After tea, as it drew near to six o’clock, he went to the window. All was dark outside. The sea was roaring.
“It’s raining yet,” he said.
“Is it?” she answered.
“You won’t go to-night, shall you?” he said, hesitating.
She did not answer. He waited.
“I shouldn’t go in this rain,” he said.
“Do you want me to stay?” she asked.
His hand as he held the dark curtain trembled.
“Yes,” he said.
He remained with his back to her. She rose and went slowly to him. He let go the curtain, turned, hesitating, towards her. She stood with her hands behind her back, looking up at him in a heavy, inscrutable fashion.
“Do you want me, Baxter?” she asked.
His voice was hoarse as he answered:
“Do you want to come back to me?”
She made a moaning noise, lifted her arms, and put them round his neck, drawing him to her. He hid his face on her shoulder, holding her clasped.
“Take me back!” she whispered, ecstatic. “Take me back, take me back!” And she put her fingers through his fine, thin dark hair, as if she were only semi-conscious. He tightened his grasp on her.
“Do you want me again?” he murmured, broken.
Clara went with her husband to Sheffield, and Paul scarcely saw her again. Walter Morel seemed to have let all the trouble go over him, and there he was, crawling about on the mud of it, just the same. There was scarcely any bond between father and son, save that each felt he must not let the other go in any actual want. As there was no one to keep on the home, and as they could neither of them bear the emptiness of the house, Paul took lodgings in Nottingham, and Morel went to live with a friendly family in Bestwood.
Everything seemed to have gone smash for the young man. He could not paint. The picture he finished on the day of his mother’s death—one that satisfied him—was the last thing he did. At work there was no Clara. When he came home he could not take up his brushes again. There was nothing left.
So he was always in the town at one place or another, drinking, knocking about with the men he knew. It really wearied him. He talked to barmaids, to almost any woman, but there was that dark, strained look in his eyes, as if he were hunting something.
Everything seemed so different, so unreal. There seemed no reason why people should go along the street, and houses pile up in the daylight. There seemed no reason why these things should occupy the space, instead of leaving it empty. His friends talked to him: he heard the sounds, and he answered. But why there should be the noise of speech he could not understand.