“That’s the sacrifice of Missis Arabella,” he said. “An’ I’m glad there’s nothing left of her.”
Which disturbed Annie inwardly, although she could say nothing. He seemed to hate the doll so intensely, because he had broken it.
All the children, but particularly Paul, were peculiarly against their father, along with their mother. Morel continued to bully and to drink. He had periods, months at a time, when he made the whole life of the family a misery. Paul never forgot coming home from the Band of Hope one Monday evening and finding his mother with her eye swollen and discoloured, his father standing on the hearthrug, feet astride, his head down, and William, just home from work, glaring at his father. There was a silence as the young children entered, but none of the elders looked round.
William was white to the lips, and his fists were clenched. He waited until the children were silent, watching with children’s rage and hate; then he said:
“You coward, you daren’t do it when I was in.”
But Morel’s blood was up. He swung round on his son. William was bigger, but Morel was hard-muscled, and mad with fury.
“Dossn’t I?” he shouted. “Dossn’t I? Ha’e much more o’ thy chelp, my young jockey, an’ I’ll rattle my fist about thee. Ay, an’ I sholl that, dost see?”
Morel crouched at the knees and showed his fist in an ugly, almost beast-like fashion. William was white with rage.
“Will yer?” he said, quiet and intense. “It ’ud be the last time, though.”
Morel danced a little nearer, crouching, drawing back his fist to strike. William put his fists ready. A light came into his blue eyes, almost like a laugh. He watched his father. Another word, and the men would have begun to fight. Paul hoped they would. The three children sat pale on the sofa.
“Stop it, both of you,” cried Mrs. Morel in a hard voice. “We’ve had enough for one night. And you,” she said, turning on to her husband, “look at your children!”
Morel glanced at the sofa.
“Look at the children, you nasty little bitch!” he sneered. “Why, what have I done to the children, I should like to know? But they’re like yourself; you’ve put ’em up to your own tricks and nasty ways—you’ve learned ’em in it, you ’ave.”
She refused to answer him. No one spoke. After a while he threw his boots under the table and went to bed.
“Why didn’t you let me have a go at him?” said William, when his father was upstairs. “I could easily have beaten him.”
“A nice thing—your own father,” she replied.
“‘Father!’” repeated William. “Call him my father!”
“Well, he is—and so—”
“But why don’t you let me settle him? I could do, easily.”
“The idea!” she cried. “It hasn’t come to that yet.”
“No,” he said, “it’s come to worse. Look at yourself. Why didn’t you let me give it him?”