“I went to bed before you did,” he said.
“Yes, my Guyney, you did!” she exclaimed.
“Fancy,” he said, stirring his tea, “having tea brought to bed to me! My mother’ll think I’m ruined for life.”
“Don’t she never do it?” asked Mrs. Radford.
“She’d as leave think of flying.”
“Ah, I always spoilt my lot! That’s why they’ve turned out such bad uns,” said the elderly woman.
“You’d only Clara,” he said. “And Mr. Radford’s in heaven. So I suppose there’s only you left to be the bad un.”
“I’m not bad; I’m only soft,” she said, as she went out of the bedroom. “I’m only a fool, I am!”
Clara was very quiet at breakfast, but she had a sort of air of proprietorship over him that pleased him infinitely. Mrs. Radford was evidently fond of him. He began to talk of his painting.
“What’s the good,” exclaimed the mother, “of your whittling and worrying and twistin’ and too-in’ at that painting of yours? What good does it do you, I should like to know? You’d better be enjoyin’ yourself.”
“Oh, but,” exclaimed Paul, “I made over thirty guineas last year.”
“Did you! Well, that’s a consideration, but it’s nothing to the time you put in.”
“And I’ve got four pounds owing. A man said he’d give me five pounds if I’d paint him and his missis and the dog and the cottage. And I went and put the fowls in instead of the dog, and he was waxy, so I had to knock a quid off. I was sick of it, and I didn’t like the dog. I made a picture of it. What shall I do when he pays me the four pounds?”
“Nay! you know your own uses for your money,” said Mrs. Radford.
“But I’m going to bust this four pounds. Should we go to the seaside for a day or two?”
“You and Clara and me.”
“What, on your money!” she exclaimed, half-wrathful.
“You wouldn’t be long in breaking your neck at a hurdle race!” she said.
“So long as I get a good run for my money! Will you?”
“Nay; you may settle that atween you.”
“And you’re willing?” he asked, amazed and rejoicing.
“You’ll do as you like,” said Mrs. Radford, “whether I’m willing or not.”
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.