Sons and Lovers
PART II: 10. Clara
WHEN he was twenty-three years old, Paul sent in a landscape to the winter
exhibition at Nottingham Castle. Miss Jordan had taken a good deal of interest in
him, and invited him to her house, where he met other artists. He was beginning
to grow ambitious.
One morning the postman came just as he was washing in the scullery. Suddenly
he heard a wild noise from his mother. Rushing into the kitchen, he found her
standing on the hearthrug wildly waving a letter and crying "Hurrah!" as if she
had gone mad. He was shocked and frightened.
"Why, mother!" he exclaimed.
She flew to him, flung her arms round him for a moment, then waved the letter,
"Hurrah, my boy! I knew we should do it!"
He was afraid of her---the small, severe woman with graying hair suddenly
bursting out in such frenzy. The postman came running back, afraid something
had happened. They saw his tipped cap over the short curtains. Mrs. Morel
rushed to the door.
"His picture's got first prize, Fred," she cried, "and is sold for twenty guineas."
"My word, that's something like!" said the young postman, whom they had known
all his life.
"And Major Moreton has bought it!" she cried.
"It looks like meanin' something, that does, Mrs. Morel," said the postman, his
blue eyes bright. He was glad to have brought such a lucky letter. Mrs. Morel
went indoors and sat down, trembling. Paul was afraid lest she might have
misread the letter, and might be disappointed after all. He scrutinised it once,
twice. Yes, he became convinced it was true. Then he sat down, his heart
beating with joy.
"Mother!" he exclaimed.
"Didn't I say we should do it!" she said, pretending she was not crying.
He took the kettle off the fire and mashed the tea.
"You didn't think, mother---" he began tentatively.
"No, my son---not so much---but I expected a good deal."
"But not so much," he said.
"No---no---but I knew we should do it."
And then she recovered her composure, apparently at least. He sat with his shirt
turned back, showing his young throat almost like a girl's, and the towel in his
hand, his hair sticking up wet.
"Twenty guineas, mother! That's just what you wanted to buy Arthur out. Now
you needn't borrow any. It'll just do."
"Indeed, I shan't take it all," she said.