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.
`I wish this boiler was at the bottom of the sea!' she exclaimed, wriggling the handle impatiently. She had very handsome, strong arms, rather surprising on a smallish woman.
Paul cleared away, put on the kettle, and set the table.
`There isn't a train till four-twenty,' he said. `You've time enough.'
`Oh no I haven't!' she cried, blinking at him over the towel as she wiped her face.
`Yes you have. You must drink a cup of tea at any rate. Should I come with you to Keston?'
`Come with me? What for, I should like to know? Now, what have I to take him? Eh, dear! His clean shirt--and it's a blessing it is clean. But it had better be aired. And stockings--he won't want them--and a towel, I suppose; and handkerchiefs. Now what else?'
`A comb, a knife and fork and spoon,' said Paul. His father had been in the hospital before.
`Goodness knows what sort of state his feet were in,' continued Mrs Morel, as she combed her long brown hair, that was fine as silk, and was touched now with grey. `He's very particular to wash himself to the waist, but below he thinks doesn't matter. But there, I suppose they see plenty like it.'
Paul had laid the table. He cut his mother one or two pieces of very thin bread-and-butter.
`Here you are,' he said, putting her cup of tea in her place.
`I can't be bothered!' she exclaimed crossly.
`Well, you've got to, so there, now it's put out ready,' he insisted.
So she sat down and sipped her tea, and ate a little, in silence. She was thinking.
In a few minutes she was gone, to walk the two and a half miles to Keston Station. All the things she was taking him she had in her bulging string bag. Paul watched her go up the road between the hedges-- a little, quick-stepping figure, and his heart ached for her, that she was thrust forward again into pain and trouble. And she, tripping so quickly in her anxiety, felt at the back of her her son's heart waiting on her, felt him bearing what part of the burden he could, even supporting her. And when she was at the hospital, she thought: `It will upset that lad when I tell him how bad it is. I'd better be careful.' And when she was trudging home again, she felt he was coming to share her burden.
`Is it bad?' asked Paul, as soon as she entered the house.
`It's bad enough,' she replied.
She sighed and sat down, undoing her bonnet-strings. Her son watched her face as it was lifted, and her small, work-hardened hands fingering at the bow under her chin.
`Well,' she answered, `it's not really dangerous, but the nurse says it's a dreadful smash. You see, a great piece of rock fell on his leg--here--and it's a compound fracture. There are pieces of bone sticking through-- '
`Ugh--how horrid!' exclaimed the children.
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