And Paul hated her because, somehow, she spoilt his ease and naturalness. And he writhed himself with a feeling of humiliation.
STRIFE IN LOVE
Arthur finished his apprenticeship, and got a job on the electrical plant at Minton Pit. He earned very little, but had a good chance of getting on. But he was wild and restless. He did not drink nor gamble. Yet he somehow contrived to get into endless scrapes, always through some hot-headed thoughtlessness. Either he went rabbiting in the woods, like a poacher, or he stayed in Nottingham all night instead of coming home, or he miscalculated his dive into the canal at Bestwood, and scored his chest into one mass of wounds on the raw stones and tins at the bottom.
He had not been at his work many months when again he did not come home one night.
“Do you know where Arthur is?” asked Paul at breakfast.
“I do not,” replied his mother.
“He is a fool,” said Paul. “And if he did anything I shouldn’t mind. But no, he simply can’t come away from a game of whist, or else he must see a girl home from the skating-rink—quite proprietously—and so can’t get home. He’s a fool.”
“I don’t know that it would make it any better if he did something to make us all ashamed,” said Mrs. Morel.
“Well, I should respect him more,” said Paul.
“I very much doubt it,” said his mother coldly.
They went on with breakfast.
“Are you fearfully fond of him?” Paul asked his mother.
“What do you ask that for?”
“Because they say a woman always like the youngest best.”
“She may do—but I don’t. No, he wearies me.”
“And you’d actually rather he was good?”
“I’d rather he showed some of a man’s common sense.”
Paul was raw and irritable. He also wearied his mother very often. She saw the sunshine going out of him, and she resented it.
As they were finishing breakfast came the postman with a letter from Derby. Mrs. Morel screwed up her eyes to look at the address.
“Give it here, blind eye!” exclaimed her son, snatching it away from her.
She started, and almost boxed his ears.
“It’s from your son, Arthur,” he said.
“What now—!” cried Mrs. Morel.
“‘My dearest Mother,’” Paul read, “’I don’t know what made me such a fool. I want you to come and fetch me back from here. I came with Jack Bredon yesterday, instead of going to work, and enlisted. He said he was sick of wearing the seat of a stool out, and, like the idiot you know I am, I came away with him.
“’I have taken the King’s shilling, but perhaps if you came for me they would let me go back with you. I was a fool when I did it. I don’t want to be in the army. My dear mother, I am nothing but a trouble to you. But if you get me out of this, I promise I will have more sense and consideration. . . .’”