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Chapter 13 Baxter Dawes
SOON after Paul had been to the theatre with Clara, he was drinking in the Punch Bowl with some friends of his when Dawes came in. Clara's husband was growing stout; his eyelids were getting slack over his brown eyes; he was losing his healthy firmness of flesh. He was very evidently on the downward track. Having quarrelled with his sister, he had gone into cheap lodgings. His mistress had left him for a man who would marry her. He had been in prison one night for fighting when he was drunk, and there was a shady betting episode in which he was concerned.

Paul and he were confirmed enemies, and yet there was between them that peculiar feeling of intimacy, as if they were secretly near to each other, which sometimes exists between two people, although they never speak to one another. Paul often thought of Baxter Dawes, often wanted to get at him and be friends with him. He knew that Dawes often thought about him, and that the man was drawn to him by some bond or other. And yet the two never looked at each other save in hostility.

Since he was a superior employee at Jordan's, it was the thing for Paul to offer Dawes a drink.

"What'll you have?" he asked of him.

"Nowt wi' a bleeder like you!" replied the man.

Paul turned away with a slight disdainful movement of the shoulders, very irritating.

"The aristocracy," he continued, "is really a military institution. Take Germany, now. She's got thousands of aristocrats whose only means of existence is the army. They're deadly poor, and life's deadly slow. So they hope for a war. They look for war as a chance of getting on. Till there's a war they are idle good-for-nothings. When there's a war, they are leaders and commanders. There you are, then--they WANT war!"

He was not a favourite debater in the public-house, being too quick and overbearing. He irritated the older men by his assertive manner, and his cocksureness. They listened in silence, and were not sorry when he finished.

Dawes interrupted the young man's flow of eloquence by asking, in a loud sneer:

"Did you learn all that at th' theatre th' other night?"

Paul looked at him; their eyes met. Then he knew Dawes had seen him coming out of the theatre with Clara.

"Why, what about th' theatre?" asked one of Paul's associates, glad to get a dig at the young fellow, and sniffing something tasty.

"Oh, him in a bob-tailed evening suit, on the lardy-da!" sneered Dawes, jerking his head contemptuously at Paul.

"That's comin' it strong," said the mutual friend. "Tart an' all?"

"Tart, begod!" said Dawes.

"Go on; let's have it!" cried the mutual friend.

"You've got it," said Dawes, "an' I reckon Morelly had it an' all."

"Well, I'll be jiggered!" said the mutual friend. "An' was it a proper tart?"

"Tart, God blimey--yes!"

"How do you know?"

"Oh," said Dawes, "I reckon he spent th' night---"

There was a good deal of laughter at Paul's expense.

"But who WAS she? D'you know her?" asked the mutual friend.

"I should SHAY SHO," said Dawes.

This brought another burst of laughter.

"Then spit it out," said the mutual friend.

Dawes shook his head, and took a gulp of beer.

"It's a wonder he hasn't let on himself," he said. "He'll be braggin' of it in a bit."

"Come on, Paul," said the friend; "it's no good. You might just as well own up."

"Own up what? That I happened to take a friend to the theatre?"

"Oh well, if it was all right, tell us who she was, lad," said the friend.

"She WAS all right," said Dawes.

Paul was furious. Dawes wiped his golden moustache with his fingers, sneering.

"Strike me---! One o' that sort?" said the mutual friend. "Paul, boy, I'm surprised at you. And do you know her, Baxter?"

"Just a bit, like!"

He winked at the other men.

"Oh well," said Paul, "I'll be going!"

The mutual friend laid a detaining hand on his shoulder.

"Nay," he said, "you don't get off as easy as that, my lad. We've got to have a full account of this business."

"Then get it from Dawes!" he said.

"You shouldn't funk your own deeds, man," remonstrated the friend.

Then Dawes made a remark which caused Paul to throw half a glass of beer in his face.

"Oh, Mr. Morel!" cried the barmaid, and she rang the bell for the "chucker-out".

Dawes spat and rushed for the young man. At that minute a brawny fellow with his shirt-sleeves rolled up and his trousers tight over his haunches intervened.

"Now, then!" he said, pushing his chest in front of Dawes.

"Come out!" cried Dawes.

Paul was leaning, white and quivering, against the brass rail of the bar. He hated Dawes, wished something could exterminate him at that minute; and at the same time, seeing the wet hair on the man's forehead, he thought he looked pathetic. He did not move.

"Come out, you ---," said Dawes.

"That's enough, Dawes," cried the barmaid.

"Come on," said the "chucker-out", with kindly insistence, "you'd better be getting on."

And, by making Dawes edge away from his own close proximity, he worked him to the door.

"THAT'S the little sod as started it!" cried Dawes, half-cowed, pointing to Paul Morel.

"Why, what a story, Mr. Dawes!" said the barmaid. "You know it was you all the time."

Still the "chucker-out" kept thrusting his chest forward at him, still he kept edging back, until he was in the doorway and on the steps outside; then he turned round.

"All right," he said, nodding straight at his rival.

Paul had a curious sensation of pity, almost of affection, mingled with violent hate, for the man. The coloured door swung to; there was silence in the bar.

"Serve, him, jolly well right!" said the barmaid.

"But it's a nasty thing to get a glass of beer in your eyes," said the mutual friend.

"I tell you I was glad he did," said the barmaid. "Will you have another, Mr. Morel?"

She held up Paul's glass questioningly. He nodded.

"He's a man as doesn't care for anything, is Baxter Dawes," said one.

"Pooh! is he?" said the barmaid. "He's a loud-mouthed one, he is, and they're never much good. Give me a pleasant-spoken chap, if you want a devil!"

"Well, Paul, my lad," said the friend, "you'll have to take care of yourself now for a while."

"You won't have to give him a chance over you, that's all," said the barmaid.

"Can you box?" asked a friend.

"Not a bit," he answered, still very white.

"I might give you a turn or two," said the friend.

"Thanks, I haven't time."

And presently he took his departure.

"Go along with him, Mr. Jenkinson," whispered the barmaid, tipping Mr. Jenkinson the wink.

The man nodded, took his hat, said: "Good-night all!" very heartily, and followed Paul, calling:

"Half a minute, old man. You an' me's going the same road, I believe."

"Mr. Morel doesn't like it," said the barmaid. "You'll see, we shan't have him in much more. I'm sorry; he's good company. And Baxter Dawes wants locking up, that's what he wants."

Paul would have died rather than his mother should get to know of this affair. He suffered tortures of humiliation and self-consciousness. There was now a good deal of his life of which necessarily he could not speak to his mother. He had a life apart from her--his sexual life. The rest she still kept. But he felt he had to conceal something from her, and it irked him. There was a certain silence between them, and he felt he had, in that silence, to defend himself against her; he felt condemned by her. Then sometimes he hated her, and pulled at her bondage. His life wanted to free itself of her. It was like a circle where life turned back on itself, and got no farther. She bore him, loved him, kept him, and his love turned back into her, so that he could not be free to go forward with his own life, really love another woman. At this period, unknowingly, he resisted his mother's influence. He did not tell her things; there was a distance between them.

Clara was happy, almost sure of him. She felt she had at last got him for herself; and then again came the uncertainty. He told her jestingly of the affair with her husband. Her colour came up, her grey eyes flashed.

"That's him to a 'T'," she cried--"like a navvy! He's not fit for mixing with decent folk."

"Yet you married him," he said.

It made her furious that he reminded her.

"I did!" she cried. "But how was I to know?"

"I think he might have been rather nice," he said.

"You think I made him what he is!" she exclaimed.

"Oh no! he made himself. But there's something about him---"

Clara looked at her lover closely. There was something in him she hated, a sort of detached criticism of herself, a coldness which made her woman's soul harden against him.

"And what are you going to do?" she asked.

"How?"

"About Baxter."

"There's nothing to do, is there?" he replied.

"You can fight him if you have to, I suppose?" she said.

"No; I haven't the least sense of the 'fist'. It's funny. With most men there's the instinct to clench the fist and hit. It's not so with me. I should want a knife or a pistol or something to fight with."

"Then you'd better carry something," she said.

"Nay," he laughed; "I'm not daggeroso."

"But he'll do something to you. You don't know him."

"All right," he said, "we'll see."

"And you'll let him?"

"Perhaps, if I can't help it."

"And if he kills you?" she said.

"I should be sorry, for his sake and mine."

Clara was silent for a moment.

"You DO make me angry!" she exclaimed.

"That's nothing afresh," he laughed.

"But why are you so silly? You don't know him."

"And don't want."

"Yes, but you're not going to let a man do as he likes with you?"

"What must I do?" he replied, laughing.

"I should carry a revolver," she said. "I'm sure he's dangerous."

"I might blow my fingers off," he said.

"No; but won't you?" she pleaded.

"No."

"Not anything?"

"No."

"And you'll leave him to---?"

"Yes."

"You are a fool!"

"Fact!"

She set her teeth with anger.

"I could SHAKE you!" she cried, trembling with passion.

"Why?"

"Let a man like HIM do as he likes with you."

"You can go back to him if he triumphs," he said.

"Do you want me to hate you?" she asked.

"Well, I only tell you," he said.

"And YOU say you LOVE me!" she exclaimed, low and indignant.

"Ought I to slay him to please you?" he said. "But if I did, see what a hold he'd have over me."

"Do you think I'm a fool!" she exclaimed.

"Not at all. But you don't understand me, my dear."

There was a pause between them.

"But you ought NOT to expose yourself," she pleaded.

He shrugged his shoulders.




"'The man in righteousness arrayed,

The pure and blameless liver,

Needs not the keen Toledo blade,

Nor venom-freighted quiver,'"



he quoted.

She looked at him searchingly.

"I wish I could understand you," she said.

"There's simply nothing to understand," he laughed.

She bowed her head, brooding.

He did not see Dawes for several days; then one morning as he ran upstairs from the Spiral room he almost collided with the burly metal-worker.

"What the---!" cried the smith.

"Sorry!" said Paul, and passed on.

"SORRY!" sneered Dawes.

Paul whistled lightly, "Put Me among the Girls".

"I'll stop your whistle, my jockey!" he said.

The other took no notice.

"You're goin' to answer for that job of the other night."

Paul went to his desk in his corner, and turned over the leaves of the ledger.

"Go and tell Fanny I want order 097, quick!" he said to his boy.

Dawes stood in the doorway, tall and threatening, looking at the top of the young man's head.

"Six and five's eleven and seven's one-and-six," Paul added aloud.

"An' you hear, do you!" said Dawes.

"FIVE AND NINEPENCE!" He wrote a figure. "What's that?" he said.

"I'm going to show you what it is," said the smith.

The other went on adding the figures aloud.

"Yer crawlin' little ---, yer daresn't face me proper!"

Paul quickly snatched the heavy ruler. Dawes started. The young man ruled some lines in his ledger. The elder man was infuriated.

"But wait till I light on you, no matter where it is, I'll settle your hash for a bit, yer little swine!"

"All right," said Paul.

At that the smith started heavily from the doorway. Just then a whistle piped shrilly. Paul went to the speaking-tube.

"Yes!" he said, and he listened. "Er--yes!" He listened, then he laughed. "I'll come down directly. I've got a visitor just now."

Dawes knew from his tone that he had been speaking to Clara. He stepped forward.

"Yer little devil!" he said. "I'll visitor you, inside of two minutes! Think I'm goin' to have YOU whipperty-snappin' round?"

The other clerks in the warehouse looked up. Paul's office-boy appeared, holding some white article.

"Fanny says you could have had it last night if you'd let her know," he said.

"All right," answered Paul, looking at the stocking. "Get it off." Dawes stood frustrated, helpless with rage. Morel turned round.

"Excuse me a minute," he said to Dawes, and he would have run downstairs.

"By God, I'll stop your gallop!" shouted the smith, seizing him by the arm. He turned quickly.

"Hey! Hey!" cried the office-boy, alarmed.

Thomas Jordan started out of his little glass office, and came running down the room.

"What's a-matter, what's a-matter?" he said, in his old man's sharp voice.

"I'm just goin' ter settle this little ---, that's all," said Dawes desperately.

"What do you mean?" snapped Thomas Jordan.

"What I say," said Dawes, but he hung fire.

Morel was leaning against the counter, ashamed, half-grinning.

"What's it all about?" snapped Thomas Jordan.

"Couldn't say," said Paul, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders.

"Couldn't yer, couldn't yer!" cried Dawes, thrusting forward his handsome, furious face, and squaring his fist.

"Have you finished?" cried the old man, strutting. "Get off about your business, and don't come here tipsy in the morning."

Dawes turned his big frame slowly upon him.

"Tipsy!" he said. "Who's tipsy? I'm no more tipsy than YOU are!"

"We've heard that song before," snapped the old man. "Now you get off, and don't be long about it. Comin' HERE with your rowdying."

The smith looked down contemptuously on his employer. His hands, large, and grimy, and yet well shaped for his labour, worked restlessly. Paul remembered they were the hands of Clara's husband, and a flash of hate went through him.

"Get out before you're turned out!" snapped Thomas Jordan.

"Why, who'll turn me out?" said Dawes, beginning to sneer.

Mr. Jordan started, marched up to the smith, waving him off, thrusting his stout little figure at the man, saying:

"Get off my premises--get off!"

He seized and twitched Dawes's arm.

"Come off!" said the smith, and with a jerk of the elbow he sent the little manufacturer staggering backwards.

Before anyone could help him, Thomas Jordan had collided with the flimsy spring-door. It had given way, and let him crash down the half-dozen steps into Fanny's room. There was a second of amazement; then men and girls were running. Dawes stood a moment looking bitterly on the scene, then he took his departure.

Thomas Jordan was shaken and braised, not otherwise hurt. He was, however, beside himself with rage. He dismissed Dawes from his employment, and summoned him for assault.

At the trial Paul Morel had to give evidence. Asked how the trouble began, he said:

"Dawes took occasion to insult Mrs. Dawes and me because I accompanied her to the theatre one evening; then I threw some beer at him, and he wanted his revenge."

"Cherchez la femme!" smiled the magistrate.

The case was dismissed after the magistrate had told Dawes he thought him a skunk.

"You gave the case away," snapped Mr. Jordan to Paul.

"I don't think I did," replied the latter. "Besides, you didn't really want a conviction, did you?"

"What do you think I took the case up for?"

"Well," said Paul, "I'm sorry if I said the wrong thing." Clara was also very angry.

"Why need MY name have been dragged in?" she said.

"Better speak it openly than leave it to be whispered."

"There was no need for anything at all," she declared.

"We are none the poorer," he said indifferently.

"YOU may not be," she said.

"And you?" he asked.

"I need never have been mentioned."

"I'm sorry," he said; but he did not sound sorry.

He told himself easily: "She will come round." And she did.

He told his mother about the fall of Mr. Jordan and the trial of Dawes. Mrs. Morel watched him closely.

"And what do you think of it all?" she asked him.

"I think he's a fool," he said.

But he was very uncomfortable, nevertheless.

"Have you ever considered where it will end?" his mother said.

"No," he answered; "things work out of themselves."

"They do, in a way one doesn't like, as a rule," said his mother.

"And then one has to put up with them," he said.

"You'll find you're not as good at 'putting up' as you imagine," she said.

He went on working rapidly at his design.

"Do you ever ask HER opinion?" she said at length.

"What of?"

"Of you, and the whole thing."

"I don't care what her opinion of me is. She's fearfully in love with me, but it's not very deep."

"But quite as deep as your feeling for her."

He looked up at his mother curiously.

"Yes," he said. "You know, mother, I think there must be something the matter with me, that I CAN'T love. When she's there, as a rule, I DO love her. Sometimes, when I see her just as THE WOMAN, I love her, mother; but then, when she talks and criticises, I often don't listen to her."

"Yet she's as much sense as Miriam."

"Perhaps; and I love her better than Miriam. But WHY don't they hold me?"

The last question was almost a lamentation. His mother turned away her face, sat looking across the room, very quiet, grave, with something of renunciation.

"But you wouldn't want to marry Clara?" she said.

"No; at first perhaps I would. But why--why don't I want to marry her or anybody? I feel sometimes as if I wronged my women, mother."

"How wronged them, my son?"

"I don't know."

He went on painting rather despairingly; he had touched the quick of the trouble.

"And as for wanting to marry," said his mother, "there's plenty of time yet."

"But no, mother. I even love Clara, and I did Miriam; but to GIVE myself to them in marriage I couldn't. I couldn't belong to them. They seem to want ME, and I can't ever give it them."

"You haven't met the right woman."

"And I never shall meet the right woman while you live," he said.

She was very quiet. Now she began to feel again tired, as if she were done.

"We'll see, my son," she answered.

The feeling that things were going in a circle made him mad.

Clara was, indeed, passionately in love with him, and he with her, as far as passion went. In the daytime he forgot her a good deal. She was working in the same building, but he was not aware of it. He was busy, and her existence was of no matter to him. But all the time she was in her Spiral room she had a sense that he was upstairs, a physical sense of his person in the same building. Every second she expected him to come through the door, and when he came it was a shock to her. But he was often short and offhand with her. He gave her his directions in an official manner, keeping her at bay. With what wits she had left she listened to him. She dared not misunderstand or fail to remember, but it was a cruelty to her. She wanted to touch his chest. She knew exactly how his breast was shapen under the waistcoat, and she wanted to touch it. It maddened her to hear his mechanical voice giving orders about the work. She wanted to break through the sham of it, smash the trivial coating of business which covered him with hardness, get at the man again; but she was afraid, and before she could feel one touch of his warmth he was gone, and she ached again.

He knew that she was dreary every evening she did not see him, so he gave her a good deal of his time. The days were often a misery to her, but the evenings and the nights were usually a bliss to them both. Then they were silent. For hours they sat together, or walked together in the dark, and talked only a few, almost meaningless words. But he had her hand in his, and her bosom left its warmth in his chest, making him feel whole.

