Mrs. Morel sat down in her rocking-chair.
“Well, now,” she cried, “let him stop!”
“Yes,” said Paul, “let him stop.”
There was silence. The mother sat with her hands folded in her apron, her face set, thinking.
“If I’m not sick!” she cried suddenly. “Sick!”
“Now,” said Paul, beginning to frown, “you’re not going to worry your soul out about this, do you hear.”
“I suppose I’m to take it as a blessing,” she flashed, turning on her son.
“You’re not going to mount it up to a tragedy, so there,” he retorted.
“The fool!—the young fool!” she cried.
“He’ll look well in uniform,” said Paul irritatingly.
His mother turned on him like a fury.
“Oh, will he!” she cried. “Not in my eyes!”
“He should get in a cavalry regiment; he’ll have the time of his life, and will look an awful swell.”
“Swell!—Swell!—a mighty swell idea indeed!—a common soldier!”
“Well,” said Paul, “what am I but a common clerk?”
“A good deal, my boy!” cried his mother, stung.
“At any rate, a man, and not a thing in a red coat.”
“I shouldn’t mind being in a red coat—or dark blue, that would suit me better—if they didn’t boss me about too much.”
But his mother had ceased to listen.
“Just as he was getting on, or might have been getting on, at his job—a young nuisance—here he goes and ruins himself for life. What good will he be, do you think, after this?”
“It may lick him into shape beautifully,” said Paul.
“Lick him into shape!—lick what marrow there was out of his bones. A soldier!—a common soldier!—nothing but a body that makes movements when it hears a shout! It’s a fine thing!”
“I can’t understand why it upsets you,” said Paul.
“No, perhaps you can’t. But I understand”; and she sat back in her chair, her chin in one hand, holding her elbow with the other, brimmed up with wrath and chagrin.
“And shall you go to Derby?” asked Paul.
“It’s no good.”
“I’ll see for myself.”
“And why on earth don’t you let him stop. It’s just what he wants.”
“Of course,” cried the mother, “You know what he wants!”
She got ready and went by the first train to Derby, where she saw her son and the sergeant. It was, however, no good.
When Morel was having his dinner in the evening, she said suddenly:
“I’ve had to go to Derby to-day.”
The miner turned up his eyes, showing the whites in his black face.
“Has ter, lass. What took thee there?”
“Oh—an’ what’s agate now?”
“He’s only enlisted.”
Morel put down his knife and leaned back in his chair.