小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 经典英文小说 » 儿子与情人 Sons and Lovers » Chapter 9 Defeat Of Miriam
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 9 Defeat Of Miriam
PAUL was dissatisfied with himself and with everything. The deepest of his love belonged to his mother. When he felt he had hurt her, or wounded his love for her, he could not bear it. Now it was spring, and there was battle between him and Miriam. This year he had a good deal against her. She was vaguely aware of it. The old feeling that she was to be a sacrifice to this love, which she had had when she prayed, was mingled in all her emotions. She did not at the bottom believe she ever would have him. She did not believe in herself primarily: doubted whether she could ever be what he would demand of her. Certainly she never saw herself living happily through a lifetime with him. She saw tragedy, sorrow, and sacrifice ahead. And in sacrifice she was proud, in renunciation she was strong, for she did not trust herself to support everyday life. She was prepared for the big things and the deep things, like tragedy. It was the sufficiency of the small day-life she could not trust.

The Easter holidays began happily. Paul was his own frank self. Yet she felt it would go wrong. On the Sunday afternoon she stood at her bedroom window, looking across at the oak-trees of the wood, in whose branches a twilight was tangled, below the bright sky of the afternoon. Grey-green rosettes of honeysuckle leaves hung before the window, some already, she fancied, showing bud. It was spring, which she loved and dreaded.

Hearing the clack of the gate she stood in suspense. It was a bright grey day. Paul came into the yard with his bicycle, which glittered as he walked. Usually he rang his bell and laughed towards the house. To-day he walked with shut lips and cold, cruel bearing, that had something of a slouch and a sneer in it. She knew him well by now, and could tell from that keen-looking, aloof young body of his what was happening inside him. There was a cold correctness in the way he put his bicycle in its place, that made her heart sink.

She came downstairs nervously. She was wearing a new net blouse that she thought became her. It had a high collar with a tiny ruff, reminding her of Mary, Queen of Scots, and making her, she thought, look wonderfully a woman, and dignified. At twenty she was full-breasted and luxuriously formed. Her face was still like a soft rich mask, unchangeable. But her eyes, once lifted, were wonderful. She was afraid of him. He would notice her new blouse.

He, being in a hard, ironical mood, was entertaining the family to a description of a service given in the Primitive Methodist Chapel, conducted by one of the well-known preachers of the sect. He sat at the head of the table, his mobile face, with the eyes that could be so beautiful, shining with tenderness or dancing with laughter, now taking on one expression and then another, in imitation of various people he was mocking. His mockery always hurt her; it was too near the reality. He was too clever and cruel. She felt that when his eyes were like this, hard with mocking hate, he would spare neither himself nor anybody else. But Mrs. Leivers was wiping her eyes with laughter, and Mr. Leivers, just awake from his Sunday nap, was rubbing his head in amusement. The three brothers sat with ruffled, sleepy appearance in their shirt-sleeves, giving a guffaw from time to time. The whole family loved a "take-off" more than anything.

He took no notice of Miriam. Later, she saw him remark her new blouse, saw that the artist approved, but it won from him not a spark of warmth. She was nervous, could hardly reach the teacups from the shelves.

When the men went out to milk, she ventured to address him personally.

"You were late," she said.

"Was I?" he answered.

There was silence for a while.

"Was it rough riding?" she asked.

"I didn't notice it." She continued quickly to lay the table. When she had finished-

"Tea won't be for a few minutes. Will you come and look at the daffodils?" she said.

He rose without answering. They went out into the back garden under the budding damson-trees. The hills and the sky were clean and cold. Everything looked washed, rather hard. Miriam glanced at Paul. He was pale and impassive. It seemed cruel to her that his eyes and brows, which she loved, could look so hurting.

"Has the wind made you tired?" she asked. She detected an underneath feeling of weariness about him.

"No, I think not," he answered.

"It must be rough on the road--the wood moans so."

"You can see by the clouds it's a south-west wind; that helps me here."

"You see, I don't cycle, so I don't understand," she murmured.

"Is there need to cycle to know that!" he said.

She thought his sarcasms were unnecessary. They went forward in silence. Round the wild, tussocky lawn at the back of the house was a thorn hedge, under which daffodils were craning forward from among their sheaves of grey-green blades. The cheeks of the flowers were greenish with cold. But still some had burst, and their gold ruffled and glowed. Miriam went on her knees before one cluster, took a wild-looking daffodil between her hands, turned up its face of gold to her, and bowed down, caressing it with her mouth and cheeks and brow. He stood aside, with his hands in his pockets, watching her. One after another she turned up to him the faces of the yellow, bursten flowers appealingly, fondling them lavishly all the while.

"Aren't they magnificent?" she murmured.

"Magnificent! It's a bit thick--they're pretty!"

She bowed again to her flowers at his censure of her praise. He watched her crouching, sipping the flowers with fervid kisses.

"Why must you always be fondling things?" he said irritably.

"But I love to touch them," she replied, hurt.

"Can you never like things without clutching them as if you wanted to pull the heart out of them? Why don't you have a bit more restraint, or reserve, or something?"

She looked up at him full of pain, then continued slowly to stroke her lips against a ruffled flower. Their scent, as she smelled it, was so much kinder than he; it almost made her cry.

"You wheedle the soul out of things," he said. "I would never wheedle--at any rate, I'd go straight."

He scarcely knew what he was saying. These things came from him mechanically. She looked at him. His body seemed one weapon, firm and hard against her.

"You're always begging things to love you," he said, "as if you were a beggar for love. Even the flowers, you have to fawn on them---"

Rhythmically, Miriam was swaying and stroking the flower with her mouth, inhaling the scent which ever after made her shudder as it came to her nostrils.

"You don't want to love--your eternal and abnormal craving is to be loved. You aren't positive, you're negative. You absorb, absorb, as if you must fill yourself up with love, because you've got a shortage somewhere."

She was stunned by his cruelty, and did not hear. He had not the faintest notion of what he was saying. It was as if his fretted, tortured soul, run hot by thwarted passion, jetted off these sayings like sparks from electricity. She did not grasp anything he said. She only sat crouched beneath his cruelty and his hatred of her. She never realised in a flash. Over everything she brooded and brooded.

After tea he stayed with Edgar and the brothers, taking no notice of Miriam. She, extremely unhappy on this looked-for holiday, waited for him. And at last he yielded and came to her. She was determined to track this mood of his to its origin. She counted it not much more than a mood.

"Shall we go through the wood a little way?" she asked him, knowing he never refused a direct request.

They went down to the warren. On the middle path they passed a trap, a narrow horseshoe hedge of small fir-boughs, baited with the guts of a rabbit. Paul glanced at it frowning. She caught his eye.

"Isn't it dreadful?" she asked.

"I don't know! Is it worse than a weasel with its teeth in a rabbit's throat? One weasel or many rabbits? One or the other must go!"

He was taking the bitterness of life badly. She was rather sorry for him.

"We will go back to the house," he said. "I don't want to walk out."

They went past the lilac-tree, whose bronze leaf-buds were coming unfastened. Just a fragment remained of the haystack, a monument squared and brown, like a pillar of stone. There was a little bed of hay from the last cutting.

"Let us sit here a minute," said Miriam.

He sat down against his will, resting his back against the hard wall of hay. They faced the amphitheatre of round hills that glowed with sunset, tiny white farms standing out, the meadows golden, the woods dark and yet luminous, tree-tops folded over tree-tops, distinct in the distance. The evening had cleared, and the east was tender with a magenta flush under which the land lay still and rich.

"Isn't it beautiful?" she pleaded.

But he only scowled. He would rather have had it ugly just then.

At that moment a big bull-terrier came rushing up, open-mouthed, pranced his two paws on the youth's shoulders, licking his face. Paul drew back, laughing. Bill was a great relief to him. He pushed the dog aside, but it came leaping back.

"Get out," said the lad, "or I'll dot thee one."

But the dog was not to be pushed away. So Paul had a little battle with the creature, pitching poor Bill away from him, who, however, only floundered tumultuously back again, wild with joy. The two fought together, the man laughing grudgingly, the dog grinning all over. Miriam watched them. There was something pathetic about the man. He wanted so badly to love, to be tender. The rough way he bowled the dog over was really loving. Bill got up, panting with happiness, his brown eyes rolling in his white face, and lumbered back again. He adored Paul. The lad frowned.

"Bill, I've had enough o' thee," he said.

But the dog only stood with two heavy paws, that quivered with love, upon his thigh, and flickered a red tongue at him. He drew back.

"No," he said--"no--I've had enough."

And in a minute the dog trotted off happily, to vary the fun.

He remained staring miserably across at the hills, whose still beauty he begrudged. He wanted to go and cycle with Edgar. Yet he had not the courage to leave Miriam.

"Why are you sad?" she asked humbly.

"I'm not sad; why should I be," he answered. "I'm only normal."

She wondered why he always claimed to be normal when he was disagreeable.

"But what is the matter?" she pleaded, coaxing him soothingly.

"Nothing!"

"Nay!" she murmured.

He picked up a stick and began to stab the earth with it.

"You'd far better not talk," he said.

"But I wish to know---" she replied.

He laughed resentfully.

"You always do," he said.

"It's not fair to me," she murmured.

He thrust, thrust, thrust at the ground with the pointed stick, digging up little clods of earth as if he were in a fever of irritation. She gently and firmly laid her band on his wrist.

"Don't!" she said. "Put it away."

He flung the stick into the currant-bushes, and leaned back. Now he was bottled up.

"What is it?" she pleaded softly.

He lay perfectly still, only his eyes alive, and they full of torment.

"You know," he said at length, rather wearily--"you know--we'd better break off."

It was what she dreaded. Swiftly everything seemed to darken before her eyes.

"Why!" she murmured. "What has happened?"

"Nothing has happened. We only realise where we are. It's no good---"

She waited in silence, sadly, patiently. It was no good being impatient with him. At any rate, he would tell her now what ailed him.

"We agreed on friendship," he went on in a dull, monotonous voice. "How often HAVE we agreed for friendship! And yet--it neither stops there, nor gets anywhere else."

He was silent again. She brooded. What did he mean? He was so wearying. There was something he would not yield. Yet she must be patient with him.

"I can only give friendship--it's all I'm capable of--it's a flaw in my make-up. The thing overbalances to one side--I hate a toppling balance. Let us have done."

There was warmth of fury in his last phrases. He meant she loved him more than he her. Perhaps he could not love her. Perhaps she had not in herself that which he wanted. It was the deepest motive of her soul, this self-mistrust. It was so deep she dared neither realise nor acknowledge. Perhaps she was deficient. Like an infinitely subtle shame, it kept her always back. If it were so, she would do without him. She would never let herself want him. She would merely see.

"But what has happened?" she said.

"Nothing--it's all in myself--it only comes out just now. We're always like this towards Easter-time."

He grovelled so helplessly, she pitied him. At least she never floundered in such a pitiable way. After all, it was he who was chiefly humiliated.

"What do you want?" she asked him.

"Why--I mustn't come often--that's all. Why should I monopolise you when I'm not--- You see, I'm deficient in something with regard to you---"

He was telling her he did not love her, and so ought to leave her a chance with another man. How foolish and blind and shamefully clumsy he was! What were other men to her! What were men to her at all! But he, ah! she loved his soul. Was HE deficient in something? Perhaps he was.

"But I don't understand," she said huskily. "Yesterday---"

The night was turning jangled and hateful to him as the twilight faded. And she bowed under her suffering.

"I know," he cried, "you never will! You'll never believe that I can't--can't physically, any more than I can fly up like a skylark---"

"What?" she murmured. Now she dreaded.

"Love you."

He hated her bitterly at that moment because he made her suffer. Love her! She knew he loved her. He really belonged to her. This about not loving her, physically, bodily, was a mere perversity on his part, because he knew she loved him. He was stupid like a child. He belonged to her. His soul wanted her. She guessed somebody had been influencing him. She felt upon him the hardness, the foreignness of another influence.

"What have they been saying at home?" she asked.

"It's not that," he answered.

And then she knew it was. She despised them for their commonness, his people. They did not know what things were really worth.

He and she talked very little more that night. After all he left her to cycle with Edgar.

He had come back to his mother. Hers was the strongest tie in his life. When he thought round, Miriam shrank away. There was a vague, unreal feel about her. And nobody else mattered. There was one place in the world that stood solid and did not melt into unreality: the place where his mother was. Everybody else could grow shadowy, almost non-existent to him, but she could not. It was as if the pivot and pole of his life, from which he could not escape, was his mother.

And in the same way she waited for him. In him was established her life now. After all, the life beyond offered very little to Mrs. Morel. She saw that our chance for DOING is here, and doing counted with her. Paul was going to prove that she had been right; he was going to make a man whom nothing should shift off his feet; he was going to alter the face of the earth in some way which mattered. Wherever he went she felt her soul went with him. Whatever he did she felt her soul stood by him, ready, as it were, to hand him his tools. She could not bear it when he was with Miriam. William was dead. She would fight to keep Paul.

And he came back to her. And in his soul was a feeling of the satisfaction of self-sacrifice because he was faithful to her. She loved him first; he loved her first. And yet it was not enough. His new young life, so strong and imperious, was urged towards something else. It made him mad with restlessness. She saw this, and wished bitterly that Miriam had been a woman who could take this new life of his, and leave her the roots. He fought against his mother almost as he fought against Miriam.

It was a week before he went again to Willey Farm. Miriam had suffered a great deal, and was afraid to see him again. Was she now to endure the ignominy of his abandoning her? That would only be superficial and temporary. He would come back. She held the keys to his soul. But meanwhile, how he would torture her with his battle against her. She shrank from it.

However, the Sunday after Easter he came to tea. Mrs. Leivers was glad to see him. She gathered something was fretting him, that he found things hard. He seemed to drift to her for comfort. And she was good to him. She did him that great kindness of treating him almost with reverence.

He met her with the young children in the front garden.

"I'm glad you've come," said the mother, looking at him with her great appealing brown eyes. "It is such a sunny day. I was just going down the fields for the first time this year."

He felt she would like him to come. That soothed him. They went, talking simply, he gentle and humble. He could have wept with gratitude that she was deferential to him. He was feeling humiliated.

At the bottom of the Mow Close they found a thrush's nest.

"Shall I show you the eggs?" he said.

"Do!" replied Mrs. Leivers. "They seem SUCH a sign of spring, and so hopeful."

He put aside the thorns, and took out the eggs, holding them in the palm of his hand.

"They are quite hot--I think we frightened her off them," he said.

"Ay, poor thing!" said Mrs. Leivers.

Miriam could not help touching the eggs, and his hand which, it seemed to her, cradled them so well.

"Isn't it a strange warmth!" she murmured, to get near him.

"Blood heat," he answered.

She watched him putting them back, his body pressed against the hedge, his arm reaching slowly through the thorns, his hand folded carefully over the eggs. He was concentrated on the act. Seeing him so, she loved him; he seemed so simple and sufficient to himself. And she could not get to him.

After tea she stood hesitating at the bookshelf. He took "Tartarin de Tarascon". Again they sat on the bank of hay at the foot of the stack. He read a couple of pages, but without any heart for it. Again the dog came racing up to repeat the fun of the other day. He shoved his muzzle in the man's chest. Paul fingered his ear for a moment. Then he pushed him away.

"Go away, Bill," he said. "I don't want you."

Bill slunk off, and Miriam wondered and dreaded what was coming. There was a silence about the youth that made her still with apprehension. It was not his furies, but his quiet resolutions that she feared.

Turning his face a little to one side, so that she could not see him, he began, speaking slowly and painfully:

"Do you think--if I didn't come up so much--you might get to like somebody else--another man?"

So this was what he was still harping on.

"But I don't know any other men. Why do you ask?" she replied, in a low tone that should have been a reproach to him.

"Why," he blurted, "because they say I've no right to come up like this--without we mean to marry---"

Miriam was indignant at anybody's forcing the issues between them. She had been furious with her own father for suggesting to Paul, laughingly, that he knew why he came so much.

"Who says?" she asked, wondering if her people had anything to do with it. They had not.

"Mother--and the others. They say at this rate everybody will consider me engaged, and I ought to consider myself so, because it's not fair to you. And I've tried to find out--and I don't think I love you as a man ought to love his wife. What do you think about it?"

Miriam bowed her head moodily. She was angry at having this struggle. People should leave him and her alone.

"I don't know," she murmured.

"Do you think we love each other enough to marry?" he asked definitely. It made her tremble.

"No," she answered truthfully. "I don't think so--we're too young."

"I thought perhaps," he went on miserably, "that you, with your intensity in things, might have given me more--than I could ever make up to you. And even now--if you think it better--we'll be engaged."

Now Miriam wanted to cry. And she was angry, too. He was always such a child for people to do as they liked with.

"No, I don't think so," she said firmly.

He pondered a minute.

"You see," he said, "with me--I don't think one person would ever monopolize me--be everything to me--I think never."

This she did not consider.

"No," she murmured. Then, after a pause, she looked at him, and her dark eyes flashed.

"This is your mother," she said. "I know she never liked me."

"No, no, it isn't," he said hastily. "It was for your sake she spoke this time. She only said, if I was going on, I ought to consider myself engaged." There was a silence. "And if I ask you to come down any time, you won't stop away, will you?"

She did not answer. By this time she was very angry.

"Well, what shall we do?" she said shortly. "I suppose I'd better drop French. I was just beginning to get on with it. But I suppose I can go on alone."

"I don't see that we need," he said. "I can give you a French lesson, surely."

"Well--and there are Sunday nights. I shan't stop coming to chapel, because I enjoy it, and it's all the social life I get. But you've no need to come home with me. I can go alone."

"All right," he answered, rather taken aback. "But if I ask Edgar, he'll always come with us, and then they can say nothing."

There was silence. After all, then, she would not lose much. For all their talk down at his home there would not be much difference. She wished they would mind their own business.

"And you won't think about it, and let it trouble you, will you?" he asked.

"Oh no," replied Miriam, without looking at him.

He was silent. She thought him unstable. He had no fixity of purpose, no anchor of righteousness that held him.

"Because," he continued, "a man gets across his bicycle--and goes to work--and does all sorts of things. But a woman broods."

"No, I shan't bother," said Miriam. And she meant it.

