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Chapter 2 The Birth Of Paul,and Another Battle
AFTER such a scene as the last, Walter Morel was for some days abashed and ashamed, but he soon regained his old bullying indifference. Yet there was a slight shrinking, a diminishing in his assurance. Physically even, he shrank, and his fine full presence waned. He never grew in the least stout, so that, as he sank from his erect, assertive bearing, his physique seemed to contract along with his pride and moral strength.

But now he realised how hard it was for his wife to drag about at her work, and, his sympathy quickened by penitence, hastened forward with his help. He came straight home from the pit, and stayed in at evening till Friday, and then he could not remain at home. But he was back again by ten o'clock, almost quite sober.

He always made his own breakfast. Being a man who rose early and had plenty of time he did not, as some miners do, drag his wife out of bed at six o'clock. At five, sometimes earlier, he woke, got straight out of bed, and went downstairs. When she could not sleep, his wife lay waiting for this time, as for a period of peace. The only real rest seemed to be when he was out of the house.

He went downstairs in his shirt and then struggled into his pit-trousers, which were left on the hearth to warm all night. There was always a fire, because Mrs. Morel raked. And the first sound in the house was the bang, bang of the poker against the raker, as Morel smashed the remainder of the coal to make the kettle, which was filled and left on the hob, finally boil. His cup and knife and fork, all he wanted except just the food, was laid ready on the table on a newspaper. Then he got his breakfast, made the tea, packed the bottom of the doors with rugs to shut out the draught, piled a big fire, and sat down to an hour of joy. He toasted his bacon on a fork and caught the drops of fat on his bread; then he put the rasher on his thick slice of bread, and cut off chunks with a clasp-knife, poured his tea into his saucer, and was happy. With his family about, meals were never so pleasant. He loathed a fork: it is a modern introduction which has still scarcely reached common people. What Morel preferred was a clasp-knife. Then, in solitude, he ate and drank, often sitting, in cold weather, on a little stool with his back to the warm chimney-piece, his food on the fender, his cup on the hearth. And then he read the last night's newspaper--what of it he could--spelling it over laboriously. He preferred to keep the blinds down and the candle lit even when it was daylight; it was the habit of the mine.

At a quarter to six he rose, cut two thick slices of bread and butter, and put them in the white calico snap-bag. He filled his tin bottle with tea. Cold tea without milk or sugar was the drink he preferred for the pit. Then he pulled off his shirt, and put on his pit-singlet, a vest of thick flannel cut low round the neck, and with short sleeves like a chemise.

Then he went upstairs to his wife with a cup of tea because she was ill, and because it occurred to him.

"I've brought thee a cup o' tea, lass," he said.

"Well, you needn't, for you know I don't like it," she replied.

"Drink it up; it'll pop thee off to sleep again."

She accepted the tea. It pleased him to see her take it and sip it.

"I'll back my life there's no sugar in," she said.

"Yi--there's one big 'un," he replied, injured.

"It's a wonder," she said, sipping again.

She had a winsome face when her hair was loose. He loved her to grumble at him in this manner. He looked at her again, and went, without any sort of leave-taking. He never took more than two slices of bread and butter to eat in the pit, so an apple or an orange was a treat to him. He always liked it when she put one out for him. He tied a scarf round his neck, put on his great, heavy boots, his coat, with the big pocket, that carried his snap-bag and his bottle of tea, and went forth into the fresh morning air, closing, without locking, the door behind him. He loved the early morning, and the walk across the fields. So he appeared at the pit-top, often with a stalk from the hedge between his teeth, which he chewed all day to keep his mouth moist, down the mine, feeling quite as happy as when he was in the field.

Later, when the time for the baby grew nearer, he would bustle round in his slovenly fashion, poking out the ashes, rubbing the fireplace, sweeping the house before he went to work. Then, feeling very self-righteous, he went upstairs.

"Now I'm cleaned up for thee: tha's no 'casions ter stir a peg all day, but sit and read thy books."

Which made her laugh, in spite of her indignation.

"And the dinner cooks itself?" she answered.

"Eh, I know nowt about th' dinner."

"You'd know if there weren't any."

"Ay, 'appen so," he answered, departing.

When she got downstairs, she would find the house tidy, but dirty. She could not rest until she had thoroughly cleaned; so she went down to the ash-pit with her dustpan. Mrs. Kirk, spying her, would contrive to have to go to her own coal-place at that minute. Then, across the wooden fence, she would call:

"So you keep wagging on, then?"

"Ay," answered Mrs. Morel deprecatingly. "There's nothing else for it."

"Have you seen Hose?" called a very small woman from across the road. It was Mrs. Anthony, a black-haired, strange little body, who always wore a brown velvet dress, tight fitting.

"I haven't," said Mrs. Morel.

"Eh, I wish he'd come. I've got a copperful of clothes, an' I'm sure I heered his bell."

"Hark! He's at the end."

The two women looked down the alley. At the end of the Bottoms a man stood in a sort of old-fashioned trap, bending over bundles of cream-coloured stuff; while a cluster of women held up their arms to him, some with bundles. Mrs. Anthony herself had a heap of creamy, undyed stockings hanging over her arm.

"I've done ten dozen this week," she said proudly to Mrs. Morel.

"T-t-t!" went the other. "I don't know how you can find time."

"Eh!" said Mrs. Anthony. "You can find time if you make time."

"I don't know how you do it," said Mrs. Morel. "And how much shall you get for those many?"

"Tuppence-ha'penny a dozen," replied the other.

"Well," said Mrs. Morel. "I'd starve before I'd sit down and seam twenty-four stockings for twopence ha'penny."

"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Anthony. "You can rip along with 'em."

Hose was coming along, ringing his bell. Women were waiting at the yard-ends with their seamed stockings hanging over their arms. The man, a common fellow, made jokes with them, tried to swindle them, and bullied them. Mrs. Morel went up her yard disdainfully.

It was an understood thing that if one woman wanted her neighbour, she should put the poker in the fire and bang at the back of the fireplace, which, as the fires were back to back, would make a great noise in the adjoining house. One morning Mrs. Kirk, mixing a pudding, nearly started out of her skin as she heard the thud, thud, in her grate. With her hands all floury, she rushed to the fence.

"Did you knock, Mrs. Morel?"

"If you wouldn't mind, Mrs. Kirk."

Mrs. Kirk climbed on to her copper, got over the wall on to Mrs. Morel's copper, and ran in to her neighbour.

"Eh, dear, how are you feeling?" she cried in concern.

"You might fetch Mrs. Bower," said Mrs. Morel.

Mrs. Kirk went into the yard, lifted up her strong, shrill voice, and called:

"Ag-gie--Ag-gie!"

The sound was heard from one end of the Bottoms to the other. At last Aggie came running up, and was sent for Mrs. Bower, whilst Mrs. Kirk left her pudding and stayed with her neighbour.

Mrs. Morel went to bed. Mrs. Kirk had Annie and William for dinner. Mrs. Bower, fat and waddling, bossed the house.

"Hash some cold meat up for the master's dinner, and make him an apple-charlotte pudding," said Mrs. Morel.

"He may go without pudding this day," said Mrs. Bower.

Morel was not as a rule one of the first to appear at the bottom of the pit, ready to come up. Some men were there before four o'clock, when the whistle blew loose-all; but Morel, whose stall, a poor one, was at this time about a mile and a half away from the bottom, worked usually till the first mate stopped, then he finished also. This day, however, the miner was sick of the work. At two o'clock he looked at his watch, by the light of the green candle--he was in a safe working--and again at half-past two. He was hewing at a piece of rock that was in the way for the next day's work. As he sat on his heels, or kneeled, giving hard blows with his pick, "Uszza--uszza!" he went.

"Shall ter finish, Sorry?" cried Barker, his fellow butty.

"Finish? Niver while the world stands!" growled Morel.

And he went on striking. He was tired.

"It's a heart-breaking job," said Barker.

But Morel was too exasperated, at the end of his tether, to answer. Still he struck and hacked with all his might.

"Tha might as well leave it, Walter," said Barker. "It'll do to-morrow, without thee hackin' thy guts out."

"I'll lay no b--- finger on this to-morrow, Isr'el!" cried Morel.

"Oh, well, if tha wunna, somebody else'll ha'e to," said Israel.

Then Morel continued to strike.

"Hey-up there--LOOSE-A'!" cried the men, leaving the next stall.

Morel continued to strike.

"Tha'll happen catch me up," said Barker, departing.

When he had gone, Morel, left alone, felt savage. He had not finished his job. He had overworked himself into a frenzy. Rising, wet with sweat, he threw his tool down, pulled on his coat, blew out his candle, took his lamp, and went. Down the main road the lights of the other men went swinging. There was a hollow sound of many voices. It was a long, heavy tramp underground.

He sat at the bottom of the pit, where the great drops of water fell plash. Many colliers were waiting their turns to go up, talking noisily. Morel gave his answers short and disagreeable.

"It's rainin', Sorry," said old Giles, who had had the news from the top.

