“嘿,你这个讨厌的臭婆娘,我倒要问问谁喝醉了?”莫瑞尔说,他洋洋得意,因为在星月酒馆帮了一天忙,就不停地嗦叨着。

莫瑞尔太太累极了,也听烦了他的废话,趁他封炉的时候,溜上床睡觉去了。

莫瑞尔太太出身于一个古老而体面的市民家庭,祖上曾与哈钦森上校共同作战,世世代代一直是公理会虔诚的教徒。有一年,诺丁汉很多花边商破产的时候,她的做花边生意的祖父也破产了。她的父亲,乔治·科珀德是个工程师——一个高大、英俊、傲慢的人,他不但为自己的白皮肤、蓝眼睛自豪,更以他的正直为荣。格特鲁德身材像母亲一样小,但她的高傲、倔强的性格却来自科珀德家族。

乔治·科珀德为自己的贫穷而发愁。他后来在希尔尼斯修船厂当工程师头领。莫瑞尔太太——格特鲁德——是他的二女儿。她像母亲,也最爱母亲,但她继承了科珀德家族的蓝眼睛宽额头。她的眼睛明亮有神。她记得小时候她恨父亲对温柔、幽默、善良的母亲的那种盛气凌人的态度;她记得自己跑遍希尔尼斯大堤去找船、她记得自己去修船厂时,男人们都亲热地拍着她夸奖她,因为她虽是一位娇嫩的女孩,但她个性鲜明;她还记得那个私立学校的一位年迈女教师,后来还给她当助手。她现在还保留着约翰·费尔德送给她的《圣经》。十九岁时,她常和约翰·费尔德一块儿从教堂回家。他是一个富有商人的儿子,在伦敦上过大学,当时正准备投身于商业。

她甚至能回忆起那年九月一个星期天下午他俩坐在她父亲住所后院的葡萄藤下的每一个细节,阳光从葡萄叶的缝隙中射下来,在他俩身上投下美丽的图案,有如一条披肩。有些叶子完全黄了,就像一朵朵平展的金花。

“坐着别动,”他喊道,“看你的头发,我不知道如何形容,它像黄金和紫钢一样闪闪发光,像烧熔的铜一样红,太阳一照有如一根根金丝,他们竟然说你的头发是褐色的,你母亲还说是灰色的呢。”

她看着他闪光的眼睛,但她那平静的表情却没有流露出内心的激动。

“可是你说你不喜欢做生意。”她缠着他问。

“我不喜欢,我恨做生意!”他激动地喊道。“你可能愿意做一个牧师吧。”她半恳求地说。

“当然,我喜欢做一个牧师,我认为自己能做一个第一流的传教士。”

“那你为什么不呢——为什么不做牧师呢?”她的声音充满愤慨,“我要是一个男子汉,没有什么可以阻止我。”她把头抬得很高,他在她面前总是有些胆怯。

“但是我父亲非常固执,他决定让我去做生意,要知道他是说到做到的。”

“可是,你是一个男子汉吗?”她叫了起来。

“是个男子汉算什么。”说完后,他无可奈何地皱着眉。

如今她在河川区操持家务,多少能体谅一点男子汉是怎么回事,明白凡事不可能样样顺心。

二十岁的时候,他身体不佳,便离开了希尔尼斯。父亲已经退休回到了诺丁汉。约翰·费尔德因为父亲已经破产,只得去诺伍德当了老师。一去两年,沓无音讯。

她便下决心去打听一下,才知道他和房东太太,一个四十多岁富有的寡妇结了婚。

莫瑞尔太太还保存着约翰·费尔德的那本《圣经》。她现在已经不相信他会——唉,她相当明白他会是什么样的。她为了自己才保存着他的《圣经》。把对他的想念藏在心里,三十五年了,直到她离世的那天,她也没提起过他。

二十三岁时,她在一次圣诞晚会上遇见了一个来自埃沃斯河谷的小伙子。莫瑞尔当时二十七岁,体格强壮,身材挺拔,仪表堂堂,头发自然卷曲,乌黑发亮,胡须浓密茂盛而且不加修饰,满面红光,嘴唇红润,又笑口常开,所以非常引人注目,他的笑声浑厚而响亮,与众不同。格特鲁德·科珀德盯着他,不知不觉入了迷。他生气勃勃,幽默诙谐,和什么人都能愉快相处。她的父亲也极富幽默感,但是有点冷嘲热讽。这个人不同:温和、不咬文嚼字、热心,近似嬉戏。

她本人刚好相反。她生性好奇,接受能力强,爱听别人说话,而且善于引导别人谈话。她喜欢思索,聪明颖悟,尤其喜欢和一些受过教育的人讨论有关宗教、哲学、政治方面的问题。遗憾的是这样的机会并不多,因此她总是让人们谈他们自己的事,她也自得其乐。

她本人相当娇小、柔弱,但天庭饱满,褐色的卷发披肩,蓝色的眼睛坦率、真诚,像在探索什么。她有双科珀德家人特有的美丽的手,她的衣服总是很淡雅,藏青色的绸衣,配上一条奇特的扇贝形银链,再别上一枚螺旋状的胸针,再简洁不过。她完美无暇,心地坦白,不乏赤子之心。