One evening they were walking down by the canal, and something was troubling him. She knew she had not got him. All the time he whistled softly and persistently to himself. She listened, feeling she could learn more from his whistling than from his speech. It was a sad dissatisfied tune--a tune that made her feel he would not stay with her. She walked on in silence. When they came to the swing bridge he sat down on the great pole, looking at the stars in the water. He was a long way from her. She had been thinking.

"Will you always stay at Jordan's?" she asked.

"No," he answered without reflecting. "No; I s'll leave Nottingham and go abroad--soon."

"Go abroad! What for?"

"I dunno! I feel restless."

"But what shall you do?"

"I shall have to get some steady designing work, and some sort of sale for my pictures first," he said. "I am gradually making my way. I know I am."

"And when do you think you'll go?"

"I don't know. I shall hardly go for long, while there's my mother."

"You couldn't leave her?"

"Not for long."

She looked at the stars in the black water. They lay very white and staring. It was an agony to know he would leave her, but it was almost an agony to have him near her.

"And if you made a nice lot of money, what would you do?" she asked.

"Go somewhere in a pretty house near London with my mother."

"I see."

There was a long pause.

"I could still come and see you," he said. "I don't know. Don't ask me what I should do; I don't know."

There was a silence. The stars shuddered and broke upon the water. There came a breath of wind. He went suddenly to her, and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Don't ask me anything about the future," he said miserably. "I don't know anything. Be with me now, will you, no matter what it is?"

And she took him in her arms. After all, she was a married woman, and she had no right even to what he gave her. He needed her badly. She had him in her arms, and he was miserable. With her warmth she folded him over, consoled him, loved him. She would let the moment stand for itself.

After a moment he lifted his head as if he wanted to speak.

"Clara," he said, struggling.

She caught him passionately to her, pressed his head down on her breast with her hand. She could not bear the suffering in his voice. She was afraid in her soul. He might have anything of her--anything; but she did not want to KNOW. She felt she could not bear it. She wanted him to be soothed upon her--soothed. She stood clasping him and caressing him, and he was something unknown to her--something almost uncanny. She wanted to soothe him into forgetfulness.

And soon the struggle went down in his soul, and he forgot. But then Clara was not there for him, only a woman, warm, something he loved and almost worshipped, there in the dark. But it was not Clara, and she submitted to him. The naked hunger and inevitability of his loving her, something strong and blind and ruthless in its primitiveness, made the hour almost terrible to her. She knew how stark and alone he was, and she felt it was great that he came to her; and she took him simply because his need was bigger either than her or him, and her soul was still within her. She did this for him in his need, even if he left her, for she loved him.

All the while the peewits were screaming in the field. When he came to, he wondered what was near his eyes, curving and strong with life in the dark, and what voice it was speaking. Then he realised it was the grass, and the peewit was calling. The warmth was Clara's breathing heaving. He lifted his head, and looked into her eyes. They were dark and shining and strange, life wild at the source staring into his life, stranger to him, yet meeting him; and he put his face down on her throat, afraid. What was she? A strong, strange, wild life, that breathed with his in the darkness through this hour. It was all so much bigger than themselves that he was hushed. They had met, and included in their meeting the thrust of the manifold grass stems, the cry of the peewit, the wheel of the stars.

When they stood up they saw other lovers stealing down the opposite hedge. It seemed natural they were there; the night contained them.

And after such an evening they both were very still, having known the immensity of passion. They felt small, half-afraid, childish and wondering, like Adam and Eve when they lost their innocence and realised the magnificence of the power which drove them out of Paradise and across the great night and the great day of humanity. It was for each of them an initiation and a satisfaction. To know their own nothingness, to know the tremendous living flood which carried them always, gave them rest within themselves. If so great a magnificent power could overwhelm them, identify them altogether with itself, so that they knew they were only grains in the tremendous heave that lifted every grass blade its little height, and every tree, and living thing, then why fret about themselves? They could let themselves be carried by life, and they felt a sort of peace each in the other. There was a verification which they had had together. Nothing could nullify it, nothing could take it away; it was almost their belief in life.

But Clara was not satisfied. Something great was there, she knew; something great enveloped her. But it did not keep her. In the morning it was not the same. They had KNOWN, but she could not keep the moment. She wanted it again; she wanted something permanent. She had not realised fully. She thought it was he whom she wanted. He was not safe to her. This that had been between them might never be again; he might leave her. She had not got him; she was not satisfied. She had been there, but she had not gripped the--the something--she knew not what--which she was mad to have.

In the morning he had considerable peace, and was happy in himself. It seemed almost as if he had known the baptism of fire in passion, and it left him at rest. But it was not Clara. It was something that happened because of her, but it was not her. They were scarcely any nearer each other. It was as if they had been blind agents of a great force.

When she saw him that day at the factory her heart melted like a drop of fire. It was his body, his brows. The drop of fire grew more intense in her breast; she must hold him. But he, very quiet, very subdued this morning, went on giving his instruction. She followed him into the dark, ugly basement, and lifted her arms to him. He kissed her, and the intensity of passion began to burn him again. Somebody was at the door. He ran upstairs; she returned to her room, moving as if in a trance.

After that the fire slowly went down. He felt more and more that his experience had been impersonal, and not Clara. He loved her. There was a big tenderness, as after a strong emotion they had known together; but it was not she who could keep his soul steady. He had wanted her to be something she could not be.

And she was mad with desire of him. She could not see him without touching him. In the factory, as he talked to her about Spiral hose, she ran her hand secretly along his side. She followed him out into the basement for a quick kiss; her eyes, always mute and yearning, full of unrestrained passion, she kept fixed on his. He was afraid of her, lest she should too flagrantly give herself away before the other girls. She invariably waited for him at dinnertime for him to embrace her before she went. He felt as if she were helpless, almost a burden to him, and it irritated him.

"But what do you always want to be kissing and embracing for?" he said. "Surely there's a time for everything."

She looked up at him, and the hate came into her eyes.

"DO I always want to be kissing you?" she said.

"Always, even if I come to ask you about the work. I don't want anything to do with love when I'm at work. Work's work---"

"And what is love?" she asked. "Has it to have special hours?"

"Yes; out of work hours."

"And you'll regulate it according to Mr. Jordan's closing time?"

"Yes; and according to the freedom from business of any sort."

"It is only to exist in spare time?"

"That's all, and not always then--not the kissing sort of love."

"And that's all you think of it?"

"It's quite enough."

"I'm glad you think so."

And she was cold to him for some time--she hated him; and while she was cold and contemptuous, he was uneasy till she had forgiven him again. But when they started afresh they were not any nearer. He kept her because he never satisfied her.

In the spring they went together to the seaside. They had rooms at a little cottage near Theddlethorpe, and lived as man and wife. Mrs. Radford sometimes went with them.

It was known in Nottingham that Paul Morel and Mrs. Dawes were going together, but as nothing was very obvious, and Clara always a solitary person, and he seemed so simple and innocent, it did not make much difference.

He loved the Lincolnshire coast, and she loved the sea. In the early morning they often went out together to bathe. The grey of the dawn, the far, desolate reaches of the fenland smitten with winter, the sea-meadows rank with herbage, were stark enough to rejoice his soul. As they stepped on to the highroad from their plank bridge, and looked round at the endless monotony of levels, the land a little darker than the sky, the sea sounding small beyond the sandhills, his heart filled strong with the sweeping relentlessness of life. She loved him then. He was solitary and strong, and his eyes had a beautiful light.

They shuddered with cold; then he raced her down the road to the green turf bridge. She could run well. Her colour soon came, her throat was bare, her eyes shone. He loved her for being so luxuriously heavy, and yet so quick. Himself was light; she went with a beautiful rush. They grew warm, and walked hand in hand.

A flush came into the sky, the wan moon, half-way down the west, sank into insignificance. On the shadowy land things began to take life, plants with great leaves became distinct. They came through a pass in the big, cold sandhills on to the beach. The long waste of foreshore lay moaning under the dawn and the sea; the ocean was a flat dark strip with a white edge. Over the gloomy sea the sky grew red. Quickly the fire spread among the clouds and scattered them. Crimson burned to orange, orange to dull gold, and in a golden glitter the sun came up, dribbling fierily over the waves in little splashes, as if someone had gone along and the light had spilled from her pail as she walked.

The breakers ran down the shore in long, hoarse strokes. Tiny seagulls, like specks of spray, wheeled above the line of surf. Their crying seemed larger than they. Far away the coast reached out, and melted into the morning, the tussocky sandhills seemed to sink to a level with the beach. Mablethorpe was tiny on their right. They had alone the space of all this level shore, the sea, and the upcoming sun, the faint noise of the waters, the sharp crying of the gulls.

They had a warm hollow in the sandhills where the wind did not come. He stood looking out to sea.

"It's very fine," he said.

"Now don't get sentimental," she said.

It irritated her to see him standing gazing at the sea, like a solitary and poetic person. He laughed. She quickly undressed.

"There are some fine waves this morning," she said triumphantly.

She was a better swimmer than he; he stood idly watching her.

"Aren't you coming?" she said.

"In a minute," he answered.

She was white and velvet skinned, with heavy shoulders. A little wind, coming from the sea, blew across her body and ruffled her hair.

The morning was of a lovely limpid gold colour. Veils of shadow seemed to be drifting away on the north and the south. Clara stood shrinking slightly from the touch of the wind, twisting her hair. The sea-grass rose behind the white stripped woman. She glanced at the sea, then looked at him. He was watching her with dark eyes which she loved and could not understand. She hugged her breasts between her arms, cringing, laughing:

"Oo, it will be so cold!" she said.

He bent forward and kissed her, held her suddenly close, and kissed her again. She stood waiting. He looked into her eyes, then away at the pale sands.

"Go, then!" he said quietly.

She flung her arms round his neck, drew him against her, kissed him passionately, and went, saying:

"But you'll come in?"

"In a minute."

She went plodding heavily over the sand that was soft as velvet. He, on the sandhills, watched the great pale coast envelop her. She grew smaller, lost proportion, seemed only like a large white bird toiling forward.

"Not much more than a big white pebble on the beach, not much more than a clot of foam being blown and rolled over the sand," he said to himself.

She seemed to move very slowly across the vast sounding shore. As he watched, he lost her. She was dazzled out of sight by the sunshine. Again he saw her, the merest white speck moving against the white, muttering sea-edge.

"Look how little she is!" he said to himself. "She's lost like a grain of sand in the beach--just a concentrated speck blown along, a tiny white foam-bubble, almost nothing among the morning. Why does she absorb me?"

The morning was altogether uninterrupted: she was gone in the water. Far and wide the beach, the sandhills with their blue marrain, the shining water, glowed together in immense, unbroken solitude.

"What is she, after all?" he said to himself. "Here's the seacoast morning, big and permanent and beautiful; there is she, fretting, always unsatisfied, and temporary as a bubble of foam. What does she mean to me, after all? She represents something, like a bubble of foam represents the sea. But what is she? It's not her I care for."

Then, startled by his own unconscious thoughts, that seemed to speak so distinctly that all the morning could hear, he undressed and ran quickly down the sands. She was watching for him. Her arm flashed up to him, she heaved on a wave, subsided, her shoulders in a pool of liquid silver. He jumped through the breakers, and in a moment her hand was on his shoulder.

He was a poor swimmer, and could not stay long in the water. She played round him in triumph, sporting with her superiority, which he begrudged her. The sunshine stood deep and fine on the water. They laughed in the sea for a minute or two, then raced each other back to the sandhills.

When they were drying themselves, panting heavily, he watched her laughing, breathless face, her bright shoulders, her breasts that swayed and made him frightened as she rubbed them, and he thought again:

"But she is magnificent, and even bigger than the morning and the sea. Is she---? Is she---"

She, seeing his dark eyes fixed on her, broke off from her drying with a laugh.

"What are you looking at?" she said.

"You," he answered, laughing.

Her eyes met his, and in a moment he was kissing her white "goose-fleshed" shoulder, and thinking:

"What is she? What is she?"

She loved him in the morning. There was something detached, hard, and elemental about his kisses then, as if he were only conscious of his own will, not in the least of her and her wanting him.

Later in the day he went out sketching.

"You," he said to her, "go with your mother to Sutton. I am so dull."

She stood and looked at him. He knew she wanted to come with him, but he preferred to be alone. She made him feel imprisoned when she was there, as if he could not get a free deep breath, as if there were something on top of him. She felt his desire to be free of her.

In the evening he came back to her. They walked down the shore in the darkness, then sat for a while in the shelter of the sandhills.

"It seems," she said, as they stared over the darkness of the sea, where no light was to be seen--"it seemed as if you only loved me at night--as if you didn't love me in the daytime."

He ran the cold sand through his fingers, feeling guilty under the accusation.

"The night is free to you," he replied. "In the daytime I want to be by myself."

"But why?" she said. "Why, even now, when we are on this short holiday?"

"I don't know. Love-making stifles me in the daytime."

"But it needn't be always love-making," she said.

"It always is," he answered, "when you and I are together."

She sat feeling very bitter.

"Do you ever want to marry me?" he asked curiously.

"Do you me?" she replied.

"Yes, yes; I should like us to have children," he answered slowly.

She sat with her head bent, fingering the sand.

"But you don't really want a divorce from Baxter, do you?" he said.

It was some minutes before she replied.

"No," she said, very deliberately; "I don't think I do."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

"Do you feel as if you belonged to him?"

"No; I don't think so."

"What, then?"

"I think he belongs to me," she replied.

He was silent for some minutes, listening to the wind blowing over the hoarse, dark sea.

"And you never really intended to belong to ME?" he said.

"Yes, I do belong to you," she answered.

"No," he said; "because you don't want to be divorced."

It was a knot they could not untie, so they left it, took what they could get, and what they could not attain they ignored.

"I consider you treated Baxter rottenly," he said another time.

He half-expected Clara to answer him, as his mother would: "You consider your own affairs, and don't know so much about other people's." But she took him seriously, almost to his own surprise.

"Why?" she said.

"I suppose you thought he was a lily of the valley, and so you put him in an appropriate pot, and tended him according. You made up your mind he was a lily of the valley and it was no good his being a cow-parsnip. You wouldn't have it."

"I certainly never imagined him a lily of the valley."

"You imagined him something he wasn't. That's just what a woman is. She thinks she knows what's good for a man, and she's going to see he gets it; and no matter if he's starving, he may sit and whistle for what he needs, while she's got him, and is giving him what's good for him."

"And what are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm thinking what tune I shall whistle," he laughed.

And instead of boxing his ears, she considered him in earnest.

"You think I want to give you what's good for you?" she asked.

"I hope so; but love should give a sense of freedom, not of prison. Miriam made me feel tied up like a donkey to a stake. I must feed on her patch, and nowhere else. It's sickening!"

"And would YOU let a WOMAN do as she likes?"

"Yes; I'll see that she likes to love me. If she doesn't--well, I don't hold her."

"If you were as wonderful as you say---," replied Clara.

"I should be the marvel I am," he laughed.

There was a silence in which they hated each other, though they laughed.

"Love's a dog in a manger," he said.

"And which of us is the dog?" she asked.

"Oh well, you, of course."

So there went on a battle between them. She knew she never fully had him. Some part, big and vital in him, she had no hold over; nor did she ever try to get it, or even to realise what it was. And he knew in some way that she held herself still as Mrs. Dawes. She did not love Dawes, never had loved him; but she believed he loved her, at least depended on her. She felt a certain surety about him that she never felt with Paul Morel. Her passion for the young man had filled her soul, given her a certain satisfaction, eased her of her self-mistrust, her doubt. Whatever else she was, she was inwardly assured. It was almost as if she had gained HERSELF, and stood now distinct and complete. She had received her confirmation; but she never believed that her life belonged to Paul Morel, nor his to her. They would separate in the end, and the rest of her life would be an ache after him. But at any rate, she knew now, she was sure of herself. And the same could almost be said of him. Together they had received the baptism of life, each through the other; but now their missions were separate. Where he wanted to go she could not come with him. They would have to part sooner or later. Even if they married, and were faithful to each other, still he would have to leave her, go on alone, and she would only have to attend to him when he came home. But it was not possible. Each wanted a mate to go side by side with.

Clara had gone to live with her mother upon Mapperley Plains. One evening, as Paul and she were walking along Woodborough Road, they met Dawes. Morel knew something about the bearing of the man approaching, but he was absorbed in his thinking at the moment, so that only his artist's eye watched the form of the stranger. Then he suddenly turned to Clara with a laugh, and put his hand on her shoulder, saying, laughing:

"But we walk side by side, and yet I'm in London arguing with an imaginary Orpen; and where are you?"

At that instant Dawes passed, almost touching Morel. The young man glanced, saw the dark brown eyes burning, full of hate and yet tired.

"Who was that?" he asked of Clara.

"It was Baxter," she replied.

Paul took his hand from her shoulder and glanced round; then he saw again distinctly the man's form as it approached him. Dawes still walked erect, with his fine shoulders flung back, and his face lifted; but there was a furtive look in his eyes that gave one the impression he was trying to get unnoticed past every person he met, glancing suspiciously to see what they thought of him. And his hands seemed to be wanting to hide. He wore old clothes, the trousers were torn at the knee, and the handkerchief tied round his throat was dirty; but his cap was still defiantly over one eye. As she saw him, Clara felt guilty. There was a tiredness and despair on his face that made her hate him, because it hurt her.

"He looks shady," said Paul.

But the note of pity in his voice reproached her, and made her feel hard.

"His true commonness comes out," she answered.

"Do you hate him?" he asked.

"You talk," she said, "about the cruelty of women; I wish you knew the cruelty of men in their brute force. They simply don't know that the woman exists."

"Don't I?" he said.

"No," she answered.

"Don't I know you exist?"

"About ME you know nothing," she said bitterly--"about ME!"

"No more than Baxter knew?" he asked.

"Perhaps not as much."

He felt puzzled, and helpless, and angry. There she walked unknown to him, though they had been through such experience together.

"But you know ME pretty well," he said.

She did not answer.

"Did you know Baxter as well as you know me?" he asked.

"He wouldn't let me," she said.

"And I have let you know me?"

"It's what men WON'T let you do. They won't let you get really near to them," she said.

"And haven't I let you?"

