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Aaron's Rod by D. H. Lawrence

Aaron carried his bowler hat with him


"Don't

you go back to 'em. Have a night out. You stop here tonight," Jim said suddenly, in a quiet intimate tone.

The stranger turned his head and looked at him, considering.

"Yes?" he said. He seemed to be smiling coldly.

"Oh, but!" cried Josephine. "Your wife and your children! Won't they be awfully bothered? Isn't it awfully unkind to them?"

She rose in her eagerness. He sat turning up his face to her. She could not understand his expression.

"Won't you go home to them?" she said, hysterical.

"Not tonight," he replied quietly, again smiling.

"You're wrong!" she cried. "You're wrong!" And so she hurried out of the room in tears.

"Er--what bed do you propose to put him in?" asked Robert rather officer-like.

"Don't propose at all, my lad," replied Jim, ironically--he did not like Robert. Then to the stranger he said:

"You'll be all right on the couch in my room?--it's a good couch, big enough, plenty of rugs--" His voice was easy and intimate.

Aaron looked at him, and nodded.

They had another drink each, and at last the two set off, rather stumbling, upstairs. Aaron carried

his bowler hat with him.

Robert remained pacing in the drawing-room for some time. Then he went out, to return in a little while. He extinguished the lamps and saw that the fire was safe. Then he went to fasten the window-doors securely. Outside he saw the uncanny glimmer of candles across the lawn. He had half a mind to go out and extinguish them--but he did not. So he went upstairs and the house was quiet. Faint crumbs of snow were falling outside.

When Jim woke in the morning Aaron had gone. Only on the floor were two packets of Christmas-tree candles, fallen from the stranger's pockets. He had gone through the drawing-room door, as he had come. The housemaid said that while she was cleaning the grate in the dining-room she heard someone go into the drawing-room: a parlour-maid had even seen someone come out of Jim's bedroom. But they had both thought it was Jim himself, for he was an unsettled house mate.

There was a thin film of snow, a lovely Christmas morning.

CHAPTER IV. "THE PILLAR OF SALT"

Our story will not yet see daylight. A few days after Christmas, Aaron sat in the open shed at the bottom of his own garden, looking out on the rainy darkness. No one knew he was there. It was some time after six in the evening.

From where he sat, he looked straight up the garden to the house. The blind was not drawn in the middle kitchen, he could see the figures of his wife and one child. There was a light also in the upstairs window. His wife was gone upstairs again. He wondered if she had the baby ill. He could see her figure vaguely behind the lace curtains of the bedroom. It was like looking at his home through the wrong end of a telescope. Now the little girls had gone from the middle room: only to return in a moment.

His attention strayed. He watched the light falling from the window of the next-door house. Uneasily, he looked along the whole range of houses. The street sloped down-hill, and the backs were open to the fields. So he saw a curious succession of lighted windows, between which jutted the intermediary back premises, scullery and outhouse, in dark little blocks. It was something like the keyboard of a piano: more still, like a succession of musical notes. For the rectangular planes of light were of different intensities, some bright and keen, some soft, warm, like candle-light, and there was one surface of pure red light, one or two were almost invisible, dark green. So the long scale of lights seemed to trill across the darkness, now bright, now dim, swelling and sinking. The effect was strange.


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