沃尔特·莫瑞尔在她面前仿佛骨头都酥了。在这个矿工眼里,她是神秘的化身,是奇妙的组合,是一个地道的淑女。她跟他说话时,她那纯正的南方口音的英语使他听着感到很刺激。她看着他那优美的舞姿,好象是天生的舞星,他跳起来乐此不疲,他的祖父是个法国难民,娶了一个英国酒吧女郎——如果这也算是婚姻的话。格特鲁德·科珀德看着这个年轻人跳舞,他的动作有点炫耀的感觉,很有魅力。他那红光满面、黑发技散的头,仿佛是插在身上的一朵花,而且对每一位舞伴都一样的嘻笑颜颜。她觉得他太棒了,她还从来没有碰到谁能比得上他。对她来说,父亲就是所有男人的典范,然而,乔治·科珀德,爱读神学,只和圣保罗有共同思想,他英俊而高傲,对人冷嘲热讽,热情,但好支配他人,他漠视所有的感官享受——他和那些矿工大相径庭。格特鲁德本人很蔑视跳舞,她对这种娱乐没有一点兴趣,甚至从没学过乡村舞蹈。她是一个清教徒,和她的父亲一样,思想清高而古板。因此,矿工生命的情欲之火不断溢出温柔的情感,就象蜡烛的火焰似的从他体内汩汩流出,不像她的那股火受她的思想和精神的禁铜,喷发不出来。所以她对他有种新奇的感觉。

他走过来对她鞠了躬,一股暖流涌入她的身体,仿佛喝了仙酒。

“一定要和我跳一曲。”他亲热地说。她告诉过他,自己不会跳舞。“不很容易,我很想看你跳舞。”她看着他恭敬的样子笑了。她笑得很美,这使他不禁心旌摇曳。

“不行,我不会跳舞。”她轻柔地说。她的声音清脆得像铃铛一样响亮。

他下意识地坐到了她的身旁,恭敬地欠着身子,他常凭直觉行事。

“但是你不应该放弃这支曲子。”她责怪着说。

“不,我不想跳那支——那不是我想跳的。”

“可刚才你还请我跳呢。”

他听了大笑起来。

“我从没想到你还有这一手,你一下就把我绕的圈子拉直了。”

这自是她轻快地笑了。

“你看起来不像拉直的样子。”她说。

“我像条猪尾巴,不由自主地蜷缩起来。”他爽朗地笑着。

“你是一个矿工!”她惊愕地喊道。

“对,我十岁就开始下井了。”

她又惊愕地看着他。

“十岁时!那一定很辛苦吧?”她问道。

“很快就习惯了:人像耗子一样生活着,直到晚上才溜出来看看动静。”

“那眼睛也瞎了。”她皱了皱眉。

“像一只地老鼠!”他笑道:“嗯,有些家伙的确像地老鼠一样到处转。”他闭上眼睛头往前伸,模仿老鼠翘起鼻子到处闻,像在打探方向。“他们的确这么做。”他天真地坚持说。“你从来没见过他们下井时的样子?不过,什么时候我带你下去一趟,让你亲眼看看。”

她看着他,非常吃惊。一种全新的生活展现在她面前。她了解到了矿工的生活,成千成百的矿工在地下辛勤地干活,直到晚上才出来。在她眼里他似乎高尚起来,他每天的生活都在冒险,他却依然欢天喜地。她带着感动和尊敬的神情看着他。

“你不喜欢吗?”他温柔地问,“是的,那会弄脏你的。”

她从来没与方音很重的人谈过话。

来年的圣诞节他们结婚了,前三个月她幸福极了,她一直沉浸在这种幸福中有半年时光。

他签约保证永不沾酒,并带上禁酒会的蓝缎带招摇过市。她原以为他俩住的是他自己的房子。房子虽小,但比较方便,房里的陈设实惠耐用又美观大方,这与她踏实的性格相投。她与周围的女人们不大来往,因此,莫瑞尔的母亲和姐妹们常取笑她的小姐派头。但是,她只要和丈夫在一起,什么也就不在乎了。

有时候,她厌倦了卿卿我我的蜜语,努力尝试着跟他正儿八经地聊聊,当然他只是在用心的听着,却听不懂。这使她那想彼此加深理解的希望破灭了,她有点害怕。有时候,他一到晚上就坐立不安,她明白,对他来说守着她不是他生活的全部,索性病痛快快地让他去干些零活。

他聪明手巧,擅长修修补补。因此,她就说:

“我真喜欢你母亲的那个火拨子——小巧好使。”

“真的吗?宝贝?嗯,那是我做的,我可以再做一个。”

“什么!哇,那是钢的。”

“钢的又怎么了,我一定会做一把,即使不完全一样,也差不离儿的。”

她不在乎乱七八糟,叮叮咣咣,因为他正忙得不亦乐乎。

但到婚后第七个月的一天,她在刷扫他的那件礼服时,发觉他胸前的口袋里有几张纸。出于一种好奇心,她拿出了那几张纸。他很少穿这件结婚时穿的礼服,所以,以前并未注意这些纸片,原来是房子家具的帐单,至今尚未付清。

“看,”在他吃完晚饭,洗完澡之后,她才说:“我在你的婚礼服里发现了这些帐单,你还没有还清吗?”