It had gone rather chilly. They went indoors.

"How white Paul looks!" Mrs. Leivers exclaimed. "Miriam, you shouldn't have let him sit out of doors. Do you think you've taken cold, Paul?"

"Oh, no!" he laughed.

But he felt done up. It wore him out, the conflict in himself. Miriam pitied him now. But quite early, before nine o'clock, he rose to go.

"You're not going home, are you?" asked Mrs. Leivers anxiously.

"Yes," he replied. "I said I'd be early." He was very awkward.

"But this IS early," said Mrs. Leivers.

Miriam sat in the rocking-chair, and did not speak. He hesitated, expecting her to rise and go with him to the barn as usual for his bicycle. She remained as she was. He was at a loss.

"Well--good-night, all!" he faltered.

She spoke her good-night along with all the others. But as he went past the window he looked in. She saw him pale, his brows knit slightly in a way that had become constant with him, his eyes dark with pain.

She rose and went to the doorway to wave good-bye to him as he passed through the gate. He rode slowly under the pine-trees, feeling a cur and a miserable wretch. His bicycle went tilting down the hills at random. He thought it would be a relief to break one's neck.

Two days later he sent her up a book and a little note, urging her to read and be busy.

At this time he gave all his friendship to Edgar. He loved the family so much, he loved the farm so much; it was the dearest place on earth to him. His home was not so lovable. It was his mother. But then he would have been just as happy with his mother anywhere. Whereas Willey Farm he loved passionately. He loved the little pokey kitchen, where men's boots tramped, and the dog slept with one eye open for fear of being trodden on; where the lamp hung over the table at night, and everything was so silent. He loved Miriam's long, low parlour, with its atmosphere of romance, its flowers, its books, its high rosewood piano. He loved the gardens and the buildings that stood with their scarlet roofs on the naked edges of the fields, crept towards the wood as if for cosiness, the wild country scooping down a valley and up the uncultured hills of the other side. Only to be there was an exhilaration and a joy to him. He loved Mrs. Leivers, with her unworldliness and her quaint cynicism; he loved Mr. Leivers, so warm and young and lovable; he loved Edgar, who lit up when he came, and the boys and the children and Bill--even the sow Circe and the Indian game-cock called Tippoo. All this besides Miriam. He could not give it up.

So he went as often, but he was usually with Edgar. Only all the family, including the father, joined in charades and games at evening. And later, Miriam drew them together, and they read Macbeth out of penny books, taking parts. It was great excitement. Miriam was glad, and Mrs. Leivers was glad, and Mr. Leivers enjoyed it. Then they all learned songs together from tonic sol-fa, singing in a circle round the fire. But now Paul was very rarely alone with Miriam. She waited. When she and Edgar and he walked home together from chapel or from the literary society in Bestwood, she knew his talk, so passionate and so unorthodox nowadays, was for her. She did envy Edgar, however, his cycling with Paul, his Friday nights, his days working in the fields. For her Friday nights and her French lessons were gone. She was nearly always alone, walking, pondering in the wood, reading, studying, dreaming, waiting. And he wrote to her frequently.

One Sunday evening they attained to their old rare harmony. Edgar had stayed to Communion--he wondered what it was like--with Mrs. Morel. So Paul came on alone with Miriam to his home. He was more or less under her spell again. As usual, they were discussing the sermon. He was setting now full sail towards Agnosticism, but such a religious Agnosticism that Miriam did not suffer so badly. They were at the Renan Vie de Jesus stage. Miriam was the threshing-floor on which he threshed out all his beliefs. While he trampled his ideas upon her soul, the truth came out for him. She alone was his threshing-floor. She alone helped him towards realization. Almost impassive, she submitted to his argument and expounding. And somehow, because of her, he gradually realized where he was wrong. And what he realized, she realized. She felt he could not do without her.

They came to the silent house. He took the key out of the scullery window, and they entered. All the time he went on with his discussion. He lit the gas, mended the fire, and brought her some cakes from the pantry. She sat on the sofa, quietly, with a plate on her knee. She wore a large white hat with some pinkish flowers. It was a cheap hat, but he liked it. Her face beneath was still and pensive, golden-brown and ruddy. Always her ears were hid in her short curls. She watched him.

She liked him on Sundays. Then he wore a dark suit that showed the lithe movement of his body. There was a clean, clear-cut look about him. He went on with his thinking to her. Suddenly he reached for a Bible. Miriam liked the way he reached up--so sharp, straight to the mark. He turned the pages quickly, and read her a chapter of St. John. As he sat in the armchair reading, intent, his voice only thinking, she felt as if he were using her unconsciously as a man uses his tools at some work he is bent on. She loved it. And the wistfulness of his voice was like a reaching to something, and it was as if she were what he reached with. She sat back on the sofa away from him, and yet feeling herself the very instrument his hand grasped. It gave her great pleasure.

Then he began to falter and to get self-conscious. And when he came to the verse, "A woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow because her hour is come", he missed it out. Miriam had felt him growing uncomfortable. She shrank when the well-known words did not follow. He went on reading, but she did not hear. A grief and shame made her bend her head. Six months ago he would have read it simply. Now there was a scotch in his running with her. Now she felt there was really something hostile between them, something of which they were ashamed.

She ate her cake mechanically. He tried to go on with his argument, but could not get back the right note. Soon Edgar came in. Mrs. Morel had gone to her friends'. The three set off to Willey Farm.

Miriam brooded over his split with her. There was something else he wanted. He could not be satisfied; he could give her no peace. There was between them now always a ground for strife. She wanted to prove him. She believed that his chief need in life was herself. If she could prove it, both to herself and to him, the rest might go; she could simply trust to the future.

So in May she asked him to come to Willey Farm and meet Mrs. Dawes. There was something he hankered after. She saw him, whenever they spoke of Clara Dawes, rouse and get slightly angry. He said he did not like her. Yet he was keen to know about her. Well, he should put himself to the test. She believed that there were in him desires for higher things, and desires for lower, and that the desire for the higher would conquer. At any rate, he should try. She forgot that her "higher" and "lower" were arbitrary.

He was rather excited at the idea of meeting Clara at Willey Farm. Mrs. Dawes came for the day. Her heavy, dun-coloured hair was coiled on top of her head. She wore a white blouse and navy skirt, and somehow, wherever she was, seemed to make things look paltry and insignificant. When she was in the room, the kitchen seemed too small and mean altogether. Miriam's beautiful twilighty parlour looked stiff and stupid. All the Leivers were eclipsed like candles. They found her rather hard to put up with. Yet she was perfectly amiable, but indifferent, and rather hard.

Paul did not come till afternoon. He was early. As he swung off his bicycle, Miriam saw him look round at the house eagerly. He would be disappointed if the visitor had not come. Miriam went out to meet him, bowing her head because of the sunshine. Nasturtiums were coming out crimson under the cool green shadow of their leaves. The girl stood, dark-haired, glad to see him.

"Hasn't Clara come?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Miriam in her musical tone. "She's reading."

He wheeled his bicycle into the barn. He had put on a handsome tie, of which he was rather proud, and socks to match.

"She came this morning?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Miriam, as she walked at his side. "You said you'd bring me that letter from the man at Liberty's. Have you remembered?"

"Oh, dash, no!" he said. "But nag at me till you get it."

"I don't like to nag at you."

"Do it whether or not. And is she any more agreeable?" he continued.

"You know I always think she is quite agreeable."

He was silent. Evidently his eagerness to be early to-day had been the newcomer. Miriam already began to suffer. They went together towards the house. He took the clips off his trousers, but was too lazy to brush the dust from his shoes, in spite of the socks and tie.

Clara sat in the cool parlour reading. He saw the nape of her white neck, and the fine hair lifted from it. She rose, looking at him indifferently. To shake hands she lifted her arm straight, in a manner that seemed at once to keep him at a distance, and yet to fling something to him. He noticed how her breasts swelled inside her blouse, and how her shoulder curved handsomely under the thin muslin at the top of her arm.

"You have chosen a fine day," he said.

"It happens so," she said.

"Yes," he said; "I am glad."

She sat down, not thanking him for his politeness.

"What have you been doing all morning?" asked Paul of Miriam.

"Well, you see," said Miriam, coughing huskily, "Clara only came with father--and so--she's not been here very long."

Clara sat leaning on the table, holding aloof. He noticed her hands were large, but well kept. And the skin on them seemed almost coarse, opaque, and white, with fine golden hairs. She did not mind if he observed her hands. She intended to scorn him. Her heavy arm lay negligently on the table. Her mouth was closed as if she were offended, and she kept her face slightly averted.

"You were at Margaret Bonford's meeting the other evening," he said to her.

Miriam did not know this courteous Paul. Clara glanced at him.

"Yes," she said.

"Why," asked Miriam, "how do you know?"

"I went in for a few minutes before the train came," he answered.

Clara turned away again rather disdainfully.

"I think she's a lovable little woman," said Paul.

"Margaret Bonford!" exclaimed Clara. "She's a great deal cleverer than most men."

"Well, I didn't say she wasn't," he said, deprecating. "She's lovable for all that."

"And, of course, that is all that matters," said Clara witheringly.

He rubbed his head, rather perplexed, rather annoyed.

"I suppose it matters more than her cleverness," he said; "which, after all, would never get her to heaven."

"It's not heaven she wants to get--it's her fair share on earth," retorted Clara. She spoke as if he were responsible for some deprivation which Miss Bonford suffered.

"Well," he said, "I thought she was warm, and awfully nice--only too frail. I wished she was sitting comfortably in peace---"

"'Darning her husband's stockings,'" said Clara scathingly.

"I'm sure she wouldn't mind darning even my stockings," he said. "And I'm sure she'd do them well. Just as I wouldn't mind blacking her boots if she wanted me to."

But Clara refused to answer this sally of his. He talked to Miriam for a little while. The other woman held aloof.

"Well," he said, "I think I'll go and see Edgar. Is he on the land?"

"I believe," said Miriam, "he's gone for a load of coal. He should be back directly."

"Then," he said, "I'll go and meet him."

Miriam dared not propose anything for the three of them. He rose and left them.

On the top road, where the gorse was out, he saw Edgar walking lazily beside the mare, who nodded her white-starred forehead as she dragged the clanking load of coal. The young farmer's face lighted up as he saw his friend. Edgar was good-looking, with dark, warm eyes. His clothes were old and rather disreputable, and he walked with considerable pride.

"Hello!" he said, seeing Paul bareheaded. "Where are you going?"

"Came to meet you. Can't stand 'Nevermore.'"

Edgar's teeth flashed in a laugh of amusement.

"Who is 'Nevermore'?" he asked.

"The lady--Mrs. Dawes--it ought to be Mrs. The Raven that quothed 'Nevermore.'"

Edgar laughed with glee.

"Don't you like her?" he asked.

"Not a fat lot," said Paul. "Why, do you?"

"No!" The answer came with a deep ring of conviction. "No!" Edgar pursed up his lips. "I can't say she's much in my line." He mused a little. Then: "But why do you call her 'Nevermore'?" he asked.

"Well," said Paul, "if she looks at a man she says haughtily 'Nevermore,' and if she looks at herself in the looking-glass she says disdainfully 'Nevermore,' and if she thinks back she says it in disgust, and if she looks forward she says it cynically."

Edgar considered this speech, failed to make much out of it, and said, laughing:

"You think she's a man-hater?"

"SHE thinks she is," replied Paul.

"But you don't think so?"

"No," replied Paul.

"Wasn't she nice with you, then?"

"Could you imagine her NICE with anybody?" asked the young man.

Edgar laughed. Together they unloaded the coal in the yard. Paul was rather self-conscious, because he knew Clara could see if she looked out of the window. She didn't look.

On Saturday afternoons the horses were brushed down and groomed. Paul and Edgar worked together, sneezing with the dust that came from the pelts of Jimmy and Flower.

"Do you know a new song to teach me?" said Edgar.

He continued to work all the time. The back of his neck was sun-red when he bent down, and his fingers that held the brush were thick. Paul watched him sometimes.

"'Mary Morrison'?" suggested the younger.

Edgar agreed. He had a good tenor voice, and he loved to learn all the songs his friend could teach him, so that he could sing whilst he was carting. Paul had a very indifferent baritone voice, but a good ear. However, he sang softly, for fear of Clara. Edgar repeated the line in a clear tenor. At times they both broke off to sneeze, and first one, then the other, abused his horse.

Miriam was impatient of men. It took so little to amuse them--even Paul. She thought it anomalous in him that he could be so thoroughly absorbed in a triviality.

It was tea-time when they had finished.

"What song was that?" asked Miriam.

Edgar told her. The conversation turned to singing.

"We have such jolly times," Miriam said to Clara.

Mrs. Dawes ate her meal in a slow, dignified way. Whenever the men were present she grew distant.

"Do you like singing?" Miriam asked her.

"If it is good," she said.

Paul, of course, coloured.

"You mean if it is high-class and trained?" he said.

"I think a voice needs training before the singing is anything," she said.

"You might as well insist on having people's voices trained before you allowed them to talk," he replied. "Really, people sing for their own pleasure, as a rule."

"And it may be for other people's discomfort."

"Then the other people should have flaps to their ears," he replied.

The boys laughed. There was a silence. He flushed deeply, and ate in silence.

After tea, when all the men had gone but Paul, Mrs. Leivers said to Clara:

"And you find life happier now?"

"Infinitely."

"And you are satisfied?"

"So long as I can be free and independent."

"And you don't MISS anything in your life?" asked Mrs. Leivers gently.

"I've put all that behind me."

Paul had been feeling uncomfortable during this discourse. He got up.

"You'll find you're always tumbling over the things you've put behind you," he said. Then he took his departure to the cowsheds. He felt he had been witty, and his manly pride was high. He whistled as he went down the brick track.

Miriam came for him a little later to know if he would go with Clara and her for a walk. They set off down to Strelley Mill Farm. As they were going beside the brook, on the Willey Water side, looking through the brake at the edge of the wood, where pink campions glowed under a few sunbeams, they saw, beyond the tree-trunks and the thin hazel bushes, a man leading a great bay horse through the gullies. The big red beast seemed to dance romantically through that dimness of green hazel drift, away there where the air was shadowy, as if it were in the past, among the fading bluebells that might have bloomed for Deidre or Iseult.

The three stood charmed.

"What a treat to be a knight," he said, "and to have a pavilion here."

"And to have us shut up safely?" replied Clara.

"Yes," he answered, "singing with your maids at your broidery. I would carry your banner of white and green and heliotrope. I would have 'W.S.P.U.' emblazoned on my shield, beneath a woman rampant."

"I have no doubt," said Clara, "that you would much rather fight for a woman than let her fight for herself."

"I would. When she fights for herself she seems like a dog before a looking-glass, gone into a mad fury with its own shadow."

"And YOU are the looking-glass?" she asked, with a curl of the lip.

"Or the shadow," he replied.

"I am afraid," she said, "that you are too clever."

"Well, I leave it to you to be GOOD," he retorted, laughing. "Be good, sweet maid, and just let ME be clever."

But Clara wearied of his flippancy. Suddenly, looking at her, he saw that the upward lifting of her face was misery and not scorn. His heart grew tender for everybody. He turned and was gentle with Miriam, whom he had neglected till then.

At the wood's edge they met Limb, a thin, swarthy man of forty, tenant of Strelley Mill, which he ran as a cattle-raising farm. He held the halter of the powerful stallion indifferently, as if he were tired. The three stood to let him pass over the stepping-stones of the first brook. Paul admired that so large an animal should walk on such springy toes, with an endless excess of vigour. Limb pulled up before them.

"Tell your father, Miss Leivers," he said, in a peculiar piping voice, "that his young beas'es 'as broke that bottom fence three days an' runnin'."

"Which?" asked Miriam, tremulous.

The great horse breathed heavily, shifting round its red flanks, and looking suspiciously with its wonderful big eyes upwards from under its lowered head and falling mane.

"Come along a bit," replied Limb, "an' I'll show you."

The man and the stallion went forward. It danced sideways, shaking its white fetlocks and looking frightened, as it felt itself in the brook.

"No hanky-pankyin'," said the man affectionately to the beast.

It went up the bank in little leaps, then splashed finely through the second brook. Clara, walking with a kind of sulky abandon, watched it half-fascinated, half-contemptuous. Limb stopped and pointed to the fence under some willows.

"There, you see where they got through," he said. "My man's druv 'em back three times."

"Yes," answered Miriam, colouring as if she were at fault.

"Are you comin' in?" asked the man.

"No, thanks; but we should like to go by the pond."

"Well, just as you've a mind," he said.

The horse gave little whinneys of pleasure at being so near home.

"He is glad to be back," said Clara, who was interested in the creature.

"Yes--'e's been a tidy step to-day."

They went through the gate, and saw approaching them from the big farmhouse a smallish, dark, excitable-looking woman of about thirty-five. Her hair was touched with grey, her dark eyes looked wild. She walked with her hands behind her back. Her brother went forward. As it saw her, the big bay stallion whinneyed again. She came up excitedly.

"Are you home again, my boy!" she said tenderly to the horse, not to the man. The great beast shifted round to her, ducking his head. She smuggled into his mouth the wrinkled yellow apple she had been hiding behind her back, then she kissed him near the eyes. He gave a big sigh of pleasure. She held his head in her arms against her breast.

"Isn't he splendid!" said Miriam to her.

Miss Limb looked up. Her dark eyes glanced straight at Paul.

"Oh, good-evening, Miss Leivers," she said. "It's ages since you've been down."

Miriam introduced her friends.

"Your horse IS a fine fellow!" said Clara.

"Isn't he!" Again she kissed him. "As loving as any man!"

"More loving than most men, I should think," replied Clara.

"He's a nice boy!" cried the woman, again embracing the horse.

Clara, fascinated by the big beast, went up to stroke his neck.

"He's quite gentle," said Miss Limb. "Don't you think big fellows are?"

"He's a beauty!" replied Clara.

She wanted to look in his eyes. She wanted him to look at her.

"It's a pity he can't talk," she said.

"Oh, but he can--all but," replied the other woman.

Then her brother moved on with the horse.

"Are you coming in? DO come in, Mr.--I didn't catch it."

