“You may thank your stars I’ve come back to-night,” he said, looking up from under his dropped head, sulkily, trying to be impressive.
“Why, where should you have gone? You daren’t even get your parcel through the yard-end,” she said.
He looked such a fool she was not even angry with him. He continued to take his boots off and prepare for bed.
“I don’t know what’s in your blue handkerchief,” she said. “But if you leave it the children shall fetch it in the morning.”
Whereupon he got up and went out of the house, returning presently and crossing the kitchen with averted face, hurrying upstairs. As Mrs. Morel saw him slink quickly through the inner doorway, holding his bundle, she laughed to herself: but her heart was bitter, because she had loved him.
THE CASTING OFF OF MOREL—THE TAKING ON OF WILLIAM
During the next week Morel’s temper was almost unbearable. Like all miners, he was a great lover of medicines, which, strangely enough, he would often pay for himself.
“You mun get me a drop o’ laxy vitral,” he said. “It’s a winder as we canna ha’e a sup i’ th’ ’ouse.”
So Mrs. Morel bought him elixir of vitriol, his favourite first medicine. And he made himself a jug of wormwood tea. He had hanging in the attic great bunches of dried herbs: wormwood, rue, horehound, elder flowers, parsley-purt, marshmallow, hyssop, dandelion, and centaury. Usually there was a jug of one or other decoction standing on the hob, from which he drank largely.
“Grand!” he said, smacking his lips after wormwood. “Grand!” And he exhorted the children to try.
“It’s better than any of your tea or your cocoa stews,” he vowed. But they were not to be tempted.
This time, however, neither pills nor vitriol nor all his herbs would shift the “nasty peens in his head”. He was sickening for an attack of an inflammation of the brain. He had never been well since his sleeping on the ground when he went with Jerry to Nottingham. Since then he had drunk and stormed. Now he fell seriously ill, and Mrs. Morel had him to nurse. He was one of the worst patients imaginable. But, in spite of all, and putting aside the fact that he was breadwinner, she never quite wanted him to die. Still there was one part of her wanted him for herself.
The neighbours were very good to her: occasionally some had the children in to meals, occasionally some would do the downstairs work for her, one would mind the baby for a day. But it was a great drag, nevertheless. It was not every day the neighbours helped. Then she had nursing of baby and husband, cleaning and cooking, everything to do. She was quite worn out, but she did what was wanted of her.
And the money was just sufficient. She had seventeen shillings a week from clubs, and every Friday Barker and the other butty put by a portion of the stall’s profits for Morel’s wife. And the neighbours made broths, and gave eggs, and such invalids’ trifles. If they had not helped her so generously in those times, Mrs. Morel would never have pulled through, without incurring debts that would have dragged her down.