“没有,我还没来得及呢。”

“但是,你告诉我所有的帐都已付清。那我最好星期六去诺丁汉把帐付清了。我不想坐在别人的椅上、别人的桌子旁吃饭。”

他没有吭气。

“你能把你的存折给我吗?”

“可以,顶什么用呢!”

“我觉得……”她欲说又止。他曾经给她说过,他还有一笔存款。可是,现在她意识到再问也没用。于是,她只好又悲凉又愤怒地呆呆地坐在那里。

第二天,她去见他们的母亲。

“你给沃尔特买过家具吗?”她问道。

“是啊,我买过。”老太太冷淡地回答。

“他给你多少钱去买家具?”

老太太被儿媳妇的问话激怒了。

“既然这么关心,我就告诉你,八十镑!”她回答道。

“八十镑!可是还有四十二英镑还没有付呢!”

“这不是我的问题。”

“可是,钱到哪儿去了?”

“我想你会找到所有的帐单的。你一看就知道了——他除了欠我十镑外,还有我这儿办婚礼花去的六镑。”

“六镑!”格特鲁德·莫瑞尔重复了一句她觉得这话太无耻,她父亲为她办婚礼花掉了一大笔钱,然而,沃尔特父亲还让儿子付六镑的酒席钱。

“他买房子花了多少钱?”她问道。

“他的房子——哪儿的房子?”

格特鲁德·莫瑞尔的嘴唇都发白了。他曾告诉她,他住的房子和旁边的那间房子,都是他自己的。

“我以为我们住的房子——”她欲言又止。

“那是我的房子,那两间,”婆婆说:“收费并不高,我只需要能够抵押利息就行了。”

格特鲁德脸色苍白,一言不发地坐在那儿,神情简直跟她父亲一模一样。

“那么说,我们应该给你付房租。”她冷冷地说。

“沃尔特是在给我付房租。”婆婆回答。

“多少租金?”格特鲁德问。

“每周六先令。”婆婆回答。

可房子不值这个价钱。格特鲁德昂起头,直直地瞅着她。

“你很幸运,”老太太讽刺地说:“花钱用费都由丈夫操心,自己只大手大脚地用。”

小媳妇保持沉默。

她对丈夫没说什么,但她对他的态度变了,她那高傲、正直的心灵,变得冷如寒冰,硬似磐石。

转眼到了十月,她一心想着圣诞节。两年前的圣诞节,她遇见了他,去年圣诞节,她嫁给了他,今年圣诞节她将给他生孩子。

“你不去跳舞吗,太太?”她隔壁的一个邻居问她。十月里,在贝斯伍德“砖瓦酒店”里大家议论纷纷,说要举办一个舞蹈班。

“不,我从来没有想跳舞的欲望。”莫瑞尔太太回答。

“真怪!你嫁给你丈夫可真有意思。你知道他是一个非常有名的舞棍。”

“我可不知道他这么有名。”莫瑞尔太太笑着回答。

“嗬,他才有名呢!(呕欠),他主持矿工俱乐部的跳舞班都有五年多了。”

“是么?”“是的。”另一名妇女也带着蔑视的神情说,“那儿每星期二、四、六都挤满了人,据说还有丑态百出的事。”

莫瑞尔太太对这类事情又气又恨,女人们卿卿喳喳地伤害她,因为她不愿入乡随俗。其实她并不想这样,天性使然。

他开始很晚才回家。

“他们现在下班很晚吗?”她问洗衣女工。

“不比往常晚。他们在艾伦酒店喝酒聊天,就这么回事!晚饭都凉了——他们活该!”

“但是莫瑞尔先生已经戒酒了。”

这位女工放下衣服,看看莫瑞尔太太,然后一言不发地继续干她的活。

格特鲁德·莫瑞尔生儿子时病得很厉害,莫瑞尔对她体贴入微。不过她还是觉得远离娘家,备感孤独。现在,即使和他在一起依然寂寞,甚至,他的出现只能让她更寂寞。

儿子刚出生时又小又弱,但长得很快。他是个漂亮的孩子,金黄色的卷发,一双深蓝浅灰相间的眼睛,母亲深爱着他。在她幻想破灭,伤心欲绝,对生活的信念开始动摇,灵魂寂寞而孤独时,他来到世上。所以,她对儿子倾注了所有的热情,连做父亲的都妒嫉了。

莫瑞尔夫人终于看不起她的丈夫了。她的心从父亲身上转到儿子身上。他开始忽视她,小家庭的新奇感也早已消失。她伤心地暗自数落着丈夫,他没有毅力,缺乏恒心,凡事只求一时痛快,金玉其外,败絮其中。

一场可怕、残忍,你死我活的斗争开始在夫妻之间展开。她努力迫使他明白自己的责任,履行自己的义务。尽管他跟她天性殊异,他只注重纯感官上的享受,她却硬要他讲道德,信宗教。她努力让他面对现实,他受不了——这简直让他发疯。