"Yes," she answered slowly; "but you've never come near to me. You can't come out of yourself, you can't. Baxter could do that better than you."

He walked on pondering. He was angry with her for prefering Baxter to him.

"You begin to value Baxter now you've not got him," he said.

"No; I can only see where he was different from you."

But he felt she had a grudge against him.

One evening, as they were coming home over the fields, she startled him by asking:

"Do you think it's worth it--the--the sex part?"

"The act of loving, itself?"

"Yes; is it worth anything to you?"

"But how can you separate it?" he said. "It's the culmination of everything. All our intimacy culminates then."

"Not for me," she said.

He was silent. A flash of hate for her came up. After all, she was dissatisfied with him, even there, where he thought they fulfilled each other. But he believed her too implicitly.

"I feel," she continued slowly, "as if I hadn't got you, as if all of you weren't there, and as if it weren't ME you were taking---"

"Who, then?"

"Something just for yourself. It has been fine, so that I daren't think of it. But is it ME you want, or is it IT?"

He again felt guilty. Did he leave Clara out of count, and take simply women? But he thought that was splitting a hair.

"When I had Baxter, actually had him, then I DID feel as if I had all of him," she said.

"And it was better?" he asked.

"Yes, yes; it was more whole. I don't say you haven't given me more than he ever gave me."

"Or could give you."

"Yes, perhaps; but you've never given me yourself."

He knitted his brows angrily.

"If I start to make love to you," he said, "I just go like a leaf down the wind."

"And leave me out of count," she said.

"And then is it nothing to you?" he asked, almost rigid with chagrin.

"It's something; and sometimes you have carried me away--right away--I know--and--I reverence you for it--but---"

"Don't 'but' me," he said, kissing her quickly, as a fire ran through him.

She submitted, and was silent.

It was true as he said. As a rule, when he started love-making, the emotion was strong enough to carry with it everything--reason, soul, blood--in a great sweep, like the Trent carries bodily its back-swirls and intertwinings, noiselessly. Gradually the little criticisms, the little sensations, were lost, thought also went, everything borne along in one flood. He became, not a man with a mind, but a great instinct. His hands were like creatures, living; his limbs, his body, were all life and consciousness, subject to no will of his, but living in themselves. Just as he was, so it seemed the vigorous, wintry stars were strong also with life. He and they struck with the same pulse of fire, and the same joy of strength which held the bracken-frond stiff near his eyes held his own body firm. It was as if he, and the stars, and the dark herbage, and Clara were licked up in an immense tongue of flame, which tore onwards and upwards. Everything rushed along in living beside him; everything was still, perfect in itself, along with him. This wonderful stillness in each thing in itself, while it was being borne along in a very ecstasy of living, seemed the highest point of bliss.

And Clara knew this held him to her, so she trusted altogether to the passion. It, however, failed her very often. They did not often reach again the height of that once when the peewits had called. Gradually, some mechanical effort spoilt their loving, or, when they had splendid moments, they had them separately, and not so satisfactorily. So often he seemed merely to be running on alone; often they realised it had been a failure, not what they had wanted. He left her, knowing THAT evening had only made a little split between them. Their loving grew more mechanical, without the marvellous glamour. Gradually they began to introduce novelties, to get back some of the feeling of satisfaction. They would be very near, almost dangerously near to the river, so that the black water ran not far from his face, and it gave a little thrill; or they loved sometimes in a little hollow below the fence of the path where people were passing occasionally, on the edge of the town, and they heard footsteps coming, almost felt the vibration of the tread, and they heard what the passersby said--strange little things that were never intended to be heard. And afterwards each of them was rather ashamed, and these things caused a distance between the two of them. He began to despise her a little, as if she had merited it!

One night he left her to go to Daybrook Station over the fields. It was very dark, with an attempt at snow, although the spring was so far advanced. Morel had not much time; he plunged forward. The town ceases almost abruptly on the edge of a steep hollow; there the houses with their yellow lights stand up against the darkness. He went over the stile, and dropped quickly into the hollow of the fields. Under the orchard one warm window shone in Swineshead Farm. Paul glanced round. Behind, the houses stood on the brim of the dip, black against the sky, like wild beasts glaring curiously with yellow eyes down into the darkness. It was the town that seemed savage and uncouth, glaring on the clouds at the back of him. Some creature stirred under the willows of the farm pond. It was too dark to distinguish anything.

He was close up to the next stile before he saw a dark shape leaning against it. The man moved aside.

"Good-evening!" he said.

"Good-evening!" Morel answered, not noticing.

"Paul Morel?" said the man.

Then he knew it was Dawes. The man stopped his way.

"I've got yer, have I?" he said awkwardly.

"I shall miss my train," said Paul.

He could see nothing of Dawes's face. The man's teeth seemed to chatter as he talked.

"You're going to get it from me now," said Dawes.

Morel attempted to move forward; the other man stepped in front of him.

"Are yer goin' to take that top-coat off," he said, "or are you goin' to lie down to it?"

Paul was afraid the man was mad.

"But," he said, "I don't know how to fight."

"All right, then," answered Dawes, and before the younger man knew where he was, he was staggering backwards from a blow across the face.

The whole night went black. He tore off his overcoat and coat, dodging a blow, and flung the garments over Dawes. The latter swore savagely. Morel, in his shirt-sleeves, was now alert and furious. He felt his whole body unsheath itself like a claw. He could not fight, so he would use his wits. The other man became more distinct to him; he could see particularly the shirt-breast. Dawes stumbled over Paul's coats, then came rushing forward. The young man's mouth was bleeding. It was the other man's mouth he was dying to get at, and the desire was anguish in its strength. He stepped quickly through the stile, and as Dawes was coming through after him, like a flash he got a blow in over the other's mouth. He shivered with pleasure. Dawes advanced slowly, spitting. Paul was afraid; he moved round to get to the stile again. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, came a great blow against his ear, that sent him falling helpless backwards. He heard Dawes's heavy panting, like a wild beast's, then came a kick on the knee, giving him such agony that he got up and, quite blind, leapt clean under his enemy's guard. He felt blows and kicks, but they did not hurt. He hung on to the bigger man like a wild cat, till at last Dawes fell with a crash, losing his presence of mind. Paul went down with him. Pure instinct brought his hands to the man's neck, and before Dawes, in frenzy and agony, could wrench him free, he had got his fists twisted in the scarf and his knuckles dug in the throat of the other man. He was a pure instinct, without reason or feeling. His body, hard and wonderful in itself, cleaved against the struggling body of the other man; not a muscle in him relaxed. He was quite unconscious, only his body had taken upon itself to kill this other man. For himself, he had neither feeling nor reason. He lay pressed hard against his adversary, his body adjusting itself to its one pure purpose of choking the other man, resisting exactly at the right moment, with exactly the right amount of strength, the
struggles of the other, silent, intent, unchanging, gradually pressing its knuckles deeper, feeling the struggles of the other body become wilder and more frenzied. Tighter and tighter grew his body, like a screw that is gradually increasing in pressure, till something breaks.

Then suddenly he relaxed, full of wonder and misgiving. Dawes had been yielding. Morel felt his body flame with pain, as he realised what he was doing; he was all bewildered. Dawes's struggles suddenly renewed themselves in a furious spasm. Paul's hands were wrenched, torn out of the scarf in which they were knotted, and he was flung away, helpless. He heard the horrid sound of the other's gasping, but he lay stunned; then, still dazed, he felt the blows of the other's feet, and lost consciousness.

Dawes, grunting with pain like a beast, was kicking the prostrate body of his rival. Suddenly the whistle of the train shrieked two fields away. He turned round and glared suspiciously. What was coming? He saw the lights of the train draw across his vision. It seemed to him people were approaching. He made off across the field into Nottingham, and dimly in his consciousness as he went, he felt on his foot the place where his boot had knocked against one of the lad's bones. The knock seemed to re-echo inside him; he hurried to get away from it.

Morel gradually came to himself. He knew where he was and what had happened, but he did not want to move. He lay still, with tiny bits of snow tickling his face. It was pleasant to lie quite, quite still. The time passed. It was the bits of snow that kept rousing him when he did not want to be roused. At last his will clicked into action.

"I mustn't lie here," he said; "it's silly."

But still he did not move.

"I said I was going to get up," he repeated. "Why don't I?"

And still it was some time before he had sufficiently pulled himself together to stir; then gradually he got up. Pain made him sick and dazed, but his brain was clear. Reeling, he groped for his coats and got them on, buttoning his overcoat up to his ears. It was some time before he found his cap. He did not know whether his face was still bleeding. Walking blindly, every step making him sick with pain, he went back to the pond and washed his face and hands. The icy water hurt, but helped to bring him back to himself. He crawled back up the hill to the tram. He wanted to get to his mother--he must get to his mother--that was his blind intention. He covered his face as much as he could, and struggled sickly along. Continually the ground seemed to fall away from him as he walked, and he felt himself dropping with a sickening feeling into space; so, like a nightmare, he got through with the journey home.

Everybody was in bed. He looked at himself. His face was discoloured and smeared with blood, almost like a dead man's face. He washed it, and went to bed. The night went by in delirium. In the morning he found his mother looking at him. Her blue eyes--they were all he wanted to see. She was there; he was in her hands.

"It's not much, mother," he said. "It was Baxter Dawes."

"Tell me where it hurts you," she said quietly.

"I don't know--my shoulder. Say it was a bicycle accident, mother."

He could not move his arm. Presently Minnie, the little servant, came upstairs with some tea.

"Your mother's nearly frightened me out of my wits--fainted away," she said.

He felt he could not bear it. His mother nursed him; he told her about it.

"And now I should have done with them all," she said quietly.

"I will, mother."

She covered him up.

"And don't think about it," she said--"only try to go to sleep. The doctor won't be here till eleven."

He had a dislocated shoulder, and the second day acute bronchitis set in. His mother was pale as death now, and very thin. She would sit and look at him, then away into space. There was something between them that neither dared mention. Clara came to see him. Afterwards he said to his mother:

"She makes me tired, mother."

"Yes; I wish she wouldn't come," Mrs. Morel replied.

Another day Miriam came, but she seemed almost like a stranger to him.

"You know, I don't care about them, mother," he said.

"I'm afraid you don't, my son," she replied sadly.

It was given out everywhere that it was a bicycle accident. Soon he was able to go to work again, but now there was a constant sickness and gnawing at his heart. He went to Clara, but there seemed, as it were, nobody there. He could not work. He and his mother seemed almost to avoid each other. There was some secret between them which they could not bear. He was not aware of it. He only knew that his life seemed unbalanced, as if it were going to smash into pieces.

Clara did not know what was the matter with him. She realised that he seemed unaware of her. Even when he came to her he seemed unaware of her; always he was somewhere else. She felt she was clutching for him, and he was somewhere else. It tortured her, and so she tortured him. For a month at a time she kept him at arm's length. He almost hated her, and was driven to her in spite of himself. He went mostly into the company of men, was always at the George or the White Horse. His mother was ill, distant, quiet, shadowy. He was terrified of something; he dared not look at her. Her eyes seemed to grow darker, her face more waxen; still she dragged about at her work.

At Whitsuntide he said he would go to Blackpool for four days with his friend Newton. The latter was a big, jolly fellow, with a touch of the bounder about him. Paul said his mother must go to Sheffield to stay a week with Annie, who lived there. Perhaps the change would do her good. Mrs. Morel was attending a woman's doctor in Nottingham. He said her heart and her digestion were wrong. She consented to go to Sheffield, though she did not want to; but now she would do everything her son wished of her. Paul said he would come for her on the fifth day, and stay also in Sheffield till the holiday was up. It was agreed.

The two young men set off gaily for Blackpool. Mrs. Morel was quite lively as Paul kissed her and left her. Once at the station, he forgot everything. Four days were clear--not an anxiety, not a thought. The two young men simply enjoyed themselves. Paul was like another man. None of himself remained--no Clara, no Miriam, no mother that fretted him. He wrote to them all, and long letters to his mother; but they were jolly letters that made her laugh. He was having a good time, as young fellows will in a place like Blackpool. And underneath it all was a shadow for her.

Paul was very gay, excited at the thought of staying with his mother in Sheffield. Newton was to spend the day with them. Their train was late. Joking, laughing, with their pipes between their teeth, the young men swung their bags on to the tram-car. Paul had bought his mother a little collar of real lace that he wanted to see her wear, so that he could tease her about it.

Annie lived in a nice house, and had a little maid. Paul ran gaily up the steps. He expected his mother laughing in the hall, but it was Annie who opened to him. She seemed distant to him. He stood a second in dismay. Annie let him kiss her cheek.

"Is my mother ill?" he said.

"Yes; she's not very well. Don't upset her."

"Is she in bed?"

"Yes."

And then the queer feeling went over him, as if all the sunshine had gone out of him, and it was all shadow. He dropped the bag and ran upstairs. Hesitating, he opened the door. His mother sat up in bed, wearing a dressing-gown of old-rose colour. She looked at him almost as if she were ashamed of herself, pleading to him, humble. He saw the ashy look about her.

"Mother!" he said.

"I thought you were never coming," she answered gaily.

But he only fell on his knees at the bedside, and buried his face in the bedclothes, crying in agony, and saying:

"Mother--mother--mother!"

She stroked his hair slowly with her thin hand.

"Don't cry," she said. "Don't cry--it's nothing."

But he felt as if his blood was melting into tears, and he cried in terror and pain.

"Don't--don't cry," his mother faltered.

Slowly she stroked his hair. Shocked out of himself, he cried, and the tears hurt in every fibre of his body. Suddenly he stopped, but he dared not lift his face out of the bedclothes.

"You ARE late. Where have you been?" his mother asked.

"The train was late," he replied, muffled in the sheet.

"Yes; that miserable Central! Is Newton come?"

"Yes."

"I'm sure you must be hungry, and they've kept dinner waiting."

With a wrench he looked up at her.

"What is it, mother?" he asked brutally.

She averted her eyes as she answered:

"Only a bit of a tumour, my boy. You needn't trouble. It's been there--the lump has--a long time."

Up came the tears again. His mind was clear and hard, but his body was crying.

"Where?" he said.

She put her hand on her side.

"Here. But you know they can sweal a tumour away."

He stood feeling dazed and helpless, like a child. He thought perhaps it was as she said. Yes; he reassured himself it was so. But all the while his blood and his body knew definitely what it was. He sat down on the bed, and took her hand. She had never had but the one ring--her wedding-ring.

"When were you poorly?" he asked.

"It was yesterday it began," she answered submissively.

"Pains?"

"Yes; but not more than I've often had at home. I believe Dr. Ansell is an alarmist."

"You ought not to have travelled alone," he said, to himself more than to her.

"As if that had anything to do with it!" she answered quickly.

They were silent for a while.

"Now go and have your dinner," she said. "You MUST be hungry."

"Have you had yours?"

"Yes; a beautiful sole I had. Annie IS good to me."

They talked a little while, then he went downstairs. He was very white and strained. Newton sat in miserable sympathy.

After dinner he went into the scullery to help Annie to wash up. The little maid had gone on an errand.

"Is it really a tumour?" he asked.

Annie began to cry again.

"The pain she had yesterday--I never saw anybody suffer like it!" she cried. "Leonard ran like a madman for Dr. Ansell, and when she'd got to bed she said to me: 'Annie, look at this lump on my side. I wonder what it is?' And there I looked, and I thought I should have dropped. Paul, as true as I'm here, it's a lump as big as my double fist. I said: 'Good gracious, mother, whenever did that come?' 'Why, child,' she said, 'it's been there a long time.' I thought I should have died, our Paul, I did. She's been having these pains for months at home, and nobody looking after her."

The tears came to his eyes, then dried suddenly.

"But she's been attending the doctor in Nottingham--and she never told me," he said.

"If I'd have been at home," said Annie, "I should have seen for myself."

He felt like a man walking in unrealities. In the afternoon he went to see the doctor. The latter was a shrewd, lovable man.

"But what is it?" he said.

The doctor looked at the young man, then knitted his fingers.

"It may be a large tumour which has formed in the membrane," he said slowly, "and which we MAY be able to make go away."

"Can't you operate?" asked Paul.

"Not there," replied the doctor.

"Are you sure?"

"QUITE!"

Paul meditated a while.

"Are you sure it's a tumour?" he asked. "Why did Dr. Jameson in Nottingham never find out anything about it? She's been going to him for weeks, and he's treated her for heart and indigestion."

"Mrs. Morel never told Dr. Jameson about the lump," said the doctor.

"And do you KNOW it's a tumour?"

"No, I am not sure."

"What else MIGHT it be? You asked my sister if there was cancer in the family. Might it be cancer?"

"I don't know."

"And what shall you do?"

"I should like an examination, with Dr. Jameson."

"Then have one."

"You must arrange about that. His fee wouldn't be less than ten guineas to come here from Nottingham."

"When would you like him to come?"

"I will call in this evening, and we will talk it over."

Paul went away, biting his lip.

His mother could come downstairs for tea, the doctor said. Her son went upstairs to help her. She wore the old-rose dressing-gown that Leonard had given Annie, and, with a little colour in her face, was quite young again.

"But you look quite pretty in that," he said.

"Yes; they make me so fine, I hardly know myself," she answered.

But when she stood up to walk, the colour went. Paul helped her, half-carrying her. At the top of the stairs she was gone. He lifted her up and carried her quickly downstairs; laid her on the couch. She was light and frail. Her face looked as if she were dead, with blue lips shut tight. Her eyes opened--her blue, unfailing eyes-and she looked at him pleadingly, almost wanting him to forgive her. He held brandy to her lips, but her mouth would not open. All the time she watched him lovingly. She was only sorry for him. The tears ran down his face without ceasing, but not a muscle moved. He was intent on getting a little brandy between her lips. Soon she was able to swallow a teaspoonful. She lay back, so tired. The tears continued to run down his face.

"But," she panted, "it'll go off. Don't cry!"

"I'm not doing," he said.

After a while she was better again. He was kneeling beside the couch. They looked into each other's eyes.

"I don't want you to make a trouble of it," she said.