"Morel," said Miriam. "No, we won't come in, but we should like to go by the mill-pond."

"Yes--yes, do. Do you fish, Mr. Morel?"

"No," said Paul.

"Because if you do you might come and fish any time," said Miss Limb. "We scarcely see a soul from week's end to week's end. I should be thankful."

"What fish are there in the pond?" he asked.

They went through the front garden, over the sluice, and up the steep bank to the pond, which lay in shadow, with its two wooded islets. Paul walked with Miss Limb.

"I shouldn't mind swimming here," he said.

"Do," she replied. "Come when you like. My brother will be awfully pleased to talk with you. He is so quiet, because there is no one to talk to. Do come and swim."

Clara came up.

"It's a fine depth," she said, "and so clear."

"Yes," said Miss Limb.

"Do you swim?" said Paul. "Miss Limb was just saying we could come when we liked."

"Of course there's the farm-hands," said Miss Limb.

They talked a few moments, then went on up the wild hill, leaving the lonely, haggard-eyed woman on the bank.

The hillside was all ripe with sunshine. It was wild and tussocky, given over to rabbits. The three walked in silence. Then:

"She makes me feel uncomfortable," said Paul.

"You mean Miss Limb?" asked Miriam. "Yes."

"What's a matter with her? Is she going dotty with being too lonely?"

"Yes," said Miriam. "It's not the right sort of life for her. I think it's cruel to bury her there. I really ought to go and see her more. But--she upsets me."

"She makes me feel sorry for her--yes, and she bothers me," he said.

"I suppose," blurted Clara suddenly, "she wants a man."

The other two were silent for a few moments.

"But it's the loneliness sends her cracked," said Paul.

Clara did not answer, but strode on uphill. She was walking with her hand hanging, her legs swinging as she kicked through the dead thistles and the tussocky grass, her arms hanging loose. Rather than walking, her handsome body seemed to be blundering up the hill. A hot wave went over Paul. He was curious about her. Perhaps life had been cruel to her. He forgot Miriam, who was walking beside him talking to him. She glanced at him, finding he did not answer her. His eyes were fixed ahead on Clara.

"Do you still think she is disagreeable?" she asked.

He did not notice that the question was sudden. It ran with his thoughts.

"Something's the matter with her," he said.

"Yes," answered Miriam.

They found at the top of the hill a hidden wild field, two sides of which were backed by the wood, the other sides by high loose hedges of hawthorn and elder bushes. Between these overgrown bushes were gaps that the cattle might have walked through had there been any cattle now. There the turf was smooth as velveteen, padded and holed by the rabbits. The field itself was coarse, and crowded with tall, big cowslips that had never been cut. Clusters of strong flowers rose everywhere above the coarse tussocks of bent. It was like a roadstead crowded with tan, fairy shipping.

"Ah!" cried Miriam, and she looked at Paul, her dark eyes dilating. He smiled. Together they enjoyed the field of flowers. Clara, a little way off, was looking at the cowslips disconsolately. Paul and Miriam stayed close together, talking in subdued tones. He kneeled on one knee, quickly gathering the best blossoms, moving from tuft to tuft restlessly, talking softly all the time. Miriam plucked the flowers lovingly, lingering over them. He always seemed to her too quick and almost scientific. Yet his bunches had a natural beauty more than hers. He loved them, but as if they were his and he had a right to them. She had more reverence for them: they held something she had not.

The flowers were very fresh and sweet. He wanted to drink them. As he gathered them, he ate the little yellow trumpets. Clara was still wandering about disconsolately. Going towards her, he said:

"Why don't you get some?"

"I don't believe in it. They look better growing."

"But you'd like some?"

"They want to be left."

"I don't believe they do."

"I don't want the corpses of flowers about me," she said.

"That's a stiff, artificial notion," he said. "They don't die any quicker in water than on their roots. And besides, they LOOK nice in a bowl--they look jolly. And you only call a thing a corpse because it looks corpse-like."

"Whether it is one or not?" she argued.

"It isn't one to me. A dead flower isn't a corpse of a flower."

Clara now ignored him.

"And even so--what right have you to pull them?" she asked.

"Because I like them, and want them--and there's plenty of them."

"And that is sufficient?"

"Yes. Why not? I'm sure they'd smell nice in your room in Nottingham."

"And I should have the pleasure of watching them die."

"But then--it does not matter if they do die."

Whereupon he left her, and went stooping over the clumps of tangled flowers which thickly sprinkled the field like pale, luminous foam-clots. Miriam had come close. Clara was kneeling, breathing some scent from the cowslips.

"I think," said Miriam, "if you treat them with reverence you don't do them any harm. It is the spirit you pluck them in that matters."

"Yes," he said. "But no, you get 'em because you want 'em, and that's all." He held out his bunch.

Miriam was silent. He picked some more.

"Look at these!" he continued; "sturdy and lusty like little trees and like boys with fat legs."

Clara's hat lay on the grass not far off. She was kneeling, bending forward still to smell the flowers. Her neck gave him a sharp pang, such a beautiful thing, yet not proud of itself just now. Her breasts swung slightly in her blouse. The arching curve of her back was beautiful and strong; she wore no stays. Suddenly, without knowing, he was scattering a handful of cowslips over her hair and neck, saying:


"Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,

If the Lord won't have you the devil must."

The chill flowers fell on her neck. She looked up at him, with almost pitiful, scared grey eyes, wondering what he was doing. Flowers fell on her face, and she shut her eyes.

Suddenly, standing there above her, he felt awkward.

"I thought you wanted a funeral," he said, ill at ease.

Clara laughed strangely, and rose, picking the cowslips from her hair. She took up her hat and pinned it on. One flower had remained tangled in her hair. He saw, but would not tell her. He gathered up the flowers he had sprinkled over her.

At the edge of the wood the bluebells had flowed over into the field and stood there like flood-water. But they were fading now. Clara strayed up to them. He wandered after her. The bluebells pleased him.

"Look how they've come out of the wood!" he said.

Then she turned with a flash of warmth and of gratitude.

"Yes," she smiled.

His blood beat up.

"It makes me think of the wild men of the woods, how terrified they would be when they got breast to breast with the open space."

"Do you think they were?" she asked.

"I wonder which was more frightened among old tribes--those bursting out of their darkness of woods upon all the space of light, or those from the open tiptoeing into the forests."

"I should think the second," she answered.

"Yes, you DO feel like one of the open space sort, trying to force yourself into the dark, don't you?"

"How should I know?" she answered queerly.

The conversation ended there.

The evening was deepening over the earth. Already the valley was full of shadow. One tiny square of light stood opposite at Crossleigh Bank Farm. Brightness was swimming on the tops of the hills. Miriam came up slowly, her face in her big, loose bunch of flowers, walking ankle-deep through the scattered froth of the cowslips. Beyond her the trees were coming into shape, all shadow.

"Shall we go?" she asked.

And the three turned away. They were all silent. Going down the path they could see the light of home right across, and on the ridge of the hill a thin dark outline with little lights, where the colliery village touched the sky.

"It has been nice, hasn't it?" he asked.

Miriam murmured assent. Clara was silent.

"Don't you think so?" he persisted.

But she walked with her head up, and still did not answer. He could tell by the way she moved, as if she didn't care, that she suffered.

At this time Paul took his mother to Lincoln. She was bright and enthusiastic as ever, but as he sat opposite her in the railway carriage, she seemed to look frail. He had a momentary sensation as if she were slipping away from him. Then he wanted to get hold of her, to fasten her, almost to chain her. He felt he must keep hold of her with his hand.

They drew near to the city. Both were at the window looking for the cathedral.

"There she is, mother!" he cried.

They saw the great cathedral lying couchant above the plain.

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "So she is!"

He looked at his mother. Her blue eyes were watching the cathedral quietly. She seemed again to be beyond him. Something in the eternal repose of the uplifted cathedral, blue and noble against the sky, was reflected in her, something of the fatality. What was, WAS. With all his young will he could not alter it. He saw her face, the skin still fresh and pink and downy, but crow's-feet near her eyes, her eyelids steady, sinking a little, her mouth always closed with disillusion; and there was on her the same eternal look, as if she knew fate at last. He beat against it with all the strength of his soul.

"Look, mother, how big she is above the town! Think, there are streets and streets below her! She looks bigger than the city altogether."

"So she does!" exclaimed his mother, breaking bright into life again. But he had seen her sitting, looking steady out of the window at the cathedral, her face and eyes fixed, reflecting the relentlessness of life. And the crow's-feet near her eyes, and her mouth shut so hard, made him feel he would go mad.

They ate a meal that she considered wildly extravagant.

"Don't imagine I like it," she said, as she ate her cutlet. "I DON'T like it, I really don't! Just THINK of your money wasted!"

"You never mind my money," he said. "You forget I'm a fellow taking his girl for an outing."

And he bought her some blue violets.

"Stop it at once, sir!" she commanded. "How can I do it?"

"You've got nothing to do. Stand still!"

And in the middle of High Street he stuck the flowers in her coat.

"An old thing like me!" she said, sniffing.

"You see," he said, "I want people to think we're awful swells. So look ikey."

"I'll jowl your head," she laughed.

"Strut!" he commanded. "Be a fantail pigeon."

It took him an hour to get her through the street. She stood above Glory Hole, she stood before Stone Bow, she stood everywhere, and exclaimed.

A man came up, took off his hat, and bowed to her.

"Can I show you the town, madam?"

"No, thank you," she answered. "I've got my son."

Then Paul was cross with her for not answering with more dignity.

"You go away with you!" she exclaimed. "Ha! that's the Jew's House. Now, do you remember that lecture, Paul--?"

But she could scarcely climb the cathedral hill. He did not notice. Then suddenly he found her unable to speak. He took her into a little public-house, where she rested.

"It's nothing," she said. "My heart is only a bit old; one must expect it."

He did not answer, but looked at her. Again his heart was crushed in a hot grip. He wanted to cry, he wanted to smash things in fury.

They set off again, pace by pace, so slowly. And every step seemed like a weight on his chest. He felt as if his heart would burst. At last they came to the top. She stood enchanted, looking at the castle gate, looking at the cathedral front. She had quite forgotten herself.

"Now THIS is better than I thought it could be!" she cried.

But he hated it. Everywhere he followed her, brooding. They sat together in the cathedral. They attended a little service in the choir. She was timid.

"I suppose it is open to anybody?" she asked him.

"Yes," he replied. "Do you think they'd have the damned cheek to send us away."

"Well, I'm sure," she exclaimed, "they would if they heard your language."

Her face seemed to shine again with joy and peace during the service. And all the time he was wanting to rage and smash things and cry.

Afterwards, when they were leaning over the wall, looking at the town below, he blurted suddenly:

"Why can't a man have a YOUNG mother? What is she old for?"

"Well," his mother laughed, "she can scarcely help it."

"And why wasn't I the oldest son? Look--they say the young ones have the advantage--but look, THEY had the young mother. You should have had me for your eldest son."

"I didn't arrange it," she remonstrated. "Come to consider, you're as much to blame as me."

He turned on her, white, his eyes furious.

"What are you old for!" he said, mad with his impotence. "WHY can't you walk? WHY can't you come with me to places?"

"At one time," she replied, "I could have run up that hill a good deal better than you."

"What's the good of that to ME?" he cried, hitting his fist on the wall. Then he became plaintive. "It's too bad of you to be ill. Little, it is--"

"Ill!" she cried. "I'm a bit old, and you'll have to put up with it, that's all."

They were quiet. But it was as much as they could bear. They got jolly again over tea. As they sat by Brayford, watching the boats, he told her about Clara. His mother asked him innumerable questions.

"Then who does she live with?"

"With her mother, on Bluebell Hill."

"And have they enough to keep them?"

"I don't think so. I think they do lace work."

"And wherein lies her charm, my boy?"

"I don't know that she's charming, mother. But she's nice. And she seems straight, you know--not a bit deep, not a bit."

"But she's a good deal older than you."

"She's thirty, I'm going on twenty-three."

"You haven't told me what you like her for."

"Because I don't know--a sort of defiant way she's got--a sort of angry way."

Mrs. Morel considered. She would have been glad now for her son to fall in love with some woman who would--she did not know what. But he fretted so, got so furious suddenly, and again was melancholic. She wished he knew some nice woman-- She did not know what she wished, but left it vague. At any rate, she was not hostile to the idea of Clara.

Annie, too, was getting married. Leonard had gone away to work in Birmingham. One week-end when he was home she had said to him:

"You don't look very well, my lad."

"I dunno," he said. "I feel anyhow or nohow, ma."

He called her "ma" already in his boyish fashion.

"Are you sure they're good lodgings?" she asked.

"Yes--yes. Only--it's a winder when you have to pour your own tea out--an' nobody to grouse if you team it in your saucer and sup it up. It somehow takes a' the taste out of it."

Mrs. Morel laughed.

"And so it knocks you up?" she said.

"I dunno. I want to get married," he blurted, twisting his fingers and looking down at his boots. There was a silence.

"But," she exclaimed, "I thought you said you'd wait another year."

"Yes, I did say so," he replied stubbornly.

Again she considered.

"And you know," she said, "Annie's a bit of a spendthrift. She's saved no more than eleven pounds. And I know, lad, you haven't had much chance."

He coloured up to the ears.

"I've got thirty-three quid," he said.

"It doesn't go far," she answered.

He said nothing, but twisted his fingers.

"And you know," she said, "I've nothing---"

"I didn't want, ma!" he cried, very red, suffering and remonstrating.

"No, my lad, I know. I was only wishing I had. And take away five pounds for the wedding and things--it leaves twenty-nine pounds. You won't do much on that."

He twisted still, impotent, stubborn, not looking up.

"But do you really want to get married?" she asked. "Do you feel as if you ought?"

He gave her one straight look from his blue eyes.

"Yes," he said.

"Then," she replied, "we must all do the best we can for it, lad."

The next time he looked up there were tears in his eyes.

"I don't want Annie to feel handicapped," he said, struggling.

"My lad," she said, "you're steady--you've got a decent place. If a man had NEEDED me I'd have married him on his last week's wages. She may find it a bit hard to start humbly. Young girls ARE like that. They look forward to the fine home they think they'll have. But I had expensive furniture. It's not everything."

So the wedding took place almost immediately. Arthur came home, and was splendid in uniform. Annie looked nice in a dove-grey dress that she could take for Sundays. Morel called her a fool for getting married, and was cool with his son-in-law. Mrs. Morel had white tips in her bonnet, and some white on her blouse, and was teased by both her sons for fancying herself so grand. Leonard was jolly and cordial, and felt a fearful fool. Paul could not quite see what Annie wanted to get married for. He was fond of her, and she of him. Still, he hoped rather lugubriously that it would turn out all right. Arthur was astonishingly handsome in his scarlet and yellow, and he knew it well, but was secretly ashamed of the uniform. Annie cried her eyes up in the kitchen, on leaving her mother. Mrs. Morel cried a little, then patted her on the back and said:

"But don't cry, child, he'll be good to you."

Morel stamped and said she was a fool to go and tie herself up. Leonard looked white and overwrought. Mrs. Morel said to him:

"I s'll trust her to you, my lad, and hold you responsible for her."

"You can," he said, nearly dead with the ordeal. And it was all over.

When Morel and Arthur were in bed, Paul sat talking, as he often did, with his mother.

"You're not sorry she's married, mother, are you?" he asked.

"I'm not sorry she's married--but--it seems strange that she should go from me. It even seems to me hard that she can prefer to go with her Leonard. That's how mothers are--I know it's silly."

"And shall you be miserable about her?"

"When I think of my own wedding day," his mother answered, "I can only hope her life will be different."

"But you can trust him to be good to her?"

"Yes, yes. They say he's not good enough for her. But I say if a man is GENUINE, as he is, and a girl is fond of him--then--it should be all right. He's as good as she."

"So you don't mind?"

"I would NEVER have let a daughter of mine marry a man I didn't FEEL to be genuine through and through. And yet, there's a gap now she's gone."

They were both miserable, and wanted her back again. It seemed to Paul his mother looked lonely, in her new black silk blouse with its bit of white trimming.

"At any rate, mother, I s'll never marry," he said.

"Ay, they all say that, my lad. You've not met the one yet. Only wait a year or two."

"But I shan't marry, mother. I shall live with you, and we'll have a servant."

"Ay, my lad, it's easy to talk. We'll see when the time comes."

"What time? I'm nearly twenty-three."

"Yes, you're not one that would marry young. But in three years' time---"

"I shall be with you just the same."

"We'll see, my boy, we'll see."

"But you don't want me to marry?"

"I shouldn't like to think of you going through your life without anybody to care for you and do--no."

"And you think I ought to marry?"

"Sooner or later every man ought."

"But you'd rather it were later."

"It would be hard--and very hard. It's as they say:


"'A son's my son till he takes him a wife,

But my daughter's my daughter the whole of her life.'"

"And you think I'd let a wife take me from you?"

"Well, you wouldn't ask her to marry your mother as well as you," Mrs. Morel smiled.

"She could do what she liked; she wouldn't have to interfere."

"She wouldn't--till she'd got you--and then you'd see."

"I never will see. I'll never marry while I've got you--I won't."

"But I shouldn't like to leave you with nobody, my boy," she cried.

"You're not going to leave me. What are you? Fifty-three! I'll give you till seventy-five. There you are, I'm fat and forty-four. Then I'll marry a staid body. See!"

His mother sat and laughed.

"Go to bed," she said--"go to bed."

"And we'll have a pretty house, you and me, and a servant, and it'll be just all right. I s'll perhaps be rich with my painting."

"Will you go to bed!"

"And then you s'll have a pony-carriage. See yourself--a little Queen Victoria trotting round."

"I tell you to go to bed," she laughed.

He kissed her and went. His plans for the future were always the same.

Mrs. Morel sat brooding--about her daughter, about Paul, about Arthur. She fretted at losing Annie. The family was very closely bound. And she felt she MUST live now, to be with her children. Life was so rich for her. Paul wanted her, and so did Arthur. Arthur never knew how deeply he loved her. He was a creature of the moment. Never yet had he been forced to realise himself. The army had disciplined his body, but not his soul. He was in perfect health and very handsome. His dark, vigorous hair sat close to his smallish head. There was something childish about his nose, something almost girlish about his dark blue eyes. But he had the fun red mouth of a man under his brown moustache, and his jaw was strong. It was his father's mouth; it was the nose and eyes of her own mother's people--good-looking, weak-principled folk. Mrs. Morel was anxious about him. Once he had really run the rig he was safe. But how far would he go?