孩子还很小的时候,父亲的脾气就变得急躁易怒,令人难以信赖。孩子稍微有一点吵闹声,他就蛮横地吓唬他,再敢闹,那双矿工的拳头就朝孩子身上打去。然后,莫瑞尔太太就一连几天生丈夫的气。他呢,就出去喝酒。她对他干些什么漠不关心,只是,等他回家时,就讽刺奚落他。

他们之间感情的疏远,使他有意无意地粗鲁地冒犯她,而以前他却不是这样。

威廉刚一岁时,就很漂亮,做母亲的为此而自豪。她那时生活困难,她的姐妹们包了孩子的衣服。儿子满头卷发,身着白衣,头戴白帽,帽子上还饰有一根驼鸟羽毛。母亲满心欢喜。一个星期天的早晨,莫瑞尔太太躺在床上听见父子俩在楼下闲聊。不一会,她睡着了。当她下楼时,炉火旺盛,屋里很热,早餐乱七八糟地摆着,莫瑞尔坐在靠壁炉的扶手椅上,有点怯懦,夹在他两腿中间的孩子——头发理得像刚剪了毛的羊一样难看——正莫名其妙地看着她。炉边地毯上铺着一张报纸,上面堆着一堆月牙形的卷发,红红的火光一照,像金盏草的花瓣一样。

莫瑞尔太太一动不动地站着,这哪儿像她的长子。她脸色苍白,话也说不出来。

“剃得怎样?”莫瑞尔尴尬地笑着。

她举起紧握的双拳,走上前来,莫瑞尔往后退了退。

“我想杀了你!”她高举双拳喊着,气得说不出话来。

“你不想把他打扮成女孩子吧!”莫瑞尔低着头,逃避她的眼神,胆怯地说,脸上努力挤出的一丝笑意消失了。

母亲低头看着儿子那长短不齐的秃头,伸出手疼爱地抚摸着他。

“(呕欠),我的孩子!”她颤声说,嘴唇发抖脸色变了,她一把抱住孩子,把脸埋在孩子的肩上痛苦地哭了。她是个不轻易掉泪的女人,哭对她的伤害不亚于对男人的伤害。她撕裂肺腑般地哭泣着。莫瑞尔双肘支在膝盖上坐着,紧握双手,指关节都发白了。他呆呆地盯着火,好象被人打了一棒,连呼吸都不敢呼吸。

一会儿,她哭完了,哄住孩子,收拾了饭桌,她没管那张撒满卷发的、摊在炉边地毯上的报纸。最后,她的丈夫把报纸收拾起来,放在炉子后面。她闭着嘴默默地干她的活。莫瑞尔服服贴贴,整天垂头丧气,不思茶饭。她对他说话容客气气,从不提他干的那件事,但他觉得他俩的感情彻底破裂了。

过后,她觉得当时她太傻了,孩子的头发迟早都得剪。最后,她竟然对丈夫说他剪头发就像理发师似的。不过她明白,莫瑞尔也清楚这件事在她灵魂深处产生的重大影响,她一生都不会忘记那个场面,这是让她感到最痛苦的一件事。

男人的这个鲁莽行为好象一杆矛一样刺破了她对莫瑞尔的爱心。以前,她苦苦地跟他争吵,为他的离心离德而烦恼。现在她不再为他的爱烦恼了,他对她来说是个局外人,这样反而使她容易忍受一些。

然而,她仍然跟他不懈地争执着。她继承了世世代代清教徒的高尚和道德感。这已经成为一种宗教本能。她因为爱他,或者说爱过他,在和他相处时她几乎成了一个狂热的信徒。如果他有过失。她就折磨他;如果他喝醉了或说了谎,她就毫不客气地骂他是懒汉,骂他是恶棍。

遗憾的是,她和他水火不容。她对他所做的一切都不能满意,她认为他应该做的更多更好。她竭力要他成为一个高尚的人,这个要求超越他所能及的水平,因此,反而毁了他,也伤害了自己。但她没有放弃自己的价值标准,孩子敬爱她。

他喝酒虽然很凶,但比不上其他矿工厉害,而且总是喝啤酒。尽管对健康有一定的影响,但没有多大的伤害。周末是他举杯畅饮的时候。每逢星期五、星期六、星期天晚上,他都在矿工酒馆坐到关门。星期一和星期二他不得不在10点左右极不情愿地离开酒馆。星期三、星期四晚上,他呆在家里,或只出去一个小时。实际上,他从来没有因为喝酒而误了工作。

尽管他工作踏实,但他的工资却不增反降。因为他多嘴多舌,爱说闲话,目无上级,谩骂矿井工头。他在帕马斯顿酒会上说:“工头今天早晨下到我们坑道里来了,他说:‘你知道,沃尔特,这不行,这些支柱是怎么回事?’‘这样决不行,’他说,‘总有一天会冒顶的。’我说:‘那你最好站在土堆上,用你的脑袋把它顶起来吧。’他气疯了,不停地骂人,别的人都大笑起来。”莫瑞尔很善于模仿,他努力用标标准准的英语模仿工头的短促刺耳的声音。

“我不能容忍这些的,沃尔特。我俩谁更在行?”我说:“我从未发现你懂得很多,艾弗德,还不如哄着你上床呢!”

