Sons and Lovers HTML version

PART II: 15. Derelict
CLARA went with her husband to Sheffield, and Paul scarcely saw her again.
Walter Morel seemed to have let all the trouble go over him, and there he was,
crawling about on the mud of it, just the same. There was scarcely any bond
between father and son, save that each felt he must not let the other go in any
actual want. As there was no one to keep on the home, and as they could neither
of them bear the emptiness of the house, Paul took lodgings in Nottingham, and
Morel went to live with a friendly family in Bestwood.
Everything seemed to have gone smash for the young man. He could not paint.
The picture he finished on the day of his mother's death---one that satisfied him--
was the last thing he did. At work there was no Clara. When he came home he
could not take up his brushes again. There was nothing left.
So he was always in the town at one place or another, drinking, knocking about
with the men he knew. It really wearied him. He talked to barmaids, to almost any
woman, but there was that dark, strained look in his eyes, as if he were hunting
Everything seemed so different, so unreal. There seemed no reason why people
should go along the street, and houses pile up in the daylight. There seemed no
reason why these things should occupy the space, instead of leaving it empty.
His friends talked to him: he heard the sounds, and he answered. But why there
should be the noise of speech he could not understand.
He was most himself when he was alone, or working hard and mechanically at
the factory. In the latter case there was pure forgetfulness, when he lapsed from
consciousness. But it had to come to an end. It hurt him so, that things had lost
their reality. The first snowdrops came. He saw the tiny drop-pearls among the
grey. They would have given him the liveliest emotion at one time. Now they
were there, but they did not seem to mean anything. In a few moments they
would cease to occupy that place, and just the space would be, where they had
been. Tall, brilliant tram-cars ran along the street at night. It seemed almost a
wonder they should trouble to rustle backwards and forwards. "Why trouble to go
tilting down to Trent Bridges?" he asked of the big trams. It seemed they just as
well might not be as be.
The realest thing was the thick darkness at night. That seemed to him whole and
comprehensible and restful. He could leave himself to it. Suddenly a piece of
paper started near his feet and blew along down the pavement. He stood still,
rigid, with clenched fists, a flame of agony going over him. And he saw again the
sick-room, his mother, her eyes. Unconsciously he had been with her, in her
company. The swift hop of the paper reminded him she was gone. But he had
been with her. He wanted everything to stand still, so that he could be with her