Morel found one comfort. He had his old umbrella, which he loved, in the lamp cabin. At last he took his stand on the chair, and was at the top in a moment. Then he handed in his lamp and got his umbrella, which he had bought at an auction for one-and-six. He stood on the edge of the pit-bank for a moment, looking out over the fields; grey rain was falling. The trucks stood full of wet, bright coal. Water ran down the sides of the waggons, over the white "C.W. and Co.". Colliers, walking indifferent to the rain, were streaming down the line and up the field, a grey, dismal host. Morel put up his umbrella, and took pleasure from the peppering of the drops thereon.

All along the road to Bestwood the miners tramped, wet and grey and dirty, but their red mouths talking with animation. Morel also walked with a gang, but he said nothing. He frowned peevishly as he went. Many men passed into the Prince of Wales or into Ellen's. Morel, feeling sufficiently disagreeable to resist temptation, trudged along under the dripping trees that overhung the park wall, and down the mud of Greenhill Lane.

Mrs. Morel lay in bed, listening to the rain, and the feet of the colliers from Minton, their voices, and the bang, bang of the gates as they went through the stile up the field.

"There's some herb beer behind the pantry door," she said. "Th' master'll want a drink, if he doesn't stop."

But he was late, so she concluded he had called for a drink, since it was raining. What did he care about the child or her?

She was very ill when her children were born.

"What is it?" she asked, feeling sick to death.

"A boy."

And she took consolation in that. The thought of being the mother of men was warming to her heart. She looked at the child. It had blue eyes, and a lot of fair hair, and was bonny. Her love came up hot, in spite of everything. She had it in bed with her.

Morel, thinking nothing, dragged his way up the garden path, wearily and angrily. He closed his umbrella, and stood it in the sink; then he sluthered his heavy boots into the kitchen. Mrs. Bower appeared in the inner doorway.

"Well," she said, "she's about as bad as she can be. It's a boy childt."

The miner grunted, put his empty snap-bag and his tin bottle on the dresser, went back into the scullery and hung up his coat, then came and dropped into his chair.

"Han yer got a drink?" he asked.

The woman went into the pantry. There was heard the pop of a cork. She set the mug, with a little, disgusted rap, on the table before Morel. He drank, gasped, wiped his big moustache on the end of his scarf, drank, gasped, and lay back in his chair. The woman would not speak to him again. She set his dinner before him, and went upstairs.

"Was that the master?" asked Mrs. Morel.

"I've gave him his dinner," replied Mrs. Bower.

After he had sat with his arms on the table--he resented the fact that Mrs. Bower put no cloth on for him, and gave him a little plate, instead of a full-sized dinner-plate--he began to eat. The fact that his wife was ill, that he had another boy, was nothing to him at that moment. He was too tired; he wanted his dinner; he wanted to sit with his arms lying on the board; he did not like having Mrs. Bower about. The fire was too small to please him.

After he had finished his meal, he sat for twenty minutes; then he stoked up a big fire. Then, in his stockinged feet, he went reluctantly upstairs. It was a struggle to face his wife at this moment, and he was tired. His face was black, and smeared with sweat. His singlet had dried again, soaking the dirt in. He had a dirty woollen scarf round his throat. So he stood at the foot of the bed.

"Well, how are ter, then?" he asked.

"I s'll be all right," she answered.

"H'm!"

He stood at a loss what to say next. He was tired, and this bother was rather a nuisance to him, and he didn't quite know where he was.

"A lad, tha says," he stammered.

She turned down the sheet and showed the child.

"Bless him!" he murmured. Which made her laugh, because he blessed by rote--pretending paternal emotion, which he did not feel just then.

"Go now," she said.

"I will, my lass," he answered, turning away.

Dismissed, he wanted to kiss her, but he dared not. She half wanted him to kiss her, but could not bring herself to give any sign. She only breathed freely when he was gone out of the room again, leaving behind him a faint smell of pit-dirt.

Mrs. Morel had a visit every day from the Congregational clergyman. Mr. Heaton was young, and very poor. His wife had died at the birth of his first baby, so he remained alone in the manse. He was a Bachelor of Arts of Cambridge, very shy, and no preacher. Mrs. Morel was fond of him, and he depended on her. For hours he talked to her, when she was well. He became the god-parent of the child.

Occasionally the minister stayed to tea with Mrs. Morel. Then she laid the cloth early, got out her best cups, with a little green rim, and hoped Morel would not come too soon; indeed, if he stayed for a pint, she would not mind this day. She had always two dinners to cook, because she believed children should have their chief meal at midday, whereas Morel needed his at five o'clock. So Mr. Heaton would hold the baby, whilst Mrs. Morel beat up a batter-pudding or peeled the potatoes, and he, watching her all the time, would discuss his next sermon. His ideas were quaint and fantastic. She brought him judiciously to earth. It was a discussion of the wedding at Cana.

"When He changed the water into wine at Cana," he said, "that is a symbol that the ordinary life, even the blood, of the married husband and wife, which had before been uninspired, like water, became filled with the Spirit, and was as wine, because, when love enters, the whole spiritual constitution of a man changes, is filled with the Holy Ghost, and almost his form is altered."

Mrs. Morel thought to herself:

"Yes, poor fellow, his young wife is dead; that is why he makes his love into the Holy Ghost."

They were halfway down their first cup of tea when they heard the sluther of pit-boots.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Morel, in spite of herself.

The minister looked rather scared. Morel entered. He was feeling rather savage. He nodded a "How d'yer do" to the clergyman, who rose to shake hands with him.

"Nay," said Morel, showing his hand, "look thee at it! Tha niver wants ter shake hands wi' a hand like that, does ter? There's too much pick-haft and shovel-dirt on it."

The minister flushed with confusion, and sat down again. Mrs. Morel rose, carried out the steaming saucepan. Morel took off his coat, dragged his armchair to table, and sat down heavily.

"Are you tired?" asked the clergyman.

"Tired? I ham that," replied Morel. "YOU don't know what it is to be tired, as I'M tired."

"No," replied the clergyman.

"Why, look yer 'ere," said the miner, showing the shoulders of his singlet. "It's a bit dry now, but it's wet as a clout with sweat even yet. Feel it."

"Goodness!" cried Mrs. Morel. "Mr. Heaton doesn't want to feel your nasty singlet."

The clergyman put out his hand gingerly.

"No, perhaps he doesn't," said Morel; "but it's all come out of me, whether or not. An' iv'ry day alike my singlet's wringin' wet. 'Aven't you got a drink, Missis, for a man when he comes home barkled up from the pit?"

"You know you drank all the beer," said Mrs. Morel, pouring out his tea.

"An' was there no more to be got?" Turning to the clergyman--"A man gets that caked up wi' th' dust, you know,--that clogged up down a coal-mine, he NEEDS a drink when he comes home."

"I am sure he does," said the clergyman.

"But it's ten to one if there's owt for him."

"There's water--and there's tea," said Mrs. Morel.

"Water! It's not water as'll clear his throat."

He poured out a saucerful of tea, blew it, and sucked it up through his great black moustache, sighing afterwards. Then he poured out another saucerful, and stood his cup on the table.

"My cloth!" said Mrs. Morel, putting it on a plate.

"A man as comes home as I do 's too tired to care about cloths," said Morel.

"Pity!" exclaimed his wife, sarcastically.

The room was full of the smell of meat and vegetables and pit-clothes.

He leaned over to the minister, his great moustache thrust forward, his mouth very red in his black face.

"Mr. Heaton," he said, "a man as has been down the black hole all day, dingin' away at a coal-face, yi, a sight harder than that wall---"

"Needn't make a moan of it," put in Mrs. Morel.

She hated her husband because, whenever he had an audience, he whined and played for sympathy. William, sitting nursing the baby, hated him, with a boy's hatred for false sentiment, and for the stupid treatment of his mother. Annie had never liked him; she merely avoided him.

When the minister had gone, Mrs. Morel looked at her cloth.

"A fine mess!" she said.

"Dos't think I'm goin' to sit wi' my arms danglin', cos tha's got a parson for tea wi' thee?" he bawled.

They were both angry, but she said nothing. The baby began to cry, and Mrs. Morel, picking up a saucepan from the hearth, accidentally knocked Annie on the head, whereupon the girl began to whine, and Morel to shout at her. In the midst of this pandemonium, William looked up at the big glazed text over the mantelpiece and read distinctly:

"God Bless Our Home!"

Whereupon Mrs. Morel, trying to soothe the baby, jumped up, rushed at him, boxed his ears, saying:

"What are YOU putting in for?"

And then she sat down and laughed, till tears ran over her cheeks, while William kicked the stool he had been sitting on, and Morel growled:

"I canna see what there is so much to laugh at."

One evening, directly after the parson's visit, feeling unable to bear herself after another display from her husband, she took Annie and the baby and went out. Morel had kicked William, and the mother would never forgive him.

She went over the sheep-bridge and across a corner of the meadow to the cricket-ground. The meadows seemed one space of ripe, evening light, whispering with the distant mill-race. She sat on a seat under the alders in the cricket-ground, and fronted the evening. Before her, level and solid, spread the big green cricket-field, like the bed of a sea of light. Children played in the bluish shadow of the pavilion. Many rooks, high up, came cawing home across the softly-woven sky. They stooped in a long curve down into the golden glow, concentrating, cawing, wheeling, like black flakes on a slow vortex, over a tree clump that made a dark boss among the pasture.