"No, mother. You'll have to be quite still, and then you'll get better soon."

But he was white to the lips, and their eyes as they looked at each other understood. Her eyes were so blue--such a wonderful forget-me-not blue! He felt if only they had been of a different colour he could have borne it better. His heart seemed to be ripping slowly in his breast. He kneeled there, holding her hand, and neither said anything. Then Annie came in.

"Are you all right?" she murmured timidly to her mother.

"Of course," said Mrs. Morel.

Paul sat down and told her about Blackpool. She was curious.

A day or two after, he went to see Dr. Jameson in Nottingham, to arrange for a consultation. Paul had practically no money in the world. But he could borrow.

His mother had been used to go to the public consultation on Saturday morning, when she could see the doctor for only a nominal sum. Her son went on the same day. The waiting-room was full of poor women, who sat patiently on a bench around the wall. Paul thought of his mother, in her little black costume, sitting waiting likewise. The doctor was late. The women all looked rather frightened. Paul asked the nurse in attendance if he could see the doctor immediately he came. It was arranged so. The women sitting patiently round the walls of the room eyed the young man curiously.

At last the doctor came. He was about forty, good-looking, brown-skinned. His wife had died, and he, who had loved her, had specialised on women's ailments. Paul told his name and his mother's. The doctor did not remember.

"Number forty-six M.," said the nurse; and the doctor looked up the case in his book.

"There is a big lump that may be a tumour," said Paul. "But Dr. Ansell was going to write you a letter."

"Ah, yes!" replied the doctor, drawing the letter from his pocket. He was very friendly, affable, busy, kind. He would come to Sheffield the next day.

"What is your father?" he asked.

"He is a coal-miner," replied Paul.

"Not very well off, I suppose?"

"This--I see after this," said Paul.

"And you?" smiled the doctor.

"I am a clerk in Jordan's Appliance Factory."

The doctor smiled at him.

"Er--to go to Sheffield!" he said, putting the tips of his fingers together, and smiling with his eyes. "Eight guineas?"

"Thank you!" said Paul, flushing and rising. "And you'll come to-morrow?"

"To-morrow--Sunday? Yes! Can you tell me about what time there is a train in the afternoon?"

"There is a Central gets in at four-fifteen."

"And will there be any way of getting up to the house? Shall I have to walk?" The doctor smiled.

"There is the tram," said Paul; "the Western Park tram."

The doctor made a note of it.

"Thank you!" he said, and shook hands.

Then Paul went on home to see his father, who was left in the charge of Minnie. Walter Morel was getting very grey now. Paul found him digging in the garden. He had written him a letter. He shook hands with his father.

"Hello, son! Tha has landed, then?" said the father.

"Yes," replied the son. "But I'm going back to-night."

"Are ter, beguy!" exclaimed the collier. "An' has ter eaten owt?"

"No."

"That's just like thee," said Morel. "Come thy ways in."

The father was afraid of the mention of his wife. The two went indoors. Paul ate in silence; his father, with earthy hands, and sleeves rolled up, sat in the arm-chair opposite and looked at him.

"Well, an' how is she?" asked the miner at length, in a little voice.

"She can sit up; she can be carried down for tea," said Paul.

"That's a blessin'!" exclaimed Morel. "I hope we s'll soon be havin' her whoam, then. An' what's that Nottingham doctor say?"

"He's going to-morrow to have an examination of her."

"Is he beguy! That's a tidy penny, I'm thinkin'!"

"Eight guineas."

"Eight guineas!" the miner spoke breathlessly. "Well, we mun find it from somewhere."

"I can pay that," said Paul.

There was silence between them for some time.

"She says she hopes you're getting on all right with Minnie," Paul said.

"Yes, I'm all right, an' I wish as she was," answered Morel. "But Minnie's a good little wench, bless 'er heart!" He sat looking dismal.

"I s'll have to be going at half-past three," said Paul.

"It's a trapse for thee, lad! Eight guineas! An' when dost think she'll be able to get as far as this?"

"We must see what the doctors say to-morrow," Paul said.

Morel sighed deeply. The house seemed strangely empty, and Paul thought his father looked lost, forlorn, and old.

"You'll have to go and see her next week, father," he said.

"I hope she'll be a-whoam by that time," said Morel.

"If she's not," said Paul, "then you must come."

"I dunno wheer I s'll find th' money," said Morel.

"And I'll write to you what the doctor says," said Paul.

"But tha writes i' such a fashion, I canna ma'e it out," said Morel.

"Well, I'll write plain."

It was no good asking Morel to answer, for he could scarcely do more than write his own name.

The doctor came. Leonard felt it his duty to meet him with a cab. The examination did not take long. Annie, Arthur, Paul, and Leonard were waiting in the parlour anxiously. The doctors came down. Paul glanced at them. He had never had any hope, except when he had deceived himself.

"It MAY be a tumour; we must wait and see," said Dr. Jameson.

"And if it is," said Annie, "can you sweal it away?"

"Probably," said the doctor.

Paul put eight sovereigns and half a sovereign on the table. The doctor counted them, took a florin out of his purse, and put that down.

"Thank you!" he said. "I'm sorry Mrs. Morel is so ill. But we must see what we can do."

"There can't be an operation?" said Paul.

The doctor shook his head.

"No," he said; "and even if there could, her heart wouldn't stand it."

"Is her heart risky?" asked Paul.

"Yes; you must be careful with her."

"Very risky?"

"No--er--no, no! Just take care."

And the doctor was gone.

Then Paul carried his mother downstairs. She lay simply, like a child. But when he was on the stairs, she put her arms round his neck, clinging.

"I'm so frightened of these beastly stairs," she said.

And he was frightened, too. He would let Leonard do it another time. He felt he could not carry her.

"He thinks it's only a tumour!" cried Annie to her mother. "And he can sweal it away."

"I KNEW he could," protested Mrs. Morel scornfully.

She pretended not to notice that Paul had gone out of the room. He sat in the kitchen, smoking. Then he tried to brush some grey ash off his coat. He looked again. It was one of his mother's grey hairs. It was so long! He held it up, and it drifted into the chimney. He let go. The long grey hair floated and was gone in the blackness of the chimney.

The next day he kissed her before going back to work. It was very early in the morning, and they were alone.

"You won't fret, my boy!" she said.

"No, mother."

"No; it would be silly. And take care of yourself."

"Yes," he answered. Then, after a while: "And I shall come next Saturday, and shall bring my father?"

"I suppose he wants to come," she replied. "At any rate, if he does you'll have to let him."

He kissed her again, and stroked the hair from her temples, gently, tenderly, as if she were a lover.

"Shan't you be late?" she murmured.

"I'm going," he said, very low.

Still he sat a few minutes, stroking the brown and grey hair from her temples.

"And you won't be any worse, mother?"

"No, my son."

"You promise me?"

"Yes; I won't be any worse."

He kissed her, held her in his arms for a moment, and was gone. In the early sunny morning he ran to the station, crying all the way; he did not know what for. And her blue eyes were wide and staring as she thought of him.

In the afternoon he went a walk with Clara. They sat in the little wood where bluebells were standing. He took her hand.

"You'll see," he said to Clara, "she'll never be better."

"Oh, you don't know!" replied the other.

"I do," he said.

She caught him impulsively to her breast.

"Try and forget it, dear," she said; "try and forget it."

"I will," he answered.

Her breast was there, warm for him; her hands were in his hair. It was comforting, and he held his arms round her. But he did not forget. He only talked to Clara of something else. And it was always so. When she felt it coming, the agony, she cried to him:

"Don't think of it, Paul! Don't think of it, my darling!"

And she pressed him to her breast, rocked him, soothed him like a child. So he put the trouble aside for her sake, to take it up again immediately he was alone. All the time, as he went about, he cried mechanically. His mind and hands were busy. He cried, he did not know why. It was his blood weeping. He was just as much alone whether he was with Clara or with the men in the White Horse. Just himself and this pressure inside him, that was all that existed. He read sometimes. He had to keep his mind occupied. And Clara was a way of occupying his mind.

On the Saturday Walter Morel went to Sheffield. He was a forlorn figure, looking rather as if nobody owned him. Paul ran upstairs.

"My father's come," he said, kissing his mother.

"Has he?" she answered wearily.

The old collier came rather frightened into the bedroom.

"How dun I find thee, lass?" he said, going forward and kissing her in a hasty, timid fashion.

"Well, I'm middlin'," she replied.

"I see tha art," he said. He stood looking down on her. Then he wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. Helpless, and as if nobody owned him, he looked.

"Have you gone on all right?" asked the wife, rather wearily, as if it were an effort to talk to him.

"Yis," he answered. "'Er's a bit behint-hand now and again, as yer might expect."

"Does she have your dinner ready?" asked Mrs. Morel.

"Well, I've 'ad to shout at 'er once or twice," he said.

"And you MUST shout at her if she's not ready. She WILL leave things to the last minute."

She gave him a few instructions. He sat looking at her as if she were almost a stranger to him, before whom he was awkward and humble, and also as if he had lost his presence of mind, and wanted to run. This feeling that he wanted to run away, that he was on thorns to be gone from so trying a situation, and yet must linger because it looked better, made his presence so trying. He put up his eyebrows for misery, and clenched his fists on his knees, feeling so awkward in presence of big trouble.

Mrs. Morel did not change much. She stayed in Sheffield for two months. If anything, at the end she was rather worse. But she wanted to go home. Annie had her children. Mrs. Morel wanted to go home. So they got a motor-car from Nottingham--for she was too ill to go by train--and she was driven through the sunshine. It was just August; everything was bright and warm. Under the blue sky they could all see she was dying. Yet she was jollier than she had been for weeks. They all laughed and talked.

"Annie," she exclaimed, "I saw a lizard dart on that rock!"

Her eyes were so quick; she was still so full of life.

Morel knew she was coming. He had the front door open. Everybody was on tiptoe. Half the street turned out. They heard the sound of the great motor-car. Mrs. Morel, smiling, drove home down the street.

"And just look at them all come out to see me!" she said. "But there, I suppose I should have done the same. How do you do, Mrs. Mathews? How are you, Mrs. Harrison?"

They none of them could hear, but they saw her smile and nod. And they all saw death on her face, they said. It was a great event in the street.

Morel wanted to carry her indoors, but he was too old. Arthur took her as if she were a child. They had set her a big, deep chair by the hearth where her rocking-chair used to stand. When she was unwrapped and seated, and had drunk a little brandy, she looked round the room.

"Don't think I don't like your house, Annie," she said; "but it's nice to be in my own home again."

And Morel answered huskily:

"It is, lass, it is."

And Minnie, the little quaint maid, said:

"An' we glad t' 'ave yer."

There was a lovely yellow ravel of sunflowers in the garden. She looked out of the window.

"There are my sunflowers!" she said.

保罗和克莱拉去剧院后不久,一天他和几个朋友在五味酒家喝酒时正巧道伍斯进来了。克莱拉的丈夫正在渐渐发福,褐色眼睛上的眼皮也开始松弛了。他失去了往日那健康结实的肌肉,很明显他正走在下坡路。他和妈妈吵了一架后,就来到这下等酒店借酒浇愁。他的情妇因为另一个愿意娶她作老婆的人而抛弃了他。有天晚上他因酗酒斗殴而被拘留了一夜,而且他还被卷进一场不体面的赌博事件中。

保罗和他是死敌,然而两人之间却有一种特殊的亲密感,就好像两个人之间有时会产生的那种偷偷摸摸的亲近感。保罗常常想到巴克斯特·道伍斯,想接近他,和他成为朋友。他知道道伍斯也常常想到他,知道有某种力量正在把那个人推向他。然而,这两个人除了怒目而视以外从未互相看过一眼。

保罗在乔丹厂是个高级雇员,由他请道伍斯喝杯酒倒是理所应当的事情。

“你想喝什么?”他问道伍斯。

“谁愿意和你这种混球一起喝酒!”道伍斯回答。

保罗轻蔑地耸了耸肩膀转过身去,心里怒火万丈。

“贵族制度,”他继续说,“实际上是一种军事制度。拿德国来说吧,那儿有成千上万依靠军队而生存的贵族,他们穷得要命,生活死气沉沉,因此他们希望战争,他们把战争看作是继续生存下去的一个机会。战争之前,他们个个百无聊赖,无所事事。战争一来,他们就是领袖和司令官。现在你们总可以明白了吧,就是那么回事——他们需要战争!”

在酒店里,保罗并不是一个惹人喜爱的辩论家。他自高自大,脾气暴躁。他那种过于自信和武断的态度往往引起年纪较大的人的反感。大家都默默地听着,他说完了,没有人赞同他。

道伍斯大声冷笑着,打断了这个年轻人的口若悬河,问道:

“这是你那天晚上在剧院里学来的吧?”

保罗看着他,两人的目光相遇了,于是他明白他和克莱拉一起走出剧院时被道伍斯看到了。

“哟,剧院是怎么回事?”保罗的一个同事问,他很高兴有机会挖苦一下这个年轻人,因为他已意识到这里面有文章。

“嗨,他穿着晚礼服在做花花公子!”道伍斯冷笑着,轻蔑地把脑袋朝保罗一扬。

“这话太玄了吧,”这个双方的朋友说,“她难道是婊子吗?”

“天呀,当然是啦!”道伍斯说。

“说呀,让我们都听听!”那个朋友喊道。

“你已经明白了。”道伍斯说,“我想莫瑞尔心里更清楚。”

“哎呀,哪有这种事呢!”这人继续说道,“真的是个妓女吗?”

“妓女,我的天哪,当然是啦!”

“可你怎么知道的呢?”

“噢,”道伍斯说,“我认定,他已经跟那……一起过夜了。”

大家听后都嘲笑保罗。

“不过,她是谁啊?你认识她吗?”那个朋友问道。

“我想我是认识的。”道伍斯说。

这句话又引起了大家的哄堂大笑。

“那就说出来听听吧。”

那个朋友说。

道伍斯摇摇头,喝了一大口啤酒。

“真怪,他自己却丝毫不露口风,”他说,“等会儿听他自己吹得了。”

“说吧,保罗。”那个朋友说着,“不说不行,你还是老老实实地招供吧。”

“招供什么?承认我偶然请了个朋友去剧院看戏吗?”

“咳,如果真是那样的话,老兄,告诉我们她是谁。”那个朋友说。

“她挺不错的。”道伍斯说。

保罗被激怒了。道伍斯用手捋着他那金黄色的小胡子,哼哼地冷笑着。

“真让我吃惊……真有那么回事吗?”那个朋友说,“保罗,我真没有料到你还有这么一手。你认识她吗?巴克斯特?”

“好像有一点儿。”

他对其他的人挤挤眼睛。

“咳,行了,”保罗说,“我要走了!”

那个朋友用手搭在他的肩头。

“这可不行。”他说,“你甭想这么容易就走掉,我的朋友。你必须给我们把这事讲明白才行。”

“那么你们还是向道伍斯去打听吧。”他说。

“你自己做的事嘛,没必要害怕,朋友。”那个朋友纠缠着。

道伍斯在一旁插了句话,保罗恼羞成怒,把半杯啤酒全泼在他的脸上。

“啊!莫瑞尔先生!”店里的女招待惊叫着,按铃叫来了酒店的保安人员。

道伍斯啐了一口唾沫,冲向这个年轻人。此刻,一个卷着袖子,穿着紧身裤子的壮汉挺身而出。

“好啦,好啦!”他说着,用胸膛挡住了道伍斯。

“滚出去!”道伍斯叫道。

保罗面色苍白的把身子靠在酒柜的铜围栏上,瑟瑟发抖。他恨透了道伍斯,他诅咒他当场就该下地狱;可一看到那人前额上湿漉漉的头发,不禁又可怜起他来。他没有动。

“滚出去,你——”道伍斯说。

“够了,道伍斯。”酒店的女招待大叫道。

“走吧。”酒巴的保安人员好言相劝着,“你最好还是走吧。”

随后,他有意贴近道伍斯,正好把道伍斯逼到了门口。

“一切都是那个小混帐挑起来的。”道伍斯略带胆怯地指着保罗·莫瑞尔大喊。

“哎哟,道伍斯先生,你可真会胡诌。”女招待说,“你要知道一直都是你在捣乱。”

保安人员依旧用胸膛顶着他,强迫他走出去,直到把他逼到大门外的台阶上,此时,道伍斯转过身来。

“好吧。”他说着,对自己的敌手点了点头。

保罗不禁对道伍斯生出一种奇怪的怜悯之心,近乎于一种掺杂着强烈的愤恨的怜爱。五颜六色的店门被关上了,酒巴里一片寂静。

“那人真是自找苦吃!”女招待说。

“但是你眼睛里要是给人泼了一杯啤酒,总是件很糟的事情。”那个朋友说。

“我告诉你,他干得太棒了。”女招待说,“莫瑞尔先生,你还想再来一杯吗?”

