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Episode 8: Ending

Comparing Uncorrected proofs with English Review

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Uncorrected proofs (1910)

English Review (1911)



Elizabeth, who had sobbed herself weary, looked up.



Elizabeth looked up. The man's mouth was fallen back, slightly open under the cover of the moustache. The eyes, half shut, did not show glazed by the small candlelight. His wife looked at him. He seemed to be dreaming back, half awake. Life with its smoky burning gone from him, had left a purity and a candour like an adolescent's moulded upon his reverie. His intrinsic beauty was evident now. She had not been mistaken in him, as often she had bitterly confessed to herself she was. The beauty of his youth, of his eighteen years, of the time when life had settled on him, as in adolescence it settles on youth, bringing a mission to fulfil and equipment therefor, this beauty shone almost unstained again. It was this adolescent "he," the young man looking round to see which way, that Elizabeth had loved. He had come from the discipleship of youth, through the Pentecost of adolescence, pledged to keep with honour his own individuality, to be steadily and unquenchably himself, electing his own masters and serving them till the wages were won. He betrayed himself in his search for amusement. Let Education teach us to amuse ourselves, necessity will train us to work. Once out of the pit, there was nothing to interest this man. He sought the public-house, where, by paying the price of his own integrity, he found amusement; destroying the clamours for activity, because he knew not what form the activities might take. The miner turned miscreant to himself, easing the ache of dissatisfaction by destroying the part of him which ached. Little by little the recreant maimed and destroyed himself.


It was this recreant his wife had hated so bitterly, had fought against so strenuously. She had strove, all the years of his falling off, had strove with all her force to save the man she had known new-bucklered with beauty and strength. In a wild and bloody passion she fought the recreant. Now this lay killed, the clean young knight was brought home to her. Elizabeth bowed her head upon the body and wept.



Then she put her arms round him, and kissed him again on the smooth ripples below the breasts, and held him to her. She loved him very much now -- so beautiful, and gentle, and helpless. He must have suffered! What must he have suffered! Her tears started hot again. Ah, she was so sorry, sorrier than she could ever tell. She was sorry for him, that he had suffered so, and got lost in the dark places of death. But the poignancy of her grief was that she loved him again -- ah, so much! She did not want him to wake up, she did not want him to speak. She had him again, now, and it was Death which had brought him. She kissed him, so that she might kiss Death which had taken the ugly things from him.



She put her arms round him, kissed the smooth ripples below his breasts, bowed her forehead on him in submission. Faithful to her deeper sense of honour, she uttered no word of sorrow in her heart. Upright in soul are women, however they bow the swerving body. She owned the beauty of the blow.


And all the while her heart was bursting with grief and pity for him. What had he suffered ? What stretch of horror for this helpless man ! She wept herself almost in agony. She had not been able to help him. Never again would she be able to help him. It was grief unutterable to think that now all was over between them. Even if it were a case of meeting in the next world, he would not need her there; it would be different. She saw the great episode of her life closed with him, and grief was a passion. The old mother was hushed in awe. She, the elder, less honourable woman, had said : "She drives him to it, she makes him ten thousand times worse." But now the old mother bowed down in respect for the wife. As the passion of Elizabeth's grief grew more, the old woman shrank and tried to avoid it.


"Have you got his shirt, 'Lizabeth ?"


Elizabeth wept without answering, though she strove to lull and recover. At last she rose and went into the kitchen. Returning:



Think how he might have come home -- not white and beautiful, gently smiling... Ugly, befouled, with hateful words on an evil breath, reeking with disgust. She loved him so much now; her life was mended again, and her faith looked up with a smile; he had come home to her, beautiful. How she had loathed him! It was strange he could have been such as he had been. How wise of death to be so silent! If he spoke, even now, her anger and her scorn would lift their heads like fire. He would not speak -- no, just gently smile, with wide eyes. She was sorry to have to disturb him to put on his shirt -- but she must, he could not lie like that. The shirt was aired by now. But it would be cruel hard work to get him into it. He was so heavy, and helpless, more helpless than a baby, poor dear! -- and so beautiful.



"It is aired," she said, grasping the cotton shirt here and there to try. She was sorry to disturb him, but he could not lie naked. It was hard work to clothe him. He was so heavy and helpless, more helpless than a baby fallen heavily asleep. They had to struggle with him as if he were a rebellious child. This made Elizabeth's heart weep again.


Yet more joy was mixed in her emotion than she knew. He might have come home ugly, befouled, so that she would have had a loathly, strange creature to combat. Ah ! how she had fought that him, the disfigured coward, which gradually replaced her man ! How wise of death to be so silent! Even now her fear could not trust him to speak. Yet he was restored to her fair, unblemished, fresh as for the splendour of a fight.


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