A few gentlemen were practising, and Mrs. Morel could hear the chock of the ball, and the voices of men suddenly roused; could see the white forms of men shifting silently over the green, upon which already the under shadows were smouldering. Away at the grange, one side of the haystacks was lit up, the other sides blue-grey. A waggon of sheaves rocked small across the melting yellow light.

The sun was going down. Every open evening, the hills of Derbyshire were blazed over with red sunset. Mrs. Morel watched the sun sink from the glistening sky, leaving a soft flower-blue overhead, while the western space went red, as if all the fire had swum down there, leaving the bell cast flawless blue. The mountain-ash berries across the field stood fierily out from the dark leaves, for a moment. A few shocks of corn in a corner of the fallow stood up as if alive; she imagined them bowing; perhaps her son would be a Joseph. In the east, a mirrored sunset floated pink opposite the west's scarlet. The big haystacks on the hillside, that butted into the glare, went cold.

With Mrs. Morel it was one of those still moments when the small frets vanish, and the beauty of things stands out, and she had the peace and the strength to see herself. Now and again, a swallow cut close to her. Now and again, Annie came up with a handful of alder-currants. The baby was restless on his mother's knee, clambering with his hands at the light.

Mrs. Morel looked down at him. She had dreaded this baby like a catastrophe, because of her feeling for her husband. And now she felt strangely towards the infant. Her heart was heavy because of the child, almost as if it were unhealthy, or malformed. Yet it seemed quite well. But she noticed the peculiar knitting of the baby's brows, and the peculiar heaviness of its eyes, as if it were trying to understand something that was pain. She felt, when she looked at her child's dark, brooding pupils, as if a burden were on her heart.

"He looks as if he was thinking about something--quite sorrowful," said Mrs. Kirk.

Suddenly, looking at him, the heavy feeling at the mother's heart melted into passionate grief. She bowed over him, and a few tears shook swiftly out of her very heart. The baby lifted his fingers.

"My lamb!" she cried softly.

And at that moment she felt, in some far inner place of her soul, that she and her husband were guilty.

The baby was looking up at her. It had blue eyes like her own, but its look was heavy, steady, as if it had realised something that had stunned some point of its soul.

In her arms lay the delicate baby. Its deep blue eyes, always looking up at her unblinking, seemed to draw her innermost thoughts out of her. She no longer loved her husband; she had not wanted this child to come, and there it lay in her arms and pulled at her heart. She felt as if the navel string that had connected its frail little body with hers had not been broken. A wave of hot love went over her to the infant. She held it close to her face and breast. With all her force, with all her soul she would make up to it for having brought it into the world unloved. She would love it all the more now it was here; carry it in her love. Its clear, knowing eyes gave her pain and fear. Did it know all about her? When it lay under her heart, had it been listening then? Was there a reproach in the look? She felt the marrow melt in her bones, with fear and pain.

Once more she was aware of the sun lying red on the rim of the hill opposite. She suddenly held up the child in her hands.

"Look!" she said. "Look, my pretty!"

She thrust the infant forward to the crimson, throbbing sun, almost with relief. She saw him lift his little fist. Then she put him to her bosom again, ashamed almost of her impulse to give him back again whence he came.

"If he lives," she thought to herself, "what will become of him--what will he be?"

Her heart was anxious.

"I will call him Paul," she said suddenly; she knew not why.

After a while she went home. A fine shadow was flung over the deep green meadow, darkening all.

As she expected, she found the house empty. But Morel was home by ten o'clock, and that day, at least, ended peacefully.

Walter Morel was, at this time, exceedingly irritable. His work seemed to exhaust him. When he came home he did not speak civilly to anybody. If the fire were rather low he bullied about that; he grumbled about his dinner; if the children made a chatter he shouted at them in a way that made their mother's blood boil, and made them hate him.

On the Friday, he was not home by eleven o'clock. The baby was unwell, and was restless, crying if he were put down. Mrs. Morel, tired to death, and still weak, was scarcely under control.

"I wish the nuisance would come," she said wearily to herself.

The child at last sank down to sleep in her arms. She was too tired to carry him to the cradle.

"But I'll say nothing, whatever time he comes," she said. "It only works me up; I won't say anything. But I know if he does anything it'll make my blood boil," she added to herself.

She sighed, hearing him coming, as if it were something she could not bear. He, taking his revenge, was nearly drunk. She kept her head bent over the child as he entered, not wishing to see him. But it went through her like a flash of hot fire when, in passing, he lurched against the dresser, setting the tins rattling, and clutched at the white pot knobs for support. He hung up his hat and coat, then returned, stood glowering from a distance at her, as she sat bowed over the child.

"Is there nothing to eat in the house?" he asked, insolently, as if to a servant. In certain stages of his intoxication he affected the clipped, mincing speech of the towns. Mrs. Morel hated him most in this condition.

"You know what there is in the house," she said, so coldly, it sounded impersonal.

He stood and glared at her without moving a muscle.

"I asked a civil question, and I expect a civil answer," he said affectedly.

"And you got it," she said, still ignoring him.

He glowered again. Then he came unsteadily forward. He leaned on the table with one hand, and with the other jerked at the table drawer to get a knife to cut bread. The drawer stuck because he pulled sideways. In a temper he dragged it, so that it flew out bodily, and spoons, forks, knives, a hundred metallic things, splashed with a clatter and a clang upon the brick floor. The baby gave a little convulsed start.

"What are you doing, clumsy, drunken fool?" the mother cried.

"Then tha should get the flamin' thing thysen. Tha should get up, like other women have to, an' wait on a man."

"Wait on you--wait on you?" she cried. "Yes, I see myself."

"Yis, an' I'll learn thee tha's got to. Wait on ME, yes tha sh'lt wait on me---"

"Never, milord. I'd wait on a dog at the door first."

"What--what?"

He was trying to fit in the drawer. At her last speech be turned round. His face was crimson, his eyes bloodshot. He stared at her one silent second in threat.

"P-h!" she went quickly, in contempt.

He jerked at the drawer in his excitement. It fell, cut sharply on his shin, and on the reflex he flung it at her.

One of the corners caught her brow as the shallow drawer crashed into the fireplace. She swayed, almost fell stunned from her chair. To her very soul she was sick; she clasped the child tightly to her bosom. A few moments elapsed; then, with an effort, she brought herself to. The baby was crying plaintively. Her left brow was bleeding rather profusely. As she glanced down at the child, her brain reeling, some drops of blood soaked into its white shawl; but the baby was at least not hurt. She balanced her head to keep equilibrium, so that the blood ran into her eye.

Walter Morel remained as he had stood, leaning on the table with one hand, looking blank. When he was sufficiently sure of his balance, he went across to her, swayed, caught hold of the back of her rocking-chair, almost tipping her out; then leaning forward over her, and swaying as he spoke, he said, in a tone of wondering concern:

"Did it catch thee?"

He swayed again, as if he would pitch on to the child. With the catastrophe he had lost all balance.

"Go away," she said, struggling to keep her presence of mind.

He hiccoughed. "Let's--let's look at it," he said, hiccoughing again.

"Go away!" she cried.

"Lemme--lemme look at it, lass."

She smelled him of drink, felt the unequal pull of his swaying grasp on the back of her rocking-chair.

"Go away," she said, and weakly she pushed him off.

He stood, uncertain in balance, gazing upon her. Summoning all her strength she rose, the baby on one arm. By a cruel effort of will, moving as if in sleep, she went across to the scullery, where she bathed her eye for a minute in cold water; but she was too dizzy. Afraid lest she should swoon, she returned to her rocking-chair, trembling in every fibre. By instinct, she kept the baby clasped.

Morel, bothered, had succeeded in pushing the drawer back into its cavity, and was on his knees, groping, with numb paws, for the scattered spoons.

Her brow was still bleeding. Presently Morel got up and came craning his neck towards her.

"What has it done to thee, lass?" he asked, in a very wretched, humble tone.

"You can see what it's done," she answered.

He stood, bending forward, supported on his hands, which grasped his legs just above the knee. He peered to look at the wound. She drew away from the thrust of his face with its great moustache, averting her own face as much as possible. As he looked at her, who was cold and impassive as stone, with mouth shut tight, he sickened with feebleness and hopelessness of spirit. He was turning drearily away, when he saw a drop of blood fall from the averted wound into the baby's fragile, glistening hair. Fascinated, he watched the heavy dark drop hang in the glistening cloud, and pull down the gossamer. Another drop fell. It would soak through to the baby's scalp. He watched, fascinated, feeling it soak in; then, finally, his manhood broke.

"What of this child?" was all his wife said to him. But her low, intense tones brought his head lower. She softened: "Get me some wadding out of the middle drawer," she said.

He stumbled away very obediently, presently returning with a pad, which she singed before the fire, then put on her forehead, as she sat with the baby on her lap.

"Now that clean pit-scarf."

Again he rummaged and fumbled in the drawer, returning presently with a red, narrow scarf. She took it, and with trembling fingers proceeded to bind it round her head.

"Let me tie it for thee," he said humbly.

"I can do it myself," she replied. When it was done she went upstairs, telling him to rake the fire and lock the door.

In the morning Mrs. Morel said:

"I knocked against the latch of the coal-place, when I was getting a raker in the dark, because the candle blew out." Her two small children looked up at her with wide, dismayed eyes. They said nothing, but their parted lips seemed to express the unconscious tragedy they felt.

