About a year after William went to London, and just after Paul had left school, before he got work, Mrs. Morel was upstairs and her son was painting in the kitchen—he was very clever with his brush—when there came a knock at the door. Crossly he put down his brush to go. At the same moment his mother opened a window upstairs and looked down.
A pit-lad in his dirt stood on the threshold.
“Is this Walter Morel’s?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Morel. “What is it?”
But she had guessed already.
“Your mester’s got hurt,” he said.
“Eh, dear me!” she exclaimed. “It’s a wonder if he hadn’t, lad. And what’s he done this time?”
“I don’t know for sure, but it’s ‘is leg somewhere. They ta’ein’ ’im ter th’ ’ospital.”
“Good gracious me!” she exclaimed. “Eh, dear, what a one he is! There’s not five minutes of peace, I’ll be hanged if there is! His thumb’s nearly better, and now—Did you see him?”
“I seed him at th’ bottom. An’ I seed ’em bring ‘im up in a tub, an’ ’e wor in a dead faint. But he shouted like anythink when Doctor Fraser examined him i’ th’ lamp cabin—an’ cossed an’ swore, an’ said as ’e wor goin’ to be ta’en whoam—’e worn’t goin’ ter th’ ’ospital.”
The boy faltered to an end.
“He would want to come home, so that I can have all the bother. Thank you, my lad. Eh, dear, if I’m not sick—sick and surfeited, I am!”
She came downstairs. Paul had mechanically resumed his painting.
“And it must be pretty bad if they’ve taken him to the hospital,” she went on. “But what a careless creature he is! Other men don’t have all these accidents. Yes, he would want to put all the burden on me. Eh, dear, just as we were getting easy a bit at last. Put those things away, there’s no time to be painting now. What time is there a train? I know I s’ll have to go trailing to Keston. I s’ll have to leave that bedroom.”
“I can finish it,” said Paul.
“You needn’t. I shall catch the seven o’clock back, I should think. Oh, my blessed heart, the fuss and commotion he’ll make! And those granite setts at Tinder Hill—he might well call them kidney pebbles—they’ll jolt him almost to bits. I wonder why they can’t mend them, the state they’re in, an’ all the men as go across in that ambulance. You’d think they’d have a hospital here. The men bought the ground, and, my sirs, there’d be accidents enough to keep it going. But no, they must trail them ten miles in a slow ambulance to Nottingham. It’s a crying shame! Oh, and the fuss he’ll make! I know he will! I wonder who’s with him. Barker, I s’d think. Poor beggar, he’ll wish himself anywhere rather. But he’ll look after him, I know. Now there’s no telling how long he’ll be stuck in that hospital—and won’t he hate it! But if it’s only his leg it’s not so bad.”
All the time she was getting ready. Hurriedly taking off her bodice, she crouched at the boiler while the water ran slowly into her lading-can.