Paul is in a bar with some friends when Baxter Dawes enters, Clara’s husband from whom she has been separated for years. Paul offers him a drink, since he is the superior at Jordan’s, but Dawes refuses. Dawes begins to talk about Paul being at the theatre with a ‘tart,’ and Paul is about to leave when Dawes says something that causes Paul to throw a glass of beer in his face. Dawes rushes at Paul but is held back, and he is thrown out of the bar. Paul’s friends at the bar tell him that he should learn to box, so that he can take care of Dawes. When he leaves, one of the men walks with him.
He tells Clara what has happened, and she does not seem surprised, saying that Baxter is a low sort of person. She wants Paul to carry a gun or a knife for protection and is angry when he refuses.
One day at the factory, Paul runs into Dawes. Dawes threatens him while he carries on with his work. Finally Dawes grabs Paul’s arm, and Thomas Jordan comes out of his office to see what is happening. He tells Dawes to leave and, when he does not, grabs his arm. Dawes jerks his elbow and sends Jordan flying backward through a spring-door and down half a flight of steps. Jordan is not hurt, but he dismisses Dawes.
Paul discusses love with his mother and says that perhaps something is the matter with him and that he can’t love. She says that he has not met the right woman, and he replies that he will never meet the right woman while she is alive. Clara asks him about the future, and he tells her he will go abroad and then come back to be with his mother. He tells her not to ask about the future but just to be with him now, and they surrender to their passion. She does not want a divorce from Baxter and therefore cannot belong to him completely. They both realize that they will go separate ways.
One evening they pass Dawes as they are walking, and Paul does not realize who it is until after they have passed him, and Clara says it was Baxter. Another night some time later, Paul is walking alone and encounters Dawes waiting for him. They fight and Paul is hurt. He struggles to get himself home and goes to sleep, and his mother is there to take care of him when he awakes. While he is ill, Clara and then Miriam come to visit him, and he tells his mother that he doesn’t care about them.
After he is better, he goes on a holiday with his friend Newton and arranges to meet his mother at Annie’s house in Sheffield. When he arrives there, Annie opens the door and he realizes that his mother is ill. They discover that she has a tumor, and Paul goes to see her doctor in Nottingham. He agrees to come to Sheffield, looks at the tumor, and says that he may be able to cure it. Mrs. Morel stays in Sheffield for two months, and then the family hires a motor-car to drive her home, at which she is very glad.