Walter Morel lay in bed next day until nearly dinner-time. He did not think of the previous evening's work. He scarcely thought of anything, but he would not think of that. He lay and suffered like a sulking dog. He had hurt himself most; and he was the more damaged because he would never say a word to her, or express his sorrow. He tried to wriggle out of it. "It was her own fault," he said to himself. Nothing, however, could prevent his inner consciousness inflicting on him the punishment which ate into his spirit like rust, and which he could only alleviate by drinking.

He felt as if he had not the initiative to get up, or to say a word, or to move, but could only lie like a log. Moreover, he had himself violent pains in the head. It was Saturday. Towards noon he rose, cut himself food in the pantry, ate it with his head dropped, then pulled on his boots, and went out, to return at three o'clock slightly tipsy and relieved; then once more straight to bed. He rose again at six in the evening, had tea and went straight out.

Sunday was the same: bed till noon, the Palmerston Arms till 2.30, dinner, and bed; scarcely a word spoken. When Mrs. Morel went upstairs, towards four o'clock, to put on her Sunday dress, he was fast asleep. She would have felt sorry for him, if he had once said, "Wife, I'm sorry." But no; he insisted to himself it was her fault. And so he broke himself. So she merely left him alone. There was this deadlock of passion between them, and she was stronger.

The family began tea. Sunday was the only day when all sat down to meals together.

"Isn't my father going to get up?" asked William.

"Let him lie," the mother replied.

There was a feeling of misery over all the house. The children breathed the air that was poisoned, and they felt dreary. They were rather disconsolate, did not know what to do, what to play at.

Immediately Morel woke he got straight out of bed. That was characteristic of him all his life. He was all for activity. The prostrated inactivity of two mornings was stifling him.

It was near six o'clock when he got down. This time he entered without hesitation, his wincing sensitiveness having hardened again. He did not care any longer what the family thought or felt.

The tea-things were on the table. William was reading aloud from "The Child's Own", Annie listening and asking eternally "why?" Both children hushed into silence as they heard the approaching thud of their father's stockinged feet, and shrank as he entered. Yet he was usually indulgent to them.

Morel made the meal alone, brutally. He ate and drank more noisily than he had need. No one spoke to him. The family life withdrew, shrank away, and became hushed as he entered. But he cared no longer about his alienation.

Immediately he had finished tea he rose with alacrity to go out. It was this alacrity, this haste to be gone, which so sickened Mrs. Morel. As she heard him sousing heartily in cold water, heard the eager scratch of the steel comb on the side of the bowl, as he wetted his hair, she closed her eyes in disgust. As he bent over, lacing his boots, there was a certain vulgar gusto in his movement that divided him from the reserved, watchful rest of the family. He always ran away from the battle with himself. Even in his own heart's privacy, he excused himself, saying, "If she hadn't said so-and-so, it would never have happened. She asked for what she's got." The children waited in restraint during his preparations. When he had gone, they sighed with relief.

He closed the door behind him, and was glad. It was a rainy evening. The Palmerston would be the cosier. He hastened forward in anticipation. All the slate roofs of the Bottoms shone black with wet. The roads, always dark with coal-dust, were full of blackish mud. He hastened along. The Palmerston windows were steamed over. The passage was paddled with wet feet. But the air was warm, if foul, and full of the sound of voices and the smell of beer and smoke.

"What shollt ha'e, Walter?" cried a voice, as soon as Morel appeared in the doorway.

"Oh, Jim, my lad, wheriver has thee sprung frae?"

The men made a seat for him, and took him in warmly. He was glad. In a minute or two they had thawed all responsibility out of him, all shame, all trouble, and he was clear as a bell for a jolly night.

On the Wednesday following, Morel was penniless. He dreaded his wife. Having hurt her, he hated her. He did not know what to do with himself that evening, having not even twopence with which to go to the Palmerston, and being already rather deeply in debt. So, while his wife was down the garden with the child, he hunted in the top drawer of the dresser where she kept her purse, found it, and looked inside. It contained a half-crown, two halfpennies, and a sixpence. So he took the sixpence, put the purse carefully back, and went out.

The next day, when she wanted to pay the greengrocer, she looked in the purse for her sixpence, and her heart sank to her shoes. Then she sat down and thought: "WAS there a sixpence? I hadn't spent it, had I? And I hadn't left it anywhere else?"

She was much put about. She hunted round everywhere for it. And, as she sought, the conviction came into her heart that her husband had taken it. What she had in her purse was all the money she possessed. But that he should sneak it from her thus was unbearable. He had done so twice before. The first time she had not accused him, and at the week-end he had put the shilling again into her purse. So that was how she had known he had taken it. The second time he had not paid back.

This time she felt it was too much. When he had had his dinner-he came home early that day--she said to him coldly:

"Did you take sixpence out of my purse last night?"

"Me!" he said, looking up in an offended way. "No, I didna! I niver clapped eyes on your purse."

But she could detect the lie.

"Why, you know you did," she said quietly.

"I tell you I didna," he shouted. "Yer at me again, are yer? I've had about enough on't."

"So you filch sixpence out of my purse while I'm taking the clothes in."

"I'll may yer pay for this," he said, pushing back his chair in desperation. He bustled and got washed, then went determinedly upstairs. Presently he came down dressed, and with a big bundle in a blue-checked, enormous handkerchief.

"And now," he said, "you'll see me again when you do."

"It'll be before I want to," she replied; and at that he marched out of the house with his bundle. She sat trembling slightly, but her heart brimming with contempt. What would she do if he went to some other pit, obtained work, and got in with another woman? But she knew him too well--he couldn't. She was dead sure of him. Nevertheless her heart was gnawed inside her.

"Where's my dad?" said William, coming in from school.

"He says he's run away," replied the mother.

"Where to?"

"Eh, I don't know. He's taken a bundle in the blue handkerchief, and says he's not coming back."

"What shall we do?" cried the boy.

"Eh, never trouble, he won't go far."

"But if he doesn't come back," wailed Annie.

And she and William retired to the sofa and wept. Mrs. Morel sat and laughed.

"You pair of gabeys!" she exclaimed. "You'll see him before the night's out."

But the children were not to be consoled. Twilight came on. Mrs. Morel grew anxious from very weariness. One part of her said it would be a relief to see the last of him; another part fretted because of keeping the children; and inside her, as yet, she could not quite let him go. At the bottom, she knew very well he could NOT go.

When she went down to the coal-place at the end of the garden, however, she felt something behind the door. So she looked. And there in the dark lay the big blue bundle. She sat on a piece of coal and laughed. Every time she saw it, so fat and yet so ignominious, slunk into its corner in the dark, with its ends flopping like dejected ears from the knots, she laughed again. She was relieved.

Mrs. Morel sat waiting. He had not any money, she knew, so if he stopped he was running up a bill. She was very tired of him-tired to death. He had not even the courage to carry his bundle beyond the yard-end.

As she meditated, at about nine o'clock, he opened the door and came in, slinking, and yet sulky. She said not a word. He took off his coat, and slunk to his armchair, where he began to take off his boots.

"You'd better fetch your bundle before you take your boots off," she said quietly.

"You may thank your stars I've come back to-night," he said, looking up from under his dropped head, sulkily, trying to be impressive.

"Why, where should you have gone? You daren't even get your parcel through the yard-end," she said.

He looked such a fool she was not even angry with him. He continued to take his boots off and prepare for bed.

"I don't know what's in your blue handkerchief," she said. "But if you leave it the children shall fetch it in the morning."

Whereupon he got up and went out of the house, returning presently and crossing the kitchen with averted face, hurrying upstairs. As Mrs. Morel saw him slink quickly through the inner doorway, holding his bundle, she laughed to herself: but her heart was bitter, because she had loved him.

这次吵架这后,沃尔特·莫瑞尔有几天又窘又羞,但不久他又恢复了盛气凌人和满不在乎的样子。他的内心稍微收敛了一下。甚至躯体也蜷缩着,翩翩风度也消失了。他从来没有发胖过。因此,一旦他的骄傲消失了,他的身体似乎和他的骄傲、道德感一样在萎缩。

现在他意识到妻子拖着身子干活有多么困难,他的同情心被他的悔过心所触动,推动着他去帮忙。从矿井直接回家,晚上一直呆在家里。到了星期五,他确实再呆不住了,但出去十点左右就回来,而且是清清醒醒地回到家。

他总是自己准备早饭。他起得很早,所以时间充裕,他不像别的矿工,把妻子在六点钟就拖起来。五点,有时更早,他就醒了,马上起床上楼。莫瑞尔太太早上醒来,就躺在床上等着这片刻的安宁时光。似乎只要他不在卧室她才能真正的休息。

