`"I have take the King's shilling, but perhaps if you came for me they would let me go back with you. I was a fool when I did it. I don't want to be in the army. My dear mother, I am nothing but a trouble to you. But if you get me out of this, I promise I will have more sense and consideration. . . ."'

Mrs Morel sat down in her rocking-chair.

`Well, now,' she cried, `let him stop!'

`Yes,' and Paul, `let him stop.'

There was silence. The mother sat with her hands folded in her apron, her face set, thinking.

`If I'm not sick!' she cried suddenly. `Sick!'

`Now,' said Paul, beginning to frown, `you're not going to worry your soul out about this, do you hear.'

`I suppose I'm to take it as a blessing,' she flashed, turning on her son.

`You're not going to mount it up to a tragedy, so there,' he retorted.

`The fool!--the young fool!' she cried.

`He'll look well in uniform,' said Paul irritatingly.

His mother turned on him like a fury.

`Oh, will he!' she cried. `Not in my eyes!'

`He should get in a cavalry regiment; he'll have the time of his life, and will look an awful swell.'

`Swell!--swell!--a mighty swell indeed!--a common soldier!'

`Well,' said Paul, `what am I but a common clerk?'

`A good deal, my boy!' cried his mother, stung.


`At any rate, a man, and not a thing in a red coat.'

`I shouldn't mind being in a red coat--or dark blue, that would suit me better--if they didn't boss me about too much.'

But his mother had ceased to listen.

`Just as he was getting on, or might have been getting on, at his job--a young nuisance--here he goes and ruins himself for life. What good will he be, do you think, after this?'

`It may lick him into shape beautifully,' said Paul.

`Lick him into shape!--lick what marrow there was out of his bones. A soldier!--a common soldier!-- nothing but a body that makes movements when it hears a shout! It's a fine thing!'

`I can't understand why it upsets you,' said Paul.

`No, perhaps you can't. But I understand;' and she sat back in her chair, her chin in one hand, holding her elbow with the other, brimmed up with wrath and chagrin.

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