莫瑞尔口若悬河地说着,酒友们兴高彩烈。不过他的话也是真实,这个矿井工头是一位没受过教育的人,曾是和莫瑞尔一类的人,因此,尽管两个人素不相和,但或多或少能容忍一些。不过,艾弗德·查尔斯沃斯对莫瑞尔在酒店中嘲笑自己,一直耿耿于怀。因此,尽管莫瑞尔是一个很能吃苦的矿工,他结婚那时,一星期还能挣5英镑,可现在他被分派到更杂更贫的矿井里,那里煤层很薄,而且难采,所以无法赚钱。

而且,夏天,矿井生意处于谈季。男人们常常在10点、11点、12点就排着队回家了,这时太阳还正高呢,没有空卡车停在矿井口等着装煤。山坡上的妇女们在篱笆旁一边拍打着地毯一边朝这儿张望,数着火车头拖进山谷的车皮有多少。孩子们,放学回家往下望见煤田上吊车轮子停着,就说:

“敏顿关门了,我爸爸回家了。”

似乎有一种阴影笼罩着妇女、小孩和男人,因为这个星期末又缺钱花了。

莫瑞尔本应该每星期给他的妻子30先令,来支付各种东西——房租、食物、衣服、俱乐部会费、保险费、医疗费等等,偶尔,如果他比较宽裕,他就给她35先令。但是,这种情形远不及他给她25先令的次数多。冬天,在煤多的矿井里,他每星期就能挣50或55先令。这时他就高兴极了,星期五、六和星期天,他会像贵族一样大大方方地花掉一个金镑左右。尽管这样,他很少多给孩子们分一个便士或给他们买一镑苹果,钱都用来喝酒了。在煤矿疲软的时候,生活艰难,但他倒不会经常地喝醉,因此莫瑞尔太太常说:

“我说不准我是不是宁愿钱少点,他稍微宽裕一点,就没有一刻的安宁了。”

如果他挣了40先令,就会留10先令,挣35就留5,挣32就留4,挣28就留3,挣24就留2,挣20先令就留1先令6便士,挣18先令就留1先令,挣16就留6便士。他从来没存过1便士,也不给妻子存钱的机会,相反,她偶尔还替他还帐,不是酒帐,因为那种帐从不让女人还,而是那些买了一只金丝雀或一根奇特的手杖而欠的帐。

节日期间,莫瑞尔入不敷出,莫瑞尔太太因为要坐月子,尽量地省钱。她一想到他在外面寻欢作乐,挥霍无度,而她却呆在家里发愁,便备觉凄凉。节日有两天。星期二早晨莫瑞尔起得很早,他兴致很高。六点以前,她就听到他吹着哨下楼去了。他吹得非常流畅,活泼而动听。他吹的几乎都是圣曲。他曾是唱诗班一员,嗓音纯正,还在萨斯威大教堂独唱过。他早晨的口哨声就显示出他的功夫。

妻子躺在床上,听着他在花园里叮当叮当,口哨声伴随他锯锯锤锤声。在晴朗的早晨,孩子们还在梦乡,听他那男子汉的快乐声,她躲在床上,体验到一种温暖、安宁的感觉。

九点钟,孩子们光腿赤脚地坐在沙发上玩,母亲在厨房里洗洗涮涮。他拿着工具走进来,袖子卷得高高的,背心往上翻着。他仍然是一个英俊的男人,黑色波浪式卷发,黑黑的大胡子。他的脸也许太红了,这使他看上去有点暴躁。但是此刻他兴致勃勃,他径直走到妻子洗涮的水槽边。

“啊,你在这儿!”他兴高彩烈地说,“走开,让我洗澡。”

“你应该等我洗完。”妻子说。

“(呕欠),要我等?如果我不呢?”

这种幽默的恐吓逗乐了莫瑞尔太太。

“那你就去洗澡盆里洗吧。”

“哈,行,你这个烦人的家伙。”

然后,他站在那里看了她一阵子才走开。

他用心收拾一下,还是英俊潇洒的男子。通常他喜欢在脖子上围一块围巾出去,可是现在,他得好好洗一下。他哗哗啦啦地洗脸,擤鼻子,又火急火燎地去厨房照照镜子。镜子太低,他弯下腰,仔细地分他那又黑又湿的头发,这情景激怒了莫瑞尔太太。他身穿翻领衬衫,打上黑领结,外面套上他的燕尾礼服,看起来风度潇洒,而且他那爱显示自己英俊潇洒的本能掩饰了他衣着的寒碜。

九点半时,杰里·帕迪来叫他的同伴。杰里是莫瑞尔的知心朋友,但莫瑞尔太太不喜欢他。他又瘦又高,一张狐狸般奸诈的脸,一双仿佛没长眼睫毛的眼睛。他走起路来昂首挺胸,很有气魄,好象脑袋安在一根木头般僵硬的弹簧上。他也挺大方的,他似乎很喜欢莫瑞尔,并且或多或少地有点照顾他。