她询问着拿起了保罗的杯子。他点了点头。

“巴克斯特·道伍斯这人对什么都不在乎。”一个人说。

“哼,他吗?”女招待说,“他呀,他是个多嘴多舌的人,这点得不到什么好处。如果你要魔鬼的话,就让我给你找个多嘴多舌的人得了。”

“喂,保罗,”那个朋友说道,“这段时间你还是小心为妙。”

“你千万不要给他机会找你的事就是了。”女招待说。

“你会拳击吗?”一个朋友问。

“一点儿不会。”他答道,脸色依旧苍白。

“我倒可以教你一两招。”这个人说。

“谢谢啦,可我没有时间。”

保罗抽身想走。

“詹金斯先生,你陪他一起走。”女招待对詹金斯先生挤挤眼,悄声说道。

那人点点头,拿起帽子说:“大家晚安。”随即十分热心地跟在保罗身后,叫着:

“等一会儿嘛,老兄,咱俩同路。”

“莫瑞尔先生不喜欢惹这种烦人的事情。”女招待说,“你们等着看吧,以后他不会再上这儿来了,我很难过,他是个好伙伴。道伍斯想把他拒之门外,他的目的就是这个。”

保罗宁死也不愿意让母亲知道这个事,他强忍着羞辱及内疚的煎熬,心里痛苦极了。现在他生活中有好多事情不能告诉他母亲。他背着她过另一种生活——性生活。生活中的其他部分依然掌握在她手中。不过他觉得自己不得不向她隐瞒好些事情,可这使他很烦恼。母子之间现在相当沉默,他觉得自己一定要在这种沉默中保护自己,为自己辩解,因为他感到自己受到了她的指责。因而,有时他很恨她,并且想摆脱她的束缚,他的生活要他自己从她那儿得到自由。然而生活宛如一个圆圈,总是能回到原来的起点。根本脱离不了这个圈子。她生了他,疼爱她,保护他。于是他又反过来把爱回报到她的身上,以致于他无法得到真正的自由,离开她独立生活,真正地去爱另一个女人。在这段时间里,他不知不觉地抵制着母亲的影响,对她守口如瓶,他们之间有了距离。

克莱拉很幸福,深信保罗爱着自己,她感到自己终于得到了他。可是随之出乎意料的事情又发生了。保罗像开玩笑似的告诉了她与她丈夫之间的不愉快的争端。她听后骤然变色,灰色的眼睛闪闪发亮。

“这就是他,一个粗俗的人,”她喊着,“他根本不配和体面的人来往。”

“可你却嫁给了他。”他说。

他的提醒使得她愤愤不已。

“对,我是和他结了婚。”她大喊道。“可是我怎么会知道呢?”

“我想他本来可能是个很好的人。”他说。

“你认为是我把他弄成现在这个样子的吗!”她尖叫着说。

“哎,不是,是他自己弄成现在这个样子的。但是,他身上总有点东西……”

克莱拉紧紧地盯着她的情人。他身上某种东西使她感到憎恶。那是一种对她进行超然的旁观评论的态度,一种使她女性的心灵不能接受的冷酷的神情。

“那么你打算怎么办呢?”她问。

“什么?”

“关于巴克斯特的事。”

“这没有必要吧?”他回答。

“我想,如果你非打他一顿不可,你会动手的。”她说。

“不,我一点儿也没有动手的意思,这很滑稽。大多数男人生来就有种握紧拳头打架的本能,可我不是这样,我情愿用刀子、手枪或别的什么来打架。”

“那你最好随身带件家什。”她说。

“噢,”他哈哈大笑道,“不,我不是个刺客。”

“可他会对你下手的。你不了解他。”

“好吧,”他说,“我们等着瞧吧。”

“你想任他去吗?”

“也许吧,如果我无能为力的话。”

“可是如果他杀死你呢?”她说。

“那我应感到难过,为他也为了我自己。”

克莱拉沉默了好一会儿。

“你真是气死我了。”她大叫道。

“其实没有什么。”他大笑道。

“但是你为什么这么傻呢,你不了解他。”

“也不想了解。”

“对,不过你总不会让那个人对你为所欲为吧。”

“你要我怎么办呢?”他大笑着答道。

“要是我,就拿一把左轮手枪。”她说,“我肯定他是会铤而走险的。”

“我会把我自己的手指都炸掉的。”他说。

“不会。不过你到底要不要枪?”她恳求道。

“不。”

“什么也不带?”

“不带。”

“那你任凭他去……?”

“不错。”

“你是个大傻瓜!”

“千真万确。”

她气得咬牙切齿。

“我真想好好教训你一顿!”她气得浑身发抖,大叫大嚷。

“为什么?”

“竟让他这种人随便摆弄你。”

“如果他赢了,你可以重新回到他身边去。”

“你想让我恨你吗?”她问。

“噢,我只是玩玩而已。”他说。

“可你还说你爱我!”她低沉而愤怒地喊道。

“难道要我杀了他才能让你高兴吗?”他说,“但是如果我真杀了他,可以想象我永远也摆脱不了他的阴影。”

“你认为我是傻瓜吗?”她大叫着。

“一点也不。亲爱的,但是你并不理解我。”

两人都沉默了。

“但是你不应该冒险。”她恳求着。

他耸耸肩膀,吟诵了一段诗:

“君子坦荡荡,

肝胆天可鉴,

无需屠龙刀,

何用封喉箭。”

她探究似的望着他。

“我希望我能理解你。”她说。

“可惜没有什么可让你理解的。”他大笑着。

他低垂着头,深思着。

他好几天没看见道伍斯。可一天早晨,当他从螺纹车间出来登楼梯时,差一点儿撞到这个魁伟的铁匠身上。

“真他妈的……!”道伍斯大叫。

“对不起!”保罗说着,擦身而过。

“对不起?”道伍斯冷笑着说。

保罗轻松地用口哨吹起了《让我跟姑娘们厮混》的曲子。

“你给我闭嘴,你这个骗子!”他说。

保罗不理睬他。

“你会为那天晚上的事得到报应的。”

保罗走进角落里他的办公室,翻阅着帐册。

“快,告诉芬妮,我需要零九七号定货,快点!”他对打杂的小男孩说。

道伍斯高高的、煞神似的站在门口,瞅着这个年轻人的头顶。

“六加五等于十一,一加六等于七。”保罗大声算着帐目。

“你听见了吗!”道伍斯说。

“五先令九便士!”他写下这个数字,“你说什么?”他说。

“我会让你明白是什么!”道伍斯说。

保罗继续大声算着帐目。

“你这个乌龟——你连正眼看我一眼都不敢!”

保罗飞快地抓起了一把笨重的直尺。道伍斯被气得火冒三丈。

“不论你走到哪儿,你老老实实地等着我来教训你好啦。我一定要好好收拾收拾你,你这只小臭猪!”

“噢,好来!”保罗说。

听到这话,道伍斯迈着沉重的脚步从门廊走过来。碰巧这时传过来一声尖厉的哨子响,保罗急忙走到传声筒前。

“喂!”他叫了一声便竖身听着,“喂——是我!”他听着,笑了起来。“我马上下来,刚才我这儿有个客人。”

道伍斯从他的口气听出他在和克莱拉讲话。他走上前去。

“你这个混蛋!”他说,“过两分钟再找你算帐!你认为我会容下你这个目中无人的混蛋吗?”

仓库里的其他职员都抬起头来看着他,替保罗打杂的小男孩来了,手里拿着一些白色的物品。

“芬妮说如果你早一点告诉她的话,你昨天晚上就可能拿到了。”他说。

“行了。”保罗一边看着货样回答着,“发货吧。”

道伍斯尴尬、无助又气愤无比地站在那儿。莫瑞尔转过身来。

“请原谅再等一分钟。”他对道伍斯说着,打算跑下楼去。

“天哪,我一定要拦住你!”道伍斯大喊一声,一把抓住了他的胳膊。保罗迅速地转过身来。

“咳!不好了!”小男孩惊惺地大喊着。

托马斯·乔丹跑出了他那小玻璃房的办公室,朝这间屋子奔来。

“什么事,怎么了?”老头子嘶哑地叫着。

“我要教训一下这个小……,就这么回事。”道伍斯气急败坏地说。

“这是什么意思?”托马斯·乔丹喝道。

“我的意思是。”道伍斯说,可是心里火气已经上来了。

莫瑞尔正斜靠着柜台,面露愧色,微微地笑着。

“这到底是怎么回事?”托马斯·乔丹喝道。

“我也说不清楚。”保罗说着,摇摇头,耸耸肩膀。

“说不清楚,说不清楚!”道伍斯大叫着,一边把他那张英俊、气恼的脸凑上来,一边握紧了拳头。

“你还有完没有?”老头子神气活现地大喊,“干你自己的活去,大清早的不要到这儿撒酒疯。”

道伍斯慢慢转过魁梧的身躯,面对着他:“撒酒疯!”他说,“谁喝醉了?你没有醉,我也没有醉。”

“你这一套我们早就领教过了。”老头子大喝,“现在你给我滚,快!不要再呆在这儿了,你居然跑到这儿来吵闹。”

道伍斯低下头轻蔑地瞅着他的老板,双手不安地动着。这双手虽然又大又脏,可干起活来却很灵活。保罗想到这是克莱拉丈夫的双手,不由得心中生起一股仇恨。

“再不滚就赶你出去了!”托马斯·乔丹大喝。

“怎么,我看谁敢把我赶走?”道伍斯说,随之发出一阵阵的冷笑。

乔丹先生气得跳了起来,迈着大步走到道伍斯身边,挥舞着手臂赶着他,短小墩实的身体向前倾着,喊道:

“滚,你给我滚出我的地盘去——滚!”

他抓着道伍斯的胳膊扭着。

“去你的吧!”道伍斯说着,用胳膊肘一推,矮小墩实的老板被推得踉跄半晌,向后退去。其他人还没来得及拉他一把,托马斯·乔丹已经撞到那扇又轻又薄的弹簧门上。门被弹开了,他摔下了五、六级台阶,摔进了芬妮的房间。大伙儿都被吓呆了。一眨眼的工夫,所有的男女职员都跑了出来。道伍斯站了一会儿,痛苦地望着这一切,转身走开了。

托马斯·乔丹受惊不小,摔得浑身青一块紫一块的,幸好别处没有受伤。但是他万分气恼,立刻解雇了道伍斯并告他殴打罪。

开庭审判时,保罗·莫瑞尔只好作为证人出庭作证。当问起引起纠葛的原因时,他说;

“因为一天晚上我陪着道伍斯太太去剧院看戏时,被道伍斯碰上,他就借机侮辱我和她,以后我把啤酒泼在了他脸上,因此他想要报复。”

“争风吃醋。”法官笑了笑。

法官告诉道伍斯说,他认为他是个卑鄙小人,案子就这样结束了。

“你把这场官司给搅黄了。”乔丹先生对保罗厉声喝道。

“我想不是我给搅黄的。”后者回答,“其实,你不是真的想治他的罪,是吗?”

“那你认为我打这个官司到底是为了什么?”

“好吧,”保罗说,“如果我说错了话,请你原谅。”

克莱拉也十分生气。

“为什么要把我的名字也牵扯进去呢?”她说。

“公开说出来总比被别人在背后议论强得多。”

“这样做毫无必要!”她大声说。

“我们的处境不会因此而变坏。”他满不在乎地说。

“你也许不会的。”她说。

“而你呢?”他问道。

“我根本不想让人提到自己。”

“对不起。”他说。可是他的声音听起来一点也没有道歉的意思。

他满不在乎地自语道:“她会消气的。”果然,她的气消了。

他告诉了母亲乔丹先生摔倒及道伍斯被审的事。莫瑞尔太太紧紧地盯着他。

“你对这件事怎么看呢?”她问他。

“我认为他是个傻瓜。”他说。

但是,无论怎样,他心里感到很不自在。

“你有没有想过,这事何时才能了结?”母亲问道。

“没有,”他回答说,“船到桥头自然直嘛!”

“作为一个规则的确如此,可在有时候往往并不如此。”母亲说。

“那么就需要人学会忍受。”他说。

“渐渐地你会发现你自己并不像你想象中的那么能忍受。”她说。

他继续埋头搞起他的设计来。

“你有没有征求过她的意见?”她终于问道。

“什么意见?”

“关于你的还有整个事情的看法。”

“我一点儿也不在乎她对我的看法。她发疯似的爱着我,但爱得不深。”

“但是这要看你对她的感情有多深。”

他抬起头来好奇地望着母亲。

“不错,”他说,“你知道的,妈妈。我想我肯定有什么地方不对劲儿,因此我不能去爱。当她在我身边时,我的确是爱她的,有时候,仅仅当我把她看作一个女人时,我也迷恋她,但是一旦当她讲话或指责我时,我却常常不愿听她说下去。”

“可是她和米丽亚姆一样的通情达理。”

“也许是的。我爱她胜过爱米丽亚姆,可是,为什么她们都抓不住我的心呢?”

最后这句话几乎是哀叹。母亲转过脸去,静静地坐着,眼睛盯着屋子那头,神色安闲、严肃,似乎在克制着某种情感。

“但你不愿意同克莱拉结婚,对吗?”她说。

“是的,开始的时候或许我愿意,可是现在为什么——为什么我不想同她或同任何人结婚呢?因为我有时觉得自己好像对不起所爱的女人,妈妈。”

“怎么对不起她们呢?我的儿子。”

“我不知道。”

他绝望地继续地画着画。他触到了自己内心的痛处。

“至于结婚,”母亲说,“你还有好多时间考虑呢。”

“但是不行,妈妈。尽管我依然爱着克莱拉,也爱过米丽亚姆,可是要我同她们结婚并且把我自己完全交给她们,我做不到,我不能属于她们。她们似乎都想把我据为己有,可我不能把自己交给她们。”

“你还没有遇到合适的女人。”

“只要你活着我永远不会遇到合适的女人。”他说。

她相当平静,现在她又开始感觉到精疲力尽了,好像她自己已经不中用了似的。

“我们等等看吧,孩子。”她回答。

他感觉感情就像某些事情一样总绕着一个圈子转来转去,这几乎快把他弄疯了。

克莱拉的确是强烈地爱着他,而他在肉体上也同样爱恋着她。白天,他几乎已忘记了她。她和他在同一个厂里工作,可是他丝毫察觉不到。他很忙,因此她的存在与否是与他无关系的。而克莱拉在蜷线车间工作时,一直感觉他就在楼上,好像她一想起他就能感觉到他这个人的躯体跟她在一个厂房里。她每时每刻都期望着他从门里面走出来。可等他果真走出来时,却总是让她震惊不已。但是他常在那儿逗留很短的时间。对她又傲慢无礼,用公事公办的口吻给她下命令,和她保持一定的距离。她强耐性子,听从他的指令,总担心自己理解错了或是忘记了什么,可这对她的心太残酷了。她想抚摸一下他的胸膛。她对那件马甲里的胸膛了如指掌。她就想抚摸他的胸膛,但听到他用机械的嗓音对她发号施令,吩咐工作,她简直都要气得发狂了,她想要戳穿他的幌子,撕毁他道貌岸然、一本正经的外衣,重新得到这个男人。可是她感到害怕,不敢这样做,还没等她来得及感觉一下他身上的温暖,他就走了;她的心又在备受煎熬。

保罗知道哪怕只有一个晚上她见不到他,她就会情绪低落而郁闷,因此他把大部分时间都给了她。白天对她来说往往是一种苦难和折磨,可是黄昏夜晚对他俩来说却是幸福无比。两人总是默默地一起坐上几个小时,或者一起在黑暗中散步,谈上一两句没有意义的话。可是他总是握着她的手,她的胸脯和乳房温暖着他的心,这使他感到拥有了一切。

一天晚上,他们正沿着运河走下去,保罗心绪不宁。克莱拉知道自己并没有得到他。他只是一味地悄声吹着口哨。她倾听着,觉得她从他的哨声中得到的东西倒比从他的谈话中得到的多。他吹着一支悲伤怨怒的小调——这调子使她觉得他将不会再和她呆在一起。她继续默默无声地走着。他们走上吊桥。他坐在一个大桥墩上,看着水里歪歪的倒影。他离她好远。她也一直在沉思着。

“你会一直在乔丹厂待下去吗?”她问。

“不!”他不加思考地回答,“不会的,我要离开诺丁汉姆出国——很快。”

“出国!干什么?”

“我自己也不知道!我感觉心里很烦。”

“可是你去干什么?”

“我必须找份固定的设计工作,首先得把我的画卖掉,”他说“我正逐渐地铺开我的道路,我知道我是什么样的人。”

“那你想什么时候走呢?”

“我不知道,只要我母亲还健在,我就不可能出去很久。”

“难道你离不开她?”

“时间长了不行。”

她望着黑乎乎的水面,皎洁明亮的星星倒映在水中。知道他将离开她当然是件十分痛苦的事,可是有他在身边同样也让她痛苦不堪。

“如果哪天你发了大财。你会干什么?”她问。

“在伦敦附近的某个地方与我母亲住在一幢漂亮的别墅里。”

“我明白了。”

两人沉默了好久。

“我依旧会来看你的,”他说,“我不知道,千万不要问我该做什么,我不知道。”

两人都沉默了。星星颤抖着,划破了水面。远处吹来一阵风,他忽然走到她跟前,把手搭在她的肩上。

“不要问我将来会怎样,”他痛苦地说,“我什么都不知道,不管将来如何,现在和我在一起,好吗?”

