Paul felt crumpled up and lonely. His mother had really supported his life. He had loved her; they two had, in fact, faced the world together. Now she was gone, and for ever behind him was the gap in life, the tear in the veil, through which his life seemed to drift slowly, as if he were drawn towards death. He wanted someone of their own free initiative to help him. The lesser things he began to let go from him, for fear of this big thing, the lapse towards death, following in the wake of his beloved. Clara could not stand for him to hold on to. She wanted him, but not to understand him. He felt she wanted the man on top, not the real him that was in trouble. That would be too much trouble to her; he dared not give it her. She could not cope with him. It made him ashamed. So, secretly ashamed because he was in such a mess, because his own hold on life was so unsure, because nobody held him, feeling unsubstantial, shadowy, as if he did not count for much in this concrete world, he drew himself together smaller and smaller. He did not want to die; he would not give in. But he was not afraid of death. If nobody would help, he would go on alone.
Dawes had been driven to the extremity of life, until he was afraid. He could go to the brink of death, he could lie on the edge and look in. Then, cowed, afraid, he had to crawl back, and like a beggar take what offered. There was a certain nobility in it. As Clara saw, he owned himself beaten, and he wanted to be taken back whether or not. That she could do for him. It was three o’clock.
“I am going by the four-twenty,” said Paul again to Clara. “Are you coming then or later?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“I’m meeting my father in Nottingham at seven-fifteen,” he said.
“Then,” she answered, “I’ll come later.”
Dawes jerked suddenly, as if he had been held on a strain. He looked out over the sea, but he saw nothing.
“There are one or two books in the corner,” said Morel. “I’ve done with ’em.”
At about four o’clock he went.
“I shall see you both later,” he said, as he shook hands.
“I suppose so,” said Dawes. “An’ perhaps—one day—I s’ll be able to pay you back the money as—”
“I shall come for it, you’ll see,” laughed Paul. “I s’ll be on the rocks before I’m very much older.”
“Ay—well—” said Dawes.
“Good-bye,” he said to Clara.
“Good-bye,” she said, giving him her hand. Then she glanced at him for the last time, dumb and humble.
He was gone. Dawes and his wife sat down again.
“It’s a nasty day for travelling,” said the man.
“Yes,” she answered.
They talked in a desultory fashion until it grew dark. The landlady brought in the tea. Dawes drew up his chair to the table without being invited, like a husband. Then he sat humbly waiting for his cup. She served him as she would, like a wife, not consulting his wish.