莫瑞尔太太恨他。她认识他那个死于肺病的妻子,在她离开人世时也对她的丈夫恨透了。他一进屋子就气得她吐血,杰里对这些似乎都漠不关心。如今,15岁的大女儿照料着这个贫穷的家,照看着两个弟妹。

“一个吝啬、没心肝的家伙!”莫瑞尔太太说他。

“我一辈子都没发现杰里小气,”莫瑞尔反驳,“据我所知,你在哪儿都找不到一个比他更大方的人了。”

“对你大方,”莫瑞尔太太回答,“可他对他那几个可怜的孩子,就手攥得紧紧的。”

“可怜的孩子!我不知道,他们怎么可怜啦?”

但是,莫瑞尔太太一提到杰里就不能平静。

被议论的这个人,忽然把他的细脖子从洗涤间窗帘外伸进来,看了看莫瑞尔太太。

“早上好,太太。先生在家吗?”

“嗯——在家。”

杰里径自走进来,站在厨房门口。没有人让他坐,只好站在那里,表现出一副男子汉大丈夫特有的冷静。

“天色不错。”他对莫瑞尔太太说。

“嗯。”

“早晨外面真好,散散步。”

“你们要去散步吗?”她问。

“对,我们打算散步去诺丁汉。”他回答道。

“嗯,”

两个男子互相招呼着,都很高兴。杰里是洋洋自得,莫瑞尔却很一副自我抑制的神情,害怕在妻子面前显示出喜气洋洋的样子。但是,他精神抖擞迅速地系着靴子。他们将步行十里路,穿过田野去诺丁汉。他们从河川区爬上山坡,兴趣盎然地在朝阳下前进。在星月酒馆他们干了第一杯酒,然后又到“老地点”酒馆。接着他们准备滴酒不沾步行五里到布尔维尔,再美美喝上一品脱。但是,在途经田野休息时,遇到几个晒干草的人,带着满满一加仑酒。于是,等他们看到布尔维尔城时,莫瑞尔已经渴得昏昏欲睡了。城市出现在他们眼前,正午的阳光下,朦朦胧胧仿佛笼罩了层烟雾。在它往南方的山脊上,到处是房屋的尖顶和大片的工厂和林立的烟囱。在最后一片田地里,莫瑞尔躺倒在一棵棕树下,打着呼噜睡了一个多小时。当他爬起来准备继续赶路时,感觉到头脑昏昏沉沉的。

他们两个和杰里的姐姐在草场饭店用过餐后,去了“碰池波尔”酒馆,那里热闹非凡,人们正在玩“飞鸽”游戏,他们也跟着玩。莫瑞尔认为牌有股邪气,称它是“恶魔照片”,因此他从不玩牌。不过,他可是玩九柱戏和多米诺骨牌的好手。他接受了一个从纽沃克来人赌九柱戏的挑战;所有在这个长方形酒馆里的人全下了注,分成了两方。莫瑞尔脱去上衣,杰里手里拿着装钱的帽子。其他人都在桌子旁观看,有些手里拿着酒杯站着。莫瑞尔小心地摸了一下他的大木球,然后掷了出来。九根柱子倒了,他赢到半克朗,又有钱付债了。

到了晚上7点,这两人才心满意足地踏上了七点半回家的火车。

下午,河川街真是难以忍受。每个人都呆在家门外。女人们不戴头巾,系着围裙,三两成群地在两排房子中间的小径上聊天。男人们蹲在地上谈论着,准备休息一会再喝。这地方空气污浊,石屋顶被晒得发光。

莫瑞尔太太领着小女儿来到离家不过二百英尺的草地上。走近小溪边,溪水在石头和破罐上飞流而过。母亲和孩子斜靠在古老的羊桥的栏杆上眺望着。莫瑞尔太太看见,在草地的另一边的一个小坑里,几个没穿衣服的男孩子在溪水边奔跑。她知道威廉也在这里,她担心威廉会掉进水里淹死。安妮在高高的旧村篱下玩耍,捡着她称之为葡萄干的枪果子。这个孩子更需要注意,而且苍蝇在嗡嗡叫着戏弄人。

7点钟她安顿孩子们到床上睡觉,然后,她干了一会活儿。

沃尔特·莫瑞尔和杰里到达贝斯伍德,他们顿觉如释重负般的轻松,不用再坐火车了,痛痛快快地结束这愉快的一天。他们带着凯旋者的得意踏进了纳尔逊酒馆。

第二天是工作日,想到这个,男人们便觉得扫兴。而且,他们大多已经花光了钱,有的人已经闷闷不乐地往家走,准备为明天而睡觉。莫瑞尔太太呆在屋子里,听着他们郁闷的歌声。九点过去了,10点了,那“一对”仍没有回来。不知在哪一家门口,一个男人拖长调子大声唱道:“引导我们,仁慈的光辉。”每次听到这些醉鬼们乱七八糟地唱赞美诗,她总觉得像受了侮辱。

