“Mother!” he exclaimed.
“Didn’t I say we should do it!” she said, pretending she was not crying.
He took the kettle off the fire and mashed the tea.
“You didn’t think, mother—” he began tentatively.
“No, my son—not so much—but I expected a good deal.”
“But not so much,” he said.
“No—no—but I knew we should do it.”
And then she recovered her composure, apparently at least. He sat with his shirt turned back, showing his young throat almost like a girl’s, and the towel in his hand, his hair sticking up wet.
“Twenty guineas, mother! That’s just what you wanted to buy Arthur out. Now you needn’t borrow any. It’ll just do.”
“Indeed, I shan’t take it all,” she said.
“Because I shan’t.”
“Well—you have twelve pounds, I’ll have nine.”
They cavilled about sharing the twenty guineas. She wanted to take only the five pounds she needed. He would not hear of it. So they got over the stress of emotion by quarrelling.
Morel came home at night from the pit, saying:
“They tell me Paul’s got first prize for his picture, and sold it to Lord Henry Bentley for fifty pound.”
“Oh, what stories people do tell!” she cried.
“Ha!” he answered. “I said I wor sure it wor a lie. But they said tha’d told Fred Hodgkisson.”
“As if I would tell him such stuff!”
“Ha!” assented the miner.
But he was disappointed nevertheless.
“It’s true he has got the first prize,” said Mrs. Morel.
The miner sat heavily in his chair.
“Has he, beguy!” he exclaimed.
He stared across the room fixedly.
“But as for fifty pounds—such nonsense!” She was silent awhile. “Major Moreton bought it for twenty guineas, that’s true.”
“Twenty guineas! Tha niver says!” exclaimed Morel.
“Yes, and it was worth it.”
“Ay!” he said. “I don’t misdoubt it. But twenty guineas for a bit of a paintin’ as he knocked off in an hour or two!”
He was silent with conceit of his son. Mrs. Morel sniffed, as if it were nothing.
“And when does he handle th’ money?” asked the collier.
“That I couldn’t tell you. When the picture is sent home, I suppose.”
There was silence. Morel stared at the sugar-basin instead of eating his dinner. His black arm, with the hand all gnarled with work lay on the table. His wife pretended not to see him rub the back of his hand across his eyes, nor the smear in the coal-dust on his black face.
“Yes, an’ that other lad ’ud ‘a done as much if they hadna ha’ killed ’im,” he said quietly.
The thought of William went through Mrs. Morel like a cold blade. It left her feeling she was tired, and wanted rest.
Paul was invited to dinner at Mr. Jordan’s. Afterwards he said: