And she went to bed, leaving the door unlocked for him; but she lay listening until he came, often long after. It was a great bitterness to her that he had gone back to Miriam. She recognized, however, the uselessness of any further interference. He went to Willey Farm as a man now, not as a youth. She had no right over him. There was a coldness between him and her. He hardly told her anything. Discarded, she waited on him, cooked for him still, and loved to slave for him; but her face closed again like a mask. There was nothing for her to do now but the housework; for all the rest he had gone to Miriam. She could not forgive him. Miriam killed the joy and the warmth in him. He had been such a jolly lad, and full of the warmest affection; now he grew colder, more and more irritable and gloomy. It reminded her of William; but Paul was worse. He did things with more intensity, and more realization of what he was about. His mother knew how he was suffering for want of a woman, and she saw him going to Miriam. If he had made up his mind, nothing on earth would alter him. Mrs Morel was tired. She began to give up at last; she had finished. She was in the way.
He went on determinedly. He realized more or less what his mother felt. It only hardened his soul. He made himself callous towards her; but it was like being callous to his own health. It undermined him quickly; yet he persisted.
He lay back in the rocking-chair at Willey Farm one evening. He had been talking to Miriam for some weeks, but had not come to the point. Now he said suddenly:
`I am twenty-four, almost.'
She had been brooding. She looked up at him suddenly in surprise.
`Yes. What makes you say it?'
There was something in the charged atmosphere that she dreaded.
`Sir Thomas More says one can marry at twenty-four.'
She laughed quaintly, saying:
`Does it need Sir Thomas More's sanction?'
`No; but one ought to marry about then.'
`Ay,' she answered broodingly; and she waited.
`I can't marry you,' he continued slowly, `not now, because we've no money, and they depend on me at home.'
She sat half-guessing what was coming.
`But I want to marry now--'
`You want to marry?' she repeated.
`A woman--you know what I mean.'
She was silent.
`Now, at last, I must,' he said.
`Ay,' she answered.
`And you love me?'
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