“Did you take sixpence out of my purse last night?”
“Me!” he said, looking up in an offended way. “No, I didna! I niver clapped eyes on your purse.”
But she could detect the lie.
“Why, you know you did,” she said quietly.
“I tell you I didna,” he shouted. “Yer at me again, are yer? I’ve had about enough on’t.”
“So you filch sixpence out of my purse while I’m taking the clothes in.”
“I’ll may yer pay for this,” he said, pushing back his chair in desperation. He bustled and got washed, then went determinedly upstairs. Presently he came down dressed, and with a big bundle in a blue-checked, enormous handkerchief.
“And now,” he said, “you’ll see me again when you do.”
“It’ll be before I want to,” she replied; and at that he marched out of the house with his bundle. She sat trembling slightly, but her heart brimming with contempt. What would she do if he went to some other pit, obtained work, and got in with another woman? But she knew him too well—he couldn’t. She was dead sure of him. Nevertheless her heart was gnawed inside her.
“Where’s my dad?” said William, coming in from school.
“He says he’s run away,” replied the mother.
“Eh, I don’t know. He’s taken a bundle in the blue handkerchief, and says he’s not coming back.”
“What shall we do?” cried the boy.
“Eh, never trouble, he won’t go far.”
“But if he doesn’t come back,” wailed Annie.
And she and William retired to the sofa and wept. Mrs. Morel sat and laughed.
“You pair of gabeys!” she exclaimed. “You’ll see him before the night’s out.”
But the children were not to be consoled. Twilight came on. Mrs. Morel grew anxious from very weariness. One part of her said it would be a relief to see the last of him; another part fretted because of keeping the children; and inside her, as yet, she could not quite let him go. At the bottom, she knew very well he could not go.
When she went down to the coal-place at the end of the garden, however, she felt something behind the door. So she looked. And there in the dark lay the big blue bundle. She sat on a piece of coal and laughed. Every time she saw it, so fat and yet so ignominious, slunk into its corner in the dark, with its ends flopping like dejected ears from the knots, she laughed again. She was relieved.
Mrs. Morel sat waiting. He had not any money, she knew, so if he stopped he was running up a bill. She was very tired of him—tired to death. He had not even the courage to carry his bundle beyond the yard-end.
As she meditated, at about nine o’clock, he opened the door and came in, slinking, and yet sulky. She said not a word. He took off his coat, and slunk to his armchair, where he began to take off his boots.
“You’d better fetch your bundle before you take your boots off,” she said quietly.