她用双臂抱住他。毕竟她是个结了婚的女人,她没有权利,甚至没有权利享用他现在所能给她的一切。他非常需要她,但当她用双臂搂着他时,他内心却十分痛苦。她拥抱着他,用自己的体温来抚慰他,她决不会让这幸福的时刻悄悄溜走,但愿时光在此刻能凝住。

过了一会儿,他抬起头来,好像想要说什么。

“克莱拉。”他十分苦恼地说。

她热情地拥抱着他,双手把他的头按到自己的胸口。她不能忍受他声音里的这种苦楚,因为她心里感到十分害怕。他可以拥有她的一切——一切,可是她什么都不想知道。她觉得她真的忍受不了。只想让他从她身上得到安慰——得到慰抚。她站立着,搂着他,抚摸他。他有些让她琢磨不透——有时简直不可思议,她要安慰他,她要让他在安抚中忘掉所有的一切。

他内心的折磨很快平静下来,又恢复了灵魂的安宁,他忘记了一切。但是,同时,克莱拉对于他也好像已经不复存在了。黑暗中,眼前站着的只是一个女人,一个亲切温暖的女人,是他所热爱甚至所崇拜的某种事物。可是,那不是克莱拉。然而,她却完全委身于他了。他爱她的时候,他显示出的那种赤裸裸的贪婪和无法抑制的激情,包含着强烈、盲目和凶狠的原始野性的爱,使她觉得眼前这个时候简直有些恐怖。她知道,日常生活中他是多么单调、多么孤独,所以她觉得他投入她的怀抱是件值得庆幸的事。而她之所以接受他的爱并委身于他,仅仅是为了满足他那超越她和他自身的强烈的欲望。而她的灵魂却缺乏交流,她这样做是为了满足他的需要,因为她爱他,即使他要离开她,她也会这么做。

红嘴鸥一直在田野间不停地啼叫。当他头脑清醒过来时,十分诧异于眼前的这一切,眼前黑暗中弯弯曲曲的可又充满了生命力的是什么?什么声音在说话?随之他意识到那是野草地,声音是红嘴鸥的叫声。而暖乎乎的是克莱拉呼吸的热气。他抬起头来,望着她的眼睛,这双眼睛漆黑闪亮,可十分奇怪,好像是某种野性的生灵在偷望着他的生命,他对它们是那么陌生,然而又使他感到满足。他把脸埋在她的脖子上,心里感到害怕。她是什么呀?一个强大的、陌生的野性的生灵,一直与他在这漆黑的夜中同呼吸。这生命都远比他们自身强大得多,他被吓坏了。当它们相会时,它们也把野草茎的扎刺,红嘴鸥的叫声,星星的轨迹都带入相会的境界。

当他们站起身来,看见其他的情侣正偷偷地翻过对面材篱往下走去。看起来,他们在那儿相会是很自然的事了。因为,夜色笼罩着他们。

这样一个夜晚之后,他俩都变得异常平静。因为,他们已经意识到恋情的巨大力量。就像亚当和夏娃失去他们的童贞后,意识到了将他们赶出伊甸园,投入人间伟大的白天和黑夜的那种巨大力量一样,他们意识到了自己的渺小、幼稚和迷们。这对于他们俩都是一种启蒙和满足。这股巨大的生命浪潮使他们认识到自身的渺小,使他们的心灵得到了安宁。如果这神奇力量能够征服他们,把他们与自己融为一体,让他们认识到自己在这股能掀起每片草叶,每棵大树、每种生物的巨大浪潮中是多么的渺小,那么他们又何必自寻烦恼呢?他们可以听任命运的安排。他们在对方身上都感受到了一种宁静。他们共同得到了一种明证。任何东西都不能消除它,什么力量也不能将它夺走。这差不多成了他们生命中的信条。

但是,克莱拉并不满足于此。她知道有一种神秘伟大的力量存在着,它笼罩着她,可是它并不常常支持她。因为一到早晨,它就变得太不一样了。他们已经交欢过了,但是她仍然无法保持住这一刻。她想再次得到它,她想得到某种永恒的东西,她还没有充分意识到它是什么。认为自己想要的就是他。可他已经靠不住了,他们之间以前存在的关系也许不会再发生了,他可能会离她而去,她没有得到他的心。因此,她感到不满足。她显然已经尝试过,但是她没有抓到——一种——她也不知道是什么——一种她竭力想拥有的东西。

第二天早晨,保罗内心充满了宁静,感到十分愉快,简直就像已经经受了情欲之火的洗礼静下心来了。但是,这并不是因为克莱拉,那因她而起的事,但却与她无关。他们彼此没有更加接近,只像是一种巨大的力量盲目地摆弄着他俩。

那天,克莱拉在厂里一看见保罗,她心里像燃烧着一团火似的。这是他的身体和额头,她心中的火越烧越旺,她不由地想抱住他。但是,那天早晨,他却异常平静和矜持,只顾着发号施令。她跟着他走进漆黑,阴沉的地下室,向他举起双臂。他吻了她,火热的激情又开始在他身上燃烧起来。此时,门口来人了,于是他跑上楼去,她神情恍惚地走回车间。

后来这股欲火慢慢平息下来。他越来越感觉到他的那次经历,已超出了某个人的具体,也并非是克莱拉。他爱她,在强烈的激情之后,萌发了一种浓浓的柔情。但是并不是她使得他的心灵得到了安宁。他一直想把她变成一种她不可能成为的东西。

克莱拉狂热地迷恋着保罗。她可能看到却不能抚摸他。在厂里,当他同她谈论了有关蜷线织品时,她就禁不住偷偷地抚摸他侧身。她跟随着他走出车间,进入地下室,只为了匆匆的一个吻。她那双始终含情脉脉的眼睛,一直盯着他,眼里满含着压抑不住的狂热。他怕她,生怕她在其他女人面前露出马脚来。她在用餐时间总是等着他,在拥抱他之后,才肯去吃饭。他感觉她好像已失去了自制力,简直成了他的累赘,对此保罗十分恼火。

“你总是想要亲吻,拥抱是为了什么呀?”他说,“做什么事都得有个时间概念嘛!”

她抬起眼睛望着他,目光里流露出愤恨。

“难道我一直想要吻你吗?”她说。

“总是这样,甚至在我去找你谈论工作时。我不想在工作时间谈情说爱,工作就是工作……”

“那爱是什么?”她问。“难道爱还有专门规定的时间吗?”

“是的,工作以外的时间。”

“那你要根据乔丹先生工厂的下班时间来规定它啦?”

“不错,还要根据各种业务办完后的时间来定。”

“爱情只能在余暇时间才能有,对吗?”

“不错,而且不能总是——亲吻这种爱情。”

“那这就是你对爱情的所有看法吗?”

“这就足够了。”

“我很高兴你这样想。”

过后一段时间,她对他很冷淡——她恨他,在她对他冷淡、鄙视的这段时间里,他一直坐卧不安,直到她重新原谅他才恢复了平静。但是,当他们重新和好时。他们没有丝毫更贴近的迹象。他吸引她是因为他从来没有满足过她。

那年春天,他们一起去了海滨。在瑟德索浦附近的一家小别墅里租了房间,过着夫妻般的生活,雷渥斯太太有时跟他们一起去。

在诺丁汉姆城,人人都知道保罗·莫瑞尔和道伍斯太太有来往。可是,表面上什么也没发生,再加上克莱拉总是过着独居的生活,而保罗看上去又是如此单纯忠实,因此倒没招来多少闲话。

他喜爱林肯郡的海岸,而她喜爱大海。早上他们常常一起出去洗海水澡。灰蒙蒙的黎明,远处已有各种色彩的沼泽地,以及两岸长满了牧草的荒滩,都足以使他感到心旷神情。他们从木板桥走上公路,环顾四周那单调的漫无边际的平地,只见陆地比天空略微幽暗一些。沙丘外大海的声音很微弱。

他的内心因感受到了生活的冷酷而觉得无比充实。她爱此时的他,坚强而又孤独,双眼里闪烁着美丽的光彩。

他们冻得瑟瑟发抖,于是,他们俩开始赛跑,沿着公路一直跑回绿草地。她跑得很快,脸一会就通红了,裸露着脖子,两眼炯炯有神。他喜欢她,因为她体态如此丰腴,可动作又如此敏捷。他自己体态十分轻盈。她姿势优美地向前跑。两人渐渐暖和起来了,于是就手拉手往前走去。

一道曙光出现在天空中,苍白的月亮半悬在天边,向西沉去。朦胧的大地上,万物开始复苏。大叶的植物也变得明晰可见。他们穿过寒冷的沙丘中的一条小路,来到了海滩上。在曙光照耀下,漫长空旷的海滩在海水下呻吟着,远处的海洋变成一条长长的带白边的黑带。苍茫的大海上空渐渐红光微露。云彩立即被染成了红色,一片片分散开去。颜色渐渐地由绯红色变成棕红色,再由桔红变成暗金色,而太阳就在这一片金光中冉冉升起,顿时滚滚的波涛上被洒上了无数的碎金,好像有人走过海面,一边走,一边从身边的桶里不断地洒下许多金光。

细浪拍打着海岸发出沙沙的声音。海鸥则像一朵朵小浪花,在海浪上端来回盘旋,个头虽小,可叫声却分外响亮。远处的海岸绵延伸展,逐渐消失在这晨光之中。芦苇丛生的沙丘,随着海滩的地势变为平地。他们的右边是马伯索浦。看上去显得很小。平坦的海岸上只有他们俩在尽情地观赏着浩瀚的大海、初升的朝阳,只有他们在忘我地倾听着海浪的轻声呻吟及海鸥的凄楚的鸣叫。

他们在沙丘中找到了一个温暖避风的洞穴,保罗站在里面凝望着大海。

“真美。”他说。

“现在千万别变得多愁善感啊。”她说。

看见他像个孤独的诗人似的伫立在那儿眺望着大海,她不禁被激怒了。他笑着。她很快地脱掉了衣服。

“今天早上的海浪真美。”她洋洋自得地说。

她的水性比他好。他懒散地站着,望着她。

“你不想去吗?”她说。

“一会儿过来。”他答道。

她肩膀丰满、皮肤粉白柔嫩。一阵微风从海上吹来,吹拂着她的身子,撩乱了她的秀发。

晨曦中呈现出一片金色,明净而可爱,南北方层层的阴云似乎还在消散。克莱拉避开风头站着,一面盘绕着头发,一大片海草挺立在这个赤身裸体的女人身后。她瞥了一眼大海,又望望他,他的那双黑眼睛已望着她。她喜欢这双眼睛,却又不能理解它们。她用双臂抱住胸膊,退缩着,笑道:

“噢,天真冷啊!”

他向前倾俯吻了她,突然紧紧地搂住了她,又吻了一下,她站在那儿等待着。他盯着她的眼睛,随后目光又移向了白色的海滩。

“那就去吧!”他轻声说。

她伸出双臂环绕着他的脖子,把他拉向自己,动情地吻着他。然后走开了,说着:

“你来吗?”

“马上就来。”

她吃力地走在柔软的沙滩上。他站在沙丘上,望着苍茫茫的海岸环绕着她。她变得越来越小,小得失去了比例,仿佛是只大白鸟吃力地向前走着。

“还没有海滩上的一块白色的卵石大,也比不上沙滩上翻动着的一朵浪花。”他自言自语道。

她似乎还在穿越巨大的喧闹的海岸。看着看着,她不见了踪影,眩目的阳光遮住了她的身影。继而他又看到她了,仅仅像一点白斑,伴随着阵阵涛声走在白色的海滩上。

“瞧,她多么渺小!”他自言自语说,“她就像消失在海滩上的一粒细沙——不过是随风飘动着的一个小小的白斑点。一个微小的白色浪花,在这晨曦中简直像不存在似的。可为什么她会这样吸引我呢?”

这天早上没有一个人打扰他们。她已经下水去了。宽广的海滩,长着蓝色海草的沙丘及波光粼粼的海水都在闪闪发光,组成了这茫茫无垠的荒原。

“她到底是什么呀?”他心里想着。“这儿是海滨的早晨,雄伟秀美,千古不变;那儿是她,整日自寻烦恼,永不满足,转瞬即逝就像浪花上的泡沫。她对我到底意味着什么?她代表着某种东西,就像浪花代表大海一样,可是她究竟是什么呢?我所关心的其实不是她。”

接着,他被自己心里的这些无意识的思想惊呆了。好像他清清楚楚地全讲了出来,早晨的一切全都听见了似的。他匆忙脱掉衣服,赶紧跑下沙滩。克莱拉正张着望他。她扬着臂膀冲他招手,她的身子随着浪花时起时伏。他跳进细浪中,不一会儿,她的手就搭在了他的肩上。

他不善游泳,不能在水里久呆。她洋洋自得地围着他嬉水,炫耀着她的泳装,惹得保罗妒意大发。阳光深深地映入水中。他们在海中笑了一阵,然后比赛着跑回沙丘。当他们气喘吁吁擦拭着身子,他望着她喘息不定的笑脸,发亮的肩膀和颤动着的乳房。当她擦干它们时,他害怕了,于是他又想:

“她的确美丽得惊人,甚至比清晨和大海还要伟大。她是……?她是……?"

他那黑眼睛直愣愣地盯着她,她笑了一声停下擦拭。

“你在看什么呀?”她说。

“看你。”他笑着回答。

他们的目光相遇了。一会儿,他就吻着她那白白的起着鸡皮疙瘩的肩头,一边想着:

“她是什么?她到底是什么?”

这天早晨,她对他情意绵绵,可是他的吻中有着某种超然、坚定和原始的意味,就好像他只意识到自己的意愿,而根本没有想到她和他对自己的渴望。

白天,他外出写生。

他对她说:“你和你妈去苏顿吧,我这人太枯燥。”

她站在那儿望着他。他知道她想跟他一起去,但是他宁可一个人去。她在身边时,他总感觉到像是置身于牢笼之中,身上仿佛压着重负,好像连深深地透一口气都做不到似的。她察觉到他极想从她那儿得到自由。

晚上,他又回到她的身边。在黑暗中他们走下海滩,在一个沙丘的避风处坐了一会儿。

他们凝视着漆黑的大海,海上一丝光亮都没有。此时,她说:“你似乎只有在晚上才爱我——白天时根本就不爱我。”

他让冰凉的沙子漏过自己的指缝,对她的指责深感内疚。

“晚上由你任意支配,”他回答,“白天我想自己支配。”

“可是为什么呢?”她说,“为什么,甚至在现在,在我们这短短的假期中还要如此?”

“不知道。白天作爱会把我憋死的。”

“但是,我们没有必要总是作爱呀!”她说。

“当你和我在一起时,”他回答,“事情总是如此。”她坐在那里心里感到十分痛楚。

“你想过要和我结婚吗?”他好奇地问。

“你想过娶我吗?”她答。

“想过,真的,我希望我们能有孩子。”他慢慢地答道。

她低垂着头坐在那儿,手指拨弄着沙子。

“可你并不真想同巴克斯特离婚,是吗?”他说。

过了好一会儿,她才回答。

“是的,”她十分慎重地回答,“不想离婚。”

“为什么?”

“我不知道。”

“你觉得自己属于他吗?”

“不,我没这样想。”

“那又为什么?”

“我认为他属于我。”她回答。

他倾听着海风吹过漆黑的低声絮语的海面,沉默了好一会儿。

“你从来没想到过要属于我?”他说。

“想过,我的确是属于你的。”她答道。

“不是的,”他说,“因为你并不想离婚。”

这是个他们永远解不开的结,所以只好由它去了。他们只将能获取的带走,其余的只好听之任之了。

“我认为你对巴克斯特很不好。”有一次保罗说道。

他本以为克莱拉至少会像他母亲那样回答他:“管你自己的事去吧。不用多管闲事。”但是,出乎意料之外,她竟对他的话很认真。

“为什么?”她说。

“我猜想你把他当成了蓝铃,因此就把它栽在合适的花盆里,并照此来培植。认定他是朵蓝铃,就决不肯承认他会是棵防风草。你容不下他。”

“可我从来没有把他当过蓝铃啊。”

“你把他想像成一种人,可他其实不是那种。女人都是这样,她们自以为自己知道什么东西对男人有好处,就一定要让他接受不可,一旦她得到了他,她就会一直给他那件她认为对他有好处的东西,而全然不管他是否在挨饿呢,或者在那里吹着口哨想他需要的东西。

“那你在干什么呢?”她问道。

“我在考虑我该吹个什么曲子。”他笑道。

她非但没有扇他耳光,反而认真地考虑起他的话来。

“你认为我想把自以为对你有好处的东西给你吗?”她问。

“我希望如此。可是爱情应当给人一种自由感,而不是束缚,米丽亚姆使我觉得我像一头挂在柱子上的驴。我必须在她那块地里进食,其它哪儿都不行,简直叫人无法忍受。”

“那么你不愿意让一个女人做她喜欢做的事吗?”

“当然愿意啦。我要看到她真心爱我。如果她不爱我——好吧,我也不强留。”

“但愿你真的像你自己说的那么好……”克莱拉回答。

“那可真是个奇迹。”他大笑。

随后俩人都默默无语,尽管他们脸上挂着笑容,可心里都在恨着对方。

“爱情就像一个占住茅坑不拉屎的人。”他说。

“我们中谁占住茅坑不拉屎呢?”她问。

“噢,那还用问吗,当然是你啦。”

他们就这样进行着舌战。她知道自己压根儿没有完全得到他的心。她没有抓到他心中某个重要部位,也从来没有打算这样做,甚至从未意识到这是什么东西。然而,他知道在某方面,她依旧以自己是道伍斯太太自居。她不爱道伍斯,而且从来没有爱过他。但是相信道伍斯爱她,至少依赖她。她对他了如指掌。可对保罗·莫瑞尔,她却没有这种感觉。她心里充满了对这个年轻人的热望,这使她相当满足,消除了她对自己的疑虑和自卑。不论怎样,她的内心踏实多了,自信心也恢复了,她如今又昂首挺胸了。她已经得到了别人对她的确认,不过她相信自己的一生根本不属于保罗·莫瑞尔,也相信他的一生绝不属于她。他们终究会分离,而她的余生肯定会苦苦地思念他。但不管怎么说,她知道自己现在有了自信心。而他也几乎同样如此。他们各自通过对方经受了生活的洗礼。而现在,他们所能做的只有分离,无论他要去什么地方,她都不能跟随一同去了。他们早晚会分手的。即使他们结了婚,彼此海誓山盟,忠贞不渝,他还会离开她,独自外出,剩下她只能在他回家后才可以照料他。但是,这是不能的。人人都想有个可以并肩同行的伴侣。

克莱拉跟她母亲一起住到了马柏里广场。一天晚上,保罗和她正沿着伍德波罗路散步,迎面碰上了道伍斯。保罗觉得这个走近的男人的姿态有点熟悉,但他这会儿正全神贯注地看着,他只是以艺术家的眼光打量着这个人的身影。突然他哈哈笑了一声,转身冲着克莱拉,把手搭在她的肩膀上,笑着说:

“我们肩并肩地行走,然而我的心却在伦敦跟一个假想的争论对手奥本在辩论,那么你在哪儿啊?”