The army had not really done him any good. He resented bitterly the authority of the officers. He hated having to obey as if he were an animal. But he had too much sense to kick. So he turned his attention to getting the best out of it. He could sing, he was a boon-companion. Often he got into scrapes, but they were the manly scrapes that are easily condoned. So he made a good time out of it, whilst his self-respect was in suppression. He trusted to his good looks and handsome figure, his refinement, his decent education to get him most of what he wanted, and he was not disappointed. Yet he was restless. Something seemed to gnaw him inside. He was never still, he was never alone. With his mother he was rather humble. Paul he admired and loved and despised slightly. And Paul admired and loved and despised him slightly.

Mrs. Morel had had a few pounds left to her by her father, and she decided to buy her son out of the army. He was wild with joy. Now he was like a lad taking a holiday.

He had always been fond of Beatrice Wyld, and during his furlough he picked up with her again. She was stronger and better in health. The two often went long walks together, Arthur taking her arm in soldier's fashion, rather stiffly. And she came to play the piano whilst he sang. Then Arthur would unhook his tunic collar. He grew flushed, his eyes were bright, he sang in a manly tenor. Afterwards they sat together on the sofa. He seemed to flaunt his body: she was aware of him so--the strong chest, the sides, the thighs in their close-fitting trousers.

He liked to lapse into the dialect when he talked to her. She would sometimes smoke with him. Occasionally she would only take a few whiffs at his cigarette.

"Nay," he said to her one evening, when she reached for his cigarette. "Nay, tha doesna. I'll gi'e thee a smoke kiss if ter's a mind."

"I wanted a whiff, no kiss at all," she answered.

"Well, an' tha s'lt ha'e a whiff," he said, "along wi' t' kiss."

"I want a draw at thy fag," she cried, snatching for the cigarette between his lips.

He was sitting with his shoulder touching her. She was small and quick as lightning. He just escaped.

"I'll gi'e thee a smoke kiss," he said.

"Tha'rt a knivey nuisance, Arty Morel," she said, sitting back.

"Ha'e a smoke kiss?"

The soldier leaned forward to her, smiling. His face was near hers.

"Shonna!" she replied, turning away her head.

He took a draw at his cigarette, and pursed up his mouth, and put his lips close to her. His dark-brown cropped moustache stood out like a brush. She looked at the puckered crimson lips, then suddenly snatched the cigarette from his fingers and darted away. He, leaping after her, seized the comb from her back hair. She turned, threw the cigarette at him. He picked it up, put it in his mouth, and sat down.

"Nuisance!" she cried. "Give me my comb!"

She was afraid that her hair, specially done for him, would come down. She stood with her hands to her head. He hid the comb between his knees.

"I've non got it," he said.

The cigarette trembled between his lips with laughter as he spoke.

"Liar!" she said.

"'S true as I'm here!" he laughed, showing his hands.

"You brazen imp!" she exclaimed, rushing and scuffling for the comb, which he had under his knees. As she wrestled with him, pulling at his smooth, tight-covered knees, he laughed till he lay back on the sofa shaking with laughter. The cigarette fell from his mouth almost singeing his throat. Under his delicate tan the blood flushed up, and he laughed till his blue eyes were blinded, his throat swollen almost to choking. Then he sat up. Beatrice was putting in her comb.

"Tha tickled me, Beat," he said thickly.

Like a flash her small white hand went out and smacked his face. He started up, glaring at her. They stared at each other. Slowly the flush mounted her cheek, she dropped her eyes, then her head. He sat down sulkily. She went into the scullery to adjust her hair. In private there she shed a few tears, she did not know what for.

When she returned she was pursed up close. But it was only a film over her fire. He, with ruffled hair, was sulking upon the sofa. She sat down opposite, in the armchair, and neither spoke. The clock ticked in the silence like blows.

"You are a little cat, Beat," he said at length, half apologetically.

"Well, you shouldn't be brazen," she replied.

There was again a long silence. He whistled to himself like a man much agitated but defiant. Suddenly she went across to him and kissed him.

"Did it, pore fing!" she mocked.

He lifted his face, smiling curiously.

"Kiss?" he invited her.

"Daren't I?" she asked.

"Go on!" he challenged, his mouth lifted to her.

Deliberately, and with a peculiar quivering smile that seemed to overspread her whole body, she put her mouth on his. Immediately his arms folded round her. As soon as the long kiss was finished she drew back her head from him, put her delicate fingers on his neck, through the open collar. Then she closed her eyes, giving herself up again in a kiss.

She acted of her own free will. What she would do she did, and made nobody responsible.



Paul felt life changing around him. The conditions of youth were gone. Now it was a home of grown-up people. Annie was a married woman, Arthur was following his own pleasure in a way unknown to his folk. For so long they had all lived at home, and gone out to pass their time. But now, for Annie and Arthur, life lay outside their mother's house. They came home for holiday and for rest. So there was that strange, half-empty feeling about the house, as if the birds had flown. Paul became more and more unsettled. Annie and Arthur had gone. He was restless to follow. Yet home was for him beside his mother. And still there was something else, something outside, something he wanted.

He grew more and more restless. Miriam did not satisfy him. His old mad desire to be with her grew weaker. Sometimes he met Clara in Nottingham, sometimes he went to meetings with her, sometimes he saw her at Willey Farm. But on these last occasions the situation became strained. There was a triangle of antagonism between Paul and Clara and Miriam. With Clara he took on a smart, worldly, mocking tone very antagonistic to Miriam. It did not matter what went before. She might be intimate and sad with him. Then as soon as Clara appeared, it all vanished, and he played to the newcomer.

Miriam had one beautiful evening with him in the hay. He had been on the horse-rake, and having finished, came to help her to put the hay in cocks. Then he talked to her of his hopes and despairs, and his whole soul seemed to lie bare before her. She felt as if she watched the very quivering stuff of life in him. The moon came out: they walked home together: he seemed to have come to her because he needed her so badly, and she listened to him, gave him all her love and her faith. It seemed to her he brought her the best of himself to keep, and that she would guard it all her life. Nay, the sky did not cherish the stars more surely and eternally than she would guard the good in the soul of Paul Morel. She went on home alone, feeling exalted, glad in her faith.

And then, the next day, Clara came. They were to have tea in the hayfield. Miriam watched the evening drawing to gold and shadow. And all the time Paul was sporting with Clara. He made higher and higher heaps of hay that they were jumping over. Miriam did not care for the game, and stood aside. Edgar and Geoffrey and Maurice and Clara and Paul jumped. Paul won, because he was light. Clara's blood was roused. She could run like an Amazon. Paul loved the determined way she rushed at the hay-cock and leaped, landed on the other side, her breasts shaken, her thick hair come undone.

"You touched!" he cried. "You touched!"

"No!" she flashed, turning to Edgar. "I didn't touch, did I? Wasn't I clear?"

"I couldn't say," laughed Edgar.

None of them could say.

"But you touched," said Paul. "You're beaten."

"I did NOT touch!" she cried.

"As plain as anything," said Paul.

"Box his ears for me!" she cried to Edgar.

"Nay," Edgar laughed. "I daren't. You must do it yourself."

"And nothing can alter the fact that you touched," laughed Paul.

She was furious with him. Her little triumph before these lads and men was gone. She had forgotten herself in the game. Now he was to humble her.

"I think you are despicable!" she said.

And again he laughed, in a way that tortured Miriam.

"And I KNEW you couldn't jump that heap," he teased.

She turned her back on him. Yet everybody could see that the only person she listened to, or was conscious of, was he, and he of her. It pleased the men to see this battle between them. But Miriam was tortured.

Paul could choose the lesser in place of the higher, she saw. He could be unfaithful to himself, unfaithful to the real, deep Paul Morel. There was a danger of his becoming frivolous, of his running after his satisfaction like any Arthur, or like his father. It made Miriam bitter to think that he should throw away his soul for this flippant traffic of triviality with Clara. She walked in bitterness and silence, while the other two rallied each other, and Paul sported.

And afterwards, he would not own it, but he was rather ashamed of himself, and prostrated himself before Miriam. Then again he rebelled.

"It's not religious to be religious," he said. "I reckon a crow is religious when it sails across the sky. But it only does it because it feels itself carried to where it's going, not because it thinks it is being eternal."

But Miriam knew that one should be religious in everything, have God, whatever God might be, present in everything.

"I don't believe God knows such a lot about Himself," he cried. "God doesn't KNOW things, He IS things. And I'm sure He's not soulful."

And then it seemed to her that Paul was arguing God on to his own side, because he wanted his own way and his own pleasure. There was a long battle between him and her. He was utterly unfaithful to her even in her own presence; then he was ashamed, then repentant; then he hated her, and went off again. Those were the ever-recurring conditions.

She fretted him to the bottom of his soul. There she remained--sad, pensive, a worshipper. And he caused her sorrow. Half the time he grieved for her, half the time he hated her. She was his conscience; and he felt, somehow, he had got a conscience that was too much for him. He could not leave her, because in one way she did hold the best of him. He could not stay with her because she did not take the rest of him, which was three-quarters. So he chafed himself into rawness over her.

When she was twenty-one he wrote her a letter which could only have been written to her.



"May I speak of our old, worn love, this last time. It, too, is changing, is it not? Say, has not the body of that love died, and left you its invulnerable soul? You see, I can give you a spirit love, I have given it you this long, long time; but not embodied passion. See, you are a nun. I have given you what I would give a holy nun--as a mystic monk to a mystic nun. Surely you esteem it best. Yet you regret--no, have regretted--the other. In all our relations no body enters. I do not talk to you through the senses--rather through the spirit. That is why we cannot love in the common sense. Ours is not an everyday affection. As yet we are mortal, and to live side by side with one another would be dreadful, for somehow with you I cannot long be trivial, and, you know, to be always beyond this mortal state would be to lose it. If people marry, they must live together as affectionate humans, who may be commonplace with each other without feeling awkward--not as two souls. So I feel it.

"Ought I to send this letter?--I doubt it. But there--it is best to understand. Au revoir."



Miriam read this letter twice, after which she sealed it up. A year later she broke the seal to show her mother the letter.

"You are a nun--you are a nun." The words went into her heart again and again. Nothing he ever had said had gone into her so deeply, fixedly, like a mortal wound.

She answered him two days after the party.

"'Our intimacy would have been all-beautiful but for one little mistake,'" she quoted. "Was the mistake mine?"

Almost immediately he replied to her from Nottingham, sending her at the same time a little "Omar Khayyam."



"I am glad you answered; you are so calm and natural you put me to shame. What a ranter I am! We are often out of sympathy. But in fundamentals we may always be together I think.

"I must thank you for your sympathy with my painting and drawing. Many a sketch is dedicated to you. I do look forward to your criticisms, which, to my shame and glory, are always grand appreciations. It is a lovely joke, that. Au revoir."


This was the end of the first phase of Paul's love affair. He was now about twenty-three years old, and, though still virgin, the sex instinct that Miriam had over-refined for so long now grew particularly strong. Often, as he talked to Clara Dawes, came that thickening and quickening of his blood, that peculiar concentration in the breast, as if something were alive there, a new self or a new centre of consciousness, warning him that sooner or later he would have to ask one woman or another. But he belonged to Miriam. Of that she was so fixedly sure that he allowed her right.


保罗对自己甚至对世间的一切都不满意。最深沉的爱属于他母亲。每当他感到自己伤害了母亲,或损伤了他对她的爱,他就不堪忍受。已经是春天了,他和米丽亚姆之间有了激烈的冲突。这一年来,他老是和她对着干。她对此也隐约有所察觉。每当她祈祷时,那种自己注定要成为这场恋爱的牺牲品的一贯的感觉就会和她的各种情感交织在一起,她打心底里就不相信自己会拥有他。首先她就不相信自己,她怀疑自己是否能成为一个保罗所要求的那样的人,她也不会设想自己能跟他过一辈子幸福生活。她看到的前途就是悲剧、忧伤和牺牲。能够做出牺牲,她为此感到骄傲,能够克制自己,证明她坚强,因为她不相信自己能承受生活的重负。她准备着对付悲剧之类的大事和难事。她不属于日常生活的小事。

复活节假期欢乐地开始了,保罗还是那个坦率的保罗。然而她却总觉得什么事不对劲。星期四下午,她站在卧室窗前,眺望着对面树林和那片橡树。在午后的明媚的阳光下,枝桠间透着斑斑驳驳的微光。一丛丛浅绿色的冬树叶悬在窗前,她想或许有的已经发芽了吧。既会恐惧又欢喜的春天来了。

大门咯吱一响,她不安地站在那儿。天气阴沉着。保罗推着锃亮的自行车进了院子。平时,他总是摁着车铃走向屋子。今天,他走进来时,却双唇紧闭,举上露出一股冷酷、懒散而嘲讽的神情。她现在已对他了如指掌,从他那敏锐、高傲的外表,就能推测出他的内心。他不经意地把车停在老地方,米丽亚姆看着不禁心里一沉。

她紧张地下了楼,身穿一件她认为比较配她的新网眼罩衫。高高的皱领于,使她联想到苏格兰的玛丽女王,并且暗自认为自己看上去一定漂亮而又矜持。二十岁的她已经发育得胸部丰满,体态啊娜。可她的脸却仍象戴着个柔软多彩的面具,毫无变化。不过一旦她抬起眼帘,那简直妙不可言。她有些害怕,怕他会注意到她的新罩衫。

他用那种嘲讽刻薄的语气绘神绘色地向她家人讲美以美教会守旧派一个著名的传教士在教堂里做礼拜的情形。他坐在餐桌的一头,脸上表情丰富多变,学着那个他嘲讽的对象的模样。两只漂亮迷人的眼睛一会儿闪着柔和的光,一会儿又眉飞色舞。他的嘲弄伤害了她:因为模仿得太逼真了。他过于敏锐,也过于残忍。每当他眼睛这样冷,这样充满嘲讽的恨意,她就知道他一定不会放过任何人,甚至她自己。可是雷渥斯太太却笑得直擦眼泪。刚从星期日午睡中醒来的雷渥斯先生,也乐得直摸脑袋,三个兄弟只穿着衬衫坐在那儿,脸上还挂着睡意,听得也不时地哈哈大笑,全家人都非常欣赏他这种模仿和嘲弄他人的“表演”。

保罗没有理会米丽亚姆,过了一会儿,她看到他注意到了她的新罩衫。从他脸上,她看到了画家的赞赏,但却没有赢得一点热情的赞扬。她有点紧张,几乎没法从架于上把茶杯拿下来。

屋里的男人们都出去挤牛奶了。米丽亚姆这时壮着胆独自跟他打了声招呼。

“你来晚了。”她说。

“是吗?”他答道。

两人沉默了一会儿。

“路难走吗?”她问。

“我没在意。”

她继续飞快地摆着餐桌,摆完之后——

“茶还得沏几分钟,你要不要来看看水仙花?”她问。

他站起身来,默不做声。他俩走进了后花园,站在含苞欲放的西洋李树下,群山和大空晴朗而略带寒意,一眼看上去都好象被洗过一般,显得格外刺眼。米丽亚姆看了保罗一眼,只见他脸色苍白,表情漠然。在她看来,她深爱的那双眼睛,眉毛会看上去如此伤人,这对她太残忍了。

“风尘仆仆的,累了吧?”她问,她觉察到他隐隐有点倦意。

“不,我不觉得累。”他回答道。

“路一定很难走——风吹得树林直响。”

“看看云,你就知道这是西南风,到这儿来是顺风。”

“你知道,我不骑车,所以我也不懂这些。”她低声说。

“难道这需要骑车才知道吗?”他说。

米丽亚姆认为他的讥讽毫无必要。他俩默默地往前走着,有一堵荆棘树篱绕着屋后的那片长满野草的草坪,树篱下的水仙花正从浅绿色的叶丛中探出头来。花瓣呈绿色,略透着寒意,不过还是开了几朵,金黄色的花朵摇曳多姿,灿烂生辉。米丽亚姆跪在一簇水仙花前,捧起一朵野花似的水仙,低下头去,用嘴唇、脸颊和额头接受着金黄色的花瓣。他站在旁边,双手插在口袋里看着她。她把花一朵一朵地转向保罗。一边两手仍不停地抚弄着这些花。

“这些花挺美,是吗?”她喃喃地说。

“挺美!只是花开得有点密了——不过,还算漂亮!”

尽管保罗对她的赞赏横加挑剔,她还是低下头看花。他看着她蹲下身子,用热情的吻啜吮着花朵。

“为什么你一定要抚弄它们?”他烦躁地说。

“我就是喜欢抚爱花朵。”她不高兴地回答。

“难道你喜欢什么东西就一定得紧紧抓住不放,好象要把它们的心掏出来不可吗?为什么你不能多少克制一点,或者保守一点呢?”

她痛苦地抬起头来看着保罗,接着又慢慢用唇去碰这一朵朵摇曳生姿的花儿。她闻着花的芳香,觉得它要比保罗友好。这种感觉使她想痛哭一场。

“你能把什么东西都哄骗得灵魂出窍。”他说,“我决不会这样。我总是直来直去。”

他都不知道自己在说些什么。这些话是无意识地说出来的。她望着他。他的身子仿佛象一把坚硬挺直毫不容情的尖刀直指着她。

“你总是在乞求爱,”他说,“仿佛你是爱情的乞丐,甚至对花朵,你也这般乞求……”

米丽亚姆有节奏地用嘴一下一下地抚弄着花朵,呼吸着花的芳香,幽幽花香扑鼻而来,她不禁浑身颤抖起来。

“你不想去爱——你只是没完没了地、反常地渴望别人来爱你,你不主动,而是消极等待,你吸啊吸,好象你内心某个角落有什么缺憾必须用爱来填充自己似的。”

她被他的刻薄狠毒惊得发呆,再也听不下去了。他根本就不清楚自己在说些什么。由于热情遭到打击,他那烦恼痛苦的心灵激情仿佛无法自制。因此,这一番话就象闪电火花似的冒了出来。她不明白他说的是什么,只有在他对她的刻薄和厌恶下,蜷缩着身子坐在那里。她没有一下子清醒过来,只是默默地思索着思索着。

用过茶点后,他和艾德加兄弟们呆在一起,不再理会米丽亚姆。她呢,对这个盼望已久的节日感到极度的失望,只好等着他。到了后来,他总算是让了步,来到她身边,她打定主意要弄清楚他心情变化的缘故,她认为这只不过是心情不好罢了。

“我们再穿过林子走一程好吗?”她问他。她知道他从不拒绝一个直截了当的要求。

他们来到狩猎区,半路上他们路过了一个陷阱,是用小纵树枝编的马蹄形树篱盖着,里面放着当作诱饵用的兔子内脏。保罗皱着眉看了一眼,她注意到了他的眼神。

“很可怕,是不是?”她问。

“我不知道!难道这比黄鼠狼叼住兔子的喉咙更可怕么?是逮一只黄鼠狼呢,还是让许多兔子遭殃?二者必居其一!”