他穿着衬衣下楼,再蹬着穿上放在暖气边烤了一整夜的下井的裤子,炉里总是有火,因为莫瑞尔太太封着炉子。屋子里最先发出的声音是拨火棍捅炉耙的砰砰声。莫瑞尔捣碎未燃尽的煤渣,放上炉子,铁架上烧上满满一壶水。除了吃的外,他的杯子、刀、叉、所有的餐具,都在桌上的一张报纸上摆好。他做早点,沏上茶,用破布堵上门缝,防止风灌进来。然后把火拨旺,坐下来自自在在享受一个小时。他叉子叉上咸肉烤着,油滴在面包上然后把薄片咸肉放在他的厚厚的面包上,用一把折叠刀一片片地切着吃,又把茶倒进小碟子里喝,他喜欢自斟自饮、自炊自吃,和他的家人一起吃饭似乎没有这么愉快。他不喜欢用叉,普通人很少用叉,这种餐具最近才流行起来,人们还不习惯。莫瑞尔更喜欢用一把折刀。独自一人,吃吃喝喝,天冷的时候,常常坐一张小凳子,背靠着温暖的壁炉垛子,食品放在火炉围栏上,杯子放在炉边。然后,他看看前一夜的报纸——拿到什么就看什么——费劲地拼读着。他更喜欢大白天放下百叶窗,点上蜡烛。这是矿上的习惯。

五点四十分,他站起身,切下两厚片面包和黄油,把它们放进白布背包里,铁皮壶里装满茶水,他在井下就喜欢喝不加糖不加奶的冷茶。然后,他脱下衬衣,换上那件低领口、短袖,像女式的厚绒布下井衬衫。

他端一杯茶上楼给妻子,因为她病了,而且他一时兴来。

“我给你端来一杯茶。”他说。

“哟,不用,你知道我不喜欢茶。”她回答道。

“喝吧,喝了你会再接睡下去。”

她接过了茶,看见她端起茶来喝,他心里乐了。

“我打赌,里面没放糖。”她说。

“咦,我放了一大块呢。”他回答,有点委屈感觉。

“那就怪了。”她说,又喝了一口。

她的头发蓬松散披着,面容非常迷人。他喜爱她这种嗔怪的样子。他又看了看她,悄悄地走了。他常常只带两片黄油面包到井下去吃,所以见她给他装上一个苹果或桔子便满心欢喜。他系上围巾,穿上他那双又笨又重的靴子,套上有大口袋的外套,口袋里装着小挎包和茶壶,随手关上门,在空气清新的早晨行进。他出现在矿井时,嘴里常常含着一根从树杆上折下而且整天在矿里咀嚼着的枝条,一来保持嘴里的湿润,二来使他觉得井下就像在田野里一样高兴。

很快,孩子就要出世了,他邋邋遢遢地忙乱起来,上班前捅炉灰,擦壁炉,打扫屋子,然后,志得意满地上楼去。

“我已经替你打扫完了,你可以整天不动看看书好了。”

她好笑又好气。

“饭会自己热吗?”

“哦,我不知道怎烧饭。”

“如果没饭吃了,你就会知道。”

“暖,也许是吧。”他应着声走了。

她下了楼,发现屋子虽然摆整齐了,但还是很脏。她只有彻底打扫干净了才会去休息。她拿着畚箕去倒垃圾时,基克太太看见了她,就会立刻装做要去煤房。于是,在路过木栅栏时,她会喊:

“你还忙着?”

“嗳。”莫瑞尔无奈地说,“没法子。”

“你看到霍斯了吗?”马路对面一个小个子女人叫道,原来是安东尼太太,一头黑发,个头奇矮,总是穿着一件紧身的棕色丝绒衣服。

“没有。”莫瑞尔太太说。

“嗳,我希望他来,我有一大堆衣眼,我刚才确实听到他的铃声。”

“听!他在那头。”

两个女人向远望去,河川区小巷那头有个男人站在一辆老式双轮轻便马车里,身子俯在一捆捆米黄色的袜子上。一群女人向他伸着手,一些人手里也拿着一捆捆东西。安东尼太太的胳膊上就搭着一堆没着色的袜子。

“这星期我已经做了十打。”她骄傲地对莫瑞尔太太说道。

“啧啧啧,”第一个说,“我不知道你怎么能有那么多时间。”

“哦,”安东尼太太说,“只要你抓紧时间你就有时间。”

“我不知道你是怎样抓紧时间的。”莫瑞尔太太说,“这么多袜你可以赚到多少钱?”

“两个半便士一打。”另一个回答说。

“哦,”莫瑞尔太太说,“我宁愿饿死也不愿为了挣两个半便士坐在那织二十四只长袜。”

“哦,我不明白为什么,”安东尼太太说,“你可以抽空织啊。”

霍斯摇着铃走过来了。女人们胳膊上搭着织成的长袜在院子门口等他。这个粗俗的家伙和她们开玩笑,设法哄骗她们,戏弄她们。莫瑞尔太太不屑一顾地走进了自己的院子。

这里人有个约定俗成的习惯:如果一个女人想找她的邻居,就拿拨火棍伸进壁炉,敲敲壁炉后面的墙,隔壁房子里传来很响的声音,因为壁炉都是背靠背造的。一天早晨,基克太太正在做布丁,她差点被吓死,她听到她家壁炉上发出“砰”的一声,她冲到栅栏边,两手沾满了面粉。“是你敲的吗?莫瑞尔太太?”

“劳驾了,基克太太。”

基克太太爬上她家的煮衣锅,翻过墙从莫瑞尔太太家的煮衣锅上下去,冲进她的邻居家里。

“哎,亲爱的,你觉得怎么样?”她关切地问道。

“你去找一下鲍尔太太吧。”莫瑞尔太太说。

基克太太走到院子里,扯着又尖又响的嗓子叫开了:

“艾一吉一文一吉!”

声音可以从河川区的这头到那头。艾吉终于跑来了,又被派去找鲍尔太太。基克太太顾不得她的布丁了,陪伴着她的邻居。

莫瑞尔太太上了床,基克太太照顾安妮和威廉去吃饭。胖胖的走路摇摇晃晃的鲍尔太太在屋子里发布着命令。

“切点冷肉给主人做饭,再给他做一个苹果奶油布丁。”莫瑞尔太太说。

“今天不吃布丁,他也过得去。”鲍尔太太说。

莫瑞尔不是那种早早地就等在矿井吊架下面准备早点上去一类人。有些人四点钟放工哨声之前就等在那儿了。但莫瑞尔所在的那个矿坑煤层薄,离井口只有一里半,他通常干到工头停工才结束工作。然而,这天,他干得不耐烦了,两点的时候,就凑在绿色的蜡烛光下看表——他在一个安全巷道里——两点半时他又看了一次。为了不影响第二天干活,莫瑞尔正在挖一块岩石。他半蹲半跪着,使劲用镐“克嚓,克嚓”刨着。

“快干完了吧?”他的伙伴巴克喊道。

“干完?只要这世界存在就永远别想干完。”莫瑞尔吼着。“

他继续挖着,累得精疲力竭。

“这是一件让人窝火的工作。”巴克说。

莫瑞尔累得火冒三丈,他没有应声,只是竭尽全力挖。

“你最好留着明天干吧,沃尔特,用不着这么用力。”巴克说。

“我明天一点都不想干这个活,伊斯瑞。”沃尔特喊道。

“哦,好吧,你不干,会有别人干的。”伊斯瑞尔说。

莫瑞尔继续挖着。

“哦,上面——收工了。”隔壁巷道里的人喊着,离开了。

莫瑞尔继续挖着。

“你也许会赶上我的。”巴克说着,走了。他离开之后,留下莫瑞尔一人,他几乎要发疯了。他还没完成他的工作。他劳累过度,几乎累得发狂。站起身,汗水淋漓,他扔下工具,穿上大衣,吹灭蜡烛,拿上灯走了。在主巷道里,别人的灯在摇摇晃晃。传来空洞的回音。这段地下通路又长又难走。

他坐在井底,豆大汗珠往下滴着。有很多等着上井面的矿工,吵吵嚷嚷地说着活。莫瑞尔不情愿而简短地回应着招呼。

“真讨厌,下雨了。”老吉尔斯听到上面传来的消息时说。

莫瑞尔心里很踏实,他已把他喜爱的旧伞放在矿灯室里。终于,轮到他钻到升降机里,一会儿,他就到了地面。他交出矿灯、拿了那把他在一次大拍卖中花了一先令六便士买来的伞。他在井边站了一会儿,望着田野,灰蒙蒙的雨浙浙沥沥地下着,卡车上装满了湿漉漉、亮闪闪的煤。雨水顺着矿车边往下淌,打在车身上白色的“C、W公司”这几个字迹上。这些脸色苍白,神情忧郁的人川流不息地沿着铁轨冒雨来到田野上。莫瑞尔支起伞,听到雨点“啪、啪”地滴到伞上,心情开朗了许多。

在通往贝斯伍德的路上,矿工们一个个都湿漉漉的,浑身又灰又脏。但他们那红红的嘴唇仍旧兴奋地谈论不休。莫瑞尔走在人群中、默默无言,怒气冲冲地皱着眉头。路过威尔斯王子酒店和艾伦酒店时,许多人溜了进去。莫瑞尔痛苦地抑制着这种诱惑,迈着沉重的步伐,从伸出公园院墙的那些温湿的树枝下走过,行进在青山巷泥泞的路上。

莫瑞尔太太躺在床上,听着雨声和从敏顿回来的矿工们的脚步声、说话声,还有他们从田野走上石阶后的“砰、砰”敲门声。

“伙房门后有点香草汤,”她说:“先生如果不在路上喝酒,可能想喝上一杯。”

但他姗姗来迟,她断定他去喝酒了,因为下着雨,他哪有心思照顾孩子和妻子?”

