`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?'
`Because I couldn't bear it, so never think of it,' she cried quickly.
And the children went to bed, miserably.
When William was growing up, the family moved from the Bottoms to a house on the brow of the hill, commanding a view of the valley, which spread out like a convex cockle-shell, or a clamp-shell, before it. In front of the house was a huge old ash-tree. The west wind, sweeping from Derby-shire, caught the houses with full force, and the tree shrieked again. Morel liked it.
`It's music,' he said. `It sends me to sleep.'
But Paul and Arthur and Annie hated it. To Paul it became almost a demoniacal noise. The winter of their first year in the new house their father was very bad. The children played in the street, on the brim of the wide, dark valley, until eight o'clock. Then they went to bed. Their mother sat sewing below. Having such a great space in front of the house gave the children a feeling of night, of vastness, and of terror. This terror came in from the shrieking of the tree and the anguish of the home discord. Often Paul would wake up, after he had been asleep a long time, aware of thuds downstairs. Instantly he was wide awake.
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