他对生命的痛苦大发感慨,米丽亚姆为他感到难过。

“我们回屋子去吧,”他说,“我不想再在外面走了。”

他们经过丁香树,上面古铜色的叶芽就要绽开,有一堆方形的干草堆在那儿,呈棕色,像个石柱子,这是上次割草时留下的一个小草垛。

“我们在这坐一会吧。”米丽亚姆说。

他不太情愿地坐了下来,背靠着干草堆。他俩面对着晚霞有如圆形的戏台的群山,远处一排排小小的白色农舍。牧场泛着金光,树林阴暗,然而还不时闪着亮光,清楚地看到层层叠叠的树顶渐渐远去,傍晚时分,天朗气清,远方天际有一抹霞光,霞光下的大地多彩而寂静。

“这景色是不是很美啊?”她追问他。

他只是皱着眉头,其实他倒希望景色不堪入目。

这时,一只高大猛大跑了过来,张着嘴,两只爪子搭在保罗的肩头,舔着他的脸,他大笑着往后退,比尔对他是一大安慰。他把狗推到一边,可它又扑了上来。

“走开,”小伙子说,“要不就打你了。”

但是狗推也推不开,保罗就跟这畜牲打闹起来,把可怜的比尔推到一边,它却更挣扎着往回扑,高兴地发起野来,两个撕打成一团。他勉强笑着,狗也张牙舞爪。米丽亚姆看着他们,觉得保罗有些可怜,他如此迫切地渴望得到爱,渴望得到温存,他跟狗厮打玩闹,其实就是爱。比尔跳起身,乐得喘着粗气,褐色的眼珠直转个不停,蹒蹒跚跚地又靠近过来。它很喜欢保罗,保罗却皱着眉。

“比尔,我跟你闹够了。”他说。

这只狗却用有力的爪子站了起来,颤抖着满心欢喜地扑在他的大腿上,冲着他伸着红舌头。他往后退着。

“别,”他说,“——别,我已经闹够了。”

没多久,狗就夹着尾巴一溜烟地跑了,另找乐去了。

他依旧感伤地凝望着对面的群山,依旧在怨恨着群山的美丽,他想去找艾德加骑车玩,然而他又鼓不起勇气丢下米丽亚姆。

“你为什么伤心啊?”她谦卑地问。

“我没有伤心,我为什么伤心?”他回答道,“我很正常。”

她很纳闷为什么他心里不痛快,而嘴上总说自己正常。

“到底是怎么一回事啊?”她好声好气地恳求他。

“没事!”

“不是这样!”她低声说。

他拾起一根树枝,在地上刺着。

“如果你不说话,那再好不过了。”他说。

“但我希望知道……”她回答。

他报复似的大笑起来。

“你总是这样。”他说。

“这对我可不公平。”她低声说。

他用这根尖尖的树枝在地上戳着、刺着,挖起了一小堆土,好象他满肚子的烦躁苦恼没处发泄。她温柔而坚定地握住他的手腕。

“别这样!”她说,“扔掉吧。”

他才把枝条扔进了醋栗丛中,然后斜躺下来。现在,他的情绪总算控制住了。

“什么事?”她温柔地追问。

他一动不动地躺着,只有眼睛还在转着,里面饱含着痛苦。

“你清楚,”最后他消沉地说,“你清楚……我们还是分手的好。”

这正是她所害怕的。立刻,她觉得眼前的一切都暗淡下来。

“为什么?”她喃喃地说,“发生了什么事?”

“没什么事,我只是认清了我们自己的处境。这样下去,没有好处……”

她耐着性子默默地等着,非常伤心,跟他在一起下放松,一直是这样的,不管怎么说,现在他会告诉她是什么让他苦恼。

“我们说定了保持友谊,”他声调沉重而呆板地说,“我们不也一直说定保持友谊吗?而且——我们的关系既没止于友谊,也没有进一步地发展。”

他又沉默了。而她内心琢磨着,他说的是什么意思啊?他是如此的消沉。他肯定有什么事不愿意说出来,她一定得耐心地对待他。

“我只能给你友谊——这是我唯一能够做到的——我的性格有点缺陷。事情发展到了一个极端——我讨厌这种不稳定的关系。我们就到此为止吧。”

他的最后几句话含有激愤的情绪。她的意思是她爱他甚于他爱她。也许他不能爱她,也许她内心没有他所需要的东西。她灵魂深处最隐密的行为动机就是自我怀疑。她的行为动机埋藏得很深。她既不敢去认识,也不敢去承认。也许她是有缺陷的。这象极为强烈的羞耻感那样,使她总往后退缩,如果他真是这样,那么她没有他也行。她宁愿控制自己,不让自己想他。她现在只是在观望事情的发展。

“可是到底发生了什么事?”她问。

“什么也没发生——只是我自己的缘故——现在才发泄出来了。到复活节时总是这样。”

他如此绝望地求饶,让她觉得同情起来。至少他从没这样可怜兮兮的前言不搭后语过,毕竟,这回主要还是他丢了面子。

“你到底要怎样?”她问他。

“哦——我绝不能来得太频繁——就这些。我为什么要独占你呢,我又不是……你看,和你比起来,我有点缺陷……”

他在告诉她,他不爱她,因此应该给她机会去找其他的人,他简直太愚蠢,太糊涂,大盲目!对她来说,其他男人是什么呀!根本算不了什么!而他,哼!她爱他的灵魂,他有缺陷吗?也许是的。

“可我不明白,”她沙哑着嗓子说,“昨天……”

夜暮渐渐降临,对他来说,夜变得喧闹而可恨。她则痛苦地低着头。

“我知道,”他叫起来,“你绝不会,你绝不会相信我会象只云雀那样飞翔,我也不会在肉体上……”

“什么?”她喃喃地说。这下她有点害怕了。

“爱你。”

她这时候恨极了他,因为他在使她痛苦。爱她!她知道他爱她。他确实属于她。至于什么在身体上、肉体上不爱她,那只是他的任性胡说,因为他知道她爱他。他愚蠢得象个孩子,他属于她,他的灵魂需要她,她猜测可能什么人在影响他。她觉得受了外来影响,态度生硬蛮横。

“在家时,他们说了些什么?”她问。

“这和那无关!”他回答。

然而,很清楚和那有关系。她看不起他家人的那种俗气。他们不懂事物的真正价值。

这天晚上,他俩再没谈什么。他还是丢下她和艾德加骑车玩去了。

他只要回到了母亲身边,母爱才是他生命中最重要的纽带。每当他就这么左思右想时,米丽亚姆就被他置之脑后,她只是一种模糊而虚幻的感觉。这世上,别人都无关紧要。只有一块地方牢不可摧,也不会变得虚无缥缈,那就是他母亲所处的位置。在他眼中,其余的人都会逐渐模糊,甚至完全消失,但她不会。母亲仿佛是他的主心骨,生命的支柱,让他无法逃避。

同样,母亲也在等待着他。如今她的生命就寄托在他身上,已往的生活毕竟没能给莫瑞尔太太很多东西,她知道人们能在这个世界上有所作为,而她的机会,将由保罗来证实。他要做个没有什么能拖往他后腿的男子汉,他要以某种特别的方法改变世界的面貌。不论他去哪儿,她都觉得自己的心灵在陪伴着他;不论他做什么,她都觉得自己的心灵和他在一起,仿佛随时准备好替他传替工具。他和米丽亚姆在一起时,她就忍受不了。威廉已经死了,她要为留住保罗而斗争。

他回到了她身边。在他内心有一种自我牺牲的满足感,因为他是忠于她的。她最爱的是他,而他,最爱的是她,不过这还不能让他满足,他正年轻,身强力壮,还迫切需要一些别的。这让他苦恼得烦躁不安。他知道这一点,苦苦地祈求米丽亚姆是他所希望的那种女子,只占有他新萌发的生命力,而把根基留给她。他竭力抵抗着母亲,几乎就象抵制米丽亚姆的诱惑一样。

一个星期后,他才去了威利农场。米丽亚姆心里痛苦极了,生怕再见到他。她现在要忍受他抛弃她的屈辱吗?这不过是表面的和暂时的。他会回来的。她掌握着他灵魂的钥匙。但是,与此同时,想到他会处处跟她作对来折磨她,她就不由得退缩了。

然而,复活节后的星期天,他来吃茶点了,雷渥斯太太看到他很高兴。她猜测可能他碰上什么困难让他烦恼不已。他好象是来到这里寻求慰藉。她对他很好,用非常友好,几乎有些谦卑的态度对待他。

他在前面的院子里碰到她和几个孩子在一起。

“我很高兴你来了,”这位母亲说,那双富有魅力的棕色的大眼睛看着他,“天气真好。我正要到田野里走走。这还是今年的头一回呢。”

他感觉到她对他的到来十分高兴,这让他心里感到慰藉,他们一路走着,一路随便聊着,他恭敬而有礼。她对他的尊敬几乎要让他感激得哭了。他感到自己太软弱。

。在草场尽头,他们发现了一个画眉的鸟巢。

“要不要我给你摸几个鸟蛋?”他说。

“要!”雷渥斯太太说,“这真让人感到春天的来临,一切都充满希望。”

他拨开荆棘,掏出鸟蛋,把它们捧在手掌上。

“它们还是热的呢——我想我们把正在孵它们的母亲给吓跑了。”他说。

“唉,可怜的东酉!”雷混斯太太说。

米丽亚姆情不自禁地伸手去摸这些蛋,碰碰他的手。她感觉他小心地牢牢地捧着蛋。

“这真是奇怪的温暖!”她喃喃说着靠近了他。

“是体温。”他回答。

她看着他把蛋放回去。他身体紧靠着树篱,胳膊慢慢地伸进荆棘丛里,手里小心翼翼地握着鸟蛋。他正全神贯注地这么做着。看到他这副神态,她疼爱极了。他看上去天真而满足,但她却无法接近他。

茶点后,她犹豫不决地站在书架前,他取出一本《达拉斯贡城的达达兰》,他俩又坐到草垛边的干草上,保罗心不在焉地翻了几页,那条狗又和上次一样跑来跟他闹着。狗把鼻子拱到了他怀里,保罗抚摸着狗的耳朵,然后把它推开了。

“走开,比尔。”他说,“我不想让你过来。”

比尔跑开了。米丽亚姆有些奇怪,心里害怕什么事会发生。小伙子的沉默仍然叫她担心。她害怕的倒不是他发火生气,而是害怕他那种沉默的决心。

他稍稍侧了一下脸,这样她就看不到了,接着,他开始痛苦地一字一句地说:

“你觉不觉得——如果我没有来得这么频繁——你也许会喜欢上别人——另外一个男人?”

原来,还是那句话。

“但我不认识别的男人,你为什么要问这句话?”她用低沉但责备的口气回答。

“哦,”他冲口而出,“因为别人说我没有权利如此频繁地来这儿—一如果我们不想结婚的话……”

米丽亚姆向来讨厌别人干涉他们之间的事。她曾因为父亲笑呵呵地对保罗暗示,说他知道保罗为什么来的这么勤,而大发脾气。

“谁说的?”她问,想知道是否自己家人和这闲话有关。然而,他们与此无关。

“妈妈说的——还有别人,他们说到了这个程度大家都会认为我已经订婚了,我自己也应当这样考虑,否则就对你不公平。我一直想弄清楚—一我认为我并没有象一个男人爱他的妻子那样爱着你。对这件事你是怎么想的?”

米丽亚姆不高兴地低着头。她为这种纠葛而生气。别人不应该干涉他们俩的事。

“我不知道。”她喃喃地说。

“你觉得我们彼此深爱,到了结婚的程度吗?”他明确地问她。这话让她不禁颤抖起来。

“不。”她坦率地说,“我认为还没有—一我们太年轻了。”

“我想或许。”他可怜巴巴地接着说,“你,凡事较真,寄予我的期望太高——也许超过了我所能承受的一切。即使是现在——如果你觉得比较合适的话——我们还是订婚吧。”

米丽亚姆现在真想大哭一场。同时她也很生气。她总象个孩子似的任人摆布。

“不,我觉得不行。”她坚决地说。

他沉默了一会儿。

“你知道。”他说,“与我在一起——我觉得没有任何人能够独占我——成为我的一切——我觉得决不会有。”

这点她确实没有想到。

“是的,”她喃喃地说,停了一下之后,她抬头望着他,黑黑的眼睛突然一亮。

“是你妈妈说的。”她说,“我知道她从不喜欢我。”

“不,不,不是这样。”他急忙说,“这次完全是为了你好她才说的。她只是说,如果我们再这样下去,我就应该认为自己已经是个订了婚的人了。”一阵沉默。“倘若以后我叫你来我家,你不会不来的,对吗?”

她没有回答。但此时她已怒不可遏了。

“好吧,那我们该怎么办?”她急促地问:“我想我最好还是扔了法语。虽然我才刚刚摸到了一点门道,但我觉得我可以自学了。”

“我觉得没有这个必要。”他说,“我可以继续给你上法语课,没问题。”

“噢——还有星期天的晚上,我不会停止做礼拜的。因为我喜欢它,况且那是我仅有的社交活动,但你不用送我回家,我可以自己走。”

“好的,”他说,显出很吃惊的样子,“但如果让艾德加和我们一起走的话,他们就没话说了。”

又是一阵沉默。其实,她并没有失去太多。接下来的谈活,他们之间没多少分歧。她祈愿那些人少管闲事。

“你不会老想着这件事,为它感到烦恼吧?”他问。

“哦,不会。”米丽亚姆回答道,看也不看他一眼。

他默不作声,她认为他反复无常,没有坚定的目标,也没有指导自己行动规范的固定准则。

“因为,”他继续说,“男人跨上自行车——就去工作了——干各种各样的事。但女人呢,老爱想事。”

“不,我不会因此而烦恼的。”米丽亚姆说,而且她决定这么做。

天冷,他们走进了屋子。

“保罗的脸色多苍白啊!”雷渥斯太太惊呼道,“米丽亚姆,你不该让他呆在外面。你是不是着凉了,保罗?”

“哦,没有!”他笑着说。

然而,他自己觉得精疲力竭,内心的矛盾拖垮了他。米丽亚姆此刻非常同情他,保罗起身想走,但时间还早,不到九点。

“你要回家吗?”雷渥斯太太焦急地问。

“嘿,”他说,“我告诉他们我会早点回来的。”他异常尴尬。

“可现在还早呢。”雷渥斯太太说。

米丽亚姆在摇椅里,没有作声,他犹豫着,期望着她能站起来和往常一样陪他一起去马厩取自行车,可她独自坐在那里一动不动。他有些不知所措了。

“好吧,那么各位晚安。”他结结巴巴地说。

她和别人一起跟他道了声晚安。不过当他走过窗户时朝里张望了一下。米丽亚姆看见他脸色苍白,像惯常那样紧锁着眉,黑黑的眼睛里满是痛苦。

她站起来走到门口,在他走过大门时挥手与他告别。在松树下他慢慢骑着车,觉得自己是个可怜虫、窝囊废。他的自行车横冲直撞地冲下了山。他想要是把脖子摔断了,那倒是一种解脱呢。

两天后,他给了她一本书和一张纸条,催促她看书和用功。

这段时间,他和艾德加已成了挚友。他狂热地爱着这家人。爱着这个农场。对他来说,这是世上最可亲的地方了,他自己的家没有这么可爱。只是他的母亲让人留恋。然而,和母亲在一起,他只是高兴罢了。而他却深爱着威利农场。他爱那个小小的简陋的厨房。在那儿,男人们的靴声阵阵,那只狗也警惕地睡着生怕被踩着。晚上,那里桌子上还挂着盏灯,一切都是那么寂静。他爱米丽亚姆那间长长的、矮矮的起居室,爱屋里那种浪漫的气氛,还有那鲜花和书,以及那高高的花梨木钢琴。他爱那些花园和分布在光秃秃的田野的红屋顶房子。这些房于向后面的树林延伸过去,仿佛在寻求庇护。山谷这边向下一直延伸到另一边的荒山坡。那是一片旷野,只有在这里,他才会觉得心情快乐,精神振奋,他爱雷渥斯太太。她文雅脱俗,有些玩世不恭;他爱雷渥斯先生,他充满热情,充满活力,可亲可爱;他爱艾德加,每当保罗到来时,他都会兴奋不已。他还爱那些孩子们,还有比尔——甚至还爱老母猪塞西和叫替浦的那只印度斗鸡。除了米丽亚姆外,他舍不下这一切。

因此,他还是经常去,只不过他通常都是和艾德加呆在一起,只有到了晚上全家人包括父亲,聚在一起玩字迷、做游戏。尔后,米丽亚姆又把大家都聚拢来,朗诵《麦克白斯》之类的书,大家各自扮演一个角色,玩的可真痛快。米丽亚姆很高兴,雷渥斯太太也很高兴,连雷渥斯先生也玩得很投入。接着,一家人就围着火炉,根据首调唱法学着唱歌。这样一来,保罗就很少单独和米丽亚姆在一起。她等待着。每当她和他还有艾德加从教堂或从贝斯伍德文学联谊会堂一起往家走时,她终于明白了他的意图。深情的、常带有异端邪说的话都是说给她听的。然而,她还是嫉妒艾德加,嫉妒他陪保罗骑自行车,嫉妒他每星期五晚上与保罗呆在一起,嫉妒他们白天又一起在田里劳动。因为她的星期五晚上和法语课都已成为了过去。她几乎总是独自一人散步,在树林里溜跶,看书、学习、冥想、等待。他仍然频繁地写信给她。