每次她生小孩子时都要大病一场。

“是什么?”她问,觉得快完蛋了。

“一个男孩。”

她从这句话中得到了安慰,一想到成了男孩子的妈妈,她心里洋溢着温馨。她看着这个孩子,孩子长着蓝眼睛,浓密的金黄色头发,漂亮的脸庞。她对这个孩子的爱油然而生,什么也顾不了了。她把孩子抱在她的床上。

莫瑞尔一点也没预料妻子生产,拖着脚步走进园里的小路,疲倦而生气。他收起伞把它放在水槽里,然后,把那双笨重的靴子扔在厨房里。鲍尔太太出现在里面门口。

“哎”,她说:“她的身体非常虚弱,生了个男孩。“

矿工哼了一声,把他的空背包和铁皮水壶放在厨房的柜子上,又走到洗碗间,挂好外套然后回来跌坐进他的椅子里。

“有酒吗?”他问。

那女人走进伙房,软木塞“扑”地响了一声。她厌恶地把杯子重重放在莫瑞尔面前的桌子上,他喝了点滴,喘了口气,又用他的围巾一角擦擦大胡子,然后边喝边喘气,又躺靠在椅子上。那女人没有再跟他说话。她把他的晚饭放在他的面前,上楼了。

“主人回来了吧?”莫瑞尔太太问。

“我已经把晚饭给他了。”鲍尔太太回答。

他双臂撑在桌上——他讨厌鲍尔太太没有给他铺桌布,只给他一小盘菜,而不是一大盘菜——他开始吃了。妻子的病,新添的男孩,现在都旁若无闻。他太累了,只想吃饭,然后把双臂放在桌子上坐着。他不喜欢鲍尔太太在旁边。炉里的火太小,这些都让他闷闷不乐。

吃完饭,他坐了20来分钟。然后,把火拨旺。他穿着长袜,极不情愿地上了楼。这个时候去看他的妻子可真难堪,他太累了。他的脸是黑黝黝的,脸上满是汗渍,汗衫也干了,浸透了尘污,脖子上围着一条肮脏的羊毛围巾。他就这样站在床脚边。

“嗨,现在感觉怎么样?”他问道。

“很快就会好的。”她回答道。

“呣。”

他若有所失地站在那里,不知道该说什么,他很累,讨厌这些麻烦事,可他,又不会知道他该怎么办。

“她们说是个男孩。”他结结巴巴地说。

她掀开被单,给他看这个孩子。

“上帝保佑他!”他低声说。这模样令她捧腹大笑。因为他装出慈父的形象,勉勉强强地祝福他,实际上他并没有这种感情。

“你走吧。”她说。

“我就走,亲爱的。”他回答着,转身走了。

妻子让他走,他想吻她一下,但又不敢。她希望他亲亲她,但无法让自己做出任何暗示。他出了屋子后,她松了一口气,屋子里留下一股淡淡的矿井味儿。

有位公理会牧师每天都来看莫瑞尔太太。海顿先生很年轻,也很贫穷。他的妻子在生头胎孩子时死了,因此他现在还孤身独处。他是剑桥大学艺术学士,非常腼腆,生来不是做传教士的料。莫瑞尔太太很喜欢他,他也信赖她。当她身体精神好时,他们一聊好几个小时。他做了这个孩子的教父。

偶尔,这位牧师也和莫瑞尔太太一起喝茶。于是,她就早早铺上桌布,拿出她最好的淡绿边杯子,心里希望莫瑞尔别太早回来,即使这一天他在外面喝杯酒,她也不会在乎的。她总是做两顿主餐。因为她认为孩子们的主餐应该在中午吃,而莫瑞尔应在5点钟吃。因此,当莫瑞尔太太和面做布丁,削土豆皮时,海顿先生就会抱着孩子,看着她干活,讨论着他的下一次布道。他的想法荒谬古怪。她谨慎地让他面对现实。这次是在讨论述拿的婚礼。

“当主耶酥在迦拿把水变成酒后,”他说:“这就是普通生活的象征,结婚后夫妇的血如果没有受过圣灵感召,像水一样。一旦受了圣灵感召,就变得像酒一样。因为,一旦有了爱情,一个人受到了圣灵感召,精神结构就会改变,外表也会变化。”

莫瑞尔太太心里想:“是啊,可怜的家伙。他年轻的妻子就死了,所以他才把爱投入到圣灵身上。”当他们把第一杯茶喝了一半时,就听见门外传来矿井靴的响声。

“天哪!”莫瑞尔太太不由自主地喊道。牧师看起来也有点害怕。莫瑞尔进来了,他满面怒容。牧师站起来想跟他握手,莫瑞尔却点点头算是打了个招呼。

“不安全啦,”莫瑞尔说着伸出手来让他看。“看我的手!你从来不想握这样的手,是吧?手上尽是铁镐、铁锹上的煤灰。”

牧师慌乱地涨红了脸,又坐了下来。莫瑞尔太太站起来,把冒着热气的汤锅端到旁边。莫瑞尔脱下外衣,把扶手椅子拖到桌子跟前。重重地坐下来。

“累了吧?”牧师问道。

“累?我是累了。”莫瑞尔回答道。“你不知道累是什么滋味。”

“也是。”牧师回答。

“看,看这儿,“矿工说道,让他看自己汗衫的肩部,“现在干了点儿,可还是像块汗淋淋的抹布,摸摸这儿。”

“上帝啊!”莫瑞尔太太喊道:“海顿先生才不想摸你那肮脏的汗衫。”

牧师小心地伸出手。

“对,也许他不想摸。”莫瑞尔说道:“不管怎样,汗会从我身上流出来。我的汗衫每天都拧得出水来。太太,你有没有给一个从井下回家的男人准备一杯汤!”

“你知道你把所有啤酒都喝完了。”说着,莫瑞尔太太给他倒了一杯茶。

“难道一点也没有了吗?”他转身对牧师说:“你知道,煤矿里到处都是灰,一个人浑身是煤灰,当然回到家,就需要喝一杯酒。”

“那是当然。”牧师说道。

“可十次想喝九次都喝不上。”

“有水——还有茶。”莫瑞尔太太说。

“水!水又不能润嗓子。”

他倒了一杯茶,吹了吹,隔着大黑胡子一口喝干了。然后叹了口气,又倒了一杯,把茶杯放在桌子上。

“我的桌布!”莫瑞尔太太说着把茶杯放在盘子里。

“累成这样的人回家,哪顾得上桌布。”莫瑞尔说。

“可怜啊!”他的妻子冷嘲热讽地说着。

屋子里弥漫着肉、蔬菜和下井工作服的气味。

他向牧师斜靠过去,大胡子向前翘着,脸色黝黑,嘴巴更显得通红。

”海顿先生,”他说,“一个人整天呆在黑漆漆的洞里,不停地挖煤层,唉,比那堵墙更坚硬的……。”

“不用报怨了。”莫瑞尔太太打断他。

她厌恶丈夫,不论什么时候,他就装模作样地乞求别人的同情。

威廉,坐在旁边看婴孩,他也讨厌父亲自怨自艾的神态,恨他用漠不关心的态度对待母亲。安妮也从没喜欢过他,常躲着他。

牧师走后,莫瑞尔太太看着桌布。

“搞得乌七八糟。”她说。

“难道因为你领来一位牧师陪着,我就应该吊着膀子闲坐着。”他大声吼道。

俩人都怒气冲冲,但她一声不吭,婴儿哭了。莫瑞尔太太端起炉边的一只汤锅,不小心碰着安妮的头,把小姑娘碰哭了。莫瑞尔冲她大声斥责,家里一片混乱,威廉看着壁炉上几个发亮的大字,清晰地念道:“上帝保佑我的全家。”

这时莫瑞尔太太正在哄婴儿,听后跳起来冲到威廉面前,扇了他一耳光,说:“你敢插嘴?”