“好象‘盖娜维吾’之类的小曲还不过瘾。”她说道。

厨房里满是熬香草和蛇麻子的香味,炉子铁架上支着一个黑色大汤锅。莫瑞尔太太拿来一个大砂锅,往里倒了点白糖,然后用尽全身的力气端起锅,把汤倒进去。

正在这时,莫瑞尔进来了。他在纳尔逊酒店里倒是很快活,可在回来的路上就变得烦躁起来。他头昏脑热地在田野睡了一觉,醒来就觉得烦躁不安,浑身疼痛,他还没有完全恢复过来。在走近家门时,他心里很有点内疚。他没有意识到自己在生气,但当他试图打开花园门却没打开时,他就踢踢踹踹地把门闩都踢断了。进屋的时候正好莫瑞尔太太倒大汤锅里的香草汁。他摇摇晃晃地碰到桌子上,那滚开的汤摇晃了起来,莫瑞尔太太吓了一跳。

“老天!”她喊道:“喝得醉醺醺地回来了!”

“什么?”他咆哮着,帽子斜扣在眼睛上。

突然,她浑身热血沸腾。

“还说你没醉!”她发火了。

她放下汤锅,正在搅拌汤里的白糖。他的双手重重地摁到桌子上,把脸凑到她跟前。

“还说你没醉,”他重复着:“哼!只有你这样讨厌的狗才会这么想。”

他把脸凑到她跟前。

“钱多得没处用了,就瞎花!”

“今天我花了不到两先令呢。”他说。

“你不会白白喝醉的。”她回答道。她突然发怒了,“如果你依靠着你那个宝贝杰里,他有能力,让他去照顾一下他的孩子吧,他们需要照顾。”

“胡扯,胡扯,闭嘴,娘儿们。”

两人剑拔弩张,什么都不顾了,互相争嚷着。她和他一样怒火冲天,他们就这么一直斗着嘴,最后他叫她骗子。

“不”她大喊,跳了起来,几乎喘不过气来。“你少血口喷人——你,这个披着羊皮和最卑鄙的大骗子。”

“你是个骗子!”他砸着桌子,大喊道:“你是个骗子,骗子!”

她努力支撑着,紧握两个拳头。

“你把屋子都熏臭了。”她叫喊着。

“那就滚出去——这是我的房子,滚出去!”他大喊,“是我弄来的钱,不是你的,这是我的房子,不是你的,滚出去——滚出去!”

“我会走的,”她大声说:突然,在软弱的泪水中颤抖着,“啊!要不是,要不是为了孩子,我早走了。啊,我后悔没有在几年前生第一个孩子后离开。”——突然,她止住流泪,怒不可遏地说:“你以为我会为了你留下吗——你以为我会为你而停留1分钟吗?”

“那就滚,”他像疯子一样咆哮着,“滚!”

“不!”她转过脸,“不!”她大叫,“你别想随心所欲,你别想为所欲为。我还要照看孩子们。听我说,”她讪笑着“我会放心地把孩子交给你吗?”

“滚!”他粗声粗气地喊:“滚!”举着拳头,但不敢动手,因为他害怕她。

“我的天,如果我能离开你,我只怕高兴得笑都来不及!”她回答道。

他走到她跟前,眼里充满血丝,脸色涨红地向她凑过来,抓住她的胳膊。她吓得尖叫起来,挣扎着。这时他稍微清醒了一点,粗声喘着气,粗鲁地把她推向屋外;还使劲向前推了一下,砰的一声,把她关到门外。他回到厨房,跌坐在扶手椅上,脑袋热血汹涌,沉在两膝之间。他本来精疲力竭,再加上烂醉如泥,逐渐昏睡过去了。

八月的晚上,月亮很高很美,莫瑞尔太太气得失去了知觉,猛一颤抖发现自己在一大片银光中,身上备感清凉,这更使她激动的心灵愤怒不已。她无助地站了一会,呆呆地看着门口那些发光的黄叶子,深吸了一口气,沿着花园小路走着,她的四肢颤抖,腹中的孩子也在不停地动。有一阵,她不由自主地想刚才的场面,一遍又一遍,那些话,那些情景,就像烧红的烙铁烙在她的心灵上。每次回想刚才的情景,烙铁就重复落在同一点上,留下深深的印记,已经不觉得痛了。最后她清醒了,发觉是在黑夜中。她害怕地向四周张望,已经走到了屋边的花园里,在长长的院墙下种着红醋落木,她在边上走来走去。花园狭长,隔着茂密荆棘树篱,与两排房子之间的路相邻。

她匆忙从旁边的花园到前边的园子,月亮从前面的小山上升起,清光撒满了河川区所在的整个山谷。她站在那儿,沉浸在银白的月色之中,脸也沐浴着月色。站着站着,又悲从中来,又持以平静,热泪盈眶,她不停地自语道:“讨厌的东西!讨厌的东西。”