一个星期天的晚上,他们的关系又达到了过去那少有的和谐。艾德加留下跟莫瑞尔太太一起等领圣餐——他不知道领圣餐是怎么一回事。因此,保罗就独自陪米丽亚姆一起回到自己家。他又或多或少地被她迷住了,象往常一样,他俩又谈论着布道。此时他正在不可知论领域里游荡。米丽亚姆对宗教的不可知论没有什么受不了的。他们对勒南的《耶稣传》争论不休,米丽亚姆成了他争论的讲坛,他借助它把自己的信念都摆了出来。就在他把自己的思想竭力向她的内心灌输时,他似乎觉得真理越来越清晰了。只有她一个人成了他争论的讲坛,只有她一个人帮助他认清道理。她对他的争论和解释几乎无动于衷,丝毫不加辩解。可不知怎么的,就是因为她这样,他逐渐认识到自己错在哪儿。而他所意识到的,她也意识到了。她觉得他少不了她。

他们走向静悄悄的屋子,保罗从洗碗间的窗户上掏出钥匙,进了屋。他一直谈着自己的论点。他点亮了煤气灯,拨旺了火,从伙房里拿了几块蛋糕给她。她默默地坐在沙发上,膝头上搁着盘子。她带着一顶插着几朵粉色花的大白帽子,帽子虽然是便宜货,可他喜欢,帽子下她的脸平静安详,似在沉思,金黄色红扑扑的脸,耳朵掩藏在短短的卷发后面。她望着他。

她喜欢他星期天的装束。他身穿着一套深色衣服,显得身体富有活力,看起来干净利落。他继续跟她谈着他的想法。突然他伸手去拿《圣经》,米丽亚姆很喜欢他伸出手去拿什么东西的样子——又快又准。他迅速翻开书,给她念了一章《约翰福音》。他坐在扶手椅上,一心一意地念着,声音仿佛只是在出神地沉思着。她感到他是在不知不觉地利用她,就好象一个男人专心干活时利用工具一样。她喜欢这样,他渴望的声音仿佛祈求得到什么,仿佛她就是他要得到的。她坐在沙发上朝后仰靠过去,离他远了点,可仍觉得自己似乎还是他手中的工具。这让她感到愉快。

后来,他开始变得结结巴巴,不自在起来,他碰到这句话“妇女临生产的时候,就忧愁,因为她的产期到了。”就没念这句话,米丽亚姆发现他越来越不自在了。当她发现他没念这句很有名的句子时,心里不由地哆嗦了一下。他仍旧念着,但她却没听。一阵悲伤和羞愧让她低下了头。要是六个月前,他会径自念出来的。现在,他和她之间的关系有了一道裂痕,她觉得他们之间确实存在某种敌意,某种使他俩感到羞愧的东西。

她机械地吃着蛋糕,他还打算再议论下去。但却没说到点子上。一会儿,艾德加进来了,莫瑞尔太太去看朋友了。他们三个动身去威利农场。

米丽亚姆苦苦思索着他和她之间的裂痕。他还需要别的什么东西,他无法满足,也无法给她安宁。现在,他们之间老有发生磨擦的理由。她想考验他。她相信他生活中第一需要就是她。如果她能对他也对自己证明这一点,其它一切问题都好办了。她就可以寄希望于未来。

因此,在五月份,她请他到威利农场来见道伍斯太太。这正是他心里所渴慕的事情。她发现每当他们谈起克莱拉·道伍斯时,他就有些生气和不高兴。他说他不喜欢她,可他又很想了解她。好吧,他应该让自己接受一下考验了。她相信他心里既有对高尚事物的欲望,也有对低俗事物的欲望。不过,对高尚事物的欲望总会占上风的。不管怎么说,他应该考验一下。正是她没有意识到自己所谓的“高尚”和“低俗”都相当武断的。

想到要在威利农场见到克莱拉,保罗不禁有些激动,道伍斯太太来呆了一天,她那浓密的暗褐色头发盘在头顶,穿了件白罩衫,加一条海军蓝裙子。不知为什么,不管她走到哪儿,哪儿的东西就相形见细,自惭形秽。当她进了屋,厨房就显得狭小而寒怆。米丽亚姆家那间幽暗漂亮的客厅也显得局促和土气。雷渥斯家的人都象一支支蜡烛,黯然失色。他们发现这屋子都很难忍受她。然而,她倒是相当友善,虽然对人处事有点冷漠,甚至还有些无情。

保罗下午来了,他来得还早,他刚从自行车上跳下来,米丽亚姆就看见他急切地朝屋子四下张望着。如果那个拜访者还没来,他准会失望的。米丽亚姆出去接他,由于阳光太刺眼她微低着头。金莲花在阴凉的绿荫下开着深红色的花朵。姑娘站在那儿,满头乌黑秀发,正含笑看着他。

“克莱拉来了吗?”他问。

“来了。”米丽亚姆那动听的声音回答着。“她正在看书呢。”

他把自行车推进了马厩。今天他打着一条为之感到自豪的漂亮的领带,还穿上一双般配的袜子。

“她是早晨来的?”他问。

“嗯。”米丽亚姆回答,在他身边走着,“你说过要把‘自由’酒馆里那个人写的信带给我,你记得吗?”

“哦,糟糕,我没带!”他说,“你可要不断提醒我,直到你拿上信为止。”

“我可不喜欢唠叨。”

“随你的便吧。她现在是不是比较随和了一些?”他接着说。

“你知道我一直认为她很随和。”

他沉默了。很明显,今天他这么急切地赶到,就是为了这个新来的人。米丽亚姆心里已经老大不痛快了。他们一起朝屋里走去,他取掉了裤脚上的夹子。虽然袜子和领带那么漂亮,但他却,懒得把鞋子上的灰擦一擦。

克莱拉坐在有些凉意的起居室里看着书。他看到了她白皙的脖颈和高高盘起的秀发。她站起身来,冷淡地望着他,伸直胳膊跟他握了握手,那种态度就好象是要立即跟他保持一段距离,但又多少赏了他点面子。他注意到了她罩衫下的一对乳房高高耸起,胳膊上方的薄纱下面露出富有曲线的肩膀。

“你挑了一个好天。”他说。

“碰得巧罢了。”她回答。

“是啊,”他说,“我很高兴见到你。”

她坐下了,没有对他的殷勤表示谢意。

“一早上都干了些什么?”保罗问着米丽亚姆。

“哦,你知道。”米丽亚姆沙哑地咳嗽着说,“克莱拉是和爸爸一起来的——所以——她才来不久。”

克莱拉倚着桌子坐着,神情冷淡。他注意到她的手很大,但保养得不错。手上的皮肤看上去好象又粗又白,没有光泽,长着细细的金黄色的汗毛。她没有在意他是不是在打量她的手。她故意不理会他。她那壮实的胳膊懒散地搭在桌子上,双唇紧闭,好象谁冒犯了她似的,脸微微侧着。

“那天晚上你去了玛格丽特·邦弗德的聚会了吧?”他对她说。

米丽亚姆从没见过保罗如此彬彬有礼。克莱拉瞟了他一眼。

“是的。”她说。

“咦,”米丽亚姆问,“你怎么知道?”

“火车没到站时,我在那呆了几分钟。”他答道。

克莱拉又傲慢地掉转头。

“我觉得她是一个挺可爱的女人。”保罗说。

“玛格丽特·邦弗德!”克莱拉大声说,“她要比大多数男人聪明得多。”

“哦,我没说她不聪明。”他分辩地说,“不过她挺可爱的。”

“哦,那当然了。这是最重要的。”克莱拉咄咄逼人。

他摸了摸脑袋,有些困惑,也有些气恼。

“我认为这比聪明更紧要,”他说,“毕竟,聪明不会把她带到天国。”

“她要的不是去天国——而是在地球上得到公平的待遇。”克莱拉反驳道。她说话的口气仿佛他应该对邦弗德小姐被剥夺什么权利负责似的。

“哦,”他说,“我觉得她很热心,是一个非常好的人——只是太脆弱了,我希望她能安安闲闲地坐着……”

“给她丈夫补袜子。”克莱拉刺了他一句。

“我保证,即使替我补补袜子她也不在意,”他说“而且我也保证,她一定会干得很好的。就象如果她要我给她擦皮鞋,我也毫不介意一样。”

然而,克莱拉并没有理会他这句俏皮话。他跟米丽亚姆又聊了一会儿,克莱拉还是一副高傲的样子。

“好了,”他说,“我想我得去看看艾德加,他是在地里吧?”

“我想他拉煤去了,应该马上就回来的。”米丽亚姆说。

“那么,”他说,“我去接他。”

米丽亚姆不再敢建议他们三人一同去。他站起身走了。

在路那头,金雀花盛开的地方,他看见艾德加正懒洋洋地走在一匹母马旁边,马头一点一点地正吃力地拉着一车煤。看到他的朋友后,这位年轻的农夫脸上立刻露出笑容,艾德加有一双黑色热情的眼睛,长相英俊。他的衣服又旧又破,可他走路却很神气自豪。

“嗨!”看见保罗光着头,就问:“你要去哪儿?”

“来接你,受不了那个‘一去不返’。”

艾德加乐呵呵地笑着,露出闪亮的牙齿。

“谁是‘一去不返’?”他问。

“那位太太——道伍斯太太——应该说是渡鸦夫人说的‘一去不返’。”

艾德加被逗得哈哈大笑。

“你不喜欢她?”他问。

“一点也不喜欢。”保罗说,“那你呢?”

“不喜欢!”这声回答干净利索。“不喜欢。”艾德加又噘起嘴来说,“我觉得她和我不是一条线上的人。”停了一会儿,又说:“但你为什么要叫她‘一去不返’呢?”

“哦,是这样,”保罗说,“如果她看了一个男人一眼,她就会盛气凌人地说‘一去不返’,如果她回忆往事,她就会厌恶地这么说,如果她展望未来,她也会玩世不恭地这么说。”

艾德加思量着这句话,没有弄明白是什么意思,就笑着说,“你觉得她是一个厌恶男人的人吗?”

“她认为她是这种人。”保罗答道。

“难道你不这么认为吗?”

“不这么认为。”保罗回答。

“那么,她对你好吗?”

“你能想象她会对人好吗?”年轻人问道。

艾德加大笑起来。两人一起把煤卸到了院子里。保罗非常谨慎,因为他知道如果克莱拉往窗外望的话,就能看见他,可她没望。

马要在星期六的下午刷洗、调理一下,保罗和艾德加一起干着,吉米和弗拉握尬蹑子掀起的土呛得他们直打喷嚏。

“有没有新歌可以教我?”艾德加问。

艾德加一直干着活,当他弯下腰时就可以看见他颈背被晒得通红,那握着刷子的手很粗壮。保罗不时地看他一眼。

“《玛丽·莫里逊》?”保罗建议。

艾德加表示同意。他有一副很好的男高音嗓子。他喜欢从朋友那儿学各种各样的歌。学会了后,他就可以在赶车时放声高歌。保罗的男中音嗓子就不怎么样了,不过耳朵很灵。不管怎么样,他还是低声唱了,唯恐被克莱拉听见。艾德加却用男高音嗓子一句句地跟唱着。他俩不时地打着喷嚏,这个人打完,那个人打,还责骂着马。

米丽亚姆对他们感到厌烦。他们——包括保罗在内——为一点小事就欣喜若狂。他竟会如此乐此不疲于琐碎小事,她以为简直不可思议。

他们干完时已经到了吃茶点的时候了。

“那是首什么歌?”米丽亚姆问。

艾德加告诉了她。话题转到了唱歌上去。

“我们常常这么快活。”米丽亚姆对克莱拉说。

道伍斯太太慢慢地文雅地吃着茶点。不管什么时候,只要有男人在,她就变得很冷淡。

“你喜欢唱歌吗?”米丽亚姆问她。

“如果是好歌,我就喜欢。”她说。

保罗脸刷地红了起来。

“你是说得阳春白雪的歌,经过专门训练嗓子吗?”他说。

“我认为嗓子需要训练才能谈得上唱歌。”她说。

“你不如叫人的嗓子在经过训练后才让他们张口说话。”他答道,“事实上,人们唱歌一般都是为了自己消遣。”

“可别人听了也许觉得很难受。”

“那么他们就应该把耳朵堵上。”他答道。

孩子们都哈哈笑起来,接下来又是一片沉默,保罗脸色赤红,只顾默默吃着。

茶点后,除了保罗外别的男人都走了。雷渥斯太太对克莱拉说:

“你现在过得快活了点吗?”

“快活极了。”

“那你也很满意了?”

“只要我能独立,能自由就够了。”

“你觉得生活中不缺少什么东西吗?”雷渥斯太太温和地问。

“我从来没有考虑过这个问题。”

保罗极不自在地听着她俩的谈话,便站了起来。

“你会发现你会被自己从不考虑的事情绊倒。”他说。然后,他就去了马棚。他觉得自己刚才说得很妙,那种男子汉的自豪又高涨起来。他顺着铺着砖石的小路走着,嘴里还吹着口哨。

不一会,米丽亚姆来找他,问他是否愿意陪她和克莱拉去散步。他们就向斯特雷利磨坊的畜牧场走去。他们沿着威利河畔走着,溪边剪秋萝在阳光照耀下,色彩浓艳,从树林边上的空缺看过去,只见在树林和稀稀朗朗的樟木丛那边,一个人牵着匹高大的枣红马穿过溪谷,这匹枣红大马远远地在昏暗的光彩下,浪漫地迈着舞步穿过那片朦胧的绿色榛树丛,在曾为窦德绿和伊带特开放过的已经凋谢了的蓝玲花中出没,真象是远久时代的情景。

这三个人站在那儿,都被眼前的景色迷住了。

“做个骑士,”他说,“在这儿搭个大帐篷,那该是多好的享受啊!”

“我们与世隔绝,过隐逸生活,对么?”克莱拉回答道。

“是这样的。”他回答,“你们可以绣着花,和你们的使女唱着歌。我会给你们扛起白、绿、紫三色旗,并在盾牌上刻上一头凶狠的母狮,然后下面刻上‘妇女社会政治协会’的字样。”

“我相信,”克莱拉说,“你情愿为妇女的生存去斗争,而不愿让她自己去斗争吧。”

“我情愿。如果她为自己的生存去斗争,那就好象是一条狗在镜子前对着自己的影子狂吠一样。”

“那么,你就是那面镜子了?”她撇着嘴问。

“或是影子。”他答道。

“我想你这个人恐怕有些聪明过头了。”她说。

“那好,那我就把好人留给你做吧。”他笑着回答,“做个好人吧,美人儿,就让我聪明就行了。”

然而克莱拉已经厌倦了他的贫嘴。他看着她,突然发现她那张高傲地仰起的脸上并没有讽刺的意味,而是一副伤心的神色。他的心不由得软了下来。他赶忙转过身去,对已被他冷落了半晌的米丽亚姆温柔起来。

他们在林边碰上了利博,一个四十岁的男人,身材消瘦,皮肤黝黑,他是斯特雷利磨坊的佃户,他把磨坊改成了养牛场。利博似乎很累,手里漫不经心地牵着那头健壮的种马的缰绳。这三个人停站到一旁,让他从第一条小溪的踏脚石上过去。保罗看着这一匹浑身似乎有使不完的劲的雄马,竟然踏着如此轻快的步伐,不禁赞赏不已。利博在他们面前勒住了马。

“回去告诉你爸爸,雷渥斯小姐,”他说,嗓门尖得出奇,“他的小牲口一连三天拱坏了底下的那排栅栏。”

“哪一排?”米丽亚姆怯生生地问。

那匹壮马呼呼地喘着粗气,掉转过它那枣红色的身子,微低着头,披散着鬃毛,疑惑地瞪着两只神气的大眼睛。

“跟我来,”利博回答,“我指给你看。”

这个男人牵着马往前走去。那匹公马摇摇摆摆地在一旁跟着,当它发现自己踩进了小溪,就惊慌地抖动着毛。

“不许耍花招!”男人亲热地对马说道。

那匹马迈着小步跃上了溪岸,然后,又轻巧地哗啦哗啦溅着水渡过了第二条小溪。克莱拉绷着脸,随意地走着。她用一种好奇而鄙视的目光看着那匹马。利博停住了,指着几棵柳树下的栅栏。

“那儿,你看那就是牲口钻洞的地方,”他说,“我的伙计已经把它们赶过三四次了。”

“哦,是这样。”米丽亚姆回答时脸也红了,好象这是她的过错一样。

“你们要进来吗?”男人问道。

“不了,谢谢。我们只想从池塘边绕过去。”

“好的,请便吧。”他说。

快到家里,马高兴地嘶叫起来。

“到家了它很高兴。”克莱拉说道,她对这匹马挺感兴趣。

“是啊,它今天一路很高兴。”

他们在走过大门口,看见大农舍里有位大约三十五岁左右的女人迎面走来。她身材娇小,皮肤黝黑,神情看来很容易激动,头发略有些灰白,黑眼睛看起来十分任性。她倒背着双手走了过来,她哥哥爬了上去,马一看到她,又开始嘶鸣起来,她激动地走上前去。

“你又回家了,好小子!”她温柔地冲着马说,而不是对着那个男人。那匹雄壮的大马低下头来,掉转身子挨着她。她把藏在背后手里的皱皮苹果偷偷地塞进了马嘴,然后在马的眼睛边上亲了一下。那匹马高兴地喘了一口粗气,她双臂搂着马头,贴在胸口。

“这马真棒!”米丽亚姆对妇人说。

利博小姐抬起头来,一双黑眼睛直直地扫向保罗。

“哦,晚上好,雷渥斯小姐,”她说,“你有好久没来了。”

米丽亚姆介绍了一下她的朋友。

“你的马可真不错!”克莱拉说。

“是吗?”她又亲亲马,“就和男人一样可爱。”

“我倒认为比大多数男人都可爱!”克莱拉答道。

“是匹不错的马!”那女人大声说着,又搂了搂马。

克莱拉被这匹马迷住了,不由得走上去抚摸马脖子。

“这马很温驯,”利博小姐说,“你见过这么大的马还会这么温驯吗?”