接着,她坐下大笑起来,笑得满面泪水涟涟,威廉踹着她坐的凳子,莫瑞尔吼道:“我不明白这有什么可笑的。”

一天晚上,正值牧师访后,她觉得她不能再忍受她丈夫的絮絮叨叨,就带着安妮和小孩出去了。莫瑞尔刚才踢了威廉,她永远也不会原谅他。

她走过羊桥,穿过草地的一角,来到板球场。金黄的晚霞铺满草地,隐约可从听到远处的水车声。她坐在板球场杨树下,面对着暮色,在她面前,是这块平坦、坚实绿色的大板球场。像一汪闪光的大海。孩子们在浅蓝色的帐篷阴影里玩。好多绚丽斑澜的白嘴鸦在呱呱叫着飞回家去。飞行的鸦群排成一条长长的弧形,飞进金色的晚霞,像舒缓的旋风中卷起的黑色鳞片,绕着突出的牧场中的树桩,聚拢着,呱呱叫着,旋转着。

几个绅士正在训练,莫瑞尔太太听见打球的声音和男人们的失声叫喊,看见白色的人影在朦胧的绿茵上悄悄地移动着,远处的农庄,干草堆的一面通红发亮,另一面灰色阴暗。一辆满载着一捆捆谷物的大车穿过夕阳的余辉驶向远方。

太阳就要落山了。每个晴朗的傍晚,金色的夕阳映红了德比郡的群山。

莫瑞尔太太看着太阳从绚烂美丽的天空中往下沉在当空,留下一道柔和的花一般的蓝色,而西方天空却一片通红,仿佛所有的火都汇集在那里一样,另一半苍穹被映衬得明净湛蓝。有一刻,田野那边的山梨果从黑色的叶丛中探出来。几捆麦子竖在田地的一角,像活人似的,随风摇晃,她想它们在鞠躬。也许她的儿子会成为一个正派的人。在东边,落日把天空染成一片浮动的粉红色,与西边的猩红色相映衬。山坡上的那些原来在落日的金光中的大干草堆渐渐变凉。

莫瑞尔太太只有在这一刻,那些琐碎的烦恼突然飘逝殆尽。面对美丽的大自然的景色,她获得了心平气静地来审视自己的勇气。时不时有燕子飞掠她的身边,安娜也时不时地拿着一把杨树果来到她身边。婴儿在母亲的膝盖上不停地扭动着,两手对着摇摇摆摆。

莫瑞尔太太低头看着孩子。由于她与丈夫的感情乖忤,所以她把小孩子当作灾祸和负担。甚至到现在她还对孩子感到陌生。这个孩子像沉重的包袱压在她心上,仿佛孩子有病或畸形似的。实际上,孩子看起来相当健康。她注意到孩子的眉头奇怪地皱着,眼神显得心事重重,仿佛他正努力去理解什么是痛苦。她看着孩子那黑色忧郁的双眸,心头像压着磐石。

“他看起来像在想什么伤心事呢。”基克太太说。

看着孩子,突然间,母亲心头的那种沉重的感情融化为一种强烈的悲痛。她俯向孩子,两行由衷的泪滴流下来。小孩子举起了小手。

“我的宝贝。”她温柔地叫着。

就在这一刻,她觉得在灵魂深处,感到她和丈夫的罪孽。

小孩子抬起头来看着她。孩子有一双像她一样的蓝眼睛,但看起来沉重忧郁,仿佛他已经明白心灵受到了什么打击。

娇弱的婴儿躺在她怀里,他那深蓝色的眼睛,总是眨也不眨地望着她,好象要看穿她的深藏的内心世界。她不再爱丈夫,本不想要这个孩子,但是他现在已经躺在她的怀里,牵动她的心。她觉得仿佛那根把婴儿弱小的身体和她的身体连在一起脐带还没割断。她的心里涌起一股疼爱婴儿的热情。她把孩子拥在胸前,正对着他。她要用她所有的力量,用她全部的爱心去补偿这个由她带到世上却没有疼爱的孩子。既然孩子已经出世了,就要格外爱护孩子,让他在爱护中成长。他那清澈懂事的眼睛让她痛苦而又害怕。难道他知道她的一切?他在她神色中是不是有一种责备的意味?她痛苦而又害怕,她觉得她的骨髓都要融化了。

她又一次清醒地意识到手中的婴儿。

“看!”她说:“看!我的宝贝。”

把婴儿举向搏动的、红彤彤的太阳,她看见他举起他的小拳头,她感到欣慰。然后她又把他搂在怀里,对于她冲动地想让他回到他来的地方感到羞愧。

“如果他长大,”她心里想,“他会成为什么——他会成为一个什么样的人呢?

她忧心忡忡。

“我要叫他‘保罗’。”她突然说,也不知道为什么。

过了一会儿她回家了。夜色洒在深绿色的草地上,一切都湮没在黑暗中。

正如所料,她发现家里空无一人。不过,莫瑞尔10点钟回家了。那天,至少是平平安安过去了。

沃尔特·莫瑞尔在这段时间特别烦躁,工作累得他精疲力尽,回到家后,对谁说话都没好气。如果炉火太小,他就像强盗一样咋咋呼呼,他报怨饭菜不可口;孩子们大声说话声稍高一点儿,他就大声呵斥,使得母亲火冒三丈孩子们痛恨他。

星期五,11点钟了,他还没回家。婴儿生病一刻也不安宁,一放下就哭。莫瑞尔太太累得要死。她还很虚弱,几乎都支撑不住了。

“希望那个讨厌的家伙早点儿回来。”她疲乏地自语。

小孩子终于躺在她的怀里睡着了。她累得连把孩子抱到摇篮里的力气几乎都没有了。

“不论他什么时候回来,我都不管他。”她说:“讲了只惹得生气,我不如什么都不说,我知道无论干什么,他都会让我生气的。”她又自言自语。

她叹了口气。听到他回来了。好象这脚步声让她无法忍受。他在报复她。喝得醉熏熏的。他进屋时。她一直低着头看着孩子。不希望看到他。他走过去。歪歪斜斜地撞到碗柜上。里面的坛坛罐罐碰得啼哩哗啦。他抓住白色的圆壶盖。稳住自己。挂好自己的衣帽。又转过身来。站在远处瞪着她。她却坐在那里俯对着孩子。

“家里没有什么吃的吗?”他蛮横地问。好象支使一个仆人。他喝醉的时候。他会装出城里人说话的腔调。莫瑞尔太太最讨厌他这样子。

“你知道家里有什么?”她毫无感情地冷冰冰地说。

他站在那里瞅着她。一动不动。

“我问了一个礼貌的问题。我也希望有一个礼貌的回答。”他别别扭扭地说。

“你已经得到了礼貌回答。”她说着。仍然不理他。

他又瞪着眼睛。然后摇摇晃晃地走上前。一只手按着桌子。另一只手拉开抽屉想拿出刀切面包。他拉歪了抽屉。卡住拉不开。他猛地拉了一下。抽屉完全被拉出来。里面的刀叉勺等金属物品散落满地。小孩被吓得猛地抽搐一下。

“你笨手笨脚地干什么呀?醉鬼。”母亲叫了起来。

“那你应该把这些东西捡起来,你应该像别的女人一样服侍男人。”

“服侍你——服侍你?”她叫道。“噢。我明白了。”

“对。我要你明白你该干些什么。服侍我。你应该服侍我……。”

“没门儿。老爷。我宁愿去侍候大门口的狗。”

“什么,什么?”

他正试着安抽屉。听她最后一句话。他转过身。脸色通红。眼睛布满血丝威胁地瞪着她,一声不吭。

“呸——”她轻蔑地。

他气极了。猛地一拉抽屉。抽屉掉了下来。结结实实地砸在他的腿上。他反射似地把抽屉向她扔去。

抽屉的一角碰到了她的眉头,掉进壁炉里。她歪了一下头,从椅子上跌下来,几乎昏过去。她的内心感觉很难受,她紧紧地把孩子搂在怀里。过了一会儿,她才努力清醒过来,孩子正哭喊着。她的左眉头不停地冒血,她一低头看孩子,头就发晕。几滴血滴到了孩子的白围巾上。幸亏孩子没有伤着。她抬起头部保持平衡,抑制血流满眼睛。

沃尔特·莫瑞尔仍然像刚才一样站着,一手斜撑着桌子,神色茫然,等他觉得自己站稳后,摇摇晃晃地向她走去。又磕绊了一下,他一把抓住了她的摇椅后背,几乎把她翻倒在地。他向她斜俯过去,用一种迷惑的关切的口气说:

“砸中你了吗?”

他又摇晃了一下,好像要倒在孩子身上。闯了这个祸,他已经失去了平衡。

“滚开。”她努力保持平静。

他打了个嗝。“让我——让我看看他。”他说着,又打了个嗝儿。

“滚开!”她又大声说。

“让我——让我看看嘛,亲爱的。”

她闻到了他的酒味。觉得他摇晃着她摇椅的后背,有时整个椅子都在晃动。

“滚开!”她说。无力推开他。

他摇摇晃晃地站着,死死地盯着她。她用尽全身力气站起来,怀里抱着孩子。凭着顽强的意志,像在梦游似地穿过洗碗间,用凉水洗了一下眼睛。她头晕得厉害,害怕自己摔倒。回到摇椅上,全身都在发抖。她仍然本能地紧紧地抱着孩子。

莫瑞尔不耐烦地把抽屉塞国空格里,然后膝盖着地,双手麻木地收拾撒了一地的勺叉。

她眉头仍然冒着血。不一会儿,莫瑞尔站起来,向她伸着脸。

“现在怎么样,宝贝?”他可怜兮兮、低声下气地问。

“你自己看!”她回答。

他弯下腰,双手挟着膝盖躬着身,查看伤口。她转过脸去,尽量扭着头躲开那张胡子拉茬的脸。她像块石头般冷淡而毫无表情。紧闭着嘴。他看着她的这副神态,感到脆弱而绝望。他失望地转过身,看到一滴血从她那躲避着转过的伤口里滴到小孩柔软发亮的头发上。他一动不动地看着这滴深红色的血在亮闪闪的发丝上挂着,并逐渐往下渗。又一滴掉下来了,它会流到婴儿的头皮上的。他一动不动地看着,终于,他那男子汉的气概完全被摧毁。

“孩子有啥好看的?”妻子就问了这一声。但是,她低沉的认真的语气使他的头垂得更低。她又用和缓语气说:“从中间抽屉里给我拿点棉花。”