就在说话间,道伍斯走了过去,差点就碰到了莫瑞尔。年轻人抬眼看了一下,看见了一双深褐色的充满了恨意的眼睛,但它却显得相当的疲倦。

“是谁?”他问克莱拉。

“是巴克斯特。”她答道。

保罗从她肩上拿下去手,回头望去。于是,他又清楚地看到了那个人的样子。道伍斯走路时依然昂首挺胸,健美的双肩向后摆着。但眼里却有一种鬼鬼祟祟的神色,给人一种这样的印象:他不管碰见谁都想悄悄地走过而不引起别人注意,但又疑虑地想看看别人是如何看待他的。他那双手也似乎想藏起来。他穿着一身旧衣服,裤子膝部都磨破了,脖子上围着一块很脏的围巾,但帽子却挑衅般地歪扣在一只眼睛上。克莱拉看见他,心里深感内疚。但他脸上那疲倦绝望的神情又使她不禁恨起他来,因为他这副样子很让她伤心。

“他看上去像生活在阴影里。”保罗说。

但他说话时语调中的怜悯伤了她,让她无法忍受。

“他粗俗的真面目显露出来了。”她说。

“你恨他吗?”他说。

“你谈到,”她说,“谈到女人的残忍,我希望你也能知道男人在放纵他们那股兽性强蛮时的凶狠。他们简直不知道女人的死活。”

“我不知道?”他说。

“是的。”她答道。

“我不知道你的死活?”

“你对我一无所知,”她有些痛苦地说——“对我!”

“还没有巴克斯特知道的多?”他问。

“也许没有。”

他对此很困惑,一筹莫展,因此有些生气。尽管他俩体验过了那种事,可她走在身边,却像个陌生人。

“但你却非常了解我。”他说。

她没有回答。

“你对巴克斯特的了解和对我的了解是一样深吗?”他问。

“他不让我去了解他。”她说。

“那我让你了解我了吗?”

“男人就是不让你去了解他们,他们不让你真正地接近他们。”她说。

“我也没让你接近我吗?”

“没有,”沉吟了半晌,她才答道。“你从来就不想接近我,你不能摆脱你自己,你不能摆脱。巴克斯特在这方面还比你强一点。”

他边走边回味着这话。他很生气她竟然把巴克斯特看得比自己还好一点。

“你现在抬高巴克斯特只是由于你现在无法抓住他了。”他说。

“不是,我只是看清了他和你不同的地方。”

他能感觉到她对他有些埋怨。

一天晚上,正当他们穿过田野往家走时,她突然出乎他意料地问:

“你觉得这件事值得吗——这个——这个性方面?”

“性爱行为的本身吗?”

“是的,你觉得对你来说有什么价值吗?”

“但是你怎么能把它分开来说呢?”他说,“这是一切的高潮部分。我们全部的亲密关系所达到的顶点就在于此。”

“对我可不是这样。”她说。

他不吭声了,心头涌过了一丝恨意。原来,她对他还是不满意的。即使在这方面,他本以为他们俩都彼此满足了。但是他却对她坚信不疑。

“我觉得,”她慢慢地又接着说,“我好像并没有抓住你,你好像根本不在这儿,你好像要的并不是我——”

“那么我要的是谁?”

“是专供你享受的一种东西。这是一种美好的东西,我不敢想它。但你到底要的是我呢,还是这种东西?”

他又有一种负疚的感觉了。难道他竟置克莱拉于不顾,只是把她当做一个女人吗?他觉得这是一种无益的、繁琐细致的分析。

“当我跟巴克斯特在一起的时候,我真正地拥有了他,那时我也的确感觉到他的整个身心都是我的。”她说。

“比我们现在还好吗?”

“是的,是的。以前较圆满一些。不过,我并不是说你给我的比他给我的少。”

“或者说我能够给你的。”

“是的,也许可以这么说。不过你从来没有把你自己给过我。”

保罗生气地皱着眉头。

“如果我一旦开始向你求欢。”他说,“我就像风中的落叶那样身不由己了。”

“因此你就完全不顾我了。”她说。

“因此你觉得这对你来说毫无价值了?”他问道,几乎懊恼万分。

“有点价值,而且有些时候你让我神魂颠倒——飘飘然——我知道——而且——我为此还觉得你很了不起——不过——”

“不要老跟我说‘不过’了。”他说着,很快地吻着她,就像浑身燃了火似的。

她顺着他,一声不吭。

事情确实像他所说的那样。通常他一开始求欢时,那股热情总是热不可挡,什么理智啊,灵魂啊,气质啊,统统被冲走了,就像特伦特的河水携着漩涡和泛起浪花,静悄悄地顺流而下。那些微不足道的缺陷,那些微妙的感觉,渐渐地消失了,连思想也被冲走了,一切都随着那股洪流滚滚东去。他成了一个没有头脑,只是被强烈本能欲望控制的人了。他那双手像动物一样不停地动着。四肢和身体似乎有使不完的精力,各自支配着自己的动作,一点也不受他的理智的支配。同他一样,那生命勃勃的寒星也似乎被赋予了强大的生命力。他和这些星星一样跳动着炽热的脉搏。眼前的羊齿植物也似乎受一种什么力量的鼓舞,枝叶笔挺。他也一样受着一种力量的鼓舞,身躯坚挺。仿佛和那些星星、那丛黑黑的杂草,以及克莱拉都被卷入了腾空而起的巨大火舌,就这么燃烧着她,也燃烧着草丛。一切都同他一起精神勃发地奋进着,一切又似乎同他一起庄严肃穆地静立不动。虽然这一切的一切都汇入了一股生命的洪流中,可每样东西又似乎是静止的,这种奇妙的静止仿佛就是愉悦的最高境界。

克莱拉也知道正是这种感觉把他挂在了她身边,因此她奉献出了所有的激情。然而,却常常让她失望。田野的叫声使他们常常并不能达到那种境界,渐渐地,他们作爱时的机械的努力损伤了其中的欢愉,即使有时出现这种美妙的时刻,也不是双方同时体验到个中妙趣,没有达到两人通身舒泰的满足,他经常任凭激情奔涌,无所顾及地独自冲向高潮,但他们都明白这种作爱是失败的,并非他俩所愿。他每次离开她时,心里明白那天晚上只是在他们之间加深了隔阂。他们之间的欢娱越来越机械化了,毫无那种奇妙的感觉。后来,他们逐渐采取一些新方法以期重新获取一些满足。他们会在附近的河边几乎有些危险的地方,以便让那里黑乎乎的河水就从他脸庞不远处流过,这给人一种小小的刺激。有时他们幽会在不断有人经过的镇外小路旁的篱笆下的洼地里。他们可以听见行人走近的脚步声,几乎感到脚步踩着地面时的震动,还能听到行人的说话声——一些奇怪无聊的不愿被别人听到的小事。事后,两人都觉得羞愧难当。这种事在他们之间造成了一定的距离。保罗开始有点儿看不起克莱拉,仿佛觉得她活该似的!

一天晚上,他离开她,去了田野那边的戴布鲁克车站。那天天已经很黑了,虽说春天早已结束了,但还有些雪天的寒意。莫瑞尔由于时间紧迫,急匆匆地往前走去。他就在一个陡峭的洼地边上突然消失了,黑暗中可以看到那儿的房屋亮着昏黄的灯光。他走过台阶,快步走进田野的洼地。斯怀恩斯赫德农场的果树下,有一扇窗户发出温暖的光。保罗四周望了望,只见后面矗立在洼地边上的那片房屋在天空的衬托下显得黑漆漆的一片,就像一只只猛兽,好奇地瞪着昏黄的眼睛注视着远处。他身后那片似乎很荒凉的城区在朦胧的夜色中闪闪发光。农场水塘边上的杨柳树下,好像有什么动物给惊动了。天色太暗,看不清是什么东西。

当他正要跨上另一级台阶时,突然看见一个黑影子正靠在那儿,对方闪开了。

“晚上好!”他说。

“晚上好!”莫瑞尔应了一声,也没有在意。

“是保罗·莫瑞尔吧?”对方说。

于是,他知道是道伍斯。对方挡住了他的去路。

“终于让我逮着你了。”他一字一句地说。

“我要误了火车了。”保罗说。

他丝毫看不清道伍斯的脸,但可以听到他说话时牙齿咬得格格响。

“现在你可要尝尝我的厉害了。”道伍斯说。

保罗试着往前跨了一步,但对方先跨到了他面前。

“你打算是把大衣脱了打架,”他说,”还是老老实实地躺在那儿挨打?”

保罗简直怀疑他发疯了。

“可是,”他说,“我不会打架。”

“那么好吧,”道伍斯答道。保罗还没摸清头脑呢,可脸上已经挨了一拳,打得他踉踉跄跄直往后退。

夜幕已经完全落下。他扯下大衣和外套,闪过一拳,把大衣朝道伍斯挥去。道伍斯恶狠狠地咒骂着,只穿着衬衣的保罗警戒而狂怒。他觉得自己整个身躯就像一把出鞘的利刃。他不会打架,所以只能随机应变了。逐渐地他能分辨出对方的面孔了,尤其是看清了对方的衬衣前襟。道伍斯踩着了保罗的大衣,被绊了一下,接着他冲了上来。保罗的嘴巴流血了,他拼命去揍对方的嘴巴,他恨得憋足了劲。正当道伍斯冲过来时,他赶紧越过台阶,迅速出手,一拳打在他的嘴巴上,他快意得全身都在发抖。道伍斯啐了一口唾沫,慢慢地逼近。保罗胆怯了,他重新跨上台阶。突然,不知从哪儿飞来一拳,正击中他的耳朵,他无法招架,朝后倒了下去。他听见了道伍斯像头野兽在呼哧呼哧喘声,接着膝部又挨了一脚,痛得他天旋地转地爬起来,也不管对方是不是正摆好架式等着他,一下子猛扑了过去,他只感觉到对方在乱踢乱打,可打在身上并不很痛。他像只野猫,紧紧地缠着这个身材比自己高大的人,最后,道伍斯摔倒了,这一下他可心慌意乱了,保罗也跟他一起倒下了,他完全出于本能地伸出双手去扼对方的脖子,道伍斯又气又痛,还没来得及挣扎,保罗的手已经抓住了他的领带,指关节扼住了他的喉部。保罗完全是出于一种本能,完全没有理智,也没有感觉,他那本来就很灵活很结实的身体正死死地压住对方正在不停地挣扎着的身子。他几乎没有一点意识了,完全是由身体的本能去杀死对方。他对此既无感觉也无理智。他紧紧地压住对方的身体,自己一面挪动着想达到扼死对手的目的,一方。面恰到好处地击退了对方的挣扎。他一声不响,全神贯注一点也没松劲,渐渐地他的指关节越扼越深。他感到对方的挣扎也越来越厉害,他的身子越来越收紧,像拧螺丝似的,渐渐的越来越用劲,似乎非要拧碎才会罢休。

突然,他一下子松开了手,满心凉愕和恐惧。道伍斯此时已经屈服了。保罗意识到自己干了些什么,顿时感到身子涌过一阵疼痛。他手足无措,稀里糊涂,冷不防,道伍斯突然使劲动了一下,又开始挣扎起来了。保罗的两手本来正紧紧抓着对方的领带,此刻被对方一把扭开,于是保罗被狼狈地甩在一边。他能听见对方那可怕的喘息声,可他完全瘫在那儿了,迷迷糊糊地躺着,他感到自己又受到了对方的几下殴打,最后失去了知觉。

道伍斯像一只野兽似的疼得直哼哼着,踢着趴在地上的对手。突然,不远处传来了凄厉的火车汽笛声。他吃惊地回过头去,疑惑地张望着。是什么来了吗?他看见火车的灯光从眼前闪过,觉得好像有人在走近。于是他急匆匆地穿过田野向诺丁汉姆方向逃去。他边跑边模模糊糊地感觉到脚上某个地方,刚才隔着靴子曾踢中那小子的某根骨头。这一脚踢出的那可怕的声音似乎还在他脑畔回响,为了逃避这可怕的回响,他匆匆地逃离开了这个地方。

保罗逐渐苏醒过来了。他明白自己在哪儿,也明白发生了什么事,但他就是不想动弹。他一动不动地躺在那儿,小小的雪花飘落在他脸上搔得痒痒的。就这么一动不动地躺着该有多舒服啊。时间一分一秒过去了。雪花不断地唤醒了本不想醒来的他。他终于想爬起来了。

“我可不能就这样躺在这儿,”他说,“这是愚蠢的。”

但他还是一动不动地躺着。

“我说过我要爬起来,”他重复了一遍,“为什么还不动弹?”

不过还是过了好半天,他才强打起精神来动了一下,然后慢慢爬了起来。由于疼痛,他觉得头晕眼花,心里恶心得直想呕吐,不过头脑还很清醒。黑暗中,他蹒跚地找到了自己的衣服,然后穿上,把钮扣一直扣到了耳朵根上。然后又摸了半天,才找到帽子。他不知道脸上是否还在流血,就这样,他盲目地走着。每走一步都痛得让他想呕吐。他来到水池边洗了洗手和脸。冰冷的水刺激着皮肤,不过有助于他恢复神志。他爬过小山去搭乘电车。他要回到母亲身边——他必须回到母亲身边——这是他此时此刻唯一的本能的意志。他尽量掩住脸,痛苦不堪地挣扎着向前走去。他走着走着,地面仿佛在不断地倾斜。他觉得自己像飘在虚无缥缈中,直想呕吐。就这样,他终于走回了家,这一路就好像是一场恶梦。

家里人全都睡了。他照了照镜子,只见脸色苍白,布满血痕,像一张死人的脸。他洗了把脸,就上床睡了,这一夜是在半梦半醒中度过的。早晨,他醒来时,发现母亲正望着自己。她那双蓝眼睛——正是他想看到的。她就在这儿,他又有她照看了。

“不太厉害,妈妈,”他说,“这是巴克斯特·道伍斯打的。”

”告诉我伤着哪儿了。”她平静地说。

“我不知道———可能是肩膀伤了。妈妈,就说是骑自行车摔的。”

他的胳膊无法动弹。一会儿,小侍女米妮端着茶上了楼。

“你妈妈差点儿把我的魂儿都吓掉了——她刚晕过去了。”她说。

他听后感到十分难过。母亲在照料着他。他把事情的经过告诉了她。

“好了,现在一切都交给我来办吧。”她平静地说。

“好的,妈妈。”

她把被子给他盖好。

“别再想这些事了,”她说——“赶紧睡吧,医生要到十一点才来。”

他的一边肩膀脱臼了。第二天,他又犯了急性支气管炎。母亲的脸色像死人似的苍白,人也显得消瘦。她总是坐在那儿,瞅一会儿他,再望一会天空。母子间对有些事讳莫如深,谁也不敢先提起。克莱拉来看望他。后来他对母亲说:

“她让我厌烦,妈妈。”

“是啊!我希望她别来。”莫瑞尔太太答道。

又过了一天,米丽亚姆来了,可对他来说,她几乎像个陌生人。

“你知道,妈妈,我根本不把她们当作一回事。”他说。

“孩子,我担心你不是这样。”她忧伤地说。

消息散开了,人人都知道保罗骑自行车出了事。虽然没多久,他又能去上班了,不过他常常感到恶心和烦恼。他到克莱拉那儿,但仿佛什么也没看见似的。对她视而不见。他无法工作。他和母亲似乎尽量躲避着对方,因为母子间有一种谁也不能容忍的秘密。他没意识这点,只觉得自己的生活好像失去了平衡,仿佛就要彻底垮了。克莱拉不知道他是怎么回事。她觉察到他似乎对她毫不注意,仿佛她不存在似的,即使他去找她,他好象也对她视而不见,一副心不在焉的神态。她感觉到自己似乎在拼命地抓紧他,然而他却身在别处。这折磨得她好苦,所以她也开始折磨他,有一段时间,她曾一个月不和他亲近。保罗非常恨她,可却又身不由己地想去找她。他所有时间都和男人们在一起,一起去乔治酒家或白马酒家。他母亲病了,神情冷漠忧郁,沉默寡言。他担心会发生什么事,不敢看她。她的双眼似乎更阴暗了,脸色越来越苍白,可她仍然苦撑着操持家务。

降灵节时,他说他要和朋友牛顿一起到黑潭市玩四天。牛顿身材高大,整天乐呵呵,爱吵吵闹闹。保罗劝说母亲应该去雪菲尔德的安妮那儿住上一个星期。换个环境说不定会对她有点好处。莫瑞尔太太找诺丁汉姆的一个妇科大夫就诊,医生说她心脏不好,消化不良。虽然她心里不太愿意去雪菲尔德,但她还是同意了,现在不论儿子让他干什么,她都会百依百顺。保罗说他第五天时去看她,在雪菲尔德,直要住到节日结束。大家都同意了。

两个年轻人兴冲冲地动身去了黑潭市。保罗吻别莫瑞尔太太时,她相当精神。到了火车站,他立刻把一切都忘了。四天过得很清净——无忧无虑。两个年轻人在一起过得相当快乐。保罗像换了个人似的,那岁月的痕迹已从他身上消失殆尽——克莱拉也好,米丽亚姆也好,还是母亲也好,都不再让他心烦了。他给她们三人都写了信,而且给母亲写了几封很长的信,信写得生动有趣,母亲看了不禁大笑。年轻人一般都会在黑潭市过得很愉快,他也一样,过得非常痛快。不过,他心头总是萦绕着母亲的阴影。

想到要去雪菲尔德和母亲一起住一阵子,保罗感到激动而快乐。牛顿打算陪他们母子俩一起过一天。他们乘的火车晚点了。两个年轻人叼着烟斗嘻嘻哈哈地笑闹着,挥舞着提包上了电车。保罗给母亲买了一条真正的花边领子。他想看看她带上这个领子的模样,这样他就可以逗逗她了。

安妮住在一幢漂亮的房子里,还雇了一个小侍女,保罗兴冲冲地跨上台阶,他原以为母亲会在门厅里笑盈盈地等着他,哪知却是安妮来开的门。她似乎对他有些冷淡。他沮丧地站在门口。安妮让他吻了一下她的脸。

“是的,她不大舒服。别打扰她。”

“她在床上吗?”

“是的。”

此时,他心里涌起了一种奇怪的感觉,仿佛阳光一下子全消失了,只留下一片阴影。他扔下包,跑上楼,迟疑了一下。他推开了门。母亲正坐在床上,身上穿着一件玫瑰色的旧晨衣,她看着他,仿佛有点自惭形秽,脸上带着谦卑的乞求的神情。保罗看见母亲脸灰白如死。

“妈妈!”他叫道。

“我以为你永远不来了呢。”她高兴地回答他。

他只是跪在床边,把脸埋在床单上,一边哭着一边说:

“妈妈——妈妈——妈妈!”