“是匹骏马!”克莱拉回答。

她想看着马的眼睛,想让马也看见她。

“可惜它不会说话。”她说。

“噢,它会说——简直像会说话。”那女人应道。

接着她哥哥牵着马走进农舍。

“你们进来吗?进来吧,先生——我没记住您的姓。”

“莫瑞尔。”米丽亚姆说。“不了,我们不进去了,不过,我们想从磨坊边的池塘绕过去。”

“行——行,可以。你钓鱼吧,莫瑞尔先生?”

“不。”保罗说。

“如果你想钓鱼,可以随时来。”利博小姐说,“我们一连几个星期都难得见到一个人影,看到人,我就谢天谢地。”

“池塘里有什么鱼啊?”他问。

他们穿过前面的园子,翻过水闸,走上陡峭的堤岸来到池塘边。整个池塘被绿荫笼罩着。中间有两个长满树木的小岛。保罗和利博小姐一起走着。

“我倒很想在这儿游泳。”他说。

“可以啊。”她回答说,“我哥哥会非常高兴地和你聊天。他非常寂寞,因为这儿没人可以跟他聊聊,来游泳吧。”

克莱拉走近池塘。

“这里水很深。”她说,“而且水也很清。”

“是的,”利博小姐说。

“你游泳吗?”保罗说,“利博小姐说我们什么时候想来就可以来。”

“当然,我们这儿还有牧场的雇工。”利博小姐说。

他们谈了一会,便继续朝荒山上爬,把这个双眼憔悴暗淡、神情孤独的女人独自留在堤岸上。

阳光洒满山坡,遍地都是野草,野兔在此出没。三个人一言不发地走着。是后保罗说:

“她让我感觉很不舒服。”

“你是说利博小姐?”米丽亚姆问道,“是这样的。”

“她怎么了?是不是太孤独而变得有些疯癫?”

“是的,”米丽亚姆说,“她不应该过这种生活,我觉得把她埋没在这儿真是残酷,我真应该多去看看她。可是——她让我感到心神不安。”

“她让我替她难过——是的,她真叫我厌烦。”他说。

“我想,”克莱拉突然说,“她需要一个男人。”

其他两人沉默了片刻。

“孤独把她弄得疯疯癫癫。”保罗说道。

克莱拉没有回答,而是大步上了山。她垂着头走在枯枝败叶中,两腿一摆一摆的,甩着两只胳膊。她那苗条的身体与其说是在走路,不如说是跌跌撞撞地爬。一股热流涌过保罗全身。他对克莱拉非常好奇,也许生活对她很残酷。他忘了正走在他身边跟他说话的米丽亚姆。米丽亚姆发现他没有回答她的话,便看了他一眼,发现他的眼睛正盯在前面的克莱拉身上。

“你还以为她不太随和吗?”她问。

他没有觉得这个问题的突然,因为他心里也正想着这个问题。

“她可能心里有什么事吧?”他说。

“是的。”米丽亚姆答道。

他们在山顶上发现了一片隐蔽的荒地,两边都有树木挡着,另外两边是山植树和接骨木,稀稀拉拉地形成了两排村篱。这些灌木丛中有几个豁口,要是眼前有牲口的话,就可以闯进去。这儿的草地就象平绒那么光滑,上面有野兔的足迹和洞穴。不过,整个这一大片荒地却粗糙不平,到处是从来没人割过的高大的野樱草。粗粗的苇草丛中到处都开着旺盛的野花,就像一片锚地停满了桅杆高耸、玲珑可爱的船。

“啊!”米丽亚姆叫道,她看着保罗,黑眼睛睁得很大。他微笑着。他们一起观赏着荒地上的野花。几步之外的克莱拉正闷闷不乐地看着野樱草,保罗和米丽亚姆靠得很近,低声说着话。他单膝着地,手忙脚乱地一簇一簇地采着美丽的花朵,嘴里一直在轻声慢语地说着什么。米丽亚姆则慢慢地充满柔情地摘着花儿。她觉得他干什么都象经过严格训练似的,非常快。不过,他采的花束倒是比她的更具有天然美。他喜爱这些花,仿佛这些花属于他的,他也有这个权利。她则对花充满敬意,因为它门具有她所没有的东西。

花儿十分新鲜而芬芳。他很想畅饮花计。他采的时候,就把嫩黄的小花蕊吃掉了。克莱拉仍然闷闷不乐地来回走动着。他向她走去,说,

“你为什么不采些花?”

“我不喜欢这样,花儿还是长着好看。”

“你真的不要几朵吗?”

“花儿宁愿长在那儿。”

“我不信。”

“我可不想要一些花儿的尸体。”她说。

“这种想法有些太古板做作了。”他说,“花在水里决不会比在土里死得快。再说,养在花盆里很好看——看上去生趣盎然。你只是因为花断了根就叫死尸。”

“那么这到底是不是死尸?”她分辨道。

“对我来说,不是。采下的花不是花的死尸。”

克莱拉不再答理他了。

“就算是这样—一你又有什么权利把它们采下来呢?”她问道。

“因为我喜欢花,我也想要花——况且这儿花多的是。”

“这就够了吗?”

“够了。为什么不够?我相信如果这些花插在诺丁汉姆你的房间里一定很好闻。”

“那我就有幸亲眼看着这些花死掉了。”

“不过——即使花真死了,也没什么。”

于是,他撇下她,俯在枝叶茂盛的花丛间,花丛就象苍白发亮的泡沫堆,到处都是。米丽亚姆走了过来,克莱拉正跪在那儿,闻着野樱草的幽香。

“我想,”米丽亚姆说,“只要你敬重这些花,就不算伤害花。重要的是你采花时的心情。”

“这话可以说是也可以说不是。”他说:“你采花就是因为你想要花。就是这么回事。”他把那束花举了举。

米丽亚姆默默地无语。他又采了一些花。

“看这些!”他接着说,“又粗又壮,像小树一样,也像腿胖乎乎的小孩。”

克莱拉的帽子搁在不远处的草地上。她仍旧跪在那里,俯身闻着花香。看到她的脖子,保罗感到一阵悸动,她是如此的美,而且没有一点自我欣赏的样子。她的乳房在罩衫下轻轻地晃动着,背部弯成拱形曲线,显得优美而健壮。她没穿紧身胸衣,突然,他竟下意识地把一把野樱花撒在她头发和脖颈上,说:

“人本尘身,终归尘土,

上帝不收,魔鬼必留。”

冰冰的花儿落在她脖子上,她抬起头来看着他,可怜地睁着那双惊恐的灰眼睛,不知道他在干什么。花儿落在她脸上,她闭上了眼睛。

他原本高高地站在她身边,突然间他感到有些尴尬。

“我以为你想来一场葬礼呢。”他极不自然地说。

克莱拉奇怪地笑了起来,站起身,把野樱草从头发上拂掉。她拿起帽子扣在头上,还有一朵花仍缠在头发上。保罗看到了,不过没有告诉她。他俯身收起她身上拂落的。

树林边,一片蓝铃花像发洪水似的,蔓延进田野,不过现在都已经凋谢了。克莱拉信步走去,他在后面漫不经心地跟着。这片蓝铃花真叫他喜欢。

“看这片蓝铃花,从树林里一直开到外边!”他说。

她听了之后,转过身来,脸上闪过一丝热情和感激。

“是的。”她笑了起来。

他顿时觉得热血沸腾。

“这让我想起林中的野人,他们最初赤身裸体的面对这片旷野时,不知被吓成了什么样子!”

“你觉得他们害怕吗?”她问。

“我不知道哪一个古老的部落更感到害怕?是那些从黑暗的树林深处冲到阳光灿烂荒野上的部落,还是那些悄悄地从开阔天地摸进森林里的野人?”

“我想是第二者。”她回答。

“是的,你一定觉得自己很像开阔荒野的那种人,竭力强迫自己走进黑暗世界,是不是?”

“我怎么会知道呢?”她神情古怪地问。

这次谈话就此为止了。

大地笼罩着暮色。山谷已是一片阴影。只有一小块亮光照在对面克罗斯利河滨的农场上。亮光在山巅移动。米丽亚姆慢慢地走上前来,脸俯在那一大把散乱的鲜花中,踏过齐脚腕的野樱草丛。她身后的树木已经隐隐绰绰。

“我们走吗?”她问。

三人都转过身,默默地踏上归程。沿着小路往下走时,他们看见对面农舍里灯火点点。天际远处,山脊上的煤矿居民区,只有一抹淡淡的模糊的轮廓,微光明灭可见。

“今天玩得真开心,是不是?”他问。

米丽亚姆喃喃地表示同意,但克莱拉没有吭声。

“你不觉得吗?”他又追问道。

但克莱拉昂首走着,仍然没有答理。从她的举动上,他可以看出,她表面上满不在乎的样子,实际上心里很难受。

在这一段时间里,保罗带着母亲去了林肯城。她和往常一样兴高采烈,不过,当保罗与她面对面坐在火车上时,她显出疲惫憔悴的神色。有一刻他甚至感觉到她要从他身边溜走,而他想要抓住她,牢牢地抓住,几乎想用链子拴住她,他觉得必须亲自把她牢牢抓住才好。

快到林肯城区了。两人都坐在窗旁寻找着教堂。

“在那儿,妈妈!”他大声叫道。

他们看见高大的教堂威严地矗立在旷野上。

“哦,”她惊呼道:“教堂原来是这样啊?”

他看着母亲。她那双蓝眼睛默默地看着教堂,似乎又变得高深莫测了。大教堂那永恒的宁静中似乎有什么东西,什么命中注定的东西折射到她的身上。教堂高耸入云,显得庄严而肃穆。反正,命该如此,就是如此。即使他的旺盛青春也奈何不了命运。他注视着她那红润的面颊,长着绒毛,眼角出现了鱼尾纹,眼眨也不眨,眼皮略有点松弛,嘴巴总是带着绝望的神情,脸上也是同样的那种永恒的神情,仿佛她已经看透了命运。他用尽心力叩着她的心扉。

“看,妈妈,这座教堂高高屹立在城市之上,多么雄伟啊!想想多少条街道都在它下面,她看上去比整个城市还要大。”

“真是这样!”母亲惊呼道,又开始活跃起来。但是他看到母亲仍目不转睛地坐在那儿盯着窗外的大教堂,那呆滞的脸色和眼神似乎在思索着人生的无情。母亲眼角的鱼尾纹和紧紧闭着的嘴巴,简直让他觉得自己会发疯。

他们吃了一顿她认为太奢侈的饭。

“别认为我喜欢吃这顿饭,”她一边吃着炸肉排一边说:“我不喜欢,我真的不喜欢!你想想浪费了你多少钱!”

“你不用计较我的钱,”他说:“你忘了我现在是带着女朋友出游的人。”

他还给她买了几朵蓝铃花。

“别买,先生。”她命令道:“我要这些花干什么?”

“你别管,就站在那儿。”

走在马路中间,他把花插在了她的外套上。

“我太老了!”她鼻子哼了一声,说道。

“你知道,”他说,“我想让人们都认为我们是非常有身份的人物。神气点儿。”

“瞧我不把你的头揪下来。”她笑道。

“大摇大摆地走!”他命令道,“要像扇尾鸽那样神气。”

他用了一个钟头才陪她逛完了这条街。她在神洞前停了停,又在石弓前停了停,她每到一处都站着不走,高兴得直嚷嚷。

一个男人走上前来,脱下帽子,给她行了个礼。

“要不要我带你参观一下这个城市,夫人?”

“不用了,谢谢。”她回答说:“我有儿子陪着。”

保罗就怪她在回答时没有显得高傲一点。

“走开吧,你。”她叫道:“哈!那儿是犹太教堂。喂,你记不记得那次布道,保罗……?”

可是,她几乎爬不上教堂的那条陡坡,开始时他没注意。后来,他突然发现母亲累得几乎连话都不能讲了。于是就带着她走进一间小酒店,让她休息一下。

“没事儿。”她说,“就是我的心脏有点衰老了,这是难免的。”

他没有回答,只是望着她。他的心又一阵抽搐,痛苦万分。他想哭,想捣毁所有的东西。

他们又动身了,慢慢地一步一步地走着。每一步就像一个重担压在他胸口上。他觉得自己的心似乎要爆炸。最后,母子俩终于爬上了山顶。她出神地站在那里,望着城堡大门,望着教堂正面,简直都入迷了,忘记了自己。

“这要比我想象中的好!”她叫道。

不过,他却不喜欢她这副神情。他一直跟着她,始终思虑重重。他们一起坐在教堂里,跟唱诗班一起做礼拜。她有些胆怯。

“我想这是人人都可以参加的吧?”她问儿子。

“是的。”他回答道:“你认为他们会那么无礼地把我们赶走?”

“可是,我相信,”她叫道:“他们要是听到了你的这番话,就会这么做的。”

做礼拜时,她脸上好象闪着兴奋和喜悦的光。而保罗却始终想发火,想捣毁东西,想痛哭一场。

后来,他们趴在墙上,探身俯瞰着下面的城市。保罗突然说:

“为什么一个人就不能有一个年轻的妈妈?她为什么要老?”

“哦,”母亲笑了起来:“她对此也无能为力啊。”

“可我为什么又不是长子呢?瞧——别人总是说小儿子占便宜——可是瞧,长子有年轻的妈妈。你应该让我作长子。”

“我可没法安排这个。”她分辩说。“你想想,抱怨我还不如怨你。”

他冲她转了过来,脸色苍白,眼睛里闪着愤怒。

“你为什么要老呢!”他说。保罗因自己无能为力而火冒三丈。“你为什么走不动,你为什么不能陪我到处走走?”

“以前啊,”她回答说:“我能比你还快地跑上那座山。”

“这话对我有什么用?”他大声喊着,一拳打在墙上。接着,他变得很伤心。“你病了真糟糕。亲爱的妈妈,这是……”

“病!”她喊着说:“我只是有点老了,你得容忍这点。”

两人都沉默不言,不过他们都难以忍受。后来,吃茶点时,他们又高兴了。他们坐在布雷福河畔观看游船。这时,他把克莱拉的情况告诉了母亲。母亲问了他一连串的问题。

“那她跟谁住在一起?”

“跟她妈妈住在蓝铃山上。”

“她们的日子还过得去吗?”

“我不认为。她们可能在干挑花边的工作。”

“那么,她有什么魅力,孩子?”

“我不知道她是否很迷人,妈妈。但她不错,而且她很直率,你知道——一点也不是使心眼的人。”

“可是她比你大得多。”

“她三十岁,我快二十三岁了。”

“你还没告诉我你为什么喜欢她?”

“因为,我不知道——她有一种挑战似的性子——一种愤世嫉俗的神态。”

莫瑞尔太太考虑着。儿子爱上了一个女人,她应该高兴才是,那女人是——她也不知道是什么样的。可是,他如此烦躁,一会儿暴跳如雷,一会儿又意气消沉。她希望他结识了一个好女人——她也弄不清楚自己究竟希望什么,但也不想去弄清楚。不管怎么说,她对克莱拉倒没有什么敌意。

安妮快要结婚了。伦纳德已经去伯明翰工作了。有个周末,他到家里来,母亲对他说:

“你看起来气色不太好,孩子。”

“我也不知道。”他说,“我只觉得心烦意乱,妈。”

他已经叫她“妈妈”了,叫起来像个小孩。

“你真的觉得你住的地方条件不错吗?”她问。

“是的——是的。只是——总觉得有点别扭,你得给自己倒茶,即使你把茶倒在菜碟里,一口一口地把它喝光,也没人管你怨你。可不知为什么就觉得喝茶也不那么有味儿了。”

莫瑞尔太太笑了。

“这就让你受不了啦?”她说。

“我不知道。我想结婚。”他脱口而出,说罢扭着手指头,盯着脚上的靴子。屋里沉默了一阵。

“可是,”她叫道。“我记得你说过要再等一年。”

“是的,我是这么说过。”他固执地回答。

她又考虑了一阵。

“你知道,”她说:“安妮花钱有点儿大手大脚。她只存了十一镑。而且我知道,孩子,你的运气也不大好。”

他的脸刷地红到了耳朵根上。

“我已经攒了三十四镑。”他说罢,就低下头,两只手在扭着手指头。

“而且你知道,”她说,“我是一无所有……”

“我不要你的,妈!”他叫道,脸色通红,看样子是又难受又想辩解什么。

“当然,孩子,我清楚。我只是希望我有钱。拿出五英镑来操办婚礼和买用的东西——只剩下二十九镑,派不了多大的用场。”

他仍旧扭着手指头,执拗而无力地耷拉着脑袋。

“不过,你是真想结婚吗?”她问:“你觉得自己应该结婚了吗?”

他那双蓝眼睛直直地看着她。

“是的。”他说。

“那么,”她回答道,“我们都得为此尽力而为了,孩子。”

他再抬起头时,已是热泪盈眶。

“我不想让安妮觉得有什么不如人的地方。”他挣扎着说。

“孩子,”她说,“你的情况已经比较稳定——有一份体面的职业。如果有个男人想要我的话,我只凭他最近一星期的工资操办婚事我也会嫁给他的。刚开始过紧日子她可能觉得不太习惯。年轻姑娘都这样,她们总认为理所应当地该有个舒适的家。我曾经有过比较讲究的家具,但这又不能代表一切。

就这样,婚礼几乎立即就举行了。亚瑟回家了,穿着军装十分神气。安妮穿着一身她平时星期天才穿的鸽灰色礼服,看上去漂亮可爱。莫瑞尔觉得安妮这么早结婚真是个傻瓜,因此对女婿很冷淡。莫瑞尔太太戴着帽子,穿的衬衫上也镶满白色饰针。两个儿子都取笑她自命不凡。伦纳德快乐而兴奋,活像个大傻瓜。保罗不明白安妮为什么要结婚。他喜欢她,她也喜欢他。不过,他还是悲伤地希望这件婚事美满幸福。亚瑟穿着紫红加橙黄两色相间的军装,英俊极了,他自己也清楚地意识到这一点。不过,他在内心里为这身军装而羞愧。安妮因为就要离开母亲了,在厨房里号陶大哭。莫瑞尔太太也落了泪,后来,她拍着安妮的肩膀说:

“快别哭了,孩子,他会待你好的。”

莫瑞尔跺着脚说,安妮把自己嫁出去是作茧自缚,真是个大傻瓜。伦纳德看上去脸色苍白,过于紧张和劳累。莫瑞尔太太对他说:

“我把她交给你了,孩子,你可得好好负责啊。”

“您放心好了。”他说。这场考验差点要了他的命,如今婚事终于结束了。

莫瑞尔和亚瑟都上了床。保罗仍象往常一样,坐着跟母亲聊天。

“她结婚了你不难过吧,妈妈?”他问。

“她结婚我不难过。可是——她要离开我却有些让我不适应。她情愿跟伦纳德走,这简直让我伤心。做妈妈的就是这样——我也知道这样未免太傻。”

“你会为她伤心吗?”