他顺从地跌跌撞撞地走去。一会儿拿过来一块棉花。她把棉花在火上烧化。然后敷到前额上。她做这些事的时候坐着。婴儿仍躺在她的膝盖上。

“再拿一条干净的下井用的围巾。”

他又笨手笨脚地在抽屉里翻了一阵。很快就拿出一条窄窄的红围巾。她接过来。颤抖着双手把围巾系到头上。

“我帮你系吧。”他谦恭地说。

“我自己能系。”她回答。系好后,告诉他去封火锁门。然后她上了楼。

早晨,莫瑞尔太太说:

“蜡烛灭了,我摸着黑去拿火拨,头碰到煤房里的门闩上了。”她的两个孩子睁着惊愕的眼睛望着她。他们什么也没说。可是他们张着嘴下意识表明他们已经明白到了这场悲剧。

第二天,沃尔特·莫瑞尔一直在床上躺到吃饭的时候。他没有想昨夜发生的事,他很少想什么事,他也不愿想那件事。他像条正在发怒的狗躺在床上,他内心的创伤和痛苦不亚于妻子。而且更让他难受的是,他绝不肯对她说一句致歉的话。他试图摆脱苦恼。“这是她自己的错。”他心里想。然而,没有什么可以阻止他的良知对他的处罚。这像铁锈一样腐蚀他的心灵,他只能借酒浇愁。

他不想起床,不想说一句话,不想干任何事,只能像木头一样躺着。而且,他头也痛得厉害。这是个星期天,快到中午,他起来了。在食品柜里给自己找了点吃的,低关头吃着。然后登上他的靴子出去了,到三点钟他才回来,稍微带点醉意,心情也畅快了些。回来后又径直上了床。晚上六点钟他又起来了,喝了点茶后又出门了。

星期天也一样,睡到中午。在帕尔马斯顿呆到二点半。然后吃饭,几乎一句话不说。将近四点,莫瑞尔太太上楼换她的礼服时,他已经睡熟了。如果他对她说一声:“亲爱的,是我不对。”她就会可怜他。但是没有,他始终认为这是她的错。他也苦恼极了,而她只好对他不闻不问。他们之间就这么僵着,从情感上来说她是赢家。

全家人一起喝茶。只有星期天的时候全家人才能坐在一起吃饭喝茶。

“爸爸不打算起床了吗?”威廉问道。

“让他躺着去吧。”母亲回答。

家庭笼罩一种忧愁的气氛。孩子们如同嗅到了被污染了的空气,他们也闷闷不乐,不知道干什么玩什么才好。

莫瑞尔醒来之后,立即起床。他生来就闲不住,两个早晨没什么事干,他几乎都要窒息了。

他下楼时已经快六点了。这次他毫不犹豫地进来,强硬的态度取代了他的敏感的畏缩,他不再顾虑家里人怎么想怎么感觉的。

茶具都摆在桌上。威廉正在大声朗读《儿童世界》。安娜在一边听着。不时地问“为什么?”两个孩子听到父亲穿袜子的脚重重地走近的声音,马上不作声了。他进来时,他们都缩成一团。虽然他平常对他们也很宽容的。

莫瑞尔自己随便做了点吃的,在吃饭喝水时故意弄出很多声响。没有人跟他说话,家庭生活的温馨在他进来之后就消失了,留下一片沉默。不过,他也不在乎他们之间的疏远。

他喝完茶,立即匆忙地站起身,走了出去。就是他的这种匆忙,这种急于要走的神情让莫瑞尔太太厌恶。她听到他哗哗啦啦地在冷水里洗头,听到他急切地用梳子蘸着水梳头时钢梳子碰撞着脸盆的声音,她厌恶地合上了眼睛。他弯腰穿靴子时,他动作中的那种粗野和家里其他人那种含蓄谨慎截然不同。他总想逃避内心的冲突,甚至在他内心深处,他仍为自己解脱说:“如果她不这么说,根本就不会出现这种情况,她是自作自受。”孩子们耐心地等着他准备就绪,他一出门,他们如蒙大赦。

他心情愉快地带上门。这是一个雨天的傍晚,帕马尔斯顿酒店似乎更显得亲切。他满怀希望地向前匆匆走着,河川区的石瓦屋顶在雨中闪闪烁烁,那常年黑乎乎满是煤灰的路现在全变成黑乎乎的泥浆,他沿路匆匆行进。帕马尔斯顿酒店里乌烟瘴气,走廊里湿漉漉的泥脚走来走去。虽然空气污浊,屋里人声鼎沸,弥漫着浓浓的烟味和啤酒味。但是气氛却很温暖。

“要点什么。沃尔特?”当莫瑞尔刚出现在门口。就有一个声音问。

“哦。吉姆。我的老伙计。你从哪来的?”

人群中让出个位子,热情地接纳了他。他对此满心欢喜,一两分钟之后,他们就让他的责任感、羞悔和烦恼烟消云散。他轻松得像欢快的晚钟。

到了下个星期三,莫瑞尔已经身无分文。他害怕他的妻子,因为伤了她的心。他也恨她,他不知道那个晚上应该怎样度过才好。因为他已经欠下了很多债,连去帕马尔斯顿酒店的两便士也没有了。于是,当他的妻子带着小孩子下楼去花园时,他乘机在妻子平时放钱包的碗柜最上面的抽屉里翻寻,他找到了钱包。打开看了看,里面有一枚半克朗,两枚半便士,还有一枚六便士。于是他拿了那枚六便士,然后小心地把钱包放回原处,出了门。

第二天,她要给蔬菜水果商付钱,她拿出钱包找那六便士,她的心往下沉。她坐下来想:“六便士哪儿去了?我没有花呀?而且我也没有乱放?”

她心烦透了,到处翻找这六便士。后来,她想着想着,一个想法冒出脑海,丈夫拿走了。钱包里剩下的这点钱是她所有的积蓄,可他还从钱包里偷,这真让人难以忍受。他已经干过两次,第一次她没有责备他。到了周末他又把那一个先令放回她的钱包里,她由此知道是他拿走了钱。第二次他没有把钱放回去。

她觉得这也太过分了。当他吃完了饭——那天他回来的很早——她冷冷地对他说:

“昨天晚上你从我钱包里拿走了六便士吗?”

“我!”他装出一种被冤枉的神情抬起头来回答。“没有,我没拿!我连你的钱包见都没见过。”

她明白他在撒谎。

“哼,你心里明白。”他平静地说。

“告诉你我没有。”他喊了起来,“你又冲着我来了,是不是?我可受够了。”

“你趁我收衣服时,从我钱包里拿走了六便士。”

“我要让你对此付出代价。”他说着拼命推回他的椅子,急急地洗了把脸,头也不回地上楼了。一会儿,他穿好衣服下来,手里拿着一个大包袱,用蓝格子大手帕包着。

“行啦。”他说:“你再别想见我。”

“那你别回来。”她回答道。听到这,他拿着那个大包袱大踏步地出了门。她坐在那儿身子轻轻地发抖,心里充满对他的轻蔑。如果他去了别的矿井,找到了别的工作,跟别的女人搞上了,她该怎么办?不过她太了解他了——他不会这么做。她对他非常有把握。不过,她的内心还是或多或少有点痛苦迷惘。

“爸爸在哪?”威廉从学校回来。

“他说他走了。”他的母亲回答。

“去哪儿?”

“嗯,我不知道。他拿着蓝布包袱出去了,还说他不回来了。”

“那我们怎么办?”小男孩喊起来。

“哦。别着急。他不会走远。”

“如果他不回来呢。”安妮哭叫着。

她和威廉缩在沙发里哭泣着。莫瑞尔太太坐下不禁大笑起来。

“你们这一对傻瓜!”她大声说:“天黑之前你们就会看到他的。”

但这也安慰不了孩子。黄昏降临,莫瑞尔太太由困倦变得焦急起来。她一会儿想要是以后再永远不见他倒是一种解脱,可一想到抚养孩子的问题又烦恼起来。平心而论,到目前为止,她还不能让他走。说到底,她也明白,他不能彻底一走了之。

她走到花园尽头煤房去,觉得门后有什么东西。看了一眼,原来黑暗中躺着那个蓝色的包袱,她坐在煤块上大笑起来。一看到这个包袱,这么大,又这么丢人现眼,鬼鬼祟祟地呆在黑暗的角落里,两头打结处像耷拉下来的耳朵,她又大笑起来,她心里轻松多了。

莫瑞尔太太坐在那里寻着。她知道他不名一文,如果他在外面过夜,就得欠债。她对他真是讨厌——讨厌透顶了。他甚至没有勇气把他那个包袱带出家门。

她沉思着,大约九点钟。他打开门进来,鬼鬼祟祟地。不过仍然板着脸,面含温怒,努力装成威风凛凛的样子。

“哼。你能去哪儿?你甚至连包袱都不敢拿出花园。”她说。

他那副傻样,让她没法跟他生气。他脱了鞋子,准备上床。

“我不知道你的蓝手帕里包些什么。”她说:“如果你还把它放在那儿,明天早晨孩子们会去拿走的。”

他起身出了屋,不一会就回来了。别着脸穿过厨房,匆匆忙忙地上了楼。莫瑞尔太太看到他鬼鬼祟祟地快速穿过里面过道,手里还拿着那个包袱,她偷偷地笑了,但是她的内心很痛苦。因为她曾爱过他。



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