似乎有异样的东西引起她的警觉。她壮着胆子想看看究竟是什么,原来是挺拔雪白的百合花在月光中摇曳,空气中沁透着淡淡的清香,好象有精灵附着似的。莫瑞尔太太害怕地轻轻吸了一口气,她摸着这些大朵百合花白色的花瓣,哆嗦起来。花瓣好象在月光下伸展开来,她把手伸进白色的花蕊里,她手指上的金粉在月光下朦胧不辨。她弯下腰仔细地看这些花蕊上的黄色花粉。但只看到暗淡的颜色。然后,她深深地吸了一口这香气,几乎让她头晕。

莫瑞尔太太斜靠在花园门口,朝外看着,一时出了神。她不知道她想了些什么,除了恶心的感觉使她意识到胎儿的存在之外,她自己似乎像花香一般溶化在晴朗苍白的夜色里。一会儿,胎儿也和她一起溶化在这个月光中。她和群山、百合花、房屋化为一体,在静夜中沉睡。

她清醒过来时,疲倦得只想睡觉,她懈怠地看了看四周,那一支支白色的夹竹桃像铺着亚麻布的灌木丛。一只飞蛾在花丛上飞过,穿过花园。她目送着飞蛾,清醒过来。夹竹桃浓郁的香味使她精神倍增。她沿着小路走着,在白玫瑰丛前徘徊了一阵。这花闻起来又香又纯。她摸了摸白玫瑰的花瓣。白玫瑰清新的香气和又凉又软的叶子使她想起早晨和阳光。她非常喜欢这些花。不过,她累了、想睡觉。在神秘的户外,她觉得自己像被遗弃的。

四周一片寂静。显然,孩子们没有被吵醒,要不就是吵醒又睡着了。一列火车,在三里之外,咆哮着穿过山谷。黑夜无边无际伸向远方,令人感到神秘而好奇。银灰色的雾里传出种种模糊沙哑的声响:一只长脚鸡在不远处叫,火车叹息般的声音及远处男人的叫喊交织在一起。

她的平静了的心又开始快速地跳起来,她匆忙走过宅边园子,轻轻地来到房前。抬了抬门闩,门还是拴得紧紧的。她轻轻地敲了敲门,等了等,又敲了敲。她不想吵醒孩子,她不能吵醒邻居。他一定睡着了,要不怎么也敲不醒?她抓住门把手急切地想进屋。现在天凉了,她会着凉的,何况她现在是身怀六甲。

把围裙裹在头上和双肩上,她又急匆匆地回到屋边花园,来到厨房的窗户旁,斜靠在窗台口,从百叶窗向下看,正好看到她丈夫的胳膊摊在桌上,头枕桌面,他脸朝桌子睡得正酣。

此情此景,使她陡增厌恶,心如死灰。她从灯光的铜黄色上断定灯烧得冒了烟,她越来越响地敲着窗子,似乎玻璃都要碎了,但他还是沉睡不醒。

这样徒劳地敲了半天,她筋疲力竭,又靠着冰凉的石头,不由得颤抖起来。她一直为这个还没出生的孩子担心,她不知道怎么才能暖和一点。她走到煤房里,那儿有一条前天她准备卖给收破烂的旧地毯。她把破毯子技到肩上,虽然肮脏不堪,倒还暖和。然后,她在园中小径徘徊,不时地从百叶窗下向里望望,敲敲窗子,并对自己说,他不会这么僵扭着身子不醒来的。

大约过了一小时,她轻轻地在窗户上敲了很长时间,当她失望地不想再敲时,这声音惊动了他。她看见他动了一下,茫然地抬起头。他心脏的狂跳使他清醒过来。她立即在窗户上敲了一阵。他完全清醒了。她看到他的拳头立刻握紧,怒目圆睁。他没有一丁点的胆怯,即使来二十个强盗,他也会不顾一切地冲上去。他迷迷糊糊地环顾四周。摆出迎战的姿式。

“沃尔特,开门。”她冷冷地喊。

他紧握的拳头松开了。他才想起他干了些什么。他的头低着,他倔强地绷着脸。她看见他急忙赶到门边,听到门栓楔子的声音。他拔掉门闩。门开了——银灰色的夜色,使习惯了昏暗灯光的他感到畏惧。他赶紧退了回去。

莫瑞尔太太进了屋,她看见他几乎是跑着穿过门冲上楼去。在她还没进来时,他就匆匆抽掉了脖子上的硬领,留下了一个撕坏了的扣眼,这又使她生气。

她暖了暖身子,稳定了一下情绪。疲倦使她忘记了任何事情,她又忙来忙去干留下来的活,准备他的早餐,把他的井下水壶洗干净,把他的井下的衣服放到暖气边烤上,旁边放着他的井下靴子,给他拿出来一块干净的围巾、背包和两个苹果,通了通炉子,然后去睡觉了。他已经睡死。两条皱在一起的黑眉毛在额头上耸立着,露出闹别扭的痛苦神情,拉长着脸,噘着嘴,好像在说:“我不乎你是谁或你是干什么的,我想怎样就怎样。”

莫瑞尔太太非常了解他,看也不看他一眼。她对着镜子取下胸针时,她微微地笑了,因为她看见了她满脸的百合花的黄色花粉。她的脑子在翻来覆去的折腾。不过,当她丈夫一觉醒来时,她已经酣然入梦。


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