“每当我想起我结婚的那一天,我就伤心。”母亲答道:“我只希望她的生活与我的不同。”

“你相信他会待她好吗?”

“是的,我相信,别人说他配不上她。但我认为,如果一个男人像他这样真心实意,而姑娘又喜欢他的话——那么——婚姻应该是没有问题的。他配得上她。”

“那你放心了?”

“我决不会让自己的女儿嫁给一个我觉得不是太真心的男人。然而,她走了,总还是觉得像丢了什么似的。”

母子俩都感到伤心,希望她能回来。保罗觉得,母亲穿着镶着白色饰边的黑绸新外罩,似乎显得非常孤独。

“无论如何,我是不会结婚的,妈妈。”他说。

“哦,谁都这么说,孩子。你只是还没碰上意中人罢了,再等上一、两年你就知道了。”

“但我不要结婚,妈妈。我要和你住在一起,我们雇个佣人。”

“咳,孩子,说起来容易啊。我们走着瞧吧。”

“瞧什么?我都快二十三啦。”

“是的,你不是早婚的人,但是三年之内……”

“我还会同样陪着你的。”

“我们走着瞧吧,孩子,我们走着瞧吧。”

“可你不希望我结婚吧?”

“我可不愿意你一辈子没个人照顾——不。”

“你觉得我应该结婚?”

“每个人迟早都要结婚。”

“可是你宁愿我晚些结婚。”

“结婚很难,——非常难。就像别人所说的。儿子娶了媳妇忘了娘,还是女儿孝心长。”

“你认为我会让媳妇把我从你身边夺走吗?”

“可是,你不会让她嫁给你,又嫁给你妈妈吧?”莫瑞尔太太答道。

“她可以干她想干的事,但她也不能干涉别的事。”

“她不会——等到她得到你——那时你就明白了。”

“我永远也不会明白。有你在身边,我永远也不会结婚——我永远不会。”

“我不愿意留下你没人照顾,孩子,”她叫道。

“你不会离开我的,你以为你有多老?才不过五十三岁罢了!我想你至少可以活到七十五岁。那时你瞧着吧,我就是一位开始发福的四十四岁的男人,我再娶个稳重的媳妇,明白吗!”

母亲坐在那儿大笑起来。

“睡觉去吧——睡觉去吧。”她说。

“你和我,我们会有一座漂亮的房子,再雇个佣人,一切都会令人满意。也许我能靠画画发财呢。”

“你睡不睡觉了!”

“而且那时候你还会有一辆小马驹拉的车子。想想吧,——就像一位小小的维多利亚女王出巡。”

“我告诉你,上床睡觉去。”她大笑道。

他亲了亲母亲走了。他对将来的宏图都是一成不变的。

莫瑞尔太太坐在那儿沉思着——想着女儿,想着保罗,想着亚瑟。安妮离去,令她烦恼不堪。全家人本来是亲密地团聚在一起的。她觉得自己如今一定要和孩子们生活在一起。生活对她还是慷慨的,保罗要她,亚瑟也要她。亚瑟从没意识到自己爱她有多深。现在他还是个只顾眼前的人,他从来没有强迫自己去了解自己。部队训练了他的身体,却没有触及他的灵魂。他体格健康,相貌英俊,浓密的黑发盖在脑袋上,鼻子有点儿稚气,长着一双少女般蓝黑色的眼睛。不过,褐色的小胡子下面的那张嘴倒是丰满红润,很有男子气,下巴也挺结实。这张嘴象他爸爸的,鼻子和眼睛象他妈妈的娘家人——长相漂亮,但都软弱,没有主见。莫瑞尔太太替他担忧,假如他一旦离开军队,就会平安无事的,但是,他可能走到哪一步呢?

服兵役其实对他并没有什么真正的好处,他痛恨那些军官们作威作福。他厌恶像个动物似的,非得服从他们的命令不可。不过他还算聪明,不会捅乱子。因此他就把注意力转移到寻欢作乐。他会唱歌,也会吃喝玩乐。他经常陷入困境,不过这些都是男人的困境,可以得到谅解。他就这样一方面压抑着自尊,一方面又尽情享乐着。他相信自己的相貌英俊,身材健美,举止温文尔雅,又有良好的教养,因此他自信凭这些能得到自己想要的东西。他果然如愿以偿,然而他还是烦躁不安。他从来没有内心平静地独自呆一会儿。他在母亲身边时,顺从得低声下气。他爱保罗,羡慕保罗,但还有点瞧不起。而保罗对他也是羡慕又喜爱,还有点鄙视感。

莫瑞尔太太还有他爸爸留给她的一些私房钱,她打算把儿子从部队里赎出来。他对此欣喜若狂,就像小孩子过节一般。

他过去一直爱恋着比特丽斯·怀尔德。在他休假期间,两人又相逢了,她身体比过去更健壮。两人、常去远足,亚瑟以他那种士兵的方式拘谨地挽着她的胳膊。她弹钢琴时他就唱歌。这时,亚瑟就会解开军装领子,脸色通红,眼睛发亮,用雄浑的男高音唱着。唱完后,俩人就并肩坐在沙发上,他似乎在炫耀自己的身材,她对此很清楚——发达的胸肌,结实的两肋,还有紧身军裤里两条健壮的腿。

他喜欢用方言跟她说话,有时她会跟他一起抽烟,偶尔直接从他嘴上拿过烟卷吸几口。

一天晚上,她伸手去拿他嘴上的烟卷时,他说:“别,别,你别拿。要抽,我就给你一个带烟味的吻。”

“我要抽一口烟,不要吻。”她答道。

“好,就给你抽一口,”他说,“再给你一个吻。”

“我就要抽你的烟卷。”她大叫着,一面伸手想夺下他嘴里的烟卷。

他肩膀挨着她坐着,比特丽斯身材娇小,动作快得象闪电,他好不容易才闪开了。

“我就要给你一个带烟味的吻,”他说。

“你是个讨厌的家伙,阿蒂·莫瑞尔。”她说着,把身子往后靠了靠。

“要来一个带烟味的吻吗?”

这个士兵笑着向她凑过去,他的脸挨近了她的脸。

“不要!”她转过头去说。

他抽了一口烟,噘起嘴,把嘴唇凑近她,他那理得短短的深褐色的小胡子象刷子似的一根根竖起。她看着他那张皱拢的鲜红的唇,突然从他的指缝间夺下烟卷,转身逃开了。他跳起来追,从她头发上把梳子给抢去了。她转过身来,把烟卷向他扔去。他捡起来,衔在嘴里,坐了下来。

“讨厌!”她喊道,“给我梳子!”

她担心她那特意为他梳好的头发会散开,她站着,两手扰着头发,亚瑟把梳子藏在两膝之间。

“我没拿。”她说。

他说话时笑着,烟卷也在唇间颤动不已。

“骗人!”她说。

“真的,要不你看!”他笑着,伸开两手。

“你这个厚脸皮的家伙。”她叫着冲过去扭着他要夹在膝下的梳子。她跟他扭打时,使劲地扳着他紧紧裹在军裤里的膝头,他哈哈大笑着,笑得仰躺在沙发上直打颤,烟卷也笑得从嘴里掉了出来,差点烫着他的喉咙。淡褐色皮肤下的血液涨得通红,两只蓝眼睛也笑花了,嗓子也噎住了,这才坐起了身,比特丽斯把梳子插在头上。

“你撩拨我,比特。”他含糊地说。

她那白嫩的手闪电般打了他一耳光。他吃了一惊,对她瞪着双眼,两人互相瞪着。她的脸慢慢红了,垂下双眼,接着,头也低下去。他绷着个脸坐下来。她走进洗碗间去梳理乱发,也不知为了什么,她竟暗自捧着眼泪。

等到她回到屋子时,她又高高地噘着嘴,但这只不过是想掩饰心头的怒气罢了。亚瑟头发乱糟糟的,正坐在沙发上生气。她坐在他对面的一张扶手椅上。两人谁也没说话。静静的连时钟的滴嗒声都像一下下的撞击声。

“你象只小猫,比特。”他终于半带歉意地说。

“哼,谁叫你厚脸皮。”她回答。

接着,又是一段长长的沉默。他吹着口哨,就像很不服气似的,突然,她走到他身边,吻了他一下。

“来吧,可怜虫!”她嘲弄地说。

他抬起脸,诧异地笑着。

“吻?”他问她。

“当我不敢吗?”她问。

“来吧!”他挑战似的说,冲她仰起了嘴巴。

她故意古怪地颤声笑了,浑身都跟着颤动了一下,这才把嘴贴到他的嘴上,他的双臂立即拥住了她。长吻结束后,她立即仰着头,纤细的手指伸到了他敞开的衣领里搂着他的脖子。接着,闭上了眼睛,让他再给了自己一个吻。

她的一举一动完全是她自己的意愿,她想怎么做就怎么做,谁也管不着。

保罗觉得周围的一切都在变化,孩提时代的一切一去不复返了。现在家里全是成年人了。安妮已经结婚,亚瑟正在背着家里人寻欢作乐。长期以来,他们全家人都是住在一起,而且一起出去玩。但现在,对于安妮和亚瑟来说,他们的生活已经是母亲的家之外的天地了。他们回家只是来过节和休息的。因此,家里总是有一种陌生的人去楼空的感觉,就像鸟去巢空一样。保罗越来越觉得不安。安妮和亚瑟都走了。他也焦躁不安地想走,然而家对他来说就是在母亲身边。尽管如此,外面还是有些东西,这些才是他最想要的东西。

他变得越来越不安了。米丽亚姆不能让他感到满足,过去他那疯狂地想跟她在一起的念头淡薄了。有时,他会在诺丁汉姆碰上克莱拉,有时他会跟她一起开会,有时他在威利农场会见到她。不过,每当这个时候,气氛就有些紧张。在保罗、克莱拉和米丽亚姆之间有一种三角关系。和克莱拉在一起,他总是用一种俏皮而俗气的嘲讽口吻说话,这让米丽亚姆很反感。不管在此之间的情况怎样,也许她正和他亲密地坐在一起。可只要克莱拉一出现,这一切就消失了,他就开始对新来的人演起戏来了。

米丽亚姆跟保罗一起过了一个愉快的傍晚,他们在一起翻干草。他原来正使着马拉耙,刚干完,就帮她把干草堆成圆锥形小堆。接着,他跟她说起自己的希望和失望,他的整个灵魂都似乎赤裸裸地暴露在她面前,她觉得她好像在他身上看到了那颤动的生命。月亮出来了,他俩一起走回了家,他来找她好像是因为他迫切地需要她。而她听着他的倾诉,把她所有的爱情和忠贞都给了他。对她来说,他好像带来了最珍贵的东西交给她,她要用全部生命来卫护。是啊,苍天对星星的爱抚,也远远不及她对保罗·莫瑞尔心灵中善良的东西卫护得那么无微不至。她独自往家走去,心境盎然,信心百倍。

第二天,克莱拉来了。他们到干草地里去用茶点,米丽亚姆看着暮色由一片金黄色变成阴影,保罗还跟克莱拉在嬉戏。他堆了一个比较高的干草堆,让他们跳过去。米丽亚姆对这种游戏不太感兴趣,就站在一旁。艾德加·杰弗里、莫里斯、克莱拉和保罗都跳了。保罗胜了,因为他身子轻。克莱拉热血直往上涌,她能像女战士那样飞奔。保罗就喜欢她那向干草堆冲过去、一跃而起落在另一边的那副果断的神态。她那乳房不住地颤动,厚密的头发披散开来。

“你碰着草了!”他叫道,“你碰到了!”

“没有!”她涨红了脸,转向艾德加,“我没碰到,是不是?我挺利索的吧?”

“我说不上。”艾德加笑着说。

没有一个人能说得上来。

“但你就是碰上了,”他说,“你输了。”

“我没有碰上。”她大叫道。

“清清楚楚,你碰到了。”

“替我打他耳光。”她对艾德加说。

“不,”艾德加大笑着,“我不敢,你得自己去打。”

“但什么也改变不了这事实。”保罗哈哈大笑。

她对保罗非常生气。她在这些男人和小伙子面前的那点威风已荡然无存。她忘了自己只是在做游戏,但现在他却让她下不了台。

“你真卑鄙!”她说。

他又哈哈大笑起来。这对米丽亚姆来说真是一种折磨。

“我就知道你跳不过这草堆。”他取笑她。

她背转过身。然而每个人都明白她唯一关心的就是保罗。而保罗呢,也只对她一个人感兴趣。他们的争吵让小伙子们觉得很开心。可这却深深刺痛了米丽亚姆。

她已经看出来,保罗完全可能因低落的情绪而抛弃了对崇高事物的追求。他完全可能背叛自己,背叛那个真正的、思想深刻的保罗·莫瑞尔。他大有可能变得轻浮,像亚瑟像他父亲那样只追求个人欲望的满足。他可能舍弃自己的灵魂,草率地和克莱拉进行轻浮的交往。一想到这些,她就感到心痛。当他们俩互相嘲弄,保罗开着玩笑时,她痛苦地无言地走着。

事后,他会不承认这些。不过,他毕竟有些为自己感到羞愧,因此完全听从米丽亚姆,随后他又会再次反悔。

“故作虔诚并不是真正的虔诚。”他说,“我觉得一只乌鸦,当它飞过天空时是虔诚的。但它这么做只是因为它觉得自己是不由自主的飞往要去的地方,而不是它认为自己这样做正在成为不朽的功绩。”

但是米丽亚姆认为一个人不论在任何事情上都应该虔诚。不管上帝是什么样子,它总是无所不在的。

“我不相信上帝对自己的事就那么了解。”

他叫道:“上帝才不了解情况,他自己本身就是事物,而且我敢说他不是生气勃勃的。”

在她看来,保罗是在借上帝为自己辩护,因为他想耽于享乐,为所欲为。他俩争吵了很久。甚至在她在场的时候,他也会做出对她完全不忠实的事来。过后他就愧悔交加,接着,他又厌恶痛恨她,就再次背叛她。这种情况周而复始。

米丽亚姆使他极度的烦躁不安。她仍然是一个忧郁的、多思的崇拜者。而他却令她伤情。有时,他为她悲伤,有时他又痛恨她。她是他的良知,然而,不知为什么,他觉得对这个良知太难接受了。他离不开她,因为她的确掌握着他最善良的一面,但他又不能跟她在一起,因为她不能接受另一个他。所以他心里一烦就把气撒在她身上。

当她二十一岁时,他给她写了一封只能写给她的信。

“请允许我最后一次谈谈我们之间这段衰退的旧情。它同样也在变化,是不是?就说说那段爱情吧,难道不是躯体已经死了,只留下一个永久的灵魂给你吗?你明白,我可以给你精神上的爱,我早就把这种爱给了你,但这绝不是肉体上的爱。要知道,你是一个修女。我已经把我应该献给圣洁的修女的东西献给你——就像神秘的修士把爱献给神秘的修女一样。你的确很珍惜这份感情。然而,你又在惋惜——不,曾经惋惜过另外一种爱。在我们所有的关系中没有一点肉体的位置。我不是通过感觉同你交谈,而是用精神来同你交流。这就是我们不能按常规相爱的原因。我们的爱不是正常的恋情。假如,我们象凡人那样,形影不离地共同生活,那太可怕了。因为不知为什么,你在我身边,我就不能长久地过平凡日子。可你知道,要经常超脱这种凡人的状态,也就是失掉凡人的生活,就会失去这种生活。人要是结了婚就必须像彼此相亲相爱的平常人那样生活在一起。互相之间丝毫不感到别扭——而不是像两个灵魂聚会在一起。我就有这种感觉。

我不知道该不该发这封信。不过——最好还是让你了解一下,再见。”

米丽亚姆把信看了两遍。看完后又把信封了起来。一年后,她才拆开信让她母亲看。

“你是个修女——你是个修女。”这句话不断刺痛着她的心,他过去说的话从来没有像这一句话深深地、牢牢地刺进她的心,就像一个致命伤。

她在大伙聚会后的第三天给他回了信。

“我们的亲密的关系是美好的,但遗憾的是有一个小小的差错。”她引证了一句他的话:“难道这是爱我的错误吗?”

他收信后,几乎立刻就从诺丁汉姆给她回信,同时寄了一本《莪默·伽亚嫫诗集》。

“很高兴收到你的回信,你如此平静,让我感到很羞愧。我,真是个太夸大其辞的人。我们经常不和谐。不过,我想我们从根本上来说还可以永远在一起。

“我必须感谢你对我的油画和素描的赞赏。我的好多幅素描都是献给你的,我盼望得到你的指正。你的指正对我来说总是一种赏识,这让我感到羞愧和荣幸。开玩笑别当真。再见。”

保罗的初恋就到此为止了。当时,他大概二十三岁了。虽然,他还是处男,可是他的那种性的本能长期受到米丽亚姆的净化和压抑,如今变得格外强烈。他跟克莱拉·道伍斯说话时,满腔热血会越流越快越流越猛,胸口堵得慌,好像有个活跃的东西。一个新的自我,一个新的意识中枢,预告他迟早会向这个或那个女人求欢。但他是属于米丽亚姆的。对此,米丽亚姆绝对肯定,坚信他给了她这份权利。


欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533