她伸出她那枯瘦的手慢慢地抚摸着他的头发。

“别哭,”她说,“别哭——没事儿。”

但他却感到自己的血都溶成了泪水,他痛苦而恐惧地哭着。

“别——别再哭了。”他母亲有些颤抖地说。

她慢慢地抚摸着他的头,他似乎没了知觉,只是哭着。泪水刺痛了他身上的每根神经纤维。突然间,他停止了哭泣,但仍然不敢从床单上抬起脸来。

“你来晚了。去哪儿了?”母亲问。

“火车晚点了。”他把脸依然埋在床单里。

“哦,那个讨厌的中央车站!牛顿来了吗?”

“来了。”

“我想你一定饿了。他们正等着你吃晚饭呢。”

他猛地抬起头来看着她。

“是什么病,妈妈?”他狠下心来问。

她有意移开了目光说:

“没什么,孩子,只不过是一块小小的肿瘤罢了。别担心,它在这儿——这肿块有——好长时间了。”

泪水又涌了上来。他的头脑很清楚,也很冷静,可是他的身体却在不停地哭。

“在哪儿?”他问。

她把手放在肋部。

“在这儿。不过,你知道,他们可以除去肿瘤。”

他站在那里,像个孩子似的茫然无助。他想,病情也许真正的像母亲说的那样。是的,他安慰自己,病情的确不严重。可是他全身心都完全明白这是怎么一回事。他坐在床边上,握住了她的手。上面戴着那只唯一的戒指——她的结婚戒指。

“你什么时候感觉不舒服的?”他问。

“昨天开始的。”她听话地答道。

“疼吗?”

“疼,可在家时时常疼得比这还厉害。我觉得安塞尔大夫有些大惊小怪。”

“你不应该自己一个人出门。”他说道。不过与其说这话是对她说的,倒不如说是对他自己说的。

“好像出门和生病有什么联系似的!”她急忙回答了一声。

他们沉默了片刻。

“你快去吃饭吧,”她说,“你一定饿了。”

“你吃了吗?”

“吃了,我吃了一条鲜美的蝶,安妮对我很好。”

他们又聊了一会儿,然后他下楼去了,脸色苍白,神情紧张。牛顿坐在那儿,充满同情和愁苦。

饭后,他去洗碗间帮安妮洗涮。小侍女出去干活了。

“真是肿瘤吗?”他问。

安妮又开始哭了起来。

“她昨天疼得那样——我从没见过谁受过这样的罪!”她哭着说,“伦纳德发疯似的跑去请安塞尔大夫。她躺在床上时对我说:‘安妮,来看看我肋部的这个肿块,我不知道这是怎样回事?’我一看,觉得自己都要晕过去了。保罗,千真万确,那是个有我两个拳头大的肿块。我说:‘老天哪,妈妈,这是什么时候长出来的?’她说:‘哦,孩子,已经长出来好久了。’我觉得我真该死,保罗,我真的该死。原来在家里时她已经痛了好几个月了,却没有人照料过她。”

泪水涌上了他的眼睛,可突然又干涸了。

“她常去诺丁汉姆的医生那儿看病——却从来没告诉过我。”保罗说道。

“要是我在家,”安妮说,“我会早就发现的。”

他觉得自己好像是行走在虚无缥缈中。下午,他去找了那个医生,一个精明可爱的人。

“她得的到底是什么病呢?”他问。

医生看了看这个年轻人,把两手叉在一起。

“可能是肋膜里长着一个大肿瘤,”他慢慢地说,“这个我们可能有办法治好。”

“你们不能做手术吗?”保罗问。

“那个部位不能做手术。”医生答道。

“你肯定吗?”

“当然。”

保罗沉思了片刻。

“你肯定那是肿瘤吗?”他问,“为什么诺丁汉姆的詹姆逊医生从来没有发现它呢?她在他那儿已经就诊几个星期了。他诊断她是心脏不好,消化不良。”

“莫瑞尔太太从来没有向詹姆逊医生提起过这个肿块。”大夫说。

“你确知那是一个肿瘤吗?”

“不,我不敢肯定。”

“那还可能是什么呢?你问了我姐姐,家里是否有人得过癌症。会是癌吗?”

“我不知道。”

“你打算怎么办呢?”

“我要跟詹姆逊医生会诊一下。”

“好吧。”

“你必须安排一下。他从诺丁汉姆来这儿的出诊费至少得十个基尼。”

“你希望他什么时候来?”

“今天晚上我会看你们,那时我们再商量吧。”

保罗咬着嘴唇走了。

医生冲他笑了笑。

“哦——去雪菲尔德!”他说着,指尖合拢在一起,笑眯眯说,“八个基尼,怎么样?”

“谢谢你!”保罗红着脸,站起身说,“你明天来吗?”

“明天——星期天?是的。你能告诉我下午火车的发车时间吗?”

“四点十五分中央车站有一趟车。”

“到你们家怎么走?要我走着去吗?”医生微笑着问。

“有电车,”保罗说,“去西园的。”

医生在本子上记了下来。

“谢谢你!”医生说着跟保罗握握手。

接着,保罗回家去看了看父亲,现在米妮照顾着他。沃尔特·莫瑞尔现在头发已经白了很多。到家时,保罗看见他正在园子里挖土。他已经给父亲写了一封信。父子俩握了握手。

“嗨,孩子!你回来了?”父亲说。

“是的,”儿子回答,“不过今天晚上我就得回去。”

“是吗,天哪!”莫瑞尔叫道,“你吃过饭没有?”

“没有呢。”

“你总是这样,”莫瑞尔说,“快来吧。”

父亲有些害怕儿子提及妻子。父子两人进了屋,保罗一声不吭地吃着饭。父亲双手全是泥巴,袖子卷着,坐在他对面的一张扶手椅子里,望着他。

“喂,她咋样了?”终于,莫瑞尔小声问道。

“可以坐起来,也能被抱着下楼喝茶了。”保罗说。

“真是上帝保佑啊!”莫瑞尔叫道,“我希望我们不久就能接她回来。诺丁汉姆的那个医生说了些什么?”

“他明天要去给她做检查。”

“啊呀,他真的要去吗!“那恐怕得用一大笔钱吧!”

“八个基尼!”

“八个基尼!”莫瑞尔几乎喘不过气来,“哦,咱们得想法弄钱去。”

“我能付得起。”保罗说。

父子俩沉默了片刻。

“她希望你能跟米妮和睦相处。”保罗说。

“好的。我很好。我也希望她跟以前一样健康。”莫瑞尔答道。“只是米妮太滑头。”他神情忧郁地坐在那里。

“我三点半就得走了。”保罗说。

“辛苦了,孩子!八个基尼!你看她啥时候能好?”

“得看明天医生怎么说了。”保罗说。

莫瑞尔深深地叹了口气,屋子里显得异常的空寂。保罗感到他父亲苍老孤独,一副茫茫然有所失的样子。

“下个星期你得去看看她,爸爸。”他说。

“我倒希望下个星期她已经回到家里了。”莫瑞尔说。

“如果她没回来,”保罗说:“那你就一定得去。”

“我不知道上哪儿去弄钱。”莫瑞尔说。

“我会写信告诉你医生说了些什么。”保罗说。

“可你的信文绉绉的,我看不懂。”莫瑞尔说。

“好吧,我写得简单些就是。”

要求莫瑞尔写回信可没什么用,因为他除了自己的姓名外几乎什么都不会写。

医生来了。伦纳德认为有责任叫辆马车去接他。检查没用多久。安妮、亚瑟、保罗和伦纳德在客厅里焦急地等待着。两个医

医生冲他笑了笑。

“哦——去雪菲尔德!”他说着,指尖合拢在一起,笑眯眯说,“八个基尼,怎么样?”

“谢谢你!”保罗红着脸,站起身说,“你明天来吗?”

“明天——星期天?是的。你能告诉我下午火车的发车时间吗?”

“四点十五分中央车站有一趟车。”

“到你们家怎么走?要我走着去吗?”医生微笑着问。

“有电车,”保罗说,“去西园的。”

医生在本子上记了下来。

“谢谢你!”医生说着眼保罗握握手。

接着,保罗回家去看了看父亲,现在米妮照顾着他、沃尔特·莫瑞尔现在头发已经白了很多。到家时,保罗看见他正在园子里挖土。他已经给父亲写了一封信。父子俩握了握手。

“嗨,孩子!你回来了?”父亲说。

“是的,”儿子回答,“不过今天晚上我就得回去。”

“是吗,天哪!”莫瑞尔叫道,“你吃过饭没有?”

“没有呢。”

“你总是这样,”莫瑞尔说,“快来吧。”

父亲有些害怕儿子提及妻子。父子两人进了屋,保罗一声不吭地吃着饭。父亲双手全是泥巴,袖子卷着,坐在他对面的一张扶手椅子里,望着他。

“喂,她咋样了?”终于,莫瑞尔小声问道。

“可以坐起来,也能被抱着下楼喝茶了。”保罗说。

“真是上帝保佑啊!”莫瑞尔叫道,“我希望我们不久就能接她回来。诺丁汉姆的那个医生说了些什么?”

“他明天要去给她做检查。”

“啊呀,他真的要去吗!那恐怕得用一大笔钱吧!”

“八个基尼!”

“八个基尼!”莫瑞尔几乎喘不过气来,“哦,咱们得想法弄钱去。”

“我能付得起。”保罗说。

父子俩沉默了片刻。

“她希望你能跟米妮和睦相处。”保罗说。

“好的。我很好。我也希望她跟以前一样健康。”莫瑞尔答道。“只是米妮太滑头。”他神情忧郁地坐在那里。

“我三点半就得走了。”保罗说。

“辛苦了,孩子!八个基尼!你看她啥时候能好?”

“得看明天医生怎么说了。”保罗说。

莫瑞尔深深地叹了口气,屋子里显得异常的空寂。保罗感到他父亲苍老孤独,一副茫茫然有所失的样子。

“下个星期你得去看看她,爸爸。”他说。

“我倒希望下个星期她已经回到家里了。”莫瑞尔说。

“如果她没回来,”保罗说:“那你就一定得去。”

“我不知道上哪儿去弄钱。”莫瑞尔说。

“我会写信告诉你医生说了些什么。”保罗说。

“可你的信文绉绉的,我看不懂。”莫瑞尔说。

“好吧,我写得简单些就是。”

要求莫瑞尔写回信可没什么用,因为他除了自己的姓名外几乎什么都不会写。

医生来了。伦纳德认为有责任叫辆马车去接他。检查没用多久。安妮、亚瑟、保罗和伦纳德在客厅里焦急地等待着。两个医生下楼了,保罗看了他们一眼,他从来就没报过什么希望,除非他自欺欺人。

“可能是肿瘤,我们必须再观察一下。”詹姆逊医生说。

“如果是肿瘤的话,”安妮问,“你们能把它除掉吗?”

“也许可以。”医生说。

保罗把八个基尼放在桌子上,医生数了数,然后从钱包里掏出了一枚弗洛林放在桌上。

“谢谢你!”他说,“莫瑞尔太太病得这么厉害我很遗憾,但我们必须观察一段时间再做决定。”

“不能做手术吗?”保罗说。

医生摇了摇头。

“不行,”他说,“即使能做,她的心脏也受不了。”

“她的心脏有危险吗?“保罗问。

“是的,你们必须对她多加注意。”

“很危险吗?”

“不——哦——不,不!只是要当心。”

医生走了。

保罗抱着母亲下了楼。她像个孩子直直地躺在那儿,当他下楼梯时,她用双臂紧紧搂住他的脖子。

“我真害怕这讨厌的楼梯。”她说。

这话让他也害怕起来了。下次他要让伦纳德来干。他觉得自己几乎无力去抱她了。

“医生认为只是一个肿瘤。”安妮对母亲大声说,“他能把它取掉。”

“我早知道他能。”莫瑞尔太太揶揄地说。

保罗已经走出屋子时,她装着没有注意。他坐在厨房里抽着烟。后来他想把衣服上的一点白灰掸去。仔细一看,却是母亲的一根灰色的头发,竟有这么长!他把它拿起来,发丝就朝烟囱飘起。他一松手,长长的灰发就飘飘悠悠地进了黑乎乎的烟囱。

第二天,在回去上班前,他来向母亲吻别。这时天色还早,房间里只有他们俩。

“你用不着担心,孩子!”她说。

“没有,妈妈。”

“别担心,不然就太傻了,你要自己多保重。”

“知道了。”他答道,过了一会又说:“我下个星期六会再来的,要不要我把爸爸也带来?”

“我想他还是愿意来的。”她回答道,“不管怎么样,只要他愿意来,你就让他来吧。”

他又吻了吻她,温柔地把她两鬓的发丝向后捋去,仿佛是他的情人。

“你要迟到了吧?“她喃喃地说。

“我马上就走。”他轻轻回答道。

他又坐了几分钟,把斑白的头发从她的鬓角捋开。

“你的病不会再恶化吧,妈妈?”

“不会的,孩子。”

“真的吗?”

“真的,我保证,病情不会更厉害。”

他吻了吻她,拥抱了她一会儿才走了。在这阳光明媚的早晨,他一路哭着向火车站跑去。他也不知道自己为什么要哭,他能想像得出她想他时那双蓝眼睛一定睁得又大又圆。

下午,保罗和克莱拉一起去散步。他们坐在一片片开满蓝铃花的小树林里。他握着她的手。

“你看着吧;”他对克莱拉说,“她不会康复了。”

“欧,你怎么知道!”克莱拉回答道。

“我知道。”他说。

她情不自禁地把他搂进怀里。

“想法忘了这件事吧,亲爱的,”她说,“努力忘掉它。”

“我会忘掉的。”他回答道。

她那温暖的胸脯就在跟前等待着他,她抚摸着他的头发,让他觉得舒服,他不由得伸出胳膊搂住她。但他还是忘不了母亲的事。他只是嘴上跟克莱拉随便聊着什么。情况总是这样。她一感到他的痛苦又涌上他的心头,忍不住大声冲他喊道:

“别想了,保罗!别想了,亲爱的!”

她把他紧紧贴在胸前,当他是孩子似的又哄又摇安慰着他。于是为了她,他暂且把烦恼抛到了一边,但等到只剩下他孤身一人时,烦恼又重新回来了。干活时,他一直在无意识地哭泣,尽管他的头脑和双手都在不停地忙着,他自己也不知道为什么要哭。这是他的血在哭泣。不管是跟克莱拉在一起还是跟白马酒家的那一伙男人在一起,他依然是那么孤独,只有他自己和心头的重负存在着。有时他也看会儿书。他不得不让脑子也忙碌起来。而且克莱拉也多少能占据他的一部分心思。

星期六那天,沃尔特·莫瑞尔到雪菲尔德来了。他形只影单,就像一个无家可归的人。保罗奔上楼梯。

“爸爸来了。”他说着,吻了吻母亲。

“他来了?”她有些疲倦地说。

老矿工怯怯地走进了卧室。

“你现在感觉怎么样?亲爱的?”说着,他走上前去,胆怯地吻了她一下。

“哦,还可以。”她回答道。

“我看得出。”他说道。他站在床边低头看着她,然后用手帕擦起了眼泪。他就这么看着她,无依无靠的,像是个无家可归的流浪汉。

“你过得挺好吧?”他妻子有气无力地问,好像跟他说话要费很大的劲似的。

“是的。”他答道,“不过你也知道,安妮做事总是磨磨蹭蹭的。”

“她能按时地把饭菜给你做好吧?”莫瑞尔太太问。

“唉,有时候我还得对她大吼几句才行。”他说。

“是的,要是她没有做好,你是得吆喝几句才行。否则她总是把事情拖到最后关头才去做。”

她吩咐他几句,他坐在那儿看着她,仿佛她是一个陌生人。在这个“陌生人”的面前,他又尴尬又自卑,而且手足无措,只想逃走。他想逃走,迫不及待地想逃离这种令人难堪的局面。可他又不得不留下,为的是给别人一个好点的印象。这种复杂的心情使他目前的境遇更加尴尬。他愁眉苦脸的,拳头紧捏着放在膝头上。他觉得眼前的这一幕实在太尴尬了。

莫瑞尔太太在雪菲尔德住了两个月,她的病情没有多大变化。如果要说有什么变化的话,那就是到最后,病情更加恶化了。她想回家,因为安妮也要照料自己的孩子。她病情太严重——坐不了火车,因此他们从诺丁汉弄来了一辆汽车。在明媚的阳光下,她们坐着车回家。这时,正是八月,秋高气爽,风和日丽。在蔚蓝的天空下,他们都看得出她已经不行了,然而她却显得比过去几个星期都兴奋。一路上大家又说又笑。

“安妮,”她叫道,“我看到有条国脚蛇从那块岩石上窜了过去。”

她的眼睛还是那么敏锐,她还是那么充满活力。

莫瑞尔知道她要回来,打开了大门正等着。大家都殷切地等待着她,几乎半条街的人都出动了。他们听见了汽车声,莫瑞尔太太面带笑容,回到了故里。

“看,他们都出来看我了!”她说,“不过,我想换了我也会这样的。你好吗,马修斯太太?你好吗,哈里逊太太?”

她们谁也没听见她说的话,不过她们看见她在微笑和点头。大家都说他们也看到了她脸上的死气。这可以算是这条街上的一件大事了。

莫瑞尔想要把她抱进屋里,可是他太老了,亚瑟象抱孩子一般毫不费力地抱起了她。他们把她放在炉边一张低陷的大椅子里,那里原来放着她的摇椅。她让他们拿掉裹在身上的东西,坐下来喝了一杯白兰地,然后环顾着房间。

“安妮,别以为我不喜欢你家。”她说:,“不过,还是回到自己的家里好。”

莫瑞尔沙哑着嗓子附和说:

“说得对,亲爱的,是这样的。”

那个挺有意思的小侍女米妮说:

“你回来了我们真高兴。”

她隔窗望去,只见园子里开满了可爱的金黄色的向日葵。

“那是我的向日葵啊!”她说。



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