Sons and Lovers HTML version

PART I: 4. The Young Life Of Paul
PAUL would be built like his mother, slightly and rather small. His fair hair went
reddish, and then dark brown; his eyes were grey. He was a pale, quiet child,
with eyes that seemed to listen, and with a full, dropping underlip.
As a rule he seemed old for his years. He was so conscious of what other people
felt, particularly his mother. When she fretted he understood, and could have no
peace. His soul seemed always attentive to her.
As he grew older he became stronger. William was too far removed from him to
accept him as a companion. So the smaller boy belonged at first almost entirely
to Annie. She was a tomboy and a "flybie-skybie", as her mother called her. But
she was intensely fond of her second brother. So Paul was towed round at the
heels of Annie, sharing her game. She raced wildly at lerky with the other young
wild-cats of the Bottoms. And always Paul flew beside her, living her share of the
game, having as yet no part of his own. He was quiet and not noticeable. But his
sister adored him. He always seemed to care for things if she wanted him to.
She had a big doll of which she was fearfully proud, though not so fond. So she
laid the doll on the sofa, and covered it with an antimacassar, to sleep. Then she
forgot it. Meantime Paul must practise jumping off the sofa arm. So he jumped
crash into the face of the hidden doll. Annie rushed up, uttered a loud wail, and
sat down to weep a dirge. Paul remained quite still.
"You couldn't tell it was there, mother; you couldn't tell it was there," he repeated
over and over. So long as Annie wept for the doll he sat helpless with misery. Her
grief wore itself out. She forgave her brother---he was so much upset. But a day
or two afterwards she was shocked.
"Let's make a sacrifice of Arabella," he said. "Let's burn her."
She was horrified, yet rather fascinated. She wanted to see what the boy would
do. He made an altar of bricks, pulled some of the shavings out of Arabella's
body, put the waxen fragments into the hollow face, poured on a little paraffin,
and set the whole thing alight. He watched with wicked satisfaction the drops of
wax melt off the broken forehead of Arabella, and drop like sweat into the flame.
So long as the stupid big doll burned he rejoiced in silence. At the end be poked
among the embers with a stick, fished out the arms and legs, all blackened, and
smashed them under stones.
"That's the sacrifice of Missis Arabella," he said. "An' I'm glad there's nothing left
of her."
Which disturbed Annie inwardly, although she could say nothing. He seemed to
hate the doll so intensely, because he had broken it.
All the children, but particularly Paul, were peculiarly against their father, along
with their mother. Morel continued to bully and to drink. He had periods, months
at a time, when he made the whole life of the family a misery. Paul never forgot
coming home from the Band of Hope one Monday evening and finding his